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Taking steps for Crohn’s.

Take Steps for Crohn’s!

Howdy! I’m still recovering from a two-day work trip to Dallas, and the weekend. I didn’t get back from my trip until Friday night, and still had some loose-ends to tie up before it was really the weekend, but I didn’t waste much time drinking a beer and falling into bed. I had to be up at a reasonable hour for Austin’s leg of the “Take Steps” – a walk to raise money for a cure for Crohn’s disease.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this walk. While I am SO, so grateful for everyone who sponsored me (I raised $175 toward the cure), no one agreed to walk by my side. So, I woke up on Saturday morning to find it was storming quite heavily in Austin. Nonetheless, I ate, got dressed, and drove 20 minutes to the expo center.

I checked in, soaking wet, and got all sorts of free swag because of the amount of money I raised. I still had an hour before the actual walk started, and there wasn’t much for me to do – there were plenty of things for kids to do, but I sort of slinked away and tried to kill time listening to podcasts and staring off into the rain.

I thought about Cheryl, my friend who died after fighting with Crohn’s. She was my reason for walking on Saturday. Truthfully, I felt like a jerk. She did everything with a smile, and there I was – a grouch. But, I wondered if she was with me in spirit then, and possibly laughing at the fact that this walk was indeed inside a barn, and I was about to embark on a dusty, dirt path in brand new sneakers.

I also wondered why I’d never walked before; why had I not supported my friend when she was alive to see it? The truth is, she made Crohn’s look easy when it probably was not. I know everyone’s experience with it is different, but I know her battle was difficult at times.

As my hour-long wait came to an end, they invited everyone over to the stage. They called up some of the big donors, introduced doctors in the area to help those with Crohn’s and similar diseases, asked those diagnosed to come to the stage, and introduced their “Hero” – a boy who was probably 14-ish, and had been undergoing treatments for years. He spoke, and said his doctor found a treatment that worked for him and put his Crohn’s in remission… until his body developed antibodies to it, and now he was on something new. And while this treatment helped, he said, it was not an eliminator. Our money is working to possibly create an eliminator – and together, Austin raised $62,000+ for the cause.

And with that, we walked. It was a short walk, but I’m glad I did it – for Cheryl, but also for myself. I often take my health for granted, and it was very eye-opening to see others around me who have to work hard and take lots of medications to even try to feel normal. I can’t imagine.

But, my fight for Crohn’s isn’t over. I’m walking again, in a month, in Indianapolis, to raise more money and honor Cheryl once again. And if you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join me. To join my mom’s team with me, please click here. I hope to see you there!

Queso me crazy?

Queso Fundido from ‘What’s Gaby Cooking’!

I know I’ve written a few posts about my resolutions and goals for 2017, but there’s one tiny thing I haven’t mentioned: I kind of wanted to enter some sort of contest, particularly a cooking contest. I don’t really know what brought it on, although I’d be lying if I said the episode of “Real Girl’s Kitchen” where Haylee enters a Texas pie contest really had me curious.

Sure, I’ve entered in writing contests all the time (and happily lose them one-by-one), but I also love to cook, and I’m always saying that I’m getting tired of impressing MYSELF in the kitchen, right? What better way to see what you’re made of than by entering a contest?

A few weeks ago, I randomly came across a Tweet that was advertising a local food contest, with all of the money going toward charity. Sounded right up my ally, so I saved it for a later day.

Upon further inspection, this contest is the 7th annual “Quesoff”, allowing anyone to enter, and all of the proceeds and donations go to the Austin Food Bank. Umm, yes! If you remember, another one of my goals for 2017 was to “Just go for it”, so I did, without really considering it.

Yep, it’s official, Team Bitter Lemon is a contestant in the 7th Annual Quesoff, which takes place at the end of August.

…Which is probably a good thing, because… I’ve never made queso. That’s right, I entered a contest to make something I’ve never made. Awesome.

Of course, it doesn’t seem that competitive and it’s for a great cause, so it’s whatever, but you better believe I want my queso to be delicious. It should also be noted that I’ve entered my (so far non-existent) queso into the “Meaty” category, so it’s got to have meat.

While I do not consider myself a queso connoisseur, I already know that I’d like to make a white queso that features lean, shredded meat with a smoky flavor, possibly duck. I also want it to be nice and spicy (edible, of course).

I haven’t tried recipes as of yet, but I have recruited some local foodies to my team, and I’ve rounded up several folks to help me taste recipes as I jump into this cheese wave of summer. It’s gonna be a fun one, I can promise you that.

In general, we use the term “queso” to describe a delicious bowl of melty cheese, often enjoyed with nacho chips. But of course, queso refers to cheese; queso blanco is white cheese; queso fresco is fresh cheese.

There are so many different ways to make queso – with several cheeses, meat, beans, spices, tomatoes, chiles… the possibilities are endless!

While this endeavor doesn’t really go with my current diet, I’m going to have fun testing out new recipes for the contest. The Bitter Lemon will NOT be embarrassed showing up in Queso country with a first timer cheese dip! Let the cheesing begin…

Creating style while approaching 32.

Dream life.

Since the start of 2017, I have slowly been going through my closet, getting rid of items that don’t belong anymore. But it’s not just about the items that I haven’t worn, it’s more about the ones that don’t fit, and those that I just should NOT wear.

In general, it has taken me years to figure out what my style is, and when I can’t afford that look verbatim, how to look for pieces that I can afford and get good wear out of. But many of those pieces are now old, and they’re showing it in the form of underarm stains, tiny holes, missing buttons, and those annoying little balls of thread or fuzz.

As of now, I have two brown grocery bags full of items to get rid of – which I know doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a start. When I moved to Austin at the end of 2015, I got rid of many of my “professional” clothing items since my job attire was very casual. Since then, though, I filled my closet with more casual clothes. But as I look through my closet, I find I wear the same type of thing all the time – and rarely am I excited to get dressed in the morning.

Love this denim + heels combo.

So, as I take inventory, it’s not just pulling out one item of clothing and deciding right then and there, I have actually been wearing some of the items in my “maybe” pile, and seeing how they fit throughout my day. I added a shirt last week after wearing it to work and realizing it was uncomfortably short (it was also a shirt I bought almost 10 years ago, FYI). As I write this, I’m wearing a grey pencil skirt that’s going directly into my brown bags – it’s too tight; so tight I couldn’t get the top button into the loop and compromised with a long tank top. See what I mean?

As I get rid of items, I have slowly started to buy new things that are (hopefully) a better fit to my current body, and my current style. But, as I’ve been shopping, I’ve realized two things: 1. I think I’m smaller than I actually am, and 2. I have a habit of buying things that aren’t perfect.

That’s right, I have body dysmorphia in the backward way – I actually think I’m smaller than I am, which is great for my self-esteem, but bad for shopping. On Sunday, I spent three hours in ONE store, trying a pile of clothes on – most of which were too small. Why?

Honestly, I shopped a lot when I was in high school, probably because I had much more of a disposable income then (plus money from my parents). After that, I hit a long period where I didn’t have money to shop at all, and also went through some weight fluctuation. It’s very likely that I straight up do not know what size I am, and just go for what I know, which is often too small. It doesn’t help that the sizing charts for companies vary; I’m a medium in some brands and a small in others, and when it comes to swimsuits, I’m an XL (we’ll touch on this later).

I have always loved K-Cav’s effortless style.

As I was trying on item after item on Sunday, I would tell myself, “Oh I could get this, but I’ll have to resew the button”, or, “this needs to be hemmed”… and I finally just said no, I’m not buying it unless I can wear it as-is right after I walk out of this store. That meant out of the 20 items I tried on, I bought four, but they were four items that I am really excited to wear, so I’m happy I was picky.

Another truth is that as I get older, I’m trying to find out what types of things I should wear. Yes, I know, we should all just wear whatever we want, but, I want to look my best and flatter my body as best possible. I’m not 25 anymore, and I can’t wear the same types of things I did then – and I’m okay with this, but it means looking a little more.

For example, shoes. Summers for me have always meant flip-flops – not anything remotely expensive or nice; I’m talking shower shoes from the Dollar Tree. But… I don’t have cute feet; and I’ve also spent all this time crafting the perfect outfit, do I really want to slap on the flip-flops? No. So, I’m currently on a hunt for cute, flat sandals that will flatter my feet: maybe some metallic, strappy ones.

Another example is swimsuits. I used to live by Target-brand string bikinis… in my twenties. While they looked cute then, I just don’t have that body anymore. It doesn’t matter how many vegan meals I eat, dance classes I slay, or bottles of water I guzzle, a woman’s body changes, and mine certainly has. I have tried to always embrace my curves, and hunting for the right swimsuit has certainly been a challenge. I need underwires and significant straps to support my bust, and I need full coverage for my butt. No “cheeky” bottoms for this girl! I recently ordered a cute, patterned one-piece from Old Navy that has underwires, adjustable straps, and a full-coverage bottom that looks promising. We’ll see!

Love this look for summer!

If you follow me on Pinterest (which you should), you may have noticed that my general style is a little bit of boho, a little bit of sparkle, and a little mix of feminine with masculine – I love mixing a boy blazer with red lipstick or boyfriend jeans with high heels. I also have an affinity for jackets & scarves.

Speaking of accessories, that’s another thing I’ve been taking inventory of. I used to pride myself on my collection of jewelry… but it was jewelry from Charlotte Russe and Charming Charlie’s. While I certainly loved some of those pieces, they have overstayed their welcome and are either highly off-trend or tarnished. New note to self, spend a little more cash on timeless pieces that will last.

I’ve started to replace some of my jewelry pieces, and wow, it’s way more overwhelming than I recall. I don’t even know where to begin with the statement necklaces and all the earring options and have since decided that it’s probably best just to buy jewelry for specific outfits.

So, yes, I may be a little late to the fashion-in-your-thirties-game (I’d love to hear how you all are tackling it), but I’m learning that it’s constant upkeep. No wonder people are shopping all the time, right? I hope this post doesn’t come across as superficial; but it has always been important to me to look presentable, and to be able to express myself through clothes that make me feel confident, no matter what day it is or where I’m going.

I’ll continue to keep you posted on my fashion and style journey – until then, I’ll be scouring the sales racks and trying on piles and piles of clothes!

‘Southern Charm’: Foul Play.

Oh Craig…

The night’s episode kicks off with Kathryn heading over to JD’s house, where she finds out that Jennifer invited Thomas to her Sip n’ See, but not Kathryn… and she acts SHOCKED. Uh, girl you accused her of having an affair with Thomas, among being a blatant cold shrew to her about her son!

Meanwhile, Shep gets up and jogs over to Whitney’s house, as he’s still on his health kick. Shep says he wants to take the gang on a guided quail hunt, so that should be interesting.

Later, at Criag and Naomi’s, the two attempt to talk about what happened in the previous episode. Craig still doesn’t think anything he did was wrong, They continue to go in circles, so Naomi says she won’t talk about it any longer until their is a couples’ counselor in the room.

On Patricia’s porch, Landon stops by for a rum slushie, and Pat is wearing a kimono with chauncey printed all over it. Pat is giving Landon some love advice, and she’s quietly pushing Thomas into the picture. Landon admits she is proud of the father Thomas has become but she doesn’t want to be involved in all of the baby mama drama. Speaking of Thomas, he’s getting his kids ready to go with Kathryn for the weekend.

The group is heading out of town for the hunting trip, and naturally the lodge is GORGEOUS. Whitney jumps right into his hunting outfit which had me rolling laughing, as he looked like the Lorde of the manner, or even Benjamin Button. Ha!

Chelsea is living her dreams with all the guys dressed to the nines and her, carrying her own gun. She tells Austen she wishes he was more into trucks and guns… and then he walks into the field and gets the most kills of the day.

That night, Thomas arrives (once the hunt is over as he cannot hold a firearm per his conviction), and Austen and Chelsea seem like two peas in a pod. So, is it a coincidence that Shep starts drinking again? Nope.

Over dinner, and after, the group proceeds to get completely HAMMERED, so much so that even I was laughing while watching. But, it’s all fun and games until Austen and Chelsea head off to their cabin alone… dun, dun, dun…

So, they slept together, and in the morning, they’re having some pretty cute pillow talk. Chelsea says something about how they’re on the same page, but her page is “nothing serious”, and Austen admits he’s feeling a sense of attachment toward her post-sex. Awwww man – I kind feel bad for him!

It should also be noted that I’ve started recording “Southern Charm Savannah”, but I haven’t watched any of the episodes yet. I’m just not sure how it could be better than the original…

BBC: ‘Why We Broke Up’.

Hello, hello! My sincere apologies for not posting this on Friday – I had some internet issues on Thursday night, and was simply too tired to stay up and resolve them. But alas! I finished reading another book last week and wanted to share it with you.

Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read is “Why We Broke Up” by Daniel Handler. Here’s the description from Amazon.com: I’m telling you why we broke up, Ed. I’m writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened. Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

…Sounds like the leftover from many of the relationships I’ve had!

I got this book from the library and what I noticed off the bat was that it weighed a TON. It wasn’t that big of a book, but upon further inspection I saw that it was printed on thick, glossy paper and was filled with colorful illustrations of the items inside the box. After reading it, I can’t help but wonder if the weight of the book was also supposed to resemble the weight of the box from Min.

This book is very different. The voice is very raw and honest, and although there are stories upon stories about this relationship, the reader is still given lots of room to imagine the course of this couple. Sure, it’s a little dramatic, but Min and Ed are teenagers, and nothing hurts quite like your first broken heart.

While most of the things inside the box represented milestones in their relationship, some of the tokens were proof that we all assign meaning to even the smallest of things – especially if there were very few of them. I can recall not wanting to go to Blockbuster after my first relationship because we would go there to rent movies… us and the entire world! It’s funny how much we invest in the physical parts of a relationship, possibly when there’s not much to feast on emotionally.

The way this book is written – one really long letter to Ed – is different and a bit artsy. If that’s you, I say GO for this one! It was fun and refreshing.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Bittersweet” by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. We hope you’ll read it along with us!

I hope you all had a great weekend – I went to dance, lounged at the pool with a book and some wine, did some shopping, and did a little cooking. It was fantastic! I’ve got a busy week ahead between work and travel, and I’ve got my Steps for Crohn’s on Saturday. It should be a good one – but I’m ready for a brand new episode of “Southern Charm” tonight, which I’ll be recapping right here tomorrow. Hope to see you then!

Spring cleaning + soy candles.

Time to get scrubbin’.

Over the weekend, I decided to tackle a task I’ve been putting off: spring cleaning! I don’t think I’ve ever officially completed a “spring clean”, and frankly, I never understood why it was such a big deal (or maybe it’s not and I am just falling for the advertisements). But this year, I really felt like my apartment needed a good scrub.

During the winter months, I barely stepped foot on my patio, so it really needed the attention. So, I kicked off my Saturday by hitting up a few stores and getting supplies. I ended up with a giant new pot, six new plants (including a mini cactus, lavender, and a mountain laurel, among others), a cute citronella candle in a ceramic owl, and a string of solar-powered lights.

I spent the next four hours or so transplanting the plants that had survived the cold months, and putting my new plants in some random pots I had. I put up my string lights, swept the patio, and even cleaned the glass for my sliding door. Finally, I re-arranged the pots (according to their need for sunlight)… and it looked like an entirely new patio! I have eaten dinner out there a few times since, and it’s just so cute!

Next, I took my cleaning party inside and just started scrubbing. Truthfully, I keep my kitchen and bathroom pretty clean from week to week. Because of my kitty, I clean my bathroom (where her litter box is) once a week, and I always try to clean up my kitchen each night before bed. I hate dirty dishes in the sink!

But, rarely do I do these “big cleans”, and this one was about more than just scrubbing. I also wanted to get rid of a few things, and organize some drawers. So, this clean took a very long time. Currently, I have two brown bags of clothes to donate (along with a few pairs of shoes), and a stack of books. I’m not quite done going through everything, but it’s a start.

I cleaned out my kitchen drawers and my bathroom drawers, wiping them out and organizing along the way. Although it was a time-consuming task, it makes me happy to open up my makeup drawer each morning and have everything right in its place.

One thing that’s difficult for me is keeping things tidy. I’m really bad about just tossing things down when I come home for the day, or not putting things in their place once I’ve used them. And this week I’ve tried to be better about it since I put in all the time on Saturday, and although the place still looks pretty nice, I’ll admit it’s kind of frustrating always being on “tidy duty”, or whatever you want to call it!

On Sunday, I was rewarded for my labor with brunch and a girlfriend came over to make soy candles. The funny thing is, I had recently started looking into what it would take to make my own candles. Why? Well, I have a soot problem from burning cheap candles – the soot has nearly stained my ceiling and even my carpet. And it got me thinking – what the heck have I been breathing in?

So, when the friend suggested we MAKE soy candles, I jumped on it! She had already ordered the soy wax flakes (a 10lb bag), wicks and adhesive, a pouring pot, and a food thermometer. She even had the essential oils so we could add scent.

We went to Michael’s and found some really cute jars for under $2. We got to my apartment and Googled a few videos to make sure we weren’t about to mess things up. Honestly, we just sort of played things by ear. We boiled a pot of water in one pot, and placed the pouring pot into the water – the pouring pot had the soy wax flakes in it.

Those melted down, and we took the pouring pot out of the water and waited for the temperature to drop before dropping in the oil. It’s important to let the wax cool to around 120 degrees farenheit or else the scent will burn off.

We never could get a could sense of just how much oil to put into each batch – some sites said 1 ounce, which is a TON in essential oil measurement. We started with 6-8 drops of oil per 3ish cups (unmelted) of wax. If the wax didn’t have a strong smell after pouring into the jars, we added additional drops. The soy wax flakes were white and we didn’t add any colors – although some of the oils had natural coloring.

The fun part about making the candles was choosing the scent blends! I also have a collection of oils, so we had a lot to choose from. Some of the combinations we made were: lavender + peppermint, lemongrass + sweet orange, tea tree + lemongrass + cedarwood, and winter morning (a premade blend) + wintergreen.

So, basically you just have to pick your containers (you could use jars, cans, coffee mugs…), then apply the wicks to the inside bottom of the container, and add something to hold the wick in place – such as a pencil or a chopstick to lay across the top of the container and twist the wick around it.

Once you melt the wax, let it cool to 120 degrees, add the oil, stir, and pour into the containers. Then let it sit overnight – I put ours in the fridge to set completely. The one thing we truly guessed at was the measurements. We used 5lbs of wax and made 10 candles, all around the 6-8 ounce size. The wax melts down quite a bit, so 3 cups of unmelted wax is probably 2 or less cups, melted. I don’t know science, but this was a constant struggle for us!

Nevertheless, our candles turned out so cute, and I’ve already started burning the lavender + peppermint one and it’s fabulous. Homemade candles would make great gifts, or are just great to keep!

Still, I resist.

Image from ‘We the Protestors’.

I know I said I would try my best to keep this blog a place where people could escape from politics, and essentially, get away from negativity. But at some point, my silence is complicity, and that is something for which I will not stand.

You may recall last July, when I finally broke my silence after Alton Sterling was murdered in Baton Rouge. It was a week of frustration and heartbreak, and I was at the end of my rope. I saw so much victim-blaming and I was ready to stand on my roof and yell “F the police!”

Here’s a snippet from the post:

I woke up nearly two hours before my alarm on Tuesday, and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I started scrolling through my Twitter feed. I saw the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag had gained popularity and I knew it: another innocent black man had lost his life to the bullet of a police officer.

And sure enough, that was the case for Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We’ve all heard his story by now, I’m sure. Soon, most of us will be able to sweep him under the rug just as we’ve done before; just like we did for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray, among several others.

As white people, we’re granted the ability to forget about incidents such as these, because we don’t understand the struggle blacks have continued to go through. Introducing white privilege: White privilege is the systemic construct that grants unearned advantages to people based solely on skin color. This definition is significant in that often people see how race puts people of color at a disadvantage, but seldom see the corollary of white skin advantage.

Read the entire post here.

Last Tuesday night, I had a similar, frustrated feeling when I saw the news that there would be no charges against the Baton Rouge police officers who murdered Mr. Sterling, even after the US Department of Justice completed an independent investigation. It was the first case under Jeff Sessions, who airs his racial prejudices openly.

Days after the decision to not press charges, chilling details emerged about the 90-second exchange between Mr. Sterling and two police officers (along with six bullets). “A law enforcement source confirmed that Salamoni calls Sterling both a ‘bitch’ and a ‘motherf*****’ while threatening to “shoot” him in the head if he doesn’t comply” (source).

The reactions to drop charges in Baton Rouge had mixed reactions online, where I saw several activists even saying they “weren’t surprised” this was the outcome. That broke my heart. Many people said Mr. Sterling deserved to die because he had prior charges, and/or because he wasn’t permitted to carry the handgun he had in his pocket. But none of that justifies his death, and it doesn’t answer the bigger problem: institutional racism.

That same week last July, America watched live as Philando Castile, a black man, was murdered by a white police officer. Castile was stopped for having a broken tail light. The officer asked Castile to show him his license and registration, and Castile told the officer he was armed (please note that Castile did have a permit to carry a gun). Then he died – and it was all aired on Facebook Live (source).

In February, his murderer plead not guilty to second-degree manslaughter. The trial date is set for May 30.

About a week ago, the country learned that Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old black teen was shot and killed by a white police officer. The police officer has since been arrested for Edwards’ murder (source).

The narrative surrounding Edwards was mostly about how great he was – how he made the honor roll. And while that’s fantastic, and sad, it shouldn’t matter what kind of person he was or the grades he made for his life to matter. He was riding in a car, leaving a party – neither of which are illegal, and they’re certainly worthy of getting murdered.

But this is the narrative that works to uphold institutional racism. With Trayvon, they said he wasn’t that great of a student – he smoked weed – he stole things; with Alton, they said he had past charges and was convicted of molestation; comply, don’t die, they say.

But what does the narrative become when you comply? What does it become when you make straight A’s? When you’re sober? When you’re wearing a seatbelt in the backseat of a car?

It’s about being black in America.

I spent a portion of my workday yesterday at the Texas Capitol, taking pictures of women dressed as Handmaids to draw attention to the 30+ anti-abortion bills that have worked themselves into the legislation session this year.

Since I started my job in January – I work as the Digital Communications Manager for a national abortion clinic – I’ve learned a lot about how the government has set itself up against women. Frankly, unless you’re a white male, you’re pretty much doomed to fail in this country.

As far as abortion goes, the anti-choicers have created a narrative that shames women into thinking abortion is immoral, among other things. The narrative uses false stories and urban legends to support their case – a case that is medically inaccurate. There will never be a time when abortion is gone – it will just be illegal, and unsafe.

Since the AHCA passed, I took a look at what it outlines – and it says that rape is considered a pre-existing condition, on top of having a c-section, and having irregular periods.

So, if you’re a woman, you don’t qualify for insurance. And if you’ve been raped, you’ll either have to shame yourself into not saying anything so you can get coverage, or say something and pay out-of-pocket for your medical care.

I know that this one blog post may not make a change, but I was so upset by politics, and the world, last week that I couldn’t continue on without saying something. Because if you just stand by while all of this continues, you’re part of the problem.

But, since I had training on dialogue about institutional racism, and since I’ve started working in abortion care, I have learned just how much change I can make with my voice. Talking creates noise. When I share my opinions with others, I am letting them know what I believe and what I stand for. Even just introducing myself and saying I work in abortion is enough to spark a conversation and let someone know where I stand, and what I’m not willing to tolerate.

So, I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again: Black lives still matter, and Women’s Rights are Human Rights.

‘Southern Charm’: To Liver and Die in Charleston.

Shep and Cam.

Can I just say that Monday nights are pretty awesome – I’ve got two of my favorite dance classes to take, and then I come home to some great TV, plus there’s that whole feeling that at least Monday is over. Right??

I was extra excited to see last night’s episode after last week’s craziness with Craig and Naomi. So, let’s get into it. At the top of the episode, Shep’s doctor calls and tells him the results of his labs. Turns out he has an elevated enzyme in his live and needs to cut back on the drinking, and will be tested again in two to three months.

At another house, Cameron is waiting on Craig (typical). She’s showing him some investment properties so he can fulfill one of his many dreams! Turns out, he’s pretty picky about what he wants in a rental home, and Cameron asks him if Naomi is supportive of this financial decision. He says he can’t continue to do things JUST for her, or else he’ll come to resent her.

Meanwhile, Patricia is at the pool with Chauncey and Whitney stops by and tells her about the conversation he had with Thomas about dating. Patricia suggests Landon as a possible match for Thomas, and of course, she decides she should host a casual dinner party and she can seat Thomas next to Landon (how Charleston of her).

Then, Chelsea and Austen go on another date – beer tasting (perfection). They get to talking about Shep and Austen tells Chelsea that Shep was a little disappointed that he was the last to know about the two of them talking. However, Austen assures Chelsea that he’s squashed it and he has no questions about it, and he does not feel like he violated Bro Code.

Remember last week, when Cameron had the witch doll made for Shep? Well, she takes him out to dinner: a table for Cameron, Shep… and Mama Estelle (Cam’s doll). She explains to Shep that she had a doll made for him because she was going to cast a love spell on him but she’d since changed her mind. So, she gave him the doll and said he could use it when he met someone worth falling in love with.

Later, Patricia’s is putting the final touches on her dinner party, and she says, “With these kids, I can just go to Costco and buy all the liquor.” Seriously? I would PAY to see Patricia in a Costco. The dinner party goes fine, but it doesn’t seem like any crazy sparks are flying. However, Thomas sniffs out that it’s a setup pretty early in the evening.

Meanwhile, Craig is on the sewing machine, embroidering tiny images of his cat, Gizmo, onto pillowcases. Naomi is not impressed by this at all, and when Craig casually mentions that he put an offer in on a house, she’s not really interested in that, either.

Later, Shep joins Kathryn for his first ever yoga class, as he continues his journey to detox. He’s struggling pretty hard throughout the class, but afterward tells Kathryn that he’s trying to see what it’s like not to drink every night. There’s a few clips of Shep at home, taking vitamins, and making a fruit smoothie in a Vitamix. He then calls his mom and says, “I just made a smoothie!” …It’s probably one of the cutest TV moments, ever.

Speaking of parents, Austen has dinner with his parents, and they are REALLY fired up about him starting a business. They don’t see his work as a beer salesman as anything serious; they want him to settle down, get married, and have a 9-5, and they really want him to make a business plan to show them he’s getting serious. Whoa.

And finally, the gang heads to Jennifer’s sip and see, where Thomas and Landon are flirting pretty heavily, and Naomi and Craig continue their fighting in front of everyone. Basically, she’s calling him out on his bullshit and he sees it as her not being loyal…which doesn’t really make sense.

But at the end of the episode, it doesn’t look like things between them are getting cleared up anytime soon, because she leaves the party without him. Bloop, bloop! Guess we’ll find out next week!

Yep, I just geeked out over groceries.

Introducing Whole Foods’ 365 stores.

Friday after work, I decided to venture slightly north to an area of Texas I’ve come to know well – Cedar Park, near where the Texas Stars hockey team plays. I’d recently learned about a new store opening there, a 365 by Whole Foods Market.

So, I took the 20 minute drive and ended up in a new, really nice shopping center, complete with the freshly minted market. Supposedly, the 365 versions of Whole Foods are a test for the company, and the one in Cedar Park is one of five in the country. These stores are smaller, and house more of the 365 brand products, and are supposedly more affordable than the Whole Foods megastores we’re used to.

I went to the store with a list of things I needed for the week, but also kept the mindset that if they didn’t have what I needed, I’d just get what looked good and hit up my usual H.E.B. later. As I was walking up to the store, I noticed nearly all of the picnic tables outside were filled with people having dinner and drinking fresh juice.

Once I got inside, I could see why: the store had two counters to order food, pizza sold by the slice, ready-made sushi, a coffee counter, and a Juice Land. Major score for those living nearby, and especially for those working inside the shopping center.

At first, I was thinking the place looked a little small (like a Trader Joe’s) and there was no way they were going to have the things I needed. But, I grabbed the produce I needed and then thoroughly checked out the bulk aisle, where I got a big bag of trail mix for $6.

Next up was meats and frozen goods, where they had a bin of Mochi – a Japanese treat made from rice flour. I had never seen it before – it looks like a bath bomb – but I Googled it immediately. Hmm, ok, cool, they’ve got new things here, I thought.

As I left the olive bar, I discovered there was an entire other side to the store that had aisles, along with a section for fresh-baked goods. I went down every aisle, checking things off my list one-by-one. I even picked up a few unique bottles of wine, and got some decently healthy crackers for the salmon salad I planned on making.

But, the geeking out didn’t truly happen until I rounded the corner for the ready-made aisles. There was the sushi (a favorite of mine – I love the rolls with brown rice), and also ready-made meals from Snap Kitchen.

And then, there, under the light from the heavens was the section for cold coffees and energy drinks. For the first time ever, I saw it: Blue Bottle Coffee – right in front of my face.

“Oh my God,” I whispered under my breath. “It’s here!”

There’s only three Blue Bottle locations in the US – two are in California and one is in the Northeast. I discovered it via Instagram and have only drooled over the thought of the stuff given its hefty price tag and that I’d have to have it shipped. But there, on the shelf, was their NOLA iced coffee packaged in small milk cartons, right beside little cans of their cold brew.

It took every ounce of my insides not to do two things: 1. squeal with delight, and 2. put my arm on the shelf and slide it across it in a manner that would place all 40 cartons and cans into my cart.

It was then I realized my life has really turned a corner: There I was, 7pm on a Friday, Cinco de Mayo, and I was talking to myself over gourmet cold brew. Sing it with me, “I don’t know about you, but I’m feelin’ thirty twoooo-o-o-o-o!”

Amirite?

My geeking out didn’t stop there, because I soon discovered bottles of Picnik’s paleo butter coffee, along with a wide collection of Evolution’s pressed juices.

Needless to say, my fridge is really happy right now… even opening it makes me smile. As I write this, I’ve been eating olives from the olive bar, cheese, sesame crackers, salami, and sipping some sangiovase rose. It’s fantastic.

So there. I don’t know how often I’ll make the trek (and fork over the money) to hit up the 365 Market, but it sure was fun while it lasted… and now I have the joy of eating all this delish, healthy stuff!

BBC: ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’.

Hello! I’m assuming everyone survived the Star Wars’ holiday and is now prepping for margaritas, so happy Friday! And double score for you guys, because I’ve got a great book recommendation to share!

The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Morgan Matson. Another YA novel! Here’s the scoop:

Emily is about to take some risks and have the most unexpected summer ever. Hellogiggles.com says, “Basically I couldn’t be more in love with this book,” from the bestselling author of Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.

Before Sloane, Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. There’s just a random to-do list with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Wait…what?

Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find.

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

* * *

I swear I’m not obsessed with lists or the number 13 (the book club recently read “13 Reasons Why”). Generally speaking, this book is fun and perfect for summer. It has a bit of a “Paper Towns” feel to it in that Emily is following the list in hopes of getting to Sloane somehow.

I’ve never been given a list like this one in the book, but it sure helped Emily have a summer she’ll never forget. A friend and I were just talking about how we love looking forward to summer adventures, and this book offers that same excitement.

I would definitely recommend this book for those who love a little summer fun and/or romance. It will be perfect for those lazy weekend afternoons.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Why We Broke Up” by Daniel Handler. Yes, it’s another YA novel – swear it’ll be the last one for awhile!

Have a great day and a fun weekend, all! I am hoping to tend to my patio garden some and possibly do some crafting and cooking – it’s going to be a weekend full of ME time!

Join my team!

I’m taking steps to honor my angel, Cheryl, in Austin and in Indiana.

Hello! As many of you may have read, I lost a dear family friend in February to Crohn’s disease. I wasn’t able to make it home for her funeral in Indiana, so I am Taking Steps in Austin to not only honor her memory, but to raise money and awareness that will hopefully lead to a cure for this terrible illness.

If you live in the Austin area, I could REALLY use some teammates! I’m happy to walk alone, but would love the support, along with the opportunity to make it a fun-filled day for a walk. If you’re able, please join my team by clicking here.

If you’re not in the Austin area, but happen to live in the Indianpolis area, I will be Taking Steps in Indianapolis on Sunday, June 25. Please mark your calendars, and stay tuned for the link to sign up for my team – I would LOVE to see some old friends and their families out in Indy, marching for a cure.

Here is just a snippet of some words I wrote to describe my relationship with my friend, Cheryl:

Cheryl was a ray of light in the darkness – she always found a way to laugh at pretty much any situation, which is a trait I’ve always admired. I can recall so many fun times with Cheryl and her daughter, Sarah – times I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I know Cheryl meant so much to my mom, and to her family. To me, Cheryl was South Carolina sweet grass. She took her daughter and I on a rode trip one summer, from the middle of Indiana to the shores of South Carolina, where we stayed, for what seemed like a month.

It was my first time really discovering a new culture – we went to the market, bought handmade jewelry, tried homemade ice cream, walked cobblestone streets leading to plantation homes, and chased crabs in the sands of Folly Beach. It was heaven.

You can read my entire post about Cheryl, here.

And so, Texas friends – I hope to see you on my team for May 20, and Indiana friends, keep your eyes peeled, but I’ll be there, ready to rumble on June 25.

In advance, thank you always for the support.

Review: ‘The Search for Everything’.

John Mayer’s latest album, “The Search for Everything”.

I’m so excited for today – a new semester of my Blog Class kicks off at UT – plus, we’re halfway through the week! I know I was pret-ty skeptical of John Mayer’s latest album a few months ago, when we were only given a measly four songs per month.

But, now that it’s been released in its entirety (I actually got a free copy with the purchase of a concert ticket), and I’ve had a chance to listen to it – in my car and in my earbuds – and have heard a few songs from it live, I think I’ve got a grasp on my opinions.

From the jump, in general: I like it. Is it my favorite album? Nope. But there are definitely some gems that cannot (and will not) be ignored in the entirely of Mayer’s career. Here’s my take.

Best song: In the Blood 

If you’re looking for one of those typical John Mayer songs that’s got genius lyrics and is going to cleverly teach you some life lessons, THIS is the one.

Although we’ve been told from Mayer before that he’s aware of his ways (you know what I’m talking about), this song really seems to drive it home, while also discussing his family life – which he’s alluded to in a few previous songs.

“In the Blood” has been released to country radio stations as his next single.

How much of my father am I destined to become?
Will I dim the lights inside me just to satisfy someone?
Will I let this woman kill me, or do away with jealous love?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?

I can feel the love I want, I can feel the love I need
But it’s never gonna come the way I am
Could I change it if I wanted, can I rise above the flood?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?

I still really like “Love on the Weekend”, and it will probably remain to be a favorite of mine – I’ve had too many long distance relationships and understand what he’s singing about all TOO well.

There’s two upbeat tracks that are really fun: “Still Feel Like Your Man” (which Mayer admitted was about Katy Perry), and “Moving On and Getting Over”, which I had the pleasure of hearing live. It was fantastic. Many critics said this album was Mayer’s “return to pop”, but I disagree, and I think these two tracks are fair proof that he’s still going his own way.

And finally, there’s “Rosie”, which reminds me of early 90’s Lenny Kravtiz – loungey blues with desperate love lyrics. It’s catchy as hell, and makes for a good ear worm.

Yes, there’s a few other tracks stuffed in… and they may as well go forgotten. I’m not even going to pretend like a song titled “Emoji of a Wave” is worth my shit. Not even for John Mayer.

It’s no “Battle Studies”, but I definitely feel like we got a lot of hype for this one that was perhaps unwarranted. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll hold me over, but I can’t help but wonder if Mayer is suffering from a little bit of writer’s block.

In albums’ passed, we’ve gone on a journey with him over heartbreak (admittedly the ones we saw play out in the tabloids), his life as a famous person (before moving West), his family, and his struggle with getting older.

But is his journey over? His life is quiet now, and although that’s good for him, it sometimes isn’t good for the art. Been there, done that.

We were spoiled with the release of “Born and Raised” and then right afterward (#blessed) with “Paradise Valley”. It miiight be awhile before we hear from Mayer again, despite his claims that he’s got a vault of songs that were meant for “The Search for Everything”.

Guess we’ll see…

‘Southern Charm’: Craig of All Trades, Master of None.

I cannot get enough of this show!

Yay for Monday night TV! When the episode starts, Cameron is heading to a witch’s house…no seriously. She admits she was into white magic as a kid and has remained interested, so she picks out and purchases a voodoo doll to keep evil spirits away.

But let’s face facts, we are here for the drama between Shep and Austen, which I now realize I’ve been spelling his name wrong all along. Apologies.

So, the boys are playing basketball, and basically Chelsea comes up in conversation. Austen admits he’s seeing her, and Shep tries to play it cool but says Austen should have “let him know.” Austen is all, so I have to check in? No.

Meanwhile, Whitney and T-Rav meet for drinks and T-Rav admits that he can’t attract the right women because of his baggage with his baby mama. Well, well, well…

Later, Katherine calls Jennifer to see if she wants to get lunch. Basically she wants to rip her because she thinks her and Thomas got together.

Katherine is cold from the start, and Jennifer asks for clarity. Katherine is still pissed that Thomas passed her a handkerchief at the damn show reunion! Jennifer reminds her that she gave birth to a baby that very well could have died.

Pas Jennifer is sitting there, telling Katherine about her child’s brain surgery, crying… Kat is an ice COLD bitch.

At Craig’s house, he’s amped because he bought a sewing machine, and it arrived. Seriously what the hell? When he calls Naomi to share the news, she’s less than thrilled. I wonder why!?

Later, he’s legitimately sewing a tiny shirt…using the pedal barefoot.

At T-Rav’s, he pours himself a little cocktail, and calls Landon to ask her out to dinner. She has plans so she suggests lunch… Which Thomas says is the friend zone. He agrees on the phone but hangs up and throws it…ha!

Then, Shep takes himself to the doctor for a checkup, and the doc suggests not drinking for a week…. Uhhh… We will see how that goes.

Later, Craig cooks dinner for Naomi, and while eating it, he tells her that he’s looking to buy a rental property buy the end of the week and he also signed papers for his clothing line. LOLZ.

Naturally, Naomi is visibly pissed and tried to spell it out for him, that he can’t do all of these things at once if he ever hopes to pass the bar exam.

He then tells her that she’s acting dumb. Oohshitttt. The episode basically ends there but from the looks of next week’s episode, the fight isn’t over. Yowza!

Life after vacation.

Le sigh.

Hey yo! I’m starting this week off with an apology – I know I only blogged twice last week, which was not planned. Vacation kicked my ass!

I got back to Austin Monday night around 9:30, and by the time I got home, showered, got myself ready for bed, and watched “Southern Charm”, it was after midnight. When I arrived at work on Tuesday, there was all sorts of unnecessary drama that I did not need.

By the time things were starting to feel back to usual around the office – I even got things organized there, and started catching up on all of my podcasts again – the power went out and completely jacked up our internet, leaving us to work from home for a day and a half. Ugh!

It took me much longer to get back to my “normal” life than I thought. And I wondered… is this vacation after 30? I’ve always heard people complain about jet lag and adjusting back to regular life after vacation, but never really experienced it. Whew, not until now!

But, I did take a few dance classes last week, and then used my weekend to help get myself back in order.

After all of the junk (but very delicious) food and drink I had on vacation, I was excited to clean out my fridge and hit the grocery with a list of fresh produce. I am happy to report that my fridge is now full of Naked Juices, fruit, raw veggies, boiled eggs, and soda water. I’ll be living off that until I feel skinny again.

I spent a majority of my Saturday volunteering for the Austin Film Festival – an event that’s become very special to me. There was an opportunity to earn some hours by passing out fliers for their kids’ Summer Camp… I ended up walking 12,000 steps going door-to-door, and even ran from a couple of roosters on my route! It did nothing for my vacation fatigue, but it was an interesting way to spend a Saturday.

I also finished reading a book – so look for that review right here, on Friday for Blanche’s Book Club.

I did a few chores around the house, and have, at the very least, prepped my laundry for a trip to the laundromat tomorrow. And finally, I got word that my Blog Class at UT was confirmed for this semester, and it starts on Wednesday night! I’m so excited to be back teaching, and am looking forward to meeting a new group of students. Teaching is such a thrill for me and I’m excited to share my love of blogging to a new set of students.

So, I’m hitting the ground running this week – I’m back at work, back to dancing, blogging, teaching, and eating healthy (I even made veggie “sushi”) for awhile – at least until my next vacation, which is planned for the end of June. Summer is here, y’all, and I love me some summer adventures!

Isn’t it true, that when you take a vacation, you just want to keep taking them? I feel like whenever I go on vacation, I try to think of ways I can adjust my current life so that I can take more vacations and/or travel to more places. Then I just simply WISH that my life was a vacation, but I suppose it wouldn’t be as special if that were the case… or would it? I’m willing to be the guinea pig.

And so, I’m back – and I’m finally feeling refreshed. I’ve got some fun stuff planned for the blog this week (“Southern Charm” recap, a John Mayer review, Blanche’s Book Club, etc.), so I hope you’ll stick around. It’s good to be BACK!

Vegas recap.

Howdy! I’m still very much in recovery mode after a fun-filled trip to Las Vegas over a long weekend. I am tired, and completely off-schedule given the time difference, and in general I feel like I need to do a juice cleanse and/or eat a bunch of acai bowls until I feel clean again.

But of course, life doesn’t stop, work is nuts, my apartment is in shambles, and my calendar is full. Whew!

However, I was so excited to take a look at ALL the pictures I took (it’s a lot, just look at my Instagram @OrangeJulius7), and definitely wanted to post my favorites here – in no particular order.

I landed in Vegas late Thursday night, checked into the Palms, and promptly made myself a drink and hit the slots – losing $20 nearly immediately.

On Friday, it was a little chilly outside so we skipped on the pool and ventured to The Strip to partake in street drinking, gambling, sight-seeing (particularly the fountain at the Bellagio), and overeating at Wahlburgers.

Friday night was the Backstreet Boys concert at the Axis near/in Planet Hollywood, which was difficult AF to find. But, the hunt for the venue was worth it, because BSB pretty much made all of my boy band dreams come true. They played ALL of their hits, danced a lot (they even did the same dance from some of their music videos), and even wore glittery suit jackets for a few songs – and I about lost it. It was fantastic!

After the concert, I was on a mission to find two “secret” gems in Vegas – the Moet champagne vending machine and the unmarked pizza spot. We found them both, met a few cool people along the way, and saw some great views of the city. And, that pizza was some of the best I’ve ever had.

View from the Palms pool + lounge.

On Saturday, we hit the Palms pool (which was laced with security), shelled out the cash for a giant Palms Punch (nearly $50 for a souvenir cup filled with rum and champagne), and relaxed until it was time to get ready for the John Mayer concert. We even enjoyed a yummy dinner outdoors along the strip, before screaming our faces off at Mayer’s last show before meeting up with Dead & Co.

He mixed things up, singing several songs from “Room for Squares”, and of course, several from “The Search for Everything” – but I think he shocked everyone when he brought out the John Mayer Trio for a few songs.

After the concert, we noticed the roller coaster at New York, New York was eerily close to the T-Mobile arena, so we rode that… which was pretty terrifying, and thankfully was a drunk decision.

On Sunday, we had another day of adventure, hitting Linq for the delicious, huge plates at Hash House a-go-go (I got the Indiana pork tenderloin). Then, we checked out the Linq promenade for the Sprinkles cupcake ATM (I got the chocolate marshmallow), and to check out the High Roller.

Then we caught a ride to Fremont Street – Vegas’ original strip – where there are lights covering the street, live music, and several old casinos (some even spit quarters). To close the night we headed back to the strip for a nice dinner at Hexx – a bottle of wine, impressive charcuterie, shrimp pasta, and a sunset view of the Bellagio.

On Monday morning, we headed out for one last adventure: the Neon Museum. Neon signs are a signature of Las Vegas and have been since it was born, but many casinos change their names or simply lease their signs, so many of these signs end up in a “Boneyard”, which is what we got to tour. It was dozens upon dozens of neon bones, complete with a tour guide who told us all sorts of great history, and we even talked about the history of fonts and how neon is made. It was fantastic!

I flew home to Austin Monday afternoon, and although I felt my body was ready to get back to my usual life, I was sad to leave. That was my second time in Vegas, and both times I’ve just had SO much fun. I always feel like I need to make massive life changes once a vacation is over. I sure was sad driving the country roads home – with no neon or flashing lights to guide me.

But, who knows what’s in store for me over the next few months! I know I’m going to try and keep things exciting. I hope you enjoy my pictures 🙂