Thursday, April 30, 2009

News Flash

I recieved this today and thought I would post it in case anyone would like to attend:

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee

Member of the Homeland Security Committee



OPEN HOUSE

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE H1N1 FLU AND RECEIVE PERTANENT INFORMATION

11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
May 1, 2009

420 W. 19th Street
Houston, TX 77008

RSVP 713.655.0050 or 713.861.4070


Michael Halpin, District Administrator
Office of Congresswoman Jackson Lee

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Heights Happenings

Saturday, May 2, 1-4 PM: The Travis Elementary Centennial Parade and Celebration
  • Help celebrate the history of The Heights by joining in the fun. Travis Elementary is 100 years old! Mayor Bill White, Mrs. Barbara Bush and alumni from as far back as the 1930s will be attending. There will be School tours discussing the building's history, tree planting and a time capsule burial. One notable float in the parade will be Heights artist and pianist Loreta Kovacic-Parani. Loreta composes primarily children's music and her float will feature Heights area kids performing her latest musical BROTHER TADPOLE. The parade begins at the Norhill/Bayland esplanade and ends at the Travis campus on Florence.

Saturday, May 2, All Day: Historic Heights 1st Saturday
  • Come on! You know it's been too long since you've hit 1st Saturday.
  • This month's featured events include: Free Heirloom Tomato Plant @ Karen Derr & Associates; Pat Gavin & the Buckaroo Band @ Hickory Hollow - new time 5:30; Hula to The Grass Skirts ukelele & steel guitar band @ 1st Sat Arts MarketStudent Art; Felix Cook, Jr. Elementary Fine Arts Academy @ Heights Modern Home
  • Don't forget, you can relax and take the trolley from 11AM - 4PM, which includes fun trolley coupons for things like cheap margaritas at Berryhill on 11th .

Thursday, May 7, 6:30-8:3- PM: The Heights Womans' Club Founders Day Reception

  • Have you ever been interested in joining the Heights Womans' Club? Did you even realize there is a Heights Womans' Club? Well, whether you didn't know at all or always wanted to know more, here is your chance. The reception will be held at the group's clubhouse, 1846 Harvard, and will honor the memory of Hortense Sparks Ward . Ward was a Houston Heights resident and an early Houston attorney. She was the 1st woman to pass the Texas Bar and one of the first practicing female attorneys in the State of Texas. Mrs Ward helped obtain the Club's charter in 1912. She spoke at the first public meeting in the new clubhouse, championing the Married Womans Property Act which she had co-authored and worked to ensure the passage of by the Texas Legistlature in 1913. Light refreshments and beverages will be served. Please RSVP attendance to Jeanne.ardoin@gmail.com, amydell@gmail.com or via mail to P.O. Box 7782, Houston, Texas 77270.

Heads Up:

This year's White Linen Night will be Saturday, August 1. Mark your calendars, but don't worry-we'll remind you again!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pooch Promenade (I'm Not Making Up That Title)

Ah, The Heights.

Where else would you wake up on Saturday morning, ride your bike to the park with your partner and your dog, and enter the aforementioned canine in a competition for glory and prizes against a dog wearing a top-hat and a dog wearing a costume that strongly resembles Indiana Jones?

Yes, The Heights.

One of our quaint little sub-neighborhoods within The Heights, Proctor Plaza (also known as Norhill), held a fundraiser and community get-together at Proctor Park (W. Temple Street) this past Saturday. For the purpose of ethics in journalism, I have to disclose that I am, in fact, a Proctor Plaza resident. And, to complicate matters, I entered my bloodhound, Hoss, in the competition for Most Handsome, so I am hardly an objective observer.

The Pooch Promenade is the kind of thing that makes me want to pinch our neighborhood's cheeks and say, "You are too cute!"

Seriously? A competition to crown:
  • The Dog with the Prissiest Tail
  • The Dog with the Best Story
  • Best Owner/Dog Look-Alike
  • Best Dressed Dog
  • Most Talented
  • Most Beautiful & Most Handsome (a.k.a. Mrs. & Mr. Proctor Plaza)

How quirky and adorable is that?

When the president of the neighborhood association announced each category, dogs and their owners who wanted to enter would come forward and stand in a line. Then the dogs and owners would parade around in a circle, so all the onlookers (who were also the judges) could get a good look. Finally, the president would announce each dog/owner combo and the audience would use the intensity of their clapping to indicate their vote.

The voting system left a little to be desired. I mean, the woman who sported a camouflage jacket and a beret and dressed her dog in a camouflage vest didn't win the Owner/Dog Look-Alike contest.

Several neighborhood businesses (like Beer Island, Shipley's Donuts, My Dog and Me, Ace Hardware, Wabash, Fiesta, Venus Hair, and ioMosaic--just to name a few) donated gift certificates and cash to help make the event possible. I'm so impressed--especially given the economic crash and burn we're experiencing--that businesses would give so generously to help make a local community event possible.

It was also a chance to get to mingle (which I am so bad at!). We talked to a few people (dogs are great conversation starters), but we didn't maximize our chance to meet new people. We've only lived in The Heights since July, so we're trying to build our cadre of neighbor-friends. Maybe next time...

I do have to say that I'm a little bitter that Hoss didn't place at all in The Most Handsome category. He hardly got any claps. Look how sad he is. (You can make him feel better by voting for him in the comments section.)


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Supplemental: Heights Happenings

Here are a couple of worthwhile events that you need to know about:

Saturday, May 2, Noon- 5 PM: Bras and Boxers- Kick Off for American Cancer Society's Relay for Life of Greater Heights
  • Bras and Boxers are now being collected (along with a $5 donation per item) to help raise cancer awareness. The undies will be strung down 19th Street on May 2 in conjunction with Heights 1st Saturday. The display, a quirky fundraiser modelled after an event in Vicksburg, MI, where almost 2000 bras were stretched across the Mississippi River on U.S. 80, will jump start The Relay for Life of Greater Heights cancer awareness fundraiser
  • Check the website at the link above for opportunities to volunteer. Stringing the bras and boxers together is just one way you can help!
  • If you would like to make a donation, you can contact Barbara Dickens (2009 Chair of the Greater Heights Relay Committee): 281.630.5120 or event@rflgh.org -or- check HERE for drop off locations.

Saturday, May 15: American Cancer Society’s 2009 Relay For Life Greater Heights

One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. The American Cancer Society Relay For Life® is a life-changing event that brings together more than 3.5 million people across the country each year to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against a disease that takes too much.

  • The relay runs 6 PM Friday, May 15th until 6 AM Saturday, May 16th at the Delmar-Dyer Sports Complex .
  • There is still time to get a team together!! Click the link above to sign up quickly and help "Kick Cancer Out of This World!"

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Ebb and Flow of Hamburgers

Or at least the strange ebb and flow of Dry Creek. One minute it’s accolades; the next thumbs down all around. Everyone wants to go; no one can stand it. Is there anyone who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with this Creek? I admit I do. I love the patio but hate the service. I love the burgers but hate the cheese steak.

This back-and-forth relationship often leaves me wondering if I am missing something? Are there enough people that choose burgers over service to keep this place afloat? Is it the sheer fact that they have one of the biggest breakfast patios in The Heights keeping them open? Do they sell that many coffee drinks? I want to go and then always reason that I don’t want to go just to have the service tick me off. Will it ever get consistently good?


Now, one thing to mention before I proceed is that a lot of the families on the Heights Kids Group forum had a huge discussion about Dry Creek several months ago. The comments were not friendly and one industrious mother put them all together and emailed the owner. It wasn’t long after that we saw signs go up at the restaurant with an email address for comments on service. The time we went after that, stellar. The next time, the same old. The time after that, worse than the same old. As of today, it’s been a while…

Tonight was just one of those nights. Mama had a pregnancy craving which couldn’t be denied. It was already late when the hubby got home. Someburger was closed and a trip to someplace like Southwell’s wasn’t going to work for us. The weather was a breezy 78 degrees and old Dry Creek was calling our names. We decided to see if there had been improvement since our last visit.

It is Tuesday as I write this and it was all quiet on the Dry Creek front when we arrived. Despite the gorgeous weather, the sun was strong and the patio umbrellas were, themselves, falling down on the job. We chose a table inside and were greeted quickly. One in the win column as this is usually where the meal starts to go awry at DC. We got drinks and read our menus. Our orders were taken promptly and we waited. This may seem like no big deal, especially since it was a quiet night, but 10+ years in the restaurant industry has proven that when it’s slow, servers get lazy. You are more likely to get poor service on a quiet night than a hectic one when a place has its adrenaline pumping!

Tonight they had an expediter in the kitchen. This is helpful, even if she was eating something while she was standing in front of the line. Hey, I’m no Marvin Zindler. Again, a decade in kitchens and I forgive things a man with blue tinted glasses just wouldn’t.

Our waiter had his own dinner while we were seated, as well. But he didn’t eat it in front of us and we didn’t go without what we needed. Ideal? No, but fine. Perhaps it was his hunger pangs than caused him to not bring my side of guacamole out before the food as requested. Maybe he thought he heard me wrong and was I really going to spoon feed my kid guac before dinner came? Either way, I was sad that my son would only eat fatty protein and fries when I wanted some of that green goodness in him before the grease hit the table.

As far as my burger… yeah. Perfect. Per my request, it was cooked a little more than I like it since I was sharing with the boy. It was still juicy and flavorful. The fries were wonderful- kind of crisp, nicely seasoned. Mmmmm. It really hit the spot.




The husband got a turkey burger with a salad on the side. He said it was “awesome.” He actually eats turkey and veggie burgers quite a bit and says it’s a challenge to get them not dried out. He loved this one and the salad was good, too. Nice greens, good dressing. Simple and solid. He also got a cherry-lime-aid. High marks for it as well.




We always expected the food to be good. It was a pretty simple night. What it did, though, was put us back in to the “Flow” category for Dry Creek. We’ll head back again soon and hope to keep up the positivity. Maybe now is a good time for you to try again too….

ADDENDUM: I wrote the above last week. Last night, Thursday, we went back to Dry Creek. We had plans with friends and they mentioned craving burgers. "Dry Creek has great burgers," I suggested. So, ugh. We had, coincidentally, the same waiter as last week. My husband's salad and the "fry basket" we ordered came out first as we requested, but for some reason the quesadilla appetizer didn't come out until dinners were served. It was clearly ordered as an appetizer. After our other apps came out we actually inquired as to the quesadilla's whereabouts. Our waiter said "Oh, it should be coming." Yeah, it came. Fifteen minutes later with our dinners.

I also have to make mention of my disappointment of the fried app platter we ordered. It had 3 mozzarella sticks, about 5 teeny onion rings (not the same onion rings they serve with the burgers) and 4-5 slices of zucchini. The zucchini wasn't cut in to sticks, but rather disks and only one piece was bigger than a quarter. It was not good and not worth the price tag.

There was another service issue last night as well. A busgirl was clearing the appetizer plates from our table and dropped the ramekin of red sauce from the fried platter. It hit the ground and splattered all over everyone at our table, especially my husband who was still in his work clothes. She just kind of looked at all of us, splattered with marinara, and said "Sorry. I'll get more napkins." Our waiter never apologized and a manager/supervisor certainly never came by to check on us. Again, I waited tables for a lot of years. I spilled more than my fair share of crap on people. I understand full well that accidents happen. It's how the accident is handled where things can go right or wrong. Once I dropped a whole tray of fajitas on the patio at this TexMex joint I worked at in Dallas. When the beef, grilled onions, rice, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream ricocheted all over the Happy Hour crowd, the owner bought a round of drinks and paid for everyone's dry cleaning. That's why, in a city as fickle as Dallas, this restaurant has been open for more than 20 years.

So, now my opinion that maybe the time is ripe to give Dry Creek another chance is wavering. Sure, go. Just don't want to eat your meal in courses and don't expect much help if something goes wrong. The friends we went with tonight live in The Heights and eat out a lot but had never been to Dry Creek for dinner. They liked the burgers enough, but they didn't seem impressed with the experience as a whole. I can't say I blame them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Heights Happenings

Thursday, April 30, All Day Long: Dine Out. Fight AIDS.
  • If you enjoy eating out, Thursday, April 30 is a great day to do so. Houston restaurants are paticipating in the national Dining Out For Life fundraiser, locally benefitting AIDS Foundation Houston. In the Heights, you can enjoy a hearty sandwich at Carter & Cooley on 19th (lunch only), a slice from Pink's Pizza on the Boulevard, or sushi and spring rolls from Dragon Bowl on 11th. Restaurants have pledged 33% of food bills for the entire day to support the fight against AIDS and HIV. In 2008, AFH raised over $80,000 for programs and services such as housing, case management, and food assistance for nearly 5,000 HIV+ men, women, and children.

Saturday, April 25, 6-9 PM: Silent Art Auction at G-Gallery

  • The G-Gallery at 301 East 11th Street will host an silent art auction and artist reception, featuring works from established and emerging Houston artists including ALIX DUNN, IBSEN ESPADA, DAVID GRAEVE, ROBERT GRAHAM, RACHEL HECKER, MAX MILLER, AARON PARAZETTE, AL SOUZA, WHITNEY RILEY, AND ALEENA WORFE. There will also be many non-art items on the auction block, including guitar lessons, several sets of theater tickets and a Central City Co-Op gift certificate. Admission is free and all proceeds benefit Shining Star School, Houston's only Waldorf school.
Sunday, April 26; 1pm: Texas Filmmakers Production Fund Workshop
  • Location: Aurora Video Library, 1524 Sul Ross; Free Admission; Are you a Texas filmmaker seeking funding for your next project? Since 1996, the Austin Film Society's Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund has supported Texas filmmakers by giving out cash, goods and services to film and video projects. At this workshop, the Austin Film Society's Director of Artist Services will take you through the grant application process step-by-step. You should not miss this if you plan to apply or need money to support your project. MORE INFO

Wednesday, April 29, 11:30 AM: The Greater Heights Area Chamber of Commerce 9th Annual Reibenstein Memorial Golf Tournament

  • Event begins at 11:30 AM with practice and included lunch. Shotgun start at 1:30 PM. Event will take place at the Longwood Golf Club, 133000 Longwood Terrace. Details on the website or from the Chamber at 713.861.6735 or by email exasst@heightschamber.com
Heads Up: Last days for the Clay Across Texas series at 18 Hands Gallery
  • Saturday, April 25 draws the series at 18 Hands Gallery to a close. This series features San Antonio artists, as well as new pieces from the gallery's resident artists. The gallery, located on 19th Street, is open 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Wednesday through Saturday and Sunday noon til 5:00 PM.

Sculpture by Susan Raine

Heads Up: Call for Entries: Extremely Shorts Film Festival
  • May 1: Aurora Picture Show's twelfth annual Extremely Shorts Festival features three-minute or shorter films and videos by artists, filmmakers, culture jammers, students, moms, security guards, and anyone with a camera and a vision. This year’s juror is Bill Arning. Mr. Arning was the Curator at the MIT List Center in Boston, MA and will be the new Director of the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston beginning in April. MORE INFO
Outside the Heights: Saturday, April 25, 3-9pm; The Menil Arts Community Open House; free admission
  • The non-profit arts organizations of the Menil Campus, including Aurora Picture Show, band together to showcase a free afternoon of arts and entertainment including performances, exhibits, screenings, readings, classes, and services at an all-day open house. There will be special music performances, art exhibitions, and programs of the spoken word from organizations such as Da Camera, Inprint, SWAMP, Cinema Arts Society and Writers in the Schools. Join Aurora for family-friendly videoke and treats at the office from 3-6PM, a musical performance from DJ Lama at the Menil Bookstore from 6:30-8PM, followed by a screening of short films funded by the Austin Film Society’s Texas Filmmakers Production Fund at 8PM, outdoors in the backyard of the office location, 1524 Sul Ross. Films include works by George Langworthy, Toddy Burton, Lance Myers, Bob Ray, David Zellner, Andre Silva, Ted Gesing and Eileen Maxson.Bring your lawn chairs, blankets and picnics! MORE DETAILS AND A MAP HERE



Monday, April 20, 2009

Hunting for a Good Deal at Stardust Antiques


As much as I like to adventure and spontaneity, I also like routines--like my Saturday morning routine, for instance:
  1. Wake up at a leisurely pace
  2. Take my dog running (he's a bloodhound and needs an insane amount of exercise, despite the fact that he likes to spend the rest of the day sleeping)
  3. Swing by the Farmer's Market
  4. Go grocery shopping
  5. Stop by Stardust Antiques on 11th Street to see what new things Bob and Yolanda have acquired
Truth be told, I oftentimes swing by Stardust Antiques on Sunday, too. They are just that nice, and their prices are just that good.

Bob and Yolanda got into the antique business back in 1984 when Bob's antique-dealing mom unexpectedly died and left the family her collection. At the time, Bob worked as a distributor for the Chronicle and then a special education teacher, and Yolanda worked at a bank. They named their business Mae's Antiques in honor of Bob's mom.

At that time, they set up shop in a barbershop on Houston Avenue. In the beginning, $15 of profit per week was considered a good week, and some days they sold nothing at all.

Fortunately, they didn't let their slow start stop them. In 1991, when a persistently leaky roof at the barbershop forced them to search for new property, they found the old Stardust Lounge on 11th Street for $50,000, which--as Yolanda says--was "a famous dive" back in the day.

Rumor has it that the former owner of the Stardust Lounge was killed by his second wife and step-daughter. When they went to prison, the property became available. To maintain the connection to its history and the neighborhood, Bob and Yolanda added the name Stardust Antiques to their sign.

Now, they open for ten hours a week (Saturday 11-5 and Sunday 1-5) and supply our neighborhood with an eclectic collection of items from the 1800s through the 1950s, with a specialization in Texas Primitives. Matt and I have furnished our 1930s bungalow with an old workmen's bench from the mid 1800s (for a mere $100), one of those giant pull-down maps from a classroom, a party-sized glass drink dispenser from Italy ($15), countless pieces of pottery, an old school desk ($35), and postcards.

Although Bob and Yolanda live in the Greenspoint area rather than The Heights, they have certainly built a community at 1129 E. 11th Street. They know many of their customers by name and have maintained connections with some of them for more than a decade. Yolanda says, "We're creating a neat little family."

They also barter with their neighbor, Dacapo's, to offer free cookies to customers on Saturdays. Yolanda maintains Dacapo's landscaping in return. Stardust Antique's customer-friendly policies extend beyond just the free cookies (and soft drinks). They also have an extremely lenient layaway policy, which entails an insignificant down payment, and an unlimited time frame to pay it off.

In terms of pricing, they usually aim to double the price, but if that's not reasonable, they "just try to make $10 off everything." On bigger, more expensive items, Yolanda says they might make $50. Their general policy is "slow and steady every weekend by keeping prices low." They accept cash or check.

Bob and Yolanda enjoy doing business in The Heights and especially appreciate people who are on the hunt for old things to furnish their old homes.

About The Heights, Bob says, "It's a nice, peaceful little neighborhood." Yolanda adds, "It's a picturesque place that personifies the word 'neighborhood.'"

I, for one, am extremely thankful we have down-home businesses that help make our neighborhood what it is.




Friday, April 17, 2009

Meet Your New Neighbor

Houston is definitely a city of transplants. Between the medical center and oil & gas industries, I seem to meet more transplants than natives. In my day-to-day life, some of the things I am involved with allow me to chat with people who are relocating here from out of town or out of state. I am relentless when it comes to pushing all the positive things about my own neighborhood, but when you’ve lived in a 200 sq ft studio in Manhattan or already had to deal with a 3 hour commute in LA, the suburbs of Houston have a lot to offer. Large homes on spacious lots and amenities galore, a shorter-than-you're-used-to commute, those famous suburban schools. No matter how hard I try to sell The Heights, it is really only going to appeal to some of the people some of the time.


So, when I do meet someone who moved to The Heights from elsewhere, I am always intrigued about how they ended up in this neighborhood. Anna is one of those people. I first “met” Anna on a local message board where she posted about relocating to Houston. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out she actually did buy here. I felt like it was one in the win column for the inner loop!


I chatted with Anna about how she and her husband, Sam, decided on The Heights and her answers were much like what I expected. It starts with the commute. Sam would be training for a couple years and that means commuting to different offices. They decided that central would be best until they know where he will land long term. They looked all over the north quadrant of the Loop- Heights, Garden Oaks, Timergrove. The usual suspects.


Anna and her husband, Sam, met oh-so-way-back in undergrad at Vanderbilt and have lived in a couple places since then doing things like grad school. Somerset, NJ, and Arlington, VA, are places most people know. I think the places you live before make a real difference in where you are going to choose after. What you want and don't want from past homes comes in to play when deciding on a new one. When they were in Houston house shopping, Anna said that there was something you could feel right away in The Heights. There was an obvious community feel that appealed to them. She also liked how walkable it seemed, which they didn’t have in New Jersey. Anna and Sam basically had one 3-day weekend to come to Houston and make a decision. The sense of community really spoke to them, as did the presence of sidewalks and diverse homes. “A variety of houses means a variety of people,” Anna noted. And, even with only 3 days to look, they knew it wouldn’t have to be permanent if The Heights wasn’t everything they thought it was going to be.

I have to mention that Houston wasn’t as welcoming to them as it should have been! Anna came down solo while Sam finished the last bits of his graduate degree in Geology. She literally moved down here the weekend before Hurricane Ike. Movers were packing their place in NJ as the storm was approaching. Anna wisely headed back east early to meet the movers and rode out the storm up there. That would have been some welcome party!


Now, seven months in, the couple feels pretty settled. They escaped any Ike related issues (and still haven't endured a summer). They love how central they are. While they live in a part of The Heights that some still consider transitional, they have "great" neighbors and feel lucky in that respect. They feel safe (the addition of Sophie, a black lab, has helped). Anna says they have made great friends in the neighborhood but also know people all over metro Houston. They’ve gotten to see a lot of different parts of the city and Anna told me she “hasn’t found anywhere else I could see myself.” Sometimes her friends in the suburbs seem almost “isolated” and she can’t imagine ever feeling that way in this neighborhood. Amen to that!


Right now, Anna feels like The Heights is so big and has so much to offer, she wonders if she can really ever know it all. On deck: exploring all the cool shops and starting to attend more neighborhood events. Of course, I had to tell her to be sure to check all the great information on The Heights Life to help with that! Ha!


While they enjoy so much about The Heights specifically, Anna and Sam have found the transition to be pretty seamless over all. Anna chalks this up to all Houstonians. She laughed a little when she told me “everyone here is just so nice.” I get the amusement. I feel that way, too, sometimes- like it’s such a stereotype but there is just no denying it. It’s a friendly city!

Anna tries to coax my son, Truitt, on to the couch. Got him and photo op complete!

Thanks, Anna, for taking the time to talk with me and allowing our readers to get to know a new neighbor!

Viula

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Heights Happenings

Friday, April 17, 7:00-9:00pm: Heights Time Bank Potluck
  • Time banking is a time exchange system that builds community. When you spend an hour doing something for a neighbor--like babysitting, small home repairs, a piano lesson, etc.--you earn a Time Dollar that you can spend to have another neighbor do something for you. If you are interested in learning more about time banking (or are already a member) you can attend a potluck at 1134 Jerome Street. Bring a dish to share!
Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, 8-9:30pm: Aurora Picture Show
  • Media Archeology: Liquid Light to the Laptop, the Evolution of Live Visuals pays tribute to the multimedia spectacle of the psychedelic light show as an art form that revolutionized rock concerts, influenced corporate events and advertising, and paved the way for the VJs of today. Friday will feature a presentation from Joshua Light Show and The Silver Apples.
Saturday, April 18, 5pm: 2nd Annual Musicfest-Campout at Marmion Park
  • The festivities start in Marmion Park (corner of 18th and Heights) with opening music from 5-6pm. Then Don Broman's Band will take the stage from 6-8pm. The Big Al's Blues Band will play from 8-10pm. Houston Heights Association members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and their beverages of choice for an evening of music and camaraderie.Non-member neighbors are free to tag along as guests. There will be a grill and wet sink set up for HHA members who want to bring their own hamburger and hot dog fixin's. There will also be free popcorn. When the music ends at 10pm, card tables and chairs will be set up dominoes or cards. There will be a children's campfire located in the Northeast corner of the park. Members of the Houston Story Tellers Guild will entertain the children. There will also be a marshmallow roasting.Tents can be set up anytime after 8am on Saturday morning. Berryhill's will provide breakfast tacos, coffee, and juice at 8am on Sunday. For more information, contact Paul Carr at 713.869.0505 or torturet@aol.com. You can also visit the HHA newsletter.

Wednesday, April 22, 6:30 PM: Monthly Heights PIP Meeting

  • Concerned about crime in The Heights? Attend the Positive Intervention Program, or PIP, meeting at 1602 State Street. PIP meetings exist because dealing with the police and knowing what they do in our neighborhood can be confusing to some citizens. The PIP monthly meetings feature speakers from different divisions (Burglary and Theft, Homicide, K-9, Helicopters, etc.) explaining how their division operates and what has been happening in the neighborhood. For more information on what PIP is and what you can gain from attending this meeting, visit the HPD website HERE.

Saturday, April 25, 3-8 PM: A Birthday Tribute for Huey "Ink Spot" Long

  • 104 year old Huey Long is the last living member of the ground breaking vocal group, The Ink Spots. Quietly celebrated via various avenues of pop culture, this Houston native is a source of pride for our city and for The Heights, which The Ink Spot Museum calls home. On Sat, April 25th, The Ink Spots Museum on E 20th will host a birthday party for the music icon. For more information and to hear some of their music, you can visit the the museum webpage . If you love music and already know you want to be a part of this event, you can RSVP here.

Sat & Sun, April 25-26, 11 AM- 5 PM: Heights Showcase of Homes

  • Part fundraiser, part showcase for builders. See what's behind the doors of some of the new constructions in The Heights. Tour proceeds benefit The Heights Exchange Club. Map and more admission information HERE.

Outside The Heights: Sunday, April 19, 3-6 PM: The Center's Annual Ice Cream Sunday Carnival

  • This is the seventh annual carnival to benefit The Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation, aka The Center. The Carnival will be held on the grounds at 3550 West Dallas and will feature an abundance of kid friendly events like carnival rides, a rock wall, moonwalk, pony rides and a WOW- worthy ice cream sundae bar. All proceeds benefit The Center. Not familiar with The Center? Find out more about the wonderful work they do in our community HERE.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Brazilian Arts Foundation



I’m a sucker for social entrepreneurs. There’s something so inspiring about people who possess the business acumen to start entire endeavors from scratch. But rather than use their prowess to accumulate large amounts of personal wealth, they choose to do something to improve the world.


That pretty much encapsulates Mauricio Campos, the artistic director of the Brazilian Arts Foundation on 11th Street (nestled between Dacapo's and Stardust Antiques).


In the early 1990s, he was a professional skateboarder on the streets of San Paulo, Brazil. Today, he runs a non-profit organization dedicated to providing cultural education and building community through the preservation and sharing of Brazilian culture.


He first came to the United States in his early twenties to learn about another culture and another place. And, of course, to skate. He ran an import/export business selling skateboarding products, which had him traveling back and forth between Brazil and the U.S.


It was during one of these trips back to Brazil when he first took a Capoeira class. “It was instant,” he says. He was captivated by “the freedom of movement.”


As his passion for Capoeira grew, so did his desire to share his experience with others. He started renting space in different buildings throughout the city and teaching classes. He found that the city of Houston really “embraced and welcomed all cultures.”


In 2006, he secured the location on 11th Street, where his passion took root and blossomed. He found that he had to lose everything he had in Brazil to realize the true value of it. Being away from his culture made him appreciate everything it had to offer.

In a way, we can thank Mauricio’s homesickness for the fact that we now have a little piece of Brazilian culture nestled between an antique shop and a cafĂ© on 11th Street. The Brazilian Arts Foundation provides classes in Capoeira, Capoeira for Kids, Music/Maculele/Capoeira, Portuguese, and Roda classes, as well as a Samba Workout. Classes occur Monday through Saturday. You can find their class schedule on their website.

The Brazilian Arts Foundation also works with senior citizens, as well as schools, in their effort to promote "education, good health and vibrant culture." Further, they perform across the city and host events, such as the BAF Brazilian Movie Night Series, which is free to the community.


How many of us can honestly say we wake up each morning, invigorated by the opportunity to live out our passion and do it in a way that makes the world better? Wow.


In addition to running a non-profit in The Heights, Mauricio also calls this neighborhood home. He says, “You can feel the tradition and the history.” He’s lived in different areas of Houston throughout the years, but appreciates The Heights because it’s residential and you can “see people walking around and hanging out with their kids.”

If you don’t see Mauricio working long hours at the Brazilian Arts Foundation, you might catch him skateboarding in a neighborhood park.


So, for your next staycation, why not experience Brazil right on 11th Street? The first class is free, and the movie nights are always free.


Friday, April 10, 2009

And we all sighed "Finally"


It was the most anticipated opening in the Heights that I can remember. People waited with bated breath, trolled message boards, spread rumors. You would hear them ask about it at the coffee shop or speculate over sandwiches. Every time there was any sign of movement at the building, it was talked about! But, no, it wasn’t Glasswall or Bedford. It wasn’t Textile. It wasn’t the renovated Vietnam Restaurant. It was:


That’s right. The Big Mamou. After more than 2 years of seeing the “Future Home of” hanging on the side of this former daycare, the newest Cajun spot in the loop is open and doing business. We packed up the kid and met some friends for dinner. This was our overall impression:

Atmosphere:

I anticipated a full service restaurant going in to that spot, so it was a bit of a surprise to find counter service. However, counter service does very well in The Heights (Berryhill and DaCapo’s, for example) and is definitely a family and group friendly way to eat. Like Berryhill, you order at the counter, but a server brings your food to you. The servers were all extremely helpful and willing to refill your drinks or bring you more of whatever you needed. Hopefully, this exceptional level of attention will last and isn’t just an enthusiastic push while they are a baby business.

I have to say, the patio is something of a disappointment. This is Houston, and we Houstonians LOVE to eat outside. Even on the hottest summer days patios are full come dusk. The patio at Big Mamou only has 6 tables and only 2 of these are actually dining tables. The others are cocktail tables. Sure, you can eat at a cocktail table, and people were, but it’s not fun and not convenient for the very short (kids) or very tall (my husband). This is easily remedied and I hope the owners, who have already built a reputation as “listeners” by answering calls for Abita Beer, see how many people would like to enjoy a PoBoy while watching the cars zoom down Studewood.

The inside is cute, casual and inviting. I’m impressed with how much of the bungalow feel they were able to maintain. Beautifully finished hard wood floors make it warm but without making you feel like there’s trouble if you drop your remoulade. The open kitchen keeps your eyes on the action and, I believe, fosters a sense of trust- you always know what you’re getting because it’s right there. In addition to the main room, there is a little side room which I can easily see used for a small group.

The main dining area with small tables that can be reconfigured for your party size; the side room which could accommodate 10-15 diners (but is also the way to the restrooms).

FOOD:

I say the food is solid. Solidly good, but not exceptional- which is what I expect for such a casual atmosphere anyway. They are still operating on a limited/soft opening menu and, therefore, I can only assume there will be several tweaks before they finalize anything.

Here is what we had and what we thought:

Shrimp PoBoy- Very tasty. Shrimp was good sized and there was definitely enough to make a sandwich, plus dip a couple on their own. They use Gulf Coast shrimp, which we can all appreciate. The breading was good, and the tomatoes were ripe. I will say it was a little dry for me- just not enough sauce. I like my PoBoys soggy with yummy sauce. I know this is a personal preference and it was easily remedied. I asked for some remoulade and some of their house Mamou Sauce (which is what PoBoys come with). The Mamou sauce didn’t have as much flavor as I like, but the remoulade was excellent! My husband says the bread was "perfect." It’s not good PoBoy bread unless it makes a mess when you eat it. It should be perfect since it's shipped daily from Gambino's Bakery in Kenner, LA. The hubby also loved the shrimp breading and didn’t feel the need to douse his with more sauce…

Shrimp PoBoy, avilable in full size or 1/2 size with soup combo

Gumbo- My husband said the gumbo was solid but not exceptional. He wished it was spicier, but a few dashes of hot sauce took care of that. I like it when restaurants tone down the heat and appeal to more people anyway. At 36 weeks pregnant, I just can't eat the spicy stuff the way I used to, so it was perfect for me. If you want it hotter, that’s what hot sauce is for. Generally, the gumbo was enjoyed by everyone.

Yummy, good sized chunks of sausage in their mild but flavorful gumbo.


Dinner salad- Eh. I know this isn’t a salad restaurant, but the Hubby and I like to have a little green with dinner. We got a large to share with our main meals. It was romaine rather than iceberg, which was nice, but all it had on top was sliced carrots and celery with a sprinkle of parmesan. The dressing is pre-packaged, which is a disappointment. If they could add some tomatoes and sliced onion, perhaps cucumber, it would be an excellent dinner salad and more worth the money.

The green salad left us saying "Eh."


Fried Green Tomato Salad- Again, it's much a matter of personal preference, but this salad was a huge disappointment to my friend Shannon. The tomatoes were on the soggy side and she thought the dressing was too sweet. There were 3 good sized tomato slices on top, which was nice. I tried the dressing and had to agree it was a tad on the sweet side. Since the salad came already dressed, it’s hard to know if this dressing was something house made or a packet dressing like the dinner salad. She said she wouldn't order it again, but it wasn't bad. Just a little off.

Fried green tomato salad


Fries- The PoBoys came with great fries! Seasoned and (probably) double fried, they were crisp and flavorful and didn’t need ketchup. Just right. The toddlers were very happy with them as well.

Definitely try it out and leave comments here if you agree or disagree. A lot of eating out comes down to personal likes and dislikes. I think it was solid and tasty; I am glad to finally see them open and doing a swift business. I wish Rufus and Brenda much success. They will certainly see me again!

Your proprietors, Rufus and Brenda. Any given day, you can find them hard at work in their restaurant wearing every hat necessary- from slinging hash to brandishing brooms. Be sure to say "Hello" as they are about the friendliest people you'll find!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Heights Happenings

Monday, April 13, 7:30pm: Houston International Folk Dancers, introductory lessons

  • This Monday and every Monday, you can stop by Oddfellows Hall (Heights Blvd @ 14th) for an introduction to folk dance. The group, which has been dancing in Houston since the 1940s, is a great way to learn about Folk Dance and experience a piece of another culture through their song, dance and music.
Monday, April 13, 7pm: Houston Heights Association General Meeting
  • Meeting takes place at the History Houston Heights Fires Station, Yale & 12 Street
Heads Up! Saturday, June 6, 2009: Heights Fun Run

  • Since participation takes planning, we wanted to get this up for you. This is the 24th Annual Heights Fun Run! For more information or to register, visit the Heights Association webpage HERE

Ouside The Heights:

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Wedding on 19th Street



Ah, The Heights life.

This weekend, my partner Matt and I rode our bikes to a wedding on 19th Street.

Our friends (and neighbors), Anne and Gena, proclaimed and celebrated their love at the M-Squared gallery. The space was perfect for the nighttime soiree.




The gallery has two distinct rooms. One was used for the bar and the jazz band, while the other was used for the food (included the tops of cupcakes--which is the best part!).


During the reception, I was outside talking to a nice man about vintage clothing (specifically about a full velvet suit with a pattern of different shades of brown) and I realized he was Max, the gallery owner. I got to pet his hairless dog.

I also met a fire fighter who works at the station on N. Main and learned that you never, ever, ever want to slide down the fire pole when it's slippery with fog. Just imagine two broken knees. And, if you want to ingratiate yourself with the local fire department, you should show up with cookies (which I plan to do on Thursday).

I spent a minute or two marveling at the sticks that Anne asked to collect from our backyard and spray painted into a veritable art form.


At one point, we walked down the street to say hi to the folks at the Friends For Life grand opening. They had their own party going on in another beautiful space with a yummy spread of food.

As Matt and I rode home, I sighed a huge sign of contentment. I said into the rushing wind, "This is our neighborhood." Cheesy, but true.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Proctor Park

When we were house shopping several years ago, we did it with an eye toward raising a family. We found the perfect neighborhood for us- Proctor Plaza. There were so many things that appealed to us about the area. Knowing we would likely sacrifice green space for square footage, public areas were of particular interest. We were thrilled to find a roomy bungalow just 2 blocks from a public park. I knew that I wanted to be near a park, but I had no idea how central the park would become to my life as a stay-at-home mom of a toddler.

Proctor Park is nestled snugly in to the middle of the Proctor Plaza neighborhood, better known to many as North Norhill. The park is a full city block complete with community center and is a hub of activity for our little neighborhood, as well as a destination for families from all over the Heights. Gifted to the neighborhood in 1924, a sign near the path states the purpose: “so that the kids would have a place to play.”


Daily, from morning ‘til the sun goes down, families like mine are making the most of Proctor Park. However, neighbors say this wasn’t always the case. A large covered area, now a learning ground for new bikes and a canvas for sidewalk chalk artists, was once a basketball court. The local lore is the court attracted people from outside the neighborhood- people who didn’t care that this was a quiet subdivision beginning to blossom with young families. The players brought drinking, drugs and general bad behavior, usually leaving the trash of their habits behind. Fights broke out often and parents never felt safe bringing their young children by. Prompted by the Proctor Plaza Neighborhood Association (PPNA), the park took the hoops down and then took a turn toward the park we now know and love.


Spending a lot of time at the park and being active in my neighborhood association, I learned an interesting fact: parks in Houston get funding based on use. While this park has been highly used by families since the hoops were removed, there was no one really working on the park’s behalf.Enter Pam Foote, Proctor’s Recreation Supervisor since 2005.

Pam came to our little park after 15 years at the Mecca of Houston Parks, Memorial Park. Under Ms Pam’s watch, a Park Advisory Council, or PAC, called Friends of Proctor Park was formed. Every park in the city can have one, but Pam is certain Proctor’s is the best. The PAC does fundraising and also hosts events that get the park exposure. In the two years since the PAC was formed, the park has hosted annual events like an easter egg hunt and a fall festival. The park also hosts the neighborhood wide Heights Kids’ Group every Monday, the PPNA monthly meetings and other special events. The flurry of activity is generating results- a fresh coat of paint on the playscape and new swing seats are just the beginning of what Pam and the PAC have in store!


In addition to being a fabulous playground, the park offfer programs like a free after school program and free t-ball and soccer. For more information on any of these activities, call Pam @ 713.862.6907.

Part of what makes this park so appealing to the families from all over The Heights is the air conditioned club house and working bathrooms. As any mom will tell you, access to a restroom can make or break a day at the park! The clubhouse has a small kitchen and can be rented out for events- stipulations include 30 days notice, fee of $90/3 hours use of facilities, plus the cost hire security. Pam has even charmed a bargain out of one officer, who offers a discounted security rate for regulars at the park. Non-profits can use the facility during the week free of charge.


If you’ve never been by Proctor Park, it’s time for a visit. Play tennis, throw a ball to your dog or just relax in the grass. This is one of the most alive yet peaceful places you’ll find The Heights at Play!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Welcome to The Heights Life

My hope for this blog is that it can be a resource for you, to help you enjoy getting to know The Heights' residents and neighborhood a little better.

This blog was born out of a true affection and appreciation for this neighborhood: its past--one of the few places in Houston where the city’s history is easily accessible, including my neighborhood, Proctor Plaza, the largest historic district in Houston; its present--renovation, new construction, business, and constant change are part of the fabric of The Heights; and what it all means for its future--can we keep our diversity, our eclectic nature, our soul?

This blog is about a desire to highlight how truly special and unique this area is. It is unlike any other neighborhood in Houston. It’s an amazing place to live, steeped with history and a sense of community. The Heights has one of the most truly interesting gatherings of residents in Houston, and they’re doing all kinds of interesting things. I hope to put a spotlight on the people and places that make The Heights what it is!

Lots of people have different opinions about what constitutes “The Heights.” For me, it’s Buffalo Bayou to The Loop; Shepherd/Durham to North Main. It’s a lot of ground to cover but worth every square inch!

To focus on The Heights as a whole, I'm going to break it down. These are the categories you can expect to see on The Heights Life:

Our Neighbors: The kind of people who choose to reside here are the heart and soul of The Heights. Without the diversity, this would be any other neighborhood. Sure, you probably know the people on your block. You know those you interact with at your neighborhood association, in your moms’ group, in your book club. How about those people you see at the coffee shop and wonder “What’s their story?” What about the woman with the crazy garden full of plants you’ve never seen before or the guy with the large metal ball of fire in his yard? We want to help you get to know more about them.

The Heights At Work: Small businesses seem to thrive in The Heights. What brings these business owners to this area? How do they contribute to our own little micro-economy? There is also an abundance of home-based businesses in The Heights. We’ll seek out who they are and what they have to offer.

Living and working in The Heights isn’t just about business for profit, either. There are individuals and groups that care greatly for this area. Whether it’s helping children get a strong start in our schools, helping keep us free from graffiti, or protecting history, this community cares about each other. The Heights is a magnet for art and artists. Galleries abound; The Heights Opera thrives. Art and culture are always buzzing on our streets.

The Heights at Home: People can do some pretty amazing things with an 1100 sq ft bungalow or a small patch of yard. Original homes get a new life. New homes display historic charm with thoroughly modern conveniences. Let’s take a peek in to the homes and gardens of The Heights.

Heights Happenings: Something is always going on in The Heights. Every week I will highlight events coming up in and around the neighborhood. In addition to highlighted events, we will have a calendar for all the community events we know about. If you have something coming up, email us and we can add your event for your friends and neighbors to see!

Heights Bites: The Heights has always been home to great neighborhood joints. Old school hamburgers and 24 hour Tex-Mex are nothing new. Recently, though, an influx of “name brand” chefs has put The Heights on the foodie map--not just in Houston, but nationwide! I’ll tour favorites, old and new, and give you a neighbor’s opinion.

The Heights at Play: The Heights has a vast network of parks, a newly constructed bike trail, a public garden and more. There are so many places where everyone is welcome to enjoy the neighborhood. We’ll show you the best spots to relax, enjoy some time outdoors and just have fun.

Heights Life In General: Sometimes life is too big for a category. Life in The Heights is no different. Sometimes I just need to talk about Life In General.


Who I Am


Viula:
In my past life, I have worn many hats. Waitress. Park ranger. Retail manager. Recruiter. Nowadays, I wear my most important and certainly favorite hat: Mother. Before this new life, where I lived was all about being in the thick of things. When we moved to The Heights almost 5 years ago, we knew we would be slowing down and having a family. However, we had no idea how much living here would mean to us as a family. This neighborhood is many things, but most of all it’s the truest 'community' I have found since I left the cozy western Massachusetts town I grew up in.

These days, I do still spend a lot of time in the thick of things. The “things” are just different. I enjoy being active in this community in a way I never was in that previous life. From volunteering for the Heights Kids’ Group as an administrator to serving on the board of my neighborhood association, I like knowing about my neighborhood. Having days filled with toting two toddlers has also given me an opportunity to gain insight in to where I live. I spend a lot of hours walking the streets of The Heights, getting to know the homes, the parks, the shops and the eateries. I can see the pride people take in living here, working here and raising their families here. I continue to be more and more proud of the neighborhood we are and what I believe we stand for- diversity, acceptance, friendship and community.

I wanted to write this blog for several reasons. Generally, I just love The Heights and am proud to call it home. I am also a lover of architecture and community history. I love being surrounded by all different kinds of people. I wanted to write this blog to help myself stay aware of what a special place The Heights is by exploring and showcasing the things that make it so. I hope by blogging about it, others can also see what I see in this town inside a city. Together, I hope we can understand, preserve and foster the essence of this community.