Monday, June 20, 2011

48 Hours in NYC Without a Single Cupcake

Getting to spend 48 hours with one of my best friends Ryan was an absolute blast. We never stopped moving from the moment I pulled up in a cab in Times Square and was greeted with a Snapple Orangeaid.
Red Velvet Cheesecake from Southern Hospitality

Food was a primary objective for this trip and I dare say, we had great success. I'm going to go through four desserts worth adding to your bucket list.  First we'll start with the Red Velvet Cheesecake from Justin Timberlake's NYC restuarant "Southern Hospitality." How can you deny two of the best things in the planet? This did not last long on the plate and was a spectacular finish to a great southern meal!

Shared Dessert Sampler at Max Brenner's Chocolate Bar
Max Brenner has an unreal establishment. They serve chocolate any way you could imagine it! They even have specific mugs for their different chocolate drinks! We decided to roll with the sampler dessert platter so we could have a little of everything! It featured a milk chocolate fondue with strawberries, bananas, and marshmellows, a Carmalized Banana Belgian Waffle, a chocolate eggroll, and two chocolate barks. Of course you also were able to pour a melted chocolate glaze (dark, white, or milk) over everything to make it even more delicious. Two thumbs up! (

Frozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity! 
A New York City staple. The Frozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity is clearly a great option in the summer. What I didn't know is that it comes in several different flavors...including PB and Chocolate!

Cinnamon French Toast from Iguana
This Cinnamon French Toast from the Iguana restuaruant in NYC wasn't really a dessert...but it should have been. Prepared with Orange Pecan butter and Maple syrup, this French Toast is also topped with a fresh berry compote that was simply delicious. I try really hard to pretend this was healthy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

1 Year Down...

If you were to ask me a year ago where I thought I'd be today, I'm not really sure what my answer would have been. A year ago from today, I had just graduated from Baylor. I thought I knew everything. I was at the top of my game after climbing the huge mountain called college, had the best friends anyone could ask for, and life couldn't have been better. I can say it's been a crazy ride with twists and turns, most of which I didn't expect.

A year ago, I was in Nicaragua, with BRH (Baylor Religious Hour) Choir. We were on a mission trip to build latrines for a community that didn't have running water, much less electricity. It was there that I found out that one of my best friends, Katy Reeves, was diagnosed with cancer. Watching close friends deal with their own journeys have been really motivating for me. Katy is knocking out the CPA exam,  Lisa Sorenson has started her own design firm, getting to do what she loves, Ryan Brinson has started his own venture in the online magazine world called Bleep! Two of my other best friends Ryan and Cheryl are chasing their dreams in education and I couldn't be more proud of them. Seeing theSix (it's a brand) do so well in a year has been awesome.

I returned to Austin from Nicaragua on a Thursday and had to start work in Nashville on the following Monday, so I quickly gathered my things, piled them all into a Uhaul, and started my new life in Nashville. I moved away from pretty much everyone I knew to chase after this Nashville dream of mine. I've been incredibly blessed with amazing co-workers and a great job. I get to talk to people all over the nation on a daily basis. This week the Baylor students came in to learn about the music industry and I was able to tell them about what I do. It was crazy to think that I was sitting in their seats two years ago.

Many sweet tea, biscuits, and pancakes later I can say that it's been a pretty awesome year. Meeting awesome new friends, going to concerts, and living the Nashville life has been such a treat. Adjusting to the lack of Spring Break and Summer vacation, mixed with the snowy weather, and icy roads have proven to be a challenge, but one that I've grown a lot from. Today I'm saying goodbye to that apartment that I moved into a year ago, and am ready to see what this next year holds.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Life's a Symphony

It's been a while since I've been able to post! It's been a crazy busy few months! Lots of "firsts." I've been published for the first time! Who knew that talking about food would be something that other people would want to read? Check out my article on some of my favorite local Nashville restaurants in the latest digital issue of Bleep Magazine! It's free of course!

A year ago when Nashville had the flood of the century, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center had large amounts of flooding and had to close. I hadn't been to the symphony before the flooding but it opened up this year and I have had two opportunities recently to go. Let me just tell you that it's worth it. It's very rare that a young twenty-something like myself has the opportunity to mix and mingle with the elite socialites of Nashville, but I guess with my old soul I love every time it happens.

The first opportunity I had to check out the re-opened symphony center was for the Lifetime Tribute to Bill & Gloria Gaither. It was incredible event with the Nashville Choir and Orchestra. Performers included the Gaither Vocal Band, David Phelps, Michael W. Smith, Sandi Patti, Larnelle Harris, Buddy Green, Russ Taff, the Voices of Lee, Gordon Mote, Steve Green, and the Issacs.

Larnelle Harris and Sandi Patty singing "I've Just Seen Jesus"
Performances that gave me goosebumps included Sandi and Larnelle singing "I've Just Seen Jesus" with the choir and orchestra as well as Michael W. Smith singing with the Voices of Lee. David Phelps singing (blasting) "Because He Lives" was also a moment I wont soon forget.

Me and Bill Gaither
Getting to meet the Gaithers afterwords was incredible. They're so humble and sweet. When we talked to Gloria, she already had her shoes off and sat them on the table next to her and she told me "I just can't stand to wear those for another second." I can't say that I blame her. It was wonderful getting to see the things that they have done over a lifetime.

Michael Cavanaugh and the Nashville Symphony
The other opportunity I had to visit the symphony was for the Nashville Symphony Pops Series. Michael Cavanaugh, who was the original lead in Movin' Out on Broadway, sang the music of Billy Joel. Let me just tell you that Billy might have not been in my generation but those of you who did have him in yours were lucky. He has some awesome music! Michael did an incredible job with the Nashville Symphony and made the whole concert a great experience. Being in a box for the concert certainly added to the "cool factor" as well.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A New Lease on Life, Music, Ice Cream, and Film Festivals

I feel like sometimes life can get pretty slow. Some people start feeling "bored" and don't really have any excitement about life....that's pretty much not at all what my life has looked like in the past few months. 

RIP TX Plate

It came time to retire my Volkswagen, and I got a new (to me) car. It was a huge process and I learned a lot but had to give up the last part of Texas I was holding on to, my license plates. From title transfers to emissions testing to registrations between counties I got it all covered, and I had to do it all in about an hour and a half. I still owe the sweet lady at the County clerk's office Gerber Daisies, she hinted those were her favorite and she gave me an easy TN plate with 123 in it...I love the new car, it drives like a dream and it's all mine! 

Waiting for Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's

I was also recently introduced to that glorious one day a year that Ben & Jerry's has "Free Cone Day." It might be my new favorite holiday. I also might have been the last person in Nashville to know about it, but you can bet I'll be ready for it next year for sure. Thankful that I got my "Bonaroo Buzz" on a cone. Also, props to their line system. It flew by.

I was also introduced to the Nashville Film Festival this week, kind of by surprise. I had a friend that asked if I'd want to go check out a movie, and so we went to check it out. We ended up walking in on the red carpet for the opening of the Film Festival 2011. Surprise? Yes. It's one of the top film festivals in the country and we had a great time! 

The Adley Stump

My new friend Adley Stump, who I met because I her mother and I worked together at a cheerleading nationals in Houston, came to Nashville for a showcase. I feel like the world gets smaller and smaller every day. Her mom found out I lived in Nashville and she insisted that I meet her daughter who would be moving there. Adley's a senior at OSU and is well on her way to fame. She's got a killer voice and has been working with some well known industry people in getting her artistry off the ground. Well it worked out that we ran into each other and we were instantly great friends. It was great to see her (and her mom) when she came to town and I got to see her do her thing!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In The Heights

As a part of my season tickets to the TPAC's (Tennessee Performing Artist Center) Broadway series, I got to see "In the Heights" last night. I had several people telling me that this show was incredible. I hadn't really researched any information on the play or listened to the music before I went so I didn't have any preconceived thoughts.

Moral of the story: It's one of my favorite musicals; period. The music was incredible and with my limited Spanish background, they were able to create an awesome blend of Spanglish. The lyrics of the songs rhymed english words with the spanish equivalent with incredible harmonies. I will absolutely be seeing this musical again if I have the opportunity. The characters are so relatable and the set is amazing. The dancing was true to the culture but refreshingly new age.

Jordin Sparks had a small stent in the roll of Nina for the show in New York. If you've never seen the musical, do it, but also check out her performance.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

One Republic at the Ryman

When I heard One Republic was coming to the Ryman, I went ahead and bought tickets because I knew a few of their songs. Apologize, Marching On, Made for You...the usuals. I'm not sure what I had in mind for expectations of the concert but I assure you all of those expectations were surpassed. They are such an incredibly talented group. Ryan Tedder is a genius and probably one of the best writers in music out there right now. 

The Daylights
 The concert was opened by the Daylights. They were awesome, had a great sound, and set the mood for a great night.
One Republic
One Republic came out and had a killer opening. I realized really quickly that I knew a lot more of their material than I thought. Ryan Tedder produced and co-wrote "Bleeding Love" for Leona Lewis, and is currently working with Kelly Clarkson and several others on new releases.

Ryan Tedder
There were so many fluid transitions between songs whether Ryan was on keys or guitar, or when the famous cello was playing every song was seamless. I'm also relatively positive that there were some vocal runs that had never been done before.

Sons of Sylvia and One Republic
At the end of the show, Ryan brought out his cousins. The Sons of Sylvia have been on tour all year with Carrie Underwood. They have a musical family and did a killer blue grass closing for the concert.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Surprise, Surprise....

This weekend I had the opportunity to work together and pull together a great surprise party for my friend Mandi. She and I have known each other since Baylor and had several classes together. We interned together at Word and now have the opportunity to work together in the same department. She rocks.

Her birthday was on Friday and little did she know...we were going to celebrate. Her boyfriend Dan and I were working together to put something together for her. Sherrie, one of my favorite co-workers, makes incredible baked goods. So she brought Mandi some carrot cake cupcakes...I might have eaten 6.

I spoke with Mandi several times during they day and she literally had no idea what was going on. So that night, Dan took Mandi to the Nashville Symphony and I was gathering everyone at the new location of this awesome sushi place in town called Virago. I realized when I got there that I didn't really know a whole lot of Mandi or Dan's friends outside of work. I randomly spent time asking strangers..."Do you know Dan or Mandi..." or "Do you  have anyone in your life named Dan or Mandi" I got a great response rate.

Sherrie made Mandi an incredible piano birthday cake. She even crafted a baby grand piano out of chocolate on top of it!
Sherrie's Birthday Cake for Mandi
There ended up being about 25-30 people there to celebrate and once Mandi arrived she was SO surprised. We had a great night of celebrating! 
Mandi first noticing that there were about 30 people yelling SURPRISE at her.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring Break...So 2010

This week has been great having some Baylor folks in town on their Spring Break! I remember Spring Break...So I spent the entire week living vicariously through them.

It's one of my favorite things to show people around Nashville that have never been here. There's so much to do but I tell everyone have to plan your schedule around what you're going to eat. Sad but true.

Sarah, Ryan, and I at Fido for a Milkbone Latte

We had a great time hanging out with some Baylor Alumni. Getting together to watch the Baylor v. Texas basketball game was great (the game didn't turn out like we'd wanted but it was great to see everyone.)

Tuesday night was very eventful. I introduced my Baylor friends to Kairos, a worship service for young adults. We stopped by to hear the worship portion, led by Anthony Evans. He's incredibly talented! We had to scoot out pretty quick because were were invited to go celebrate with Mandisa for losing 100 lbs! It was an incredible get-together with as many cupcakes as you could imagine. Of course there was an impromptu Zumba session in the middle of the living room to get things jammin.

Laura Cooksey's Amazing Cupcakes

Work has been great this week, my team is the best. One day we all came to work wearing Gray. Completely unplanned...It's one of those "You know you spend way too much time together when..." moments. We ordered a King Cake to celebrate Mardi Gras.  Unfortunately I didn't get the baby in my section, but it was sure delicious!

Chris, Ashley, Me, and Justin rockin some Gray

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Francesca's CD Release Party!

This week has been great, consistently busy and plenty going on. Tuesday was a big day with the latest release by Francesca Battistelli "A Hundred More Years." The album is great and very relatable. With this album being her second release, you can tell she's really become comfortable with herself as an artist.  Her vocals reflect a maturity and comfort within all of the tracks on the album. She throws some vocal runs in there that are like a marathon for her cords.

Lobby of the Belcourt Theater

Tuesday night was Francesca's Album release party at the Belcourt Theater here in Nashville. It was a small group of writers, radio teams, and label folks that were able to enjoy celebrating Franny's success and the launch of the new album! Francesca sang through the album from beginning to end with most of the writers that she collaborated with for the album. It was cool to see where these songs originated from and the stories behind them. Dave Barnes is a guest duet on one of the tracks "Emily." Ladies, it's for you, especially if your name is Emily.

Francesca and Dave Barnes singing "Emily"

Monday, February 28, 2011

Worry Not...

So I'm not really much of a planner. I like to be spontaneous and have options when it comes down to it. This weekend has been a phenominal example of that. For me, I've found that when you don't have the structure of a calendar, you have less to worry about.

Writers Round at The Basement
 There were some crazy weather warnings going on in Nashville with talks of potential tornados. So I ended up thinking rationally and heading to a writer's round at The Basement. No windows...made perfect sense. It turned out to be a pretty awesome night with songwriters like Kate York (co-wrote More Beautiful You with Johnny Diaz) and Tyler James playing all new material that they'd been working on! There were 12 writers that played. It made me feel very uncreative, but I'm really glad that there are people out there with amazing talent like that.

I also had the opportunity to check out the musical Spring Awakening from the front row balcony at the TPAC. It was a great performance. I didn't really know what to expect walking in, but the music was great. The harmonies were solid. The storyline was very raw and an accurate portrayal of what teens go through today. I was impressed for sure. I kind of wish there would have been a huge ending song that made it memorable but the show was definitely worth seeing!

Had a fun watching party for The Oscars. Some of the outfits definitely surprised me, some for good reasons, others for...not so good reasons. I thought Anne did a great job hosting, and loved her musical number. I don't know if James Franco did as well as I'd hoped, but he gave quite a contrast to his opposing host. Celine did awesome as usual, and Sandra Bullock did great as well. Can you tell my glass is half-full?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

FiddleCakes, The Civil Wars, and Other Nashville Blessings...

Living in this city makes me realize that there are so many incredible restaurants that it's a wonder I don't weigh 1000 lbs. I realize I might be a tad hyperbolistic but where would my sarcasm come from if I didn't have that?

FiddleCakes on 8th

With all of the amazing food in this city, I'd like to feature a favorite little bakery of mine that has been growing in the last year. FiddleCakes has an awesome variety of delectible baked goods even for the health conscious. With several vegan and gluten-options, there's something for everyone. They have different kinds of vegan cupcakes every day, which I'm pretty sure don't count as calories on any diet you might be on. My personal favorite (and weakness) is the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookie (every now-and-then available in a vegan option). Let's just be really honest here and say that if I had the opportunity, I would probably eat these cookies by the dozen in a single sitting. The bakery itself provides a super-chill atmosphere to grab lunch with a friend or to catch up on emails with a cup of coffee (and several cookies, in my case). If you've never been I'd definitely recommend it! They just opened a new location across from Cummins Station.

Civil Wars perform in Grimey's

I also had the opportunity to go check out the in-store performance of The Civil Wars yesterday at Grimey's. It was awesome. All of the hype of their new independent release is well worth it. I mean, the songs themselves are incredibly well written, and I'm pretty sure they've invented some new harmonies that haven't existed on this earth quite yet. They sang through several of their album songs, including the single, Poison and Wine. I tell you what though, I fell in love with their song Falling. Joy has such an incredible way with the emotion of the song, and their dynamics draw you in even closer as a listener. We got to chat a little bit after the show and they're excited to play at Common Grounds in Waco coming up! They're both so talented.

Adele's Album Cover
While we're on the music subject here,  which I could and do talk about all day every day. Adele announced her concert in Nashville. She may not be a Nashville original, but she's on her way to visit this Summer! I for sure got my ticket as soon as the pre-sales went up. I couldn't be more excited about this new Album, 21. I've had the blessing of listening to it for the past month or so. Every song on that CD is well worth a listen or 400 (again with the hyperbole.) Seriously, jump on it and get this album if you haven't. She's incredible and her voice is such a raw talent. Gotta love the British flare as well!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Concert Among Friends...

Wow, today started completely differently than it ended. I guess I had my own plans in order and The Man Upstairs clearly had other plans.

I forgot my phone today at home as I was rushing out the door to get to work (my usual whirlwind of throwing myself out of bed, grabbing my coffee, and hitting the road to get to the office) I felt completely detached from the world until lunch when I was able to run home and retrieve it from my night stand.

I'd missed a few texts including one from Sarah Leyda that said "I have an extra Michael W Smith and Amy Grant ticket for tonight's concert at the Ryman...first person to text me gets it"....of all days to forget my phone...

I had some other plans going on tonight, but in the luck of the draw, Sarah's friend was called into work and I was asked to go :)

Michael W Smith and Amy Grant taken from our awesome seats!

It was my first concert at the Ryman and I got to enjoy it with Sarah on the front row balcony. Incredible experience. Amy and MWS opened up the show with a duet of favorites and they both performed several of their hits individually. It was so neat to see their dynamic and how they seemed to just pick up where they left off.

Amy was so comfortable and was able to make a connection with every single person in the 2000+ audience. Her light humor and contagious smile made everyone feel welcomed. Highlights included "Better than a Hallelujah," "El Shaddai," and clearly "Baby Baby."

Amy singing "Better Than a Hallelujah" 
In between sets there was short intermission where we were able to stretch our tired legs from sitting in the wooden pews of the Ryman. As it turned out, I wasn't the only fan of the "Friends" on tour, one miss Kristin Chenoweth was able to enjoy the concert as well in the aisle next to us. I tried to contain my excitement in a very professional way (I was doing backflips in my head I was so excited.) Michael and I also were wearing the same jeans. Obviously, we have a lot in common.

Michael singing through his worship set

It was an incredible concert that I will not forget. So many great songs that brought me back to childhood! Amy even said "There's just nothing out there that can bring you back like music."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Good Eats and Letters...

With all this free time I've given myself I've had plenty of time to dive into some awesome local restaurants that have allowed me to expand my palate. If you guys have any suggestions let me know.

City House Restaurant
First off, I recently tried out City House. This was a legit trendy restaurant that was very unassuming. Pulling up to the house, I didn't expect but about 4 people to be able to fit inside, but once you go in it's an awesome atmosphere with great food. I tried out the Margarita Pizza. Simple, yet delicious. It was just the right size to fill me up and I enjoyed every bite. It was also the cheapest thing on the menu. Bonus

French Toast at Frothy Monkey
If you know anything about me, it's that I've got to have coffee within arms reach pretty much my entire day. So on Saturday mornings I enjoy going to Frothy Monkey for breakfast...this is when I'm in the mood for a trendy local change from my usual Cracker Barrel. The French Toast is out of control good. Paired with a simple coffee, the French Toast served with fresh fruit (including a blood orange, who thinks to use blood oranges in their fruit medleys?) is a perfect combination. You can't go wrong with the friendly people and a cup-o-joe to get your morning started.

I also had some time today to write some letters. That's right...hand-written letters that require a stamp instead of electricity. This was inspired by my friend Leslie who hand crafted her very own Valentine's Day cards (pictured above.) No, I didn't make the paper, but I did take some time to write a few letters! I feel like it's definitely a lost art and I really enjoyed doing some CPR on the subject to revitalize it. I gotta say that the anticipation is killing me's going to take like 3 days for these people to even receive the letters! I guess I'm just so used to instant gratification of knowing that someone got the message!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Week 1: Life and Work w/o Facebook?

This week has been challenging. My co-workers all looked at me like I was crazy when I told them that I was going to be deactivating my Facebook page for a month. Being in the music industry, we rely heavily on the sources of digital media for the latest and greatest updates. What was trending? Who was being tagged in what? Who's upset? Who's engaged? This week I said goodbye to all of that.

The first day was hard, I subconsciously clicked my browser to Facebook probably about 20 times and realized every time..."I can't log-in..." I realized after the deactivation that I hadn't been without a Facebook since I signed up for an account my junior year in high school. It took the rest of the day for me to realize that it was no longer an option to spend time on Facebook....for a month.

After the initial shock of feeling completely disconnected from the digital world, I arrived a point of productivity and a feeling of freedom. There weren't anymore "notification" emails, messages, or photo tag requests arriving. About 6 minutes after the deactivation of my account I received a few "Did you 'unfriend' me on Facebook?" texts from close friends, my mother thought something was wrong with me, several others haven't noticed yet, but I'm sure I'll hear more about it as the process continues.

We're doing a campaign right now within the sales team that is pretty competitive. I got to feeling pretty down earlier this week because I hadn't been able to do as well as I'd hoped. This was the third week of the competition and my partner and I hadn't come in first place either of the previous weeks. Now, without Facebook, I was able to focus, without distraction, on my goals and what I wanted to achieve this week.  I became determined to seek victory.

I noticed subtle changes in my work behavior, I finished my goals quicker, I became more thorough in my research, I became aware of more ways to be productive at work. The days went quicker. I also started caring more about my co-workers. I mean, I see these people every day; I spend more time with them than my family or friends at this point in my life. I realized that I probably wasn't being as great of a friend to them as I could have been. So, in the coming weeks, I've decided to invest more into them and their lives and become more of an effective teammate for them.

By the end of the week, tension was rising, my ever-so-subtle co-workers would ask if I'd seen their latest profile pictures on Facebook, or if I'd had any great "friend requests" recently. Something did change though. My teammate and I realized that we had a very good chance of winning the campaign for the week. We worked really hard and by the end of the day Friday, my teammate and I came in first place for the first time during this campaign, allowing us to go home half an hour early; a great start to a 3 day weekend!

I can't give all the credit to my social media purge, but I must say that it helped quite a bit. Next week is the last week of the campaign, and because of our awesome week this past week, we're back in the runnings to potentially win the entire campaign. I work with incredible people that are all awesome at what they do, so I'm just happy that they put up with me and that I can learn from them.

This morning I went to a great church service at Crosspoint here in Nashville. There were several notables in attendance and it was really neat to see them worshiping and being so focused in that moment to be able to surrender everything. The message was about how God called us as Christians to welcome everyone, realize that no one is perfect, and that anything is possible. Definitely an encouraging challenge to carry me into this next week! Stay tuned for more...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Life Happens...An Introduction

Well it's time that I caved and jumped on the blog train. This past year has been a series of crazy events. A year ago I was a senior at Baylor pretending that I knew everything about everything and I was really comfortable where I was.

Within the past six months everything that I knew, and was comfortable with, completely changed. I moved halfway across the U.S. to Nashville to start a job in the music industry. This was a dream come true, I never in a million years thought that I could be "that guy" with one of those great jobs that is really fun to talk about with people at dinner parties and when meeting strangers.

Recently I realized that I needed a change; I needed something crazy to happen and challenge me in life. A friend of mine told me over coffee that he wanted to just turn off his Facebook and it hit me...I spend a lot of time on that social media device. I wondered about what all I could be doing besides spending time "tagging" or "wall posting." So I decided to challenge myself: One Month with No Facebook.

The start of this blog will document the series of life happenings being "digitally removed" from Facebook. It'll continue after a month, with more of my life happenings, so stay tuned.