How Hard Can this Be?

The complexities keep building. I have rebuilt my elevated garden with a plastic liner and multiple layers of filler to give my veggies the best chance to thrive. I gave Miracle-Gro garden soil too much credit and lost six weeks of growing time; then planted several out of season plants. What a rookie! Now the sun is finally shining; I watch the shadows creep across my garden.

Historically, this area of my yard gets the most sun. Unfortunately, a couple of giant old crepe-myrtle trees and some forty year old magnolias are flexing their muscles; they’re showing the sun who is boss. Shade is hampering my harvest; corn stalks in the sunny part of the garden are three times the size of their shaded siblings. This is not the my first fight with these trees, but this time I’m fighting for my vegetable garden.

I spend a sunny Sunday charting which trees are causing problems, then call the tree trimmers. I have three trees completely removed and give the giant old crepe-myrtles serious haircuts. Now the yard looks completely different. I was thinking only of the garden; when the trees were gone I began thinking of my wife, her attachment to the missing trees and her opinion of my decision to make the trees go missing. Luckily she loves the new look. The trees were not hiding buildings or neighbors, now we see a big patch of Texas sky framed by large oak and magnolias. We can even lay in the sun by the pool. The garden will get 10 hours of sun, and we still have lots of trees.

I took out three trees and did some serious trimming so the sunshine could reach the garden

I took out three trees and did some serious trimming so the sunshine could reach the garden

During a recent visit to the Inn at Dos Brisas (the only Forbes five-star restaurant in Texas) I got to tour their organic gardens. Their operation is impressive. The farmers harvest seed from the crops, which sprout and grow in greenhouses and are transplanted as soon as threat of frost is gone. The chefs pick fresh produce everyday for their tasting menus. I shared some of my gardening issues with Farmer Jane. She encouraged me to replant the radish and Bok Choy, even though it’s no longer the ideal planting time. By her instruction, I planted where the tomatoes and corn will protect them from my newly found sun.

My Bok Choy sprouted, and with plenty of food, quickly grew a couple of inches. Overnight most of it disappeared. As I look more closely I see the plants are still there, something has eaten the new leaves. The eating has continued, now spreading to the broccoli and cabbage.

This is my broccoli after last night's bug attack

This is my broccoli after last night’s bug attack

We’re having friends over for some good old Texas BBQ. The smoker is puffing away when one of my guests tells me I need some Seven Dust. I don’t know what Seven Dust is I confess. He explains Seven Dust will cure most of the bug problems in my garden. Moments later another friend asks if I’ve ever heard of Seven Dust. Ten minutes after that, 70 year old Robert says, “Tommyboy, you need to get to the store and buy you some Seven Dust.”

I guess bugs are eating my plants, and the cure is Seven Dust. At Buchanan’s Native Plants I find and purchase a shaker of Sevin Dust.

Randy Fenoli July 20th, Houston Bridal Extravaganza Show

April 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Randy Fenoli appears in Houston.
Click here to purchase tickets.

Cakewalk Style Shop hosts Kelly Bensimon

April 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs

Cakewalk Style Shop

Outdoor party area at Cakewalk Style Shop

Cakewalk Style Shop was all frills and lace today

 

Perfect weather welcomed model, author, and former Real Housewife of New York Kelly Bensimon to H -Town.  She was available for one-on-one chats with guests.  He also launched her signature fragrance, In the Spirit Of – a perfect blend of sweet and spice.  Monica Pope was on hand to oversee the light bites: stuffed figs, pulled pork and more.

Cakewalk Style Shop

An awesome sweet display at Cakewalk Style Shop

 

 

In the crowd: Alicia Smith, Stephanie Perkins, Deborah Duncan, Kim Padgett.

 

 

 

Poolside party at the Omni Hotel Houston!

April 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Events

FoodEventatOmniLocavores & Lone Stars

 

Come enjoy some local cuisine by the pool.

Thursday May 1st

6:00-9:00pm

 

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased at locavores.eventbrite.com

Texas Tequila & Margarita Festival

April 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Events

The Margarita Returns Home to Galveston for Texas Tequila & Margarita Festival at Moody Gardens June 13-15!

 

It has been long rumored that the first margarita was made in Galveston at the historic and legendary Balinese Room. The discussion heats up as Texas Tequila & Margarita Festival organizers are preparing for an explosive weekend of tequila tastings, margarita samplings, great food, and music as this “Texas sized” festival rolls in to Galveston June 13-15, 2014. This year’s festival, at Moody Gardens, will feature an epic gathering of the world’s best tequilas alongside some of the region’s best restaurants competing for title of “Best Margarita”. The festival weekend is comprised of four anchor events, “Tequila Herradura Social”, “Tour de Tequila”, “Margarita Grand Tasting”, and a “Little Mexico” inspired outdoor festival.

The Friday night event, “The Social Presented by Tequila Herradura”, brings together industry professionals and weekend festival goers for an evening of sipping on specialty tequila cocktails, a delectable “create your own” taco bar, and live music. Moody Gardens “Bands on Sand” and fireworks over the bay round out the kick-off to the weekend festivities!

Saturday is action packed starting with “Tour de Tequila” in Expo A at the Moody Gardens Convention Center (1pm-4pm). Some of the world’s best tequilas come together to present their various styles of tequila alongside restaurants showing the public the dynamic fusion of pairing food and tequila together. At 3:00pm the doors open in Expo B & C for the “Margarita Grand Tasting”. 40 restaurants, businesses, and individual teams compete for “Best Margarita” in their categories. A preselected judging panel will award “Best Margarita” based on style, taste, and presentation.  Cash awards for 1st ($1000), 2nd ($500) and 3rd ($250) place will be presented for Best Restaurant/Bar Margarita and 1st ($1000), 2nd ($500) and 3rd ($250) for Best Individual (Non-Restaurant/Bar) Margarita. A “People’s Choice” award will be given to the restaurant or individual that receives the most votes cast by visitors at the event. During the “People’s Choice”, visitors will be able to vote with their dollar and 100% of the money collected will go directly to Friday Harbour charity.

Don’t let the sun go down without strolling to the Oleander Bowl at Moody Gardens for the Outdoor Festival presented Dos-A-Rita. Intentionally created to feel like a passport to a street fair with a “Little Mexico” flair! This area offers a distinctive shopping experience, fashioned after a traditional Mexican village, a live music stage with the sounds of Latin, Blues, Country, and Rock music. Various flavors of margaritas will be offered, all the fan favorite Mexican foods, alongside traditional festival staples from sausage on a stick to funnel cakes! Gates for the outdoor festival are noon-10pm. Texans love their “Tex-Mex” and this festival delivers with its charity Fajita Cook-Off benefitting Friday Harbour & Galveston County Fair & Rodeo. Teams will compete for best fajitas in both the chicken and beef categories.

Sunday rounds out the weekend and the festival closes with a “South of the Border” brunch at Moody Gardens Hotel. Guest will have the opportunity to sip Michelada’s and Bloody Maria’s while dining on traditional style Mexican foods.

Tickets will be available at www.texasmargaritafestival.com. Friday Harbour and the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo have been selected as the charity partner’s for the event. Friday Harbour’s mission is to provide free temporary housing for cancer patients and their caregivers as they seek cancer treatment at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Texas Children’s Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. By alleviating the strain associated with funding temporary housing, they hope to instead bring light to what is likely the most extraordinary circumstance in the life of the patient, and in the lives of those that love them. Galveston County Fair & Rodeo’s purpose is to serve the youth of Galveston County by promoting youth, education, and agriculture by supporting 4-H and FFA programs.  Texas Tequila & Margarita Festival is made possible through the generous support of sponsors; Moody Gardens Hotel & Convention Center, Dos-A-Rita, Dienst Distributing, Dos Equis, and all of the participating restaurants, vendors, and tequila brands. Volunteer opportunities are available, please visit the event website.

QUICK FACTS

WHAT: Texas Tequila & Margarita Festival

WHEN: June 13- 15, 2014

WHERE: Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd, Galveston, Texas

TICKETS:  Ranges $10- $75 Check the website for details and event times

•             June 13th- Tequila Herradura Social $10 Friday June 13th

  • June 14th -Tour de Tequila & Outdoor Festival Pass- $60, Margarita Grand Tasting & Outdoor Festival Pass- $35
  • June 15th– Father’s Day South of the Border Brunch $35 (Reservations available through Moody Gardens)

•             Weekend Pass to Friday & Saturday Events- $75

•             Purchase tickets- www.texasmargaritafestival.com

Stay Updated:

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/TexasMargaritaFestival  Twitter- https://twitter.com/texasmargfest

Website- www.texasmargaritafestival.com

 

Frozen in Thyme

 

Something is not right. The cold, wet weather seems to have frozen my garden in time.

It’s not that the garden looks bad, it looks exactly like it did before the first freeze hit, and the day I planted it. I have Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and onions that have not grown an inch. My Bok Choy and radish seeds sprouted, tiny leaves just peeking out of the soil, and stopped growing. The weather has been wintry; we haven’t seen the sun in weeks, but I have winter crops in the ground. Shouldn’t they be rejoicing, growing and thriving as the “polar vortex” pushes through Houston?

It’s time to review. My elevated garden has been lined with plastic so it will hold water. I have poked several holes in the plastic three inches off the ground as an outlet for excess water. The bed has several layers of filling: about a foot of small rock, sand, some fill dirt and about 15 inches of Miracle-Gro garden soil on top. I was suppose to mix the Miracle-Gro soil with native soil at a 50/50 ratio. I didn’t have that much native soil, so it’s 80% Miracle-Gro. I begin to think this is my issue. At the same time, I wonder if the garden is set to explode when the sun finally comes out.

As I look for holes in my plan I realize I’m missing one key ingredient, knowledge. I have absolutely no knowledge or experience in growing vegetables. My thirst for results pushed my expectations straight to the “reap” and I’m beginning to feel their was something wrong in my “sow.” My schedule has not allowed me to visit Wabash on Saturdays, and when I finally get there the knowledgeable plant waterer is nowhere to be found. I start buying books on Texas gardening and examine their content. Texas is a big state. We have desert ecosystems out west and wetlands in the southeast. Texans can be snowed in in Dallas, hot and dry in Laredo, mild and misty in Corpus Christi and perfectly comfortable in Austin- all on the same day. I start to question why I’m reading about rose gardens in Tyler. I need to read about growing broccoli in my backyard. At Buchanan’s Native Plant Store in the Heights I find a piece of work by Bob Randall, Ph.D. I spend $40 on Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro Houston, 12th Edition.

It’s a stretch to call it a book. The spiral bound pages look like they came straight off of an office copier. Pictures are grainy, the writing is suspect and it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. Dr Randall understands the giant body of water just south of town influences our weather. He doesn’t write about Texas, he gives planting instructions for north of FM 1960, west of Hwy 6, and perfect for me, Montrose. Dr. Bob is an ecological anthropologist, and writes like one. I can’t really understand ecological anthropology, but quickly learn how to use his book. The first section I grasp is the Planting Calendar. Virtually every veggie you can plant in Houston is listed along with the ideal planting date. My first batch of crops went in the ground around February first. Looking through the planting calendar I see the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower were suppose to be planted in October; they aren’t growing and likely will never grow in February. However, my other crops should be thriving. I turn to the “how to” section where he gives specific individual growing instructions and learn my broccoli is hungry; they need 1/4 cup of organic plant food every two weeks. I have fed them nothing. I head back to Wabash to buy some MicroLife.

Two identical plants: one fertilized, one not.

Two identical plants: one fertilized, one not.

The results are instantaneous; visible growth within days. I have five broccoli plants, but only fertilize four. The fertilized plants suddenly dwarf the other. After a couple weeks, I look around the little farm and realize I’m starving my crops and begin feeding every single plant.

I’ve wasted six weeks of growing time and will probably lose my first harvest, but learned some valuable lessons. Lowe’s sold me cauliflower and Brussels sprouts in February; I no longer expect plants to grow just because they are available at the store. I worried my 80% Miricle-Gro garden soil would harm or burn my tender young plants. I now realize there was no miracle in my Miracle-Gro; in fact, there was no grow. I am fertilizing weekly.

It seems to be working. I’ve added two tomato plants and eight varieties of peppers; all  have fruit. I replanted radishes and Bok Choy and see growth; most of my corn is popping up in rows. I’m not out of the woods yet. Now that we are well into March and the sun is shining, I see shadows cover my plot most of the day. It’s time to call the tree trimmers.

Serrano Peppers

5 New Things to Do in Galveston This Summer

April 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Galveston Island was recently named one of the “Top 10 Destinations on the Rise in the U.S.” by Trip Advisor, and with a variety of new experiences being offered in 2014, it’s not hard to see why.

When heading to Galveston this summer, the island’s 32 miles of beaches and classic attractions won’t be the only draw. Here’s a look at new things to do on the island.

Explore the New Ropes Course & Zip Line at Moody Gardens
Challenge your agility, balance and strength at Moody Gardens as you encounter the Gulf Coast’s tallest five-tier Sky Trail Explorer Ropes Course and new Zip Line opening May 3. Ranging from Criss-Cross Tight Ropes to Burma Buckets, the 71-foot Ropes Course is filled with 48 fascinating obstacles. Thrill seekers can then glide 60 feet in the air on the Moody Gardens Zip Line for a bird’s eye view of the Moody Gardens Pyramids and tropical gardens. For details, visit www.moodygardens.com.

Get Thrilled with New “Screaming Serpents” Ride at Schlitterbahn
Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark is opening a new ride this summer, sure to please thrill-seekers looking to beat the heat. The Screaming Serpents ride includes two high-speed body slides wrapped tightly around each other 60 feet in the air. Riders will swish back and forth inside the bellies of the “serpents” and narrowly escape through their giant mouths. Screaming Serpents is a totally immersive thrill slide experience, enhanced by fog, light and sound effects. Translucent multicolored stripes on the slides create light effects throughout the twisting course of the ride. The new attraction opens May 31. For information, visit www.schlitterbahn.com/galveston.

 Treat Yourself at New Restaurants
The island’s culinary scene is buzzing with the opening of several new restaurants this year. Number 13 Prime Steak & Seafood offers big city cuisine with a locally focused menu and waterfront view from Pelican Rest Marina. In addition to its upscale main dining room, Number 13 offers a more casual, outdoor two-story terrace with live music Thursday through Sunday. For details, visit www.number13steak.com. In addition, the San Luis Resort recently opened Blake’s Bistro and the poolside Cup + Cone, serving gelato and other goodies. For details, visit www.sanluisresort.com.

Go on a Paddle Board Excursion
Hit the waves in Galveston this summer on a paddle surfing excursion with Ohana Surf & Skate. Ohana offers a wide selection of stand up paddle boards for all skill levels as well as experienced instructors to guide you along the way. Lessons include one-on-one instruction on the beach and in the water. Visit www.ohanasurfandskate.com for details.

Explore with Marine Biology Tours at the Texas Seaport Museum
Galveston Historical Foundation is offering a new tour to the public this summer. The Marine Biology Tour provides participants with a hands-on opportunity to observe dolphins and other species in their natural habitat, trawl for and handle marine organisms, study plankton through a microscopic lens and explore Galveston Bay’s rich history. The tour takes place twice a month now through August onboard the SEAGULL II catamaran that is docked at the Texas Seaport Museum. The tour is $15 for adults and $12 for youth ages 6 to 18. For reservations, contact the Texas Seaport Museum at 409-763-1877 or visit www.galvestonhistory.org.

For new experiences at Galveston lodging venues, visit the newly renovated Moody Gardens Hotel, which just completed a massive update of its 428 guest rooms, spa and more. Or, stay at the waterfront Harbor House Hotel & Marina at Pier 21, which unveiled a full renovation in February.

For a full list of accommodations venues and for more information on Galveston, visit www.galveston.com.

 

Beginning to Sow and Worry

I awake feeling pressure of an impending deadline. My buddy Gary would boast every year how he got his tomatoes in the ground before the end of February. Today is the 26th, we have just suffered through a rare winter storm (hopefully the season’s last), the sun is shining and I’m going to get dirty.

The garden needs top soil. My research on the web tells me I can use Miracle-Gro garden soil. It has enough fertilizer mixed in to feed my garden up to three months and “grows vegetables twice as big.” This option is more appealing than visiting the Wabash guy’s hen house,  shoveling chicken poop into my SUV, driving it home, carting it through the yard and mixing it with generic dirt. With tape measure in hand, I make some quick measurements, head to Home Depot and buy nine big bags of Miracle-Gro garden soil.

The easy to follow instructions suggest a 50/50 mix of Miracle-Gro garden soil and native soil. I don’t have that much native soil in my elevated garden, so it’s more like 80-percent Miracle-Gro. An uneasy feeling sets in. Is excess fertilizer going to burn my seeds and baby plants? Am I  dooming my families hopes of fresh vegetables? I finally decide what’s done is done. The bed looks great; fluffy, fertile and yearning for plants.

I must have had too much wine with last night’s dinner. There are very few plants to choose from at the local stores. Lowe’s has some Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, Wabash has cabbage, broccoli and few herbs. No one has tomatoes. I hear my late buddy’s voice reminding me to get tomatoes in the ground before the end of February, and suddenly it hits me. This isn’t the end of February, but the end of January. The motivation of the deadline evaporates and feel a slight throbbing in my head; more side effects of the wine.

After a day of thinking it over, I have a new plan. My soil is yearning for plants, I’m eager to provide for my family, we live in Houston where gardens can produce all year long. I make the decision to throw in some cold weather crops. I purchase the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage plants, plus a set of onions. Red radish and Bok Choy seeds will take up more space, but still leave enough room for a couple tomato plants when they come in. I dig, plant and water, then look with pride at the little plants poking out of the ground. I envision my toddler sons enjoying Brussels sprouts (steamed, pureed and mixed with diced roast chicken). My wife’s going to love the garden fresh broccoli in her morning omelets and I can’t wait to stir fry the Bok Choy and radishes. I’ve done my part; it’s time to let the sunshine and soil finish the job.

On day five I see sprouts. I’ve been studying the my plant bed intently for nearly a week and I’m finally rewarded with straight lines of little, infant radish and Bok Choy. The cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions and broccoli look the same as the day they were planted, but my little lines of new plants show undeniable progress. My chest swells with a sense of accomplishment. This little winter garden, hastily planned as it was, is producing. And I’m glad it’s winter crops. It’s an odd winter; more chilly weather is in the forecast.

The wintry weather hits with a vengeance the very night my sprouts emerge from the ground. Even though they are winter crops, I’m worried. The little plants are young and frail; all I can do is wait and see.

A Chance to Farm

It started in December, 2013. Our brand new backyard deck will contain a small elevated garden; a little 12′ x 7′ patch of fun.

Gardening is not new to me. Every spring for decades I’ve turned soil, mixed in peat humus to raise the beds and planted assorted flowers, which bloom beautifully until I get tired of weeding and feeding. At some point during late summer or early fall they fall into a state of disrepair, and usually stay that way until spring. This garden is different; we plan to eat the bounty! Yes, enough vegetables to feed our family of four, plus guests, will be harvested year round from our 84 square foot farm; I’ve been researching new recipes since we finalized the deck plans. The farmer, me, can’t wait to get started.

I wander into the Wabash Feed Store on Washington Ave. as soon as they open on Saturday, eager to see their plant selection. A nice man watering the plants asks if I need help. “I’m just browsing,” I inform him. “I’m having a new garden built and I’m exploring my options.” He puts down the hose and informs me we need to talk, starting with a description of the new garden.

I live in a home built in 1916. Ninety-eight years ago, my back-yard deck was a driveway leading to the carriage house. When we pulled out the old deck we found the whole area was covered in concrete. On top of the concrete was 6 – 8 inches of colorless dirt. I had the deck contractors scrape up this dirt to fill my garden. The man at Wabash tells me this was a big mistake. Evidently a garden sitting directly on concrete will have trouble holding water. The water draining out will ruin the the woodwork. When the water drains out it takes the nutrients with it. Without nutrients…

“What do I need to do?” I ask the plant waterer, who has earned an incredible amount of respect in a two minute time span. His recommendations:

—Line the interior with thick black plastic to hold water and protect wood walls. Staple the plastic at the top of where the the soil line will be, cover interior sides and bottom of the garden. Allow excess water to escape by punching a small hole every three feet along the sides three inches from the ground.

—Use multiple layers for filler. You don’t want soil sitting in the pool of water atop the plastic, so the first foot of my three foot garden should be rock. The second layer should be sand to fill the gaps and even out the floor of my garden. The next layer can be the filler soil scraped from the concrete under my old deck. Reserve the top 12- 18 inches for a high quality top soil, mixed with large amounts chicken poop, which I can get free If I go to his house and shovel it.

I leave the Wabash feed store visibly shaken, nervously dialing the deck contractor from my cell. I share the bad news and he promises to bring extra help on Monday to dig out the old dirt and he’ll get the supplies needed to build it right. My gardening ego has taken a major blow and I haven’t even planted a seed. At this point I’m extremely thankful for two things. 1) My mistakes were pointed out very early 2) The knowledgeable plant waterer (who is a top rate teacher during the week) hands out free advice every Saturday at the Wabash Feed and Garden Store

 

Color Fun Fest 5k brings an epic 5K to Houston on May 4

April 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Events

WHAT: Come join us as we combine two of the most EPIC festivals in the world on May 4th 2014. Color Fun Fest brings the Holi Festival and the electronic dance movement together for the first time with a day and night glowing color 5K run.

As day transforms into night and the dust settles from our day color run, we power up the strongest blacklights in the world to transition our day color run into a nighttime 5k color run festival called Color Fun Fest.

Join us at the finish line as we celebrate life with an after party of mass color and high voltage dance music. Come one, come all, come spend your weekend with your family, friends and loved ones to create an EPIC night you will never forget.

WHEN: May 4

Day Run 
Day of packet pickup starts at 2:00 PM and Ends at 4:30 PM
Day Wave: 5:00 PM
Day Festival: 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM

EPICOLOR TOSS: 6:00 PM, 6:15 PM, 6:30 PM

Night Run
Night of packet pickup Starts at 6:00 PM and Ends at 8:30 PM
Night Wave: 9:00 PM
Night Festival: 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM

EPICOLOR TOSS: 10:00 PM, 10:15 PM, 10:30 PM

WHERE: Sam Houston Race park
7575 N. Sam Houston Parkway
Houston, TX 77064

Registration Prices
$60.00 Early-Bird Special (ONLINE REGISTRATION CLOSES 4/25 @ 11:59 PM !)
$60.00 Regular Registration
$75.00 Day of Event registration

( You must purchase tickets for the day OR night run separately )

 

Visit our website to get more information.

SURVEY THE DAMAGE

April 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE PHONE — “Hi, this is Bonnie Sue. Recently you dealt with Disable Cable. Would you please answer a few questions about your visit? It will only take a minute or so. Was our technician on time? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no, 3 for ‘I was passed out on the couch and don’t remember.’ Did he or she smell good? Press 1 for….” Twenty minutes later Bonnie Sue’s recorded inquisition winds up with: “Do you consider Disable Cable your best service company? Press 1 for yes, press 2 for absolutely.”

Actually, I consider Disable Cable the worst company I have ever dealt with, and apparently I am not alone. The pending purchase by Comcast of Time Warner has brought out surveys that show most Americans consider their cable company the least-liked and most inept firm they use. When Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota recently asked his constituents if they favored the Comcast-Time Warner deal, he received more than 100,000 responses overwhelmingly opposed to it with many complaining about “the lousy service.” If the two companies merge, they’ll be twice as bad. As for their follow-up survey, I am all for that. Answering their questions gives me a chance to tell them what I think about their inefficiency. But I’ve got to be careful because the technicians who come out, or tell me over the phone what to do to restore service – I’ve got the company number on speed dial – are always nice, patient and must have the worst jobs in America, besides Keith Olbermann’s food taster.

One way companies seek our opinions is by including the survey form right there with the product: “Thank you for purchasing one of our RainerShine umbrellas. Please take just a moment….” Or, “Congratulations on your new Rat-A-Tat-Tat Poison. To better help us . . .” I fully expect to come home from the grocery store, open the bag and find: “You are now the proud new owner of a Heads-Up lettuce. Since we strive for perfection, we would like you to. . . .” The worst is my car company. I bought a new car, not knowing I would be drowned with e-mail questionnaires, letters in the mail, even phone calls. About once a week for the past months the company or the dealer or the salesperson contacts me to see how I like my new car. The communications are pretty difficult. I mean, wouldn’t you think someone could speak English at Lamborghini?

No CEO ever thought up this relatively new drain on our time.  Rather, we are getting bombarded with these various surveys, questionnaires and feedback forms because some other company thought it up and sold the program to every single corporation in America. It is not only private firms that keep hounding us for our thoughts. Both political parties crank up towards Election Day by showering us with surveys coupled with a hook. First they fattening us up with flattery. “As a leader in your community, we at national headquarters greatly value your opinions on matters concerning our nation’s future.” Then comes the survey.

See if you can spot which questions come from which party. “Do you feel America should keep the Wall Street fat cats out of jail even though they rob, steal, burn and loot the average American?” “Rate on a scale of 1 to 2 whether the current administration should be taken out and flogged.” “Obamacare is (circle one or all): Treasonous. Unneeded since we already have doctors and hospitals. Will break the government, causing riots, mayhem and the probable annexation by Putin.” “The Affordable Care Act is: Wonderful. Imaginative. Cost free. Easy to understand once you get through the first 1,200 pages.” After you have expressed your wise opinions on such weighty matters, there is a small box to check showing which credit card to use for your donation. No one asks if you want to donate. The only question is how much? Since the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled there is no limit, just give all your money.

We must ask ourselves, first, does anyone actually read these political surveys? Anyone important? If so, which is unlikely, do they take our opinions under consideration or simply take our money? If you do send either party a check for $1 million (you are the third Koch brother, aren’t you?) enclose a note telling the pols to stop wasting your money sending out these stupid surveys.

Wait, My phone is ringing again. “Hi, this is Johnny Joe. You have been selected for a four-day, two-night cruise on the Princess Scurvy, if you can answer these two questions. Press 1 for…” This is an ad in the guise of a survey. Are you also receiving more and more phone solicitations? What became of the Do Not Call Law?  That law was supposed to combat robocalls – those recorded messages that called you during dinner.. The shield doesn’t cover every caller, as we have noticed in these past campaigns. Politicians can call, so can pollsters, firms you do business with, not-for-profits and bill collectors. Also, the law only applies to residences, not businesses. That loophole for pollsters is now being exploited by salesmen.

As for the legitimate pollsters, they usually call when I’m doing something important, like sorting out my sock drawer, and I really don’t want to be bothered. On the other hand, we all want our two cents to count, our views to be considered, especially if we are leaders in the community, so I like to be asked what I think about the gold flow (towards me, of course), immigration (I’m not going anywhere) and Wall Street fat cats (are you sure this is an objective poll?). Here’s another letter. It’s from my car dealer asking is I want to be on an advisory board. Chance to win $500. Sounds good. I’ve got some advice about surveys. But first I need to take this multiple choice quiz about their service.

 

Ashby follows up at ashby2@comcast.net

 

Easter Extravaganza JW Marriott in San Antonio

April 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

The JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa will host an Easter Extravaganza this year for resort guests. Event  activities include a magic show, petting zoo, special visit from the Easter Bunny, Easter egg hunt, and much more.  See attachments for April and Easter Weekend activities.  There will be a non-denominational outdoor Easter Service at 10:30 a.m. on the resort’s sprawling green lawn overlooking the Hill Country vistas.  

Children of all ages can meet the Easter bunny at the JW Marriott in San Antonio.

Children of all ages can meet the Easter bunny at the JW Marriott in San Antonio.

Easter Egg-stravaganza Hop-penings are as follows

·       8:30-9:15 a.m. Magic Show

·       8:30 a.m. 12 p.m. Petting Zoo

·       9:15 a.m. Easter Egg Hunt (children up to age 12)

·       9:30 a.m. Photos with the Easter Bunny

 ·       9:45 a.m. 12 p.m. Airbrush Tattoos

·       10 a.m. Games 2 U

 

  • And no one will go hungry with the special Easter Brunch the resort chefs are preparing.  The Brunch menu features a variety of signature dishes, including house-smoked salmon, brown sugar and mustard glazed ham, house-made breads, pastries, and exotic fruits. Brunch price is $70 for adults, $60 for seniors, $33 for children ages four to 12, and free for children three and                                                         under. Easter Brunch is available to the public and resort guests; please call 210-483-6622 for  reservations.

Resort rooms for Easter weekend are available beginning at $299 per night, plus tax, as available.

 

June 2014 Performance Calendar at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park

April 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Events

There’s something for everyone on stage at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park.  From daytime programs especially for young children to family friendly evening performances of music, dance, theatre and more, this is Houston’s best entertainment value. Admission is FREE! For a complete schedule, visitwww.milleroutdoortheatre.com .

Free tickets for evening performances are available on a first-come first-served basis (four per person over age 16 while they last) at the Miller Outdoor Theatre box office the day of the performance between the hours of 10:30 a.m.—1 p.m. for assigned seating under the canopy. If tickets remain at 1 p.m., the box office will re-open one hour before show time to distribute the remaining tickets. As always, open seating on the hill.

Under normal circumstances, all unoccupied/unclaimed seats are released five minutes before the show is scheduled to begin. We encourage all patrons to be in their assigned seats at least 10 minutes before showtime to ensure that their seat is not released. Again, there is NO charge for tickets. Tickets may not be reserved by phone. Only four (4) tickets per person. At managements’ discretion, all unoccupied seats may be released at any time for any reason.

imageSwing, Jive & Pop! Into Dance
June 4, 11 a.m.
MET Dance’s “Swing, Jive and Pop into Dance” incorporates history, fashion, music and the arts into an interactive blast of excitement.
Presented by MET Dance

image (1)The Magician’s Nephew
June 5-6, 11 a.m.
Before there was the wardrobe, there was the Magician. Adapted from the exciting first story in The Chronicles of Narnia series by author C.S. Lewis, the play follows Digory and his friend Polly as they battle the evil Queen Jadis. Dramatized by Aurand Harris.
Produced by AD Players

image (2)Sizzling Summer Dance
June 6, 8:30 p.m.
Kick off your summer at the annual Sizzling Summer Dance Concert! Get a sneak peek of a World Premiere by New York based choreographer Joe Celej and 2014 Emerging choreographer Steven Vaughn. The evening will also include some of the Met’s most celebrated works. A diverse and versatile program bursting with dance, music and spirit, catch MET in their final performance of the season in a show perfect for all ages.
Produced by Met Dance – Photo Credit: Ben Doyle / Runaway Productions

image (3)25th Annual Accordion Kings and Queens
June 7, 6 p.m.
Celebrate the best of “Texas Squeezebox”! Come out for an evening of dancing and roots music and help Texas Folklife celebrate the Accordion Kings & Queens Festival 25th anniversary! It will be a star-studded affair, featuring Mark Halata & Texavia and C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band. Plus, there will be a tribute to Conjunto and Tejano music pioneers with Avizo and many more.
Produced by Texas Folklife

image (4)Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld
June 8, 8:30 p.m.
The Gods take a spirited holiday in the underworld. Jacques Offenbach’s most famous operetta.
Produced by Franco-American Vocal Academy

 

 

 

 

image (5)Big, The Musical
June 11-12, 11 a.m., open seating, no ticket needed.
June 13, 8:15 p.m.
June 14, 8:15 p.m.

Get ready to see the classic 1987 motion picture fantasy burst onto the stage in an unforgettable theatrical experience. When frustrated adolescent Josh Baskin wishes he were “big” and wakes up the next morning a 30-year-old man, he discovers there’s much more to being an adult than he’s bargained for and learns we must all grow up at our own pace, in our own time.
Produced by Theatre Under The Stars’ Humphreys School of Musical Theatre

image (6)Houston’s Juneteenth Celebration
June 19, 7 p.m.
Spotlighting the rich African American musical traditions of Texas and the Gulf Coast. Featuring Allen Toussaint, Ruthie Foster, Curtis Poullard and the Creole Zydeco Band, and more!
Produced by Houston Institute for Culture

 

 

image (7)ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights
June 20-21 and 27-28, 8:30 p.m. each night
Houston Symphony returns with its traditional summer concert series featuring outstanding artists and conductors, the music you love, and your own Houston Symphony Musicians.
Produced by Houston Symphony

image (8)Houston Young Artist’s Concert
June 23, 11 a.m., July 1 at 11 a.m.
Experience the artists of tomorrow as musical prodigies ages 4-18 perform.
Produced by Houston Young Artist’s Concert

 

image (9)Sounds Like Fun!
June 24, 11 a.m.
The Sounds Like Fun! Series returns to Miller with a relaxed and dynamic music experience designed for the whole family.
Produced by the Houston Symphony

RedBuds Host “Let’s Derby Y’all”

April 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Events

RedBuds-Derby-Party-Invitation-2014Trees for Houston’s young professionals celebrate the Kentucky Derby Texas style

The Redbuds, Trees for Houston’s young professional group, will host their 7th Annual Kentucky Derby Party themed, “Let’s Derby Y’all” on Saturday, May 3rd at Jackson’s Watering Hole from 3pm–6pm.

Cowboys and Cowgirls will celebrate the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, Texas style. Guests will enjoy margaritas, cold beer, delicious BBQ, a best dressed contest and bidding on the races.

A special thank you to the following sponsors: Drybar, J. Hillburn, Jackson’s Watering Hole and the Law Office of Karen Van Holten PLLC.

Trees for Houston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to planting, protecting and promoting trees. Since its beginning in 1983, Trees for Houston has planted and distributed nearly 500,000 trees and seedlings. During the 2012-2013 planting season, more than 35,000 trees were planted along Houston’s freeways, residential and commercial streets and on school campuses. The RedBuds serve as environmentally conscious donors and volunteers committed to aiding in the reforestation of Houston’s urban spaces.

PULL UP THE GANGPLANK THE STREET

April 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby 14 April 2014  — Here comes the garbage truck grinding along, stopping, starting, stopping. Wonder what its brake linings look like? The reason we are contemplating something so gross as saying goodbye to yesterday’s pizza is that Texas is facing a landfill problem. Then there is our other garbage: air, water and noise pollution. As you have probably guessed, I am referring to a new U.S. Census Bureau report which found Harris County and the Houston metropolitan areas are leading the nation in population increases, and Big D is even bigger. Then there’s Beaumont. I shall explain: During the year ending last July 1, Harris County gained 83,000 residents, while the Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land area added 137,692. Harris County, with about 4.3 million residents, remains the nation’s third-largest county, and the Houston metro area, with 6.3 million residents, keeps its ranking as the fifth-largest, one place behind Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington. Remember that in most cases it costs more to advertise on a Dallas TV station than a Houston station because the Metroplex has more people than the Houston area. How big is this deluge of newcomers? Every single morning last year, including weekends and Christmas, when Houstonians backed out of the driveway on the way to their job at the toxic dump, there were 276.2 more vehicles on Harris County roads than were there the previous morning. I don’t know if I want to live in the fastest-growing state and solar system. What do we do about parking spaces and schools? The Census Bureau found that three of the top 10 fastest-growing metro areas — Odessa, Midland and Austin-Round Rock — are in Texas. Fort Bend County was listed as the nation’s ninth-fastest growing county. This report from the U.S. Census Bureau comes only days after a Federal Reserve Bank study which found that Texas has led the nation in creating jobs since 2000, and that more than half of the new positions paid salaries in the top half of the pay scale. This last stat has an asterisk. Living in Texas is so much cheaper than in most of America that you can receive a lousy paycheck here and still live rather well. Our teachers don’t buy that. Actually, they can’t buy much of anything. If our numbers are growing, our ages are lowering. About half of Texas’ population growth is the result of natural increase — babies minus bar arguments. About one-fourth comes from domestic migration, and the remaining fourth is due to international migration. In Harris County, births accounted for 142,820 new residents; international migration for 62,599; and domestic migration for 40,006. Do you ever get the idea the Border Patrol is watching the wrong river? And still they come. Texas added more residents than any other state in 2013 over the previous year — more than twice the national rate of population growth. There are now almost 26.5 million people in Texas. You can spot the newcomers by their license plates, which they will change after 10 years’ residence. Another tell-tale sign is the bumper sticker — LSU, OU, NYU, IOU — and front yard flags. Particularly on football weekends, my neighborhood looks like an NCAA convention. Even so, all these newcomers want to send their kids to UT or A&M. It’s cheaper than back home. Another point: The Census Bureau study shows the nation is increasingly becoming metropolitan. That is certainly true in Texas, although 96 counties lost population from 2010 to 2012. No one moves to Wichita Falls or Pampa or apparently Beaumont. That city has been named among the worst cities in the nation for well-being, according to a national survey just released by the Gallup-Healthways group. (Provo-Orem, Utah, came in first.) The study was based on phone calls to residents asking them questions about the quality of life in their area. Everything from financial security to work environments, physical and emotional health and access to healthy food were included in the questionnaire. For the second year in a row, the Beaumont-Port Arthur area came in among the lowest ranked places: 184 out of 189 metro areas. Conversely Austin-Round Rock came in at number 30, the highest spot for any Texas city. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown made it to number 60 while Texas overall came in with a similarly so-so ranking of 21 out of 50 states. Not to be defensive, Gallup-Healthways, but my wife is from Port Arthur — they are all FROM Port Arthur — and if Texas is so mediocre, why is everyone flocking here? Well, we’ve been warned about this population explosion. Indeed, some guy just blew up in the Ship Channel. We will need double-decker busses. We’ll live on top of one another like Manhattanites (Manhattaners? Mad Hatters?) TxDOT will pave over most of the pastures between our major cities. Your local EMS will have to ambulance-pool. We shall have more Congressional seats filled with embarrassments. Our high schools will compete in Class 45-A. No more singles bars. Double up. The New Yorker magazine had a slogan about its sophisticated readers: “It’s not how many, it’s who.” So Texas needs more quality, less quantity. You think our expressways are crowded now? We should have more mass transit so everyone else will take the train, leaving the roads open for us. We need a better class of criminals. Better smelling air pollution. Our Legislature needs upgrading to the 19th Century. As for the neighborhood garbage truck, it is off to dump my debris somewhere. The average American generates more than 5 pounds of garbage a day. That means our 26.5 million Texans dispose of uh, a lot of garbage. By 2020 our population will hit 30 million. We need a huge landfill. I suggest Arkansas. A few weeks ago we discussed our state’s water shortage. More people, more swimming pools. Finally, we must ask ourselves, is bigger really better? Is all this growth good? Maybe not. You and I are aboard. Pull up the gangplank. Ashby feels crowded at ashby2@comcast.net

A MISS IS AS GOOD AS A SMILE

April 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                  7 April 2014

THE VOID — It is spring cleaning time for obsolete and forgotten aspects of our lives in order to make room for the new and trendy items. Where is sequestration? It was all the rage when Congress took a meat cleaver to the federal budget. Vast cuts were made on almost every line of spending except for Congressional salaries, expense accounts and the Congressional gym. “Oh, there you are, sequestration,” I say, spotting it hiding behind another forgotten Washington project, the balanced budget. “When you were first trotted out in Congressional debates and newspaper editorials back in 2011 no one knew what you meant. You were like ‘rendition.’ Now you have slipped back into deserved obscurity. Into the void you go.”

I check my list. Whatever happened to biofuels? Another unneeded part of our society, especially when the American taxpayer realized it was nothing but a billion-dollar subsidy for the Corn Belt. Into the void. Cell phone, you are only a cell phone. You don’t take pictures or record sounds and forward them to1,000 of your closest friends. You are so 1990s. Today’s cell phones are like a Swiss Army knife with batteries. Join Betamax, BlackBerry and VCR, just disappear. Come to think of it, fax and land line, you are not far behind.

OK, what once-modern offices still have equipment that needs to be tossed into the void? Rolodex, out. Join carbon paper and telex. When was the last time anyone in any business used a pencil? I thought so. Go the way of the fountain pen, not to mention  goose-quill pens, and you, pencil sharpener, go along, too. We don’t have to worry about typewriters, even electric typewriters, they are in museums. You’re safe, small floor heater. As long as there are secretaries freezing at their air conditioned desks year ’round, near them will still be a small floor heater, and a sweater hanging on the back of their chairs when the gal Fridays are at lunch. The boss could always make the offices a little warmer, but even on a July afternoon most business offices are as cold as a banker’s  heart.

Remember that a.m. radio was on its death bed until conservative talk shows came along. So the a.m. part of the dial escaped our toss-out party. San Antonio has a public library with no books. It’s all Kindle and iPad and hieroglyphics and such. Could it be that books will soon be obsolete? Some say newspapers are done with, too, gone, dinosaurs. How do they know that? They read it in the newspaper.

So you are still here, Anthony Weiner. You were a regular on Rachel Maddow’s show and any other TV programs you could wedge in to. They all dropped you like a Texans’ pass when your scandal broke. Into the void to be with Al Gore, Dan Quayle and Grover Norquist, who has been MIA for months. That reminds me, has anyone seen Sam Donaldson, and is it too early to include Chris Christie?

Occupy Wall Street is unoccupied. You can’t live off the fad of the land forever, Cabbage Patch Kids and Beanie Babies. You’re next, Candy Crush Saga. The name, junior high school, has gone into our limbo, replaced by middle school for reasons no one understands. Where are the old titles of Bombay, Constantinople and Burma? Voided. When was the last time you heard “Dixie?” You risk tar and feathers playing that song in public. Soon anything named Lee, Jackson or Davis will be AWOL. The void has collected the South’s song and the flag, and gray uniforms are no longer de reguier. Texas has its unique share of has-beens who need to go. San Jacinto Day and Texas Independence Day have long gone into the void. Used to be those days were celebrated with parades and speeches, fireworks and feasts. Today it’s all about Cinco de Mayo. Remember the Longhorns’ wining football team and UH’s Phi Slama Jama?

Moving to the kitchen, is that a rolling pen? Out, can of lard drippings. Say goodbye to life and say hello to ice trays in the void. Next thing you know washboards, drying lines and clothes pens will no longer hang around, so to speak. The freezer and pantry are filled with sugar-free, calorie-free and nutrition-free food. So long South Beach Diet, make way for a gluten-free regimen and kale. Yes, that wimpy, tasteless veggie has taken over all the trendy kitchens, TV chefs’  recipes and cookbooks. If you ain’t got kale, you’re really stale. Talking about TV chefs, whatever happened to TV dinners? Nuke ’em for a minute and supper is ready. Does anyone still put them on TV tables to choke down some chicken mixed with mashed potatoes and 3-year-old peas while watching “Your Show of Shows?” Into the void and none too soon. The test pattern is long-voided. Out, Britney Spears and Hannah Montana. Hey, Justin Bieber, your 15 minutes of fame has expired. Valley Girl has joined AARP. Is Johnny Mathis still alive? How about Lauren Bacall and Maureen O’Hara?

Let me check my list of the vanquished and vanished. You know that the feds have ordered we get rid of incandescent bulbs. Same with the terrorism color alerts. And don’t forget the SSC — the Superconducting Super Collider, that billion-dollar boondoggle never did get finished. All we have today are a few big holes in the ground outside of Waxahachie. Now there are actual voids. Global warming has been replaced by climate change. Our children have tossed out please, thank you, sir and ma’m. When was the last time you saw someone smoking a pipe? Texas Democrats are poised on the sixth-story window ledge ready to jump into oblivion. All they need is a little push unless it’s Wendy. Pictures of full-service filling stations are on the side of milk cartons. Detroit is on life support, and you don’t look so good yourself.

 

Ashby is missing at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

HOUSTON HEIGHTS ASSOCIATION’S 29th HEIGHTS FUN RUN

April 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Events

6157 - Houston  Heights 5k Fun RunSaturday, June 7, 2014

Runners take your marks for one of Houston’s most popular small runs — the Houston Heights Association’s 29th Heights Fun Run, to be held on Saturday, June 7, 2014. The fast out-and-back 5K course runs along the beautifully scenic and historic Heights Boulevard. The race starts and ends at Marmion Park and includes a 5K Fun Run, a 5K Walk and a Kids 1K.

Run Wild Sports Timing will conduct the disposable chip timing for the certified 5K course.

The 5K Fun Run starts at 7:30 a.m., the 5K Walk starts at 7:35 a.m. and the Kids 1K starts at 8:30 a.m. Each kid participating in the 1K will receive an award, and each entrant will receive a commemorative 100 percent-cotton T-shirt.

The Post-Race Party will begin at 8 a.m. at Marmion Park, with the awards ceremony scheduled for 9 a.m. In addition to entertainment and door prizes, refreshments, including tacos, fresh fruit, bagels, water, coffee and more will be available.

REGISTRATION:

To register online for the Heights Fun Run, visit the Fun Run page at houstonheights.org. Online registration will open on April 7 and last through 8 p.m. on June 6. Registration is also available at Luke’s Locker on June 5-6 or at Marmion Park on race day.

The fee for the Fun Run and Walk is $25 until June 3, and $30 June 4 and after. The Kids 1K fee is $15 untilJune 3, and $20 on June 4 and after. Credit cards are accepted.

Packets may be picked up from Luke’s Locker at 1953 West Gray on June 5-6, and will also be available on race day at Marmion Park located at 18th Street and Heights Boulevard, from 6:15 a.m. to 7:15 a.m.

INFORMATION:

For more information, call the Houston Heights Association at 713-861-4002, ext. 4, or email funrun@houstonheights.org.

PROCEEDS:

The Houston Heights Association is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, and proceeds for the Fun Run go directly into the community for beautification, restoration, maintenance and education.