Friday, November 24, 2006

Video of the House

You can see a youtube video of the house here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Protected Landmark

Our House, as I have mentioned before is on the Nation Register of Historic Places. The impact of this on us, is nonexistent.

But Houston has recently passed a more forceful Historic Preservation ordinance. Now, just so that you don’t think that this violates the Takings clause of the Fifth Amendment, rest assured that this designation cannot be imposed on a property by the city, it is requested by the owner. The subsequent owners of the property must abide by this designation, but that will be inculcated in the price of the property when it gets sold.

The “Protected Landmark” status prevents the destruction or modification of the property without the city’s approval. This is the first time that the City of Houston has instituted this sort of control.

All structures that are already on the National Register of Historic Places are “pre-qualified” by the city for consideration for Protected Landmark status. And we had all the paperwork that was used to gain a place on the Register. We submitted that to the (de facto) City Historian, Randy Pace, and that was about it.

Last week I received an e-mail from the city that our house would be considered for Protected Landmark Status at the next Houston Archeological and Historical Commission meeting. Our house was one of only two being considered for Protected status. There were about 30 or so others being considered for Landmark status, but that does not confer any additional restrictions on the property.

I can understand people’s reluctance to apply for the Protected status. It may reduce the value of the property when you sell it. We struggled with the same issue. But then we thought about all the houses and buildings in Houston that we have seen torn down, and how the city can me a much more interesting place had those structures survived.

We decided that it was sort of “our part” to place our house on the Protected list.

Terrance said that “Charity begins at home” We believe that charity begins WITH our home.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


We drove up to the Antique Rose Emporium near Brenham yesterday. It is about 80 miles from Houston. I took a vacation day, but Doreen had the day off. They get off City of Houston holidays. It was Veteran’s Day. (well, TODAY is really Veteran’s day. But today is Saturday, so they got yesterday off)

It is a nice drive. When I first moved to Houston in 1980 it was a lot different. The freeway ended inside the city, and there were many, many lights on the highway between Houston and Brenham. There was even part of the road that was two lane. Now it is all four lane, and most of it is limited access. I think that the first light you come to is in Prairie View. Maybe even past that.

We got off in Chappell Hill (famous for sausage) and had lunch at place called Bever’s Kitchen. It is a nice little café with good pies (The staff wears t-shirts that say “Try our Pies”). I had an excellent burger and Doreen had the fried catfish. We split a cherry pie. A la mode.

We then rode the last 20 miles or so to the Emporium. There were very few people there. I only noticed two other patrons. It is a big place, with a huge selection of roses.

We bought five roses. One climber, three busy, and one container rose. We also bought some herbs. Parsley and thyme.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I recently had the joy of reverting back to a simpler life. I am not sure that I will stay here, but it was fun to be here for a while.

My Isomac recently decided to fry all its wiring. I understand that this is not an unusual occurrence. The failure was interesting, being presaged by my GFI outlets popping. I should have known that something was wrong.

But I didn’t until the whole unit went south. So I was stuck without an E61, but with a bunch of Costa Rican peaberry roasted and in the bin.

The first thing I did was go back to my trusty old French Press. It was fine, if inspiring. The thing about espresso is that there is no substitute .Sure, you can get some nice flavors from the press, and yes, the roast worked well, but I was looking for something with a little more depth. I think that around it is referred to as going to hell in a hand basket (as in: Here’s your hand basket)

So I reluctantly retrieved my old La Pavoni Europiccola that I had purchased back in 1998 after a trip to France. (long story). There is nothing wrong with the Pavoni. As a matter of fact, I was saving it to give to my brother. But he was going to have to drive here from Milwaukee to pick it up. He has not yet done so.

I got the machine down from its perch above the refrigerator, cleaned it up, and filled it up. I reviewed the “Chrome Peacock” pages just to make sure I would remember how to run the machine. (I did). I filled up the boiler and fired the switch.

The machine worked like a champ. It came up to temperature quickly and the steam wand sounded like an old locomotive. Good enough, and I shut it down.

The next morning was the test. Again I fired up the boiler. It sang like it should and gave me more than enough steam to get the small bit of milk nice and foamy (macchiato, you know).

I ground the coffee on the Macap stepless to the same grind as I was using for the Isomac. I charged two filter baskets (these are tiny. The whole machine is small – each basket only holds about 7 g of coffee) and was ready to go.

You have to picture the Pavoni. Remember, this is a “springless” level machine. You provide all the pressure. If you don’t have the grind exactly right the lever is either impossible to pull, or falls of its own accord. In either case, the liquid produced is not worth drinking.

I locked in the portafiler and started to pump. You bring the lever handle up half way six time, and then on the seventh pull to take it all the way up. You hold up the lever and watch the water drop in the level glass – when it stops dropping the water is fully charged. That takes about ten seconds.

Then you pull it down. Perfection! It was a smooth, heavy pull with nothing but crema coming out the bottom. I quickly pulled off the portafiler and was rewarded with the Pavoni Sneeze. No three way valve! What mess. But I cleaned it up and loaded the other filter basket. Another perfect pull. We were off to the races.

My lovely bride said it was the best coffee she has had in years.

The Pavoni is inconvenient and messy. It is very sensitive to grind and humidity. It is easy to burn your espresso.

But when you get it right, it is heaven in a cup.