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Animated shark faces, PowerPoint parties and other ways to pass the time in a pandemic
(Emma Freer)

Reporter Emma Freer (top right) shares a few of the ways she's getting by.

For 26 days now I have been in quarantine, staying home except for essential trips to the grocery store, post office, restaurant parking lots and, on one occasion, Twin Liquors.


My people and I are healthy. A cousin is a nurse in Columbus, Ohio. So far she is coronavirus-free, but her ears are chapped from constantly wearing masks. Another relative has been laid off. My grandmother, many years into her dementia diagnosis, is in a nursing home that is closed to visitors but otherwise safe.

Like everyone else, I've been mourning canceled events—a college friend's visit from London, a months-old reservation at Hamilton Pool, a party to celebrate a dog's baptism—and life before the pandemic. Weirdly, I miss wearing shoes.

I'm lucky to be only mildly inconvenienced, rather than afflicted or grieving or broke, and doubly lucky to have friends who take quarantine activities seriously.

Initially, I filled my planner with the basics. A virtual happy hour, which prompted the Twin Liquors trip. Some long phone calls with friends. Movie nights with my roommate featuring "9 to 5," "First Wives Club" and "Working Girl."

One Saturday morning I successfully wrangled my parents and siblings onto a FaceTime call. After explaining to my dad what "FT" means, we then moved on to explore effects. Even with animated shark faces, it was soothing to see them through the screen.

Then the events diversified.

One friend, a Ph.D. student, generously uses her University of Texas email address to underwrite weekly Zoom meetings. (After the first 40 minutes, charges apply.) With her screen shared to a New York Times crossword puzzle, she guides us through the clues. So far, it takes six to eight of us 45 minutes to complete a Saturday.

That same friend is known for her PowerPoint parties. Before the pandemic, she and her housemates hosted a few: about 12 people would prepare three- to five-minute PowerPoints on a topic of their choosing and present to the group. Go over four minutes and you have to take a sip. Go over five and you chug. A short Q&A follows each presenter.

Some past PowerPoints include "Pandas in Sino-American relations," "A close reading: The New York Times Magazine Gwyneth Paltrow cover story" and "Kristen Stewart's Journey to Queerness: A Timeline."

I attended PPPI and PPPII. The latest iteration is this Saturday: QPPP. "Zoom link forthcoming," promises the event description on Facebook.

All of this to say, I've been asked by my editor to report on how people fortunate enough to have free time during this pandemic are spending it. Let me know what's on your agenda at emma@austonia.com.

In the meantime, I'll be working on my PowerPoint.

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Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation


🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway