Odd News of 2010

December 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                          27 Dec. 2010

Let us continue our stroll down memory lane, avoiding the IEDs, before Texas Monthly steals our list of losers for its Bum Steer Awards.

Plus the Tip: In Beaumont a Domino’s employee was delivering a pizza and wings when a man suddenly appeared and stuck a gun in the pizza man’s face. Police said the suspect cocked the hammer and pointed the gun at the driver’s head. The suspect then took the pizza and hot wings, which cost about $15.

Corpulent Christi: Corpus “Home of the Whataburger” Christi, was judged the fattest city in America by Men’s Health magazine. Houston, which was Numero Uno last year, slipped to the 10th fattest. Over all, Texas was named the fattest state, with five cities ranking in the top 10.

Hours after Houston-based KBR – once a part of Halliburton – was notified by the Justice Dept. that the company was being investigated for taking kickbacks for Iraq-related contracts, KBR was given a no-bid contract for more Iraq work worth up to $568 million.

Vennie Wolf of Houston was injured by a bomb left in a box at her house. Because she was involved in a lawsuit with her brother, Clair Audrey Wolf, over environmental trouble on family property, talk show host Glenn Beck said the bombing could be the work of unspecified “radicals,” and also suggested the mainstream media purposely were not reporting it. Local bloggers swept in, blaming “environmental wackos.” Alas, police suspect her brother, who was jailed. Beck and the bloggers win our Jump Off the Bridge to Conclusions Trophy.

But we’ve got our own conspiratorial kooks. On Cinco de Mayo, a student at Houston’s Klein High School was given permission to display a Mexican flag, but another student tore it down. Local conservative talk show host Michael Berry ran the story on his blog illustrated by a photo of a Mexican flag on top of a pole with the U.S. flag beneath, upside down – the international message of distress. But the photo was not taken at Klein High, which, nevertheless was inundated with angry phone calls, virtually shutting down normal business.

In other local news, the head of the Greater Houston YMCA, Clark Baker, makes $661,634 annually. That’s more than his counterparts in New York City and Los Angeles. It’s even more than the national head of the American Red Cross.

It was a year of losses for Houston: The Angelika, one of Houston’s few remaining art film theaters, closed. A fire destroyed Harris County’s voting machines. After 59 years, Otto’s BBQ closed. Where will George and Bar do lunch? After over 61 years, Variety Fair 5 $ 10 in the Rice Village closed. And after more than 40 years, KILT dropped its morning show, Hudson and Harrigan. The original H&H left long ago. Since then it’s been Stevens and Pruett, Hames and Olson., etc. etc. Both the Houston Fire Dept. and HPD lost their chiefs.

The Howls of Ivy: News that Rice University was selling its radio station, KTRU, to UH for $9.5 million and that the school was dropping Rice University Press, an all-digital operation, set of student protests on South Main.

Throw me under the bus, please! — Metro CEO Frank J. Wilson resigned from his job amid all kinds of accusations, but still got $456,000.

Local Quote of the Year: “You Boy Scouts, don’t’ be a county judge. I don’t give a damn how bad you need a job, don’t do it.” – County Commissioner Jerry Eversole to a group of visiting Boy Scouts at a meeting of the County Commissioners after Eversole gave an obscenity-filled tirade against County Judge Ed Emmett. In December, Eversole was indicted on federal bribery and tax charges.

When City Council members met to close an estimated $140 million shortfall in the city budget, councilmember Jolanda Jones recommended adding showers to restrooms used by council members. The council voted to cut 2 percent across-the-board for most city agencies except one — the council’s own budget.

We Got Couth: Crowds lined up at the Houston Museum of Natural History to inhale Lois the Corpse Flower, variously described as smelling like rotting flesh, dung, old cleats and vomit.

The Casons go rolling along: Becca Cason Thrush was mentioned more in the Houston Chronicle than God.

The jock scene in Houston and Texas during 2010 was a disaster. UT-Austin gave us the first clue just seven days into 2010. In the college football Bowl Championship Series, the Longhorns lost to Alabama 37-21 after star QB Colt McCoy went down on the fifth offensive play. The defeat left the UT Student Co-Op with 14,000 T-shirts and caps whooping up the Longhorns’ non-existence as BCS champions. There was some thought of shredding the sad burnt orange reminders, then Haiti was hit with an earthquake, so the Haitians got them. The Horns win The Shirt Off Your Quarterback Trophy. After such a dismal season, Coach Mack Brown cleaned out most of his assistants.

Perhaps he was wearing a Longhorn T-shirt: Jerry Joseph, age 15, was one good basketball player for Odessa’s Permian (“Friday Night Lights”) High School, helping the team make the playoffs. Then it was learned that Joseph was actually 22-year-old Guerdwich Montimer from Haiti (maybe). Things got worse when a 16-year-old girl said she had sex with Montimer, thinking he was the 15-year-old Joseph. He was arrested for sexual assault.

TCU’s football team had an undefeated season, which still was not good enough to play with the big boys in the BCS championship game.

That Good Old Baylor (Punch) Line: Bears’ basketball player Brittney Griner was suspended for two games after punching Texas Tech’s Jordan Barncastle in the nose, breaking it. But the men’s team went all the way to the Elite Eight for the first time in 60 years. And Texas Southern University overcame years of frustration on the gridiron by finishing 9-3 and winning the Southwest Athletic Conference.

The Ones That Got Away: Of the top 100 blue-chip graduating high school football players in Texas last spring, 56 of them went out of state. When Number 4 ranked Oregon played Number 9 ranked Stanford, both quarterbacks were from Houston. Six Texas high school football products were selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin was put on three years probation for recruiting and offering financial aid to prospective football players – in American Samoa.

The lone Samoan recruited was barred from playing varsity football for St. Edwards for life.

In Houston, sports got off to a roaring start on Jan. 5 when the Yates High School basketball team beat Lee High 170-35. It set off a firestorm about sportsmanship. No matter. Yates went on a 34-0 game rampage, making the Lions state champs and unofficial national champs, as well. This season, however, their 66-game winning streak ended with a 95-69 loss to Findlay College Prep from Henderson, Nevada.

Friday Night Lite: Robert E. Lee High School returned to football for the first time in years, beginning with junior varsity and working up to a full program.

UH basketball coach Tom Penders “resigned” after six seasons, a 121-77 record and hundreds of thousands of dollars in his golden parachute.

Sports pros in Texas found life wasn’t much better. Cowboys’ coach Wade Phillips got fired after his team went 1-7. The lone victory was against the Houston Texans. The Rockets finished last season in ninth place overall in the NBA, 13 games out of first place, and this year have spent most of their time in the cellar, with Yao Ming but a memory.

After an 0-8 start, the Houston Astros got worse, finishing 15 games out of first place in their division. Along the way the team’s two (expensive) stars, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, who had spent their entire pro careers with the team, were let go. Attendance fell to 2,331,490 which was down 189,586 fans from last year. So bad were the Astros that in late August the Pearland Little League team had better TV ratings. To be fair, the 12-year-olds were in the playoffs. The Astros weren’t. Now, owner Drayton McLane is trying to sell the team.

The Texas Rangers, however, finally got in to the World Series after 39 seasons. Then they blew it 4 games to 1. The Rangers did all of this after filing for bankruptcy.

Left Hook ‘Em Horns: Former UT football star and current Tennessee Titan Vince Young was cited by Dallas police after surveillance video showed him allegedly assaulting another man in a strip club. Young reportedly attacked when the other fellow insulted UT with a downward Hook ‘Em Horns.

The Houston Texans stunk up the joint – again, and missed the playoffs — again. Receiver Andre Johnson was fined $25,000 for fighting with Tennessee Titans Cortland Finnegan. Johnson was delighted: if he had been suspended for only one game, it would have cost him $422,500. Pro Bowl Texan linebacker Brian Cushing was suspended for four games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Tailgate-gate: Tailgating at Texans games was restricted to season ticket holders and paid ($10) renters after fights broke out in the parking lot following a Texan-Cowboys game.

The Aeros (that’s our minor league hockey team) finished last in their division and Coach Kevin Constantine got the pink slip.

Finally, a new meaning to Lead Belly: Robby Rose, 45, a competitive fisherman from Garland, was participating in a bass tournament in Rockwall County last October. According to press reports quoting the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department officials, Rose stuffed a one-pound lead weight in the belly of one of the tiny fish he caught, then turned it in. Weigh-in officials noticed that the bass settled near the bottom of the tank it had been placed in. After examining the fish and finding a lump in its belly, they cut it open and found the weight.

Besides being exposed as a cheat in a bass tournament, Rose was in line to win the grand prize: a $55,000 boat. That meant he could be charged with attempting theft of between $20,000 and $100,000, a state jail felony. Rose pleaded guilty to the charge, and received five years probation and 15 days in jail. Even worse — he has to give up his fishing license while on probation.

Ashby spent 2010 hiding at ashby2@comcast.net


Canada By Rail

December 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Cool Canada

Puts the sizzle back in train travel

When I was first invited to participate in a week of Canadian train travel, I rolled my eyes and thought, “ugh.” Train travel. Wasn’t that for backpackers sweeping across the broad European continent? Did train travel have any place in North America as a tourist attraction?

I’d done my time on trains, I thought. I was younger then. I remember not being able to sleep in my cramped quarters heading to Prague. I also recall not understanding the schedule in Antwerp. So, the idea of spending a week traversing from Vancouver to Jasper aboard VIA RAIL (Amtrak in Canada) didn’t appeal to my travel sensibilities.
I enjoyed vacations with great food, and more importantly, a good night’s sleep.

You can imagine my surprise when I discovered the enchanting Canadian countryside … best seen via train.

VIA RAIL tours originate in Vancouver, and I recommend spending at least a day shopping at the public market, taking in the views of the mountains, and tasting the cuisine of this enterprising Canadian city.

For lunch try Nu Naked + Casual Cuisine, one of Canada’s buzz-worthy new restaurants. The runaway favorite on this quaint restaurant’s menu is the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich – popular due to its simplicity. If you’re an oyster lover, you must try the fried oyster shooter, – the plastic syringe accompanying this dish is filled with locally brewed beer. For dinner, Italian Kitchen is one of the hottest tickets in town.

The Silver and Blue class, the luxury class, has a private waiting area with coffee and free Internet access just inside the Pacific Central Building. Once on board the train, the champagne toast sets a celebratory tone. The glass-roof car offers a serene way to see the Canadian Rockies as the mountains loom overhead. I could spend hours here. After all, the train travels on high mountain rails and affords the types of sights not seen by passing motorists.

Here the food is good. Darn good. The stuffed filet was so tasty, I toured the kitchen. Imagine my surprise to find the chef prepping the next meal. Nothing frozen here.

Rock yourself to sleep

The sleeper room has plenty of space and a private toilet – quite an upgrade from my college days. Once you adjourn to your quarters, the lull of the train puts you right to sleep as you head to Jasper.

Enjoy the Charm of Jasper
The steam rises up from the pool to slightly mask my view of Lake Mildred and the Canadian Rockies in the Athabasca Valley. The outdoor heated pool is 90 degrees at the Jasper Park Lodge and I’m the only person in it.

This is just one of many ways to feel close to nature on these sprawling hotel grounds. Everyone hangs out in the lobby, which is decorated with wrought iron chandeliers, plush couches, and a fireplace and full bar. The understated rooms resemble log cabins and are connected by a scenic walkway surrounding the lake. Each suite has plush beds and panoramic windows facing the mountains. Talk about a room with a view.

From après ski in the lobby to dinner in Moose’s Nook Northern Grill, the lodge offers something for everyone. A local delicacy, bison tenderloin wrapped with boar bacon is served with horseradish mash, wild mushrooms and a tarragon merlot jus. And, if you can stand more red meat, the lamb chops are delectable.

You feel so at home at the lodge, you won’t want to leave; but you’re in the Jasper National Park, so venture you must.

This national park is uniquely Canadian. A Maligne Canyon hike is a special treat you must see with your own eyes to truly appreciate. I ventured out in nineteen below for this canyon crawling adventure. As you hike into the canyon, the guide takes you through geology 101 attempting to give some explanation for the marvel before you. The water in the creek looks like ice but is not frozen. That’s right, it’s nineteen below, and I see flowing water. I find out the source is an active natural spring.

Ski Marmot Basin
Marmot basin offers 1500 acres of ski-able Rocky Mountain terrain. A new activity has been added to snowboarding and telemarking: ski biking. If you don’t want to commit to skiing, it offers a quick way to get up the mountain and see the sights.

My first ski bike lesson went well. You sit on a bike with your feet on the ground where pedals would normally be. This gives you instant balance because the mini-skis attached to your ski boots act like training wheels. Your next mission: head up the lift. If you have a bad knee, this is the way to go as little pressure is applied. On the other hand, you are not working as hard as you do while skiing, and purists may miss the exhilaration.

Look out for deer, elk and moose, as they wander through town on a regular basis. This remote sleepy mountain town doesn’t have an airport, so hop the train to Edmonton for international connections. The ride out of Jasper provides you with another captivating view of the Canadian Rockies.


www.viarail.ca, www.viarail.ca Nu Naked + Casual Cuisine, Jasper Park Lodge; www.fairmont.com

San Diego Spa Scene

December 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

All Fresco treatment rooms and easy access to the Pacific Ocean make San Diego an ideal spa destination.

Downtown Darling
Vibe: Indulge at the Silk Road-inspired Sè Spa featuring treatments from Southeast Asia, India, Northern Africa and Japan.  The journey begins in the relaxation lounge with signature martinis as you await your therapist.  Then, a great twist for privacy fanatics and the celebrity in all of us, you are led to an individual suite where you change clothes and receive treatments.

Treatment: The Indian Head Massage cures insomnia and headaches.  Oil poured strategically across your forehead is followed by deep scalp and shoulder massages.
Noteworthy:  Private suites contain steam showers.

Shoreline Sweetheart
Vibe: The small, charming L’Auberge Del Mar spa has everything you need for relaxing. The décor is throwback-beachy, think petticoats and bathing caps amid blue and white walls and furniture.

Treatment: You barely feel the Amazonian Escape’s red coral sugar rub, yet it’s rough enough to brush away dead skin.  Once exfoliated, you are enveloped in energizing sweet cream made from cocoa beans, seaweed and guarana.  (Read: you are covered in chocolate.)  A massage is the final touch.

Noteworthy: The outdoor sitting area with three onyx colored fountains is a tranquil escape.

Country Club Chic
Vibe: The Spa at Rancho Bernardo Inn’s landscaping makes even the most wound-up business person relax.  Spa director Michelle Schlekewey loves it when stressed-out cell phone toting clients leave relaxed and carefree. Indoor and outdoor relaxation areas are really relaxing; steam, nooks, crannies, Jacuzzi and saline pool make this a spa where you can spend the entire day.

Treatment:  The Spa-ing around the world program features treatments from, you guessed it, around the world. Choose from Asian, Latin, Mediterranean or tropical islands experiences.

Noteworthy: Saline pools have many benefits over chlorine.

Historical Significance
Vibe: If it’s been a couple years since you’ve visited the Hotel del Coronado, it’s time to schedule your return.  Always pushing the envelope, while respecting history, The Del continues to evolve.  Three years ago, the new spa was unveiled.

Treatment: Soothing massage combined with continuous steam opens your pores in The Classic European Facial.  Light exfoliation is followed by a deep conditioning mask and massage.

Noteworthy: The Del’s unparalleled oceanfront location is perfect for yoga on the beach.

No trip to La Jolla is complete without at least a drink at George’s at the Cove, one of San Diego’s most beloved restaurants.  Offering chic, modern dining with gorgeous views of La Jolla Cove and the Pacific Ocean, lunch is light and refreshing.

Noteworthy: Ceviche-style shrimp cocktail.
Dinner at Café Chloe in the East Village offers cozy cuisine that incorporates local produce, all-natural meats and sustainable seafood.  The Saturday evening H Texas visited, there were fresh tulips on the table; custard du jour was chantrelle and smoked brie.

Cucina Urbana, one of San Diego’s hottest new restaurants, boasts modern Italian food in a casual, come-as-you-are setting.  The restaurant is built and furnished with raw, sustainable materials from reclaimed local sources. Tables don’t match, reclaimed wood adorns the walls and a variety of used light fixtures hang from the ceiling. Wine is available at retail prices plus a $7 corkage fee.

Noteworthy: All entrees under $20.

Staying at Sè San Diego is cool. This new 184-room luxury downtown hotel offers ultra-chic, world-class amenities, and cutting-edge design.  Hundreds of unique finishes and art installations create extra-sensory experiences. The lobby, spa and even the elevator are visually appealing.

The Se San Diego, 1047 Fifth Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101, (619)515-3000
L’Auberge Del Mar, laubergedelmar.com
The Spa at Rancho Bernardo Inn
Spa at The Del; hoteldel.com
George’s at the Cove  georgesatthecove.com
Cafe Chloe cafechloe.com
Cucina Urbana, 505 Laurel, San Diego
(619) 239-2222; sdurbankitchen.com

photo courtesy The Spa at Rancho Bernardo Inn

March 26-27, Woodland Heights Home Tour

December 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

Six Historic Homes will be on View in Historic Houston Neighborhood

HOUSTON, Dec. 21, 2010 — The 2011 Woodland Heights Home Tour will take place March 26 and 27, 2011, from 1 to 6 p.m., in the historic Woodland Heights neighborhood near downtown Houston. The tour, hosted by the Woodland Heights Civic Association, will include six beautiful homes representing a range of sizes and architectural styles, from a traditional restoration to a modern loft in a converted church.

The Woodland Heights neighborhood is one of the oldest and most historic in Houston. When platted in 1907 by William A. Wilson, the neighborhood was a 20-minute streetcar ride north of downtown Houston. Many of the original homes – reflecting architectural styles including the late Queen Anne, Craftsman, Arts & Crafts, Colonial and Greek Revival ­– have been lovingly restored.

The 2011 home tour activities will include a preview party on Friday evening, March 25, and a preservation fair on Sunday, March 27, co-hosted with Friends of Woodland Park. Tickets for the home tour will go on sale beginning Feb. 1, 2011, at www.woodland-heights.org. Tickets will be $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the event.

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Odd News from 2010

December 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                20 December 2010

Thank you Tom DeLay, Joe Barton, candidates and crooks, for giving us a year we won’t forget, although we’d like to. Yes, it’s time to look back at 2010 with a Lone Star flavor and figure out who was to blame, before Texas Monthly steals all our ideas for its Bum Steers. Earlier this month Aggies cowered under their desks and campus police were called after a nearby classroom door was slammed followed by screaming about Jonah’s rage at God for not smiting the Assyrians. Alas, it seems Prof. Richard Stadelmann was only acting out anger in a religious studies class.

Houston’s George Bush Intergalactic Airport has gone from first to ninth in the Daily Beast’s rankings of best and worst U.S. airports. D/FW was 17th this year, down from 16th in 2009.

Art of the State: “Lone Star,” a Fox TV series set in – surprise! Texas — about an oil man with a family in Houston and another in Midland, was cancelled after two shows. “Enron,” the $4 million Broadway musical, closed after 13 days.

An inconvenient truth: Galveston and College Station suffered through their hottest August ever. But for Houston, Huntsville and Palacios it was the hottest month — any month, any year — since record keeping began. But the best weather news of the year: No hurricanes!

Texas hand surgery clinic owner and TV-ad face Michael Brown (“Daddy’s baby girl”) lost custody of two of his five children after being arrested for beating his fourth wife. Back in 2002, Brown pled guilty to assaulting his third wife with a bed post when she was seven months pregnant. PS: His medical license had been taken away after he tested positive for cocaine.

Walter Allen, Jr. tried to buy two Bentleys at a Houston car dealer, presenting a check for $500,000 from the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, and using his own driver’s license as ID. Allen brought along a notary public to sign the papers. One problem: the Fed bank doesn’t deal in checks. Allen was arrested.

Dumbest Decision of 2010: Houstonians voted to abolish cameras that snapped a photo of red-light runners, who were then mailed a civil fine. After the vote, the cameras were still clicking and showed a 30 percent increase in red-light-runners.

Leigh Away: On the same day UT-Austin announced buyouts for tenured faculty, it launched a campaign for funds to restore five dresses Vivien Leigh wore in “Gone With the Wind.”

Keller Instinct: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller was publicly rebuked by a state judicial commission for blocking a condemned man’s lawyers from filing a last-minute appeal in 2007, but she’ll keep her job.

The Hammer Was Nailed: Tom DeLay was convicted of dirty dealings.

Also in Austin, Joe Stack took a unique way to protest his taxes. He flew his plane into the IRS office. Fausto Cardenas, 24, visited Sen. Dan Patrick’s Capitol office acting strangely, then went to the south steps and opened fire at nothing in particular. Gov. Rick Perry is also armed and dangerous. He shot a coyote that, Perry said, was about to attack a pet. After much stonewalling by the Governor’s Office, it was learned that “security” (DPS bodyguards and bag carriers) for the Perrys on 23 foreign trips cost the taxpayers $928,477, but that doesn’t include five additional trips.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison blew a 20 point lead over Gov. Perry in the GOP gubernatorial primary, to lose by 20 points. Former Houston Mayor Bill White lost to Perry in the general election by 13 points. Meantime, the Texas Democratic Party got stomped across Texas. Even 10-term incumbent Chet Edwards of Waco got beat by an unknown, Bill Flores. Two gubernatorial candidates, Debra Medina (Republican) and Farouk Shami (Democrat), said they doubted the official government version of 9/11.

Winner in the Flip-Flop Dept.: Sen. Hutchison said, in October of ’07, she would resign her Senate seat to run for the GOP nod for guv. She promised again in July of ’09, then November. More promised resignation dates passed, including that she would step aside after the primary, win or lose. Last spring, after losing, Hutchison said she wouldn’t resign her job. Why? So she could fight unemployment.

Washington, We Have a Problem: Sealy lost its multi-billion dollar truck contract with the Army and the Johnson Space Center lost big bux for manned space flight. Perhaps our lack of stroke in D.C. stems from the pols we send there. For example:

Mia Gulpa (Oil on Troubled Waters Dept.): “I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday.” — Texas GOP Rep. Joe Barton, in apologizing to BP for what he called a $20 billion “shakedown” by President Obama for oil losses in the Gulf.

Quote of the Year: “Baby killer!” – Shouted by GOP Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock at colleague Rep. Bart Stupak who was explaining to the U.S. House why he changed his opposition to the Obama health care bill. Neugebauer later said he had actually shouted, “It’s a baby killer!” He also said he received a “tremendous outpouring” of support for his shouted insult.

Wish You Were Here: Liz Carpenter and Dandy Don Meredith.

The Texas Two-Step Program: Rip Torn (from Temple) was so drunk he broke into a Connecticut bank carrying a loaded gun and left his hat and boots by the door. He thought it was his home. Randy Quaid (Houston) and his wife were arrested in Texas for allegedly defrauding an inn-keeper, plus burglary and conspiracy, stemming from a $10,000 dispute at a Santa Barbara, Calif., hotel. The couple was released on bail later that evening. After the Quaids skipped out on their third court date, the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office filed bench warrants for their arrest and extradition from Texas. The Quaids ended up in Canada pleading for political asylum.

Gee, we haven’t even touched sports, Halliburton and the big hot wings theft, (worth $15) so let’s continue next week.

Ashby wins at ashby2@comcast.net

5 Tips for Beating Holiday Stres

December 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Edit

Remember these five tips for relieving stress, now and throughout the year:
1.    Do less.  While it is the season when people tend to want to go overboard doing for others, you should back away from that impulse. Say “yes” too often, and you may get overwhelmed. Simply tell some people “no,” and share the load by delegating where possible.
2.    Live simply. While you may be bombarded by ads to Buy! Buy! Buy! — you can choose not to participate and add that stress to your holiday season. Skip the shopping, opt for a few homemade gifts, and spend quality time with those you love. And your credit cards will thank you come January!
3.    Slow down.  Maintaining your normal routine as much as possible during the holidays can help to ease stress. We are creatures of habit and when our routine is off we feel the sting. Find a good book, and read in bed.
4.    Find outlets.  (and we don’t mean shopping outlets!)  Everyone needs healthy outlets or ways of discharging pent-up emotional and physical tension. Consider calling a friend to vent, journaling about your feelings, taking an exercise class, or enjoying a long bubble bath.
5.    Take care. It is especially important during stressful times to take good care of your body. During this holiday season, make wise nutritional choices; get plenty of exercise; and do things that will help restore your energy, such as meditating, or getting a massage. Loving touch heals the body and the mind.

“It is important to do all of these things throughout the year, but especially during the more stressful holiday period,” adds Dr. Kaplan. “By taking care of yourself and taking steps to decrease your stress level, you can also help fend off illness.”

This year make a commitment to yourself not to allow stress to overwhelm your holidays. Tell those you love about your commitment to de-compress, take the steps to make it happen, and you may sail through the season feeling “chill!”

If you do find that you are feeling overwhelmed, over-stressed, or depressed, remember, you’re not alone.  This can be a difficult season. Don’t hesitate to seek the help of a physician.

About The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine
Located in McLean, Va., The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine has been finding solutions for individuals suffering with chronic pain and illness for over 25 years.  The Center’s founder Dr. Gary Kaplan is one of only18 physicians in the country who is a board-certified specialist in Family Medicine and Pain Medicine.  A leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, Dr. Kaplan is a Fellow of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, a Clinical Associate Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and he has served as a consultant at the National Institutes of Medicine (NIH). The Kaplan Center’s team of physicians, physical therapists, and other health care providers combine the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative practices to address chronic pain and illness and to help individuals attain optimal health for life. To learn more about The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, visit the website at www.kaplanclinic.com.

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December 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Edit


From Simplicity to Sex—Food Values Are Changing

CHICAGO (Dec. 13, 2010) ¾ The Food Channel® (foodchannel.com) has released the much-anticipated  Top Ten Food Trends for 2011. By partnering with CultureWaves™ (www.culturewav.es), Mintel International and International Food Futurists®, The Food Channel has been able to identify the most significant food trends that will drive how people eat throughout 2011, from buying to cooking to consuming.

“The new economy has created a boldness and willingness to change how we work, how we cook and how we eat. All of our 2011 trends reflect that in some way,” said Kay Logsdon, editor of The Food Channel. “One example is Baby Boomers wanting to age well. Trend #10 explains they are eating for better sex, more energy and the ability to work longer.”

For 23 years, The Food Channel has uncovered food trends ahead of the curve. “The insights are fun for consumers, and give those who make their living from food a competitive edge when it comes to what drives their consumers’ choices,” added Logsdon.

The Food Channel Top 10 Trends for 2011

1.       The Canning Comeback – “Putting Up” is gaining popularity for both economy and health.

2.       Men in Aprons – Layoffs have led to more men cooking.

3.       Local Somewhere – We care about hand-tended no matter where it’s grown.

4.       Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – We’re tired of being told what we can eat.

5.       Appetite for Food Apps – Social media is our guide and our coupon source.

6.       Small is the New Big Business – Corporations are thinking like small businesses.

7.       Fresh Every Day – Rooftop gardens are just part of this trend.

8.       Chefs in Schools – Better flavor is possible in an institutional setting.

9.       Discomfort Foods – Change makes us comfortable with more change.

10.    Eating for Sex and Other Things – We are working longer, and want all the gusto.

Read the complete Top 10 Food Trends for 2011 at www.foodchannel.com.

Also look for the Top Ten Foods to Watch in 2011. They include sausage, moonshine, grits, fin fish and the latest in antioxidant-heavy fruit.

Plus, The Food Channel offers videos like the Mixology series, recently nominated for a Tasty Award, “the premier awards show celebrating the year’s best in Food, Fashion, and Home Lifestyle programs on Television, in Film and Online.”

About The Food Channel®

The Food Channel is a place for great food inspiration, the latest trends, the most compelling stories, and original perspective. This website offers insightful original content that is distributed everywhere foodies interact with culinary creativity by influencing, contributing to, learning from, gaining inspiration through, and being a part of the experience around great food. For more information, visit  foodchannel.com. Follow The Food Channel on Twitter at twitter.com/foodchannel or twitter.com/aford, or on Facebook at facebook.com/FoodChannel.


Dear Santa

December 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                13 December 2010

Dear Santa,

Yes, it’s time again for my Christmas bucket list, but first we need to clear up some back business. Last Christmas couldn’t you dig up one measly winning Lotto ticket for me? And why do I have to be the last among my friends to get a nose job? I’ll give you one more chance to come through before I apply for TARP funds.

Sorry you got stuck in the chimney last Christmas. Guess I should have mentioned in my letter that’s where I hide my meth lab. But I did put out milk and cookies for you. OK, this year I’ll follow the surly note you pinned to my stocking and leave a fifth of Hennessy and some liver pate. I’m not accusing anyone, but during the summer did you sneak into my attic and tangle up all my Christmas tree lights?

Word is the elves are opposed to any give-backs on the contract. They’ll pull that old minority/handicapped ploy, but elves don’t qualify. Oh, while I’m thinking about it, be sure to tell Dancer and Prancer that don’t-ask, don’t-tell might be abolished. How’s your North Pole digs holding up? I hear global warming is melting your igloo.

As for me, I have been a good boy this past year. Oh, sure, there was the time I told the Delta agent, “Just a one-way ticket. No luggage, except this prayer rug and printer cartridge.” Then I asked the airport security guard, “Want to touch my junk?”  And, yes, I did ask the flight attendant, “Honey, what’s a no-fly list?” In other developments, the bank foreclosed on my eight-bedroom McMansion that I couldn’t afford on my valet parker’s salary. That is why I’m hanging my stocking on a park bench.

Now, about my consulting work in 2010: Those rumors about my game plan for the Dallas Cowboys are untrue, although I did encourage the Houston Rockets by telling them, “You know your place.” Sorry it turned out to be last place. My work as an election consultant to the Democratic Party was just bad timing. I can explain the financial and legal advice I gave to Tom DeLay. Frankly, I should have never signed on as career adviser to Conan O’Brien, and there is no point in discussing my continued work teaching night driving to Tiger Woods.

Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: my wish list. I considered asking for Neiman’s his-and-her states, but where would I put them? Little black electronic boxes are all the rage, but I’m stuck with this outmoded Nintendo Wii. That’s like disco, Fat Man. Still doing the Macarena in bellbottoms? Does your  sleigh have a GPS or are you  using a sextant? I need a Microsoft Kineck, like yesterday.

While you’re at it, an Xbox 360, maybe toss in “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” but don’t try and palm off any Move system from Sony. That came out in October. You want me to be ridiculed by my friends? I don’t run a museum. Same with iPad and Kindle. They are so last Thursday. My iPhones are gathering dust and my Facebook has been shredded by Mark Zuckerberg for being “so ancient it needs to be carbon dated.” Tweeting and texting and sexting are leftovers from the X Generation. I might as well use semaphores. Get with it, Mister Cutting Edge.

Rumor has it Apple is coming out with the A-88 which has 340 apps including camera, phone, compass, Xerox and radio/TV. For an extra $400 the A-88 will floss your teeth and find the nearest store selling the new and improved A-89 which makes the previous model obsolete.

Once you’ve scratched my itch, let’s move on to others. For those who go racing through a 20-mile-an-hour school zone, give them four flat tires and tangle the fuzzy dice hanging from their rearview mirror. Could you make cell phones that ring in the middle of a movie self-destruct, along with their owner?

Give Gov. Rick Perry another $18 billion. Two years ago the Guv claimed he balanced the state budget without raising taxes, and wouldn’t take federal stimulus money. Then he balanced the budget by accepting $18 billion in federal stimulus money, but still recited his mantra. He was re-elected by double digits. You really can fool all the people all the time. While you are in Austin, UT could use a decent football team. Could you give me the TCU Horned Frogs and I’ll rent them to Mack Brown?

Moving on to Washington, send Congressmen a clue. Right now they are clueless. About that tax cut for the top 2 percent of Americans with income of $250,000 or more. Just put me in that top category. I want to be rich enough to reduce my income taxes, and with that extra money I’ll hire a second chauffeur. Please give President Obama a spine, John Boehner a sense of humor and Charlie Rangel the boot.

This past year the Tea Party has certainly livened things up. Give them what they demand: lower taxes, a smaller budget and less government. But don’t touch their Medicare or Social Security checks. Those are different, sorta. For Christmas, give our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan a ticket home, present al-Quida with Wile E. Coyote’s special Acme Dynamite Kit and give Hamid Karzai a weekend vacation in Juarez.

It’s bonus time on Wall Street for all the people that nearly wrecked our economy and plunged the nation into a jobless recession. Please give those hedge fund managers, slippery bankers and lying stock brokers a nice, high building ledge to jump from.

Finally, my friend Noodles says there is no Santa Claus, but I tend to doubt his intelligence. He’s the same guy who picked Poland over Germany. Noodles thought WikiLeaks was Hawaiian for “Depends.” I’ll know there really is a Santa when I come into the den on Christmas morning and there is the TCU football team.

Ashby’s stocking hangs at ashby2@comcast.net

What’s Keeping You Awake?

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Edit

The other day on the radio I heard these lyrics from the Shinedown song, If You Only Knew “It’s 4:03 and I can’t sleep… I toss and turn like the sea.” I thought, “Yeah, why is it always 4AM that I wake up when I’m worried about something?” The singer of this top 10 pop rock song was troubled by a woman. What’s keeping you awake?

Most of us, at one time or another, have spent sleepless hours in bed worrying about something. Then making it worse, you’re tired the whole next day.

Over the years, I’ve ruminated over all sorts of things. Big issues I have little or no control over like politics, the environment, terrorism, and the economy. Personal issues that I need to affect such as my business, my family, and my relationships. I have even worried over my volunteer work. Churning the same thoughts over and over again.

Some of us worry about the past – what could’ve been if only we had done something differently. Others worry about some future problem that hasn’t even occurred yet.

Worry feels like motivation because it is rooted in the desire to fix a situation, but it is actually a de-motivator. It robs us of valuable energy we need to live a productive life. I love this modern update to an old proverb: “Worry is a brisk ride on a rocking horse; you burn a lot of energy, but you don’t get anywhere.” It is an amusing proverb that creates an accurate metaphor, but it does not offer us an answer on how to deal with worry.

For a simple solution on countering worry, I’ve always enjoyed the lyrics of this Irving Berlin song from the movie White Christmas: “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep; and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.” Although, I must admit that I didn’t really hear these sage words or make use of them for years.

When I finally did; I found that it really works. Sometimes we have to start with the basics, and remind ourselves of all that we do have and all that is going smoothly in our lives in order to put the troubling matter into perspective: “I have a roof over my head, I have my health, I have food in the house, I have a car, I have friends, etc.”

I recently revisited Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It was written during the Great Depression and World War II. A period of time when most people had plenty to stress over. The advice still holds up today.

The trick is to divert your pensive energy into practical projects. Carnegie suggests that we focus on doing our best one day at a time and the future will take care of itself. In other words, keep busy! Get so caught up in your work that you have no time to ponder all the “What ifs” that have been running like a broken record in your mind.

He also suggests that you ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen?” Then he says to either accept that or seek out the answers you need to fix it. If you choose the later, you must collect all the facts, analyze them, make a decision, then act on it.

I think his best suggestion is to spend your time helping others. When you focus on what you can do for others, you cannot at the same time focus on yourself. Or in the words of one unknown author, “When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own.”

Eventually you can utter the immortal words of Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?”

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit http://www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

Gaido’s Historic Cookbook

December 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Edit

Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant Commemorates 100 Years with Historic Cookbook

Galveston, TX (November 1, 2010) – – To commemorate 100 years of serving the freshest Gulf seafood from its infamous location along the Galveston seawall, Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant is releasing “Gaido’s Famous Seafood Restaurant: A cookbook celebrating 100 years” this November.

To satisfy palates and let patrons take a bit of Gaido’s into their own kitchen, the cookbook has 68 recipes, including one for the crustless pecan pie that has been named the best pecan pie in Texas by countless publications throughout the years. The recipes mimic the Gaido’s menus, which is infused with traditional southern deep frying, southwest open flame grilling and Creole flavor.

Choice recipes include:

–          Shrimp Peques: Named after a West Texas boy who became part of the Gaido’s family and served in the restaurant for most of his life, this recipe features jalapeño and cheese-stuffed Gulf shrimp, wrapped in bacon and covered with a brown sugar glaze. Perfection.

–          Cy’s Demise: Gaido’s is renowned for serving up the freshest, savory oysters. Cookbook creators were kind enough to share this Gaido’s insider recipe for oysters on the half-shell.

–          Angels on Horseback: Smoked Gouda cream sauce over oysters and bacon in a puffed pastry shell. That’s all you need to say to guests when sharing these devilishly addictive appetizers.

Gaido’s Famous Seafood Restaurant: A cookbook celebrating 100 years” and Gaido’s Famous Pecan Pie is available for purchase online at www.gaidos.com. It will also be available for purchase at Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant in Galveston, and all of the Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant properties.

Texas Flag

December 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                              6 Dec. 2010


THE NEIGHBORHOOD – This is odd. More and more homes around here have flags out in front. Is this happening in your neighborhood, too? We’ve always had a few banners hither and yon. On the Fourth of July, Armistice Day and Memorial Day flags would pop up, then disappear shortly thereafter. The local Anarchists Club always runs up its flag – a white sheet with bomb holes – on Guy Fawkes Day. After 9/11, lots of American flags appeared, then slowly their numbers waned.

Now I see U.S. and Texas flags everywhere, plus college flags. Orange and white UT flags dominate. Maroon and white Aggie banners are run up, then set at half-staff after Thanksgiving Day – usually. One household must be interesting: out front flies a flag with diagonal line across it. One side is orange and white with a UT logo. The other is maroon and white sporting an Aggie logo. Wonder if they have any kids?

Many of my neighbors are Katrinians — refugees from the hurricane or just Louisiana in general, so we have several LSU Tigers with their yellow and purple flags (who thought of that color combination? Did the Cajuns lose a bet?). A flag in a yard around the corner sports “SC,” apparently for Southern Cal or maybe South Carolina or Sas Catchewan. Across the street from me is a UT flag and one from Ole Miss. The residents have two kids. I put out a scarlet and gold (not red and yellow) Marine Corps flag every November 10, the Marines’ birthday. This year I noticed on my block a similar flag. Then, around the corner, another Jarhead banner. I could pull off a military coup at the next meeting of the homeowners associating.

There are banners for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Halloween and/or Easter. Others are just pretty ensigns fluttering in the wind and giving my neighborhood, Running Rats Acres, a touch of class to match the railroad trestle and dog pound.

I like them all, but wonder why this recent outpouring? A rush of patriotism for Easter? There must be a booming Betsy Ross Fan Club or the Obama Administration has a new federal make-work program to lower the unemployment rate: every person on Medicare, Social Security or Food Stamps must buy a flag. Perhaps it’s an outbreak of vexillology. Don’t worry; that’s not contagious. Vexillology is the scholarly study of flags. Indeed, there is even NAVA, the North American Vexillological Association. Let’s run this fad up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it.

NAVA conducted a survey in 2001 on its website, among its own members and anyone else who was interested, to determine which state, territory or Canadian province had the best flag. The envelope please: The winner is New Mexico. Its flag is really quite pretty, evoking desert colors and an Indian logo which we vexillologists call an “Indian logo.” In second place: Texas! Yes, my fellow blue-white-and-rednecks, the world flag community – 29,000 voters from 50 states and 20 countries – said our own Lone Star flag is the second best flag in North America. Whee! (Quebec was third.)

Texas briefly led in the results after the NAVA president mentioned the survey in a radio interview on Texas Flag Day. But the three-day flurry of responses (probably from Texans) was eventually diluted by other responses (probably from New Mexicans – those who just arrived, I assume), and Texas sank back into second place.

Georgia’s flag finished last. The Peach State had this busy, ugly design pandering to everyone. A vexillologist derided it as “Five Flags Under Georgia.” The banner was so ugly that it has been changed to be merely mediocre. More than half the U.S. flags are simply a solid background, usually dark blue, with the state seal in the center. “Seal-on-a-bed-sheet,” sniff the experts. From a distance they all look the same, but not the Lone Star Flag. One reason the flag bearers liked our ensign is that it is simple, which also makes it cheap to manufacture, unlike the complicated U.S. flag.

Right now you are wondering: Texas has a Flag Day? I never heard of it, either. You are also wondering: How did our Founding Fathers with names such as Three-Legged Willie, Deaf Smith and Big Drunk draw up such a beautiful banner? They almost didn’t. Three Republic of Texas diplomats in New Orleans, including Stephen F. Austin, came up with – get this – a flag with 13 green (later changed to blue) and white stripes, a red and white English Union Jack and a sun with the head of George Washington surrounded by the words “Lux Libertatis” or “Light of Liberty.” It’s not clear what they had been quaffing in the French Quarter, but, instead of the Lone Star State we were almost known as the Ghastly Flag State. Actually, no one knows who designed the flag we use today.

The Texas Navy’s flag was deliberately made to look much like the U.S. flag to fool Mexican Navy sailors into thinking we were the U.S. Navy. We weren’t cowardly, just prudent. And because of our usual legislative efficiency — it’s a long story — Texas had no legal flag from 1879 to1933. Not until 1993 did the Legislature specify that the red and blue colors are defined by the “Standard Color Reference of America,” the Bible of the textile industry. That law also specifies that the finial, or top of the pole, should be a lone star or a spearhead. Is yours?

Back here in my neighborhood, I notice that, if there is an American flag flying from a house, there is always a Texas flag nearby. This brings us to the urban legend that only Texas can fly its flag as the same height as the U.S. flag because we entered as a separate nation. Not true. Any state can fly its flag separately, but most of them don’t. We do it just to be different. Texas and the rest of the nation are, indeed, poles apart.

Ashby salutes at ashby2@comcast.net