Thursday, September 25, 2008
Catholic Charities has been working with small communities since the storm.
"We pick different communities every day. We try to target the ones that have been missed or forgotten by other organizations just because they are so small," said Charlene, Catholic Charities Communications Assistant. "Many of them that we've gone to, I had never heard of until now."
While donning my green volunteer vest and baseball cap, Charlene told me that today we were going to Bacliff down by the Bayshore RV park to help out with two trucks full of supplies.
A TROPICAL WARZONE
And of course, power was a luxury that none of the residents had.
"I just got a generator from my dad today and we're setting it up. We've had nothing for days," said Ted, one of the residents. "We've been mostly cleaning up and airing out the place."
I had never been to Bacliff before, but Ted told me the town looks completely different after Ike stormed through. The flooding may have gone down, but trees were missing and parts of the beach had been rearranged.
Ted was just one of many who were sweating it out while waiting for the power to come back.
While we didn't have any power to give him, we did have food, cleaning supplies and other essentials.
But first we had to unload the trucks.
ROLLING UP MY SLEEVES
Let me tell you that volunteering is good for the soul, good for those who are on the receiving end, and a good workout for your body.
Some of the volunteers had helped out before and were already pros at the process.
"My brother and I have been handing out stuff in parking lots like this one for a couple of days now," said one volunteer. "We are originally from New Mexico and this was our first hurricane. It's been an experience that I hope I don't have to go through again."
Unloading the trucks was just the beginning. After that it was time to start doing the real work: Handing out the stuff to the people who needed it.
But while the line was long and seemingly never ending, everyone was extremely patient and helpful. Many were desperate for diapers, water and food.
And how did our little green team do? Fantastic - if I must say so myself.
We might have been tired and some of us will probably be sore the next day, but we had smiles on our faces and the energy never faded.
LENDING A HELPING HAND DURING IKE RECOVERY
It's still a long road of recovery for Ike survivors.
"Catholic Charities is helping on average 1,250 people a day," said Julissa Chappell, Director of Communications for the organization.
Julissa said they are still looking for more volunteers to help out. For more information, you can contact Nancy in Volunteer Services at 713-305-8268.
Donations for Ike are also urgently needed to assist with recovery efforts. To donate visit www.catholiccharities.org.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
While checking some of the fine food Sambuca has to offer, Foreman told me how he and his dog weathered the storm by sleeping in his bar.
"It was awesome. I spend the night watching the storm out those windows," said Forman, pointing to the side of the bar.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Yup...the bayou had overflowed and made its way all the way to my apartment complex.
While I didn't have power or water (still don't), I was instantly thankful that I was up on the top floor. At least I didn't have flooding, and the view was kind of pretty in a scary sort of way.
Of course, the night before was horrible.
There I was, hunkering down in my apartment in the dark. I had my stash of food, my car was full of gas, and I had even filled my tub with water. I was ready for Ike - or so I thought.
I don't know what I thought 100 mph winds would sound like, but I never imagined it being so loud. It was as if a jet engine was going off in my apartment. Plus, rain was pelting against the glass and leaking though the cracks. And then, when something crashed against the window, I lost it.
There was no way I was going to take this lying down in bed. Nope...I was going to take it like the girl I am - or at least the girl I was when I was in kindergarten.
So what did I do? Well, I got up and hid in the closet -- literally. It was not my bravest moment, but I laid out an exercise mat on the floor, grabbed my pillow and a blanket and curled up on the floor with the door closed. Yes, I am pathetic, but I slept like a baby.
DID SANTA COME?
The next day was a little like Christmas morning, except instead of rushing to see what Santa had brought me, I ran to my window to check out the damage. It was amazing.
But what was really surprising was that all the Texans were down on street hanging out. I guess they were done hunkering down (I've never used this word before living here - very cool), and ready to get out. They were biking through the puddles, walking their dogs along the edge of water and taking pictures. Some had even set up lawn chairs like they were at the beach!
Naturally, I had to join them. And you know what? It was fun.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Yup...that's right. KHOU's Girl About Town is going surfing - but first she has to learn how.
Surfing is something I've always wanted to try, but I've backed off because: a) I didn't want to wipe out and be knocked unconscious by my board, and b) I didn't want be eaten by sharks.
Turns out, both of these fears are completely rational.
"Getting hit by your board is the most common surfing injury," said Brian, my surf instructor. "I knew this hula dancer when I living in Hawaii. She wiped out, and her board came around and knocked all her front teeth out."
Crap. That's just what I need.
LEARNING THE BASICS
Brian, who owns C-Sick Surfin on Galveston Island, has been surfing since 1962. He's caught waves all over the world including Africa, Hawaii, California and any place else you can think of. Plus, he still has all his teeth so he must know something.
Then we hit the water.
CATCHING THE WAVES
The first thing that surprised me about surfing is that you don't have to be in really deep water to catch a wave.
"You just need to be waist-deep and then you can climb on your board and start paddling," said Brian.
But you don't need to paddle for hours. You just need to go where the waves are. On the day I went, the water was below chest level and it was perfect height for getting the surf.
The second thing that surprised me was that it's much harder to stand up on a moving surfboard in water than it is to stand up on the sand.
There I was paddling, feeling the wave start pushing the board. And from behind me, I could hear Brian yelling, "Stand up now." The steps of how to do it were going through my head: grab the rails and push up, move your right foot to the center, and stand up straight with your weight in the middle and knees bent.
Sounds simple, but man, the board was moving fast.
But I paid $50 and drove all the way to Galveston, so I was going to do it.
I took a deep breath, pushed up, and amazingly, I was standing!!!! They worked. The steps really worked!!
Then, a second later, I wiped out.
You know that saying, if you fail, try again? That's the way it works in surfing. I got my board, paddled back out and tried it again. The second time, I didn't even make it a standing position, but plunged head first and sucked in a bunch of seawater. Yeah...I was really graceful.
But the third time, was the dream. I got up, caught the first wave and then stayed up long enough to catch the second bigger one coming in behind it. It was a complete rush. It was my best ride of the day and the reason I'll be going back again.
DO THEY HAVE SHARKS IN GALVESTON BAY?
Two hours later, I was getting pretty good at feeling when the wave was coming. And while I was able to stand up most of the time (at least for a few seconds), I was nowhere near being a professional surfer and will probably need a couple more lessons before I commit to buying my own surf board.
But here's what I did learn:
1) I'm a goofy foot and not a regular foot, which means I stand with my right foot forward on the board.
2) The sun will burn you - everywhere. I wore a t-shirt over my bikini top just because I didn't want anything coming loose in the waves, and I was glad I did. At least my chest and back didn't get burned. But I can't say the same about the back of my knees. Ouch.
3) If you fall off your board and don't know where it is, cover you head and face with your arms. Your board will come back and hit you. Remember the hula girl.
4) When paddling out, don't fight the waves. Paddle between sets or use the rips to get out. If you don't know what these are, find someone like Brian to teach you.
5) If you see lots of birds feeding or lots of fish jumping, don't surf there. Chances are there's a big fish feeding on the smaller fish below the waves.
6) Don't dangle your toes off your surfboard, wear red nail polish or shiny watches. All these things will make you attractive to big fish like sharks.
7) Invest in a surfer shirt (they call them rash guards). The material in the shirts has 50 UV protection, plus you won't get a rash from rubbing against your surfboard when paddling.
8) Don't wear bright colors like yellow and orange. Fish love them. "We used to call it Yum-Yum yellow," said Brian. Well, I don't know about you, but I don't want to be yum-yum for any fish.
9) If you can swim a couple of laps, do a couple of pushups and conquer your fear of falling off, you can surf.
Here's the one thing I didn't learn: Are there sharks in Galveston Bay? I don't know....and I don't want to know.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Good thing Max's Wine Dive on Washington Avenue in Houston had exactly what I was looking for...and a little bit more. But let me warn you, if you show up at Max's 8:30 on a Saturday night like I did, chances of getting a seat will be pretty slim. It was packed and it didn't look like it was going to slow down.
Thankfully, Julius, the place's coolest wine-guy, was able to squeeze me in at the bar. I swear, sometimes being a party of one does have its advantages.
MAX & CHEESE TO DIE FOR
Naturally, I ordered the Max & Cheese from their appetizer list as that was why I was there. Their version of the cheesy dish was not exactly the same as my mom used to make - it was actually better. Sorry Mom, but it was. Max's tosses the pasta in truffle cream with a mozzarella, Texas gruyere and grana padano cheese blend. It's mmm....mmm...good.
But while the Max & Cheese was incredible, the Nacho Mama's Oysters are out of this world. They are deep fried and placed on top of fried wontons. And no, I didn't order them. The Venezuela group sitting beside me did and I tried one of theirs (yes, it's true, you can't take me anywhere).
I swear the oyster literally melted in my mouth. It was fabulous and I will be getting them next time I'm at Max's. The people who actually did order them, agreed. They were a party of three, and they had almost ordered every appetizer off the menu. They tried the buffalo meat sliders, the rib basket, Max & Jack's frites, and finally the oysters. All of the food looked good, but they said the oysters were the best.
BUT WAIT...THERE'S MORE
You would think I would be done after eating a big bowl of pasta and someone else's oysters, but no, I had to have dessert. However, I knew that something called "The Big Ass Brownie" would not be something I could handle on my own - but it could be something six girls could handle.
The "Big Ass Brownie" was gigantic and if I did eat alone, I would definitely have a much bigger butt today. It's also completely addictive and not overly sweet. Instead, it's slightly spicy. That's because it has ancho chili in it.
Of course, Julius, my wine-guy, didn't let me down. He recommended an Australian Moscato to go with the brownie and again it was perfect.
Friday, September 5, 2008
If you haven't been to Stages Theatre, it's an intimate space - which means it's small, there is not a bad seat in the house, and you're so close to the actors, you can see their facial expressions.
This also means that the actors have to be really good to pull off the show, as they can't hide behind big special effects. It's basically them, a couple of props and their talent.
A MUSICAL WITH HEART
Thursday, September 4, 2008
So because I am frequent customer, I was thrilled to see Starbucks has introduced some new treats - Yay!!
Some of you are saying "who cares?", but for true Starbucks addicts like me, this is a big deal. You see, us regulars look forward to the seasonal additions to the menu like pumpkin lattes in the fall, peppermint hot chocolate in the winter, and the other goodies they only bring around for limited time.
WHAT'S NEW AT STARBUCK'S
Last Tuesday, Starbuck's introduced some healthy food. Now, before you start making your broccoli face, let me tell you these healthy treats have the Starbucks touch to them, AND I've taken it upon myself to try three of seven new additions:
He was right. It was the BEST oatmeal ever!! No really, I wouldn't lie to you. I have no idea what they put into it, but it was sooooo good. It's basically 100% whole grain oats and then you get the choice of dried fruit, nut medley or brown sugar. The barista said most people pick brown sugar, but I picked the nuts. Mmmm...mmmm....super good. This is my new favorite.
2) Berry Stella: This has been around all summer. I guess they were testing the healthy stuff. Anyway, it's an oat-based pastry that has been shaped into a star, and it has berries in the middle. It's okay, but not as satisfying as some of their other items like the blueberry scones or very berry muffins.
3) Chewy Fruit & Nut Bar: This bar contains real fruit, nuts and clover honey. It's really yummy and does fill you up. But here's the catch. The little grains get stuck in your teeth, so make sure you pop by a mirror before smiling. It's also a little high in fat (10 grams compared to the oatmeal's 2.5 grams).
STUFF I DIDN'T TRY
There are four other items that I didn't try - mostly because I haven't had time yet. They include:
1) Multigrain Roll: This sounds boring, but the barista swears it's excellent. It's made with seven hearty grains and seeds. It also comes with your choice of almond butter or fruit preserves. The guy seemed more excited about the almond butter, than the jam.
3) Power Protein Plate: This is not in every store and seems like a South Beach Diet knock off. It's a plate of cheddar cheese, fruit, hard boiled egg, a whole wheat bagel and some peanut butter.
4) Spinach Feta Wrap: Like the protein plate, this is not in every Starbucks. It's a wrap with spinach, feta, egg and roasted tomato. Like the apple bran muffin, it also has 7 grams of fiber.
THE TRAVELING STARBUCKS ADDICT
I admit that my Starbucks fetish over the seasonal foods is a little strange, but what's even weirder is that I get a kick out of seeing which cities get the best food based on their demographic.
If you travel and have the same Starbucks addiction I do, you already know that every place has something different: Toronto Starbucks have these yummy oat/chocolate squares and vegan brownies, Tampa has this exotic Mallocara sweet bread, and San Fran has Polenta Cherry Scones and Carmelita bars - BUT they don't have the double chocolate loaf.
I was hoping Texas Starbucks would have something unique, but I haven't found it yet. Still...the search continues.