Round Rock Living Magazine - January 2021

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January 2021

Meet Dr. LaShanda Lewis: School Counselor and New State Director of Advocacy Round Rock Mayor talks about 2021 plans

Eating Healthy: I broke up with sugar you should too


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Table of Contents Dr. LaShanda Lewis

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Mayor Craig Morgan focuses on plans for 2021  Gluten-free Limoncello Cookies

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Live music events in Round Rock & beyond

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Professional Bull Riders come to H-E-B Center  SPORTSKIND adult recreation brand coming to Williamson County in 2021

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I broke up with sugar (you should too)

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2021 Job Opportunities at Round Rock Independent School District  Colorado Bend State Park

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Williamson County Pets of the Month

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Resolve to read more with your children in 2021

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Letter From The Editor Pamela A. Cosel Welcome to the pages of the January 2021 issue of “Round Rock Living Magazine.” I am honored to be in the role of Editor for this publication, which is part of the Made Media Group. With the significant year of 2020 behind us, I know everyone is happy a new year has arrived. While some things remain unknown, it’s such a fresh start to turn over a new calendar and think of the possibilities ahead. Our feature story is about one of Round Rock’s own school counselors who was elected to the role of Director of Advocacy for the Lone Star State Counselor Association. She is passionate about her role in helping students and families, especially in these times of COVID-19 when traditional schooling has greatly changed. I know you will be excited to learn of her plans and goals for 2021 when it comes to the social, emotional, and mental health of students. Another feature story is a letter from Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan as he looks forward to projects for 2021 that the community will be happy about. The monthly column by The Well-Seasoned Chef, Catherine Carpenter, is a History of Limoncello and its accompanying recipe. It will make your mouth water just reading it! Are you looking to changes jobs for 2021? The Round Rock Independent School District has a number of teaching jobs, including two school principal job openings, as well as positions open for teaching assistants. Texas weather in January can be quite nice, with days of sunshine and the occasional 70-degree days. Look to the stories here about taking a hike at Colorado Bend State Park, the new SPORTSKIND opening in 2021, and if you’ve gained some weight during the cold weather, perhaps the story, “I broke up with sugar – you should too” may be want you need as inspiration. This year of 2020, as we all know, was unlike any other. The new year of 2021 will be unique in its own way – may it be your best year yet! Stay safe. Be kind to one another. Smile. Cheers to 2021! Sincerely, Pamela Cosel, Editor

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CONTRIBUTORS

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Catherine Carpenter

Catherine Carpenter, “The Well-Seasoned Private Chef,” has been working with food in Austin since 1995, proudly in service to Texas Governors, members of the Texas House, small business, families and individuals throughout Central Texas. She locally sources and handcrafts meals and baking, one happy client at a time. A small-business owner specializing in food as a healing art, she is skilled in cuisine for state dinners, special events, and meals for family. Catherine is active in sourcing from Texas farms and vendors, keeping it local and Texan whenever possible. She can be reached at catherinemarie@onebox.com.

Lance Catchings

Lance Catchings is a graduate of Texas A&M University-Kingsville where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. His writing career includes stops at The Port Lavaca Wave and The Liberty Hill Independent along with various freelance opportunities. Originally from Victoria, TX he relocated to the Austin area summer of 2015. An avid hiker, biker, and lover of all things fitness related. A long-time motorcycle track day enthusiast, football fan and beer connoisseur.

April Kelley

April S. Kelley has been documenting the stories of local communities as a working journalist for over a decade. A little over a year ago, she followed her love for music from Louisiana to the Austin area. You can probably find her roaming parks or trails in the area or listening to music way too loudly at her home in Round Rock.

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Cutest Kids Cover Contest

Enter your child’s photo today! Send us your cover ready photos and your child could be our next cover star! Email 1-2 of your very best cover ready photo to editor@ roundrockliving.net (Please get permission from your photographer)

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SPECIAL FEATURE

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Photo Courtesy: Dr. LaShanda Lewis

Dr. LaShanda Lewis

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Dr. LaShanda Lewis from RRISD is the new Director of Advocacy for the state’s school counselors

SPECIAL FEATURE

By Pamela Cosel

ROUND ROCK, TEXAS

Giving oneself grace, and realizing that students, parents, teachers, administrators and counselors are doing the best they can with the current at-home learning situation, may be the best advice to take to heart due to the past year of the coronavirus pandemic.

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hat advice comes from Dr. LaShanda Lewis, a school counselor from Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) who was recently elected the Director of Advocacy for the Lone Star State Counselor Association for 2021. She is most passionate about her job and students. Dr. Lewis began work at RRISD in February of 2016 as the Coordinator of Counseling Services. But she has also worked as a math teacher. “I have always had a passion for helping others, even as a young child, and I have always been curious about how people behave and interact,” Dr. Lewis explained. “I started teaching high school math in Austin ISD and I loved it, but I spent a good amount of time talking with my students about their life and helping them cope with some of the issues that would arise for them personally. “I found that school counseling allowed me to mesh my two words of helping students succeed academically while simultaneously helping them in the social, emotional, and mental health aspects of their lives as well. I am a firm believer that to feel adequate as a person, we must pay attention to all aspects of what makes us who we are. School counselors help students learn how to see who they are and all the potential they possess and then provides them support and skills to help them reach their goals.” Dr. Lewis keeps a positive attitude about the current situation which has so greatly affected normal school routines, along with students and families. She said the changes with COVID-19 and closing of schools has allowed new opportunities to present themselves. “While COVID is not something that we would ever have asked for, it has brought on the opportunity for us to look for areas in which we can grow as educators; COVID has given us an opportunity to truly reimagine education,” Dr Lewis explained. “We are doing things in

schools, that a year ago, would have never been a thought. In particular, for Counseling Services, we have started our monthly Conversations with a School Counselor webinar series that provides parents with valuable information on topics such as dealing with stress and anxiety, transitioning from schools, balancing life and building resiliency. This series has given us a way to reach students and parents in a way that we have not been able to do previously. COVID has also given us insight into areas of our community that we need to focus more on as school counselors, so we continue to develop resources and strategies to meet the needs of our students and families.” Her new role as the state’s Director of Advocacy seems a natural fit. Dr. Lewis was nominated for the position by Dr. Christina Wiswell, and school counselors from around the state voted for her. “I believe one of the reasons I was elected was because of my deep passion to see all students thrive,” she said. “I truly believe that each student within our school district has the ability to positively impact the world around us. However, it is vital that these students are surrounded by individuals who can see their potential and help them to envision it themselves.” She continued with comments about students’ needs. “Research shows that when students have access to high quality school counseling programs and school counselors, that it strengthens them socially, emotionally, mentally, and academically. Working collaboratively with other stakeholders within school settings, school counselors have a positive impact on student outcomes. Since my time in RRISD, I have been working to create strong systems within the district to highlight and strengthen the work of our counselors across K-12. The needs of students vary across schools within a district and districts across the state.

Having an individual that can connect the need of the various schools and districts is important. Doing see helps students get the resources they will help them to develop.” Dr. Lewis has goals for her new director role with LSSSCA. She said she is a dreamer and believes “it is important for school counselors across the state to have someone that is advocating for their position. The needs of students vary across schools within a district and districts across the state. Having an individual who can connect the need of the various schools and districts is important. Doing see helps students get the resources they will help them to develop.

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SPECIAL FEATURE

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Photo Courtesy: Dr. LaShanda Lewis

“I dream big so my greatest accomplishment would be to establish laws that require students in every school across the state of Texas have a certified school counselor who works on campus each day as currently this is not true for some of our smaller school districts,” she added. “Furthermore, I would like to see the student-to-counselor ratios are adequate so counselors can have the ability to truly support the students within a school. Additionally, by protecting the role of the school counselor we can further ensure that students are able to get the social, emotional, and mental health support they need before a crisis emerges. While schools were designed to provide access to academics for students, we know through years of research that a student is more successful academically when all their basic needs are met first. School counselors work with students and families to help those needs get met.” With the start of the State Legislative Session this month, Dr. Lewis will be directly involved given her new role representing school counselors across the state. She wants to ensure that legislators take into consideration the needs of students. 8

“I truly believe that each student within our school district has the ability to positively impact the world around us. However, it is vital that these students are surrounded by individuals who can see their potential and help them to envision it themselves.” She explained what that is a focus for her. “One of my main priorities is to ensure that the needs of our students around mental health and academic growth is taken into consideration when educational laws are passed. We know that, in part, due to COVID, our students are struggling more mentally and academically. School counselors are often the first point of contact for students, so protecting and enhancing the access to

school counselors is a focus. Additionally, I will be looking to establish school counseling advocacy groups across the state to provide a unified voice for local school districts and to provide access to resources to enhance the work occurring on campuses.” With two children of her own still in school, the issue of students’ needs is certainly personal for Dr. Lewis. She and her husband of 17 years, Thurman, are raising Brea, 12, and Braylon, 8. Her husband is an educator and coach with Austin ISD. Raised in Granger in Williamson County, Dr. Lewis’s roots are here. To sum up the current school situation, Dr. Lewis said this. “The last few months have been an adjustment for all of us. Taking a few moments to ourselves is important because it allows us time to refocus, gather our thoughts, and prepare to move forward. I hope that during this time and moving forward we can all give ourselves grace and realize we are doing the best we can with what we have.” Looking forward to what 2021 will bring, it’s apparent the state’s school counselors and families have a strong advocate on their sides, willing to do what it takes to help them and their children.


Pet of the month

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SPECIAL FEATURE

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Photo Courtesy of City of Round Rock

Mayor Craig Morgan focuses on plans for 2021

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ROUND ROCK, Texas In an article posted on the City of Round Rock’s website, Mayor Craig Morgan pointed out the upgrades and improvements that have been made to the Centennial Plaza and a few streets that begin the Heritage Trail project. In addition, he mentioned the new library which will be built at 200 E. Liberty Ave., which will also have a parking garage. With the start of 2021, many things are yet unknown in today’s health situation over COVID-19 and in the national political arena. However, on a local level, progress is being made. A portion of the article written by Mayor Craig Morgan is here:

“Many years ago, I was block walking in the Stone Oak subdivision in Northwest Round Rock. At the time, I was living in Southeast Round Rock. One resident told me, “It seems like you live so far from where I live – why can’t we have a downtown where we can meet and gather?” “Even as our city grows, Downtown serves as a reminder of what makes Round Rock unique. Whether it’s meeting friends over a relaxed meal, shopping or doing business with local entrepreneurs or making memories with our families, Downtown represents so many ways that we can stay connected as a community. “It’s been difficult this year to feel connected with our neighbors and friends in the traditional sense. When the COVID-19 pandemic first reached our community and business closures were implemented to slow the spread of the virus, I was sad to see so many open parking spaces in front of our Downtown businesses on my drive to City Hall. Some of our favorite Downtown events, such as Music on Main, were canceled earlier this year to slow the spread of the virus. “If you haven’t had a chance to visit Downtown Round Rock recently, you will be amazed at how much more work has been accomplished in just a short year. The City has completed six “parklets” on East Main Street between Mays Street and Sheppard Street, which include new trees, tables and chairs, additional landscaping, lighting elements and expanded walkable space for pedestrians. New lighting and sidewalks also provide pedestrians safer access to Main Street from some of our adjacent underutilized parking lots. A new electronic sign at the entry of the City Hall parking garage on Lampasas Avenue gives a real time view to visitors of how many spaces are available. “Getting our Downtown to where it is today has been a long-term undertaking. Fostering a vibrant, walkable Downtown for residents and visitors to gather has been a City Council strategic priority since 2007, and in 2010, that vision began to take shape with the approval of a Master Plan. This plan included extensive public input through surveys, interactive planning meetings and other feedback received from residents. “Just over the past decade, this planning process has resulted in Prete Main Street Plaza upgrades, Centennial Plaza, Round Rock Avenue and Mays Street streetscaping and the start of the Heritage Trail project. City buildings also received renovations, including the McConico Building, the Baca Senior and Community Center and the Intermodal Transit and Parking

SPECIAL FEATURE

Facility. Private investments have brought us new eateries, offices, retail and more. “There are still many more projects in the pipeline to continue improving our Downtown district. One of our most exciting projects will be the new library at 200 East Liberty Ave., which will be approximately 66,000 square feet with an adjacent parking garage. In November 2013, a majority of voters approved bonds to build a new main library, which is set to open in 2023. With additional space and modernized features, the library will expand its core services and feature advanced technology. “We are working on even more improvements to support the future of Downtown. The Northeast Downtown Improvements Project will update segments of Lampasas, Sheppard, Liberty and Austin Avenues with new pavement, parking, sidewalks and lighting, with completion expected in early 2022. Although they are less visible, we expect to also address important infrastructure upgrades including wastewater and stormwater runoff throughout the project. “Progress is not slowing down anytime soon on Downtown, so it’s important we continue to support our local businesses while we wait for a COVID-19 vaccine. Our entire community is concerned about what the pandemic’s disruptions to business operations have meant for our local small businesses, and for the families of their employees. We are encouraging residents to step up and support our local businesses by shopping at home for the holidays, and I challenge you to find a way to support a Downtown business in the coming weeks. We have installed temporary curbside pickup signs in front of these restaurants and retail establishments so you can have your order delivered right to your car.” According to Mayor Morgan, by visiting Downtown Round Rock, citizens are sure to get that “right at home” feeling its known for, no matter which part of Round Rock everyone is from.

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RECIPES

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The Well-Seasoned Private Chef

Catherine Carpenter

Gluten-free Limoncello Cookies

History of Limoncello

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Limoncello is a handmade lemon liqueur known to be originally produced in Southern Italy around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast and surrounding areas. At the turn of the 20th Century, it was in fashion and became ritual for the wealthiest of the Sorrento families to offer Limoncello to their guests. In northern Italy, the liqueur is referred to instead as Limoncino. There is some debate over its specific origin and has probably been around longer than originally thought. Chartreuse yellow in color, the liqueur is opaque and cloudy because of the presence of tiny lemon oil droplets suspended in alcohol, sugar, and water (known as the ouzo effect). The oil droplets come from the thick skin of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as the famous Sorrento lemons, chosen for their large size and high oil content. The zest is steeped in spirits until the oil is released, and then mixed with varying concentrations of simple syrup. Limoncello making has recently become popular in the United States, where lemons are grown year round. A popular ingredient in craft cocktails, Limoncello imparts a strong lemon flavor without the sourness or bitterness of pure lemon juice. It is also used in making ice cream and baking. Below I offer a client favorite, my Limoncello Cookie recipe, that just so happens to be gluten-free. Awaken your senses and 2021 with this intensely lemony cookie. Enjoy!

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Photo Credit: Catherine Carpenter

n 2001, I traveled to Italy and stayed for three months, teaching conversational English to locals of all ages. I immersed myself in the cuisine and drink, which influences my cooking to this day. My favorite after-dinner digestivo by far was Grappa; the second runner up was Limoncello. I have fond memories of Southern Italy where Limoncello was traditionally served chilled in restaurants at the end, every time, free of charge.


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RECIPES

Directions for Cookies: Gluten-free Limoncello Cookies makes approx. 24 cookies using an 18/8 dough scoop (plan making dough a day ahead. Refrigerating the dough for a few hours or overnight helps the final outcome). If you don’t have a scoop just use a spoon and roll consistent cookie balls with your hands, approximately the size of a tablespoon.

Cookies: - 1 1/4 cup gluten-free flour (Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free 1to1 Baking Flour has had excellent results. Namaste Gluten-free Flour works well too). Regular full-gluten flour works too! - 1 /4 teaspoon pink sea salt - 1 /2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature - 1 /2 cup organic fine granulated cane sugar - 1 large pasture raised egg, at room temperature - 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract - 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest, approximately 1 lemon, avoiding the white pith when using the zester

Icing: In a medium to large bowl - 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar (pushed through a strainer/sieve to eliminate any clumps) - 3 Tbs Limoncello - 1 Tbs lemon juice

Decor: - 2 4 handmade candied lemon wheels for final decor, cut into 3 or 4s -W hite sugar pearls (3 for each cookie, optional) -P oppy Seeds, sprinkle to finish (just a small pinch per cookie, optional) * Candied Lemon Wheels makes approximately 16-24 wheels In a saucepan - 2 cups organic fine granulated cane sugar - 2 cups filtered water - 2 to 3 large organic lemons, for 24 slices

Using a very sharp knife or sharp serrated knife and with a skilled hand, carefully slice the lemons into very thin (round wheel) slices and remove seeds. (Or get creative and slice lemons in whatever shape you wish, but thin is preferred). Use a mandolin ONLY if you have experience with one. *The hand guard and a protective hand glove are A MUST! Mandolin injuries are a several a week occurrence at Emergency Care facilities. It’s very easy to slice a finger or palm off. I would warn not to use a mandolin for slicing the lemons. I would recommend to.avoid using a mandolin all together. Bring sugar and water to a low boil in a saucepan. Once boiling and the sugar is dissolved, reduce heat to simmering on very low, add lemon slices, and simmer for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the lemons and place on cooling rack atop a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (The candied lemons will be placed atop the cookie after the first icing layer). Allow to cool completely before using. Cut wheels into quarters or thirds for ease of biting through the cookie. Unused wheels can be stored in an air-tight container for 1 month in the refrigerator. Best if made the day before using.

1. In a medium bowl, combine salt and flour. Set aside. 2. Using a stand or hand mixer on a medium or high, beat butter & sugar until fluffy and creamy, about 2+ minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, mix until combined. 3. Add lemon zest to the batter and mix to combine, just a few more beats. 4. With the mixer on a medium-low setting, slowly add the flour/salt combo. Mix until the flour just starts to incorporate. No need to over mix, to ensure a light cookie (not tough). 5. Scrape the dough onto a large sheet of flour dusted plastic wrap or parchment, dust the top of the dough too and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. 6. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Once the dough is chilled, divide it in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Scoop dough with a #18/8 dough scoop (or spoon and roll by hand) and arrange cookies on medium to large cookie sheet with parchment paper, and quickly get them into oven while dough is still chilled. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes until the edges of the cookies begin to show brown or golden. Repeat with the remaining dough. 7. Once baked, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before icing.

Icing Directions: 1. In a medium bowl, combine the sieved powdered sugar, Limoncello, and lemon juice. I use a rubber spatula, and work it until the mix is thick, smooth, but still fluid. Add more powdered sugar if you feel it’s too thin (it may run off the cookie too quickly when placed on the drying rack if it’s too thin. Use your best judgement). 2. Dip tops of cookies into the icing, allow to drain on the drying/cooling rack, atop cookie sheet lined with parchment to catch the icing drippings, which could potentially be recycled back into the mix. (Avoid dropping cookie crumbs if possible). 3. Decorate by placing 3 to 4 candied lemon pieces atop the icing. Then a small quick icing drizzle atop the lemon pieces perhaps with a fork. (Add a splash of lemon juice if icing is too thick for the last drizzle). Then a few sugar pearls at the center of the cookie. Then a small pinch/sprinkle of poppy seeds. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Allow the icing to set for 30 minutes to an hour, or even overnight. 13


LET’S GO OUT

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Live music events in Round Rock & beyond It was a tough last year ever since the pandemic shut down most live music venues, as we all know. However, given certain restrictions, there are bars in the area still operating and featuring live music performances, even it’s simply an opportunity to have fun with friends at karaoke.

Mavericks Dance Hall, 1700 Grand Avenue Pkwy, Pflugerville Open Tuesdays through Saturday at 7 p.m. for dancing, to enjoy the outdoor patio or reserve for a private event.

Rockey’s Piano Bar, 111 Main St. Audience requests are a highlight of Thursday through Saturday nights. On Wednesdays, audience members may take the stage to show off their vocal talents on Acoustic Night. Rockey’s Piano Bar boasts that they have the “coldest beer, greatest cocktails and smoke-free environment” in the area. Hours are 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, with Sunday hours from 5 p.m. to 12 midnight. 14

Long Branch Saloon, 107 W Main Ave. This venue features Sunday Funday when it’s football season, with special Happy Hour pricing and game day snacks. This bar features an Open Mic Night on Tuesdays, Wednesdays are Karaoke nights, Thursday through Sunday nights are DJ nights. Look to likely the third weekend in January for a live performance by Jack Nelson.


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LET’S GO OUT

Professional Bull Riders come to H-E-B Center January 15-16

CEDAR PARK, Texas – The world’s top bull riders will converge on the H-E-B Center for the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour (PWVT) to begin the 2021 season in a new market. Set for January 15-16, 2021, the event is part of the Safe & Sounds Series which will have COVID-19 safety features in place with the use of POD seating and industry leading safety protocols. The Cedar Park Chute Out roster includes 45 riders who will vie to earn points toward the PWVT Championship and the cash bonus of a $35,000 top prize. The event begins at 8 p.m. on January 15 and at 7 p.m. on January 16. Tickets will be sold in PODs, minimizing crossover and interaction between fan groups. PODs are available in groups from 2-6 seats. Ticket prices range from $18 to $103. The Elite Experience price of $50 can be an add-on to any ticket price, which give buyers the oppor-

tunity to participate in a Question & Answer session with PBR Talent and an exclusive merchandise item and a $10 voucher from the arena concession. A commemorative lanyard and credential come with the price of the ticket. The 2021 PWVT season includes more than 20 stops, bringing the event to cities such as Greenville, South Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; and Reno, Nevada, and will culminate at the 2021 PWVT Finals in Las Vegas. The future 2021 PWVT champion will don the cherished gold buckle and receive an automatic bid to the 2021 PBR World Finals. The PBR’s Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour (PWVT) started in 2014 as the premier expansion tour for the PBR. The Velocity Tour, the sport’s fastest-growing tour, brings to cities across the U.S. the excitement and top-levels of cowboy and bovine talent that fans have come to expect from the sport’s leader, according to information from the H-E-B Center. 15


FITNESS

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SPORTSKIND adult recreation brand coming to Williamson County in 2021 By Lance Catchings

“Our hope is that SPORTSKIND grows to mean and represent more than just recreational sports leagues and events, that it grows to represent a broad community with a shared passion for team sports, a way of life that is inspired by and rooted in the competition, camaraderie and community that characterize team sports”

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s many Central Texans look to become more active and get back the sense of community that was altered in 2020 there is hope on the horizon. Williamson County residents will need to look no further than SPORTSKIND, (formerly ATX Sports & Adventures), a new brand of adult sports and entertainment serving the area. “2021 will mark another incremental step forward for us, but this step will be our largest to date,” said Travis Hillen, director of Program Operations. “While we’ve been necessarily quiet with our leagues and events, we’ve been far from idle. After much painstaking and invigorating effort, we’re proud and excited to announce that our company has rebranded, expanded and evolved. Welcome to SPORTSKIND.” While the company has run adult recreation leagues in the Round Rock area in the past, such as volleyball, basketball and kickball, the owners are looking to expand their footprint. In 2021 they are creating new ways to bring more events and more involvement to the community.

“Our hope is that SPORTSKIND grows to mean and represent more than just recreational sports leagues and events, that it grows to represent a broad community with a shared passion for team sports, a way of life that is inspired by and rooted in the competition, camaraderie and community that characterize team sports”, he said. “We are just excited for this new step and looking forward to the opportunities in 2021. “Our values are about competition, camaraderie and community,” he added. “2020 was a tough year for everyone, but we are excited to bring our new brand and leagues to new communities once it is safe to do so.” The company also schedules private events for corporation, such as; • Sports Leagues & Tournaments • Field Days • Corporate Recess • Social Events (Happy Hours, Bar Games) • Custom Events For more information, those interested can go to SPORTSKINDATX on Facebook.


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I broke up with sugar (you should too) By April S. Kelley

My relationship with sugar began decades ago. It was a whirlwind romance, full of excitement and adventure - and temptation. It was incredible. The honeymoon phase never disappeared, and each new tantalizing treat made me become more and more engulfed in the instant pleasures of the only stable relationship I had ever been able to maintain. I knew what to expect, and for entirely too long, I genuinely thought it was healthy.

sweetener, crystal dextrose, glucose, liquid fructose, sugar cane juice and fruit nectar.

What About Cravings? Cravings for the foods which brought me great comfort in some of the most difficult times in my life were, no doubt, the hardest part of quitting sugar. I struggled with great difficulty during the first week or so, but the increased energy, decreased anxiety and how amazing I felt physically allotted me the willpower to push through. Here’s a cheat sheet of sorts as to what helped me when cravings felt overpowering: What I Craved

What I Consumed Instead

Soda

Sparkling Water or Unsweet Tea

Sugary snack

Fresh, dried, frozen or canned fruit in 100% juice

Salty snack

Nuts, seeds

Sweet & salty snack

Nut butters

Chocolate or ice cream

100% Cacao Baker’s Chocolate melted and poured over frozen fruit or one piece shredded into coffee grounds

Until I realized it wasn’t.

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he COVID-19 pandemic and the stresses of our abruptly changed world saw me seeking out even more comfort from sugar. My usual anxiety increased tenfold, and the only things that allowed me brief reprieve were sugary snacks of the worst varieties. Chocolate and soda became an almost daily habit. As the weeks turned into months, I noticed that without the usual structure of an in-person job and social activities that gave me life, there was a terrible shift in my behavior. I felt lethargic, exhausted and unmotivated. Even my favorite activities had become unenjoyable. I just wasn’t happy. So I decided I needed to make a drastic change to my lifestyle to see if it would help, and I’m happy to report that it did. I changee my diet by cutting out all added sugars and processed foods, and it was significant.

Why You Should Do the Same Remember the old adage, “You are what you eat”? Turns out, is 100% true. By the third day, not only did I begin to feel and notice the effects of eating whole, unprocessed foods without added sugars, I learned that scientists have linked better mental health and well-being to a healthy diet .

Mental Health

A study in Frontiers of Psychology examined changes in diet, sleep and physical activity as they are associated with differences in negative moods during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found “heightened life stress has been linked to unhealthy eating, and stressed people are more likely to crave food high in energy, fats and sugars.” Likewise, “changes in diet, sleep and physical activity had the clearest link to negative mood states.”

Physical Health If improved mental health isn’t enough to create a desire to make the change, there is good news: eliminating added sugars and processed foods will improve a person’s physical health, as well. Doctors in the 2015 documentary film Sugar Coated said most people do not know they are pre-diabetic. They also explained that the more processed foods a person consumes, the more likely they are to develop Type II diabetes. In the same vein, 2014’s Fed Up argued that the answer to America’s obesity epidemic is not excess exercise. While exercise or physical activity is an important part of overall health, the thick of the issue lies in the foods we consume. According to the film, 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes by 2050. In its simplest form, the science points to the fact that when our bodies encounter added sugars or unnatural, processed ingredients, it does not know what to do with it. Often as a result, they get stored as fat.

What Should I Eat? Whole, unprocessed foods with no added sugars. If a nutrition label states there are added sugars or an ingredient one has never heard of (and likely cannot pronounce), it’s best to not eat or drink it.

Kinds of Sugar to Look Out For In today’s world added sugars have many names, including white granulated sugar, sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, confectioner’s powdered sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, honey, sucrose, dextrose, anhydrous dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, nectars (e.g., peach or pear nectar) or pancake syrup, cane juice, evaporated corn

FITNESS

As I write this, I am nearing the end of 30 days without any added sugars or processed foods and I’m feeling better than I have in more than a decade. I am more productive, more at peace and overall much happier. Physically, I feel much younger than I did before I started this backed-by-science experiment on myself. Personally, I did not weigh or measure myself before I began or during the change of diet. I also have not counted calories or measured my food, mainly because if I use numbers, I obsess over them and try to be “perfect,” whatever that means.Doing it the way I have, I think, has helped to resolve some long-standing toxic relationships I have had with food.That aside, my clothes fit better, I no longer feel bloated (ever!) and my skin is glowing. The increased confidence from those results alone is worth every hard part of this process. If 30 days feels too daunting, Fed Up recommended trying it for 10 days. Check in with yourself after see how you feel. By the time I made it 10 days, my cravings for the unhealthy stuff were no longer intense. I even craved fruit and sparkling water. I’m certain I will consume sugar again, but never like I once did. Instead, it will be in a healthy, moderated way. And for the first time in my life, I’m okay with that. 17


SCHOOLS

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2021 Job Opportunities at Round Rock Independent School District

ROUND ROCK, Texas – A new year can mean a job change for some, and if interested in working for the local school district, there are a few opportunities. Refer to the Round Rock Independent School District website for full details at https://ess.roundrockisd.org/ ESS/employmentopportunities/default.aspx PRINCIPAL - ELEMENTARY #35 Code: 4381-1 Job Family: ADMINISTRATIVE Posting Start Date: 11/20/2020 Posting End Date: 01/04/2021 Details: JOB DESCRIPTION SALARY RANGE: $83,459.20-$101,780.80 18

PRINCIPAL - CARAWAY ELEMENTARY Code: 4437-1 Location: CARAWAY ES Job Family: ADMINISTRATIVE Posting Start Date: 12/09/2020 Posting End Date: 01/08/2021 Details: JOB DESCRIPTION SALARY RANGE: $83,459.20-$101,780.80 In addition, there are a number of teaching positions open, some which are as follows: TEACHER – Visually Impaired, Code: 3562-2, Location: Special Education, 504 TEACHER – Special Education, Code: 3877-1, Location: England ES

TEACHER – Spanish / Exploratory Language, Code: 4183-1, Hernandez MS TEACHER – Special Education, Code: 4241-1, Location: Hernandez MS TEACHER – Title I (50%) / Interventionist (50%), Code: 4385-I, Location: Forest North HS TEACHER – 8th Grade History, Code: 4394-I, Location: Grisham MS A complete list of these jobs and more, including job openings for teaching assistants, is posted at RoundRockISD.org


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TRAVEL

One of the best places to hike in Texas is at Colorado Bend State Park

Photo Credit: Lance Catchings

By Lance Catchings

H

iking is a favorite hobby of many. There is nothing better than getting outdoors in fresh air amongst nature and taking in God’s green earth. Hiking is exercise, relaxation and rejuvenation all wrapped into one, and by the number of hikers seen out on the trails, many Central Texas residents would probably agree. Located 89 miles northwest of Round Rock lies Colorado Bend State Park, which is situated on the Colorado River. It makes for an amazing day trip, but there is also overnight camping allowed for those interested in a longer stay. The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and has more than 35 miles of hike-and-bike trails. Due to limits on capacity in these times of COVID-19 resrictions, it is always best to reserve a spot prior to making day trip arrangements. A quick Google search will give hikers turn-by-turn directions from whatever the starting location.

A favorite hike can be a combination of three trails. Start at Spicewood Springs trail, which begins down by the river and works its way up. Spicewood Springs is an intermediate level trail that crosses backand-forth between multiple creeks, hot springs, swimming holes and a few scenic overlooks. Your feet will get wet on this trail and at times you will need your hands for climbing but it is nothing too difficult. All trails at Colorado Bend are marked by colored poles and ribbons to help visitors stay on the beaten path. Free maps of the trail system are available at the park office, so be sure to pick one up before beginning. Spicewood Springs trail is three miles long and ascending, but is mostly under tall trees, so there is some protection from the sun. At the top of Spicewood Springs trail, hikers will cross a road and can jump over to the Lemon Ridge Pass Trail. This trail is more open and the terrain changes to a rocky landscape with more cactus. There is minimal protection from the sun on this trail, but it is only about a mile long and almost all descending. At the end, take the River Trail which runs along the Colorado River back towards the park station, day-use area and the beginning of the Spicewood Springs trail. All-in-all it is a roughly a seven-mile hike. Hiking is a great way to get out in nature, clear your mind from any clutter and can be an amazing workout. Start 2021 off right with a day trip for the mind, body and soul. Happy Hiking! 19


PETS

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Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas – In 2020, Williamson County Animal Shelter celebrated five years as a No-Kill shelter. The facility staff determines its Save Rate by subtracting the non-live numbers of pets from the live intakes. Then that number is divided by the number of live intakes and that is the Save Rate. WCAS serves the communities of Round Rock, Cedar Park, Hutto, Leander and Williamson County. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, those wishing to view the adoptable animals must make an appointment to come into the facility. Animals that are ages five and older are available free of adoption charges to seniors ages 55 and older.

Juliet

Photos Courtesy of WCAS

Pets of the Month

Scout

Meet Juliet Animal ID 46059241:

Meet Scout Animal ID 44986010

Juliet is a domestic shorthair/mix. She is 3 years, 1 month and 19 days old. Her coloring is black, white and orange, and she is small in size. Juliet has been spayed but is not declawed. It is not known if she is housetrained. She has been at the WCAS since November 2020.

Scout is big lug of a dog who wants to be your very. best. friend. He is silly and goofy and full of playful energy, the kind of dog that will have you laughing at his antics every day. The kind of dog that has a special knack for bringing a smile to your face, no matter what kind of day you’re having! We’re pretty sure that if you look up the word “dog” in the dictionary, Scout’s picture will be there. :) Scout is dreaming of a forever home with his own person. Is that you? He’s a lucky boy because an Adoption Angel has paid his fee! Email adoption@wilco. org to arrange to meet him. To make an appointment to visit the shelter, send an email to adoption@wilco.org

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Resolve to read more with your children in 2021 By April S. Kelley

OVER 40

is reading with their parents. Letting them choose a book that truly piques their interest is the way to go. Parents do not have to read with them, as when they were younger. Let them pick a weekly or bi-weekly book, have them read a chapter by themselves. Then the parent should read the chapter and discuss it with them over dinner to make sure they are comprehending what they read, as opposed to just getting through it. Parents may be shocked to learn how excited they get about this book they chose to read, one that you are experiencing with them.

Teens Like middle schoolers, take a similar approach with high school students. Let them choose a book at their grade level, and read it chapter by chapter with them. Depending on everyone’s schedule, a parent can read a required text the student is already reading for school, such as Shakespeare or Edgar Allan Poe, and help them through it. And if there’s time, let them choose a nonschool book to read with you. By this point, the bond parents have built with children through reading will be unbreakable. Their love for knowledge or just talking through ideas with his or her parent will be worth all the time and effort in making reading a priority in their lives. It is 2021. Finally. As we all hope this year will be better than the last, we must also ask ourselves how we can improve our own lives? Even more important, how can we improve the lives of our children? An easy answer for parents, and something easy to implement, is to do more reading with our children. Reading with children can begin in infancy, or even before they are born, and can continue until they grow up and begin their own lives. Healthline reported that reading strengthens the brain, increases empathy, builds vocabulary and comprehension, reduces stress, helps alleviate depression symptoms, aids in sleep readiness, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, prevents cognitive decline as a person ages and contributes to living a longer life. The best way to make sure children develop a lifelong love for reading and reap its amazing benefits is to read with them.

Infants/Toddlers Most parents know they should be reading to their babies and toddlers. Reading one picture book to a child before bedtime can

help him or her for the rest of their life. Plus, bonding over a story with a little one, hearing giggles and watching them learn -- is there anything better?

Elementary Students Reading with elementary students is just as important as reading with babies and toddlers. At this time, they are soaking up knowledge, learning to write and read. Let them read books with you, even if it’s just the occasional word. Or if they’re a bit older, take turns reading pages. After finishing a story, talk about it with your little one. Find out just how incredible their developing minds are when they pick up important ideas, by fully experiencing the story with mom or dad.

Middle School Students Middle Schoolers experience many new emotional and social situations during these years. That said, the most effective thing a parent can do is to read what their child wants to read. At this point in their lives, the last thing a lot of middle schoolers are concerned with

What to Read? If there are not many books in a home, the public library can become a parent’s best friend. Be sure to take children along to pick a book, or parents can grab a few reading options for them to choose between. Also, ask the child to pick something from the school’s library, if time doesn’t allow a trip to the local library. Likewise, parents can find inexpensive second-hand books at thrift stores, garage sales and book fairs.

Still don’t know what books to read? Scholastic has an excellent source for books listed by grade level, most of which can be found at the local library. See the Scholastic resource for Pre-k through 8th grade here: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/collections/17-18/guided-reading-book-lists-by-level/. Reading with one’s children doesn’t have to be part of a parent’s “To Do” list, but rather something to look forward to doing with them. It is always a pleasure to see the spectacular person children are becoming with each book they read. 21


L I V E . W O R K . P L AY

Round Rock Living Magazine is the premier family, lifestyle magazine exclusively celebrating authentic Texas living. Each month we bring a high quality, informative print & digital publication with intriguing articles that showcase the best that Round Rock and Williamson County has to offer.

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