Home for the holidays: What students are most looking forward to during winter break

At the end of the fall semester, as studying for finals consumes both day and night, there is one thing college students cannot wait for — winter break. We went to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters and asked some what they are looking forward to the most during the weeks off for the holiday.

— Photos and text by Mackenzie Palmer/American-Statesman

University of Texas international relations and global studies junior Samantha Gorny, 20, said she is looking forward to hanging out with her parents and dogs during the break in Houston, her hometown, as well as watching TV, riding bikes and ice skating. She also will be going to New Jersey for a week to visit her father’s side of the family.


Seamus Hawley, 19, is from Minneapolis, Minn., and said he can’t wait to get back to the cold weather. “I only really like winter for about a month, so that is the perfect amount of time to go back,” Hawley said. He said finals burned him out and he is ready to relax.


Sophomore Jessica Plasters, 19, said that after attending the Day for Night festival in Houston, she can’t wait to hang out with her cats and listen to rap music with her friends at home in San Antonio.


Business marketing major Jared Malik Royal, 22, said he is ready to sleep in and wake up to a big breakfast once he gets home to Keller. In the spirit of the holiday, he said he loves giving presents to his friends and family.


Kassidy Knight, 21, is a University of Texas senior computer engineering major from Haslet, outside Fort Worth. She said she is ready to nap a lot and eat a lot but is going to miss her teammates from Texas 4000, a UT biking group, during break.


UT freshman Chris Uvalle, 19, said he is excited to head back home to Edinburg to hang with old friends and family. And after a semesterlong break, Uvalle said he can’t wait to be reunited with his piano at home.


Austin Community College student Danny Fraser, 25, said he is ready to catch up with old friends in Williamsport, Md. Fraser said he’ll spend his time walking his parents’ dogs, visiting his favorite childhood spots and hiking.


UT student Krissa Martin, 20, from Houston, said she can’t wait to mountain bike, play volleyball and see her 16-year-old sister, Wendy.


Cameron Osmond, 20, a UT liberal arts honors program sophomore, said he loves to eat his parents’ cooking (especially the two dishes above). While back in Flower Mound, Osmond said he’ll dedicate his time to writing the second draft of his screenplay.


Cade Stone, 20, said he is excited to return home, even though home is Austin. “It’s a 25-minute drive, but I’m still excited and looking forward to it,” Stone said.

Are you a true Austinite? These questions put you to the test

The hashtag #HoustonVerificationQuestions was trending on Twitter this week, as Houston residents asked each other questions about living in the city. Twitter users polled each other on everything from rap lyrics to what speed limit signs really mean.

A handful of people have caught on to the trend in Austin. For example, if you’re an OG Austinite, you know the answer to this one and you can’t help but sing along:

So, what are Austin’s verification questions? The Statesman web team gathered these ideas (answers below):

  1. Where can you redeem your used Longhorns game ticket for a free crunchy taco?
  2. How many people does it take to finish a Don Juan?
  3. Where was the airport before Austin-Bergstrom International Airport?
  4. What temperature is Barton Springs Pool?
  5. Where is the original Kerbey Lane Café located?
  6. Before “Lady Bird Lake,” it was called ________.
  7. What was the best show you saw at Liberty Lunch?
  8. Who has two braids and no regard for recreational drug use laws?
  9. Which South Congress café is “sorry” to be open?
  10. Can you  name at least two surnames of the former Austin mayor whose first name is Carole?
  11. Finish this iconic Austin song lyric: “I wanna go home with the _______.”
  12. How do you pronounce Manchaca? What about Burnet? Buda? Guadalupe?
  13. Do you know what Celebration Station is? What about Pandamonium? Discovery Zone?
  14. What season is it if it’s 90 degrees?
  15. Do YOU know Betty Blackwell?
The Austin skyline from the 23rd floor of the Skyhouse Apartments on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Austin skyline from the 23rd floor of the Skyhouse Apartments on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The hashtag hasn’t really taken off in Austin just yet, but now that Dallas is catching on to the trend, Houstonians are feeling a little salty:


It’s OK, y’all. We’ll just sit back and watch the feud.




  1. Taco Bell.
  2. It depends on the size of your stomach and how determined you are (also, probably how much you drank the night before).
  3. You now know the area as the Mueller development.
  4. Between 68 and 70 degrees year-round.
  5. It’s on Kerbey Lane. Shocker.
  6. Town Lake. The name was changed in 2007 to Lady Bird Lake to honor Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  7. Liberty Lunch closed in 1999, but its spirit lives on. Read more about the effort to preserve the memories of one of Austin’s most beloved music institutions.
  8. Willie Nelson, a.k.a. the unofficial mayor of Austin. He’s been arrested at least five times for marijuana possession.
  9. Magnolia Café, an Austin staple.
  10. Carole Keeton Strayhorn, born Carole Stewart Keeton, went by the name Carole McClellan when she served as Austin’s mayor in the 1970s, but she was Carole Keeton Rylander when she was elected to the Texas Railroad Commission in 1994. So…you had a lot of options here.
  11. Armadillo. What else? (Here are 10 facts about the official small mammal of Texas.)
  12. Man-shack. Burn-it. Byoo-duh. Guada-loop. Any questions? 
  13. If you were a kid in Austin in the 1980s and 90s, the only correct answer to this question is, “the best place in the world.” These were basically indoor playscapes (think Chuck E. Cheese, but better), and pretty much everybody had their birthday parties there. I distinctly remember going to see that horrible Shaq movie “Kazaam” and then going to Pandamonium afterward, which is probably the most ’90s Austin kid thing to ever happen.
  14. Trick question. All of ’em. 
  15. Everybody knows Betty Blackwell.

Signs of gratitude: We asked people at Zilker Park what they’re #thankful for

Thanksgiving is a perfect time of year to reflect and to celebrate what is special to us. With the holiday on the horizon, we went out to Zilker Park and asked people what they were thankful for.



Emory, Adam and their dog Kensho were at the park visiting new friends and having a doggie play date. For Thanksgiving, they plan to visit both sides of the family and, of course, enjoy lots of delicious food.



Stephany Pereira, right, from Colombia said she will be spending the holiday with her host family in Austin. This will be her first Thanksgiving in America.



Carson and her three younger sisters, Blair, Avery and Tabitha, spent the day kicking the ball around and laughing together. For Thanksgiving they plan to go to Amarillo to spend time with their grandparents.



Katie and Chris were practicing their handstands at the park. For Thanksgiving, they are going to Katie’s Mimi’s house to enjoy her traditional cooking.




Skylar Smith and Dmytro Ivanyna came out to watch the sunset. Ivanyna, who is from Ukraine, has been in Austin for two years. This will be his second Thanksgiving in America but his first celebrating with Smith and their friends and family.




Peter spent the day playing with his two pups. Peter plans to spend the holiday taking some time to himself and relaxing at home.



Ryan Tyrell and Melanie Weinberger brought their dog Mary out to Zilker. An injured leg couldn’t keep Tyrell inside on this beautiful day. For Thanksgiving, Weinberger says she plans to volunteer with Travis County Victim Services. She said the best way to give thanks is to give back.



Katie Fingerhut gave thanks to her three cats, Todd, Kimba and Charlie. She said she will be going back home to Arkansas for Thanksgiving to visit family.



For the holiday, Edwin De Angel has planned a special family getaway at La Cantera Resort and Spa in San Antonio. After having a baby (not pictured) less than three months ago, the family is ready for a vacation.

For Mother’s Day, we ask University of Texas students – Why do you love your mom?

This week was a busy one for University of Texas students – Friday was the last day of classes, finals are approaching and many are spending Sunday with their mothers. We took to the University of Texas of campus to ask people #WhyMom.



Freshman psychology major Daniel Spomer said he is thankful for his mother’s support, especially by letting him pursue the degree of his choice.


IMG_9332Weslie Onsando, a graduate student originally from Kenya, is studying film production at UT. Onsando admires her mother’s selflessness.


IMG_6679Freshman advertising major Matthew Johnson wanted to thank his mother Michelle for her constant support.


IMG_9330Graduating senior Areesha Ajani loves her mother’s strength and the example she sets for her. Ajani is a corporate communications major who will be working for Aon Consulting in Houston.


IMG_6676Andrew Bain, 21, will graduate in two weeks and head to medical school in Houston. Bain said his mother’s supportive nature is what he loves most about her.


Timothy Cole is a senior linebacker for the University of Texas football team. Cole wanted to thank his mother for her patience throughout his life. Cole is planning to attend graduate school to study advertising in the fall.

We ask people at Eeyore’s Birthday – why do you love Austin?

After a night of thunder and lightning, the sun came out just in time on Saturday for Eeyore’s Birthday. The annual festival in Pease Park featured live music, face painting and costumes. Locals, families and weekend visitors had plenty to say about why they love Austin.


College student Megan Hicks attends Texas State University in San Marcos but said she spends most of her time in Austin. Hicks and a group of friends were attending the festival for the first time.



A maypole is set up at the beginning of the festival.



Carly Suhr was enjoying the warm weather with Hicks. Suhr, 19, said she loves Austin because there is always something fun to do.



Abby Slatton, who is studying to be an aesthetician, likes the attitude of Austinites. Slatton and her friends were excited to watch the drum circles (below) that Eeyore’s Birthday is known for.





Garrett Rogers was taking in the sights and sounds of the festival for the first time. Rogers, who works in heating and air conditioning, enjoys the people he meets in Austin.



David Rodriguez attended Eeyore’s Birthday for the third time this year. Rodriguez said he cannot get enough of the food in Austin and that his favorite restaurant is Kebabalicious.



The 53rd annual Eeyore’s Birthday was  just one of the many things to do around Austin this weekend and part of what makes Christopher Marshall love the city so much.





Barbie Jabri (second from right) has been in Austin for eight years and is trying to convince her friends to move here. Jabri enjoys soaking up the warm, sunny weather the city is known for.


Where would you like to see us go next?

We ask people in line at Franklin Barbecue – why do you love Austin?

By Cody McCrary

Special to the American-Statesman

Continuing our #WhyAustin series, we went to talk with people waiting in line at Franklin Barbecue to find out what they like about our city. The sunny, warm weather and famous ‘cue had people arriving several hours before the Austin dining destination opened at 11 a.m.


Clarissa Hassfurder had been waiting in line since 9 a.m. with two of her friends and bridesmaids who came to visit. Hassfurder moved to Austin from Indiana two years ago and enjoys the eclectic scene in Austin.


Hassfurder’s friend, Kelsey Worth, was on her second trip to Austin. Worth said she enjoyed Voodoo Doughnuts and that she loves to come visit from Indiana.



The third of the friends, Chelsea Abanathie, who is from Wisconsin, was enjoying soaking up the sun while waiting for her barbecue.



Todd Squire moved to Austin a year and a half ago from Seattle, Wash. Squire said he handles the Texas heat by swimming and enjoying the various outdoor happy hour options around the city.


Cyndi Carter was entertaining visitors from Chicago and said she cannot get enough of the friendly people and great weather since moving to Austin from Dallas two years ago.


Lenny Neslin, who came straight from the airport, luggage in hand, to Franklin Barbecue had visited Austin once before. Neslin, who lives in New York, was in town for a college reunion with three other Austin novices.

Where would you like to see us visit next?

We ask people at Zilker Park – why do you love Austin?

By Cody McCrary — Special to the American-Statesman

During our gorgeous spring weather, Zilker Park is an Austin staple for locals and visitors of the nature-friendly city. We went out to Zilker to ask people what their favorite thing is about Austin in our new #whyaustin series.


Taylor Skinner, a 22-year-old University of Texas student, takes her dog Tinsley to play at Zilker Park several times a week. Skinner, who was born and raised in Austin, said she enjoys the dog-friendly nature of the city and the food scene.



Mia Foos was spending the day flying kites with her daughter and said she loves that Austin is so kid friendly. Foos, who is pregnant with her second child, was due the day after we spoke with her.



Erin Beck and Macey Taylor said they like Austin because it is such a culturally diverse city that still maintains a small-town feel. Beck moved to Austin from Florida three years ago and works in sales at the Driskill Hotel. Taylor is an executive assistant at Kasasa, a wholesale financial services company headquartered in Austin.



Spencer Young, who attends Tom C. Clark High School in San Antonio, was in town taking in the sights and sounds of South by Southwest. The 17-year-old was enjoying the warm weather and playing guitar with some friends.




Lilith Chenaux, who was visiting from Houston, said the Zilker Dog Park is her favorite thing about Austin. Chenaux works at an animal shelter and was spending her day with her sister and her dog Pixie.



Amanda Costanzo was watching her sister’s dogs, Mabel and Ginger, while spending the day at Zilker. Costanzo, who works at the Whole Foods at the Domain, said she loves how cultured Austin has become in recent years.