Houston SPCA at the 2020 Bridal Extravaganza

December 31, 2019 by  
Filed under Blogs

Plan, shop, and adopt. The Houston SPCA will be bringing some puppy love to the Bridal Extravaganza Show at George R. Brown this weekend. Meet their adoptable rescues who are in need of a loving home. Discover why they are one of the leading animal rescue and protection organizations in the country & how you can join their team. If you’re ready for some cuteness overload, stop by the HSPCA at booth #4035.

Don’t miss the Houston SPCA’s adoptable rescues at the 2020 Bridal Extravaganza! 

Engage your Core in Cabo

July 31, 2020 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Situated above the point where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico, a special resort majestically and dramatically jets out of the cliffs.

The Resort at Pedregal is a one-of-a-kind, AAA Five-Diamond, Forbes Five-Star Resort destination, offering impeccable service, surprise amenities, exceptional dining and a luxurious spa. The relaxing ambiance in the rooms is nearly indescribable. Is it the slow trickle of water cascading from the private infinity pools that is so calming or the methodical ebb and flow of the ocean waves?

Each evening beer and
guacamole are a special treat.

Get wedding ready by participating in the wellness retreat, a multi-day fitness experience led by Elite Fitness.  The staff at Elite fitness understands most of Pedregal’s guests have access to the best gyms, trainers, and chefs as part of their daily lives,  so they created an out of the ordinary fitness experience to impress the most discerning participants. It starts when Naturopath Dr. Wendy comes to your room to conduct a private BioFeedback Body Scan. She connects wrists, ankles and head to a computer, it feels kind of like having your blood pressure taken. During the process she asks about lifestyle, heath goals, and diet. She compares body scan results with your goals, identifies deficiencies and offers solid steps for improvement. Her message may be to reduce toxins interfering with the brain and daily functions of vital organs, start intermittent fasting or make new/better dietary choices. Once a baseline and goals are set, it’s time to select activities.

Beach Boot Camp

Wake up early and Elite Fitness will push you beyond your normal workout by combining cardio, weight training, cross training, and more. Although it’s beautiful, the coarse Cabo sand makes easy squats become wobbly, cumbersome and challenging. Throughout the weights, squats and high and low impact exercises, fellow participants motivate and cheer on the group. It’s a team project nobody quits. If the pain starts to win focus on the ocean and your new friends.

Farm to table

Visit a nearby farm where locals and Ex-Pats grow fruit, vegetables and herbs. Enjoy a tour of the gardens, yoga on the farm and a farm to table meal.

Stretch and Breathe

The group stretch and breathe workshop focuses on Foundational breathing. (Breath work is beneficial for men too!) The goal is to open up the chest and back to combat the effects of constant laptop and smart phone usage. A beautiful hike follows with gorgeous views of the Baja. Discover the gravesites of the original family as well as the remains of their first home. Along the way small changes will be discussed: quinoa instead of pasta, chipotle instead of sauce, and steeping your own tea. The recommended dessert is particularly noteworthy — healthy ice cream.

Yoga

Sunrise and sunset deserve their own salutations, yogi style. Join the Elite Fitness crew on a luxury yacht at the nearby Marina Cabo San Lucas. Your yoga practice commences just as the boat sails past the famous Cabo Arch at Pelicano beach. The onboard workout is a combination of yoga, mat Pilates and sculpting. This combination workout offers the best of both worlds and is great for people on the go who don’t think they have time for yoga and toning. Just as the sand did, the boat offers unique challenges to seemingly simple poses. The bonus in this “is this really happening moment” is watching the sunrise over beautiful Cabo. The evening calls for restorative yoga on the beach. The waves waft off the day’s workout allowing time to consider small lifestyle changes. 

Spa

A well-rounded wellness program most certainly calls for spa time. Pedregal’s offering deserves ohhs and ahhs. Luna y Mar spa is built in the shape of a clam opening towards the ocean. The pool is the clam and the circular treatment rooms are the pearls. Each appointment begins with a foot cleansing ritual in a circular room displaying the phases of the moon. (new, full, waxing or waning). Various teas are offered based on the current moon phase. Prior to the signature Moon Phase Massage, take advantage of the steam rooms, saunas, ice room and pools. This treatment changes with the moon as well.  For instance if there is a new moon, treatments will be geared towards awakening and invigorating the body through ingredients which include sea salt and chili oil. In contrast, during a full moon when energy levels are at their highest, a nurturing massage using jasmine and coconut soothes; and during the waning moon the spa creates detoxification treatments using aloe vera and herbs to cleanse the body. 

Fun yoga outfit by Manduka.

Dine

Dinner at Pedregal is epic. Start at the Champagne Terrace before taking your ocean-front seat. In true Sea-to-table style, sea bass, tuna, snapper and amberjack round out the fresh options. The fun filled atmosphere is filled with birthdays and special occasion celebrations at El Farallon, one of the best restaurants in the entire Cabo San Lucas area.

Jump-start your wellness routine just in time for the wedding. A few days can make a big difference in your life. Spend them at The Resort at Pedregal and keep your wellness goals on track. 

Island Paradise: Aruba

May 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Travel Blog, Uncategorized

Sunset from Pincho’s Grill & Bar

 

Island Paradise

Plan your next getaway on Aruba

Story and Photography by Laurette Veres

 

The wildly popular tropical island of Aruba is part of what’s known as the ABC islands (Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire). Sunny and sultry Aruba is just outside the line of fire for hurricane season, making it an ideal location for a tropical vacation. It’s also the Caribbean’s hottest spot for adventure and fun!

 

Have fun poolside at the Aruba Marriott

The incomparable Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is tailor-made to host your once-in-a-lifetime event. With 411 stylish guestrooms and 23 lavish suites, this hotel has room for everyone. Each room features a 100-square foot balcony with a breath-taking view of the sparkling waters of the Caribbean Sea. There is something for everyone at this resort, from the party pool with cascading waterfall to the adults-only H2Oasis pool. Where else can you see a Zumba class break out in the middle of the day? The party is always hopping at Stellaris Casino. Family and friends of all ages will be happy on this happy island.

The real fun in Aruba takes place in the ocean. The currents are calm in these waters…lake calm. Your drinks can actually float, undisturbed, alongside you in a fabulous, inflatable flamingo (if you were brilliant enough to bring one). Aruba is the perfect island to push your limits and try some new water sports. Stand-up paddle boarding is very popular. Stretch yourself even further and try a paddleboard yoga class by Vela Aruba. There’s nothing more “zenful” than the peaceful Caribbean Sea swaying beneath you as you find your center. Looking for something more exhilarating? Book a kayaking tour, take a ½ day snorkel sail, parasail above it all or bounce to heart to your heart’s content on floating inflatable trampolines!

 

Looking for a group activity that’s fun for all ages? Beach tennis is big here! It’s the official sport of the isle. In fact, the sport is so popular here, Aruba hosts international beach tennis tournaments. We signed up for private lessons with Aksel Samardzic, currently ranked #9 in the world. It’s like playing tennis on a beach volleyball court, the racket is similar and the ball is a bit smaller. Scoring is identical to tennis and your group will be ready to play a match after only a thirty-minute lesson. It can really be a great team building activity for family and friends who might not know each other well.

What better way to get a real taste of authentic cuisine than spending one-on-one time with the chef. Learn from Chef Ever as he expertly seasons the catch-of-the-day. Watch his demonstration, or don an apron and join him at the stove. Compare your finished plate to his, then take a seat and enjoy the bountiful results.

Walkways connect the beaches together in Aruba

One of my favorite things about the Aruba coastline is the walkway that connects the beaches, creating miles of scenic beachside boardwalk. This family friendly, “walkable” esplanade is great for baby strollers and wheel chairs, speed walkers or casual promenades. Guests with young children will appreciate the multiple play areas right on the beach.

After an evening stroll along the Marriott boardwalk, dinner literally “pops up” at Atardi beachfront restaurant- just in time for sunset. Enjoy a toes-in-sand sunset supper starting with sashimi snapper, tomato caprese, or crab salad. Popular main course items are fresh blackened mahi mahi, grilled sea bass, tropical red snapper and more.

 

Healthy brunch items at Aruba Marriott Governor’s Suite.

The Marriott’s Governor suite is the perfect brunch spot. Your guests won’t be able to get enough of the expansive Palm Beach views. Think mimosa bar and hot and cold brunch buffet on the balcony. Enjoy mini-quiche, pancakes, and pastries or get your granola on. Your guests will be impressed with the food and the views.

In Aruba, almost every location is picture-perfect and Pincho’s Grill and Bar is no exception. Arrive at the Aruba Surfside Marina in time for sunset and don’t miss the “Love Potion” premium margarita. Absorb the soothing sound of whispering waves as you enjoy a meal of luscious crab cakes, crispy coconut shrimp, dark rum-infused blue cheese tenderloin and pan- seared Caribbean grouper. As the sun sets over the water and the moon rises over the palm trees, you’ll understand why you came to this special island for an unforgettable trip.

 

Essentials:

www.arubamarriott.com
www.velaaruba.com
www.pinchosaruba.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book recommendations

May 11, 2020 by  
Filed under Blogs, Finance

This blog post is being written after my family and I have shared over 47 consecutive home cooked meals. As soon as the Covid-19 quarantine was mandated, I vowed to remain positive and READ more. Here are some of my favorite business and personal development books.

It’s never too late to pick up a good book.

Fix This Next: Make the Vital Change That Will Level Up Your Business

Everything Is Figureoutable

The E-Myth

If you read only one business book, this is the one I always recommend. It has guided me over the last 27 years of business ownership.

https://amzn.to/373aSFD

Honeymoon Travel: San Juan, Puerto Rico, Plan your tropical Destination Wedding

May 9, 2020 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Puerto Rico is one of America's gated cities

Puerto Rico is a small island in the Caribbean Sea that was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. In the early 1500’s, it was settled by Spanish Conquistador Pounce De Leon. Puerto Rico was the gateway to the New World and whoever controlled the island and its deep harbor controlled access to the Americas.

The Spaniards spent nearly 300 years fortifying the area around the port, now called Old San Juan, with giant walls. Atop the walls are lookout towers, huge forts and heavy cannon. Soldiers scanned the horizon 24×7 looking for enemy ships. And enemies came! French, Dutch and British all tried take control numerous times and were turned away by the Spanish forces and their cannons.

Access to the city was gained through five gates in the giant walls. Every night at 6pm the gates were closed. If you were on the wrong side of the gates, you stayed there until morning. Inside the walls was a bustling city. Puerto Rico’s population exploded from a few thousand to nearly a million people by the mid 1800s, and all the needs of a modern society had to be met. Housing, shops, restaurants and markets lined the blue cobblestone streets (the stones were covered with slag from the cannon factories and shone a silvery blue). Churches were erected and it was standard practice for Spanish nobles to arrive in the harbor, walk through the main gate up the hill to the church and thank the Lord for a safe journey.

As the population grew, Puerto Ricans grew weary of Spanish colonial rule. After 400 years, Spain finally lost Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war when resistance forces teamed up with the Americans. The Americans landed unopposed and marched over land with resistance forces to take Old San Juan from behind. They also had an extremely large navel presence just off the coast, and the Spaniards didn’t want to see the damage the giant American guns could cause. Very few big shells were fired and little damage was done.

Old San Juan is amazing. Most of the city is still surrounded by the original walls; the cobblestone streets still shine blue and are lined with thriving businesses. You can stand outside the main gate on the dock and look up at the walls stretching around the city, 18-feet thick and over forty feet high, and walk as the nobles did to the church; inside you’ll find Pounce De Leon’s tomb. The forts are in place and intact. Now museums, you can stand in the lookout towers and scan the ocean as Spanish soldiers did for hundreds of years. Everyone speaks English and the American dollar is the official currency, but you feel like you’re in Europe.

Condado Hilton, San Juan Puerto Rico

Stay close to town: The Condado Plaza Hilton
The Condado Plaza Hilton is less than five minutes from Old San Juan. It offers great ocean view and access to a private beach access. It’s also connected to the bay where you can enjoy water sports such as kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. This hotel offers the best of all worlds: stunning interiors, great dining, activities and access to all the wonders of Old San Juan.

Private Beach at the El Conquistador

Worth the drive: El Conquistador
Perched high upon a bluff in Eastern Puerto Rico sits the El Conquistador Resort. On the terrace you can sit back, enjoy a refreshing beverage and view the Virgin Islands scattered throughout the Caribbean.
The El Conquistador property is huge, over 500 acres of bluffs, golf courses, rain forests, playgrounds, pools, even a private island. Once you get there, there is no reason to leave. Twenty-three restaurants and bars serve everything from grab and go cuisine to the world-class steaks at Chops Steakhouse. To help navigate the bluffs, a tram system that looks like a cross between elevators and gondolas angles from top to bottom. The beach, with all its activities, is on the private island; a large ferry loops between the island and the resort every hour.

If you like lying by the pool, you’re in luck. There are seven pools throughout the resort. The Cogui water park is not for wimps. The slides will get your adrenalin running; one has a forty-foot drop! You can experience elevation changes over 200 feet on the Arthur Hills designed championship golf course. After an adventurous day, you can work out the kinks at the Waldorf Astoria Spa.
El Conquistador has it all: views, fun and activities for all ages and excellent luxury accommodations. You can stay in hotel rooms, casitas or three bedroom villas. Puerto Rico is an American territory, so you don’t need a passport, foreign currency or a translator to get around.

For tips for planning your honeymoon, attend the Bridal Extravaganza Show. https://www.bridalextravaganza.com/post/10-tips-for-attending-bridal-extravaganza

35th anniversary Bridal Extravaganza announces BES Photo Experience

July 2, 2019 by  
Filed under Community

MEDIA ALERT:

Houston’s Most Established Wedding Show:


Saturday & Sunday, July 13-14, 2019

WHAT:                    The Bridal Extravaganza Show, returns to the George R. Brown Convention Center to celebrate its 35th anniversary. This two-day event features hundreds of bridal vendors, and three new features: Live Styled Photo shoot, onsite childcare and the BES Photo Experience.

Special Programming: Live Styled Photo Shoot

The wedding vendors of the Bridal Extravaganza and Styled Shoots of Houston collaborated to create a display of trending wedding design aspects couples can incorporate into their own wedding. This live styled shoot will take place both days of the Extravaganza, allowing attendees to experience wedding design, lighting and invitations, cakes and more.

Special Programming: Childcare with Adventure Kids Playcare

A partnership is announced with Adventure Kids Playcare to provide childcare. Brides can take more time to shop and meet vendors, knowing their children are being lovingly cared for. Adventure Kids Playcare offers a safe and fun place for children ages 18 months and older. Feel comfortable dropping children off in a safe and caring environment. Reservations are recommended. Childcare is $15 per hour.

BES Photo Experience

Enjoy an Instagram-ready photo immersion containing 35 photo walls. Take a picture and tag the Extravaganza for a chance to win special prizes.

Tickets are available online at www.BridalExtravaganza.com. General admission tickets may also be purchased for $20 cash at the door.

For more information, visit www.BridalExtravaganza.com

WHEN:                    Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bridal Extravaganza Show: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

See website for up-to-the minute schedule.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Bridal Extravaganza Show: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

See website for up-to-the minute schedule.

WHERE:                  Bridal Extravaganza Show

George R. Brown Convention Center

1001 Avenida de las Americas

Houston, TX 77010

COST:                       VIP Pass: $55-$65 (online only)

Includes general admission, Seminar, and front row seat at Couture Runway.

General Admission: $15 (online and valid for Saturday or Sunday) $20 (at the door, cash only)

About Bridal Extravaganza Show

Since 1983, the Bridal Extravaganza Show has been bringing brides and bridal businesses together.  The founder and creator Linda Miller set the standard for bridal events in the US and beyond.  Today, the Bridal Extravaganza carries out her vision – introducing the best bridal vendors to Southeast Texas brides.  Catering exclusively to brides, grooms, and their families; the Bridal Extravaganza Show is a one-stop-shop bringing Houston’s top wedding vendors together in one location. Brides have more options, more choices and can make decisions and get down to the business of wedding planning.

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The Born Experience

Our great state has birthed some memorable figures—and some we wish to forget, too.

by Lynn Ashby


WHAT DO SAM DONALDSON, NOLAN RYAN AND DWIGHT EISENHOWER HAVE IN COMMON? No, they were not brief members of the Trump cabinet. They were all born in Texas. So were Debbie Reynolds (El Paso), Joan Crawford (San Antonio) and Tommy Lee Jones (San Saba).

Actually, the entertainment industry is filled with our former neighbors: Carol Burnett (San Antonio), Gary Busey (Goose Creek), Cyd Charisse (born Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo), Spanky McFarland (Fort Worth), Steve Martin (Waco). And what would the musical world be without Texans? Willie Nelson (Abbott), Trini Lopez (Dallas), Selena (Lake Jackson). And although Larry Hagman (Fort Worth) didn’t sing, his mother Mary Martin (Weatherford), did. Who can forget our favorite singing Longhorn, Janis Joplin (Port Arthur) or the Big Bopper, aka Jiles Perry “J. P.” Richardson, Jr. (Sabine Pass). We also have Beyonce (Houston), Ernest Tubb (Crisp) and Tommy Tune (Wichita Falls). Ragtime composer Scott Joplin (Texarkana) was reintroduced to millions in The Sting. 

Speaking of films, Humphrey Bogart never did say, “Play it again, Sam” in the 1942 film Casablanca. The line, “Play it once, Sam,” was from Ingrid Bergman. Sam was played by Dooley Wilson, who was born in Tyler. Notice that you never see Sam’s fingers on the keyboard. That’s because he was a drummer.

The military has more than its quota of Texans. While Admiral Chester Nimitz (Fredericksburg) commanded the Pacific Fleet in World War II, General Dwight Eisenhower (Dennison) commanded all Allied troops in the European and African Theater.

An interesting story about Ike. He thought he was born in Abilene, Kansas, where he grew up, and put down Abilene as his birthplace on his application to West Point. When Ike became a famous five-star general, a lady in Dennison thought she remembered babysitting little Ike at the Eisenhower home there. (I’ve visited the house, a tiny, humble place.) Ike was surprised to learn he was a native Texan. 


The most decorated soldier in World War II was Audie Murphy (Kingston). He could also be listed in the Hollywood category because, after the war, he made more than 40 movies and a TV series. This military thing is traditional, according to the Western Monthly Magazine in October, 1838: “…the Texians being entirely a military people, not only fought, but drank, in platoons.”

Nobel laureate John Steinbeck, in Travels With Charley observed: “Among other tendencies to be noted, Texas is a military nation. The armed forces of the United States are loaded with Texans and often dominated by Texans. Even the dearly loved spectacular sports are run almost like military operations. Sectional football games have the glory and despair of war, and when a Texas team takes the field against a foreign state, it is an army with banners.”

While it is interesting to learn that so many famous people hail from the Lone Star State, it is also interesting to learn that most of the founders of Texas came here from other places. Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin were born in Virginia. William B. Travis and James Bonham came from South Carolina. James Bowie was from Kentucky. The Alamo defenders came from 20 states and six countries. There were only 11 native Texians at the Alamo and they couldn’t speak English. Twenty-two of the defenders just appeared, and no one knows where they were born. 

At San Jacinto, the Texas Army came from 24 states, 11 countries, and Texas. The only native Texians were 30 Tejanos from San Antonio. “A scene singularly wild and picturesque presented itself to our view. Around 20 or 30 campfires stood as many groups of men: English, Irish, Scots, Mexicans, French, Germans, Italians, Poles, Yankees, all unwashed and unshaved, their long hair and beards and mustaches matted, their clothes in tatters and plastered with mud. A more savage-looking band could scarcely have been assembled.” Some things never change. 

All these newcomers give fresh meaning to the bumper sticker; “I’m not from Texas, but I got here as soon as I could.” This also includes Dr. Michael DeBakey (Lake Charles), Walter Cronkite (Saint Joseph, MO) and Roger Clemens (Dayton, OH).

Getting back to those who were born here, the Texans have rather dominated the evil media, especially the TV news. We have Dan Rather (Wharton). Then there are Bob Schieffer (Austin) and Scott Pelly (San Antonio). Lou Dobbs is not from Childress, but from “Childress County.” When it comes to athletes, we can’t list them all. Nolan Ryan (Refugio), Ben Hogan (Stephenville), A.J. Foyt (Houston), most of the NFL, Roger Hornsby (Winters), “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias (Port Arthur) and a newly pardoned Jack Johnson (Galveston). Incidentally, Johnson fits into a sub-category:
BOI. That’s Born On the Island (of Galveston).
The BOIs are very proud of that, although most are descendants of Jean Lafitte.

Only two U.S. Presidents were born here, Ike and Lyndon Johnson (Stonewall). Since Jim Hogg, most of our governors were Texan-born. George W. Bush was an exception (New Haven, CT). In other areas, we have Dr. Denton Cooley (Houston), former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (El Paso), H. Ross Perot (Texarkana), Katherine Anne Porter (Indian Creek), Howard Hughes (Houston), painter Robert Rauschenberg (Port Arthur) and Gene Roddenberry (El Paso). 

Who was the first white female to be born in Texas? It could be Mary James Long, or maybe not. On December 21, 1821, Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long gave birth to Mary James on Bolivar Peninsula, and throughout Jane Long’s life she claimed to having given birth to the first white baby in Texas and was called “The Mother of Texas.” However, censuses between 1807 and 1826 reveal a number of children born in Texas to Anglo-American mothers prior to 1821. Stephen F. Austin is called “The Father of Texas,” and he once romanced Jane Long. Hmmmm.

Finally, also born in Texas were Bonnie and Clyde (Rowena and Ellis County, respectively), and Barrow and David Koresh of the Waco siege fame (Houston). Let’s assume they forged their birth certificates. H

Five Fitness Tips to Keep Introverts Moving

January 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Blogs, Health & Wellness

While about one-third of the U.S. population describe themselves as introverted, many of the most popular workout options (i.e., exercise classes, fitness groups, competitive sports, etc.) may appear to exclude those more stimulated by “alone time.” But since perception doesn’t always equal reality, the Aquatic Care Programs offers some advice for helping introverts achieve fitness goals on their own terms in the press release below.


Finding a workout routine that fits your personality is one of the key ways to achieve optimal results, says Humble physical therapist Ankit Bhatia. And, that holds particularly true for introverts— those who may be uneasy about joining a gym or a fitness class due to crowds of people, loud music, or the seemingly prying eyes of other members.

“If you have a more introverted personality, joining a gym, exercise class or workout group may not be your cup of tea, but that doesn’t have to hold you back from achieving fitness or weight-loss goals,” said Bhatia, physical therapist of Aquatic Care Programs in Humble. “Fitness opportunities are everywhere, and it’s important you commit to a path that’s comfortable and successful for you.”

It’s been estimated that one-third or more of the U.S. population falls at least partially into the category of “introverts.” This doesn’t necessarily equate to shyness, though, Bhatia says.

An introvert is more likely to find many social or group interactions draining. In contrast, they are generally more stimulated and energized by personal or alone time.

With this in mind, Bhatia offers the following advice to help introverts achieve their fitness goals:

Exercise Solo: If you’re more comfortable by yourself or just don’t feel like dealing with crowds of people at the gym, simply consider fitness options you can do on your own—options like running, swimming, cycling or going for a walk. As exercise itself is energizing, so too is alone time for an introvert’s spirit.

Use the Buddy System: A misconception about introverts is they always prefer being alone. The truth is, introverts enjoy spending quality time with close friends, and this can be beneficial when exploring various fitness options. Bringing a buddy to the gym or a fitness class can make the experience much more positive than going alone.

Seek Inner Focus: Introverts are known for “living in their heads,” so to speak, and often this breeds a level of creativity and personal reflection they find stimulating. So, consider types of exercises known for benefiting the body as well as the inner spirit—activities like yoga, Pilates, tai chi, stretching, deep breathing, etc.

Arm Yourself with Headphones: Sometimes, you just can’t beat access to the space and equipment a fitness club can provide. So, if you just can’t turn your back on the gym, make the experience easier with a good set of headphones. Not only can you choose your own audio motivators (i.e., music, podcasts, books, etc), but simply wearing headphones can help ward off unwanted conversation.

Stream at Home: Streaming at-home fitness apps have come a long way over the last couple of years. Services like Peloton, Aaptiv, ClassPass, etc., offer professional-level streaming workout programs (and equipment, in some cases) for at-home fitness. Bhatia, however, offers a bit of caution before starting one of these programs.

“While some at-home programs can be good, they can’t provide immediate feedback about incorrect form, movement deficiencies and weaknesses in strength and flexibility that, over time, can lead to discomfort, pain or injury,” Bhatia said. “So if you try one out, I highly recommend you first get assessed by a physical therapist to ensure any new workout regimen is going to be safe and lead you toward your actual fitness goals.” —Ankit Bhatia, PT, DPT, MS, ACSM-HFS


About Aquatic Care ProgramsWith two locations, in Humble and Houston, Aquatic Care Programs is dedicated to the advancement of Physical Therapy through innovative aquatic and land based rehabilitation. Our licensed Physical Therapists provide individualized, personal therapy programs specifically designed and monitored to meet each patients rehab needs.  For more information, visit www.aquaticcare.net.

5 Ways to Change Your Step-Family to a Chosen Family this Holiday Season

December 14, 2018 by  
Filed under Blogs

By Sue Hawkes 

The holiday season is always lauded as important family time. There are extended-family dinners, gifts to exchange, and cross-country treks to each other’s homes. All in all, this sounds like a wonderful time of year, right? Well, for blended families (who now make up over 50% of US households), spending this time together isn’t so easy. There are schedules to coordinate, feelings to manage and different traditions to somehow join together. The pressure of the holidays is enough for anyone; a step-family holiday can be even more difficult. When my husband and I spent our first holiday season together we were a few months into dating and had three teenagers between us. This led to a few less-than ideal situations, and I promised myself that I would find ways to make our new holiday celebrations truly feel happy and festive.

Nine years later, I’m proud to say our family is bonded and looks forward to our holiday time together every year. It took work from all of us, and now we are truly a chosen family instead of a step-family. Read below for practices to create your own chosen family this season.

CREATE NEW TRADITIONS

It can be difficult to continue old traditions when your family looks different than it used to. Instead of looking at the past and always comparing how things used to be, do something totally new. One of my favorite holiday traditions was looking at the Macy’s Department Store decorations on its fifth floor. My husband and I took his girls to do this that first holiday, and they did not enjoy it because all they could focus on was the holiday traditions they were no longer doing. Now, we’ve created a new tradition of going to a concert together. It’s always a highlight and something we look forward to every year.

We’ve also created a “Seafood and Sweatpants” night in place of Christmas dinner. When we sat down and were creating new traditions as a family, we discussed what was important to us about celebrating; the kids landed on comfy clothes and really delicious food. Our new tradition was born! Every year we join together in our sweatpants, eat a delicious meal and play games late into the night. There is lots of laughter and the pressure to have a fancy, picture-perfect holiday meal goes away. It’s a little out of the box, but it’s exactly what we want.

BE OPEN ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS

The holidays can be a hard time emotionally for everyone and holding it in and pretending to be fine will not make it easier. Talking openly and sharing your feelings will not only address the awkwardness, but also bring you closer in your relationship. Ask for what you need and encourage children to do so as well. This not only helps manage the holiday but is also a great life-skill to model for them.

A few years after my husband and I started dating, I moved into his house. While it seemed a normal progression in the relationship to us, his daughter had been away at college the previous year and took it very hard when she returned home for the summer and I was now living there. Our relationship became strained, and when she returned to college we didn’t speak for a few months. As the holidays came closer, I decided I was not going to go to Christmas celebrations pretending everything was fine. I asked her to come over for a talk and we had a very open conversation about what our relationship would look like and what the underlying problems were. It was tough, but our relationship became much better once we were able to share our feelings and point of views. Happily, we’ve moved on from that period and are now very close. It can be tough to let go of what past holidays looked like and understand that things will never be the same. There is grief associated with this, and that may be especially difficult for children to express. Acknowledge that things are different, and then focus on talking about the new things you can embrace and look forward to.

DON’T STICK TO THE DAY

It can feel important to celebrate the holidays on their “official” calendar day, but really this is just a made-up expectation. It’s who you spend the holidays with that really matters, and that may mean that you celebrate on a different day. For blended families, this is especially common because children may have more than one house to go to on the “official” holiday. Taking the pressure off of splitting the day and needing to make the rounds creates a more enjoyable celebration for everyone. We hold our extended family Christmas get-together the first Sunday in December to ensure that all our family can be there. We also celebrate Christmas as an immediate family on a different day every year. Sometimes it’s December 25, and sometimes it’s December 27. We do this so that the kids don’t feel pressure to cram everything into one day. We find a low-pressure day when we can focus on simply enjoying time together.

In addition to letting go of the importance of celebrating on the official day, remember that every year is different. As much as we’d like them to, the holidays won’t look the same every year. Life happens and those changes impact how we celebrate. Marriages, breakups, births and deaths all impact what our celebrating looks like. Some years might be really different- let it go and embrace what you can.

With the holiday season in full swing, remember to approach all family situations with love. Turning a step-family into a chosen family is difficult work, and also so rewarding. Creating new traditions, communicating openly and managing expectations will help you enjoy a holiday that reflects you and your family as you truly are- blended and beautiful for it. Happy holidays from my chosen family to yours.


More than just a bestselling author, Sue Hawkes is a keynote speaker, Certified EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, award-winning and globally recognized seminar leader, and an entrepreneur. She is  CEO and Founder of YESS! – Your Extraordinary Success Strategies, and brings over 25 years of experience to her clients and has designed and delivered dynamic, transformational programs for thousands of people. 

Hawkes is also a wife, mom of three and bulldog owner. She likes to stay active in her free time and get out of her comfort zone through adventure travel. Connect with her on TwitterLinkedInInstagramYouTube, and Facebook.


Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Say Aloha to Pokeworks Pearland

December 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Blogs, Dining, Foodie Events

WHAT: Pokéworks, one of the fastest growing poke concepts in the country, has opened the doors to its newest location in Houston at 2630 Pearland Parkway, Suite 110. To celebrate, the ocean-to-counter spot will feature a special “buy-one-get-one free” offer on all poke bowls, burritos and salads all day during its public grand opening event. In addition to exclusive giveaways and prizes, the first 50 guests in line with enjoy a coveted Pokéworks branded coconut.

WHEN: Saturday, December 8, 2018; 11:00 am to 9:00 pm

WHERE: 2630 Pearland Parkway Suite 110, Pearland, TX 77581  

EAT: Inspired by sustainable, seasonal and natural ingredients, Pokéworks is committed to utilizing responsibly-sourced seafood while preserving our oceans. The menu offers “Poke Your Way” where guests can build an original poke burrito, poke bowl or poke salad from the concept’s customizable menu. Protein selections range from fresh ahi tunasalmon and albacore tuna, to sous vide chicken, scallops, shrimp and organic tofu. After selecting the base, guests can choose from a variety of Hawaiian-inspired mix-ins and toppings like masago, seaweed salad, pickled ginger, spicy furikake and sauces like umami shoyu, wasabi aioli, and spicy ginger.

The Henderson

December 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Features, Travel Blog

What do you get when you put Turks-and-Caicos-like beaches, a splash of Southern hospitality and a touch of New England-style-coastal-town feel in a blender? You’ll find out soon…

by Amanda Altman


I’m sitting on the beach—not on a chaise lounge, though there’s no shortage of ’em—but the actual beach. The sand is blindingly white, and feels more like silky cake flour than grainy particles of aged rock. The water is that murky mix of shimmering green and clear blue; if you stare at it for too long like I’ve been doing for the past hour, you’ll be transported to a trance-like state. It’s early May, and the sun is warm and bright, the air is casually breezy. Waves crashing and sea birds shrilling aside, it’s eerily quiet as a chipper waitress comes to take my order. I’ll have a bloody Mary, extra spicy, extra celery, thank you very much.

Not quite sure where I’m at?

Well, after two drinks, neither am I.

But then I turn around and it comes back in waves. No, I’m not on some remote Caribbean island named for some saint I can’t really pronounce. No, I’m not jet-lagged on the shores of Sicily
or Sardinia.

“Is there anything else I can get you, ma’am,” the chipper waitress asks, when it hits me harder than when I fell off my paddleboard a few hours earlier. I’m in America, less than a two-hour flight from Houston. I’m at The Henderson in Destin. That’s in—wait for it—Florida.

ROOM TO THE RESCUE

If you’ve never been to Florida’s Northwest Gulf Coast, you might not believe that such beaches exist in the States, let alone in the South. At the The Henderson, a Salamander Beach and Spa Resort, the Southern hospitality you’ve come to expect gets an unexpected twist. Despite having your usual creature comforts, the resort feels nostalgically reminiscent of a New England-style coastal town, almost like you’re on the set of a Nicholas Sparks film. 

Admittedly, The Notebook isn’t for everyone, but The Henderson decidedly is. Thanks to shingled roofs and steep gable rooflines, the drive up to the entrance makes you wonder if you’re about to enter a time machine. But when you step foot in the lobby, with its “new smell” smell and aesthetic that conjures up images of a luxurious ski lodge in Aspen, it’s obvious that you’re in 2018.

The not-even-two-year-old property feels intimate—but not too intimate—decked out with local artwork and housing 170 guest rooms, with views ranging from beach to garden. I opted for one of 16 Spa Rooms, which don’t spare any detail, from the super-plush beds, porcelain bathtub, spa-grade products and huge closet, to the yoga mat and gear. There’s an outdoor space, where you can sip your Nespresso in your robe, and maybe even dine on a bento-style breakfast box from room service. Trust me, you’ll want to move in.

#BEACHLIFE

After unpacking literally (my luggage) and figuratively (my stress from home) in my room, followed by a quick meditation, I hoist myself up from the thick mattress and out the door, beach bag in tow.

But first…coffee.

Following a quick stop at the free java and tea service in the lobby, I head outdoors to find two large outdoor pools—one cabana-clad pool for adults only (hooray!), and one with a lazy river for the kids. There’s also a sprawling, green-grass-covered lawn with games. I quickly learn that, although little ones are welcomed, you don’t even notice them at The Henderson.

After some poolside lounging and reading, I get restless. I can’t wait another minute to step foot onto the sand and inhale the salty ocean air. The Henderson isn’t directly on the beach, but it’s just a three-minute jaunt to their private beach area, where you can seamlessly arrange for beach sets (chairs, umbrellas, towels) and water activities (kayaks, boogie boards and paddleboards). Speaking of seamless, that’s exactly how I’d describe their staff; it’s the rare place where each and every employee seems genuinely happy to be working, and their service reflects that.

If you’re not keen on the water, you also have the option to rent a bicycle and tour the area, or hike the 200-acre preserve right next door. Off-site, you can arrange for a fishing trip (Destin is The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village, after all), tee up on Arnold Palmer–designed courses, shop for bargains at the nearby outlets and more. Just make sure to drop the kids off at the resort’s day camp first (score!).

STILL FULL

I’m getting hungry just thinking about all the stuff to do at The Henderson. The good news is that there are eight places to dine or grab a drink, ranging from fine dining to beach eats.

Primrose, the resort’s crown jewel, lives up to the hype. From the artful sushi to the huge, family-sized paella and the best dessert I’ve ever had—think chocolate lava cake covered in torched marshmallow—I certainly don’t leave hungry. Also amazing: the customized cocktails and attentive servers at Horizons, the spot with more casual bar service. Although I don’t have the stomach for Sprinkles, the aptly named ice cream parlor (too. much. marshmallow. cake.), it looked super fun for kids and adults alike.

A NEW-AGE SPA EXPERIENCE

With all that indulging, I was thankful for the fitness scene at The Henderson. There’s a spacious workout area with ample cardio and weight equipment, and workout classes at the movement studio. The outdoor spin area with breathtaking beach views is pure Instagram gold.

Post-workout, I clean up in the experiential shower at the world-class Salamander Spa (complete with a Himalayan salt room and hydrotherapy area, too). There’s a touchscreen that allows you to customize everything from the water pressure to the music and lights. Then, I bliss out with the Tibetan Bowl Ritual, ($140 for 50 minutes), which combines vibrational energy work—via traditional singing bowls made from a variety of metals, including gold—and massage. Although I was a bit skeptical of its purported benefits, it was somehow intensely anxiety-relieving and energizing at the same time.

By the end of my long-weekend-stay, although I certainly didn’t want to leave the Ryan Gosling vibes behind, I feel recharged and ready to head back to reality, where I certainly know where I am at all times. Until next time, Destin. H

Uchi, Montrose

October 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Blogs, Dining, Foodie Events

Best Japanese Happy Hour: Uchi, Montrose

With a name that literally means “house,” the Uchi crew is sure to make you feel right at home with their daily Sake Social Hour. Though this often-frequented lower-Westheimer restaurant is known for their sushi, don’t miss their innovative specials and drinks starting at 5 p.m.

uchihouston.com

Stack Burger, Downtown

October 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Blogs, Dining

Best Burger Deal: Stack Burger, Downtown

Burgers, banh mi sandwiches and breakfast tacos—what’s not to love? Stack Burger’s mouthwatering patties aren’t the only thing this downtown hot spot has going for it. The building is covered in an intricate tapestry of graffiti art, making it the perfect place to snap a picture-perfect selfie on your lunch break.


stack-burger.com

Houston History Bus, Downtown

October 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Blogs, Community

Best Way to Learn Houston History: Houston History Bus, Downtown

Not all history lessons take place in a classroom. Hop on board the city’s one-and-only yellow-school-bus-on-wheels for an in-depth exploration of downtown. The owner and operator, a resident historian for KHOU, personalizes each tour for 20 seat holders, primarily focusing on the city’s founding, the Texas Revolution plus some local street history for good measure.

The Latest Cold + Flu Fighter

October 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Blogs, Health & Wellness

Although past studies have indicated that endurance sports (like that marathon training you’re pondering) put strain on the immune system, a new analysis in Frontiers in Immunology is flipping the script. We know that during intense exercise, infection-fighting immune cells increase 10 fold in the bloodstream, drop to low levels afterward and finally return to normal hours later—a finding that was previously interpreted as a sign of immune suppression. But now researchers speculate that this cell-turnover timeline is impossible, meaning that the “destroyed” cells (that were thought to have regenerated just hours later) can’t be replaced that quickly. Moreover, these “lost” cells actually end up in other more infection-prone parts of the body like the lungs. So it turns out that all exercise, and that includes the intense stuff, is good for immunity. One last thing, though: Make sure you’re balancing your marathon-training schedule with plenty of low impact, flexibility exercises like Pilates or yoga.

—Amanda Altman

The Pillot Building

August 29, 2018 by  
Filed under Blogs, Community

Located in the 1000 block of Congress Avenue at Fannin, the Pillot Building is a living marker of both our state’s history and a prominent Houston family. Joseph Eugene Pillot (1820–1896) emigrated from France in his youth, arriving in Houston in 1837, when it was still capital of the Republic of Texas. As a businessman, Pillot was involved with both the railroads and barge-shipping, helping to make his adopted city competitive with its then-rival, Galveston. He was also the proprietor of Pillot’s Opera House—a playhouse, music hall and all-purpose public auditorium—where noted performers of the day, such as Lillie Langtry and Edwin Booth, appeared. (Unfortunately, in 1889 the Opera House burned to the ground, a not-so-uncommon fate for buildings of the period.) One of Pillot’s sons, Camille Gabriel Pillot (1861–1953), became a partner in the Henke and Pillot grocery-store chain, which operated throughout East Texas for nearly a century before it was ultimately subsumed by the Kroger Company.

Yet another, later scion of the clan, Houston-born Eugene Pillot (1886–1966) achieved national recognition as a playwright, poet, author and songwriter; his most-noted work, the one-act Two Crooks and a Lady (written circa 1918), was produced across the country during the 1920s and 1930s and remains in print to this day.

The three-story Pillot Building itself is most notable for its cast-iron front structure and ornate Corinthian columns. The neglected edifice suffered major damage during the 1980s; it had to be painstakingly reconstructed using its original materials, a feat accomplished by Morris Architects and the construction firm of Henry Alvin Lott (1908–2006). Today the Pillot Building’s ground floor is home to Christian’s Tailgate Bar and Grill, a popular sports bar and restaurant. —Clifford Crouch

Paper Tigers

July 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE FRONT PORCH – Some day my prints will come, or rather my printed papers will come. But I can’t hold out much longer. Out of news, out of comics, down to my last liner for the bird cage. I need my news fix for I am out of touch. Terrible about the Lusitania. Where is the cavalry, or at least a pimple-faced newsboy? But let me begin at the beginning and see if you can identify with my plight. Having been flooded out of my home by Hurricane Harvey, with a great deal of help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which released a tidal wave of water from the dams so my neighborhood wouldn’t flood, thus flooding my neighborhood. We are now in our new digs.

Among our problems is changing addresses for our newspapers. I had dutifully stopped the papers, I thought, once the Coast Guard helicopter had pulled me and my vodka collection off the roof. But my former neighbors, still bailing, hunted me down at the Salvation Army shelter to demand that I come get 23 soggy papers off my front yard. When I moved to my new address, I called up the papers — I take both the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times — to renew my subscriptions. Of course, these days companies don’t employ humans to deal directly with pesky customers, so we get recordings, something like: “Your call is very important etc. etc. Push 1 for… push 2 for… This call will be recorded in case you are one of those malcontents who make threats, and this way we can track you down.”

I called the Chronicle. After being put on hold and listening to “The Best of Polish Polkas,” plus a greeting from the Chron “right here in the great state of Texas,” I finally got a real person. “Hi, I’m Amber, how can I help you?” I gave her my name, address, and told her I wanted to subscribe to her paper. “Certainly, can I have your name, address and why you are bothering me? We can start your paper tomorrow.” Next, I called the Times. My call was very important to them, so I only had to wait one season. “We will be glad to put you down for a subscription. Would you like the paper in English? We are an international paper, so we never know. We can start your paper tomorrow.” The next day, no papers, nor the next nor the next. I called the Chron “in the great state of Texas.” The paper’s two employees in the circulation department seemed to be busy, but eventually I got a real person. I explained my predicament. “Can I have your name, age, address and the last four digits of your Social Security number?” I am told that the Chron will be on my doorstep tomorrow. The Times also assured me that all the news that’s fit to print would be on my doorstep the next morning.

This situation goes on for a week, then two. By now I have the Chron’s number on my speed dial (713 220-7211) and am on a first-name basis with Amber. She says she will pass my complaints on to her supervisor. The Times (1-800 698-4637) tells me to “Press 1 for English, 2 for Tibetan, 3 for …”). My call is very important to them, but apparently not important enough to do anything about my complaint. A voice asked, “Now, you are at 122 Senility Circle, right?” I grit my teeth and reply: “No, I am 123 Senility Circle. That’s my address. I know where I live.” “Oh, we must have gotten it wrong. Silly us.” One morning the doorbell rang, and my wife answered. It was a neighbor, slightly exasperated. He is holding five soggy New York Times in his arms. He said he’d even called the Times to stop cluttering up his front doorway with the paper. It did no good. I made another call and was told: “I see that you have a vacation stop, with no re-start date.” Do you ever get the idea you are surrounded by below-par IQs?

At times (or Chronicle) we like to beat up on various levels of our government, and ask: “Why can’t the government be run like a private business?” We’d better be glad it isn’t. Three weeks have now passed, honest, and I finally get my Times. But no Chronicle. “Hi, Amber, I still haven’t gotten my paper. This is a recording.” I get one in return, “in the great state of Texas.” A voice eventually answers, and I ask: “Why don’t you say, ‘in the great city of Houston?’” Pause. “Because we’re in Dallas.” Maybe I’d have better luck if I subscribed to the Dallas Morning News. This may explain why, when I asked for the supervisor, I got put on hold, and heard Cowboy cheers in the background. The supervisors – I’ve talked to several – assured me that they would take care of the problem. One ominously referred to “discipline,” but it was not clear if he was referring to the carrier or that troublemaker from Houston who keeps complaining. Maybe they learned I’d worked for The Houston Post and this was their revenge. That day’s mail brought me my Visa bill. It showed a $44 charge from the Houston Chronicle.

It is not fair to beat up on the poor souls who spend their waking hours sitting in a cubicle dealing with angry customers, but it would be nice if companies trained them correctly and kept their promises. “Amber, check your records. How many times have I called to complain?” “It looks like six.” “More like sixteen.” So here I stand in my bathrobe at my front door, looking silly and despondent for my lifeline to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that newspapers are sick and dying. Perhaps it’s because of poor circulation.


Ashby is waiting at ashby2@comcast.net

Our Own Polezni Durak

July 23, 2018 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE STREET CORNER – Once again we are out here patrolling Texas to keep it safe from the Ruskies. Obviously no one else is doing it, so the job falls to us, and suddenly it is a much more important job. If you just got back from building your part of the wall on the Rio, I will quickly bring you up to speed. Everyone — except our President — knows the Russians tried to influence the 2016 President elections in favor of Donald Trump. What we didn’t know is how they operated in Texas. Top Kremlin spies, Aleksandra Yuryevna Krylova and Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik, came to Texas and, using phony names, PayPal and fake emails, got Texans to fight one another, demonstrate, and counter demonstrate to help Trump. It was an easy success. The Kremlin even hatched opposition to the annual military exercise, Jade Helm 15, getting the more gullible among us, a majority, to fear Obama was going to confiscate our howitzers and militarily seize the state.

End of the story, right? Wrong. For now we must deal with the polezni durak. Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and an expert on all things sneaky and Russian, flatly says the Russians got Trump elected President. Gen. Hayden also may solve a mystery: “The most benign explanation as to why Trump seems to not criticize Putin is a phase from the Soviet Union: polezni durak, ‘the useful idiot,’ the sort of person the Kremlin secretly held in contempt but went all out to exploit.” That’s a chilling thought. We’re being governed by a useful idiot? That does explain a lot, although many Americans’ contempt for the President is not so secret. We also have a new fly in the borsht. It’s a virtual currency called Bitcoin, which sounds like a dime with teeth marks. Bitcoins leave no fingerprints, no paper trail. It didn’t take long for Russian military intelligence officials to spot this new tool and use it. So if you suddenly start getting funds from an anonymous source, do the patriotic thing: call me and we’ll split it.

What about Texas? Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged that the Internet Research Agency – the Kremlin’s disinformation operation — is “engaged in political and electoral interference operations” across the United States, especially in swing states like Florida. But a Texas organization was mentioned several times. We must assume that agents Krylova and Burchik are making their plans to infiltrate Texas again, if they haven’t already landed and are putting their disasters in place. (Have you checked out the Astros’ bullpen lately?) A major part of the Internet Research Agency’s M/O is the distraction. Notice how Trump keeps trying to turn Americans’ attention to something other than Russian collusion? NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, fake news, an FBI agent’s notes to his lover, porn stars. Oh, wait, forget the last one.

Putin (“Pootie” to our President) knows his targets: someone so egomaniacal as to really believe all the flattery, promises and photo ops. Art of the deal? This is the Great Negotiator who moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, where it had been alongside every other nation’s embassy, to Jerusalem and got zero in return. This is the same savvy deal maker who agreed to cancel the joint U.S.-South Korean military which had been held for decades and he received in return? Nothing. We got taken, snookered, conned. His next book should be called “The Art of the Steal.” Also, your useful idiot needs an enemy — someone or some group to attack and, when doing so, receives cheers from a fawning crowd. In this case, the press, immigrants, then immigrants and the press. This the Age of the Demagogue. Find a leader who appeals to our worst instincts, and don’t forget fear. All we have to fear are fear mongers themselves. “They are storming across our borders! Build a wall! They are breaking into our houses. Grab a gun! Global warming and dirty air are hoaxes. Build an ark and get a gasmask!”

Let’s put ourselves in the place of Krylova and Burchik. Which Texas leader is the Official State Demagogue? Who keeps pandering to our fears, paranoia and cynicism? The usual suspects are numerous. We have a state attorney general who keeps us occupied with local ordinances on plastic bags, constantly suing Washington to leave Texas alone, free to pollute and turn away selected voters, all the while neatly obscuring the fact that he is facing criminal hard time for fraud. Our land commissioner doled out $400,000 in bonuses to agency employees and billed taxpayers for personal out-of-state trips that included receiving a “Jesus shot” in Oklahoma. Gov. Greg Abbott is a Trump lapdog.

The Texas Legislative Study Group reported the state ranks 50th among states in percentage of high school graduates, first in amount of carbon emissions, first in hazardous waste produced, last in voter turnout, first in percentage of people without health insurance, and second in percentage of uninsured kids. Texas ranks fourth highest for teenage birth rate, the lowest in the nation for women with health insurance, and is the second lowest in the nation for percent of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester. Texas also ranks the fourth highest for percentage of women living in poverty. We are 44th in high school graduation rates and 47th in SAT scores. In higher education, in Texas, only 51 percent of students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, meaning that only 17 percent of Texans will earn a bachelor’s degree.

So what did the Texas Legislature spend its time and our money on during this last session? Transgender school bathrooms, the good ol’ distraction. And who spearheaded this entire slight-of-hand? Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. He fits all the criteria – demagoguing, egomaniacal, pandering to our fears, etc. Could it be that Dan Patrick is our own polezni durak?


Ashby is suspicious at ashby@comcast.net

Horns of a Dilemma

July 16, 2018 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE OFFICE – They are now hanging on the wall here, a large set of cattle horns. Having been flooded out of our happy home for the last 50 years by Hurricane Harvey, we have moved to new digs. Going through boxes, I came up with this set of horns which had adorned my old office. The brief backstory and why you should care: My mother’s grandfather was a Texas rancher, and back then the big meal of the day was lunch. So each day Oscar Jones would come in and sling his dusty, sweaty cowboy hat on the dinner table. My grandmother, a child at the time, thought that was disgusting, so she sought out the ranch butcher and they selected the cow, bull or unicorn, with the best horns. It was butchered and the horns were mounted in the ranch house’s front hall. Each noon Oscar could come in and toss his hat on the horns instead of on the cornbread, black-eyed peas and bull tongues.

I know this story because, as a child, I was forced to accompany my mother to visit relatives back in the hinterlands. It was a dreary, wet and gray afternoon and the ladies were discussing Uncle Edgar’s gout or Aunt Susie Jane Alice Maggie’s second husband’s lynching or some such thing. If there is anything a 10-year-old doesn’t want to hear, it is family tales, so I went rummaging in the garage and came upon two separate horns, and brought them in, curious. “Oh, my. Where did you find those?” Aunt Babs Sharon JennyJoan asked. And then they told me the tale. I took the horns home and the next Christmas there was this big box under the tree with my name on it. The box contained — oh, you are the sharp one – the horns all cleaned and mounted.

The reason I bore you with this family tale is that every family, including yours, has tales, objects, photos and rumors that are in danger of being lost. Tick-tock. Uncle Marvin, who knows all the inside skinny on your aunts, uncles and illegitimate cousins, is not looking well. Grand Ma keeps drooling oatmeal on her bib, so you should update her obit. But the point is, you need to get their oral history before they pass on to that Great Walmart in the Sky. My mother and her sister, Aunt Jane, were a goldmine of family tales, but I waited too late. They did tell me that their father, Lynn Cox, for whom I am named, started out as a 19-year-old railroad conductor in Texas and ended up as vice-president of the railroad. One day my mother and grandmother were riding on his train and a cowboy said he wouldn’t pay for a ticket. Lynn Cox opened a window on the moving train, stuck the cowboy’s head out the window (this was before a/c), slammed the blinds down on his neck and began to kick him, then hauled the poor guy to the platform between the cars, threw him off the train and tossed his bag. My grandmother was screaming and my mother was crying. Ah, you don’t get good family stories like that anymore.

There is a problem of recording some tales, because as the years go by, people’s memories fade and they lose, they lose. Where was I? Oh, yes. The Medal of Honor winner. I was writing a newspaper obit about a late veteran, and the widow sent in info, including that he had received the Medal of Honor. Hey, that was big news, but a quick investigation showed he hadn’t. Now, either the old soldier was stretching the truth or the new widow simply got it wrong. OK, what’s the opposite of serendipity? A friend from Oklahoma decided to look into his ancestry. “I discovered most of them were outlaws.” My wife’s father had a very interesting life. After he died she put together a book, interviewing relatives, friends, going through old clippings and photos, and handed them over to a journalist (I didn’t qualify) who wrote a fine book which will be handed down to our offspring and theirs.

We now come to an important point, and I don’t have a good answer. Like many of you, I have old photographs of ancestors. I know who they are, but if I stick a note on the back of the photograph, Scotch tape only sticks a few years, some photos are too fragile to be written on the back. My grandchildren will be sifting through pictures, unattached notes, and probably toss the whole lot. Here is my great-great-great etc. grandfather, married 1836, with a long white beard, scowling, looks like a Mormon elder with constipation. We refer to him as “Chuckles” Kuykendahl. Someday the grandkids will ask: “Who’s this guy? Looks like a Mormon elder with constipation. Toss.”

Many families have an elderly aunt who can spin tales of bygone days. Get her to talk into a tape recorder and write down her memories, which you will probably lose. Usually it’s impossible to check the accuracies, so go with the more colorful version. Here’s a last one. Euphemia Ashby (I can’t find her real first name) was standing on her front porch during the American Revolution with her two smallest children. Her husband, Capt. Stephen Ashby, “captain of foot,” (infantry) and her two eldest sons were off fighting the Red Coats. A group of British POWs came slouching by. A young British lieutenant broke away and asked Euphemia if he could have a drink of water. “Under these circumstances,” she replied, “I would gladly give a drink of water to the entire British Army.” The young lieutenant smiled at the situation, got his drink, and marched on.

I didn’t tell you about Lynn Cox conducting a train between Houston and Dallas when a drunken cowboy peed in Lynn’s coat pocket. But you can probably beat that one.


Lynn Cox is at ashby2@comcast.net

Take Me to Your Litter

July 9, 2018 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

AISLE 4 – Cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, kale. Why is kale such a hot item these days? Every yuppy and Gen X recipe features kale. Yuk! I’d rather suck rocks. One thing they all have in common is that customers put the veggies in these little translucent plastic bags. They are handy, and certainly beat wrapping your lettuce in a damp towel. But plastic bags can be a nuisance, or even deadly, which brings us to the Texas Legislature.

It seems that some Texans don’t like those plastic bags, and want to outlaw them, at least in their area. West Texas ranchers say their horses and cattle eat plastic bags that blow into the pastures, and die. Galveston residents who depend on tourism, say plastic bags clutter the beaches and hurt business. The endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles seem to love a good plastic bag for lunch, making the turtles even more endangered. Other towns just don’t like the clutter of bags clogging sewers, hanging from trees making their towns look blighted, or in some cases even more blighted. So they passed local ordinances banning the bags. Fort Stockton in West Texas approved a ban. The Galveston City Council unanimously backed an ordinance to ban those bags at stores. So did Laredo and Austin. Houston and San Antonio were taking steps in that direction. All told, about 11 Texas cities have banned the bags.

Statewide, they have been prohibited in places like California and Hawaii. But Texas is going in the opposite direction. Our Legislature passed a statewide law that, in effect, prohibits local governments from prohibiting the bags. Laredo merchants took note of this state law and sued. The city of Laredo argued it imposed the ban to avoid spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean disposable bags from the sewer system. Now the Texas Supreme Court has ruled Laredo can’t impose a ban on plastic bags, saying that the Texas constitution declares state law takes precedence over any local law, specifically, the ordinance violated state law that regulates solid waste disposal. The legal term for citing solid waste disposal as grounds for banning bag bans is “a real stretch.” This ruling by the Texas Supreme Court not only tosses out the Laredo ban, but will soon do the same to other cities’ ban ordinances, and end efforts by Houston, etc. to enact similar bans. Republican Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton applauded the decision and warned cities with existing bans to reconsider. “I hope that Laredo, Austin, and any other jurisdictions that have enacted illegal bag bans will take note and voluntarily bring their ordinances into compliance with state law,” he said in a statement. “Should they decline to do so, I expect the ruling will be used to invalidate any other illegal bag bans statewide.” That’s pretty clear.

Who would want to mess with Texas’ mess? Merchants, as mentioned, and Big Oil. You see, those bags are petroleum products, and with California and Hawaii already opting out of plastic bags, who knows how many other states will follow? But that industry doesn’t make state laws, does it? You must be new in town. Of course the oil and gas biz gets what it wants from the Texas Legislature. But there is another, and most disturbing, movement afoot: our state lawmakers telling local governments what to do, because our legislators know best what’s best for us. If the good people of Galveston want to clean up their beaches, what business is it of some lawmaker in Pampa or San Augustine? Why should a legislator from a Dallas suburb care about horses in Fort Stockton? Again, you must be new in town. Follow the money. Check the campaign donations of those who voted for the statewide ban on bans.

This long-distance meddling also follows a hypocritical power grab by our top state leaders. They love to exercise their power. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick got involved in a Houston referendum on gay rights (it wasn’t called that, but it still lost). Patrick also called for the resignation of the Fort Worth ISD superintendent for his stand on transgender school bathrooms that differed from Patrick’s. Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed one Republican candidate for the state legislature over a more moderate one, who won. The governor once called these local rules “a form of collectivism.” The Republican-controlled legislature has even passed laws dealing with local governments’ ordinance on Uber, Lyft and cutting trees. Remember these are the same pols who keep whining about “Washington interference.” Remember Gov. Abbott’s famous quote about keeping the feds out of Texas’ business when he was attorney general: “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and then I go home.”

OK, all this time you have been wondering about plastic bags. The modern lightweight shopping bag is the invention of Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin in the early 1960s for the Swedish packaging company Celloplast. It was patented worldwide by Celloplast in 1965. The popularity of these bags began to snowball from the mid-1980s onwards. It is estimated that the number of plastic bags used and discarded worldwide is about 1 trillion annually, and an estimated 300 million plastic bags end up in the Atlantic Ocean alone. While the average consumer in China uses only two or three plastic bags a year, consumers in Denmark use four, Ireland: 20, Germany: 65, U.S.: about 300, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia: more than 400. Waterways and drains can be clogged by plastic bags and have been linked to severe flooding. Wonder if we should stop blaming the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Oh, and the bags don’t just kill horses in West Texas. About 25 children in the U.S. suffocate each year due to plastic bags, mostly laundry bags, and almost nine out of 10 are under the age of 1. Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, especially if they are filled with kale.


Ashby bags at ashby2@comcast.net

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