Fall Fun

It’s time for fall planting!

I’ve had a very hectic couple of months. Me and my backpack have seen Nashville, Crested Butte, virtually every inch of the Gulf coast from Houston to Pensacola Fl, then drove through Orlando to visit Port St Lucie. And just for fun, we boarded a cruise ship and went to Mexico. Obviously my garden has been neglected.

Every time I returned home between trips, I was certain I’d find a dried up mess, but that did not happen. The sprinkler on a timer did its job; the plot is well mulched and well fed. I’d come home and harvest eggplant, giant cucumbers and all kinds of peppers. The celebrity tomato vine found new energy and started producing a late crop. In fact, the only loses were basil plants that went to seed and okra, which spent all their nutrients enlarging unpicked pods. I experienced more gardening success while I was gone than I did tinkering in the soil every night.





Garden on 10/10/14

Garden on 10/10/14













Finally the garden began to feel the effects of fall. Two weeks ago (just before the cruise) I pulled up most of my summer plants, raked in 1/4 cup of MicroLife 6-2-2 fertilizer per square foot and planted the first wave of the fall garden. Little Brussels sprouts, broccoli, fennel, cauliflower, kale and cabbage plants were purchased from Buchanan’s Native Plants in the Heights. I had carrot and bok choy seeds, they went into the ground and have sprouted; they are ready to be thinned. I’ve kept a Habanero plant left over from summer with dozens of nice peppers still growing, the fruit just starting to turn orange. When they are ripe I’ll pull up the bush; I’ve saved about a quarter of the garden for onions. We’ll see how fall goes!

Garden on 10/16/14

Garden on 10/16/14

Fall Trends – It’s Makeover Time!

October 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Beauty & Fashion

City Glitz & Glam

City Glitz & Glam

FRAGRANCE Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme Perfume, $77.19; www.fragrancenet.com. EARRINGS Plum Linear Drop Earring, $30; www.whitehouseblackmarket.com. TOP White Metallic Panel Angel Sleeve Top, $60; www.riverisland.com.PANTS Mango Slim-Fit Cotton Trousers, $40; www.mango.com. SCARF Dark Red Faux Fur Snood, $50;www.riverisland.com. WATCH Anne Klein Black Glossy Dial and Crystal Watch, $85; www.lordandtaylor.com. LIPSTICKMAKE Matte Lipstick in Jakarta, $25; www.barneys.com. GLOVES French Connection Helina Leather Gloves, $98;www.frenchconnection.com. SHOES Okala Pump Burgundy Suede, $110; www.jildorshoes.com. CLUTCH Glint Metallic Tweed Clutch, $88; www.nordstrom.com.

Girly Street Style

Girly Street Style

FRAGRANCE Lanvin Jeanne Lanvin Couture Perfume, $38.50; www.fragrancenet.com. EARRINGS Jeweled Clustered Stud Earrings, $6; www.charlotterusse.com. NECKLACE Zara Interwoven Chain Necklace, $26; www.zara.com. TOP H&M Short Scuba Top, $49.95; www.hm.com. SKIRT Paneled Flippy Skirt by Boutique, $160; www.topshop.com. NAIL POLISH OPI Nail Lacquer You’re Such a Budapest, $9.49; www.ulta.com. BAG Saint Laurent Duffle 3 Mini Leather Bowling Bag, $1,450;www.mytheresa.com. SOCKS Forever21 Ribbed Over-the-Knee Socks, $6.80; www.forever21.com. SHOES Converse Lavender Chuck Taylor All Stars, $50; www.net-a-porter.com.

Twilight Theater

Twiight Theater

FRAGRANCE Tresor Midnight Rose Perfume by Lancome, $55.19; www.fragrancenet.com. HAT Croft & Barrow 3-D Flower Felt Cloche Hat, $25.20; www.kohls.com. EARRINGS H&M Rhinestone Earrings, $7.95; www.hm.com. DRESS Dorothy Perkins Plum Lace Chiffon Swing Dress, $59; www.dorothyperkins.com. COAT H&M Textured Woven Coat, $59.99;www.hm.com. LIPSTICK NARS Audacious Lipstick Anna, $32; www.beauty.com. BRACELET Express Curb Chain Stone Clusters Bracelet, $29.90; www.express.com. TIGHTS H&M 2-Pack Tights 20 Dernier, $5.95; www.hm.com. CLUTCHJessica McClintock Flora Minaudiere, $39.99; www.6pm.com. SHOES Report Signature Iliana Wedge Booties, $130;www.macys.com.

Sweet & Sharp

Sweet & Sharp

FRAGRANCE Parisienne Perfume by Yves Saint Laurent, $75.19; www.fragrancenet.com. COAT H&M Light Beige Short Coat, $79.95; www.hm.com. BLOUSE H&M Sleeveless Blouse, $24.95; www.hm.com. NECKLACE Crystal Mesh Statement Necklace, $26; www.nordstrom.com. SKIRT Zara Crepe Skirt with Front Buttons, $49.90; www.zara.com. RING Erickson Beamon Amethyst Collage Ring, $50 (to rent); www.renttherunway.com. NAIL POLISH Zoya Nail Polish in Charisma, $9;www.zoya.com. LIPSTICK Kevyn Aucoin Matte Lip Color in Persistence, $33; www.neimanmarcus.com.SHOES GUESS Abaih Two Piece Ankle Strap Pumps, $59.99; www.macys.com. BAG Zara Zipped Bucket Bag, $79.90; www.zara.com.

Fabulous Gift Ideas

October 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Beauty & Fashion

Forget about playing it (completely) safe this season, at least when it comes to your beauty routine. Color is in for fall and the holidays! Bold liners and shadows brighten your face, just in time for the dreary cold; thanks to modern advances, makeup actually stays put and lasts longer than ever. Plus, don’t miss my best beauty gift-giving suggestions. Happy glamorous holiday!


Lolita Lempicka Minuit Sonne 2014



 This year’s glittery, limited-edition holiday scent represents the sensual midnight hour.LOLITA LEMPICKA MINUITE SONNE combines notes ofliquorice, iris concrete, vanilla and benzoin—perfect for your holiday party ($105; www.amazon.com).




Tame your mane without breakage. Olivia Garden Divine Brush Collection features an ergonomic design that makes hair brushing easy and snag-free. My favorite is the Divine Wet Detangler, with memory flex bristles to detangle post-shower hair.
($24; www.oliviagarden/brushes.com).



Brightening Gift Set_72dpi

Cleanse, moisturize and treat your skin with the spa-strength June Jacobs Brightening Gift Set. Paraben and preservative free, this five-piece kit, which promises to deliver a glowing complexion,
is conveniently packaged in travel-safe sizes with an elegant gift box. Includes: Creamy Cranberry Cleanser, Vanda Orchid Polishing Beads, Brightening Serum, Brightening Moisturizer, Intensive Age Defying Brightening Eye Cream.
($54; www.junejacobs.com).


Urban Decay TEN 24-7 Glide-On Eye Pencil Set

Colors were a big trend on the fall runways.
Add some color to your life with Urban Decay
Ten 24/7 Glide-on Eye Pencil Set. The soft pencils
go on with ease and have great staying power
($52; www.urbandecay.com).






Bliss Rock the Party! Set is just the thing for an endless season of holiday parties. The head-to-toe set is complete
with rescue essentials: thigh firming cream,
high intensity hand cream, energizing mask and
a triple oxygen instant energizing eye mask
($45; exclusively at Sephora).




Chanel Coco Noir is a modern combination of
luminous floral and sensual oriental notes; its
top notes of grapefruit and bergamot accentuate
the rose and jasmine.
($98; www.chanel.com).








Laura Geller Beauty Book of Jewels Baked Eyeshadow Library is the most comprehensive eyeshadow collection. Each shade can be worn dry or wet for a deeper color
payoff—perfect for doubling as a liner.
($99; www.qvc.com).


Prefer a minimalist take on the trend?
Go for a liquid liner, which creates more of a clean, precise line; blue and violet are all the rage. Try:

Eyeko Visual Eyes Marine

Eyeko Visual Eyes Liquid Eyeliner in Marine
($19; www.eyeko.com)




Two-FACE Eyeliner Duo_HighSociety



Napoleon Perdis Two Faced Eyeliner Duo in High Society
($35; www.napoeonperdis.com)

Maybelline EyeStudio Master Duo Glossy
Liquid Liner in Violet Luster
($8; www.ulta.com)


For Your Arts & Entertainment

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Features



(Renaissance) Fair Game

Looking for something different to do this season? The Texas Renaissance Festival (www.texrenfest.com) is like none other, and because this October/November marks the fest’s 40-year anniversary, it will be a party to remember.

Every weekend, as well as on Thanksgiving Friday, from October 11–November 30, the 55-acre theme park in Todd Mission, Texas, will showcase hundreds of costumed performers, dressed in sixteenth-century British garb, in more than 200 shows. You can visit every week and see something different, thanks to the themed weekends, like Oktoberfest, Pirate Adventure and Celtic Christmas. Cobblestone “streets” pave the way for nearly 400 shops, showcasing everything from arts and crafts to food and drink. Closing each day are the Royal Fireworks above the lake.

In honor of four decades of celebration, Renaissance style, the Festival will introduce the King Midas Masquerade Ball, held Saturdays from October 11–November 29 at the newly completed 15,0000-square-foot permanent pavilion. Face paint or masks are a must to get in—as is an ID proving you’re at least 21—and costumes or black-tie attire are welcomed. You’ll celebrate with hors d’oeuvres, domestic beer, house wine and live entertainment.

The Festival will also be bringing in internationally renowned guest artist Real Musgrave, the creator of Pocket Dragons and former Official Artist to the grounds, to design souvenirs that will serve as collectables for the anniversary; all the proceeds will go to the Humane Society of Flower Mound “Flower’s Fund.” For a chance to meet Real Musgrave and get posters and memorabilia autographed, make sure to visit opening weekend, October 11–12, 2014.

Don’t know about you, but we’re already craving a good drumstick.

—Amanda Altman

Winter Fun

Get in the holiday mood by getting to Galveston. But make sure to bundle up—the “Winter Wonder Island” is playing host to more than 1,000 festivities, including the city’s first-ever ice sculpture exhibit, packed with a whopping 2 million pounds of ice. Your little ones will feel like the set of Frozen came to life while they check out displays of SpongeBob SquarePants, holiday sculptures and more (November 15–January 4 at Moody Gardens).

While you’re there, make sure to catch the Gulf Coast’s largest holiday light show, the 13th Annual Festival of Lights (www.moodygardens.com/holidayschedule) on November 15–January 3. The show will feature 100-plus sound-enhanced animated displays, plus more winter activities for the entire family, like ice skating and snow tubing on the Arctic Ice Slide. Come on opening day to see Santa parachute down! Also at the Gardens, on December 18–27, is A Magical Christmas Dinner and Show with master illusionist Curt Miller and Friends (www.moodychristmasshow.com).


Leave the kids with the grandparents at Moody Gardens while you check out the island’s Victorian Christmas attractions, including the 1895 Moody Mansion (www.moodymansion.org), which will be decked out in holiday glory (Thanksgiving weekend till January 1). Visit on December 5, and you can tour the private homes in the East End Historical District. Also a must the first week of December in the district: Dickens on The Strand (www.dickensonthestrand.org), where characters from Dickens novels and costumed vendors meander about the streets, plus Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry and music and more.

Can’t take the cold? Go surfing with Santa at Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark (November 28–December 23). Also hit up Santa at Santa on the Strand (November 29–December 20) in downtown, where you can snap a photo on his lap. And on December 21, 4,000 Santas will race to the finish in the Santa Hustle Half Marathon and 5K. Don’t miss it!


Kids Get Cultured


Who says New Orleans has all the fun? Performing and visual arts take centerstage at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion’s 19th Annual Children’s Festival this November 8–9. Kids of all ages—but especially those in PK through fifth grade—will get schooled in creativity, culture and more, thanks to shows given by award-winning children’s performers and activities galore.

Get your science on at The ExxonMobil (the company is the presenting sponsor) STEM Zone, by exploring the Big Canyon Balloon and a fossil record and oil deposit, or check out activities from the Houston Museum of Natural Science and The Houston Children’s Museum.

Artists-in-training should head to Arts Alley for fun arts and crafts, and get their tactile fix at the Anadarko Adventure Zone, where they can make their own silly putty and get their face painted and more.

Get moving at the Healthy KidZone, with active games like Bubble Runners and Bumper Boats, and stick around for a chance to meet pro sports team members. Kids will also learn healthy habits and even some gymnastics and martial arts moves to boot.

Got time left? Visit the Activity Tent, where you can go for a train ride, and take part in a coloring contest and an instrument petting zoo.

Tickets are $8 if purchased in advance via Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com) or $10 at the door—children under two get in free—and include every show and activity. For more information, visit www.woodlandscenter.org/childrens_festival_info.html.


A Part of Your Community

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Features


Lone Star Chuck Wagon
and The Great Food Truck Race

A competitor from The Woodlands shows how it’s done—Texas style.

by Laura Jackson

Competing against seven other national teams in the fifth season of Food Network’s successful series, The Great Food Truck Race, Lone Star Chuck Wagon, the Texas-based team, gave viewers from around the country an excellent taste of true Tex-Mex at its best.

On a high-stakes culinary road trip traveling from Southern California to the beaches of Key West, FL, each team was provided with a vehicle for the race—and a chance at walking away with their own food truck and $50,000 to start their business. Gaining valuable experience with each new challenge and city, the rookie teams soon learned that running a food truck is harder than it looks.

Lone Star Chuck Wagon’s fearless leader, Lance Kramer, grew up in The Woodlands, competed in barbecue competitions for years, where he won against trained chefs, and has even developed his own line of sauces and rubs. With the support of his wife, Rachel Young, and their best friend, Andrea Chesley, he came to the race trained and ready to bring Texas-style home cooking to hungry people across the nation. Lance’s favorite aspect of The Great Food Truck Race was the spontaneity of it all: “It was also my least favorite part! We never knew where we were going next, or what curveball the host Tyler Florence was going to throw at us. It was exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. Traveling the country, doing what we love was amazing!”

Naturally, growing up in Houston influenced Kramer’s cooking style. “When I was young in The Woodlands, there was only one restaurant, so my family would always drive to Houston for good eats,” he recalls. “With Houston’s melting pot of cultures, we were exposed to a wide variety of foods. This opened up my palate and made me very adventurous.”

His fondest memories of learning to cook are with his grandparents. “My grandma had a step stool, and I would climb up it and help her in the kitchen. She always let me help, and if I close my eyes, I can still smell her amazing cooking. And in my grandpa’s arms, he would let me flip burgers on the grill before I was even tall enough to see them!” All that true Texas training definitely paid off.

For fun photo galleries, blogs and video clips of the show, visit www.foodnetwork.com.

Worth the Wait

pixelstudioproductions.com-1737Billboard Bride Channing says to hold out for love.

By Laurette M. Veres • Photography by Pixel Studio Productions

Channing Smith was spending the day at the Kemah Boardwalk with her cherished nieces and boyfriend. The young girls were having caricatures drawn, so Brian and Channing decided to get one as well. The artist revealed his work; he had drawn a large ring on Channing’s finger. “As I turned to ask Brian if he liked the picture, I saw him down on one knee,” she says. As soon as she accepted his proposal, family members appeared, nieces cheered and strangers high-fived.

Brian Morvant pulled off the perfect engagement. The whole day by the water was a setup; the nieces were bait. Her family was in on the gig, watching from behind the bushes, and her sister was there with the trusty video camera to capture the entire proposal.

The icing on the cake: The Bridal Extravaganza Show selected Channing to be the Billboard Bride. Like a few lucky brides before her, she too will appear on giant billboards all over the greater Houston area. Hundreds of thousands of motorists will see her beautiful smile during their daily commutes.

Channing’s message to future brides: “Resist pressures created by mainstream and social media. Forget about crazy, unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves based on Facebook, Pinterest, reality TV and Instagram. Work on being healthy, happy and being you.”

There is no perfect life, yet we race to meet “norms” we see on social media. Married right out of college, buy a house, have kids; that’s someone’s life, it may even be a good life, but don’t feel it has to be your life. It’s okay to feel something better is out there and search to find it.

Channing threw away a chance at the “normal life” and waited to find the right man. “I felt like I had nothing worthwhile to post on social media; no picture-perfect engagement photos, no romantic weddings shots and definitely no cute, cuddly pictures of my non-existent kids! I started feeling bad about myself despite having a wonderful life. Looking back, I realize how foolish this was, however, it was a real struggle.”

Many brides can have unrealistic expectations, wanting gowns, décor and more based on what they see on Facebook, Pinterest and reality TV.  “I’ve been to a ton of weddings, and none of them look like those I see on Pinterest. Why not? Because that isn’t the norm,” says Channing. “I’ve joked many times, my Pinterest wedding costs $90,000; my real wedding will cost a third of that!”

Channing feels everyone’s fairy tale comes true, some just take an alternate path; some have a different vision of what their fairy tale may be. She encourages people to follow their hearts and souls, not www.buzzfeed.com.

Brian, the LSU Tiger, and Channing, the Texas A&M Aggie, are planning a fall wedding at Crystal Springs in Magnolia, TX. The one hitch to setting the hitching date: “Checking LSU’s football schedule,” she says. “Seriously!” It’s no Aggie joke; these two SEC rivals will have to find a way to get along during the annual LSU/A&M matchup. 

Yes, You are Turning into a Lightweight

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

lightweight_scrollby Stacy Baker Masand

Andrea Gates, 42, an advertising executive, used to enjoy a glass of wine or two, but found herself gaining weight, losing energy and having breakouts when she turned 40—even though her diet, stress level and exercise routine stayed the same. It was only after a friend suggested she cut out alcohol that her symptoms subsided and she started to feel more energetic.

Andrea’s experience isn’t unusual. “It takes far less alcohol to impact our bodies at 40 and up than it did in our 20s,” says Barbara Krantz, DO, medical director and director of research at the Hanley Center, a rehab facility in West Palm Beach, FL. “Since alcohol takes longer to metabolize in an aging body, the amount a person drinks in their 20s may affect them more intensely and more quickly if they continue to drink that same amount in their 40s.”

Starting in our 30s, our bodies’ levels of body fat naturally increase while the amount of lean muscle mass decreases. Those two physiological changes have an impact on the effects of alcohol in your body, explains Gary Murray, PhD, program director for the Division of Metabolism and Health Effects of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Blood alcohol level rises higher in individuals with more body fat,” he says.


Another reason you may be starting to feel a bigger buzz with fewer cocktails is because of changes in your liver. When you drink, alcohol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream via the stomach and small intestine and then metabolized by liver enzymes, explains Dr. Krantz. But your liver becomes less efficient as you get older: Its size increases, while its hepatocytes (the functioning cells) and blood flow decrease, causing it to metabolize alcohol more slowly.

Age isn’t the only factor affecting your body’s response to booze; your gender is, too. Before the age of 50, men have higher levels of the stomach enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol. This means a man will metabolize a martini faster than a woman, explains Dr. Murray. “Once you turn 50, that difference between men and women disappears,” he says. “Men’s enzyme levels are downgraded to that of a woman. Men who used to drink more than their wives often find that when they hit 50, both the effects of alcohol and the hangover hit them a little harder.”

That’s what happened to John, a 50-year-old marketing executive, who used to enjoy a drink or two after work to relax. Soon after he hit his milestone birthday, he found that drinking the same number of his signature cocktail began to lead to headaches, insomnia and hangover symptoms the morning after. When he limited his intake to a single glass of white wine a night, however, the issues disappeared.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean women can belly up to the bar without negative consequences; they also experience physiological changes as they age that affect their tolerance. “Alcohol can have a direct effect on women’s hormones that control their energy, blood pressure, bone mass, growth and development,” Dr. Krantz explains. “When it interferes with hormone actions, alcohol can exacerbate or cause diabetes and increase the risk of osteoporosis.”


Too many happy hours can also contribute to unwanted weight gain. “Alcohol stimulates appetite, makes us want to eat more unhealthy foods and lowers our inhibitions, all of which can lead to us making unhealthy choices,” says Jacquie Lavin, MMedSci, PhD, head of nutrition and research at Slimming World, a UK-based weight-loss organization. In a survey, the company found that many people who drank past a personal tipping point—equivalent to about three glasses of wine—consumed a whopping 6,300 extra calories over the following 24 hours.

To make matters worse, getting older also makes it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it—whether you’re drinking or not, points out Gabrielle Francis, DC, ND, a New York City–based naturopath and author of RxStar Remedy (HarperCollins, 2014). “Most people’s metabolisms slow as they age due to declining hormone levels, especially of the sex hormones and thyroid hormone,” she says. Add alcohol to the mix and it gets even harder to maintain a healthy weight. “In addition to being highly caloric, alcohol raises cortisol; cortisol raises insulin and insulin causes fat to deposit in the belly,” she says.

Beyond limiting the number of drinks you consume, avoid adding sugary mixers to spirits, which increase calories, cortisol and belly fat, she adds.


The older you get, the more likely you are to be treating other health conditions with prescription medications, which may be affected if you’re taking them while drinking. Dr. Francis recommends avoiding alcohol when taking the following medications, as alcohol can increase the severity of the drugs’ side effects, lessen their benefits, worsen an existing issue or trigger other harmful conditions: antihistamines; benzodiazepines (for anxiety); cimetidine and other stomach-acid-blocking drugs; ketoconazole (used to treat fungal skin infections); Coumadin and other blood thinners; steroids; and nicotine.

Over-the-counter pain relievers can also be problematic. While aspirin can cause gastric bleeding, it’s a better option than acetaminophen (Tylenol), says Dr. Murray, which, like alcohol, can increase the generation of a toxic metabolite called CYP2E1 that causes cell and tissue damage to the liver.


Obviously, the best way to mitigate the effects of alcohol is to not drink it in the first place, but for most people, that’s not an attractive option.

“After that, the next most effective cure is limiting the amount you consume and staying hydrated when you drink,” says Dr. Murray. Depending on your weight, you metabolize about one drink per hour. Because alcohol distributes to the water in our bodies, it’s also important to stay hydrated, especially as you clock the years. Dr. Murray’s cocktail party trick is to alternate drinks with a non-alcoholic beverage, like club soda with lime, juice or water.

And don’t try and “save” calories by not eating before cocktail hour. “Drinking on an empty stomach is just asking for a hangover because the alcohol gets into your body faster,” says Dr. Murray.


Gym-goers will be happy to know that your fitness level at any age is directly related to how you metabolize alcohol, explains Dr. Francis. When you’re in shape, you increase the circulation of blood, nutrients and toxins through the liver and kidneys. The more aerobic the exercise, the more blood that’s pumped through your system and the more your body is able to counter the effects of drinking and rebound the next day.

Meanwhile, maintaining lean muscle mass, through Pilates or other strength-training regimens, helps “soak up” alcohol and prevents it from hitting your bloodstream too quickly. Fit people can definitely deal with the side effects of alcohol better as they age, adds Dr. Murray.


A healthy diet is equally important. “Someone who is nutritionally starved or eats an un-enriched diet with few vitamins would feel the effects of alcohol more greatly,” Dr. Murray points out.

“As we age, we are also exposed to a greater amount of toxins, which leads to fewer enzymes being available for detoxification and affects the way our body detoxes alcohol,” adds Dr. Francis. However, healthy eating can help your body handle the toxins that come from moderate drinking. She recommends a balanced (and preferably organic) diet that includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean protein and eight to 10 glasses of water or herbal tea a day. Powerhouse foods such as broccoli, cabbage, artichokes, dark leafy greens, carrots, garlic and onions, along with spices like turmeric, rosemary, basil and cilantro will give the liver and kidneys the optimal nutrition.

Other treatments and supplements can mitigate the impact of alcohol, says Dr. Francis. She recommends acupuncture focused on liver and kidney balance, massage to support detoxification through the lymphatic system and taking steam or sauna sessions to help detox other chemicals, leaving more liver enzymes for alcohol detox. Supplements and herbs that support a healthy liver include: B-complex; milk thistle; dandelion; artichoke; burdock; turmeric (curcumin); omega-3-rich oils (flaxseed, for example); glutathione; and CoQ10.


Jennifer, a 52-year-old writer, took a month off from her nightly wine-with-dinner ritual after she began to experience fogginess, problems concentrating and fatigue. Soon afterward, she noticed a radical change in her productivity, memory and energy levels. “I sleep better, wake up early and refreshed, and stay productive and creative all day,” she says. “I don’t miss the wine, but I love how I feel. I have a natural buzz all day long!” 

Houston: The Rankest City

October 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

rank_scrollby Lynn Ashby

Our Number 1 is up

We all know that Houston is home to the world’s largest medical center by any measure—doctors, patients, square footage. Indeed, people come from the world over to die in Houston. We are first in having a domed stadium and “Houston” was the first word from the moon. (That’s up to dispute, but it’s our story and we’re sticking with it.) Yet, how do we measure up in seizures of illegal ivory? When you’re trying to recruit a Nobel Prize laureate to work the overnight shift at Wendy’s, you need to know how we rank among the snobbiest cities. When your prospective spouse’s father asks, “So you want to get married and move to Houston? How does that city rank in foreign consulates?” Smile that sneaky smile of yours and reply: “There are 92 countries’ consular offices in Houston; third highest in the nation.”

So let’s see where the Bayou City ranks in everything from receiving refugees to obesity.

More people moved to Houston last year than to any other American city except for New York. This year, local employers are on the path to add up to 90,000 new jobs. Houston alone authorized more building permits than the entire state of California in the first three months of 2014. The Wall Street Journal reported that the George Bush Intercontinental Airport & Muffler Repair Shop, based on average cost per mile traveled, is the tenth-most-expensive airport to fly from in the U.S. The National Complete Streets Coalition ranks Houston as the seventh-most dangerous city in the nation. But CQ Press, whatever that is, ranks Houston as the tenth-most crime-ridden city with a population of more than 500,000. Least crime? El Paso. (Texas is the tenth-most dangerous state.) Oh, here it is: “CQ Press, a division of SAGE Publications, publishes books, directories, periodicals, and electronic products on American government and politics.” Maybe we should steal its crime stats.

The city really crowed when Forbes ranked Houston as Number 1—the coolest city in America in 2012. At the time, the magazine said that Houston “boasts a variety of skills and occupations. From medical professionals and engineers to production managers and accountants, Houston’s labor force fills 2.7 million jobs and counting. In fact, Houston has more jobs than Maryland, Arizona, or Colorado.” Alas for 2014, Forbes ranked Washington DC as the coolest city in America. We slipped to Number 4. Odd. We must need more accountants. A Manhattan Institute study, by demographer Robert Scardamalia and author Tom Gray, compared the performance of the country’s 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas from 2009 to 2012, based on gross domestic product, personal income and job creation. Houston, The Woodlands and Sugar Land ranked fourth.

In the 2014 U.S. News & World Report rankings of the best colleges, Rice ranked 18, UT-Austin, 52, Texas A&M, 69, Baylor, 75, and UH tied with 11 other schools at 190. Meanwhile, according to the 2014 edition of Princeton Review’s “The Best 378 Colleges,” Rice University is Number 1 in “Best Quality of Student Life,” Number 2 in “Happiest Students” and Number 5 in “Great Financial Aid.” However, in the really important category of “Best Football Team,” the Owls beat out only UT-Austin and a barber’s college in Buffalo.


Ranking Number 1 among America’s CEOs in income for 2013: Our own Anthony Petrello of Nabors Industries, a drilling contracting company. Petrello had an income of $68.2 million, an increase of 246 percent from the previous year. Nabors is a Houston company but is officially based in Bermuda—something about taxes. The rest of us get to make up the difference. Travel + Leisure listed its “20 Snobbiest Cities in America,” and Dallas is nowhere to be found. Austin and Houston, however, both made the count. Austin came in at Number 19 for possessing a “brainy, offbeat vibe” that echoes through the whole town. Houston came in at Number 17, thanks to “a combination of a rich arts tradition and luxury shopping.” To no one’s surprise, especially snobs, San Francisco, New York City and Boston took the top three slots. Among the nation’s “20 Most Congested Cities in the U.S.,” Houston ranks ninth, according to a study by the makers of Breathe Right Nasal Strips and Sperling’s BestPlaces.

Galveston Bay is the second-most-productive estuary in the U.S. for seafood. Pass it on.

Brand Keys, a marketing company, polled fans to see: how exciting a team is during competition; how well they play as a team; how well respected and admired the players are; and the extent to which the game and the team are part of a fans’ and community’s rituals, institutions and beliefs. Which baseball teams have the most loyal fans? The St. Louis Cardinals’ fans finished first. At the very bottom, at Number 30, were the Houston Lastros, same as last year. For the third time, the Nielsen ratings registered a 0.0 for an Astros game. Any city having the worst team in major league baseball the same year it also has the worst NFL team may, in itself, make us Number 1 in misery.

Give us your poor, your tired, your chefs and baseball players. Some 75,000 refugees have arrived in Houston in the last 35 years. Houston has been the Number 1 city for refugees in the past two years. Texas is also Numero Uno in receiving refugees for the past two years. Numero Tres: The city has the third-largest Hispanic and third-largest Mexican population in the U.S.

Men’s Fitness magazine named Houston “America’s Fattest City.” It wrote that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a whopping 34 percent of our town’s residents are overweight. In previous surveys, the magazine claimed Houston was on the upswing in the weight-loss department, but there’s evidently been a bit of a regression since it last checked in. “It could be the heat. Houston typically suffers through a hundred or more days each year with temperatures in excess of 90 degrees, combined with relative humidity that rivals Manila’s. The city’s average commute—27.5 minutes, primarily by car since Houston lacks a comprehensive mass-transit system—also plays a major role in keeping Houstonians seated and sedentary.”

Houston ranked Number 15 on a list of the country’s top 30 metro areas based on the amount of office and retail space jointly developed in “Walkable Urban Places,” or “WalkUPs,” according to a national study on walkability and urbanism. The report also examined development patterns and other factors to predict how walkable these metros are likely to become. Houston ranked Number 13 among the 30 metros on that list. After seven straight years as U.S. News & World Report’s Number 1–ranked hospital for cancer care, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has fallen to Number 2. It dropped behind Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, its New York City rival, in the magazine’s annual “Best Hospitals” survey. The two have fought for the top spot since the survey’s inception in 1990.

But enough of these minor points, how does Houston rank overall as a city? That depends upon whom you ask. Bloomberg’s Best Cities ranks Houston Number 30. San Antonio comes in at 22, Dallas at 11. The Milkin Institute’s list of “Best Performing Cities” ranks Houston 4, Austin 1. Just remember, Milkin was a convicted felon. Houston was named the “Top U.S. Destination City,” the “Top U.S. Metro” by Site Selection magazine, also the “Top U.S. Manufacturing
City” and the
“Best City for Your Career.” Forbes’ annual survey of America’s fastest-growing cities put three of the Texas cities ranking in the top 10: Austin (Number 1), Dallas (Number 4) and Houston (Number 10). Forbes still loves us. Last September, the magazine said Houston was “America’s next great global city.”


Here are a few stats to drop at your next destruction derby:

Number 4: Houston is the fourth-most-populous city in the nation (trailing only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) and is the largest in the southern U.S. and Texas.

Number 30: If Houston were an independent nation, it would rank as the world’s thirtieth-largest economy.

Number 1 (again): Houstonians eat out more than residents of any other city. We have more than 11,000 restaurants. Maybe that explains our “Fattest City” crown. Where is Marvin Zindler when we need him?

Number 2: Houston has a theater district second only to New York City with its concentration of seats in one geographic area. The 17-block Theater District is home to eight performing arts organizations with more than 12,000 seats. This is one of five U.S. cities that offer year-round resident companies in all major performing arts, and the city has 69 topless bars, which puts it at or near the top.

Number 1: Houston is home to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The world’s largest livestock show and rodeo attracts more than 2.2 million visitors each year.

Number a Few Billion: The Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown Gross Area Product (GAP) in 2006 was $325.5 billion, slightly larger than Austria’s, Poland’s or Saudi Arabia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While we’re at it, when comparing Houston’s economy to a national economy, only 21 countries other than the U.S. have a gross domestic product exceeding Houston’s regional gross area product.

Number 23: The number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Houston. Only New York City is home to more. The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. It is the tenth-largest port in the world. The Port handled 220 million short tons of domestic and foreign cargo in 2010. The Port also ranks Number 1 in the nation in seizures of illegal ivory. However, former Rocket Yao Ming was the star of a film in China warning against buying ivory and poaching elephants. According to the Children At Risk organization and the Education Resource Group, in 2014, the DeBakey High School for Health Professions is the top public high school in the greater Houston area. T.H. Rogers Elementary and T.H. Rogers Middle School topped the list for both elementary and middle schools.

Okay, my fellow swamp rats, there we have it. By virtually every yardstick, we are living in a place at a time when everything is booming, good and bad. I didn’t go into how we rank in dirty air, West Loop traffic and August afternoons. So let’s look on the bright side of life, as they sing in “The Life of Bryan.” Everyone is making money, living longer, getting happier. And remember, at Minute Maid Park you are never more than a half-inning from major league baseball. H

Sources: The U.S. Census, Houston Chronicle (which ranks Number 1 as the largest circulation newspaper in the nation never to have won a Pulitzer, but they hired one), Houston Facts, Google and statistics that magically appeared on my computer screen.


October 27, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

FROM: The Hon. Gov. Rick Perry
TO: Any Texan or Wannabe Texan
Do you have an idea for a new business? Do you wish to expand your current business? Bring a business to Texas? Or would you just like lots and lots of money? Then you, fellow Texan or potential Texan, have come to the right place: the Texas Enterprise Fund or TEF. It will dole out hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars to anyone who needs a fresh investment to keep the Texas economy rolling. Let me give you a few simple examples. Your business is going broke because you thought disco would rebound or that Jeff Skilling would make you a killing. Maybe your investment in that emu farm didn’t play out. Anybody can make a mistake, as I was telling my debate coach.
Or rather than expand, you want to start your own business because you are tired of working for 40 years as a taxidermist’s apprentice. You want to go to medical school and become a neurosurgeon. Sixty isn’t too old to begin again. You need a $1.2-million student loan to get that degree and hire a secretary. More jobs for Texans! Both UT-Austin and Texas A&M may need new head football coaches. Can you do coachspeak? “We’re cautiously optimistic.” “We take them one game at a time.” Open a tomato farm and advertise: “Hand-Picked Tomatoes!” Then hire 300 workers (ages 10 to 14) to spend August afternoons picking your tomatoes for 50 cents an hour. The pickers can be found at any Border Patrol warehouse. Actually, most of them are long gone, even though they promised to show up for their court appearance.
If you don’t care how the TEF operates, good. But if you’re like the nosey press and want to learn more, back in 2003 the Legislature created a half-billion dollar fund to help expand businesses and attract new jobs and investment to the state. (Incidentally, if this helps further anyone’s political career, so be it.) The fund was re-appropriated in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. The money was to be handed out by the governor, the lite gov and the speaker of the house. But the TEF seems to have a subsidiary for select companies, called State Licensed Under-Served Humans or SLUSH. An independent investigation by the State Auditor found that half the total — $222 million — had been awarded to companies and schools that never submitted a formal application or agreed to create a specific numbers of jobs.
Loren Steffy, a former business columnist for the Houston Chronicle, noted that two of the biggest disbursals went to public universities – UT and A&M — which in turn funneled the funds to companies that already operated in Texas — Lexicon Pharmaceuticals and Texas Instruments. Citgo received $5 million and cut 103 jobs. Fortunately, Citgo hadn’t applied for the money. The list goes on and on. The semiconductor company Sematech, received $40 million then, after spending the incentive money, moved to New York. Toyota got $40 million to help install a major plant in Texas. Later, the company said it was coming here anyway – but kept the money. Lexicon Genetic was given $35 million to create 125 jobs, that’s $21,658 per job. New jobs so far? Zero.
The independent auditor’s 107-page report also discovered since 2003 some 23 projects awarded nearly $37 million from the fund were terminated or remain inactive, including a $4 million award to Lockheed Martin Corp., which was required to create 550 new jobs. Only 245 were created, then TEF apparently gave up trying to get its money back. Many of the files under jobs created list “N/A” – not available. So we may never know how many jobs were created, if any. Texas recovered $19.2 million from those failed projects. The auditors, however, concluded the state should have been repaid another $3.8 million. Looking at the big picture, while grant recipients were required to create more than 66,000 jobs in 2013, the auditor’s report found grant recipients created 18,000 fewer jobs than they were supposed to.
Also, the auditors said millions had been handed out without oversight, little regard to the rules – reports, transparency, etc. – and little effort has been made to get money back from those recipients which had failed in their plans and promises. Another interesting point. Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that many of the TEF records could be kept secret. (He denies this.) Would it surprise you to know that Abbott, the governor-in-waiting, has received at least $1.4 million in campaign contributions from investors and officers of businesses that got millions from the TEF? He’ll still win. This whole operation has raised so many, many question that six U.S. Congress members, all Democrats of course, have asked for a criminal investigation into this boondoggle.
The audit doesn’t even get into the scandal-plagued Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas which we taxpayers have funded with $3 billion – yes, BILLION. At that same time, M.D. Anderson hired two Harvard officials who promptly spent between $550,000 and $2 million on their Houston offices, and included items such as a $7,755 Knoll sofa and a $5,000 lounge chair. The Ivies referred to their new Texas colleagues as “these losers.”
OK, there have been a few hiccups, but the TEF is also a start-up, which gets back to your chance to cash in. Bring slightly used anti-Ebola haz-mat suits to Dallas. Pecos needs a ballet school and auditorium. Some of you out-of-staters might want to come here and set up a political consulting firm to handle — oh, I don’t know — maybe a presidential campaign since Karl Rove sure struck out last time. So get your plans together and apply to TEF. Actually, you don’t even need to apply. I’ve gone through $505 million and most of the jobs were created by adding state employees to hand out that money. If it’s good enough for Toyota it’s good enough for you.

Ashby wants his share at ashby2@comcast.

Flying Saucer’s BeerFeast – November 1st

October 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Bars & Nightlife, Events, Foodie Events


Sugar Land Flying Saucer’s 3rd annual BeerFeast will feature over 40 breweries and 60 craft beers, all carefully selected by Flying Saucer’s resident beer gurus. In addition, very rare and limited-release beers will be tapped one at time throughout the fest. Once again a variety of Sugar Land Town Square restaurants will have food available for sale during the festival.

Tickets are $35, and can be purchased here or at the Saucer beginning at 10am CDT, Wednesday, July 16th . The day of the fest, tickets will be $45 at the door if still available. Ticket purchase includes admission to the festival, a tasting card that is good for choice of 12 samples of any of the 60 festival beers, and a 2014 commemorative BeerFeast tasting glass. There are also designated driver tickets available for $15, which includes admission to the festival and complimentary soft drinks. Additional taster cards will be available for purchase by all VIP and general admission ticket holders on the day of the festival for just $3.

In addition to general admission tickets, again this year a very limited number of VIP tickets will be available for purchase. They are expected to sell out quickly and will only be available for sale online only prior to the festival for $65. In addition to the taster glass and sampling session, VIP ticket purchase includes early admission to the festival at noon, food vouchers redeemable at any of the festival food vendors, a 2014 BeerFeast T-shirt and a BeerFeast Brew Caddy. Additionally, all VIP ticket holders will have access to the rare brew tapping VIP only line.

BeerFeast is a 21-and-up-only event and all guests must purchase a ticket to attend.
Purchase VIP Tickets Here!

For more information, call 281-242-7468. Or, click the link to visit our website.


October 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE COACH — As the train knifes through the night like a silver snake, there are sounds of a struggle, a scream, a shot. Could it be the end of the countess who’s to deliver the microfilm? The famous diamond smuggler, Jan van der Karat, in a million-dollar gem deal gone wrong? Maybe the drug lord, Carlos Carlos, was finally tracked down by his competitors. All right, it’s none of the above. But this is still a train that I’m on as it knifes through night snake-like. Specifically it is Train No. 68 going from Montreal to Manhattan, and I will give you a few tips on how to make the trip fun, interesting and safe – as long as you turn over the microfilm.
Let’s start last spring, when my wife said we should view the autumn leaves turning. Texas has some things turning, mainly the Houston Turning Basin. Don’t you love the smell of napalm in the morning? No, to fully view the maples and oaks and other trees (I speak fluent horticulture) one must go north, way up north. So we began at Montreal, visited a few days, then came to the train station, the Gare Centrale, with tickets in hand. Purchase your tickets ahead of time, $113.90 for two, coach (this train only has coach), and get in a looong line. The train is Amtrak even though we are in Canada. It’s Southwest Airlines on the tundra, and there is no reserved seating, so arrive early. Amtrak really ought to get its act together on its departure program and avoid all this standing around.
To view the leaves, I was told to sit on the left side of the car. Apparently even among forests there is the wrong side of the tracks. We sit in the only seats left — the right side. Promptly at 9:30 a.m. the locomotive begins pulling out of the station. I reach to fasten my seatbelt only to remember there isn’t one nor, while still in the terminal, did some over-zealous TSA agent give me a body search. I offered to disrobe and be searched, but she refused. Looking out the window, I remember that trains always go through the ugliest parts of towns, so I get a good view of warehouses, undersides of freeways, junk yards and dumps. Then the scenery turns better, with farms and country roads and small villages. Soon we are rumbling through a tunnel of timber, really pretty.
After a few hours we grind to a stop, and the doorway is filled with this monstrous black-clad, burr-cut Christmas tree sporting a gun, handcuffs, black pockets with bulges, bloused black trousers stuck into shiny black paratrooper boots, a walking armory. Welcome to the United States! It is a though the Statue of Liberty is holding an Uzi aloft. Give me your photo ID, your hidden weapons, your huddled masses yearning to sneak in undetected. He has the letters CBP stitched on the back of his uniform, which stands for Cautious Big Person or maybe Catcher of Bad People. I figure he moonlights as a Brinks armored car.
After ordering us to keep our seats, he slowly moves from passenger to passenger, checking the forms we had filled out earlier, asking questions: “Where are you going?” “New York City.” “Why were you in Montreal?” “Trying to drink Canada dry.” “Is that a joke?” “No, sir. Please don’t beat me.” Should I tell him about the countess with the microfilm? I fully expect him to hiss, “Your papers are not een audur.” Actually, he is quite nice, in an intimidating sort of way. Two Chinese students fail to have the correct papers and are sent to the dining car to be thoroughly integrated and probably water-boarded. It takes an hour to determine who looks Arabic. Couldn’t the CBP (Chasing Bewildered Passengers) troopers board the train some miles back and go through their inquiries while we move along? This is many Canadians’ introduction to their southern not-so-neighborly neighbors.
Now comes a most important point: bring your food and liquor (they serve beer). The trip lasts 11 hours, and the “dining car” is a counter with one overworked waiter/cashier. He serves perhaps the worst hotdogs I have ever eaten. Pre-packaged pizza, hamburgers, all in and out of two microwave ovens and absolutely awful. Those of you who used to take trains remember the dining car as a happy place with tables and chairs, white table clothes and napkins, china, silverware and a kindly waiter who took your drink order and then brought out whatever delight you ordered. I blame Obama and the press.
We make a few stops at small stations – at one, six Amish farmers are gathered to visit, but ignore newfangled gadgets like railroads. Actually, few people get on or off, then on through the leaves. An announcement comes over the address system saying that in Car 12 or whatever a tour guide will tell us what we’re seeing. I attend and find about a dozen passengers listening to a volunteer from the National Park Service who tells us the Revolutionary War battles fought around here, the Green Mountain Boys, and Benedict Arnold’s escape on a British warship called, ironically, the Vulture.
Night falls, and the train glides along the Hudson, the moon reflecting on the water. We stop at Albany, where some get out for a smoke break, only yuppies. Schenectady (a rustbelt town absolutely), and we hear that mournful train whistle. We’ve all heard that beautiful sound a lot, but when it’s your train, well, that’s special. We arrive in NYC at 8:30 p.m., right on time. No waiting an hour for our bags to come down the carousel. Trains beat planes every time if you’re not going too far, and bring your own dinner. Just watch out for the countess with the microfilm being chased through the night like a silver snake by men in black.

Ashby is railroaded at ashby2@comcast.net

K9s4COPs 4th Annual “Unleashed” Fundraising Event

October 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Events

k9copsTheme: Unleash Your Inner 80s Rockstar

Attire: 80s costumes are encouraged!

Date: October 28, 2014

Time: 6pm

Location: Hughes Hangar
2811 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007

Event Chairs: Kristi K Schiller & Jenna Jackson

Entertainment: The Spazmatics!

Tickets: $150 each
Can be purchased online or at the door
Direct link: https://k94cops.z2systems.com/np/clients/k94cops/product.jsp?product=1&

Special events: Custom leashes and collars designed by artists and celebrities will be auctioned off

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Please contact info@K9s4COPs.org.

The Best Damn Food Truck Festival – November 15th

October 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Entertainment, Events, Foodie Events

food truck

When: November 15, 2014
Location: 1902 Washington Ave.
Times: 2pm 8pm
Website: www.thebestfoodtruckfest.com

Live music, craft beer, and over 20 food trucks to choose from!

The ICE on Discovery Green, November 25th – February 8th!

Image courtesy of Discovery Green

Image courtesy of Discovery Green

The ICE at Discovery Green uses recycled water from Kinder Lake to create a 7,716 square-foot ice skating surface, making it the largest outdoor skating rink in the Southwest.The rink will return for another exciting winter season on Tuesday, November 25, 2014!

Last season, The ICE hosted a variety of Winter programming and amenities for skaters and spectators including outdoor movies, skating with Santa, live music and DJs, ice carvings, art installations, snack shop serving hot cocoa and Belgian waffles, and a special, toddler-friendly rink. Stay tuned for ICE events in winter 2014! Ice Skating at Discovery Green is a ticketed event.

ICE Rink Admission

  • $13 includes skate rental and tax. Skating time limited to 1.5 hours all school holidays and weekends. A portion of tickets sales goes to support Discovery Green Conservancy’s free year-round programming. Tickets are available for purchase in-person at the ICE.

Make a donation of $50 to Discovery Green Conservancy and get a free ticket to the ICE, redeemable Monday through Thursday. To donate, please visit discoverygreen.com/donate.

Bringing a group? The ICE is perfect for church groups, daycare and school field trips, scout outings, birthdays, and company parties. Advance reservations are required. To submit your group reservation, click here.  For more information about group sales, please contactdiscoverygreen@icerinkevents.com.

Learn a lifetime sport!
One-on-one instruction is available. Advance reservations are required. To reserve a private lesson, click here.

To learn more about the ICE, click here.

Ice Rink Events

Ice Rink Events, a Houston-based designer, manufacturer, installer, and operator of ice rinks around the globe, transforms Kinder Lake’s model boat basin into a holiday skating destination each winter season at the park. The expanded rink uses equipment that runs on renewable energy and even the ice rink border is made from recycled plastic materials.


October 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE CAFÉ – Ah, yes, a little French music, French soup, croissants, and I can’t understand a word the yuppies at the next table are saying. Is this Paris? No. Louisiana? Not exactly. This is Olive + Gourmando on the corner of some street names I can’t pronounce. This is Montréal, which most Americans also mispronounce. We say mon-tree-ALL. The name comes from that big hill over there, the royal mountain, or mont-ree-ALL, as in Texas’ royal road, Camino ree-ALL. Why are we here? To enjoy the fall foliage, and you can, too, if you hurry. All the leaves are changing from green to red. The Canadian flag has a big maple leaf on it, and the leaf is now red, as well.
A quick tour of this city, which is quite nice – sort of New Orleans’ French Quarter without all the vomit left by last night’s drunk tourists – and it should be on your bucket list. The main attraction is the food, and it is delicious. One of my sons says Mont-ree-ALL has the best food in North America. This café, Olive + Gourmando, for instance, is supposed to have wonderful croissants. I order two. They are sold out of them and it’s only 11 a.m. It seems the bakers get up at 3 a.m., start baking, and lines form to buy out the place shortly after opening. I order some to be held tomorrow. Elsewhere up and down the street there are cafes and restaurants and wine shops almost shoulder to shoulder. Even the Montréal Casino has a great restaurant on top, with a splendid view of the skyline.
The next time you come here, make reservations ahead for Restaurant Lemeac, a short distance from Old Montréal. Order the smoked salmon. Then there is L’express, very crowded and very French. One day my wife and I took a long walk around town and needed a good lunch. We found a very un-French café with no atmosphere, but we were desperate. Wonderful salad and everything goes well with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Between meals, check out some really interesting places, like the Museum of History of Montreal which is currently featuring “Scandale!” — the sordid history of this city from 1940 to the 1960s when it was sort of Chicago North. Some of the biggest criminals were the police and politicians. (A new report said a recent mayor’s administration was corrupt.) Also, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, absolutely beautiful.
Canada almost became part of the U.S. with Benjamin Franklin leading the charge.
Franklin and others thought it was logical the French-Canadians would like to throw off the British grip, and he came to Montréal to make his case. During the American Revolution, the Continental Army invaded and captured the city, but the locals didn’t like that, and after seven months the Americans left. John Wilkes Booth spent some time in Montréal, and reportedly once drunkenly gallivanted throughout the city telling anyone who would listen of his plan to kill Lincoln. After the Civil War, Confederate President Jefferson Davis stayed at a manor house here.
Despite the French Quebecers refusal to become our northern state, since then there have been tensions between them and the Anglos here. During WWII Mayor Camillien Houde protested against army daft conscription, and was put in a prison camp from 1940 until 1944. Even so, at that time Montréal bank vaults were used as the secret hiding place for the gold bullion of the Bank of England and the British Crown Jewels. The face of QE II still smiles from Canadian currency.

After centuries of Montréal being the largest and most important city in Canada, in the 1980s and 90s the Quebec separatists began a drive to leave the nation and make Quebec an independent country. So worried were the Anglos that large banks, businesses and others fled. Between 300,000 and 400,000 Anglos left Quebec, many for Toronto, which is now Canada’s largest and most important city. Maybe the Quebecers should stop pretending they’re French. I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth repeating. Once, when flying back from Paris to Houston, our plane went right over Montréal. I turned to a Frenchman sitting next to me and said, “Do you know that Montréal is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world?”
He nodded and replied, “Yes, and isn’t it a shame.”
A few things we should know about our neighbor to the north: We are each other’s Number 1 trading partners. The 1976 Olympics were held here, and they put Montréal on the map. However, expenses put the city $1 billion into debt. From 1969 to 2004 there were the Montréal Expos major league baseball team. Today they are the Washington Nationals. Montréal is currently the largest North American city without a baseball franchise. Alexander Graham Bell, Rachel Roberts, Barenaked Ladies (apparently a most interesting hockey team), Jim Carey, Michael J. Fox, Celine Dion and Justin Bieber are from Canada. So are/were Art Linkletter, Keanu Reeves and Alex Trebek. Except for the French Quebecers, the Canadians speak a form of English, but they say things like “aboot” and “shed-yule” and they go “on holiday.”
Speaking of holidays, the province of Quebec, which includes Montréal, has a unique event: Moving Day. It began when the province mandated fixed terms for leases of rental properties, and falls on July 1, which is also Canada Day. Today the vast majority of leases are still a year long, and in 2004, approximately 120,000 households moved on or around July 1, about 4 percent of the population. Don’t come here then.
So this young man is applying for a job. The prospective employer says, “Sorry for keeping you waiting but I was just on the phone to Canada.” The young man says, “Canada? All they have are loose women and hockey players.” The maybe-boss replies, “I’ll have you know my wife is from Canada.” “Oh? And what team did she play for?”

Ashby is aboot at ashby2@comcast.net

The Houston Challenge Scavenger Hunt

October 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Events

Photo courtesy of The Houston Challenge 2014

Photo courtesy of The Houston Challenge 2014

Date: Sunday, October 19, 2014
Time: 2pm
Location: Begins and ends at Celtic Gardens, 2300 Louisiana Houston, TX 77006
Registration: $55 full price registration; $35 early bird registration until September 12, 2014. Discounted $25 registration is available for a limited time.

Grab a friend and don your most creative team costumes for a wild Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt through the streets of Houston. Teams of two or more will solve some tricky puzzles, figure out the best route and dash through H-town for their chance at hundreds of dollars in cash and prizes. After the race, enjoy some refreshments at the afterparty at Celtic Gardens. There’ll be food and drink specials for purchase, music and the always-entertaining costume contest. All race participants will also receive a T-shirt.


Houston: America’s New Sweetheart City

October 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

From the Houston Convention and Visitor’s Burea

For the first time ever this year, Houston ranked among the top five places in the nation on Travel + Leisure’s list of America’s Favorite Cities-one of the most-watched lists among destinations and a barometer of what’s top-of-mind among traveling Americans. Museum experience

As a destination, Houston has tremendous strides in recent years, with a robust arts and culture scene and ever-expanding culinary landscape. Now, the city has ranked No. 2 on the T+L list, which tallies more than 50,000 votes from readers and ranks 38 cities in dozens of categories. Houston scored among the top five for the first time in categories such as arts scene, theater, stylishness, shopping and more.

“We could not be more excited about this ranking, which we see as further proof that Houston’s story is being told and the city recognized as a destination on the national and international stages,” says Sonia Garza-Monarchi, board chair of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “To be named a top U.S. city by the readers of one of the world’s most respected travel publications honors the work our team does on a daily basis to promote the city to conventions and tourists. That said, the real credit goes to the individual businesses and organizations in all of these sectors-from restaurants and museums to art galleries and hotels-that provide an amazing experience to those who come to our city.”

Indeed, Houston ranked high in a number of key areas, often well above where the city fell on last year’s list:

Top City Overall: 2

Galleries: 2 – 12 in 2013
Museums: 3 – 12 in 2013
Theater: 3 – 18 in 2013
Free Attractions: 4 – 26 in 2013
Art Scene: 5
Concerts: 5 – 26 in 2013

Home Décor/Design Stores: 1
Boutiques: 1 – 18 in 2013
Specialty Food Markets/Food Halls: 1
Bookstores: 2
Antiques Stores: 3 – 9 in 2013
Flea Markets: 3 – 19 in 2013
Luxury Stores: 3 – 29 in 2013

Intelligent: 2 – 20 in 2013
Stylish: 4 – 26 in 2013
Affordability: 5 – 5 in 2013
Wine Bars: 1
Cocktail Bars: 2
Singles Scene: 2

Hamburgers: 1 – 4 in 2013
Brunch: 1
Bakeries: 2
Wine Scene: 3
Barbecue: 4 – 5 in 2013
Sandwiches: 4 – 21 in 2013
Bars: 4
Coffee: 5 – 26 in 2013
Craft Beer: 5 – 22 in 2013

Visitors to the Houston region spent more than $16 billion in 2013, up from $15.5 billion the year before, according to the latest figures from the Texas Office of Economic Development and Tourism. The travel and tourism industry also supported more than 128,000 jobs in 2013, a 4.5 percent increase over 2012, the report shows.The data covers the 10-county Houston region.

Meanwhile, more than $1.5 billion in infrastructure investment is coming to the Downtown area alone in the next two years. Eight new hotels are planned, including the city’s second convention center hotel, a 1000-room Marriott Marquis. Other major changes are also planned for the George R. Brown Convention Center and the convention district, including a new pedestrian promenade, ground-level retail and restaurants and more.



October 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Dear neighbors,
Some of you have been asking your board of directors about our new Running Rats Acres Police Department or RRAPD, the occasional M1Abrams tanks you see on our streets, and I’ll get to the drones in a minute. You have asked, “I didn’t even know we had a police department although we could sure use one. How can anyone steal a vacant lot? When and how did this happen?” A few weeks ago your Homeowners Association received a letter from the Pentagon’s Department of Defense Excess Property Program (DODEPP) asking if our police needed any excess military equipment now that all the world is at peace and our armed forces no longer need most of their weapons.
I, of course, replied that we didn’t have a police force, but that we did have Constable Bill “Truncheon” Jones who patrols our neighborhood when he’s sober. The feds said that was no problem, just form a force. So Billy Bob Mesquite and John John O’John put together one. They were joined by Buddy Mildew who said he had military experience because he spent two years in the Army at Fort Hood sorting socks and expects us to provide him with health care for the rest of his life. The RRAPD didn’t have a real police station so they used Mesquite’s garage which was empty after his SUV Ford Intimidator was repossessed and his ’68 Dodge pickup is up on blocks in his front yard. The folks at DODEPP said that would do until an excess concrete bunker from the Korean DMZ arrives.
A few days later we got two armed Humvees along with 240 land mines that had been confiscated from the Texas Militia down on the border. The militiamen had planned to sew the mines along the banks of the Rio “to prevent an invasion of Patagonian peons.” Unfortunately, the militiamen forgot where the mines were buried and, after a night march, the survivors turned over the remaining mines to the feds. We also received 45 silencers for M16 assault rifles. We wrote back that we didn’t have any assault rifles. You won’t believe what we got next, or maybe you will.
Some of you may be wondering, what with our federal government trillions of dollars in debt, how it could give away free all this expensive equipment. As the name suggests, what we and others are getting is excess property, some of it even a year or two old. We don’t want our brave fighters using antiquated weapons against ISIS. Besides, those camel jockeys captured most of what we left. The RRAPD is not alone. The East Texas village of Kountze, with six officers, received eight fully automatic rifles, 30 bayonets – yes, bayonets — and two Humvees. The Houston PD has received more than 12,000 pieces of equipment in the last four years; 22 percent of it is safety equipment. The other 78 percent isn’t. More than 8,000 agencies across the country have enrolled in the program, receiving more than $5.1 billion worth of property since its inception in the 1990s.
We were asked how many men we had on our SWAT team and what equipment they needed. I responded that we didn’t have a SWAT team, but we used a lot of Off. Capt. Andy “Mad Dog” Randy of the DODEPP’s Appearance Is Everything Commission wrote, “SWAT teams look very mean and tough in their black uniforms and masks, sort of Darth Vader in a Wal-Mart parking lot. They have been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units.” According to press reports, it seems this program has had problems. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.” (I’m not kidding.)
A popular request is for a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle (MRAP), which weighs 14 to 18 tons, is 9 feet tall and costs up to $800,000 each. MRAPs were built to withstand high explosive land mines and hidden roadside bombs. They are also excellent for enforcing handicap parking spot violations and recalcitrant double parkers. Grenade launchers are also very popular, even with campus police. Speaking of which, the UT-System has not only received an MRAP, but also M16s, two Humvees and rifle sights. “Remember Charles Whitman,” UT explained.
As for our own equipment, it is all free except we must pay shipping costs. (The tab for that bunker from the DMZ may be pretty steep.) About the incident in which Bunny Gromett was sunbathing nude in her back yard when a drone from the neighboring Swamp Hollow Village PD hovered overhead for 20 minutes. Most of us feel her husband, Black Jack Gromett, was more than justified in using his DODEPP-issued M 89 anti-aircraft missile. Great shot, Black Jack.
We. too, have drones, but are not sure how to use them. Actually, many problems associated with this equipment are because much of it arrived without instructors or even an owner’s manual. That explains why we couldn’t find a way to attach a bayonet to our howitzer, and why we keep pointing the bazooka the wrong way. Really, both ends look the same. (Sorry about your barber shop, Cosmo.) Many local police departments are receiving helicopters, so we asked for one, and got one. It’s great for drying out the golf course, and avoiding rush hour traffic to Wendy’s. One more point: RRAPD just received a letter from DODEPP about the MRAP, wanting to know “why the SWAT driver was DWI when it went into BB (Buffalo Bayou).” It added something about YPAAI! We’re having it decoded, but it seems to be a military acronym for You People Are Absolute Idiots! Finally, RRAPD is seeking volunteers to operate our newly arrived XT-456 Dragon Flame-Throwing Backpack. Bring your own bandages.

Ashby is reloading at ashby2@comcast.net

Halloween in Houston

October 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Holiday, Parents' Place

8th Annual Montrose Crawl

Halloween Background

Where: Montrose
When: October 31st
Times: 7pm – 2am

First get your costume on, then get your drink on as the Crawl hits 12 restaurants and bars between Dunlavy & Montrose on Westheimer, including Brasil,Poison Girl, Pistolero’s, Boondocks, Stone’s Throw, Etro Lounge, Catbirds, Royal Oak, Doc’s Motorworks, Slick Willie’s, El Real Tex-Mex, and Hay Merchant, with special appearances by Koagie Hots and The Golden Grill.

As always, there’ll be no covers & no tickets, plus drink specials all night long.  And prizes will be awarded for the best outfits at each stop, with a grand costume prize awarded by this year’s honorary Grand Crawler Chris Shepherd.  Check out the rules and last year’s grand prize recipients, the Legion of Doom, to see what it takes to win.

A portion of drink sales during the Crawl will be donated to the Houston Area Women’s Center, one of Montrose’s most important aid organizations.

The 8th Annual Montrose Crawl is brought to you by Free Press Houston, Houston’s leading independent newspaper, Santo, our official beer, Jim Beam, our official whiskey, Izkali, our official tequila, Party Boy, the ultimate Halloween costume store, and Nightmare on the Bayou, Houston’s most haunted house, with special flavors & favors provided by Red Bull and Uber.

Boo on the Boardwalk

701 4th Street Kemah TX 77565
When: Entire month of October
Webstite: www.kemahboardwalk.com

For the entire month of October, Kemah is hosting Boo on the Boardwalk where families can enjoy an array of Halloween themed activities. For the braver souls, face the dungeon of doom while the kids enjoy the Little Boo Haunted Fun house. Other attractions include pumpkin decorating, live entertainment and costume contests.

Food Truck Friday Nights Haunted House

Location: Xavier Educational Academy
Address: 6203 Edloe, Houston, TX 77005
Phone: 713-503-6463
Times: October 25th from 7-10 pm
$8 discount if you bring a donation for the Houston Food Bank. Use discount code” foodbank”
Tickets Here

Want to be terrified? Fearless teens and brave adults alike can experience our professionally staged haunted house on Saturday, October 25th from 7-10 pm. For those less brave, never fear! You can enjoy our food truck rally along with free musical entertainment. The rally is free to enter. Thanks to Phobia Haunted Houses, you do not have to travel to the burbs to be petrified.

Galveston Ghost Tours


Location: Ghost Tours Texas.com
Address: 911 24th St., Galveston, TX 77550
Phone: 832-224-8687Free
Website: www.ghosttourstexas.com

Step through the shadows, gather your courage and discover the chilling and ghastly tales of murder, revenge, passion, heartache and breath-taking history! This exciting Ghost Tour in Galveston takes you on a fascinating walking tour through the historic and haunted Silk Stocking district starting by the famous Broadway mansion, Ashton Villa! It is a family-friendly tour, loved by all ages!

For decades, brave travelers, paranormal enthusiasts, and those who enjoy a chill up their spine have flocked to Galveston’s historic districts to explore its rich, tantalizing and bizarre history, but this walking tour of the Silk Stocking District is a first!! Highlights include:

Step through the darkness and investigate the chilling location where a man was kept hostage for an entire night by a female ghost.

Take a chance to see the lovely red-headed, ”Miss Betty” Brown who still “lives” at the vintage 1858 Ashton Villa mansion. . she’s been photographed staring out of the second floor window through the curtains — Bring your camera!

Discover why Capt. Mott’s apparition is regularly seen in the attic…could he be hiding the horrific murders committed by his son?

Explore the vivid details of the 1900 Great Storm’s night of terror, when a brave mother selflessly dragged bodies from the savage waters over her second floor balcony..

Visit Galveston’s last bordello…why does that prominent insurance man’s spirit still lurk in the bedrooms at night?
This fascinating walking tour was designed by fifth-generation Galvestonian, Jan Johnson based on eye-witness accounts of paranormal occurrences. A talented writer and award winning tour guide, Jan published the book, “Walking Historic Galveston: A Guide to its Neighborhoods” and is currently working on her second masterpiece!

Times:  approximately at 7:30 p.m. (times are seasonal)

15th Annual Ghost Walk!

Poster, banner or background for Halloween Party Night.
 8181 Fannin St. Suite 2218, Houston, TX 77002
When: Through November 1st
Phone: 713-222-9255
Admission: $15
Website: www.brownpapertickets.com

90-minute guided walking tour through Houston’s Downtown Historic District featuring urban legends and true tales of deceased Houstonians.

Includes a stop inside the Spaghetti Warehouse.
NOT a paranormal tour.
This year’s stories include:
* Ghosts of the Spaghetti Warehouse (told outside)
* Sunken Confederate Ship
* The Barmaid’s Best Friend
* The Donnellan Crypt
* The Ghosts Behind Floyd’s Hotel

Even though this is NOT a paranormal tour, everyone will receive a copy of Sandra Lord’s Short Guide to the Paranormal and a handout with more details about the stories your ghostly guides will tell.

Please feel free to bring cameras, video equipment, and EMF meters. You may want to use a high-powered flashlight at the Donnellen Crypt. Mosquito spray is recommended, as are comfortable clothes and walking shoes.


Please arrive at least 15 minutes early and wait in the bar area for an announcement for the registration location. If you want to have dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse, please arrive at least 90 minutes to two hours early. Attendees receive a 10% discount off their dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse. Be sure to tell your waiter before you order.

Parking: Paid parking is available in adjacent lots. Free on-street parking available after 6 p.m.

Restrooms are available at the Spaghetti Warehouse and the Brewery Tap. There are no other rest stops.


Address: 18777 Hwy 290, Houston, TX 77065
Phone: 713-526-3323
Times:  8 pm
Website:  www.darke.com

Open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night in October – Experiences include the Mind Control haunt, Simon Fowler Woods, ClaustroPhobia, Darke Institute and Dawn of the Machine. This house is sure to scare Anyone!!!

Scream World


Location: 2225 North Sam Houston Pkwy West Houston, TX 77038
Hours: Sun – Thurs 7:30pm – 10pm / Fri – Sat 8pm – 12am / Halloween 7pm – 1am

Voted #1 Haunted House in Houston, Scream World features The Swamp, Jake’s Slaughterhouse, Edge of Darkness, Clown Asylum Maze, and the Zombie Graveyard! If this doesn’t scare you nothing will!

Nightmare on the Bayou


Address: 1515 Studemont, Houston, TX 77007
Phone: 713-868-3344
Times: Starting: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Sun. in October
Website: www.nightmareonthebayou.com
Schedule: www.nightmareonthebayou.com/schedule.htm


Located directly beside Houston’s oldest graveyard, Nightmare on the Bayou is the only attraction that is actually haunted by real ghosts! Monsters and mayhem are guaranteed!

Monsters’ Museum of Houston


When: October 9 – November 2
Venue: Children’s Museum of Houston
Address: 1500 Binz, Houston, TX 77004
Phone: 713-522-1138
Times: Starting: 4 pm daily

Monstrous mayhem will be unleashed when the Children’s Museum of Houston is transmogrified into the Monsters’ Museum of Houston for three weeks of Halloween.  From Oct. 9 to Nov. 2, 2014, we dare you to witness how monsters have rummaged, scoured, combed and turned the Museum upside down to make room for their monster lairs.  This hair-raising experience will allow you to “catch monsters” in the act, interact with their pals, observe and comprehend their behavior, participate in monster hobbies and discover why monsters may be just simply misunderstood!

Scream on the Green


Location: Discovery Green
Venue: Discovery Green
Address: 1500 McKinney Street, Houston, TX 77010
Phone: 713-400-7336
Times: 6 – 10 pm

Enjoy live music, face painting, fortune tellers and dancing, and of course this year’s feature film, Frankenweenie.

Spirits and Skeletons


Location: Houston Museum of Natural Science
Venue: Houston Museum of Natural Science
Address: 5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030
Phone: 713-639-4629
Times: 8 p.m. to Midnight

Calling all ghosts and ghouls, monsters and mummies, witches and werewolves: Houston’s favorite Halloween party — the one and only Spirits & Skeletons — is back at HMNS! With the entire museum open you can shake your stuff with a stegosaurus, grab a drink with a skink and get spellbound by bewitching gems, all to live music and your favorite hits played by DJs with fantastic food trucks parked right outside. Whether you go with scary and spooky or fab and kooky — dress up, party the night away at HMNS and we’ll put a spell on you!

Zoo Boo


When: Fridays – Oct 10, 17 & 24 / Saturdays -October 11 & 12, 18 & 19, 25 & 26
 6200 Hermann Park Drive Houston, TX 77030
Venue: Houston Zoo
Times: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

We’re inviting all little ghouls and goblins to celebrate Halloween at the Houston Zoo with activities that are fun for the whole family. We encourage all kids to come dressed in their spookiest or prettiest Halloween costume! They’ll love to show off their costume in our Costume Parade as well as our NEW Costume Contest and dance to the “thrilling” music with our children’s DJ.

Zoo Boo will also once again feature the Fiesta Mart Pumpkin Patch. Kids can pick out their very own child-sized pumpkin (while supplies last) and paint it into a Halloween jack-o-lantern! Overflowing with pumpkins, this is also the perfect spot for photographs.

And what’s Halloween without candy? We’ll have “Candy Corner” booths sponsored by Fiesta Mart throughout the Zoo, so bring your trick or treat bag and your sweet tooth! (Candy available while supplies last).

All this PLUS Halloween-themed Meet the Keeper Talks, the Candy Cave, Tatzoo Parlor, and more! Back by popular demand don’t forget to stop by Duck Lake and follow Zoe the Zookeeper on her Howlerween Adventure or test your bravery by reaching in our Mystery Boxes in the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo!

MECA’s Dia de los Muertos Festival


MECA proudly presents Dia De Los Muertos: Honoring our Past, Celebrating Our Future. Dia de los Muertos is a traditional Latin American holiday that honors and celebrates the lives of family and friends who have gone before us. Different countries celebrate Dia de los Muertos in their own unique way. The common theme that runs through the two-day celebration, traditionally held November 1 and 2, is the belief that the dead return home, visit loved ones, and feast on their favorite foods. A playful mockery of death and a reaffirmation of life are demonstrated through music, dance, theatre, and visual arts. MECA’s event features Dia de los Muertos celebrations from throughout Latin America, with an altar exhibit competition, foods from the Americas, vendors selling authentic Latin American Dia de los Muertos arts and crafts, and a Calavera Fashion Show. This festival is truly a community cultural event celebrating our ancestors and Latin American traditions. MECA Dia de los Muertos: Honoring Our Past, Celebrating Our Future is held at MECA’s colorful, art-filled campus located at the nationally recognized historic Dow School in Houston’s Old Sixth Ward.

The event will provide a unique opportunity for those unfamiliar with this tradition to learn how countries throughout the Latin American world celebrate this day, which is commonly known in other cultures as All Souls Day.

We invite you to join us in celebrating Dia de los Muertos with us at MECA.

McGovern Centennial Gardens

October 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Events


Hermann Park Conservancy — the nonprofit dedicated to the stewardship and improvement of Hermann Park — is getting ready to celebrate the Park’s largest improvement project to date with the Grand Opening of the McGovern Centennial Gardens and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion on Saturday, October 18. This spectacular addition to the Park will be yet another reason to visit this 445-acre urban oasis that over six million people enjoy annually.

The McGovern Centennial Gardens, designed by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects with White Oak Studio Landscape Architecture, is the Conservancy’s largest improvement project ever undertaken and will completely transform the 15-acre Garden Center site into a spectacular new attraction for Park visitors.

The Gardens will feature a Family Garden, Centennial Green, 30’ Garden Mount, Celebration Garden, Rose Garden, and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, designed by architect Peter Bohlin of Bohlin Cynwinski Jackson, famed designer of the glass Apple stores worldwide. As you explore the Gardens you will come across 490+ new trees of over 50 different species, 760 hedge shrubs, 350 new roses in the Rose Garden, 106,875 other shrubs and perennials of 199 varieties, 115 new camellias and 650 new azaleas in the Woodland Garden and so much more.

Landscape Designer Doug Hoerr of Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects describes, “The McGovern Centennial Gardens stand alone as a setting for respite, refuge and education and fit into the larger historical footprint of Hermann Park. This civic project provides the citizens of Houston with a memorable place for the community to gather, for education, for beautification, gardening and growing food. The McGovern Centennial Gardens celebrate connecting people to the land.”

Jim Patterson of White Oak Studio Landscape Architecture adds, “Public gardens are an indispensable part of great cities all over the world.  The Garden Center has been a well-loved place to generations of Houstonians.  We are so pleased to be part of building a great public garden for this great city.

Presented to the City of Houston by George Hermann in 1914, Hermann Park is one of Houston’s most popular and historically significant public green spaces. Since its inception, the Park has served as a tranquil refuge from the day-to-day bustle of city life. A hundred years later, the original vision for the Park is finally being realized thanks to a Master Plan and a $123 million Centennial Capital Campaign conceived and executed by the Hermann Park Conservancy, a public/private partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department.  The money raised has gone not only into making McGovern Centennial Gardens and Cherie Flores Pavilion a reality, but also into the rebirth of the beautiful Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool; the renovation and expansion of Lake Plaza and Hermann Park Railroad; and the restoration of the Parks’s exercise trails along with many other improvements that have transformed the Park into one of the most idyllic public green spaces in the country.

“McGovern Centennial Gardens is the culmination of a one-hundred-year vision that is finally getting its due. With the opening of the Gardens and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, visitors will be able to experience this incredible new garden space for free, seven days a week,” said Doreen Stoller, executive director of Hermann Park Conservancy. “We are grateful for the rain. The trees in the Park are happy, but our construction progress has been slowed. After our grand opening celebration, we will close the Gardens for a few more weeks to complete the heavy work. Gardens are never a finished work and this one is just getting started,” explains Stoller. “This project is a labor of love and we are thrilled to be able to present McGovern Centennial Gardens to the City of Houston during Hermann Park’s 100th year.”

Though the Park’s Grand Gateway entrance from Mecom Fountain to the Sam Houston Monument will have to wait until 2015 for its unveiling because of construction delays, Hermann Park Conservancy’s mission to complete the Park’s Master Plan is one step away from being realized after 25 years of fundraising, planning, planting, and building one of America’s great municipal green spaces.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Dedication Ceremony at 9:30 a.m. with:

Danny David, Emcee, Hermann Park Conservancy Board Chair 2014-2016

Mayor Annise D. Parker, City of Houston

Joe Turner, Director, Houston Parks and Recreation Department

Doreen Stoller, Hermann Park Conservancy Executive Director

Kathrine G. McGovern, John P. McGovern Foundation

Phoebe Tudor, Centennial Campaign Chair

Jim & Cherie Flores, Garden Center Advisory Board

Ann Kennedy, Hermann Park Conservancy Board Chair 2010-2014

Activities and tours will take place throughout the day, including:

  • Free and open to the public – rain or shine
  • Children’s art and educational activities sponsored by Macy’s beginning at 10:00 a.m.
  • Talks and Garden tours include:
    • 11:00 AM      Talk with Peter Bohlin, Cherie Flores Pavilion architect, of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
    • 12:30 PM      Talk with Doug Hoerr, landscape designer of The McGovern Centennial Gardens, of Hoerr Schaudt  Landscape Architects
    • 1:30 PM         Art talk and tour with artist Randy Twaddle
    • 2:30 PM         Sculpture Talk and Tour with Jimmy Castillo, Houston Arts Alliance


Founded in 1992, Hermann Park Conservancy is a nonprofit citizens’ organization dedicated to the stewardship and improvement of Hermann Park, one of Houston’s largest and most loved urban parks. Through a public-private partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the Conservancy has secured nearly $115 million toward a $123 million goal for the Centennial Campaign for Hermann Park, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Beyond raising millions of dollars toward capital improvements in the Park, the Conservancy oversees programs focused on visitor services, conservation and stewardship, and tree care. For more information on the Conservancy, visit hermannpark.org. Follow the Conservancy at facebook.com/HermannPark and twitter.com/HermannPark.


Stress Less

October 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Health & Wellness


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