Catching Up

Wow, my last post was March 15th. I’m doing an excellent job with this, aren’t I?

I have no excuses for my absence other than that I just haven’t felt like blogging lately. But, today, I do. Let’s just go with it.

I really want to write about a bunch of fun things that we’ve done in Austin this summer- we’ve been knocking things off my bucket list left and right- but it doesn’t feel right to jump into that without addressing the gap of time between March and August. So, I’m going to speed through that chunk with a quick recap today, moving on to more recent fun the next time I feel motivated to write. Cool? Cool.

Here are my top two favorite memories from each of the past five months:

MARCH

GRRM event

Meeting GRRM. Are there any Game of Thrones fans out there who will geek out with me about this? For Christmas this year, I gave Stephen tickets to a private dinner and tour of A&M’s Game of Thrones exhibit in the Special Collections Library. George R. R. Martin attended too! We’d been looking forward to this night for MONTHS, and it did not disappoint.

Cookies from Make It Sweet

Easter cookie-decorating class at Make It Sweet. My friend Claire nabbed a Groupon deal and invited me to join her. We had an awesome time and learned a ton of easy decorating techniques. I’m glad we were able to take our creations home, because there’s no way I’m ever baking and decorating sugar cookies in my own kitchen, on my own time. Fun, but WAY too time-intensive for this Crock-Pot cook.

APRIL

sunset at the Oasis

Mini college reunion in Austin. The six of my closest friends from college are spread across the country (and Brazil), and this was the first time we’ve all been in the same city since graduation four years ago. We had drinks at the Oasis, rode a mechanical bull on 6th Street, hiked and swam at Reimer’s Ranch and Hamilton Pool, and cried our eyes out when the weekend came to an end.

Dave and Kristy

Oh! And my brother proposed to his girlfriend- my soon-to-be-sister- Kristy this same weekend!

Avon Walk 2013

2013 Houston Avon Walk. For the third year in a row, my aunt Nancy and I walked 40 miles through Houston to raise money for breast cancer. I look forward to this weekend with her all year long. It’s a really special event, made even more special by the help and encouragement of my uncles, my cousin and Stephen.

MAY

Getting Ready

Sasha’s bachelorette party. One of my closest friends from high school got married this summer, and she picked Austin as the destination for her bachelorette party. I was so excited to show the ladies around my favorite city! We celebrated with champagne and silly games, a sunset at the Oasis, SUP on the river, lunch at Whole Foods flagship, and a night out on 6th Street.

Bryce Canyon

Hiking and camping in Bryce Canyon and Zion. I’ve been dying to see Utah’s national parks for years now, and Memorial Day provided the perfect timing for a visit. My friend Tracy (see college reunion above), her boyfriend Stefan, Stephen and I met up in Vegas and drove out to Bryce Canyon and Zion for five days of scenic hiking and back-country camping. This trip really deserves like three blog posts of its own; hopefully I find the motivation to write more about it soon.

JUNE

Girls_Sasha_Wedding

Sasha’s wedding. The same lady who rode a mechanical bull in a tiara in May became a wife in Williamsburg, Virginia less than a month later. Everything about her wedding was beautiful, from the bride herself to her husband’s grandmother’s touching reading from the Velveteen Rabbit. Tears. Everywhere.

Visiting family in Virginia. Stephen and I normally come home to Virginia for two long visits twice a year. We both work remotely, so it’s really easy to pack up our work laptops and log in from whichever city we’re living in that day. With Sasha’s wedding on the calendar, it made sense to extend our trip to include a few weeks with family. Stephen’s mom, dad, and my parents all live within three miles of each other. We’re so lucky!

JULY

Cedar Creek Lake

4th of July at the Reisers’ lake house. The Reisers own two incredible homes on Cedar Creek Lake outside of Dallas. Carrie invited Stephen and I to join for the 4th of July, and we spent the long weekend tubing, swimming, playing board games and eating delicious food. Their lake house is seriously my happy place.

Probus Family Maine

Matt and Whitney’s wedding in Maine. Stephen’s cousin Matt and his beautiful girlfriend (now wife!) Whitney planned an intimate wedding in Camden, Maine a few weeks ago. We were SO excited to attend. The wedding was on a Monday, so we had several days beforehand to explore the area. We hiked in Acadia, explored downtown Portland, and soaked in as much family time as possible.

So, that’s the scoop! Hopefully I’ll be back again soon to chat about Austin fun!

 

Volunteering for SXSW

It’s Friday! Excitement!

Of course, I’m always excited for Friday, but I’m especially excited this week. Reason being- I’m EXHAUSTED. SXSW will do that to you!

If you’re not familiar, SXSW is a set of interactive, film and music festivals and conferences held in Austin every March. There are other components too- gaming, comedy, style, etc. It’s a BIG deal, and the event contributes more than $160 million to Austin’s economy annually.

When I moved here, I promised myself that I’d get involved with SXSW every year, at least in some capacity, and so far I’ve kept true to that. This was my second year volunteering and although it’s quite a commitment, it’s absolutely worth it.

Stateside Theater, night and day.

Stateside Theater, night and day.

Austinites, if you’re interested in volunteering for SXSW, DO it. I really can’t recommend it enough. Again, I’m only two years in and don’t profess to be an expert on the topic, but I’ll share a bit about my experience with it.

PROS —

The badge. The chief perk of volunteering for SXSW? You earn a badge. Now, there are plenty of events open to the larger public during SXSW, but most of the main attractions- panels, film screenings, concerts, parties- are badge-only events. There are several types of badges available- Interactive, Film, Music, Gold (Interactive and Film) and Platinum (Interactive, Film and Music). You can earn any kind of badge, depending on how much time you invest and the type of work you do.

Behind the scenes action. Both years, I’ve worked as a production volunteer on the Stateside film venue crew (I talk about the different kinds of volunteer positions below). We’re responsible for seating film screenings, managing lines outside the theaters, communicating with other venues about capacity and availability, and accepting ballots, among other things. I’m hardly a film buff, but I really enjoy the film component of SXSW. We’re often welcome to sit in on screenings when there are open seats, and you see a lot of celebrities. This year, Mud, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Sound City all premiered next door at the Paramount, so I spotted Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Matthew McConaughey and Dave Grohl while working shifts.

Pretty hard to see, but from left to right that's Steve Carell, Dave Grohl and Matthew McConaughey

Pretty hard to see, but from left to right that’s Steve Carell, Dave Grohl and Matthew McConaughey

Networking. I don’t care what line of work you’re in, you’ll meet interesting people during SXSW. This might be the best part really. I love getting to know the other volunteers and chatting with people I wouldn’t have met under other circumstances.

Tech Cocktail event at Stage on 6th.

Tech Cocktail event at Stage on 6th.

Buzz and free stuff. Austin really comes alive during SXSW, and it’s just a lot of fun to be downtown at the center of it all. Volunteering keeps you informed about which events are getting a lot of buzz and traffic. You won’t waste time waiting in line for a film that’s gotten a poor response, and you’ll know where to find free booze and food.

T-shirts. Every volunteer receives two. It’s not a huge perk, of course, but still worth mentioning. Gap sponsored the T-shirts this year, so they were really soft and comfortable. I’m sure I’ll wear mine for years to come.

Loved this year's design!

Loved this year’s design!

CONS —

Time. Volunteering for SXSW is a BIG time commitment, no matter what role you take on. FYI, there are two different categories of volunteers- conference and production. The main differences between the two are how your time/hours are tallied and the perks available. Conference volunteers work hours toward their perk, and production volunteers work a set number of shifts. Be prepared to invest at least 30-80 hours of your time. Both years, I ended up putting in around 40-50 hours to earn my perk of choice, a Gold Badge.

Traffic and parking. I’m listing traffic as a con, but it really hasn’t been a big problem for me personally. I live south of downtown, so driving north at the hours of my shifts hasn’t been bad at all. I’ve heard different things from those making the trip from up north. Parking, like traffic, doesn’t necessarily have to be an issue. If you’re willing to walk, there is ample free parking south of the river around the Palmer Center and in neighborhoods off South Lamar and Zilker Park. I normally park near the Palmer and can be at the Stateside Theater after a 20 minute (brisk) walk. I’m sure there are plenty of other free places to park- ask around! Many people bike in too. Just be sure to bring a good lock.

Really, those are the only cons I can think of! I’ve had a wonderful experience both years and strongly recommend getting involved.