Posts filed under Round-Ups

Spring round-up: Home is where the adventure is

Six months in Doha? Impossible. I've spent the time:

Exploring Dubai (where my first Ski Dubai experience ended in an hour of me going around the ski lift):

Catching up with this talented rising musician who's performing at The St. Regis' Vintage Lounge:

Boot scooting at a Texas A&M Qatar fundraiser, where I wore subtle amounts of burnt orange.

Wandering the Museum of Islamic Art's Marvelous Creatures exhibit ...

... which wasn't nearly as trippy as witnessing Carnival in Venice ...


Celebrating my first Easter without family at a local church, where the kindest strangers helped me and a friend out of a sitcom-like parking mishap.

Crashing the British Embassy's birthday party for The Queen:

Surviving my first sandstorm (and subsequent trip to the ER for a swollen eye).

Quadrupling my knowledge of sports with my first handball game, equestrian competition, tennis tournament (at which David Beckham made an inexplicable appearance) and club "football" match. I'm as surprised as you are:

Searching for ways to channel my overseas experiences into writing (stay tuned), and coercing my Houston editors into letting me write from afar, including this profile of a savvy local boutique owner and this defense of my favorite movie of 2014:

Being enamored with this guy's insanely good solo album:

Applauding this parody that smartly tackles rape culture:

Coveting these:

Missing this:

Digging this (unbelievably, May 25 marks 10 years since this creative force won "American Idol"):

Anticipating a trip to this fascinating country next month.

Standing by my best friend of 15 years on her wedding day, and getting ready to join the festivities for another in a few days ...

... and feeling humbled by new perspective, new challenges and new friends, one of whom anonymously gave me this oddly endearing housewarming gift (identify yourself!):

*Post written to the sultry tune of Little Big Town's "Girl Crush," the non-controversial song that sparked the most ridiculous non-controversy earlier this year. 

Overseas round-up: In my first month in Doha new home gave to me:

Twelve more months to seize my 20s. More on that in a second.

Eleven bottles of red wine: eight purchased with my newly acquired liquor permit at the only store that sells it, and three gifted by kind (read: empathetic) neighbors during my first week. 

Ten rows of falcons at Souq Waqif, an eclectic marketplace that's forcing me to learn the art of bargaining.

Nine ways (at least) I could have failed my two-part driver's license test, thanks to the language barrier, the insanity of Doha driving and my arch-nemesis The Roundabout. Miraculously, I passed and will be braving these roads in a very un-Tara-like SUV come next week.

Eight hours at the Singing Sand Dunes - and yes, they do in fact sing.

Seven courses at the lovely IDAM restaurant on top of the Museum of Islamic Art.

Six songs performed by Rayla Sunshine and her band at Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha. Live music is hard to come by in this city, which makes the recent Bellamy Brothers' concert all the more amusing (sadly, I had not yet arrived).

Five weeks at the local office, where I'm constantly learning from my incredibly welcoming colleagues, both culturally and professionally.

Four Arabic words I've learned to say - so basic that I'm embarrassed to mention all but:


Three nearby countries I'm itching to explore --Thailand, Oman and India--, the third of which I haven't visited since I was 12 years old.

Two Thanksgiving dinners that helped nurse my homesickness, hosted by gracious new friends...

...and one birthday with girlfriends (and a fun bartender) who were nice enough to celebrate with someone they'd only known for a week. Here's to spending the next 349 days topping off the decade that taught me to laugh at myself, embrace change and, most importantly, treasure my relationships. 

(And, shamefully, zero attempts at writing - hold me to it in the new year.)

*Post written to the tune of this sweet song on Lee Ann Womack's The Way I'm Livin', soon to land on my best-of-2014 list.

Posted on December 11, 2014 and filed under Travel, Round-Ups.

Mini round-up: Slap bets, Delbert McClinton and ATX

A handful of things that brightened my August:

This spawn of Mumford & Sons and techno music (neither of which I enjoy):

Entertainment Weekly’s excellent Season 9 coverage of “How I Met Your Mother”:

(Discovered: –indicating the next slap will be doled out on Nov. 18–, the return of Ellen D. “Nobody asked you, Patrice!” Williams, and the growing awesomeness of Cristin Miloti as the mother.)

My aforementioned favorite country single of the year that I reviewed over at Country Universe:

And this Texas road trip classic:

…re-discovered during my second consecutive trip to my college town this summer, which never (ever, ever) gets old:

Happy September!

Summer round-up: Castles, Spitfire, clear eyes and full hearts

Crazy year, crazy summer. The latter’s been made a little sweeter by:

This win for humanity, this tenacious Texas senator and this T-shirt (timed perfectly with my long overdue discovery of “Friday Night Lights”):

This firecracker, so energetic that she snapped me out of my jet lag funk at her Houston concert last week:

This understated Grand Ole Opry debut of Kree Harrison, one of five reality TV-boosted local singers I covered in the latest issue of Houston magazine (check it):

These comprehensive All-Time Greatest’ lists over at Entertainment Weekly, outlining the best shows, movies, music and books of the past 100 years:

This honest discussion of Houston’s ethnic and cultural transformation:

This new album review format we introduced over at Country Universe, starting with LeAnn Rimes’ top-notch Spitfire (current favorite: “Who We Really Are”):

This view from the mountains in England’s Lake District…

…these ruins just south of Kilkenny, Ireland…

… this castle in Stonehaven, Scotland – all from a trip to Europe earlier this month with friends who have become like family…

…and this full circle opportunity to visit the site of my old school in Aberdeen, Scotland, just three days before it would be completely demolished:

It inspired me to reach out to a special teacher whose encouragement and belief in me as a (very) amateur sixth grade writer shaped me into the writer I am today. Learning that he had recently shared with his kids one of my writing samples from 15 years ago is the sweetest thing on this list.

*Post written to the tune of this acoustic beauty, currently on repeat.

Posted on July 18, 2013 and filed under Round-Ups.

Winter round-up: It's February?

The only things I remember from this whirlwind of a winter are a trip to NYC (for a Communications Executive Council conference and Paul Rudd), buying my first home, and ringing in what’s shaping up to be a pretty sweet year.

Somewhere in between, I did some writing:

I hope to be back in writing mode as soon as I figure out this whole homeownership thing. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with:

Happiness don’t drag its feet.
  • This new (to the U.S.) beauty:

And this overdramatic but partially true New York Times post on the end of dating. Funny and sad, no?

Summer round-up: Music, wine and eighth birthdays

It’s been a lovely, chaotic summer – the best kind. Here are a few gems that caught my eye (and ear) over the past month or so:

This wine:

…from a winery on the outskirts of this incredible city:

(I spent a little over a week in Switzerland, Florence and Venice last month. Needless to say, it was an inspiring trip.)

This anthem from the Zac Brown Band’s action-packed new album,Uncaged (give it a listen and you’ll understand what I mean):

This funky, new-ish song by British group Graffiti6:

This kick ass and deserved title that Houston just nabbed. And yeah, we already knew we were the coolest. Why?

I’ve never seen a city where people blend more gracefully than Houston.

This surprisingly moving performance by tenth place finisher Erika Van Pelt (at the Idols Live concert I caught in Dallas):

This crazy-cool local band that I was jazzed to interview for Houston magazine.

This Kelly Clarkson cover of my favorite band’s breakout single:

…and finally, this wonderful milestone that Country Universe –my country music home– recently hit. I couldn’t be  more grateful to have found my way into the CU family three years ago.

Posted on August 3, 2012 and filed under Round-Ups, Music, Writing.

Grammy Awards 2012 and other assorted thoughts

Last night’s Grammy Awards were a little bit here and a little bit there  - with a “little bit o’ snot” thrown in. We did our annual picks and predictions post over at Country Universe as well as live blogged the somewhat sleepy show. The bad news? Lady Antebellum’s ridiculous repeat in the Best Country Album category. The good news? When Adele wins, we all win, folks.

In other news, it’s almost March, and that’s insane. Before spring hits…

Listen to this:

Read this:

Support this:

Watch this:

Get excited for this

And remember this: 

Long live Amy Winehouse. Long live Whitney Houston. Long live Etta James. There’s a beautiful girl group in heaven.
— Mitch Winehouse

Holiday round-up: In between giving thanks

Thanksgiving week has always been my favorite week of the year – and this year I took the entire week off from work to fully enjoy it. Between friends, family, food and celebrating my (sigh) 26th birthday, I squeezed in:

Blazing through a pile of these on my coffee table:

Belatedly reviewing this single:

Discovering this gem from a few months ago:

Quoting this:

Quick, what’s my favorite hospital food? Jellooo.

Drinking too many of these:

And obsessing over anything and everything Christmas. Join me?

Posted on November 28, 2011 and filed under Round-Ups.

Spring catch-up: Treasures and thoughts

The past few weeks months have been a blur of business trips, long hours at work and rewarding challenges. Let’s play a quick game of catch-up:

Josh Kelley, “A Real Good Try”

I adore this song off of Josh Kelley’s surprisingly decent debut country album, Georgia Clay. Country music with a dash of soul tends to hit my sweet spot, especially when it’s executed as well as it is here. Ashley Monroe’s delicate background vocals are the icing on the cake.

Adele, "One and Only"

The song’s lyrics are simple and its sentiment isn’t groundbreaking – but its vocal nuances and gorgeous throwback arrangement make it an instant favorite for me. I love how the fierce tenacity of Adele’s performance contrasts sweetly with the song’s soothing vibe. Her album, 21, is a must-buy.

Preview of “ACM Presents Girls’ Night Out: Superstar Women of Country”

Such a sistership. Women bond in a way that’s very sacred. I look at Loretta up there, who’s the reason I’m in country music. We stand on her shoulders. And looking at Carrie and Miranda and Jennifer and thinking this is the next generation, and I’m just in a surreal place that’s between worlds.

-Wynonna Judd at the taping of the ACM special, a tribute of sorts to women in country music, which airs April 22 on CBS. As a country music writer, I do a lot of griping about the current state of the industry, but this quote reminds me that there are a handful of very –very– talented women in country music right now that have the power to carry the genre through its next generation. That’s a special thing, especially given the genre’s (unfair) male bias.

Kids’ reaction to Rebecca Black’s “Friday”

Is it bad that this makes me happy? Check out the incredulous look on 8-year-old Marlhy’s face at the 0:43 mark.


…I mean, really, how shocked can you be at Pia Toscano’s early exit, guys? (I refuse to address Steven Tyler, who might as well sleep through the live shows.) You’ve been consistently praising every contestant without giving any sort of assessment of the state of the competition – remember that, the competition?- other than “it’s anyone’s game.” Look, it’s great that you’re able to find something you love about every contestant, and it’s heartening that your critiques are sincere and passionate. But we need a definitive voice. We need you to take a stand.  We need you to inject a little cut-throat into this race if you expect the great to float to the top.

Posted on April 12, 2011 and filed under Round-Ups, American Idol, Music.