Posts Tagged ‘Austin’

texas capitol austin tx

I recently flew down to Austin for a work conference. Translation: I found the perfect excuse to visit my home state after an absurdly long, bitter winter.

The conference was interesting and informative, but what I really loved – and, let’s be honest, the reason I went – was the chance to spend three days basking in the sunshine, wandering downtown Austin, and eating as much Tex-Mex food as possible.

austin mural waterloo records

I’d only been in town an hour or so when my friend Adam and his wife Maggie picked me up and took me to dinner at El Alma, a hip little Tex-Mex restaurant with a beautiful patio, delicious queso fundido and savory enfrijoladas. Adam and I have been friends since eighth grade, but we hadn’t seen each other for several years. There were a lot of stories to tell, a lot of talk about work and travel and where our lives have taken us (and some serious hometown gossip) to cram into a couple of hours. I left sated, both with spicy salsa and rich conversation.

The next night, Alyssa took me out for Oaxacan food at the charming El Naranjo, where we feasted on fresh guacamole, a trio of spicy salsas, and rich, velvety mole dishes.

chicken mole el naranjo

We talked for hours about travel and family, writing and books, and we shared a melt-in-your-mouth almond flan for dessert. (No photos of the flan, as it disappeared too quickly.) Alyssa and I tweet back and forth regularly, and I reviewed her lovely memoir for Shelf Awareness, but this was the first time we’d met in person.

After two full days of conferencing and networking (which included meeting Marisa, a blog friend and Austin native who was also at the conference), I was “all out of extrovert,” to quote my friend Camille. My third night in town was entirely solitary, and it was glorious.

I changed from my buttoned-up conference clothes into a casual tee and skirt, then meandered down Congress Ave. to a little shopping area on West 2nd. Most of the shops were too pricey for me, but I loved wandering in and out, soaking up the sunshine (it was sandal weather all week long).

mosaic butterfly austin tx

I did find a gorgeous pair of earrings at Csilla on Congress, and I bought a couple of gourmet treats at Con’Olio. (Blackberry ginger balsamic vinegar. Someone is speaking my love language.)

waterloo records austin tx

It’s a long walk from West 2nd to my favorite intersection in Austin: West 6th and North Lamar, which holds the trifecta of Waterloo Records, Amy’s Ice Creams and BookPeople.

amy's ice creams interior austin tx

I had time, though, so I hiked my way up there, and browsed the racks of CDs at Waterloo (wishing my music-loving husband were with me). I eventually made my way over to BookPeople, where I wandered among the shelves for ages.

bookpeople austin tx interior

I only bought two books – a heroic act of self-restraint on my part – and I got to eavesdrop on a Q&A with Ann Brashares, author of the Traveling Pants series, which I love. (She had just done a reading from her newest book.)


At 9:00, I realized I was starving, so I headed up the street to Wahoo’s, home of mouthwatering fish tacos and – what else? – excellent chips and salsa. (I must have eaten my weight in the latter during my trip.) The bass music was thumping and the walls are covered in surfboard and skateboard stickers, and I was the only person eating alone, but I didn’t care. Every bite was so delicious.

I stopped at the Royal Blue Grocery on my way back to the hotel for a teeny carton of lemon frozen yogurt, which I ate in my room, shoes kicked off and feet up. And the next day, I hopped a plane to my hometown to spend the weekend with my family (of which more soon).

Austin, it was fun. See you next time.

katie texas capitol austin tx

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I love knowing people who live in Austin, because they always know where to find the good music. Our friend Joey’s wedding in mid-March coincided with SXSW, a huge music/film/interactive festival, and our friends and hosts Craig and Laura already had tickets to some events. So we caught a showcase at the Zach Scott Theatre (in which we got to make a music video with Ginger Leigh). Totally cool. But before that, around lunchtime on Friday, we caught a live outdoor performance by Grace Pettis.

“Songwriting just oozes out of her pores,” Laura said about Grace, and after seeing her live, I believe it. This girl is 22 – a recent college grad, the daughter of singer-songwriter Pierce Pettis, who has written songs covered by people like Joan Baez and Garth Brooks, among others. But she’s got loads of her own talent, and charm to spare. She played under a tent at Mother Egan’s Pub, as part of the label party for Red House Records, and oh MY, she blew us away. (Can’t you see her joy and energy just bursting out in this photo?)

I bought her self-titled album and have listened to it over and over since that week. I love every single song on it, from the rollicking “Let a Little Light” to the honest “Nine to Five Girl” to the slow, soulful “Dancing” and “What You Didn’t Want to Know,” both of which made me cry when she played them live. I love the carefree zing of “Italy” and the haunting tones of “The Gypsy’s Code.” She has soul, and talent, and a great voice, and the combination is just pure magic.

You can listen to a few of her songs on her Myspace site. Or, if you prefer, here’s some video from that performance:

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Well, I promised wedding stories and pictures, so here goes…

First of all, a prayer of thankfulness that I survived three straight days of dresses, curling irons, cameras, nail polish, people running around with dishes and food and fake plants and small children (just kidding) in their hands, way too many conversations about marriage, and getting lost in Austin repeatedly. I-35 was our worst enemy. Just when we thought we were going north, we’d be heading south and have to get off and turn around. Fortunately, Highway 183 was my friend. And darling Kayla Wilcoxson, an Oxford friend whom I hadn’t seen since December, was my navigator and stress reliever. She rode all over town with me and helped me breathe when things got a little too frantic.

Surprises of the weekend:

-The vast amount of detail that goes into a wedding. I knew this in a vague, abstract way, but never in a concrete and real way until now. Holy cow. From centerpieces to cake to punch recipes to wearing a button-down shirt while getting your hair done, that’s a heck of a lot of detail.

-Groomsman David’s plane getting stuck in D.C. due to rainy weather and his arrival a full day late…in the middle of the rehearsal, just in time to take his place escorting Rachel (the groom’s sister) down the aisle!

-Seth (the groom) getting stuck in traffic and making it to the rehearsal an hour late…surprisingly, no one was really stressed about that. It’s Austin. Traffic happens.

-The letter Seth wrote to Charity from the point of view of his mom, who died in a car wreck just before they started dating. Precious. We all cried, but it was so sweet and wonderful.

-Jamie coming into town in time to make the communion bread for the ceremony…her famous, oaty “waybread” which we all love.

-The unbeLIEVEable confusion of highways and construction that is Austin. (Did I mention we got lost a few times?) Somehow I don’t remember it being THAT bad.

-A stuffed “ghost” that gave us a scare on Thursday night…it was in a box under one of the beds and would periodically shout, “Happy Halloween!” when Kimi shifted her weight and pressed on it. We didn’t know what it was…and we searched the WHOLE room before discovering it. Scary!

Things we created this weekend:

-Mass chaos in a huge late-sixties house in south central Austin, where all six bridesmaids, plus the bride and half the house party and various girlie guests, crashed for the weekend. We seriously had a revolving door. Out of control…but fun. (It also turns out that a scene from Dazed and Confused was filmed in the back bedroom…where they smoked weed…but it wasn’t real weed. Whatever.)

-Our bouquets, at literally the eleventh hour…sitting around the dining room table in said huge house at midnight on Friday, wrapping silk flowers with floral tape and ribbon, and listening to Jamie spill her guts about her handsome new fiance Geoff.

-Fruit trays, cheese trays, meat trays and mint trays – Jodi, the resident wedding guru, supervised all that jazz. And it looked great and tasted even better, which, I suppose, was the point.

-Fabulous hairstyles that involved hairspray, bobby pins, clips, rollers, silk flowers and lots of heat…labor intensive, but we looked pretty!

-Chocolate chess pieces to go on top of the groom’s cake, which was a chocolate chessboard…Seth (the groom) and Reno (an usher) made them the night before, and they were perfect. (I ate one of the knights…yummy.)

-TONS of pictures, at every possible moment, in every location, all weekend long. Here are a few of my favorites:

The bridesmaids and Charity in the church, after the rehearsal dinner (don’t we look pretty?)

All seven of us IN the giant cactus that graced the hall of the church (we heard it shoots confetti, but we never did see that happen – too bad).

Blowing a kiss to the camera during a LONG pre-wedding photo session

He DOES exist! Jeremiah looking studly and suave…this is the fourth wedding he’s been in this year, so he’s got the groomsman look down to an art.

My favorite handsome groomsman and me…awwww.

That’s the roundup…along with pictorial proof that I do in fact have a boyfriend, and a handsome one at that. Yes, Happy, there IS a Jeremiah…and I, for one, am quite glad about it. 🙂

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