Category Archives: Lifestyle

Summer Pool Schedule – Houston

Its summer time in Houston and the pools are open for some fun in the sun. There are 37 outdoor swimming pools and 20 water spray grounds throughout the city that will open in two phases.

In Phase 1, 20 select pools will open Saturdays and Sundays from May 25 – June 9, and on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. In Phase 2, all 37 Houston Parks and Recreations Department pools will open Tuesday – Sunday from June 11 – August 18. For the Fall swim schedule, 20 select pools will open Saturdays and Sundays & on Labor Day from August 24 – September 2. The daily hours of operation will be 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.,July 4th hours of operation are 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., Labor Day hours of operation are 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. The 20 water spray grounds are open year-round at park locations across the city.

For citizens with disabilities there is a heated indoor natatorium at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center, 1475 West Gray. The 5-lane, 25-yard heated pool is fully accessible by wheelchair and is equipped with a zero depth entry ramp, hand rails, and three chair lifts. Changing and shower facilities are available adjacent to the pool area. Participants are required to have independent functioning mobility skills or bring an adult attendant to assist, according to the city’s website for aquatics.

H.P.A.R.D. will off Water fitness classes at various pools throughout Houston at no charge. Fulltime lifeguards and trainers lead water fitness classes and FREE exercise periods for people with disabilities. Water fitness classes are offered at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center Monday – Friday.

Year-round swim lessons are available for adults and children. Pre-registration is required and must be complete prior to getting in the pool. H.P.A.R.D. staff will conduct initial safety screening in the water.

Online Registration
The Houston Parks and Recreation will be conducting FREE Learn to Swim classes at select municipal pools throughout the city during the summer. There will be 4 (two week) sessions available for children ages 8 to 17. Starting May 20 registration will be available online at https://activenet011.active.com/houstonparks, and onsite registration the first date of each class session if space is available.

Sessions
Session One
Session Two
Session Three
Session Four
Dates
June 18 – June 28
July 2 to July 12 (No class on July 4)
July 16 to July 26
July 30 to August 9

Class Days
Tuesday – Friday
Tuesday – Friday
Times
5:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
6:00 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.

Locations Address
Emancipation – 3018 Dowling, 77004
Greenwood 602 – Beresford, 77015
Hobart Taylor – 8100 Kenton, 77028
MacGregor 5225 – Calhoun, 77021
Oak Forest – 1400 Dubarry, 77018
Sharpstown – 6600 Harbor Town, 77036
TC Jester – 4205 T.C. Jester, 77018
Townwood – 3402 Simsbrook, 77045

All public pools will be closed Mondays throughout the summer.
All public pools will be closed Monday – Friday during the fall phase.
All public pools will be closed following Labor Day.

Agnes Moffitt (10645 Hammerly)
Denver Harbor (1020 Gazin)
De Zavala (907 75th Street)
Glenbrook (8201 N. Bayou)
Greenwood (602 Beresford)
Lincoln City (1048 Grenshaw)
MacGregor (5225 Calhoun)
Memorial (6402 Arnot)
Moody (3201 Fulton)
Northline (6911 Nordling)
Reveille (7700 Oak Vista)
Sagemont (11507 Hughes)
Sharpstown (6600 Harbor Town)
Stude (1031 Stude)
Sunnyside (3502 Bellfort)
T.C. Jester (4205 West T.C. Jester)
Tidwell (9720 Spaulding)
Townwood (3402 Simsbrook)
Westbury (10605 Mullins)
Wilson Memorial (100 Gilpin)

ALDI expands to the Houston market

Aldi's Sugarland location before their soft opening.
Aldi’s Sugarland location before their soft opening.

Myra Griffin
The Houston Sun

ALDI opens up nine discount grocery stores on April 11, 2013 in the greater Houston Area. On April 9th the ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the Sugarland store located at 10402 Hwy 6 South, Sugarland, TX 77498, where a large crowd gathered waiting to see the inside of the new addition to their community.

ALDI is a discount grocery that has been in business since 1976 with locations primarily in the Midwest and East. Branching out into Texas three years ago starting in Dallas, ALDI opened 40 stores in North Texas. Now the Houston market is next to join the ALDI shopping experience and is slated to open nine stores on Thursday, April 11, 15 total by the end of the year and 30 in two years time. The areas that will welcome the new stores will be Pearland, Katy, Sugarland, Humble, Pasadena and Spring. Based out of Batavia, Illinois; ALDI has about 1200 stores.

“We serve all demographics and income levels,” said Karla Waddleton, Director of Operations, ALDI Sugarland. “Our customer is a smart shopper who wants to save money and they’re able to save money with us. If that means they can buy more groceries or save for an extra vacation that year that’s what we find successful.”

What makes ALDI unique from other grocers is primarily price. Their claim is to have the highest quality at the lowest possible price. Upon taking a tour of the store with an ALDI representative, The Sun found the produce is extremely competitive in price and that helps keep ALDI in the competition.

“Many national grocers are leaving communities. I’m so excited that there is a national grocer that is coming into this market that looks for communities, sees the value and opportunity and makes a big capital investment in those communities,” Grady Prestage, Commissioner of Precinct 2 Fort Bend. “I hope the community will reciprocate and support the store and as the store grows so will the community.”

ALDI is thriving in Dallas and has high hopes for the 2ND largest market in Texas which is Houston. “We really think we are going to do great here for the same reason since there are so many smart shoppers in Houston that want that same high quality product and value,” said ALDI representative.

ALDI offers a different shopping experience that allots a quick and cheaper run to the store. The shopping experience of ALDI is quite simple, its stream line shopping, five aisles, a quick shop and once customers get to know the ALDI exclusive brands you’re in and out in pretty much a flash. Customers can grab a cart through the quarter cart system, which representatives say, saves on paying someone to gather baskets.

“Carts aren’t in the parking lot dinging cars and it’s a simple quarter deposit put quarter in do your shopping bring cart back put the chain back in and it pushes the quarter back out,” according to ALDI. “ALDI operates on a smart business model that allows them to have lower prices. It starts with the way the products are displayed, we have an open palette display, efficient workers, easy restocking methods,” said an ALDI representative. “We don’t take credit cards so that saves on cost. We only accept cash, debit, EBT, but no checks. We encourage shoppers to bring their own bags. It’s an eco friendly approach and it saves on baggage clerks and if bags are forgotten they can buy an eco friendly bag for $1.99 or a very durable plastic bag for ¢.10.”

Customers also have to bag their on groceries which provide savings that allows the store to have such cheaper prices. Special buys change weekly that are range from 20 to 40 non- food products. The products are advertised either on Sunday or Wednesday depending on the location in the circular. The products change weekly and are seasonal such as rugs, pillows, Swiffer wet jets, steam mops by Easy Home, vacuums, air conditioning filters, shelving, and gardening appliances.

ALDI’s food source is sourced locally whenever possible while partnering with the nations leading food suppliers to get the freshest and most high quality products. They have their chocolates and wines imported from various places such as New Zealand, California, Argentina, Germany and most bottles are priced $6.99 or less.

The have fresh meat, although there isn’t a butcher on site but it is pre-packaged at the ultimate fresh standards with a 25-50 percent price difference. ALDI’s cheeses range from standard to gourmet especially with the new selected line that debuted in the beginning of April. Happy Farms, an ALDI brand, is everyday cheeses and cold cut cheeses. ALDI also has a fit and active line which is low calorie, lower sodium, lower fat and that weaves throughout the store in selections such as lunch meats, salad dressings, and frozen foods. Prices are cheaper as you will see prices like a $1.89 for a gallon of milk, and .79 for a dozen eggs. These are every day and continuous for these prices.

ALDI stores carry mostly their own exclusive brands and that’s another part of this whole efficiency model and how the savings come back to the customers in the end. ALDI produces their own product along with their partnership with food suppliers. ALDI has award winning products such as 14 of their wines, Lullabies Moist Wipes, Nature’s Nectar Juice, Moser- Roth Dark Chocolate Collection, Savoritz Sea Salt Pita Bite Crackers, Belmont Turtle Pie and many more products.

“We have a test kitchen at Batavia, the headquarters which is 40 miles west of Chicago. We have test kitchen chefs that rigorously test the products every day to ensure they’re meeting or exceeding the quality of the name brands,” said an ALDI representative. “When they do they are approved to be put on the shelves for our customers.” For the food that doesn’t meet or exceed the national leading brands such as M&M’s or Pringles they have them in store.

ALDI is confident in their products and offers a double guarantee of its food products. If you try a food product and think its not up to your standards you can bring it back without a receipt and be refunded in cash and given another product of equal or lesser value. The ALDI theory is maybe that particular one is a miss but you’re going to love something else.

All nine ALDI discount grocery stores are open throughout Houston. The locations are 10402 Hwy. 6 South, Sugarland, TX 77498, 2009 S. Mason Rd., Katy, TX 77450, 11510 Broadway, Pearland, TX 77584, 6900 FM 1960 East, Humble, TX 77346 , 13340 Tomball Pkwy, Houston, TX 77086, 2302 FM 2920 Rd., Spring, TX 77388, 5930 Fry Rd., Katy, TX 77449 and 4140 Fairmont Pkwy, Pasadena, TX 77504.

Juneteenth: Here now and forever

Myra Griffin
The Houston Sun

Juneteenth is right around the corner and the festivals and pageants are in full swing. Beautiful black women and handsome black men, young and old are ready to celebrate the activities that surround the holiday.

After 148 years of Juneteenth’s, the holiday has blossomed from just a day of celebration in Galveston, Texas to a state holiday that many other states have adopted and weeks long events that lead up to the big Juneteenth day celebration.

Centuries of history ties into the day of Juneteenth. The enslavement of African American’s ancestors is a history that cannot be taken lightly and the emancipation of those slaves is a monumental moment in American society that has set off a chain of events that can still be felt to this very day. But one thing those freed slaves and their descendants had was a spirit of joy and that joy caused jubilation for their freedom that has kept Juneteenth thriving for 148 years.

“In Marlin, TX the community or families would come together and celebrate. They would kill a hog or other stock and prepare a big meal and eat,” Lorenzo Lucas, Jr. No one worked on Juneteenth. You may have worked on July 4, but never on Juneteenth. It was an important celebration that was eagerly anticipated each year in the community.”

Year after year the African American community has to remember and decide whether they want to celebrate their past hurts, pains and triumphs. Over those years the climate of the country has changed and the reminder of slavery and the oppression of those with the African traits in America has gone cold but once a year Juneteenth comes and in the back ground you can hear James Brown’s “Say It Loud” playing and in the attitudes of the African Americans all around.

“Juneteenth is freedom, celebration, love for my people its exciting it’s a historical event we tend to belittle and it’s one of the most important days to celebrate and we should celebrate. It also means watermelon, red soda and fun,” said Sister Momma Sonya.

Although the climate of Juneteenth is evolving like any tradition does after a 100 years there are people who still see the need for Juneteenth and not just for one day.

“I celebrate because it’s an honor that African Americans have their own holiday where we can celebrate that we were no longer legislatively enslaved. It gives an opportunity to talk about the history, about the slavery people don’t want to talk about,” said Sister Momma Sonya. “There are many wonderful stories about our ancestors and we have to tell that tale and once you see the things our ancestors went through we have to celebrate the end of that era.”

Sister Momma Sonya is a “her-storian” who researches and teaches the history of the African American culture. She spoke about the anticipation of the slaves not knowing what this general had to say when the slaves were going to hear General Gordon Granger read the General Order #3 to emancipate the slaves in Texas.

“Can you imagine the anticipation of not knowing and going to see what is going to happen and when General Granger reads that proclamation and says their free. So what happens next, no jobs, no place to go, and can you imagine the emotion, they had been enslaved all their lives, someone told them when to get up, when to go to bed, what they can eat, working hard and not get any money, seeing their babies, children everything taken away from them and now all of a sudden their free. What kind emotion does that bring out and I love to celebrate Juneteenth to talk about those emotions. To let people know as African Americans ,we have been through so much. Juneteenth represent the insurmountable odds we’ve been through like an ushering in of a brand new era,” said Sister Momma Sonya.

The brand new era has transformed time and time again and no its 2013 and we have tons of African Americans walking around and are not aware of what a Juneteenth is. Filmmaker Isaiah Fanuiel went around the country asking random people what did they know about Juneteenth in his documentary “The New Juneteenth”. The responses varied and for every person who had some knowledge there were two who had not a clue.

“I’m from Galveston where Juneteenth started and I grew up celebrating Juneteenth all my life. I never knew what it really was so as for my self and like many other people we just celebrated and knew that it may be something for black people about slavery but not really have an understanding about what it really means,” said Fanuiel. “I think that if you don’t have an understanding of what Juneteenth means then you really don’t get the issues that we as black people may be up against with the history of this country so if you don’t really understand Juneteenth and the history of slavery then there are so many other things you don’t get and don’t understand.”

Through his travels Fanuiel saw people of various ages that were not knowledgeable about Juneteenth and that raised concerned for them as he made educated them on the meaning once it was clear they didn’t know.

“We have to teach our kids, we can’t just let this part of history disappear. Naturally when we have something that is so atrocious like the institution of slavery it’s natural to not want to get into it and not to want to talk about it but we can never forget that part of history,” said Fanuiel.” I mean we were enslaved people for over 200 years and we’ve only been free for 148 years at this point. That’s why I think Juneteenth is that day that America should celebrate and commemorate the end of slavery not just a day for Texas. It has to be at some point a come together and unify to make this day the day we celebrate freedom.”

Fanuiel’s goal is to unite nationwide versus the format where communities come out and celebrate individually or collectively.

“In Crocket, TX and in Houston the community would come together for a big celebration. There would be barbecue, soda water and of course watermelon,” Florence Daniels, a 92 year- old Texan. “The boys would play baseball games against the neighboring communities such as Augusta. After the game there would be a big dance. Everyone who could get off work would do so. It was a big community celebration.”

There are still celebrations going on throughout the towns as Galveston is still celebrating with their parade, Juneteenth pageant and the reading of the General Order #3 at Ashton Villa.

“In recent years there has been Juneteenth celebrations for many years and it has shifted to more than just Juneteenth but really a week or two of celebrations,” said Dwayne Jones Executive Director of Galveston Historical Foundation. “One thing that has been fairly consistent is the reading of the General Order #3 at the county court house or at some location in Galveston or at a place what is called now Reedy Chapel and it wasn’t called Reedy Chapel in the 1870’s but it’s the same location of the building. It’s always some type of celebration around food, other speeches, discussions and political actions and what that means for African Americans. It has always been various events but they always have those components.”

Ajee Long, 18 and a native of Galveston County, competed in the Galveston area Juneteenth pageant 2013 voiced concern that the younger generations are losing their appreciation for Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth is becoming a faded tradition because the younger generations are losing respect for the work of the slave and no one is trying to teach them any better,” said Long.

Long’s concern is has not gone unnoticed as Sister Momma Sonya and Isaiah Fanuiel both expressed the same sentiments about the lack of enthusiasm about Juneteenth.

“I think Juneteenth is becoming a fading tradition and I don’t know if it’s because we are ashamed of our history or is it because of a lack of knowledge of our history,” said Sister Momma Sonya. “I have heard so many say they don’t want to talk about it anymore or there are new things they need to talk about and all that slavery stuff is old. People not knowing their traditions, history and maybe a little fear because if we know about our past we will have to confront who we are now and plan for the future and that can be a scary proposition.”

Fanuiel echoed Sister Momma Sonya as he too thinks Juneteenth is fading in a sense as there isn’t much press coverage on it and he doesn’t feel that America has embraced Juneteenth as a celebratory day.

“I think we are scared to touch on race and I think that’s definitely an issue in America and when we touch on race the issue is so sensitive and so controversial and it makes so many people shy away it,” said Fanuiel. “Juneteenth is a celebration. It’s a treasure for the country to embrace the history through celebration. It’s like a hidden treasure and once we get it and embrace it, it can really do some good for the country.”

The question is where do we as a country go from here? How do we make sure Juneteenth keeps thriving and pumping through the minds and hearts of the descendants? Sister Momma Sonya suggested that communities get more organized and involved with one another to plan Juneteenth activities, to have a big Juneteenth calendar, To keep teaching the children the stories and the history, to never forget the meaning of the celebration. Isaiah Fanuiel wants the whole country celebrating Juneteenth by 2015 to commemorate 150 years of the celebration and for African Americans to not be ashamed of it and learn the valuable lessons being taught by their ancestors being enslaved. Ajee Long has hope for her generation as she believes that people should go back to telling the story of the slave to family and friends and going back to the “old ways” by throwing parties in their communities and having different activities that center around the history.

Juneteenth 2013 will not go unnoticed as there are many celebrations and events going on throughout Houston and all the down to Galveston. Emancipation Park will hold activities throughout the week ending on Juneteenth day, Galveston will do the same and 4th Ward will be holding a celebration as well. Many will barbeque, eat watermelon and drink red soda while giving an oral history to their loved ones at their homes while others will pilgrimage to Ashton Villa and stand in unison as they hear the reading that brought tears, hope and dreams to enslaved Africans who soon would be Americans over 148 years ago.

The crusade to end chronic homelessness in Houston

Myra Griffin
The Houston Sun

The city wide initiative to end chronic homelessness has become a pressing issue for Mayor Annise Parker. On May 15, 2013, Parker gave a report on her findings from a survey taken as volunteers and herself canvassed the streets of Houston taking account of the homeless in order to see how they can service them.

More than a 160 volunteers, Council members Adams and Costello as well as the mayor went out surveying and chronicled each person according to their own specific needs and specific problems and history.
“We announced January 2012 we were going to have an intensive focus on homelessness in Houston and we are going to make a difference in homelessness. We intend to end chronic homelessness in Houston and we are going to put in place a three part plan to do that,” said Mayor Parker. “We have to have the resources in place first then the outreach and then what we hope to have a success placement for the chronically homeless in Houston.”

There are more than 8,000 people across the city that is homeless. The main focus is to place the chronic homeless first which is approximately 2,000 people.
“We are trying to identify and prioritize the most vulnerable homeless individuals and place them into permanent housing and provide services and treatments around that housing to make sure that we don’t make it easier, better or more comfortable to be on the street we make it possible and imperative that people get off the street,” said Mayor Parker.

Registry week deemed successful as the homeless were asked 33 questions off of a questionnaire that resulted in a list of 847 chronically homeless individuals classified and pin pointed so the city knows exactly who and where they are and what their specific needs and services.

“We did learn some things such as out of the 847 chronically homeless individuals interviewed 18% were veterans, 15% were women, 20% had been victims of some form of domestic violence, nearly half have identified mental health issues, nearly half suffer from one or more serious chronic health condition such as kidney disease, diabetes, liver failure, a third have been victims of a violent attack since becoming homeless and a third are employed despite sleeping on the streets every night,” said Mayor Parker.

Parker also rolled on with the statistics of how the homeless soak up city resources in the criminal justice and medical system. The city has received data that 50% of the homeless go to the hospital and emergency rooms for healthcare, 964 visits went to emergency room care in the last three months, 695 visits ended up as inpatient hospitalizations in the last year and 81% of the homeless have been jailed for unpaid tickets.

The information gathered, which was a part of Houston registry week that is encompassed with the national 100,000 homes campaign, has already gone into use by the Houston Police Department homeless outreach team and many other organizations. The goal is to access all 2,500 chronic and near chronic citizens in the very near future, according to the Mayor.

“We have started to place some of our most vulnerable into permanent housing with supportive services,” said Mayor Parker. “It’s not just hey we find you an apartment and give you a key and you’re good to go, you have to wrap services around it. We already have five we’ve interviewed and they will be in housing by the end of the week. We are continuing forward momentum on homeless veterans and our next goal is to house 300 more veterans in the next 80 days to go through the list identified.”

Mandy Chapman- Semple, the Mayor’s point person for the Homeless Initiatives in the city added more information as she thanked the Coalition for the Homeless, Health and Human Services and the Houston Housing Authority.

“The registry was just the first step in our three part plan and the next step is really about creating more supportive housing opportunity and really bringing the services to these units and individuals so they can stabilize long term in this housing,” said Semple.
The assessment used during the registry will now be used on a daily basis by homeless outreach teams so as they encounter individuals they didn’t find during registry week they will be assessed and placed according to their vulnerability and needs. The assessment will also be accompanied by their picture

The Housing Authority’s focus will be on finding the units and buildings and providing the housing subsidy. The services that accompany housing the homeless is the problem that still needs to be worked out.

“Homelessness is down one quarter and it’s not as simple as I just need a place to sleep,” said Mayor Parker. “We have shelters all across the city that isn’t always adequate in number for shelter with beds but there are options and opportunities.”

Services will be tailored to the problems of the individual and the most severe will be handled first. The city will not force anyone into an apartment. This is an opportunity for the chronic homeless to find stability in a residence and with supportive measures.

Mayor Parker announces 2014 city budget

Myra Griffin
The Houston Sun

Mayor Annise Parker released the 2014 proposed $4.9 billion budget for the city of Houston on May 14, 2013 that will go into effect on July 1, 2013. Mayor Parker continues her emphasis on jobs and development, public safety, quality of life, infrastructure and fiscal responsibility as she maintains that the budget will not require a tax increase.

The budget has made provisions to finish restoring the services that were cut or rolled back due to the economic issues of the city. The city has also completely funded their Rainy Day Fund which is $20 million strong with a 7.5% allocated reserve which is above the 5% mandated amount, and pensions, health benefits and mandated pay increases for city employees are included as well.

“This budget proposal builds upon the progress of the last 3.5 years,” said Mayor Parker. “We’ve cut waste, made city departments more efficient and balanced every budget without raising taxes.”

Jobs growth is a national issue that always hits home first and Mayor Parker continues to work at providing employment opportunities for Houstonians as she will stay connected with Hire Houston First. According to city data, within the programs first year more than $139 million of city business was awarded to certified firms, sustaining more than 6,000 jobs. The city has attracted more than $2.2 billion of economic development since 2010, generated 250,000 jobs, exported approximately $300 billion in locally-produced goods and services and has issued permits for construction on nearly 74,000 single family homes.

Majority of the money looks to be heading towards public safety as the report shows that’s where two- thirds of the general fund budget will go.

“More than $2.2 million is included in this budget proposal to fund operations of the city’s new public safety radio project, which is improving the city’s capability to communicate with Harris County and surrounding jurisdictions when fighting crime or responding to natural disaster,” said the Mayor’s office.

Public Safety will include the creation of a Forensics Transition Special Fund to keep separate and account for the costs with the Houston Forensics Science LGC which has been under scrutiny for years about its methods and outcomes. This venture will help with the effort to establish an independent crime lab, and will push forward with the elimination of the DNA backlog. The city also will proceed to do more demolitions of dangerous buildings.

The city has added a General Fund line for the first time for infrastructure and the amount is $2.5 million which is representing approximately 2% average annual Capital Improvement Plan for Public Improvement Programs for infrastructure maintenance, renewal and replacement. The city has already invested $180 million has already been invested in drainage and street improvements. In the fiscal year 2014 additional progress on replacement f city information technology and fleet infrastructure which has been underfunded for years.

“These dollars will be used for upkeep to existing city facilities, such as libraries, community centers and neighborhood fire stations, to help avoid the deferred maintenance issues identified in the recent facilities assessment,” said the Mayor’s Office.

The quality of life for Houstonians remains a hot button issue and Mayor Parker in her efforts to clean up the city while going green, has doubled the houses that use single- stream recycling from 100,000 to 200,000. The first part of the expansion will start in July when 35,000 households will be added and then another 70,000 will be added later in the year. The stream recycling will be easier and convenient as all recyclables will go in one big bin. Mayor Parker emphasized the high priority for the planet but it will also be a long term financial investment and it will help preserve the landfills.

“The expansion will impact neighborhoods citywide rather than be limited to one specific area of town,” said Mayor Parker.

The city also prepares for the completion of the new adoption center, the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Control will include an increase in funding for $693,683. There will be progress made on the Bayou Greenways that will link parks and trails throughout the city and the budget will also include revenue for the Mayor’s initiative to end chronic homelessness in the city which has cost the city over a million dollars in the past.

Fiscal responsibility for the city remains on the minds of Houstonians as it affects the quality of the life they live within the city. The city is making the steps to have more transparency with their finances. They have included $676,000 for financial controls and audit capabilities.

“I feel like I spent my first term in office plugging holes in a leaky boat, but the boat stayed afloat and now we have the funds to take the boat and put up a new sail and I’m very excited about this,” said Mayor Parker.

The mayor’s financial plan is set and will begin in the middle of the summer. The Capital Improvement Plan for the fiscal years of 2014 through 2018 will coincide with the proposed budget and will have the same emphasis with infrastructure and public safety.

SPRING CLEANING

Arial Coates
The Houston Sun

It’s that time of the year again! The weather feels just right and what better time than now to get your house into tip-top shape. Just in time for mother’s day, spring-cleaning is an old time favorite. To add on to your own tips, but here are some that are guaranteed to spruce up your home.

Clean Your Gutters
Over the long winter holidays your gutters are sure to collect all kinds of leaves and rainwater. Grab yourself a ladder to climb and a shovel to thoroughly clean gutters and downspouts with. A properly working gutter directs water away from your home. If you happen to see any leaks or damage drainpipes, replacing your gutters would be highly recommended. Also, using covered gutter systems such as Leafguard can help keep your gutters clean and cut down on maintenance

Service your heating and cooling system
Make sure you have your heating and AC system checked on once spring starts. This is to ensure it will work properly through spring into the summer.

Apply fresh paint
Your house’s paint job can withstand a lot but not everything is weather resistant. If you detect any part of the house a few shades lighter than before, a fresh coat of paint is the answer. The freshly applied paint will be a refreshing sight to look at.

Do a spring- cleaning of your pet’s stuff
Spring-cleaning should be extended to all members of the families including the furry ones! Go through your pet’s things to find the items that are damaged or dirty beyond repair. If you must throw something away be sure to replace it quickly

Examine all your fire extinguishers
If you don’t have one, now would be a great time get one. And for those who already have one make sure you check the expiration date on them (yes the really do expire). If they have, don’t delay on replacing it.

Do a switcheroo!
Pick a room and try changing it as much as possible. Take that old bookcase out and try putting in a new chair. A new room can bring about new, wonderful feelings. Also try maximizing your space.
Give your property a brand, spanking new look!
During the winter months your lawn can take a beating. Have a refreshed lawn for spring by getting rid of any debris or trash that may be lying around. Also cut down any trees or bushes that have grown since the fall.

Give your draperies a bath!
Drapes collect more dirt and dust then we would like to believe. If possible, put them in the washing machine. You’ll be surprised at how much cleaner they’ll look (they’ll smell better too!)

Check your roof for possible damage
It’s easy to forget about your roof (like who really goes up there?). But after the winter months a check up is needed. Grab your ladder and look for cracked, broken, and missing shingles. Note any serious issues and get in contact with a local roofing specialist.

Inspect siding and windows for leaks
Be sure to look at your windows and the siding all around your house. If you see a crack, address it now! Do so before the problem gets worse and you can save yourself a lot of time and money.

Don’t let spring shock you!
If you have any failing sockets or flickering lights call an electrician immediately! Waiting could be detrimental to your house- and your wallet.

Upcoming Events

The Southeast Houston Transformation Alliance will sponsor the AWE Celebration on
Saturday April 20, 2013 at three locations, MacGregor Park, Park at Palm Center and
George T. Nelson Park from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. The focus will be Arts, Wellness
and the Environment with a plethora of events and presentations taking place. The event
is free and there will be a free shuttle service for seniors and the disabled. For additional
information please contact Gwen Fredrick at 713-520-5232 or gdredrick@nrcdc.org.

Loving Houston and the Union Baptist Association will hold their Equipping Institute
on two upcoming dates. On April 13, 2013 at Mount Ararat Baptist Church at 5801
West Montgomery Road, Houston, TX 77091 and on May 4, 2013 at Mount Hebron
Missionary Baptist Church at 7817 Calhoun St., Houston, TX 77033. The Equipping
Institute will have featured speakers from throughout Houston that will speak on many
different issues ranging from Substance abuse and Mental Illness, Transforming the
Community, Understanding Ex- Offenders to Repentance and Preparing the Heart.

Lily Grove 20th Annual Health Fair & Walk

Lilly Grove Missionary Baptist Church is sponsoring their 20th Annual Community
Health Fair and 4th Family Fun Walk/ Run on Saturday, April 20, 2013. Check in for the
Family Fun Walk/ Run will begin at 7:00 am. The Health Fair will begin at 9:00 am and
conclude at 12:00 noon. The event will be held at the Wendell Neal Memorial Family
Life Center located at 3495 Alice St., Houston, TX. Health related exhibits such as
cholesterol and glucose screenings, live aerobic demonstrations, healthy eating and much
more will be featured. The event is open to the public. For more information, call 713-
748-7324

Prairie View Nurses Scholarship Luncheon

Prairie View Nurses Alumni Chapter is sponsoring its 30th Annual Scholarship Luncheon
on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at Brady’s Landing, 8505 Cypress Street, Houston, Texas
77012. The luncheon begins at 11:30 am and guest will be seated at 11:00 am. The
proceeds from this event will fund academic nursing scholarships and support the College
of Nursing. For ticket information contact Denise Smith at 713-829-3498 or Sandra
Felder at 832-244-7523.

A grown folks tale

Rebecca K. Roussell Director, Public Affairs Communications Nielsen
Rebecca K. Roussell Director, Public Affairs Communications Nielsen

I’d like to share a love story with you. It’s probably not the kind you’d expect. The characters in this story are not sultry women and manly men. They are tablets, like iPads, eReaders (electronic devices that allow you to digitally read books, magazines, etc.), and other mobile connected devices. But, I promise I’ll make it interesting.

Once upon a time, oh, way back a year ago (which is, in fact, a long time as technology seems to evolve at warp speed), Nielsen’s quarterly survey of smartphones, tablets and eReaders reported that men and younger folks dominated the tablet and eReader ownership market.

The survey showed that 62 percent of tablet owners were 34 and younger, and that those in the 55-plus crowd made up only 10 percent. But, old man time came along, and showed what a difference a year makes! By the second quarter of 2011, the percentage of users over 55 jumped to 19 percent; while the number of young’uns who owned tablets dropped to 46 percent, according to Nielsen data. While men (still by far) prefer tablets more than women, 61 percent of women have taken an affinity to eReaders, up from just 46 percent this time last year.

Smartphones are the darling devices and are pretty evenly split between men and women. To break down our love affair with smartphones even further, Nielsen research shows that 40 percent of all of U.S. mobile owners over the age of 18 own smartphones. And, of those, Android is now the most popular operating system (40 percent) edging out Apple’s iOS (iPhones), which came in second with 28 percent of all smartphone owners. I heard you gasp! Surprised weren’t you? What’s a story without a twist?

People across the land are pretty passionate about their smartphones. I’ve witnessed some conversations that almost take on a Hatfields vs. McCoys quality between devotees of the iPhones vs. the Android. But wait, there’s more. There’s a new sheriff in town – er, uh, a new device in town. I told you I’d make it interesting.

While the iPhone may be behind in the smartphone market, additional Nielsen research shows that the iPad continues to dominate the market in the United States in the tablet race; even with the introduction of new Android-based entrants to the field almost everyday, like the Samsung Galaxy and the Motorola Xoom. So, now people may have the Hatfields and the McCoys living harmoniously in the same house. And, the manufacturers across the land are of course pleased as punch with this co-existence.

So, we have all of these cool toys. How are we using them? Households with mobile connected devices as well as desktops or laptops were asked which device they use more since they acquired a tablet: 35 percent of tablet owners report using their desktop computers less often or not at all, while 32 percent of laptop owners say they use their laptops less often or not at all and 27 percent of those tablet owners who also own eReaders reveal that they now use their eReaders less often or not at all.
As is often the case with any story there is a damsel in distress. And, in this story that would be me! I own both a Kindle and an iPad2, but I prefer to cuddle up in bed with a good book.

But, I’m clearly in the minority because according to Nielsen, 61 percent of eReader owners are snuggling up in bed with one of any number of eReaders, rather than a conventional book. Somebody save me! The eReaders are taking over; bookstores are rapidly closing down (a moment of silence please over their demise. No really, ssshhh). But, I remain steadfastly devoted to the smell of freshly printed books and the feel of actual, not virtual, pages between my fingers. So, I’m holding out hope against hope that books won’t go the way of the dinosaur, the eight track or VCR!
Of course, people are not just reading in bed (mind out of the gutter people, it’s not that kind of story). Research reports show that we enjoy playing with all of our technical toys while supine as well: 57 percent of tablet owners and 51 percent of smartphone users are using them in bed, and 70 percent and 68 percent of tablet and smartphone owners, respectively, use them while watching TV.

The moral of this story is whether you’re reading this column, holding the paper in your hands, or skimming it on your smartphone, tablet, eReader, laptop or PC; keep reading! Because knowledge is power. The End.

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com