Friday, December 30, 2016

A Whole New World - At The India Market

Down the street a new India Market opened a couple of weeks ago, so we had to check it out.

Besides all the offerings (some obviously quite new to me) I was really impressed with the natural and artificial light-flow in the new building.

Unfortunately my ignorance is quite high when it comes to the different types of flours being offered; as a cook and baker, (visit my blog - Where In The Hell Is Carlton - for recipes) I love to make my own breads. Maybe some reader may enlighten me, what to use. Being raised in Europe where slightly different flours may go for different breads, the flours generally offered in US stores are of the "all purpose" variety.

A great plus was to actually find a store which has pastry dough (or puff pastry - mille feuille) on sale, which upto now was only available seasonally at Trader Joe's over the Holidays.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Pincushion Cactus In Bloom

Originally hailing from Mexico (Hidalgo, Oaxaca and Puebla), Globe or Pincushion cacti are a favorite succulent to be grown by gardeners.

Be sure to plant the cactus into a porous fast draining soil (with small pebbles) and give the cylindrical plant enough direct or indirect sunshine. To put them into a North facing window will not give them enough exposure of sunlight. If fertilizing use one rich in potassium and phosphorus, but low in nitrogen, as with almost all cacti. Repot every 2 to 3 years and enjoy their May, April bloom.

They got their name from Latin mammilla, "nipple", referring to the tubercles that make the distinctive features of the genus.

Sources: Wikipedia,,

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Remember The Alamo

The Alamo or even its battle cry "Remember The Alamo" are not only known in the United States, but thanks to movies by and with John Wayne in 1960 and a historical more accurate version in 2004 helmed by Ron Howard, almost all over the world. It depicts part of the Texas Revolution or in other words the fight for independence for an area then owned by Mexico. The former mission, then fortress "The Alamo" is the most visited tourist attraction in the Lone Star state.

Before Mexico's independence in 1821, the Spanish ventured from Mexico all the way into today's Wyoming. On their way North in what they called New Spain, they built missions for the purpose of spreading Catholicism as well as the Spanish way of living and therefore obedience to the crown, among the indigenous inhabitants of the land. One of these missions was named San Antonio de Valero, built by Franciscan monks east of the San Antonio River around 1724.

In 1793 the mission was secularized, the land around given to Spanish settlers. The former mission was fortified and became a military fortress to defend the presidio of Bejar (also Bexar). A military company stationed at the fortress was called "La Compañía de Alamo de Parras" and over the years the company name became the name of the fortress, now known as the Alamo.

European settlers (mostly Anglo Americans) started to move into the area and settle down mostly under the federalist rules of the Spanish governor in charge. After Mexico's independence and the later rise of military general become president and then dictator, Antonio López de Santa Anna, the self proclaimed "Napoleon of the West," people started to rise up and form their own independent republics, even in today's heartland of Mexico. The Republic of Texas being the only one that succeeded.

In December of 1935 "Texians" took over the Alamo fortress and sent the Mexican troops South. Santa Anna was enraged and called for the execution of all the "pirates" that opposed his rule. With a large army he headed North, put a 13 day siege onto the Alamo and finally beat and slaughtered the undermanned occupants of the fortress on March 6, 1836. The battle cry was born and a new formed Texan army under Sam Houston followed Santa Anna and beat him in April of the same year in the Battle of San Jacinto. Santa Anna was captured and only released with the condition that the new Republic of Texas was granted its independence.

Before joining the Union (USA) in 1945, Texas was an independent republic for nine years;  the only US state to have been its own "country." A renovation and revitalization program for the whole Alamo complex is in its planning stages, a master plan and public hearings are supposed to take place in early 2017.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Five Mile Dam - old Instagram

Cleaning up my photography files not only on my computer but also on all the different social media sites, where I regularly (or more irregularly) post, I stumbled upon this Instagram originally shot in May of 2012, with a Motorola Droid. I couldn't remember, that this was my first picture I also published on Viewbug.

Unfortunately I can't remember what filters I used with my phone - these days I normally published onto Instagram as is, without using the filters. Exceptions may be stuff on the road, sunsets, neon signs to make more "artsy" contribution. The resolution could be better, but for a first generation smart phone this was quite amazing and yes we have come quite some ways since then.

The picture depicts "Five Mile Dam" in Hays County, Texas - between Kyle and San Marcos. I've seen this river from dirt dry, no water at all to raging floods, sweeping parts of houses and even whole cars away. But in general it's a lovely spot to visit, especially in summer, when you can swim behind the dam.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Snow At The Ranch

Winter and especially snow are quite rare in Central to South Texas. Yes it can get pretty cold, actually below freezing. But ice-storms are more common than actual snow fall, which only happens about every three to four years. So to see snow on cedar trees is the ultimate winter experience for us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Strange, To Wander In The Fog

It's that time of the year. Gray in gray is in fashion again. Where are the greens of spring, the dark yellows of summer and the color splotches of fall. All gone. Disappeared and replaced by different shades of nondescript.

People are hiding inside, deserted are the streets. Even the pooch wants to get in as fast as she's done her business and hibernate on the blanket.
Fortunately these days are rare. Fog can and does happen, but often it is just for a couple of days and then either a front from the north cleans it up, or a cloudy, humid and warm front from the Gulf of Mexico pushes it back to where it came from.

From middle school I remembered that famous poem "In The Fog" by literary Nobel prize winner Hermann Hesse (1877 - 1962), he was just 28 years old, when he put these famous lines down. As a teenager I was petrified. My first profound experience with existentialism even though Sartre, Camus and Kafka didn't follow till later on paper and me growing up or trying to, in high school.

But despite the forlorn melancholy in these lines, there is also a certain beauty. It's part of life and s ok to be alone, as every individual is to a certain degree at any certain time. It's not about sucking it up buttercup, it's about embracing and enjoying it. It's only through self evaluation, that me as I am, can take control of my life and try to live it meaningfully.

And as far as I know that tree is still standing there...
Im Nebel

Seltsam, im Nebel zu wandern!
Einsam ist jeder Busch und Stein,
Kein Baum sieht den anderen,
Jeder ist allein.

Voll von Freunden war mir die Welt,
Als noch mein Leben licht war;
Nun, da der Nebel fällt,
Ist keiner mehr sichtbar.

Wahrlich, keiner ist weise,
Der nicht das Dunkel kennt,
Das unentrinnbar und leise
Von allem ihn trennt.

Seltsam, im Nebel zu wandern!
Leben ist Einsamsein.
Kein Mensch kennt den andern,
Jeder ist allein.

In the Fog

Strange, to wander in the fog.
Each bush and stone exists alone,
No tree sees the other,
Each is alone.

My world was full of friends
When my life was filled with light,
Now as the fog descends
None is still to be seen.

Truly there is no wise man
Who does not know the dark
Which quietly and ineluctably 
Separates him from everything else.

Strange, to wander in the fog,
To live is to be alone.
No man knows the next man,
Each is alone.
Sources: Image (Hesse by Jorma Komulainen, Creative Commons), Poem: Hermann Hesse

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christmas Lights At The Comal County Courthouse In New Braunfels, Texas

Every year, the Comal County Courthouse in the middle of New Braunfels is decked out with Christmas lights. Several festivities, like the Wassailfest, where merchants serve hot Glühwein to the Christmas shoppers and strollers and a Christmas parade prepare the people and visitors from around the state for the upcoming Christmas celebrations.

The Courthouse in its Romanesque Revival style was designed by James Gordon and completed in 1898, and most of it, is still original, besides some doors and the roof that have been replaced over the years. In 1991 it was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Three Roses In The Garden

Strolling through the garden, these three roses were smiling at me, so I tried to capture them contre-jour (against the light).

A shot like that would normally ask for your aperture to be small (high in numbers > f/16), to enhance the "grainy, dreamy" feel of it, I also pushed my "film" sensibility to iso 800 - therefore I needed a really fast speed (1/1000). I also want to make sure, that you overexpose the picture by at least one f-stop, to make sure you don't have the three roses as black silhouettes My final f-stop (aperture) was f 5.6, strong enough to still produce and show some of the spider's web. I also tried to use the so called diagonal method (DM) as a composition guide line, rather than just play around with the rule of thirds.

Tell me what you think.

Ready To Cook

Unfortunately not my set-up, this was actually shot at a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas.

The grill is roaring and ready and the bell-peppers just look to inviting to not be used. What about a great pork tenderloin to go with this and on the side we fix a roasted bell-pepper cream sauce. What about an iron-cast pan full of roasted rosemary potatoes to go with this.

Darn now I'm hungry and have to go fix me something.

Resting - Easily Scared Variegated Fritillary

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) taking a rest. Closely related to the Speyeria Fritillaries, there are still some differences, as having 2–3 broods per year vs. one for the Speyeria, they are also nomadic vs. sedentary and use several host plants instead of just one. Because of their use of passionflowers there are also taxonomic links to the tropic heliconiians Euptoieta (Greek for easily scared) describes that they are really diffcult to approach, even when resting or taken nectar in.