Friday, July 31, 2015

There's a New (Movie) Player in Town

Last night Ryan and I (and a bunch of other super important people) got a VIP sneak preview of the brand new Studio Movie Grill in The Colony. We're already big fans of SMG and often traveled down to the Plano location to enjoy dine-in movies. That location is now closed for some much-needed renovations, so we're glad we have this new location nearby. The new theater is located convenient at 121 and 423 (Main).

SMG has done a great job with it's new theater. There's a full bar with plenty of seating in the lobby to enjoy bites and cocktails before your movie. The auditoriums feature stadium seating and amazing sound systems. We were treated to a viewing of the new flick Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (which is AWESOME) and we could feel the vibration from the bass in the seats. The service was great - the staff was pleasant and wonderfully accommodating (even after a few scheduling hiccups). Overall, we were really happy with the experience and look forward to going back!

Some things to remember about SMG:
  1. SMG isn't open seating - every seat is reserved. You pick your seats when you order your tickets. Sometimes big blockbusters and new releases sell out. We've found that ordering tickets in advance (24 hours usually works for us) allows us to pick the seats we want without a fuss.
  2. You can order food and drinks throughout the movie. And... so can everyone else. That means servers will be going up and down rows during the movie. They try to be as unobtrusive as possible, but in a big theater with lots of folks, their presence is noticeable.
  3. Theater seats have come a long way over the years. These seats are pretty comfortable but they are new... we found them to be a little stiff (your posture will thank you - maybe not) with a little give. If you do end up sitting towards the front of the theater on the floor, those seats recline. I've always been a back-of-the-theater sort of girl, but reclining seats might get me to move up to the front.

On a special note, SMG offers special needs screenings for some movies. It's the perfect family-friendly environment for our kiddos and their siblings. The screenings are shown with the lights up and volume lowered. It's a no-judgment zone as our kids can talk, move freely throughout the theater and even "dance in the aisles" during the movie if they feel like it. This, on top of other special screenings like Girls Night Out and Family Rewind make SMG the perfect movie location for everyone. Click here for more information.

The theater opens TODAY - check out for more information.

SMG founder and CEO Brian Schultz and other SMG reps
during the ceremonial film cutting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tackling Football... Jen Welter Cracked the Glass Ceiling!!!

Smart - check.
Hot - check.
Super nice - check.
Can kick butt on the football field - check.
Cracked the glass ceiling and has become the first female coach in the NFL - CHECK!
Overall bad ass - CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!

I almost tried to flip a cartwheel last night (that could've been bad) when I read the Arizona Cardinals hired my friend Dr. Jen Welter. She'll be an assistant coaching intern during training camp and the preseason making her the first female coach in the NFL. Leave it to this amazing woman to make history!

Jen has been a trailblazer for women in football. Not only has she played for many, many years (she became the first woman to play professional football in a non-kicking capacity when she suited up for the Texas Revolution) but she's coached at the professional level for the same pro team this year (the Revs even made it to the championship game this year). I've seen this woman take a helluva hit (and pop right back up) and earn the respect of her teammates and players. We had the privilege of interviewing her a couple of times on The Broadcast and I'm glad to say she's become a friend. She's an amazing woman and I'm beyond excited for her! The Cardinals have a new fan and I'll be cheering her on this year!

Here's a link to our interview with Jen a couple of months ago! Jen Welter on The Broadcast

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Autism Chronicles: He Let You Do What?!?

I understand most people don't know what it's like to have a child with autism (or any special needs for that matter). They don't understand what it feels like to always be on high alert... waiting for your kiddo to sprint across a parking lot or anticipating the next thing that will cause a major meltdown (which are different than tantrums - I'll explain that in a later post). Maybe they've never had to spend hours on the phone with insurance companies justifying why their kiddo needs continued therapy to treat a medical condition after a claim has been denied. And let me tell you... the fear and anxiety that come from social invitations - barbecues, pool parties, etc. are stifling. There will be no chill... you're watching like a hawk in case you have to ninja roll and intervene if your child decides to throw an enormous dirt-filled planter into your friend's pool (that's happened). And after an event is over and you're sitting in traffic, you've probably never had to consider asking a cop for a police escort home because of the tears triggered by the epic hour-long meltdown your kid is having in the back seat. Or... or, maybe it's because your other child has never broken your heart by saying that she hates that her brother has autism because he won't play with her. You haven't had to deal with these things... so again, I get it. You probably don't understand...

"Where's Dawn?"

"Where's your husband? He didn't come with you?"

"You let her go out of town... by herself?"

"Are you guys having relationship problems?"

"I mean, if that's what works for you guys..."

Yep - all questions/comments Ryan and I have received both recently and in the past. All full of judgment... maybe even a little concern. One of us may show up to a social event... alone... the other parent left at home with the kids. Chances are Will has had a pretty rough day and we know that any further stimulus might trigger a meltdown. And it's the worst... the absolute worst... when those meltdowns happen in public or in other people's homes. I'd say 98% of the people at the get-togethers usually don't realize Will has autism so it looks like he's having a tantrum. We're pierced with annoyed stares accordingly. The hosts, who usually do know about Will's autism, always try to be loving and reassuring by telling us it's okay. Well, it's not okay. My kid just knocked over the DJ's speaker and is laying on the ground sobbing in the middle of your party. It's not okay. I'm panicking. My heart is beating out of my chest. I want to cry and it's embarrassing. And I was really, really enjoying that beer and some chill. It's not okay. 

So to avoid these situations... sometimes, autism parents roll alone. Why should both of us miss out on some fun?


Everyone knows I just got back from the most amazing, rejuvenating five-day solo vacation the week before my 39th birthday. Yes... I went alone. I guess you could say Ryan "let" me go although I didn't really ask permission - we just coordinated schedules to make sure there was someone home with the kids. Ryan's going to meet some of his buddies to catch a UCLA football game in September. Yes, I'm letting him go alone while I stay home with the kids. And I hope he has an absolute blast. But this is our reality... it's what works for us. It's our way of making sure we both have a chance to come up for air every once in a while. To breathe.

You see, the last time Ryan and I went on vacation together... alone... was about 7 or 8 years ago (I forget, it's been so long). I can remember the sound of the ocean as we lounged in our plunge pool at the La Casa Que Canta resort in Ixtapa. It was the honeymoon we hadn't been able to take after we got married because... football. Will had already been diagnosed with autism, but he was only 3 and my in-laws felt comfortable caring for him for a week (on their territory - we flew will to California then flew back to Texas to head down south). That trip was everything. And needed. 

We want to go on vacation. Just the two of us. We want to come back with tans and 5 lbs worth of extra weight from endless buffets of exotic foods. We want to lay out on the beach together sipping cocktails and running our toes through the sand. We want to hold hands over a candlelight dinner while tradewinds flow across our faces. A vacation. A dream. A luxury.

It's not that we can't afford a vacation. The issue is finding volunteers to watch the kids for a week while we're gone. The thought of wiping a 10-year-old's butt after he's pooped is scary. And gross. But unfortunately, if you volunteer it's part of the job requirement. We've had some offers but coordinating schedules has made it impossible thus far. Then there's the anxiety of planning the trip... heading to the airport... checking in for our flight... then getting a call that something is wrong so we need to return home. I understand... you may not have had to worry about any of this before. So I understand your questions.

So yeah... Ryan "let's" me go on vacation alone. I'm "letting" him go hang out with his guys friends... alone. Because one of us has to be home. But we both need a vacation... together.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Oh Baby! Mrs. Texas is Having a Little Princess!

I've thrown some pretty epic pageant watch parties over the years. Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Universe all give me great excuses to get my pageant sisters and friends together for good times. So when I found out my dear friend Whitney Beseda a.k.a. Mrs. Texas 2014 was expecting a baby, I figured a watch party/baby shower was in order.

I absolutely love entertaining and throwing parties. Finding the perfect decorations to fit the theme give me a little high. Planning for Whitney's shower was super fun because I got to shop for anything and everything involving princesses, tiaras and crowns. The party-by-Pinterest based on these goodies was beautiful. 

Decorations... check! 

I found these adorable decorations at IKEA.

I hand glittered the rubber ducky - a little spray adhesive, lots of glitter.

Food... check! The semi-potluck menu included some goodies: chocolate fondue, regular and cotton candy popcorn, sopapilla cheesecake, cheese and crackers, yummy dips, crown-shaped watermelon slices and a delicious chocolate cake.

Drinks... check! Infused waters, Prosecco and Rose (12 bottles of booze on the counter...) kept all of the guests quenched. There was even cotton candy to put in your drinks if they weren't sweet enough. Don't worry - we provided the guest of honor with sparkling cider.

Entertainment... check! We played the usual baby shower games... guess the number of safety pins in a jar; word scramble; and baby price is right. But the big competition of the night was predicting the Miss USA top 5 (and in the proper order). We had a clear winner - Melba had 3 out of the 5 correct. I had... none. There were prizes for all of the winners!

I'd also painstakingly set up a fun photo area for my fellow pageant sisters... none of whom every really shy away from a photo opp. I loved gathering props for this! 

And of course, there were presents. Lots of adorable, cute presents. That's what showers are for!

It was a great night... good food, good fun, good friends. And a new Miss USA that maybe 2 people in the room anticipated going into final interviews. Looking forward to the next big pageant party!

Former and current Mrs. Texas contestants and our director Tracy.

Former and current Mrs. Texas queens, and Michelle Evans - Mrs. America.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lake Austin Resort - Best Birthday Present Ever!!!

What a week! After spending the most perfect 4th of July with Ryan and the kids at the FC Dallas game, I hopped in Hot Chocolate (the Camaro) the following morning to make what's becoming an annual trek down I-35 to my happy place - Lake Austin Resort. Everything about this place screams relaxation and luxury. You pull up to the gate and a friendly voice greets you over the intercom. A gentleman met me outside to escort me to the front desk and grabbed me a cold glass of lemonade. After a quick check-in, I made my way to my room to unpack before I dove into some activities (the first class of my trip was actually an aqua aerobics class). After a relaxing yoga class, I inhaled lamb chops in the dining room (they were so good I ordered them again the following night) then made my way to the spa for the first of THREE massages I scheduled during the trip.

I love the activities at Lake Austin Resort. I went hiking, took dance classes (even a Bollywood class - that was fun), played BINGO (and won), went on a boat cruise and wrapped up each afternoon with some sort of stretching or relaxation class. Most afternoons were spent by the pool... it was just me, my iPod and a REALLY good book (Grey). I came back from Austin glowing! I even took a fun watercolor painting class. There really is a little something for every one and every fitness level at the resort and you can do as much or as little as you want.

I always get this question - "Did you go by yourself?" YES!!!!! That's the best part of these trips. There's no coordinating schedules with anyone - no one asking, "So what do you want to do?" Each night I look at the schedule for the following day and plan out activities, but I really just go with the flow. One morning I stayed in the bed until 11:30 - I skipped breakfast, paddleboarding, etc. and just slept. It was probably my best day at the resort!

And the food... those lamb chops; gnocchi with lamb meatballs; a salmon lunch bowl that was to die for; pineapple cake; and fresh figs off the resort's tree every day. FRESH FIGS! I look forward to the food every time I go back. It's fresh, healthy and filling and always helps me overcome sugar and diet soda cravings. I'll have to remember next year to make sure I'm eating clean in the weeks leading up to my visit - my tummy was having a little trouble digesting all of that goodness but that didn't stop me from inhaling the food!

Something that was a little different on this visit than in years past - I actually spent a lot of time with some of the other guests. I usually like sitting quiet with my iPod and reading - but me and some of the other ladies on solo trips bonded over our meals and activities. It was a blast.

On my last night there, I made my way to the spa for one more spa treatment. I had my phone with me because I was planning on taking some pics for the blog that night. I had the BEST MASSAGE EVER (literally) and worked my way back to my room. I was feeling a little bummed - the worst part about my visits is having to leave. It was close to 9 pm and it was dim outside. So quiet. I rounded the corner and looked out over the lawn to the lake and saw this...

There were five deer grazing while fireflies lit up around them. I just sat there and watched them until they sauntered off. A God-sighting. So peaceful. So beautiful. In that moment, all was right in the world. I'd saved my dessert from dinner that evening so I decided to go spend some quiet time on the dock enjoying it. It was amazing... everything I look forward to about visiting the resort.

After five glorious days at Lake Austin, I packed up and made my way back home.

An interesting tidbit... while I was there, Travel & Leisure named Lake Austin Resort the 4th best destination spa resort IN THE WORLD! I'm telling you - there is a reason I keep going back. It's heaven on Earth. My happy place. Let me start saving up now so I can go back next summer!

I hit 39 yesterday. That's right. I'm just one year shy of the big 4-0 and life couldn't be sweeter. I spent a lazy day with the family chillin' around the house then had dinner at Truluck's in Dallas with Ryan. Oysters and crab claws y'all - they were divine! It was the perfect ending to my week long birthday celebration! Thanks for all of the birthday wishes!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Less Talking More Stripping: Magic Mike XXL Review

I saw Magic Mike in theaters not once... but twice (as in I-actually-paid-for-tickets twice to see it - crazy, I know). I've been waiting for the sequel ever since. I was so excited to see Channing Tatum playing with his blow torch to Ginuwine's "Pony" that I went to see the flick at an opening day matinee on Wednesday. It didn't disappoint (much). 

The movie was ridiculously cheesy... I expected nothing less from a movie about male strippers -excuse me... male entertainers - but it was borderline ridiculous. The movie is long and I remember thinking to myself halfway through it: LESS TALKING, MORE STRIPPING (I mean dancing/entertaining). Everything is over the top... I'm talking a security-guarded "Haunted Mansion" looking male stripper brothel; five horny MILFs in another mansion who aren't looking for a par-tay but are happy one showed up on their doorstep in the form of male strippers; and the same strippers packed like sardines in a convertible Rolls Royce rolling into Myrtle Beach for a last-hurrah stripper convention. But hey... Channing and crew did add "XXL" to the title of the movie so I knew it would be over the top.

Fortunately bigger was better in many ways. Moviegoers will not be disappointed by the male "entertaining" scenes... they deliver. The last 15-20 minutes of the movie make the melodrama well worth it - look for Channing's duet with "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and "Ellen" DJ Twitch. It's hot. NFL alum and morning talk show host Michael Strahan makes a guest appearance in the movie and let me put it like this... I will never, ever, ever look at him the same again... ever. And there's a scene with Joe Magnaniello dancing in a convenience store to the Backstreet Boys that is one of the best scenes in a movie I have ever seen. Ever. I was still laughing and crying twenty minutes after it was over. Super hot Matt Bomer's pipes (by that I mean singing voice) are on full display too. These highlights make sitting through the rest of the movie totally worth it.

My verdict: if you liked the first movie, you'll appreciate this one. Get your friends together, have some cocktails and see it. 

c. Warner Bros. Pictures