August 31, 2010

no. 3: my girls

No. 3: My girls

My mom and and sister each came to visit me while I was in Texas. They're perhaps my two best friends in the world, and having them here was amazing.

My baby sister Sarah came to visit in December. While she was here we hosted the "Third Annual Bad Sweater Party: H-Town Edition."

It was fantastic.

We also went on a Ross shopping spree, checked out NASA, and I took her to Galveston to wade in the ocean for the first time.

The only downside of the visit was that somewhere along the way, we ate something bad and both got food poisoning. Just in time to not be fully hungry still by Christmas.

One of the best parts about going back to Lincoln is that I will get to be with my sister more, and I'm so excited.

My mom also came to visit in the spring. (Dad joined us eventually that weekend, but I'll get to him later.) Once again, we checked out NASA, but we went to the Kemah Boardwalk instead of Galveston. I think it has to be one of my favorite places I've been in the Houston-area.

Mom always gives me good advice and support, so spending time with her was just what I needed.

August 30, 2010

no. 4: getting trashy somewhere classy

No. 4: Getting Trashy Somewhere classy

Living in The Woodlands means I am close to The Waterway, a really need stretch of bars and restaurants. It's more upscale than many of the other bars in the Houston area.

My favorite spot on The Waterway by far is Goose's Acre. It's right on the water, with a fantastic outdoor seating area (except it's too hot and humid to sit out there during the summer).

Other favorite spots include Crush, an awesome wine bar (with one level on the roof), and Baker's Street. The crowd at Baker's Street is like a cross of what you'd find in a college and and old person bar. Sometimes, the people there are so absurd, but the people watching is always good.

The best part about these bars... they're only minutes from my home, which means I could get my drink on without having to worry about a long drive.

August 29, 2010

no. 5: at the boil

No. 5: At the Boil

On the Gulf Coast — especially when you get close to Louisiana — crawfish is considered a delicacy.

Since I started working in this area in November 2008, I've eaten a lot of crawfish. But, it's always been a restaurant, and always out of its shell.

But this spring in Spring, I went with my good friends Amber and Heather to the Spring Crawfish Festival. At the festival, you buy boiled crawfish by the tub.

It was my first time dealing with crawfish this way, so I got some advice from Amber, a Galveston native.

I didn't do too badly!

After the crawfish, I tried another fair specialty for the first time: a fried Snickers bar.

It was entirely too delicious.

And to finish the day, frozen margaritas - in a pouch that goes around your neck! So handy.

August 28, 2010

no. 6: the 'skers

No. 6: The 'skers

Being away from home this fall was hard. It was the first time I'd been away from Nebraska during Husker football season.

I was home with family to go to the first game of the season, but I needed a place to watch the second. I found it at the SRO, where the Houstonians for Huskers meet for every game. Some of us were Nebraska natives and alumni, others were just big fans.

We cheered in good times and did rally shots during the bad. And it was always a lot of fun.

In addition to being a way for me to watch my team with people who love them as much (or almost as much as me), there were also a lot of fun moments. I won a t-shirt (which was a child's size, so I sadly could not wear it), and I also got to watch one of the games with special guest Mike Rozier. Here I am pictured with him.

All in all, it was nice to have an adoptive Husker family away from home.

August 27, 2010

no. 7: trouble with a capital "t"

No. 7: Trouble with a capital "T"

... And that rhymes with "D" and that stands for Drink Houston.

Everyone has their Everest, that mountain, that challenge they want to overcome. And since moving to Houston, my challenge has always seemed to be Drink Houston.

Sometimes, there are no words. This time, I think I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

August 26, 2010

no. 8: twi-hard: with a vengeance

No. 8: Twi-hard: With a Vengeance

I'm an obsessive person by nature.

When I was three I got really into "The Little Mermaid" and watched it a million and one times. When I was 14, I fell in love with "N'SYNC" and devoted my life to reading everything I could about them.

It's no wonder that when I finally gave into pop culture pressure and watched "Twilight" in October 2009 I was hooked.

I had no intention of ever reading or watching the saga, but one night in early October I was at Redbox and figured what the heck. It was, after all, October, and vampires kind of seemed like the way to go. I went out the next day and bought the book and its sequel, "New Moon." By the next weekend I'd purchased "Eclipse" and "Breaking Dawn," and the rest is history.

By this summer, I'd joined the cause and bought a "Team Edward" shirt, and was asking my friends to have a "Twi-hard" marathon with me. In one night, we watched "Twilight" and "New Moon" at home before going to the theatre to watch "Eclipse" (for the second time each).

So here's to you, Stephenie Meyer, for giving me something to have in common with teenagers around the world, and to you Robert Pattinson for giving me inappropriate thoughts (but hey, he's a couple months older than me, so I'm not robbing the cradle).

August 25, 2010

no. 9: you know, for kids

To commemorate the past 14 months of my life, I will countdown my top 10 "Most Memorable Moments," as a Texan.

No. 9: You Know, for Kids — My day as a volunteer at the Houston Children's Festival

In April, I had the opportunity to give back to my community as a volunteer at the Houston Children's Festival. In addition to being a weekend filled with fun, educational activities for families, funds raised at the festival benefit Child Advocates, Inc.

A little background on the festival from the press release:

Designated as "Houston’s Official Family Celebration," the Houston Children’s Festival, presented by Baker Hughes, is gearing up for its 22nd year as Houston’s favorite family outing. Scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, April 10 & 11 from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., the event takes place around City Hall, Tranquility Park and Sam Houston Park in downtown Houston. Designated as one of the “World’s 300 Unmissable Events” by Frommer’s Travel Guides, the festival is expected to attract an expected attendance of 50,000 plus people.

I worked the Saturday afternoon shift at SABIC Monster Math Zone. I work with SABIC Americas, Inc., and their Houston-based office to produce an employee magazine three times yearly. They are great clients and the employees consistently find ways to give back to the community. This year, as we pieced together an article about the event, I decided I wanted to get involved and help, too.

During my shift, I ran the geometry booth. For hours, I supervised children as they used geoboards to make shapes. I also asked visitors to use their knowledge of shapes and space to calculate how many of an item fit in a jar.

By the end of the afternoon, my feet hurt, my throat was hoarse and I was hungry. And I'd had a blast.

I also had good feedback from several of the parents throughout the afternoon. Many asked me if I was a teacher in my "real life," and I took that as a compliment. For years I planned to be a teacher and have the upmost respect for that profession. It got me thinking that maybe I should consider teaching as a future career move.

Most importantly, volunteering at the festival reminded me of how much I enjoy community service. I plan to do more of it in the future.

August 24, 2010

no. 10: home and away

In 10 days, I leave Texas for home, for good, for now.

Although Sept. 2 marks the end of my career as a faux Texan, I have made many memories along the way. To commemorate the past 14 months of my life, I will countdown my top 10 "Most Memorable Moments," as a Texan, beginning with...

No. 10: Home and Away — Nebraska vs. Baylor

The University of Nebraska Cornhuskers through the smack down on the Baylor Bears in Waco, Texas, Oct. 31, 2009. My dad, myself and our fellow NU fans were there to witness this humiliation.

Not only did Nebraska win big, but I'm pretty sure we had more fans there than Baylor.

In all fairness to our soon-to-be-ex-conference mates, football really isn't Baylor's sport, and Texas is filled with Nebraskans who usually only get one game in their state a year (which will stop happening in all likelihood when NU joins the Big 10 in 2011).

The day started off well. My dad (who was in town for the weekend) and I woke up early and drove to Waco. Along the way, Dad used his handy little Blackberry to look up facts about the Branch Davidians and we brainstormed costume ideas for that night.

We arrived in Waco before 10 and promptly started drinking beer, like all good Husker fans do. As my brother Mike always says, "I love early kick-offs. It's the only time it's socially acceptable to drink beer at 8 a.m."

We hung out at one of the many tailgate parties for Husker fans and watched Husker football Texas-style.

In addition to being a fun day with my dad and a chance to see my 'skers play, this game was also my first Nebraska away game.
Dad and I had such a good time in Baylor, we decided we want to do another away game. This fall, Mike, Dad and I will attend the NU vs. Texas A&M game in College Station, Texas. Even though I won't live down here, and it'll make for quite the road trip. I can't wait.

Check back tomorrow for No. 9 of "My Most Memorable Moments — Texas edition."

August 18, 2010

another appearance

I also make a brief appearance in another post on Brian Anthony Hernandez's blog. This time I weigh in on the future of the newspaper industry.

My response was bleak. While I believe in the future of news and media, I just don't see newspapers — as we have known them for centuries — making a full comeback. I believe the future is in multimedia reporting, as people are increasingly interested in getting the news as it happens.

Other journalists weighed in, too, and provided some great feedback.

Click here to read comments from myself and six other journalists.

guest appearance

This week, I had the opportunity to write a guest blog for my good friend and fellow journalist Brian Anthony Hernandez.

My friend Laura Chapman, who is a communication specialist in Texas, operates a blog about writing.

In this guest blog, she discusses mending her broken relationship with words and challenges journalists everywhere to rediscover the joys of writing – even at work. The next two paragraphs are excerpts from her guest blog.

“All too often I find myself writing to a formula or template. … It’s worked for me these past two years. Somewhere along the way, I fell out of love with writing. While I do not necessarily look forward to the articles I have to write for work, I have tried to be a little more creative, even if I can not push it too far. I have also put more time into writing for myself, both in my journal and in my personal special projects.

“As journalists, so often we focus on getting the facts and less on how we will present them. While the first part is certainly important, I challenge you to try something new with your writing, and rekindle the romance.”

Click here to read the rest of my guest bit.

August 8, 2010

book review: vision in white

Title: Vision in White (The Bride Quartet, book one) Author: Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts has once again ruined me for all men.

In "Vision in White," the first of four books about a quartet of best friends who run a successful wedding business together, Roberts sets up photographer Mackensie "Mac" Elliot with the elusive, legendary perfect man. Carter Maguire, PhD, is a beloved English teacher at the high school where he was once deemed a nerd and virtually ignored by his peers, including Mac.

Carter is smart (he has a PhD from Yale). He's compassionate (he has a three-legged cat called "Triad," whom Carter nursed back to health after being run over by a car). He is close to his family (every Sunday, he has dinner at his parents' house with his two sisters, their significant others and kids). He's no pretentious snob (he reads popular fiction along with the supposed literary classics — refreshing).

Most importantly, Carter is flawed, but in the most endearing of ways. He's shy and unsure of how to woo the woman of his dreams. After years of harboring a crush on Mac finally gets up the courage to ask her out for coffee, but frets he's made the wrong move. On subsequent dates, he agonizes about every detail to ensure it goes off well. He agonizes over the choice of restaurants and the bouquet of flowers. When he invites her over for dinner, he does a dress rehearsal in the days before to make sure he can cook everything correctly and on time. He even works from lists.

Simply put, Carter is absolutely, disgustingly, fabulously wonderful. Oh boy, I'm in trouble.

Too often in romantic stories the male heartthrob is a jerk, who doesn't know how to cope with his feelings. He (inadvertently) hurts the heroine, and must come to grips with the fact that he is a douche bag. Or, if he isn't a complete dick and recognizes and embraces his true feelings for the heroine early on, he maneuvers her to reach the point where she admits her feelings. That's not Carter.

Although Mac is ultimately the one who must overcome her hidden demons, Carter doesn't force her to do it any faster than she is able to on her own. He's waited to be with her for more than 10 years, but he's willing to put in the time to let her realize she loves him as much as he does her.

Carter also makes a move that left me breathless when I read it (and admittedly re-read, over and over):
He wanted more than a rational man could.
He stepped back, contenting himself with a brush of his thumb over her bottom lip. (p. 119)
Never in my mind could I come up with a gesture so tender or romantic. It sure got my blood pumping.

In addition to raising my standards in men, Roberts' "Vision in White" provided a delightful story about the strong lifelong connection between four women. Mac, Emma, Laurel and Parker take their childhood pastime of throwing pretend weddings in Parker's backyard and turn it into a business. Each brings their strengths to play as a photographer, baker, florist and planner.

On top of being successful business parters, the women are first and foremost friends. Whether that includes taking a much needed girl's night in a New York City club, or discussing one of their problems over coffee.

I'd heard a lot of praise about this quartet before I decided to give it a read. If the first book is any indication, this series won't disappoint. I'd expect no less from a perfectionist like Roberts.

With book four in the series set to come out in November, I think I'll try to take my time reading the next two so I don't agonize about its arrival beforehand. 

Rating: 5 of 5

August 3, 2010

spicing up the news room

While going through some old papers recently, I stumbled upon a gag some of my old co-workers and I had while we worked at our college newspaper. My senior year, before the holidays, my friends and I decided to try our hands out at writing romance novels. And being competitive, we made it a contest.

The results were hilarious, and in hindsight so fitting of all of the writers. I'm just glad we had a nice mixture of men and women participating.

I'm sharing the rules and the prompt:

Congratulations on being selected to participate in the first ever Daily Nebraskan Romance Story Contest Extravaganza. With your efforts, you have made this activity a success. Well done.

Hopefully, we can leave behind a legacy of future contest participants who will continue to promote these great principles of writing.

Enclosed you will find the works of you and your fellow participants.

The rules for this contest are as follows:
1. We all use the same first line as a prompt for our story and setting (keep in mind it's a romance story, so it should be good).
2. Anything else goes. You can talk about quivering members and nipples till the vicar comes home (or even after if you fancy).
3. 500 word max. We're journalists, let's be brief.
4. We will share whatever we have done post-budget Thursday evening at 9 p.m.
5. There must be at least one other character to help "Patience" out.

Here are the prompts (courtesy of the book Johnny bought for Laura):

• Title: "Naughty by Nature"
• Setting: October 1808, Cheshire, England
• First line: "Patience Rose Farnaly was rebellious, opinionated and prone to lie."

So with that final note, please enjoy the submissions, in the order in which they were submitted to our judge. Thank you all for your participation and God Bless.