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5 Ways You Can Make a Difference



"A Measure of A Life Is It's Service." - General Sam Houston



It's been only days since Hurricane Harvey made us bunker down and take shelter, but so many are already eager to get out and help. Every where you look, there's help, and sometimes "too much" help. So how can you find a way to make a real difference in Texas?


1. See a Need, Fill a Need.
I'm not sure if I was the only one, but I felt a little overwhelmed when I was finally able to get out and help. A friend and I went to the store to pick up some hygiene and feminine products to take to a local church in Katy, but upon arriving, we were told they had already reached full capacity. Thankfully we found another church down the street that was still accepting donations, but as I entered the room, I realized there were so many more bags of clothes than toiletries, food and supplies. I am not discounting the donation of clothes, it is something everyone needs, but when you see a need, you fill a need, right? If there is no need for clothes, what else is there? Below is a short list of things we may take for granted, but many of the people who have been displaced will need:

-Socks
-Underwear (Men, Women, Children)
-Hygiene Products
-Baby Supplies

Of course there are more items, but these main four have been popping up on my newsfeed a lot. 

One thing to remember about donating is that the needs will change. Right now they are looking to stay clean, dry, and fed, with clothes on their back. In a few weeks it will be cleaning and remodeling supplies, or even legal assistance. 


2. Help Thy Neighbor.
Sometimes it is hard clicking on a link and donating your hard earned money to an organization where you may never see the end result. Then I started seeing people I grew up with, people I went to school with... car less, home less, everything gone. I know these people. The family down the street that suffered 4-5 feet of water damage in their house, while thankfully it only got up to your steps. The friends who are struggling even harder because they can't get to work, and rent is due. So many small things we can do by giving rides, cooking meals or just inviting family over for a game night because they are dealing with so much. It doesn't have to be big to start close to home.


3. Be an Online Warrior.
Social media can catch a bad rep, but when it comes to directing people to donations, shelters, rescue boats, you name it, social media was there. Countless people are busy behind the scenes getting lists and spreadsheets together to distribute to those in need. Groups popped up for people to connect with others on what their exact needs were, meeting points were established for drop off, restaurants and local businesses were updating constantly on their operational hours and donation locations. I couldn't go more than two posts with out it pertaining to helping in some way. From just sharing posts to helping run a Facebook group, every bit counts.


4. Stock Up.
I've adopted a new mantra, and I don't care if it sounds cheesy, but this will be a marathon, not a sprint. My heart has been heavy, but full with all of the out pouring of volunteers and donations. I doubt I'm the only one that fears this will go away with time. The water will recede and people will go back to work. But that's when the reality sets in to those really effected, and that's when they will need us again. So, we need to be ready. Stock up on sales, coupons, anything you can, and donate when there is a need, because there will be for a very, very long time. 


5. Find Your Niche.
There are always people who need help, so where do you start? You start with you. Start with what you are passionate about, and something you really want to help make a difference in. For me, I found my niche with Sex Trafficking in Houston, working with local organizations such as Free The Captives, Elijah Rising and Rescue Houston. In addition, the past two days I have been helping SAFE k9 Transport and Austin Pets Alive in Katy, TX to rescue animals from the flooded homes and shelters, and getting them safely to Austin where they have the opportunity to be reunited with their owners, or adopted. I had no idea the effect those two days were going to have on me. So many emotions seeing these animals, but then seeing all of the help. All of the people who were thanking us and bringing us food and water. I now have such a connection with those organizations that I am sure I will be doing this for years to come. 




A Friendly Reminder:
Please be extra kind to strangers. I myself struggle with not getting annoyed when someone takes forever to check out, messes up an order, runs late or is not professional. But every single person I know has been effected by this hurricane one way or another. And no, I don't know all 6.5 million of us, but I'd bet it's effected them as well. You have no idea what other people are going through, and even if you do, that should be another reason to be kind. Be compassionate. Be patient. Our whole city is healing, so let's heal together. 



That's it for now,

Mal















The Ultimate One-Day Solo Trip to Epcot

I've always told myself that I didn't know if I could ever go to Universal Studios in Orlando with out going to Disney World, because, how dare I? But when my family planned a trip to Universal Studios, I saw my opportunity to fly down a day early and make the most of my 24 hours (give or take) at Disney world.

After researching and carefully planning the "perfect" day at Epcot, I am happy to say I pulled it off and I am here to share one of the most magical days ever!



6:00 AM - Wake Up
Seems like an obvious thing, right? Just wanted to make sure those of you who are not early risers know that waking up this early is imperative to making it to Epcot on time. I checked with my hotel (Pop Century) and verified that the first bus left at 7:15 am, giving me at least one hour before I needed to be in Epcot to start my tour.

7:30 AM - Head to Bus Stop
Epcot is about a 15 minute ride from Pop Century, so I made sure I had enough time to wait for the bus, the bus ride, and getting through security. (it can add up)




Fanny Pack? Check. Disney Themed Vans? Check.




8:15 AM - World Showcase: DestiNations Discovered Tour
Now this tour will be getting a post of its own, but for an overview, this is by far one of the most interesting things to do at Epcot, not to include the most bang for your buck. At $109.00 (tax not included) You are given a 5-hour guided tour of all 11 countries in the World Showcase, with behind the scene access.




I chose this tour for many reasons, the main one being able to enter Epcot as early as possible. Even with the extra magic hours, I would not have been able to enter Epcot until 9:00 am, and even then, the World Showcase does not open until 11:00 am (expect for that Frozen ride in Norway). Major Bucket List points for getting a chance to walk around the World Showcase before it opened to the public.




Morocco will always be one of my favorite countries in the World Showcase



After lunch at the Rose & Crown, which was included in the tour, we finished at the UK and Canada Pavilions. Just when I thought it was over, we were surprised with Soarin' Fast Passes - with the guide herself! Waited maybe 15 minutes, all the while learning about the ride and Disney magic.


This tour had a few other "magical moments" that I will keep to myself, but trust me, worth every penny.



2:00 PM - Drink Break
After going non stop all morning, I was ready for a little breather. I stopped at the Coca Cola Refreshments station for a few free tastings of Coca Cola from around the world.

2:15 PM - Test Track
Single rider lines anyone? With no fast pass, I waited 15 minutes for this ride. That's it. 10/10 would recommend.

2:45 PM - Afternoon Snack
Lunch had me full for a while, but I knew I needed something to tide me over until my next meal, so I stopped and got a Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar. $6.00 + tax never tasted so good.




3:10 PM - Living with The Land (Fast Pass +)
I had read that this ride is notoriously fast and easy to walk on, but I had an extra Fast Pass + to use since Misson: Space was still under renovation. Still, I was able to walk on and waited 0 minutes in line.


3:45 PM - Behind The Seeds Tour
This is a 60-minute tour of "behind the scenes" of the Living with The Land ride. Another one of the best bang for your buck, it was only $25.00 (tax included). I read this was also easy to walk up to and schedule, so I was able to score a tour right after the ride. (like I didn't plan that...)





Very informative for someone, like me, who finds the future of agriculture and science fascinating. I even got to taste a cucumber grown right there in the green house. Not as cool if it was back home, but hey, it was Disney!





5:20 PM - Spaceship Earth (Fast Pass +)
I've gone on this ride every time I've been at Epcot but I still can't get over the audiotronics and after a long hot day, it's nice to sit on a ride in a dark air conditioned building. We'll call this my "break".



At this point, I had accomplished everything I wanted to in the Future World, but now it was back to the World Showcase to watch a few flicks and drink a few drinks.


5:45 PM - Mexico
I came back to ride the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros. I grew up on this movie, so it holds a special place in my heart, and what's not to love about the "It's a Small World After All" Ride feeling.

Side Note: I've heard it through the grapevine that this ride will most likely be replaced by a CoCo themed ride in the future, so ride it while you still can!



This is the point in my story that I tell you for as much planning as I did, I thought I'd be alright without a poncho. After hanging out in Mexico for a little bit, I came outside to a monsoon that lasted well over an hour. Only took me about 20 minutes under shelter to realize I wasn't going to melt.




6:45 PM - China
I read on many occasions about the Reflections of China, which is shown with Circle-Vision 360. It's a 14 minute video that takes you on a journey through ancient and modern China, and let me tell you, I've never wanted to go to Hong Kong as much as I did after watching the video. After the video I walked around the shops, letting the rain pass.



As I headed towards America, I stopped and got the Tipsy Ducks in Love, another must-drink.



Also, shout out to DelleaDesigns on Etsy for this awsome Drinking Around The World Tank!

7:30 PM - America
You would think after living in the country all my life, there wouldn't be anything to discover, but I read time and time again that The American Adventure is a show not to miss. 30 minutes long, both Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain take you through the history of America with beautiful images and audiotronics. And I didn't tear up...much.




8:15 PM - France
Last but not least, I headed to France to watch the Impressions de France film which showcases the grandeur, charm and romance of one of Europe's most enchanting countries. The 18 minute film was breathtaking and only made better by the faint Beauty and The Beast music in the background.






Couldn't end my time in France without the Grand Marnier Slush!



9:00 PM - Illuminations: Reflections of Earth
Finally, a chance to stand still. I took in all the fire works and thought about my day, my life and everything in between. I mean really, this firework show is more than just fireworks in the sky, there's so much meaning behind it all. (which you may or may not learn about on your World Showcase: DestiNations Discovered tour)





9:15 PM - Disney's BoardWalk
Although Epcot closes after the Illuminations show, there is a small walk way from Epcot to Disney's BoardWalk, which is still very much open. I enjoyed walking at night and taking in all the magic and the last breathes of summer air.





9:30 PM - AcadabraBar
Not wanting my night to end just yet, I went to the magic themed bar, AbracadaBar. The theming was perfect and the cocktails were delicious. I met a few people and talked for a while about where we were from, and where we were going.






RECAP: I still can't believe how much I accomplished in one day, in addition to actually doing everything that I set out to do. (I'll admit it was probably all of the fast walking). But I'm not perfect, so I'm sure you realized I did not eat after the Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar, and you would be correct. I planned on eating again at one of the countries later in the evening, but between not being able to take food and drinks into the films, and making sure I did everything, eating fell to the way side. I would not recommend this though, I do wish I would have stopped to eat. But other than that, and the poncho situation, I had a delightful day and night.


Transportation Tip: In order to get from Disney's BoardWalk to my Pop Century hotel, I had to Uber. The buses had stopped running by then (After 10:00 pm) - but it was cheaper than Disney's new "Minnie-Van" Uber service. It had just rolled out the week before and to go anywhere on property was a minimum of $20.00. No thanks, Disney, I'll pay $7.54 to an Orlando local.


*Disclaimer: I believe the main reason my day went so well was because I was by myself. You could possibly pull this kind of day off with two people, but any more and it loses it's magic. But please feel free to use any of these ideas for your best day ever!


RESOURCES
World Showcase: DestiNations Discovered Tour Information
Behind the Seeds Tour Information
Complete Itinerary on Travefy.com


The Crawfish Challenge

From the middle of March until July, it's Crawfish Season in Houston and what better way to celebrate than with a Q & A with 94.5 The Buzz's Alex Middleton. This season, Alex, along with his Pass The Gravy Podcast member, Chris, and a few other friends, made it a challenge to eat crawfish every week during Crawfish Season.

Alex Middleton, Pass The Gravy Podcast


Q & A



Q: How did this all start? What got you to think about doing this?

A: My friend Chris and I, who I do my podcast with, were talking about how fun it is to go out to drink and eat crawfish. That's what it started as, then we thought about ranking the crawfish and then I talked about how many weeks I could go and he bet I wouldn't do more than two or three, and I am stubborn and wanted to prove him wrong. So now I'm in my 13th week. I've eaten crawfish 15 times in 13 weeks.


Q: What do you look for in your ideal Crawfish meal?

A: I want it to be spicy, but not too spicy. And I don't judge my crawfish until I've had 10 of them, and then you have to have the corn, cause that will have the seasoning on it. But the first 10 with no spice or butter, just the flavor of it.


Q: Drink of choice?

A: Beer, doesn't really matter. Whatever else anyone else is drinking.


Q: Out of all the ones you've tried so far, which one is the best?

A: LA Fisherman, it's vietnamese style with lemongrass. We got their house special with medium spice. I think we had nine pounds between three people. It was awesome.


Q: Any tips or tricks?

A: I had this one friend, took him out for his birthday for crawfish and I was just consumed, eating my crawfish, but then I noticed he wasn't going through his as quickly as mine.
Long story short: Eat the meat, not the shell.


Q: Do you think you will do this again next year?

A: I don't know, it's expensive. So far on my podcast we do reviews for BBQ and Crawfish, which so happen to be the two most expensive things, crawfish is fun, but you typically spend a lot, I mean you are buying beer, so it adds up. I would like to see it keep going though.



Q: How much longer will you keep going this season?

A: The dream is until the end of the Crawfish Season which I think is mid July - 21 weeks total. Started out with 5, then had to get to double digits, so who knows.



Currently, Alex is in his 15th week of crawfish, with the finish line in sight. If you are interested in staying up to date on his Crawfish Challenge, or just want to listen to his podcast, follow Pass The Gravy on social media and listen for free on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and passthegravypod.com

My Top 5 Fav Birthday Freebies

For those of you who know me, my birthday has always been a big deal. It's the one day of the year it's okay to be self-centered. (there- I said it.) So what else is almost as good as turning another year older? Well, birthday freebies for one. I'm all about flashing my ID to get a good birthday deal, so here are my top 5 favorites!


1. Landry's Select Club

As much as Tilman Fertitta has gotten right in life, the Landry's Select Club is one of my favorites. You pay $25.00 to activate your account, which turns into your "Welcome Reward", so the $25.00 you pay automatically goes onto your card for you to use at any of the participating Landry restaurants. In addition, once you are a member, you receive $25.00 in your account for you to use during your birthday month. Per usual, can't use on alcohol, but still very worth it.




2. Sephora Beauty Insider

Free make up anyone? The Sephora Beauty Insider is one of the many programs Sephora offers where you can earn points and free deluxe samples through out the year, including a birthday gift during your birthday month. Seriously. It's totally free.




3. Benihana Chef's Table

If you're anything like me, the only times I've been to Benihana is either for my birthday or graduation. I'm personally obsessed with hibachi grills, but don't go often due to the usual expense. Thankfully for your birthday you can score a $30.00 gift certificate to use once you are a part of the Chef's Table program. Heads up, pretty much everyone does this so don't be surprised if everyone at your table has a birthday coupon. Hey, at least you get one of those framed photos at the end. #worthit




4. Urban Decay Beauty Junkies

Free make up is just a really cool thing, okay? Especially GOOD make up. So here's my second pick for beauty - the Urban Decay Beauty Junkies program where you get free shipping on all orders, special access to limited-edition products, extended returns and of course, the free birthday gift. Points add up over the year for additional freebies and surprises, so this is a must have when it comes to making the most of your special day.


Keep it together all day (and all night). ๐Ÿ˜‰ // ๐Ÿ“ท: @takashimayasc #UrbanDecay

A post shared by Urban Decay Cosmetics (@urbandecaycosmetics) on



5. Sprinkles Perks

What's a birthday without a little cake? At Sprinkles Cupcakes, you can sign up for the Sprinkles Perks where you get a free cupcake on your birthday! In addition to the free cupcake, you get double points and chances to earn free cupcakes through out the year. Not that I need more cupcakes, but I'd like to be offered.




Each of these birthday freebies come with time stipulations, so make sure to check ahead of time when the freebies expire. What are your favorite birthday freebies?

Treat Yo Self Day



I'm such a sucker for holidays, especially when there is candy involved. Which means you know I'm hitting up those discount candy sales tomorrow. But before I buy way more candy than any one person should be allowed, I wanted to treat myself to a little make over.

I had been dying to try out local Make Up Artist Jentry Kelley's line of make up, but was unable to make any of the demos she offered around town, until today! (And what better day than Valentine's Day!)




I was amazed at how much a few small make up application tricks really changed the over all look of my face. I had been struggling with finding a good day to day routine, which Kelley coins as her "Carpool Make Up" look - and it was exactly what I was looking for.



I was pleasantly surprised at how little time it took to create that every day look, without putting on too much. I tend to dread putting make up on because of the time it takes, because yes, I am that lazy, but her routine was perfect. She had me hold a mirror throughout the application to show me how she was applying, and that really helped. She even filled me in on some tips to make the most of her make up.




To top it all off, she sent me home with information on all of the make up she used and even had a face to show where she applied each of her products. I bought the Tinted Primer, which has SPF20 (hello sunscreen), but can't wait to buy the rest.




Below are the products she used on me:

SKINCARE

Exfoliate

Quench

Revive

Hydrate


FACE

Step 1

Step 2
No foundation used

Step 3

Step 4


CHEEKS

Step 1

Step 2


LIPS



EYES

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3
Eye Shadows 
Pressed
Loose

Step 4

Step 5


48 Hours in Arizona



This past weekend I took advantage of a friend of mine living in Phoenix, and explored the Sedona Desert, Scottsdale and surrounding areas. I hope my post brings you ideas on how to not only make the best of each trip you take, but how to plan, implement and learn to make your next trip even better!

CHOOSING MY DATE


I chose to visit in February mainly because flights tend to sky rocket to this area between March and September because of the warm weather - but even though February is still considered "winter", the weather was almost perfect. When picking the best time to visit any city, look into going either right before, or right after, the tourist season. Odds are, you'll still get all the highlights of the busy season, but without the crowds and high price.


CHOOSING MY FLIGHT


Like normal 9-5 jobs, I don't have a ton of time I can take off through out the year, so I tend to plan my trips on the weekend. Sometimes it's hard to find the right price and time, but I found a flight that fit with my work schedule to where I only had to take a half day on Friday. So technically didn't have to "take off" work at all! The flight left at 2:55 pm on Friday and came back at 11:30 pm Sunday. There is a one hour time difference (they are one hour behind) and even though I didn't get home until almost 1:00 am Sunday night, it was still worth it.


PLANNING 


To me, half the fun of any trip is the planning. Finding the local spots, hidden bars, off the beaten road activities, you name it. My friend was relatively new to the area so he was more than happy to let me look into a few things for us to do. Of course I used my trusty Travefy website to put all the information in one place. I sent him the link prior to the trip to look it over and we were good to go.


THE FUN PART


FRIDAY


My flight arrived around 5:00 pm Arizona time on Friday and we decided to keep it low key and head to Chandler, which is southeast of Phoenix. Chandler is a small town that was busy enough with locals, but thankfully didn't seem to be a touristy area. For dinner we ate at San Tan Brewing Company where I throughly enjoyed seeing multiple Texas items on the menu - but I settled for shrimp tacos and their Grapefruit Shandy. (which you can get in Texas!)

After, we headed to Modern Margarita, a small cocktail bar that seemed to be the place to be on a Friday night. I decided to keep it simple and ordered the signature Modern Margarita, complete with my favorite - lucas salt on the rim.



I had originally planned on going out in Phoenix that night but between waking up at 4:30 am that morning, mainly because I hadn't packed yet, and working half a day, I knew I needed to wave my white flag. So we called it a night, knowing we'd have to be up at 5:30 am the next morning. And no, I'm not sure why I do that to myself.

SATURDAY


Up early, we headed into Sedona to hike to the Devil's Bridge. We got there at the perfect time, before it got too hot and too crowded. The hike wasn't bad at all, and the views were simply breathtaking. I felt like I was in a movie. Did I mention this was free? We got there around 8:30 am and by the time we came back down, around 10:00 am, there were waves of people coming up. It was tight sometimes with just the few people we did encounter, so I can only imagine how tight it got with everyone else.







Trip Tip: Go as early as possible and bring water. There are multiple places to sit down and take a break, so energy bars and light snacks are also encouraged, depending on how long you want the hike to take. There were multiple routes to take, so this could easily be an all day adventure.


After our hike, we were pretty hungry and had time to kill before our jeep rental at 1:00 pm, so we headed further into Sedona and found a local restaurant, Olde Sedona Bar and Grill with a small art and craft show going on in the parking lot. The views weren't too bad either. And you bet the second I saw fried Cactus on the menu, I had to have it. Verdict? It was delicious. I opted for the chicken tortilla soup as my lunch, knowing we still had a long and active day ahead of us.



After lunch, we headed across the street to Whole Foods and bought a few drinks and snacks for our afternoon excursion. Even though our rental at Barlow Adventures didn't start until 1:00 pm, we arrived around 12:30 pm to start the paper work process. Again, being early paid off because about 10 minutes after we started our paperwork, two other big groups came in. Thankfully we were almost done and on our way.




The jeep rental was for 5 hours so we decided on two trails, the easier one, Solider Pass and then the most popular one, the Broken Arrow trail. The first one took about an hour and half, going all the way down and stopping at different places on the way back.




The second trail took about 2 hours, going through some pretty rough areas, with a breathtaking payout. Both were amazing, but Broken Arrow takes the cake as one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. Renting a jeep vs. going on a guided tour makes a world of difference. We were able to take our time and stop and go as we please.







After finishing early with the trails, we ventured further into downtown Sedona to see what we could find. In addition to breathtaking views, there was an abundance of shops, restaurants and more. Refueling with pizza at Sedona Pizza Company, was the cherry on top of the ice cream of a perfect day.

Sedona is about 2 1/2 hours from Phoenix, so we decided to head back and take it easy by staying in, but at least we got to watch the sun set behind the mountains on the way back.




Trip Tip: My FOMO is real, and when I travel I tend to over plan and tire myself out before the end of the trip. But I knew that we had been gone for over 14 hours and my body needed to chill so I was more than happy to stay in.



SUNDAY



Now it was time for my part of the trip that I planned, and man had I planned it. I found Rainbow Ryders, a hot air balloon company (hello bucket list) and booked a flight for that Sunday morning, which ended with a brunch in the desert. But because Saturday was just too perfect, and life happens, the weather was not in our favor, and unfortunately, the flight was canceled. Yes, I had my moment of silence (planners, you know what I mean.) But I wasn't going to let that ruin my last day.

Before we even made it back to the office, I had found and booked a lunch food tour in downtown Scottsdale with Arizona Food Tours. Since it was still relatively early, we headed to Lux Central which is crowned as one of the most Instagrammed restaurants in Phoenix. Super cute and local, it reminded me a lot of a place you would find in Austin, TX. I ordered the biscuits and gravy and a cup of their house blend coffee.




Next we headed to Scottsdale and walked around until the food tour started. I have done a food tour before in Chicago, as well as a pub crawl in Denver, both I highly recommend wherever you go. It's a great way to not only sample multiple local favorites, but to learn local history and meet new people.





The food tour was 3 hours long and consisted of 5 stops, one of which included a drink - but we were more than welcome to buy additional drinks on the side. (which you know I did)





Around 2:00 pm, the tour ended, but thanks to suggestions from a few of the people we met, we made our way to Pedego Electric Bikes and for only $15.00 an hour, you can rent an electric bike and take it basically wherever you want. (There are other bike options for $25.00 per hour)

They had a few suggested routes, which lead us to the neighborhood down the street where some of the most amazing houses were. I know that sounds weird, just looking at houses on bikes, but it was really something! Plus, Camelback Mountain in the background wasn't too bad either. It was just fun to be on a bike and experience a side of Scottsdale not many get to.



Around 5:00 pm, after we were done with the bikes, and since the day was kind of a "play by ear day" - we headed to the airport to drop me off. I couldn't believe my wonderful weekend was finally coming to an end. It really seemed like it was longer than usual, and for that I am grateful.


RECAP



It was a great trip and even though the hot air balloon didn't work out, I had the time of my life and definitely plan on making my way back to that area someday.

And of course, shout out to my great host, Aron, for putting up with me for the weekend.




Overall Trip Tip: I highly recommend finding friends that live in cities you want to visit and see if they wouldn't mind hosting you (or you and a few friends) for the weekend. You'd be surprised at how they are more than happy to have visitors and show off their area, so don't be afraid to ask that friend you went to college with 7 years ago.

My "Do Something" Year

Here we go again, another New Year, another list of things we want to improve on. Save money? Of course. Lose a few pounds? Sounds like a plan.

But what about those goals that will not only improve your life, but other lives as well?

I am using this question as my jumping off point for my "Do Something" year. For too long I've just read the articles on my newsfeed that highlights local issues, thinking some day I would help in some way. But "some day" never came, and here we are, a new year with new possibilities. So why not now? I have made it a goal of mine to do a few things each month to help improve the lives of others, in addition to improving mine.

Below I have divided up my goals with resources on how you can join me and help make Houston a better city!


Volunteer More

This has always been something I've wanted to do more of, but I always thought I would need at least one or more people to volunteer with me. But in an attempt to grow more individually, I am stepping out of my comfort zone and volunteering on my own. I have found a few websites that help connect you to volunteering opportunities locally. (listed below) My goal is to try and do at least one event a month, if not more. My first event will be on Saturday, January 21 with the BBP Community Clean-Up, which takes place at Buffalo Bayou Park from 8:30 - 11:30 am. (and you can still catch brunch after)

Houston Volunteer Websites:
VolunteerHouston.com
VolunteerMatch.com
AllForGood.org


Run More

Back in the day when I had time, and money, I used to run a lot. I ran a few half marathons and some 5K's in between. Not only was it a fun way to stay in shape, but it kept me motivated and usually came with a free t-shirt and medal. (who can say no to a free shirt?) Sure, they can get expensive, costing about $25.00 - $45.00 for each event - But if I plan ahead, that's basically one night of not going out. There are so many small 5K's and fun runs in Houston, so I knew I wouldn't have an issue with trying to do one a month. My first one will be on Saturday, January 14th for the ABB 5K. Until the Expo day, it is only $35.00.

Houston Running Event Websites:
HoustonRunningCalendar.com
RunningInTheUSA.com
Active.com



Learn More

I feel ashamed when I think back on the past two years post college and think about how little I've continued my education. Yes, I've been to a few workshops here and there, read a few books when I had the time, and watched my fair share of Netflix documentaries, but I didn't do any of this with a goal or end game in mind. So with that said, this is the year to really learn more and continue my education, and not just in the marketing field. I recently came across the series Brain Games on Netflix and - just wow. Re-learned a few things I forgot but also learned a few new tricks that I am pretty proud of - felt good to actually learn something new other than a short cut in Illustrator.


So when it comes to learning more, I plan on going about it three different ways:

Daily: I recently found this App called Peak - Brain Training, and you can set alarms to remind you to train each day. I set mine for 6:00 am, which is when I wake up, and I play a few brain games first thing in the morning. It keeps track of the games you play and shows you where you need improvement, and where you are excelling. Takes me maybe 10 minutes max, and I love getting my brain working that early.

Monthly: Watch at least one new documentary. As much as I am on Netflix, you would think I could spare more time to watch a new documentary, but sometimes I just have to catch up on Scandal. Even though I wish Ancient Aliens counted, I reserve these documentaries to have some kind of historical or scientific basis.

Bi-Monthly: Find a luncheon or workshop that is related to my career field and see if my job will sponsor me, if not, the events are usually only $25.00 - $35.00, worth the lunch and networking. Since I am in the marketing field, I use AMAHouston.Org for their event and luncheon information. Which ever career field you are in, there should be an organization in Houston that will help point you in the right direction for continued education.


Save More

This may not be that unusual, who doesn't want to save more? But just as it seems that simple, the not simple part is laying out a plan and sticking to it. Over the years I have found only one method that has worked for me, and although I've been slacking, I am ready to get back on and (hopefully) never fall off. Now, I could talk forever about the Dave Ramsey Envelope System, but I'll save that for a different post. For now, I give you the website as a starting tool. Perfect time to do it because the system allows you to save up for Christmas all year so by the end of the year you don't have to worry about relying on your bonus or making funds tight.


Exercise More

For the first time - probably ever - I got a jump start on this one. In the beginning of November I joined Planet Fitness with the intention of taking my time to figure out a good workout routine, time of day to go, etc. And that I did! I found that the perfect time for me to go is in the morning before work, and I have started to dedicate days to arms, abs and legs, in addition to my daily cardio. I don't go every single day but I do have a time set aside each day for just working out. Once you find time and space in your schedule, you have no excuse left and let me tell you, after doing it for more than 21 days, you build a habit, and you won't want to stop! But don't think that since it's January, you HAVE to start now. Start slowly, do your research and decide what options are the best for you and find what fits best with your schedule. If I can motivate just one person to start a new workout routine and a healthier lifestyle - I've done my job.


Communicate More


This one might just be the most important. I almost want to rename it "Communicate Better" because that is something I've wanted to work on personally for a while. Not just with friends and co-workers, but with family and new people. Sending small thank you notes, mailing post cards to long distance friends to let them know I am thinking of them and calling my grandparents more than once every 6 months. But it's more than just the increase of communication, it's learning to communicate better. Learning to listen - just to listen, instead of listening to respond. And saying no, that's been a hard one for many years, but sometimes the best thing you can do is put yourself first and say "no."


If you take away anything from this post, I hope you take away the inspiration and motivation to "Do Something" this year - wether it be volunteer, run, learn or communicate - I wish for you a wonderful year full of life, love and happiness. May this be the best year...yet!