Jolly Tamale! Tamale shop keeps South Texas tradition alive

Story and photograph by Pamela Price for the Leon Springs Community News (December 2010)

Brittany Springer assembles pork tamales (Image copyright Pamela Price 2010)

As the restaurant’s very name suggests, the Mi Casa Tamales restaurant crew is known for their homemade tamales, especially those filled with well-seasoned, shredded pork. The shop’s tamales are ample and moist. Wrapped in their cornhusks and served warm, they are markedly different from the tiny, dry, shrink-wrapped tamales found at the grocery store.

“Our tamales are larger than our competitors, they are about 3 times the size and weigh about 3 lbs. per dozen,” said Mi Casa owner Shirley Keresztury. “Everything is fresh. All spices are freshly ground, there are no preservatives.”

In San Antonio during the stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, fresh, handmade tamales are just as welcome served as a meal alongside creamy queso, rice and beans-all available from the freezer case located just inside the Mi Casa’s front door-as they are mixed in with traditional holiday foods like turkey and dressing on a dining room buffet table.

The shop’s tamales are so well respected locally that Mi Casa was one of a select few invited to participate in the inaugural ¡Tamales! at Pearl festival held earlier this month in central San Antonio.

According to Keresztury, Mi Casa’s tamales are made on-site in a cluster of quirky buildings off of IH-10–and in the spirit of the holiday season. “We love tamale season! It’s a family tradition. We are super busy this time of year.  All workers come together to pull off the high demand. It’s a fun, positive time of year for us. San Antonio loves tamales, and the tamale season represents family time, happy times, joy and laughter. ” Continue reading “Jolly Tamale! Tamale shop keeps South Texas tradition alive”

Deacon of Boerne Stage; Leon Springs Baptist church member greets Sunday morning travelers

This story appeared in the December 2010 issue of the Leon Springs Community News.

Story  by Pamela Price

(Photos coming later today.)

It’s a bright, brisk and breezy Sunday morning in Central Texas. On the south side of Boerne Stage Road, near where the historic roadway intersects with Baywater Stage, stands a man bundled and gloved against the chill.  Frank Muegge waves at passersby, greeting them all as beloved friends with a warm “God bless you.”

A vehicle turns quickly into a nearby driveway. Muegge moves to greet the driver, who climbs out of the car and rushes toward him, a plastic gift card tucked in her hand. She tells him the card is for him. Words are exchanged between them as cars zip past. He’s clearly moved by her generosity.

“I see him out here every Sunday. I go to a different church, but I see him and he moves me, every Sunday,” says Jeaneen Klem, who has traveled Boerne Stage Road regularly for four years. “He’s wonderful. He smiles and greets you, whatever the weather. He always makes eye contact. It touches my heart. It’s Christmas, so I got him something, hoping maybe he could go buy a cup of coffee later.”

When asked the value of Muegge’s Sunday morning roadside ministry to her personally, she responds, “It’s just a God thing. We need people like [Muegge] here. Pure and simple.”

It’ll be five years this February that Muegge started to greet travelers in front of his Leon Springs Baptist Church, where he and his wife Rebecca are members.

“It all began when Frank started working with me as a greeter, helping people make their way from the parking lot to the church. Carrying car seats and the like for families with kids. And then he started going out to the road. He doesn’t just wave and greet people. He prays for all of them. And people know it. We hear that all the time, that they know he is praying for them. It’s hard to believe it’s been four years now,” says Rebecca. “I know [he’s a local fixture]. We meet people all the time who recognize him. Some people think that he’s the minister, but he’s not. He’s a deacon now, though.” Continue reading “Deacon of Boerne Stage; Leon Springs Baptist church member greets Sunday morning travelers”

AHH-Choo! Cedar fever is here; How to fight the area’s peskiest allergen

This story is slated to appear in the December 2010 issue of the Leon Springs Community News.

Story and photograph by Pamela Price

Dr. Dalys Gomez demonstrates an allergy exam with Laura Thompson. (Image copyright Pamela Price, 2010)

Runny nose. Coughing. Fatigue. This time of year in Central Texas, those symptoms may mark not the onset of a cold but the arrival of what locals call “cedar fever.”

“There’s not usually a fever present, unless of course the patient has developed an infection,” said Dr. Dalys Gomez of Leon Springs Allergy & Asthma in Leon Springs. “Cedar fever symptoms present initially almost the same as a cold-except with the allergy the symptoms persist.”

Gomez said that the worst cedar allergy sufferers experience “red, itchy eyes with tearing and eye rubbing. And then there’s the itchy ears and throat, which are not common to the cold. There may even be a loss of taste.” In addition to fatigue, there may be a general feeling of being unwell.

“I’ve had patients come here after going to a psychologist first, because they felt depressed,” said Gomez. “Often, it was an allergy that was really causing their problems.”

The culprit is the ordinary Ashe juniper, aka Juniperus ashei, but commonly referred to locally as a cedar. Found in Texas and surrounding states, the scrappy, drought-tolerant Ashe juniper’s heaviest concentration is in the Austin-San Antonio area, making Leon Springs part of the “cedar fever capital.” The annual release of juniper pollen is responsible not only for the itching and sneezing but also for that blue-tinged haze on hillsides on cold winter mornings.

“I tell patients that they can expect symptoms from Thanksgiving through to Valentine’s Day,” said Gomez. Depending upon weather conditions and rainfall, the season can run from early November up through March or April. “It usually peaks around New Year’s. That’s when I see the most patients, around a freeze. The cold air makes the plant release the pollen inside those blue berries in a puff.” Continue reading “AHH-Choo! Cedar fever is here; How to fight the area’s peskiest allergen”

ARCHIVE: Vroom, Vroom: Local Dealer Restores Vintage Race Cars

Story by Pamela Price
Note: This story originally appeared in the November 2010 edition of Leon Springs Community News.

Pete "Doc" Allegretti and Suzanne O'Neal take stock of a vintage race car.

For Kermit O’Neal, who spent many formative years hanging around his father’s Corpus Christi classic car shop, there were early signs that he too would build a life around cars.

“Yes, my father’s business and his racing definitely influenced my career path. I think my mother hoped for a doctor or lawyer, but my passion ever since I was little was racing. I started reading ‘Sports Car’ magazine in the third grade, and I went with my father to the races. He allowed me to drive interesting sports cars from a very early age,” Kermit noted. “It is no surprise to me looking back that I followed this path. I realized early that I would not have a career as a race driver, but this did not diminish my passion for the cars themselves or my enjoyment in being around them.”

After a globetrotting stint in sales, Kermit purchased the Alamo Sports Cars dealership, as it was then known, thirty years ago. That was just before the ’80s-era savings and loan mess, back when affluent San Antonio residents made their way down to Broadway in Alamo Heights to select a Triumph, Alfa Romeo or Fiat. The business also made repairs to higher-end European models such as Ferrari and Maserati. Continue reading “ARCHIVE: Vroom, Vroom: Local Dealer Restores Vintage Race Cars”

ARCHIVE: Santa, Baby!: See and Be Seen With the Big Guy [on S.A.’s Northwest Side]

Story and photograph by Pamela Price

Note: This story originally appeared in the November 2010 issue ofLeon Springs Community News. A related story can be found here.

A watchful nutcracker guard at Bass Pro Shop.
Somewhere between now and Christmas-and assuming you’ve got kids, odds are good that the topic of visiting Ol’ Saint Nick is going to come up. Maybe you just want a picture of the kids with the jolly old soul for your Facebook page. Or perhaps the youngsters have a pressing desire to put in a few good words for themselves and their favorite toys. Whatever the motivation when Virginia or Timmy bring the topic up in the coming weeks, you’ve got three options that don’t involve a long sleigh ride, er, trip.

Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shop ( – Over the dry creek bed and up the buzzing interstate you’ll go to The Rim for this one, easily the most elaborate and festive photo stop in San Antonio. The stage is set at the mega-store’s entry. Greeting customers near a fireplace is a tall, elaborate tree. Around the corner, a winter wonderland comprised of lots of lights and fake snow awaits. It’s populated by unusual toys and, of course, the star of the show: Santa himself. A 4×6 photos with the big guy is free, with various photo packages available.

In addition to the pictures, kiddies can pop in each week to make a different holiday-themed craft (think popsicle-stick Rudolphs for the tree) and score the popular plastic Silly Bandz in various shapes. For the crafts and rubbery bracelets, supplies are limited, so you’ll want to review the schedule online (check out the virtual Santa!). The bonus for the Bass Pro Shop option? Outdoorsy parents can take turns getting their fill of all the fishing, hunting, camping gear, too.

From November 8 to December 12, Santa is slated to be on hand at Bass Pro Shop weeknights from 5pm-8pm, Saturday from 10am-8pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm. From December 13 to December 23, Monday through Saturday hours are 10am-8pm, Sunday noon to 5pm. There are bonus hours on Thanksgiving Day (10am-5pm), November 26 (9am-8pm) and Christmas Eve (10pm-5pm).

La Cantera Santa ( – It’s a suburban American December tradition: pairing a Kris Kringle photo op with a trip to the local mall. No surprise then that La Cantera hosts visits by St. Nick each year. To make it easy on families, the photo area is situated conveniently in the Food Hall near the Kona Restaurant and Barnes & Noble with ample parking. Word is that the La Cantera elves have lined up those highly coveted holiday plastic bracelets to give away, too. Tip: visit the La Cantera Web site for a printable $2 off Santa Photo coupon redeemable through December 9.

At press time and per the mall’s web site, Santa’s hours, beginning on November 26 are Monday through Saturday: 10am-9pm; Sunday: 12pm-6pm; Christmas Eve: Open all mall hours.

Santa Express Central ( – Got a family-friendly holiday party planned where Santa would be welcome? Know a few parents on your block who’d be interested in chipping in to bring him to your street? Then consider a quick call to Santa Express Central to explore your options. This popular San Antonio-based business will help you schedule Santa, Mrs. Claus, Frosty, Rudolph, Prancer, and the Gingerbread Man. A photographer can be hired as well, though you can just as easily snap your own photos at leisure during the visit. Hurry-December’s booking schedule fills very quickly. For more information, call 210-385-4721.

Practical Tips for Santa Visit Success

Story by Pamela Price

Note: This story originally appeared in the November 2010 edition of Leon Springs Community News.

Pick an off-peak time. For mall or store visits, early evening on a weeknight is good, but afternoons early in the week are typically best if you can swing it.
Fuel up. Hungry kids are whiny. Whiny hungry kids waiting in a line are a form of torture-for them and you.
Rest up. Early morning or post-nap visits are best because fatigue can beget whiny, too.
Plan carefully. Bring an extra pair of hands to help wrangle people and packages. Tote ample snacks, water and diapers. If tears happen, and they very likely will fall from babies and toddlers who are naturally prone to fearing strangers, remember that you can try again another day-or another year.
Be realistic. Even older children can be leery of being thrust into the arms of a new person. (We actively encourage them to be wary of “stranger danger” the rest of the year, remember?) Try giving an older, shy child something to do-such as handing off her list of most-wanted items-can help spark a conversation with St. Nick. Talking things up in advance can help, too.
Respect Santa. The rosy-cheeked fella works hard all year and then spends a few weeks in a perpetual loop of photo shoots followed by some serious globetrotting and cookie noshing. A little holiday cheer and a lot of good manners toward him and the elves go a long way to keeping him jolly. Besides, he’s got that list to check, right? No one wants to find coal in their stocking, not even us grown-ups.