December 2014 Round-up

Christmas tree

Happy New Year's Eve! With only a couple hours remaining in December (and 2014), it's time to reflect on the best moments of the last month:

  • Traveling down to San Antonio one weekend. I enjoyed shopping at the Alamo Quarry Market and visiting Market Square. While I wasn't able to make it down to the River Walk that night (there was a high school playoff game at the Alamodome), I drove down the following morning before returning to Austin.
  • Performing handbells at the Christmas concert on Dec. 7, at an assisted living home on Dec. 17, and in church on Dec. 21.
  • Finally finding a new Christmas tree early in the month. This one doesn't have the same character as the last one (for one thing, it stands upright), but it's nice to have a tree where all the lights work.
  • Enjoying the annual Christmas breakfast/brunch at our office building one morning.
  • Finally receiving my Chicago photo book from Blurb. The first one got lost in the mail, so Blurb graciously reprinted a new version for me.
  • Driving down 360 to see the decorated trees.
  • Celebrating 20/20 vision one year after my PRK surgery.
  • Catching up with several friends over lunch or dinner throughout the month.
  • Spending the last week of the year at home with Mom and Dad. It's always so good to be with them.
  • Watching Russian Nationals on my computer through ESPN.
  • Attending the Christmas Eve service at church and Art's party on Christmas morning.
  • Meeting Paul for lunch and Esther for a movie (Annie) on New Year's Eve.

Books I read: The Look of Love (Sarah Jio), In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (Erik Larson), Leaving Time (Jodi Picoult)

Movies I watched: The Theory of Everything, Annie, It's a Wonderful Life (twice on TV), An Affair to Remember (TV), The Shop Around the Corner (TV), Love Actually (DVD), Elf (TV), National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (TV), Bridge to Terabithia (TV), Words and Pictures (DVD)

TV: Castle, Forever, Parenthood, Call the Midwife (Season 3 DVD), Downton Abbey (Season 4 repeats on PBS), figure skating (NHK Trophy, Grand Prix Final), college football, UT basketball

About My Monthly Round-Ups
At the end of each month, I take a look back and write a post about the month's highlights, as well as what I read and watched. To see all of my round-up posts, visit this page.

Skate America 2014

Madison Chock and Evan Bates

Back in October, I traveled up to the Chicago area to attend Skate America. This was my fourth time at Skate America — I previously attended the competition in 2006 (Hartford, CT), 2009 (Lake Placid, NY), and 2012 (Kent, WA). Before the new year begins, I wanted to share some of my favorite memories of the competition as well as a few pictures. (If you would like to see more of my pictures, visit my Flickr album.)

What I want to remember...
  • The American dance teams finishing one-two in the ice dance competition. Even with Meryl Davis and Charlie White out, Madison Chock and Evan Bates (above) and Alex and Maia Shibutani skated well. I also enjoyed Stepanova and Bukin, the Russian team that finished third. 
  • Jeremy Abbott's short program to Sam Smith's "Lay Me Down." Just beautiful.
  • Both of Tatsuki Machida's performances in the men's competition.
  • Waking up early to attend the practice sessions on Saturday.
  • Elena Radionova's joyful skating in both the short and long programs. She was too young to compete in Sochi, but she's making up for lost time now.
  • American pair Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier winning the silver medal in the pairs competition after skating an exciting long program to music from The Lion King. It was the highest finish for an American pair in the Grand Prix since 2008.
  • Meeting Meryl Davis and Charlie White during the first night of competition. It was the highlight of my trip, if not the year.
  • Seeing Gracie Gold, Jason Brown, Elena Radionova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Chock and Bates, and many others skate live for the first time.

And some of my favorite pictures...

Maia and Alex Shibutani
Maia and Alex Shibutani 

Jeremy Abbott
Jeremy Abbott 

Jason Brown
Jason Brown 

Gracie Gold
Gracie Gold 

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin
Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin 

Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage
Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage 

Samantha Cesario
Samantha Cesario 

Elena Radionova
Elena Radionova

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva

P.S. I wrote about my trip into Chicago here.

November 2014 Round-up


The last third of this year seems to be flying by, and it's hard for me to believe today is the seventh day of December! Before I get too caught up in the Christmas season, I wanted to share some of my highlights from November:

  • Hosting Paul and Esther the first full weekend of the month. While they were here, we ate breakfast tacos, visited Mayfield Park and Mount Bonnell, and attended the UT-West Virginia game on Saturday afternoon (the Horns won!).
  • Enjoying a pedicure one Sunday afternoon. Always so relaxing! 
  • Working on several creative projects, including my Chicago photo book.
  • Treating myself to hot chocolate since the weather is a little cooler. Making it at home has been fun after finding some great mixes (red velvet and dark chocolate).
  • Performing with my handbell choir in church one Sunday.
  • Listening to Serial, one of the best podcasts I've discovered over the last few months. 
  • Spending the Thanksgiving holidays at home with my family (our first time in Henderson since 2011). It was so wonderful to have all of us together, and with Dad home from the hospital, we truly had something to be thankful for this year.
  • Shopping at Canton with Mom and Esther. We had a fun time, even if we were battling strong winds and crowds of people.

Books I read: The Girl You Left Behind (Jojo Moyes), The Time in Between (Maria DueƱas)

Movies I watched: The Giver, Mockingjay: Part I, The Hunger Games (TV), Julie & Julia (TV)

TV: Dancing with the Stars, Castle, Grey's Anatomy, Parenthood, Forever, figure skating (Grand Prix Series), college football

About My Monthly Round-Ups
At the end of each month, I take a look back and write a post about the month's highlights, as well as what I read and watched. To see all of my round-up posts, visit this page.

Chicago | October 2014

The Bean

Last month, I traveled up to the Chicago area to attend Skate America. While I was there, I had the opportunity to visit the city for a few hours on Friday, October 24 before the competition started that evening. It was a short visit, but I enjoyed seeing some of my favorite sites from Chicago once again.

The trickiest part of the day was actually making it into Chicago. My hotel was in Hoffman Estates, which is quite a ways from the city. I decided to take the train, but first I had to drive to the Rosemont CTA Station. There was so much traffic on I-90 I was afraid I wouldn't have any time once I made it into Chicago, but I did eventually make it to Rosemont. The train ride into the city was long, but it was nice to be on public transportation again.

The Bean

Reflection in the Bean

The Bean

I arrived in the city a little after 11 and walked over to Millennium Park to visit the Bean ("Cloud Gate") first. It was just as cool as I remembered it but also very crowded. I took a few pictures and then walked around the rest of the park. The trees were decked out in their fall finest, and I had to restrain myself from taking too many pictures. Since it was so pretty (and warm — 60 degrees in October!), I decided to walk down to the waterfront. I found a bench where I could sit down for a few minutes and take everything in. Having such beautiful weather during my stay was such a blessing.

Fall foliage

Fall color

Fall color

Chicago skyline

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Chicago Waterfront

My next stop was the Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue. I visited the museum a few years ago with my parents, but it was nice to go again. This time I went to the Impressionists area and the American art. It was interesting to see Monet's paintings and realize my mom and I had visited the real places earlier this year. I also enjoyed seeing a painting of Les Andelys, the little town we visited on the Seine.

Institute of Art


Chicago River

After I left the museum, I walked over to Giordano's, a restaurant Esther had recommended for dish-deep pizza. It was definitely a popular place, so I ended up sitting in the bar area. The pizza was wonderful, and I was excited the restaurant had Dr Pepper too. Once I finished eating, I walked over to the Chicago River to look around for a little bit and then headed to the subway station. It took a little while for the train to come, but I was still able to make it back to Rosemont a little after 4 and avoid rush hour traffic driving back to Hoffman Estates.

Even though I was just in the city for a few hours, it was great to experience Chicago once again. The warm, sunny weather and gorgeous fall colors made it memorable — it definitely felt like a small gift after the last few weeks.

P.S. I took my first trip to Chicago in 2011 with my parents (a few pictures from that trip).

October 2014 Round-up

Fall foliage

I think this is the longest I've waited to write one of these round-up posts, but as many of you know, October was a difficult, unusual, confusing month for my entire family. While there were many highlights — my trip to Chicago chief among them — the most significant event was my dad's heart attack on October 2. The early-morning phone call from my brother signaled the end of life as I knew in and ushered in the new normal of ICU visiting hours, perplexing medical terms, daily text conversations with my family, and several long drives between Austin and Tyler. Fortunately, my dad is on the mend now, and while we know there is still a long road to recovery ahead, we're all so glad to know there is a road ahead — a way forward after this crazy October.

It seems silly to write anything else about this month, but at the same time, I don't want to forget that good things did happen. Over the past few years that I've been writing these posts, I've enjoyed looking back on these short recaps to see what was taking place in my life (even if it's only to see what I was reading or watching at the time). These are a few of the highlights:

  • Spending the evening of my birthday (that fateful October 2) with my mom, Paul, and Esther. We ate at Shogun's and enjoyed Esther's wonderful birthday cake. I also received some nice presents.
  • Watching the U.S. women, especially Simone Biles, dominate at the World Gymnastics Championships. It was a bright spot during the early days of the month.
  • Buying a one-way ticket to Tyler so I could see Dad one weekend. I flew up on Friday after work, and Paul and I drove back to Austin the following day for the UT-Iowa State game. It was a less-than-24-hour turnaround, but I'm so glad I did it.
  • Meeting my friend Michelle for dinner one evening. It was wonderful to see her and catch up a little bit.
  • Traveling to Chicago for Skate America. On Friday, I took the train into the city for a few hours and then spent the rest of the weekend at the competition. Watching live skating always makes me happy (and meeting Meryl and Charlie was a definite bonus this time).

Books I read: Persuasion (Jane Austen), The Dressmaker (Kate Alcott), Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End (Jennifer Worth)

Movies I watched: Gone Girl

TV: Dancing with the Stars, Castle, Forever, Parenthood, Grey's Anatomy, college football, World Gymnastics Championships, figure skating (Skate America and Skate Canada)

About My Monthly Round-Ups
At the end of each month, I take a look back and write a post about the month's highlights, as well as what I read and watched. To see all of my round-up posts, visit this page.

September 2014 Round-up

Lunch at Matt's El Rancho

Happy Tuesday! Like so many months this year, September has seemed to fly by. These are some of the highlights of the past month:

  • Celebrating Labor Day with my family. It was great to introduce everyone to the pie at Blue Bonnet Cafe.
  • Getting back into the regular routine of handbell practice on Wednesday. I also performed twice in church; once as a sub for the Thursday night group, and the second as a member of my regular group.
  • Spending another weekend in Austin with my family for the BYU game. While Dad, Paul, and Esther went to the game, Mom and I had some special girl time together on Saturday night. We all went to County Line on Sunday after church.
  • Watching figure skating on my computer. These are still early-season competitions, but watching them has made me even more excited for my trip to Chicago next month.
  • Eating a late lunch at Chuy's one Friday...and having another Kendra B. as my server.
  • Finishing my Project 365 photo book. It was nice to receive it in the mail today too.
  • Treating myself to a pedicure at the end of this month.
  • Driving down south after church on Sunday to eat at Mandola's and visit some of the stores down there.

Books I read: Margot (Jillian Cantor), The Island (Victoria Hislop), Larger Than Life (Jodi Picoult), Songs of Willow Frost (Jamie Ford)

Movies I watched: Little Women (DVD), Anne of Green Gables (DVD), Emma (DVD), Mean Girls (TV)

TV: Dancing with the Stars, Grey's Anatomy, Parenthood, Castle, Forever, The Paradise, Veronica Mars (Season 3 DVD), college football

About My Monthly Round-Ups
At the end of each month, I take a look back and write a post about the month's highlights, as well as what I read and watched. To see all of my round-up posts, visit this page.

Looking Back on Labor Day

Canyon of the Eagles Resort

A few weekends ago, my family came down to Austin for Labor Day weekend. As usual, UT played the Saturday before Labor Day, so all of us (sans Mom) went to the game that evening. While we watched the Horns beat North Texas, Mom drove out to the Canyon of the Eagles Resort to get our rooms for the weekend. We joined her in the wee hours on Sunday and stayed there through Monday.

UT vs. North Texas

On Sunday, we had a relaxing day around the resort. We spent most of the morning out on the porch and then ventured out to do our own things throughout the day. Since it was so hot outside, I enjoyed curling up on a chair in the game room and reading (I finished one book and started another). We also enjoyed snacking on the chips and creamy jalapeno sauce Mom brought out from Chuy's.

Canyon of the Eagles Resort

Canyon of the Eagles Resort

Heart-shaped cactus

Canyon of the Eagles Resort

That evening we ate dinner at the resort's restaurant and then stayed a while to listen to the musicians playing outside. We also made s'mores, but it was difficult to do because our skewers were so short. Afterward, we came back to the room to celebrate Mom's birthday with cake and a few gifts.

Canyon of the Eagles Resort


Canyon of the Eagles Resort

Canyon of the Eagles Resort

The next day we left the resort and drove into Burnet. The girls went to an antique mall in town while Paul and Dad drove out to a dam Dad remembered visiting several years ago. We met up for lunch at Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls, where we all enjoyed our meals and the pie. After we finished our lunch, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. It was a fun weekend and a nice start to the fall football season.

Eating at Blue Bonnet Cafe

August 2014 Round-up

The owl is complete. Now it's time to move on to the tree. #kbcrossstitch

Happy Tuesday! I hope all of you had a nice Labor Day weekend. Since August is now over, it's time to look back for my monthly round-up. Here are some of the highlights from the past month:
  • Meeting my mom and Esther up in Dallas for a girls' weekend of shopping, sharing great food, and enjoying being together.
  • Visiting the new Trader Joe's in North Austin for the first time.
  • Watching lots of gymnastics on TV — Youth Olympic Games, U.S. Classics and the Visa Championships.
  • Finishing the owl on my cross-stitch project (now it's on to the tree).
  • Watching Sammy chase a bug in the bathroom one Sunday morning. He stayed after it until he finally killed it. My hero!
  • Cheering the Longhorns on to their first victory of the season.
  • Spending Labor Day with my family in Austin and the Hill Country. It's always great to celebrate Mom's birthday with her, even if it was a few days early.
And a few lowlights...
  • Being sick for a good part of the month. The ability to breathe out of one's nose is severely underrated.
  • Dealing with ants and roaches in my apartment, as well as a leaky drier or AC (they don't know why my laundry room is flooding).

Books I read: The Blythes are Quoted (L.M. Montgomery); The Paris Architect (Charles Belfoure); The Little Women Letters (Gabrielle Donnelly); The House Girl (Tara Conklin)

Movies I watched: The Hundred-Foot Journey, Magic in the Moonlight, Roman Holiday (TV), A Nun's Story (TV), Breakfast at Tiffany's (DVD)

TV: Call the Midwife (Season 2 DVD), Veronica Mars (Season 2 & 3 DVDs), The Big Bang Theory, Castle, gymnastics

About My Monthly Round-Ups
At the end of each month, I take a look back and write a post about the month's highlights, as well as what I read and watched. To see all of my round-up posts, visit this page.

European Adventure | Day 12

IMG_5583_ed text

I've been putting off writing this post since this is my last one for our European trip. It's hard to believe four months have passed since Mom and I returned from Europe. Our last full day in London was a busy one, but we definitely made the most of our time there.

After eating breakfast that morning, we headed out to the Churchill War Rooms, which were truly fascinating. These were the rooms where the British government strategized and coordinated the Allied Forces during World War II. The museum has carefully preserved how things looked back then, so it was interesting to look around and think about all of the history that had taken place there. The War Rooms also included a special museum on Winston Churchill that we both enjoyed visiting.

London Eye

London buses

Houses of Parliament

Riding the London Eye

Our next stop was the London Eye, so we walked across the Thames to get in line. It took well over 30 minutes to board, even though we had tickets for a specific time. Once we made it on board, we went around one time and gained an interesting perspective on the city below. I loved taking pictures from the different angles. After we finished the ride, we decided to share a waffle covered in cream, chocolate sauce, and strawberries for lunch. Yum!

Platform 9 3/4

Wesley's Chapel

Wesley's Chapel

Once we finished lunch, we tried our luck with the Tube. We first went to King's Cross Station so I could see Platform 9 3/4 (Harry Potter pilgrimage complete!) and then rode on to Old Street Station to visit John Wesley's Chapel and the museum attached to it. As Methodists, it was very special for Mom and me to visit the birthplace of Methodism, and it was nice to go somewhere nice and quiet (especially compared to the rest of London).

Unfortunately, I began to feel a little sick at this point (tummy and back, I'm looking at you), which made it difficult to enjoy the last few things we wanted to see. It didn't help that we had trouble finding the British Museum — we think we completely circled it one time — and had to wait in a long line for the restroom once we made it in. Since we were both tired, we found the Rosetta Stone and some Egyptian art and decided to say we had seen the British Museum. Maybe I'll make it back someday.

British Museum

British Museum

Since it was getting later at this point, we headed back toward the hotel and decided to eat dinner at Pizza Hut of all places. It actually ended up tasting pretty good (or maybe I was just tired and ready for American-style food). Afterward, we walked back to the hotel, where we were able to rest.

And with that, our two-week European adventure came to a close. It really was a dream trip, and I'm so glad I was able to spend it with my mom.

Summer Catch-up

Hi, how are you?

With temperatures hovering near 100, it's hard to believe summer is almost officially over. However, the first UT football game is less than two weeks away, which means my family will begin making regular weekend visits to Austin very soon. As usual, my summer has been busy at work, but I've managed to have several fun weekend adventures. Since I haven't been able to write about them yet, I thought I would do a "catch-up" post to cover all of them.

June – Family Fun in San Antonio

Paul, Esther, and Grace (Esther's sister) came to visit me one weekend back in June. Since Grace had never been to San Antonio, we decided to drive down there on Saturday morning. We hit most of the traditional San Antonio destinations — Alamo, eating at Casa Rio on the Riverwalk, and taking a boat tour. After the boat tour, we headed back to Austin and made a slight detour at the San Marcos outlets (Paul never had a chance with three women in the car). Once we made it back to Austin, we dropped by campus and 6th Street and then stopped at Amy's to end the day.


Paul and I at the Alamo


July — Cats, Dogs & the Citywide Garage Sale

Toward the end of July, I visited the Blanton Museum of Art to see In the Company of Cats and Dogs. The exhibit focused on works of art that featured cats and dogs over the ages. I appreciated seeing the different cat paintings and photographs, but the best part may have been the cat videos at the end. After I left the museum, I walked over to the gift shop, and as I was leaving, I saw UT's famous albino squirrel. Legend has it that if you see the albino squirrel before a big test, you're sure to ace it. Let's hope this sighting brings me good luck!

After this momentous sighting, I walked around campus for a little bit before heading over to Barton Springs. Once there, I ate at the new food carts near Chuy's. I was a little disappointed in my fried chicken (it was hard to cut, a little red, and definitely NOT Southern), so I treated myself to a cupcake from Hey Cupcake! Later I went to the Palmer Event Center for the Citywide Garage Sale, where I found a daisy Pyrex dish.

Blanton Museum of Art

Hello Cupcake!

Barton Creek

August – Girls' Weekend in Dallas

For the last few years, Mom and I have met up in August for a girls' weekend (2012 and 2013), and this year we were excited to invite Esther along for the fun during the first weekend of this month. Mom and I met up first at the Grand Prairie outlets and then drove on to Southlake. Esther joined us soon after we checked into the hotel. That evening we ate dinner at Brio, shopped around Southlake, and enjoyed gelato from Piccomolo.

The next day we visited a few thrift/antique stores in Grapevine and then drove out to McKinney. Downtown McKinney was really cute, and we enjoyed looking in the shops around the square. Our first stop in town, though, was Emporium Pies. I had a piece of cherry pie, and it was absolutely delicious. After leaving McKinney, we stopped at the Allen Outlets and then came back to the hotel. That evening we ate dinner at Kobeya, a Japanese restaurant, and picked up cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory (yes, we did well on sweets during this trip).

On Sunday, we ate breakfast at Corner Bakery, and then Esther decided to head back early. Mom and I drove over to Dallas to visit the big Half-Price Books (it's a tradition). Afterward, we ate lunch at Twisted Root Burger and shopped at North Park before heading our separate ways.

Emporium Pies

McKinney, Texas

Girls' Trip to Dallas