Category Archives: In Your Community

The Top 4 Fall Festivals in Texas

The Top 4 Fall Festivals in Texas

Fried food in the shape of Texas at the Texas State Fair. Photo from

Fall is almost here, which means the weather will soon be getting cooler and the leaves will begin changing colors. It’s one of the most enjoyable times of the year to be outside in Texas. With the Lone Star State being so large, Texans enjoy countless opportunities and activities, especially all of the upcoming fall festivals. They’re always entertaining and are the perfect way to enjoy the fall weather. Though there are many to choose from, we’ve narrowed down the list to the top fall festivals in Texas.

1. Texas State Fair – While it’s not technically a festival, the Texas State Fair is definitely worth mentioning, as its one of the most popular events in Texas. It’s a three week af”fair”(had to say it) during the month of October featuring a carnival, art competition, auto show, livestock show, live music, and above all, the “Red River Shoot-Out,” an intense rivalry football game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma.

Key things not to miss: The infamous “corny” dog that is one of the best corndogs you’ll ever eat, deep-fried treats like deep fried Oreos and Twinkies, and the winners of the Big Tex Choice Awards, which is an annual contest where contestants battle it out for the Best Tasting and Most Creative fried food.

  • When: September 26 – October 19, 2014
  • Where: 3921 Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd., Dallas, TX 75210

2. WurstFest – Head to New Braunfels for WurstFest, which is a “10 day salute to sausage”.  Here, thousands of visitors can enjoy great German food, carnival rides, and games, German, Texan and domestic beer, special events and entertaining Alpine and Bavarian Style Entertainment.

Key things not to miss: Buy tickets in advance (more of a warning), the annual polka competition and try the sausage!

  • When: November 7 – 16, 2014
  • Where: 120 Landa St., New Braunfels, Texas 78130
The Top 4 Fall Festivals in Texas

Jousting at the Texas Renaissance Festival. Photo from

3. Texas Renaissance Festival – To me, nothing says fall like heading to the Texas Renaissance Festival. Once you pass through the entrance gates, you go back into time to the 16th century (and earlier!).  With over 3,000 professional actors who never break character, live entertainment (over 200 daily performances), 60 delicious food and wine shops, and so much more (Go Texas), there is literally something for everyone!

Key things not to miss: People watching, the jousting competition, fireworks at the end of the day, and embracing the experience and having a good time!

  • When: Weekends October 11th – November 30th, 2014
  • Where: 21778 FM 1774, Todd Mission, Texas 77363

4. Fredericksburg Food and Wine Festival – For over 23 years, this festival has taken place in downtown Fredericksburg to celebrate the food and wine from around the Hill Country. It’s one of the largest of its kind, featuring over two dozen Texas wineries. In addition to wine, there are cooking classes, live music, beer tastings, and much more.

Key things not to miss: The Gargantuan Great Grape Toss, the Live and Silent Auction, and sampling as much as you can!

  • When: October 25, 2014
  • Where: 100 W Main St., Fredericksburg, TX 78624 (Fredericksburg’s Market Square)

What are some of your favorite fall festivals in Texas? Do you have any memories from any of these festivals? Share them in the comments!

5 Tips for Enjoying Texas High School Football

5 Tips for Enjoying Texas High School Football

Roosevelt High School Football (San Antonio, TX) image courtesy of StuSeeger.

“Football is life.” While this quote sounds a bit extreme, it’s not far from the truth for many towns around Texas. There is so much heart and excitement that goes into Texas football, it’s no wonder why so many shows and movies have been based on Texas football, especially Texas high school football.

While Thursdays and Sundays are dedicated to the NFL and Saturdays to college, it’s Friday night where spectators can see some true, grassroots football. No fancy stadiums (Editor’s Note: Eagle Stadium in Allen, TX did cost nearly $60 million to construct) or players with multi-million dollar contracts – just two competing groups of kids eager to play some football. If you are new to the Lone Star State (or just looking for some great suggestions for the Fall 2014 Season), here are 5 tips for enjoying Texas high school football.

  1. Bring a Folding Stadium Chair or Cushion. While this isn’t a must, it’s a pretty nice option to have, as many high school stadiums have only bleachers to sit on, which get very uncomfortable. Usually the booster club sells them, or you can purchase one from Walmart or Academy.
  2. Attend a Rivalry Game. If you want to see an intense and exciting game that stands out above the rest, then find out which game is the team’s big rivalry game. When a team plays their rivals, it brings out an even higher level of competition, making it more thrilling to watch (unless they get blown out).
  3. 5 Tips for Enjoying Texas High School FootballFind a Good Seat.  Where you sit can make all the difference when watching football, so there are two things to consider when finding a good seat. One: You want to be close to the 50-yard line so you can see what’s happening on both sides of the field. Two: Sit close to the field so you can be near the action. This will help you see what’s going on and will keep you interested so you won’t miss a great play. Remember, there is no instant replay in high school football, so if you miss it, that’s it.
  4. Watch the Halftime Show. OK – it won’t feature a superstar performer like the Super Bowl, but halftime shows are pretty entertaining in high school. Usually, the high school band will play and march to a few songs and then the drill team and/or cheerleaders will take the field for a performance.
  5. 5 Tips for Enjoying Texas High School Football

    Odessa Permian Football image courtesy of

    Watch a Game in Odessa, TX. At some point in your life, make plans to travel to Odessa to watch an Odessa Permian High Panthers football game. This town has so much heart and soul  poured into their high school team, it was the inspiration for Friday Night Lights: the book, movie, AND TV show. At any given game, there will be 20,000 spectators clanging cowbells and pounding bleachers to show their support.  (

What are your recommendations for enjoying Texas high school football? The state is packed with super-fans of all stripes, so we know that some of our readers can help us enjoy Friday Night football in style!

The FCP Roundup: 4 Top Activities in Small Town Texas for Fall 2014

The FCP Roundup: 4 Top Activities in Small Town Texas for Fall 2014

Junction, TX Street View image courtesy of TexasExplorer 98.

Texas summers are hot and humid, so when fall arrives with some reprieve from the heat, Texans welcome it with open arms. Autumn in the Lone Star State is great because of all the outdoor activities for people to enjoy. In fact, there is so much to do during the months of October and November, it’s hard to do it all. And while the larger Texas cities have a lot to offer, it’s the small towns offering entertainment-packed activities that top the list of things to do during the fall.  Thus, we wanted to share some of our favorite activities in small town Texas for Fall 2014.

1) Czhilispiel in Flatonia

Czhilispiel takes place in Flatonia, a Czech settlement in between Schulenberg and Luling on I-10. While it seems like a small-town festival, the event actually draws some of the best chili and BBQ cook-off teams across the state. From continuous live music, a chili and BBQ cook-off, and jalapeno eating contest to a margarita contest, pie competition, grand parade, children’s games, and more! this festival is sure to have something for everyone.

  • When: October 24-26, 2014
  • Where: Downtown Flatonia, TX
The FCP Roundup: The Top Activities in Small Town Texas for Fall 2014

German Food Served at Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg image courtesy of

2) Oktoberfest and the Food & Wine Festival in Fredericksburg 

Oktoberfest is a festive celebration of Fredericksburg’s German heritage. Oktoberfest offers family entertainment that features “oompah” music, local artisans, children’s fun area, Oktoberfest and German Bier Tents, Oktoberfest Vineyard, delicious food, and more! Also worth mentioning, Fredericksburg hosts their annual Food & Wine Festival later in October. It’s a celebration of Texas food, wine, and beer, along with music, specialty booths, and a food court.


  • When: October 3-5, 2014
  • Where: 100 W Main St., Fredericksburg, TX 78624 (Fredericksburg’s Market Square)

Food & Wine Festival

  • When: October 25, 2014
  • Where: 100 W Main St., Fredericksburg, TX 78624 (Fredericksburg’s Market Square)

3) Texas Rice Festival in Winnie 

Come celebrate a tradition that dates back to 1969. The Texas Rice Festival began as a  celebration of the rice harvest – a major driving force in the Southeast Texas economy at that time. The festival has since has grown and features a carnival, parades, livestock show, live music, dances, rice cooking contest, and more. So head down to Winnie for some good ol’ fashioned fun.

  • When: October 1-5, 2014
  • Where: Winnie-Stowell Park, 307 E Leblanc Rd, Winnie, TX 77665
The FCP Roundup: The Top Activities in Small Town Texas for Fall 2014

Birdseye View of WurstFest image courtesy of

4) WurstFest in New Braunfels
It’s a 10-day celebration, German-style in New Braunfels. At WurstFest, thousands of visitors can enjoy good food; music; carnival rides and games; German, Texan, and domestic beer; special events; and entertaining Alpine and Bavarian Style Entertainment.

  • When: November 7 – 16, 2014
  • Where: 120 Landa St., New Braunfels, Texas 78130

What recommendations do you have for great events and festivals to attend in Texas during Fall 2014? Share them in the comments or on Facebook!

Energy News in Your Texas Community – Summer 2014

Good morning! Welcome to the first installment of “Energy News in Your Texas Community” for First Choice Power. We hope to provide this quarterly recap of all things energy occurring across Texas so you can stay informed on important events and developments that might interest you or impact your life in the Lone Star State.

Wiring The Wind

CREZ April 2014 Map

Image CREZ April 2014 Map.jpg image courtesy of ERCOT.

For a price tag of $7 billion, Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) work (ironically) to reduce energy prices. The Energy Information Agency (EIA) reported in late June that the CREZ transmission project has reduced instances of curtailments and negative pricing. Curtailments occur when there’s too much electricity for the transmission lines to handle. Negative pricing occurs when local generators are willing to pay for the opportunity to continue generating electricity.

While CREZ does add dollars to Texan’s monthly electric bill, the project brings more reliability to the ERCOT grid, and this means LESS chance for line congestion — electric demand outstripping the capacity of the grid to send power to meet that demand. It also means that West Texas wind power can be transmitted from Amarillo eastwards to meet high demand for cooling in Dallas, Waco, and San Antonio. This keeps your Texas electricity prices lower.

On June 16, wind supplied over 7,000 MW of power. Spot power prices across ERCOT fell 48 cents, or 1 percent, to average $46.09 a megawatt-hour during the 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. trading period.While 7,000 MW was about 10%, it shows that wind power does reduce the wholesale price.

More Wind Farms Coming to Lubbock and Amarillo

windmills 2CREZ has also fanned investment in more wind farms. Two major projects (about 200 MW capacity each) are in the works: one by Tri Global Energy in Crosby County northeast of Lubbock and the other by General Electric and the German company E.ON in Carson County just a few miles east of Amarillo. Tri Global Energy’s Crosby County Wind Farm will build the Pleasant Hill Wind Energy project, a 20 MW addition, that apart from power will bring in $6.0 million in landowner and community royalties as well as tax revenues to the county and school district. GE’s Grandview Phase I project near Amarillo will create about 250-300 construction jobs and 10-12 permanent positions.

More Natural Gas Powered Generation To Fire Up


Image PA222237.jpg By mconnors courtesy of

Current natural gas prices make investment in natural gas generation more attractive for investment in Texas. These past few weeks have seen announcements for five new natural gas generation plants: three by Navasota Energy and two by FGE Power and Starwood Energy Group. Navasota Energy plans on building three identical 543-megawatt, natural gas-fired, peaking power plants. Peaking plants are called in to generate power to fill in peak demand. Of the three plants, one will be located in Grayson County near Dallas, and the other two in Guadalupe County and Wilson County, both outside of San Antonio.

The two plants by FGE Power and Starwood Energy Group are planned as two identical 747MW combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) facilities near the communities of Westbrook and Colorado City in Mitchell County, Texas. Combined-cycle gas turbines generate electricity first with a gas turbine and then the waste heat is used to make steam for a steam turbine. Both projects will come online in 2017 and will be capable of generating up to 3,000 MW of electricity.

Austin’s Smartest Homes

iStock_000011995165SmallTime Magazine has called it, “America’s Smartest City“. Well, they weren’t talking about all of Austin. Instead they were talking about the energy smart homes in the Mueller neighborhood, a planned urban redevelopment on the grounds of Austin’s former municipal airport. Homes here have a yearly energy bill that totals about $600. Not too shabby at all. But it’s not just the extra insulation, distributed (rooftop) solar cells, electric vehicle use, and home energy management that’s making a big difference – it’s the usage data.

The Pecan Street Organization, a University of Texas-based research organization, tracks Mueller residents’ electricity usage at the “granular level.” Data is kept anonymous, but every milliwatt used is tracked in relation to time of day, weather patterns, and fluctuations in power price. Some of the results are surprising – for example, solar panels facing west catch the most sunlight and generate the most electricity during late afternoon when power usage for cooling is highest and most expensive. Pecan Street plans on bringing what it learns about energy efficiency and locally generated renewable energy to more Texas towns by expanding its operations.

Recycling is Finally in the Bag!


Image kr051308_011.jpg By krossee courtesy of

Back in November 2013, Ziploc announced that their bags were recyclable. But it seems to be taking a while to get people to recycle their waste polypropylene film – other wise known as plastic wrap. Fortunately, can tell you the convenient places (like Target and Walmart) in your part of Texas that accept clean and dry plastic baggies and wrapping.

What happens to recycled plastic baggies? They are turned into composite lumber that can be used for decks and fences, as well as energy efficient windows and doors. Yes, by recycling, you can have home energy efficiency in the bag!

Do you have any other big energy industry news from Texas to share? Please let us know in the comments!

Reviewing 5 Top Parks in East Texas

Texas abounds with vast amounts of parks for families to enjoy throughout the year. In this series, we’re going to look at some of the best parks the Lone Star State has to offer, from small local parks to sprawling state and national park facilities. Let’s get out and explore this great state of ours. First up: East Texas!

The Children's Park in Tyler Texas. JUNE 9-10, 2011. Photo by Jill Johnson

The Children’s Park in Tyler Texas. JUNE 9-10, 2011. Photo by Jill Johnson

1) The Children’s Park of Tyler

“There is no foot so small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.” After the death of their middle child at birth, the Carson family helped create a place of both peace and fun for others in memory of their son, Braden. The park was completed in 2004 without raising a single tax dollar and was generously donated to the city of Tyler.

Today, The Children’s Park not only offers a place of solace for those that seek comfort but also gives a place of celebration from family picnics to bigger events such as weddings. Every year The Children’s Park hosts an annual Teddy Bear Picnic where families enjoy face-painting, music, story time, and of course a picnic complete with their favorite teddy bear. Mrs. Carson holds a Day of Remembrance celebration once a year, and once a month holds a support group called Glory Babies at The Children’s Park.

One thing noticeable at first is the lack of playground equipment. The Carsons believe that natural play is a lost art, and that children need to be given an opportunity to explore and use their imagination.

The park has grown so much since 2004 that the City of Tyler has donated additional land as well as matched funds to help with the park’s expansion. The new expansion of the park features a secluded meditation garden, an additional play place, and an additional indoor and outdoor space that will allow the community to hosts larger events. Even if it isn’t on their annual Teddy Bear Picnic, you and your family can always enjoy an impromptu teddy bear picnic or tea party of your own!

Canoeing on Caddo Lack image courtesy of

Canoeing on Caddo Lack image courtesy of

2) Caddo Lake State Park

This hidden gem nestled in Karnack, TX was the only natural lake in the state until it was artificially dammed in the early 1900s. Visitors can now enjoy an array of outdoor activities from boating, fishing, and camping, to hiking, general nature study, and enjoying the rich history of the area at the park’s headquarters.

Caddo Lake covers over 26,000 acres of swampland. The natural inhabitants that call Caddo Lake home include 71 different species of fish, making this a top vacation spot for your avid fisherman. The naturalist in your family will enjoy being able to spot beavers, minks, white-tailed deer, raccoons, snakes, alligators, and many other wildlife. The cabins, originally built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, make camping easy and fun for the whole family. While the park is open daily, the busiest time of the year is March through November. The cost for adults is $3 a day, while children 12 and under are free.

Park Playground image courtesy of Michael Cavazos.

Park Playground image courtesy of Michael Cavazos.

3) Spring Hill / Neal McCoy / AMBUCS Too Universally Accessible Playground in Longview

Country music and playgrounds don’t normally go hand in hand unless you are Neal McCoy. As the founder of East Texas Angel Network, McCoy picked Longview to build a new playground, after winning the Home Depot Humanitarian Award in 2005. AMBUCS Too Longview, a local group, raised more than $350,000 to help expand the Neal McCoy Park. The expansion makes the park one of the largest approved by the Americans with Disabilities Act in East Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. The 5,605 square foot playground allows all children to play together with a fully accessible playground. The Spring Hill Park also includes a splash pad and pavilion for the family to enjoy.

Playground image courtesy of

Playground image courtesy of

4) Riverside Park & Rose Garden in Victoria

Enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities at the 562-acre park that shares its borders with over 4 miles of the Guadalupe River. Riverside Park is a great choice for a small family outing or a much larger gathering since they offer 200 picnic areas.

At Riverside Park you can spend the day playing baseball, disc golf, or just wandering the trails. If those aren’t up your alley, you can use one of the canoe or kayak paddling trails instead. See over 1,000 rose bushes at the Rose Garden weaving around a gazebo and water fountain. The smaller members of the family will enjoy the duck pond and the adventurous playground.

Splash Pad image courtesy of

Splash Pad image courtesy of

5) Jack Mann Splash Pad in Longview

During the summer months of Texas, there is only one way to get relief from the sweltering heat: splash pads! Jack Mann Splash Pad is a Texas-sized pad at 10,000 sq. ft.  of summer wonder, and it’s the largest splash pad in East Texas! The park boasts two pavilions, tons of water spouts, restrooms, parking lot, and 3 themed areas.  It costs $1 per child and $2 per adult for Longview residents to enter, and $1 more for non-residents. What says Texas more then getting water dumped on you by a giant Dr. Pepper water sprayer?

What are your favorite parks to visit in East Texas? Share with us in the comments!

3 Top Texas Vacation Destinations for Summer

Summer is here, and that means hot and humid days for Texans. Rather than spending the summer days stuck indoors, we suggest heading to one of the top destinations in Texas for some fun and excitement. Here are our top 3 recommended Texas vacation destinations for the summer. Enjoy!

3 Top Texas Vacation Destinations for Summer

Photo from Air Padre

1) South Padre Island – This is a great place to spend those hot Texas summer days. South Padre Island offers its visitors pretty beaches and water, a variety of water sports, exciting night life, restaurants, and more. In addition to the beach life, there is the famous Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort South Padre Island - an indoor-outdoor waterpark that features almost two dozen attractions, 13 fun indoor and outdoor water slides, and floating on one of the multiple river systems.

3 Top Texas Vacation Destinations for Summer

San Antonio River Walk image courtesy of StuSeeger.

2) San Antonio – San Antonio is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Texas mostly because there is so much to do especially for families.

  • Booking a hotel room overlooking the San Antonio River Walk is a must. It’s a great location, there’s plenty of dining and shopping around it and its fun to stroll along.
  • Next, there is Sea World San Antonio, which has rides, shows, and exhibits sure to keep everyone entertained. Not to mention they have a few water rides to help keep cool as well.
  • Also don’t miss out on Six Flags Fiesta Texas, it’s a theme park and waterpark combo with thrilling rides, rides for the kids, and water rides to keep cool.

In addition to these attractions, San Antonio is great for history buffs too as it’s home to the renowned Alamo.

3 Top Texas Vacation Destinations for Summer

Austin, TX Downtown image courtesy of StuSeeger.

3) Austin – Deemed “the Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin is one of the hottest places to visit in Texas.

  • Visitors can hear live music almost every night at places like Continental Club, enjoy amazing restaurants that will channel their “inner foodie,” and experience exciting night life.
  • In addition, there are some fun water sports to do like kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding on Town Lake (also known as Lady Bird Lake).
  • Since Austin is the state’s capital, you can tour around the Capitol Building and learn about the state’s history at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

If that isn’t enough, visitors can enjoy a hike up Mount Bonnell and after, be rewarded with an ice cold beer and a beautiful view at the rustic yet awesome dive bar Dry Creek Saloon (4812 Mt. Bonnell Rd.; 512/453-9244).

Where are your favorite summer vacation destinations across Texas? Share them with us in the comments! We’d love to know what you love about the Lone Star State!

Reviewing Predictions for Texas in the 2014 Hurricane Season

FCP-2014 hurricaneJune 1st marked the beginning of 2014 Hurricane Season, so residents of the Texas Gulf Coast want to know what they can expect. Each year, four different weather and climate institutions issue their predictions, so we want to analyze what they have to say to ensure that Texans are ready for what might happen:

Wind and Cool Water Make Fewer Storms

The main factor hindering the buildup of storms in the 2014 Hurricane Season is the abundance of wind and cold water. Currently, the northern hemisphere is still in a warm or “positive phase” of the North Atlantic Oscillaton (NAO) — in spite of this winter’s polar vortex. Consequently, trade winds coming off North Africa are stronger than average,  which creates wind shearing that makes it harder for cyclone systems to form along the tropical region north of the equator.

The wind stirs up tropical north Atlantic waters and “upwelling” colder water from deeper down. Additionally, the surface sea temperatures off the African coast are colder than average. As a result, the combination of windy and chilly conditions make it difficult for cyclone storm systems to organize.

El Niño Expected

An El Niño wind is also expected to form in the Pacific later this summer. The warm water of an El Niño can affect global winter patterns, including adding more wind shearing of the west coast of Africa. While that reduces the odds of storms hitting Texas, El Niños can also alter the course of the jet stream, bringing cool, wet weather to an already parched Texas.

Be Watchful!

Even though this season’s hurricane activity is expected to be “below-normal,” there’s ALWAYS a chance that a hurricane could form and barrel straight for Texas. Even with the overall chances being low, Colorado State University predicts the possibility that a tropical cyclone will hit Texas is about 20% or around 1 in 5 chances. So, it’s important to be prepared. Plus, there’s always the danger posed by plain old Texas summertime storms to look out for, as well.

Keep your family prepared by visiting the First Choice Power Storm & Hurricane Safety learning center for tips on how to prepare for the big storms, what to do when the lights go out, and more. We also recommend that you visit our friends at the Hurricane Prep Center. You can also keep informed about storm-related emergencies and news by following us on Twitter and our Facebook page.

Stay safe this summer, Texas!

6 Great Gifts for Mother’s Day – Texas Style

6 Great Gifts for Mother’s Day - Texas StyleWith our state motto “Don’t Mess with Texas” plastered on bumper stickers and t-shirts, any newcomers to Texas will quickly see how much Texans love the Lone Star State. But we just might love our mothers even more. So, with Mother’s Day this weekend, we thought it appropriate to provide some great gift ideas for your special mom – Texas style. These gifts will keep you at the top of her list and make you the envy of all your siblings.

    • Mother’s Day Tea - One thing we know, Texans love their sweet tea. So for an elegant twist on sweet tea, treat your mom to a special Mother’s Day tea. Various hotels like the St. Regis in Houston or The Adolphus in Dallas host morning and afternoon teas with an assortment of teas, tea sandwiches, scones and sweets.
  • 6 Great Gifts for Mother’s Day - Texas Style

    Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/

    Spa Day – Whether you live in Texas or anywhere for that matter, a spa day is a great gift for mom. She works hard keeping the house and the kids in line so a nice massage or pedicure will help relieve the stress of everyday life. Note: For all you spouses out there – make sure you take the kids so she can actually use the spa day.

  • Mother’s Day Hand Print Apron – This is perfect for those looking to give something from the grandkids. Not only is it an excellent DIY project, but it gets the grandkids involved too, which adds a special touch. It’s a simple and sweet keepsake to remember when the kids were small. Click here for supplies and directions.
  • Mother Day Gift Basket – Baskets are special because you have to put thought and effort into creating them. For your mom, find what she likes and gear the basket towards her interests. If she likes wine, fill it with wine, crackers, and cheeses. If she’s into gardening then, fill a watering can with gardening items. If she’s a baker, place baking supplies in a mixing bowl. Whatever you choose for Mom, make sure it’s creative and heartfelt.

    6 Great Gifts for Mother’s Day - Texas Style

    Texas Cutting Board

  • Personalized Texas Cutting Board – If your mom loves to cook, this personalized Texas shaped cutting board is the perfect gift. It’s made from sustainable bamboo and comes with a custom engraving.
  • Flowers/plants – Flowers tend to be very popular for Mother’s Day. However, this year rather than giving her long stem red roses – opt for yellow roses symbolizing The Yellow Rose of Texas. It puts a unique spin on an otherwise traditional gift. In addition to flowers, another Texas style gift would be to give a packet of bluebonnet seeds (the Texas State Flower) with some gardening tools. Nothing says Texas like bluebonnets.

What sort of Texas-style gift ideas do you have for Mother’s Day? Feel free to share in the comments!

How Enjoying Texas Sunshine Benefits Your Body and Mind

How Enjoying Texas Sunshine Benefits Your Body and MindI distinctly remember wanting to get out into the sunlight all the time as a child. And it’s a feeling that has carried with me all of my life, particularly in the summertime. The feeling of euphoria I get from stepping out in the warm embrace of sun is not simply nostalgia: it is my body letting me know that I am doing something right.

Throughout the evolution of mankind, we have developed a physical and psychological kinship with the warm yellow orb making its way across the daytime sky. However, over the last century, we have crept further and further away from time spent in the sun. Beginning in the first half of the 20th century with the discovery of a link between sun exposure and skin cancer, and culminating in recent decades with a more sedentary lifestyle and office-oriented workplace, we have shunned, avoided, and even forgotten about the joy of soaking up some rays on a warm sunny day.

There is an important word in that last sentence – “rays.” Ultraviolet radiation and its detrimental effects on our health have been well documented. Overexposure to UVA and UVB “rays” is known to cause sunburns, skin cancer, and degradation of folic acid in our bodies. Yes, overexposure to the sun can be harmful, but underexposure to sunlight can be equally detrimental.

In light of our busy modern lifestyles and the persistent warning we get about exposure to UV radiation, it’s easy to forget that we need time in the sun in order to function and feel good. More and more we are turning to third-party solutions to common ailments when a little bit of nature can provide us with exactly what we need to look and feel good. Thus, let’s revisit what we know about the sun and then examine the positive effects that Texas sunshine has on our mind and our bodies.

Gimme that Vitamin D

First and foremost, sunshine enables our bodies to produce vitamin D. This is the only vitamin our body can synthesize on its own without having to absorb it through our diet. Vitamin D allows the body to absorb calcium and a host of other minerals, but also helps muscles to move, nerves to transmit, and your immune system to fight off sickness. In recent years Americans have been showing an increasing level of vitamin D deficiency, in part due to our modern lifestyle choices. So, yes, I’m saying that a little R&R in the sun is good for your physical health.

Scientific evidence also suggests that there is a vitamin D trade-off that occurs with lack of sun exposure, and it’s not a good one. Metabolic processes in your body that would otherwise synthesize vitamin D actually move to cholesterol synthesis in absence of sufficient sunlight exposure.

Bask in the Sunlight

How Enjoying Texas Sunshine Benefits Your Body and MindThe physical effects of sunlight are not limited to vitamin D. Sunlight increases your white blood cell production, the workforce of your immune system, as well as increasing red blood cell production, which is the body’s mechanism for carrying oxygen to cells. The cardiovascular effects do not end there, as sunlight helps to lower high blood pressure as well. Studies have shown that moderate exposure to UV radiation causes blood vessels in the skin to expand as nitric oxide is released into the blood stream.

Your skin can also benefit from a reasonable amount of sunlight. While overexposure to the sun should be avoided, moderate exposure can help to elevate persistent problems like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. In addition, UV radiation is widely known for its antiseptic abilities, helping to rid your skin of microbial nasties that contribute to infections and disease.

Sunshine and Sleep

While it may seem counter-intuitive, sunshine contributes to better sleep. Sleep is an essential component to good health and happiness.  Among numerous other benefits, sleep helps to bolster the immune system, flush neurotoxins from the mind, improve cognitive function, aids in maintaining a healthy weight, and helps to manage anxiety. The body produces melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, in absence of light, but the body needs sunlight to help maintain what is knows as the melatonin rhythm, which is your body’s natural cycle of producing and storing melatonin. By helping to regulate your natural rhythms, sunlight during the day can help you get a better sleep at night. And who among us doesn’t feel better after a good night sleep.

Sunshine Lifts Your Spirits

Sunlight has a direct effect on your mood as well. The feeling of happiness and vigor that accompanies a beautiful sunny day is not a coincidence: it’s a matter of neurochemistry. Sunlight tells the brain to produce a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which tells the body to wake up, and it is involved in many functions including mood, behavior, appetite, memory, and learning.

Sunlight is also thought to increase levels of another neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is a monumental chemical in our brain that effects many aspects of who we are as individuals, and it’s also the major contributor in feeling pleasure and euphoria! Together, serotonin and dopamine get us moving, help us get things done, and help us feel good, and sunlight gets these chemicals going in our brains.

Sun on the Skin

How Enjoying Texas Sunshine Benefits Your Body and MindIt’s important to note that any effect sunlight can have on health with relation to the absorption of UV rays through the skin is inhibited by sunscreen. Now before you run off to your doctor and complain that I’m writing heretical advice on skin health, I want to emphasize the importance of moderation. Experts advise that the positive effects of sunlight can be achieved with only 15-30 minutes of exposure. Like any good thing, there is such a thing as too much.

The evidence is solid for the benefits of a little homegrown phototherapy. In an age where we have engineered good heath in the form of a pill, it’s nice to know that our evolutionary past has built into our physiology the means to use the Texas sunshine to promote a better health and a good mood.

Celebrating Green Initiatives in Texas for Earth Day

Celebrating Green Initiatives in Texas for Earth DayHappy Earth Day from First Choice Power! Earth Day was established to foster environmental awareness and promote preservation of the earth and it’s natural resources. And with today being Earth Day, we thought it would be fitting to showcase how major towns in Texas are supporting green efforts.


The City of Dallas developed to offer assistance and green knowledge to its citizens through city-wide programs, events, and partnerships. While many of the City’s programs are geared towards water conservation, they have an overall goal to save citizens energy and money too. Here are just a few:

  • Celebrating Green Initiatives in Texas for Earth DayCease the Grease – To prevent citizens from pouring grease down the drains and clogging drains and sewer lines, Dallas created drop off centers for people to drop off their grease filled containers. The City then uses that grease to convert into biodiesel.
  • Minor Plumbing Repair Program  – This program offers assistance to those who need help with minor plumbing problems and fixtures that may cause water waste and higher water bills.
  • Throne for Your Home Toilet Voucher – Citizens can receive up to $90 per toilet from the Dallas Water Utilities to replace older high-flow toilets with high-efficiency low-flow toilets. They also offer rebates if already purchased.

Fort Worth

Across the Metroplex, Fort Worth is doing its part to create green programs for its citizens. Such efforts include:

  • Crud Cruiser – The City of Fort Worth has a mobile collection trailer that travels to neighborhoods to collect household hazardous waste (from March – November).
  • Fort Worth is working on Stormwater Quality and opened up the Environmental Collection Center. It is where you can drop off household hazardous waste such as chemicals, detergents, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. The goal is to dispose of them properly rather than illegally dumping them down the storm drains, which flows directly to the nearest body of water without being treated.
  • Air Quality - The City enforces the federal Clean Air Act, which comes from the EPA. It deals with outdoor air monitoring, permitting, compliance inspection, complaint investigation and enforcement.

Corpus Christi

Down in the Valley, Corpus Christi has developed several initiatives to green its neighborhoods and public spaces.

  • Bike & Hike Plan – the City, County and Regional Transportation Authority have joined forces to create an extensive plan to provide access to cycling, walking and hiking trails around Corpus to get people outdoors and moving and to promote a greener environment.
  • Rewards for Recycling – Ziplock and RecycleBank have teamed up with the City of Corpus Christi to offer a program that uses Smart Carts to track household recycling participation. Each time a household recycles; the amount is recorded and converted into Recyclebank Points, which can be redeemed at for rewards from thousands of local businesses.
  • Community Go Green initiatives – The City provides residents with two trash receptacles—one for generalized garbage such as food waste and one reserved for recyclable items.


Space City has made great strides to reduce the levels of pollution in its skies through a collection of excellent programs.

  • Energy Efficiency Incentive Program (EEIP) – The EEIP will provide a financial incentive to help motivate office building owners, property managers, and tenants located in the City of Houston to reduce energy consumption and increase the economic performance of their building.
  • Electric Vehicles – Starting with just two Toyota Prius vehicles in 2002, today the City’s light duty passenger fleet has become over 50% hybrid.
  • Houston Bikeways Program – The City of Houston offers over 300 miles interconnected bikeway network spanning across 500 square miles. The network includes bike lanes, bike routes, signed-shared lanes and shared-use paths.

    Celebrating Green Initiatives in Texas for Earth Day

    Houston Bikeways

San Antonio

San Antonio rounds out our list with a series of protocols created to increase the energy efficiency of city programs and facilities, as well as improving air quality.

  • The City received an Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant (EECBG). The grant is being used to implement energy efficiency and conservation strategies in four program areas: Community Green Projects; Municipal Retrofits; Transportation Enhancements; and Mission Verde Center. Some examples of those are:
  1. The City installed the Airport Solar Installation on the roof of a parking garage at the San Antonio International Airport.
  2. Heat-repelling solar window film was installed on 57,000 square feet of window area at 36 facilities.
  • The City created the Air Quality Health Alert Plan (AQHAP) , which establishes guidelines and procedures for reducing emissions of ozone-forming compounds into the atmosphere, both on “Alert” days as well as throughout the ozone season.


Austin is one of the leading cities in Texas making green efforts, not only to better their city, but to set an example for other cities as well. In fact, in 2013 the City of Austin was awarded a national 2013 Climate Leadership Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the work they have done. While they have several eco-friendly programs and initiatives, here are a few to point out:

  • The City of Austin created The Office of Sustainability’s Climate Program to make Austin the leading city in the nation in the fight against climate change. “In 2007, Austin City Council passed a resolution which established a Climate Protection Plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In 2011, Council approved the Austin Energy Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan, which updated goals to more aggressively mitigate emissions through 2020.”
  • Dillo Dirt – Since 1989, the compost made by the City of Austin has been created from collected curbside yard trimmings and treated sewage sludge. According to their city website, the heat generated in composting the “Dillo Dirt” is sufficient to virtually eliminate human and plant pathogens. Dillo Dirt meets all Texas and EPA requirements for “unrestricted” use and is available to purchase.
  • Zero Waste Master Plan – This is a very ambitious plan set for residents, businesses and organizations in Austin. The plan to is to “divert more than 90 percent of waste from disposal to productive reuse and recycling by 2040.”

What sorts of green initiatives has your Texas town created in order to make life more eco-friendly? Share your city’s efforts in the comments!