Little Free Library on Highland: Inspiration and creativity in a box by Michael Graves

When the Little Free Library on the corner of Highland and Michaux (946 Highland) opened for service in 2014, the first books donated came from the collection of the library’s founder, Laura Meadows. Her title in the Little Free Library movement is “steward.”

The Little Free Library movement began in 2009. Today, there are some 50,000 Little Free Libraries in the U.S., and in 70 other countries. In addition to Laura’s library, there are two others within the boundaries of Woodland Heights, with others located in nearby neighborhoods.

The operating concept of the libraries is simple: “Take a book. Leave a book.” Stewards like Laura operate the exchanges and maintain the libraries’ premises (usually, but not necessarily, a wooden box). Laura’s library is decorated for Halloween and has recently undergone roof repairs and a refreshing paint job inspired by the Jackson Pollock technique.

Creativity and innovation by way of community involvement have kicked in for Laura’s library. When she sorts donations, she finds not only books, but other objects as well, especially toys. “It’s become like a toy exchange,” she said. Toys that have been donated range from GI Joe dolls, stuffed animals and toy vehicles to finger puppets. People sometimes leave videos. Donated books have not been limited to English. There have been books donated in Spanish, French and Korean, among other languages.

In the sorting process, Laura sets aside materials that are not suitable for placing in a Little Free Library. She does not circulate books of a religious nature or X-rated publications, for example.

When someone leaves an actual library book belonging to a public library (we cannot refer to such a book as a donation), Laura tries to get the book back to its proper place. Books belonging to Houston Public Library and Harris County Public Library systems have turned up in her library, as have books from other states.

Due to the volume of donations, Laura has added “an annex” (a box on her front porch) to house classics. An anonymous library supporter installed a set of steps to help small kids reach the library’s entrance. Big kids like to visit the library, too. “Skateboarders stop on their way to wherever they’re going and check out the library,” Laura said.

Children’s books are donated and withdrawn in greatest quantity. Weekly circulation (book turnover) is normally 20 to 30 units. “But occasionally, I get an entire library.” That happened when a woman donated the library that had belonged to her recently deceased mother.

Anyone may take a book from her library, but what you may not do is request a “hold,” a service provided by Houston Public Library. If you are hoping to find a favorite title or genre, it will be up to you to visit the Little Free Library frequently.

Little Free Library is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, whose mission is to promote a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world. Most Little Free Libraries are placed in front yards, parks, gardens and other easily accessible locations. They are built to withstand weather and to hold 20 to 100 books. To learn more, visit

P.S. - In the pictures you'll notice a small stool. This was donated by a patron of the little library. They needed it to get access to the books, and felt that other might appreciate it as well. It's become a permanent feature of the installation.

More Toys For Houston Kids! by Michael Graves


By now you know that this year's Lights-in-the-Heights Gala features a toy drive. We've partnered with the City of Houston Fire Department's Operation Stocking Stuffer to collect toys for families in need across Houston.

The LITH Gala & Toy Drive is presented by Boulevard Realty, on November 4th, at the fabulous new Elan Heights building at 825 Usener.

Tickets to the Gala are just $75 and an new unwrapped toy.

Your support of the Gala sustains Lights-in-the-Heights, the cities' premier holiday festival, and helps put smiles on children's faces all across the city.

Want to do even more good?

Big Blue Whale Toys & Curiosities on 19th street have offered to match any toys purchased for contribution to the Gala. Visit their shop and choose from their excellent selection of toys and games. Tell them that you're buying them for the LITH Gala and they'll match your purchase! That's two smiles for the price of one! It's a chance to do twice a much good.

What are you waiting for!

Gala tickets are available from the Woodland Heights web site at:

State of the District Breakfast with Rep. Carol Alvarado by Michael Graves

State Representative Carol Alvarado will be holding a State of the District breakfast on Saturday, October 14th, 2017 at 9:30 am. The event will be held at:

Houston Community College Southeast
Learning Hub Auditorium
6815 Rustic, Bldg D
Houston, TX 77087

Topics to be discussed include:

  • The 85th Legislative Session
  • Special SessionUpdate
  • Transportation Updates
  • Crime & Safety Updates

For more information call 713-649-6563 or email

The 4th Annual LITH Gala & Toy Drive by Michael Graves

In these extraordinary times of Houston’s recovery, Woodland Heights Civic Association hopes to promote the strength of Houstonians and help get everyone’s life back to normal. Therefore the Lights-in-the-Heights Gala, the event that funds Lights-in-the-Heights, will still go on!

LITH 2017 Anniversary logo 4-600px.jpg

Mindful of the devastation thousands of Houstonians have suffered, we had reservations about diverting fundraising dollars away from Hurricane Relief. So, the LITH Gala will be abbreviated, this year.

Gala tickets have been reduced to $75, and all who attend are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy. Toys collected will be distributed to families in need through the City of Houston Fire Department’s “Operation: Stocking Stuffer”.  

Hoping to reduce the burden on already stressed businesses, we are eliminating the raffle and silent auction, and limiting our requests for in-kind donations. 
The Gala and Toy Drive is presented by Boulevard Realty. We are deeply grateful for their continued support. Other returning sponsors will include Sonoma Wine Bar & RestaurantKagan CellarsEureka Heights Brewing Co, and Pennebaker, Inc. All of our sponsors are more than just monetary or in-kind donors; each has shown genuine love for our community. We are profoundly thankful for their support.
The 2017 LITH Gala and Toy Drive will be a gathering of good company, wonderful food and drink, and a joyful celebration of the holiday season!  Please join us on Saturday, November 4th, from 7:00 until 11:00, at Elan Heights—825 Usener Street at Watson. Valet parking included in ticket price, gratuity greatly appreciated

Tickets can be purchased in the store at the Woodland Heights web site.


New YOTM Signage by Michael Graves


The very attentive among you may have noticed that the most recent Yard-of-the-Month story differs from past YOTM stories. It's the first showing of a new Yard-of-the-Month sign.

The WHCA wanted to let the neighborhood know that our old Yard of the Month sign for the neighborhood, which served us so well for many years, has finally given up the ghost. The new design is based upon an arts and crafts drawing featuring the Dard Hunter rose that was so popular at the turn of the century when our neighborhood was built.

If you have any ideas about homes to be considered for Yard-of-the-Month please send your suggestions to

YARD-OF-THE-MONTH: 931 BAYLAND by Michael Graves

Yard of the month goes to Eric and Bianca at 931 Bayland for their sculpted shade garden.  It is filled with English ivy ground cover, mature well trimmed live oaks, and artfully arranged river stones, sand stone pavers, and gravel.  The curved front sidewalk and cleverly constructed raised beds only add to it's Zen simplicity.  


Two Neighborhood Families Approach to Disaster Relief by Michael Graves

It's been heartening to see communities across the city rise up to help those in need. Here's just one little example, copied from a post on Next Door.

"Hey neighbors! The Craigs and the McConns are having a lemonade and brownie stand this afternoon starting at 2:30. We'll be in front of the Craigs' house at 943 Omar. All proceeds will go to benefit victims of Hurricane Harvey. Please stop by, say hi and get some treats. See you soon!"

Pictured above (left-to-right) are; Mila Craig, Arianna Espana, Hollis McConn & Kellen McConn.

According to neighbor Beth Allen-Brock,"The brownies were delicious!"

Everyone helps in their own way, and every little bit helps.

Post-Harvey: FEMA Guidance on Rumors & Scams by Michael Graves

It was bound to happen. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey there have come to be some rumors and even outright scams with respect to various issues facing people impacted by the storm. Fortunately, FEMA has assembled a web page with some great guidance on these issues.

Here are a couple of key takeaways from this guidance:

Flood Insurance - September 1 Deadline

Rumor: There are reports individuals must file a flood insurance claim before Friday, September 1 because a new Texas law goes into effect that day and all claims filed after Sept. 1 would be negatively impacted.

This rumor is FALSE. (August 30)

Texas State “House Bill 1774,” passed by the 85th Texas Legislature, does not affect flood insurance policies or claims. Flood insurance is provided through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was created by Congress through the passage of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968. The NFIP is a federal program subject to federal law, so this new Texas state law will have no impact on NFIP policyholders.

Flood Insurance Premiums - Robo-Calls

Rumor: There are reports Texas residents are being told (via robo-call) their flood premiums are past due and in order to have coverage for Hurricane Harvey they need to submit a payment immediately to a website.

This rumor is FALSE. (August 30)

Insurance companies and agents selling flood insurance policies do not use this process to communicate with customers about their flood insurance policies.  In fact, if your payment is past due, your insurance company will send you several pieces of mail 90, 60, and 30 days before the policy expires.

If you receive a call regarding your flood insurance policy:

Hang up the phone. Don't press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. Just hang up.

Then contact your insurance agent or insurance company immediately to verify the information. Or call 1-800-638-6620 if you have a policy with NFIP Direct

Garden Enthusiasts Hosted by Woodland Heights Naturalist by Michael Graves

Members of the Heights Garden Club were guests on July 8 for a garden tour at the home of Carolyn and Richard Hall on Bayland. Richard is a known in Houston and along the Gulf Coast as an artist, author, naturalist and conservationist. He and Carolyn are enthusiastic “urban farmers.”

During their visit, guests were able to experience the “farm” while gaining hands-on learning.

Following are some of the practical lessons and demonstrations Richard shared.

  1. For optimum result, plant those species known thrive in the Gulf Coast climate. For example, the Halls have a Mexican sabal palm in their yard. “This tree is native to the Rio Grande Valley, so it thrives in Houston,” Richard said.
  2. To build soil for your garden, practice the art of composting. Richard uses everything except animal material for composting. “Animal material is a no-no for composting,” he said.  But grass clippings are excellent. Richard picks up bags of freshly mowed grass left by landscapers at large buildings after a mowing session. The grass is bagged and waiting for pickup, he explained, adding  “Sometimes the landscapers help me load it.” To prevent the grass clippings from souring, you should first spread the material out and let it dry. Regularly turn the organic material in your compost pile as you add material. Finally, you sift the composted material.  What comes out of the bottom of the sifter is excellent soil. During this point in the tour, Richard demonstrated how he sifts. The visiting gardeners were invited to put their hands into the newly sifted soil.
  3. To get fresh eggs, use poultry science. Each hen in the Halls’ coop has her own personality. Richard and Carolyn know each hen by name.
  4. Conserve water by collecting condensate to water plants. A typical central a/c system pulls about a barrel of water an hour out of the air. Instead of that resource being wasted, the Halls use the water from their a/c to water their gardens. One of their barrels, which has a capacity of 25 gallons, fills up twice a day.

- Rosie Walker, Woodland Heights resident since 1975.

About the Heights Garden Club

According to its website, “The purpose of the Heights Garden Club is to nurture an active gardening community in the greater Heights area of Houston, to share the love and knowledge of gardening in the peculiarities of our Gulf Coast climate, and to restore, improve, and protect our neighborhood’s environment through educational programs, demonstration gardens, and by promoting the incorporation of organic practices, native plants and edibles into the urban landscape. And have fun doing it.” For more information, visit

About Richard Hall

Richard Hall is a resident artist at The Silos at Sawyer Yards, across I-10 from Woodland Heights. To learn more about his work and background, visit Then scroll down to #134 (the location of his studio).

Yard-of-the-Month: 402 Euclid by Michael Graves

Yard of the month goes to Mary and Peter at 402 Euclid at the corner of Florence.  Their yard is a beautiful blend of old and new with a mature Yaupon Holly with old fashioned Aspidistra underneath, several blooming crepe myrtle trees, holly ferns, and some great climbing fig ivy.  The wisteria on the front fence is in vibrant bloom which stands out beautifully next to the foliage of their cypress tree.  Looking forward to going back in the fall when the maple tree turns colors along with the red fruit of the nandina.

Central City Co-op: An Alternative Shopping Experience by Michael Graves

I get overwhelmed with the number of choices there are these days for eating healthy. Prepared meals in the supermarket, delivery services of prepped ingredients, personal shoppers who will go by your list and either have it ready for pickup or deliver it to the house…  So many options!  But we keep returning to an old favorite each Wednesday afternoon- Central City Co-op- in their current home inside Kindred Church in Montrose at 2515 Waugh Drive.

Order pick up is available currently at 6 different locations each Wednesday, including EQ Coffee on Heights Boulevard and Heights of Health on Frazier.  Travis Elementary parents can also pick up in the Community Room during the school year.  This gives Woodland Heights households a lot of options.  Our family still prefers to go to the Waugh storefront, where the kids can learn from the volunteers and maybe meet a farmer, and the adults can ask about recipes or share stories with old and new friends. 

Central City began in Houston in 2001 when a group of friends, led by local vegan food pioneer Pat Greer, decided to order boxes of organic produce from a local distributor and a small farm in Wharton (Gundermann Farms), dividing up the bounty on the front porch of Pat’s house.  

One of the best things for our own family has been the flexibility of the Co-op.  For our annual membership fee of $60 (which you can earn in sweat equity by volunteering), we have access to the weekly share of farm produce in 3 different sizes, plus 2 different sizes of fruit share.  The “share” is the portion of the weekly buy that Co-op staff put together each week.  They work with 12 different local farms plus a supplier of national organic produce.  Each week, they select for seasonality and freshness.  Sometimes that means a lot of eggplant and greens, but the national supplier is a great source of things that don’t tolerate July in Texas.  

Because the shares come in different sizes and we are not obligated to purchase every week, it’s easy to tailor our purchase to our family’s needs.  More fruit for lunchboxes for school and work when we need them, and a smaller share when we travel or know we will eat out a lot.
In recent years, the Co-op has added locally sourced meats, farm eggs and cheeses from the Houston Dairymaids.  Seasonally, they also have fresh bread baked by the volunteers at Kindred Church.  Co-op volunteers also make jams from unsold fruit.  Jars of fig, muscadine grape, citrus and strawberry come and go with the seasons.  Volunteers also staff the co-op.  I served on the board and worked in operations for many years, though now I serve primarily as a jam making volunteer.

Being members of Central City Co-op has provided our family with food and friendship for 15 years.  Our children have learned to eat a wide variety of vegetables, and appreciate freshness and seasonality.  I have learned to cook things I had never seen before, and learned so much about our local farmers and food entrepreneurs.  We encourage you to visit the co-op either in person on Wednesdays from 9 to 6 at 2515 Waugh street inside the fellowship hall at Kindred Church, or any time online at

- Tiffany Tyler, Woodland Heights resident since 1997

METRONext Community Open House Thursday, August 17, 2017 by Michael Graves

METRO will be hosting a METRONext Community Open House meeting on Thursday, August 17, 2017 at Montie Beach Community Center from 6:00PM – 8:00PM. We want to hear from you!

A Critical Plan for a Changing Region

Population in the greater Houston region will increase from 6 million today to nearly 10 million in the next 20 years. That raises a lot of questions about how we will live our lives and get to places we need to go. METRO wants to plan now for a transportation system that meets the needs of our continually evolving, dynamic and diverse region.

As we embark on the creation of METRONext, the new regional transit plan, we want to know what kind of transit system would best meet the needs of you and your family. Whether you currently use public transportation or not, we want to work with you to find solutions that best serve residents, communities, businesses and visitors. Imagine the future with METRONext.

Opera invites one and all to visit them at Lambert Hall on August 19th by Michael Graves

Opera in the Heights will host its first Open House in historic Lambert on August 19th from 9:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. Lambert Hall is located at Heights Blvd. at 17th Street.

It will also include free live opera performances every 20 minutes, plus a chance to meet Opera in the Heights singers.

The event is free to the public. The Open House will be a chance to experience firsthand the behind-the-scenes magic of Opera in the Heights.

Highlights for the event include giveaways, popcorn, face-painting, social media contest, opera costume dress-up station and photo op, an opera coloring sheet station, as well as breakfast bites from neighborhood eateries. Opera subscriptions and ticket discounts can be purchased during the event. For more information, visit

Lambert Hall was formerly the sanctuary for Heights Christian Church, now located on northern portion of block of Heights Blvd. between 17th and 18th Streets. 

Greater Heights Super Neighborhood Council Meeting, July 31st by Michael Graves

Super Neighborhoods are a way for the City to rationalize the way council interacts with the myriad of civic and neighborhood associations across the city. Woodland Heights Civic Association participates in the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood Council, aka Super Neighborhood 15.

GHSNC15 is hosting a public meeting Monday, July 31st, 6:30pm at the Historic Heights Fire Station, 107 W 12th St, Houston, TX 77008.