Riley Heruska
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Texas is home to hundreds of lakes, and even though almost every single one is man-made, we Texans have a penchant for everything lake-related. Fishing, jet-skiing, sunbathing, tubing, you name it, and it’s a popular sport here. With the summer months fast approaching (because come on, we know spring lasts about two seconds in Texas), you might want to start planning your trips to the lake now.

Canyon Lake, located in Comal County between San Antonio and Austin, is one of our state’s most beautiful reservoirs. With more than 80 miles of beautiful shorelines and blue water, the lake is a perfect destination for anyone who loves sunshine and lovely scenery. The lake is also one of Texas’ deepest at 43 feet, which makes it perfect for fishing and boating.

Not only does the lake itself provide a perfect environment for water sports and relaxation, but the nearby Guadalupe River provides its own sort of entertainment. During the warm months, you can almost always spot people floating their way down the river, enjoying the cool relief from the blazing Texas sun.

One of the best parts about the Canyon Lake area? The wildlife. Deer along the lake’s shore are extremely friendly, and if you’re lucky, they’ll come straight up to you. You’ll spot bucks and does at every turn, and they’re more than happy to nibble from your hands if you’re patient enough.

As far as accommodations go, Canyon Lake has a variety of options. You can opt for a campsite if you’re the outdoorsy type, or you can visit one of the many comfortable lodges lining the water.

Whatever type of trip you’re looking for, the lake has it. So, what are you waiting for?

To learn more about Canyon Lake and its amenities, visit

Riley Heruska
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Books for Teens About Mental Health Issue.jpg

Despite what some may think, the genre of young adult literature encompasses a vast array of topics besides adventure-packed dystopian worlds and ridiculous vampire romances. There are hundreds of realistic fiction teen novels, and many of them address the hardest aspects of growing up in today’s society. YA authors aren’t afraid to tackle the nitty gritty, from body image issues to the effects of social isolation.

Here are some of the top teen books that discuss various aspects of mental health. Most of these titles have been deemed quite controversial, but they’re sparking debate across the country for a reason.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

This amusing novel tells the story of Willowdean, AKA Dumplin’. A self-proclaimed “fat girl,” Willowdean attempts to do all the normal things a teen does: wear swimsuits, fall in love, go to dances, etc. However, she constantly struggles with her weight and its impact on her confidence. Murphy does a splendid job of addressing body image issues in young women, as well as pointing out sexism and other issues in our society. Will is a relatable character, and her mental journey to self-acceptance is an important one.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

This heavy YA novel follows characters Lia and Cassie, two best friends who strive to be rail thin at all costs. As their eating disorders begin to overtake their lives, the reality of their problem becomes painfully clear. Anderson explores the process of struggling with anorexia, as well as the extremely difficult path to acceptance and recovery.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

The main character of Made You Up, Alex, struggles on a daily basis to differentiate between what is real and what is one of her many delusions. She’s determined to attend college like any other person her age, but her schizophrenia poses a serious threat to that future. Zappia tells Alex’s story in a funny but provoking way. The entire story poses the question: How does a teenage girl pretend to be “normal” when she’s anything but?

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Recently adapted as a Netflix series, Thirteen Reasons Why has garnered a lot of attention ever since it was published in 2007. Asher tells the tale of a young man who discovers a package from Hannah Baker, who recently ended her own life. Inside the package are several cassette tapes recorded by the dead girl, and she painfully explains why she committed suicide. Dark and raw, this book will make you rethink the way you affect others on a day-to-day basis.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Niven tactfully weaves a tale of light and dark in the human mind. Theodore Finch has always been fascinated by death and the many ways in which he could end his own life. Violet Markey, on the other hand, only wants to move on from the immense pain of her sister’s death. When the two accidentally meet, they embark on a journey of self-exploration and acceptance. Heartbreaking and beautifully-written, this one has earned more than its fair share of praise from critics.

Riley Heruska
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From April 21-23 in Dallas, TX, hundreds of women will team up to celebrate female individuals as powerful entrepreneurs and workers at the Ambitious Women Conference. Founded by Esther Spina, the conference aims to empower women and to help them grow in confidence. Today, BubbleLife gives you an inside look at Spina's experience creating the conference, as well as her personal story of success. 

BubbleLife: Can you tell us a little bit about your own career path?

Esther: I began my professional career with my first job by becoming the first female order desk clerk for General Electric/Hotpoint. I then married and ran a construction company for 10 years in San Diego. During the 90’s, I moved to Texas and became an independent sales representative for a national company. There, I was awarded a Senior Representative position and became a top producer 10 years in a row. In 2006, I joined a direct sales company, Ambit Energy, a Dallas-based billion-dollar energy company. I earned numerous accolades, including National Consultant, the highest position in the company, and the Thompson Leadership Award for leadership, integrity, teamwork and character. Also, I was the top female earner in the company the past 10 years.

BubbleLifeWhat inspired you to create the Ambitious Women network and then write The Ambitious Woman?

Esther: If you look at my career, it has always been in a male dominated environment, with the minority being women. I have always had a passion to empower women to be all they can be, maybe because I know how it feels. So Ambitious Women was created out of a need and passion. I have 30 years of business experience. I learned how to be Ambitious and wanted to share my Ambitious Woman Journey. It was time to apply what I had learned and compile it into a book for all women and men to read, but mainly to leave a legacy. After you leave this world, all you have left is your legacy.

BubbleLifeWhat led to the creation of the first Ambitious Women Conference?  

Esther: It started with a need within the company to get women together, to encourage, motivate and connect in a male dominated environment. Not that women are better than men, just different. They learn and train differently. It just grew from there. Last year, I felt compelled to branch out and open the Ambitious Women Conference to all women entrepreneurs and network marketers. It has not come without resistance and challenges, but I felt it was the right thing to do.This second one has the best line up of 6 and 7 figure women pouring their knowledge into other women.  

BubbleLifeDescribe the experience of hosting the Ambitious Women Conferences.

Esther: It is a 9- 12 month preparation for sure. As it nears the conference, stress heats up, and there is a lot of pressure, but it all comes together and I can’t wait until it’s over. I always say I’m not sure I’m going to do it again, but just like having a baby, after the baby is born, you forget about all the pain you endured and you are ready to have another one. Happens every year. Even now as we are planning for 2017, I am saying the same thing.

BubbleLifeWhat do you expect every attendee of the conference to walk away with?  

Esther: What I know is that every woman walks away with an experience like they’ve never had before. It’s what they tell me, what they say in the survey. They are inspired, motivated, encouraged, and ready to build their businesses. My desire is they step into their destiny, gain self-confidence and mindset belief, and overcome fear and self-doubt so they can powerfully step into that destiny.

BubbleLifeHow have your life experiences helped you to encourage your own children/grandchildren?

Esther: Hopefully I have been a great role model and shown that women are powerful, and a help mate to their husband, business associates, and others. I want to teach them so they can learn from my mistakes, in business and life.

BubbleLifeWhat is the biggest piece of advice you would give to a woman entering a male-dominated field?  

Esther: Be confident, determined, persistent, and consistent (all attributes of an Ambitious Woman). Do not let a man or woman steal your dreams. Live your dream life. It’s possible.

BubbleLifeWhat would you like everyone to know about the Ambitious Women network and/or the conference?

Esther: You’ll enjoy it like no other conference. You can let your hair down. It’s a conference, girlfriend style, by women, with women, and for women. You can build a community of success minded women in an intimate and affirming environment. It is not another stuffy conference, but a girls weekend that will change your life. Of course, if men are comfortable in their own skin, we welcome them. All are invited to the Saturday night Charity gala, which includes a concert, comedy, dancing and networking, all for a good cause.


It's not too late for you to register for the Ambitious Women's Conference! Click here to learn more about tickets, sponsors, activities, and more. 

Riley Heruska
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What do you think of when St. Patty’s rolls around every March? If you’re like most Americans, you probably think of four leaf clover decorations, goofy leprechauns, beer, and lots of green. Interestingly, the holiday we celebrate today is almost nothing like it was when it was originally created.

St. Patrick’s Color Was Originally Blue, Not Green

According to historians, the famous saint was associated with a light shade of blue during his lifetime. In fact, you can still see this color on some old Irish flags. It wasn’t until much later that the shamrock came to represent Ireland, and when that happened, the color of St. Patrick became green. Now, you get pinched for not wearing green. Funny, huh?

The Four Leaf Clover Was Originally a Religious Symbol

As a Catholic, St. Patrick spent his time in Ireland attempting to convert people to his faith. He preached about the Holy Trinity, and he used the shamrock to symbolize the concept. Later on in the 1800s, the Irish really adopted the symbol as their own. The image is everywhere in Irish culture. Brides will even place clovers in their wedding bouquets!

St. Patrick Wasn’t Even Irish

Despite his incredibly strong association with the country, St. Patrick was actually born in Roman Britain in the 4th century. As a young teen, he was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland against his will. Upon his arrival, Patrick realized the land was full of people who did not know his God. He turned to his faith and began to spread the word of Catholicism throughout the land. His impact over the 40 years he lived there was so significant that he is now known as an Irish saint, even though he was born British.

The Parades Started in America, Not Ireland

Almost everyone I know has attended a St. Patty’s parade of some sort at least once. The holiday promises drinking, costumes, and a sense of over-the-top fun. It’s almost like a strange version of Halloween in which everyone adorns themselves with sparkly green ornaments and “Kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirts. Ironically, America was the first country to host a parade in honor of the holiday back in 1762. Irish immigrants had come to America, and they brought their holidays along with them. New York City wasted no time scooping the day up and making it an American tradition.

Before the 1960s, You Could Not Drink Alcohol to Celebrate the Day in Ireland

Beer has become one of the most recognized aspects of St. Patrick’s Day in many areas. It’s not uncommon to stumble across an American bar on the holiday packed with fluorescent green and people happy to get their drink on. In Ireland, pubs are equally crowded. However, it wasn’t always that way. Irish pubs used to close on the holiday, and most Irish people drank less on the holiday because it falls during the season of Lent. Now, most people view the day as a break from the religious period of fasting.

Riley Heruska
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You’re probably sick of hearing about all the things you should do. You should eat more broccoli, plan a trip, clean your car, and do about a million other things. Between trying to stay physically healthy and taking care of yourself mentally, it seems there is never enough time in the day. The last thing you need is yet another article compiling more daily to-dos.

However, I like to think of the following ideas as personal habits more than tasks. Habits are a part of our day whether we like it or not, and the more time we take to actively work towards having a happy day, the more content we will feel. If you do it enough, suddenly they aren’t tasks you have to consider: they’re a part of your daily routine. So, here are some teensy tiny little things you can (not should) do to place a little spring in your step.

Wake Up Early

Part of me cringed internally as I typed those words. No one enjoys dragging themselves out of their warm beds to face an early morning, and for most of us, it certainly isn’t a habit. There’s a reason so many of us are addicted to coffee and racing to work at the last minute. So, I don’t mean wake up early just for the heck of it, but when you set your alarm, don’t set it for the last possible second. Don’t hit snooze ten times before reluctantly rolling out of your warm cocoon. Grant yourself more than enough time to get ready. Listen to your favorite radio show as you get dressed and actually take time to eat breakfast instead of inhaling a pop tart as you drive. A smooth, relaxed start can set the tone for the rest of the day.

Consciously Make an Effort to Smile at Someone

I’m sure I’m not the first one to tell you that smiling is incredibly contagious, and it doesn’t require that much effort. Not the smiley type? Just pick at least one person and flash them a quick grin. Even a fake smile will encourage your mind to feel happier and friendlier. You owe it to your coworkers and yourself to make the effort, even if it’s just for part of the day.

Spend Thirty Minutes Outside

Research has proven time and time again that people who spend more time outdoors are happier and healthier. In fact, visiting mother nature frequently can improve your memory, vision, stress levels, and risk of an early death. You don’t have to take up mountain biking or anything: simply make an effort to be outside for about half an hour each day. Sit outside on your porch, take a walk, go for a long drive with the windows down. Thirty minutes might sound like a long time, but it’s much easier to set aside the time than you think it is.

Do Something That Makes YOU Happy

If you’re like most people, then the bulk of your day is often spent doing things for others. Whether you’re parenting children or working on something for your boss, it seems difficult to find time for you in the mix of the chaos. Even living with a significant other can prevent you from setting aside a moment of your own. Having said that, psychologists have found that it is extremely important to pick at least one time a day that is for you and you alone. Believe it or not, being alone can help relieve stress and make you a more enjoyable person to be around. Read a book, take a long shower, go for a run. Just make sure that the activity is for you and no one else.

Clean an Area of Your House

Researchers have said time and time again that doing little things around your house, such as making the bed and unloading the dishwasher, can make you feel more productive and at ease. The phrase “clean home, clean mind” exists for a reason. Psychologists have even gone as far as to say that cleaning your house can increase your confidence and encourage you to stay fit. Now, no one expects you to dust every inch of your house every evening. However, it doesn’t take much time or energy to just pick one room/area to tackle each night. Before you know it, your home will be looking happier, just like you.

Turn Off Your Phone for a Little While

It’s no secret that almost every American is utterly addicted to technology. We leap from Facebook to Twitter to e-mail to Instagram, then repeat over and over again. Additionally, we text and call our contacts on a regular basis. Sadly, this obsession often leads to unhealthy needs and emotions. Staying constantly connected increases stress levels and prevents you from engaging in the moment. Don’t worry, I’m not saying anything insane like leave your phone at home for the day. Instead, consider leaving your phone in the other room while you eat dinner or set it aside while you read a book for an hour. Just make sure your phone isn’t attached to your hip 24/7.

Pick One Thing to Be Grateful For

This habit is perhaps the easiest (and least time-consuming) item on the list. Simply close your eyes for a second and decide which part of your life you are truly appreciative of today. It can be anything from the great coffee you drank to a person you love. It has been shown that practicing gratitude on a daily basis can improve your relationships and mental health, so go ahead and take those few seconds to really evaluate your life in a positive light.

See, not so bad, right? Nothing too excruciating. Still, these seemingly small habits can have a huge impact on your day-to-day life, especially if you practice them regularly. Pick one and try it, then see if you feel even a tiny bit happier each day.


Riley Heruska
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Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

The third book in the Court of Thorns and Roses series, this future release has been highly anticipated by Maas fans for some time now. Set in a fantastical universe, the series follows a seemingly ordinary girl as she becomes ensnared in the politics of the fae realm. Join Feyre as she and her companions face a greater threat than ever before. Oh, and don’t miss out on the steamy romance that we’re all dying to read about. On sale May 2017.

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Ahdieh marked her spot on the list of famous YA authors with her previous novels, The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. Now, she’s back with a brand new series set in the age of the samurai. Flame in the Mist is an epic retelling of the Mulan story, and with Ahdieh’s stellar track record, it’s sure to impress readers. On sale May 16.

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Published this past January, Carve the Mark is the highly-anticipated new novel by the author of the famous Divergent series. Roth’s fans flocked to this rich new novel and enjoyed its fantastical world packed with interesting characters. On sale now.  

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Clare has been a huge name in young adult fiction for years. Ever since she introduced her readers to the intoxicating world of Shadowhunters, her fans have kept coming back for more. Lord of Shadows, the sequel to Lady Midnight, continues the story of Emma Carstairs and her friends as they take on an unknown evil while resisting temptation themselves. On sale May 23.

The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan    

Anyone who is at least somewhat familiar with young adult/children’s fiction knows who Riordan is. He brought the ancient world of Greek mythology to life in his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Now, he introduces a new series centered on the Greek god Apollo and his quest to regain the favor of his father, Zeus. Knowing Riordan, the book will be jam-packed with hilarity and epic quests. On sale May 3.

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Published this past February, King’s Cage is the third book in the well-loved Red Queen series. Aveyard drags her readers back into the political turmoil of Mare Barrow’s world. Described by many reviewers as a “rollercoaster,” this book had many readers anxiously awaiting the arrival of 2017. On sale now.

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Dessen is hailed by many as one of the queens of YA chick lit. Her writing is smart, funny, and poignant as she spins coming of age tales and adorable love stories. This time, Dessen sets her novel in the crazy world of wedding planning. Delectable and sweet, this book is highly coveted by many of her fans. On sale June 6.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Although Caraval is Garber’s first novel, everyone waited for its publication with bated breath. After its publication in January, the novel continued to garner attention from readers and critics alike. The tale follows two sisters as they play the magical game of love and heartbreak in Garber’s fantastical world. On sale now.  

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han  

When Han published To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before years ago, readers were enchanted by her sweet tale of girlhood crushes and embarrassing moments. Now, she continues the story in this third book. Lara Jean is a senior, and suddenly, her romance isn’t as simple as it seemed. On sale May 2.

Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch hit shelves over a year ago, and ever since, Dennard’s fans had been anxiously awaiting a sequel. Thankfully, Dennard delivered this past January with Windwitch. Many think the sequel even surpassed Dennard’s first novel in the series. Want to find out what all of the fuss is about? Check out the first two books and prepare to enter a world full of magic. On sale now.

Warcross by Marie Lu

Lu’s fans have only become more excited for this new novel after the brilliant, rainbow cover was revealed. Famous for her Legend series, Lu has established herself as a talented writer with a knack for dystopian fiction. Warcoss, the first in her new series, promises video games, hacking, and of course, saving the world. On sale October 3.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor  

Daughter of Smoke and Bone revealed Taylor’s impeccable writing style and love of strange, unearthly creatures. Now, Taylor is trying her hand at a new (and wholly original) series. The first book, Strange the Dreamer, includes a brand new world full of myths and ghosts. If it’s anything like Taylor’s previous novels, then this new publication surely won’t disappoint. On sale March 28.

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab  

Last year, no one knew what to expect from Schwab’s first novel, This Savage Song. Turns out, most readers thought it was pretty amazing, and Schwab has earned a fierce following. The second book, Our Dark Duet, supposedly entails more demon hunters and ghosts, as well as a few terrifying twists. On sale June 13.

A List of Cages by Robin Roe  

One of the few debut novels on this list, A List of Cages has already earned quite a bit of praise from critics and bloggers. The novel follows Adam Blake, a teenage boy who is reunited with a lost foster brother. Described as emotional and heart-breaking, A List of Cages seems to be earning praise left and right, so be on the lookout for it in a store near you. On sale now.

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic

The first in a two-book series, Wicked Like a Wildfire is Popovic’s first published YA novel. Despite her status as a new author, Popovic seems to be garnering more than her fair share of attention from readers. People are anxious to fall in love with the magical world she has created, and as soon as the novel hits shelves, we’re sure to hear a lot more about it. On sale August 15.

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

A novel about teenage spies, The Love Interest promises a love story that is anything but ordinary. Although the novel hasn’t been released yet, readers are already discussing Dietrich’s characters and his thrilling tale. The LGBT theme drew in a large audience, and people say Dietrich doesn’t disappoint. On sale May 16.

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Gray has been a part of the YA scene for years. Her tales of vampires and epic destinies earned her a large fan club, and everyone is excited to see what new tales lie inside Defy the Stars. The synopsis speaks of an abandoned spaceship and forbidden romance, as well as a healthy dose of intergalactic war. On sale April 4.

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, Brown’s first novel, took audiences by surprise and earned oodles of praise from readers of all kinds. A rollercoaster of emotion, the Red Rising series left everyone wanting more. Thankfully, Brown returns to the world he created with a follow-up series. Supposedly, he will expand upon the world and its revolution in a very dramatic fashion. On sale October 31.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence  

Lawrence’s protagonist, Nona, is a killer. She’s forced to face dangerous enemies, and her tale has been described as an intense masterpiece. Although the novel doesn’t hit public shelves for another month or so, readers everywhere are anxious to find out why reviewers are loving Lawrence’s newest book. On sale April 4.

The Dark Calling by Kresley Cole

Hailed as unique and romantic, Cole’s Arcana Chronicles have been enchanting readers for years now. Finally, the series will have a fifth book, The Dark Calling. Join Evie in her fight against an ancient evil and her predestined fate. The catch? We don’t know when it will hit shelves! Sources say it will be on sale sometime this spring.  

Riley Heruska
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If you live anywhere remotely near the Allen Premium Outlets, then you’ve probably experienced the following: great sales, big crowds, and an absurd lack of convenient parking spaces. Oh, and you’ve probably waited up to twenty minutes simply to exit the shopping center during its busiest times. Don’t get me wrong, the outlets are a wonderful location for bargain hunting, but they aren’t the easiest place to visit sometimes.

Thankfully, the local shopping hub is getting a bit of a makeover in the coming months. Not only are the shops expanding, but they are also being renovated with new amenities. Shoppers can expect a new play area, free WiFi, better landscaping, and some new architectural add ons in the future (according to Plano Profile). With up to thirty new stores potentially setting up shop, the popular center will continue to draw crowds from near and far.

There could be more than just shops coming to the center over the next few years. The parking lot is being expanded (so jump for joy!), and more restaurants and hotels will be joining the space. By the time construction is finished, there will most likely be over 1,300 parking spaces.

According to Dallas News, the expansion will most likely be finished by Fall 2017. Cheers to less jam-packed parking and more places to spend our cash!

Riley Heruska
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The choice to expand your family through the addition of a furry friend is not a small one. There are hundreds of aspects to consider: allergies, breed, size, energy level, medical needs, etc. Most experts would recommend that you spend a couple of months researching before deciding on a pet. Whatever animal you choose will most likely be your responsibility for years, so you need to know what you’re getting into.

Perhaps the most important part of the decision is whether to buy from a breeder or to adopt an animal from a shelter. From the standpoint of anxious pet parent, both sides have their benefits. However, rescuing an animal from a shelter or pound is not just a preferable option: in most cases, it is the right option, and here’s why.

You Will Be Saving a Life

Every year, more than 6.5 million animals enter shelters, and about 1.5 million of those companion creatures are euthanized eventually due to a lack of space or funds to care for them. Although the number of cats and dogs entering shelters has declined pretty substantially over the past few years, there are still millions of happy, healthy creatures in need of a home.

Cats are more likely to end up euthanized than dogs, and black dogs and cats are sometimes less likely to be adopted. Some breeds of dogs are also more likely to be put to sleep, especially pit bulls. In fact, almost half of the dogs euthanized each year have some pit bull in their genes. If you pride yourself on rooting for the underdog, then adopting one of these animals would be an excellent way to make a difference and maybe even save a life. Being a hero is that easy.

It’s Way Less Expensive

Puppies from breeders can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. Depending on the caliber of the breeder and the type of dog you’re looking into, you could be facing a bill that costs more than your rent. So, why shell out megabucks and encourage overbreeding when you could be helping one of the millions of creatures without a home?

That’s not to say that rescuing an animal is completely free. There are always costs associated with getting a new pet: spay/neuter fees, vaccinations, new products from the petstore, microchips. However, these are all things you would pay for no matter where you find your new best friend. Sometimes, adoption agencies will even help you cover a few fees, making a rescue animal an even more cost-effective option.

You’ll Help Wage War on Cruel Puppy Mills

Puppy mills tend to breed large numbers of puppies in unsanitary, overcrowded environments. Puppies are raised in borderline abusive cages, and many of them end up with health problems later on, including anxiety issues or more serious blood and respiratory diseases. People have been working for decades to eliminate these mills, but the fight is fairly slow. By refusing to go to a puppy mill or pet store, you take away profits from a disreputable industry that needs to disappear. To learn more about puppy mills, you can visit

More than 2,000 animals across the country are put to sleep every day due to lack of funds or space in kill shelters. Although many shelters now have no-kill policies, we’re a long way from bringing that number of necessary kills down. If you’re thinking about welcoming a dog or a cat into your home, consider making the moral choice to save a life and support the elimination of pointless euthanizations. You’re new best friend will thank you for it.

Click here to see a list of reputable animal shelters in the DFW area you can visit. 

Riley Heruska
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Before I begin this article, let me address two important facts:

First of all, I must admit that I’m often a huge hypocrite when it comes to this subject. I’m an avid reader, and I order the bulk of my weekly novels online or via my Amazon Kindle. Like most people, I would prefer to visit a Barnes and Noble or local bookshop instead, but financial and time constraints often make online shopping a more feasible option. However, this article is not about my personal shortcomings as a supporter of the written word. Instead, I hope to convince you that perhaps, at least every once in awhile, we should all be setting foot in a real bookstore, not just clicking “add to cart” every time a new book catches our eye.

Secondly, despite the ridiculous perception that tangible books are becoming obsolete, it is important to realize that book sales are in no way disappearing from our economy. In fact, many statisticians predict that literary sales across the world are going to increase in the coming years. Book sales are not dying: they’re changing. Services like Amazon and The Book Depository have made online sales more enticing to readers, and that’s fantastic. Any service that keeps reading alive in the public is a friend of mine.

Having said that, there are certain features of bookstores that are lost when one limits their shopping solely to online retailers.

Face-to-Face Interactions

Perhaps part of the reason you enjoy online shopping is that you can do it in your ugliest sweatpants from home without having to smile and chat with a sales assistant. If, however, you are not completely opposed to interacting with others, bookstores can offer a nice personal connection. I’ve always enjoyed wandering around bookstores and seeing what novels the employees recommend. These people work with thousands of books each month, so it seems sensible to assume they can make some fairly accurate recommendations. Plus, I love discussing my favorite reads with others, and bookstores provide an awesome way to do that. Go ahead, be that annoying person who encourages a fellow shopper to try that Meg Cabot book or look up A Court of Thorns and Roses when they get a chance.

New Finds

No matter how involved you are in the publishing world, you will always be able to find a new, interesting read if you head to a bookstore. I’ve been monitoring the publication of young adult novels for more than ten years, and I’m still continuously surprised by the abundance of covers I’ve never seen in bookstores. Sure, you can use Amazon or Goodreads to research new releases, but those will often be the titles most anticipated by active site users. To find hidden gems, you’ve really got to browse the shelves in person without the limitations of online lists.

The Children’s Section

Fostering of a love literature in children is monumentally important, but sometimes it can be extremely difficult. Many kids are reluctant readers, and getting them to even pick up a book can be a parenting struggle you wish to avoid. What’s lovely about bookstores is that they allow young readers to browse interesting titles in person. Simply let them wander around the children’s section for a little while and touch the different novels there. Chances are, your young one will be a lot more likely to read a novel he/she tangibly picked out than one you ordered online.

Author Tours

Almost every author event I’ve ever attended has been hosted by a bookstore. If you’re dying to meet your favorite author or to hear them speak, chances are, you’re going to have to keep up with the upcoming events at your local bookstores. Stop by and see if anyone interesting is coming by in the near future.

By all means, continue ordering from online sources. I'm sure I'll order another novel on Amazon within the next few days. Still, don't forget about the value physical bookstores bring to the world of literature, and maybe once in a while, consider showing your appreciation for them. 

Riley Heruska
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For some, grocery shopping is a complete hassle and just another expense that has to be paid every week. For others (*cough cough* me), stocking the pantry and meal planning is an enjoyable activity. I love nothing more than attempting that new Pinterest recipe I saved, even if half of my attempts turn out terribly. I’m especially addicted to baking treats, even if swimsuit season is begging me to quit. I’m no professional, but I love trying new things and wandering grocery store aisles in search of  fresh ideas.

When a Trader Joe’s popped up at El Dorado in McKinney, I was immediately intrigued. My mother kept ranting and raving about the items she bought there, so after much urging on her part, I headed in to check out the wares myself.

After one trip, I was hooked. That’s what Trader Joe’s does: They offer you little samples and original products, and before you know it, you’re making desperate weekly runs because you ran out of Cookie Butter Cream Cheese or some other equally addicting snack. Personally, I can’t go more than a few days without their almond butter. With 19 locations around Texas and more to come soon, you might just have one in your vicinity. Thank goodness, right?

Trust me, this isn’t a sales pitch. It’s a personal recommendation, from me to you, that you start doing some of your shopping at Trader Joe’s, and here’s why.

Healthy Food That Doesn’t Cost an Arm and a Leg

Sure, we’d all love to be able to afford food from fancy health food stores, but sometimes shelling out the big bucks for organic fruit isn’t an option. What’s awesome about Trader Joe’s is that their food is often healthier than the average product at another grocery store, but they don’t charge you as much as a gourmet shop. You can shop for low-sugar, organic, free-range, etc. without feeling guilty without examining every price tag.

Reasonably-Priced Fresh Flowers

Maybe this is just a point that really appeals to me, but I love having fresh flowers on the table. Whether you’re looking to buy flowers for that special someone or for decorating purposes, there is always a lovely section of fresh plants at the store’s entrance. I’ve even purchased some succulents there. Once again, the best part of the whole deal is the price. Some stores might charge $15 for a bouquet, but Trader Joe’s rarely charges more than $9. 

Ready-to-Eat Meals and Frozen Dishes

Even though I should be taking the time to make my own meals, I often partake in pre-made entrees while at home or at work. Trader Joe’s makes it pretty easy to do so guilt-free with a wide-range of prepared dishes, from fresh sushi to unique salads and bowls. I’m a fan of their frozen meals, as well, from specialty macaroni and cheeses to Asian meals that come in a bag. Suddenly, meal planning seems easier than ever before. I’ve stopped going to fast food chains on my lunch break, opting instead for a $4 Spicy California Roll that I bought in advance.

If I haven’t already persuaded you to join me in my Trader Joe’s addiction, then at least there will be more delicious goodies for those of us already in love. If you, like I was, are intrigued by this growing chain of specialty grocery stores, then take this article as your cue to finally check it out.

To find the nearest Trader Joe's, you can visit