Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where were you when you heard about Michael Jackson?

Where were you when your heard the Michael Jackson news? I remember exactly where I was. I was in the news room, writing the 5 p.m. stories for the Web when Lucy Nolan came running over and whispered, "Did you hear Michael Jackson was just rushed to the hospital?"

Instant shock. It couldn't be.

A quick look through the news wires and -- nothing. The only place reporting that Jackson was in hospital was TMZ.

But could we really believe them? I mean, I love TMZ, but they are not exactly CNN.

Panic set in. We called up our Los Angeles affiliates. What had they heard? Was it true? Turns out it wasn't a hoax, so we started writing up the story for KHOU.com.

But just as we finished gathering as many facts as we could, the story changed.

Michael, the King of Pop, was now dead.


Since then Michael Jackson has taken over the news and so has his dance moves. In fact, I'm kind of wishing I would have mastered the moonwalk. Yes, I'm embarrassed to admit that I did take lessons as a kid, and while I was able to do the "Worm", I never could smoothly do the moonwalk.

Then, there's the classic Thriller dance. People are doing it everywhere. In fact, I saw a couple people doing it over the weekend at Wild West. And in the Philippines, a bunch of inmates even did it (check out embedded YouTube video).

So now that you are all dancing in front of your computer, in honor of Michael, let's sing:

'Cause this is thriller, thriller night

And no one's gonna save you from the beast about strike

You know it's thriller, thriller night

You're fighting for your life inside a killer, thriller tonight

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saying goodbye to Farrah

Growing up, I used to want to be a Charlie's Angel. They were smart, strong and leading ladies of the 1970s and Texas' own Farrah was one of the originals.

But even though she was a legend in her own way, she stayed down to earth. In fact, one of my co-workers says she still used to visit a friend here in Houston, who happened to have a child in her son's class. She tells me that the former "Angel" was always a true Texan at heart: always real and always generous.

Now she's gone and believe it or not, I could not find any "Farrah tribute" events anywhere in Houston. So I've decided to do my own little tribute to the Texan girl based on what I've learned.

1) Smile, because it can't hurt, even in the bad times.

2) Even supermodels can have bad hair days.

3) Never take anything for granted.

4) Be positive and never give up living - even if you have cancer.

5) Always keep your family and friends close to you.

Oh, and I thought I'd share this old commercial. My friend sent it to me from YouTube. I don't remember the commerical, but I do remember seeing the shampoo bottle in my mom's bathroom.

Friday, June 26, 2009

And Another Thing...

I know I usually write about stuff around town, but this time I'm going to write about stuff I do at home when I'm mellowing out -- mainly reading.

So here's the thing...I love Douglas Adams' (the guy who wrote Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and I love the whole Artemis Fowl series by Irish author Eoin Colfer. But I'm just not sure I like the idea of Colfer writing as Douglas Adams.

Yes, I know there are other writers out there writing Bond books as the new Ian Fleming, but it just seems strange that someone can just come in and pick up where you left off after you're dead.

Imagine if someone decided that they were just going to continue writing the Harry Potter as the series is reportedly over. Do you think J.K. Rowling would allow that?

Of course, in this case there won't be any lawsuits because Colfer has the permission of Adams' widow to write the next part of the Hitchhiker's series -- and I must admit he's really, really funny in the Artemis Fowl books (which I wish he would write more of, because Artemis is my favorite anti-hero).

The new Hitchhiker's book, by the way, is called "And Another Thing." And for those that are fans, in the last book Arthur Dent, our towel-toting hero, had he made his way home to (one rather pleasant version of) planet Earth. He then discovered that it was about to be blown up...again.

So did he die? Well, apparently not because Colfer promises to propel Dent and the other character through another intergalactic screwball adventure.

The book will be out late October, so let me know what you think.

Will I be reading it? Most-likely, yes -- just because I want to see if Colfer can pull it off, but he does have high expectations to fill.

But maybe it will be even better than original. Maybe...

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's bat season in Houston ---and not the Twilight type

It's time to put up the bat signal.

Not only are the baby bats at the Buffalo Bayou now fledglings, but this is the time of year you may see more bats in the area as many of them that migrated south have now returned back to Texas.

It's also bat maternity season (which comes after bat mating season).


So what does bat maternity season really mean? Well, not much unless you are a bat, but if you see some bats on the ground, I'm told that they could be baby bats (called pups) who haven't yet mastered the art of flying.

But there could be another reason for falling bats. The mama bat actually carries her pups with her as she flies, but because of the extra weight, she may occasionally need to make a crash landing and rest.

Either way, these bats pups and mama bats may be totally healthy and will just get up go again.

Also, bats like to swoop down and grab a drink from standing water, such as a farm pond or a swimming pool --or even the bayou. So don't think they are attacking you, they are just looking for a drink -- because, man, it's hot in Houston.


You know I love my bat friends, but that doesn't mean I'm naïve. I know they can carry diseases including rabies. So here are the rules I got from the Texas Mosquito Control just in case you run into a bat (or a bat flies into you):

1) If a bat comes into contact with a person, either by flying into the person, landing on the person, or by being picked up or handled by the person, the person should try to capture the bat without further skin contact, so it can be tested for rabies.

2) Contact animal control or a veterinarian to have the bat tested.

3) Keep in mind, that there may be a cost to the person wanting the bat tested; however, it is worth the money, especially if the bat has had contact with a person or a pet - just in case.

4) If you can't find the bat, you should speak with a physician or health department about the incident to see if you could have been exposed to something the bat was carrying.


The good news is if the bat just happens to be hanging out and doesn't actually touch you, there is no need to have it tested.

Let's say you find a "downed" bat or a bat in a building, all you need to do is release it outside (hopefully it will just fly out).

But if the bat happens to be resting, don't touch it with your bare hands. Wear gloves and simply cover the bat with a small box or empty coffee can and slide a stiff piece of cardboard underneath so the bat is trapped inside the box or can. Also, remember that a bat may look dead, but will come to life when disturbed.

Some bats need to be above the ground to take flight, so moving the bat to a tree will help the bat be on its way. While still wearing your gloves, you can remove the cover and place the box on its side in a tree.

The bat may immediately fly or crawl out of the box onto the branches, or it may not fly away until dark.

If the bat appears to be injured, contact animal control - but I'm not sure what they do with it. For a chance of having the bat fixed up and rehabilitated, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. They have information on state permitted wildlife rehabilitators.


Now, I know that many of you don't like the idea of having bats in your attic and around your home. I'm like that with those big Texas roaches - they give me the willies.

But because it's maternity season, the baby bats won't be able to leave because they can't fly. What will happen if you evict them now is that the adult bats will get out, but the baby bats will be trapped inside - which totally sucks.

Bat exclusion is best carried out in early spring (before maternity season) or in the fall (after August) when the young bats are able to fly well.


Okay, now that I freaked you out with all the bat rules, it's time for bat lovers to have a little fun.

Diana Foss with Texas Parks and Wildlife gives free 20 minute bat presentations on the East side of the Waugh Street bridge at Allen Parkway on the first and third Friday and Saturday of the month.

By the way, even if you just want to go by yourself, this is the best place is see the bats when they fly out for their nightly excursions.

Below are the dates for the presentations:

Friday, July 3

Saturday, July 4

Friday, July 17

Saturday, July 18

Saturday, August 1

Friday, August 7

Saturday, August 15

Friday, August 21

Friday, June 19, 2009

Beat the heat in Galveston

Man, it's been a hot week.

Galveston may not have the white sands of the islands or Florida, but it is close by and the water is cool. It's also got a few little gems that are worth seeing.

So here are some things to do...if you are looking for more than simply checking out the waves:

1) Hotel Galvez: A great place to go for brunch or a day at the spa. The Hotel just recently reopened after fixing up their Hurricane Ike damage so everything is brand spanking new and beautiful.

2) H20 at the San Luis: This is my favorite outdoor bar on the island just because I love sushi and the décor of the place. Great view of the pool, too - although you need to be a hotel guest in order to use it.

3) Schlitterbahn Galveston: Free tubes, waterslides and waves, what more could you want on a hot day?

4) Bishop's Palace: I have not been here yet, but people have told me it's worth the trip and a great way to get out of the sun for a few hours. The outside of the home kind of reminds me of the house from the TV series "Sabrina: The Teenage Witch."

5) Palm Beach at Moody Gardens: Enjoy soft white sand beaches with blue freshwater lagoons and waterfalls surrounded by lush, exotic landscaping. Comfy lounge chairs and shady umbrellas are provided free of charge, but you do have to pay $10.95 to get into the beach area.

6) Benno's on the Beach: This place is famous of shrimp po-boys, but I've also heard Leo's Cajun Corner is good.

7) Learn how to surf: I did this last year with Brian from C-Sick surfin' and it was a blast. Brian scouted the best place to catch waves that day and took care of everything. I was able to stand up on the board and everything.

8) The Poop Deck: This place is a Galveston summer classic and a miracle that it survived the hurricane. It overlooks the water and is full of great people and great fun.

Their slogan is "where the elite meet their bare feet." Gotta love that.

There's tons of other places to visit in the area, including a bunch of places on The Strand.

So stay cool this weekend and head for the beach.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Checking out Sheila Kelley's S-Factor

Four years ago, I saw "Desperate Housewives" star Teri Hatcher perform a pole trick on Oprah. Ever since then I swore that if I lived in a city that had a Sheila Kelley's S-Factor studio, I would have to try it.

Turns out, Houston is one of two cities outside of California that has one. They also happen to have monthly introduction nights for $20 to give newbies like me a little taste of what the classes would be like - without committing to an 8 week course.


The evening started with everyone gathering in the lobby. I was happy to see that I wasn't the only girl curious about the program. There must have been at least 40 of us there (the intro night actually sold out so if you do want to try it, sign up early).

Now before you think you'll be hanging upside down on the pole right away, let me just tell you that won't be happening. Instead, most of the intro class was a combination of yoga and Pilates moves to help increase core strength and flexibility - and believe me, you're going to need it because pole dancing is much harder than it looks.

But you won't worry about that in the first lesson. In fact, the whole experience was kind of relaxing as they dim the lights and play great music while you work out. The only difference is that these exercises will leave you feeling sore the next day. Really sore. I must admit that my quads were hurting and my abs felt like I had done a thousand crunches.


Once you've worked out all your muscles, it's time to do what everyone who signed up wanted to do since the beginning of the night - swing on the pole.

I swear, even though we all wanted to try it, we all were scared to death. I mean, they look slippery and what if you fall on your butt?

But have no fear. The instructors are fantastic and incredibly supportive.

First they showed us step-by-step how to do the basic "Firefly" or "Fireman" spin and then they came around and taught us one-by-one so that each of us could do it by the end of the class.

I must admit it was invigorating to master it and all of us were on a personal high after flying weighlessly through the air - even though we knew we would have bruises the next day.

Yes, that's right. You will leave the studio bruised.

I had bruises on the back of my legs and the top of my feet (who knows how that happened) but it was totally worth it - because let's face it, unless you hang out in those night clubs with they happen to have stripper poles or happen to live in an old fire hall, you'll never get to do this. And you'll never get to do in an environment as supportive as this.


But the night wasn't over yet. For the big finale the instructors got together and did a little routine to showcase all the incredible tricks you would eventually learn to do on the pole -- if you decided to sign up for lessons.

Now don't start thinking these girls are wanna-be strippers, because they weren't. Some of them were married, another one was a nurse, one was even expecting a baby. The girls were also fully dressed and wearing workout outfits (no high heels or anything slutty). The only difference between this class and an aerobics class was they had a pole and they moved like jaguars - graceful, powerful and confident.

Watching them, you realize that all those core building exercises you did at the beginning of the class were necessary as you need to have strength to move like they do.


So was it worth the $20? Definitely!

You'll get to spend quality time with your girlfriends (no guys allowed) while getting a fabulous workout. Plus, you are doing something you don't get to do in any other studio in the city. And it's perfect for women of all ages and sizes. In fact, I saw women ranging from early 20s to early 50s.

Just remember to wear comfortable clothes and be prepared to work your muscles.

I'm going back. Just one class and I'm already totally addicted.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Could you go bald for a good cause?

Not sure what to do on the weekend. Get a haircut!!

Actually, this event involves getting a little more than just a trim as you'll be shaving your entire head. But just think about how much cooler you'll feel in the Texas heat. Plus, you'll be doing it for a good cause.

Tesha M. Robaszkiewicz will be doing just that. She's a UH law student who is organizing a charity event to benefit kids' cancer research as part of St. Baldrick's.

"We've got about seven people, both men and women, already scheduled to get their head shaved for the cause," Tesha said. "I'll be one of them."

St. Baldrick's is the world's largest volunteer-driven fundraising event for childhood cancer research. While they have hosted 2,300 events all over the world, they have never had one in Houston - until now.

Money is raised by having brave volunteers shave their heads in exchange for pledges. The funds are used for research as well as fellowships. In fact, one of the doctors who have gone through the fellowship is here in Houston.

But why got Tesha involved in the organization was because of something that happened to her personally. She says she had a family friend whose daughter was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor a few years ago. Sadly, the 5-year-old passed away.

"My dad did a fundraiser at the time to help raise money for the family, but I wanted to do something on a more broader level," said Tesha. "St. Baldrick's is a national charity and their goal is to stop cancer rather than treat everyone once they have it."

Tesha won't be the only woman going bald this summer. Her mother is also going under the razor to support the cause. But they are hoping more volunteers will step up to help raise money for the event.

"We are hoping to have about a 1000 people come out to the Union Bar and Lounge on Saturday. We are definitely on our way to raising more money, so that's a good thing," said Tesha.

Tesha's goal is to raise $3500 for St. Baldrick's.

If you want to show your support, drop by:

Union Bar and Lounge

June 13, 2009

12:00 P.M.

2708 Bagby Street, Houston, TX 77006

To donate, visit: http://www.stbaldricks.org/about_us/news_media.php?title=houston_we_have_arrived

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Houston Apartments: My vote for best space

I've always wanted to live in a swanky loft overlooking the city. You know the ones you see in the movies where the freight elevator goes right up to your unit and opens up into your living room.
Of course, these places are usually located in some scary warehouse district. And because I'm not exactly the Wolvereen or Batman, I just don't feel safe.

However, you will feel safe at the Sawyer Heights Lofts.

These lofts get my vote for best space for your money, because they are big - well most of them are big. I admit there were a couple 700 square feet units, but the majority are over 900 square feet.

While you don't get the freight elevator doorway that I dream about, you also don't get the scary warehouse vibe.

The area is growing like crazy. For those of you who aren't sure where these are, they are located by a Target just off of I-10 and two miles from downtown. Last year, the Target was the only thing there, but now there's a Chili's, a Pet Smart, a shoe store and more!

The units are also incredible. Ten-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, oversized balconies and great views are only the beginning. This place is ready for the modern urban dweller.

There's a coffee bar, a workout room with a yoga studio, a meditation garden and reflection pool, and, if you are writer like me, you can lounge by the pool and still get wireless Internet. Gotta love that.

Sawyer Heights Lofts really aim to be a peaceful oasis away from the city. They even offer complementary yoga and Pilate classes and have free Continental breakfast for their residents every second Saturday.

So what will living in a spacious loft set you back? Well, not as much as you might think. I saw a couple of 900 square feet 1 bedrooms that ran around $1200 to $1300 a month.

I did see a couple other great places. If looking for something in the same area, I also recommend checking out The Core. It's located on Washington close to the club scene. They were having some tempting move-in specials.

Another fabulous building is City Vista on Dallas Street. This one just opened up last year and the units are beautiful. They also have two pools: a lounging pool and a lap pool.

In the meantime, I now have a big pile of floor plans and a big decision to make.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Apartment Hunting: My Vote for Best Pool

I admit that I'm a big pool lover. I seldom actually use it, but I love knowing they are there and I like them to be pretty. So out of all the apartments I looked at, these two had the best pools.


This is the big red and orange complex on the corner of Dallas and Stafford. It doesn't look like much on the outside, the complex is actually really nice. It's also one of the cheapest places I've looked at as you can get a 1 bedroom for $1000 - not bad.

The units are spacious, all have balconies and are well maintained. They also have a fabulous gym.

But let me tell you about the pool. It's like a little lagoon and you feel like you are in a tropical resort. Ahhhhh.....


Then there's the Bel Air. This place is my version of luxury and surprisingly it wasn't as expensive as I thought - because right now they have a 1 month free deal that they prorate over the year. So ignore the outrageous prices on their Web site because right now you can get a 1 bedroom there for $1050 or a 2 bedroom/1 bath for as little at $1450. Pretty darn good for a place this close to downtown and River Oaks.

The Bel Air kind of reminds me of a posh resort hotel like the ones along South Beach in Miami. The lobby is lavish, the workout room is incredible and the pool area is breathtaking. They even have cabanas for you and your friends to hang out in.

But the Bel Air doesn't just have one pool. They have two. In addition to the big pool where you can do laps or simply hang out, there is a more intimate smaller pool in another courtyard that is perfect for reading or relaxing in the sun.

They also have this great BBQ area for grilling and parties. Gotta love that!

Houston Apartments: My vote for best perks

If you live in the area, I'm sure you've noticed the construction that's happening on Kirby and Westheimer. It totally drives me nuts.

So...while I was stuck at the Westheimer light waiting for my turn to creep through, I thought maybe I should just check out those new apartments that are causing all these traffic problems.

The apartments are called West Ave.

Turns out they are kind of cool and win my vote for having the best perks.

I'm going to warn you, even though they are still under construction, they are more expensive than La Maison, which I visited yesterday -- but only a little bit more. In fact, I saw a one bedroom there for $1350 (with a two month free deal).

However, the views were really nice. This could be why they were slightly more money.

The units have hardwood livingrooms and carpeted bedrooms, and the feel is a little more "big city" compared to the "posh hotel" feel of La Maison. However, they have some really interesting perks such as units that come with wine chillers, a pet salon for pet grooming, built in bookshelfs and computer desks.

Some of the innovative things that you don't see everywhere were the built in iPod docks that could broadcast your tunes throughout your apartment via the surround sound speakers. They would also paint the accent wall in your living to your favorite color. There will also be a number of retail, wine bars and trendy restaurants opening underneath the building, making the address one of the best in town.

Sounds good?

Wait there's more --and this is the part that nearly had me signing on the dotted line --the restaurants will deliver to your unit like room service. Whoo-hoo!!!

West Ave also has a really nice workout place and a rooftop pool with a great view of the city.

But am I moving there? I don't know. We'll see where I go tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Houston Apartments: My vote for best deal

Every day, I've been looking at apartments around the city. The good news is there are some reasonable places in the inner loop and even River Oaks (who would have thought this would be possible?) that feel like you are getting more for your money.

So here's my vote for best deal - La Maison.

You may not have even noticed this place going up, but La Maison is located on 2727 Revere Street right behind Whole Foods on Kirby. In fact, it's so close to Whole Foods that you could walk there for your morning coffee if you wanted.

Of course, you can also walk to the Wine Bucket, Flemings, Ruggles Green and Borders - Yay!!

This place has more than just a great location; it's also got class.

The building is currently under construction so if you get in now, you could get a one bedroom for less than $1200 a month (I saw one for $1152). The units all have hardwood floors, gorgeous stainless steel kitchens and great balconies. It was like being in a posh hotel room.

But the rooms are only the beginning.

Like I said the place is still under construction (which is why it's so affordable at the moment), but it's going to be beautiful. How do I know? Well, you know the Bel Air on Allen Parkway? Well, this place is being developed by the same company so you know it's going to be fab when it's done.

There are two resort style swimming pools, a club room, a swanky kitchen area where they say they will cooking classes and a clothing optional sundeck on the roof for those who, well...dare.

They are also going to have this amazing giant fire feature in one of the courtyards with seating all around it. It's not complete yet, but it sounded great.

By the way, the whole place is supposed to be complete by December 2009, but tenants are starting to move in now.

It's all very cool, but my search is not over yet. I have two more places to see before I make up my mind.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Girl About Town goes apartment hunting

Looks like KHOU's Girl About Town could soon be living in another part of the loop.

Yup...that's right. I'm coming up on my one year anniversary and that means my lease is also coming due.

So the crunch is on because it's either now or wait another 12 months before I have another chance to find a cheaper place - without paying a penalty.

But if you've been following my blog, you already know that I'm not a big shopper. That goes double for apartment hunting. It's stressful and, because there are so many places to see, it's exhausting.

Besides, I'm super picky.

So if I'm going to commit to living some place for a year, it's got to be the best place I can get for the little money that I have.

To make sure I get the best, I decided to cheat.

Yes, you heard me. I am cheating by passing the hard work onto someone else.

Her name is Lisa Castillo and she's an apartment locator.

Now if you've never used a professional like Lisa, you'll be in for a treat. Basically, I gave her a list of all my criteria such as the size, the price, the flooring, style, etc. Plus I wanted to be no farther than 20 minutes from the station and I wanted to be close to a few of my favorite shops (Starbuck's and Crave Cupcakes - yes, I'm still addicted. I just go less often).

Within 24 hours, she had a list for me.

I swear, it saved me hours of combing through the Internet.

Lisa is fabulous. She is even driving me to the places so I won't have to worry about being lost or wasting gas. But let me just say her contacts are the well-known complexes, so If you are looking for an apartment in a home or maybe renting someone's condo, you might be better going to Craig's list.

In the meantime, Lisa is going to start taking me out tomorrow. I'll let you know what we find.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sometimes dogs can break my heart

Normally I let our Animal Attraction blogger take care of the animal things, but just because I did this story at the beginning, I've gotten a bit attached.

I'm not sure how many of you read it, but it was the story about the 32 cocker spaniels that were rescued from Rosenberg. What happened was an anonymous tip led SPCA investigators to a shed behind a landscaped home in Rosenberg.

Inside the shed they found 33 adult cocker spaniels crammed into just a few cages.

"They were living in cages that were falling apart and the stench was unbelievable from the feces and urine," said Meera Nandlal of the SPCA.

Nandlal says the dogs were not being fed properly and calls their overall living conditions terrible. The shed was poorly ventilated, and when the SPCA seized the animals, they reported finding dirty undrinkable water and no food. Nandlal also says that there were several dogs in each rusted cage.

"The dogs were matted, weren't being fed properly and it looks like some of them may have parasites. At this point, it looks like they may have severe skin conditions as well," said Nandlal. "One of the dogs was so badly matted, it couldn't even walk."

I'm not going to get into the story (you can read my article about the Rosenberg dogs here), but these dogs have now been cleaned up and it's amazing to see. They look like totally different animals (the pics to the left are before pictures from when the SPCA found them) and are looking for a new family.

Check out the YouTube video below to see how just a little trim and some love has made a difference. They are just so happy to have a little love.

The Cocker Spaniel Rescue, which is a charitable organization dedicated to saving the lives of abandoned and abused cocker spaniels and other dogs, has been helping out the SPCA to take care of the dogs.

But the dogs aren't the only ones needing help. The rescue center also needs a little support. They are looking for people to adopt the dogs and donations.

I could just hug all these little guys.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Goodbye Hello Kitty; Houston's Wendy Wagner is going to Japan

Ever wish you could just quit your job and take a chance on your dream? Well, 10 years ago Wendy Wagner did just that.

She gave up her career as a graphic artist to follow her dream of being a fine artist. Now, she's showing her work to a new viewing audience in Japan.

"It's my first time going to Japan. This will be my first solo show in a gallery in Tokyo," said Houston-based artist Wendy Wagner.

Wagner is an exhibiting artist here in the United States, but says she is ready to show her work to other places. She says her playful and whimsical style appealed to the gallery and connects well with the current Japanese aesthetic.

"The gallery had seen some of my pieces from 2007 that were inspired by my experience with 'Ice Capades' when I was little, and they liked them," Wagner said. "My mother had saved the brochures and some circus brochures, so I dissembled the images and reassembled them in my own language. They really responded to that series of work, so I did 15 new pieces for them."

Wagner's work will be on display from June 2 until June 20 at Gallery Trinity in the Roppongi District of central Tokyo. A couple larger pieces will also be displayed at hotels around the city.

Wagner says the show seemed to just fall into place, but the journey from Houston to Japan was a long time coming.

"Ever since I was a little child I've exhibited a talent for art and won lots of awards, but I didn't actually go to college for fine arts. I went to college for graphic design," Wagner said.

In 1990, Wagner moved from her hometown of Austin to attend Houston's art institute. She got a degree in visual communications and worked as a professional designer for 10 years. It was only then that she decided to make a drastic career change.

"I got burned out in design and was called back to my roots in fine arts. In 2000, I did a career change and decided to focus on fine arts, primarily painting," Wagner said.

From there Wagner's creativity took off and so did her career. By 2004, she noticed characters starting to emerge in her artwork, which pushed her to transform her 2-D designs into 3-D creations.

"I got involved in ceramics that were based on their little characters. I started giving them names and personalities," Wagner said.

But ceramics were just the beginning. From there she started thinking about animation and says because she had the computer background in graphic design, it was something that came natural for her.

"Creating the animations was part of the evolution. A lot of my work has loose narratives that are sometimes autobiographical stories with embellishments," Wagner said.

Then came the Qwerkys. Wagner says these creations are soft sculptures based on the characters in the animations. They are all part of Wagner's artistic evolution that promises to continue to grow.

"I'm glad I did the route that I did because I have experience in different things, such as the computer, that I can use in my work. Plus, working as a designer and under deadlines was good work experience," Wagner said.

Over the last decade, Wagner's work has been on exhibit internationally and in Houston. In May last year, she achieved one of the highest forms of recognition in the art world when she was announced as the 2008 Hunting Art Price winner for her painting "I Hope I'm Dreaming."

With more paintings on the way and her line of Qwerkys growing, there is no telling what the future will hold for this promising Houston-based artist.

"It's all cumulative to where I am now - everything that I've done," Wagner said.

Wagner will be in Tokyo the week of June 2 for the exhibit opening and a special artist talk.