WALDORF ASTORIA HOTELS & RESORTS OPENS FIRST RESORT IN MEXICO AT AWARD-WINNING, LANDMARK PROPERTY

September 24, 2019 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Mexico’s number one resort, previously known as The Resort at Pedregal, debuts as a Waldorf Astoria to expand the brand’s global portfolio in the Caribbean and Latin America
LOS CABOS, MexicoWaldorf Astoria Hotels & ResortsHilton’s (NYSE: HLT) iconic luxury hotel brand, today announced the debut of Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal  transforming The Resort at Pedregal as the brand´s first property in Mexico. The award-winning Forbes Five Star Resort and Spa, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, was acquired by affiliates of Walton Street Capital Mexico and now invites guests to enjoy Mexican-inspired, unforgettable experiences through the brand’s True Waldorf Service.

The new Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal is situated on Cabo San Lucas’ most coveted parcel of land – an extraordinary, 24-acre site at the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. This exclusive haven, accessible solely by Mexico’s only privately owned Dos Mares tunnel, creates a strong sense of arrival and is just minutes from bustling downtown Cabo San Lucas yet seemingly worlds apart.

“The Waldorf Astoria brand has been setting the standard for luxury and personalized service across the globe for more than 100 years,” said Dino Michael, global head, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. “The conversion of Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal reflects this commitment to expand our luxury portfolio and bring our True Waldorf Service to the world’s most sought-after and inspiring destinations.”

The resort boasts 119 guest rooms and residential-style suites including the one-bedroom Dos Mares suites, two-bedroom beachfront suites, and the presidential beachfront suite, all featuring their own private plunge pools. Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal creates a unique sense of place with a relentless commitment to personal service provided by a team of Personal Concierges who are available around the clock to assist guests with their requests.

“We are excited for the next chapter of this landmark resort. Having been with the property since its opening ten years ago, the team’s dedication to providing everlasting experiences to our guests and commitment to preserving the area’s rich history and culture have been of upmost importance,” said Fernando Flores, general manager of the property. “Combined with Waldorf Astoria’s unparalleled, intuitive service, unwavering attention to detail and culinary excellence, this new Waldorf Astoria property will undoubtedly bring Los Cabos to the next level of unforgettable luxury.”

Following Waldorf Astoria’s legacy of culinary expertise, Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal features an extensive and unique dining program with culinary offerings including:

  • El Farallon: In an alfresco setting suspended over the ocean, El Farallon features an “ocean-to-table” menu enabling guests to choose from a variety of fresh fish from the surrounding waters.
  • Don Manuel’s: The resort’s signature restaurant serves breakfast and dinner, using cuisine made from local, organic ingredients and prepared using modern interpretations of old-world techniques.
  • Crudo Bar: Meaning “raw bar” in Spanish, Crudo Bar is uniquely situated in the center of the main pool, offering a wide selection of freshly prepared tiraditos, ceviche and Mexican inspired rolls.
  • Beach Club: A casual poolside dining venue, it serves coastal favorites such as Hummus, Baja Wraps, Fresh Grilled Seafood, Grilled Panini Sandwiches and Classic Caesar Salads. 

Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal debuts as the premier offering in the region, with an array of best-in-class facilities and immersive experiences such as concierge services, a private chef upon request, transportation via the resort valet, and customized daytime itineraries. In addition, guests will continuously feel welcomed through an array of complimentary amenities including locally inspired drinks, daily afternoon surprises featuring regional cuisine, and a welcome bottle of Clase Azul Tequila in guests’ rooms.

Additional programming provided by Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal includes:

CURATED EXPLORATION: The new Beyond the Beach adventures include a culinary and art excursion with Savoring Todos Santos and Give-Back Tourism at La Candelaria where volunteer groups visit La Candelaria, aiding in the upkeep of the Agustin Melgar Primary School, followed by lunch with the school children. Additional adventures include Panga reef cruises, sunny yacht breakfasts, farm-to-table lunches and more in bountiful Baja. Each experience provides guests the chance to meet and interact with seasoned locals to give an authentic and personalized exploration.

WALDORF ASTORIA SPA: The new Waldorf Astoria Spa features 12,000 square-feet of space, providing a tranquil environment for reflection amongst pristine ocean views. This year, the spa is diving deeper into the healing elements with the launch of standalone 50 or 80 minute moon phase treatments — The Awakening Moon, The Nourishing Moon, The Calming Moon and The Resorting Moon — featuring natural ingredients and techniques that enhance the energy and healing influence each phase has on the body. Waldorf Astoria Spa also offers The Intention, a new Mexican folk healing treatment developed with local “sanadores” and shamans, that is composed of an energy cleansing ritual, craniosacral therapy and a Mexican folk massage; and new mindfulness and advance skin care treatments with tridimensional experiences: The Cure (detoxifying), Inhibit Face Lift (reforming), and 3D Collagen Shock (redefining).

VA Y VIENE BEACH BAR: New to the resort this year is the Va y Viene Beach Bar.  Inspired by the ocean that ebbs and flows, the new mobile beach bar features a variety of champagnes for guests to taste and sip on while taking in the ocean views from swinging chairs with the sand between their toes. 

“It is a privilege to have such a distinguished resort join our growing portfolio as we continue our rapid expansion, set to celebrate 100 hotels in Mexico by 2022,” said Jorge Giannattasio, senior vice president and head of operations, Caribbean and Latin America, Hilton. “Recognized as one of Mexico’s most renowned resorts, the property provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to once again partner with Walton Street Capital Mexico to further support the country’s growing tourism sector. Travelers have come to expect the best of luxury at this idyllic oasis and we look forward to further enhancing the resort experience with our unique standards of luxury service.”

Hilton currently has a portfolio of approximately 150 hotels and resorts across 23 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, including nearly 70 hotels open and welcoming travelers in Mexico.  The company is actively pursuing additional growth opportunities in the Caribbean and Latin America, and has a robust pipeline of more than 90 hotels throughout the region, including 30 projects in Mexico.

Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal is also a part of Hilton Honors, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 17 distinct hotel brands. Members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of Points and money to book a stay, an exclusive member discount, and free standard Wi-Fi. For more information about Hilton, please visit newsroom.hilton.com.

Rates at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal start at $750, and the resort is offering its exclusive Unforgettable Pedregal Offer where guests can receive roundtrip transfers to and from San Jose de Cabo Airport, complimentary Spa access and amenities, a $50 beverage credit per room, special nightly VIP amenities, and one complimentary night for a future stay.  For more information on the resort and special offer, please visit www.waldorfastorialoscabospedregal.com.

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About Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts
Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts is a portfolio of more than 30 iconic properties that creates a unique sense of place with a relentless commitment to personal service and culinary expertise in landmark locations around the world. Unified by their inspirational environments and True Waldorf Service, Waldorf Astoria hotels deliver graceful service from the moment a guest books through checkout. In addition to the brand’s renowned hotel offerings, Waldorf Astoria boasts a best-in-class residential portfolio, including 15 properties either open or in development, that provide the comfort of a private home combined with the unsurpassed amenities and legendary service of Waldorf Astoria. Waldorf Astoria is a part of Hilton, a leading global hospitality company. Experience Waldorf Astoria by booking at www.waldorfastoria.com or through the Hilton Honors mobile app. Learn about the brand by visiting newsroom.hilton.com/waldorfastoria, and follow Waldorf Astoria on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

About Hilton
Hilton (NYSE: HLT) is a leading global hospitality company with a portfolio of 17 world-class brands comprising more than 5,700 properties with more than 923,000 rooms, in 113 countries and territories. Dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world’s most hospitable company, Hilton earned a spot on the 2018 world’s best workplaces list, and has welcomed more than 3 billion guests in its 100-year history. Through the award-winning guest loyalty program Hilton Honors, more than 89 million members who book directly with Hilton can earn Points for hotel stays and experiences money can’t buy, plus enjoy instant benefits, including digital check-in with room selection, Digital Key, and Connected Room. Visit newsroom.hilton.com for more information, and connect with Hilton on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube.

Houston Weird Homes Tour

September 23, 2019 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

The Houston Weird Homes Tour will take place on Saturday, September 28. The event has 7 homes confirmed and, this year, one ticket gets visitors into every home. See details below and a release (in-progress) attached. Thank you!

WHAT: 4th annual Weird Homes Tour – Houston

WHEN: Saturday, September 28, 2019 from 10am to 5pm

WHO: Weird Homes Tour (hosts); New Hope Housing (event beneficiary); 7 creative and extraordinary Houston residents and their uniquely Weird Homes!

WHERE: Several neighborhoods throughout Houston are featured on the tour. The tour is self-driven and self-paced.

WHY: This one-of-a-kind home tour takes attendees on a journey across Houston and into some of the area’s most imaginative and wonderful homes, where visitors can see and explore some truly unique designs and meet the minds that created them! Check out the home and collection of well-known art collector, Lester Marks; see Houston-based, internationally-known glass artist, Kim Clark Renteria, and her House of Luminosity; walk through the Instagram House (a.k.a. Montrose Studios out), and many more! (for details on each stop, see the attached release)

EVENT PAGE: http://www.weirdhomestour.com/houston-9-28/

Leka Gajula, MD

Leka Gajula, MD
Gastroenterology

Dr. Leka Gajula is a board-certified Gastroenterologist (Diplomate) specializing in the treatment of digestive diseases like indigestion, heartburn, gas/bloating, irritable bowel disease, constipation, diarrhea, anemia, rectal bleeding, stomach, intestine and colon problems, swallowing disorders, hepatitis, pancreatic problems and more. She performs gastrointestinal endoscopy, colonoscopy and other procedures at several Houston area hospitals. Dr. Gajula completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Illinois, Chicago and her Fellowship in Gastroenterology from the University of Texas in Galveston. Dr. Gajula has published several articles in prestigious, peer-reviewed journals.

At Colon Liver Gastro Consultants, Dr. Leka Gajula’s practice offers comprehensive treatment options relating to all aspects of gastroenterology such as reflux disease, Barrett’s esophagus, ulcer disease, diarrhea, abdominal pain, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, hemorrhoids, constipation and cancer screening. She has two offices, one located at Methodist Hospital Sugar Land and another in West Houston/Katy, Texas. The staff is highly competent, considerate, bilingual and ready to assist patients with all of their gastroenterology needs. Dr. Gajula can perform in-house hemorrhoid banding procedures to treat hemorrhoids; she also has an infusion suite in each office.


COLON LIVER GASTRO CONSULTANTS
281-565-1009 • HoustonColonoscopy.com

16651 Southwest Fwy., Ste. 370
Sugar Land, TX 77479

2222 Greenhouse Rd., Ste. 900
Houston, TX 77084

Adventure Kids Playcare to Offer “Playcare to Go” at the Bridal Extravaganza Show

June 25, 2019 by  
Filed under Uncategorized


Saturday & Sunday, July 13-14, 2019 at the George R. Brown Convention Center

HOUSTON, (June 25, 2019) – Adventure Kids Playcare Memorial City, Houston’s only drop-in childcare center featuring an indoor playground and entertainment center, has partnered with the Bridal Extravaganza Show to offer Playcare to Go on-site at the George R. Brown Convention Center during the bridal show on Saturday and Sunday, July 13-14, 2019. Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Adventure Kids Playcare will provide staff to entertain and supervise children while guests enjoy wedding planning at the show. Offering a safe and fun place for children ages 18 months to 12 years old, brides-to-be and the wedding party can feel comfortable while their children are on-site.
Additionally, Adventure Kids Playcare will have a booth at Bridal Extravaganza informing brides about Playcare to Go and how they can include childcare at their wedding and special events. Adventure Kids Playcare offers Playcare to Go for weddings and receptions, office parties, and corporate events and provides toys, games, snacks, arts and crafts activities, as well as experienced staff.

Bridal Extravaganza, America’s largest wedding planning event, features fashion shows, wedding seminars and over 350 vendors. Guests have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with Houston’s top wedding vendors including displays of the latest trends for photography, caterers, wedding cakes, flowers and more. To reserve childcare at Bridal Extravaganza, visit www.bridalextravaganza.com/tickets for $15 per hour, per child.

Adventure Kids Playcare fills the need for flexible, hourly childcare that is necessary as families become busier. Childcare for children ranging from 6 weeks to 12 years old is available Monday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until midnight at their facility near Memorial City Mall.  Children can play, explore and learn in a safe, secure environment allowing parent’s time to work, enjoy shopping, dining, running errands or relaxing.
To schedule a tour, register your child, or to learn more about Adventure Kids Playcare, visit the website here or call 713-838-1414 and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

About Adventure Kids Playcare Adventure Kids Playcare is a unique drop-in childcare center featuring an indoor playground along with multiple activities for children of all ages. The childcare center provides a safe and engaging environment for children while conveniently providing parents the ability to have a productive guilt-free day. Adventure Kids Playcare accepts children ranging from 6 weeks old to 12 years old. Children interact with one another while enjoying the many imagination stations, arts and crafts, playground, video games and more. Parents may drop off their children anytime with no reservation required following an initial, on-site registration, Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday through Saturday, 9 a.m. – midnight. The facility is open for private birthday parties every Sunday. 
To learn more about Adventure Kids Playcare, visit the website here or call 713-838-1414 and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

CANDYTOPIA HOUSTON OFFICIALLY OPENS IN HOUSTON

June 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Uncategorized


Candy Creations, Flying Unicorn Pigs and Marshmallow Tsunamis Have Invaded Space City

Candytopia, the candy-coated experiential adventure that has delighted over half a million guests across the country, has officially opened the doors of its newest location in Houston (MARQ*E Entertainment Center, 7620 Katy Fwy, Suite 360) for a limited-run.

Candytopia features over a dozen rooms and environments with larger-than-life interactive art installations and full sensory experiences. The marshmallowy mini-theme park launched in 2018 in Santa Monica and has toured in San Francisco near Union Square, New York in Midtown Manhattan, Minneapolis-St. Paul at Mall of America, and is currently operating locations in Atlanta and Dallas. The new location in Houston marks Candytopia’s continued success in attracting guests of all ages to top retail centers. Candytopia locations have attracted long lines with tickets selling out quickly.

WHAT:

For anyone who’s ever dreamed of scoring a Golden Ticket or nibbling their way through Candyland, Candytopia transports guests to an imaginative confectionery wonderland with a one-of-a-kind immersive experience. It has amassed a huge following among guests of all ages and A-list celebrities alike including: Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Biel, Bruce Willis, Adam Sandler, Kevin Durant, Josh Duhamel, Christina Aguilera, James Corden, Wiz Khalifa, Hilary Duff and Alessandra Ambrosio. Guests are treated to candy samples throughout the entire experience including sours and gummies, chocolate treats, nostalgic favorites, and many sweet surprises.

Candytopia Houston features the most popular attractions from its previous locations along with new H-Town-inspired elements unique to this location that will thrill locals and visitors alike. Candytopia Houston features a marshmallow pit; an underwater-themed wonderland filled with fantastical candy covered sea creatures; a rainbow-filled room with flying unicorn pigs, confetti explosions galore, Trolli Twisted Sour Brite gummy samples and sweets from Black Forest. New to this location, unique Houston elements include a Houston Astros hat, Apollo 11 astronauts (in celebration of the 50th anniversary), a Beyonce mural and many more sweet surprises.

WHEN:

Candytopia Houston is now open at MARQ*E Entertainment Center (7620 Katy Fwy, Suite 360) Tickets must be purchased in advance and are expected to sell out quickly. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.candytopia.com.

WHO:

Candytopia is a peek inside the sweet and twisted world of famed global candy artist, Jackie Sorkin, and it was created in partnership with her co-founders, events and production design expert Zac Hartog, CEO of ZH Productions, and retail veteran John Goodman.

TICKET PRICES:

Adults: $28

Kids (4-12): $20

Kids (3 and under): Free

HOURS:
Monday-Saturday:  10:00 AM – 8:30 PM
Sunday: 11:00 AM – 8:30 PM

For more information, visit Candytopia.com or follow along on social media:

Instagram: @TheCandytopia

Facebook: http://facebook.com/thecandytopia

Twitter: @TheCandytopia

Snapchat: TheCandytopia

Official hashtag: #Candytopia

ABOUT CANDYTOPIA:

For anyone who’s ever dreamed of scoring a Golden Ticket or nibbling their way through Candyland, Candytopia transports guests to an imaginative confectionary wonderland with a one-of-a-kind full sensory experience and welcomes people of all ages to explore their sweet tooth like never before. Candytopia was created by global candy artist Jackie Sorkin (star of TLC’s “Candy Queen”), events and production design expert Zac Hartog, and retail veteran John Goodman. Candytopia has drawn long lines and sold-out crowds during its limited run engagements in Santa Monica, New York and San Francisco. In 2019, it has opened in Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul at Mall of America, Dallas and Houston, with additional cities to be announced soon. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.candytopia.com

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Women in Wine at Del Friscos

March 17, 2019 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse Hosts

Women in Wine Dinner with Pride Mountain Vineyards

Special Event to Take Place on Thursday, March 21 to Celebrate International Women’s Month

HOUSTON – (March 15, 2019) – In recognition of International Women’s Month, award-winning Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in the Galleria (5061 Westheimer Road, Suite 8060) will host a “Women in Wine” dinner on Thursday, March 21 at 6:30 p.m. The event – which is open to the public with a reservation – will feature an exclusive, five-course menu to complement an impressive selection of wines from one of the most noteworthy female winemakers, Sally Johnson from Pride Mountain Vineyards.


The evening’s fare will feature such dishes as Day Boat Sea Scallop Crudo, Black Truffle Gnocchi,  Rosewood (Texas) Wagyu Striploin and more. Guests can also expect a collection of perfectly paired wine varietals from Viognier to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

“We are thrilled to welcome our guests for a fine dining experience unlike any other, indulging in top-rated wines presented by one of the most influential winemakers in the county,” said Patrick Crow, general manager of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Houston. “The evening promises to be an unforgettable celebration filled with expertly paired flavors – a toast to women in wine with our partners at Pride Mountain Vineyards!”

Founded by Jim and Carolyn Pride in 1990, Pride Mountain Vineyards remains family owned and run with the couples’ two children, Suzanne and Steve, as co-owners. The vineyard is located on 235 acres in both Sonoma and Napa Counties, high on the spine of the Mayacamas mountains near the town of St. Helena, Calif. It is recognized as one of the “world’s greatest wine estates,” with only 22 other California wineries earning this distinction. Pride wines have appeared numerous times on Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 Wine of the World” list and have been served at the White House more than 30 times over the past 20 years.

Space is limited for this special event, to reserve your place today, visit https://delfriscos.com/promotions/women-in-wine-march-21/ or call 713-355-2600.

Five Course Wine Dinner Menu:

Passed Appetizers

Fontina Arancini

Yellowfin Tuna Nicoise

Prosciutto & Black Mission Fig Crostini

2016 Pride Mountain Vineyards Chardonnay Napa Valley

            First Course

Day Boat Sea Scallop Crudo

2017 Pride Mountain Vineyards Viognier Sonoma County

Second Course

Black Truffle Gnocchi

2016 Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot Napa Valleys

Third Course

Rosewood Wagyu Striploin

2015 Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa/Sonoma County

2015 Pride Mountain Vineyards “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon Napa/Sonoma Country

Fourth Course

Grilled Pineapple and Flambe Banana

Pride Mountain Vineyards Mistelle De Viognier Sonoma County NV

WHEN:             Thursday, March 21, 2019 6:30 p.m.

WHERE:           Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse

5061 Westheimer

            Houston, TX 77027

                                      Reservations are required: 713-355-2600

COST:               $195 per person + tax and gratuity

Island Paradise: Aruba

September 23, 2018 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Kid on the Block and Tackle

One gray winter Sunday night in the 1960s I was working at a New York City newspaper when a colleague came across the city room holding a sheet of paper. He said to me, “You think we ought to run these scores?” They were the results of that afternoon’s games played by something called the American Football League. Most New Yorkers had never heard of the AFL, or even their own team, the New York Titans, which in 1963 became the Jets. The story goes that the AFL came about because Lamar Hunt of Dallas, son of H.L. Hunt, wanted a National Football League team in his town, but was turned down. So in 1959 he called up the richest person he knew in a number of cities and asked if they would put up $25,000 for a franchise — Barron Hilton in Los Angeles, Bud Adams in Houston, and so on.

For years the AFL played before sparse crowds in lousy stadiums until it got big enough, and competitive enough, to merge with the NFL. With the addition of several new franchises, today the NFL is a billion-dollar operation. But wait. Are ya ready for even more football? There is a new pro football league shaping up, and games may be played at a high school stadium near you, or maybe Houston has finally found a use for the Astrodome. Yes, here we go again, with high hopes, lots of money invested by armatures who haven’t the foggiest idea of what they are doing. Then again, that 25K the AFL owners spent to own a team is today worth maybe a hundred thousand or so.

The new league is called the Alliance of American Football, and already has a TV contract with CBS. Plans are for the AAF not to compete with the NFL, but to give fans spring games. The season begins play Feb. 9, 2019, six days after Super Bowl LII in Atlanta. The founders describe the league as “a feeder system for the NFL,” rather like the role minor league baseball plays with its not ready for prime time players. The league will consist of eight teams, although all the teams won’t be introduced until next month. So far Orlando, with Steve Spurrier as head coach, and Atlanta, with the infamous Michael Vick as a coach, have been assigned a franchise. In order to make the game faster and fan-friendly, there will be some rule differences from the NFL. The AAF is eliminating one of the most dangerous parts of football – kickoffs. Teams will start on their own 25-yard line after a score and at the start of each half. This means no onside kicks, but instead, the team that scores a touchdown gets the ball on its 35 in a 4th-and-10 situation. There will also be no extra points in the AAF as teams will be forced to go for a 2-point conversion.

Starting a new pro football league is monetarily suicidal. Remember Vince McMahon and his XFL league? It lasted one season, although McMahon will try again in 2020. The NFL is by far the nation’s most popular pro sport, but it has taken a hit the last two seasons. There was, and still is, the dispute over players taking a knee during the national anthem. TV ratings have dropped the last two seasons. Concussions have become a big problem. And there is overexposure with games on Saturdays after the colleges have taken a recess until the bowl games, Sunday afternoons and nights, Monday nights and now on Thursdays. For some fans, a saturation point has been reached.

At this point you are thinking, “If there’s gonna be a new football league, Houston should be at the table.” Well, the Bayou City has tried it before. There have been the Houston Texans in the World Football League. They moved to Louisiana to become the Shreveport Steamer. Over the years, in pro football, Houston has had the Oilers, Gamblers, Terror/Thunderbears, Outlaws, Marshals, Wild Riders, Texas Cyclones, Lightning and Stallions. Elsewhere in Texas, there were the San Antonio Texans in — of all things — the Canadian Football League. (Incidentally, on March 2, 2000, the new Houston franchise announced that the team name search had been narrowed down to five choices: Apollos, Bobcats, Stallions, Texans, and Wildcatters. Bobcats?) Then there were the Dallas Texans of the NFL, and therein lies a story. It was the 1952 season and the NFL put a franchise in Dallas, the Texans. One sports historian wrote: “The team is considered one of the worst teams in NFL history, both on (lowest franchise winning percentage) and off the field.” It lasted one season, went 1-11, and moved in mid-season to Hershey, Penn., then to Akron, Ohio. Remember that story the next time a Cowboy fan brings up football.

When the previously mentioned Lamar Hunt created the AFL, he named his team — what else? — the Dallas Texans. At that point the NFL decided Dallas deserved an NFL franchise after all. What a sudden change of heart. So Big D had two pro football teams. Eventually, Hunt moved his team to Kansas City where they became the Chiefs because the “Texans” handle didn’t do too well. Keeping that name would have been as bad as when Bud Adams moved the Oilers to Nashville and became the Nashville Oilers, then changed it to Titans, a totally meaningless handle. Adams probably felt safer in Nashville, since he was greatly disliked in Houston. When he announced the move, there was a rally in front of City Hall demanding that the Oilers stay put. Of a metropolitan population of several million, 100 people showed up. Adams once got in a fist fight at the Shamrock Hotel bar with Houston Post sportswriter Jack Gallagher. Later, someone told Jack, “Forget it. Adams is his own worst enemy.” Jack replied, “Not as long as I’m alive.”


Ashby is a fan at ashby2@comcast.net 

Test the Waters

April 23, 2018 by  
Filed under Travel Blog, Uncategorized

by Marion Jacob

Perched on the majestic Caribbean shores of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the Mayakoba Resort offers four exclusive luxury hotels surrounded by natural forests full of wildlife, freshwater lagoons and crystalline beaches. The newest is the long-awaited Andaz Mayakoba-Riviera Maya, a welcome addition to round out this spectacular master-planned retreat.

Mayakoba—which literally means “village of water”—prides itself on sustainability and protecting the natural environment, while creating a luxurious escape to what feels like another world. Wake up to bird calls from more than 200 species, and experience nature right from your room.

Get Appointed

Stay in the presidential suite at the Andaz, enveloped in tropical scenes of serene lagoons and lush greenery, or behold the Fairmont’s hypnotic waterfront views and superbly cultivated gardens. Lose yourself in the Rosewood’s ultra-comfort service and white-sand beaches, or rent a villa at the Banyan Tree with your own private plunge pool and garden terrace.

The Andaz Lobby.

Get Busy

Start off the day with a farm-to-table breakfast buffet at Cocina Milagro at the Andaz, overlooking the pool, or enjoy a good book while swinging in one of the hanging-egg wicker chairs. Set up tee time at El Camaleón, a world-class golf course designed by PGA legend Greg Norman and home to the PGA Tour OHL Classic.

Like a chameleon, the surrounding vistas change from mangroves and cenotes to sand dunes and white beaches. Take a ride in a golf cart tram through the winding roads of the exotic forests to El Pueblito, El Corazón de Mayakoba (the Heart of Mayakoba). Here, you can shop at boutiques filled with handmade textiles and pottery, take a cooking class at El Pueblito Cooking School or eat lunch at La Fondita. In between meals, enjoy a refreshing fruity drink at Bang Teng Thai or coffee at El Cafecito. On Sundays, they hold Mass at Santa Cruz Chapel, which is followed by the weekly farmers’ market.

Mayakoba offers a variety of activities, including hiking and biking through meandering nature trails, bird watching for those rare and unique species, honing your archery skills on the four-target range, or taking a guided kayak tour through the Mayakoba waterways.

A boat in the lagoon.

Get Fed

You can also take a leisurely tour of the entire resort via the Mayakoba Connection ferry service. Stop by each of the hotels to enjoy a meal and live music from the myriad restaurant options: tasty tostadas and tequila from Olla Ceviche at Andaz; authentic Thai cuisine from Saffron at the Banyan Tree; sushi from Agave Azul at the Rosewood; or golf club standbys and Latin wines at Koba on El Camaleón.

Get Rejuvenated

The 24-hour butler service at the Rosewood, with personalized room service and housekeeping, is the ultimate way to relax. Use the Rosewood Mayakoba app to request services for those special moments. Think: a romantic bubble bath, an intimate dinner or even a helicopter ride over the Kulkulcan Pyramid in Chichen Itza.

The private villas at the banyan tree.

For rejuvenation and spiritual healing, opt for treatments rooted in ancient Mayan rituals, such as the Mayan Clay Purification treatment at Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont, or a fresh honey body scrub and massage at the award-winning Banyan Tree Spa. The spa at the Andaz has six treatment rooms and two hydrotherapy areas dedicated to your relaxation, as well as a full-service salon to keep you looking as great as you feel.

College Dropout

Like you, I stay awake at night worrying about the Electoral College. It doesn’t have much of a football team, but it does choose our presidents, no matter which candidate the American voters prefer. As we all know, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 2.9 million votes, even counting Trump’s write-in ballots from Russia. Al Gore got 540,000 more votes than George W. “Hanging Chad” Bush. In each case, it was not the popular vote, but it was the Electoral College vote that counted.

And Texas may start counting, too, finally. Federal lawsuits filed in Texas and three other states are seeking to end the winner-take-all system that awards every electoral vote from that state to the winning presidential candidate. The lawsuits argue that the winner-take-all system violates voting rights by discarding ballots cast for losing candidates. This is a two-party argument: Democrat voters in the GOP strongholds of Texas and South Carolina, and Republicans in Democratic California and Massachusetts have no say in picking their president. So if you voted for Hillary in Texas, your vote didn’t count, thus the lawsuit. In Texas’ case, it wasn’t state officials who filed the suits. They are perfectly happy with the current system. Indeed, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will defend the state’s electoral-vote system, which was filed in San Antonio federal court in late February. Your tax dollars at work.

A bit of background: In 1787, the Founding Fathers drafted the U.S. Constitution, and stuck in the Electoral College (Article II, section 1.) as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote. Another version is they decided the average citizen wasn’t erudite enough to elect a president without a filtering process. Each state receives a number of electors equal to the number of its U.S. senators (two in each state) plus the number of its U.S. representatives, which varies according to the state’s population. In the 2016 presidential election, California had the most with 55 electoral votes; other less populated states, such as Vermont, had three. Texas had 38 votes, and the 2020 census should give us two or three more.

You just thought we choose our President on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. No, on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, (still with me?) the electors meet in their respective state capitals to officially cast their votes for President and Vice President. These votes are then sealed and sent to the president of the Senate, who on Jan. 6 opens and reads the votes before both houses of Congress. Who or what exactly is the Electoral College? It consists of 538 electors – Washington D.C. gets three. A majority of 270 votes is required to elect the President. The winner is sworn into office at high noon on Jan. 20 before the largest crowd ever gathered anywhere. Four presidents have been elected by the Electoral College after losing the popular vote. As we have seen, two of them won in recent years.

Forty-eight states have the winner-take-all system. Maine and Nebraska have a variation of “proportional representation” that can result in a split of their electors between the candidates, which seems a lot fairer than what we have now. As for Texans: “Everyone in Texas is being ignored, because Texas just doesn’t matter to the presidential election,” said Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard University law professor who was a leading organizer of the legal effort. Almost 3.88 million Texans voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Not a single vote counted. Most black and Latino voters, who make up more than 40 percent of the Texas electorate, have not had one electoral vote cast for their preferred candidate in the past four decades. (In the 1932 election, Franklin D. Roosevelt gathered all of Texas’ electoral votes with 88 percent of the popular vote. In 1992, George H.W. Bush did the same with only 40.5 percent in a three-way race against Democrat Bill Clinton and independent Ross Perot.)

Being a solidly red state means presidential candidates don’t bother to campaign in Texas, although they come here for money. Indeed, GOP candidates consider Texas their ATM. If we give a lot of money, maybe one of us will get appointed to a top position – like Secretary of State. The candidates spend their time and funds in battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where there are a lot of Electoral College votes, as I was telling President Hillary.

The only time any money came back to Texas was in 2008 when Hillary and Barack Obama were both seeking the Democratic nomination for President. The Texas campaign was tough and mystifying to outsiders. It’s hard for missionaries to grasp the difficulties of running a state-wide campaign here. We are expensive. Texas is separated into 20 media markets, the most of any state. Former Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, who was state director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008, told The New York Times, “It’s like running a national campaign. There are no similarities between Amarillo and Brownsville and Beaumont and Texarkana and El Paso and Austin and Houston and Dallas. These are very separate demographic groups with very diverse interests.” The primary election led to the Texas Two-Step with voting, caucuses, and late-night confusion.

If Texas went to a proportional vote, like Maine and Nebraska, presidential candidates would be forced to come here to campaign, hoping to get a slice of our big-delegate pie. That means renting hotel ballrooms and suites, cars, cops, caterers, lots of ads on TV, radio and newspapers. More importantly, everyone’s vote would count. We would no longer be spectators in the sport of government. This would mean amending the Constitution, but if Americans can change the charter to prohibit alcohol and give 18-to 21-year- olds the right to vote (they still don’t), we can drop out of college. So I can get some sleep.


Ashby is electable at ashby2@comcast.net

A River Runs Through It

February 19, 2018 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby, Uncategorized

SAN ANTONIO – Here we are, morning at an outdoor café along the town’s River Walk. The sky is blue, the temperature is 75, the flowers are in bloom and, right on key, here come both a barge full of tourists and a waiter with my Bloody Mary. Just like Buffalo Bayou. Well, not exactly, but how many times have you heard totally clueless residents or out-of-towners say, “Why can’t Buffalo Bayou be turned into something like San Antonio’s River Walk?” Well, why can’t the Astrodome be turned into the world’s largest sauna? Just open the doors in August. Why can’t the Texans stay healthy? The easy answer is simply: Harvey, but that 500-year flood only hits every three years, right?

Let’s start here in San Antonio, or Santone. The river got here before the town. San Antonio’s history began in May of 1718 with the founding of the San Antonio de Béxar Presidio and Mission San Antonio de Valero (now the Alamo) so the city is now celebrating its 300th birthday. For the next couple of centuries the river was considered a dumping ground. If you look at some of the older building along here you will see fire escapes, loading docks and the butt-end of structures. Indeed, in the 1920s the manager of the Plaza Hotel asked the city if it couldn’t do something about “that dirty little river.” In 1929, San Antonio architect Robert H.H. Hugman developed plans for the river area including stone walkways, bridges, staircases and the vision of retail development. Nothing happened. Then the Great Depression came along, the WPA found unemployed workers willing to lay stone for starvation wages, and Bingo! The 1968 HemisFair nudged more walkways, bridges and tourists. Since then Santone has been adding on and extended the river because every hotel and restaurant wants to advertise “on the River Walk.”

The San Antonio River Walk.

A few items of interest, maybe. Santone is now the seventh-largest city in the country. (Texas is the only state having three biggest cities in the top 10, with Austin coming on strong.) The minor league San Antonio Missions are the only original member still in the Texas League. (That may change.) The headwaters of the San Antonio River are found at the Blue Hole, a natural artesian spring on the University of the Incarnate Word campus near the downtown. San Antonio is called Military City USA because for almost 300 years soldiers and, later, airmen were stationed here. If you were a career soldier or airman, somewhere along the line you were stationed here. Shake any tree and a retired general will fall out. The list of former military residents includes Robert E. Lee, Black Jack Pershing and a young lieutenant named Dwight Eisenhower, who met his future wife here. Ike also coached a college football team. Gen Douglas MacArthur went to high school in San Antonio at the West Texas Military Academy. Needless to say, MacArthur was the class valedictorian.

What kind of cash cow is this “dirty little river?” Houston, read with jealousy the following: A 2014 study found that the River Walk attracted about 9.3 million non-resident visitors whose main reason for coming to the area was to visit the River Walk. Locals made about 2.2 million trips to the River Walk resulting in a total of about 11.5 million visitors. These non-resident visitors spend about $2.4 billion each year, which supports more than 31,000 jobs. These workers earn incomes and benefits of over $1 billion. The economic impact is about $3.1 billion per year. This economic activity results in about $173 million flowing to various state and local government agencies, and almost $201 million in revenues being generated for the federal government. That’s a lot of money for this sleepy river village. But how do they keep it from flooding? Back in the 1920s, like Houston, Santone flooded awfully. Finally a series of dams and locks regulated the water level. However, the bottom depth varies, so if some Saturday night drunk falls into the river, she may be up to her waist, or 30 feet down.

This water level is obviously one of the major drawbacks for the aptly named Bayou City. After Houston’s 1920 and 1930 floods, like San Antonio, plans were made and two dams — Addicks and Barker — were built west of the city to prevent flooding. (Quit laughing.) Here’s a quick overview for real estate brokers who are using glass bottom boats. Buffalo Bayou rises west of Katy near the Waller County line in extreme northern Fort Bend County and flows 65 miles east, across southern Harris County, to its mouth on the San Jacinto River. It goes through some of the most expensive neighborhoods and winds through the downtown. You couldn’t ask for a better location for lazy boat rides, kayaking and waterside restaurants. But over the years the bayou became neglected, polluted (there used to be a boating event called the Reekin’ Regatta). In recent years some good citizens have tried to fix up the banks with jogging paths and trees, bushes, etc. But it still ain’t no River Walk.

OK, that’s the problem, what’s the solution? First, we need a major tourist attraction to bring visitors to our bayou. I suggest we buy, or at least rent, the Alamo. Hey, San Antonio has been talking a good fight for decades about how the city is going to upgrade the Alamo Plaza, get rid of the Bible thumpers and the sleaze shops. All hat and no cattle. So Houston moves in and takes charge. Then we copy San Antonio’s flood plans, with docks and locks. Houston sent men to the moon, so don’t tell me we can’t figure out how to put in a few flood-free bars and cafes. The main point is that we don’t consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, unless you want that riverside café in your den.


Ashby deposits at the Left Bank of the Bayou at ashby2@comcast.net

Guest Work Without Reservations

October 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby, Uncategorized

THE HOTEL – The nice part about staying in a hotel is that someone else empties your wastebaskets, picks up your soggy towels and puts new little bottles of shampoo and bars of soap in your bathroom each day when you steal the ones put out the day before. My wife and I have been living in hotels since Hurricane Harvey, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, flooded my house. So I have become somewhat of an expert in the business.

For example, room rates. They vary more than airline fares. Book through one of those agencies that guarantees the lowest rates and you are using a “third party.’ This can cause all kinds of trouble if you want to change anything from arrival dates to the sheets. Some hotels book a lot of weekend and holiday business, thus their rates are higher then. Others cater to business people who arrive on Sunday nights and leave on Friday mornings, so they offer good weekend rates. One place where I stayed was so empty on weekends that they closed the bar. Speaking of bars, there are those lodgings which offer a free happy hour each afternoon. Don’t go. They pour the absolutely worst booze on the market. The free breakfasts are just fine, however, if you want to get up at dawn.

This is the perfect segue into what to do when you first enter your new room. Check the alarm clock because the previous guest set that alarm on his last night for 4 a.m. so he could catch the 7 o’clock flight to Goose Bay, Labrador, for his annual baby seal hunt. Time after time I have been awakened in the middle of my first night by the alarm, then spend 15 minutes trying to turn it off. Bring a clothespin. There must be a law that hotel rooms’ curtains must never meet, so that as the dawn breaks – about noon for me – light from the crack between the drapes hits you right in your face. A simple clothespin clamps the two drapes together and lets you sleep. The room temperature: for the last week I have wearing a sweater when it is 94 degrees outside because I can’t shut off the a/c, can’t open the window, and can’t get management to do anything about it. Maybe if I call the front desk and say, “How do I start a fire in the bathtub?” they’ll take action.

Also, you don’t have to be Howard Hughes tromping around the room with your feet in Kleenex boxes, but take certain health precautions. The dirtiest thing in your room, travel experts say, is the TV remote. Give it a good bath under the faucet. Then check out the channels. I am against any more federal rules and regulations, but there should be one ordering all TV remotes and channel numbers to be the same in each town. While traveling, have you ever plopped down to watch your favorite program and it’s halfway over before you find which channel it’s on? Oh, I had a funny situation happen to me a few days ago. I was walking through the hotel room and the local news came on. It was KPRC, Houston, and then it hit me: I was in Houston. I had never stayed in a hotel in my own town.

Conrad Hilton bought his very first hotel, the Mobley, in Cisco, Texas. He then moved on to other West Texas towns. Hilton later observed, “At Lubbock I found that Texas had no use for an imported French chef.” This brings us to hotel food which usually tastes like hotel food. The chef was fired when he couldn’t cut it at Wendy’s. There is the convenience of taking the elevator to dinner, particularly if you are in a strange town and don’t know where to eat and don’t want to be walking the streets at 10. And I can’t make blanket condemnations. I recently had one of the best shrimp cocktails ever at a restaurant at an Embassy Suites.

Hotels used to have ice in a bin in a little room at the end of the hall. The state passed a law authorizing only ice machines that dispensed ice from a chute, after hearings in which all kinds of horror stories were told — one guest reported opening the bin door to find a dead cat. The problem is that they give you these plastic bags to line the ice bucket. The very first cubes to drop in collapse the plastic liner which renders it useless. Another helpful hint. If you are staying at a hotel which doesn’t have a bellboy, porter or Boy Scout in need of another merit badge, and you have to handle the bags yourself, and use one of those wheeled racks or dollies or whatever, pull it, don’t push it. Now you know.

Tips for checking out. Do it beforehand, like the night before, or you’ll be in a long line in the lobby behind every other frantic guest trying to catch a plane. Also, gather up all the notepads, pens and Kleenex boxes in the room. Hotels used to put out matches, but now you can’t even light up a cigar unless you are across the street from the loading dock. My daughter used to work for Marriott and told me that maids usually change rooms, floors and workdays, so don’t wait till the last day to leave a tip. Leave a couple of bucks or more on the bed when you head out each day. I once read that John Kerry, as a campaigning presidential candidate, would leave a twenty-dollar bill at each hotel room, but he’s married to the widow of the Heinz fortune, so you probably can get by with less.

This is all you need to know about staying in a hotel, especially in your own town.


Ashby checks in at ashby2@comcast.net

Hypocrites’ Oath

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby, Uncategorized

THE FRONT YARD – I am looking at the flotsam and jetsam of what was my house, and it reminds me that just when I was getting over Trump fatigue, that non-stop news coverage of our unbalanced president, I was plunged into Harvey fatigue. All Harvey all the time. Morning noon and night. I couldn’t get away from that storm. Still, the Texas Gulf Coast was the star, and we got our 15 minutes of fame. It was only about that long, because while we were still bailing out our basements (actually there are very few basements along the coast, but I like the alliteration) along came Hurricane Irma, and the TV types raced off to cover Florida and the Caribbean. Harvey was so last week.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from Harvey, which won’t be a teachable moment because no one will learn a thing. First, there won’t be another Harvey. Not because we won’t endure another such storm, but because NOAA will retire the jersey number, or in this case, the name. They do that with all the big disasters – Carla, Katrina, Allison, the Astros’ bullpen — and now our own catastrophe will live forever. Another lesson: get flood insurance, or, if you can’t afford it, get FEMA to give you a bunch of money to take care of you. This brings up the obvious question of why buy flood insurance?

Courtesy of https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

We now come to Texans’ take on the federal government. We like to quote Ronald Reagan’s observation, “The government isn’t the solution. The government is the problem.” How many times did we hear Texans chant that as a Coast Guard chopper was pulling them from a rooftop? “Hi, Mister National Guardsman. Did you know you are the problem? But thanks for saving me and my family from drowning when we tried to cross that low-water bridge.”

This brings us to the bridge trolls we all know and love: Texas government officials, both state and federal. Take Sen. Ted Cruz. When he paraded his various statements during his presidential campaign damning Washington for everything from halitosis to rabid dogs, his followers – speaking of rabid – cheered and clapped. That’s hard to do when dangling from a helicopter cable. Some commie pundits called Cruz’s current clamoring for billions in flood relief from the U.S. Treasury “hypocritical.” Cruz called it, well, something but I forget what. It was much the same with Gov. Greg Abbott, who has spent millions and millions of our tax dollars fighting Washington for its “interference” in his attempts at gerrymandering, preventing minorities from voting, blocking efforts to clean up our air and water and bringing back 18th Century treatment of women’s health. And when was the last time you heard the Official State Demagogue, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, praise Washington for anything?

Then there are those who attempt to score political points on a tragedy. TV conservative talk show host Sean Hannity had Gov. Abbott on a show and tried to get Abbott to criticize Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, for the way he handled the storm, likening Houston city authorities’ efforts to those of local officials in New Orleans and the Katrina debacle. The Guv wouldn’t bite. Nevertheless, Hannity continues to lambast Turner. Some people give sleaze a bad name. The American Red Cross has also come under scrutiny for how much of the millions it has raised actually went to helping the refugees. When a top Red Cross official was asked that question on TV, he wouldn’t or couldn’t say.

Here are a few do’s and don’t’s to follow after the storm: Don’t buy a used car or truck in Texas for the next year. Bypass that great deal on a BMW with only 5,000 miles. It has been under water for two weeks. Your first clue is that the windshield wipers are on the inside of the car. Don’t buy a house with a waterline in the den or has a flood gauge in the patio. Also, be suspicious of any house with a periscope on the roof. Don’t do business with a contractor with out-of-state license plates. Do figure out a way to make penicillin from a city covered in mold. Wine is harmed by heat, so when you return to your soggy, hot house, your bottles of wine may taste dreadful, so toss them. On the other hand, if your wine comes in boxes, just toss them anyway, but don’t heap the boxes on top of that pile of trash in your front yard. The neighbors will know what you drink.

What to do with your house? If the place only needs minor repairs, lie to FEMA’s insurance agent. “Those cracks in the foundation weren’t there before Harvey.” Maybe you’ll finally get some of your tax dollars back. If there is major damage, put a baby carriage in a bedroom and sob, “She was our only child.” If your place looks like Baghdad after a shelling, take a page from a city council member in Port Arthur. The town has been in pretty dire financial straits, and faced what to do with an aging and abandoned hotel in what had been the downtown district. No one would rent or lease it, no one would buy it. The town couldn’t give it away. It would cost a lot to level the five or 10 story hulk. The council member suggested selling the hotel to Hollywood for an action movie needing a climatic and fiery finale. Boom! Check with Hollywood.

Well, Texas will get over Harvey. We shall repair or tear down and replace. Our insurance rates will skyrocket, all sorts of anti-flood plans will be trotted out and none will be implemented. Our state and federal lawmakers will be on hand next election to tell us how they sucked out money from Washington, that same despicable city of corruption and interfering power-grabbers — and will be re-elected. I’m getting hypocrite fatigue.


Ashby is drying out at ashby2@comcast.net

Three Days in Budapest

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog, Uncategorized

by Dick Dace and Joel Hoopaugh

Day One

We arrived in Budapest at eight in the morning after an extremely bumpy and exhausting overnight train from Prague. We blamed the Soviet-era tracks, the heavy-footed brake man, and the Animal House rejects who partied next door. Our hotel was the sister property to our Vienna accommodation, The Kempinski Hotel Corvinus. Conveniently located in the city center and surrounded by

other high-end hotels, it is nestled between the Ritz-Carlton Budapest and two metro stops. There is nothing like staying at the Kempinski, where one is rejuvenated just by walking through its revolving door.

First stop of the day was Memento Park. We caught the 11 a.m. Memento Park Bus less than one block from our hotel, for a short 20 minute drive outside the city. Created in 1993, the park includes several of more than 1,000 communist-era statues that were an intricate part of the intimidation and propaganda campaign the Soviets used to control the Hungarian people from 1945 until 1989. In the center of every community was a statue showing a benevolent soviet soldier protecting a Hungarian peasant, or a three-story tall statue of Joseph Stalin looking down like a mythical God.

Other statues feature Lenin, Marx, and Engels. The statues made me depressed, sad, and angry. Apparently, most Hungarians agreed with me. In 1989, with the fall of the Soviet Empire, citizens toppled the soviet era statues all across the country, and many were melted down to create new works of art.

Hungary even used some of the communist statues to remodel the ones at Hősök (Heroes) Square, originally

built in in 1896 to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin. In 1989, the statues of the Holy Roman Emperors were replaced with other important national leaders, and a tomb honoring the Unknown Soldier.

Heroes Square is surrounded by a beautiful park, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Palace of Art, and the Serbian Embassy. During the summer the lake is dotted with watercraft, and ice skates gliding on top in winter. It is also the site of the first underground subway station in all of Europe.

As we walked back to our hotel, we stumbled upon a small Hungarian restaurant, Pater Bonijac Etterem. Once inside, the waitress/owner Monika stopped by to take our order. I ordered a chicken dish. She rolled her eyes and exclaimed, “Why you order that? You don’t want that. I bring you what you want!” and off she went. And she was right. She delivered a large plate of chopped veal and her version of potato dumpling for me, and a Gypsy-style meat stuffed crepes typical to Hungary (Hortobagyi Palacsinta) for Joel. Every bite was better than the last.

We decided to take public transportation, then a local taxi to the world famous Formula One Grand Prix racetrack. While most of the track was closed the day we visited, there was a spirited go-kart race happening on one part of the compound, and in another, Hungary’s largest waterpark.

Back in Budapest, we decided to walk along the Danube River which separates Buda from Pest. While admiring the Buda Castle compound across the river, we came upon an interesting grouping of bronze old-fashion shoes on the waters’ edge. It looked like dozens of folks had slipped off their shoes before going for a swim.

We learned later from a tour guide that the shoes are a memorial commemorating the execution of Hungarian Jews by the fascist Arrow Cross members during World War II. The Fascists took the Jews to the river and ordered them to remove their shoes, so they could be used by others, then shot in such a way that their bodies fell into the river.

Day Two

On our way to Buda Castle, we walked along the river to the very impressive Hungarian Parliament. Directly outside is Kossuth Square, a large square with monuments, classical buildings and an underground memorial to the Revolution of 1956. Across the river are Budapest’s most famous landmarks; Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle and Liberty Statue.

Atop the hill is Fisherman’s Bastion, built in 1902 on the foundation of a 13th century church. From one of its seven towers, there is an amazing panoramic view of Buda. For the price of meal, one can sit on the Bastion’s terrace walls and enjoy the view.

At the base is the famous Buda Castle. After being almost completely destroyed by Soviet forces at the end of World War II, the castle was painstakingly rebuilt according to historical photos and paintings. The castle is now a museum, where it is possible to see some of the castles recreated furnishings. A 700-car garage is being constructed underneath the grounds.

Because we wanted to see other sites not accessible by public transportation, we decided to hire a car for our trip to Vienna. First stop: Slavin, Solvakia, which provided us with a birds-eye view of Bratislava, Austria and Hungary.

Day Three

Our driver was Gyuri, a moonlighting professional soccer player who had been a high school exchange student in upstate New York. He spoke excellent English, and drove a late model sedan. First stop: Slavin, Solvakia, which provided us with a birds-eye view of Bratislava, Austria and Hungary.

On our way to Devín Castle in Bratislava, (which was destroyed by Napoleon in 1810) we drove over the famous UFO bridge over the Danube river that was built in the late 1960s and early ’70s during the height of Soviet Communist propaganda building spree. It features a flying saucer-shaped restaurant at the top of the bridges only pylon, the largest such bridge in the world.

Our favorite stop was Carnuntum, a Roman army base established in the first century. Over the years, Carnuntum grew to be an important outpost of the Roman Empire, and was the site where the Emperor emeritus Diocletian and the co-emperors Maximian and Galerius granted freedom of religion for every citizen of the Roman Empire.

It is now an Archaeology Park where they have rebuilt The House of Lucius, complete with period furniture, heated floors, heated baths, and water-flushed latrines. You could say life was good for the generals, and the merchants of Carnuntum. They loved their baths, as do citizens of Budapest, who keep four city bath houses hopping.

Resources:

www.Kempinski.com

Pater Bonijac Etterem Restaurant

Budapest 1068

Dozsa Gyongyut 108

DayTrip.com

A CLASS ACT

 

 

THE SCHOOL GYM — “Billy Ralph. Good to see you. How’s MinnieMay?”

“She ran off with a shepherd, and left me with our 12 kids.”

“Hi there. Your nametag says Sally Joan Mugwump, but you look, uh nothing like I remember.”

“I’m now George Joe Mugwump. I guess the beard fooled you. Which reminds me, thanks to Governor Abbott, it’s murder trying to use a bathroom in this school.” This is my class reunion. Highland Park High School class of ’56. The January class. The State of Texas did away with midterm classes that started and graduated in January. So our class was only about 90 kids, compared to the June class of 22,000 or so. Most of us began in the first grade in four elementary schools, meshed in junior high, now called middle school for the same unknown reason there are no longer midterm classes, and spent the next six years together. (Actually, I didn’t graduate until June. Something about biology – my fetal pig survived.) So here we are, gathered for our every-five-year get-together, which is more often than most classes hold reunions, but we like to meet. Actually, some even married classmates.

“Studs Studly, president of our class, all-state quarterback, elected Mister Best. How are you doing?”

“If you’ll give me your ticket, I’ll bring your car around. Tips are appreciated.” At class reunions, one must be careful what to say. Across the room I spot Marvin Munchkin. “Hey Marv. Whatever happened to that floozy you went with, Mary Lou Easy? Remember how she, uh, dated almost every guy in school, if you get my drift?”

“We’ve been married for 50 years.” Here comes Sally Shrewd. “Sally, how did life go?” “Not bad. I was no-billed by the grand jury, but the civil litigation took all the money I made from insider trading at Merrill Lynch.” Then there were the failures.

If you are planning to attend a class reunion, here are a few tips. Lose weight. Maybe 20 to 30 pounds. Get a tan, even if it means visiting a tanning lounge that gives you skin cancer in only 10 easy sessions, then explain it by casually mentioning that you just returned from your estate in Jamaica. Don’t explain that it’s Jamaica, Queens. Don’t wear you Vietnam War military decorations, especially if they are from North Vietnam. Every reunion should require nametags, so bring a pen and add: “The Honorable” in front of your name. I suggest you don’t push the matter by sticking in “Pope,” “King” or “Grand Kleagle.” Looking around the room, you will notice how everyone else in your class has aged. You’re the exception, but don’t rub it in by doing wheelies with your walker.

         These many years later, I figured out what we should have done when we graduated. We should have created a Tontine, which is named after an Italian banker named Lorenzo Tonti. In 1695 he came up with the idea of everyone putting in some money and the last person to survive would inherit it. If, say, in 1956 we had each put in $10, today that would be about a half million dollars. The money would go to whomever in this group lived the longest. The problem with that is every time we gathered we would be counting heads. Who would outlast who? We would bring along our food tasters.

Ah, yes, it’s been a while. When we graduated, Bill Clinton was 9 years old. Hillary was 45. Top TV shows included “As The World Turns” and “The Price is Right.” Mothers could buy disposable diapers and Teflon non-stick frying pans. Elvis Presley appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and entered the music charts for the first time, with “Heartbreak Hotel.” Top movies were “Guys and Dolls,” “The King and I” and “Around the World in Eighty Days.” Average cost of a new house: $11,700. Average yearly wages: $4.450. A gallon of gas: 22 cents. Average cost of a new car: $2,050. The first computer hard drive was introduced, and none of us bought stock in Texas Instruments. Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and, for the first and last time, OU beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl 45 to nothing. Here’s the kicker: People born that year have been eligible for Social Security these past two years. Back then we should have told our folks to buy some land. Austin now has more people than Houston did when we graduated. There was no place called the Metroplex, but in these 60 years Dallas population has almost tripled from about 500,000 to today’s 1.3 million. And we didn’t buy land.

Someone asked, “Whatever happened to Crazy Carl?” A good question. Every class has a Crazy Carl – someone who didn’t fit in, hadn’t a clue what was going on and, as a result, was the butt of jokes. No one knew anything about Carl. Suddenly, out front a long limo pulled up, the chauffeur ran around, opened the door, and who got out but Crazy Carl. He had a beautiful wife, he was wearing a $2,000 suit and a diamond stickpin the size of an egg.

I went up to him and said, “Crazy Carl! You’re in the big time, but back in school you couldn’t pass a blood test with a tutor. You had trouble counting past your thumb. What happened?” He said, “Oh, it’s easy. I bought something for $100 and sold it for $200. Then I bought something for $500 and sold it for $1,000. Last month I bought something for a million and sold it for five million. You know, after a while that 10 percent profit adds up.”

In five years, we shall meet again. We should bring our food tasters — and tell our grandchildren to buy land. Finally, we must remember our class motto: It is not enough that you should succeed. All your friends must fail.

Ashby reunites at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

Maria Calcina, DDS

August 18, 2015 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Calcina_WebMaria Calcina, DDS
Pediatric Dentistry

Dr. Maria Calcina was born in Tientsin, China, before immigrating to Venezuela. She studied dentistry at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, and went on to pursue her postgraduate degree in pediatric dentistry at New York University College of Dentistry.

After winning a battle with endometrial cancer, Dr. Calcina pursued her licensure in the U.S., where she taught at the University of Maryland College of Dentistry. In 2007, Dr. Calcina relocated to Houston, and after beating breast cancer a year later, opened her practice in Katy. Dr. Calcina is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association, the Association of Women Dentists, the Greater Houston Dental Society, the Hispanic Dental Society, the Houston Asian Dental Society, the Texas Dental Society and the Texas Southwestern Society of Pediatric Dentistry.

Maria Calcina, DDS
19214 Clay Road, Ste. D
Katy, Texas 77449
281-463-4333
www.claydental.net

The World Turns

I’ve noticed a slow down. Plants that were surging, growing like crazy, have paused. Beautiful blooms are not turning into fruit; tomatoes refuse to take on color. The routine has not changed. I’m feeding weekly, watering daily and praying a lot. Today I notice shade covers the garden at 11:30.

How can this be? Back in the spring I meticulously tracked the sun, then removed and trimmed trees to ensure the garden was getting at least eight hours of sun a day. Now I see the world turned. The sun is no longer rising in the gap I created. It’s coming up behind my neighbor’s big oak tree and over one of my giant old crepe myrtles. It’s well after noon before the sun hits my tomatoes. Shade starts creeping back over the garden about 4:30, a tall fence and an awning covering the door to the storage area blocking the sun’s rays. Four hours of sunshine ain’t getting the job done.

The sun is rising behind the trees

The sun is rising behind the trees

 

Obviously these trees aren’t coming down, but after a couple days of research, I find some branches I can trim on the crepe myrtle and gain 90 minutes of sunshine for the garden. Not ideal, but every bit helps. I climb up a ladder and onto the roof of the guest house. I take a long stride from the roof into the tree and begin shimmying up the tall trunk with my trusty tree saw. The view is different from here and I can’t really tell which branches intended to cut. I’m not climbing all the way back down for a second look; I select a branch and start sawing. The limbs are heavier than they look and I worry about fences and pots below as they crash to the ground. It looked like a few little branches needed trimmed. Next thing I know I’ve got a ten foot pile of tree limbs in the yard that need cleaned up. There goes my Saturday!

The results were not instantaneous, but by midweek things are happening. Little cucumbers appear on the vines. Eggplants form and peppers that seemed dormant for weeks gain color. My Tabasco pepper plant had never produced a pepper; suddenly the bush is full. All it took was a few strokes of a saw, and gardening is fun again!

Cucumber

Cucumber

Tabasco Peppers

Tabasco Peppers

Serrano Peppers

Serrano Peppers

Eggplant

Eggplant

Assorted Peppers

Assorted Peppers

 

 

 

Garden Bounty Banquet, for One

It’s working! I have been breaking off pieces of corn tassels and spanking them against corn silks as they appear. Corn cobs have formed on several stalks.

Corn cobs

Corn cobs

On a lesser note, I went inside for two minutes to get my twins some water. When I came back out they were running around very excited, each holding a green tomato. Drats!

I’ve had many failures in my little plot, but now having some success. Jalapeno and Serrano peppers are in the refrigerator, along with six Bok Choys, a bag of radishes and a few ripe tomatoes (plus two very green ones). Onions are ready to pick and I’ve been pulling them up as needed; the herbs, growing in pots around the elevated garden, are absolutely beautiful. I pulled up four of my five unproductive broccoli plants and threw them into the compost barrel (a new purchase). I noticed the fifth had a crown about the size of a quarter, it has grown to egg size in the last couple of days. One of the two eggplants has a fruit and okra has sprouted and stands about three inches tall. Cantaloupe, cucumbers and squash are blooming and climbing the trellis I put along the back of the garden.

Garden 5/19/14

Garden 5/19/14

 

Flat leaf parsley

Flat leaf parsley

 

 

 

Sage

Sage

Basil

Basil

Mint

Mint

 

 

 

There are 10 pepper plants. So far the Serrano is the workhorse, pumping out nearly 20 peppers. Poblano, Anaheim, habanero and Thai peppers have lots of flowers, little to no fruit. Somehow I ended up with two dragon cayenne plants. One has eight peppers; the other just one. I’m hoping the non-producing plants are just waiting for the summer heat and will over perform in a month or so.

Meanwhile, I’m hungry. My wife is at an event, the boys are in bed; I’m dining solo. There is 1/2 of an uncooked rib-eye, some mushrooms and garden harvest in the fridge. Part of my writing job takes me all over the world, at most stops I meet with chefs who teach me their signature recipes, which I recreate for H Texas‘ Dinner Club section. I draw from lessons I received in Mexico and Tennessee for tonight’s dinner.

 

 

Seared Rib-eye with Bourbon Mushrooms

Ingredients

6-8 ounce steak (choose your favorite cut)

1 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/8 cup chopped onions

1/8 cup chopped fennel

1 large Serrano pepper- halved

1/2 cup red or white wine

1 shot of Tennessee whiskey

Salt

Pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Preheat small, well seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat. Season meat with an ample amount of salt and pepper, rub into the meat. Melt butter in skillet, add steak and sear for three minutes. Flip steak and put pan and all into the oven for 3-6 minutes (depending on thickness). remove beef, re-season with salt and pepper and set aside to rest. Put the pan back on high heat, scrape bottom with metal spatula to loosen all bits and juices, add whiskey and cook for 30 seconds. Add veggies and wine and stir to coat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about five minutes. Remove lid, turn heat to high and cook until liquid evaporates. Top steak with veggies and enjoy with your favorite adult beverage.

Rib-eye, salt and pepper

Rib-eye, salt and pepper

Sauce Ingredients

Sauce Ingredients

Cook over high heat until liquid evaporates

Cook over high heat until liquid evaporates

It’s Amazing!

Amazing things are happening in my 84-square foot patch of fun. I can literally watch cucumber vines climb the trellis; I’m picking peppers and tomatoes as corn stalks are blooming tassels.

Who wants salsa?

Who wants salsa?

If you’re into gardening, you know how addictive watching things grow can be. My 18-month old twin helpers are as caught up as I am. Yesterday one picked a mint leaf to chew on, and as he slowly negotiated the plant to mouth transition, noticed tomatoes growing on the vine just past the mint plant. He instantly reached; luckily, I was close enough to prevent the premature plucking.

The twins are constantly chewing on mint and parsley, and they love onion tops. They like to keep themselves busy around the garden fussing with dead and dying leaves; they are natural cullers. They also like to throw mulch and dirt on the deck. I think they like the texture of the wood mulch and temperature (and taste) of the dirt. In the past I’ve found ways of distracting them from unwanted actions, but they find throwing dirt and mulch beyond distraction and worthy of a good scolding. I’ve had to resort to old fashioned time out. I start their outside time with a visit to the garden and tell them they can play with the plants as long as they don’t throw dirt and mulch on the deck. When they violate this rule they are banished to another part of the yard for a few minutes. One has caught on; the other really likes dirt!

All my creepy vines are crawling. The speed in which their tentacles can wrap around the trellis, and corn stalks, is mind boggling. My cucumbers can get a couple of loops around the trellis in just a few minutes and be strangling  a corn plant by the end of a sunny day. If I had a few too many adult beverages and napped in the garden, I’m not sure I would make it out alive!

Cucumber plant grabbing trellis

Cucumber plant grabbing trellis

My squash and cantaloupes sprouted tentacles yesterday and I assume they’ll start to climb the trellis today.

I’m in a dilemma on fertilizing. Since I put down a heavy layer of mulch, as prescribed in Dr. Randall’s succinctly titled Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro Houston, A Natural Organic Approach Using Ecology, 12th Edition, its a major task to rake MicroLife fertilizer into the top few inches of soil. I have to rake up the mulch, fertilize then lay the mulch back down. The people at Wabash recommended a fish based liquid fertilizer; my wife was unhappy with the odor, “It smells like a bad day at the beach,” she told me as she escaped back into the house. Cousin Steve, who is no relation to me, says he gets great results with Miracle Gro liquid and holds a cold Budweiser in one hand as he sprays Miracle Gro on his garden with the other. The NASA rocket scientist and life long gardener has dropped by to give me some zucchini and crooked neck squash; says he’s picking about 20 per day. I barely have a bloom and he’s harvested nearly a hundred squash. This has my attention; I guess I’ll give the Miracle Gro a try.

I don’t have enough corn properly planted to ensure pollination. Evidently this a common problem for recreational farmers; I found plenty of instructional articles on line. I’m helping the birds and the bees by hand pollinating. Corn plants sprout tassels at the top of the plant that contain pollen. When enough corn is planted properly, wind blows the pollen onto silks sprouting along the sides of the plant. By cutting off part of a tassel and rubbing it on the silks, one can get pollen on the silks and hopefully cause a cob to grow. My research says to repeat the process several days in a row. My garden is a very loving environment.

Blooming corn plants

Blooming corn plants

Corn Silks

Corn Silks

Corn Tassels

Corn Tassels

Begining to Reap

Things are looking up! I have plucked some early tomatoes from my Celebrity vine. The mocking birds have been watching them ripen; I beat the birds to the punch and moved the tomatoes to the inside windowsill when two thirds of the fruit were pink.

My first tomato

My first tomato

I count another 8-10 fruits and tons of blooms. I plan on letting some of these stay on the vine and note at what stage the birds attack; going forward I’ll start picking just before the birds are attracted. I’ve also got about a dozen Serrano peppers and half a dozen jalapenos that can be picked at anytime. I can combine my harvest and make garden fresh salsa.

I’ve overcome obstacles and garnered some mild success with radishes, Bok Choy, peppers and tomato.

The radish harvest

The radish harvest

I’ve kept the soil loose around the base of my onions and they have started getting fat at the bottom; I’m hopeful. I’ve had complete failures with Brussels Sprouts and cauliflower (planted too late) and cabbage (did not feed properly). I have two more failures looming. I starved my broccoli the first half of their young lives. I began aggressively feeding and they grew like crazy, but it looks like too little too late; I see no signs of florets after ninety days. My corn is also in jeopardy. I planted two rows, 8 stalks each. I have since found out I should have planted four rows of four to ensure the wind does its job during pollination. I’m trying to pollinate by hand, we’ll see how that works out.

Cantaloupe, cucumbers and squash are planted to crawl up a trellis I installed at the back of the garden. The cucumbers have already started the climb. I notice a couple of plants had latched on, so I propped a third cucumber up next to the trellis with a small stake, within thirty minutes it had grabbed hold. I put four okra plants and two eggplants in the ground and gave them a good feeding. Hopefully they will be feeding me soon.

 

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