Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Free Austin Events for December 16

So it appears that 2nd St and Republic Square Park are the places to be tomorrow night.

For adults, the 2nd St District will be having a Sip.Shop.Sweet. event from 6pm-9pm. There will be drinks and eats, but also for every $100 you spend you will get an entry into a drawing for a stay at the new W. hotel and a mini shopping spree. If you were planning on doing some shopping at any of those shops, tomorrow's the time to do it!

For the young and young at heart, Austin Parks Foundation's movies in the park will be showing  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Republic Square Park (at 4th and Guadalupe) starting at 7pm. Get all the detail here

A Whirlwind Weekend

I think I have finally recovered from the weekend to have the time to write about it.
Friday morning at work I received a couchsurfing request for the following morning. After clearing it with husband that he would be ok with two complete strangers staying at our play I said sure! we'd love to have you!

Saturday morning husband and I went for breakfast tacos at Maria's Taco Xpress which is a funky little place on S. Lamar.

While waiting for our food I got a text that M. and C. were on the bus not too far from our place. Oops! Grabbed our tacos to go and hurried home. 
Since they had been traveling all night, they understandably wanted to freshen up a bit, so we chatted and got to know each other while they took turns showering.
Then we headed off to show them Austin.
First stop was the Austin Farmer's Market at 4th and Guadalupe where C. got to experience some of the Austin friendliness when he was given a free tub of hummus after purchasing some dolmas from Mediterranean Chef, which was super nice of him. Definitely check him out at the farmer's market. C. let us each have a dolma, since husband and I had never tried them before.

Next we headed to the Whole Foods flagship store on 6th. Not only was it great since our couchsurfers have special diets, but Saturdays are always fun to visit for the free samples. Husband ended up buying a bottle of Valley of the Moon syrah wine which was just one of the several wines we got to sample. Since C. is vegan we insisted he had to try some of their gelato. It's amazing how creamy they get the flavors without using milk.
At that point I had to leave them with their gelato to attend my friend Em's bridal shower out in Cedar Park. Husband stayed with them, and they ended up at the ice skating rink on the roof of Whole Foods which will be available until January 16.

I met back up with them at the capitol building where we sat out front for a while enjoying the nice weather.
I can remember enjoying the capitol grounds as a kid mostly for the fact that it has nice grass and small hills that were a lot of fun to run up and roll down.
When we finally went to go in we had an awkward encounter at the security checkpoint. Ever since a gunman opened fire at the capitol months ago they now require visitors to go through metal detectors and inspect your bags. We walked up to the building and peeked inside to see if there were any restrictions (apart from firearms) of what you could have on your person. Well, there were no signs. So we went through the line and discovered that apparently knives are fine, but if you have a small amount of rum buried in a backpack the state troopers will not be happy with you. not at all. But it was okay after I took the bottle to throw in my car and we had a good time exploring the building.
Although I've been to the capitol many times, it was my first time to the third floor. We all got a good kick out of reading the names of past governors and checking out what facial hair was fashionable at different times.
My Tulle cyber Monday deal items arrived in the mail and the weather was nice, so I was feeling very happy in my new dress. 

From the capitol we made a quick stop at home then headed to the Alamo Drafthouse in order to watch the film Rare Exports which husband and I saw a trailer online for that morning, and it looked so awesome we had to see it (plus it was a good excuse to show our visitors the best movie theater in the world).
Check out the trailer for Rare Exports:

You won't view Santa the same way ever again.
When we arrived at the theater we found out that they had a photographer there to take photos of you with a 'feral' Santa. Check out the other photos from the first day they did it - the Santa looks great for the part. I love the Alamo Drafthouse so much for having such fun and creative ways to enhance your movie going experience.

After the movie we headed to Zilker Park. Unfortunately due to budget cuts the Trail of Lights isn't on this year, but they still had the Zilker Tree up so we all took a dizzying spin underneath.

Behind a Christmas tree next to one of the vendor's trailers at Zilker there was this fellow:
 Another quick stop home and then we walked downtown so M. and C. could see 6th Street at night. Being a Saturday night, it was very busy. We saw lots of people dressed as Santa, reindeer, and even a Christmas tree. We ended up at tattoo shop on Red River where C. got his first tattoo, and M. helped talk a drunk, 18 year old girl out of getting a tattoo she would probably regret, along with alerting the staff that the girl was under the influence. Her poor friend had been trying unsuccessfully to get her to leave and not get the tattoo. Kids these days...
We headed home and ended up playing Monopoly until about 2am when we figured we should get some sleep.
Woke up early and headed back to Whole Foods to pick up some food before road tripping to San Antonio.
We walked along the Riverwalk.

We stopped for a drink at a British-themed restaurant where our foreign visitors got a lot of attention from the friendly staff. We had a good time talking with them and promoting couchsurfing/traveling with them along with sharing what pubs are really like in the UK.

From there we headed to the Alamo, with a quick stop into a restaurant that we saw had a photobooth that the four of us crammed into
I like that the Alamo is free to view and even nicer is they offer free informational presentations as well. We listened to talk on the battle for Texas independence which was a nice overview of the war, and I think helped give meaning to the building to our guests. It was interesting and educational and not too long that you would get bored (although we maybe could have done without the chilly wind at that point). We looked around a little bit more, but my side was really hurting me for an unknown reason, so we went back to the car and headed back to Austin.
I took a power nap before we all went to dinner and then headed to Red's Indoor Range where you can rent guns and shoot them. Now I hate that people own guns, I am wary of anyone who likes guns, and I think most people are misinterpreting the 2nd amendment. Having said that, since they are legal and when a lot of people think of Texas they think of guns, I thought it might be interesting to go to a gun range. We all shared a 9mm and a box of bullets. I discovered that guns are much, much louder than I thought. I flinched every time the people on either side of us shot theirs, which amused the employee who stood with us the whole time. He kept trying to tell me they aren't *that* loud and that there's nothing to worry about.

He seemed impressed though when it was my turn and I shot two bullets through almost the exact same spot, but the target wasn't that far away. He should see me at archery!
The gun range was an experience. I'd consider going again, if I could be assured there wouldn't be anyone else there, because the other guns were so.freakin.loud. And I'm just generally nervous around people with guns. You never know who might by a random psycho, especially since violence and suicides at gun ranges aren't unheard of.
 We couldn't stay too long at Red's since we only got there half an hour before they closed, so after we went home so husband could go to bed and the couchsurfers could pack their things. I took the to the Greyhound Station so they could head to their next destination. It's crazy how about 36 hours before we were strangers, but I felt really sad to see them off. I had an awesome weekend with them, and I hope I showed Austin off well.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fan Girliness

This weekend my absolute favorite webcomic creator, Jeph Jaques, will be in town for Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy's Webcomic Rampage

I've been reading Questionable Content for 6 years.  I used to be more obsessive about it than I am now, but I still read it every day. 

A week after my husband and I met via a mutual friend at a student nightclub I DJed at with said friend, I went to husband's house, and I don't remember how it came about, but I told him 'hey, you should check out this webcomic, Questionable Content. I think you'd like it.'
He said, "hold that thought" and went running out of the room. A minute later he returned with two of the comic's t-shirts.
And I said to myself 'I'm going to marry this man.'
It didn't hurt that he looks a lot like a real-life Marten from the comic. heh

Jeph was here last year at Dragon's Lair, but I had to work the day he was here.   :(
But husband went and got me a sketch of Marten!
I have somewhere to be this Saturday mid-day and I work on Sunday, but I'm really hoping I'll get a chance to make it down there this year.
And if you like webcomics you should go too!!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coffee and cake and tortilla española

This evening husband and I were trying to decide what to do with our time.
He wanted frozen yogurt from Yum Yums. I read about a new French bakery (La Patisserie) opening up down the street, and on their blog they opened today, apparently, so I wanted to try them.
We debated back and forth (husband does not share my love of macarons), and I relented to us going for frozen yogurt. So I made us start walking, at which point husband decides that walking in the cold for a cold dessert isn't very appealing, so he says we can try La Patisserie. Except... I didn't know if it was actually open or not at 6pm.
Well it wasn't! But the place looks cute from the outside, and I'm sure I'll try them soon.
So we kept walking and ended up at Fair Bean Coffee. They are in a nice little shopping center just north of Oltorf on S. 1st St. We've been there twice before, and I've been trying different drinks each time. Today I had an iced coffee with nutella and toffee nut. It was pretty tasty!
We tried some of the cake balls (one peppermint red velvet, a pumpkin, and a chocolate with salt on top). They make everything fresh in-store and list all the ingredients, which is good if you have food allergies or restrictions.
with the drink and the balls had filling!
 Husband had a tortilla española with sausage.
I was very excited by the fact that they have tortilla española, since they are the only place in town that I've seen it. When I lived in Granada, Spain, I ate them fairly often, and although they are basically just potatoes, onions, and egg, I've never attempted to make one myself.
  To top it all off, the service appears to be top notch. We are very easy going, so our order was pretty straightforward, but there was a lady in there at the same time as us who appeared to be very, very picky about the temperature of her drink, and the staff went out of their way to make sure she was happy.

Even though there are several other coffee places within a couple blocks of Fair Bean, and it is further for us than the others, I've enjoyed it enough the times I've been in that I feel it is worth the little extra walk.
Next time we are trying the empanadas!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Small Towns and Big Festivals

On Saturday Husband and I got up early to drive out to the Texas Renaissance Festival in Plantersville, TX, which is about 3 hours east of Austin.
I had never been before, but one of my friends goes every year, and we had planned to go a couple weekends ago, but there was rain in the forecast and decided against it.

We left Austin around 7am, and as we were driving through Giddings I had to make a sharp u-turn.
Were those... legs?... standing out of the ground?
yes. yes they were.
Oh small towns! How fun you are.
For short visits.
Almost as soon as we were finished laughing about the legs I had to make a sharp right and go around the block back to a mural I noticed. A mural that talked about hospitality.
Several months ago a documentary called Best Worst Movie came out, and the director and some cast members were in Austin, and we got to listen to Q&As and attend an improv night that revolved around some stories they told. Anyway, the documentary is about the film Troll 2, which is a cult film that is also considered the worst movie ever. Here is a memorable clip from the film, which might explain why I thought the mural was funny and why my husband is messing with his belt.

and a dainty curtsey

We drove through Brenham and thought it was quite nice looking. We'll have to go back and visit, especially on a weekday when we can take a tour of the Blue Bell Ice Cream creamery.

Off 105, closer to Navasota, we passed a house with a sign out front that said S&M Place and there were loads of children's toys in the yard. Oh small-town folks.
Husband remarked about how Austin tries hard to live up to the slogan "Keep Austin Weird", but he thinks the entire state is weird. Especially the smaller towns we drove through.

We got to the festival a little after it opened and were completely overwhelmed.
I had no idea it was so huge or that so much work was put into the buildings and the grounds. I don't know what I was expecting, but it blew me away.
Of course it is mostly designed to get you to spend money at all the shops and food places, but it was really fun just to walk around and try to take it all in.
entrance and weapon policy
Husband liked the large soft pretzel carriers

One of the things I found most amusing was The Cage.
It was really just a maze for little kids, but it really looked like people had just locked up their little ones for the day so they could explore the festival in peace.

Of course there were lots of people dressed up, but rather than being purely Renaissance, it was more like "dress up in any fantasy costume, as long as it somewhat relates to Europe at any point in the past"
But then there were also people with just tiny strips of chainmail covering only the necessary bit, a Storm Trooper, zombie old-timey people, steam-punk, fairy wannabes, goths, and lots and lots of ... furries?
And loads of very unfortunate boobies being pressed into awful shapes and forced into 10 times too tiny corsets. 
Foodwise, most of the places sold the same thing, which was typical fair food - funnel cakes, fried cheese, turkey legs, etc. There was one place with a Polish twist where I had potato and cheese pierogis. Then I ate this monstrosity of a dessert:
A large brownie topped with inches of Oreo mousse topped with crushed Oreos (and a whole one too!)
After eating it we watched a jousting match.
Then I had a bad sugar crash. We walked around to see the other places we hadn't looked at yet, but I started to get cranky, especially because it was getting very, very crowded.
We left about 2pm and there was a river of people just heading to the festival. Although it would have been fun to stay until the end at dusk for the fireworks, I can only imagine the gridlock and headache trying to get out of there at the same time as thousands of other people. 

On the car ride back Husband snapped photos of things he found funny or interesting
Texas Trash
Big Daddy's Place - Antiques * Gifts * More
Texas Independence Trail. kind of looks like a Russian propaganda poster
u wash m

Friday, November 26, 2010

Old movies and Octopus Project

On Thursday, December 9, Myopenbar and Drambuie presnet Celluliod Salon at ND at 501 Studios!

They will be pairing obscure, silent films with a live dj score by The Octopus Project, and there will be complimentary hors d'oeuvres and cocktails courtesy of Drambuie.

Make sure you RSVP

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving is the new Black Friday?

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I was at work from 9:30am-6pm. I got to my parent's house after everyone had eaten, but they saved dessert until I arrived.
Apart from that, I did make some runs to CVS as they started their shopping deals today (and these go through Saturday, so the deals are still valid if your store has stock and you want to brave the crowds that will inevitable be all over tomorrow).
I don't plan on doing any Black Friday shopping myself, except for maybe having a look at Tulle which will have everything 50% off with free shipping tomorrow (you can find some of their stuff on ModCloth as well)

Anyway, I actually got paid quite a bit to shop at CVS today. I paid $9 out of pocket, got everything you see below*, and have $35.84 in CVS bucks that I got back to use in the future.

*not pictured is another of the 3-pack Listerine pocket strips which are in my desk at work and a dark chocolate Reeses cup package which I ate this afternoon.
Amount Saved: $61.33
CVS bucks for later: $35.85
Out of pocket: $9.81  
If I wasn't at work most of the day, I might have bothered to split it up into more transactions than I did and worked a little harder into getting it to a smaller out of pocket amount, but still can't complain with almost a $27 profit! 

check out all the great deals through Saturday here

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I love my neighborhood

Friday night from 530-830 at Mana Culture on S 1st St: shopping! drinks! door prizes! feather hair extensions!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Take that, insulin!

Saturday evening a good friend came over to watch random stuff on Netflix streaming. After a little vegging out in front of the TV, we decided the night was lacking something.
Something sweet.
Something doughy.
Something... gluttonous.

Lucky for us, on South Lamar there is a food trailer. A miraculous food trailer. A food trailer with such tantalizing concoctions as fried dough topped with caramel, pecans, banana and graham cracker. or topped with fudge icing, brownie batter, and chocolate covered brownie bites.

That place, my friends, is Gourdoughs.

I made the mistake my first visit of thinking I could eat a whole one myself. Oh, the cockiness of youth! (or...uh... one year ago...)
This time the three of us shared two orders between us. We probably could have been happy one just the one, but it was my friend's first time there, and there are still many combinations I haven't tried.
Feast your eyes upon The Puddin'!
The Puddin' is probably my favorite of the flavors I have had so far. It consists of a donut (obviously) filled with cream and topped with cream cheese icing, bananas and vanilla wafers. The cream, for me, was the best part. It sort of reminded me of the warm custard you get on desserts back in the UK.

We also tried an order of Blue Balls.
When I placed my order, the employee (or owner?) said, "Hey, I saw you are Schlitterbahn this summer talking about our trailer" and then he looked at my husband and said "and you were with her!"
When I worked in retail I would regularly go look for items for people and if they walked away from the customer service counter, I would forget what the looked like and wander around the store asking customer who matched the original customer's age range/gender/race if I was helping them. I am terrible at remembering names and faces. I can't believe that he could recognize me several months on from a fleeting conversation at a theme park filled with hundreds of people being noisy. Wow. Very impressive, Mr. Gourdough's Man! 

Anyway, if you are in Austin or ever visit, make sure to plan a stop at Gourdough's (they are open until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays!). You can get dinner beforehand at the Odd Duck trailer next to it, which serves locally sourced produce, cheeses, and proteins. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CVS shopping 11/14

So here's what I got today:

Grand total out of pocket: $24.94
Amount saved: $107.96
CVS bucks for next week: $13.50
Although I did pretty good with my shopping today, I could have done better.
This week CVS is selling an Oral-B Vitality Floss Action rechargeable toothbrush or a 3-pack of replacement heads for $23 and you get $13 back. In today's paper for the toothbrush there is a $10 off coupon and a $5 off coupon for the replacement heads.
They ran this deal several weeks back, and it was very hard to actually *find* a CVS that had the toothbrush in stock.
So I woke up early, bought my newspapers, and headed to my nearest CVS. They had one toothbrush. And the replaceable heads. I ended up getting them both, because I couldn't be sure to find them at another one. In doing so, I forgot that the bucks print out together if they are from the same deal, so I could only get a large total back (and you can't break it up for future shopping).
So I got $26 in CVS bucks back on a $22.73 purchase (after newspaper coupons, a $5 off $25 purchase email coupon and $5 in bucks from last week). Nothing to complain about, for sure, but grrr! $26 to use at once.
Then off to work I went, and I was able to use my downtime to sort out what to do.
I ended up purchasing a lot of the other extrabucks deals for this week after work, although somehow one of the Aquafresh toothpastes I bought didn't count to one deal, so I'm $5 shorter than I thought I would be.
 I'm thinking I might use $6 of those to current bucks for more toothpaste and get the $5 back, because might as well stock up on the toothpaste while I can.

If you're thinking of getting start with couponing, check out this post at Simply CVS for deals that will cost $1 or less out of pocket for this week.

This week is shaping up nicely

There are several upcoming things that I am excited about this week.
First - seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 at a midnight showing on Thursday at the Alamo Lakecreek. Unfortunately the other Drafthouse locations were sold out by the time I tried to get tickets, but at least I got some for the midnight show and at least it is at *an* Alamo Drafthouse.

Second - Husband and I have tickets to see John Oliver on Saturday at the Paramount. You might know him as the English correspondent from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or from Important Things with Demetri Martin or from Community.

Third - this Saturday and Sunday, EtsyAustin is hosting the Austin Craft Riot
Why wait until Black Friday to start your Christmas shopping? And why fight the massive crowds for made in China goods when you can browse locally made, handmade, vintage and recycled products? Plus get a photo done in a photobooth and sip cocktails?
You can also check out the types of vendors who will be there ahead of time by checking out the EtsyAustin blog.
Plus the first 25 people in each day will get a EtsyAustin  Craft Riot gift bag...but you might have to fight me in line for one! You better believe I'm lining up early for that.
Oh and did I mention it is free to get into!? I hate places that charge you entrance for the "pleasure" of spending more money. In this day and age of the internet, I can shop from them for free in my house on my own time and use the money that I would have paid on the entrance fee to actually go to the local vendor. /rant

The Craft Riot will be Nov 20 and 21 from 11am to 6pm at The Marchesa at 6406 N I-35, Austin, TX 78752