Monday, September 29, 2014

"You have to live AROUND the staging."

I had never seen a house staged in real life before. Only on HGTV! But part of our real estate contract included staging services, so I was psyched to see what they could do with our house. I mean, our house is cute (I like to think I have good taste in decor, haha), but it's not TV-worthy or anything.

So after a quick consultation with the "design team" — I don't know what else to call them, but it really was like, five people tromping through our house, taking snapshots and making suggestions! — I came home from work one day to find my house full of plants and lamps and pillows that weren't mine.

I'm not sure how, but the stagers managed to take our house from this …

… to this ...
And our kitchen table nook …

… into a bonafide breakfast nook:
And our guest room-slash-office ...
… into a better, brighter version of a potential guest room-slash-office.
And a fairly ordinary full bathroom …  

… into a gigantic, bathing haven.
Seriously! Everything looks so much bigger! They must have magic cameras or something. 

And from that day on, the house needed to be in pristine condition all day erryday. I asked how one was supposed to live in a house in which all your stuff is hiding in closets and in boxes, and Matt said we'd just have to live around the staging.

So now, we do. The pieces that were brought in never get moved or touched, ever.  The decorative towels in the bathroom never see a drop of water, and I hide the towels we actually use inside the shower where they aren't as obvious. The bed gets made every day, and all shoes that were kicked off the night before find their perfect spot in the closet. Forget cooking; that would cause dirty dishes, which don't exist in this perfect kitchen!

And whaddaya know, the staging and magic photos must have worked, because we had a showing on day one and an offer on the table on day two…

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Trivia Pursuit

A couple of weeks ago — okay, maybe by now it's been like a month and a half, I'm not really sure since time isn't working properly in my brain right now — Matt's sister and brother-in-law came to visit us. Sometimes Matt and I have a hard time thinking of fun things to do when people come visit, but on this particular visit, Matt suggested we go to Trivia Night at O'Bannon's, a bar on Northgate (right off of campus).

I love trivia, even though I am not great at it, so I was pumped he suggested it. I love learning random facts! Thankfully, all four of us have different sets of knowledge, so right off the bat, our team (which we dubbed Team Win-Win-Win) had a good chance of living up to its namesake. The prize? The bar pays off your tab. Pretty sweet deal!

There were seven rounds, each with a different category, and right out of the gate, Team Win-Win-Win took the lead! There were categories for sports, for advertising slogans, for famous faces, and for random odds and ends. We lost the lead a few times, but kept sliding back into the top three teams.

We didn't end up winning; we came in second place to a team called The United States of Canada, but it was close enough that we threw out our original plan of heading out early like ol' tired folks in favor of staying all night to see if we could win. Worth it, even if we had to pay our tab at the end. :)

Do you like playing trivia? What categories are your favorites?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's a Hokie?

Here's an interesting factoid I learned. At church, of all places.

Because we're a small congregation, we had been asking for prayers about our job search for months. Matt just informed our church family that he had gotten his new job, and that we were moving.

And apparently, one of our friends, who is a professor at A&M, thought it was hilarious that he was going to be a Hokie. (That's Virginia Tech's mascot.) And gleefully chose to inform him what a Hokie actually is.
And Matt decided to tell me right in the middle of the sermon. Our pastor just started a series on the Seven Deadly Sins, and this week we were talking about Sloth.

Matt pulled the bulletin I was doodling on over to his lap, and wrote:

"[FRIEND] told me that a Hokie is a castrated turkey."

It took all I had to not snort during the middle of Sloth.

I'm sorry … but WHAT? A turkey is like, the worst mascot ever. Why on earth would anyone choose a team mascot to be a turkey with no, erm, Butterballs?

Virginia Tech's official stance is that a Hokie has nothing to do with turkeys. Urban Dictionary says Virginia Tech's stance is an elaborate hoax and/or conspiracy theory to cover up the existence of a Loch Ness Monster-style turkey that lives in the mountains. But Texas A&M is an agricultural school, so it's possible our professor friend is also correct — at least as far as what a castrated turkey is officially called — even if VT disagrees with it.

Whatever it is, it makes me laugh. :)

What is your favorite team mascot, for awesomeness reasons or humorous ones?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Things to Do In Bryan/College Station

We're getting ready for a big move, to another college town. When we visited our new city, I asked the hotel concierge/college student what people in Blacksburg like to do for fun. And while he threw out a couple of ideas, he admitted:

There's not much to do here.

That was the same answer I got when I first moved to College Station and asked what people did for fun. People said that other than the movie theaters, there was nothing to do. And, after five years of living here, to that I say:


There is SO MUCH to do in this town, if you just look around once in a while. (Yes, movies are $4.50 with a student ID*, so yes, that is a good option. But it is by no means the only option.)

*Hint: It doesn't have to be an A&M student ID. And it doesn't matter if you were 18 in the photo and are … definitely closer to 30 than 18 now.

So I'm going to share a few things we've done and tried and experienced during the last five years of living in this college town. And I'll even share my secret weapon for finding things to do.

Fountain outside the Memorial Student Center (MSC).

Things to Do On Campus
There are tons of musical and theatrical performances on campus, especially near the end of each semester. We've watched (and Matt has performed in) dozens of Percussion Studio shows. We've watched a cappella singing groups The Femmatas and Hardchord Dynamix. We've gone to dance performances. We've been to lectures, including one by an Apollo astronaut. We saw the '80s band Chicago in concert. We saw the Blue Man Group when the MSC OPAS brought them to town. We've seen free outdoor movies and one-act plays. Look at the campus and city calendars to see what's going on!

Things to Do If You Like Drinking
There are several wineries and microbreweries in town. Messina Hof is probably the most famous — they do wine tastings and tours, and their restaurant is great — but don't overlook Perrine Winery, a little winery storefront that just opened a few years ago. They do a lot of custom fruity wines and pairings. Their tastings are fun; we used to have book club here all the time.

There's also the New Republic Brewery, which is kind of off the beaten path — they only have three or four of their beers on tap at a time, but they have live bands and food trucks come out on Friday nights. It's worth overlooking the fact that they're located in a storage shed.

There's always Northgate as well, but if you're not a college student you can sometimes feel a little out of place; but if you insist, hang out at O'Bannon's. The Proudest Monkey in Downtown Bryan is better than most of Northgate for young professionals; trust me, you need to eat something, because their mixed drinks are STRONG. Their yuppie fries are covered in Parmesan and are amazing, and they have pretty good tacos too.

Grab some friends and head to Painting With a Twist, and you can drink wine while you get a painting lesson and get to keep the masterpiece you create. (Bring your own wine and snacks.)

Teaching my sister to two-step at Hurricane Harry's.

Places to Go If You Like to Dance
If you want to dance on a weekend, Hurricane Harry's is great for country dancing and two-stepping. They often have famous country bands performing, so check who's playing.

Salsa dancing? Go to the Village Cafe on Wednesday and Saturday nights. If you go at 8 p.m., they have a lesson followed by an open dance floor, and tickets are cheap. Plus, they have a good selection of beer, and it doesn't matter if you have a date or not.

If you're looking for something like weekly dance classes, check out Dance Centre CS for tap, belly dancing, burlesque and ballet.

Things to Do at Your Local Church
Get involved in a local place of worship! Many of the churches have events at least every couple of months, especially on holidays. Ours does holiday events like the Easter Eggstravaganza and Trunk or Treat, in addition to hosting an annual 42 Tournament and Chili Cookoff, and plenty of small group activities and studies. Plus, more musical performances!

Things to Do If You Like Museums
The George H.W. Bush Library is excellent. There are two art galleries in the Memorial Student Center (MSC) on campus, and they are always rotating their collections; once, the Forsyth Gallery had a collection of Degas sketches, and another time, they had a selection of intricate quilts. Sometimes the galleries also have student art. The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History is pretty good as well. (Though their butterfly releases are not as exciting as you think they're going to be, unless you have kids — they don't release all the butterflies all at the same time. I was expecting a swarm of them, and was disappointed.)

At Texas Reds 2012

Things to Do If You Like Live Performances
Go downtown to the Grand Stafford for live music of every genre. They have performances several nights per week. Downtown Bryan also has First Friday every month, where they have various groups performing throughout downtown, including local musicians and dancers. They also offer free movies and performances at the Palace Theater downtown. If you like theater, check out the 3rd Floor Theater, also downtown. And of course, there is live music all weekend at the Texas Reds Grape and Steak Festival that happens every fall.

Things to Do If You Like Sports
Obviously, go see some Aggie football! The Powers That Be have spent the last year revamping Kyle Field to make the experience even more epic, and I've heard they're not done yet. We can now hear the announcers from our house, so that's happening. Basketball games at Reed Arena are quite fun too. We've also seen the Harlem Globetrotters there. Oh, and don't forget to check out the Brazos Valley Bombers minor-league baseball team. On certain days during the summer they have dollar beer nights or cheap margaritas, and they serve Blue Bell ice cream.

Other Activities
Go to a rodeo at the Brazos County Expo — they have events all year, including some non-horse ones (the first bridal show I ever attended was also at the Expo). Get involved in your community with  Citizen's Police Academy or Citizen's Fire Academy (both Bryan and College Station offer fire academy, and I've heard that College Station's program is better). Volunteer with Keep Brazos Beautiful. Play laser-tag or go mini-golfing at Grand Station.

"France," at 7F Lodge

Places to Sleep
There are a couple of nice bed and breakfasts that I didn't know about until I'd lived in College Station for several years. The first I've talked about before, 7F Lodge. Can't recommend them highly enough! The second is The Nest B&B; I haven't actually stayed there, but I attended a baby shower in the main lobby area, and it was a very cute, remote bed and breakfast that looked well cared for.

Need more help finding things to do? Hint: I regularly look at community calendars to find out what's going on. Some of the best ones are Visit Aggieland, Downtown Bryan and Maroon Weekly.

I'll probably do a second post about my favorite places to eat here, as well. I pride myself on having tried most of the local restaurants in town. :)

Anything that you love to do in this area that I've missed? (Sorry I don't have a section for family-friendly fun, but … I don't have kids so I don't have many suggestions on that front.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Blue Bell Challenge: Completed!

As you know from my monthly wrap-up reports … erm, which I failed to complete for August … I have been on a quest for many moons to sample every current flavor of Blue Bell ice cream. It was a challenge I took very seriously. If I'd even so much as heard rumors that there might be a new flavor available, I immediately wrote it down.

August was a little bit busy for me. Because Matt is a good husband, he was basically doing everything for me, including cooking, going to the grocery store, cleaning, blogging … and because he's a good husband, he also stopped by the ice cream aisle at HEB, where he found another flavor we've been waiting for … White Chocolate Almond! It was quite good — sweet, but not overly so, like white chocolate can be. Chunky, but not too chunky. It was awesome.

There was also another new flavor that came out for September … Malt Shoppe. It's delicious. It tastes like those Whoppers candies, but in ice cream form, and even has some tiny malt balls in it.

But there were still 11 flavors on my list that I hadn't been able to track down this whole time. And with an imminent move to a state in which Blue Bell is only available in some areas, Matt suggested that I write a letter to Blue Bell to ask if or when those flavors might become available again. And then I put that on my to-do list and then didn't do it, until he had a better idea a week or two later.

After our Malt Shoppe purchase, Matt asked me how many flavors were left on my list, so I read them off to him. (In case you're curious, they were: Cake and Ice Cream, Caramel Turtle Fudge, Cherry Cheesecake, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Creole Cream Cheese, Dessert Trio, Lemon, Lemon Ice Box Pie, Pineapples & Homemade Vanilla, Strawberry Banana Pound Cake, and Summer Strawberry Pie.) He said he'd never even seen some of the ones I listed, so he suggested I take a look at Blue Bell's rotational flavor list to make sure all the ones I have left on my list are still, you know, available for purchase. Aaaand I did, and then I had to remove every single one of them from my list because they are not available at any time of year anymore.

Which means … I have no more left on the "Flavors I Haven't Tried" list.

CHALLENGE COMPLETED, with 67 flavors tried! (You can see analyses of all the flavors throughout these posts.)

Just in time, too! But please, oh God, please let Blue Bell be available in the part of Virginia we're headed to. I don't know that I want to live in a world in which there's no Butter Crunch or Happy Tracks.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Would you be sick of ice cream after 67 flavors?