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Checking off my ATX bucket list!

The Austin skyline at sunset.

As of September 1, I’ve been living in Austin for two years. I came to this city with the intention of furthering my career, and really taking it as an opportunity to start fresh, leave the past behind me, and just LIVE my life.

So, I made a bucket list specifically for Austin, and I’m proud to say I’ve tackled at least half of it (if not more). Many of the items on my list got checked off this past weekend, when my best friend came to visit! We had so much fun, I wanted to share some of the things we did.

See the bats on Congress Bridge


Each fall, the biggest bat colony IN THE WORLD assembles itself under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. These are Mexican free-tailed bats, and they stick around until it gets chilly and then fly off to Mexico. Everyday, they sleep in the crevices of the bridge, and fly out at dusk to find dinner. And crowds come out in hoards to see them.

So, my friend and I took a “bat cruise”, where we got way too close (pretty sure we got pissed on) to said bats, but were in complete awe when the 1.5 million of the little guys came flying out from underneath the bridge. The sound of them squeaking will possibly ALWAYS be a memory.

Hike Mount Bonnell


Okay, so this wasn’t on my bucket list, but it’s one of the most well-known hikes in the city, particularly because of its stellar views all the way around. It’s a fairly easy hike and you can see the downtown skyline, the tower and stadium at the University of Texas, and there’s a great shot of the Colorado River. Absolutely gorgeous!

Paddle board on Lady Bird Lake


This wasn’t on my list either, although I did list “Have an adventure on Lake Travis”, which I did in August when I went on a pontoon boat across the lake! However, I have never been paddle boarding! I’ve been kayaking once, on the Colorado River, so my friend and I decided to grab some paddle boards, and we were able to paddle behind one of the stages at ACL and hear some live music before paddling back to the dock. It was fantastic!

Tour Jester King Brewery


The Jester King Brewery is basically out in the middle of nowhere, but I’m ALL about these sorts of adventures, especially in Texas. So, my friend and I drove southwest, and ended up on the working ranch where the brewery lives, right next to Stanley’s Pizza, which is a glorified barn, complete with a fire oven. This place made all of my Texas dreams come true: beer and wine served in mason jars, a pasture, live chickens, fresh beer, and chandeliers hanging from beams in the barn. And that pizza was delicious!

Hit up Rainey Street


I’ve already been to 6th street several times, but Rainey Street is supposedly more of the local’s place to get rowdy. We checked out Icenhauer’s, where we both got some fancy cocktails (her’s had grilled pineapple in it), and then we went to the Parlor Room, which seemed a little more college-esque. But still, a very good time.

Go to ACL


Also not on my bucket list, but a recent wish of mine has been to go to ACL, because why not? I live 15 minutes away! So, we got 1-day passes and completely lived our best festival lives and saw Tank and the Bangas, Run the Jewels, Vance Joy, The Killers, and about three minutes of Gorillaz. We both fell in love with the Silent Disco, drank our fair share of beer, and enjoyed a local favorite: Torchy’s Tacos. The frozen sangria was also tasty.

See Graffiti Park


This was a perfect stop on the way to the airport – closing off a three-day weekend of Texas fun. The Graffiti Park at Castle Hills has art on art on art. People are tagging it every day, and there were already messages of hope sprayed on the walls for Vegas and Houston. Plus there were plenty of owls, skulls, and pop culture references. A must see!

When I visited Indiana in June, many of the things I was told we could do, we didn’t end up doing, and that bothered me. I meet lots of people who are happy living where they were born and raised, and that’s great – but these are often the people that let life pass them by. I’m a firm believer in being a tourist where you live; making the most of each situation; and just going for it!

Other things I’ve crossed off my list include: get a pedicure at Caesar’s salon, eat at the Hula Hut, and one upcoming thing will be eating sushi at Uchiko!

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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…

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 🙂

‘Mariah’s World’: The show must go on.

Another episode of 'Mariah's World'.

Another episode of ‘Mariah’s World’.

Hello! Thank you so much to everyone who wished me luck and sent me well wishes yesterday – it was very sweet and I really appreciate it.

I’ve got the recap of Sunday night’s episode of “Mariah’s World” for you – a day late – but hey, today may seem like a Monday for those of you that had yesterday off work.

So, the tour is still on, and Tanaka is still hanging around despite the fact that he’s injured and not doing the one job he was hired for: dancing. Instead, he’s wearing a lamb costume.

Meanwhile, another dancer gets injured – because that is how FIRE the show is (it really does look intense, but cool). With another dancer down and a show in two days, Mariah is worried about the lift, and wants to simplify the choreography.

On the plane, Mariah is playing with Tanaka’s hair… and Stella wants to jump out of the place because it feels so awkward. Later, Stella tells Mariah that Tanaka MUST have a crush on her, and Mariah is acting so clueless.

The creative director is not down to simplify the show, so he’s called in some new dancers to help fill in just in time for the big show in Paris.

In other news, remember how Mariah Carey’s social media manager is 12? No, she’s really 12, it’s Stella’s daughter. Like that is a job people my age would KILL for. Forget the money, just the experience itself would be baaaad-assss; and a 12 year old posts a picture of Mariah’s ass in just hosiery, and she gets a little slap on the wrist.

Huh? Child, please.

And then Mariah has her last fitting with her wedding dress, along with her daughter in her little gown. Awkwaaaaard. Obviously this is the closest window I have into Mariah’s life, but I totally didn’t realize she was this far in to the wedding planning before they called it off.

James Packer makes a shocking appearance (although it’s very short), and Tanaka is finally starting to remember, ohhhh yeah, there’s another guy in this picture.

Right before the show, Mariah and her staff learn of the news that Prince has died. Mariah is very upset, as Prince was not only a big inspiration for her career, but also a very close friend.

However, the show does go on, and even with the new dancers – everything looks great (and they’re wearing these awesome hoodies that are completely covered in blue sequins). She has a moment of silence to honor Prince, and then sings “Hero”, and it is quite lovely.

Post-show, Mariah is hosting a vodka launch (her own vodka, and the label is pink). James is there, and he’s all over Mariah… and Tanaka is in the corner, pouting. He’s so sad, in fact, that he slinks off into the elevator alone, as elegant as anyone on crutches can do.

Tanaka is on the roof talking to one of the other dancers, and he confesses that he likes Mariah, and that seeing her with James is bursting his bubble.

In the preview for next week’s episode, Tanaka gets weed and Mariah is all flirty again… oh, boy.

On another note, is anyone watching “The Bachelor”? Don’t worry, no spoilers, but I just want to mention that The Backstreet Boys were on last night’s episode, and AJ and Nick (Carter), looked fine as all hell. Still.

Celeb Crush: Phillip Phillips.

To be honest, I didn’t give a flying flip about Phillip Phillips before I saw him live as John Mayer’s opening act for the Born and Raised tour (which I saw three times).

Before I saw him the first time in July, my mom was the one swooning,”Aw, I wish I was going to the concert!” she told me. “If you see Phillip Phillips, tell him I voted for him on American Idol!”

Well, I didn’t get the chance to tell him. Instead, I got drunk and had way too much fun dancing to his Dave-Matthews-esque voice sing, “Get Up, Get Down.”

For Christmas, my mom and I bought each other his album, The World From the Side of the Moon, and it’s pretty much on repeat in my Jeep. I’m obsessed.

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Phillip Phillips: stupid name, sexy look.

As with most of my musician crushes, this is not one based on looks alone. Let’s face facts, Mr. Phillips looks kind of like a dork, and his name is pretty stupid.

When my friend Kelly and I saw Mayer and Phillips in New Orleans in January, we got to talking about his peculiar name.

“Do you think that’s really his name?” she asked me.

I said what I say in every time of uncertainty.

“Let’s Google it.”

We were instantly educated—yep, that’s his real name, and actually, he’s a “Jr.,” so there’s more than one dude with that name running around.

So, his name is uncool, and the fact that his last name is the same as mine might mean we are related on some level, which is scary, but let’s not go there.

Phillip is from Georgia, which means he’s got a sexy southern accent. What’s even hotter? He’s like 23 years old, and is already beating me in the success bracket—drool worthy in my book.

So, there you have it. Another celeb crush for the books. And just to bring it on home, I took a video of him singing Michael Jackson’s, “Thriller,” at The New Orleans Area. Enjoy!

“Tell me a story long and true, We aren’t what we say, We are what we do, Just pieces of a puzzle to find where we stand just confused, So you are the moon that pulls me through the night.”—Phillip Phillips, Tell Me A Story