Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Galveston Island - It's back!

Guest writer, Laura Jardine, Woodlands Texas resident

I just returned from a trip to Galveston this weekend. Occasionally, I need a dose of sea air and a place to escape the summer heat. We are lucky to have such a place close to The Woodlands. It is one of the reasons we looked forward to returning to the Houston area. I start feeling landlocked if I am too far from the ocean, any ocean, and it is just minutes (okay an hour or so) away from The Woodlands.

I am happy to report that Galveston is back. The island was packed with people looking for summer fun. The economy, the drought conditions in the hill country’s lakes and rivers, and the excessive heat must surely have contributed to the masses on the island. However, I was happy for the local businesses, as they have really had a rough year trying to renovate and stay in business. George Mitchell was instrumental in returning the Strand to its former glory and, although the entire area was hard hit by the hurricane, progress is being made everywhere you look. The Strand is a jewel that holds much historical, cultural and architectural value. In the 1850s Galveston was considered the Wall Street of the South. It had the state’s first bank, electricity, and phone system. I have lived in the Houston area most of my life and still learn something new each time I visit the Strand, nearby museums or tour one of the lovely old stately homes lining Broadway Boulevard. The Grand Opera House has completed renovations and has posted listings for its upcoming season. A trip to the Grand makes for a great couple’s weekend by adding a stay at one of the charming period hotels or bed and breakfast inns, dinner, and an evening carriage ride. Although not all businesses are at 100%, they are certainly open and ready for your business. There are also many extra outings for children when visiting the island other than the obvious beach activities. One of my favorites is the airplane museum. I found it fascinating and informative even though I know nothing about airplanes.

While we lazed on the beach and read our novels, we did dip our toes in the water. You might ask how one could cool off when the water temperature is 91 degrees. The water temperature does vary a bit at different locations on the island, and perhaps the 10-20 mph winds and 89-degree air temperature helped. The water did not feel as warm as it did in 2005 when Katrina and twenty plus storms formed during the hurricane season. That year one could feel the overly warm water and know something was not quite right in the world. I am happy to report the water did not feel as warm as it did then but I’m not an expert.

While I was concerned the sea birds might find a new place to flock after the storm, they have returned in great numbers. I was particularly delighted to see the many brown pelicans. Every afternoon they fly in geese-like formation following the coast westward to roost for the evening. Pelicans were almost extinct on the Texas coast when I grew up, so seeing them is always an affirmation that we are doing something right. Typically Texas had 1,500 to 4,000 nests. However, by 1968, only two nests were found, and by 1970 there were none. In 1970 they were put on the Endangered Species List and two years later DDT was banned for domestic use. It appears that they have recovered and are now crowding out some of the other species on some islands. I call that a success story. I even saw two Roseate Spoonbills on the island. These birds are pink like Flamingos and it is always a treat to see them. It’s also a testament to the health of the environment.

I noticed a lot of the inner island historical homes are receiving long overdue renovations. Much of the island’s architecture is invaluable and deserves preservation. It was a bit shocking and sad to see the potential loss of most of the large Live Oak trees that line Broadway Boulevard. They are now leafless skeletons against the sky and a reminder of the sea water that inundated the island. These trees will be last on the tree removal list to give them more time to recover. They were planted after the 1900 storm and are more than 100 years old. It will be sad to lose them as they give the boulevard its southern charm. However, I am sure, with a little patience they will be replaced with something equally as lovely. So, if you need a place to entertain the kids, a quick weekend interlude, or just have the urge to feel some cool summer sea breeze, I would recommend a trip. It was good for my soul, and Galveston’s economy, to see the island booming.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Before Coffee

Hot climate does not equate to being indoors, well, some of the time. We all know it has been super hot this summer, although a little cooler the past two weeks. Heat can impact our choice of recreational activities. Sure, we all know this, but we may need just a little encouragement to brave it outside. It is difficult to acclimate to temperatures above 100 degrees, so I am finally getting out of the chair, away from the computer, in sports shorts and committing to some exercise. Do you shut down when the heat gets unbearable? I do. Yet there is at least one solution. Just get going earlier in the morning. make it number one and forget having a cup of coffee.

Sure, harder said than done I started the motor this morning even before I could see. It worked. No coffee, just some stretching and getting the heck out of the house. After a full month of "rest", I finally started back again by running (I really can't call that running, more of a jog) three miles.

We do have to look out for our health, even in the severest of climates. The gym? That is one answer, and I plan to go there as well, but the outdoors is beckoning all the time, regardless of the temperature. The gym is a good alternate if you can;t take the outdoors. I suppose if you know me, you already knew I would be out there somewhere, but I have not been running for an entire month!

Personally, I am hoping to see more faces on the pathways here. There were some this morning but not nearly as many as there were in June. I came home, showered, had breakfast and yes, I had my coffee! The day just feels better after a run! Try it for one month. Don't put it off and don't abandon it after a week. In one month you too will feel much better for the entire day and you can improve your health as you set out to do this long term.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Woodlands Texas does rank among the best

The Woodlands was just ranked 14th by Forbes in The place to move. We beat out all but four other Texas locations on criteria mostly related to "relovilles". In other words, we rank high on the list of ultimate living destinations for people outside of this area. Other Texas locations on the top 25 include #6 Frisco, #9 McKinney, #12 Carrollton, #19 Allen, #24 Roundrock, and #25 Plano. Large metro areas of Texas represented include Houston(The Woodlands), Austin (Roundrock) Dallas(Carrollton, McKinney, Frisco). Sugarland was close to being in the top 25.

Forbes article

Monday, July 6, 2009

Have less money, looking for coupons?

Some of us are in this boat, some not. The good news is that businesses everywhere are offering more coupons and deals these days. So what do you do with less money? You spend less money, but doing it wisely is another story. One way to help ourselves is to spend a little time looking for what we need, getting the best deal and consciously prioritizing what we wish to purchase. One place that fascinates me is the website below where you can search stores for coupons. I have found a couple of deals there lately worth a few dollars.

I'd be interested in any other ideas you may have. Other readers would probably also.