Barton Creek Getaway

Looking for a weekend (or longer!) escape that’s not too far from home? The Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa is a Texas Hill Country oasis for anyone looking to relax and unwind. Located just outside of Austin on the west side, it’s only about a three hour drive from The Woodlands.

Barton Creek is well known as a golfer’s paradise, with four courses on the property, and has bragging rights as the number one golf resort in Texas. Each unique course, designed by pros Ben Crenshaw, Arnold Palmer and Tom Fazio, have beautiful views of the Hill Country, tall trees, challenging fairways and even picturesque glimpses of Lake Travis.

Three Springs Spa offers holistic treatments including massage, skin therapies and guided meditation sessions. The luxurious environment can take you to a new level of relaxation as you de-stress with spa packages designed just for you. An onsite salon offers nail and hair services to get you ready for a night out after your day of relaxation.

While the adults unwind, the kids can play at Barton Creek’s Kids Club open to all guests daily. Special activities, games and interactive fun await children from 6 months to 8 years old. Reservations are required, so call ahead. Summer Camp is also an option from now until August 11 through KECamps. Kids will enjoy tennis and golf along with super science projects, arts and crafts, martial arts lessons and swimming.

Austin is known for its music scene and that tradition is continued here with Barton’s Unplugged and Barton Creek Live. Relax and unwind with a cocktail in Barton’s Lounge while enjoying live acoustic performances every Friday and Saturday evening. Full bands perform at the Pavilion for the summer music series, Barton Creek Live which is only open to resort guests. Check the schedule for country and red dirt music artists Cody Canada, Tracy Lawrence, Bruce Robison and more!

Don’t let your workout routine slide while you’re at Barton Creek – visit their fitness center, open daily, and exercise with state of the art equipment and fun group fitness classes including yoga, Zumba and boot camps, among others.

Lounge poolside at one of three swimming areas while wait staff deliver your favorite frosty beverages. The main outdoor pool has beautiful rock features and is situated near a secluded hot tub area. A special kids pool is perfect for families to splash and play, and the indoor pool is heated and available year-round.

For more information and to book a stay, visit https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/austin-barton-creek.

Landscaping: Tips for the Heat

The hot Texas sun can do a number on your landscaping if you don’t protect it by watering properly and choosing the best shrubs and flowers to withstand the heat.

Watering your lawn and flower beds is best done in the early morning hours – between 5 and 9am. This allows ample time for the water to soak into the soil before the hot sun causes it to evaporate. Also, you don’t want your grass and plants to be damp for long periods of time (i.e. overnight) as this can let fungus and disease creep in.

Set your irrigation system or turn on your sprinklers and time how long it takes for one inch of water to accumulate. You can do this by setting out an empty can and measuring how full it is after you water. You should water your grass twice per week, a half inch of water each time. This infrequent, deep watering will promote healthy root growth. Flower beds may require more frequent watering to keep plants perky – just set your irrigation system to only water the beds and not the grass on off days.

The best flowering plants that can withstand the heat, sun, and dry conditions are the African Daisy, Butter Daisy and Fanflower. The Dusty Miller plant, though it doesn’t make blooms, has a nice, slivery-gray color that can bring a garden together. Dakota Gold is another profusely blooming plant that can take up to 100 degree heat with little watering, as can Lantana (which also makes an excellent ground covering).

Scope out how much sun your flower beds actually get. If an area is shaded for part the day, some of these plants may do better: Dahlia, Impatients or Begonia.

Keeping your flowerbeds and gardens well-mulched will keep the moisture from watering in the soil and help the plant’s root system. Placing organic matter in your soil before planting will also help retain moisture as well as provide nourishment.

Home Cleaning Hacks

Just found out a friend is dropping by and your house is a mess? Don’t have time to run to the store but have to get that stain out? Funky, unidentifiable smell coming from your teenager’s room? Check out these home cleaning hacks using supplies you probably already have on hand for quick clean up in a pinch.

• Ketchup – A staple in most households, ketchup can be used to clean copper and brass. Whether it’s your pots and pans or kitchen and bathroom faucets and fixtures, just smear them with a thick layer of the red stuff and let the acid from the tomatoes and vinegar do the tough stuff for you. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, the polish away with warm water. For tougher stains, let sit for a little longer and add table salt while you polish.

• Coffee grounds – Grinding up some fresh coffee beans is a daily occurrence for many. Use these grounds as an air freshener to help mask odors that you don’t have time to search out. Simply place fresh grounds in the bottom of a new trash bag in your wastebasket and let their aroma fill the air.

• Stains – Got a tough clothing stain you just can’t get rid of? The folks at Momtastic came up with this mega-remover that works on virtually everything. Mix one part Dawn blue dish soap with two parts hydrogen peroxide, then add a tablespoon of baking soda to make a paste. Spread generously over the stain, ensuring you cover the underside of the fabric, too. Scrub it with a toothbrush and let sit for an hour, longer for bad stains. Then wash as usual.

• Kitchen sink – First, pour baking soda onto the wet sink and scrub with a soft brush, then rinse. Next, line the sink with paper towels soaked in white vinegar and let sit for 20 minutes. Remove paper towels and rinse. Then, slice up a fresh lemon into small pieces and drop them down the garbage disposal. Their acid will help clean the blades while the fresh scent brightens up your kitchen.

• Onion – Using a stinky onion to get rid of stinky smells may sound counter-intuitive, but it really does work. Slice a large onion in half and place on a dish near your shoe rack, next to your dirty laundry, or inside of a smelly closet and leave there overnight. The next morning, trash the onion and let the area air out. Before you know it, the stink and onion smells will both be gone!

Local Spots for Home Decor Shopping

The Woodlands has big and small shopping centers on virtually every corner, providing everything you need. But, sometimes these options can be a bit overwhelming when you’re trying to find something specific or are new to the area. Instead of throwing in the towel and living with what you’ve got, scratch that itch for new décor by visiting these local stores:

• French Courtyard – Tucked into a small shopping center on Robbins Road, French Courtyard is more than just a consignment and antique store. They offer unique furniture pieces, many in complete sets for your entire room, and lots and lots of accessories. Their style is elegant and full of character. They also have a women’s clothing section, so pick up something for yourself or that special someone while you’re there!

• Tumbleweeds & Notions – Opened just two years ago by a young entrepreneur, Tumbleweeds & Notions is a quaint little gift and décor shop in the Alden Bridge Village Center. Featuring whimsical items, jewelry, and antiques, this is the perfect place to find that perfect something.

• The Clock Shop – This specialty store off of FM 1488 has the largest selection of antique time pieces you’ll find anywhere. Their showroom includes grandfather, cuckoo, wall and table clocks perfect for giving your room a little character while also being a functional piece. They also have furniture, wine racks and other décor items available.

• The Blue Finch – A small store over in Magnolia, The Blue Finch has great seasonal gifts and home décor options. They also have a candy “bar” for a little pick-me-up while you shop!

• Don Quixote’s Home Décor – With two shops in Old Town Spring and Magnolia, Don Quixote’s Home Decor specializes in imports and “rare finds” along with great customer service. Their large selection of furniture can outfit your entire home with rustic, well-made pieces and accessories to compliment them.

• Picket Fences Home Décor – If florals are your thing, a stop here is a must. Picket Fences has been designing floral arrangements in Shenandoah for over 15 years and has grown into a comprehensive furniture and design store. They also have a great selection of seasonal pieces and linens to choose from.

• Market Street – If mainstream is your thing, a stop over in the Market Street shopping center will lead you to Kirklands, Z Gallerie and Sur La Table. Unique pieces can also be found here, as well as window treatments, centerpieces, seasonal items and furniture for every room in your home.

Happy shopping!

Summer Music

The Woodlands and surrounding areas offer so much in culture and the arts to residents that it can sometimes be difficult to choose which live music events to attend. Here’s a rundown on some of the exciting, entertaining, and sometimes even free music shows this summer in the area for you and your friends and family to enjoy.

At The Woodlands Waterway in Waterway Square, Saturday nights are filled with free music by top local performers. After you’ve dined at one of the great restaurants nearby, take a stroll down the waterway and listen to the sounds of the bands. Featuring everything from pop to country to soul, these family-friendly concerts are sure to delight.

Beginning this summer at The Woodland’s Hughes Landing, regional musicians will perform free concerts on Thursday evenings. The first show, slated for July 13, features a Motown band, followed by several cover bands and some country groups mixed in over the course of the season.

No concerts in The Woodlands article would be complete without mentioning the amazing Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion – a premier concert venue so close to home. On tap this June are legends Jimmy Buffett and Chicago & The Doobie Brothers, plus the Houston Symphony and rapper Future have shows booked as well. The Symphony returns several times in July, along with 90’s rock band Third Eye Blind and a show by Nickelback. August is packed with huge names like Alice Cooper, John Mayer, and Lady Antebellum, so there’s something for everyone here this summer.

Other music venues a bit further away but totally worth the drive, include the Bayou Music Center in downtown Houston. This arena is known for its great stage views and superior sound system. It is located within a complex containing several popular restaurants and is near the heart of Houston’s theater district.

The Toyota Center, home to the Houston Rockets, is another great concert venue, hosting shows by Pitbull, Neil Diamond, Mariah Carey, Ed Sheeran, and James Taylor with Bonnie Raitt this summer.

Enjoy the show!

Gift Ideas for Favorite Teachers

The end of the school year is just around the corner, and giving your child’s teacher a heartfelt gift is a great way to thank him or her for nurturing your student since last August. Teachers really are the unsung heroes of our communities – let’s show them how much they mean to us with a special end-of-year gift. Check out these ideas for inspiration:

• Many teachers use their own money for school supplies throughout the year, so most would appreciate gifts that incorporate classroom essentials like Sharpies, highlighters, clips, glue sticks, and other supplies. Pair these with a cute hand-written message and tie them up with a bow – your teacher will love it!

• Personalized gifts are another great idea – get a monogrammed bathrobe, bath towel, or slippers for your favorite teacher. Hand towels are always great, too, and can be decoratively displayed either at home or in the classroom.

• If you have access to photos taken in the classroom or throughout the school year – for example, at class holiday parties or field trips, making a memory book or scrapbook is a great idea. Most of us take digital pictures and don’t take the time to print them out. Giving your teacher a book with images from the entire school year is something s/he can hold onto for years to come.

• You really can’t go wrong with gift cards. They may seem simple, but they allow the recipient to get whatever his/her heart desires. The key is in the presentation – if you’re giving a gift card to a pizza restaurant, wrap it up inside a pizza box with a big bow. Starbucks – obviously put it in a coffee mug (monogrammed!). Many teachers would like a gift card to Walmart or Target. They can get something for themselves, or use it on the above-mentioned school supplies!

When in doubt – just ask! A sweet note or email asking the teacher what he or she would like, or taking a fun survey about their favorite things, can inspire you to get a unique gift they will absolutely love.

5 Things to Do for Mother’s Day

Wondering what to do that’s extra special for mom in The Woodlands? Here are some suggestions:

1. On Saturday: “I Love You Berry Much: A Mother’s Day Celebration” at The Woodlands Children’s Museum. Mothers and children can enjoy a delicious and refreshing berry lemonade with a cookie, while creating a keepsake piece of art for Mother’s Day at The Woodlands Children’s Museum. Cost is $5 per person, in addition to the cost of admission, which is $6 for adults and children one and older. 10am to 2pm.

2. On Sunday: Our friends at Pinot’s Palette are offering “Mimosas with Mom”. There is no one else quite like her! Whether your fondest memories are from your childhood or just yesterday, one thing is certain: a mother’s love is forever and always…Customize those messages on a special painting. Complimentary Mimosas while you paint!

3. On Sunday: Live Music with the Fab 5…and it’s FREE! This fun event is taking place at Northshore Park. Bring your blanket, picnic basket and lawn chairs for an evening of live music.

4. On Sunday: Celebrate Mother’s Day and National Bike Month by taking an hour long ride with your mom! Bike the Woodlands Coalition invites you to ride with them. Each mom will receive a special gift. More info here.

5. On Sunday: Dosey Doe Big Barn will host a Mother’s Day brunch complete with carving stations, an omelet station, pastries and Belgian Waffles, accompanied by live music from Conrad Kao and the Joe Burlison Trio. The event costs $42.95 per adult and $12.95 per child 12 years old and younger. More details here: www.doseydoe.com.

The Top Paint Colors for 2017

Each year, paint companies choose their annual colors to help you decorate and re-decorate your home to suit your tastes and stay ahead of the trends. Here’s what has been selected for 2017 by three major paint suppliers.

Benjamin Moore’s color of the year is Shadow, a deep blue-gray that, in different lighting, can appear to be closer to coal or amethyst. A great color to use for an accent (door frames, painted sconces, or mantle) or if you’re feeling very bold, an entire wall, Shadow coordinates perfectly with a wide selection of colors in the Benjamin Moore collection.

Sherwin-Williams chose Poised Taupe as their color for 2017. Touted as the perfect balance of warm and cool, this deep yet not dark gray is a great background color and coordinates well with most traditional décor and furniture.

Behr Paints takes things to another level by delivering limited-edition colors in coordinated color palettes to make your life easier. In 2017, there are three different palettes to choose from, each perfectly combined to flow throughout your home. The Comfortable palette features slightly more feminine colors in very muted pastels – nothing bright here. Perfect for creating a calming, “home-y” environment, you can mix and match soft rose with gray-blue and any other combination of the seven colors presented.

The Composed palette is perfect for sophisticated homes not afraid of deep color. The earthy tones here focus on blues and grays with a hint of brown, topped off with the accent color of a soft magenta. Use these colors as a backdrop to draw attention to stand-out furniture pieces. They go great with the popular brass fixtures and accent pieces that are currently in style.

The Confident Palette is bright and bold, with lots of yellow, orange and red tones. These colors are just right for an accent wall or to bring a splash of color to an otherwise understated space.

So if you’re looking for color inspiration for your new home or are redecorating, consider these colors as you design your new space.

Foundation Issues

The foundation of your house is quite literally the “foundation” upon which everything in your house rests. It is made of concrete and steel bars, designed to support the weight of your house, keep it stable, and maintain the structural integrity of your home.

You may have heard the term “watering your foundation.” This is a common practice in areas of North Texas and places that have very dry soil and drought conditions. Fortunately for us in the Houston area, unless we experience a very long drought, you likely won’t have to worry about doing this. Clay soil is found in the northern parts of our state and can dry out and crack, thus causing shifting to any foundation resting upon it. Special hoses, called soaker hoses with small holes running the length of the hose, can be placed a couple inches away from the foundation and run for about 15 minutes three or four times per week. Placing plants and shrubs close to the house will also help hold the soil in place and maintain its moisture, as well as protect the soil from drying out too much in the hot sun.

Cracks in your foundation can cause chimneys and brick walls to pull away from the house. When bricks get very, very hot, they expand slightly, thus shifting their resting position on the foundation. Most builders will place a piece of plastic between the foundation and the bottom layer of bricks to prevent this natural shifting from causing problems. If this shift does cause damage, it will most likely result in a corner crack (cracks in the foundation at one of the four outer corners of the house) that are wedge shaped.

According to TexasInspector.com, there are two types of foundation cracks that homeowners might notice due to cracks in their tile floors. If a single tile is cracked, or if multiple tiles are cracked but the cracks do not spread from tile to tile, then there is probably not a crack in the foundation. However, if the crack runs along multiple tiles, then there may be a corresponding foundation crack. The good news is that this type of foundation crack is typically not a structural defect and usually doesn’t require repair.

Some warning signs that your foundation is cracked and needs repair are: if you have a jagged crack in a wall that runs at about a 45 degree angle; if windows and doors get jammed and won’t open; or if you see a crack in the exterior of your house specifically above a second-story window. If you notice any of these or other suspicious cracks around the house, then get the advice of a reputable foundation repair expert.

Get Your Pool Sparkling For Summer!

Despite the mild April we’ve had so far in the north Houston area, anyone who’s lived here through a summer season knows the heat is coming very soon. There’s no better way to cool off than with a dip in the pool, so here are some tips to get your backyard oasis ready for lots of splashing fun!

• “Wash” your pool. This can be done with attachments to your regular pool net’s pole, like a rounded scrubber brush and a flat sweeper. Brush around the water line with vigorous strokes to wipe away any pollen and dust build up, ensuring you get in the crevices of the skimmers and around steps and ladder entry ways. Use the sweeper to go over flat surfaces like steps and then brush down the pool’s sides, sweeping everything towards the middle drain. This will help remove buildup that could cause stains and circulate the pool’s chemicals better.

• Clean tiles. Hard water stains build up along the water line and around water features over time. If yours are an eyesore, get a pumice stone and scrape away the stains, using diluted muriatic acid to help lift them (while wearing protective gloves!). For tougher stains, you can hire a professional to sand blast your tile to get it back to new-looking.

• Clean the filter. After a winter of collecting fallen leaves and other debris, your pool’s filter could use a thorough rinsing. Follow your pump’s manual and wash out the filters using a garden hose, then replace and add the appropriate media to re-coat the filters.

• Thoroughly clean out skimmer baskets. You may need to scrub them with the above-mentioned round brush to be sure to get in between all the spaces. Take a look down the skimmer’s drain and with the pumps off, reach down and remove any debris.

• Take a water sample to your local pool store and have them test it to determine which chemicals you’ll need to add to get the water to its optimum swim-ready state. It is likely that some algae has bloomed and your pH and chlorine levels may be off. Water hardness levels may also need modification.

• Set your pump timers and double-check that they are turning on and off at the desired times. A quick rule of thumb to set your pumps: take the first digit in the temperature and add one – this is the number of hours your pumps should run. For example, if your water temperature is 82 degrees, eight plus one is nine, so your pumps should run for nine hours a day.

Summer is just around the corner! Get your swimming pool ready for the fun days ahead!