Saturday, May 23, 2009

It's hockey night in Houston!

I'm originally a northern girl. And while I was never into hockey growing up (except for the occasional midnight scrimmage at an outdoor school rink) every once and a while, I get the urge to watch a game.

This happens mostly during the Stanley Cup playoffs or if I happen to hear people around the station yelling things out like, "It's a hat trick" or "They just took the goalie out of the net!"

Hockey and Beer

Now, I may still be pretty new to Houston, but I do know the best place to watch a hockey game is the Maple Leaf Pub down on Elgin in Midtown. It's not the prettiest bar in town, but then again, you're not going there to be fancy; you're going there to watch hockey.

While you're watching, you might get thirsty which is a good thing as they have a wide selection of beers. They even have a dozen different Canadian beers, and we all know Canadians take their hockey and beer seriously. I recommend Moosehead and good old Labatts if you want to give it a try.

Of course, they do have all the American beers as well as imported favorites like Stella and Heinakin.

Super Cheap Specials

The food isn't going to knock your socks off. It is basic pub fare like fried mozzarella sticks, hot dogs and pizza. They do have steak night on Thursday with $10 domestic pitchers of beer which is cool.

They also have super cheap specials. Monday to Friday, their 3 p.m. to 7 p.m happy hour lets you get everything for $0.50 to a $1.00.

Not bad.

So put on your old hockey jersey and check it out. They even a penalty box!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spending quality time with my best friend

Have you watched the movie "Marley & Me?" If you haven't, don't read the rest of this blog because I don't want to spoil the ending for you.

I just watched the movie last night and I now think my little pet rabbit needs some extra love today - whether he wants it or not.

You see, I must have the oldest living rabbit in history. He's 14 and still pretty active. In fact, when I take him to the vet they are shocked that he's lived this long. They tell me that apparently house rabbits only live 6 to 8 years. Ha!

Of course, I tell them mine is special, just because he's mine, but also, because I don't know what I'd do if he passed away.

He keeps me sane after a crazy day at the station and reminds me that I should enjoy the simple things in life like sitting in the sun, eating good food (if he loves his treats, he closes his eyes as he chews) and just being free. Yes, my rabbit is free all day, and he sometimes just runs for no reason and does a little happy dance. But don't worry. He's litter trained like a cat so there are no little "messes."

He's been with me through most of my adult life and has travelled with me as I moved from station to station and city to city. And considering how often I've moved, he's probably been to more places in the US and Canada than some people have.

But no matter where we move to, he's always happy just to hang with me.

Unfortunately, like I said, he's old. Real old --just like Marley in "Marley & Me."

So in honor of our furry friends, here are some things you can do with them (most of these are for dogs, and not rabbits):

1) Shampooch your pup: Houston Humane Society and Whole Foods is hosting a benefit dog wash on May 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at all Houston area Whole Foods. Get your pup shampooed while helping out pets in need.

2) Visit a dog park: There are close to 20 dog parks in the Houston area and some of them are 15 to 20 acres big - which means lots of running space.Click here for a map.

3) Play frisbee: Lots of dogs love playing frisbee. If you think you and your dog want to take it to the next level, consider joining the Houston Canine Frisbee Disc Club.

4) Go for a walk and a little wine: The Tasting Room in Midtown (114 Gray Street) is dog-friendly. Sip wine or beer while noshing on cheese and chocolate plates while your pup and other dogs play on the huge patio. Dog bowls are available on request.

5) Go shopping: We all know you can take your dog to PetSmart, but did you know you can take your dog (or cat) to the Galleria? Well, not the whole Galleria, but to the Houston SPCA Pet Parade. It's the SPCA retail shop and it's located behind Macy's on the second floor. Pet Parade has toys, gifts and other goodies. They also have cats, kittens, dogs and puppies up for adoption.

6) Weekend Getaways: Lot of hotels let you bring your pets. My absolute favorite (because they allow rabbits, too) is the Hotel Derek. They don't just let you bring your pet, but actually have a "pet" area at the side of the hotel on the first floor to make it easy for owners to take them out to do their business. They also offer different pet services and provide complimentary snacks. There is a fee to bring your pet though, so call the hotel for details.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A little bit of sultry Kristina Mills jazz is good for the soul

So far in Texas, I've seen rock, gospel, disco, country and Honky Tonk bands. So on Saturday, it was time to check out a little jazz.

One of my favorite ways to hear a musician is in an intimate setting. For me it's the ultimate soul session and that's exactly what you'll get if you ever have the chance to check out Houston vocalist Kristine Mills.

Known for her spine-tingling performances and bold sassy vocals, Houston jazz singer Kristine Mills was breaking new ground in the music scene with the debut of her third album, called bossanovafied. But watching Kristine perform you realize that she doesn't just sing, but becomes part of the music. She sways, she conducts the band and she guides the audience through the songs.

From the first note of her jazzy rendition of "I Love Paris," I was instantly immersed into the music. Listening to her voice, which ranges from throaty and soulful to soft and sensual, you forget about everything else. It's just you, Kristine and her 4-piece band...and of course the other 100 people sitting with you in the room.

But somehow, you don't mind them being there because as Kristine says, they are part of the performance.

"The audience is absorbing what we are doing. At first it's kind of like eavesdropping and then they get involved in our musical conversation. The way that they respond includes me in their conversation," Kristine said.

Compared to many of today's performers, who are all about the show and less about the songs, Kristine's performance style feels organic, clean and real. There is no lip syncing, no choreographed dance moves and no special effects.

Even her lyrics feel organic, which could be because most of the songs on her new album "bossanovafied" (which is being released on May 5) came from poetry that she wrote music to.

"The lyrics for all the songs, except for three, came from poetry from somebody else. Three of the songs are mine completely - lyrics and music," Mills said.

Whatever the reason, the performance was mesmerizing. She sang everything from the blues classic "You can take my husband, but you can't have my man," to a sophisticated ballad called "Sweet Surrender," to bossanova jazz numbers from her new album.

It was the type of performance that none of us at the Mucky Duck concert wanted to end.

In fact, the only complaint we had was that the two hour concert was too short. But then again, we could have watched and listened to her for many more hours and still begged for more.

On Saturday, it seemed Kristine's vocals weren't just a jazz-inspired soul session, but good for our musical souls.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lunching with dogs at Hotel Derek

On Saturday, I had the honor of eating lunch with some of Houston's friendliest and best dressed dogs. That's right...I was at Hotel Derek's second annual Project Derek Dog event.

And I wasn't the only one there. Close to 200 people brushed, primped and dressed up their pets for the event.

"We came last year and had a lot of fun. It's kind of crazy seeing all the dogs attending a fancy lunch with their owners, but that's what makes it such a great event," said one attendee.

That's right. Lunch. With dogs. And it was super fun!

The morning started off with a wine and dog biscuit reception, where owners had the chance to show off their dogs in front of a panel of celebrity judges. This year's judges were Melissa Agular from The Houston Chronicle, Frank Billingsley from Channel 2, Lori Reingold from Channel 13 and Jeff Gremillion from Houston Magazine.

Great Day Houston's Deborah Duncan was also there as the event's host and announced the top 10 finalists who got to strut their stuff on the catwalk.

"I'm amazed at how well-behaved these dogs are," said Duncan.

I totally agree with her. These dogs were all so well behaved. There was no barking, no chasing and no growling. There was a little bit of butt sniffing, but that's the way it is with dogs.

Now don't start thinking that this event was only for show dogs or just the fancy breeds, because it wasn't. It was for all dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds. In fact, many of them were rescues.

That's because this pet-friendly charity event raises money for Citizens for Animal Protection, which shelters rescues and finds homes for homeless animals.

In addition to the dog show, attendees and their pets were treated to a gourmet lunch, received a goody-bag filled with dog treats and products and got to listen to renowned animal communicator Sonja Fitzpatrick - who I thought was incredible.

Fitzpatrick is like the ultimate animal whisperer and is known for her talent of being able to speak and listen to animals.

Throughout the lunch, she impressed the audience (and me) with tidbits of what the animals were telling her. She was able to pick out specific details of the animals' lives such as the color of their bed at home, new additions to the family and medical conditions.

"I'm always honored when animals talk to me. They communicate on a higher level of consciousness than humans," Fitzpatrick said.

While everyone wondered what secrets Fitzpatrick would reveal about their pets, the true guests of honor on Saturday were the animals.

It didn't matter if your pet was a select breed or a rescue with a great personality, at Project Derek Dog all the dogs were special.