By Guest Author: Justin Deffner
When you were little, did you ever climb a tree? Did you ever play on the monkey bars? Do cartwheels at the park, play the game “floor is lava”, or jump from one spot to another? If so, you have done parkour. By moving differently, creatively, by using your body in a way different than the norm to overcome obstacles or simply to have fun, you are doing exactly what the freerunners on Youtube are doing.
Often times, when people see me doing parkour, they ask how I can do most of the things I do. That question has always confused me, because the movements I do come second nature to me. When I’m out doing parkour, the moves area as natural as walking to me. I firmly believe that everybody has the ability to do what some consider to be the basic movements of parkour, which are listed below.
The Shoulder Roll is the first thing that just about every traceur learns to do. The roll is similar to a gymnast’s somersault, except instead of going over the head and down the spine, the shoulder roll passes over one shoulder, goes diagonally across the back, and ends at the opposite hip. This is used whenever the traceur trips, falls, over rotates, becomes off balance, or needs to disperse impact. On an episode of Fight Science, scientists measured the impact of Red Bull Athlete Ryan Doyle taking a drop of 14 feet and landing with the shoulder roll. The result? The jump resulted in about the same amount of impact that you might feel when doing a simple jumping jack.
The Safety Vault is used to vault over an obstacle quickly and with as many points of contact as possible. The traceur puts one hand on the obstacle, and the opposite foot on the obstacle. He then jumps over the obstacle and continues on his way.
The Speed Vault is used to pass over an obstacle quickly without changing direction or body position. The traceur jumps over and plants a hand on an obstacle, pushes off, and continues on his way.
The Kong Vault is used to pass over an obstacle and gain momentum/distance. The traceur dives towards the obstacle, and after planting his hands on it, pushes off and pulls his feet through.
The Precision Jump is exactly what it sounds like. It’s jumping to a precise location. Sometimes the obstacle being jumped to can be as tiny as a handrail.
The Cat Leap is used when an obstacle is too high to precision jump to. The traceur jumps towards the obstacle, and will put their feet on the side of it, then latch onto the top edge with his hands.
The Lache is simply swinging off of a bar. Commonly used in combination with other movements (lache to precision, or lache to cat, etc).
The Wall Climb is used when the traceur wants to get to the top of an obstacle that is too high to jump up to. He runs towards a wall, plants his foot about waist high on the wall, and pushes off the wall at an angle that allows him to convert forward momentum to up
The Tac is similar to the wall climb, except instead of traveling up a wall, the traceur pushes OFF the wall to travel to another spot. Commonly used in combination with other movements (tac to precision, tac to cat, etc).
Parkour, at its most basic level, is simply movement. It’s jumping from one curb to another. It’s vaulting over a bench. It’s going over the rail instead of around it. It’s NOT adrenaline fueled jumps off the tallest thing you can find, or doing the most dangerous thing you can imagine. The movements I’ve listed above form the basis of the physical aspect of what parkour is, and as I have said before, ANYONE can do it. I’ve taught hundreds of students over the years, from 4 years old to over 40 years old, and all of my students have been able to do most of the movements listed above (granted, a 4 year old will have trouble climbing a 6 foot tall wall, but many kids that age LOVE the rolls and cartwheels and laches).
Below is my friend Bryan’s video from last year. He does most of these movements along with a few others in his video. Everything in this video was accomplished in only four months’ time. This is a prime example that you don’t need to do huge drops, or big flips to do parkour and have fun while doing them safely. All it takes is some time, a good attitude, and willingness to learn.
Should you ever run across Bryan, or myself doing these movements here in The Woodlands, feel free to stop and say hello!
Parkour In The Woodlands
By Guest Author: Justin Deffner
I’d like to start this off by saying that I mean no disrespect to anybody in this post. If anything comes off as disrespectful, I apologize. I’m simply trying to clear up any misconceptions about something I’m passionate about. I have full respect for park rangers, officers of the law, and the people of The Woodlands.
In the film industry, it isn’t uncommon to see people doing flips off of walls and action stars climbing buildings as if they posed no problem. What is rarer, however, is seeing these things happen in real life. A new discipline called parkour is starting to make a breakthrough in America, and it is being misunderstood by those who do not practice it. As a result, many authority figures are casting practitioners out of public areas around The Woodlands, such as parks, The Waterway, and sports fields. They claim that parkour is dangerous, that the athletes are criminals, and that they disturb the people around them. The art of parkour is greatly misrepresented and should not be restricted.
In order to understand why parkour deserves to be recognized instead of looked down upon, it is important to understand what it truly is and how it started. Parkour is the discipline of overcoming obstacles by going over, under, or through them using only the human body. It originated from the French military as a way for soldiers to move from one point to another quickly and efficiently without getting hurt. A French man named David Belle brought it from the military to his hometown, and started training with his friends. Soon after, the discipline spread all over Europe, and it is just now starting to become recognized in the United States. Common movements include vaulting obstacles, scaling walls, and jumping from rail to rail. Some practitioners, called traceurs, have started adding creativity into the discipline, as a way of expressing themselves through movement. It is not rare to see flips, twists, and spins added to the art; and due to this, some people immediately assume parkour is a dangerous activity.
Parkour is not as dangerous as some would have the public believe. Traceurs spend years working on basic movements and body conditioning in order to avoid injuries. These athletes do not enjoy getting hurt, and injuries only set them back in their training. Due to the sheer amount of time spent working on basic training and safety measures, injury statistics are incredibly low compared to many popular sports. According to a study done by a renowned parkour academy Parkour Visions, parkour-related injury rates “came out to two injuries per thousand hours training time.” This is relatively safe, considering “indoor rock climbing averages around three, gymnastics (training) around four, soccer (training) is 7.6 and American football (training) is 16… concussion rate alone for MMA competition is 15 per thousand hours.” Another parkour organization, Texas Parkour, states, “emphasis has always been on safety and community.” Texas Parkour is the single largest parkour organization in Texas, and is known throughout America. With such a huge group saying “Jumping off buildings, roofs or bridges is not encouraged,” it is clear that dangerous activity is frowned upon by those who participate in parkour.
Almost every traceur, whether they started training with an experienced group or by themselves, starts off by learning what to do in situations gone wrong. Traceurs learn through muscle memory what to do and how to stay safe – in case they are over-balanced, falling backwards, or even fall ten feet or more to the ground. Experienced traceurs become almost animalistic in their training; I myself was nicknamed “Creature” by a crowd that was watching me train. I once vaulted a wall and landed on a tiny ledge, but lost my balance and started to fall off. By instinct I jumped to the closest wall, grabbed the edge, and pulled myself up all in one fluid motion. When training, we don’t have to think about what to do if something goes wrong; muscle memory and instinct take over, and we find the most efficient way to stay safe.
While some authority figures will claim that parkour practitioners are vandals and criminals, this stems from misinformed stereotyping and couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, traceurs will often wear baggy sweatpants and hoodies, because the material flows and is comfortable during training; but authorities will sometimes stereotype the athletes and start harassing them based on their appearance. Many authorities will stop me from training by claiming that I’m “disturbing the people” around me. This is a very common reason given by authorities for traceurs being told to leave, but often it is a misguided reason. Traceurs are very respectable as a whole, and if anybody, whether it be an officer, a business owner, a parent – even a child – asks me or almost any other traceur to leave, we will do so quickly and quietly.
But more often than not, the people that are around us are more entertained that frightened or disturbed. There are thousands of videos of parkour online that show the looks of awe and enjoyment that people express while watching traceurs training. I was told by a bystander that watching me was like “watching an artist paint a picture. Except, you were using your body and environment instead of pen and paper. It was really inspiring.” Another time I was training with my brother, and I was getting ready to do a back-flip on a narrow ledge. While my brother was working the camera and I jumped for the back-flip, my brother saw two police officers walking towards us. In the video, his groan is audible and he mumbles “time to pack up.” however, the officers simply walked up to me, shook my hand and said “that was really awesome. You could probably charge people to watch you. Keep up the good work!”
Unfortunately, not all officers are this understanding. I myself have been verbally abused and lied to by officers (who I will not name) who patrol The Woodlands Waterway. Just a few weeks ago, I had two friends from Houston come up to visit and take pictures of The Waterway with me. Within a few short minutes of us being at the stairwell where Six Pines Drive crosses over The Waterway – a beautiful spot right by the Marriott – an officer approached us and said he had gotten calls “fifteen minutes ago about some kids jumping around.” When I tried to explain to him that we had just arrived, and that we hadn’t done anything more than taken pictures, he became extremely angry and told me to stop lying to him. We had to listen to him tell us how he “knew” what we were doing, and we agreed to leave the Waterway immediately. My friends and I realize the officers are just doing their jobs, but we end up having to leave a beautiful, public place – all because of a misunderstanding. In the three years I’ve been training, I’ve only been asked by a civilian bystander to leave an area once. Other than that, most people are sorry to see me and my group walk away.
Now obviously, private property is another matter. Especially here in The Woodlands. I, along with the people who train with me here, know that climbing buildings, hopping over certain fences, and jumping around right outside a building is extremely disrespectful, and could be considered trespassing. One of the guidelines among those training here is that trespassing is an absolute “do not,” and that if anybody tells us we are on private property and asks us to leave, we MUST leave immediately, without causing any problems whatsoever – no ifs, ands, or buts. Statistics show parkour is also not as destructive as some claim it to be. Traceurs are respectful, and will not destroy any property. Doing so is reckless, needless, disrespectful, and destroys things to train on.
In a recent debate about opening a parkour-based park in Live Oak, Texas (just outside San Antonio), fliers were posted in opposition, asking “Do you want a haven for heroin addicts in your backyard? Do you support nefarious activity?” and even going so far as to say “Bikers break bones, skaters smoke pot, and parkour kills.” That is taking things to the extreme. Parkour is anything but nefarious and full of drug addicts. In fact, the art of parkour commonly pulls people away from drugs and into a better life. World-famous traceur Daniel Ilabaca, who has been in many commercials including a 5 RPM Gum commercial (where he is shown doing a variety of flips), shared his story in a video “Choose Not to Fall.” Ilabaca states “I used to do drugs, I used to do all those things. Then one day I saw a guy do a wall-flip in the streets… It was that individual and the way he looked at life! I never knew then, but I… know now, that’s what it was. It was a way for me to break out of this mold, this uncontrollable system I was in.” (full transcript here) The art and discipline of parkour pulled Ilabaca out of a hard, crime-filled life, and turned him into a respectable role model for many young people.
Ilabaca isn’t the only man to have his life change for the better through this beautiful art. My good friend Stephen Laster, also known as “Viking” for his tall stature and long hair, is one of the most well-known traceurs in Texas. He has performed in live shows, is constantly being interviewed, and is sponsored by Take Flight Apparel, one of the biggest names in parkour. However, he didn’t get this recognition due to any incredible skills; it was his story and his journey that sparks inspiration. In an interview with AmericanParkour.com, Stephen says, “Parkour literally changed my life. Before I had a bunch of problems, I was on probation, I was a smoker, a drinker, and I was overweight. Parkour and the [parkour] community have really helped me straighten everything out and get my life back on track.” Viking started off training when he was over 300 pounds. Needless to say, that isn’t really your typical athlete body structure. However, in just four years, he has completely turned his life around, and is always seeking to help others do the same.
Parkour is no less of a discipline than the martial arts (I would know, I teach martial arts as well!), and should not be restricted. The parkour community is a respectable lot, and the only problems people have with us is through misunderstanding. With law enforcement in Europe practicing the discipline, it should be accepted, even applauded for people to learn. The best thing to do is find some middle ground where this miscommunication can be cleared up.
A little bit about me: My name is Justin, and I’ve been doing parkour for just over three years. I am one of eleven athletes in Texas sponsored by Texas Parkour, and I currently teach gymnastics and tumbling at ASI Gymnastics, and martial arts at Cox ATA Martial Arts. I do stunt work and acting for indie films around the Houston area, and have fielded requests to do things such as dress up like Spider-Man for children’s birthday parties, be a “ninja” for videos, and perform for events for Plato’s Closet. I graduated from TWHS in 2011, and currently take classes for acting and film editing. I love living here in The Woodlands – I’ve been here for 18 years, and never once regretted it – and I hope to make parkour an acceptable discipline here before I move away! If you would like to discuss parkour with me, or have any thoughts about this, feel free to email me at XMAparkour@yahoo.com.
The month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. SAAM raises public awareness about sexual violence, and helps to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
According to RAINN (2010) someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States. It could be your son or daughter, your brother or sister, your spouse or a friend. On average, 44% of victims are under the age of 18; 80% are under age 30. As many as 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and an astonishing 97% of rapist will never face jail time. Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, and 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
It is imperative that everyone takes a stand!
Nina Carlson, owner of N-Style Hair Salon, located in Grogan’s Mill Village Center is working with the Montgomery County Women’s Center to create a world without violence. During April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, N Style Salon is collecting items for the victims of sexual assault. The items requested for donation include: deodorant, razors, shampoo & conditioner, hair brushes, combs, styling aids, body lotion, face wash, mascara, lipstick and rubber gloves (sizes medium and large).
As an extra incentive, N Style Salon is offering a 25% discount on the purchase of products donated for the awareness campaign through the month of April. Individuals and companies are being asked to participate with single items or cases. Items can be delivered to N Style Salon, 7 Switchbud Place, Suite 189 in The Woodlands (77380), Tuesday – Saturday 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM daily.
From the ‘how many would you tolerate’ and the ‘didja know’ department -
Did you know that The Woodlands Township Board of Directors recently almost voted on whether or not to host an “Iron Girl” (3 year plan type) event in The Woodlands to begin this fall? This event is (as the name describes) the female version of The Iron Man event, which is a the halfway mark on it’s 5 year Run through The Woodlands. The race is officially known as “Iron Girl,” and would be held on a Sunday in October, 2013 then in November in 2014 and 2015, with an estimated completion time of 10:30 AM. At the most recent board meeting, the primary concern regarding the road route is that it would pass near one of the largest churches in The Woodlands. Depending on the route, this could be either Lake Woodlands Drive, Lake Front Circle the major thoroughfare, Grogan’s Mill Road, or some combination thereof.
Here are some key facts from the World Triathlon Corporation Iron Girl presentation to The Woodlands CVB:
- Three-year event starting October 6, 2013, second and third events in November (11/2/2014 & 11/1/2015).
- The Iron Girl Triathlon consists of a 1.5-mile swim, a 15-mile bike and a 3-mile run.
- The event is expected have 2,000+ participants.
- Creates an opportunity for residents of The Woodlands to participate right at home.
- Creates an opportunity for local hotels and retail businesses to generate sales which benefits The Woodlands Township in sales tax collection and hotel tax collection.
- Creates an opportunity to create additional name value of The Woodlands being a “fit” community.
- Iron Girl events provide women with a competitive platform, unique amenities and a fun and comfortable environment to set and reach their fitness goals.
- Hundreds of volunteer opportunities for residents and businesses of The Woodlands to participate in the event
- Iron Girl began in 2004 with two events, and currently has 18 events nationwide. The Woodlands is one of the [more than] 20 events planned for 2013.
- This would be the only Iron Girl event in the Greater Houston market.
We know that when the event was initially presented to The Woodlands CVB on January 8, 2013, and subsequently to the Township Board on January 17, 2013, without a specific date included but with an option for either Saturday or Sunday during the first weekend in October. The vote to host the Iron Girl event was then tabled at each subsequent board meeting through early March, and is currently scheduled to be voted upon March 21, 2013. The plans are expected to be updated with route information at that time. According to the Iron Girl presentation, “venues for Iron Girl could include Northshore Park, Lake Woodlands, The Woodlands Waterway, and Town Green Park.” Exactly why or when the decision to hold the race on Sunday was made is unclear, however, Sunday was chosen at some point during this process as the Feb. 27, 2013 agenda calls for it as below:
• “Tabled a Host Venue Agreement with World Triathlon Corporation¹ regarding the proposed [Woodlands] Iron Girl event with a proposed date of Sunday, October 6, 2013 (The Board is schedule to make final decision at its Thursday, March 21, 2013 meeting scheduled at 9 a.m.)”
Board members Ed Robb and Mike Bass agreed that “..the number of similar [race] events in the community is an issue,” and “the race [Iron Girl] would be on Sunday…” Specifically, Board member Ed Robb pointed out routing traffic via Lake Woodlands Drive, and/or possibly the stretch of Lake Front Circle that connects Grogan’s Mill Road with Lake Woodlands Drive around “one of the community’s largest churches” – The Woodlands United Methodist Church, where Robb is senior pastor – could possibly cause problems for “thousands” of parishioners and visitors. Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said he wants to work with Iron Girl officials and the township to bring the event to the community without affecting residents. The Precinct 3 Commissioner’s Office maintains the roads in The Woodlands and would be involved with helping with road closures. Additionally, there were concerns regarding area resident tolerance levels of the addition of a ‘similar’ event; this would be the “fifth event like this in just over a seven month period,” according to Bass. Technically, it would be the sixth such event, in period just over nine months – and that’s just in Town Center. It would bring the annual total to seven similar events in The Woodlands in that same time frame, when you add the Muddy Trails races held in Village of Creekside Park.
Perhaps residents of Village of Panther Creek – and the community as a whole – might consider voicing their opinion about having another race (or road closure event, depending on your point of view) to the Township, or their favorite Board Member, in an effort to help them to make a better-informed decision. To our knowledge, the Township has not requested any resident input regarding the Iron Girl event.
The Woodlands Township Board of Directors meeting schedule usually consists of one board meeting, typically held at 9:00AM on the third Thursday of every month, and one board meeting, typically held at 6:00 PM on the fourth Wednesday of every month. Both meetings are held at offices of The Woodlands Township, 2801 Technology Forest Boulevard, and are open to the public. In accordance with state law, meeting notices are posted at least 72 hours in advance. This posting occurs at the Montgomery County Courthouse, inside the boundaries of the Township at its office building, and on The Woodlands Township website.
Current Iron Girl venues include: Atlanta, GA (triathlon), Austin, TX (triathlon), Bloomington, MN (duathlon), Cherry Creek, CO (triathlon), Clearwater, FL (1/2 marathon & 5K run/walk), Clermont, FL (triathlon), Columbia, MD (1/2 marathon & 5K run/walk), Columbia, MD (triathlon), Del Mar, CA (10K & 5K run/walk), Fountain Hills, AZ (10-Mile & 5K run/walk), Lake Las Vegas, NV (triathlon), Lake Zurich, IL (triathlon), Pleasant Prairie, WI (triathlon), Rocky Gap, MD (triathlon), Sandy Hook, NJ (triathlon), Seattle, WA (triathlon), Syracuse, NY (triathlon), Webster, MA (triathlon).
Iron Girl Triathlon event markets in the planning stages include: Canada, Chicago, Houston, Northern California, and outside New York City.
March 28, 2013 After suffering just over two months of postponing a vote, The Woodlands Township no longer has the opportunity to host and Iron Girl event as the World Triathlon Corp. has withdrawn their offer.
¹ The Iron Girl® Event is licensed by World Triathlon Corporation.
Waterfowl In The Woodlands
Spring is in the air, which means spending more time at all of the parks and ponds here in The Woodlands. Most all of the ponds around The Woodlands are home to a host of wildlife, including fish, turtles, herons, egrets, and of course, geese and ducks. Who doesn’t have fond childhood memories of feeding ducks in the park or watching their own children feed them?
Unfortunately, though, not only are signs posted at all ponds throughout The Woodlands expressly prohibiting the feeding of ducks, more importantly, doing so is unhealthy for the ducks. Feeding the ducks at the ponds here in The Woodlands causes:
Unnatural behavior – The natural behavior of wild ducks is to spend most of their time in the water and steer clear of humans. Ducks which are used to being fed will hang around on the shore instead, waiting for food. Depending on where the park is located, this can sometimes lead to dangerous behavior, such as crossing a busy road to get where they’re used to being fed.
Overcrowding – Too many chiefs, not enough Indians? Too many ducks in one area will lead to territorial aggression – both among the ducks, and in some cases, towards the very children that just wanted to feed them in the first place. While rare, ducks and geese around here have been known to chase and bite.
Poor nutrition – Ducks eating human foods will suffer from malnutrition. Bread, crackers, chips, donuts and popcorn are a great source of carbohydrates – but they offer little other nutritional value for ducks. In fact, bread is the equivalent to junk food for the birds. The ducks and geese fill up on bread and crackers, instead of eating the nutritious, natural foods they need. This in turn will cause the ducks to suffer from heart disease, liver problems and excessive weight gain.
Also problematic is the ducklings will not learn to forage for food, and will therefore be unable to survive without human help.
Spread of disease – All that bread, buns and crackers which are not eaten by the ducks will be left to rot. Ducks also poop in the place where they eat, further adding to the unhygienic nature of the area. Young children, elderly and those with compromised immune systems can easily be infected by disease. Additionally, rats, mice and insects will also be attracted to the food, causing more spread of pestilence and disease.
Pollution – Rotting bread in the water will cause algae growth; a far more serious problem in some of our smaller ponds than Lake Woodlands, but it can still cause the under-oxygenation of the water, which will eradicate fish and other wildlife that live in or near the water.
The best thing to do would be to obey the signs and not feed the ducks at all. But kids are kids, and if you’re going to let them feed the ducks, give them nutritious food instead. You can purchase commercial duck feed, cracked corn, barley, oats, birdseed or other grains – or give them grapes cut in half, a thawed bag of frozen peas or corn, or kale, romaine or other leafy greens.
Finally, if you’re feeding ducks as a way to avoid waste, a better solution would be to add your bread to a compost pile, or use stale bread in recipes such as croutons, bread pudding and stuffing.
Montgomery County Water Restrictions 2013
Most of southeast Texas is or was under a serious drought in 2012 and while we did get some much needed rain in the last few months of the year, a water shortage remains.
Community leaders in The Woodlands have implemented water restricitons to help reduce the critical water shortage. Begining January 1, 2013 Homeowners here will be required to water just two days a week at most.
Conservation is key. The population in Montgomery County has grown so much in recent years that those living in The Woodlands alone used 7 billion gallons of water last year. All of that water coming from nearby area aquifers. “We are withdrawing or pumping more from the underground supply than is being replenished,” said James Stinson, the general manager of The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency. Stinson also stated that The Woodlands and Montgomery County faces a pending water supply crisis, and they’re trying to reduce water waste. One of the best ways, they say, is to educate the public, starting by convincing people that their yards don’t need as much moisture as they think. Fewer waterings in longer durations will help build a deeper root system while saving countless thousands of gallons over the course of time.
Over-watering is the most frequent mistake The Woodlands’ homeowners make in lawn care. Too much water promotes a shallow root system and this causes grass and plants to be much more vulnerable to hot/dry weather. During hot and dry conditions, native plants require no more than one-inch of water per week. This should be done in one or two applications per week, which will allow water to soak deep into the soil and promote deeper root growth thereby increasing the lawn’s ability to withstand hot summer days.
A healthy turf requires no more than one, maybe two deep water applications per week if it doesn’t rain. So here’s the recommended defined watering schedule:
- Odd house address water on Saturday and Wednesday
- Even house address water on Sunday and Thursday
Don’t water at all if the grass doesn’t need it! It will cost you $50 for the first violation, $100 for the second, $200 for each additional. But those fines won’t be implemented till June so Montgomery County Residents will have six months of adjustment time before they will face those fees which incidentaly is when lawn watering becomes more prevalent.
A couple weeks back, we stumbled upon the news of a new restaurant coming to The Woodlands. What we didn’t know was that this new restaurant is actually the reincarnation of an old restaurant, and what that means to the thousands of fans Taco USA has across Texas – most especially from Nacogdoches. So we sat down with owners Chad Byers and Jeff Rhame to get the whole story.
It all started with pizza. Chad’s father, Ottis Byers, had several years of continuous success with a company called Pizza Management International, a company that later became the largest Pizza Hut franchisee. Wanting to branch out, PMI created Taco USA and opened their first location in Del Rio, Texas in 1976. The relevance of the year inspired the theme for the name and logo, as it was the nation’s bicentennial. However, within the first two years and two stores (the second was in Lufkin) it became glaringly obvious to everyone that PMI, a company known for their success with pizza had no business attempting Tex-Mex, and Taco USA nearly became a short-lived pipe dream. Thankfully, Ottis was well-aware of what the real problem was (it was the food. It was awful.) and had the wherewithal to change the recipes… After buying Taco USA from PMI. Such a simple answer, but as thousands of SFA alumni can attest to, the right one.
While the Byers family owned and operated Taco USA, it was truly a family venture. Ottis and Mrs. Byers could be found behind the counter and one or another location just about any time, ensuring the quality and integrity of every dish they served; an uncommon sight at your ‘typical’ fast food joint. Jeff began working at Taco USA in Nacogdoches at 15 years old, joined by his childhood friend Chad a couple of months later, when he turned 15 as well. Though Jeff would move on after just a couple of years to pursue a successful year in financial planning, Chad stayed with the family business – working his way up the ladder and managing the two Nacogdoches locations for many years. Taco USA proved to be overwhelmingly successful with Ottis Byers at the helm for the next 14 years, until, called to move his life in a different direction, Mr. Byers sold the business to some first-time restaurateurs. The new owners made significant changes to the menu, which would prove fatal – Taco USA closed it’s doors only two years later in 1994.
But that was then. Now, nearly 20 years later, Chad and Jeff are planning on opening the first new Taco USA right here in The Woodlands – at the Grogan’s Mill Village Center on South Millbend and Switchbud Place. And while an in-line, store-front location is one of the major differences between this new incarnation of Taco USA and the stand-alone, self-contained locations of yore, the other potential differences will actually be very few.
For starters, Taco USA is still very much in the family – Chad Byers, having recently dissolved his transportation company, is intimately involved in every step of the process of bringing Taco USA back. Not only does he have all of the original recipes perfected by his parents, as a one-time manager and life-long foodie, he has first-hand experience at crafting all of those memorable dishes.
When he’s not working with the electrician, contractor or architect, Chad is in the kitchen re-creating the Taco Burgers, burritos, chorizitos and Conquistadors.
Chad is also working with suppliers to ensure only the best quality ingredients are going to be utilized. “Fast food doesn’t have to be low-quality,” Chad told us. “There’s no reason good ingredients can’t be used and still served at prices that everyone can afford.” And just like it was all the way back in the ’70s, everything will be made fresh.
Prep work in the kitchen starts as early as 6:00 AM for an 11:00 AM lunch service. And some preparation – like the infamous red beans Taco USA is known for – actually begins the night before. “The beans have to be red. They aren’t called ‘brown beans’ or just ‘beans,’ they’re red beans,” Chad explained. They don’t come in a can to be scooped out into a steamer dish. Taco USA‘s red beans take the better part of a day to make, from scratch, every time.
Though Taco USA is a fast food restaurant at heart, the personal touches and potential conveniences are apparent in the details. For example, parents arriving with infants and toddlers in tow will appreciate high chairs on casters available right when you enter, so children can be safely seated without keeping your arms full while you place your order at the counter. Additionally, though you order at the counter, your meal will be delivered to your table by a server. The menu is diverse enough that those seeking a gluten-free meal, vegetarian alternatives and a selection of kid-friendly choices in smaller portions. There are even a few burgers and fries on the menu, should someone in your party not be in the mood for Tex-Mex. Taco USA is also building out a full patio, allowing for diners to enjoy the potential cool breezes off of Lake Harrison to the north of the center.
Whether a long-time fan or a potential new customer, from the sounds of things you’ll find something you love at Taco USA when they open this winter. We know we’re looking forward to it!
Taco USA is located at the Grogan’s Mill Village Center, between Woodforest National Bank and The UPS Store at 7 Switchbud Place, The Woodlands 77380. For more information about Taco USA, check out their Facebook page, and find them in TheWoodlandsEvents.com restaurant directory.
The Finals – That’s a Wrap
The finals had a new MC, Kelly Williams of YourTown TV; she did a great job, but it was also a little obvious she wasn’t as comfortable in front of the crowd as her predecessor. There was also a forty-minute delay due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control – the uncontested ‘most beautiful’ judge, Dana Tyson of Sunny 99.1, suffered a minor medical emergency and wasn’t able to be there – so we were in a bit of a holding pattern until Robert Bell could make it to Papa’s and fill her shoes. And what would a night fraught with tension be without one or two technical glitches with the music?
As this was the finals, each contestant was required to sing two songs. Most of the contestants chose two different genres to cover, but for those that didn’t, both of their selections were – of course – country. It’s like those guys read our blog and still want to mess with me. Just kidding! I know I’m in the minority with my anti-Country music tendencies…
Once the contest finally got started, Jessi Cowart (#1) was up first with Reba’s “Fancy.” Maybe it was just pure nervousness, or perhaps it was because she had to be first, but she did miss a cue early on in the tune. She recovered well, though, and finished the tune strongly. Next up was Zachary Jones (#2), who, talk about missing cues, really seemed to struggle with Matchbox 20′s “If You’re Gone,” first rushing the chorus and then missing several cues throughout the remainder of the song.
After the first two contestants, however, missed cues quickly became a thing of the past when Jon Sheptock (#3) gave a perfect performance of Michael Bublé’s “Home,” I only wish his vocal volume could have been adjusted a bit higher than the background music; it was difficult to hear him clearly at the back of the room. The next contestant was Morgan McKay (#4), and her fearless performance of Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl,” which warranted a lot of audience participation.
There was a hiccup of some sort with Timothy Blair’s song choice, so we skipped ahead to Jordan Burmeister (#6), who took the change-up in stride like a pro. Though she started a little on the timid side, by the ending ‘for you are mine,’ of Etta James’ “At Last,” everyone in the room wanted to be hers. Problem sorted, Timothy Blair (#5) was able to go next, selecting yet another classic from the seventies with Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night In Georgia” and did as well as I expected; with little variety in his song selections, there’s little variety in his performances. This of course can help or hurt a contestant, depending on the whims of the judges.
Daryl Bullinger (#7) Country-crooned “I Can’t Love You Back” by Easton Corbin with so much conviction I think every woman in the place wishing he’d give it a try. Breaking that spell – in a good way, but still – was Niki Uzell (#8) who rocked Gretchen Wilson’s “All Jacked Up,” though again, it would have been better if her vocals could have been at a better volume level compared to the background music.
Finishing out the first half of the evening was Heather Wiley (#9), who took on Adele’s “Rolling In the Deep” while giving it a bit of a Country-twang. I didn’t think it really worked for her, though, and the result was less-than-perfect, with the higher, longer notes getting missed. Finally, gamely battling a chest cold, Jake Muck (#10) gave us his rendition of Mario’s “Let Me Love You,” and maybe it was the cold, but I really started to notice how very ‘boy band’ and nasally Jake sounded.
We took a bit of a break to let everyone catch their breath and stretch their legs, then we were right back into the competition.
Each contestant was now up for what would be their final attempt to win over the judges and be selected as this year’s The Woodlands Idol. Starting us off again was Jessi Cowart, who seemed much more relaxed this second time around and did a great job with Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” Written by Johnny Cash and Charlie Williams, the tune has a decidedly country-rock feel to it, and Jessi brought that into her performance beautifully. Sticking with that country feel, Zachary Jones covered Tim McGraw’s “Down on the Farm” next, and it just seemed to me that he didn’t get after it with as much enthusiasm as some of his earlier performances. The whole thing seemed a little too level – too single-noted.
Jon Sheptock wowed the crowd again when he stepped up with Lone Star’s “Amazed.” Jon really has a beautiful singing voice, and I found myself thinking if he keeps it up, I’ll be able to someday say, “oh, I totally knew him way back when no one had ever heard of him…” Morgan McKay growled and danced her way through a rousing rendition of Reba McEntire’s “Why Haven’t I Heard From You?” and Timothy Blair was up next, and as though determined to prove me right, sang The Temptations “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” his choice from the first preliminary. I’ll give him this much; what he lacks in vocal variety, he makes up for in showmanship. To quote Maroon 5, he’s got “the moves like Jagger.”
Since she’d shown so much promise with such a range of vocals and variety of song types, I was really pulling for little Jordan Burmeister. I’m going out on a limb, here – I hope she doesn’t mind that I keep calling her little. I mean, she is a full-grown, married woman, after all. She’s just very short and adorable (I could eat her up!). Anyway, she belted out Adele’s “Rollin’ In The Deep” with fantastic enthusiasm, and was always aware of where the microphone was in relation to her mouth, careful to pull back on the louder, carried notes and to bring it back in for the softer, quicker ones.
Daryl was up once more and the word that sticks out at me from my notes was that his performance was very sweet. He sang Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe,” and if you’re not familiar (as I wasn’t) it’s a great storybook song about ‘Old Man Wrigley,’ the love and loss he experienced and how he passed words of wisdom on to the young man that was his neighbor.
Niki Uzell belted out Carrie Underwood’s “I Told You So” a little too strongly – it just wasn’t her best performance of the contest. Then Heather Wiley gave us her version of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” but it lacked the deep, moving soul that I’m accustomed to hearing in Alicia Keys’ music. Finally, Jake Muck closed out the competition with what I had hoped would be a great take on a relatively new song, Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” but again, Jake was a bit nasally and seemed to be attempting to sing the song at a higher register or key than what the music called for.
With that, the judges’ scores were tallied up, and though there were winners announced that night, a review of the scores later revealed a tie and some shuffling had to be done. In the end, Daryl Bullinger came in third place, Zachary Jones and Morgan McKay tied for second place and the title of 6th Annual The Woodlands Idol went to Jon Sheptock. Some of those were my choices, and some weren’t, but like fantasy football, my opinions and my choices don’t matter, only the official choices of the judges do – and they made some good ones. Now I just can’t wait for next year, where I hope to see some returning favorites and some fresh talent try their hand at becoming the next The Woodlands Idol!
For pictures of the finals event, check out our Flikr Album.
This was it – the semi-final had thirty contestants which had made it through the preliminaries for the sixth annual The Woodlands Idol competition in either the first, second or third rounds – and there were high moments of excitement and disappointments.
Once again the majority of song selections were country – well, okay, only a slight majority; okay… it was really close to just half and half. But you know how I feel about country music. Aside from my musical preferences, I still wouldn’t have wanted to be a judge. It had to have been tough to choose just nine of the thirty (well, twenty-eight) semi-finalists to move on to the finals in two weeks. There were several song repeats from the first three rounds, but only once by the same contestant; an error that is a disqualifying event, incidentally. Contestants are not allowed to sing the same song more than once in preliminaries, semi-finals or finals; so each person should be prepared to perform at least three songs.
I don’t have room here to give a run-down of all 28 contestants’ songs, but of the nine judges’ picks, there was some real variety. First up to make it into the finals was Morgan McKay (4), with a rousing rendition of Reba McEntire’s “Why Haven’t I Heard From You?” with so much enthusiasm, it was hard to get a clear picture of her. She was dancing all around and having a great time. At the other end of the spectrum, the first male to advance was Timothy Blair (9), performing another selection from The Temptations, “I Wish It Would Rain.” He’s a guy that likes his classics. We had to take a quick break to allow for Jon Sheptock’s previously recorded performance of Daughtry’s “Home,” as he was unable to attend the semi-finals due to extenuating circumstances. It was a little hard to hear him over the din of the crowd in the house, but he did great. Two more in quick succession to get in were Heather Wiley (#12) in the most fun/interesting/unusual selection of the night with “Cowboy’s Sweetheart” by LeAnn Rimes, complete with yodel and Jake Muck (#16), channeling his boy-band style covering Ne-yo’s “Because of You.”
It took a little bit, but the next one to make it past the judges was Niki Uzell (#22) with her take on the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon.” That was the very song performed by Myi Watson a few weeks back, who unfortunately didn’t show up for the semi-finals.
Rounding out the final nine judges’ picks for finals were Zachary Jones (#27), with another fun performance; he chose Jason Aldean’s “Crazy Town.” Zachary’s extremely enthusiastic on stage, and very at ease. Next was little Jordan Burmeister (#29) leaving Adele behind from a couple weeks back for a little country, belting out Martina McBrides’ “Broken Wing.” And finally it was #30, Daryl Bullinger, who gave us a stirring performance of Garth Brooks’ “More Than A Memory.”
And even though there was a lot of great performances, I was still disappointed a few times. First of all, Jim Tillmans – who hotly crooned out “Fever” in Round 1, was the other no-show of the night. Then my other favorite crooner, Brian Kennedy (#17), didn’t make the cut with his rendition of Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good.” I was really sad, I liked them both a lot. I also really liked (okay, loved), Cale Reneau’s performance of “Creep” by Radiohead in Round 3, but he just didn’t hit the mark this time around with the judges when he covered Blues Traveler’s “Hook.” I get it, though, I suppose. The really fast, almost white-rap parts of that one are hard to get your tongue around.
My final disappointment of the night was when Jessi Cowart (#18) didn’t make it past the judges. She’s a fantastic singer, even with the obvious nervousness in her stage presence. But if practice makes perfect, she’ll still get her chance, as she was voted in as the People’s Choice for the finals after a fantastic performance of Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m The Only One.”
Jessi garnered all kinds of applause, shouts and screams from her cheering section, which is pretty clearly the way she got voted in – she had a huge fan-base. And as for that stage-fright I thought I detected? Well, like I said, I’m not a judge. Plus it really seemed to wear off the further into the song she got. By the end I was cheering out loud for her, too!
The final round is just days away, and the excitement is palpable. I can’t wait to see who the judges pick to be named the next “The Woodlands Idol!” The choice will be tough, and I think no matter who gets in, they all deserve the accolades they’ve received throughout this competition.
Come to the Finals, hear them for yourselves. Finals on Friday, November 2. All events are being held at Papa’s Ice House in Spring. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at the Chamber offices, by mail when you download the ticket order form and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better, as space will be limited. For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.
For pictures of the semi-finals event, check out our Flikr Album.
Preliminary Competitions – Round Three
The third round of preliminaries for the sixth annual The Woodlands Idol competition was by far the largest of the three, having more competitors than both the first, and second round – and far more stand out performers.
The song selections for the night were all over the board – from as far back as “How Great Thou Art,” the Christian hymn originally penned in 1885 and made famous by numerous of musicians, to as contemporary and recent as Adele’s “Rollin’ In The Deep,” and everything in between. We heard yet another two performances of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” opera, with The Phantom of the Opera’s “Think of Me,”, a whole spectrum of country tunes (of course), classics like Nat King Cole (“Orange Colored Sky”), Etta James (“I’d Rather Go Blind” and “At Last”) and Nina Simone (Feelin’ Good – in a performance that nearly made me cry [and not tears of joy]), even The Eagles (“Hotel California”), Uncle Kracker (“Drift Away”) and Joss Stone (“You Had Me”).
There were a total of 29 competitors this week, and while things started off pretty good – four contestants in and we had our first preliminary winner of the night, Bridgett Cooper (#09) with a goose-bump-enducing a Capella rendition of the late Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Niki Uzell (#11) gamely followed immediately after with George Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning”. Cherrie Boston (#12), gave a heartfelt performance of Etta James’ At Last, which would ultimately make her the People’s Choice Winner – and after that there was a long, long… long dry-spell. I can honestly say the bizarre and hodge-podge mixture of the next nine contestants was difficult to sit through. Perhaps if I’d had a few drinks it’d been easier. But I digress. Next up was Aaron Del Bosque (#22), who selected Billy Currington’s “Let Me Down Easy,” and though he seemed to warble a little bit on each verse, made good with a strong performance of each chorus. The second person to perform Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” was Debbie T. (#28), and in my opinion (and the judges’) did a better job than the first.
After Debbie, the performances seemed to build up steam as one right after another would ultimately go on to be preliminary winners. Mary Goldknopf (#29) gave a strong performance of Evanescene’s “My Immortal”, and from there the tempos increased, with Jordan Burmeister (#1) channeled Adele, managing to stray far from the teleprompter and look relaxed and engaged as she belted out “Rollin’ In The Deep”. Syndni Doughtie (#2) was next, with Nat King Cole’s “Orange Colored Sky”, which was both old-fashioned and cute at the same time. There was a tongue-twisting segment about a minute in that didn’t phase her in the least. Zachary Jones (#3), who earlier in the evening appeared to be getting restless, looked like he was having a great time while making every word his own as he smiled, danced and sang Josh Thompson’s “Beer On The Table.”
Once again this week we had a couple of returning contenders; Aaron Del Bosque (#22) was a 2012 Semi-finalist, and in what could be described only as providential, the night was brought to a close by Cale Reneau (#5), a 2011 Preliminary Winner.
As he was the last of the evening, Jackie of Tunes of Texas (the guys providing all the music for the competition) stepped down off the stage and came over to have a seat next to me. We hadn’t actually talked much prior to that point, but he nudged me, gave me a ‘just wait’ll you see this’ knowing smile and said, “get ready.”
‘Get ready for what?’ I wondered. I was tired. The music cued up, and it was a slow and steady beat. I kind of knew I knew it… but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Then Cale started singing and of course, only a few words in and I immediately remembered it was Radiohead’s “Creep.” He was already doing a great job through the first and second chorus, but then -
Then, something magical happened. Two-and-a-half minutes in to what was clearly going to be a full song (versus being cut off at the three minute mark) Cale built up all the sweet, tortured anguish of Thom Yorke, never missing a single moment of the ever-increasing high notes that make up the bridge… “She’s running out the door – She’s running, She run, run, run, run… Run,” which brought raucous applause from everyone. When Cale was done, Jackie just looked at me and said, “Told ya.”
So for the second time in one night, I had goose bumps. And for the second time in three nights of competition, I was completely amazed at the level of talent we have here in The Woodlands.
I mean, sure, I’ve been singing since I was five, and performed in Concert Choir in Junior High – but that was a long, long time ago. I don’t even like getting up to talk in front of people, much less sing. I do have a pretty good ear, and have been known to pluck out a tune after a few short tries on my keyboard. And if it could speak, my steering wheel would attest to my carrying a tune quite well with the radio. But these guys? The ones on their way to the Semi-finals next week? Wow. To paraphrase Radiohead, “They’re so $&%@ing special.”
You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Come to the Semi-finals, hear them for yourselves. The semi-finals are on Friday, October 19, and finals on Friday, November 2; both are ticketed events. All events are being held at Papa’s Ice House in Spring. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at the Chamber offices, by mail when you download the ticket order form and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better as space will be limited. For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.
For pictures of the third preliminary event, check out our Flikr Album.
Katz’s Never Kloses
As many people know (and others may not know), Katz’s roots begin in New York, by way of Austin. Though no relation to the “When Harry Met Sally” “I’ll have what she’s having,” Katz’s Delicatessen, there are a smattering of funny little coincidences. For instance, that Katz’s Deli is on Houston Street in NYC, and currently co-owned by three people, two of which are Martin Dell and Fred Austin. Dell, Inc. (no relation) was of course founded in Austin, Texas. Marc Katz (Barry’s father) moved the family from New York when Barry was 10, eventually opening the original Katz’s Deli in Austin in 1979, where Barry Katz grew up, was bitten by the foodie-bug, and went on to study at the Culinary Institute of America and the restaurant management program at Florida International University, before eventually opening his own Katz’s in Houston in 2000.
…Well that was fun.
But returning to the actual purpose of this write-up, Katz’s infamous motto has a slightly different meaning than what most people associate with it. While it’s true the downtown Houston location is open 24 hours as the Austin location was; the less-well-known meaning stems from Katz’s industry-rare commitment and ability to accommodate last minute catering orders at both Houston-area locations. “We can handle catering orders big or small, with as little as two hours notice,” Barry told us. “Of course, we may not be able to get certain catering menu items out on that short of notice, but that’s the beauty of it – our catering menu is so large, and so diverse, we can come up with something to fit your needs,” explained Sandi Maslak, Katz’s catering manager for The Woodlands area.
“We just don’t want to say ‘no’ to people,” Barry added. In order to be that flexible – not to mention being able to cater full-spread breakfast buffets all across town before the sun comes up, or bring some hearty meals to an office full of executives burning the midnight oil – the catering side of the business relies on the kitchen staff of both locations to be at the top of their game all the time, at any time.
Click to Download Katz’s Holiday Menu – Available November 1
Holiday Catering Menu
Beginning November 1, customers will be able to place orders from the new Holiday Catering menu. Some of the stand-out selections include the Katz’s Combo ($9.99 per person), which includes sliced turkey breast, turkey-ham, gravy, cranberry sauce, a buttered roll, dressing, a choice of two sides (from garden salad, Caesar salad, broccoli cheese rice casserole, sweet potato casserole, corn casserole, macaroni and cheese, glazed carrots, buttered corn or pan-fried cabbage) and a peppermint or plain brownie.
Also available is a Corporate Package ($10.99 per person), which would give each person one of seven entrees (turkey breast [with dressing and cranberry sauce], turkey-ham, blackened chicken Alfredo, half a citrus-glazed Cornish hen [with pecan rice dressing], stuffed chicken breast [with sun-dried tomato-basil pesto Bechamel sauce], pot roast [with potatoes and carrots] or grilled salmon [+$1]), buttered roll or garlic bread, and choice of two sides (those listed above, plus roasted asparagus, scalloped potatoes or garlic mashed potatoes).
And when you’re really going for that ‘I had no idea a deli could do that’ meal for your guests, coworkers, friends or relatives, may we suggest the Signature Dish? Each person gets their own whole citrus glazed Cornish hen with pecan rice dressing, a buttered roll or garlic bread, and their choice of two sides from all of those listed above. All of that, expertly made, beautifully presented, for only $17.99 per person.
For large groups (50 or more) there is the option of an Appetizer Carving Station ($4.50 per person, plus carver), which includes a choice of one meat (herbed roast beef, oven glazed turkey breast, or glazed turkey ham), split rolls, horseradish sour cream, spicy mustard, herb aioli and au jus.
Speaking of appetizers, the holiday appetizer options include everything from the timeless fruit & cheese or vegetable & cheese displays with gourmet crackers, to new and unique items like the spinach & artichoke dip or the Italian Torte (pictured) made with cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh pesto, served with toasted bagel chips.
And don’t forget dessert! In addition to the always-available Gourmet Dessert Platter (pictured), which includes generous
The Italian Torte,
A Portion of a Gourmet Dessert Bar
slices of an assortment of dessert bars, homemade brownies and beautiful chocolate covered strawberries ($55, serves up to 25) – for the holiday season, enjoy Holiday Croissant Bread Pudding or perhaps some White Chocolate Raspberry Eruption.
The Katz’s Combo, Corporate Package and Signature Dish packages above require a minimum of 10 per order; but if you have a smaller crowd, there are plenty of options on Katz’s every day catering menu. Take a look:
Katz’s has every meal, for every occasion, for any size crowd – completely covered. The menu that is available for catering orders is incredibly large, containing many dishes and sides that aren’t available when you dine in at either location. And it’s not just deli-type foods, either. On Katz’s breakfast menu, for instance, there’s the Hearty Bagel Bake: layers of bagels, turkey-ham, potato pancakes and cheese baked into a warm casserole. Katz’s offers five different breakfast buffets: a Belgian Waffle Breakfast, Pancake Breakfast, French Toast Breakfast, Build Your Own Breakfast Taco Bar (all $10.99 per person, minimum 10 per entree) and the Big Business Breakfast Buffet ($14.99 per person) with scrambled eggs, potato pancakes, huge fresh fruit bowl, choice of one meat from spicy sausage, turkey-ham or beef bacon; choice of bread from silver dollar pancakes, waffles, French toast, wheat toast or croissants – with all the necessary butter, syrup & jam.
We’ve only just covered the first four of the 22-page catering menu Katz’s offers. There are dishes big and small, from all sorts of nationalities. Items like Bite Size Chicken Cordon Bleu, or Chicken Dijonaise, a Lemon Chicken Piccata or for vegetarians, Grilled Veggie Quesadillas. There are eight different salads, plus a build-your-own salad bar, three different sizes of customizable box lunches, platters with everything from deluxe sandwiches to a bagel and lox platter. Plus those desserts! Makes us wish we had more people working for us!
Exceptional Experiences for the Customer
Sandi and Barry filled us in on just how well that well-oiled machine can work. First of all, there’s the training. It’s weeks-long, it’s intense, and yes, there’s a test at the end. Everyone has a job to do, and most everyone can also do most anyone else’s job. Which is why it’s perfectly normal to see Barry himself working the line, chopping, cooking, baking, packaging. And then there are of course the checklists, “the most colorful highlighting system of lines and charts you’ll ever see,” Barry says. All of this comes together to bring the customer a complete, worry-free, no-hassle catering experience.
Sandi explains, “when we bring your catering order to you – and here in The Woodlands area, I do everything I can to be right there with the drivers delivering it – everything is included. We bring in the chaffers, the sternos, the plates, napkins, flatware; if you order drinks, we’re bringing cups and ice, if you ordered coffee, we’re bringing the sugars, sweeteners, creamers and stirrers, if you ordered tea, fresh lemon wedges… you get the idea. And we set it all up, too. Tell us where you want it and what time, we come in, set it all up. It’s beautiful, it’s complete, and you’re the hero.” Another unique thing that Katz’s does is treat the person placing the catering order to a complimentary box lunch or salad. And just like when you dine at Katz’s, when they cater, no one goes hungry. The same great portion sizes you see at the restaurant carry over into the catering side. For instance: a typical pan of Lasagne is cut into 12 servings, 3 x 4. At Katz’s, it’s nine servings (3 x 3). For a lot of people, that’s enough for two meals! Same thing with say, the Build Your Own BBQ Sandwich Bar; no small quarter-pound/pre-cooked-weight servings of beef, sausage or chicken per person. Servings are much larger, and based on post-cooked weight.
We can’t possibly cover it all here – there’s just too much! For just a fraction of an idea of how good some of these things are, check out our most recent review of Katz’s Express . And if you’re in the Woodlands area, including Conroe and Spring, give Sandi Maslak a call at 713-836-0337; she can tell you all about Katz’s catering and answer any questions. All throughout the greater Houston area, check out Katz’s Catering page, where one of the five dedicated catering staff can help you get your order squared away, or you can even order online – a whole new way to get your Katz’s – that just went live! And starting October 1, be sure to mention the John Cooper School when you place your catering order. Katz’s is donating 10% of all catering orders to the John Cooper School through December 31, 2012.
Preliminary Competitions – Round Two
The majority of the contestants went with country music selections, both classic and contemporary. But musical genre isn’t the point – what matters is that the song being performed by the contestant is one that they can truly perform. That would be my one bit of advice for any contestant regardless of the song – get that performance down. Practice it all the time. Memorize every word, every beat, every pause. Know when you need to take a breath and when you’re going to have to sustain a note to the point of breathlessness. Don’t strive to sound exactly like the professional artist – the judges aren’t looking for impressions. They’re looking for talent.
While doing a little research this week, I discovered a number of our contestants this season are returning from previous seasons – including a past Woodlands Idol! In Round One, 2011 The Woodlands Idol winner Frankie Pizano competed again, singing Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” and moving on to the semi-finals. Jim Tillmans was the third place winner last year, and is once again on his way to the semi-finals. Lacey Prieto has been a preliminary winner for the past three years and has done it again this year. And this season’s Round One People’s Choice Winner, Tara Leigh, was a preliminary winner in 2011.
Only one of the Round Two Preliminary Winners had placed in previous years; Jake Muck (#2), a Semi-finalist last year, once again moved on to the semi-finals with his performance of Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me.” Jessi Cowart (#4) nicely covered Reba McEntire’s “One Promise Too Late’” followed immediately by Morgan McKay (#5) and her rendition of Martina McBride’s “Broken Wing.” Heather Wiley (#7) was probably my favorite of the night, nicely handling LeeAnn Rhimes’ “Blue,” and then three guys in a row made it in; Paul Sarver (#9) sang a soulful “Me & Mrs. Jones,” by Billy Paul, Jay Kersh animatedly performed Patsy Kline’s “I’ve Got Your Picture,” and Daryl Bullinger covered Conway Twitty’s “Goodbye Time,” which was semi-recently also covered by Blake Shelton. By the way, if you’ve only become a fan of Blake since he began his own judging career on The Voice, you’ve got to check out the mullet he was sporting back when he covered “Goodbye Time.” Rounding out the top nine of the evening were Myi Watson (#15) performing Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder & Lead,” a popular choice, and Marie Miller (#16) gave it another try after not making the cut in Round One, singing Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.”
Suprising many of the long-time Woodlands Idol fans was Bradley Jackson (#12) not getting selected by the judges, or winning People’s Choice, as he has been a preliminary winner the past three years running, and a semi-finalist in 2011. It could have been due to his choice of song, U2′s “With or Without You,” he did seem to struggle with this tough one for many people.
This week’s People’s Choice Winner is Karen Gathman (#1), who had performed Stevie Nicks’ “Gypsy,” and more power to her; trying to get all those lower-register notes and not go flat takes some real effort, which is probably why this difficult song is more often better covered by men.
Keep in mind, gentle readers, this is entirely my own opinion, and no reflection or relation whatsoever of the official judges of The Woodlands Idol. It’s also my opinion that of those that didn’t make the cut and were hoping to get voted in by becoming The People’s Choice, it could have been Christine Carlson (#14). She did a pretty good job with Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet.”
For pictures of the second preliminary event, check out our Flikr Album.
If you haven’t attended one of the first two rounds of competition so far, you really are missing out. And if you’ve been to the first two and are supporting one of the preliminary winners when they go on to semi-finals but haven’t picked up your tickets yet? Don’t wait till the last minute to get them!
The third and final preliminary round of The Woodlands Idol is Friday, October 5. That’s the last night which is free to attend. The semi-finals on Friday, October 19, and finals on Friday, November 2, are ticketed events. All events are being held at Papa’s Ice House in Spring. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at each of the preliminary events, at all of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce free business networking events (see our Event Calendar for dates and locations), at the Chamber offices of course, and by mail, when you download the ticket order form and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better as space will be limited. For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.
Celebrating Kim Son’s First Anniversary In Style
The Kim Son Restaurant in The Woodlands recently celebrated it’s one year anniversary. While it might seem a small achievement to most, it is cause for a Dragon Dance. The restaurant site has seen several name plates come and go over the years, all of them obviously not able to survive. This is not to say that Kim Son will or will not be able to survive for another 12 months – but we certainly hope for the best.
We have enjoyed lunch and dinner at Kim Son a few times now, so we were excited to be included in this invitation-only event to celebrate their first birthday. The festivities include several rounds of appetizers including sushi, vegetable rolls, dumpling egg rolls, vegetable egg rolls, crab wontons, spicy tuna on fried wontons, chicken satay, crab rangoons and tofu spring rolls, as well as samples of Cinco Vodka, and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.
The Dragon Dance was an incredible display of agility and athleticism on the part of the multitude of dancers, as well as wonderful showmanship. The “dragons” interacted with the guests both outdoors at the party and indoors at their tables. At various points throughout the 20-minute show, there were fire-breathing dragons, spinning and jumping dragons, and even a tug-of-war for a “snake” found beneath a container.
Check out our Facebook page for more photos of the Dragon Dance at Kim Son.
From Wikipedia: The Dragon Dance (simplified Chinese: 舞龙; traditional Chinese: 舞龍; pinyin: wǔ lóng) is a form of traditional dance and performance in Chinese culture. Like the lion dance it is most often seen in festive celebrations. Many Chinese people often use the term “Descendants of the Dragon” (龍的傳人 or 龙的传人, lóng de chuán rén) as a sign of ethnic identity, as part of a trend started in the 1970s. Another derivation is from (農的傳人) i.e. the descendants of Shennong, the legendary first king of the Chinese people who taught them agriculture, law and medicine, the foundations of civilization.
The dance team mimics the supposed movements of this river spirit in a sinuous, undulating manner. The movements in a performance traditionally symbolise historical roles of dragons demonstrating power and dignity. The dragon dance is a highlight of Chinese New Year celebrations held worldwide in Chinatowns around the world.
Dragons are believed to bring good luck to people, which is reflected in their qualities that include great power, dignity, fertility, wisdom and auspiciousness. The appearance of a dragon is both frightening and bold but it has a benevolent disposition, and so eventually became an emblem to represent imperial authority.
|Asian Restaurants A-M – Asian Restaurants N-Z|
CM Floral Designs & Events
Any Event on Any Budget
For fourteen years, Carolyn Easely, founder of CM Floral Designs & Events has provided her unique talents and beautiful designs to residents and businesses across The Woodlands area. CM Floral Designs & Events recently relocated from a smaller, storefront location on Rayford Road, to a spacious, 4,000-square-foot location on Budde Road, which houses a large and efficient work space for floral designers, a showroom to showcase different tablescapes, centerpieces for events, an expanded selection of silk flowers, in-house linens, and a spacious warehouse to store all of their inventory.
We sat down with Carolyn at her Grand Re-opening event1, and discussed the many benefits of their new location… as well as the one – albeit small – hitch. “No one knows where we went!” Carolyn said with her characteristic smile and laugh, “We’re here and we’re better than ever,” she went on. And indeed, it has been a change for the better.
CM Floral Designs & Events has become known for the personal touch and unique designs in their floral arrangements, gift baskets, silk flower arrangements and interior decor. But over the years, they have also brought many of event-related services into their repertoire. Now, with their new location on Budde Road, all of those services are located under one roof. And now more than ever, whether you need a quick bouquet on the way home to get you out of the doghouse – or you’re planning an event for hundreds of guests – CM Floral Designs & Events can provide you with ideas, designs and accessories.
Rather than picking out your linens at a party rental store, and your candelabras at another, or your centerpiece crystal at yet another location – CM Floral Designs & Events has all of this and more right there in the store. No more worries about whether a particular shade of tablecloths is going to coordinate with the ribbons on the staircase or the flowers in the centerpieces; at CM Floral Designs & Events, you create the experience you want with everything you need at your fingertips. Or perhaps you only have the barest of outlines for what you want, and you’re not sure how to bring it together. At CM Floral Designs & Events, you can see tables that are completely laid out in a rainbow of color schemes – from a minimalist design with classic lines and single-color themes to the topsy-turvy world reminiscent of Dr. Seuss or Alice’s Wonderland.
CM Floral Designs & Events always has high quality, fresh flowers on hand which come in directly from their distributor. The result is truly beautiful arrangements which tend to last much longer than typical floral arrangements. Carolyn’s floral designs with a whimsical touch are custom tailored for each customer and purpose. Carolyn and the experienced staff at CM Floral Designs & Events can create beautiful bouquets for birthdays and anniversaries; unique sympathy designs; corporate arrangements for lobbies or common areas; holiday decor for homes and offices – and so much more. Carolyn tells us, “I once made an anniversary bouquet for a couple who had a bit of an inside story between them involving Red Bull®. It might sound silly to an outsider, but when she saw the Red Bull® & Roses bouquet he presented her, he tells me she actually cried a little.” Carolyn has dozens and dozens of similar stories from clients over the years, many repeat customers which have come to depend on her exclusively to always have something new up her sleeve.
Numerous wedding and event venues in The Woodlands area also work exclusively with CM Floral Designs & Events – and have for many years. Hotels such as The Woodlands Waterway Marriott & Convention Center and Hyatt Market Street, The Woodlands; restaurants such as Amerigo’s and Kirby’s Steak House and many, many more. The reputation and relationship CM Floral Designs & Events has built with these and other area companies means that her Information Center – freely available to anyone who comes into CM Floral Designs & Events – is stocked with vendors such as caterers, photographers, videographers, DJs, bands, photo booths and limousine services; every service one might need to coordinate any type of event of any size.
So if you haven’t had a chance yet, stop in at CM Floral Designs & Events’ new location. It is truly a thing of beauty tucked into the woods. While you’re there, you can watch Carolyn and her staff work their magic right in front of you in their open work area. You can also browse amongst a selection of fine gifts and jewelry items – perfect for that last minute birthday, graduation, shower or anniversary gift. Once you see the personal touch CM Floral Designs & Events can put on your floral arrangement, gift basket, centerpiece or corsage, you may find all those other ‘assembly line, take-it-or-leave-it’ florists simply pale (or wilt?) in comparison.
CM Floral Designs & Events is located at 25915 Budde Road, right at the south-eastern edge of The Woodlands. Call them at 281 362-8977 or visit their website at CMFloralDesigns.com for simple directions from anywhere.
1 CM Floral Designs & Events Grand Re-opening event was catered by Katz’s Express. We were pleasantly surprised by the samples of dishes and desserts we tried while we were there, and learned from Sandi Maslak, their Catering Manager, that they’ve just put the finishing touches on a new holiday catering menu, which will become available beginning in the 2012 holiday season. Keep checking back with us for exclusive information about these exciting changes. (return to article)
Preliminary Competitions – Round One
If for even a second you thought you weren’t missing anything by coming out to the sixth annual The Woodlands Idol competition… if for a moment you thought there was no way anyone around here could compete with those selected to appear on American Idol or The X Factor… you, my friend, are sorely mistaken.
Understand that I say this as one of those who, before last Friday, thought the exact, same thing. ‘No big deal. Just a local singing competition, nothing more than karaoke with a prize.’ Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
We’ve all seen it; the video someone links on Facebook or sends in an e-mail with some guy or girl bursting out in song and blowing the judges (and audiences) minds. I’ve fallen victim to goose bumps or jaw drops many times myself seeing those. Now imagine getting to be there for those moments. That happened at least three separate times last Friday, as I sat and watched seventeen different local amateur singers put their own spin on songs as vastly different as those performing them.
Rebecca Adams (#2) did a great job with Wynonna Judd’s “What The World Needs Now” – which, I have to say, even as someone who’s not a fan of country music, is a version I love far more than the original, classic version. Speaking of country music, Carly Winsman (#6) channeled Miranda Lambert quite well with “Gunpowder & Lead”, and Lacey Prieto (#14) didn’t do too bad herself with Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name”; both of them gamely hitting their marks with those growling, angry girl sounds. In a tie for ‘guys that sound just like Michael Bublé’, Bryan Kennedy (#5) crooned a smooth performance of “Georgia On My Mind” and Jim Tillmans (#17) gave us all a bit of late-summer “Fever.” Bringing up the rear with the oldest songs of the night was a none-too-shabby Frankie Pizano (#15), who threw in a few dance moves while singing Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” and Bridgette Crabtree (#16) and Timothy Blair (#8) brought in the ’70s vibe with Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and The Temptations “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” respectfully.
But the one that completely blew my mind (and everyone else in the audience that night – not to mention the judges, Scott Thompson, of Wildfire Entertainment, Dana Tyson, of Sunny 99.1 and Michael Fuller, of Fuller’s Vintage Guitar) was lucky #13 Jon Sheptock.
Jon stepped onto the stage looking just a little bit nervous. He had a sense of humor, though – cracking a joke about the mispronunciation of his last name based on his not filling out his application himself. And when the recognizable first notes of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” started, it was immediately apparent Jon was in his element.
Jon hit and held every low, high and sustained note with such perfection it would have made Stevie himself proud.
Following the judges picks for the nine performers to go on to the semi-finals, the public is invited to select a People’s Choice winner to also go on to semi-finals. For the first round, Tara Leigh (#1), who performed LeAnn Rimes’ “Crazy Women.” For pictures of the first preliminary event, check out our Flikr Album.
Now, here’s the thing; you can see about 12 seconds of Jon’s amazing performance, as well as all the other first round finalists, in the YourTownTV.com video, or you can come out and be a part of this amazing competition by attending the next two rounds of preliminaries, and getting tickets to the semi-finals and finals coming up. Trust me, being there is sooooo much better. Go. You’ll thank me.
The second preliminary round of The Woodlands Idol is Friday, September 21, followed by the third preliminary round on Friday, October 5. Those two nights are free to attend. The semi-finals on Friday, October 19, and finals on Friday, November 2, are ticketed events. All events are being held at Papa’s Ice House in Spring. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at each of the preliminary events, at all of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce free business networking events (see our Event Calendar for dates and locations), at the Chamber offices of course, and by mail, when you download the ticket order form and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better as space will be limited. For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.
Referred to as the greatest white soul singer on the planet, Joe Cocker’s unique fusion of rock and blues, as influenced by Ray Charles and Chuck Berry, differentiated him from mainstream rock at a time when rock and roll was morphing into the psychedelic phase.
Who wasn’t mesmerized with the 1970 “Woodstock Festival” documentary of Cocker’s performance of the Beatles cover, “With a Little Help from My Friends?” Who was this madman with the raspy voice, flailing his arms and playing the air guitar? To even attempt a Beatle song at that time was heresy, yet his bluesy arrangement and physical intensity won the crowd over, and they’ve never wavered in their loyalty. Although not original material, he made this and numerous other covers uniquely his own with his blues arrangements, sometimes surpassing the originals in record sales.
No musical career spans a half a century without a whole lot of talent and a little help from your friends. Friends Paul McCartney and George Harrison allowed Cocker to use another one of their songs, “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” on his 1970 live album and film by the same name…Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Drawing equally on rock and soul, the album was mostly comprised of covers: from rock…The Rolling Stones, The Box Tops, Bob Dylan; and from soul…Ray Charles, Sam and Dave, and Otis Redding. The album featured a huge choir, brass section, and several drummers. The deluxe 2-record set was an amazing production, and so is his 2012 tour performing many of these popular covers.
Among Cocker’s accolades: the duet, “Up Where We Belong,” which Cocker recorded with Jennifer Warnes for the soundtrack of the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman. The song was an international hit, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Pop Performance by a Duo,’ and the Academy Award for ‘Best Original Song.’ Cocker and Warnes performed the song at the awards ceremony.
Where does Cocker rank as a blues rocker? The late great Ray Charles called Cocker his one true disciple. I saw the great Ray Charles perform “Unchain My Heart.” Which version was better? It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Both are great for you and you savor them differently. One’s not better than the other, they’re just different. Well, compare for yourself in these YouTube stock videos.
Joe Cocker w/ Huey Lewis & The News * July, 2012 @ CWMP
It’s not just lunch at Chick-fil-A; it’s an event. Cow Appreciation Day on Friday the 13th, was just one of many novel ideas employed by the Chick-fil-A Marketing Team to ‘herd’ people into their two locations in The Woodlands. Customers were encouraged to attend the event dressed in their bovine best. Those completed decked out in faux cow hide were treated to a free lunch. Cow accessorizing was rewarded with a single entrée.
Among those spotted in the crowd…the Forcier family who made their own spotted cow costumes modeled by daughters Julie, Amber, Trinity, and Hayley. Also wearing the black spots were the Blackman family Connor, Fiona, and Mom, Jennifer. College Park High School students, Anna Babcock, Brenna Chaffee, and Allison Lampkin, likewise, fashioned their own cow couture. (See photo).
It’s always a moo-ving experience to graze with local friends and neighbors, as herds of cattle descended on the Lake Woodlands and Sawdust locations. For future Chick-fil-A events in The Woodlands, where they think outside the hide, visit their Facebook page.
Author – Janet Warner
A short poll to determine the best pizza in The Woodlands.
All of these Italian restaurants and more can be found in The Woodlands Events Italian Restaurant section – now that’s Italian!
Italian Restaurants in The Woodlands
Read dining reviews and post your own on our restaurant review blog
The Woodlands Italian Restaurant Reviews
July 6, 2012
Now that the July 4th festivities are over, what to do the rest of the summer? There’s so much to do in The Woodlands that you’d need a social secretary to coordinate it. To quote Ron Bice, the editor of ‘The Woodlands Events,’ “If you don’t think there’s anything to do in The Woodlands, you probably haven’t left your house.”
For those doing a ‘staycation,’ the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion has several major concerts scheduled before the end of summer. Legendary rocker, Joe Cocker, will perform on July 21, as will Huey Lewis & the News, and bands Chicago, the Doobie Brothers, Kiss, Rascall Flatts, and Motley Crue, are just a few more of their star-studded attractions.
Dosey Doe has thirty shows before September, which include legends like Percy Sledge, Crystal Gayle, and the world’s leading Flamenco guitarist, Ottmar Liebert with Luna Negra. The wine bars feature live music every night, and the touristas don’t know about the 2nd Saturday of the month events at Millbend Coffeehouse. Millbend Coffeehouse is a non-profit venue hosted by Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church. This month they will feature Spencer Bohren playing a bluesy kind of music on July 14. All proceeds after expenses benefit a local charity decided by audience vote. What a great idea!
Maybe you’re just not into music, although I can’t imagine that. But if you’re into dining out, you’re really in for a treat. There’s no shortage of restaurants in The Woodlands that offer great food and service. I would suggest that you read the restaurant reviews on “The Woodlands Eats” to ensure a wonderful dining experience; just go to The Woodlands Eats They also have a Facebook page under the same name. Join their ‘foodie’ group that makes dining a social event.
If you enjoy shopping, you can shop till you drop at Market Street and The Woodlands Mall. I don’t know how many stores are featured between the mall and Market Street, but they’re all within walking distance. So park the car and shop! Not that we suggest you leave the kids unattended, but there area several area pools including the Rob Fleming Aquatic Center.
For those pesky relatives who are vacationing on the cheap at your bed and breakfast, take them down the Woodlands Waterway and ride one of the cruisers around town center, followed by dinner and refreshments at Landry’s or Flemings. Enjoy an outdoor tour of The Woodlands as provided by Sculp-tours – a scenic ride through the community to view The Woodlands magnificent outdoor sculptures. Sculp tours are conducted by Tony Motto, a retired art teacher who has become the goodwill ambassador of The Woodlands sculpture collection. The children will enjoy the tour as well. But if they can’t sit still on the tour, drop them off at The Woodlands Children’s Museum. There is a full calendar of events throughout the summer, which can be viewed at Activities for the Kids
One of the stars of the new film “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” attended the premier at the Cinemark Tinseltown Theater in The Woodlands. Featured in the film was an authentic reproduction, fully functional, U.S. Model 1841 6-Pounder smooth bore cannon, measuring 65” and weighing approximately 1850 lbs.
The cannon belongs to the Confederate Reenactment Group, 1st Texas Light Artillery, Battery K, (Polk County Flying Artillery), Cleburne’s Division / Lowrey’s brigade…a Civil War reenactment unit that participates in living history weekends, Confederate grave dedications, and the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Houston National Cemetery, as well as school education. Their cannon can be seen in the movie firing onFortSumter, and for lucky movie goers Saturday night, could be seen in person. The cannon is touring the Greater Houston area during the showing of the movie.
On hand in civil war military uniforms were Private David Walters (in reality, USAF Retired Tech Sergeant), Private Mark Koen, Corporal Wade Nail, and Powder Monkey, Austin Koen. (Austinis a certified powder monkey from the CleburneAcademy.) The cannon is one of two purchased by Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1275 for Battery K’s reenactment programs. For more information about the 1st Texas Light Artillery, Battery K, or to donate to maintain the artillery in order to perpetuate the history of the civil war, go to The 1st Texas Artillery.
The cannon can be seen in the movie firing on Fort Sumter. Private Mark Koen also played a small part in the film in one of the battle scenes. Although “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is fictional and far-fetched, it’s receiving surprisingly good reviews for acting, direction, cinematography, and in general, for being a good thriller. Movie-goers are encouraged to see the film, but unfortunately the caisson kept rolling along, and has now moved to another theater.
The four male singing sensation, Il Divo (Italian for ‘divine male performer’) will peform a divine concert at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion this evening. You may already know that this multi-national vocal group, who sing operatic pop, were put together by music mogul, Simon Cowell. After hearing Andrea Bocelli sing, Cowell was inspired to recreate the style and sound of ‘The Three Tenors’ and established the Il Divo project. After two years, the foursome that was selected consisted of French pop singer Sébastien Izambard, Spanish baritone Carlos Marín, American tenor David Miller, and Swiss tenor Urs Bühler.
What you probably don’t know is that Il Divo was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records when named the Most Multinational UK No.1 Album Group in 2006. You probably also didn’t know that their first, self-titled CD went multiplatinum, and took the number one spot on the charts in a total of 13 countries around the world. And did you know that they have sold over 26 million albums worldwide to date? You don’t achieve those kinds of accolades by being hyped by the music industry. When the rest of the music industry takes note, especially icons like Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion, music lovers will too. Il Divo has previously toured with Streisand on a 20-concert tour, and cut a duet with Dion.
The music in their set list is as diversified as probably the personalities of the four-man group, given they come from different countries of origin. Their 2012 tour is comprised of two acts of ten songs each. Although I don’t usually present the complete set list, just to let you know what you’ll miss if you don’t get ticket to see this fabulous foursome.
Come What May
Medley (La Vida Sin Amor / Ti Amero / Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman / Angelina)
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina
Everytime I Look At You
Si Tu Mi Amas
Ven A Mi
Por Que Tu Me Amas
“Ven A Mi” and “Sensa Parole” are new songs on this tour. The pop songs and classics are performed in Spanish, English, Italian, and French. Like Il Divo’s music; the audience at the Pavilion is expected to be as diversified, attracting a wide range of ethnicities. Tickets still available at The Pavilion Box Office The gates open at 7 p.m., Il Divo 8 to 8:55 p.m., intermission 8:55 to 9:15 p.m. and Il Divo 9:15 to 10:25 p.m. The House of Blues Hospitality Tent opens earlier at 6 p.m. The whole world has embraced Il Divo; The Woodlands should do so too.
Internet Photo / author Janet Werner
…Fun, Festivals, and Fireworks
The Woodlands has launched its own fireworks salvo in response to other July 4th events throughout Montgomery County. The prequel to the 4th of July celebration will take place the night before at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. On Tuesday, July 3, the Houston Symphony will present its “Star Spangled Salute” conducted by Michael Krajewski. The gates will open at 6:30pm, and the concert will start at 8pm. It will conclude with the climatic “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky, accompanied by cannon fire.
The South County 4th of July Parade will begin the following morning at 9:00am. This year’s Grand Marshall will be the county’s top law man. Sheriff Tommy Gage will be honored as the parade laps around the Market Street area, featuring floats, marching bands, local dignitaries, and community organizations. The South County Fourth of July Committee is still accepting sponsorships, entries and volunteers for this year’s parade, but has reached its limit for marching bands. For more information call 281-210-3975, or visit the 4th of july page.
During the heat of the day, cool off at any one of the thirteen community pools with free admission during “Splash Day.” Other activities are planned at the sites, and refreshments served while supplies last. While getting into the swim of things, take in the 2012 Entergy Duck Race benefiting Montgomery County Emergency Assistance. The event will be held at the Rob Fleming Aquatic Center again this year; the ducks will slip into the slide at 3pm. Ducks can be purchased at area venues and events around the community. Adoption fees are $5.00 a duck, or $25.00 for a Quack Pack of six. Great prizes have been donated by area merchants to ensure a successful fundraiser for this essential cause.
The 15th Annual Red, Hot and Blue Festival Fireworks Extravaganza, held at Town Green Park and Waterway Square, is free of charge and opened to the public. Activities begin at 6pm, and will include watermelon and hot dog eating contests, live music, strolling performers, games, vendor booths, and concessions. There will be games, face-painting, and other wrap-around activities for the children. Afterwards…the Fireworks Extravaganza, sponsored again this year by BBVA Compass, will provide the finale for the 4th of July celebration. The event will be simulcast on Sunny 99.1, and promises to be bigger than in past years and guaranteed to exceed expectations. I’ll be taking in the fireworks from a ‘high point.’
If all this isn’t enough, go to The Woodlands Events for more info on the fireworks and all other Woodlands Texas events. To quote the owner of The Woodlands Events, “If you don’t think there’s anything to do in The Woodlands, you probably haven’t left your house.”
The crowd felt the ‘good vibrations’ from the first note the Beach Boys harmonized, at the Friday night performance in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Their trademark style sounded as strong as it did five decades ago, as they embark on their 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour. The crowd was more than pleasantly surprised. It was as if the near-capacity crowd felt they had been transported to the Pavilion via the ‘wayback machine.’
Even more surprising was the extent of the set list, an amazing 47 songs consisting of both their classic hits and new material on their recently released album titled, “That’s Why god Made The Radio.” (The entire set list for the tour can be viewed at http://bit.ly/MkiFj9)
Brian Wilson has rejoined the band from a long hiatus, and was in large part, responsible for the retro sound on their new album. He not only produced the album, but co-wrote 11 of the album’s 12 tracks. His musical genius helped to recreate their timeless signature without sounding like a nostalgic retread. Brian Wilson said the tour and the new album are dedicated to the memory of his two brothers: Dennis, who drowned in 1983, and Carl, who died of cancer in 1998.
The album marks the band’s 29th studio album, and first in twenty years. In addition to Wilson, the surviving members who appear on the tour include Mike Love, the other co-writer on the album, and Al Jardine. Early band members, David Marks and Bruce Johnston, have also joined the tour.
Many in attendance were just at the Pavilion a week ago for the Jimmy Buffett ‘Lounging in the Lagoon’ concert. Amazing that two concerts that played to the same demographic audience that close together, would have had such large crowds. But this concert had its fair share of younger Beach Boy fans, who were young enough to be the Beach Boys’ grandchildren. Out of curiosity I asked several why, and many said because they grew up listening to the Beach Boys music with their grandparents. A true testimony to the positive influence of grandparents.
No one in the crowd seemed perturbed with the light shower that rained down on them as they left the Pavilion. Many danced in the rain singing a refrain to the band’s encore, “Fun, Fun, Fun.” That’s probably the best way to describe the evening.
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band were ‘lounging at the lagoon’ until the crowd traipsed over from the block party to join them. Both the Pavilion stage and the attendees were decked out in island regalia, as the party set sail for Margaritaville.
No one has more fun at Buffett’s concerts than he does; telling stories and jokes in between songs. And no one has to encourage audience participation. Buffett’s energy and enthusiasm keeps them on their feet and dancing in their seats.
Most of the 11-member band has toured with ‘The Pirate’ for almost a quarter of a century, and no one less than a decade. In addition to the usual musical instrumentation like guitars, drums, and a keyboard, they also include a pedal steel guitar, trumpet, steel drums, and a wide assortment of percussion instruments. Especially noteworthy was vocalist, Nadirah Shakoor, whose beauty and voice would launch a thousand pirate ships.
It’s not my intention to recap the entire setlist, but naturally the song that sparked this whole cultural phenomena, “Margaritaville,” was on the list as well as mega hits “Come Monday,” and “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere.” But if you want to view the “Lounging at the Lagoon” tour in its entirety, go to http://www.buffettworld.com/archives/2012-lounging-at-the-lagoon/06-02/ Accompanying the music were beautiful island videos as a backdrop. Each song was embellished with beautiful cinematography. Makes you wonder why we eek out the day-to-day grind, and don’t just sail off into the sunset.
Noticeably absent were children. I bet you couldn’t have found a babysitter within a 50-mile radius. There could have been a few kids in the lawn seating, but I didn’t see any. Nowhere did I read this concert was PG rated, and there are plenty of songs with zany lyrics that children would enjoy, but it’s as if the sell-out crowd collectively agreed the children should stay at home. And I agree. This is one time mom and dad got to be kids again, dancing in their grass skirts with parrots on their heads. I’m sure if the little ones had come along, mom and dad would never be taken seriously again.
This annual trip to the islands is why Jimmy Buffet’s concerts are a sell-out. It’s an escape from the daily stress of the job, the political climate; whatever ails you. The next time he sails through The Woodlands, throw a few things in a bag and book passage. The trip will do you good.
E & P Catering
Eleven years ago Jeff Paine and J. R. (Joshua) Brown had a dream. They knew they wanted to make people happy – and one way to make anyone happy is to feed them well.
It all started with the cheesecake. After receiving rave reviews on their cheesecake, they started selling it door-to-door at restaurants in the greater San Antonio area. Soon, patrons in those restaurants began asking for the recipe for the cheesecake, or at the very least where they could get one of their own. Then when fulfilling orders for cheesecakes, people asked for alternatives, for those with lactose intolerance for instance. That brought on the fruit trays. What came next is most commonly referred to as a ‘snowball effect.’
Jeff tells us, “People wanted the whole shebang. ‘If you’re bringing the desserts, can you cater the whole meal?’ they’d ask. And then if we were going to cater the whole meal, could we bring the linens and flatware, too? Or set up the dance floor?” But before they could completely dive in to such an endeavor, they would have to get their ducks in a row. Cheesecakes and fruit trays were one thing, full meals? Events? Enter partner J.R. Brown.
J. R. got his inspiration for becoming a chef early on, while volunteering at a soup kitchen. Those early experiences laid the groundwork for a better understanding of the catering industry – a very different food service industry than restaurants. J. R. first graduated from hotel management school, then followed that up with culinary school. That combination of education and experience, along with Jeff’s background in working in his family’s restaurant for many years, create an all-encompassing umbrella of knowledge to E & P Catering.
E & P Catering and Event Productions, as the name implies, offers a full line of catering and event planning services. More than just a wedding caterer, E & P operates the corporate diner at Alliance Engineering in Houston, as well as offering a full range of catering services such as corporate breakfasts and lunches.
And just like their slogan says, “from hour d’ oeuvres to decor, we do more” E & P can handle your every event production need. The catering company can also assist you with your full decor, linens, tables, chairs and tents – and coordinating floral designs, entertainment, invitations at your location or theirs. E & P has their own cocktail lounge available for booking, and can recommend several wonderful locations in The Woodlands and surrounding area for your wedding, reception, rehearsal dinner or birthday, anniversary or business celebration. E & P is also the preferred vendor of the Belle Rose Maison just off of 1488 in Magnolia.
E & P Catering and Event Productions is able to produce a menu for your event from a wide range of cuisines and dishes, including Asian, barbecue, German, Italian and Mexican dishes, as well as a huge variety of gourmet American dishes. Whether you’re looking for a plated meal for an intimate affair, or a multi-course hand-served buffet meal for hundreds, E & P can do it all. Even special request and dietary needs are no problem for E & P, offering gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan dishes along with replicating your favorite restaurant dishes. E & P even offers TABC Certified Bartenders. The only thing they can’t do is share their recipes – those aren’t for sale (or free).
And for any of the services you’re needing for your event E & P doesn’t provide, such as fresh and dried floral arrangements, dee jay’s and live music performers and bakery services, E & P maintains a listing of trusted vendors with whom they have personal knowledge – saving you time and any “finders fees” by their direct contacts to those businesses.
E & P is locally owned and operated right outside The Woodlands off of Texas Highway 242. For more information on what E & P Catering and Event Productions can do for you at your next event, visit their website at EandPCatering.com or call them at 979 215-3999. Jeff or J. R. will be happy to set up an appointment whenever, and wherever is convenient to you.
The Houston Symphony featuring Tiempo Libre, turned up the heat at the end of what had been a hot summer-like day, with “Hot Night in Havana,” at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion this past Thursday, May 24. The show featured Latin standards, Santana covers, and of course, Cuban music with its wide assortment of traditional percussion instruments.
Not since Ricky Ricardo took to the airwaves, have we seen such energy and passion in music! It was difficult to keep them in their seats, so the Pavilion staff didn’t. Guests were invited to the orchestra pit to release their own energy and show off their best salsa moves. See for yourself…youtube
Of course, a fabulous demonstration by Strictly Street Salsa, enabled the audience to pick up a few dance steps before taking to the dance floor. By the time the orchestra and Tiempo Libre heated up, the outdoor temperature had dropped by 20 degrees with a sustained breeze, so everyone just kept dancing. In fact, at the end of the show, some were still dancing as they were leaving. The new exercise craze, ‘Dance Walking,’ is picking up steam here in The Woodlands. Hopefully the Swing Era music will eventually make an appearance at the Pavilion so that we can keep ‘em dancing.
In the meantime, if you want to see a wide range of dance steps, Boni’s Dance & Performing Arts Studio will be at the Pavilion this weekend with their annual program. This year’s event is titled Boni’s Jukebox Café, and with another 20-degree predicted drop in temperature, there should be some hot dance numbers that will be really cool! Who said there’s not a good place to go dancing in this town?
The Forum at The Woodlands will be serving in the military…serving in breakfast that is, on Wednesday, May 23rd, from 8:00 – 9:00 AM, in their beautiful Lakeside Restaurant. A regular monthly event, the Veterans’ Appreciation Breakfast is held the last Wednesday of each month. In addition to a delicious breakfast, the event will include speakers and special guest hosts. Community Relations Director, Annette Neyman, states, “It’s The Forum’s way of showing their appreciation to our country’s veterans. It’s our turn to serve them.”
The Veteran’s Breakfast is a regular monthly event held for all ranks from all military branches of service; their service records spanning nearly three-fourths of a century. The highlight of the occasion is always the camaraderie among the veterans as they swap stories of their military campaigns.
If you are a veteran or know a veteran, please encourage them to attend. The Forum looks forward to this opportunity to serve our veterans, and encourages them to become a regular attendee at their monthly Veteran’s Appreciation Breakfast.
The Forum at The Woodlands is a FiveStar Senior Living facility located at 5055 West Panther Creek Drive, north of the Woodlands Parkway. Please RSVP to 281-367-3170. For more information about the Forum visit The Woodlands Forum website.
author – Janet Warner
Charming Charlie Market Street
You snooze, you lose. I RSVP’d on Monday morning to attend the Ladies Night Out function on Market Street at the new Michael Kors store, but they had already reached the ‘fill limit.’ I had hoped to blog about the event so I wandered over to Tiffany instead, but saw the warning sign, “Do Not Enter.” Maybe it’s just as well. So I strolled about and took some pics around Market Street. Next thing I knew, I was at the opposite end of the spectrum at Charming Charlies.
|This store is aptly named as everything about it is simply ‘charming.’ The color-coordinated displays are charming, as well as the crystal chandeliers, and so was the charming marketing & display specialist, Benedie, who greeted me when I went inside. As we say in Texas, Benedie ‘hails from’ Zaire, a far cry from Texas as it’s centrally located in the heart of Africa. On a world map it looks to be larger than Texas, which is hard to believe. Since I had planned on doing a blog on shopping, I asked Benedie to start by telling me what her name meant (“Blessing from God”), then show me the latest spring and summer trends.|
|Benedie pointed out a display she had just finished…a chartreuse one-shoulder, flowing frock accessorized with color-coordinated jewelry. She added that the other dominant seasonal color is coral. She said clutches are back in vogue, and layering necklaces is popular. This provides an opportunity to wear last year’s purchases with a couple of new ‘to die for’ pieces. I was especially intrigued with the ethnic trend in jewelry, the Native American look, and African jewelry, including both Egyptian and tribal, that Benedie said is in the style from where she ‘hails’ from.|
|Hats are a must, not just as a fashion statement, but for protection from the sun. Although brightly colored hats are charming, neutral colors can be worn with any ensemble. So choose wisely and get a hat that you’ll get a lot of wear out of.
New this year at Charming Charlies is “Charlie Girl,” their new line for preteens, which is mostly…you guessed it…pink. Pink in every shade…pale pink, bright pink, and the legendary Elsa Schiaparelli’s ‘shocking pink.’ Party girls dress to match the pink, stretch limousine for “Party Girls on the Go,” at the other end of Market Street. Charming!
|I then stumbled over the mother lode, the corner of the store with the 50% off merchandise which they refer to as their “Curtain Call” area. Don’t miss this area for holiday stocking stuffers, girlfriend gifts, and networking door prizes.|
|Charming Charlies is a charming place where you’ll probably run into friends. Kay Hohman, the Chamber’s Vice President of Communications, and Legislative & Economic Outlook, Frances McDougal, wife of former district attorney Mike McDougal, and Susan Scruggs, owner of the Art Outlet, dropped by Charming Charlies after the Michael Kors LNO. We decided to sit beside the pool atop the Hyatt Hotel next door, and show each other our purchases while enjoying refreshments. For something totally unique, try the jalapeno & watermelon margarita. Like everything else last night…it was simply ‘charming.’|
author – Janet Warner
Voting Locations The Woodlands Texas
To eliminate the guesswork on election day, Precinct Judge, George Van Horn, has provided the following information to ensure that voters will be informed about their respective voting sites.
All registered voters who are residents of The Woodlands will be eligible to vote in The Woodlands Township election this Saturday, May 12, 2012, between the hours of 7 a.m. til 7 p.m. The 2012 voter registration card is yellow, which you will have received if you have registered to vote. Your precinct number is indicated in the photo (where red arrow is pointing.) Election Day consolidated precinct polling locations for The Woodlands residents living in Montgomery County are…
Precinct 15, 31, 56, 59, 69, 70, 75: Windsor Hills Homeowners Association Club House, One Windsor Hills Circle, The Woodlands, 77384
Precincts 33, 48, 49, 58, 62: South County Community Building, 2235 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, 77380
Precincts 3, 6, 71, 78, 81: Galatas Elementary School, 9001 Cochran’s Crossing Dr., The Woodlands 77381
Precincts 4,32, 45, 61, 67, 79, 84:Wilkerson Intermediate School, 12312 Sawmill Rd, The Woodlands, 77380
The voting location for Woodlands residents living in Harris County is…The Woodlands Fire Department, Station 7, 26722 Kuykendahl Road, The Woodlnads, 77375. This voting site is for residents of the Village of Creekside Park. For more information on The Woodlands Township government, please call 281-210-3800 or visit the Woodlands Township
For your information, 12 candidates are running for Positions 1, 2, 3 and 4 for The Woodlands Township Board of Directors. They are:
-Richard “Gordy” Bunch
-Jay Mac Sanders
-John R. Risher
This is your town. Have a voice in it. Please vote on election day, Saturday, May 12.
author – Janet Warner
When you get to the fork in the road…take it. The Montgomery County Food Bank needs golfers to take the fork in the road to West Fork…the Links of West Fork. Their 2nd Annual “Putt Out Hunger” Golf Tournament will be held this Friday, May 4th, with a noon shotgun start. Tournament interest is gaining, but they still need more golfers. In fierce competition with the Insperity Championship Tournament in The Woodlands, there will be three days of professional golf before, and two following, the Food Bank’s tournament. So why not get in around in between?
The Food Bank averages 30,000 requests per month for assistance through their distribution of 50 food pantries. Margie Taylor of the Montgomery County Food Bank said, “We’re holding a minimum of one fundraiser a month, and there are food drives going on all over the county. But no matter how much food and money we take in, it seems it’s never enough.”
For every $1 raised, 7 meals can be provided. So essentially, every golfer will be providing 875 meals. That’s 291 days of meals for one person, at an average of 3 meals per day, but realistically, the hungry don’t always get three meals a day. The situation can improve if golfers are willing to ‘fork’ out for a round of golf.
The fundraiser will feature the usual opportunities for prizes including a putting contest. Mulligans are available, 3 for $10. A silent auction will also provide an additional opportunity to feed a few more hungry neighbors. Following the event will be a dinner at 5:00 pm.
The Links of West Fork is conveniently located on One Golf Ridge Drive in Conroe (77304). To sign up to play golf individually or with a foursome, contact Margie Taylor with the Food Bank, at 936-539-6686, or email email@example.com Registration is at 10 am; $125 per golfer, and a foursome is $500. For more information about the Montgomery County Food Bank, visit their Facebook page and also their website at www.montgomerycountyfoodbank.com
author – Janet Warner
The Music of Queen… A Royal Performance!
The multitude braved the early evening storm, skeptical that Brody Dolyniuk, the vocalist performing in Freddie Mercury’s absence, would be awash when performing the Music of Queen. Long before he even got to Bohemian Rhapsody, the crowd was crowning Dolyniuk the heir apparent.
Self-taught, with no formal training, Dolyniuk, is an entertainer of immeasurable talent. Not only gifted with a great voice, and adept at playing several musical instruments, he brings the showmanship expected of the ‘front man’ of a rock group.
Frequent visitors to Las Vegas are probably familiar with Dolyniuk’s classic rock band, Yellow Brick Road, which took the Vegas strip by storm. On the Pavilion stage with Dolyniuk was an equally accomplished band supported by the Houston Symphony’s 50-piece orchestra.
Conductor Brent Havens, not only conducted, but majestically arranged the Music of Queen, as did he for the rock symphonies of Led Zeppelin music, the Doors, Pink Floyd, and the Eagles, which was performed last season.
The naysayers who chose to stay home missed a royal performance. The exit poll said Dolyniuk nailed it! One diehard Queen fan, Judy Easton, said “Brody Dolyniuk was awesome, just awesome!” Not surprisingly, the most frequently used word in the poll…AWESOME!
Welcome To Fin Land
JIMMY BUFFETT CONCERT
Official Tailgating Info
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band returns to The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands June 2. The concert starts at 8 p.m. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Concertgoers attending the event have several parking options, including premium parking in the Official Jimmy Buffett Tailgating Lot.
Official Jimmy Buffett Tailgating Lot
The parking lot located on the northeast corner of the Six Pines Drive and Lake Robbins Drive intersection has been designated as the Official Jimmy Buffett Tailgating Lot. This parking lot opens at 10 a.m. on June 2 and closes at midnight. Overnight parking is not permitted.
Tickets for this parking lot go on sale Mon., April 16 at 10 a.m. at The Pavilion Box Office only. The Box Office is located at 2005 Lake Robbins Drive in The Woodlands. With limited availability, parking tickets for this lot will be sold first-come, first-served basis. Parking tickets for this lot are $50 per car or $150 for a bus, RV or other oversized vehicle. If space is still available the day of the show, guests can purchase tailgating tickets at the entrance to the parking lot. Saving space on the day of is not allowed. Ticket sellers will not be equipped to accept checks or credit cards the day of the show.
Only cash will be accepted.
In the Official Jimmy Buffett Tailgating Lot, live entertainment will be provided, along with restrooms, trash cans and recycling containers. Guests are asked to be “user friendly” by leaving glass containers, weapons, fireworks and pets at home. Small propane grills are permitted. Charcoal or wood-burning pits are not allowed. In order to ensure the safety of all guests, golf carts, Segways and motorized coolers are not permitted. Guests also are encouraged to drink responsibly.
Town Center Garage at The Pavilion
Concertgoers also can purchase parking tickets for the Town Center Garage, located at The Pavilion and accessed via Six Pines Drive. The garage opens at 3 p.m. the day of the show. Parking is $15 per vehicle based on availability. Tickets for the garage can be purchased in advance at all Ticketmaster outlets and The Pavilion Box Office. Advance purchase is not required, but guarantees a space the day of the show.
Free Parking in Designated Lots
Concertgoers also can park in any of the five free parking lots on the southwest side of The Pavilion. The free, color-coded lots are connected to The Pavilion by corresponding pathways with signs leading across The Waterway. These parking lots open at 6 p.m. the day of the show.
Please visit the woodlands events parking map for more information about parking, including a map showing all of the parking areas, and updated information about the concert. Click here for the pavilion seating chart.
The Woodlands, Texas – Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band returns to The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands. Concertgoers attending the event have several parking options, including premium parking in the Official Jimmy Buffett Tailgating Lot.
Official Jimmy Buffett Tailgating Info
In the Official Jimmy Buffett Tailgating Lot, live entertainment will be provided, along with restrooms, trash cans and recycling containers. Guests are asked to be “user friendly” by leaving glass containers and pets at home. Guests also are encouraged to drink responsibly.
Free Parking in Designated Lots
Concertgoers also can park in any of the five free parking lots on the southwest side of The Pavilion. The free, color-coded lots are connected to The Pavilion by corresponding pathways with signs leading across The Waterway. These parking lots open at 6 p.m. Visit the woodlands events parking map for more information about parking.
Barker Street Bakery
Oh, for the love of dog!
Business Spotlight April 2012
We’ve been members of the South Montgomery County – Woodlands Chamber of Commerce for going on three years now and have had the opportunity to meet a number of wonderful business owners throughout our community. But all of us have such busy schedules, it’s rare when we can sit down and talk for any length of time about who we are and what we do. We had the chance to do just that, however, when we sat down with Tanya and Aaron Ogden, owners of Barker Street Bakery just the other day.
Barker Street Bakery didn’t always belong to the Ogdens, but like parents to and adopted stray, you’d never know the difference, as they pour their hearts into building a business they can be proud to call their own. The original owner’s concept was born from a need to fill a niche – they had an English Bulldog which suffered from nearly every allergy a dog can, and finding foods, treats and toys that were both safe for their pet as well as nutritional and enjoyable was difficult at best. It seems that though one can pick up a bag of dog chow or a box of treats at any Petco, PetSmart, Target or Wal-Mart, it’s surprisingly hard to find specialty items for those that have the need without going directly to your vet, and quite possibly considerable expense. And for those that think hey, my dog’s fine eating any old thing he finds on the ground, so what’s so bad about bargain dog food? Consider this – many of those cheaper chows are chock full of additives, and some of those can be of such dismal quality you may be shocked to learn they can even include – ugh – dog!
Aaron and Tanya have a love of dogs that goes far beyond what (we think) a majority of people who say they “love dogs” have. As founders of Guardian Pitbull Rescue – which they established together in 2010 after having both served as volunteers in animal shelters and seeing countless Pitbulls passed over for adoption year after year – Barker Street Bakery felt like the perfect fit in combination with their mission to give as many dogs as possible a better life. “There’s this deep-set, false belief that Pitbulls are the most dangerous breed [based on media coverage],” Tanya told us. “It makes people shy away from and fear some of the most wonderful and loving dogs; they don’t even know what they’re missing.” In fact, it’s statistically more likely that an unprovoked dog bite will come from a Labrador than from a Pitbull. But it’s far more likely that you’ll hear about it on the news when it’s a Pitbull.
In August, 2011, the opportunity to purchase Barker Street came about – through The Chamber, no less. Tanya had been assigned to Barker Street as their ambassador (ambassadors in The Chamber help newer members to meet other members and establish a strong foothold in the community) when the then-owner asked if she knew of anyone who might be interested in taking over. “Did I know anyone? Yeah!” And in less than a year’s time, the Ogdens have remodeled the store, added some great loyalty programs (with some new ideas in the works), changed the logo and changed the hours. But they haven’t changed the mission.
Gourmet Dog Treats
Barker Street Bakery offers a whole range of 100% human-consumable, hand-made dog treats. You read that right; everything they make is perfectly safe for humans to eat. Not that you’d want to eat everything they make (liver cookie, anyone?). But Tanya laughed at the skepticism in our eyes and told us everyone always thinks it can’t be true, and she loves to surprise them with a little something from the glassed-on treat cases. “Here, try a peanut butter cup,” she said. We ever-so-cautiously tried the tiniest of nibbles as she explained that as chocolate is toxic to dogs, they make their peanut butter cups with carob, a legume that is used as a chocolate substitute and does not contain theobromine, the alkaloid found in chocolate which is toxic. The peanut butter of course is just peanut butter. We wouldn’t have believed it had we not tried it, but actually? Those peanut butter cups are delicious! And addictive!
In addition to the peanut butter cups, Barker Street bakes up pastries, cookies, cakes and pup-cakes. They can and do make special cakes for special occasions. Birthday cakes decorated with a yogurt-based frosting, as well as decorated cookies suitable for gift-giving. Barker Street also carries a full line of all-natural, specialty foods from Taste of the Wild and Origins that can’t be found anywhere else in the area, not even most vet’s offices. And while these foods may be slightly more expensive that commercial foods, when you consider you only need to feed your dog about two cups of these foods, versus the five cups of the bargain brands to get anywhere near the same nutritional value, there’s really no comparison.
Barker Street also carries a huge assortment of collars, leashes, dishes, treats, shampoos, accessories and more. Tanya tells us she puts hours of research into every item they sell, ensuring the quality of the items offered and that they’ll be both safe for your pet as well as long-lasting. There’s even a local vendor that supplies them with custom-made collars and dog beds. They even offer dog beds in a suitcase – the interior of the suitcase is waterproof and can easily be cleaned out as needed in order to eliminate spills and other canine mishaps.
Besides being open six days a week, and running a Pitbull rescue, and having events throughout the community to support shelter animal adoptions, and meeting up with other Pitbull owners for weekly walks on The Waterway, and both Aaron and Tanya having full-time jobs and being parents – they still find time to offer a once a month Yappy Hour at Barker Street. Each Yappy Hour event is held for the benefit of a local animal rescue organization (there’s one for any number of breeds), with 100% of the day’s proceeds going to the particular organization of the day, as well as 10% of all sales made at the bakery that day. As it turns out, this month’s Yappy Hour is for the benefit of Guardian Pitbull Rescue, and will be held on Saturday, April 15 from 1:00 – 4:00 PM. At each month’s Yappy Hour, some fabulous raffle prizes are given away. And you don’t even have to own a dog to enjoy what they have to offer. For example, this month’s prizes include a ride in a biplane along with VIP passes to Wings Over Houston and the Blue Angels, a golf outing, an iPad, a “date basket” with gift certificates to a high-end eatery and other assorted goodies. The raffle prizes are on display throughout the month at Barker Street, and tickets may be purchased for specific items. Tickets are only $5 each, or get five for $20 or 15 for $50. But if you do have a dog, be sure to bring him or her along! Camp Bow-wow will be on hand, giving some lucky bitches (you knew we had to throw that in there) a “pawdicure” and Elements Massage will be providing puppy massages.
As the expression goes, this one’s for the dogs. All dogs are welcome at Barker Street Bakery. It’s perfectly ordinary to walk in and find members of the staff down on the floor playing with visiting dogs, or dogs running around playing together. Barker Street does ask that if you know your pet is especially skittish or nervous that for safety’s sake you keep them leashed. Still, don’t be surprised to see someone come around the counter or out of the back and want to love all over your dog.
If you’d like to learn more about Barker Street Bakery, you can visit their website, but really there’s no better way to get a feel for all the love they have to offer your special pet than by stopping in. Barker Street Bakery is open Monday – Saturday, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM. They’re located at 442 Sawdust Road, at the northeast corner of Sawdust and Budde Road behind the Verizon Wireless store. Give them a call at (281) 465-1703. Guardian Pitbull Rescue is a 501(c)3 nonprofit establishment. If you’d like to know more about Guardian Pitbull Rescue, or about Pitbulls as a breed, you can visit their website, or better yet, stop in during Yappy Hour next weekend or on any given Sunday out on The Waterway, where they meet with other Pitbull owners at 4:30 PM in front of the Waterway Parking Garage.
Jerry Built Homegrown Burgers
They’re From Here
Jerry Built Homegrown Burgers are definitely homegrown. Most of their ingredients are organic, including most of the condiments and according to their website, obtained localy when available. Jerry Built is always fresh, and committed to sustainability. Originating in Houston, this burger restaurant should be a boom to local farmers and suppliers.
It was opening weekend and the parking lot was crowded. The line looked daunting, but they had a large staff on hand and the line moved quickly. My order was written right on the bag to ensure that it was prepared accurately. I ordered the ¼ lb burger with Ernie’s sauce and creamy jalapeno cheese on thier fresh-baked bun. I had them add lettuce, tomatoes, & jalapenos…all at no extra charge. I couldn’t make up my mind to order crinkle-cut French fries or the crinkle-cut sweet potato fries, so my order taker suggested a combo. I’m glad I did as I was able to sample both, and never having eaten French-fried sweet potatoes, I actually liked them better than the traditional fries. You get a big box of fries which is a bargain at $1.99. The price of the burger might be a buck and a half more than the national chain stores’ deluxe burgers, but a buck and a half lower than you would pay at Fuddruckers.
Now on to why I dropped by this organic, homegrown, sustainable hamburger restaurant. I have this chronic problem that occurs if food has been off-temperature or ill prepared. If there’s a trace of bacteria in the meat, I’ll know within just a couple of hours of eating it. I’ve learned to detect the early warning indicators and have to pop the antibiotics before the chills and fever set in. I’ve had too many problems with burgers from the franchises, so I’ve had to avoid them. I didn’t have room after finishing the burger and fries, but definitely noticed that the ice cream served in their shakes, malts, and floats, was Blue Bell ice cream…no whar but Texas!
Every one of the Jerry Built employees must have had extensive training in friendly. They were all smiles, and no less than five stopped by to check if everything was OK. Unbeknownst to me, one was a business partner. Brooksy Smith (one of the five partners) said they source seasonal ingredients from local and regional farmers during each harvest, from their freshly-ground brisket and chuck, daily baked buns, and including the crinkle-cut fries. I asked if there are plans to open up more restaurants, but he said not right away. This is not a national chain. He said they don’t want to rush their expansion, and there were no plans to franchise the business. There are only two restaurants…one in the medical center area, located at 3501 W. Holcombe, which just opened in February, and this new one north of The Woodlands Mall next door to the Container Store.
It wouldn’t be a grand opening without a balloon artist and he was fast and efficient. I mention this because my only complaint had nothing to do with Jerry Built Homegrown Burgers, the food, or the balloon artist. It was the adults who allowed their children to run through the restaurant with their balloon swords and light sabers, oblivious to the fact that the children were interfering with the staff performing their duties, and the other patrons who were trying to enjoy their meals. The children were not only sword fighting each other, but even turned on staff members. There’s a place for this kind of behavior when the parents don’t want to bother controlling their children…the ‘kiddie cage’ at McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A. I’m sure after the grand opening there won’t be swords and light sabers to contend with; and hopefully children who’ve been fed a steady diet of bad burgers (and who wouldn’t know a good burger from a bad burger) will want to go back to the other locations where they can be incarcerated.
I loved the Jerry Built Homegrown burger and had absolutely no repercussions from it. I’ve finally found a good burger I can safely eat, and I like that there from here.
author – Janet Warner
While having a country breakfast at one of the Dosey Doe coffee shops this morning I overheard that the legendary Ray Price will be unable to appear at Dosey Doe’s main music venue (I-45 North) on March 24. Standing in for the iconic country and western singer will be Mary Allen-Keating, a Conroe native being referred to as ‘the voice!’
If that name sounds familiar, Keating has performed in the title role of the true musical adaptation of Always…Patsy Cline, at the historic Crighton Theater in Conroe, and more recently at The Texas Opry in Magnolia. Being a big Patsy Cline fan, I took in one of her performances; the voice was so strikingly comparable, it gave me goose bumps.
In addition to both easy listening and country & western standards, Keating will be performing some of her own original material. Keating has released her own CD titled “Put a Little Texas in Your Swing.” It features one of her original tunes “Let’s Make Music in the Country,” which recently won Western Swing Song of the Year at the Academy of Western Artists.
Surely Keating will include some of the Patsy Cline classics on March 24. And hopefully she’ll get the casting call when they make a motion picture about Patsy Cline, which I might add is long overdue. Keating is well on her way to becoming a music legend herself. See for yourself…
Contact Dosey Doe for tickets at 281-367-3774 or www.doseydoe.com
author – Janet Warner
Internet file photos
Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch
Worthy of a Second Look
We first told you about Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch (PCI) about a year and a half ago. In that time, some amazing changes have taken place out at the ranch – and many more are in the works. The one thing that hasn’t changed and won’t change is PCI’s dedication to help kids from all walks of life. And they do that the best way they know how – with their horses.
Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch is growing at a steady rate and continues to expand on the services they can provide to children in need. The Ranch has partnered with Montgomery County Youth Services (MCYS) to offer their newest program, Heart. Heart is a special program designed to help at-risk children. These children may be experiencing trouble at home or depression, maybe they ran away from home or perhaps through no fault of their own face homelessness. It’s something many of us don’t often think about, yet we were informed that there are actually camps of homeless children living right here in The Woodlands. One of the not-so-pretty facts about The Woodlands.
In addition to the children in the MCYS program, there are also more than 5,000 special needs children currently enrolled in the Conroe Independent School District; the district which currently services the majority of children in The Woodlands. It is from among these children that counselors may refer candidates to PCI Ranch for their Equine Assisted Mental and Behavioral Health Therapy. In these one-on-one sessions, sometimes the kids are riding, sometimes they’re grooming, sometimes they’re simply helping out with the tack or clean-up. But they’re always accompanied by a professional therapist who listens, interacts, watches and counsels these kids through their struggles. These instructors are volunteers, as our the various assistants helping with the sessions.
These unique therapy methods are producing many measurable results. Kids who may be living with limited social interaction can find that they are able to open up and speak what is on their mind, without fear of rejection or judgement - because the non-judgemental horses are there and they are a constant. Whether they are standing still or in motion, many horses behave the same way and they walk the same way at every session. The rhythm of the walking is always consistent and the children can tune in on this allowing them to relax and open up.
Horses also have a keen intelligence, and are extremely sensitive to human emotion. Even when the children say little or nothing, the horses are generally reflective of the child’s emotional state, giving cues to the therapist as to what’s going on with the child and providing insight as to which direction to go with their therapy.
Each week over 70 volunteers, four certified equine therapy instructors and the mental health therapist work with 45 special needs kids, 20 at–risk teens and six families. All of the programs are very labor intensive, each requiring an instructor or therapist and as many as three volunteers for each client and horse. The outcomes from these specialized programs are frequently life changing; children that could not speak their first words learn to do so, kids that could not walk, take steps towards learning how to put one foot in front of the other, and those that have lost hope due to depression or abuse learn to overcome their demons. In combination with standard support resources, the Equine therapy results at Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch are truly inspiring.
Despite that these methods are tried and true they aren’t widely known so PCI operates on limited public funding, occasional insurance reimbursements and donations to keep this going for then next child and the one after that. That being said, Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch runs almost entirely on donations, financial, physical and material. And it is by those donations that the needs of the Ranch continue to be met. At it’s present state, the Ranch has ten working horses, but needs to retire two of them based on their age and ability. Since opening in 2008, the Ranch has yet to own a horse barn. The planned building will house the horses protecting them from the elements and providing safety. Additionally, because the Ranch does not have a covered arena, anytime there is inclimate weather or the fall/winter seasons when the days grow short, therapy sessions are occasionally rescheduled or sometimes cancelled. For some of the children the Ranch helps each week, a disruption in routine can cause setbacks that are difficult to overcome. It’s because of this that a covered arena with lighting would go a long way in aiding the amount of therapy sessions PCI Ranch can offer. The barn is a most desirable goal, providing a secure and safe place to stable the horses, PCI Ranch can increase the number of horses available for therapy while rotating the horses between sessions thereby providing a wider base of contact per child.
As the expression goes, you get what you give and it’s obvious Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch gives a whole lot of good – because good things are coming back to the Ranch. This winter they have been able to break ground for the new barn, and where the offices and family center will eventually be constructed. Currently, the preparation of the land is being completed with donated hours of service, using a bulldozer and track hoe donated by Mustang Caterpillar. It is the hope of founder David Darnall that come this Spring, group work on the buildings could get underway, based on funding and volunteer base. With a little luck, maybe come April they’ll be able to host a good old fashioned barn raising!
So what can you do to help? You can make cash donations through PayPal. Riding helmets and any other donations of grain/feed, tack or volunteer work are greatly appreciated; just give them a call and see what you can do to help! Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch is a 501(c)3 nonprofit establishment. Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch is located at 25902 Glen Loch Drive, just outside of the Village of Panther Creek. If you’d like to know more about Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch, you can visit their website, or better yet, call them at 713 302-3640 or drop them a line and arrange to come out to the ranch and see for yourself all the goodness they can accomplish.
Zunum is designed to be unique among restaurants in The Woodlands, offering more than just lunch and dinner.
The Woodlands has been growing and evolving for more than 30 years. The master planned community offers a unique suburban environment complete with nearly everything required for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Unlike any other major city, The Woodlands has more trees than people, more parks per household, and more miles of pathways than just about any other city out there. So if you want to create something unique, The Woodlands is a great place to do it. And if what you want to create is a unique restaurant, all the better.
Because when it comes to restaurants, The Woodlands has more than 400 places to grab a bite to eat, all of the standards places and varieties you might expect to find in most major cites. Sure there’s Chili’s, IHOP, Saltgrass Steakhouse and Pappadeaux’s along with a plethora of other restaurants offering everything from breakfast to late night tacos – not to mention all the counter service and drive thru window burger joints. Many of us are becoming bored with the world of franchise restaurants, no matter which store you visit, it’s the same decor, the same menu offering the same selections. It’s up to the kitchen to prepare them correctly so that the flavor comes out the same way in the various dishes which sadly, is infrequent. Zumum hopes to change that by bringing an updated version of the family restaurant to The Woodlands. While the idea of having a restaurant with a play area for the kids is not new (see McDonalds & Burger King), those venues also offer food that is kid friendly as well. Kids can be quite happy with food made by kids but most adults prefer something better than the standard grill fried hamburger with mustard, ketchup and pickles. Zunum is not Burger King or McDonalds and definitely not fast-food either. The menu at Zunum has some familiar titles with some unique twists on the various entrees so be sure to read the menu carefully.
The word “Zunum” is derived from a Mayan term “Tzunum” meaning “Hummingbird.” Developed by the owners of multiple restaurants and bars in Houston, they wanted to bring to The Woodlands a different type of restaurant never before seen. It is different than anything here in The Woodlands – or the greater Houston area altogether. More aptly described as a world of it’s own, the Zunum World tries offer something for everyone, young and old. It’s not so much that it’s mysterious, it’s just that it’s difficult to describe without the risk of pigeon-holing it into something that it’s not. The restaurant offers a discrete birthday party room and a lounge type area and table seating for the adults to relax or enjoy a meal while the kids play.
Zunum attempts to offer guests a unique experience with something for everyone. This new dining venture has completely renovated the space on Research Forest Drive from which Casa Rico’s vacated in 2011. Zunum occupies some 5,000 square feet allowing for it to evolve while offering complete immersion for it’s visitors. The open dining room is adjacent to a secure, children’s play area complete with XBOX and Playstation setups, play structures and a padded floor. The toddler area is rated for ages 6 – 24 months and the junior play area is for ages 2-12. The play area is supervised and affords sound proofing from the dining area.
We’re really looking forward to seeing if the fruits of all these labors will create and maintain a steady customer base. Zunum promises to be a place everyone wants to go, to relax and enjoy, a place where young and old agree without anyone having to compromise. Will it live up to the hype? We’ll keep you posted!
A “GenuWine” Good Time in Magnolia
February Business Spotlight
Tucked away in the corner of the Westwood Shopping Center in Magnolia is GenuWine, a wine tasting room offering some 250 different wines (on average) to enjoy by either the glass or the bottle. But GenuWine is more than just a wine bar; at the helm of the kitchen you can find their well-kept secret Kacy – an accidental chef who recently introduced his own version of the widely known stuffed mushroom.
We stopped in for a late lunch/early dinner in between clients the other day and sampled a variety of refreshingly simple dishes from Kacy’s kitchen. After placing our order, we relaxed and took in the cozy, relaxing atmosphere of GenuWine, while also enjoying a little shopping. Because on top of being a Wine Tasting Room and Bistro, GenuWine is also a wine store and casual gift shop! A variety of wine-related gifts, everything from witty cocktail napkins to unique wine glasses, classy t-shirts to eclectic décor, and of course, wines of all sorts, are available at GenuWine.
Kacy was discovered quite randomly by Rhonda, one of GenuWine’s owners, while he stood outside GenuWine holding a sign to advertise another establishment there in the Westwood Shopping Center. Starting out simply helping in the kitchen, he quickly began offering ideas and input to the menu which are becoming quite popular. Now heading the kitchen team, his current crowning achievement is the newly added Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms. Kacy doesn’t want to give away all his secrets, but these delightfully sautéed (not fried) mushrooms are stuffed with black and white balsamic vinaigrette, garlic, spinach, prosciutto and parmesan.
Of course, I’m more of the wine drinker, too, and was eager to come in to GenuWine for a wine tasting. The day we were in, we sampled Mont Paral Cava, a fruity sparking brut that reminded me of green apples and white grapes. Next up was my favorite of the day, Las Lilas Vinho Verde Rose – It’s fresh and quenching the way a Vinho Verde was intended to be, but offers exciting flavors of strawberry soda, watermelon, and fizzy sweet tarts. Plus I love it’s electric pink color. Our third tasting was the 20 Barrels Chardonnay; a Chilean white that sounded better in its description than I found it to be. My favorite red of the day was the Cuvee A Pinot Noir. It was garnet in color, and had aromas of spices, fresh black raspberries and hints of toasty oak. I liked the cranberry and black cherry flavor which was highlighted with a hint of cinnamon. Immediately after the Pinot Noir was The Chocolate Block, my first (and probably last) South African wine. Mia cautioned us when pouring this bold red that many of the South African wines tend to be dense in flavor and not something she cared for personally; but more of an acquired taste. And for those who do love it, this one tends to be their favorites. Alas, it wasn’t mine (or his) – I gave up after the first sip. Our final sample was the Barr Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; if a Cab is your red preference, this versatile selection could be just what you’re looking for. It was what I would call a nice “middle of the road” Cabernet Sauvignon – not too heavy, not too sweet and pairs well with the stuffed mushrooms.
The Wine Club
Wine Tastings are available anytime, and are very reasonably priced at just $12 for six different samples. What’s more, as a Wine Club member, Wine Tastings are only $3! The selection of wines for tasting varies each week, and of course all wines being sampled are available for purchase. There are two levels of Wine Club membership – The Corker at $39.50 per month, which includes two bottles of wine (valued at ~$20-25 per bottle) and a 10% discount on all wine purchases. The Collector, at $79.50 per month includes two bottles of wine (valued at ~$45-50 each), 10% off all wine purchases as well as retail purchases. Which means that this month, not only could you be enjoying 10% off of some tastefully assembled Valentine’s Day gift baskets – but you can always enjoy 10% off some unique and wonderful boutique wines which are typically crafted in small batches.
A Woodlands/Magnolia Wine Bar
By the way – you may have noticed I’m not exactly poetic or professional when it comes to writing up the wines. But that’s just the point in going to a tasting at GenuWine; Rhonda, Barbara, Mia and the rest of the staff are all very knowledgeable, and are the furthest thing from “wine snobs” that tend to scare off the casual drinker of wine. Additionally there are a multitude of small-batch, hand-crafted beers for those who enjoy a grain beverage versus that from select fruits or berries. GenuWine is very relaxed and laid back – which explains why on a typical Friday or Saturday night, it’s not unusual to have a standing room only crowd as they do not accept reservations.
GenuWine offers live musical entertainment Thursday – Saturday, 7:30 – 10:00 PM. For more information, call GenuWine at 832-934-CORK (2675) or visit their website at MyGenuWine.com
The Woodlands Waterway Cruisers
The Waterway Cruisers, previously known as the Waterway Taxis and sometimes humorously referred to as “Nelda’s Navy” were recently overhauled but might still be taking on water. After some 3 years of service, the Woodlands Boats have received some much needed updates to both the interior and exterior surfaces. The question is will these efforts help to increase the annual ridership.
Hours of operation have been reduced, down from an average 6,814.5 hours in 2008 and 2009 to 4,500 hours in 2010 and 4,400 hours in 2011. In 2012 the hours have been cut once again by some 2,200 hours limiting operations to weekends and 25 holiday and event related weekdays. This change should show some improvement in the averages as more than 80% of the ridership took place during the weekends in 2011.
The Waterway Cruisers were losing some $240,000 a year in 2009 forcing a need to make the cuts thereby making the Woodlands Boats more cost-effective. The (then Waterway Taxis) were initially owned and operated by a private company who sold the boats to The Woodlands Development Company while they were operated by “The District” (previously the Brazos Transit District). “We never wanted to be a water taxi operator,” said Alex Sutton, then co-president of The Woodlands Development Company and member of the township board. “We stepped in to help out.”
The Crusiers began their journey in 2008 which incidentally is the same year that their greatest ridership occurred with some 53,408 riders (nearly 8 riders per hour). Ridership in 2009 was at 44,238 falling to 6 and a half per hour followed by a slight increase to more than 7 per hour in 2010 with 33,989 total riders. The 2011 season clocked in at 27,563 riders dropping to an all time low of right at 6 riders per hour, including a slight uptick in riders at the end of the year.
The Township bought the Waterway boats in early 2011 and the renovations were implemented in August of the same year, as well as the construction of the new location for storage and maintenance of the cruisers. Total cost for the removal, restoration and return of the six Waterway Cruisers was approximately $40,000 per boat including the complete refurbishment of interiors, exteriors and hull, and repair or replacement of a number of mechanical functions on each boat as required. 2011 was also the year that the cruisers were all renamed – The Cynthia, The George, The Lone Star, The Puffy, The Waterway and The Dreamer. The last name was originally “The Woodlands” but was later changed to reflect the outdoor sculpture and became “The Dreamer.” The names were intended to liken the boats to offer a differ net experience as well as educate riders regarding the history of The Woodlands. The Cruisers are now open to dinner cruises with food catered by Landry’s Seafood Restaurant and advertising opportunities / sponsorships on them is hoped to help pay for operating costs.
|Chick Fil A efforts to Combat Child Obesity
If the President and Chief Operations Officer of a major food chain comes to town, you can bet it’s a big deal! Chick-fil-A’s President and COO, Dan T. Cathy, flew in for a VIP Premier Party which included 2012 VIP Membership cards, Cow calendars full of coupons, and complimentary valet parking at the Houstonian Hotel. The party not only premiered their new menu options but officially kicked off their new nutritious meal for kids, making it one of the healthiest in the nation being offered by a major food chain. It’s their ‘moove’ to the ‘Let’s Move’ initiative to combat child obesity.
One in three American children is considered overweight or obese. Children consume 31 percent more calories and 56 percent more fat, than their peers did 40 years ago. Due in no small part to the proliferation of readily available fast food restaurantssuch as McDonalds, Burger King and Pizza Buffets. The Centers for Disease Control report that Americans are choosing convenience over nutrition which will likely result in more children becoming overweight or obese.Chick-fil-A is the first national fast food chain to serve a healthier entrée’ in addition to new healthy side options, offering Grilled Chicken Nuggets as part of their children’s menu. Paired with the Fruit Cup and one-percent milk, the meal has only 210 calories and 3 grams of fat, an 86 percent cut in fat grams and a 56 percent calorie reduction over its previous offerings. The gluten-free Grilled Nuggets are made from a boneless, skinless breast of chicken. Their squeezable fruit pouch is also gluten free, all natural, and contains 100 percent pure fruit. It is 60 calories, 0 grams of fat and equals one serving of fruit. Improved Kid’s Meal beverage options will be changed to only feature one percent milk, 100 percent apple juice, Chick-fil-A’s freshly squeezed lemonade (30 percent DV vitamin C), or water as drink options.
This further demonstrates Chick-fil-A’s commitment to children as a part of its “Growing Kid’s Inside and Out®” Kid’s Meal program, nourishing their minds as well as their bodies with premiums that encourage interaction between children and their families, like Little Golden Books, VeggieTales CDs, Discovery Kid’s activities, and books adapted from the Martha Speaks PBS series.
It sounds like Chick-fil-A is ‘mooving’ in the right direction. Hmm…I wonder if there’s an age stipulation on the Kid’s Meal? It sounds ‘utterly’ delicious! To read more about Chick-fil-A’s new Kid’s Meal program view the Chick Fil A press release.
Stacy Harris Images
The Woodlands Events – December Business Spotlight
People are quick to ‘Yelp’ when customer service is below par, but how often do they give a shout out when the service exceeds their expectations? Stacy Harris Images – (TWE! Blog December Business Spotlight) provides that service.
Stacy Harris of Stacy Harris Images is ready and willing to take her show on the road to make it accessible. Case in point…she coordinated a fashion show at The Forum at the Woodlands with Annette Neyman, the Forum’s Community Relations Director, for the benefit of busy working women in the community. She leveraged her relationships with area retail stores and entrepreneurs to coordinate a vendor market on site for their convenience, and for the senior residents who are less mobile.
This is just one aspect of customer service offered by Harris. Her buffet of offerings is extensive and includes head-to-toe make-overs, personal shopping, and organizing your wardrobe. She’ll even create a digital library of ensembles that she coordinates for you.
Harris offers image consulting seminars on a wide variety of topics and does one-to-one consulting. The event planning aspect of her business includes corporate events, conferences, retreats, fashion shows, and fundraisers. Her “Ladies Night Out” events at Market Street, the second Monday of every month at a different retail merchant location, has been a tremendous success and has more than tripled in attendance over the past year. She was recently selected by ABC Channel13 to host a segment called, “How to Dress Right for Your Body Type” that aired on ‘Deals with Kat Cosley.’ Harris was selected as an expert by ABC for both local and national segments to share tips on… ‘how women can better define the perfect style that complements their body type and how to save money while doing so.’ I could go on and on, but in the interest of time and space…just read for yourself what I didn’t cover, by going to her website at http://stacyharrisimages.com/
Presenting the fashion show at The Forum was the perfect pairing from a customer service standpoint. This beautiful and aesthetic environment served up a delicious luncheon buffet which included a salad medley, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and a chocolate fountain dessert table. The Forum is renowned for opening its doors to community events, networking meetings, and fundraising projects. For more information about this five star quality care community contact Annette Neyman at aneyman@5SCQ.com and visit their website at www.theforumatthewoodlands.com. For exemplary customer service, you don’t have to go far in The Woodlands.
author – Janet Warner
Talk about taking it to the ’extreme,’ that’s exactly what I did…Xtreme Lashes. I attended their invitational after-hours party last night, which was the party after the party; the monthly ‘Ladies Night Out’ event sponsored by the Market Street retailers, which is always coordinated by our local fashionista, Stacy Harris of Stacy Harris Images.
Xtreme Lashes took their ‘xtreme’ party to the street. The west end of Market Street was a block party with a D.J., hot beverages, and a dessert bar inside. The event came complete with a facial make-over, so I figured, why not? And those who know me are probably saying, “Please do!” Unfortunately for Cheri Jones who drew the short straw (pun intended), and wasn’t sure what to make of a hippie throw-back who grew up in the au-natural era, devoid of make-up. She asked, “So, what are you thinking?” I asked her the same question, and she probably thought to herself, “Let’s start with sandblasting.” I suggested a dramatic eye treatment; something for the evening holiday parties, and just told her to surprise me. I’m sure she was thinking, “This is going to be work, and this party is suppose to be over at nine.”
Armed with her leather bandolier of brushes, Cherie went to work. More like an artist painting on canvass than applying make-up, I now understand why they’re called make-up artists. In order to take it to the next level whereas make-up artists are qualified to do make-up for the Broadway productions or the ‘big screen,’ one must hold membership in ‘the union.’ Cherie has completed the necessary requirements to join this elite group. Now whether or not she could reinvent me, well, see for yourself in the center of the photo collage. I loved it!
In addition to eyelash extension applications, Xtreme Lashes also provides Brow Wax & Shape, Lip & Chin Wax, Full Face Wax, Lash & Brow Tint, Lash Crystals, and Body Crystals. Extreme Lashes is located at 9595 Six Pines Drive, Suite 1360, on the south side of Market Street down by HEB. For more detailed information about their eyelash and make-up services, go to www.xtremelashes.com/studio
author – Janet Warner
While mailing my monthly bills this Saturday morning (Nov. 26), at the Gosling post office, “Military Families and Friends” had a table set up with prepackaged boxes ready to dispatch to our military service personnel in Afghanistan. They got the packages as far as the door, but need help getting them into the post office and shipped.
Those wishing to spread holiday cheer outside The Woodlands borders can take a package to the Postmaster and ship a package for about a fourth of what you usually spend on a holiday gift for someone. And you don’t even have to pay for the gift! Generous residents and merchants contributed the contents, and your portion of the gift…the postage, is less than $13. The post office closes at 2:00 on Saturdays, so you better hurry, or you’ll miss the ‘mail call.’
The Container Store
The Woodlands Container Store held a private preview party last night and those invited could hardly contain themselves, most of all, The Container Store personnel. CEO and Chairman, Kip Tindell, who is also one of the founders, said that dancing is engrained in The Container Store culture, and dance they did! The Woodlands didn’t know what hit them! This was an afterhours event the likes we’ve never seen.
Just having opened a store on November 5, in Nashville, Tennessee, these people really know how to party on! To celebrate the opening of the 53rd store in their nation-wide chain, the acclaimed Fried Ice Cream Band was brought in to play non-stop for three hours, and the dancing never stopped.
The Fried Ice Cream Band is deeply rooted in Houston, but has played for public and private events across the nation. Vocalist, Sky Shepherd, has won Houston’s “Sammy Davis, Jr” Award as the Best R&B vocalist two consecutive years, and has 22 pageant titles to her credit (the first being “Little Miss Houston.”) Her father sang with Janis Joplin for years, and her mother played the harp for the Houston Symphony, so music runs through her veins. Shang, the other vocalist, is also a Houston resident from the 5th Ward. By the age of 17, he was touring Europe, and has opened for legendary performers like Al Green, Jackie Wilson, Gladys Knight, and BB King, and renowned groups like The Temptations and The Commodores. He’s also an honorary member of The Drifters.
The nine-member band is not only eclectic in ethnicity but diverse in musical genres. The playlist consisted of rhythm & blues, classic rock, and dance standards. Their instrumentation includes a guitarist, and bass guitar, keyboardist, drummer, saxophone, and trumpet, and they blasted the music to the far walls of the 25,000 square-foot store, their largest to date.
The refreshments were almost as diverse as The Container Store’s inventory of products, which numbers 10,000 products! The store will officially open this weekend;10% of sales on Saturday and Sunday will be donated to Interfaith of The Woodlands.
So there’s no longer any excuse for not being organized…the Container Store is here! They’ll organize your confusion; they have everything from heaven to amen. I’m going to look for the largest container they have, and I’m sure they have one large enough, to pack up that band and haul it to the next after-hours event.
author – Janet Warner
The Container Store in The Woodlands
We here at TWE! Woodlands Blog don’t normally write about retail stores or their grand opening exploits but, this one warrants some time and text. The Container Store, for those who are unaware, is now located in what was previously Circuit City, where the prices could sometimes be… short-circuit-ed. While the name might initially conjure thoughts of a store that offers boxes and bags, cabinets, glasses and other things to hold the things that would otherwise be rolling about and becoming play toys for the cats, it’s a bit more than that. The container store has thousands of organizational tools, hangers, stuff to stick on the walls and erasable boards to write notes and reminders for everyone in the house or office to read.
So what is it about this particular grand opening that makes us want to write about it here? Well, a lot of things actually – from having what can only be described as my favorite checkout counter ever, to the the various departments featuring culinary delights in very unique displays, to the live band, to local celebrities, this event had it all!
Entry to this ‘private’ event was held outside where everyone obtained a self-completed badge, with whatever one chose to write upon it; in typical fashion, most everyone simply wrote or signed their own name – it might have been nice to know where at least some of these people were from – businesses and such. Or maybe I am simply too accustomed to The Woodlands Chamber events where names and businesses are the norm… We then ventured into the brightly lit emporium of goods similar to what one might find at Target or IKEA, yet at pricing that is definitely not the same.
The various foods were interesting but the placement / location for the foods didn’t really seem to be in any particular order. The entry way into The Container Store is centered and you had a choice of going left or right (seemingly preferred by the greeters) through a second set of doors and then on into the retail area. By proceeding to the left, you first hour d’ oeuvre station was about halfway down to the left. Had you not stopped at the (soon to be) check out stand, you would arrive at this initial station and have both hands free which is great for being able to grab a plate, napkin and some grub. We had our choice of some skewered grilled chicken, some interesting little vegetable combo rolls (which were quite tasty) and tortilla-like chips. These items were served in small containers and trays that were on display, which tended to make you look twice at the food – is it really food or just part of the display. Very creative and entertaining placement of food mixed in with their products brings about thoughts of holiday office parties.
The center area of the store was occupied by the band “Fried Ice Cream“, and a portable dance floor otherwise known as ‘no mans land’; for the first hour or more of the evening as no one seemed to venture out on to it for more than the time it took to pass around the crowd and back to the presumed safety of the carpeted floor. The band was really quite good playing a variety of jazz and easy listening type music; even some of the little people we saw were moving themselves to and fro to the rythm of the beat. As we made our way behind the stage, we happened upon the second food station featuring additional finger foods – some flatbread (naan) with smoked salmon and Parmesan, others with what appeared to be steak tartare, and other items on toasted baguettes. And so our journey continued around the store, food plate in one hand and napkins in the other we still had nothing to drink (well not really, but that could have been the case). Fortunately, there were plenty of service staff floating around to pick up empties and other discarded items.
The third hour d’ oeuvre station we happened upon featured an Asian assortment of foods including some sushi and other Japanese delicacies delightfully dressed up and ready for the taking – literally some in actual genuine looking, asian take-out style boxes! We didn’t spend much time in this area as neither of us are sushi or sashimi fans. Not far from this area and definitely the closest of any two food areas was a dessert bar. Oh yes, chocolates and other confections – personally, I really liked the bars with chocolate and walnuts; walnuts go with almost anything in my book. As this had us back around to the other side and near the front door, we happened upon a line of servers each with a tray of drinks at the ready. Had we not actually scanned the overall area before getting any food, we might not have found these beverages for quite some time. Strangely enough, there was a large number of food servers walking around the area with fried mushrooms, and fried green beans for the guests to sample yet the servers with the drinks were few and far between, and mostly stationed in one place – and on the far side from where the store personnel were directing new arrivals into the facility. But there were two bars, the larger of which in the aforementioned check out area in the front of the store; with literally tubs full of wine, champagne, beer and this tasty little concoction of ginger-lemonade and vodka.
Lest anyone doubt the level of excitement revolving around the opening of the Houston area’s third Container Store, the A-listers in attendance would confirm this was in fact, a very big deal. We ran into
KTRK-TV 13′s Art Rascon and his lovely wife Patti
Fox 26 Houston’s Melissa Wilson along with her mother Wanda
Newly elected Oak Ridge North mayor Jim Kuykendall, his wife JJ Kuykendall, and Dr. Ann Snyder of Interfaith of The Woodlands/The Woodlands Chamber and Conroe ISD
Charitable Integration with The Woodlands
In The Container Store’s “Commitment to the Community” statement, the company says since they opened their first store in 1978, they have proudly supported their stores’ local communities and they know the importance of being a good corporate neighbor. In continuing to give back to the community with a focus on supporting nonprofits that promote women’s and children’s well-being and health – they announced that a full 10% of sales (not net profits, total sales) from their grand opening weekend would be donated to Interfaith of The Woodlands; something that every one of us was happy to hear.
Toys for Tots
Back by popular demand, the Eastex Detachment of the Marine Forces Reserve Band – Conroe will perform again this year at the John Cooper School Performing Arts Center as part of their 2011 ‘Toys for Tots’ Tour. The concert will take place on Tuesday, November 29, at 7:00 p.m.
This 90-minute holiday spectacular will feature the concert band, in addition to nearly every small-ensemble within the unit. Suitable for all ages and musical tastes, the 51-piece band will perform traditional as well as contemporary holiday music. Seating is limited to the first 500 patrons for this must-see event for musicians and students of area schools’ marching bands.
The Marine Forces Reserve Band is the standard by which all bands should strive to emulate. Established in 1978, the unit is comprised of active duty Marines stationed at the Naval Support Activity Base in New Orleans. Each year, the band travels throughout the United States, performing more than 250 concerts, parades and ceremonies, entertaining over 6 million people.
Although the performance is free and open to the public, donations of new, unwrapped toys for the U.S. Marine Corps ‘Toys for Tots’ Foundation will be collected, yet not required for entry to the musical event. This annual “Toys for Tots Tour” will have Collection barrels available in the Performing Arts Center and all of the toys collected at this event will be distributed locally. This is a fantastic event presented at no cost to the local community and helps to brighten the holiday season for an untold number of boys and girls who would might otherwise have little or no toys to play with on Christmas morning. Don’t miss this wonderful musical event to kick-off your holiday season. It’s the best gift you can give the aspiring musician(s) in your family. For more information contact Deb Spiess (dspiess at johncooper.org), Director of Marketing and Communications, 281-367-0900 ext. 240.
The Toys for Tots program collected nearly 16,000 toys area wide with more than 300 coming from the John Cooper event which were then distributed to needy children selected by the social agencies in the county- Salvation Army and Society of Samaritans along with a few churches. The Marine Corps League Detachment 779 also service 5 other counties this year with toys supplied by the Toys for Tots Foundation and donated money and toys within those counties.
In order to qualify as a recipient, the parents are required to apply in person providing birth certificates, w-2 forms, and other necessary documents. Some 5,145 kids received 3 toys each. Toys and money collected in Montgomery County stay in the county. Marines from the Eastex Detachment #779 are assigned drop box locations and deliver donated toys to warehouses for separation by age and gender, then bagged.
Check The TWE! Calendar for this and other events in The Woodlands.
One John Cooper Drive
The Woodlands, TX 77381
Phone (281) 367-0900
Toll-free (800) 295-1162
Some information provided by:
Bob Quinn- Coordinator and Commandant, Department of Texas,Marine Corps League
Thomas Early - The Marine Corps League and President of the Texas Marines Medal of Honor Fund
author – Janet Warner
|The WoodlandsEvents.com is thrilled to announce that their photography has been recognized and published in The Texas Recreation & Parks Society Magazine – Fall 2011 edition.
“Diamond in the Woods” — TRAPS 75th Anniversary
2012 Institute and Expo in cooperation with TPW and NRPA Southwest Region
The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS (8/22 /11)
Monday, February 27
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 pm CPSI and AFO
Tuesday, February 28
Wednesday, February 29
7:30 am – 5:30 pm Registration
9:00 am – 4:00 pm Exhibitors move in and check-in at the TRAPS’ Exhibitor Relations Table
9:00 am – 3:30 pm Golf Tournament
Thursday, March 1
7:30 am – 5:30 pm Registration
9:00 am – 4:00 pm Exhibit Hall Open …
9:00 am. – 10:15 am Educational Sessions
Friday, March 2
7:30 am – 12:30 pm Registration
9:00 am – 1:00 pm Exhibitors move out
|10:30 am – 11:45 pm Educational Sessions
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Lunch on your own …
1:45 pm – 3:00 pm Educational Sessions
3:15 pm – 4:30 pm Educational Sessions
5:00 pm – 6:15 pm President’s Reception
6:30 pm – 9:30 pm Awards Dinner –75th Anniversary
Saturday, March 3
8:30 am – 12:00 pm TRAPS Board of Directors’ Meeting
9:00 am – 12:00 pm CTRAC Exam
All hail the Queen of Dairy as she makes her long awaited appearance in The Woodlands, Texas. After having vacated her position so many years (~25) ago in Oak Ridge North, the queen will soon have a new suite in Montgomery County, Texas. Construction began in October of 2011 and will hopefully be completed in short order and we will see maybe for the first time, a blizzard or two right here in The Woodlands. The new location is at the corner of Grogan’s Mill Road and South Millbend Drive filling out the long vacant corner location of the Grogan’s Mill Village shopping center. The Woodlands location will also feature Orange Julius.
DQ / Orange Julius:
Also known as the “Treat Center” concept, an enhanced version of the original DQ also serves drinks and foods from the Orange Julius menu.
DQ Grill & Chill:
Stores are larger than older-style DQ Brazier locations and feature a completely new store design.
The corner lot once was home to an Exxon Gas Station began growing grass and new trees until a glimmer of a McDonalds and Texaco combination shop (like the one at SH242 and I45) was recently initiated to a limited extent. The space briefly had a sign announcing the potential business but was taken away as quickly as it appeared. Long live the Queen in The Woodlands.
Technically speaking, this will be the first Dairy Queen in The Woodlands. Previously, there was a Dairy Queen in Oak Ridge North – just across the freeway from The Woodlands which is now occupied by Crow’s Nest.
Dairy Queen in the Woodlands Tentative/Approximate Opening date is 12/15/11