Bayou City Outdoors & REI Present: Green Scene 101 & Foodie Extravaganza

January 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Tuesday, March 13
7538 Westheimer Rd. at Hillcroft, Houston, TX 77063

Does living in the 3rd largest city make you feel like you… well – live in a big city? Ready to slow down and smell the orange blossoms – in your own backyard? Join us as we deliver the scoop on Houston’s local foodie “Green Scene”! Plus, you’ll meet some of the top purveyors in the Houston food scene who might just have a tasty morsel or two to share!

Scoop: Love your veggies and locally grown, organic produce? With farm cooperatives, daily farmers markets, and over 20 community gardens throughout the city, we will show you where to fill up your vegetable crisper. Plus, we’ll show you where you can pick your own tomatoes, blueberries, flowers and more.

Scoop: Did you know we have a dairy warehouse filled with artisan cheeses, right in the middle of town? Tastings are open to the public and every Friday and Saturday, pick up the map and learn more!

Scoop: Into microbrews? You have options in Houston. On Sundays you can visit the Craft Beer Garden and chill out to some local tunes. Or, any day of the week but Sunday you can stop by our hometown microbrewery, St. Arnold”s for a tour and a sip!

Scoop: Houston is now one of the top coffee ports in the world! You might get the chance to meet one of the Head roasters in town who delivers to his closer customers on his bicycle.

Scoop: Houston is the home for one of the largest and fastest growing networks of local businesses, organizations, initiatives and individuals all coming together to focus on quality of life issues?  Join us and get more info on how to get involved!

We’ll help you see the treasure trove in your own backyard and become a localvore before you know it!

7:00PM Class; 8:00PM Tasting. REI, 7538 Westheimer Rd. at Hillcroft, Houston, TX 77063 (you will find us in the back of the store in the warehouse area) Details and RSVP at or call

2nd Annual – Bayou City Outdoors EXPO

January 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

February 28, 2012
Meet Houston Outdoor and Fitness Organizations
Sherlocks. – West Gray
1952 W Gray St Houston, TX 77019
6:30 – 8:30PM

We have special guests joining us this month – about 35 Houston organizations will be joining us to let our members & guests know about what they have coming up. From running to triathlon training, parks to bayou conservation, bikeways to bays, and environmental groups to local charities, groups will have a chance to present to the public. Groups like Urban Harvest are invited to talk about their community garden program, as well as several Houston parks to speak about their plans for tree replanting.

The expo also allows like-minded people to meet and network. Not only will fitness fans be able to find activity-buddies, those people whose interest run to conservation and volunteerism will be able to meet friends with similar interests.

My Fit Foods will be providing the snacks & Sherlock’s has a happy hour.

Don’t forget to stop by the BCO Table to find out what we’ve got coming up in 2012 for both members and guests!

6:30pm to 8:30pm My Fit Foods is providing snacks and there is a full bar with a  happy hour. Sherlocks – West Gray,1952 W Gray St Houston, TX 77019. For more information call 713-524-3567 or



January 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

We are in the midst of the most expensive presidential campaign in our nation’s history. (No, this race is not “the most important in our history etc.” Historically, it’s only sort of important.) Money records will be smashed as the candidates raise and spend millions – no, billions – of dollars seeking jobs that pay a fraction of that.

The question, as usual, is: what’s in it for us? If we don’t look out for Number One, who will? Certainly not those lying, cheating, hypocritical candidates who promise hot pie in the sky and deliver cold pizza in a box. Forget them, what about their money? Who receives all those campaign contributions? Why not us?

Let’s set the scene: In 2000, George W. Bush set the gold standard by raising and spending so much money all the other GOP candidates just melted away in surly silence. W. set a high bar, and Obama cleared it in 2008. This year, we don’t know yet how much money is involved because the bookkeeping is dreadfully behind the times. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is not only toothless but late. It’s still figuring if Truman really beat Dewey by over-spending.

And, of course, there is the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that said corporations are people and thus endowed with free speech rights – and the right to spend as much as they please. Bill Moyers observed, “I have a friend back in Texas that says he’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.” If speech is free, it’s also terribly expensive. Because of the high court’s ruling, super PACs can raise and spend as much money as they want and (the best part) almost anonymously.

This is truly a redistribution of wealth, as the Koch Brothers spend millions on catering, valets, ad salesmen, the little people. Wrong! In presidential campaigns, about 80 percent of the money goes to TV ads. Unless you own a TV station, you might not get a dime. Some of the money will go to Viacom, which owns CBS and whose chairman, Philippe P. Dauman, received $84.5 million last year. Remember that factoid when you make your next campaign contribution.

But there are still some donations left to fight over. For inspiration we take Iowa, please. The GOP primary a few weeks ago chose 1 percent of the party’s national delegates. Should we really care about a minute sample of skewered demographics? We were told we should, as the candidates with their entourage, the press from all over the world, poured into the corn fields and poured cash into the farmer’s coffers. If Iowa can do it, Texas can do it better.

Two steps: First, we have to move up the Texas primary to, say, a week after the January inauguration. No more shall we be an afterthought. We need to be up for grabs and not just a cash cow for funds to buy TV time in South Carolina. We’ll know we are important when we start seeing TV ads for the candidates, sudden visits to our cities, and rallies on the Capitol steps. A political first: they will be spending Texans’ money in Texas.

On the other hand, neither party really wants to blow cash in Texas. We are expensive. Texas is separated into 20 media markets, the most of any state. Former Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, who was state director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008, told The New York Times, “It’s like running a national campaign. There are no similarities between Amarillo and Brownsville and Beaumont and Texarkana and El Paso and Austin and Houston and Dallas. These are very separate demographic groups with very diverse interests.”

That done, we take step Number Two: We need to be a consultant. It requires no training and obviously no talent. Look at Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign staff: “There has never been a more ineptly orchestrated, just unbelievably subpar campaign for president of the United States than this one,” said an anonymous senior Perry adviser.  There’s room for fresh blood.

Perry’s principal campaign committee, RickPerry.Org Inc., reported in October that it had raised $17.2 million in the third quarter of 2011, more than every other candidate in that filing period. Some say they spent most of it. Others think there’s still a bundle of Perry cash in an Austin bank. I believe it’s piled up alongside Mitt Romney’s fortune in the Cayman Islands.

We also have those aforementioned super PACs. Perry’s was Make Us Great Again. The organization had intended to spend as much as $55 million to secure the Republican nomination for Perry, but as of Jan. 13, the super PAC had spent just $3.9 million. Where’s the rest of it?

But our governor was a cheapskate compared to Mitt Romney, the richest person ever to run for president. His worth is said to be near $250 million. Hey, when someone refers to his $374,000 income in just speaking fees for one year (seven times the median family income of $49,445) as “not very much,” he’s rich big time. Now Romney is spending millions and millions of his own money. Did you get your share?

Then there’s Newt Gingrich, who paid his daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, more than $56,000 working for her father’s campaign the past two years. Ron Paul’s support comes in many different forms. In Nevada, the Moonlite Bunny Ranch is offering a special: two bunnies for the price of one if you support Paul. The Bunny Ranch, as you might suppose, is a brothel (prostitution is legal in Nevada). Dennis Hof, owner, said, “We thought real closely about supporting Gingrich, because he’s a cheater – and we love cheaters.”

All this time Obama is just raking it in, ready to out-spend the GOP nominee. Between now and November a few billion will be blown, and that’s where we come in, on either side. We can consult, hang chads and deliver cold pizza in a box.

Ashby consults at









Bayou City Outdoors Meet & Greet

January 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

February 24, 2012
Hendricks on Kirby
3320 Kirby Dr. Houston, TX 77098

Want to meet a great group of people? Are you a new member and ready to get involved? Been an active member forever and just want to say “hi?” Come out and join us! Plenty of parking makes this an easy evening out at this great new venue on Kirby. BCO will have happy hour drink prices from 6:30–7:30 and our own area till 9:00pm.

6:30–9:00PM. Hendricks on Kirby, 3320 Kirby Dr. Houston, TX 77098. Huge lot for parking in the back. For more information call 713-524-3567 or

Bayou City Outdoors presents Get Into the Outdoor Life: Kayaking 101 (Panel of Experts) REI

January 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

February 21, 2012
7538 Westheimer Rd (at Voss) Houston, TX 77063
7:00 – 8:30PM

This evening you’re in for a treat as we bring together several top paddlers and instructors from the great State of Texas. Bring your questions – because we’ll have answers. Our panel of experts will include ACA certified instructors, long-time whitewater paddlers, touring paddlers, safety instructors, recreational paddlers – all coming together to answer your questions. Kelly Howard will facilitate.
Ever wanted to explore the many rivers, lakes, and coastal areas that Texas has to offer? There is no better way than in a kayak. Interested in taking a week long camping kayak trip along a beautiful coast? Want to learn about the rivers and lakes to explore just minutes from Downtown Houston? Ever wanted to try running a whitewater river?  Join us for Kayaking 101 and learn everything you need to know about this fantastic way to get outside!

We will review the basics of kayaking, great places to kayak, and all the equipment you need including in-store demonstrations of kayaks and kayaking gear.

Bayou City Outdoors loves to paddle.  From day trips to out of country experiences, surf paddling to kayak polo, you’ll meet a group that loves to get out on the water!

7:00 PM Class; 8:00 PM Gear demonstrations. REI, 7538 Westheimer Rd. at Hillcroft, Houston, TX 77063 (you will find us in the back of the store in the warehouse area) Details and RSVP at or call

ROCO features dynamic guest conductor

January 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

ROCO features dynamic guest conductor, Kazem Abdullah, cello soloist, Richard

Belcher, and the World Premiere of Paul English’s Lumière Lunaire

February 18–19

Saturday, Feb 18, 2012, 5pm, at The Church of St. John the Divine, 2450 River Oaks Blvd.

With ROCOrooters music education/childcare (reservations required)

Tickets are $25, $10 for students with valid student ID

Sunday, Feb 19, 2012, 5 pm, Concert with Dinner at The Houstonian Hotel, 111 North Post Oak Lane Tickets are $95 and include the concert and a 4-course gourmet dinner. Cocktails and wine will be available for purchase before the concert and at the dinner.



Paul English Lumière Lunaire World Premiere

Joseph Haydn Cello Concerto

Franz Schubert Symphony No. 4 in C Minor “Tragic”


River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) continues its 2011-2012 season, “a fusion of cultures and generations,” by welcoming Kazem Abdullah, who will conduct Schubert Symphony No. 4, Haydn Cello Concerto, performed by soloist, Richard Belcher, the world premiere of Paul English’s Lumière Lunaire, plus a surprise or two.

Maestro Kazem Abdullah has become one of the most watched young American conductors on the scene today and in August of 2012 will become General musik director of the city of Aachen, Germany. His predecessors in this tradition-rich post include Fritz Busch, Herbert von Karajan and Wolfgang Sawallisch. This season Maestro Abdullah appeared with Michigan Opera Theater, Sinfonieorchester Aachen and the Rochester Philharmonic. He will also appear with the Nuremburg Philharmonic and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Richard Belcher is ROCO’s principal cello. A New Zealand native, Richard has performed as a chamber musician and in solo settings across the USA and internationally. He has been a regular performer for Music in Context, often collaborating with series founder Sergiu Luca, and is cellist and a founding member of the Grammy-nominated Enso String Quartet.

ROCO commissioned outstanding jazz pianist and composer, Paul English, to create a new piece especially for this concert. Inspired by a poem written by conductor Jo Ann Falletta, Paul created Lumière Lunaire, a 23-minute symphony that celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the famous Arnold Schoenberg melodrama, Pierrot Lunaire, which means “Moonstruck Clown.” In both the Schoenberg and Paul English compositions, narrator voices deliver the poem in the prechstimme style, which is spoken text with instrumental accompaniment. In this special piece, the narrator voices are the musicians! The result is a lively contemporary piece that will fascinate as it entertains. As a complement to this piece, Space Center Houston will present an exhibition of Lunar art and artifacts at a reception following the Saturday performance.


Contact Terri Golas, 713-665-2700,

About ROCO

ROCO is a professional chamber orchestra of 40 all-star musicians, distinguished guest conductors and dynamic composers who come together from all over the world to present engaging performances of classical and original compositions. Founded in 2005 by oboist, Alecia Lawyer, ROCO is the most fun you can have with serious music.



January 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Events


7 p.m. – 10 p.m

Proceeds to benefit Austin organization Bat Conservation International

GALVESTON ISLAND, TEXAS (Jan. 13, 2012) — Calling all Houston animal lovers. Moody Gardens® is hosting Come enjoy a night full of bat themed activities while raising money for Bat Conservation International, on Saturday Feb. 11. The event will be from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. in the Moody Gardens Visitors Center.

This unique cocktail party will feature specialty bat drinks and hors d’oeuvres prepared with ingredients that are made possible because of bats’ ecological importance. In addition, guests will be able to attend a special presentation from guest speaker James Eggers, director of education of Bat Conservation International. Attendees can also take a night tour of the Rainforest Pyramid® highlighting bat conservation and bring home a “Bat’s Are Doin’ It” goody bag. Tickets are $50 per person or $90 for a couple. The fundraiser will also include a variety of raffle prizes. Each raffle ticket is $5 or three for $10.

“The ‘Bat’s Are Doin’ It’ event will give Moody Gardens the opportunity to highlight the importance of protecting these animals and will give guests the chance to have an entertaining evening while contributing to a significant organization,” said Assistant Curator/ Registrar Paula Kolvig.

Throughout 2012 Moody Gardens will bring attention to an often overlooked, but important animal: the bat. The United Nations has declared 2012 as International Year of the Bat and Bat Conservation International (BCI) as an International Year of the Bat founding partner. The International Year of the Bat campaign aims to raise global awareness about bats, bat conservation and the unique roles bats play in our environment.

This event is open to visitors who are 21 years of age and older. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Bat Conservation International on behalf of Moody Gardens.

For more information about Year of the Bat: visit, or call Moody Gardens® (800) 582-4673.

Moody Gardens® is a public, non-profit educational destination utilizing nature in the advancement of rehabilitation, conservation, recreation, and research.



January 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Texas is once more the nation’s leader. No, we’re not talking about the number of children with no health insurance. Texas has long held that first place spot. Or the number of times meetings of our State Board of Education has been likened to a Luddite convention. Nor can anyone argue with our lead among the 50 states in cattle, population growth and executions. We are first in how little per capita our state appropriates funds for the arts (18 cents a year). The right answer? None of the above. Our latest Numero Uno championship is we’re the best state of the 50 for the emission of greenhouse gases. And by a long shot.

A bit of background: It seems the EPA (Energy Police Agency) has just released a detailed map of the U.S. showing who’s polluting our air and how. You should be proud, yet humble, to know that the Lone Star State’s coal-fired power plants and oil refineries generated 294 million tons of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in 2010. That’s more than the next two states — Pennsylvania and Florida – combined. Texas also releases more air pollutants of all sorts than any other state. Why should you care? You shouldn’t, unless you and your children breathe.

Texas, which has 19 coal-fired power plants — more than any other state — and plans to build nine more, is among the few states still adding coal-fired plants. Those power plants accounted for 61 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, while oil refineries and chemical producers contributed 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively. This spurred the American Petroleum Institute to say this data proves beyond a doubt that there is no reason to include oil refineries in any new anti-pollution rules because the refineries’ pollutants only destroy 15 percent of our lungs or 15 percent of the population. Either way, they have a point.

Remember that in 2006 Gov. Rick Perry wanted to “fast track” the construction of 11, or maybe it was 13, more coal-burning power plants, but got slowed down by those nosey tree-huggers who found a friendly judge. I’m not sure what exactly “fast track” means in this instance, but it has something to do with running up the coal-burning plants during a night when everyone is watching “America’s Got Talent.”

Texas also leads in getting screwed by our power companies: In the years after Texas deregulated its retail electricity market, rates have leaped higher than any other state with similar open competition. Between 1999 and 2007, our residential rate rose 64 percent. Before deregulation, Texans paid far less than customers in other states. However, we are first in wind power – until our electric companies figure out how to slap a finder’s fee on gifts from God.

Why should the EPA (Environmental Prohibition Administration) make such a study of greenhouse gases? You are absolutely right: It wants to link emissions to global warming, a theory opposed by Gov. Perry and most of the Whig Party. No wonder the governor, our attorney general and our GOP members of Congress want to abolish that federal agency and spend the money on dirigibles.

Much of the opposition to the EPA is based on a dislike of all regulations at any level, such as stop signs, child-proof bottle caps and zoning. Houston is the largest city in the nation, if not the galaxy, without zoning. Developers say, “Zoning and building regulations would hurt development, growth and, most importantly, our income.” Tell that to Austin, with more regulations on growth and development than the White House Rose Garden. Indeed, Austin’s biggest problem is that so many other people want to move there – mostly from Houston.

This takes us to the state level. We have the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), an agency with the attack-dog ferociousness of a Portobello mushroom. This agency, ruled by appointees of — who else? – Gov. Perry, rides herd on pollution in a state where the children have a poem, “I shot an arrow into the air. It stuck.” We’ve got neighborhoods near the Houston Ship Channel with Gulf breezes you can chew. In Port Arthur, on a clear day you can see your feet. But air pollution is a statewide problem.

Remember the TCEQ (The Committee for Enjoying Queasyness) is the same state agency that commissioned a highly regarded Rice prof to make a study of the sea level rise in Galveston Bay. The prof attributed some of the rise to global warming, so the commission simply took that part out. Eventually the two sides reached an agreement, but it is obvious our Lung Rangers are the gang that can’t soot straight.

As for the governor, a spokeswoman in Perry’s office said all these EPA anti-pollution regulations are “a continuation of the Obama Administration’s assault on traditional American energy sources and the good American jobs they support.” Who can argue with that? There is a growing number of jobs around Texas for EMS staffers plus the makers of gasmasks, eye drops and headstones.

All this time you have been thinking, “I sure would like to see just how dirty our air is so I can flout it to my cousin in Newark.” Go to and click on

Greenhouse Gas Data Publication Tool. Then you “Choose a State.” I chose Texas, for some reason, and there it is: 68 pages of facilities around the Lone Star State listing what they are pumping into the air we breathe.

David Doniger, the policy director for climate and clean air at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said of the new web site, “It means that every high school student or local reporter can see who the biggest carbon polluters are in his or her own backyard.” That’s easy for him to say. This local reporter has not a clue what any of those scientific terms mean. It’s just as well. I, personally, don’t want to breathe anything I can’t see.

Ashby pollutes at







January 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

As you will recall, the past two weeks we’ve been looking back at 2011 in Texas and Houston, so let’s hone it down to only our fair city. Records for heat and drought were smashed as “Houston’s Hot” became more than a city motto. 2011 was officially the hottest and driest year in Houston’s history. Wildfires swept across fields and forests in the suburbs, and Memorial Park reported a vast number of trees there are dead or dying.

Parents Magazine rated the 10 best children’s museums for 2011. We’re Number Won: The Children’s Museum of Houston! And Houston was crowned Fast City of the Year by Fast Company magazine.

Red Light District: Mayor Annise Parker gave the green light to the red traffic light cameras, then reversed, then reversed her reversal. The program still may cost the city millions for breaking the contract with the camera company. That’s OK. The city’s coffers are loaded.

Bumper-to-Bumper Crop: Houstonians waited in traffic 57 hours last year, according to the 2011 Urban Mobility Report. That’s equivalent to about one and a half vacation weeks.

City Council members Wanda Adams and Jolanda Jones said they didn’t need to follow Mayor Parker’s mandate and take furloughs without pay to reduce the city’s terrible financial condition. Adams and Jones saved themselves a $1,000 pay cut each by, they said, reducing other expenses. This begs the question: couldn’t they do both? Anyway, Jones was defeated for re-election in a runoff.

Be It Eversole Humble (and Spring): Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, facing re-trial on federal corruption charges, resigned and pled guilty. The charge carried up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In exchange for the guilty plea and for Eversole’s resignation from office, prosecutors dropped charges of conspiracy, bribery and two counts of filing false income tax statements. He cannot run for office for 10 years, like we need him, and still faces sentencing.

The Casons Go Rolling Along: Socialite Becca Cason Thrash’s name appeared in the Chronicle at least 70 times in 2011, usually accompanied by a photo. Thrash was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in Paris for raising $5 mil for the Louvre.

We all know Houston lost out in getting a retired space shuttle for the Johnson Space Center, but we eventually discovered whom to blame: former Houstonian and NASA director Charles Bolden, who overruled an advisory panel which recommended Houston get one of the space shuttles. Wonder if he’ll retire here?

Radio Active: After KTRH dropped its veteran and professional news team and veered to the loony right, Houston was left (so to speak) without any decent radio news programs. Enter KROI (91.1) FM with some of the old hands from KTRH. Houston. Not all of us are afraid of black helicopters.

In sports, TSU head football coach Johnnie Cole led the Tigers to a 9-3 record, the best in eons, and the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship, then was fired. Something about an NCCA investigation into players who got great grades – in classes they never took. The NCAA stripped the school of 14.78 (huh?) athletic scholarships.

The Rockets didn’t make the playoffs, again. Actually, Houston’s team finished dead last in its division, 18 games out of first place. Yao Ming played five games in two years, then retired. Two of their best players, Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks, were traded, and head coach Rick Adelman was fired/quit. Meantime, the Astros finished with the worst record in Major League Baseball, 40games out of first place, and no help is in sight. None of the Lastros’ minor league teams finished with a winning record, and none made the playoffs.

The Ice of Texas: Houston’s minor league hockey team the Aeros, got to the finals and their coach was promoted to the majors, if anyone cares.

Moving on, at a press conference, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland probably saved the life of free-lance photographer Tony Morris by administering CPR until paramedics arrived a few minutes later. The chief declined to say if he had also administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Finger Pointing (Left Hand, Right Hand Div.): The DA’s office and the HFD each accused the other of letting Jessica Rene Tata flee to Nigeria. Tata was the child care owner who allegedly left her kids alone to go to the store, when a fire broke out at the house killing four infants.

A Bull Market: The Houston Livestock & Rodeo broke its own attendance record with nearly 2.2 million attendees – 5 percent higher than the 2010 record.

You are now free to move: The merger of Chicago-based United and Houston-based Continental Airlines caused us to lose 1,500 jobs to the Windy City.

The Houston Buffs are gone. No, not our minor league baseball team, but 11 of our small herd of buffalo were moved to a large north Texas ranch. Between the local drought and inbreeding, it was time to move.

Good Nabors Make, well, a lot: Nabors Industries’ retiring CEO Eugene Isenberg received a $100 million golden parachute. This was on top of his $176 million in compensation between 2006 and 2010 during which the company’s stock fell 38 percent. It’s dropped another 20 percent this year.

But our grand winner has got to be MTA chief George Grenias who was suspended for one week and forfeited a week’s pay for using his office computer to access adult sex sites.

Ashby looks backwards at

Weekend in Wimberley

January 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Looking for a quick getaway with a nod to yesterday? Chill out in Wimberley.  By Laurette M. Veres

Chill Out

A little off the beaten path, you drive on dirt roads, over one-lane bridges and dodge armadillos, possums and deer. What a great get-away.

It was a little stressful finding our cabin.  After navigating winding dirt roads with numerous switchbacks and deer sightings, we found our cabin and headed to dinner.  It took me a while to wind down. Just off the main drag, Ino’z Brew and Chew’s picturesque setting is the perfect location to enjoy a hill country sunset.  The open-air deck looks down on the Blanco River.  At first glance, I think the tables are too close to each other, promoting socializing and I’m not here to chat; I’m here to get away. As the final rays of the sun peak through the Cypress trees, I realize everyone here knows each other.  Before long, this Houstonian finally starts to wind down.  The tuna-stuffed-tomato is just the right size for a light lunch or dinner.  Soon, we converse with the family at the next table.  And the table next to them.  Along the river, there is a ceremony.  Is it a wedding?  No, women have joined together to thank God for the rain.  Yes, people in Wimberley have time to say thank you for rain.

Wake Up and Shop

Get lost in San Marcos’ Premium Outlets.  Most major brands have outposts here.  We visit a few, just to make sure the prices are lower. All this shopping makes us hungry.

The line at Centerpoint Station is long and for good reason.  Half of this establishment is an Americana memorabilia store with fun brands like Brighton and Vera Bradley. The other half is a counter service casual eatery. The fresh salad is brimming with bacon, pecans, strawberries and feta cheese.  It’s the buttery bread that makes the burger so flavorful and has earned the accolade “best burger in Hays County.”

Great Grapes

In the heart of the hill country, Trattoria Lisina is an unexpected, rustic Italian oasis.  Reminiscent of an Italian Villa, this is the closest you’ll come to Tuscany in Texas.  Enjoy wine in the tasting room, or try to snag a seat in the sold out dining room.  Enjoy Veal or chicken marsala, prime rib, asparagus and gelato or tiramisu.

Moreover, enjoy the slower pace of life. Where diners aren’t anxious to get their checks and always make time for desert.


Ino’z Brew & Chew, 14004 Ranch Rd 12, Wimberley, 512-847-6060

Centerpoint Station, S IH 35, San Marcos, 512-392-1103

Trattoria Lisina 13308 FM 150 West
Driftwood, 512- 894-3111



Bayou City Outdoors Farmer’s Market Ride

January 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

February 18, 2012
Onion Creek,
3106 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007
8:00 AM–NOON

Come out and stretch your legs biking to the Farmer’s Markets of Houston to shop for local organic produce! Hop on your bike and let’s take a ride through the side streets, trails, and residential areas in the heart of Houston. This is a very social ride and all levels of riders are welcome. We will start the morning off with coffee at Onion Creek and then cruise through 2-3 markets to shop for fresh produce, sauces, jams, and bread. This is a 12-15 mile ride that lasts about three hours so bring plenty of water and a backpack to carry your goodies! If you’d like to join us but don’t own a bike, West End Bicycles rents bikes for $25 per day at 713/861-2271 or

If you are a member of Bayou City Outdoors and do not have a bike, we can loan you a bike for the ride. But you MUST call the office one week in advance to arrange for the loaner bike. Meet at Onion Creek, 3106 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007. Please DO NOT park in the Onion Creek lot—there is parking on the surrounding streets but look out for ‘no parking’ signs. Meet at 8:00AM–leave at 8:30AM–Noon. Free for Members and Non-Members alike. RSVP 713-524-3567 or


January 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Chef Viviani demonstrates the art of simple, modern Italian cooking using Bialetti cookware

Friday, February 3rd at 10 a.m. and at 1 p.m

H-E-B; 9710 Katy Freeway

Houston— H-E-B will host Chef Fabio Viviani at its Bunker Hill location where he will demonstrate how to create some of his favorite Italian dishes on Friday, February 3rd at 10 a.m. and at 1 p.m.

Chef Viviani, best known as Top Chef Season 5 Fan Favorite and Season 8 All Star contestant, first began his cooking career at the age of 12 while working in his family’s bakery in Italy. After attending Italy’s Instituto Professionale per I Servizi Alberghieri in Florence, Viviani decided it was time to bring his experience in Tuscan cooking to America. Since then, he has become executive chef of several highly acclaimed Italian restaurants in California, including Café Firenze in Ventura County and Los Angeles eatery Osteria Firenze.

In addition to his success in the restaurant world, Viviani has his own cookbook, Café Firenze, Mangia e Bevi, now available in major bookstores as well two eBooks, Did I Really Make Breakfast and The Skinny Country, available on

On February 3rd, customers will have the opportunity to watch the entertaining and energetic Chef Viviani as he takes a turn in the H-E-B Cooking Connection to demonstrate his Perfect Italian Meatballs and Perfect Pasta recipes. While Viviani’s cooking style embodies the art of simple Italian cooking, his food and personality are anything but basic.

All of Viviani’s dishes are prepared in Italian designed Bialetti “Taste of Italy” cookware. The line includes authentic pieces like a 5-quart Pasta Pot featuring an innovative lock-on lid with built-in strainer, eliminating the need for a colander; Risotto Pan, an everyday pan perfect for risotto and sauces; and two Grande Pans, just right for large family-style recipes.  Bialetti’s “Taste of Italy” features everything needed for making classic Italian meals.

Both Viviani’s cookbook Café Firenze, Mangia e Bevi and Bialetti cookware will be available for sale during the in-store event.

WHAT:    Fabio Viviani In-store Cooking Demonstration

WHEN:     Friday, February 3rd at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

WHERE:    9710 Katy Freeway

CONTACT:    Cyndy Garza-Roberts
H-E-B Public Affairs

Jessica Mason

About H-E-B

H-E-B, with sales of more than $18 billion, operates more than 335 stores in Texas and Mexico. Known for its innovation and community service, H-E-B celebrated its 105 anniversary in 2010. Recognized for its fresh food, quality products, convenient services, and a commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability, H-E-B strives to provide the best customer experience at everyday low prices. Based in San Antonio, H-E-B employs more than 76,000 Partners and serves millions of customers in more than 150 communities. For more information, visit

About Bialetti
Bialetti is an Italian brand of stove-top coffee makers and cookware products that’s bringing a unique combination of current yet accessible Italian design and quality at every price point. Headquarted in Coccaglio, Italy, Bialetti puts a face on the modern Italian’s unique approach to life, with a passion for all things good – style & design, food, friends, family and relaxation.  Founded in 1933, Bialetti first came to market in Europe as the creator of the “Moka Express.” Today, the company offers an Italian-inspired line of cookware, kitchen tools and gadgets, as well as its wide-range of stove-top coffee makers.

Bradshaw International, based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is a leading marketer of kitchenware products and is the distributor for Bialetti USA.

For more information on Bialetti USA, please go to: or visit our Facebook page:


Spa Montage Deer Valley – Sundance Festival Starts Today

January 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog


Spa Montage Deer Valley


SpaMontage Deer Valley welcomes athletic visitors to the 35,000-square-foot, holistic-minded retreat. Each service begins and ends with a focus on breathing, aptly called the art of breath. Although there is a spa menu, the highly accredited spa therapists are trained to interpret your body’s personalized language. According to Loren Kornreich, spa director, the goal is to completely customize offerings to the point where there will be no menu. The wet area is where the ritual begins. For heat, you can choose between a trip to the steam room or sauna, and then follow with a cold shower before entering the Jacuzzi. Repeat this series three times for deeper relaxation.

What’s Hot Now?

Thai massage Through a series of assisted stretches, your body is pushed to limits you might not reach on your own. This is done on a floor mat, or an abbreviated version is offered on a massage table.




January 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By  Lynn Ashby                                    16 January 2012

LAS VEGAS – Over there sits Duc Luc, the inscrutable Vietnamese poker player. Next is Pampa Slim in his trademark cowboy hat and boots. Minnie Mae McQueen, queen of Minnie Mae, is here. Others around this crowded table are the usual suspects – card sharks from every corner of the globe, betting hundreds of thousands as the crowd applauds and the TV cameras keep grinding for ESPN.

Jeffrey Silas-Silas III, the Harvard math boy wonder, beckons me. No doubt he wants my advice on how to double-down his straight jack o’ hearts. He says, with that broad Boston accent, “I’ll have another gin and tonic, boy.” And that is about as close as I get to the big spenders here in Vegas (we riverboat gamblers just call it Vegas).

Sin City, Disney World for adults, Lost Wages, by many names, there is only one Las Vegas because that’s all our economy can afford and is an indicator of the nation’s finances. We must remember people come here for gaming (they never use the word gamble, gambling or bankrupt) after they have paid all their bills, saved enough for their kids’ college education and their own retirement. Yeah, right. In good times and bad, casinos are good, just maybe not as good as before.

Here are the latest figures from last October. The calculating runs a little late because the Mob has to run down – sometimes literally – the deadbeats and card counters. (I, personally, like the Sleep With the Fishes Collection Agency.) In a nutshell, things are looking up — slightly. About 3.42 million visitors came to Vegas last October, an increase of 2.7 percent. Year to date it’s almost 33 million guests, a 4.5 percent increase.

“What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas” is certainly one of the better city slogans, right up there with the “Big Apple” and “Port Arthur – gateway to Orange.” What stays here is the visitors’ money. Last October, just in that month, Nevada had $960 million in taxable gambling revenue, an increase of 8.1 percent. The casinos on the Strip raked in $$560 million. Baccarat broke all monthly records. Nevada took in $65.4 million in gambling taxes, up 8.6 percent for the month. No wonder they have no income tax.

In the mid-1970s, there were 35,000 hotel rooms in town. By 2007, the last time I was here, the boom was booming. Cranes everywhere, with 151,000 rooms (more than any other city in the country), another 11,000 rooms under construction, as well as more on the drawing boards (35,000).

How things have changed. The boom is bust. The Rat Pack is dead. Vegas tried to land an NBA franchise, but the basketball bosses said only if the casinos wouldn’t handle bets on the games, to which the casino bosses said, “Fugetaboutit.” Economists at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas (which offers bachelors, masters and doctorates in hospitality/hotel administration) have warned that Southern Nevada’s real estate market may improve, but not soon. With the decline in housing prices, 63.3 percent of homeowners in the Las Vegas area “have negative equity” (are underwater).

Unemployment improved slightly from 14.8 percent in 2010 to 13.2 percent in 2011, but that’s still one of the highest in the nation. On the other hand, the Las Vegas population is expected to reach 3.6 million by 2050, which is what the Houston area is today.

No major American city has less of a history than Las Vegas because almost nobody lived here until Bugsy Siegel arrived, and he got shot dead for his efforts. Speaking of such matters, this is Binion’s, a casino with a wonderful steakhouse up on the 24th floor that the locals don’t want the tourists to know about. I heard the maitre d say on the phone, “From 6 to 9 we are solidly booked. As usual.”

The casino belonged to Benny Binion who came here after he was run out of Dallas where, back in the 1940s, he was known as the Mob Boss of Dallas. Benny had five kids, and my father, a pediatrician, would make house calls (there’s a forgotten term) to the Binions. Dad would remark how he’d drive up to the big iron gate and two guys would stop him and peer into his car to make sure he was alone. Dad noted how, even in the Texas summers, these two torpedoes would always wear black overcoats.

Nearby is another Texas connection (this place is full of Texans), the Golden Nugget. It was bought by a Houston restaurateur, Tilman Fertitta (Landry’s, McCormick & Schmick’s, Salt Grass, etc.), who pumped $100 million into the Nugget and helped make downtown Vegas a decent place. It used to be the pits.

I suggest you visit here during the annual Rodeo Super Bowl or officially the National Finals Rodeo. This week the town is full of easy-to-spot cowboys. You can tell they are the genuine thing because none of them wears fancy boots. If you want to look genuine, here’s the wardrobe. Hat is black or pearl gray, no straw and no feather hat bands. Shirt has pearl-snap buttons. Blue jeans are too long so that they crumple at the bottom and the back hem is frayed. Boots are round-toed and rough-hewn. Belt buckles are still the size of a hubcap. The men dress roughly the same way. The rich ranchers wear more pointy-toed boots made of ostrich or leopard or Comanche.

A high school friend became a lounge singer in Vegas. She’d come home about 4 a.m., get up to send her two kids off to school, go back to sleep till noon. One of the toughest jobs in America must be trying to run a P-TA in this town. “We’ll meet at 8 p.m. in the school cafeteria to… OK, 9 o’clock? So 4 a.m. is best?”

Wait. Duc Luc is gesturing for me. He either needs my advice or a light.


Ashby is a real card at


Memorial City Lit Up Over Texans’ First Chance to Shine

January 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

MetroNational illuminates entire urban center for Houston team’s first-ever playoff game

WHAT: In honor of the Houston Texan’s first home game in the post-season, MetroNational is proudly supporting the hometown team by lighting up the entirety of Memorial City in red and blue.  Using a state-of-the-art LED color-changing, computer-controlled lighting system, lighting designers will use more than 8,000 linear feet of LEDs, stretching over one mile along Interstate 10, to illuminate the nine most high profile buildings and structures within the development, including the iconic Memorial Hermann Tower.

WHERE: (Running West to East): Memorial Hermann Tower; Westin Houston, Memorial City; skybridge spanning Gessner; Memorial City Plaza; Memorial City Mall; Memorial City Place; skybridge spanning Memorial City Way; The Fountains at Memorial City

WHEN: Starting at dusk on Thursday, Jan. 5, continuing through Game Day.

VISUALS:  Excellent vantage points are readily available in the Memorial City Mall parking lot and special access can also be provided for media on the roof of Memorial City Place (9821 Katy Fwy) and on the pool level of the Westin Houston, Memorial City hotel for photography or video footage of the lit buildings on both Friday and Saturday evenings.

Ten Thousand Waves

January 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Leading the world in wellness treatments and relaxation, Ten Thousand Waves is four miles north of Santa Fe on the western slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This rugged, Southwestern spa features top-notch, Japanese-style treatments along with hot, mineral water baths.  “We always recommend a tub,” says Mary Johnson, public relations manager who has been helping visitors relax for more than 25 years. “It helps you relax and warms the muscles, preparing you for any treatment.” This is the first step in the cleansing process. Private and group baths are available.  All of the treatments here are customized to individual needs. The following facial can be customized and you can add the foot massage to any standard massage.

What’s Hot Now?

Japanese Facial This treatment includes cleansing products, masks and exfoliations. The differentiator is the amount of massage done to the face. Each lotion is massaged into the skin to increase the rate of absorption. Techniques include light stroking, kneading and percussive movements. “It’s like someone is dancing tango on your face,” says Johnson. Further regenerate your cells with a CryoStem Cell Treatment in which a serum is frozen until applied to your skin to stimulate collagen production.

Ashi Anma Foot Massage Imagine 25 minutes focused on your feet. This new treatment is crafted after the finger-pressure massage readily available in Japan and helps move energy through the body. Your feet will tingle long after the treatment is over.


ROCO and IACT present Peter and the Wolf at The Houston Zoo

January 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Events


Sunday, January 15, 2011
2:00 and 3:30pm
Brown Education Center Auditorium in The Houston Zoo

Performances of the children’s classic will be presented in English and Spanish
On Sunday, January 15th, 2012, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) and InterActive Theater
Company will present two performances of the children’s classic, Peter and the Wolf, in partnership with
The Houston Zoo. The story, whose original intent was to “cultivate musical tastes in children from the
first years of school,” still delights and entertains. An ensemble of ROCO musicians will play Prokofiev’s
composition while actors from InterActive Theater Company, narrate and act out the story, first in
English, and a second time in Spanish. These performances will be part of a program that promotes
understanding of Wolf Conservation.
Free with zoo admission.


Sunday, January 15, 2011
2 :00 and 3:30pm
in the Brown Education Center Auditorium in The Houston Zoo
6200 Hermann Park Drive
(formerly Golf Course Drive)
Houston, TX 77030
(713) 533-6500


Texas Stallions Track Club Information Meeting

January 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Come Run, Jump and Throw with us! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012;  6:30pm
Denny’s Restaurant (Meeting Room), 6504 FM 2920, Spring, Texas 77379

The Texas Stallions Track Club will host its annual free information/registration meeting for all boys and girls, and their parents, interested in joining for the  2012 track season. The Texas Stallions Track Club is a youth (ages 6 – 18) track organization, affiliated with the Amateur Athletic Union and USA Track & Field that provides a full program of sanctioned track and field events.

Cost: FREE
More Info: For more details, visit
Contact:Vasha Campbell, 832-415-0568×105


January 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

In San Antonio, Ricardo Jones shot an air gun at a restaurant manager, displayed a semiautomatic assault rifle and pistol, then exchanged gunfire with three police officers. Jones drove away, but later held off police during a three-hour standoff at a hotel. Tear gas had to be used to get Jones out of the room. Why? He had ordered seven Beefy Crunch Burritos and was surprised to learn that the price had gone from 99 cents to $1.49.

In Houston, Bridgett Nickerson Boyd‘s car broke down on a freeway, a sheriff’s deputy wrote her a ticket for driving on the shoulder and finally drove her to jail. Boyd, who is black, claims in a lawsuit that the handcuffs were put on her wrists painfully tight, etc. and, worst all, she said she was forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh “make derogatory comments about black people” all the way to the jail. She sued alleging many wrongs, and, for being forced to listen to Limbaugh, intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Yes, 2011 was that kind of year in Texas. So let’s continue with our two-part look at that year’s winners before Texas Monthly steals all our good ideas for its Bum Steer Awards.

The Spies of Texas: Vice Adm. William H. McRaven of San Antonio and UT, where he was a journalism major, masterminded, or led – these guys are so secretive — the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. If he really is William H. McRaven.

Missed: Eunice Sanborn of Jacksonville, Tex., died at the age of 114 – the world’s oldest person.

Longhorn of Plenty: Facing drastic cuts in the UT System’s budget, including higher tuition and fewer scholarships, UT regents hired Rick O’Donnell, a conservative think tank consultant, for $200,000 a year. His job description was remarkably similar to that of Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa. After huge indignation, O’Donnell was fired.

Half Nelson Quote: “I’m gonna let him plead, pay a small fine and he’s gotta sing ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’ with his guitar right there in the count room. You bet your (rear) I ain’t gonna be mean to Willie Nelson.” – Hudspeth County attorney Kit Bramblett, offering a musical deal to the singer after several ounces of marijuana were found on his tour bus. After his plea proposal went nationwide, Bramblett said he was just kidding.

A Grave Mistake: Reacting to an anonymous phone tip from a woman claiming to be a psychic, local law officers, the FBI and a horde of media descended on a lot near Hardin in East Texas looking for a mass grave containing scores of mutilated bodies, including those of children. Nothing.

Aransas County court-at-law Judge William Adams was taped cursing at his teenage daughter and using a belt to whip her for violating his orders to stay away from the Internet. Adams told a local TV station: It’s “not as bad as it looks on tape.” In the assault trial of oft-seen-on-TV hand-surgeon Michael (“Daddy’s baby girl”) Brown, it was charged that among the objects Brown threw at his wife was Brown’s 2010 Humanitarian Award. He was acquitted.

Double Big Dipper: Gov. Rick Perry is collecting an annual salary of almost $133,000 plus a $7,700 monthly state pension from his earlier state offices. He reported a total annual income of $290,000 including his wife’s salary of $65,000 giving him a net worth of at least $1.3 million. Not bad for a guy who’s been a Texas state employee much of his adult life.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Texas has received at least $1.7 billion from federal Homeland Security to fight terrorism. Local governments spent it on a $21 fish tank in Seguin, a $24,000 latrine on wheels in Fort Worth, and, in Liberty County, grants bought $6,167 worth of dog crates, feed pans and a hog catcher. Others bought Ziploc bags.

San Antonio was named the best-performing city in the nation in 2011 by the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan economic think tank. Houston was ranked 16th but was Numero Uno among the nation’s 10 largest metropolitan areas. In sports, seven starting quarterbacks in the NFL are Texas high school products. Eight when Vince Young plays for an injured Michael Vick.

Tale of Two Cities: The Houston Astros finished the ’11 season with the worst record in major league baseball, 40 games out of first place. The Texas Rangers went to the World Series – and finished in last place. The Houston Rockets finished 18 games out, while the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship. Big D has a great video out touting the city, complete with an address by Mayor Mike Rawlings and a shot of, uh, the Houston skyline.

Houston gave us all sorts of dummy awards. In anticipation of heavy snow, the city of Houston spread liquid magnesium chloride on the streets at a cost of $68,250. Houston got ice instead, along with 800 wrecks and four traffic fatalities.

He Was Framed: This guy appears at the door of a fancy Houston house. He wears a ski mask, gloves and carries a black semi-automatic weapon, demanding money and jewelry. “But wait,” says the owner/victim, “notice that painting on the wall. It’s very valuable.” So the burglar also takes a priceless Renoir, his “Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow.”

Four people, two of them employees of the International Bank of Commerce in Houston, were charged with robbing their bank after a tip that two of them wrote on their Facebook pages, “Get$$$.” “I’m rich” and “Wipe my teeth with hundreds.” Also, during a high-speed chase demonstration staged by the Houston police for Chinese law enforcement officials, two patrol cars collided, injuring seven people, including five of the People’s Police.

Houston’s State Sen. Dan Patrick, who constantly rails against Washington’s outside interference in state matters (“Austin knows best.”), filed a bill to exempt churches and schools from a Houston drainage fee which had already approved by the voters. It seems Austin knows best.

Next, we take a closer look at more of Houston’s contributions to 2011, while we await 2012 with mixed feelings.



Ashby wins at