Gold Star Luncheon – Friday, September 9, 2011, 11:30 AM

June 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

In conjunction with Simon Fashion Now, The Galleria will host a private Gold Star Luncheon on the ice honoring MD Anderson’s Children’s Art Projects’ 2011 holiday designers.

The Luncheon benefits The University of Texas Cancer Center Children’s Art Project, and will take place at ICE at The Galleria (5085 Westheimer Rd. Houston, TX 77056).

For more information, contact  Nancy Walker by email at nwalker@mdanderson.org, or by phone at (713) 745-0288.

Volunteer Houston’s Taste-ful: Off the Vine

June 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Thursday, October 27, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Save the date for the inaugural Tasteful: Off the Vine (http://volunteerhouston.org/mediaroom/taste-ful), benefitting Volunteer Houston’s (http://www.volunteerhouston.org/) beloved program, A Visit from St. Nicholas (http://www.stnickhouston.org/).  A one-of-a kind wine and food adventure Taste-ful: Off the Vine, will incorporate international wine blends, delectable fare and a shopalicious auction – at Américas River Oaks (http://www.cordua.com/). To bring out your competitive spirit, there will be a Blind Tasting Challenge with a Grand Prize that takes you out of town on a lovely wine holiday. Sponsorships range from $1,000 to $10,000. Contact Mabel Menefee at mabelm@volunteerhouston.org for more information.

For 36 years, Volunteer Houston, a 501c3 non-profit, has connected volunteers with non-profits across the city and region.  Our mission is to engage more people and resources more effectively in volunteer service.  Our vision is that all people make volunteering central in their lives and work. We maintain a database of more than 800 diverse organizations that need volunteers in order to fulfill their organizational missions and support clients and services. In 2010 alone, 32,495 volunteer applicant referrals were made to non-profit organizations in our community.

SARAH PALIN’S AMERICA

June 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

When I said that Paul Revere rang the church bells in Boston to alert the British that the Americans were coming, many in the lamestream media called it a fox pass. I call it Gotcha! journalism. How sneaky, asking, “How’s your trip going?” at a press conference. So now I will explain that I really do know American history, from the Floundering Fathers to the California 58ers to Iowa Jima.

In the beginning, Columbus sailed to India seeking a route to America, but mistakenly landed in Hispaniola, inhabited by Hispaniels. His three ships were the Nina, the Pinto and the Tina Fey (from which that sorry lookalike on “Saturday Nighttime” gets her name). Columbus was followed by Spanish conquestors and settlers. They brought horses, which the Incan Indians had never seen before – they used Dalai Llamas.

The United States was founded by Pilgrims at the Plymouth Rock, named after a popular dance of that time. The Pilgrims (accent on grim) were serious people who fled to America to avoid religious persecution — they worshiped St. Florsheim, the patron saint of buckled shoes. The Pilgrims were so grateful that they were not back in Italy they held the first Thanksgiving with parades, feasts and football games.

The Revolutionary War began because Americans were angry at King George the Three over his attempt to collect taxes. It was George Jefferson who said, “Read my lips! No new taxes!” As the British marched on Lexington and Conroe to seize the rebels’ arms – and legs – Paul Revere, a sexton at the church of Notre Dame, rang the bells to warn the British, “The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!” Revere then ran through the battlefield to score the final out, and was forever known as the Halfback of Notre Dame.

Meantime, in Texas, men dressed as cowboys stormed a ship in the harbor carrying tea and threw it into the water, adding a bit of sugar and mint before stirring. The event was called the Austin Tea Party, and that’s why today Aggies call UT students Teasips. The Revolution gave us several familiar sayings, such as, “Don’t shoot till you see the whites of their flags!” “Give me liberty or give me a break!” And the Mormons’ famous quote: “I only regret that I have but one wife to give for my country.”

The War of 1812 – I’m not sure when it was fought — resulted in the British burning the Washington Monument. Otherwise, that conflict wasn’t very important. The Mexican-American War was fought by Mexican-Americans, similar to the Spanish-American War. This brings us to the Civil War, which was fought over states’ rights, specifically, the South’s insistence that the North legalize slavery. The North said slavery was none of the South’s business.

President Abraham Lincoln then wrote his famous Gettysberg Address – a letter to an old friend, Mark Gettysberg — asking for his new ZIP code. When President Lincoln issued the Emaciated Proclamation, it freed all slaves in the rebellious Confederacy, which was about as effective as freeing all third basemen in Ireland.

Incidentally, each of the 40 states has its own colorful history and unique name, like Virginia and West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, the two Dakotas, and the News – Jersey, Mexico and England. Perhaps the state with the most exciting history is Texas, an Indian word meaning “fresh scalps.” The Texans fought Santa Anita in a mansion in San Angelo, and lost. But a few weeks later the Texans, led by Gen. Sam Jacinto, charged the Mexican lines after being promised a hearty dessert, yelling, “Remember the a la mode!” The Texans won because they had lookouts up in that huge monument and could see Santa Anita coming. Also, they had a great big battleship, the USS Texas, which is still anchored right there.

A few items of historical interest: The Great Depression was carved out by the Colorado River in Arizona over billions of years. No one named Sarah has ever been elected President. The U.S. Mint comes in several flavors. The Treaty of Guadalupe made it legal to ride inner-tubes down a river in New Braunfels. Prohibition outlawed Planned Parenthood, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq was caused by the Godless liberal media spreading rumors that Saddam Hussein had WD-40s.

There are several famous inventors we should recognize. Benjamin Franklin invented electricity. Thomas Edison invented the Lite Bud. Henry Ford developed the Model T and the Circle K. Hillary Clinton gave us the broom-mobile. Among our explorers we have Daniel Boone, who found a way through Coon Skin Gap, and Lewis Clark, who discovered the federal government will underwrite any program no matter how far fetched.

On Dec. 7, 1944, the Japanese attacked Pearl Jam, causing World War the Second. Japan was defeated after an atomic bomb was dropped on a Toyota factory in Hero Shema by a bomber, the Enola Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell. The Cold War involved us somehow, and nearly exploded when Castro ordered his fishermen to ignore U.S. catch limits, resulting in the Cuban Mussel crisis. The East-West power struggle was finished when irate Berliners tore down the Great Wall.

Today our nation is fighting three wars: Iran, Pakistan and Liberia. Our economy is poor because of that Muslim Chicago mobster. The unemployment rate is high since only the few, the pretty, can find jobs at Fox News. Wall Street and the banks are suffering under too many regulations, lawsuits and perp walks. Many homes are underwater, and without flood insurance. The national debt has hit a new ceiling, which probably needs re-painting, anyway. We are suffering from global warming because the current administration approved Daylight Saving Time which adds an hour of sunlight to each day. As the great philosopher George Santa Anna said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to learn it.”

Do I know my facts? Hey, I can see Prussia from my front porch. You betcha!

 

Ashby is historical at ashby2@comcast.net

Out To Dinner With Lynn Ashby

June 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Order 34 is for one hamburger, medium-well, with onions chopped, not sliced, no mustard but lots of cherries. Order 22 is for meatloaf on a bun, toasted, heavy on the chocolate. Do we have any peanut butter and jellyfish? Table 10 just walked the check. The busboy spilled red wine on an angry, white male. I smell smoke. And I just got word that a tableful of international restaurant critics is in town.

There are three pursuits everyone thinks they can accomplish: Write a book, publish a newspaper and run a restaurant. Two out of three ain’t bad, but don’t try to run a restaurant. It’s long hours, constant standing and customers who think the price of a pizza gives them the right to insult your mother. Meanwhile, the hired help is running out the back door with booze from the bar and steaks from the freezer.

This cafe — catering to disciples of Joan of Arc called the Stake & Ail — is not my first restaurant rodeo. That one was a pub for redneck soldiers returning from Iraq called the Shucks & Aw. Then I opened a bar for Chinese drunks named the Taiwan On. My French café was invaded by the German biergarten next door. I founded a college for chefs, Fork U. It failed, as did my Kosher barbecue for Jewish cowboys, the Double Bar Mitzvah.

However, I knew Houston was the perfect place for restaurants, because if it seems as though we eat out a lot, it’s because we do, and don’t just take my word for it. The most recent Zagat Survey restaurant guide, which is the bible for us gourmets (pronounced gore-METS), says Houstonians eat out more than residents of any other American city: 4 times a week, compared to Los Angeles at 3.4 times per week and New York City at 3.0.

But even in Oil Town the recession has hit. Houstonians say that they are dining out less than they did two years ago – our current 4 times per week is down from 4.2 in 2008 and 4.6 a few years earlier. Around Texas, Dallas is at 3.6 per week (down from 4.0) and San Antonio is at 3.5 (down from 4.0). All are far more than the Zagat national average of 3.2 meals out weekly. Indeed, as states go in weekly eat-outs, Texans lead the restaurant rangers.

How about costs? Not to get bogged down in statistics, but these are warm fuzzy facts which makes us feel superior. Texans’ restaurants are a relative bargain, because the average cost of a meal in all four major Texas markets ranks below the national average of $35.10: Houston ($32.53), San Antonio ($31.34) and Austin ($30.76). Dallas/Ft. Worth is the most expensive dining area in Texas ($35.03).

What change – if any – has the recent economic challenge (some would say “gawdaful depression”) had on your dining habits? Among surveyed Texans, we are paying more attention to prices (35 percent), we are eating out less (32 percent), eating at less expensive places (26 percent), skipping appetizers and/or desserts (19 percent), and cutting back on booze (17 percent). Despite the recession, the cost of eating out is going up in Texas. Compared to two years ago, 37 percent of those surveyed report spending more when dining out, while 18 percent said less.

But every table has a silver ware. Is there any good news in our current economic challenge, besides finding a dry bridge to sleep under? When asked what positive effects the economic downturn has had on their dining habits, 49 percent reported finding better deals at restaurants, while 34 percent said that it’s easier for them to get a table at hard-to-get-in places.

Not only do we eat out a lot, Houston is among the national leaders in restaurants per capita, although the exact number of eateries around here is hard to pin down. One estimate puts the figure at 8,500 or so in the Houston area, with around 10,000 in the greater Harris County area. But does this include school cafeterias (I really like overcooked, soggy vegetables), hospitals (green meat anyone?) and your local Choke & Puke convenience store with month-old hotdog wieners slowly turning on a greasy tube? According to U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 count, the 10-county Houston metropolitan area had more than 7,660 restaurants and eating establishments and more than 600 bars and nightclubs.

For our purposes we shall take numbers provided by the City of Houston Department of Health and Human Resources. Annually – and sometimes more often – the city’s “sanitarians” inspect all our eateries, exactly 13,486 of them, including schools, nursing homes and those catering trucks serving tacos, lunches and cupcakes. Narrowing that figure to our daily bread, we have 2,555 full-service restaurants and 3,636 single-service restaurants. So what’s the difference? Simple. Full service eating places use returnable silverware. Single service places give you those little non-returnable plastic forks. A neat, commonsensical way to categorize. If this 13K number is correct, and it should be, you could eat and drink out every night for almost 40 years and still not hit them all. Get busy.

Where to eat? We have a choice, for Houston is a glutton’s smorgasbord (we have Scandinavian cafes, too), and it begins with the speed limit signs around Bush Intergalactic Airport & Terrorist Checkpoint. The signs have the speed limit in both mph and km – miles for us and kilometers for those who came here from everywhere else. So diverse is our population that we need both. We now have 87 foreign consulates, the third most in the nation. Various HISD students speak 83 different languages.

Next, check the Yellow Pages under “restaurants.” The listings cover 29 pages and range from Japanese to French, from Turkish to Tex-Mex — the El (fill in the blank) restaurants alone fill up two columns. We have at least 59 identifiable ethnic choices. Chinese, you say? Be specific. Hunan, Cantonese or Taiwanese? Give P’s a chance. We’ve got Persian, Peruvian, Polish, Polynesian, Portuguese, Puerto Rican and Pakistani.

Houston has beckoned people from around the world because of gold and geography. For gold: the “awl bidness,” the Texas Medical Center and the Port of Houston. Add to that the NASA program – some 25,000 Russians live here. As for geography, Houston is a cultural crossroads which is reflected in our food. From the south we have Tex-Mex and South American. From the west come Texas beef, barbecue and wild game. From the Gulf we catch our great seafood. And from Louisiana we host Cajun cooking – along with thousands of their chefs. Other cities have one or two of these culinary and cultural influences, only Houston has them all together in the same place.

Some of our eateries offer more than just food – music, views, poolside bars and history. The Taste of Texas not only has great steaks but is a Texanna museum. One day, I was guiding a grandson through the restaurant’s collection – the little creep corrected me once – and I asked the lady at the entrance if they had anything about Robert E. Lee.

“Me,” she said. She explained that she was originally from Savannah, Ga., was named Lee and was a direct descendant. I took her picture with Mister Know-It-All.

Right now you are thinking: “I can never get into any of the top joints, and I don’t get good service anywhere.” OK, call the restaurant ahead of time to make reservations. Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest, so go on Sunday night, if they are open.

Another tip, so to speak: Tips should be given when we feel we were treated well. The norm would be 10 to 15 percent, but larger tips can be a great motivator for future service there. In Houston, and most other big cities in Texas, the meal has an 8.25 percent tax – I round it off to 10 percent. So when I tip according to the bottom line I am actually over-tipping. Check the total of only food and drink, not including what the tax man adds. Rule of thumb, take the tax and double it.

On the other hand, that person serving you is quite probably making a lot less than you, and could use that extra buck or so. Just remember, more than one out of four American adults got their first job in a restaurant, and nearly half of all Americans have worked in a restaurant at some point in their working careers. That busboy will remember your tip when figuring out your bonus for 2025.

Now, about making reservations, Zagat found that Texans are increasingly using the Internet to make restaurant reservations. Two years ago only 11 percent of Texans used the web for that. This figure has more than doubled to 23 percent. And 82 percent of those surveyed check restaurant websites before they head out.

While we’re still talking state-wide, the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) says the Texas restaurant industry is projected to post “measured gains” (read: up just a tad) in sales growth in 2011. The National Restaurant Association’s 2011 Restaurant Industry Forecast says Texas should see sales of $36.6 billion, which is a 3.9 percent increase over 2010. That places Texas second only to California in restaurant sales. Employment in Texas restaurants will increase this year to 1,002,100. Texas is also projected to post the strongest growth in employment over the next decade, growing 17.3 percent to 1,175,000 employees. That’s as though every man, woman and child in Dallas worked in a Texas restaurant.

Richie Jackson, Texas Restaurant Association CEO, echoes the upbeat local predictions for a good 2011. In a press release, Jackson cites “the pent-up demand for dining out.” The trend began towards the end of last year and is continuing. Are you helping by eating out more? Nationally, restaurant industry sales are expected to reach $604 billion in 2011, a 3.6 percent increase over 2010, the first upswing in three years.

The big fad today is eating out of doors, or al fresco, named for Alfredo Fresco, a famed Italian chef who came up with the idea after the wind blew off the roof of his café in Milan. He proclaimed, “Mama mia, no lira roofimi Mafioso sleepa wit da pesce.” Which means, “My overhead’s killing me.” Fresco’s idea eventually caught on and today all the really spiffy joints have a porch or terrace or asphalt parking lot covered with bird droppings. That spot is hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. Heretofore it was considered useless, but now can double the number of tables. As for Alfredo Fresco, although his open-air restaurant was a huge success, unfortunately, he stopped paying protection and ended up in the Tiber, sautéed with a sprig of rosemary and a slice of lemon. That recipe never caught on.

“What’s new,” you are asking. “How can I, too, make Big Bux in the restaurants by getting ahead of the crowd?” I, personally, thought a café based on Slumdog Millionaire would be a success. Every customer was given a bowl to go begging at all the other restaurants. It bombed.

For a peek into potential prosperity by getting on the cutting edge of gastronomy, we turn to the NRA—no, not that NRA, I mean the National Restaurant Association. Each year it asks more than 1,500 chefs who are members of American Culinary Federation to give their professional opinion of what will be a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite” on restaurant menus this year.

The envelope, please. The top menu trends will be locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce and especially hyper-local items, like the turnips growing in the men’s room and the goats in the kitchen. Then, there are nutritious kids’ dishes, children’s nutrition as a culinary theme, sustainable seafood, gluten-free food including allergy-conscious items, back-to-basics cuisine and farm-branded ingredients.

Rounding out the top menu trends are artisan liquor, locally produced wine and beer, smaller portions for a smaller price, organic produce, nutrition as a culinary theme, culinary cocktails – I’m not sure what that means — newly fabricated cuts of meat, fruit/vegetable children’s side items, ethnic-inspired breakfast items and artisan cheese.

Thirty percent of the chefs said that mobile food trucks and pop-up restaurants will be the hottest operational trend this year, and they are right. Notice all those little taco trucks around town? “We put the burro in burrito.” Eighteen percent said restaurants with gardens will be the top trend, reflecting the above-mentioned locally grown, and 17 percent said social media marketing. Indeed, 55 percent of the chefs said they are currently using social media on their jobs, and another 16 percent said they plan to start using such channels. Incidentally, all this “locally grown” food rage has got to give Drayton McLane indigestion. He made a fortune hauling California cabbages to Waco and Mexican mangoes to Tulsa.

One trend which caught my eye was smaller portions for a smaller price. Do you notice the huge portions our restaurants serve? I’m not griping. It sure beats the alternative, but when your waiter (excuse me, server or waitstaff are the PC terms these days) arrives at your table on a fork lift, you know that Houston’s reputation as America’s Fattest City is safe. Actually, we can retire the trophy.  I have so many doggy bags I’m entered in the Westminster Dog Show.

Finally, you should know that the word, “restaurant,” comes from the Olde English “rest your rump,” and was first used in 1304 in Suffolk by a drive-through tavern specializing in shepherds’ pie, Take-It-on-the-Lamb. It went bankrupt because of a competing café, Ewe-Haul-It.

Now back to work. I put out the fire and cleaned up the spilled wine. Did you bounce those drunks at Table 14? Oh? They were the international restaurant critics?

By The Numbers

The National Restaurant Association says the outlook for the eateries biz for 2011 is excellent.

1.3 million:

The number of positions the restaurant industry will add in the next decade.

$1.7 trillion:

That is the overall economic impact of the restaurant industry. I am not sure exactly precisely what “economic impact” means.

34 jobs

are generated from every additional million dollars in restaurant sales.

88%

of adults say they enjoy going to restaurants. The other 12 percent were international restaurant critics.

46%

of restaurant employees say they would like to own their own restaurant some day.

71%

of adults say they try to eat healthier now at restaurants than they did two years ago.

47%

of adults say they would patronize food trucks.

80%

of restaurant owners started their industry careers at entry-level positions.

69%

of adults say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers food grown or raised in an organic or environmentally friendly way.

$1.7 billion:

Restaurant-industry sales on a typical day in 2011.

Waking Up The Importance Of Sleep

June 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Health & Wellness

By Heidi Dvorak

Not getting adequate sleep won’t just leave you craving a Starbucks fix, it can have a serious negative impact on your health—and may prevent you from losing weight.

Cathryn, a 38-year-old mother of preteen twins, works full-time at an insurance office, eats healthfully and does Pilates twice a week. But when bedtime comes, she tosses and turns, then frequently awakens at 4 a.m., overwhelmed by worries and unable to get back to sleep.

Her boss had warned her she was in danger of losing her job due to careless errors, but it wasn’t until she had a near-miss car accident after she nodded off at the wheel that she realized she had a major problem.

“Even though I was dead-tired all the time, it never occurred to me that missing a few hours of sleep was a big deal,” she says. “I figured I could make up the lost hours on the weekend.”

Underestimating the importance of sleep is a common miscalculation. More than 70 million Americans suffer from insufficient sleep, the Centers for Disease Control reports. National Sleep Foundation statistics reveal that only two-thirds of women get a good night’s rest only a few nights per week and that 29 percent regularly take sleeping aids.
“Lack of adequate sleep is a major problem, with an average night’s sleep decreasing from nine hours a night 130 years ago to six and three-quarters hours a night,” says sleep expert Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, a nationwide group of clinics.

“Many people don’t prioritize sleep in their lives,” says David Kuhlmann, MD, medical director of Sleep Medicine at Bothwell Regional Health Center in Sedalia, MO. “You have to give yourself enough time to get an adequate amount. People think that the goal of sleep is to sleep. It is not. The goal is to wake up feeling refreshed.”

You can temporarily disguise the effects of sleep loss with concealer or by drinking gallons of coffee to rev you up. But in time, it can have serious medical consequences such as weight gain, diminished heart health, diabetes, certain cancers, diminished memory and depression. Here, some of the ways your lack of pillow time may be affecting your health:

IT CAN CAUSE YOU TO GAIN WEIGHT.

“Insufficient sleep is associated with a 30 percent increased risk of obesity,” says Dr. Teitelbaum.

“Sleep affects metabolism,” explains William Kohler, MD, medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Springhill. “When you lose sleep, chemicals in the brain are altered and there are elevated changes in the key appetite hormones, leptin and ghrelin. So lack of sleep can potentially make you eat more, because you won’t have that feeling of being satiated.”

“Sleep loss will trigger fatigue, which causes sugar cravings,” adds Dr. Teitelbaum.
The Nurses Health Study at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland tracked the sleeping patterns of 68,183 women for 16 years. Those logging in five hours or less gained about 2 1⁄2 pounds more than did those sleeping seven hours.

Even if you’re dieting, evidence suggests that you’ll lose fewer pounds if you’re not getting enough rest. A National Institutes of Health study showed that after two weeks of calorie restriction, the group that got 8 1⁄2 hours of sleep lost about 3 pounds, while the group that got 5 1⁄2 hours lost only about 1 1⁄2 pounds.

“Also, over time, sleep loss can cause a significant weight gain resulting from decreased energy levels, thus decreased exercise,” Dr. Kohler adds. “You might have the same calorie intake but you’re not as active.”

SLEEP DEPRIVATION IS LINKED TO CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE.

Although many physicians believe that lack of sleep may adversely affect your ticker, most are unwilling to go on the record until clinical studies are 100 percent conclusive. Until then, experts like Dr. Teitelbaum couch it this way: “Poor sleep is associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome,” which is the name given to a group of factors that increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and type-2 diabetes among other conditions. “Metabolic syndrome is a major risk factor for heart disease in the U.S.,” Dr. Teitelbaum says. “Because of this, insomnia is a predictor of cardiac mortality.”

Studies back up the link. A large 2007 study at the University of Warwick Medical School found that when participants reduced their sleeping hours from seven to five hours or fewer per night, they doubled their risk of death from cardiovascular problems. Seven hours of shut-eye nightly was perceived as an optimal goal.

IT CAN INCREASE INFLAMMATION AND DEPRESS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM.

When your body gets injured, irritated or infected, inflammation is how it responds. Inflammation has been shown to trigger cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, type-2 diabetes and other conditions. A 2010 Emory University study found that people who did not get enough sleep (i.e. got less than six hours a night)—or got poor-quality slumber, had higher levels of three inflammatory markers. One in particular, called C-reactive protein (CRP), increased by 25 percent. Chronic elevations of CRP are present in those with heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes.

“Sleep deprivation is a good way to immune-suppress an animal—including people,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “An optimized immune system is associated with less cancer and infections.

LACK OF SLEEP CAN AFFECT YOUR MEMORY.

“Sleep loss results in a decrease in short-term memory,” says Donna Arand, PhD, clinical director of the Kettering Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, OH. “The greater the loss, the greater the impact on memory. The brain area for memory is smaller in patients who sleep less. My research demonstrates that sleep deprivation impacts memory, fine-motor coordination, mood and cognitive processes.”

Not being well rested also affects the ability to learn new things, process new information and access it after it’s stored. Processing information (called consolidation) takes place during sleep when neural connections are strengthened and memories are formed.

CHRONIC INSOMNIA CAN INCREASE YOUR RISK OF DEPRESSION.

Though short-term sleep deprivation “has a remarkably positive effect on depression,” according to Jerome Siegel, PhD, chief of neurobiology research at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, “chronic sleep deprivation may precipitate depression.”

Dr. Kohler views the relationship between poor sleep and depression as complex. “The chemicals in the brain that are involved in sleep are also involved in the emotional state. There’s an overlap in transmitters. Most of us feel down the next day with a lack of sleep. Poor sleep can cause difficulty with interpersonal relationships and a decrease of ambition.”

Dr. Teitelbaum sees insomnia and depression as one another’s enablers. “Eighty percent of those with depression have insomnia, and it is suspected that insomnia may increase the risk of depression. In addition, those with insomnia have disrupted patterns with more dreaming and less deep sleep.”

The Do’s and Dont’s of Good Sleep

Here, some tips for improving your sleep.

Do Get Enough Sleep For Your Body

Although most experts concur that getting around seven hours of sleep a night is optimal, Dr. Kuhlmann offers this advice: “However long your body requires to awaken feeling rested is how much sleep that you need.”

Don’t Drink Caffeine After Lunch

Even if your bedtime is hours later, the effects of caffeine may take 8 to 14 hours to completely wear off, so that 2 p.m. espresso may keep you up.

Do Exercise

Dr. Kohler recommends exercise, but says that timing is key. “Exercise performed four to five hours before bedtime will increase the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you exercise too close to bedtime, epinephrine increases and can keep you awake.”

Pilates can help improve sleep quality. A study at Appalachian State University in North Carolina revealed that after participants took a Pilates class for a semester, sleep quality and mood improved.

Don’t Take Naps or Try to Catch Up On Sleep On The Weekend

“There are a number of restorative physiological processes that take place during consolidated sleep,” Dr. Kuhlmann says. “Those body functions may not operate at peak efficiency when sleep occurs in multiple blocks.”

Dr. Teitelbaum agrees: “The body needs periods of extended sleep to go into the deep stages and through the repeats of the sleep cycle.”

Do Go To Bed At The Same Time Every Night

“The brain likes consistency,” says Dr. Kohler. “Get up and go to bed at the same time.”

Do Turn Out The Lights

A 2010 University of Haifa study of 1,679 women showed that light at night in the surrounding environment is associated with a risk of breast cancer. “The comparison was done between women sleeping in a completely dark room and those sleeping in an illuminated room,” says study head Abraham Haim, PhD. “In the latter, there was a 40 percent increase of cancer incidence. He suggests either sleeping with all lights off, or, for safety’s sake, using a low-intensity, low-wave light.

Do Turn Off The Computer And TVs

“Too much bright light in the evening is going to inhibit sleep, even a bright TV or computer monitor,” says Dr. Kohler. “If you look at it late in the evening, potentially that could interfere with your sleep that night. Eyeshades are important, especially if your partner is reading at night or watching TV. You might want earplugs too.”

Do Establish A Relaxing Bedtime Routine

When Cathryn told Elizabeth Larkam, a Balanced Body master instructor in San Francisco, about her insomnia, Larkam prescribed a before-bedtime routine of slow, deep breathing through her nose. Larkam also suggested that just before bed, Cathryn turn off the lights and lie on her back on her mat hugging her knees to her chest while practicing her breathing and rocking slowly from side to side for two to five minutes. After that, she advised Cathryn to get into bed and continue her breathing for another two minutes on her back and then move into her normal sleeping position.

“The sleep regulatory centers in the brain stem process information from joints, organs, muscle receptors and other areas of the brain,” says Larkam. “Lower levels of stimulation induce sleep and rocking may facilitate the brain to transition to balance, harmony and synchrony. A calm mind and relaxed body are prerequisites for restorative sleep.”

The rocking and breathing helped calm Cathryn’s mind, which typically raced incessantly as soon as she turned off the lights. She now looks forward to preparing for bed since the mat rocking relaxes her and makes it easier to fall asleep.

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring or waking up gasping for air (or if a partner has commented that you struggle to breathe while sleeping). Sleep apnea can cause you to stop breathing for a few seconds to a minute or two up to 30 times per hour. “In sleep apnea the muscles that normally help to keep the upper airway open collapse together, which may temporarily stop breathing,” Dr. Kuhlmann explains. “The two parts of your body most sensitive to oxygen deprivation are your heart and your brain, which is why sleep apnea has such a strong association with heart problems and strokes.” If you suspect you have this common condition, see your doctor.

Texas BBQ Central

June 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Mapping Out the Best Barbecue Joints in the Lone Star State

Story & Photos By Janis Turk

Live in Texas for more than five minutes—or just visit some weekend—and before you can say “Howdy,” you’ll find yourself standing in front of an old Texas barbecue joint. Someone will undoubtedly claim this place has the best barbecue in the state, and you’ll wonder if it’s true. Soon you’re standing knee-deep in spare ribs, leaning over slabs of brisket laid out on butcher paper and licking barbecue sauce off your wrists—that is, if you don’t accidentally burn your boots when stepping over a fire pit in the floor.

Chances are the barbecue joint will be an old, third-generation, family-run, small-town kinda place with walls the smeary color of smoke-cured meat. A neon Lone Star beer sign hangs on the wall, old men in baseball caps stand in line, and little green Coca-Cola bottles carry a thin film of ice that slides away as you lift them from a stand-up metal cooler.

Barbecue, and all the quirky small-town places that serve it, is a long-revered Texas tradition as important to the rich cultural mythology of the Lone Star State as cowboys, cattle drives, boots, faded jeans, “Faded Love,” Willie Nelson and The Alamo. Barbecue is a kind of religion for Texans: Places that serve it are like churches with loyal congregations who attend regularly and sometimes feud, split and start their own place down the street.

Barbecue joints that Texans love best are imbued with an elusive Last Picture Show quality that seasons the experience like a black pepper rub on a brisket. (Hollywood couldn’t build sets this unbelievably cool.) A place can have the most tender barbecue, but if folks don’t stand in line for it in an old store-front building with a squeaky screen door, an antiquated water-cooler system hanging from the ceiling, dusty deer-head mounts on the walls and a fire roaring in the floor, it’ll never get on the barbecue map of Texas.

A few popular spots like The Salt Lick (which is not quite old school/cool enough to make the popular Texas Monthly magazine’s “best barbecue” list complied every five years) have become so famous that they get write-ups in The New York Times and land a food court kiosk at the Austin airport. Other hometown hole-in-the-wall spots, like Snow’s in Lexington, have only in recent years been “discovered” by food writers and the rest of the brisket-eating, pickle-chomping, pick-up-driving proletariat.

But let’s just suppose you’ve never been to the Lone Star State and don’t know where to start in your search for great barbecue.

It’s easy. Put your finger in the center of a Texas map and eat your way out from there. Texas is “barbecue central,” and so our list begins at the heart of it all near the capital city of Austin in the south-central part of the state. After that, it’s a short drive to small towns that spoke-off in all directions from there—places like Taylor, Driftwood, Lexington, Luling and Lockhart where city slickers and Texas “kikkers” concur the best barbecue begins.

Lockhart: The Official “Barbecue Capitol of Texas”

Smitty’s Market

(The original Kruez Market building—pronounced Krites)
(512) 398-9344. Open Mon–Fri 7–6, Sat 7–6:30, Sun 9–3.
www.smittysmarket.com
Owners: Nina Schmidt Sells and son John Fullilove (Nina is the daughter of Edgar Schmidt who ran Kruez’ on that spot since 1948).

Smoking meat here since: 1900
(Note: Smitty’s was renamed/re-opened by the late owner’s daughter after she and brother Rick had a feud/split in 1999.)

Atmosphere: The best, bar none. A long room of smoke-stained walls still has little chains nailed to them where butcher knives were once attached “so people wouldn’t walk off with them or get stabbed in a fight,” says Nina. A local post oak fire blazes in the ground, enveloping you in smoke while you stand in line for meat. The parking lot is a sea of chopped wood.

Barbecue: So good that for years the owners refused to serve sauce—didn’t want it interfering with all the rich and subtle flavors of the meat slow cooked over an open post oak fire. Seem extreme? Yeah, but the brisket is that good.

Side dishes: Whole loaves of white bread, raw onions, Saran-wrapped slices of cheddar cheese, pickles and whole avocados—for starters.

Sauce: Zesty and tart (if you ask for it, they’ll serve it—but only under duress).

We love it because like most Texans, we’re loyal: Barbecue has been smoked on this spot for more than a century. A family squabble forced a name-change (Kruez Market—pronounced “Kriets” to “Smitty’s”) when a sibling opened a new barbecue joint under the old name (though they claim to just run their sane business in a new location). Either way, the name changed, but the quality here didn’t. Locals took sides in the split, and many refuse to patronize the new Kruez Market. Some folks still call Smitty’s by its former name only to sigh and say, “I mean, you know, the Old Kreuz’s.” Nice also that it’s open on Sundays.

Downside: Long lines out the back door.

Who eats here: Everybody. James Beard Award-winning celebrity chef John Besh of New Orleans once told me he loves this place.

Best in the state? Arguably.

Kreuz Market

(The “new” Kruez Market location)
(512) 398-2361. Open Mon-Sat 10:30-8. Closed Sun.
www.kreuzmarket.com

Owner: Keith Schmidt, grandson of Edgar Schmidt (former owner of Kruez Market at original location).

Smoking meat here since: 1999, this building; at “Smitty’s” location since 1900.
Atmosphere: Won’t wow you. Big metal building.

Barbecue: Better than I’m willing to admit. Try the zingy jalapeño cheese sausage.

Side dishes: Beans, sauerkraut and more.

Sauce: None. Ever. Won’t have it.

Downside: They barbecue their meat faster than most (in 4 hours). No BBQ sauce—bummer. Closed Sundays—bummer.

Who you’ll see there: Austinites and those who side with the son in the family feud.

We love it because: They carried burning coals in a steal tub from their original location so they can say they cook over the same coal fire their Granddad did.

Best in the state? Some say so, but not me.

Driftwood (South of Austin)

The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que

(512) 858-4959. Open daily, 11-10. BYOB.
www.saltlickbbq.com

Owners: The Roberts Family

Smoking meat here since: 1967

Atmosphere: Laid back and “keep Austin weird” friendly. Set in the country outside town.

Barbecue: Big portions served family style—the smoked turkey and chicken are always a hit.

Side dishes: Big rings of sausage and generous sides of potato salad.

Who eats there: Celebs like Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey, who are sometimes spotted here, and Austinites who don’t think anything of the 20-minute drive to Driftwood consider it an “Austin tradition,” even though it’s not actually in Austin.

Sauce: Zesty and sweet; mustard based.
We love it because: We can sit outside in the shade of enormous oak trees and bring our own beer and wine—even a giant ice chest full. Live music under the stars—how very Austin of them.

Downside: Long hot summer waits, though you can sit at picnic tables outside.

Best in the state? No, but it ain’t bad.

Luling

City Market

(830) 875-9019. Open Mon–Sat 7–6. Closed Sun.

Owner: Joe Capello, Sr.

Atmosphere: Small-town Texas, slice of Americana.

Barbecue: Tender, marbled but not too fatty.

Side dishes: Potato salad, beans, cheese, pickles, white bread, Big Red and root beer in bottles.

Sauce: Zesty and sweet—spices float to the top—my favorite. For years, I’d pick up sauce from here and then drive 15 miles farther to Smitty’s because my favorite BBQ place didn’t serve sauce. Lucky for me, City Market sells the sauce by the cup, pint, and even the gallon in Styrofoam containers.

We love it because: Luling is home of the “Watermelon Thump” festival.

Who eats here: Locals, farmers and everyday folks from San Antonio, Austin, Houston and beyond.

Downside: Long lines, busy at lunchtime; closed Sundays.

Best in the state? Pretty darn close to it.

Taylor

Louie Mueller Barbecue

(512) 352-6206. Open Mon–Sat 10–7:30 or sold out. Closed Sun.
www.louiemuellerbarbecue.com
Owners: Wayne Mueller (third-generation owner) and Trish Mueller
Smoking meats here since: 1959 (this location); 1949 (original location nearby)

Atmosphere: Old-school cool.

Barbecue: Features heavily seasoned brisket caked a powerful cracked pepper rub. Try the 100 percent beef jalapeño sausage in its pork casing for a Texas-sized kick.
Side dishes: Baked potatoes, potato salad, Cole slaw, beans and homemade peach cobbler.

Sauce: Forget it. Even loyal fans of this place say “Don’t order it.”

We love it because: They keep Texas’ own Shiner Beer on tap.

Who goes there: Locals and Austinites who don’t mind driving an hour to Taylor.

Downside: Not-so-hot barbecue sauce.

Best in the state? Usually makes all the “top 10” lists.

Lexington

Snow’s BBQ

(979)542-8189 (for preordering on weekdays), (979) 773-4640 (on Saturdays). Open Sat 8-noon-ish. Closed Sun-Fri.
www.snowsbbq.com
Owner: Kerry Bexley

Smoking meats here since: 2003

Atmosphere: Fantastic. Sit outside by the pits.

Barbecue: So good they sometimes sell out in just a few hours. Tender, perfectly marbled, moist. Wow. Get it to go.

Side dishes: The usual.

Who eats here: Far too many people.

Downside: Only open on Saturdays. People start lining up around 7 a.m.—and they can sell out as early as 10 a.m. Since 2008, when Texas Monthly named it the best barbecue in Texas, Snow’s works to keep up with demand.

Sauce: Pretty standard, but they do ship it across the U.S.

We love it because: Sweet ol’ “Miss Tootsie” Tomanetz (who turned 76 on the day of this writing) has worked as a barbecue pit master for 45 years and is there every day.

Who goes there: Morning people. Don’t go late if you want to eat.

Best in the state? Probably.

Honorable Mention

Gozales

Belmont Social Club

(830)424-3026

Big, barn-like family place with live music and good eats in a real ghost town.

Lockhart

Black’s Barbecue

(888) 632-8225 toll free.
www.blacksbbq.com

Their slogan? Great barbecue “8 Days A Week.” Open since 1932. Claim to be Texas’ oldest restaurant continuously owned by same family.

Austin

Stubb’s Bar-B-Que

(512) 480-8341
www.stubbsbbq.com

Legendary for cold beer, good barbecue, great sauce (they bottle it) live music, and a lively Gospel Brunch. Backyard holds thousands as a concert venue where legends like Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughn have played.

Texans Enjoy a Love Affair With BBQ from All Over the Lone Star State

Of course, great Texas barbecue is not corralled like cattle to only the center of the state. Texas is GIANT (it’s more than 850 miles from the Sabine River to the West Texas border town of El Paso), so try one of these other fabulous barbecue joints from all over the state—places whose barbecue makes Texans proud:

Fort Worth

Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

Two more locations—the original in Llano (northwest of Austin), and one in New Braunfels (north of San Antonio).
www.coopersbbq.com

This Cooper’s location, near the cattleman’s capital of Texas in the old Ft.Worth Stockyards and just a boot-scoot from Texas’ largest honky tonk “Billy Bob’s Texas,” is home to the “Big Chop,” an enormous barbecued pork chop. Folks swear by Cooper’s brisket, ribs, chicken and hearty side dishes, too.

La Feria

Wild Bill’s BBQ & Steaks

956-778-0356

Located 24 miles northwest of the south Texas border town of Brownsville, Wild Bill’s “represents the frontier spirit with its great Texas decor, and Bill plays his part to the hilt, complete with a very impressive handlebar moustache, and well-used hunting knife hanging from his belt,” according to filmmakers in Barbecue: A Texas Love Story.

Terlingua

La Kiva

www.lakiva.net

When most Texans hear the word Terlingua, they think of chili, because this old West Texas ghost town is home to the Terlingua International Chili Championship. But these days Terlingua is also known for great, wood-fired barbecue. La Kiva, a bar and restaurant “cave” built into an area dug into a hill in the Big Bend RV Travel Park, features award-winning barbecue that earned awards in at least a dozen barbecue cook-off competitions. Featuring three stages with large music and pit barbecue, La Kiva is the creation of owner Gary Felts. Anyone famous ever come around? At this writing, former President George W. Bush is there doing a mountain bike ride in the area with a Wounded Warriors group.

Houston

Thelma’s BBQ

713-228-2527

With smoky ribs, oh-so-sweet barbecue sauce, and sassy old Thelma at the pit, even at this new location (the original Thelma’s burned down), you’ll find yourself in barbecue bliss. City slickers, turn off your cell phones: Thelma refuses to take your order if you’re on a cell phone—a rule she posted on the wall near another that says “no service if your pants are sagging.”

Dallas

Peggy Sue BBQ

www.peggysuebbq.com

Peggy Sue is known for her great veggies as well as her fine barbecue. This place is sure to please both vegetarians and carnivores, with great barbecue and some special lightly steamed vegetable side dishes, too.

Pack Your Bags

June 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

H Texas Opens the Door to Seven Charming Travel Spots

Planning a vacation, but not sure exactly where you want to go? Houstonians are fortunate; we have endless possibilities for vacation opportunities. There are fantastic day trip options and the entire state of Texas boasts some of the most versatile environments on earth. Additionally, we are centrally located with two convenient airports with an endless number of flight possibilities both domestically and abroad.

Often we get caught in a routine that becomes boring and predictable, even when planning a vacation. With the busy lifestyles of couples and families, many don’t take the time to research the possibilities.

H Texas has done the work for you. We have selected and reviewed seven distinct destinations. We are confident that at least one,, hopefully more, will appeal to you, your significant other and your family. You might even discover one that is a perfect place to send your mother-in-law!

Let H Texas be your travel guide – all you have to do is pack your bags!

Texas

A Journey Through Heaven On Earth

By Rick McMillen

The heart of Texas is a mere 150 miles from Houston. It is conveniently located for those who wish to escape the proverbial concrete realties of the mass, aggressive and abundant activity of Houston. Pack your bags, toss them, the kids and the family pet in the car, even at $4 dollars a gallon, the trip to tranquility is only $30.

I have lived in Houston for 30 years and I am absolutely amazed by the number of friends and associates who have never really been to the heart land of Texas. The Hill Country, a plethora of natural attractions, basically has it all for those who love and need a rhetorical fix on Mother Nature. Experience the forests, deserts, plains and mountains. There are numerous lakes and rivers and you can simply sit back, relax and enjoy or swim, fish or raft. The winery’s, restaurants, hotels and hidden resorts beckon your arrival and the days can be full, enjoying the bounty or relaxed, perfect for late morning sleeping, long siestas and romantic evenings.

Our first visit was a family camping trip to one of the larger reservoirs. As we began to enter the Hill Country, I recall the reactions from our three children. They were in awe of the hills, the foliage, the endless ranches of long horned cattle and the long, long stretches with no homes in site. I looked at my wife, we both grew up in the mid-west farmlands, and we realized that they had never experienced the natural beauty that was exploding in front of their little eyes.

Their passion for what they were witnessing and the week long events of swimming, fishing, hiking and camp fires are still remembered and are now being recreated with their own little ones.

For those who do not want complete solitude, there are the quaint, lazy towns of Bandera, Fredericksburg, Gruene, Kerrville and New Braunfels and many others that all offer great shopping and fantastic restaurants. Many of these small towns have their own, small museums or are only miles from historical locations and monuments. (Take a peek at page 48 and see the local listings of some of the best BBQ locations, right there, in or near the Hill Country.)

We are blessed to be Texans with so many amazing places to visit and an unlimited number of things to do and experience within our very own borders. But it is the Texas Hill Country that truly stands out as one of the best parts of this great state we call home. In fact, when we get to heaven, we may just be surprised to find it looks a whole lot like  the Texas Hill Country.

The Inn at Dos Brisas

By Laurette M. Veres

The chef at Dos Brisas has what the chef in all of us crave: a full garden to source ingredients.  Only an hour and a half from Houston, the Inn at Dos Brisas welcomes you with private casitas, individual golf carts, and equestrian facilities.  The Spanish mission style grounds, on 300 acres of Texas hill country, provide a splendid escape from bustling city life.  Each casita comes equipped with a golf cart so guests can explore the grounds and learn about herbs, spices, vegetables and more.

The night H Texas visited many Houstonians were on property for a special garden party.  The mobile five-star restaurant embodies the farm-to-table trend with organic gardens and wines, creative interpretations of haute French cuisine.

Jordan

A Modern Wonder of the World

By Laurette M. Veres

Considered by some to be the Switzerland of the Middle East, Jordan is the most progressive of its neighbors.  This nation, whose landscape you may recognize from Lawrence of Arabia, is also home to one of our world’s modern wonders, Petra.

Below Jordon’s capital Amman is the Dead Sea. From the Dead Sea you travel several miles to reach the ancient city of Petra. Photographs cannot portray the magnitude of size, colors or beauty, and it’s hard to select words to describe Petra. Recently added to the list of new seven modern wonders of the world (New7Wonders Foundation), its majesty is best witnessed at a slow pace.

Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a natural narrow gorge more than a mile long.  The path is lined with beautiful, soaring cliffs on both sides; you walk on cobblestone roads that are thousands of years old.  Much has been written about this area and the ancient Nabataeans whose 2000-year-old settlement is the most popular attraction in Jordan.

The view walking through the Siq is unbelievably gorgeous, yet pales in comparison to the first work of art you will see, the Al-Khazneh (Treasury).  This meticulously crafted monument is more than five stories high and was hand carved out of sheer, dusky pink rock.  It was created as a tomb and has been unbelievably preserved for our viewing pleasure.

Everybody stops. In fact, I feel it is impossible to ignore the beauty of Al-Khazneh and keep walking down the path. It feels like a movie set and, in fact, it was. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it was the entrance to the final resting place of the Holy Grail. While tourists take in the massive monument, street vendors mingle with the crowd selling postcards and trinkets. Some are selling camel rides, or at least photographs of you on the beasts.

As you continue walking, more tombs become visible and the vast expanse of space is revealed.  There are hundreds of elaborate rock-cut tombs with intricate carvings throughout this national treasure. The tombs were carved to last.  Further exploration uncovers a Roman theatre and more beautiful carvings. Missing are the homes for the city’s residents. They are long lost to earthquakes and age.

A set of steep steps leads up to an old meeting area that was once a Byzantine church.  The range of colors on the ceiling of the church is so vast it seems unreal at first, but these beautiful colors exist in nature.

There are no automobiles allowed here.  It’s a strenuous walk back.  If you can’t make it, there are plenty of horse-drawn carriages for the handicapped, elderly and tired.  As you make the mile long trek back, you can’t help but to begin dreaming of your next day at the Dead Sea.

The Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa is an oasis in the dessert.  The meticulous lobby welcomes weary travelers and provides a welcome reprieve from the desert heat.  Three resort pools create a serene and relaxing setting for your picturesque walk to the Dead Sea.  You’ll need the provided plastic shoes to protect your feet from the sharp rocks as you descend to the base and get an up close look at the crystal, clear sea.

The sharp and uneven rocks make it difficult to keep your footing as you near the water – enter with caution. The water is like none you’ve entered before.  The Dead Sea is so full of nutrients and salt, it creates buoyancy beyond all oceanic experiences.  When you sit back, the water is so buoyant, it’s like you are sitting in a tube floating down the Guadalupe. Trying to get vertical is a challenge, but once you do, you don’t have to tread water to float perfectly upright.

Many people come here for natural treatments and the medicinal benefits of the mud.  The Dead Sea mud is said to have healing powers to cure diseases, rashes and arthritis.  Each morning the staff harvests mud into terra-cotta buckets.  It’s a blast to cover yourself in the mud and wait for it to dry.  When the mud washes off, your skin is tight and soft, making the long trip to Jordan worth every frequent-flier mile you’ve earned.

Mexico

Hotel Matilda in San Miguel de Allende

By Laurette M. Veres

You’ll feel like you’ve entered an art gallery when you walk in the Hotel Matilda in San Miguel de Allende. This new, boutique hotel offers first class amenities, a fabulous spa, great food and amazing artwork.

The City of San Miguel is known for art schools and attracting international, budding artists; pottery, textiles and contemporary art boutiques are all over this UNESCO-protected city.  The Matilda seeks to capture this artistic essence with clean lines and smooth surfaces framed by strategically placed works of art – reminiscent of an art gallery.  In fact, the famed Diego Rivera painted the hotel owner’s mother in San Miguel when she was a young girl.  Her name is Matilda and a replica of this painting hangs in the main lobby.

While the art is great, the spa experience is the highlight here.  As soon as you check-in, a young lady comes to your room to massage your head and shoulders.  It is a perfect way to relieve tension after the 1 1/2 hour plane ride to San Miguel de Allende.  The welcome massage is just a hint of things to come.

The Spa Matilda, just below the flowing water of the infinity pool, offers their signature treatment: the Hammam Ritual.  This is a private steam experience customized to each individual that consists of eucalyptus-scented towels, a body scrub and clay mask.  The tiled steam room has a towel-covered bench made to resemble the heated benches at the traditional Turkish Hammams.  Steam before a body treatment opens pores and begins the cleansing process.  This is the best steam area we’ve encountered.  It’s private and customized to individual needs – down to the blended soap.

Next, comes the 15-minute clay mask treatment. This stimulates circulation, accelerates cell growth and prepares the skin for further treatment.  You can remain in the Hammam up to 45 minutes.  (I make it about 30, but I do step out a few times to refresh with a eucalyptus scented wet towel.)  Time in the Hammam prepares you mentally and physically for the forthcoming treatment; just the right mood for a massage.

Part Thai massage and part deep tissue, the techniques used are evidence of superb training.  It’s not just a massage; most of my muscles are stretched, pushed, stretched some more and then massaged, delivering the utmost in therapeutic and restorative healing.

Executive Chef Bernard McDonough has the run of the kitchen.  His strong belief in fresh, organic, locally grown ingredients did not lead him to San Miguel.  In fact, when he arrived at Hotel Matilda, fresh ingredients were not easy to come by.  Through a creative partnership with Via Organica, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote healthy eating, he is now able to source heirloom tomatoes, baby vegetables, lettuces, herbs and more. When he couldn’t find good cheese for his bar-favorite sliders, he teamed up with goat herder and native Cristina Gerez.  Now McDonough has a cheese cave to age his home made artisanal cheeses.  With this assortment of fresh ingredients, the menu is eclectic, creative and simply delicious.

Continental has direct flights to Leon.  From there, it will take you about an hour and 20 minutes to get to the Hotel Matilda. But, for the artwork alone, not to mention the local ambiance, amazing spa and excellent cuisine, the drive is well worth your while.

Editor’s note: Hotel Matilda’s owner has some Houston ties.  In fact, Harold Stream’s first foray into the hotel business was in the early ‘70s when he purchased the Warwick from the Mecom family.  Eventually, John Jr. purchased it back and today it’s the Hotel ZaZa.

Florida

Watercolor Inn & Resort

By Laurette M. Veres

Grab your favorite gal-pal and head to the Beaches of South Walton, a collection of 15 eclectic beach communities on the Florida coast.  The weekend H Texas visited, the 30A Songwriters Festival was in progress.  Imagine: emerald green water set to music.  We bee-bop from event to event along beautiful Highway 30A, officially designated Scenic Highway.

The Florida coastline is ecologically significant and home to the largest concentration of rare, coastal dune lakes in the world. The 15 lakes have been identified as globally extraordinary with similar ecosystems found only in Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand and the Northwest Pacific Coast of the United States.  Unlike sand dunes in Texas, you cannot walk in the brushy beach-lining areas. The one exception is at Grayton Beach State Park.  This is one of the few places you are allowed to explore a dune and study its structure.  Murray Balkcom of Walco Eco Tours leads an informative tour and explains the area’s bio-diverse ecological communities.  When you see brush at the top of a sand dune, many times, that is really the top of a tree!

Along Scenic 30A there are many lodging options. We check into the WaterColor Inn & Resort. This award winning, 60-room, boutique hotel sits on the beach and allows you to take in all the beauty with panoramic views of the water, large balconies and our favorite feature: ocean views from the shower.  (Save your shower for the morning; you must enjoy this luxury by the light of day.)

Comfortable conversations flow in WaterColor’s intimate lobby and bar, a unique setting reminiscent of your best friend’s living room.   Off the lobby, the library offers a relaxing spot to enjoy movies, books, magazines, today’s paper and more.  And, each evening you are greeted with homemade cookies.

Complimentary bicycles make it easy to further explore 30A and the many beach communities.  We hop on a bike and head east.

If you recall the tranquil town in the The Truman Show, you’ll recognize the colorful, cozy cottages used to create the movie’s setting at the Victorian community of Seaside.  We nosh at Great Southern Café where Chef Jim Shirley blends international cuisine with Southern flavors. Fresh produce from nearby farms and fresh fish from the Gulf of Mexico are combined with flavors from around the world.  Don’t miss Grits à Ya Ya, his version of shrimp and grits.  Next door, the iconic bookstore, Sundog Books, is an interesting venue for entertainer Chely Wright while she performs an acoustic set for a packed house.  We then mosey to a wine bar where we find Tim Nichols, writer of the song Live Like You Were Dying and many other number one musical hits, relaxing at the next table.

Continuing the course on 30A, we meet Allison Wickey, 2011 Artist of the Year, at World Six Gallery in Rosemary Beach.  She offers a unique craft – Venetian plaster on large slabs of wood.  We met her on a monumental day – reproductions of her work are now being shipped to specialty stores nationwide.

We spend each evening at Fish Out of Water, the fine dining establishment at WaterColor.  Performances from Vienna Teng, Mat Kearney, Rodney Crowell, Chuck Cannon, Shawn Mullins, Gretchen Peters and many more fill our nights. We find ourselves purchasing CDs and vowing to learn to play guitar.

As with all good things, our trip comes to an end. But we take home with us lasting memories of the sea set to music and thoughts of returning to Watercolor Inn – same time next year.

Key West

By Rick McMillen

A little over 25 years ago, my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary by traveling to the exotic island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We had a fantastic time and, during that trip, we experienced snorkeling for the first time in the warm Caribbean waters. What we discovered was an underwater world of incomparable beauty.

On the third day of the trip, we rented an 18-foot Boston Whaler and decided to follow a commercial charter boat to their favorite snorkeling location. (A local recommended we do this.) Using the hotel supplied snorkeling gear, we gingerly dropped into the water. We entered the moving, visual world of a Monet painting. We were hooked.

That trip turned us into mega fans of the underwater passion of snorkeling. We quickly realized, however, that frequent trips into the heart of the Caribbean were both expensive and time consuming. Naturally, research and common sense dictated that we find a location in the states that would allow for ease of travel, would be less costly than international journeys and could be done over a long weekend. The Florida Keys was the answer.

It is not easy to pinpoint an exact location to go for the best snorkeling; but this never bothers us as my wife and I have always enjoyed the freedom of finding our own path. Normally, we rent a car (convertible) and follow the incredible, scenic roads that lace throughout the chain of remarkable islands. At each cay, the locals are quick to give advice on where to go and, more importantly, where not to go.

The keys are an archipelago of 4,500 islands. The total land area is 137.3 square miles with the southern most tip, Key West, a mere 90 miles from Cuba. While the options are endless when it comes to snorkeling, you will find resorts and accommodations more complex. Plan well, know where you want to go and heed the advise of the locals. Naturally, there are a plethora of dive/snorkel charters that will take you to living, coral barrier reefs and endless other unforgettable locations. However, I strongly challenge you to go on your own and be the captain of your own ship and your own adventure. It will be an incredible experience you won’t soon forget.

Grand Cayman

Ritz Carlton Dragon Bay Raises the Bar in Grand Cayman

By Jo Barrett

Imagine a place designed around the water; a place where water is revered. Developer Michael Ryan believes life is meant to be experienced on the water.  In his vision, you arrive at the airport, and a private boat whisks you to your home on the water. Within minutes of landing, you are cruising across that famous turquoise blanket that Grand Cayman is known for: Ocean, the temperature of a perfect bath; water where you can see your feet, and the colorful parrotfish swimming around them.

Grand Cayman is unlike any island in the Caribbean.  Famous for its sport fishing, powdery white Seven Mile Beach and Sting Ray City where tourists snorkel with large stingrays, Grand Cayman is, quite simply, a jewel nestled in the Caribbean.  It boasts a spectacular year round climate, is relatively crime-free, and one of the few islands where the locals enjoy a high standard of living. There is not a huge economic disparity between guests and residents, and people usually live there because they want to be there. This means the island is safe and stable, with high standards of living, happy locals and, most significantly, a lack of restrictions on foreigners purchasing real estate, which is tax free. Grand Cayman has no sales tax, no income tax, no capital gains tax, no property tax and no inheritance tax. Heaven, you say?  Interested in purchasing a vacation home? Not to worry. The local banks will generally lend between 50-75 percent of the property value to foreigners- which is a good thing for anyone considering purchasing island property in the newly open Ritz Carlton Dragon Bay community.

The Dragon Bay community and resort is a one-stop shop where everything is done well. Whereas other developments may offer a flagship golf course and mediocre spa, the Ritz Carlton manages every program impeccably. With a Greg Norman designed golf course, a La Prairie Spa, exceptional tennis center and one of the most awesome concepts for families traveling with children- a Jean-Michel Cousteau Eco-Adventure Family Program, the resort is truly a paradise.

The resort feels like a coastal community, which is exactly what developer Michael Ryan was shooting for when building the Deckhouses at Dragon Bay and Secret Harbour. The idea is not to simply provide a vacation home, rather, as Ryan says, the “platform for a community to come to life together.”  He believes that a vacation home shouldn’t exist in a vacuum.  That’s why the entire hotel, housing and resort development provides a community atmosphere. There are so many events the resort has to offer, such as the Taste of Cayman food and wine festival featuring world famous chefs, championship tennis tournaments with top rated players flying in from all over the world and, not to mention, fishing and golf tournaments.

Ambassadors of the Environment: One of the most exciting features of the resort for families involves dropping the kids off at what appears to be an old fashioned Caymanian home right on the property.  Inside, there is no Xbox or Nintendo, or anything close to the world of electronics that kids have become so familiar with today.  Instead, the program teaches kids how to respect nature, and enjoy a world outside of the electronic. Signs hanging around the house feature the principles of Jacques and Jean-Michel Cousteau: “Everything is connected,”  “Biodiversity is good” and “There is no waste in nature.” The idea is to provide kids with such a good time they don’t even realize they’re learning.

Eric Ripert’s Blue Restaurant: For those of you who enjoy watching Top Chef and are otherwise enthralled by all things food and wine, the Ritz Carlton Dragon Bay features the top Michelin starred restaurant in the Caribbean. Chef Eric Ripert’s Blue Restaurant is utter perfection, and there is no reason to dine anywhere else. The fish tastes as though it was plucked from the ocean that very day and the fragrance from the accompanying sauces are enough to make one swoon.

Imagine a wine pairing that actually works; a symbiotic relationship to the food, and not a ‘best guess.’

Critics of Caribbean resorts often point to the poor standard of service by unprofessional locals. Not so at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman, where every staff member wears the type of smile as if they know they live in paradise, and are keeping it a secret. The pool bartender told me a story of how she combed through the trash to find the missing orthodontic retainers of an upset, nine year old girl. “My father’s going to kill me,” the girl explained, saying that she’d left her retainers on her lunch plate.  The bartender found the retainers after sifting through the trash.  This is the type of service we’re talking about – the above and beyond kind.

In short, Dragon Bay offers something for everyone.  For couples, the atmosphere is romantic, particularly in the evenings where a night time beach walk is lit by torches.  For families, the pool is extremely friendly, even providing diapers for baby bathers.

The Ritz Carlton Residence Club and Secret Harbour provide among the best value among Caribbean second home opportunities with entry level prices under $1 million dollars.  Of course, there is also a $44 million dollar penthouse, but if you’re not an oil tycoon, opt for one of the gorgeous private homes of Dragon Bay.

Peace through Pie Social: Sunday, June 19th, 1-3 PM

June 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Please join PRH in celebrating the closing day of Round 34: Matter of FOOD.  Attend our Peace Through Pie Social & Soul of My FOOD cooking competition #4 on Sunday, June 19th from 1pm to 3pm.  Welcoming all pie traditions – sweet and savory.   We hope to see you there!


Houston Restaurant Weeks, Aug. 1 – 31, 2011

June 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

WHO & WHAT
More than 100 of Houston’s finest restaurants are expected to participate in Houston Restaurant Weeks (http://www.houstonrestaurantweeks.com/) from Aug. 1 – 31, 2011. Benefiting the Houston Food Bank (http://www.houstonfoodbank.org), the event is an enticing opportunity for diners  to try new hotspots or re-visit old favorites while helping fight hunger in Houston. All participating restaurants will offer a three-course gourmet dinner for $35 per person, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity. Five dollars of each special dinner sold will directly benefit the Houston Food Bank. In addition to the dinner menu, select restaurants will offer a $20 two-course lunch menu, donating three dollars of each lunch sold to the Houston Food Bank.

WHEN & WHERE
Aug. 1 – 31, 2011

Houston Restaurant Weeks

More than 100 Greater Houston Area participating restaurants
www.HoustonRestaurantWeeks.com


WHY
Houston Restaurant Week was established in 2003 by restaurant journalist Cleverley Stone, host of “The Cleverley Show” on Talk 650- CBS Radio and contributor to Fox 26 Morning News. To date, the event has raised more than $926,000 to fight hunger in Houston. For the latest Houston Restaurant Weeks information, including restaurant listings, menus, sponsor information, and reservations, visit www.HoustonRestaurantWeeks.com.  Follow HRW on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/HouRestaurantWk and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/HoustonRestaurantWeek.

Contact: Cleverley@HoustonRestaurantWeeks.com

About the Houston Food Bank
The Houston Food Bank is the largest source of food for hunger relief charities in 18 southeast Texas counties. A network of nearly 500 food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers and other agencies, feeding a total of 137,000 people each week, provides more than 65 million pounds of food and prepared meals annually. Starting in early August, fresh produce, meat and nonperishables will be distributed from a new 308,000 square-foot warehouse at 535 Portwall, and hot meals are prepared and distributed from Keegan Center, a 15,000 square-foot industrial kitchen. Additional community services range from nutrition education to assistance with food stamp applications and hands-on job training. Red Barrels offer a convenient way for grocery shoppers to donate nonperishables for their neighbors in need. The Houston Food Bank, founded in 1982, is a certified member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network. The organization plans to grow to an annual distribution of 120 million pounds of food by 2018. VisitHoustonFoodBank.org <http://HoustonFoodBank.org>  for more information.

A Day of Education and Fun for Houston Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

June 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Nearly 100 women and their partners came to learn, connect and get inspired in the name of PCOS on
Sunday, June 12 at the Hilton Houston Post Oak. PCOS, which stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome,
is common in women and adolescent girls of child-bearing age, yet most people have never heard of the
syndrome. PCOS is an endocrine disorder that causes symptoms such as infertility, facial and body hair,
miscarriages and obesity. It also puts women at a high risk for type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack and
endometrial cancer.

The 2011 PCOS Symposium underwritten by Quest Diagnostics was designed to inform attendees of
their medical and lifestyle treatment options, offer support and connect them to others living with PCOS.
Presentation topics included nutrition guidelines for PCOS and lowering PCOS related health risks. On
the lighter side, participants were treated to breakout sessions, free lunch, prizes and music.

The event included several special guests including award-winning songwriter and vocalist, Kristine
Mills, author of Freedom from PCOS, Katie Humphrey, and PCOS Foundation President/Founder, Lisa
Benjamini-Allon. The event was underwritten by Quest Diagnostics, and sponsors included Labcorp,
Insulite Laboratories, Advanced Fertility Center of Texas, Whole Foods Market-Woodway, and Charming
Charlie. Charming Charlie hosted a special post-event social held the Galleria. A portion of the post-event
proceeds were donated to the PCOS Foundation.

The event’s presenter, the PCOS Foundation, is focused on offering events like the PCOS Symposium
to educate and spread awareness of PCOS. Please visit www.pcosfoundation.org for upcoming events,
more information about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and how to volunteer, donate or get connected
with the PCOS Foundation.

 

Houston International Jazz Festival Announces Plans for Cool Music and Hot Concerts August 5-7

June 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

The Houston International Jazz Festival, celebrating its 21st season, is rich in heritage, culture and sound. Kicking off Jazz Month in Houston, the August 5-7 Festival includes a kick-off party at House of Blues, followed by two days of evening concerts at Discovery Green, and the Mayor’s Scholarship Jazz Brunch. More than 10,000 music lovers and jazz enthusiasts are expected to experience this sensational weekend of events.

The festive weekend begins with a party Friday, August 5 at 8 p.m. at House of Blues, with live music by Kyle Turner and Joe Carmouche. Reservations are required through jazzeducation.org. Then the fun moves outdoors for two days of musical magic Saturday and Sunday evenings, August 6-7 at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney.

The festival includes a special appearance by the Summer Jazz Workshop All-Stars followed by jazz aficionados the Texas Brass Band with Frank Lacy, and Fourplay on Saturday, August 6 for what is certain to be a cool evening of joyful jazz. On Sunday, August 7, the Mayor’s Scholarship Jazz Brunch takes place at the Wortham Theater, 610 Preston, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to honor the history of jazz and its students past, present and future. That evening, Theresa Grayson, Mindi Abair, and Will Downing take the stage at Discovery Green to close the festival out in style.

Gates open at Discovery Green at 4 p.m. daily with music until 10 p.m. Select booths and delectable food and drink vendors round out the entertainment offerings at the outdoor amphitheater setting.

Sponsors of the Houston International Jazz Festival weekend include Cadillac, Kroger, Comcast, Bud Light, City of Houston, Houston Arts Alliance, The Greensheet, Houston Press, Hilton Americas, House of Blues, Choice KTSU 90.9.FM, The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Discovery Green.

Tickets to Houston International Jazz Festival are $25 for general admission lawn seating and $35 for VIP reserved seating per day when purchased in advance at www.stubdog.com. Day-of gate prices are $30 for general admission and $40 for reserved seating (if available).

All proceeds of Houston International Jazz Festival benefit Jazz Education Inc. to help fund educational programs including the “Jazz & Poetry Series” and the “Summer Jazz Workshop.” The Jazz & Poetry Series serves more than 30,000 elementary school students throughout greater Houston, while the Summer Jazz Workshop, now in its 40th season, trains over 100 teenage jazz musicians yearly. For more information about the Houston International Jazz Festival or Jazz Education Inc., visit www.jazzeducation.org or call 713.839.7000.

About Jazz Education Inc.
Jazz Education Inc. (JEI) was founded by Jazz artist Bubbha Thomas, who saw a need to fill a void where music education and youth were concerned. With a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts, he started an 8-week “Summer Program for Youthful Musicians” at St. James Episcopal Church. Seventy students attended the first FREE
session. Since then, JEI has grown from a part-time-one-program project to a daily
operation with full and part-time employees. The roster of activities ranges from mini-performances featuring national artists to annual programs ranging from an in-school educational program serving more than 30,000 elementary school children to a five-week Summer Jazz Workshop-serving more than 100 teenagers (middle school through college age) to an International Jazz Festival and a Holiday Jazz Concert. This year marks the 40th Anniversary of The Summer Jazz Workshop.

Too Much Time

June 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                                          13 June 2011

 

TIME ON THEIR HANDS

 

THE TV – It is 3 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon and I am watching a live shot from in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington where scores of demonstrators are holding signs while chanting, “Whadda we want? When do we want it?”

My immediate thought, and probably yours, too, is not about their cause, nor about the learned opposition, the subtle nuances of the legal standings. No, my thought is, “How do you  have time, in the middle of a workday, to stand in front of a federal building in Washington to shout and sing?”

Lots of people always seem to have time to demonstrate. Others among us write three-page letters to the editor on the economic affects of ethanol subsidies. Others write me three page letters about those who write three-page letters. They all lead us to the matter of — a roll of drums — people who have too much time on their hands.

Look, you and I have things to do. We’ve got revolutions to hatch, laundry to dry, six-packs to buy. I’ve got lists of my lists, I’m two days behind in breathing and each time I leave the house there are a billion – OK. I exaggerate – a million stops to make. So who are these people who have nothing better to do?

Example, the political radio talk shows. A caller begins with: “I’ve been on hold for an hour and a half.” Huh? You’ve got nothing better to do, caller, than sit on hold for 90 minutes listening to the redundant drum-beat of a semi-educated talk show host who thinks the Diet of Worms is an unappetizing Oprah weight-loss program. Get a life, buddy. Sports call-in shows are bad, too, hosted by aging second-guessers arguing with  armchair quarterbacks. Lordy, don’t they ever get tired of whining in stereo?

Their time would be better spent mentoring fatherless kids, picking up debris along the highways, planting trees, visiting wounded vets, reading to the blind or maybe just reading something besides the label on a fifth of Jack Daniels. Yet they have time to work through a full book of Sudoku and vote for Miss Alabama.

This situation of extra time was predicted. Several years ago there was a surge of essays by societal observers who said labor-saving gadgets were revolutionizing Americans’ life-styles. We were becoming a leisure society with more free time. Shorter work days, shorter work weeks, lots more vacations, retire at 50. Mom won’t have to wash dishes, the dishwasher will do it. Clothes the same way. Just nuke that TV dinner in 30 seconds. Garbage disposals, microwave ovens, electric can openers and steak knives would trim – so to speak – time spent in the kitchen.

For Dad, power mowers, leaf blowers and Weed Eaters would put an end to rakes, shovels and manual hedge clippers. Economists urged us to purchase stocks in companies that made/built tennis racquets, fishing poles, swimming pools or vacation homes. Also, buy stock in any company that made labor-saving devices. Robots would build our cars, planes and boats. Jet planes would streak us to our destination in a short time. No long lines at the airport, so no need to get to there an hour before your flight. The Interstate Highway system would end heavy traffic and road rage.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Leisure Land. Americans are actually working longer, about 42.5 hours a week in 2006, compared to 37.5 hours in 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average workweek for men increased to about 45 hours in 2006, up from about 40 hours in 2003. Women worked slightly more than 40 hours in 2006, an increase from 35.1 hours in 2003. Eighteen percent of workers put in more than 48 hours a week. Is this good? Billy Graham observed he never visited anyone on their death bed who said, “I only wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

Who has time to paint graffiti on subways, warehouses and derelicts? Some of those uneeded works of art must have taken hours – and in the middle of the night. Do you know anyone who paints his face with his team’s colors, shaves his head, dons a bear costume (or maybe a Redskin, Bronco, Dolphin or large block of cheese), and stands for four hours during a pro football game? In the freezing sleet? Talk about the need to get a life.

In recent years we have seen perhaps the biggest time-waster of all: personal computers, iPads, etc. How many useless hours are spent by bloggers (remember the old guy in his bathrobe in the basement late at night) churning out meaningless tomes on useless subjects? I get looong e-mails from strangers on Obama’s Martian roots or Hillary’s plan to take over Nebraska. Here’s a statistic of note: Individuals ages 15 to 19 read for an average of 5 minutes per weekend day while spending one hour playing games or using a computer for leisure. But how much time are our teenagers spending painting graffiti? No wonder the Chinese are winning.

Daytime demonstrators, cheese-heads and bloggers, with no productive task on hand and no make-work to kill the hours, clearly never heard of Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Parkinson was a British bureaucrat who noticed, among other examples, that the fewer colonies the British Empire had, the larger the Colonial Office grew. Over here, when there’s an approaching snow storm in Washington the government orders: “All non-essentail personnel must go home.” Does that raise questions in your mind? Does this order allow Washington’s  unnecessay bureaucrats time to go home and dress up like Redskins?

If you are wondering why I was watching TV at 3 on a Wednesday afternoon, I was put on hold by a radio talk show. I want to complain about people with too much time on their hands.

Ashby works constantly at ashby2@comcst.net

3 Brothers Bakery

June 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Houston Texans Youth Football Camp

June 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Feast with the Beasts Nov. 4th

June 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

B-52S TO TAKE FLIGHT FOR HOUSTON ZOO’S

SIXTH ANNUAL FEAST WITH THE BEASTS

Friday November 4, 2011

 

(HOUSTON) June 8, 2011 … The B-52s, the World’s Greatest Party Band take the stage Friday November 4, 2011 for the Houston Zoo’s sixth annual Feast With the Beasts, the most anticipated culinary event of the year.  Enjoy exotic culinary fare from more than 50 of Houston’s hottest restaurants, and a healthy serving of Rock Lobster from the B-52’s, all set against the Zoo’s naturally wild backdrop.

Last year’s event was a sellout success and this year’s event is an evening you won’t want to miss!  Make sure you don’t miss the year’s hottest event. Get on the Feast ticket priority list today and get special presale pricing when you e-mail feast@houstonzoo.org. Presale ticket sales begin September 1. You must be at least 21 years of age to attend.  Valid form of identification is required for admission.  All ticket purchases are non-refundable.  Feast with the Beasts will happen rain or shine.  View the Feast with the Beasts Frequently Asked Questions on-line at http://www.houstonzoo.org/feastfaq/.

Hotel Galvez Celebrates 100

June 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Ten Quick Facts on the Hotel Galvez

Hotel Galvez Celebrates 100 Years in Ten Days

  1. Hotel Galvez opened on June 10, 1911 and was built at a cost of $1 million as a symbol of recovery following the nation’s deadliest natural disaster, the Great Storm of 1900.
  2. Hotel Galvez and the City of Galveston are both named for Bernardo de Galvez. De Galvez, who never set foot on the island, was a Spanish hero of the American Revolution.
  3. When the Hotel Galvez opened in 1911 it offered 275 rooms but the necessity of in-room bathrooms has reduced the current number of rooms to 224.
  4. According to local legend, during the 1915 hurricane guests at the Hotel Galvez drank champagne and danced the night away while a woman gave birth to a baby boy in Room 231.
  5. The Pageant of Pulchritude, which began in 1920 and ended during the Great Depression, was held in front of the Hotel Galvez and later evolved into the Miss Universe contest. The event has been revived as the Galveston Island Beach Revue.
  6. The U.S. Coast Guard commandeered the Hotel Galvez for use as its wartime headquarters from 1942 until 1944.
  7. Presidential guests of the Hotel Galvez include President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1937); Dwight D. Eisenhower as a general (1949); Richard Nixon as vice president (1955); and Lyndon B. Johnson as a senator (1959).
  8. Noted celebrity guests rumored to have stayed at Hotel Galvez include Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan, Sammy Davis Jr., Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Phil Harris and Alice Faye, Jack Benny, Howard Hughes, Peggy Lee, Jerry Lewis, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Dean Martin, Freddy Martin, Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Stewart.
  9. The hotel’s lobby features a hand-carved bar purchased from the Old Galveston Club and added in the mid-1990s. The Old Galveston Club was known as the Island’s last speakeasy.
  10. Hotel Galvez is the only historic beachfront hotel on the Texas Gulf Coast.

 

Hotel Galvez & Spa will commemorate its 100-year reign as “Queen of the Gulf” with a free community celebration on Saturday, June 11 hosted by owners George Mitchell and the Mitchell family. The grounds of this historic Texas beachfront hotel will come alive with free family activities from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and live music from noon to 9 p.m. and culminate with a fireworks show over the Gulf of Mexico at 9:15 p.m. For a full schedule of activities planned June 10-12, visit www.HotelGalvez100.com.

About Hotel Galvez

When Hotel Galvez opened in 1911, Galveston had just finished building its 17-foot seawall to protect the island from storm surges; the town had also completed its grade-raising project which raised the grade of land as well as hundreds of buildings from 11 to 14 feet to help protect them from flooding in the event of future storms. The Causeway, connecting Galveston Island to the mainland, had also been completed. These accomplishments were part of the island’s recovery efforts following the Great Storm of 1900.

Hotel Galvez, A Wyndham® Grand Hotel and a National Trust Historic Hotel of America, is rated four diamonds by AAA and is part of Mitchell Historic Properties. The hotel is hosting year-long monthly centennial celebrations in 2011. For reservations, call (800) WYNDHAM — (800) 996-3426 — or visit www.WyndhamHotelGalvez.com.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, LLC, a subsidiary of Wyndham Worldwide Corporation (NYSE: WYN), offers upscale hotel and resort accommodations throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, Mexico, China and the Caribbean. All Wyndham® hotels are either franchised by the company or managed by Wyndham Hotel Management, Inc., one of its affiliates or through a joint-venture partner. Additional information and reservations for all Wyndham hotels are available by calling (800) WYNDHAM – (800) 996-3426 – or visiting www.wyndham.com.

TOUR DE FARCE

June 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                            6 June 2011

NEW YORK CITY – Years ago, when I first arrived here, I walked into Times Square, saw the famous names in lights and on billboards, the hustle and bustle of the crowds. I put down my suitcase, shook my fist at the sky and yelled, “I’ll lick you yet, New York!” When I looked down, my suitcase was gone.

The town has changed since then, so take notes and save yourself trouble the next time you visit. (I’ve noticed virtually every Texan has visited NYC, but practically no New Yorkers have ever visited our cactus, cowboys and Indians.

Today NYC is cleaner. Not clean, mind you, but cleanER. Even the muggers take monthly baths. Smoking has been prohibited in restaurants and bars for some time now, but in May smoking was banned from beaches, parks, recreation centers, pools, part of Times Square, Coney Island Boardwalk — any place under city jurisdiction. Fifty bucks fine for lighting up.

You no longer hear the constant car honking. It is now a fine of $350 to honk except in emergencies. My cabbies are involved in many emergencies. A city ordinance apparently prevents cab drivers from speaking English. They still drive like maniacs, but never collide or even scrape. Riding in cabs – my wife has a hurt foot, so no subways or buses, darn — is not for the weak, nor for the cheap. In seven days I went through $758 in cabs, doormen and large black sedans with opaque windows that once belonged to the Godfather.

After 9/11 then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani proposed that he stay in office for another year or so until the situation settled down. Didn’t fly. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg, reputed to be the richest person in town, served his allotted terms, then changed the law so that he could run again. Isn’t being president-for-life limited to Syria?

When it comes to politics, New Yorkers have no pride about carpetbaggers, perhaps because they invented the title. When Bobby Kennedy wanted to run for the Senate, the Massachusetts pol leased a house on Long Island, installed his family there, and campaigned as a native son. He saw the humor in this, beginning speeches with, “My fellow New Yorkians.” He won. Hillary Clinton looked over the 50 states to see where she could parachute in and take over. Which people had so little pride and trust in their own politicians that they would prefer an outsider? NY, of course. She won, too.

It’s odd to open The New York Times and see the local TV schedule. The editions we get in Texas obviously don’t have them. One thing hasn’t changed: all night long I hear sirens. When You’re a Met You Are Wet All the Way: Never visit the Met when it rains. The museum is jammed. Brooklyn: If you have to live here, Park Slope is the new hot spot – a beautiful neighborhood filled with writers, young professionals and probably a few drug lords. The Plaza Hotel: It’s slowly closing down. The Palm Court is half empty.

Ground Zero: Tourists flock here, but mostly they just see walls. So find a friend, in my case, Jeff, who works high up in one of the many buildings surrounding GZ. Convince him to take you to his office on a weekend when the place is empty, and look down at the two pools that are being built in the footprint of the Twin Towers. Take in all the construction – they work on weekends, too – and get a feel for the place. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Chinatown: Again, get a Natty Bumppo to guide. Jeff takes us to a restaurant where my wife and I are the only non-Asians. He orders in Chinese and the food is fantastic. A little of this, a dab of that. Jeff also does all the haggling in the shops. “There is one price for white faces, another for us,” he explains.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral: Sunday morning, the acoustics are not good, but the church is worth visiting. And tourists do. You don’t often see worshippers carrying shopping bags. I, being the only Presbyterian in New York City, stand when everyone else sits, sit when they stand, kneel. I still can’t get it right.

Broadway: Went to see “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Still a great show. Oscar Wilde first staged it in 1895. Wonder if any plays written today will still be popular in 2127?

“The David Letterman Show” always leads with the announcer proclaiming the show comes from New York City, “The greatest city in the world!” It is, but problems remain. The press reports that black male joblessness is almost 50 percent. The nightly census of the homeless is just under 40,000, the highest since the Great Depression. Demand on food pantries is in a “geometric expansion.” Bloomberg hired a researcher who found that the real percentage of New Yorkers in poverty in 2009 was not 17.3 percent, as the federal measure stated, but 19.9 percent. The impoverished in New York equal the population of three Bostons.

The mayor contrasted New York with hollowed-out American cities, which relied on fading manufacturing plants. The tourism industry “is our answer to the old-time industries’ declining.” Hospitality is, indeed, a job leader, accounting for 27 percent of the city’s recent growth. It is also a low-paid industry: the average wage is 59 percent below the city average. This explains the surly waiters.

Not to get too condescending, there was once a Texan living in New York City who was broke, so he went to Central Park and kidnapped a child, pinned a note to him which read, “I’ve kidnapped your kid. Put $1,000 in a bag and tell him to bring it to me at the zoo in Central Park tomorrow– a Texan.” The next day, sure enough, the kid comes back with $1,000 in a bag, and a note: “I can’t believe a fellow Texan would do this to me.”

 

Ashby tours at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

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