11 June 2008

West University: The Starbucks Route

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Melissa from The Inspired Room recently hosted  a "drive by contest"- basically, she asked her readers to take pictures of their favorite neighborhood homes.   These are some of my favorite homes  I drive by while going on my daily Starbucks run.  I live in The City of West University, a small town  encircled by Houston.  Named for its location west of Rice University, we have our own mayor and city council, and our own fire and police department too.  We have all the benefits of small town living with big city conveniences.  It's the best of both worlds.     Calling the police for a missing cat or a bee sting isn't out of the norm.   We have curbside recycling and there's a park every few blocks.  Moving back to the big city isn't something we ever want to do, although we could, easily, become Houstonians simply by moving over only one block!

The City of West University was once filled with compact bungalows, inexpensively built for the returning WWII GIs.   The average lot is a small, postage stamp size of 50' x 100.'     For the past 25 years, West U has been in a building frenzy. Young professionals are lured to small town living because of its close proximity to downtown and the Texas Medical Center.     What was once a lower middle class neighborhood is now one of the more exclusive places  to live.   Ben and I were lucky to get into West U early, before we were priced out.  We've watched our street go from being almost exclusively small bungalows to now 90 percent new homes.    Old timers decry the changing landscape of our little town, but the vibrancy the young families bring to what was once an aging population, makes it hard to be against the regentrification.    When the rebuilding started, most people opted for red brick Georgian styled, two storied homes.  Now, the trend is to build with stucco instead of red brick and French instead of Georgian. 

Today, while driving to Starbucks and snapping photos of  my favorite homes along my route, I noticed that I am very partial to the new, trendy  kind of home:  stucco, French inspired, with a straight facade.  Three distinct items that my own home definitely lacks!  Interesting.   Enjoy my Starbucks Route favorites:

 

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This pale yellow home has gray shutters and french doors instead of windows. I love the way the wisteria grows over the arches.  The color combination hits home:  the interiors of my house are painted yellow with gray trim.

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Creamy stucco and arched french doors. I love the large, plank shutters and winding front walkway, bordered with irregular brick pavers.

 

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Gray stucco, arched french doors again.  I'm beginning to sense a trend in the type of house that I'm attracted to.   And it's for sale!

 

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Creamy stucco, gray trim, arched french doors.  This is starting to get redundant!!!   I love the neat rows of freshly clipped boxwoods.

 

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Ah, finally!  Something different!  Sort of.  This is a double wide lot so the house is somewhat atypical.   Half brick, half stucco,  wooden plank gray shutters.  I love the "front porch" off to the side with its wisteria covered pergola.

 

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Wow!  Non arched French doors!!!!!  I like the ivy growing up just over the lower half of the house.  And the window boxes on the second floor are romantic.  This facade is not perfectly straight either.   Notice how the single, shuttered window above the front door adds an element of charm.

 

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I like the front walkway with its concrete squares at the street.  I would put huge urns filled with trailing ivy on top of these.  I also like just the small touch of iron work above the front door.  

 

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I love the look of this house with it's one large gable.  The home has a charming, storybook quality to it.  Notice how their driveway has the same gate as the Wheat's house.  I like the irregular cobblestones of the front walk, too.  Uh oh - their tree looks as stressed out as my tree does!

 

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Because West U has such small town lots, front loading garages are popular, but unattractive, choices.    Here, this family tried to disguise the garage with wooden carriage doors.  I like the effort!   If this was my house though,  I would have narrowed the driveway considerably and paved it in stone or crushed granite instead of concrete.

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The City of West University used to be filled with bungalows just like this, until they were almost all replaced with two story homes.  Here, this family chose to update rather than demolish their WWII bungalow.  A new front porch, siding, and landscaping helps this little house compete with the big guys in curb appeal.

 

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Not all West University homes are stucco or French.  Here, a contemporary porch updates the brick and shingle facade.  To the left of the house, you can just see what is most notable about this house:  they purchased the lot next door, something which the fortunate do to increase their outdoor living space. 

 

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Here's what they did with their lot next door:  the owners remodeled the existing bungalow to resemble the main house.   They built a swimming pool on the extra lot and now use the remodeled bungalow as a pool house.   They also added a screened in porch with a tin roof, thus making quite a nice compound.

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The City of West University is known as the City of Trees - which you can plainly see why on this one corner.    The owners  purchased this small, yellow bungalow to preserve these great, live oak trees from someone else building a new mac mansion on the lot.   The tree on the corner is so huge that its limbs touch the ground.  Each Christmas, the owner makes a giant reindeer out of hay.  The two limbs on the ground become the antlers, which she strings with Christmas lights! 

When building a new house in West University, any trees removed are first inspected by our Forestry Department.   Each viable tree removed has to be replaced.  The tree's trunk is measured and the size of the replacement tree is then determined.  It's a very serious business, one which we faced when we built our own house.

 

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This charming house built on two lots was just completed.  It's not stucco, it's painted stone.  In the back yard,  there is a pool house and another small building that houses the cars, both outbuildings resemble the main house.  Landscaping was going in today.   Notice the arches over the French doors are made of red brick as is the front courtyard.

 

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Here's a glimpse of the back yard with the pool house on the left  and garage in the middle.  I love the cupola windows and slate roofs.  The back courtyard with the two outbuildings and swimming pool is the most charming part of the house -  it's a shame you can't see it through the brick fence!!

 

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The one that got away:  one day this house will be mine!  Renowned architect Kurt Aichler designed this house for himself and it's been sold at least three times since his family moved out.  He used antique elements in the design, starting with the front door.  I especially love the stuccoed front courtyard accessed through two antique iron gates, charming details that Aichler is known for.   The front lawn is especially large for a West U home.  Inside, the house is even prettier - it's been published more than once.

 

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Why?   When these owners recently painted their house screamingly bright cantaloupe, everyone scratched their heads.    Driving down the staid street, seeing this house wakes me up faster than the Starbucks!  Terrible!!!!

 

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WHY?????  Why build a home that resembles Versailles (and probably costs more to build) and then install  metal storm shutters over the windows as if your home was beach front, rather than being 50 miles away?   And if you DO have to install storm shutters - why keep them half down, half up?  The owners of this monstrosity play games with the storm shutters.  Each morning I drive by, different windows are covered by the metal shutters, while others are left exposed.   Today, the dining room shutters were raised up for some reason.  This house was under construction for over a year.  And still, they left the landscaping for the amateurs.  WHY??????

 

If you are thinking of buying a new home or building one, it's a good idea to go around your neighborhood taking pictures of houses that appeal to you.  Then, when looking at all the different homes together, a pattern should emerge of the details that you like.  This certainly happened to me with these pictures and I am not even looking to move.  

73 comments:

  1. this is insane goodness (well most of it). joni, You+Me+Starbucks+A Car to Drive-By and Critique= danger.
    I cannot believe Courtney didn't bring me to your 'hood while I was in Houston. (Wait, probably because I was only in Houston about 10 hours and was sleeping most of that time).
    Next time, can I come over and we can do drive-bys together???
    fabulous!
    erika

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  2. Thanks, Joni!!! We, in the 'burbs of Houston now can live vicariously through this blog. Every time I go to town, I become green with envy! West U. is lovely!!!

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  3. Fantastic post! What a great idea, I admit I live in an absolutely beautiful neighborhood and have lots of houses that would be fitting for this post. Maybe I will send some over.
    Lovely blog!

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  4. P.S. LOVED the scoop & history on West U!

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  10. OMG - scratch OUT my EYES! That last house is hideous! I'm not even as much concerned with the shutters as I am with that roof and the windows and the dormer! HOW AWFUL -it's like they started out with a nice stone and big french doors and then just gave up! I'm so sorry that is in your beautiful neighborhood!

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  11. Loved this look at your neighborhood. Thanks for taking the time to photograph all of this. I must admit my favorite is the pale yellow and gray. Beautiful!
    BTW, haven't you told all your Wisteria growing neighbors about the rodents? LOL

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  12. Oooo, how I SWOONED over this TOUR! Happy happy day for me!!! I'll link to this in my next drive by, this is TOO wonderful to not share! I love love it!

    Except that last place, how unfortunate.

    Happy drive by!

    Melissa

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  13. Erika better not be blaming me for her drive-by Houston trip! I begged her to stay longer.

    I love this post Joni! And I loved learning things about the neighborhood that I didn't know before. Such amazing homes - both the old and new!

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  14. I have got one for you ..214 Terrace(Houston)near Bayou Bend .....check out the front gate from Chateau Domingue...I heard that Veranda or Southern Accents just shot it..a Beauty

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  15. Well, be still my heart. These are all so beautiful! That last house with the storm shutters, though--cracked me up. How weird is that? -Julia

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  16. Joni, you certainly have one of the most beautiful drives in town. I especially like the house w/ the painted stone.

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  17. Love this post....in our neighborhood here on Long Island's North Shore, the same thing is happening with much worse results, just square giant brick boxes...and to think babe paley used to live here- so unfortunate. The last one is a doozy(sp?) it's almost as if the owners are in the storm window shutter business. lol.

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  18. Joni, You need to grab your camera and go get a Starbucks more often my friend! Tee hee Thank you sooooo much for sharing your lovely side of Houston with all of us!

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  19. Joni,
    I love the post. I love all the beautiful new houses in West U. However, I confess to sadness when driving through West U and River Oaks and see all the beautiful old homes being torn down. I toured the Kurt Aichler house on the West U spring home tour about 4 years ago. It was so beautiful!!! I wish I could afford an Aichler designed home!!!

    By the way I saw its your first anniversary. I love your blog, its the first one I discovered & the first one I check.

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  20. Thank you for sharing such a lovely tour of your neighbourhood. It is so quaint and green, just the way I love homes to be :)

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  21. You live in an absolutely fabulous neighborhood!!!! I'm a little confused by the house with the security shutters...I thought you were suppose to put them down at night only??!?!?! Thanks for taking us along on the tour!
    ~Des

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  22. What a beautiful neighborhood you live in...they are all so lovely! I only wish my surrounds here were half as beautiful!

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  23. The first step towards successful Home Improvement Remodeling is to find out how much your home is presently worth. The next thing you need to know is what is the top sales price in your area - for totally updated and refurbished homes - of the same approximate size as your home. The difference between the present value of your home and the ceiling price of 'like' homes in your area is your maximum home improvement remodeling budget for all and any works you plan to do around your home. http://contractor-remodeling-home-repair.blogspot.com.

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  24. Joni, I litterally had a tear in my eye when I was reading this post! Thanks for the trip back home :-)

    BTW, how *is* your tree doing?

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  25. Great post, great idea! Loved being a bug on the window of your starbucks run! I'm a avid reader, an american living in Italy... i've come to rely on your blog and others to make me feel at home and keep me up-to-date on design trends on the other side of the pond. here nearly all houses have electric shutters. they are used for security and for keeping rooms cool and shaded in hot months. i agree last house is a total eye sore, but more bc of landscaping than shutters. Could easily forgive the insertion of modern amenities if they held up aesthetic side of the deal and made it all blend together more gracefully. oh well, no accounting for bad taste.

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  26. Thanks for the comments everyone - glad most of you agree with that last one - uggghh!!!

    Andria - I was on that tour too!!!! We were probably there at same time. small world.

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  27. Gorgeous homes on your route to Starbucks, Joni.

    Once again, I've thoroughly enjoyed the tour.
    Pat

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  28. wow!... I love your city. These homes are very similar to ones in Collierville and Germantown, Tennessee. And I just found out that West University was developed by a former Tennessee Governor. If I ever need to move to the Houston area, my first choice would be West University for sure. Thanks for all the wonderful photos, im going to have to try this on my blog. I have always loved drive by's and not just the Christmas time ones. Well... now I have an excuse for taking pictures!

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  29. Joni, I LOVE the new list for blogging sites. Thanks!!!

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  30. Hi Joni
    Now I know why you are so addicted to your Starbucks "run". I had a chuckle visioning you stopping and getting all these pictures.

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  31. Oh, this is the kind of post I like - architectural design! Interesting observation about the move from Georgian style to French style. I am feeling the same change in my own tastes. There are a lot of Georgian style homes in Atlanta, but the current 'trend' is to paint the older red brick homes in a cream color, get new shutters (in taupe, soft green, or darker taupe), and voila: French!

    OK, I am going to have to do a drive-by post on some of my favorite neighborhoods of Atlanta! Did you take these pics with your i-phone or a regular camera? They look to crisp to be i-phone.

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  32. I meant...too crisp...I hate it when I make dumb typos

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  33. Sarah: I took these pix with my camera - but to be clear: these are houses on my daily route - just every day. I didn't go around taking the best or my favorites in Houston !!! I'll do that another day when I'm not getting Starbucks!

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  34. I so enjoyed the tour! Such elegant homes!
    Becky

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  35. This has to be one of my favorite posts. I love to drive around and look at the homes. You are a lucky one that's for sure to have these on your to Starbucks!

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  36. Wonderful tour -- thanks for taking us along with you! The house with the hurricane shutters really made me laugh -- looks like it is winking at the passerbys! LOL!


    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

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  37. Hi Joni!
    I have been over a few times, but have wanted to take my time and really enjoy this and your last post (I am at work, and am trying to avoid being "caught"!). Trouble is.....I am not finding the time this week to really settle in and read every little bit like I want to! Soooo...I wanted you to know I am enjoying both posts so much in fits and starts. I love the Palladian architecture in your hood! AND....I LOVE your new blogroll idea?! How did you do that? VERY handy!

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  38. Joni, you are hilarious. I love your rant about the house with the storm shutters. That is too funny. Well, at least it is entertaining each day to see what new combination of open and closed it will be.

    You have impeccable taste, my dear, and I would not be one bit diappointed with any of your selections, as I love them all too. There is a definite pattern here! I like your pattern favorite but I particularly like the style of that storybook house with the one big gable. Now that is what beckons me. But those big french houses you like are definitely more posh!

    Good picks! Love em all! You write the best posts!

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  39. I love the storybook gables. And I love the trend of the wisteria over french doors. Very beautiful.
    The Canteloupe & the last House look like ASS. Note to West University Planning Commission. Hurricane rolling shutters belong on commercial buildings and beach houses. Attractive storm shutters can be had cheaper than these.

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  40. Beautiful!! Thanks for the delicious eye candy ;)

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  41. "beach shutters"?

    non. Those are authentic working French volet.

    Look that word up in your French-English dictionary.

    Did you know you cannot secure home owners insurance in France without some form of the volet?

    I guess you didn't....

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  42. I agree with the last house. I also live in West U and have wondered about that house. They used left over pieces from the houses to form their landscape edging and cheap/dull flowers for the beds. So sad!
    And the screaming yellow/orange house - I heard they are rabid LSU and Texas fans - whole house decorated with UT and LSU stuff. So the house color is a "compromise" color - a blend of UT orange and LSU yellow.
    still terrible, though, i agree!

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  43. Must have a LOT of time on your hands Joni.

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  44. you know, i am seriously thinking about not letting any anon commentss anymore. I"m so freaking sick of you all. seriously. i don't care about fRance and whatever you call your shutters - here in Texas, those are storm shutters, ok????? and no I don't have a lot of time of my hands, ok????? I take some time out for blogging for your entertainment - if you don't like it - leave. I'm so sick of you!!! jeeez. be nice for once. I mean - why bother coming here if I am so annoying to you?????

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  45. Joni
    I always get the feeling when there are two or three negative anon's they are the same person trying to Rah Rah their own glass-half empty comment. Just ignore. No one cares about French volet in the U.S. No one likes metal storm shutters in the U.S. I assume folks who put them in HAVE to because of beach code or desperate measures because of hurricanes. Who would want the front of their house to have blackout metal shutters?? C'mon.
    Finally, this is YOUR blog. You can write whatever you want. Excellent post. Keep it coming.
    Sara

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  46. I came to your blog via Maryam's Marrakesh, and I love your houses entry. My preferences are closely aligned to yours, with the architect's house possibly my favorite. BUT I hate all of the front yards. Boringboringboring. Those expanses of grass and finely clipped lawns are so unimaginative and depressing. This king of generic landscaping is usually not ecologically sound either. Bring on the flowering bushes and perennials, I say !

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  47. While I agree that some of those houses are lovely, I don't think that using stucco is a good idea in our terribly humid and moisture-prone climate... It's very pretty, but a poor choice, ultimately, unless the builder has done an excellent job and doesn't take any shortcuts. I just hope that those homes in West U were stucco'd correctly (they should be, for as much as they cost!) and that the owners are sealing them on a timely basis to prevent any rot.

    What do you think, Joni?

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  48. Sara: thanks for the support. It just gets so tiring - the negativity. I don't mind truly negative remarks about what I say, but the sarcasm drives me crazy.
    thanks again
    Joni

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  49. Thank you for the memories! I once lived in Houston and worked in Bellaire. West U was one of my favorite neighborhoods.

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  50. The best blog on the internet!!!!! Don't listen to anon. The French are not known for being nice to us Americans anyway!!!! We've saved their A-- more than once in history and they can't even be polite!

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  51. How interesting with a drive by photo session! Amazing houses, some of them, and oh so different from the houses over here! Like your blog alot!!

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  52. Love your blog and love your West U. pics. sigh. I think every street in Houston should have live oaks spanning them.

    Say what you want to, Francoise, about our boring lawns. Here in the very hot Texas climate, the green is a cool, necessary relief to our eyes. I think the landscaping is beyond gorgeous.

    And thank you for showing the lovely side of Houston that most of the rest of the world doesn't see.

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  53. Joni, ahhhh, what a beautiful neighborhood. Must be nice to live in that beauty every day. I can see why you like to drive through those streets. Stunning homes!

    Rhoda

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  54. I LOVE your neighborhood, Joni! So pretty and charming. The trees ARE gorgeous and I love the prevalent style of the French stucco. Perfect!

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  55. The only thing I can think about the last house is that some very, very frightened people live there - they are using those for security, and probably forget to put them up in the morning. They should get an alarm system!
    Loved looking at these - my favorite styles and colours, too!
    Cluny

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  56. I love this post! It was so much fun to read...coming from someone who still lives in an apartment, I really enjoyed looking at your neighborhood houses now for inspiration for the future! (let's hope :)

    Emily

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  57. such a wonderful post! I'll have to do my favorites in Birmingham sometime soon.

    those last two are hilarious! I guess every neighborhood has one extremely tacky house :) makes the good ones look even better, doesn't it?

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  58. Joni,

    I am with you girl. How dare anonymous insult our favorite gal. You put tremendous work into your blog and it is much appreciated. Anon, why don't you find a new blog to post on. Gee, we poor, ignorant Texas hicks don't know nothin' bout French "volets", but Texas girls sure know something about manners. Anon's manners are atrocious.

    Joni, sorry for being a smart ***, to Anon. I guess we should feel sorry for someone who has so little in life they must criticize others and act so superior.

    Rock on Joni.

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  59. Aw - thanks Andria !! And thanks for your comments - i read them all but you don't leave an email address so I can never thank you properly. HOpefully you'll come back and read this!!! Thanks again for all your support.

    Joni

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  60. I enjoyed my route with you !It seems I was walking to the starbucks!

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  61. I love all of the houses you posted, Joni! Your neighborhood is definitely one of my favorites in the city. I absolutely love all of the old live oaks and the fact that so many types of architecture coexist so beautifully.

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  69. Hi,

    Nice pictures, the trees are protecting your buildings from smoke of the city. It is your duty to use of Ranch Fences to protect them and keep safety, thanks a lot.

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