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Monday, June 1, 2015

Texas Beer Bus Tour

Most of the time when I do things it's because I'm marking it off  my giant bucket list, but other times I do things that just seem fun. This past Saturday I did the Texas Beer Bus Tour just because it seemed like a fun thing to do. Now, I'm not a big drinker, though you probably couldn't tell by my list. But my husband loves beer, and I thought he would really enjoy this adventure. I contacted Neil, the Beer Bus Tour owner and asked if we could set something up and he was more than gracious.
There are several different tours to choose from, ranging from $89 to $117 per person, not including the $15-21 a person drinking fee. While I was on the Katy tour, the Texas Beer Bus also stops in Midtown/Heights, The Woodlands, and Sugar Land. You can check their calendar for specifics on the dates and places that the bus goes to. I know the different tours have different spots.
 I was afraid with all the bad weather we've been having here in Houston I may miss my reserved spot, but thankfully the weather was clear (until we got home) and I was able to meet a ridiculously fun group of fellow tourists out in front of World of Beer in Katy Saturday morning at 10;45am. Given the weather report for the day I didn't think many people would show up, however as more and more people piled on, I saw that even with a flood warning it was pretty much sold out. My fellow passengers were a great mix of male and female, younger and older, couples, singles, friends and coworkers all out for some good beer and good times. So if you're considering going but worried you  may be the only female, or everyone will be older or younger, don't be. The Texas Beer Bus Tour is truly for everyone, provided you are over 21. While the tour is educational in nature, less drunk taxi service than informative adventure, the group and tour guide were full of boisterous laughter and banter.
Due to flooding, our stop at Texian was cancelled, and we headed out on the comfy air conditioned bus to Yellow Rose Distilling instead. Having just done the tour at Yellow Rose the weekend before (I'm really not a big drinker, I swear), I skipped the tour and decided to indulge in their amazing Bloody Marys instead. If you haven't previously been though, the tour is great and you will learn some really cool facts about how they make their whiskey and vodka. For instance, did you know the reason older whiskey is expensive isn't just because it's smoother and better tasting, but also because so much of it is lost each year due to evaporation? Just one of the interesting little tidbits you'll discover on your tours. You will also be able to ask questions and talk to one of the owners of Yellow Rose, which is a must if you are considering starting up a brewery of your own or are just interested in the process. If you aren't a drinker, there are sodas, ginger beer and more things you can drink there.  Next we all scooped up our souvenir shot glasses, boarded the bus again, and made our way out to No Label Brewing. We were told ahead of time by our guide that it was a very family and pet friendly place, and boy was he not kidding. It was packed to overflowing with families, kids playing ball, dogs of all kinds on leashes, and a great fun Summer vibe. Several picnic tables were available, food trucks were serving hot dogs, tacos, burgers and cupcakes, cornhole type games were set up if you fancied some competition, and a live band was playing. When we entered we were given a green wristband that had three tabs on it that we could exchange for cups of beer, as well as a glass we could keep and reuse. As my amazing cousin is the man behind Gilley's beer, available at No Label, I have to highly recommend trying it if you go. Since it is family friendly, there are plenty of other things there to drink if you don't like or want beer. I think we had an hour at No Label before hopping back on the bus and leaving for The Growler Spot. As soon as we entered there, we were presented with three sample cups of beer to try, and a koozie to take home. The Growler Spot served pub type fare and had large TVs playing sports, but I wouldn't classify it was a sports bar at all. It is not a brewery or distillery but it is a great spot to try some new beer. If you don't drink, Saint Arnold's root beer and are sodas available. After our time there ended we all headed back, some in a considerably lighter mood than before, to World of Beer Katy. During the course of the day we made quite a few new friends, learned a lot of things about the making of alcohol, tried some delicious new drinks (seriously guys, that Bloody Mary,,,) and visited some pretty cool spots in the Greater Houston Area that we plan to visit again in the future.  I asked my tour mates at the end if they had a good time and everyone gave a resounding yes. A few people were regulars who do the tour all the time.  If you think you may do a little too much sampling on the tour, it is recommended to take an Uber car, taxi or have a driver who can take you home.
I would recommend the Texas Beer Bus Tour for anyone wanting to start their own brewing journey, as gifts for your favorite beer connoisseur, for people wanting to explore fun new places to drink in the area, for people wanting a cool thing to do with out of town visitors, team building groups, and anyone generally wanting a fun outing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Comicpalooza 2015

Attending Comicpalooza has been on my Houston bucket list for years, but every year it seemed like something would prevent me from going. This year I was invited to be an official blogger for Comicpalooza, and I wasn't letting anything stand in my way.
Now, I'm a proud nerd who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends every weekend throughout high school, but my husband isn't so much into those sorts of things. He reads the Game of Thrones books and has a passionate crush on Wonder Woman, but he just doesn't get excited over the rest. He probably doesn't know the difference between Thor and Aquaman. I admit, I was concerned about how much fun he would have. However, I not only convinced him to tag along for one day, but three. Friday we went solo, Saturday we took our two daughters and Sunday we took our two younger sons. Monday we let our oldest son and his friends use the passes. The first day it wasn't as packed, as I assume many people had work that day. Some of the bigger name celebs weren't there, but there was still plenty to do. Saturday was insanely packed, Sunday less so but more than Friday. My son said Monday was not crowded, but again, many of the celebrities weren't there.
Neither of us really knew what to expect, but the Comicpalooza app helped us plan what we wanted to do and mapped out where the interesting things were. The George R Brown is gigantic! Without some sort of direction, we'd probably still be walking around trying to find our way. I was awed by the elaborate costumes most of the 'Paloozers were wearing, many home made. We weren't the only ones who weren't dressed up, but it seemed like most people were at least wearing some sort of costume, and quite a few had stunning, professional looking outfits. I saw a large number of women dressed as Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell was a guest), as well as people dressed as Deadpool, Harley Quinn, Spiderman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, Captain America and, for some reason, pirates. If you plan to dress up next year and want to stand out as an original, maybe steer clear of those, but they were quite popular with the public. Be prepared to be stopped often and asked for photos if you do dress up, especially if you put a lot of effort into your look. If you are quite conservative, be forewarned that many people wear next to nothing, but my husband had no complaints about it.

Walking in to the main area on the first floor and walking to the right, you find yourself amongst an assortment of celebrities signing autographs and posing for pictures, from film and tv to wrestling, voice actors, musicians, and more. Featured guests this year included Jeremy Renner, Stan Lee, George Takei, Haley Atwell, Colbie Smulders, Laurie Holden, Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Shada (the voice of Finn from Adventure time), The Comic Book Men, TMNT creator Kevin Eastman, several cast members from Gotham, Barry Bostwick, Patricia O'Quinn and Lil Nell from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Summer Glau, Linda Blair, Peter "Chewbacca" Mayhew, John Schneider, GWAR, Marky Ramone, Henry "the Fonz" Winkler, wrestling legends such as Roddy Piper and Sting, Larry "The Soup Nazi" Thomas, and so many more that I will get a finger cramp listing them all. In order to get autographs and photos from the most popular celebrities (Stan Lee, the Avengers, and Haley Atwell) you needed to first purchase pass for that person or group, or stand in a mind numblingly long line to purchase a ticket before lining up in an equally horrible line to meet the celeb. For any other celebrity you could pay cash at their specific table. The lines for George Takei, Kevin Eastman, Laurie Holden, Summer Glau, Jason Isaacs and some of the Gotham cast got pretty long, but many of the other people had very short or no lines at all. Although some celebrities had assigned photo op times and said no photos at their tables, I discovered that if they didn't have a line and you were very polite, they were more than happy to take several pictures right then and there. Barry Bostwick, Larry Thomas, Marky Ramone and GWAR were especially friendly and chatted with us for awhile. While we did not get a chance to talk to Henry Winkler, every time we walked by we saw him up interacting with his fans, doing magic tricks for them and being extremely personable. There are ATM machines nearby the autograph tables so don't panic if you find yourself wanting a few more than you planned.

On the other side of the autograph section there are vendors set up as far as the eye can see. Again, many of these dealers (but not all) are cash only, so keep that in mind. The majority sell comic and anime related books,toys, and t-shirts, but we also found authors, artists, medieval looking weaponry, cosplayers, haunted houses, handmade soap, beauty products, ecigarette vaping products, samples of Virus vodka, and even a table where you could win tickets and t-shirts from the Texas Ren Fest (we got 4 tickets and two shirts, yeah!), There is a little something for everyone, even if you aren't a comics lover, like my husband.
Past the vendor tables are the food courts, options being Chick Fil A, sandwiches, stir fry, and snacks. The tables and chairs were all taken so you may need to find a spot on the floor to camp out and eat, but don't worry, you won't be the only ones doing so, unless more seating is added next year. Directly across from the food area are games and interactive areas for younger children, Our kids were older so we didnt really venture over too far into it, but I did see an area where kids could play with some fun robots, and sign up for classes to learn to build them themselves. There was also a spot where kids and adults could fence/swordfight with wooden swords and PVC, and an instructor on hand to teach them a few moves.
Now that alone sounds like plenty to keep you occupied, but believe it or not there was even more to do upstairs. All day there were panels and classes you could attend in any number of the rooms in the George R Brown, from Q&A sessions with the celebrities origami classes, advice on becoming a director from Houston's own Larry Wade Carroll, tips on writing, gaming and blogging, art, and a little bit of everything. If you are a gamer of any sort (video, computer, live action, board, role playing) there are areas set up for that as well. On the third floor, all the way to the left we were able to see my good friend Josh's band Jealous Creatures, roller derby, and wrestling exhibitions. Friday night Jackie Earle Haley (whom I had the pleasure of taking part in an interview with, which I will have up on this blog soon) showed a premiere of his upcoming movie Criminal Activies (more on that in another post), and Saturday night there was a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (though I don't think attendees were lucky enough to have Barry Bostwick, Patricia O'Quinn and Lil Nell as the shadow cast).
If you are under the impression you can come to Comicpalooza one day, stay for a few hours and see all there is to see, you are mistaken. I urge anyone interested to at least plan for two days, and get the four day pass if you can afford it. Your feet and legs will ache and your wallet will be empty, but you will have an absolutely incredible experience. My advice to new Con goers is to wear comfy shoes, bring lots of cash (or map out the ATMs), eat before you arrive, download the Comicpalooza app to keep track of when and where the many upstairs events occur, and plan to stay late to catch some great shows. Dress up and let your inner nerd roam free if you'd like, you will be in great company. If you are coming from out of town, or for what ever reason don't wish to drive back home at night, there is a Hilton hotel connected to the GRB and you may run into the celebrities at the bar or in the hallways. And if you are curious how my non-nerd husband enjoyed it, he's already planning for next year with me. I think I'll go as Lara Croft.

*disclaimer - I received four 4 day passes in exchange from Comicpalooza, but all opinions and thoughts are strictly my own*

Monday, May 4, 2015

Living Below the Line

This past week I participated in a challenge called Live Below the Line where participants agree with live off of $1.50 a day of food for five days straight, just like so many impoverish people around the world. You may remember Gwenyth Paltrow was in the news recently for doing this challenge on $29 a week. I raised $100 for a charity called American Foundation for Children with AIDS thanks to my amazing friends and family who supported me, which gave me a huge boost going into it. I started the challenge on Sunday, so Saturday I went shopping for my meager rations.  I shopped around at Kroger, HEB, Aldi and Fiesta, but Food prices ended up a lot higher than I expected them to be, so I purchased most of my items at the 99 Cent store. I chose dried pinto beans, white rice, a 5 pack of beef flavored ramen, a box with 6 packets of apple cinnamon oatmeal, half a dozen eggs, and a can of Vienna Sausages. Lesson number one - it's extremely difficult to eat healthy when you don't have much money to spend. No fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, or basically anything but starches, carbs and processed junk. The first day, Sunday, wasn't too bad because I discovered you can make a decent lunch out of just the free samples at HEB. My husband and children were kind enough to have pity on me and give me their free samples of sushi, guacamole and chips, crackers with different cheeses, and banana nutella crepes. My husband remarked at how crazy I must have looked to everyone else, gobbling down 4 helpings of every freebie the store offered. Lesson number two - never judge people eating all the free samples. They may not be greedy pigs, they may just be starving and not knowing when they will get to eat decent food again. At some point during day two I began to tire of eating the same bland overprocessed junk, a feeling which did not abate for the duration of the challenge. My kids would come to me to complain that there wasn't anything good in the house to eat, and I became irrationally angry knowing there was more than enough. And the waste, oh god the waste. Seeing their plates of dinners half eaten, snacks thrown in the trash, barely consumed drinks left out on the counter, things that never really bothered me much before caused me to completely lose it. Lesson three - we waste more food than most families get to eat all week. On day 4 my wonderful, amazing neighbor, who had no idea I was doing the challenge, brought over a plate of barbequed meat. I wasn't sure if it was allowed or not to eat this gift so I refrained, but it opened my eyes at just how huge a simple plate of dinner can be to a family who is struggling. Meat is so expensive, fruits and vegetables a luxury, and dessert, unheard of. Lesson number four - one small act of kindness could mean everything to a hungry person.
     I completed the challenge without cheating and felt pretty good about myself. It wasn't all that bad. And that is the difference between me and those who are struggling with this in real life. It wasn't that bad for me because I had the choice to do it for 5 days. I could've stopped any time I wanted. I was able to sit in a nice house, watch cable TV and Netflix to get my mind off of the hunger pangs, and I knew that come the weekend, I would be able to go to a restaurant and pig out on anything I wanted. Millions of people today don't have the luxury of telling themselves just a few more days and I'll be eating steaks and ice cream again. Although the real prize in completing this challenge is the $100 I raised for the children living with AIDS, the perspective I gained about people living in poverty will be invaluable for a lifetime.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Float in a Sensory Deprivation Tank

I first heard of Sensory Deprivation Tanks, also known as Float pods or float tanks, from a video Joe Rogan put out on YouTube. Float pods are these giant alien looking tanks filled with water and 800 pounds or more of therapeutic grade epsom salt. Inside the tank your body will float as if suspended in mid air, and once you close the pod door, you will no longer see, hear, or feel anything, allowing your body to shut down 90% of it's functions.  It seemed like something pretty bucket listy to do, so I added it to my list. I found out last year there is a place in Houston that had recently opened called True Massage Floatation Spa, so I did a little research and found they had discount Groupon coupons. I bought one, and called True Massage to make the appointment. I spoke to the owner, Jeff, who in person seems like a pretty intimidating guy until you hear him talk about his immense enthusiasm for floating and his joy for life. He spoke to me for quite a while answering my questions, telling me about the benefits of floating, and tips for how to have the best float. It's difficult not to feel excited about the experience talking to Jeff.
We spoke about how floating seems to have a sort of image of being for "hippies" or people who do psychedelic drugs, but how beneficial it truly is for anyone. Yes, there is a strong spiritual benefit to floating and he told me stories of clients who had walked out of their pods crying over emotional breakthroughs and having found answers to many issues during their floats. And yes, it's true that some floaters can experience non-drug induced hallucinations. However, there are a myriad of physical benefits as well. Many athletes use float tanks and swear by the increased performance it gives them. Fibromyalgia sufferers find it a tremendous help. Elderly clients call it the fountain of youth. It relieves stress, tension, muscle pain,  heck, the salt water is even amazing for your skin and hair.
Friday morning, I did as Jeff instructed and did not wear any hair product, make up, deodorant, lotion or anything else that could gunk up the salt water. Being as this is Houston and even in Spring it was in the 80's, I was glad I had made an early appointment. I arrived at the floatation center, located off of Westheimer and Dairy Ashford in Houston, at noon and Jeff was already waiting to show me to my float room. I was led down a hallway to a dark, peaceful room containing a massive pod that looked sort of like Eva from the Disney movie Wall-E. He instructed me to change into a soft fluffy robe that was hanging on a bench in the room, bring a towel, and walk across the hall to the bathroom to rinse off  to get off any dirt, sweat or anything else that might be on me before I got into the pod. The shower area was one of the largest I've ever seen. It looked like the size of my first apartment! As I got cleaned off, Jeff had the room prepared for me. He showed me how to get into the pod, how to turn the soft interior lights off (which were glowing a nice blue), showed me where the ear plugs were and how to insert them, and let me choose between nine or ten different music options for the first ten minutes of the float. I don't remember all of the options, but I ended up choosing ocean sounds.

Jeff left, I turned off the room lights, dropped the robe, and climbed in, I'm not going to lie, I was nervous. What if I felt claustrophobic? What was I going to do with myself for an hour with no stimulation? What if I experienced hallucinations? What if I didn't experience anything at all?
I laid down and immediately my body wanted to float. I grabbed a bar inside the pod and eased myself back. The water and air were body temperature, maybe slightly warmer. The ocean sounds started to play and I laid there for a minute just getting settled in before finally reaching over and turning off the blue light. Everything went pitch black. The air was warm and humid which made it a bit hard to breathe. It was unsettling at first, but I got used to it after a minute. Soon the music went off and I knew ten minutes had passed. Now it was just me and my own thoughts, I tried not to think, but ended up thinking about not thinking. I thought about what I would say in my blog, I thought about the Live Below the Line challenge I was doing in a couple days, and for awhile my brain even insisted on listening to Pantera and kept playing one of their songs. The more I tried to stop thinking, the more I thought. Then I remember a trick Jeff had taught me, and put my hand under me and touched the bottom. It's a lot harder than it sounds, I tried to count to 60 but only got to about 24 when suddenly my arm filled with helium and began to float away, I could feel it rising higher, higher and higher until it went so far into outer space I worried I would never get it back. A minute later a white light came on directly over my head. I blinked, and it didn't go away. It wasn't a bright light, but like a single Christmas tree light bulb softly illuminated above my head. Slowly it dimmed and blinked out. I began to feel myself spiralling, but I didn't get dizzy. My body began to melt into water, and I couldn't tell what was me and what was the water in the tank. I laid there feeling myself spread out like an ocean when suddenly my head jerked forward abruptly and I jolted up a bit, sending waves through the tank. I was back together, my left arm was back and my heart was racing. I figured it had only been maybe 20 minutes at best, so I tried to calm myself back down and try to get into the theta brain state. That's when the ocean sounds began again, My session was done. It hadn't been twenty minutes, it had been sixty! I opened the pod door, eased myself out and in a daze managed to locate my robe, put it on and take another shower to get the salt water off. I came back to the room, got dressed, and in my daze I ended up leaving without saying goodbye to Jeff. Thankfully my husband had driven me there, because I didn't snap out of things until I was halfway home.
It was like waking from a beautiful dream. For the rest of the day I felt relaxed, peaceful, like I'd woken from a full uninterrupted nights sleep, like the one I got that same night, I've never slept so well! We had a massive storm hit us that night, and I slept like a log through it all.
The next day I bought myself another Groupon for another float, and got one for my husband as well. He works so hard and has done so much overtime lately, he really needs an hour of complete and total rest on every level. I can't wait to see what my next float brings. I hear you really need three floats to get into it enough to start feeling the complete benefits. I think I'll be a float customer for life!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Comicpalooza Ticket Giveaway!

I am giving away a family 4 pack of passes to Comicpalooza! That's a value of $240! If you want to get in on this, and I know you do, check out my fancy-schmancy Rafflecopter giveaway. The contest runs until midnight Sunday, May 10th and the winner will be announced Monday May 11th on my blog and Facebook page.
And remember, you can always use the code "HoustonNerdsUnite" to get discounted tickets. That code will get you $5 off a 4 day pass or $3 off a 1 day pass. Comicpalooza is May 22-25th at the George R Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX.

Win a Family 4 Pack of Passes to Comicpalooza!!

*Disclosure - This is a sponsored post, however all thoughts and opinions are my own*

By submitting an entry to this giveaway you agree to the following Terms & Conditions:
Giveaway ends May 10, 2015. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook or Twitter. Open to US residents 21 and older. 1 winner will receive four (4) four day passes to Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas. Winner will be chosen at random using Rafflecopter after giveaway is over. Winner will be notified via email and given 48 hrs to respond. if no response, a new winner may be chosen. Winnings will be shipped out once shipping info has been received. is not responsible for fulfillment and once item has shipped both and Sponsor are not liable for damaged lost or stolen goods. Your email address will not use sold or shared.

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Comicpalooza 2015 Official Blogger

Exciting news! Comicpalooza has been on my Houston Bucket List for years, but every time I planned to go, something would happen. This year, I'm not letting anything stand in my way. I am an official blogger for Comicpalooza, and I could not be happier. In addition to marking off attend Comicpalooza, I will be able to mark off another bucket list item I never really thought I'd have a chance at doing. Meet George Takei! Yes, Uncle George is going to be at Comicpalooza, and I just happen to have won an autograph pass. When I first created my "People" list, I started off fairly safe, meet an athelete, meet a model, meet an actor, general things like that. Then one day I thought, you know, I should make my goals bigger. I may not get a chance to meet these people, but what fun is it not even trying? So I added George Takei, JJ Watt (whom I met last year), and a few other celebrities (Bill Murray, and Sweetums the Muppet for instance. What? Sweetums is totally the best muppet) and filed it away in my brain as unlikely. But that's the thing about the unlikely goals, when they end up happening, it's that much more exciting! Who knows, maybe someday I'll be blogging about how I just met Bill Murray. A girl can dream, right? 

You know what would make attending Comicpalooza even more fun? If some of you dear readers attended with me. That's why I want to offer you a discount code so you can save some money on your tickets. The code is "HoustonNerdsUnite" and that will save you $5 off a 4 day pass or $3 off a one day pass. This year Comicpalooza is going to run from May 22nd - May 25th at the George R Brown Convention Center.  Pre-registration is going on now at 

Discounted tickets isn't enough, you say? Alright, if you insist... I will also have a giveaway so you can win a 4 pack of tickets! I will be posting that information very soon, so check back promptly! You won't want to miss this one. I mean, have you seen the guest list? Jeremy Renner? Stan Lee? CHEWBACCA? There are too many awesome people to even list here, so you need to go check it out for yourselves. Don't worry, I'll wait. I'll be working on that giveaway post while you're doing that. 

*this is a sponsored post*