Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pleasure Island Marina is "slipping" for the better

It’s gonna be cool. Pleasure Island Marina, already a lovely spot, is getting a makeover on 300 slips and the place is looking great. Most will have floating aluminum docks that have a wood look. Others will be covered. Also boat owners can get a wave of confidence with a 626-foot floating concrete break wall to cut wave action, Jimmy Dike, Pleasure Island Commission director, said.

Because it’s common that docks have a lot of out-of-town patrons, Dike said commissioners are hoping to draw boaters from the Houston area who want to take advantage of Sabine Lake and Gulf of Mexico fishing and fun. Rita and Ike hit the marina hard, he said.

I just went to take a look see and I’m impressed.

Locals already know Pleasure Island as home to Cajun Cabins, Fun Island Depot playground, a disc golf course and areas for birders, crabbers and fishermen to set up a family picnic. The Pleasure Island Half Marathon, 10K and 2-Miler is set for Nov. 4. Runners will cross over the expansive Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge.

Praise for the Y

“It’s clean, it’s pleasant, it’s happy,” Yvonne Sutherlin says.

She’s talking about the Port Arthur YMCA, where’s she’s been going for water aerobics.

“They work the daylights out of us, but it has helped me more than anything,” she said.

She’s not done praising the Y.

“Everything you see is clean, there are people coming out of your ears, there are people of all ages and they are busy and happy and singing. It’s so nice and people don’t know that we have got that great place out there and I’m just trying to get the word out.”

Sutherlin also volunteers at the Port Arthur Public Library and says their computers are “top notch” for researching ancestry.

“Used to we had to go to graveyards and talk to kinfolks. So much of it is online now,” this historian/genealogist reminds us.

Get to the Fiesta in a “Flash”

Grupo Flash is a big deal in Coahuila, Mexico, and the Mexican Heritage Fiesta planners think they’ll be a hit here, too.

Andrea Velazco said they’ll headline the the evening dance at the 44th annual Mexican Heritage Fiesta, set for Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center.

Folkoric dancers dressed in regional costumes, pageants and food vendors will fill the center. Ready for menudo? At 2 p.m. Mariachis Magico Mexico will take the stage. Folkloric Dancers will go on from 3:30 to 6 p.m. and guests may dance from 6:30 p.m. to midnight. Bohemios de Michuacan, Kumbo Zelekta and Grupo Enamorate will also play the dance.

Doors will open at the center, 3401 Cultural Center Drive, at 9:30 a.m. and opening ceremonies will follow at 10 a.m. Pageants are scheduled from 10:20 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for seniors and children 11 to 17. Children younger will be admitted free. Tickets will be $20 after 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 8 is a busy day in the Port Arthur area. Friends of Sabine Pass Battleground will host Dick Dowling Day, a re-enactment of an 1863 Civil War battle, on Sept. 8, in nearby Sabine Pass, down the road from Sea Rim State Park, Port Arthur’s beach.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Texas Road Trip

I love seeing miles and miles of Texas, and just rounded out a road trip along Texas105 to the heart of it all. With hay rolls, cattle clusters and the mandatory cemetery stop, the only thing that could have made conditions more perfect would have been cool, fall weather. I was rewarded with a rainbow as I approached Southeast Texas.

I got In a treat at the Texas Stop Sign, or Dairy Queen as I call it when I’m not on the road. A mini Georgia Mud Fudge held me from Belton to the barbecue stop planned for later in the evening.

I made it to Killeen in back. I saw for myself that it’s true what they say about Aggie maroon in the Bryan/College Station area. The Whataburger had a strip of maroon on its angled roof to offset that orange design. They wouldn’t want to be mistaken for Longhorn fans.

After agreeing with Texas Monthly that Schoepf’s in Belton puts out some great barbecue, I tried to keep up with the Electric Slide dance at a concert in their big open-air picnic yard. Earlier, I rode a golf cart to Real Deals Home D├ęcor, where I picked up a vintage-look hook, but resisted a plaque bearing the sentiment “Life is a cabernet.”

The sun was beating down on Ocker Brethren Church Cemetery near Rosebud. It’s attached to a lovely wooden church and the markers show Czechoslovakian heritage. Little beds filled with gray pebbles surrounded markers. So this is how they do it where there’s less water around.

The old depot visitors center in Hearne was a step back in time, and the woman there directed me to Toodie’s Barbecue, across the road. The ribs were as good as she promised, and I took a window seat. The busy road was a few feet away and every other mouthful I took I’d hear a roar, then feel cooler temperatures. The 18-wheelers that whizzed past would block out the sun.

I hope everyone had some good road trips this summer. As good as it is to go, it’s always good to get back home to Southeast Texas.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Never get tired of salads, or cupcakes

My Little Cupcake

Who doesn’t like those cake pops and balls that look like miniature, sugary art works? I know of two people in the “never again” category. They once loved them so much they tried to make them. After hours of investment, they threw their burned hands up in frustration over gooey product and messy kitchens. Now there’s something so easy I did it. Visit mylittlecucpcakepop.com for an eye full of crazy-simple gadgets to launch your creativity. Colorful snap-shut little molds let you fill and chill, decorate and pop on a stick. The best part is the easy recipe: Ground up Oreo-type cookies and cream cheese. I tried a variation with graham crackers and Neufchatel cheese, with almond extract. My mom wants to borrow my molds and have a party for her classmates. Shape up your treats into the cupcake, heart, ball and party hat mold. If I can do it …..

Something new for salads

I could eat my own recipe for vinaigrette every day, but sometimes you want to mix it up a bit with your tossed greens. Bolthouse Farms has something for those who realize you aren’t eating as healthy as you thought if your dressing has hidden calories. Yogurt is once again to the rescue. They have a line of dressings that are 45 calories or less per serving – meaning they contain at least 55% fewer calories and 75% less fat than the leading mayonnaise-based brand. My husband loves the blue cheese version and I’m all about the ranch. We’re using both of these as both dips and dressings. They do a light vinaigrette, too.

Asian twist to barbecue

Sometimes kids have issues with vegetables. It was a sweet and sour Chinese sauce that got me to ask for more. As an adult, I can douse a little San-J on any vegetable I want. The line, headquartered in Richmond, Va., features amazing Japanese-inspired sauces, dressings, brown rice crackers and more to make it easy to travel across the globe for dinner.

Now makers are encouraging cooks to extend the barbecue season by marinating meats in San-J’s Asian BBQ, Teriyaki, Orange, or Sweet & Tangy Sauce. “You won’t find any questionable ingredients on their labels. Plus, all San-J sauces are gluten free and certified kosher,” the company reports. Look for recipes such as Szechuan Guacamole to Polynesian Kabobs and Asian Country-Style Ribs at: http://www.san-j.com/summer.asp

They’re making it easy to go gourmet, but I’ve done something easier still. I cooked up a big batch of Jasmine rice and simply have a stir fry flavor of the night. Polynesian Glazing and Dipping Sauce gave my carrots personality. These are great to keep on hand.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Want fries with that?

If you want more out of life, try asking for it.

Apparently there was a time where people walked up to fast food counters and ordered what they thought they wanted. When McDonald’s trained employees to ask if they’d like fries, too, then sales went up, up, up. “The Power of Focus” is about how to apply this attitude to your own business opportunities. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen are “Chicken Soup for the Soul” creators and Les Hewitt is “The Focus Coach.” With anecdotes and worksheets, these guys can make you believe in just about anything, even yourself. Pages are full of great tips, and the one I’m leaving you with is, if you want more business, just ask for it.

Cool weather crops are hot this fall

Everything fun about gardening is good in the fall, plus you avoid blazing heat. I haven’t yet built the keyhole garden I’ve been longing for, but www.bonnieplants.com has some tips to grow my fantasy.

July through August is the optimum time for planting cool crops, they say, so crops can mature before a freeze. If you haven’t tried this season, do this:

Tidy up: Remove spent plants, like early planted beans, cucumbers or lettuce, since they’re pretty much done for the season and can harbor pests. Clear away holes left from pulling plants, and get rid of weeds before they go to seed. Throw away anything distressed and compost the rest.

Discard any fallen fruits, rotting produce can attract pests. Take note of where everything was planted so you can be sure to rotate crops.

Set up the soil: Freshen garden soil by removing the existing layer of mulch and replace it. Straw makes an excellent cover because it’s easily scattered, it’s also a favorite home for spiders that will help control insect pests in your garden. You can also use a layer of shredded leaves for mulch.

Loosen compacted soil and fluff it up with a garden fork. Major tilling isn’t necessary; just move soil enough to allow new plant roots to settle in and let water get through.

Pick your plants: Starting with transplants will buy you lots of time. Since plants are six weeks or older when you put them in the ground, you’ll harvest sooner than if you start from seed.

Here are some of the company’s top crops for fall planting:

* Top Bunch Collards – This hybrid is heavy yielding, early maturing, and more uniform than traditional varieties. They grow best in full sun, tolerate partial shade, are rich in vitamins and sweetened by frost.

*Spinach – A cool-weather vegetable related to beets and Swiss chard, Bonnie’s Spinach is a fast-growing plant, yielding many leaves in a short time in fall. Although spinach prefers full sun, it’s one of the few vegetables that produce a respectable harvest in partial shade.

* Early Dividend broccoli - Popular, productive and easy to grow, this broccoli is high in fiber and calcium.

* Mustard greens – Offering spicy hot leaves, this is a very fast-growing, nutritious vegetable, and always tastes sweeter when nipped by frost.

Bug Band

Bug Band isn’t exactly a flea collar for the kids, but the band you can loop a round your wrist, ankle or belt is designed to repel fleas, gnats, mosquitos, flies and “no-see-ums. I got a sample of the bands, spray lotion and towelette after I ran into the whole pest menagerie while doing yard work. I wish I’d had the Bug Band.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tingly in the legs, runway feet and eyes have it

When is it okay for a lady to wear tight clothing? How about for medical reasons, or when she just wants to feel all tingly and look amazing? RejuvaHealth has put the sexy into compression garments, which I am learning women of all ages have felt “sentenced” to for a variety of painful swelling issues. I know someone my own youthful age who will have to wear these indefinitely. Patients who are tired of the beige hospital look of most offerings can thank Kelsley thought diamond, dot and floral patterns, of knee and thigh highs would add some zing in her day. Pantyhose cost a pretty penny, but the emphasis is on the pretty, if you doc says you have to wear them, anyway. The models in lush leopard and purple paisley look like they could be wearing Victoria’s Secret selections instead of what our grandmas referred to as sup hose. Features in the line include graduated compression, a microfiber blend, homeycomb waistband, and the tummy tamer top. I tried knee highs with a fitted heel and did not want to take them off. I felt cradled with support, but also full of energy. Visit online or call 1-877-7-REJUVA.

Now down to the feet

Something old and something new is in Runway Ready Luxury Foot Treatment. As much as Iove herbs, I’d never heard of Butcher’s Broom, which combines with argan oil and shea butter. Makers add some high tech ingredients and peptide infused technology for a restorataive, exfoliating and conditioning cream that means business on your heels.

Dermelect Cosmeceuticals, distributed in Great Neck, N.Y. and London, England, puts out tubes of this good stuff.

Yellow carrots

Colorful Harvest has a great story as to why their foods have so many hues. Jewel-like red kernels on sweet corn is from naturally high levels of the antioxidant anthocyanins. But there’s more than that. Doug Ranno was into taste, color and nutrition even before his second child was born with severe food allergies. Then he went to town with heirloom seeds and a passion for produce that both kids and chefs would like. I’m somewhere between, a home cook who considers that sweet corn like a flavorful, aromatic memory of every fall of my youth. The yellow carrots were “meaty,” not some artificial little cube that epitomizes packaged food. Visit their website to get the goods.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yellow Jacket found and Olympic toasts

Yellow Jacket found and Olympic toasts

Thomas Jefferson High School alumni should be interested to know that Shawn Bruno has the Yellow Jacket mascot. It’s not a school prank, he owns it fair and square and it’s at his place, Bruno & George Winery in Sour Lake. If you take a tasting tour, you’ll see for yourself.

Use his wine to toast the Olympic victories that have been playing out for the home viewers. He makes a Yellow Jacket Raspberry and a Cardinal Cranberry, which appears to be a nod to another hall of education he loves.

Bruno’s wines are based on his grandfather’s Italian methods. Other Than Standard Raisin Wine and Cardinal Cranberry won recent awards in San Francisco, and Bruno invites Southeast Texans to make an appointment for a tour and tasting. He says no one leaves his winery unhappy. Other blends include Candlelight Strawberry, Holiday Blueberry, White Orchard Pear, Signature Peach and Arapaho. Call Bruno at (409) 963-8235 for your appointment.

More toasting

How about some energy drinks for an Olympic toast? They’re making them different these days, and nothing seems as different as SLAP FROZEN Energy. It’s a pouch you freeze, then defrost for a bit, then squeeze like you mean it. What comes right into your mouth is a slushy, fruity refresher that’s unique. Your team will love it.

Scheckter’s Organic Energy is a smooth can of bubbly without synthetic caffeine and other artificial stuff. UK’s Great Taste Awards gave it a gold award, and you might, too. Makers have included a comparison to similar drinks, and this is one I’d pick for both taste and health. It will appeal to discriminating adults.