IRELAND – LAND OF IRE

June 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

DUBLIN – The weather reports, before I arrived, showed rain, wind and chill, as usual, because this is a soggy place. The longest complete drought ever reported in Ireland was in Limerick, April 3 to May 10, 1938 — 37 days. In Texas, we call that “37 days without rain. What’s your point?” The average annual rainfall in Ireland is about 150 cm. or 59 inches.

So I packed sweaters, a raincoat and was told to buy Clark’s shoes which have rubber soles to keep out the water. It is now sunny and 80 degrees. The locals are out in droves, absorbing the rays, glass of Guinness in hand. Students at Trinity College lie around the campus, just sunning. The few sidewalk cafes in Dublin – too wet to use most of the time – are jammed. The Irish Times even wrote, tongue in cheek; “Here are a few tips to help you navigate the sunny weather.”

To get around town, ask a cabbie because there are no street signs except those in Irish (we’d call it Gaelic). That language, taught in all pubic schools, is absolutely unpronounceable. According to a book on Ireland, in English, the Irish alphabet does not contain the letters J, K,Q, V, W, X, Y or Z. For a long time, this didn’t matter. In 1840 only half of the population could read and write.

The Great Famine of 1845-52 left 1-million dead and another 1-million fled, mostly to Boston. The island’s population fell between 20 and 25 percent. You can still see abandoned stone cabins around the countryside. I feel guilty since the Irish got their first potatoes from America. One thing I can’t figure, if there were no potatoes, this is an island, surrounded by fish – they taste great. So why didn’t the starving peasants turn to fishing?

An interesting point here is how close the Easter Rising is to today’s society. The centuries-long fight against the English for independence and the subsequent civil war only ended in 1923, so there are people still walking around who were alive then. A reminder of the Troubles, as they are called, is here at Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). When the little rebellion was over and the rebels, thought of mostly as the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, surrendered, the leaders were taken here. After a quick trial, they were shot one by one. Bad move by the Brits. The almost daily executions – they killed 15 before being halted — turned the victims into martyrs and the rebellion exploded.

This is the cell which held Joseph Mary Plunkett. Come down this hall to the Catholic chapel. It was here on May 4, 1916, that Plunkett married Grace Gifford. The only people in attendance were the bride and groom, a priest, and several British soldiers with bayonets fixed. After the ceremony the soldiers took Plunkett out to this count yard and, uh, shot him. Upon becoming independent, one of the first actions taken by the Irish was to leave the British Commonwealth.

Here is where a monument to British naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson once stood. In 1966 the IRA blew up the 40-meter-high column. Two days later the Irish Army was called into to bring down the remaining stump. Its powerful explosion shattered windows for blocks and caused far more damage than the IRA blast. Recently, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee — her 60th year on the throne. The British went ape over the event. The Irish ignored it. The BBC weather report on TV shows what’s happening all over England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This part of the island isn’t mentioned. The Brits like to quote the Duke of Wellington who, on being noted that he was an Irishman, reportedly said, “Being born in a stable does not make one a horse.”

This is a sidewalk vending machine with three buttons for language: Irish, English and Polish. Since 2004, 150,000 Poles have migrated to Ireland. Some put the unofficial figures at 200,000. Now the economic boom that was called the Celtic Tiger is over, unemployment is 14 percent, and young Irish are leaving. All but two members of the Dingle soccer team went to Australia seeking jobs. But you still run into young Poles as maids, porters and such.

Despite what the rest of the world may think, and despite the green weed being painted on the tail of every Aer Lingus plane, the shamrock is not the official national symbol of Ireland. It’s the harp, making Ireland the only country with a musical instrument as its national symbol. Trinity College (1592) has a wonderful library with thousands of leather–bound books. They won’t let me check out any of them. This Sunday morning I am at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (1220), the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. It’s Protestant. You can visit the Guinness brewery. Don’t bother. Same for the steaks. Tough.

Dublin has a writers’ museum. Why not? It has produced four recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature: William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. Who’s Seamus Heaney? On the other hand, the sister-in-law of another author, Adolf Hitler, was an Irish woman named Bridget Dowling, and Der Fuhrer’s half brother, Alois Hitler, worked in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.

To get to Ireland we went through London’s Heathrow Airport. Do NOT attempt this yourself. The airport is nothing but chaos, construction and needless delays. We had two and a half hours between connecting flights and almost didn’t make it. Twice I had my photo taken, five passport checks, two bus trips, two trams, four escalators (I’m serious) and two metal detectors complete with belts-and-coats in the trays. A visiting member of the International Olympic Committee complained it took him two hours to go through the airport, and pointed out that in a month tens of thousands of athletes, press and spectators will be arriving for the Olympics. The terminal steeplechase may be a major event.

 

Ashby is jet lagged at ashby2@comcast.net

STATE OF ENNUI

            Suppose they gave an election and nobody came? That’s what Texas is undergoing. Wonder who’s paying for it? We got ourselves into this mess — or got out of it, depending upon your point of view – because after the last census count our Republican lawmakers in the Texas Legislature gerrymandered the various Congressional districts – we gained four seats — so grotesquely as to make even Tom DeLay jealous.

The Dems objected, the federal court in San Antonio overruled the re-districting then the U.S. Supreme Court overruled that lower court. So our primaries were moved from March, when they might have meant something, to late May when they were meaningless. Or, as one newspaper editorial put it, Texas voters were moved “from consequential to utterly marginal.” There weere some contested elections — Dewhurst versus Cruz — but most of our elections were a gimme for the GOP. However, there is good news, which I shall get to in a moment.

First, is anybody else already tired of the 2012 presidential campaigns? And Rahm Emanuel hasn’t even thrown out the first epithet to start them. It seems we have been bombarded with debates, attacks and speeches since 1776. By all accounts, we will witness, or survive, the most intense and expensive political campaigns ever run anytime anywhere. Mitt Romney is trying to raise $800 million, which he could probably find under his sofa cushions, plus another $200 million from other sources. President Obama is allegedly trying to raise a cool one billion dollars. He raised $750 million last time he ran and he wasn’t even the incumbent.

We may never know exactly how much will be spent because for the first time we have faceless Super PACs such as Restore Our Future, Americans for Prosperity and American Crossroads – which mean what? As of April 12, 421 PACs reported collecting almost $160 million, with much more to come. As the campaigns heat up we can expect to see ads from Patriots for a More Patriotic Nation, Good People Doing Gooder and Citizens Who Love Their Country. The Koch Brothers are being wooed, if they haven’t already written more million-dollar checks. Plus we have the Republican and Democratic National Committees fund-raisings.

As a sidelight, raising all that money makes it pretty clear that neither candidate will accept public funds for the general election or the spending limits that come with them. Obama opted out of the public financing program in 2008, breaking a campaign pledge, and went on to outspend John McCain by four to one.

It is now summer, so we will have another five-plus months of this non-stop campaigning. Agggg!! I can’t stand it. Let’s all move to New Zealand until after the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Until then, we might consider what is NOT going to happen: George W. Bush is not going to campaign. He is MIA. We can only wonder what TV time spot the GOPers will give W. for his speech at their national convention. Probably 3 to 3:30. That’s a.m., right after Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Phoenix and just before the salute to the victims of the Johnstown Flood (for which, suspiciously, Obama has never denied responsibility).

What will be the roles for Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Ron Paul and Rick Perry? Maybe one of them will be chosen for veep and will become a household name like Daniel D. Tomkins, Richard Mentor Johnson and, of course, Schuyler Colfax — and they won.    

If you thought the GOP primaries were down and dirty, wait till the general election. Already smutty bumper stickers are being printed by both sides, ugly and untrue rumors are being hatched for e-mails and tweets. Remember the old proverb: “A lie will go ‘round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.” Be prepared to read and hear some of the most outlandish untruths which can now be spread with lightning speed. Polls show we don’t like negative political campaigning. Polls also show the mud-slinging works every time. Thus polls show we’re a bunch of bloody hypocrites.

If you ever gave any candidate a dime, you go on the donor’s list and will be hounded even until the fifth and six generations. Here’s an idea: start keeping all the solicitations you are receiving in the mail seeking your “support” (money) for some candidate or party. After the election, bundle up all those letters, pamphlets, etc. and mail them to the winner, collect.

However, most of the campaign funds don’t go to mailings; they go to TV ads, which greatly help the media giants who own the stations. A few years ago Belo, which owns the Dallas Morning News and several Texas TV stations, reported an increase in one quarter’s earnings due almost exclusively to TV campaign ads. CBS’s CEO Leslie Moonves received $69.9 million last year. What you bet it’s twice that for 2012?

OK, now for the good news I promised earlier. Texas doesn’t have a dog in this fight. We are the reddest of red states, and everyone in both parties knows Texas will go for the Republican presidential candidate if he were Aaron Burr. We have a winner-take-all policy for our votes in the Electoral College, so not a single ballot will be for Obama even if he gets 49.999 percent of the popular vote. Neither candidate will waste a dime or a minute campaigning here. For Texans, this upcoming presidential election is a spectator sport.

That doesn’t mean we won’t see the candidates a lot. Texas is the cash cow in the slaughter house, but at least we shall be saved from the bombast in the battleground states. Of course, this also means we won’t have any of our campaign contributions coming back here. It’s a one-way street. Anyway, stand by for mud on the walls and blood on the floor, but give till it hurts Do they have elections in New Zealand?

 

                        Ashby campaigns at ashby2@comcast.net     

 

THE SHAMROCK AND ROLL

June 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

JOHN BENNY’S PUB – A pint of Guinness, waiter, and tell the band to turn up the volume. I can almost hear the next table. You are probably wondering what we are doing here in this small pub in Dingle, in the far western part of Ireland. Next stop towards the setting sun is Canada. We are here to learn about the Emerald Isle (coined by a Belfast doctor, William Drennar, in 1795), its people, its bloody recent history and why you should stay away.

How emerald? The green hillside pastures are divided by miles of crisscrossing stone walls, making the countryside look like a checkerboard mating with a pool table. Drop into each pasture some sheep and cows, add little villages with pubs, fallen down gray-stoned abandoned cabins, and you’ve got Ireland.

And the friendliest people. Example: I am visiting with a stranger at an outdoor café who is smoking. “Got a light?” I ask. “Here, take this,” he says, handing me a disposable lighter. My wife and I finish a fine lunch at the Half Door, and try to find a cab. “No cabs round,” says this fellow. “I’ll just give you a lift.” Have you ever had the owner of a restaurant give you a ride back to your hotel? And he lost his parking place.

So let’s look at the Republic of Ireland, which we shall simply call Ireland. We’re not going to Northern Ireland. I don’t get combat pay for this. The nation is just a tad bigger than West Virginia in size. Population 3.84 million, or about 100,000 less than Harris County. Here are some more important facts: My cab driver knows all the words to “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” He’s drunk. “Ryan’s Daughter” was made near Dingle in 1970-71 – the cliffs and beaches still look the same.

The Irish have an interesting take on sex. In 1952, one member of the Censorship Board reviewed 70 books in a three-month period and banned all 70. Between the 1930s and 1950s the Irish government employed hundreds of workers to physically cut out lingerie ads in foreign magazines as they were considered to be of a sexually arousing nature. Playboy and other such magazines were banned in Ireland until 1996.

However, a 2009 study showed that Irish women are the most fertile in the 27-member European Union — 75,554 babies were born that year, the most in over a century and a 40 percent increase in births in a decade. The ban on contraception was lifted in the mid-1980s. While other EU members are seeking to increase their birth rate to combat a dwindling population, the average Irish woman has 2.1 children. Hey, during the first half of the 19th century the average number of children per Irish household was 10.

If you are all or part Irish, you’re in traditional company. The password for George Washington’s army in 1776 was “Saint Patrick.” More than 150,000 Irishmen fought in the U.S. Civil War, on both sides. In Texas, four Irishmen signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, and 100 were listed in the rolls at San Jacinto, comprising one-seventh of the total Texan force. Eleven Irishmen died at the battle of the Alamo and 14 were among those with James W. Fannin at the Goliad Massacre.

Today 40 million Americans claim Irish heritage, including 40 percent of our presidents – one of them being Barack Obama. He is descended from Fulmoth Kearney, the president’s great-great-great grandfather on his mother’s side, who immigrated from Moneygall, Ireland, (pop 300) to Ohio in 1850. As president, Obama visited his ancestral village and said, “My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas, and I’ve come home to find the apostrophe we lost somewhere along the way.”

Erin No Braugh: Need I say more? The young men are required to wear blue jeans, every one of them. This is Tipperary: Its slogan posted on welcoming signs is, no kidding: “You’ve come a long way.” The song was written by Jack Judge and Harry Williams, two Englishmen. One does not think of jungles here, but on each side of these back roads the vegetation is so thick you could not walk through it. The roads, not much wider than the white line in the middle, are a green tunnel. You like castles? They are everywhere, but no leprechauns.

The Swiss Cottage in Cahir (1813): A getaway for the local lord, fell into tatters. The French-made wallpaper recently needed replacing, but how? “We finally found an identical roll in a place called Bayou Bend in Houston, Texas.” Now we are in County Cork. Why would a Model T, painted silver, be placed in a park? Because William Ford, Henry’s father, was born here. No, I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone. A survey by TripAdvisor.com voted it the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.

As to why you should stay away, to quote Yogi Berra, nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded. In summer the island is crawling with tourists, so come in late May, as I did, or September when the locals say everything is great. Finally, don’t call a waiter in a pub for your Guinness. You go to the bar. These pubs are wonderful, and numerous. As of 2005, there was one pub for every 350 people. They say God made whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world, which brings us to the tale of a guy who walks into a Manhattan bar and sees two men down at the end. One of them asks the other, “I can tell by yur accent that you’re from the old country. What county?”

“Carlow,” says the other. “A little village you never heard of, Bagenalstown.”

“Really? So am I. What was your mother’s name?”

“Kathleen Mary.”

“Glory be, mine, too.”

The new arrival asks the bartender, “What’s going on there?”
“Oh, that’s just the Murphy twins, drunk again.”

 

O’Ashby is green at ashby5@comcast.net

 

 

Rockport Art Festival July 7-8

June 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs

Over 120 artists, Live Music, Food, Children’s activities

The Rockport Art Festival is now in its forty-third year. The 2012 festival will be held July 7-8, right on Aransas Bay on the festival grounds next to Rockport Beach Park.  The Rockport Art Festival began in 1969. It is one of the largest outdoor art festivals in the country. The festival begins with a July 5 “Stars and Stripes Forever” Art Auction & Party, which includes: a Live Auction, Big Board Auction; Silent Auctions; full dinner; valet parking; live music and open bar.

On Saturday, July 7 and Sunday, July 8, over 120 artists will be displaying and selling their work. Only high-quality fine art and master crafts are showcased. No commercial vendors.  There will be live music and food under a large air conditioned tent and a kid’s activity tent with their own live musicians. The festival will open Saturday, July 7 10am-6pm; admission for Saturday is $7. Sunday admission is $6 and hours of operation are 10am -5pm. An All Festival two day pass, with no waiting line, is available for $10/pp.

For more information visit www.rockportartcenter.com  and click on Upcoming Events or call 361-729-5519

For information about Places to Stay visit www.rockport-fulton.org or call 1 -800 242-0071 or email tourism@1rockport.org.

Directions from Houston

From Houston, take U. S. Highway 59 to Victoria, and then, take U. S. Highway south to State Highway 239, and then, south to Tivoli, and at Tivoli, take State Highway 35 into Rockport.

ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS

June 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Everyone knows the country is rather evenly divided in politics – the U.S. Supreme Court regularly votes 5-4. The GOP controls the House, the Dems have the Senate, and so on. But we can all agree that the press is biased. Those shameless ink-stained wretches deliberately slant the news and refuse to tell it the way we see it. So let’s determine how our various media outlets would handle this news bulletin:

ASSOCIATED PRESS — A harmless children’s errand turned into a tragedy today when a young boy, identified only as Jack, and his female playmate, Jill, climbed up a hill to gather a pail of water. They both fell into a ravine and sustained numerous injuries. Authorities say this incident bears a striking resemblance to a recent case involving three visually impaired mice and a farmer’s wife. That case is still under investigation and no charges have been filed.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW — Another blow to the working stiffs occurred on the Hill today when lax safety regulations by those fat cat Wall Street warmongers led to severe injuries to two innocent children who gave their names as Jack and Jill, possibly before they died an agonizing death. House Speaker John Boehner issued his typical cold-blooded response to the suffering of the poor by laughingly proclaiming, “That’s terrible.” Meanwhile, three unfortunate mice, obviously lacking federal eyesight assistance, ran afoul of a farmer’s wife whose violent attack can only means she’s a member of the NRA.

FOX NEWS — From the Hill we have this latest Obama disaster. Two children, no doubt on welfare, were stealing precious water from a farmer’s wife. The farmer was gone, probably to pick up his weekly Obama-issued farm subsidy check which that Kenyan Muslim wants to increase. We know this because we hacked into The New York Times, which is where we and every other network get our news. No need to mention how we learned to hack, since we are under strict orders to be fair and balanced as Rupert sees it.

MITT ROMNEY — Jacques and Jillian, from either Exeter or Choat I believe, took their Bentley up the Hill to fetch a bottle of Perrier, which goes quite well with a duck foie gras. Jacques fell down and broke his crown (which raises questions as to his masculinity, but I would leave that to the states), and Jillian came tumbling after, slightly damaging her Hermes scarf and matching handbag. Fortunately, they had Romneycare, which covered all their hospital expenses but is nothing like Obamacare. In that same village out in Nowhere Land, I mean it’s not the Hamptons, a trio of errant rodents attacked the spouse of an agriculturalist, who strapped them to the top of her John Deere, but not to a car made by GM which can go broke as far as I’m concerned.

NEWT GINGRICH — The elite media say that two juvenile delinquents ran away from their orphanage, which had spoiled them rotten, and broke into a farmhouse where they mutilated three defense laboratory mice whose experiments were on the verge of unlocking a cure for cancer. The elite media, which keeps harping on my $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany’s while I owe $4.3 million in campaign bills, says the farmer’s wife — wife? He only has one? Incidentally, did I mention the elite media?

THE OBAMA PRESS OFFICE — Two small, defenseless children, sent to a work on the Hill because their father’s unemployment insurance ran out while the rich remain untaxed, were fetching a pail of water when they were savagely attacked by agents from Osama bin Laden, whom the President had killed with a single shot. Fortunately, the two children had Obamacare which is exactly like Romneycare. Meanwhile, a trio of mice, who were visually challenged due to the Republicans’ weakening of Obamacare, ran from an irate farmer’s wife who was suffering from the GOP’s war on women. Scientists blame global warming, but the President won’t tell that loud-mouth Joe Biden.

REV. AL SHARPTON — It is outrageous that these small children were the victims of racial profiling and forced to do menial labor. No wonder they fell down from exhaustion. It’s another example of the white man’s arrogance. Hey, where are the TV cameras? I’ll give an interview. Any reporters here? As for that poor, unfortunate farmer’s wife, I will represent her at the next MSNBC panel. Did the press flock to Jesse Jackson again? What a showboat.

ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT — Do we have a blockbuster expose for you. Two child actors, Jacqui and J-Jill, who are reportedly engaged which means Clooney is out and so is Demi, were seen together on the Hill having a huge spat. Our sources tell us J-Jill slapped Jacqui after learning he was also seeing Angelina, breaking that heart throb’s crown. But here’s an even better inside scoop – a delicious scandal involving money, sex, politics and possibly an Oscar. BettiJoLo, best known in her role as JoLoBetti in “The Farmer’s Wife,” was attacked by three huge animals. She recalled her role as Snarl in “The Dominatrix” and cut off something, we’re not sure just what, but her agent released a statement saying, “You never saw such a sight in your life.”

ESPN – Jack “The Jack” Jackson and Jill-O were doing the 500 meters in Bean Town when they fell – let’s see that video. Oh, that’s got to hurt. Once more. In Lala Land, the Big Three in Mouse Power ran, but not fast enough as Frances “Carver” Knife performed a tailgate when Biffo bopped the pro hoops. Da Bears pulled a red dog wide 23 and I have no idea what I’m saying.

PETA — Forget about the kids, we here at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protest the scandalous treatment of those poor mice.

GOV. RICK PERRY — Two blind mice….

 

Ashby fetches water at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

HOUSTON’S WINE & FOOD WEEK POPS A CORK JUNE 4-10

June 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

HOUSTON’S WINE & FOOD WEEK POPS A CORK JUNE 4-10

Houston’s 8th Annual Wine & Food Week will celebrate pleasures and treasures in 2012. The state’s largest, most comprehensive epicurean extravaganza features exceptional wine experiences for the novice to the enthusiast paired with delicacies created by some of America’s top chefs.

Held June 4-10, 2012, Wine & Food Week’s gastronomic grandeur features 40 events with more than 500 wines, 50 restaurants, legendary wine producers and culinary personalities from around the globe, and a vast collection of specialty beers and gourmet food purveyors. Wine education classes, chef demonstrations, cookbook author events, live and silent auctions, and casual to fine wine-and-dine experiences round out the week’s festivities.

Want the royal treatment with life’s greatest pleasures and treasures? You’ll get it! Wizard Gourmet 2012 is none other than The Royal Chef, Darren McGrady. McGrady provided 15 years of service to Queen Elizabeth II of England and Diana, Princess of Wales.

As Royal Chef to H.R.H. the Princess of Wales, he took control of Princess Diana, William and Harry’s day to day menus and the preparation and catering of private and official lunch and dinner parties, liaising with the Princess daily. McGrady and his team will appear at the Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase, presented by Capital One Bank.

The official Wine Wizard and Master of Ceremonies is Alyssa J. Rapp, founder and CEO of Bottlenotes, Inc., the leading resource for new to intermediate wine enthusiasts interested in learning about wine, sharing tasting notes, and tasting wine. Alyssa is also the author of Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips.

Wine & Food Week’s big three not-to-be-missed events include Thursday, June 7’s H-E-B Wine Walk @ Market Street, a taste and stroll experience in a European-style center featuring wine and light bites at more than 40 tasting stations; Sips, Suds & Sliders, presented by The Woodlands Mall, a Texas-size celebration featuring live music, specialty beers, values wines and a gourmet slider competition on Friday, June 8; and Saturday, June 9’s ultimate adult evening: The Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase, presented by Capital One Bank, where guests sample delectable cuisine and hundreds of wines as chefs representing more than 50 restaurants compete for Wine & Food Week’s Waterford Crystal Chef of Chefs Award and a $5,000 cash and prize package. To complete the evening, the epicurean experience culminates with the Cadillac Coffee and Chocolate Bar and the “Just Desserts” contest, a confectionary competition to crown the night’s dessert extraordinaire.

Executive Chef David Denis of Le Mistral is the reigning champion of Wine & Food Week.

Denis will participate as a food judge this year along with Journalist Tanji Patton, Talk Show Host Cleverley Stone of “The Cleverley Show” on TALK 650/CBS Radio, Houston Chronicle 29-95 Restaurant Reporter Syd Kearney, Kirby’s Steakhouse Executive Chef Daniel Nemec and TEXAS MONTHY Restaurant Critic Pat Sharpe.

Along with the expected Wine & Dine dinners, luncheons and seminars, Wine & Food Week attendees may choose from favorites such as The Ladies of the Vine Luncheon, 80 Sips Around the World, and the Capital One Bank Platinum Wine Vault tasting, a fine wine experience with the most highly allocated wines.

Major sponsors of Wine & Food Week include H-E-B, Capital One Bank, Cadillac, The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau, The Woodlands Mall, Aruba Tourism, Market Street, Houston Magazine, Texas Monthly, Southwest Airlines, Bottlenotes, Glazer’s Distributors, Republic National Distributing Company, Banfi Vintners, Sanctuary Wine, Fetzer Tavola, GenuWine Tasting Room, Planet Beach, The Club at Carlton Woods, Isadora Beans, Ben E. Keith/Great Brewers, Woodlands Healthcare, Silverado Senior Living, Waterford Crystal, MIX 96.5, Allergan/Botox, Gloria Ferrer, Go Texan, Community Impact Newspapers, Woodlands Online, Steven David Photography, and K-Star Country.

Wine & Food Week events and auctions benefit the Signature Series Literacy efforts of The John Cooper School, and Swing for a Cure. Most of the 40 events are held at the venues in The Woodlands, with unique experiences throughout Houston. To purchase tickets or for information and a complete schedule, visit www.wineandfoodweek.com or call 713.557.5732.

Wine & Food Week, produced by Food & Vine Time Productions, is the first comprehensive destination culinary and wine event to promote green living. Owners Clifton and Constance McDerby are dedicated to enhancing the quality of life and health of Houstonians by educating the novice to the aficionado on wines and fine dining featuring sustainable ingredients. Food & Vine Time Productions also produces Haute Wheels Houston Food Truck Festival, Zest in the West, Katy Sip & Stroll, and BrewMasters Craft Beer Festival. Since its inception in 2005, Food & Vine Time Productions has donated more than $350,000 to local charities through live and silent auctions.

The Big Three Events
The H-E-B Wine Walk @ Market Street
Thursday, June 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The Woodlands’ Market Street, 9595 Six Pines Drive, The Woodlands, TX 77380
Tickets are $50 in advance; $60 at the door. Sips, Suds & Sliders, presented by The Woodlands Mall
Friday, June 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The Woodlands Waterway Marriott, 1601 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands, TX 77380
Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 at the door.

Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase, Presented by Capital One Bank
Saturday, June 9 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Woodlands Marriott Waterway, 1601 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands, TX 77380
Tickets are $125 in advance.

TREE’S COMPANY

June 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE OTHER HOUSE – I am back in my home away from home in Varicose Valley. As with many such resorts, VV began as a planned community in the boonies filled with retired military, ousted CEOs, war criminals – some in the Witness Protection Program — and weekenders like me. But over the years this once pastoral valley has become a hubbub suburb as families move in, traffic thickens and my school taxes explode – colleges would envy these ISD facilities. There is another drawback, which I shall explain because you may suffer the same way.

Beyond my back door there is a deck so I can sit, sip a drink and watch the lake dry up. Over there is a cardinal, a raccoon, a deer. On the other side of my estate, about 19 feet distance, is a cactus, a huge dead tree, more birds and…a huge dead tree? How did that happen? Where did it come from? That sucker is lying horizontally across my yard and into my next door neighbor’s moat. (Not all residents of VV are gracious.)

It must have fallen last night but I didn’t hear a thing because I was watching a Fox News shout fest. If a tree falls and no one hears it, does it actually fall? If so, who cares? The Varicose Valley Taste Police, that’s who. They could give intimidation lessons to Heinrich Himmler. One time my grass grew above the ordered inch and a half, and a testy note was left on my door. “Actung!” it began, warning me that if I didn’t clip my grass quickly and cleanly (“no ragged ends”), my neighbors would start boiling the oil. Someone once turned me in for putting clashing wallpaper in the upstairs ballroom. In the middle of the night, with helicopters above and searchlights glaring, a voice over a loud speaker shouted, “Put down that roll of fuchsia-and-pink thatched plaid pattern and slowly back away!”

It’s not easy having a house in a community where they have “Rules for mailboxes.” No gaudy stamps. No packages from T.J. Maxx, Goodwill or the Dollar Store. We don’t have Yard of the Month. It’s Yardarm of the Month. “Hang in there, neighbor.” The only yard signs allowed are those for the local high school athletic booster squad (“We support the Fightin’ Preppies!”) and announcements of the next Tea Party meeting. No “For Sale” signs, either. They might hurt property values.

A while back I arrived for the weekend and my next-door neighbor, who lives here permanently, was waiting. His name is Joe Smith, one of 32 Joe Smiths we have here. “Hi, Mister Smith,” I said, unloading my newest yard decoration, a statue of Saint Gored, the patron saint of rodeo clowns.

He looked over his shoulder. “You vant get rid of dat pickup. De one on da cinder blocks next to da satellite dish and pink buffalo.” I explained that the pickup was due to be fixed some day. I just haven’t had the time, what with my getting laid off at the organ donors dance studio and looking for a new job in keeping with my talents and experience — maybe a shepherd. Joe said it was just a friendly tip. “More like varning shot, we say in former job.” He glanced over his shoulders again and left. Joe is the only person I know with an unlisted DNA.

Back to my tree. I knew the Taste Police would ticket me for not getting rid of it, or perhaps for allowing the tree to fall in the first place. I needed help. I called for advice. “Hello. This is Mollie Jo, the Varicose Valley Forester and Rules Enforcer. Our bite is worse than your bark. How can I harass you?” I explained what had happened. Mollie Jo gasped. “The tree in question is Number 456-KJ. You were responsible for its well being. During the recent drought did you water it regularly but only during your allotted time of 4 to 5 a.m. every other Wednesday under penalty of being ostracized at AARP meetings?”

Quickly I explained what had happened, in that I didn’t know what had happened. Then I mentioned that the tree could be a Spanish oak. “Spanish? A foreigner here? It’s the kind that spreads those immigrants’ diseases which wipe out entire forests. Get someone out there quick to cut it up, haul it away and dump the remains in an unmarked mineshaft near Waco. Until then, stand guard over it. Do you have an AK-47? If not, why not?”

“No, I don’t. My old M-1 will have to do. By the way, Mollie Jo, does your forestry agency have a branch office? Hahaha.”

“One hundred and sixty two. It’s how many times I’ve heard that line.”

“This year?”

“This week. You have 24 hours to get rid of that diseased tree or you’ll be fined an amount equivalent to your school taxes. The stadium needs more luxury suites. Have a nice day.” Not knowing what to do, I looked in the Yellow Pages under Rent-a-Beaver, but no luck. Bunyan, Paul. Nothing. I thought of burning the tree, but realized there is a burn ban in Varicose Valley except for some books. I finally hired an army of termites.

This episode leads me to mention the one drawback: Do you have a homeowners association composed of a bunch of busybodies with too much time on their hands and a knack for meddling? Do you, too, get voted off the island because of a single rabid pet raccoon? There is something to be said for a neighborhood with its own band of gypsies. They’re good renters.

What do they have against creative weed gardens? Why do they get grumpy when my garage paint peels to reveal a catchy mold? They forget that America grew up with outhouses. Come to think of it, why did that warning note begin with “Actung”? I’ll ask the neighborhood watch captain, Mr. Himmler.

 

Ashby hangs out at ashby2@comcast.net

Visit South Walton Uses Sunshine to Stay Clean and Green

June 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Organization Installs Solar-Powered Trash Compactors at Beach Accesses

SOUTH WALTON, Fla. (June 6, 2012) – South Walton is best known for its 26 miles of award-winning sugar-white sand beaches and clear turquoise water.  The popular coastal destination in Northwest Florida recently took action to ensure those beaches remain award-worthy by installing solar-powered trash compactors at six of its eight regional beach accesses.  The compactors were purchased from Waste Management after an initial trial period at the Ed Walline beach access, located at County Road 393 and Scenic Highway 30A, proved highly successful.

Although the compactors are the same size as a standard 35-gallon trash container, they hold five times more trash, thanks to patented solar-powered compression technology.  Greater capacity results in fewer collections, reducing the fuel, maintenance and manpower costs associated with maintaining South Walton’s public beaches.  Each unit also contains a receptacle for recycling plastic bottles, newspaper, glass and other recyclables, enabling beachgoers to easily participate in that environmentally friendly option.

“South Walton is blessed with a natural beauty that we deeply respect and strive tirelessly to maintain,” says Visit South Walton Executive Director Dawn Moliterno.  “Several years ago, we adopted the Leave No Trace program and we support South Walton Turtle Watch in their efforts to protect sea turtle nesting along our beaches.  Record visitation levels over the past year prompted us to seek innovative ways to further assist us in maintaining the pristine nature of our beaches that our visitors expect and deserve.  We believe these solar-powered compactors and recycling kiosks will play a significant role in our overall efforts.”

Crafted from recycled materials, the containers are equipped with sensors that trigger the compactor to flatten contents when the unit is full and to send a wireless signal when the can is ready to be picked up.  Notes Dave Sell, beach maintenance manager for Visit South Walton, “Our beach maintenance team services nearly 400 trash receptacles at 67 water accesses 365 days a year.  It’s imperative that we perform as efficiently as possible while protecting our natural resources, especially during the peak summer season.  These solar-powered compactors help us do that. ”

In addition to units purchased by Visit South Walton, four additional solar-powered compactors were donated by Waste Management for use in Walton County.  They are currently installed at the Freeport Sports Complex and E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center in Freeport, and at Helen McCall Park in Santa Rosa Beach.

“Providing environmentally responsible options in public spaces can be a valuable tool for communities as they raise awareness of the importance of proper waste disposal,” said Amy Boyson, community affairs manager for Waste Management.  “Ordinary trash barrels can easily overflow and become eyesores.  The Waste Management solar-powered trash compactor can provide solutions for parks, beach accesses and public spaces, by reducing waste collection frequency and ensuring a greener, cleaner environment in Walton County.”

In addition to Leave No Trace and South Walton Turtle Watch, Visit South Walton has directed 1 million plantings of vegetation to enhance the local dune system and secured more than $10 million in coastal grants for beach nourishment. The organization also funds a comprehensive beach safety program, including lifeguards stationed at regional beach accesses throughout the summer season.

About South Walton:

Located along a 26-mile stretch of Northwest Florida’s Coast, South Walton encompasses an unparalleled strand of 15 distinct beach neighborhoods, each with its own traditions, charm and visual style.  South Walton is renowned for natural scenic beauty, turquoise waters and sugar sand beaches, including one of Dr. Beach’s All-Time Top 20 Beaches.  An upscale, yet casual, place to unwind, rejuvenate and build lasting memories, it is here that visitors find their perfect beach.  Learn more at VisitSouthWalton.com.

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