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Thursday, March 31, 2016

a-force vol. 2

After reading the first issue of A-Force, I realized, "Ok. This is going to get real intense. Real fast." And, the second installment only reaffirms that. We begin:

"After failing to save America Chavez from Doom's justice, She-Hulk rallied A-Force, Protectors of Arcadia, to investigate the strange monster attack that led to America's exile. Meanwhile, Nico Minoru, reeling from the loss of her foster sister, discovered a strange being who fell from the sky..."

The comic opens with members of A-Force waiting on a report from The Mariners, a group of people/heroes that seem to be a bit amphibious. We see them in the ocean, discovering a portal to another realm. The portal quickly begins to collapse, and they rush to the surface to join the rest of A-Force.

We go back to Loki's house, where Nico and America live. Nico is getting to know Singularity, who fell to the earth like a meteor last issue, and forming the beginning of what will become an inseparable bond.

"We are rarely given to know when our lives will change forever. In the years that follow, as we count the ripples, we can trace them to the single tiny stonethe brush of a hand, the sudden look, the conversation that took such a strange turnthe call in the dead of night.

"Who we arethe kindness and cruelty that shape usmay not come with a blush or a scar. We don't hinge on universes. We hinge on little things."

Nico brings Singularity to meet the rest of the team when Arcadia is attacked by a giant-ass Iron Man wannabe. The heroines snap into action to fight the new villain, but he's proving to be a bit too much. Not-Tony Stark is about to demolish the non-super citizens of Arcadia, but he isn't fast enough for Singularity, who saves the people in a flash.

The battle concludes with A-Force completely kicking ass (duh). But, once the battle is over, duty calls, and She-Hulk leaves to uncover the truth behind the portals.

And you won't believe where she ends up.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

top 10 dives in upper kirby

I've been living in the Upper Kirby neighborhood of Houston for just about 8 months and, I have to admit, it falls quite short of my old neighborhood near LSU in terms of affordable, casual restaurants. (Honestly, though. What could I expect? The offshoot of Houston's most affluent neighborhood is just not going to have the same kind of restaurants as a college area.)

But, being the kind of person who neither cares for nor can afford fancy afford, I've scoured the neighborhood for suitable replacements to my Baton Rouge stomping grounds. These 10 restaurants, in no particular order (except for No. 1, obvs), are the only places I frequent now.

*Side note: for the sake of this post, a "dive" is a place cheap, good food, lackluster decor, probably not a lot of parking, and maybe shares a building with several other businesses.

10. Mainely Sandwiches
Location: South Shepherd, between West Alabama and Richmond
This is a yummy North Atlantic Coast-themed soup and sandwich shop, with a special focus (obviously) on Maine lobster. Their sandwich rolls are delicious, but the bread is probably the best part. It's like butter, melting in your mouth.
Try: Lobster Roll, Crab Roll, and definitely the Lobster Bisque

9. McElroy's Pub
Location: S. Sandman St (off of Richmond, right around S. Shepherd)
Go for the drinks, stay for the fun. McElroy's boasts friendly staff, a fun jukebox, and your standard go-to bar games of pool and darts. It's super chill with a comfy, rich and warm atmosphere. Be careful not to lose track of time in your relaxation!
Try: The Best Pint of Guinness in Houston

8. Blue Fish House
Location: Richmond, just east of the Kirby intersection
Blue Fish is a great place for Stephen and me to hop over to when we just don't feel like cooking. It's right across the street from our apartment, has a large menu, and is super affordable. It's not going to be the best sushi you've ever had, but it is really good, especially considering the price you pay. (Not a lot.)
Try: Volcano Roll and Vegetable Croquette

7. Hunan Village
Location: S. Shepherd, between West Alabama and Richmond
A relatively small Chinese restaurant with fast and friendly service, Hunan is one of our favorite places to order in when we're feeling a carby feast. Great egg rolls and crab wontons (my favorites at any restaurant), and excellent hot and sour soup.
Try: General Tsao's Chicken, Hot and Sour Soup, Crab Wontons

6. Luna Pizzeria
Location: Richmond and Kirby
A relatively small pizzeria with an even smaller menu, Luna has perfected their specialties: good food and a fun atmosphere. The restaurant is littered with throwback table games to keep you entertained while you're waiting on your food.
Try: Spicy Andouille Pizza (Super yum!)

5. Avalon Diner
Location: Westheimer, just East of the Kirby intersection
Though they now have multiple locations throughout the Houston area, the OG, 80-year-old diner on Wertheimer is always packed with people and personality. Have a burger and an old-fashioned milkshake, sit back, and enjoy the charm with a big side helping of people-watching.
Try: Milkshake (any flavor; they're all good), Breakfast Sandwich and Waffle

4. Dino's Den
Location: Richmond, between Kirby and Greenbriar
An ideal spot for Happy Hour, Dino's has stiff drinks, loads of friendly faces, and even a charging station. You may miss it at first, because there's no sign at the moment, but just look for the painted dinosaurs next to Blue Fish House.
Try: Honeydew Mimosas and the yummy Sunday Feature Food (though that changes week to week)

3. Star Pizza
Location: Norfolk, just West of S. Shepherd (near Richmond)
Star Pizza is basically a Houston institution. All of their pizzas are made to order (which may make the service slow from time to time) and completely delicious. Their marinara and dough are made from scratch daily, and the toppings are fresh and delicious. Eat there or take it home, either way it's completely delicious.
Try: Anything, really. But, especially the Deep Dish Starburst (pictured above), and the Hand Tossed Chicken Alfredo (pictured below).

2. Hobbit Cafe
Location: Richmond, between Kirby and S. Shepherd, nestled behind Blue Fish
This adorable little restaurant is a converted house with dining throughout the rooms of the house and, as you can imagine, decorated with all kinds of Lord of the Rings memorabilia. We expected more of a British pub when we went, but the menu has a great assortment of (mostly American) food.
Try: Boudin Burger, Quesadilla and Chicken Salad

1. BB's Cafe
Location: Richmond, between Buffalo Speedway and Levy Park
This is my favorite. My absolute favorite. BB's is the first place in Houston where I had "Oh. My. Goodness." good food. It's an exquisite blend of Tex-Mex and Cajun, and is, honestly, the best food I've had in a while. Go. Now.
Try: Crawfish Quesadillas (these are eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head good) and the South Texas Fire poboy

Thursday, March 24, 2016

patsy walker, aka hellcat! #1

Hellcat is my new favorite comic book. I know I've only read, like, two comic book series, but still. She's kick-ass, someone you want to be best friends with, and the series itself fun, funny and totally cute. But first, a little backstory.

Hellcat began in 1976 when she appeared in The Avengers Vol. 1, #144. Her alias, Patricia Walker Baxter Hellstrom grew up as the subject of her own comic book series. (I know. Comic-ception.) Patricia's mother, Dorothy Walker, found success creating the comic book detailing romance and adventures of her teenage daughter and her friends.

Patricia, being fascinated with superheroes, convinced the mutant Beast to make her into a superheroine. She tagged alongside The Avengers (where she picked up the forgotten costume of former superhero The Cat), but was never invited to join. (Here's her full origin story.)

The character's resurgence came in December (2015) with "Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!" Though this series is a self-contained telling, there are plenty of nods to Patsy's past. (And, yes, she's totally the same Patsy Walker/Trish Walker that's in Jessica Jones on Netflix. I completely geeked out when I realized it.)

"So let's backtrack just a touch. Get to know our hero with these Patsy Facts! Her mom wrote romance comics about her teen years! Pretty weird, Mom! She has not had the greatest love life. I mean, yikes. Powers include butt-kicking and butt-punching, which she learned on the moon, and more! These days she works as an investigator for Jennifer Walters. [She-Hulk. Who is a lawyer.] Oh, and she can sense mystical energy. It's pretty neat."

It opens with Hellcat defeating a petty thief with superpowers, Telekinian. He confesses that it was his first crime, and he only did it because he's recently unemployed. The newly-fired Patsy befriends Telekinian (Ian Soo) and becomes his roommate.

Patsy and Ian drop into a bookstore to pick up something he'd ordered, when Patsy discovers her "best frenemy from her youth," Hedy Wolfe, was benefitting from Patsy's mom's death by republishing all of the old "Patsy Walker" comics.

Later, the bookstore owner, a childhood friend of Patsy's, hires Ian. He sees his telekinesis as a helpful, rather than threatening, trait; this is apparently a rarity. Off-duty superheroes, mutants and people with power tend to have difficulties finding an employer willing to hire a freak.

Thus, the plot of the series begins: Patsy decides to create an employment agency for heroes "and other cool friends" that need work.

It's seriously a super cute comic. It very much has a millennial vibe and would be great for teenagers, college students, and adults who appreciate a bit of silliness.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I’ve always felt pressure to be something great. When I was a little girl, I thought that greatness would come on Broadway, where I could share my angelic average singing voice and mesmerizing laughable dancing skills with awe-inspired crowds.

That one year of high school when I thought I was a poet, I was convinced my simple ballads would make me this generation’s Emily Dickinson.

My grandest, longest dream of greatness was imagining myself creating a girls’ magazine. Seriously, this was a 10-year dream of mine (which, when you’re 26, is a long damn time). This is what I told every friend, mentor, colleague or passersby who asked my career plans. I was going to achieve my own greatness by helping young girls understand how wonderful they are. (I am just SO giving.)

I started by creating blogs, because I knew the best way to reach my dream was to start as soon as possible. I created at least four blogs in as many years because ADD. I never wrote frequently enough to gain the necessary traction for success. And, by the time I’d realized I hadn’t blogged in four months, I had a new awesome idea for a new awesome blog. My final blog attempt was a concerted effort to create the early stages of my magazine. Then I realized I had no idea what I was doing.

And then, I’d feel bad about my failures. I’d read too many articles by 23-year-old assistant editors at Vogue, and too many fashion blogs from women my age wearing Valentino on the daily.

Why hadn’t I achieved my greatness? There are women younger than me all over the Internet who are experiencing the kind of monumental success I’ve always envisioned for myself. If I haven’t made my first million and/or become a household name by 27, I’m obviously a failure.

Wait, Lauren. Take a step back.

It’s not about you.

Why did you ever feel pressure to be famous and wealthy?

It’s not about you.

Who ever said that notoriety was the only way to achieve greatness?

It’s not about you.

I live my life by a faith that prioritizes loving others, so why did I feel that everything needs to be about me?

The more negativity I see in headlines, the more narcism and bullying I see on social media, the more I realize that achieving my narrow view of greatness should never be a goal for me. I’m starting to think it’s not really worth it.

I’m starting to realize that true greatness already exists all around me, and I become an active participant every time I love my neighbor. I become part of the greatness of humanity every time I hold the door for a stranger, keep my middle finger down when someone cuts me off, or even take a moment to people-watch with love instead of derision and judgement. (If you’re overly hipster or trying to rock normcore, the judgement is just gonna happen, dude.)

It’s not about me.

Greatness is about loving others and finding ways to love through my talents. I write, so I enjoy crafting meaningful notes to those I love. I’m a gift whisperer, so I be sure to get people small presents randomly, just so they know someone is thinking of them. And I’m a fabulous hugger, so I try to make people’s gloomy days just a little bit brighter through a warm embrace.

I’ve given up on my silly, self-centered goal of fame, and am choosing to be the best, most kick-ass embodiment of love that I can be each and every day.

And that, dear friends, is greatness.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

a-force vol. 1

Ok. I admit it. I'm a geek.

(And I'm totally ok with that.) I've recently gotten into reading comic books, but, as Stephen isn't that kind of geek, I'm having to find my own way into the things I like.

I loved the Marvel movies, and especially Black Widow's integral role throughout the Avengers (and spinoff) movies. And, I currently hate DC because they have yet to prove to me that they're not sexist, whereas Marvel just came out with A-Force (July 2015). And thus began my descent into the comic book world.

I started off with subscriptions to A-Force and Black Widow. Sadly, Black Widow was cancelled about three issues into my subscription. Bastards. (Though, Marvel did send me Hellcat instead, which I now love.)

A-Force details the saga of group of kickass super-heroines that have replaced The Avengers in the Secret Wars.

Concept Art from

The comic's backstory begins ...
"The multiverse was destroyed! The heroes of Earth-616 and Earth-1610 were powerless to save it! Now, all that remains ... is Battleworld! A massive, patchwork planet composed of the fragments of worlds that no longer exist, maintained by the iron will of its God and Master, Victor Von Doom! Each region is a domain unto itself! This is the story of A-Force."

(Side note: Thank Stan Lee for back stories. I would have no idea what's going on without them ... I still kind of don't.)

The women of A-Force live on an island called Arcadia on Battleworld. The comic opens with the women doing their own thing—Dazzler is grocery shopping, Sister Grimm is closing on cereal, Captain Marvel reads and Medusa wakes up next to her man. And the story begins.

"In the vast oceans of our planet, isolated from the forbidden domains of Battleworld, there is an island. Our island is red roofs and friendly dogs, green hills and water blue as heartache. It is bells at dawn and bells at dusk, rising towers of stone and silver, clay and chrome. It is its people, the good, the bad, and all the rest of us—doctors and lawyers, teachers and thieves, scientists, artists, musicians and mystics, brothers- and sisters-in-arms—heroes, and villains. Family and friends. In the shadow of the shield, with the sun on the sea, there is an island. Welcome to Arcadia. It's pretty tight."

Team members are out on "patrol," (assumably operating as a police force) each reporting a quiet night when a giant (seriously, giant ... I mean, it's a friggin Megalodon) shark tears through the ocean's surface (via a dimensional rip? Maybe?). Without giving too much away, they take care of the shark by breaking the "rules" Victor Von Doom had set and someone gets in trouble.

She-Hulk, leader of the A-Force, pleads with the sheriff on troublemaker's behalf, but to no avail. Doom's law is absolute. Troublemaker is gone, and her bestie is pissed with She-Hulk because projection.

The issue closes with a pretty epic assembly of the (a) forces.

"Something has trespassed on our borders, something that is a danger to all Arcadia. What it has set in motion, I cannot say. I do not know where or why that monster appeared—but it cost us one of our own. And more may be coming. Tonight, we are going to learn the truth. We are going to learn the source of the apparition that cost us our sister. We will find this threat. We will root it out. We will know, at last—for good or for evil—what serpents have come into our garden."

And, the cliffhanger rests with a sparkly new friend falling to Arcadia like a meteor. Her name is Singularity.

A-Force is killer gateway comic for me. It's nothing but women being awesome in beautiful illustrations and song-like prose. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend.

If you don't feel like actually reading them, though, I'll be posting summaries for more A-Force and other comic books.

A-Force Key Characters:
She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters) - A-Force Team Leader and Baroness of Arcadia
Captain Marvel (Col. Carol Danvers) - Super strong; takes no prisoners
Sister Grimm (Nico Minoru) - Magic runs through her veins
Dazzler (Alison Blaire) - Mutant queen of disco; walking laser light show
Ms. America (America Chavez) - She's beauty. She's grace. She'll punch you in the face.
Loki - Norse goddess; Mistress of Secrets
Medusa - Queen of the Inhumans

What are your favorite comic books? Or, better yet, what geek tendencies do you have?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

besty brandy's bachelorette

Since moving to Houston last summer, I have, without a doubt, missed my besties terribly. Buuuut, this weekend, Bestie Brandy is flying in to visit! Though our agenda isn't set yet, the weekend will definitely entail lots of shopping and margaritas.

In honor of her visit, I'm sharing a bit about her bachelorette weekend we celebrated last year. (This post is so long overdue.)

We started the weekend on a Friday night in April (see? Way overdue.) with a little pre-gaming at her bridesmaid Lauren's house.

(Ain't she classy, folks?) Before moving on to dinner and dessert at The Melting Pot.

(Lauren is on the left, Brandy is on the right.) Fondue is such a fun experience. Sure, you can argue that you're paying out the wazoo for a meal you have to cook yourself, but it's a fun way to treat yo'self. And if you can't get past the idea of paying to cook your own food, at least go for dessert. My favorite is The Melting Pot's turtle chocolate combination. It's ahhhhmazing. (I mean, dipping fruit and marshmallows and rice crispy treats into a heavenly fusion of chocolate, caramel and candied pecans?! Yes, please!)

(On the left is my friend, Meagan, from Crossfit. She's super country and loves to wear her NASCAR shirts--yes, plural--because I pick on her, but she's also cute and sweet as hell. She and Brandy clicked as soon as I introduced them.)

Please excuse the photo quality. Romantic lighting and an iPhone camera don't make for the best images.

The staff (very sweetly) sent a special dessert to congratulate Brandy on her nuptials ... but we enjoyed the typo way more.

After dinner, we headed downtown for the more typical bachelorette fun: heavy drinking and bad dancing at a bar. We opted for the low-key Huey's, as none of us were the dancing-in-stilettos variety that frequented the clubs. Thing to note: if you're celebrating something special, definitely go to a smaller bar; it was crowded, but they treated Brandy like the queen she is.

The celebration continued Saturday morning with brunch and ... wait for it ... horseback riding. No, it's not your standard bachelorette activity, but it is so perfectly Brandy and was so perfectly fun. After the previous late night (I think I got home after midnight! Y'all. I'm such a grandma; I was dead.), it was a welcome peaceful, calming respite. 

Seriously. How cute is she?

And the weather was PERFECT!

This cat was having none of our silliness.

I am so excited to be reunited with Brandy this weekend! What are some of your favorite things to do with your besties?