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Real Estate news & info

11 Jan

Want to know what is happening in central Texas real estate? Then subcribe (free) to Maureen Rooker’s Real Estate Advisor.

“Maureen Rooker” <>
Informative and interesting

What Passes for Honey on U.S. Shelves

8 Nov

This is a story worth passing along from Care2 Daily and is especially important to people with allergies.

What Passes for Honey on U.S. Shelves

A beekeeper overheard me talking about a friend who had moved to California’s Bay Area and was suffering from allergies she had never experienced before. “Local honey,” the beekeeper prescribed. “It has pollen from plants her body may be reacting to. A teaspoon a day should help her.”

Over-the-counter allergy remedies were making my friend groggy, so I bought a jar of honey and passed on the suggestion to her. The worst I thought could happen is that she would enjoy the taste of local honey. (At the time, I was unaware that some people have allergic reactions to particular pollens in honey.) As it turned out, honey did the trick, much to my friend’s relief.

Tests by Food Safety News Ring Alarm Bells

Anyone hoping for similar results will be disappointed with three-quarters of the honey found on U.S. grocery store shelves. Food Safety News bought more than 60 samples from 10 states and the District of Columbia. They sent the jars, jugs and plastic bears to Texas A&M University, where Vaughn Bryant, director of the Palynology Research Laboratory, analyzed them.

Bryant is a palynologist, someone who studies spores and pollen. He is also melissopalynologist. That’s someone who studies honey pollen. No one is more skilled than Bryant, who spends half his professional life doing forensic pollen studies.

What he learned in testing for Food Safety News should make every honey consumer wary. His key results:

  • 76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed. These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.
  • 100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.
  • 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.
  • 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s and KFC had the pollen removed.
  • Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the full, anticipated amount of pollen.

Why It Matters

Pollen-free honey may not sound like a problem, but without pollen it is not possible to trace the source. Food Safety News reported last August:

A third or more of all the honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. A Food Safety News investigation has documented that millions of pounds of honey banned as unsafe in dozens of countries are being imported and sold here in record quantities.

No pollen, no traceability, no assurance of safety. Furthermore, when pollen is filtered from honey, so are many of the health benefits such as allergy relief and the nutritional value of vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients in bee pollen.

The Food Safety News test results come just as the EU has decided to order honey producers to test for the presence of unauthorized genetically modified pollen and to identify pollen as an ingredient rather than a natural component of honey.  Industry spokespeople fear the ruling will put many small-scale beekeepers and honey producers out of business.

The irony is that while Food Safety News is raising the red flag over the honey supply found on U.S. shelves, the EU may be making it impossible for its honey producers to keep the health benefits intact. For that, we have the vigilance of a German amateur beekeeper (who identified small amounts of GM pollen in his honey) and the steamroller spread of GM crops to thank.

For honey lovers who want nutrition, health and safety along with sweetness, farmers’ markets and organic honey producers offer the only reliable sources.

Victims Unit seeking volunteers – deadline Sept. 12

29 Aug

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 in the Hutto News

Want to help your community? This is not an easy way but it can be rewarding and is very necessary.

Whether helping find shelter for those displaced by fire, helping find services and comforting crime victims or informing someone of the death of a family member, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department’s Victim Assistance Unit (VAU) does it all.

But now, they’re looking for additional volunteers to join the staff of approximately 40 trained volunteers specializing in crisis intervention for survivors, witnesses and families who have been traumatized by death, serious injury, crime or natural disaster.

A new training session is coming up in September. The deadline to apply is 5 p.m., Sept. 12. Classroom training is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 17 and 18.

Applications are available at the Williamson County website, wilco,org.

Volunteers must be at least 21 and, above all, must “have big hearts and are willing to help,” according to Victim Assistance Unit Volunteer Coordinator Julie Hobbs. Volunteers must also be able to pass a background check, have a valid Texas driver’s license and commit to one year of service.

“They provide something that was missing for a long time in the law enforcement world,” Hobbs said. “When someone responded to a call, whether for police, fire or EMS, or if something horrible had happened to a family, they left that scene filling like there was a missing piece. When the (VAU) was created, they were able to provide those services, fill in that missing piece.”

The volunteers of the VAU provide support and services for homicides, suicides, attempted suicides, natural death, death notifications, fires, child abuse, elder abuse, family violence, sexual assaults, traffic accidents, general welfare concerns, violent crimes and other natural disasters.

The volunteers respond to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, helping people through the immediate crisis and through the first difficult hours afterward.

The volunteers remain with the victims in the immediate aftermath to provide temporary support and to provide referrals for further assistance, Hobbs said. The volunteers work with people in high-stress situations and often provide comfort or a shoulder to lean on, she noted.

“They have to be able to comfort someone and provide information and resources under very, very high-stress situations, which are often very emotional as well,” Hobbs said.

Volunteers don’t have to have a background in victim assistance — the department provides all the necessary training — but they do need to be good people who can help people, Hobbs said.

Volunteer Jerry Coffman of Thorndale didn’t have a background in assisting victims when he and his wife, Marlene, began volunteering five years ago.

“We had some free time and we saw a(an ad) about it at the theater there in Taylor,” Coffman said. “it sounded like something we wanted to do and so we looked in to it. We saw it was a very well-run program, so we got involved.”

Volunteers remain on call for 12-hour shifts one day a week, Coffman said. He is on call from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Friday, while Marlene is on call the same hours every Wednesday.

“It’s very rewarding, but you know when you go out on a call you’re helping someone on the worst day of their life,” Coffman said. “Whether they’ve been involved in an accident, or telling someone their loved one has died, or going out where someone has died, we never know exactly what we’re getting into.”

One recent example of what the VAU does was the recent fire in Leander in which 15 homes were destroyed and 189 more were damaged. Coffman said he was out there helping people get into shelters and getting them basic necessities.

“We’re involved in just about anything where we can help people,” Coffman said.

For more information or to obtain an application, call (512) 943-1374 or email

Avoid house slab problems

28 Aug I just found the link to the Houston Engineers videos. I hope everyone can find this helpful! Watch both videos, I believe they both have systems to offer in deeper clay soils.

I am a Texas Professional Structural Engineer with over 25 years experience inspecting and evaluating the structural performance of slab-on-ground foundations in the Greater Houston Area. I produced the first video on this page. The second video was produced by others.

City foresight proved right

9 Aug
Today is day 56 of 100 degree plus temperatures in Central Texas (the all time record is 70 which will in all likelihood be broken this month or in early September).
The City of Hutto has ample water and no restrictions at this time thanks to our contract with Heart of Texas Water… we are; however, burning up along with everyone else!
When Hutto first put together the contract with Heart of Texas Water there were a lot of critics, and many complaints about the costs, especially in the beginning. There were also those who were upset that then County Commissioner Frankie Limmer owned a part of the water company (5%) and had brought the deal to Hutto. Well, now and most likely next year, and perhaps for years to come, the city has been proved right! Hutto has abundant water, even during a record drought.
This does not mean it should be wasted though. Be prudent, conserve water – – it is a finite resource that is too often taken for granted and never should be wasted.