Andrea Valdez

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Andrea Valdez, a Houstonian, received a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin in 2005 and received her MSJ from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2006. Two days after graduating from Medill, she began working at Texas Monthly as a fact-checker. In addition to dutifully guarding the magazine's integrity, she wrote more than forty columns in a series titled "The Manual," a short lesson on activities every Texan should know how to do. The column has since been turned into a book, How to Be a Texan: The Manual.

Valdez moved to the digital side of editorial in 2011, and in 2014 she became the editor of texasmonthly.com. During her tenure, the site's traffic has increased more than 250 percent and Texas Monthly's social media audiences have more than quintupled. She also helped launch two verticals—TM Daily Post and TMBBQ.com—and had a hand in a major redesign of texasmonthly.com in 2013.

She lives in Austin.

Articles by Andrea Valdez

How to Snap the Perfect Bluebonnet Photo

Jan 20, 2013 By Andrea Valdez

No mantel in Texas is complete without a bluebonnet photograph. But as any amateur roadside shutterbug will tell you, it’s notoriously difficult to capture the stately flower on film. The bloom’s vibrant colors look washed-out; the petal’s delicate details are lost in a blur. “The flowers are small,” says…

How to Tie a Texas Rig

Jan 20, 2013 By Andrea Valdez

Modern-day bass fishing owes its enormous popularity to two game-changing events. First, in 1949, Nick Creme rocked the angler community with the creation of the plastic bait worm. Roughly ten years later a fisherman on Lake Tyler, weary of snagging his hooks on submerged timber and vegetation, speared a plastic…

How to Make Peach Preserves

Jan 20, 2013 By Andrea Valdez

Before tossing a jar of name-brand preserves into your shopping cart, read its label. Made from fruit concentrate? High-fructose corn syrup a main ingredient? Canned in Alaska? “These days, people don’t generally make their own preserves,” says Lynette Gold, the co-owner of Stonewall-based Gold Orchards, which was established in 1940.

How to Handle the Texas Flag

Mar 1, 2012 By Andrea Valdez

There’s no better way to showcase your pride than by flying the Lone Star flag in front of your house on state holidays, but the true Texan knows a thing or two about how to do it correctly. The guidelines for handling the flag were first adopted in 1933 by…

How to Cut for Sign

Feb 1, 2012 By Andrea Valdez

After a harrowing skirmish with the Comanche in 1860, Charles Goodnight cut for sign to track down warriors who had escaped. That practice, in which a person searches for people or animals by “cutting,” or studying a section of land for clues, may seem like a lost art of the…

How to Tan a Deer Hide

Jan 1, 2012 By Andrea Valdez

According to an old wives’ tale, every animal has enough brain matter to tan its own hide. While the amateur tanner may not embrace that technique, rest assured there’s more than one way to tan a deer, so to speak. “Professionals often use harsh chemicals and acids,” says Durango-based master…

How to Design a Custom Belt Buckle

Dec 1, 2011 By Andrea Valdez

Western-yoke, pearl-snap plaid shirts and straight-fit jeans may currently be trending, but custom-made belt buckles will never go out of style. “It’s an item you can wear every day for the rest of your life, then pass down to the next generation,” says Ingram’s Clint Orms, who has crafted buckles…

How to Water Dowse

Sep 30, 2011 By Andrea Valdez

This blistering summer has left Texas drier than a piece of gas station jerky. It was so hot that planes couldn’t take off from airports and train tracks were bent out of shape. And while Governor Rick Perry prayed for a downpour to end the drought, officials in Llano turned…

How to Hitch a Livestock Trailer

Aug 31, 2011 By Andrea Valdez

Hauling Herefords isn’t like towing a sailboat. A loaded stock trailer can weigh up to 30,000 pounds, and if you hook something that heavy to a bumper, you’ll drive away 
without your back end. “Gooseneck hitches are common in livestock operations,” says Joe Lewis, who has worked at Rosenberg-based Discount…

How to Noodle

Jul 31, 2011 By Andrea Valdez

Catching a catfish with your bare hands has been a tradition passed down for generations, but it has only been legal in Texas since June 17. That’s when Governor Rick Perry signed a bill that officially permits noodling. “No one knows why it was illegal,” said Houston representative Gary Elkins,…

How to Cut the Herd

Jun 30, 2011 By Andrea Valdez

When Sam Graves and his 22-year-old bay gelding, Old Hub, beat ten other cowboys to win $150 in the first 
advertised cutting competition, in Haskell in 1898, he could not have imagined how the sport would evolve. Today the National Cutting Horse Association, which hosts the World Championship Futurity, in…

How to Wear Spurs

May 31, 2011 By Andrea Valdez

Any rodeo fan can don a Stetson, Wranglers, and a pair of Tony Lamas, but the cowboys in the arena are the ones who wear the spurs. “It’s like a knight in his armor,” says Joe Spiller, who’s been handcrafting them for 27 years and owns Spiller Spurs and Bits,…

How to Make Venison Sausage

Apr 30, 2011 By Andrea Valdez

Watching lawmakers bicker over the state budget in Austin reminds us of the old adage about what politics and sausage have in common. Fortunately for sausage, its approval ratings are through the roof. “It’s become easier to stuff sausage at home, since more places are selling small grinders and stuffers,”…

How to Square Dance

Mar 31, 2011 By Andrea Valdez

The event The square-dance social may seem like an antiquated notion, but dozens of clubs in Texas still preserve this pastime. “Square dancing persists because people enjoy the fellowship, the wholesome entertainment, and the exercise,” says Wayne Morvent, who’s been a caller for more than fifty years and currently works…

How to Shoe a Horse

Mar 1, 2011 By Andrea Valdez

Wild horses, which can cover up to twenty miles a day, wouldn’t think of having their hooves done, but leave it to humans to change all that. “When we domesticated the animal, ten thousand years ago, we restricted its movement,” says John Burgin, the owner of the Texas Horse-shoeing School,…

How to Cook Authentic Barbacoa

Aug 31, 2010 By Andrea Valdez

“The kernel of South Texas cuisine is economy,” says Melissa Guerra, a South Texas native and the author of Dishes From the Wild Horse Desert: Norteño Cooking of South Texas. “Barbacoa, made from the meat of a cow’s head, is cheap yet rich in flavor.” Customarily served at weekend breakfasts,…

How to Hunt Javelina

Jul 31, 2010 By Andrea Valdez

When Theodore Roosevelt visited Texas in 1892, he insisted on booking a six-day javelina hunt. He shot two but later opined that the best way to dispatch the animal would be by spear. Teddy was on to something. “Because of their poor eyesight, it’s easy to close in on javelinas,”…

How to Windsurf

Jun 30, 2010 By Andrea Valdez

The Laguna Madre, near Corpus Christi’s Padre Island National Seashore, is known as one of the nation’s best windsurfing sites because of its shallow waters and consistent breeze. It’s also a perfect spot for beginners, says Angela Hurley, an instructor for Worldwinds, a local windsurf shop. “With good instruction, the…

How to Dance Cumbia

Feb 1, 2010 By Andrea Valdez

Before waltzing into a Tejano nightclub—or into any big party in South Texas, for that matter—you should know how to dance cumbia. Originally a folk dance from Colombia, the cumbia shuffled across Latin America, picking up small changes along the way, and has comfortably settled here with a distinct Tejano…

How to Barrel Race

Dec 1, 2009 By Andrea Valdez

History As with most rodeo events, pinpointing barrel racing’s exact origin is near impossible. “It probably started out as pretty women on fast horses, but now it’s a competitive sport for serious athletes,” says Martha Josey, a world-champion barrel racer, Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Famer, and co-owner of Josey…

How to Build a Día de los Muertos Altar

Oct 31, 2009 By Andrea Valdez

Every November 2, known as the Day of the Dead or All Souls’ Day, Hispanics across the Southwest transform grave sites, offices, and corners of their homes into vibrant memorials for their deceased loved ones by assembling multitiered ofrendas, or altars. “The day is devoted to the departed, and an…

How to Build a Barbed-Wire Fence

Sep 30, 2009 By Andrea Valdez

The HISTORY In 1876 salesman John W. Gates brought barbed wire to Texas when he wagered $1 million that he could build a fence that would capably contain cattle. Some incredulous gambler took the bet. Gates erected a fence in San Antonio’s Military Plaza and shocked a gathered crowd as…

How to Brew Sweet Tea

Jul 31, 2009 By Andrea Valdez

It seems simple enough—make tea, add sugar—but brewing a high-class glass of Southern champagne is “all about time, temperature, and quality,” according to Clayton Christopher, the founder of Austin-based Sweet Leaf Tea Company. He should know: In just over ten years, he’s gone from making batches of the stuff at…

How to Pack a Cooler Tube

Jun 30, 2009 By Andrea Valdez

Some things never change, like the irrepressible desire to float a Hill Country river on a 100-degree day—with, most naturally, a cooler of beer. And while the basic art of loading one’s booze boat also remains the same (use a separate inner tube with a bottom, pump it with extra…

How to Spit Watermelon Seeds

May 31, 2009 By Andrea Valdez

Emily Post may have deplored any sort of public spitting as “disgusting” and “too nauseating to comment on,” but such notions of etiquette have never stuck with the patrons of Luling’s annual Watermelon Thump. Every June, the World Championship Seed Spitting Contest draws hundreds of spectators who hope to witness…

How to Chase a Tornado

Mar 31, 2009 By Andrea Valdez

The Rationale Texas soil is arguably Mother Nature’s favorite dance floor: More twisters touch down here annually than in any other state (132 on average). As a result, storm chasers consider the Panhandle and Red River Valley requisite destinations during tornado season (April through June). This activity won’t suit the…

How to Plant a Southern Magnolia

Mar 1, 2009 By Andrea Valdez

The pecan may be our state tree, but the Magnolia grandiflora, or Southern magnolia, has long been the belle of our arboreal ball. With its dramatic canopy, glossy leaves, and creamy blooms, this elegant evergreen is the centerpiece of many Texas gardens. Where does it thrive? “Magnolias prefer warm, rainy…

How to Two-step

Feb 1, 2009 By Andrea Valdez

Watching couples coast around at the honky-tonk may intimidate the double-left-footed, but heck, if a cowboy can dance, how tough is it, really? “Two-stepping is just walking to a beat,” says Austin-based Rowdy DuFrene, a two-time United Country Western Dance Council World Champion. “While many variations exist, the true…

How to Rope a Calf

Jan 1, 2009 By Andrea Valdez

The Rationale Ask a ranch hand how to tell if someone’s a good cowboy and he’ll say the proof is in his lassoing. The rope has always been “the long arm of the cowboy,” writes Midland native John R. Erickson in Catch Rope. Though roping began on the ranch as…

How to Throw a Tamalada

Oct 31, 2008 By Andrea Valdez

The Party As at most holiday functions, there’s no escaping your kin at a tamalada, or tamale-making party. For generations, Latinos have gathered at Christmastime to cook, assemble, and eat the age-old dish (tamales date back to pre-Columbian times). “A tamalada is a multifamily, multigenerational event,” says Sylvia Cásares, who…

How to Wrangle a Rattlesnake

Aug 31, 2008 By Andrea Valdez

THE RATIONALE With eleven species of rattlesnakes calling our state home, chances are you’ll find yourself face-to-fang sooner or later. Most common to West Texas, rattlers like to den up in dry, rocky crevices, but you’ll also find them slithering through grass or slumbering under woodpiles. “Essentially, if you’re in…

How to Customize a Cowboy Hat

Jun 30, 2008 By Andrea Valdez

The Material A cowboy hat is a beloved possession: It fans fires, it blocks the rain, it gives shade—and it lends authenticity at any honky-tonk or greased-pig contest. But it’s also an extension of one’s personality, so commissioning one takes serious thought (and serious dough: from $300 to $1,500). The…

How to Play 42

Apr 30, 2008 By Andrea Valdez

About 120 years ago, two boys from Trapps Springs (now Garner) were caught in a forbidden pastime: playing cards. Their parents burned the offending deck and whipped the disobedient youngsters, but this led William Thomas and Walter Earl to find a loophole in the rules. “In those days Baptists considered…

How to Field-Dress a Deer

Oct 31, 2007 By Andrea Valdez

So you’ve downed your first twelve-point buck of the season. But don’t break out the brewskis just yet: You’ve got some dirty work to do. “The minute the animal dies, it’s starting to decay,” says James C. Kroll, a.k.a. Dr. Deer from the Outdoor Channel (and whose formal job is…

How to Fry Up a Batch of Corny Dogs

Sep 30, 2007 By Andrea Valdez

The corn dog’s birthplace may be disputed among gastronomists, but there is no denying that the corny dog, as the fried delicacy is known in these parts, made its first appearance at the State Fair of Texas. Dallas native Neil Fletcher formulated the recipe in 1942, set up a…

How to Tailgate

Aug 31, 2007 By Andrea Valdez

THE SPIRIT It’s the season to abandon reason, so make your fanaticism count. Don all that team paraphernalia, yes, but distinguish yourself from a couch potato with shows of true commitment: face decals, dye jobs, strategic shaving, and, of course, body paint. Also imperative are your ride’s trimmings (bumper stickers,…

How to Brand the Herd

Jul 31, 2007 By Andrea Valdez

The Rationale Why make a lasting impression on your cattle? To fend off cattle rustlers, whose pilfering of literal cash cows is hardly a defunct business (ranchers in the Southwest lost $6.2 million in livestock in 2005). “Think of branding as a license plate on your car, a means of…

How to Design a Pair of Custom Boots

Jun 30, 2007 By Andrea Valdez

1. Your quest for inimitable footwear begins with the leather, so first give thought to your stomping grounds (cattle pen or cubicle?) and your image (rhinestone cowboy ?). Your basic, most traditional option is calfskin. Need extra-tough work boots? Elephant, shark, or bull offers durability. Dress boots? Go with lizard,…