Monday, June 29, 2009

Heights Bites: Thai Spice Review

Vegetarian Pad Thai from Thai Spice on 19th Street

Matt and I love Thai food. In fact, it's probably tied for second (with Indian food), right behind Mexican.

When we lived in Montrose, we ate at Nit Noi all the time. Now that the Rice Village location is temporarily closed and we live in The Heights, we've made the switch to Thai Spice.

First, we love the convenient location on 19th St. and Nicholson. Since we live near Studewood and 20th Street, we just pop on our bikes and head on over. During the blazing heat of Houston summers (and the drought-like conditions!), I find that it's actually more enjoyable to jump on a bike and create an automatic breeze, as opposed to getting in my oven-of-a-car.

Once we arrive, the atmosphere is great. We usually opt for the patio, which faces Collina's patio, but we have also sat inside. Regardless, the surroundings are aesthetically pleasing, and the staff is incredibly welcoming.

Plus, Matt and I are suckers for free pre-food (as I mentioned in my review of Chicago Pizza). At Thai Spice, we enjoy the very odd--yet tasty--puffed rice things. Fortunately, we never have to wait long for our meals because the service is fast and we know exactly what we want: pad thai with tofu (and depending upon how hungry we are, we sometimes add soft spring rolls and/or thai iced-teas). If you've never had a thai iced-tea, I highly recommend it! It's a yummy tea served with milk or cream over ice. Delicious!

Free pre-food (puffed rice things)

The food is not my favorite Thai food of all time, but with the convenient location, comfortable ambiance, fast and friendly staff, and free pre-food, I can't complain. I would say their pad thai and spring rolls are about an 8 on a 10-point scale, and the prices are very reasonable: $8.50 for a large portion of pad thai and $3.50 for two soft spring rolls. I've also heard their curry is really good.

Two orders of soft spring rolls (with one piece already devoured!)

There are seven locations throughout Houston, and the owner says, "In my eyes, the recipe for true success is Thai food culture combined with hospitality to create an authentic Thai ambiance, that reflects the land of smiles."

This restaurant leaves me smiling, indeed.

What's your opinion of Thai Spice on 19th Street?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Something Yummy Over the Rainbow

My husband and I have friends whose daughter is seriously in to food. Sure, part of it is how she is raised. Her parents love to eat well; her father is an amazing cook; they drink great wine and entertain a lot and travel. Still, a lot of kids grow up like that and don’t eat like Grace. There is a definite nature over nurture about the way the girl eats. I was first struck by her natural foodie-ness when, at the ripe age of six, we were at Glasswall and she ordered for herself off the menu. There was no wondering if they could make her some chicken fingers or could she get the pasta with just butter. She read the menu herself and placed her own order: vegetable soup and, I remember so clearly, the salmon entrée. This was at SIX. More recently, at the wise old age of nine, Grace was with her parents at one of our city’s more upscale restaurants celebrating her mother’s Fortieth birthday. After perusing the menu, she went with foie gras to start and the lamb shank as her entrée. This was, of course, only after considering the evening’s off-the-menu selections. This is the kind of girl who is going to be the next Gael Greene. Me? I am not.

However, I do have 10+ years in the restaurant biz and certainly like food enough to be able to talk about it. And I really want to talk about Rainbow Lodge. The husband and I celebrated a wedding anniversary recently and decided the occasion was worth getting out of the house without the kiddos. We needed to be close by, though, considering the wee one is a mere 2 months old. The beautiful thing is we have so many options near home now. We could have done Glasswall or Shade, Bedford or Textile. However, we hadn’t been to Rainbow Lodge in a couple of years and were curious to see what young chef Randy Rucker, who likes to create crazy funky food, was doing with one of the most old school and traditional of Houston’s restaurants.

We were seated at a little table tucked in the center room. Sure, a view of the grounds is preferable but all the window tables were taken up by a more… mature crowd (it was 6 pm on a Saturday, if you get my drift) who were probably regulars. Bread and water were delivered promptly by the bus boy/back waiter. Our waiter was nice, efficient without rushing, attentive without stalking, talked without being too chatty, knew his menu and understood the wine list. Doesn’t get better than that from a service standpoint.

Now, the food. If you’re familiar with Randy Rucker than you know he favors a cooking style that is definitely outside the box. Enough people watch Top Chef to be familiar with molecular gastronomy and that whole movement of challenging the way we prepare and eat food. If you’re not, read up on El Bulli. So, how was Rucker’s food going to fit in to a hyper-traditional, meat and potatoes environment?

Trophies a must for a wild game restaurant to provide that lodge atmosphere

We can start with the scallop. The last time I was at RL was just after my first son was born, Mother’s Day 2 years ago. I ordered the scallop appetizer. It was good, solid. Seared just right with a delicate sauce that didn’t distract. Simple and expected. This dinner, I also ordered the scallop appetizer, but it was different. “sea scallops, toast, chorizo, fennel” is how it’s listed on the menu. What came to the table were 2 perfectly cooked scallops, halved and turned on their sides. Each piece was sandwiched in the slimmest sliver of grilled (?) bread, just enough to give it that good white bread sponginess. I didn't even notice the chorizo, but I have to imagine it added some flavor without being so obvious. The scallops were lightly dressed in a broth and then topped with a seafood foam. Foam is a hallmark of the laboratory way of cooking. It was light, fresh, delicious. For me, the difference between the 1st scallop and this scallop is the best example of how Rucker has been able to change things up yet keep them the same.

The scallops

My husband, Ray, went with the "tuna wrapped watermelon" to start. The watermelon was lightly salted, which gave it great flavor with the raw fish. The sliver of jalapeno on top added some heat and another dimension of flavor. Hubby felt the watermelon should have been crisper, but enjoyed the taste overall. I thought it was refreshing and light. Yum.

Tuna wrapped watermelon with watermelon gazpacho

For salad course, I went traditional with heirloom tomatoes. Rucker adds “compressed black plums” to mix it up. They all sit in a literal bath of very fine Spanish olive oil. The plums were interesting- I can’t tell you what “compressed” really means, but they were paper thin yet still dense. I had to add a little salt to bring out the flavors but I was very happy. Hubs got “local peaches, goats milk feta, peas & shoots,lavender vinaigrette.” I thought to myself “peaches for a salad course?” but it was delicious. Sweet but earthy, refreshing and the lavender was something different for me that I really enjoyed.

Heirloom tomato salad, garnished with edible flowers

Peaches make a surprisingly earthy salad

Entrees. I am not as adventurous an eater as the husband and wild game generally does not appeal to me. So, when I go somewhere with a game-focused menu, I always seek out the steak. I love steak anyway, but it is definitely the most appealing option to me when faced with the likes of duck or elk (although boar chop was a solid 2nd choice). The “mignon of beef” on Rainbow Lodge’s menu is smoked. This made the outside dry and kind of crusty. The inside was tender, flavorful and meaty. It was like eating filet wrapped in beef jerky. My first few bites were kind of a disappointment. After all, I didn’t come to a restaurant of this caliber to eat beef jerky. Once I got in to the meat of the meat, though, it all came together. The potato crusted potatoes were like fancy tater tots. How could that be bad? The bordelaise was wonderful. The serving was large and I actually left some on the plate to save room for dessert. I definitely recommend the dish, just be prepared to question your 1st couple bites…

Filet, lightly smoked = well done outside, perfect medium rare inside

Ray got one of the nightly specials. Options included Soft Shell Crab over Greens with Avocado and Miso Dressing and Grouper Over Crab Risotto. He went with Bison Two Ways- a filet and short ribs. He didn’t feel the filet offered much. It was a little bland and nothing special. However, he raved about the short ribs (I sampled and very much enjoyed) and wished he had a whole plate of those alone. They were as tender as they should have been but just had really good flavor. Mashed potatoes- solid. Some baby zucchini was a nice veg and very much enjoyed.

Buffalo makes for great short ribs

One thing that Ray was really happy about was a significant expansion/ upgrading of the wine list. He swooned over 3 different varieties of Turley, but when it was time to order went with this little gem from Schrader:

...which is not supposed to available retail. Having just had a baby, it’s been a while since I really got to enjoy some wine and I really, really enjoyed this Bomber X. There was about a glass left in the bottle when it was time to head out and, with wine this good, that one glass was worth walking out with the bottle in a paper bag.

Dessert. I love bread pudding and will almost always order it. I especially love it when it’s made with croissants (Shade, I really wish you would bring your Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding back. Please?). Theirs was delicious and rich and warm and everything I wanted it to be. A great way to end a great meal.

Super rich and just sweet enough, with vanilla bean ice cream

Ray and I were both so happy we decided to head just barely out of The Heights. We had 4 courses of great food in just under 2 hours and were home before the baby woke for his next feeding. I love having good food in The Heights.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Something of interest...

This Old House gives props to The Heights:
Best Places to Buy an Old House 2009: The South
Love living in small-town suburbia but occasionally long for the hustle and bustle of the city? Houston Heights might be the neighborhood you're looking for. Just a couple of miles from downtown Houston, this serene enclave features massively turreted Queen Annes along stately boulevards and comfy bungalows tucked away on quiet streets lined with expansive live oaks.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Heights Happenings

Tuesday, June 30, 8 pm: Biscuit Jazz Jam at King Biscuit Cafe

  • Jazz jam session hosted by the Danielle Reich Trio. Hang out and listen to "a bunch of great jazz musicians - all instruments, all levels - from local legends to hobbyists to rising stars."
  • This week featuring Charlie Perez
  • No cover, ample street parking, full dinner menu until 10 pm.


Thursday, June 25, 11:30 am: Simon S.C. Tay Speaks

  • The Harvard alum, world-renowned lawyer, political adviser and environmental policy expert is welcomed by the Asia Society Texas to discuss Obama’s Asian Report Card: What the President Needs to Do Next. Tay, who served in both the Singapore Parliament and the United Nations, was just named one of the Ten People to Watch in Asia by the Far Eastern Economic Review.
  • The Houston Club, 811 Rusk. For more information, call 713-439-0051
  • $30 to $40.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Impromptu Dog Parks

I live in the Proctor Plaza neighborhood of The Heights (north of 11th, west of N. Main, south of 20th, and east of Studewood.

We happen to have not one but two amazingly beautiful esplanades that can become impromptu dog parks in the evenings.

Unfortunately, they are non-fenced dog parks, which means your dog has to be very obedient and trustworthy to visit said dog park.

It wouldn't be a problem if I didn't have a bloodhound. Bloodhounds are notoriously stubborn and non-compliant. It's probably due to the fact that they have been bred for centuries to follow their nose (no matter what). They also have those long ears that dampen the noise around them (which is perhaps why our bloodhound didn't even wake up when both our cars were stolen from our driveway in January) and further sweep smells to their noses.

We can't let our lovely bloodhound, Hoss, off the leash unless we want him to help himself to a nine-hour adventure around The Heights without adult supervision.

Fortunately, we have our own impromptu dog park, and this one happens to be fenced in. It's the playground of the elementary school at the corner of 18th Street and Studewood. Each night, several dog owners descend upon the schoolyard, and our dogs have a grand ol' time playing and sniffing--all within the confines of gates that close. We meet new neighbors, enjoy the cooler evening, and watch our little bloodhound trot across the playground with his nose to the ground and his tail in a shark position.

Our little impromptu dog park is just another reason why I love living in The Heights (and so does Hoss).

Are there any impromput dog parks in your neck of The Heights?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shameless Crafting

In 2007, a Heights resident and avid knitter heard about something. Something was happening. Knitters were coming together. Around the world. They were coming together to knit. In public.
But they weren’t doing it in Houston. Yet.

When Kimberly, known on all-things-knitting website Ravelry as laKnittinKitten, heard about World Wide Knit In Public Day, she was thrilled. She searched the internet for her local gathering but there wasn’t one to be found. Disappointed, she decided that she could organize it and bring this event to Houston herself. 2008 marked the 1st year for WWKIP Day in Houston and a nice crowd assembled at Northwest Mall. However, there was something just-not-so about the mall location and Kimberly decided there was really no better place in Houston for such an event than her own neighborhood, The Heights.

So, why do people need to knit **gasp** in public? World Wide Knit in Public Day was created as a way for knitters to come together and enjoy each other’s company. Because knitting is a solitary act, most people do it in an almost meditative state, sinking deep in to the rhythm of their projects and never think about other knitters. A knitter may live right next door to one of their own and never even realize it.

At the event, knitters shared supplies and donated extras. Over 60 crafters attended and collectively donated a leaf bag's worth of supplies to the youth and children's craft programs at Heights Library

Kimberly adds that knitting used to be social. “In Victorian times, women gathered in groups to knit. It was very proper and something you did as part of [a social circle]. ” She laughed thinking that during those times even the way you held your hands would be observed by the other women in your circle. They had to be “just so.” She says that it was a dying art for a long time, put to rest in large part with "the Wars, when people had to knit. It lost something" and was no longer considered craft, more like chore. Post-War it became the domain of "Grannies." (NOTE: The WWKIPDay website is quick to point out that "without those ‘grannies’ we wouldn’t have the wealth of knitting knowledge that we do.") Knitting started its comeback in the 1980s and is now a part of the new handcrafting revolution you see with groups like The Austin Craft Mafia and Knitta, Please!

The next generation: 10 year old Rayna was making a headband as her sister, Stephanie, 5, learned some basics from their mom. Shantel and her girls drove out from Pearland for the event.

Knitting today is definitely different from the last generation, a group of women from west Houston told me. These days it's fun. It's social. There are even several "stitch groups" that meet in and around The Heights. Whether its at Yarns 2 Ewe, Wednesday nights at Waldo's Coffee House, or impromptu gatherings at the library, knitters are calling their craft "the new Zen" and say it's "calming and meditative." It also "teaches patience" and even helps with anxiety.

Knitters from the west side come to craft in The Heights. Second from left is Catherine Kerth, owner of Mama Llama . She makes beautiful hand dyed yarns- and, of course, knits with them as well.

Lexie came in from Cypress to socialize while knitting her 1st pair of adult socks. Amazing!

It amazes me that people can still do this kind of work with their hands. This is not knitting, however. It'scrochet done from an elaborate pattern and this picture certainly does not do it justice!

This year’s event brought people from all over metro-Houston and Kimberly anticipates greater participation every year as knitting grows in popularity and people come together to do it. When WWKIP Day was founded in 2005, there were about 25 "registered" events world-wide. In 2008 there were over 800! Kimberly adds "These numbers, of course, don't reflect the spontaneous gatherings of knitters that happen on the day."
It was amazing to see the things they were making. I’ve tried knitting. Tried and failed. I do have to say I am not without craft- I do lovely embroidery (and get my patterns from this amazing site: Sublime Stitching). Knitting just wasn’t for me, but seeing an actual pair of socks take shape almost made me reconsider!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Heights Happenings

Thursday, June 18, 7-9 pm: The KeepHeights Green Summer Fundraiser
  • Help Keep Heights Green reach their goal of planting 100 trees in the Greater Heights area this year, replacing some of what was lost by the effects of Hurricane Ike.
  • The event will be held at the amazing and beautiful Indian Summer Lodge. There will be food, wine, entertainment, a silent auction and raffle.
  • There will be plenty of opportunities to give, and an individual donation of $25 at the door is greatly appreciated! This is a great opportunity to make a positive impact on your community.

Thursday, June 18, 6-9 pm: Opening reception for pta bakesale and spaghetti dinner group show at The Koelsch Gallery

  • Artists include Camp Bosworth, Amy Evans, Chris Hedrick, Greely Myatt, Trong Nguyen
  • 703 Yale
  • The exhibit, featuring food art, runs through July 18, 2009

Piece by Trong Nguyen

Saturday, June 20, 11:30-1pm: Buddhist Meditation Class at Nia Moves
  • "We all have within our hearts an extraordinary potential to experience unlimited happiness and freedom and to enjoy the peace and wisdom of an enlightened mind. In this course we will learn six special meditations from Transform Your Life to make our life joyful, meaningful and extraordinary. Classes are suitable for beginners and advanced students. Everyone welcome!"
  • Creating Good Fortune & Happiness, 508 Pecore House
  • $15
Saturday, June 20, 2:30-4:30: Guided Meditation and Drawing Class at Nia Moves
  • Drawing on Inner Vision ~ This series focuses on exploring creative self expression and healing. A seated meditation opens your inner mind, the source of creativity. You will then be guided to draw your inner visions into being. Follow your inner guidance to transform your visions into art and reality. You are the artist and the art.

  • You are welcome to attend one or all Art in Motion Workshops. Drop-ins are welcome.$15 in advance online $20 at the door.

Sunday, June 21, 2:00 pm: Upstage Theater presents Disney's Aladdin with FREE admission

for Fathers and Grandfathers attending with kiddos

  • This is the final production in the Young Audiences series for this season
  • You'll be welcome to Agrabah, City of Enchantment! All of the favorites from the film are in this stage adaptation of the Disney hit, including Aladdin, Jasmine, and of course, the Genie. Filled with magic, mayhem, and flying carpet rides, audiences’ spirits will soar with excitement. Most of all, enjoy singing along with the Academy award-winning score with songs including “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me"
  • Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Blvd

Wednesday, June 24, 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


Now through June 25: Enhancing Taiwan Photo Exhibit at the Houston Public Library

  • The 38 photos in this exhibition, each taken by one of Taiwan's top photographers, reveal the island's superb nature and culture and provide a fresh perspective on Taiwan's enchanting beauty.
  • FREE
Saturday, June 20, 7pm and 8:30pm: Aurora Picture Show's Family Fun Films with Pop Star
  • A snoozing princess, a gutsy guinea pig who learns to fly and a soccer player who loses his lucky sock - these are just a few of the memorable characters you'll meet in Aurora's next free community screening that features animation, live action and documentary films that will make you laugh, tug at your heartstrings, and take you on a sweet ride through a wide world of moving images. But this event does not stop with a screening, it actually starts with some musical tunes inspired by Father's Day weekend. The POP STARS show is a songwriter’s circle where four singers, who are also fathers (a.k.a. Dads Who Rock), take turns singing their songs and backing each other up with extra instrumentation and vocal harmonies. While children dance around and sing, parents can hear intelligent and amazingly beautiful songs (no Wiggles here) from four of Austin’s best singer songwriters. Come early to get good seats on the green and don't forget your picnics and blankets. First 50 kids get Aurora bubbles!
  • Located at Discovery Green
  • Free

Monday, June 15, 2009

Do-It-Yourself: Heights Home Improvement

Matt and I are not the house-fixer-upper types. When we bought our house back in July, we intentionally bought a "flipped" house because it had a new roof, updated electrical/plumbing systems, new hardwood floors, fresh paint, and new cabinets and granite counter tops. We just moved our boxes in and unpacked. Easy-peasy.

But now I find myself seeking out Do-It-Yourself projects that will beautify our little bungalow. I like the idea of putting time and muscle into projects that we will benefit from for years.

I decided my first project would be redoing our front walkway.

Now, please understand. I know nothing about redoing a walkway. I have no tools that would help me redo a walkway. I just decided that it needed to be redone. The front walkway was comprised of uneven and jagged flagstone embedded in sand. Although I liked the flagstone well enough, I didn't like that the sand constantly washed up over the top of the flagstone. Also, our grass was starting to grow up through the sand and flagstone.

Here's what I did to take the project from start to finish:

Step One: Decide on the Vision
  • I decided that I wanted to minimize the cost of this project by reusing the flagstone. I then visited San Jacinto Stone on Yale Street just south of I-10 to get some ideas about what to put in between the flagstone. While scouting out everything they had to offer, I came across some 1/2" to 1" moonstones that I thought would look nice next to the flagstone. Also, I thought they would be heavy enough to sit tight and not get washed about during hurricane season.
Step Two: Make a Plan
  • I talked to the staff at San Jacinto Stone about how exactly to do the project. They told me I should dig everything up, lay down about two inches of crushed granite, pack everything down with a hand tamper, lay the flagstone, and fill it in with the rocks. I gave them the precise measurements of the path, and they were able to tell me exactly how much granite and how many rocks to buy.
Step Three: Get Started
  • I slathered on the sunscreen, donned a sun hat, and got to work. I dug out each of the flagstone pieces (using a shovel borrowed from our neighbors). I then dug into the sand to loosen it, so I could start digging out piles and piles of it.

Step Four: Ask for Help
  • Luckily, I have befriended a very handy (and extremely helpful) neighbor. He gave me the idea to shovel the old sand into our trashcan and then roll it to the backyard to fill in low spots. He also volunteered to pick up the very heavy crushed granite and rocks in his pick-up truck. He helped me shovel all the granite into the hole I had created.

Step Five: Keep Going
  • I had to set aside several hours to work on this project, which required pounds of sunscreen and water. I smoothed the granite into the hole, and then rented a hand tamper from Home Depot to pack down the granite. I also learned that you can rent pick-up trucks from Home Depot for $20 the first hour and $10 each additional hour. Next time, I won't have to bug my neighbor.
  • Once the granite was packed down, I placed the flagstone back into the path, and moved it around until I had achieved a pattern I liked. I then tried to even them out and stabilize them as much as I could by scraping out some of the granite. Next, I used some of the remaining granite to fill in some of the space between the flagstone. Finally, I placed the moonstones in between the flagstone.
What a huge accomplishment! No, it's not perfectly level or smooth, but it is the culmination of my own persistence and determination. I have immense pride for being able to take a project from vision to completion. I'll continue to feel that pride for years to come!

Now Matt is saying he wants to use the leftover granite to make a Bocce Ball court in our backyard! We'll see...

What home improvement projects do you want to take on?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Heights Happenings

If you have happenings you'd like to publicize, email us at

Friday, June 12, 7pm: Heights Time Bank Potluck
  • Are you interested in learning about a time exchange system that builds community? The Heights Time Bank is holding its monthly potluck this Friday. If you live within the Time Bank boundaries (south of 610, north of I-10, west of I-45, and east of Shepherd) you are welcome to attend! 1134 Jerome Street
Outside The Heights:

Saturday, June 20, 3-5 pm: Discovery Green Dance Workshops

  • Swing, Salsa, Folk Dance & Creative Movement Programs for all ages. FREE!
  • Presented by DANCE HOUSTON

June 18, 12–1 pm: The Heritage Society's Hill/Finger Lecture Series presents Patrons & Protectors: The Heritage of the Mexican Retablo by Stephen Vollmer

  • Stephen Vollmer, The Heritage Society Tea Room Independent curator and research specialist, will explore the origins, evolution, and functions of retablos, a genre of folk art deeply rooted in Spanish history. He will describe how this art form flourished in post conquest Mexico and then ultimately, with the introduction of inexpensive mediums such as tin, reached its pinnacle of popularity in the last quarter of the 19th century. Mr. Vollmer will show how these paintings serve as windows into understanding traditions associated with sacred spaces, ritual practices, values, and regional customs found not only in Mexico but throughout the Americas.
  • This lecture is in conjunction with the Society's Retablos: Art for the Masses exhibit, on display through July 12, 2009.

Saturday, June 13, 10 am-2 pm: Second Saturday Buffalo Bayou Boat Rides! (weather permitting)

  • These 30-minute boat rides are a unique way to spend the afternoon with friends or family.
  • Feel like you've escaped the city as you glide along the bayou's waters. Look for graceful herons, jumping fish, and even the occasional alligator sunning on the bayou's banks.
  • No Reservations (20 person capacity per trip)
  • Boat picks up at Sabine Street Bridge North Boat Landing
  • Cash Only: $7 - adults, $5 - children (ages 4-12. Children under 4 not permitted)
  • Parking available on Sabine Street Bridge and in City Lot H

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Park By Any Other Name...

You’ll sometimes hear it called “Heights Park,” "Heights Playground" or “Castle Park.” In fact, many people don’t even know that the proper name is Donovan Park. The identity crisis doesn’t stop this from being one of the most popular recreation spots in the Heights. It’s even been called one the best parks in Houston. Most often referred to lovingly as "the castle park" because of its elaborate playscapes, whose Victorian-style turrets resemble a castle, Donovan is a special and unique place for Heights residents to enjoy the outdoors.

Established in 1996, the park was built by the community, for the community. Neighborhood sweat equity, after a 9 month blitz of organizing and fundraising, built the place where The Heights comes to play. Unlike most other parks in the neighborhood, this park is actually owned and operated by the The Houston Heights Association, our non-profit homeowners' association. Its upkeep is paid for by HHA dues rather than city funds like other public parks. However, this is still a public park and open for everyone to enjoy.

And there are many reasons to enjoy Donovan Park:
  • It is definitely well maintained. Just recently the park was closed for 24 hours while they power washed the play structures. You certainly don’t see that kind if upkeep in many city parks. The grass is never long and a troupe of volunteers ensures timely emptying of the trash cans.

The center of the park is a small pavilion with benches. It follows the "railroad" theme of the play area, resembling a train station. There are 4 benches which stay nicely shaded from the summer sun.

  • It’s clean and green. Grassy knolls and tree canopies make it a great place to enjoy a book or a picnic lunch. Hill rolling is optional.

  • Kids of all sizes can enjoy. Designed with feedback from neighborhood kids, there is something for every age group. The playscape on the south side is geared more toward the toddler set, with a train to conduct and scaled down climbing features. The northern structure has a balance beam, climbing wall and other activities that even those junior high kids will even admit to liking


The "train" is a favorite for toddlers on the "small side" of the park. It's hollow and perfect for a game of pretend.

Bigger kids can enjoy all kinds of climbing and agility activities.

  • It’s safe. Completely fenced in with only one exit, the park is a great place for a parent trying to accommodate more than one kiddo. As long as others *remember to close the gate* (sorry, a personal pet peeve), parents of busy bodies can breathe a little easier knowing there is only one way out.

The only operational gate, facing Heights Boulevard.

There is a second gate at the backside of the park facing Harvard, which is kept locked at all times.

There are a lot of great reasons to love Donovan Park. It was built by the hands and hearts of residents and is a true testament to that community feeling we love about The Heights. It’s a landmark and something we can all be proud of.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Keeping the Heights Cool

It's hot already.

That's partly why I couldn't resist stopping by the new snoball shack parked in the Fiesta parking lot at 14th and Studewood. Also, I'm curious, and I wanted to know what the heck was going on.

Luckily, one of the three owners was manning MAM'S House of Ice Snowballs when I stopped by, and I was able to fire a fusillade of questions his way.

The New Orleans-sytle snowball shop has been up and running since Friday, May 29, although it has been "a year in the making." The co-owner that I chatted with is from England but has lived in The Heights for the past 2.5 years. He quit his job as an architect and decided to "jump on a whim" and "have a go at it" by opening a "cottagey, cutesy, cutesy" snoball shop on a piece of parking lot leased from Fiesta. One of the other owners is in the process of quitting her job as a receptionist, and the third owner works in banking as an accountant.

During their year of research, they uncovered a hierarchy of ice. Apparently, snow cones are on the bottom, shaved ice is the next highest level, and snoballs are at the very top, since they are like "eating snow." The owner describes them as "dreamy goodness."

They currently offer 28 different flavors, 6 of which are sugar-free. They are also in the process of working with a chef to develop natural flavors, and they are trying to accommodate customers' requests, including chocolate, nectar, and tamarind.

They are open every day from noon until 9pm (except when it's raining). They also sell sodas and candy, although pretty much everyone comes for the snoballs. The prices range from $1.75 for a small to $3.75 for a large, and they currently accept only cash. They are also available for parties and corporate events, and they are planning to do a charity event in October. If any of you hire a snoball trailor (or a taco truck) for a party, please invite me!

Future plans might include an open-mic night and/or a liquor license. They will also be using biodegradable cups, spoons, straws, napkins, and carriers soon.

I'm not really a flavored-ice fan, but I couldn't resist trying one after I had talked about it so much. I went with lemon-lime, although it was quite difficult deciding among all the flavors. I have to admit it was quite tasty--definitely very fluffy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Heights Happenings

Saturday, June 6: Heights Fun Run
  • You still have time to participate in the Heights Fun Run. Registration will be held the morning of the run at Marmion Park (Heights Blvd. and 18th Street) from 6:15-7:15am.
  • The 5K course on Heights Boulevard starts and finishes at Marmion Park. The Post-Race Party and Awards Ceremony includes entertainment, door prizes, and refreshments (tacos, fruit, bagels, and drinks).
  • Each registrant receives a 2009 Fun Run t-shirt.
  • The 5K starts at 7:30am, the 5K walk starts at 7:35am, the fun Kids 1K starts at 8:30am, and the Post-Race Party starts at 8:00am.

Sunday, June 7, 4:00pm: Heights Time Bank New Member Orientation

  • The Heights Time Bank is a time exchange system that builds community. When you spend an hour doing something for a neighbor (like pet-sitting, small home repair, guitar lessons, etc.), you earn a Time Dollar that you can spend to get another neighbor to do something for you.
  • Join us for a brief orientation to learn all about time banking in your community.
  • Participants must live within these boundaries: west of 45, east of Shepherd, south of 610 and north of I-10
  • RSVP to

Thursday, June 18, 7-9 pm: The Keep Heights Green Summer Fundraiser

  • Help Keep Heights Green reach their goal of planting 100 trees in the Greater Heights area this year, replacing some of what was lost by the effects of Hurricane Ike.
  • The event will be held at the amazing and beautiful Indian Summer Lodge. There will be food, wine, entertainment, a silent auction and raffle.
  • There will be plenty of opportunities to give, and an individual donation of $25 at the door is greatly appreciated! This is a great opportunity to make a positive impact on your community.

Outside the Heights:

Sunday, June 7, 5-9pm: Drink Houston Better: Drink for Aurora

  • Stop by Poison Girl and raise your glass to Aurora Picture Show. A portion of the bar tab will be donated to Aurora that evening so drink up (and get a designated driver) and help Aurora continue to bring Houston the latest in noncommercial, independent film, video and new media. A short screening of selections will be screened at 8PM.

Extended through June 28: Grey Gardens at Stages Theater

  • By popular demand, i.e. sold out shows, Stages is offering an additional 13 performances of the Tony award winning play based on the 1975 documentary.
  • Written by Doug Wright, Scott Frankel and Michael Korie, the musical tells the true story of Edith Bouvier Beale and her debutante daughter Little Edie, and their decline from the New York social scene in to bizarre reclusiveness over 3 decades.
  • Performance times will be Fridays 8 pm, 2 shows on Saturdays-Sundays at 3 and 8 pm, with an additional 7:30 p.m. show on Thurs, June 25.
  • Ticketsrange $35-$40