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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bountiful Bakery

Almost a year ago I had gotten a copy of Eat & Drink Austin which had an article on Bountiful Bakery which made me want to visit, but somehow, for one reason or another, I never made it there until today.
Husband and I always have Tuesday afternoons together, so we try to do something fun together when we can. We were looking over the assorted food trailers on the back of the program from the Gypsy Picnic, when I remembered about Bountiful and made husband read about it (the Eat & Drink website isn't working for me, but you can read an article on them from The Austin Chronicle here.)
After reading about how the owners lost their daughter to leukemia and how they donate a portion of each sale to helping children with cancer at our local hospitals, how could he say no to use eating there today?
Furthermore the cause is one close to my heart now as I work for a large non-profit where I speak with cancer patients everyday, and everyday I see how families are affected by a cancer diagnosis.
It was hard to choose from the fairly large menu, but I ended up with a cup of macaroni & cheese and a cup of tomato basil soup.
 Their mac & cheese was creamy and delicious, and they apparently bring it to the kids at Dell Children's Hospital and Specially for Children's Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic. 
The tomato basil soup was good, but it seems like everywhere here makes the soup with cream, whereas in the UK where I first got hooked on the stuff, it was a clearer soup that was great for dipping buttery bread into. I think I prefer what I would get in the UK, although it was still good here.
Husband got the Cuban sandwich which he said was very tasty. 
We shared a peanut butter bar, which was generous in size.
We also got a chocolate chip cookie and 'magic bar' to take home to eat tomorrow.
The way the place was set up was really cute. We said that if we ever have a daughter, we're totally taking her there for her birthday. It is the perfect place for a little girl to get all dressed to have a dainty, princess-y meal out. My photo doesn't do it justice.
They have two locations, one in Bee Caves and one in Westlake (we ate at the Westlake one). 
Keep an eye on their website to see special fundraising events as well. For example, tomorrow (Nov 10) at their Bee Caves store they will be raising money to help a Bee Caves' police officer's 8 year old stepson fight leukemia with a pasta dinner, raffle, music and more.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Geek out this weekend!

This weekend Austin is host to a Wizard World Comic Con!
Everyone in my family growing up were big Star Trek and Star Wars fans. I can remember going to a Star Trek convention when I was very little and being SO happy that my parents bought me a tribble (which was really just a large fuzzy pompom with googly eyes glued to it). Is it wrong for me to be super excited that Walter Koenig is going to be here? Chekov was always one of my favorites from the original Star Trek.

I had a chuckle when I saw that Billy Dee Williams is going to be there as well. Over the summer my husband and I watched seasons 1-5 of LOST on Netflix instant streaming, and my oldest brother excitedly asked us if we noticed who was in the fake tv show Expose. I had no clue. I think he was very disappointed in me for not recognizing Billy Dee Williams, but the guy has changed a lot since being Lando! Lando Calrissian was my oldest brother's favorite character from Star Wars. When we were little and my dad would come home from work, he would always have to walk in the front door making Darth Vader noises. I would be Princess Leia, my sister was an Ewok, one brother was Luke and my oldest brother was Lando Calrissian. That's right. No Han Solo needed in our house! No wise guidance from Obi-Wan Kenobi! All we needed was Lando Calrissian to lead us against the evil Darth Vader.

Anyway, loads of other people are going to be there as well, and ticket prices aren't *too* bad.

Austin Comic Con is Nov 12-14 at the Austin Convention Center.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

CVS Sunday

After the festival yesterday I was feeling pretty tired, so I took a nap. After waking up, I was very, very achy and continued to be so through this morning. I kept getting worse and ended up at a clinic that is open on Sundays.   :-/  The blood test showed some elevated white blood counts, but not enough to say what was going on, so I'm just resting and seeing if I am coming down with something or not.
On our way back from the clinic we went by a CVS, so we stopped in for my weekly coupon shop.
If you remember from last week, I ended up with $19 in CVS bucks. We got an email coupon for $5 off any $30 or more purchase. Here's what I got with $1.44 out of pocket (and received $5 bucks back):
Like I've mentioned before, my husband will only use Aquafresh toothpaste, and it is buy one, get one free this week. He also misses English chocolate, so when Cadbury's is on sale I like to get him some. Unfortunately they were out of the fruit & nut, which is his favorite. 
The Gain dish soap is on sale for $0.99, but there are $1 off coupons in the 10/10 Red Plum inserts, so I got two bottles with the two coupons I had. The Goldfish crackers were to help bring the total up fro $30... and just because I like them.
The extrabucks deal I did was for if you bought $15 worth of Lysol and Finish products you got $5 back.
I bought 2 Lysol disinfecting wipes which were 2 for $8 and used two $1 off coupons from today's paper.
I also bought 3 boxes of Finish dishwasher tabs, which is the brand we normally buy anyway, and used two $0.75 off coupons from today's paper. Not a bad deal.
All in all, according to my receipt I saved $54.18. Normally Husband doesn't come with me on these trips, and he said he is always amazed to see the total go down so much. 
I think the cashier was as well.
Now some of you may be thinking "Hawlie, do you really need all that [dish soap, toothpaste, disinfecting wipes, shampoo, laundry detergent etc] that you get each week?" and the answer is no. I gather items that I have gotten for free or near free that is more that what I will use, and when I accumulate a sizable amount, I donate it to a local shelter or charity that has those items on their wishlist. I have especially been motivated by The Penny Experiment which details a man's quest turn one penny into one million dollars worth of food to donate to his local food shelters.

You can find other CVS deals for this week here

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Austin eats and tasty treats

Today husband and I ventured a few blocks towards downtown to Auditorium Shores for the Gypsy Picnic.
We arrived a bit later than I had hoped after running some errands this morning. We walked to the festival, since I'm still nervous on the road on my bike, and there was loads of traffic (both cars and people) out and about. Apart from the picnic, there is a massive charity garage sale at the Palmer Events Center, so everywhere around Barton Springs & Riverside & S. 1st has been jammed.
We brought some chairs with us, and I stopped at the entrance to take a picture of the trailer they had set up for the festival.
Then my camera alerted me to the fact that there was no SD card inside.
I left husband at the entrance to go in and set up camp while I hiked it (uphill) back to our apartment for my memory card.
20 minutes and a lot of wheezing later I was back and ready to roll. Husband had a Shiner Ziegenbock ready for me, and we watched a couple minutes of the band English Teeth play on stage. Then my stomach reminded me of why I was there in the first place.
From looking over the trailers and their festival menus online the night before, I knew I wanted to try a wrap from Conscious Cravings. I went with the Pan Seared Tofu Wrap.
All the trailers were selling sample items for $3 a piece. Since this was my first place to try at the festival, although I was a bit disappointed with the size, I figured maybe everywhere was going to be similar. For what it was, though, it was super tasty. I can definitely see myself eating there again. I was really torn between the tofu wrap and the chickpea wrap, but I was happy with my choice.

Since the lines were pretty long, husband got in line at Sugar Shack BBQ for a Notorius P.I.G. wrap while I waited at Conscious Cravings. After I got my food, I joined him in line.
In his words, it was "freakin' incredibly delicious." He really liked the mustard cole slaw on it, which was a bit different, but good. I was a bit jealous when I saw his sample size turn out to be a full sized wrap.

Next we wandered around a bit checking out the menus of places, and scouting out who had a shorter line.
Their festival guides also have a listing of the major food trailers around Austin, even if they weren't at the festival. I am thinking of attempting to eat at all the ones listed and reviewing them here.
Husband really liked the look of Turf N Surf Po Boy, so we got in line.
He got the tangy mango pulled pork taco. And again I was feeling short changed with the small serving I had had earlier. Judging from the content sounds he made while eating it, I assume it was pretty tasty.
Next we walked around a bit more looking for somewhere with a good vegetarian option for me that didn't have a massive queue. I ended up at Roytito's for a migas taco.
I ended up voting for them as my fan favorite for several reasons:
1.) Their sample size was generous
2.) All their menu items came with chips and salsa
3.) Their items were freshly cooked then and there. Some of the trailers had pre-made their items and had them in warmers, which I can understand due to the crowds, but it was nice to have my plate steaming fresh. 
3.) Temporary tattoos.
By the time I finished my food the lines were even longer, and I was a bit sick of the sun beating down on us. We headed to Cutie Pie Wagon for dessert. I had seen earlier that they were pretty efficient with getting the pie slices to people, so I figured they were the best choice for dessert without standing in line too long.
I had the MJ Texas Twister which was white chocolate coconut cream pie.
Husband chose the fudge brownie and got their very last slice of that flavor.

It was a lot of fun, even with the long lines and abnormally hot for November sun. I'll be surprised if the trailers still have food left over when it ends at 8pm this evening.
Hopefully the attendees discovered somewhere new they will frequent to encourage the local businesses. We can't wait for next year and hope there will be even more new places to try!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cause that's the day the Austinites have their picnic

This Saturday marks the first annual Gypsy Picnic trailer food festival which will be held at Auditorium Shores from 11am-8pm.
It's free to get in, and all the trailers will have a $3 sampler menu item.

They have 30 participating food trailers listed on their page, many of which have been on my list of places to try, so I'm exciting to maybe try several places with their sampler item for a deal! Let's hope they have some vegetarian options...

Of the trailers I have been to before
At Torchy's I recommend the green chile queso, which is just the right amount of spicy and creamy.
At Gordo's, I recommend an insulin injection beforehand. Just kidding. Everything I've had there is good, but make sure you have several other people to share one with. Often your eyes are bigger than your stomach...and the serving size.
At Bananarchy I recommend the Afternoon Delight.
At Holy Cacao I've only had their cake balls, but they are all super tasty.

If you can make it hopefully you'll find something new you'll love.

She's a lady alright - a beeaauutiful lady

And now for some helpful tips:
1.) If you are a lady with short hair, take the time to wash and style it if you are going to be seen by strangers
2.) Yes, that boyfriend blazer you got is cute, but if you can't make the effort to follow hint #1, do not wear it.
3.) If you are a waiter, look at the front of someone before deciding their gender.
Guess where this is going!

So last night we went out for my good friend Stephanie's birthday. We were at a restaurant with about 15 people, and the waiter was going down the table taking drink orders. From behind me I hear, "And for you, sir?"
I figured he was talking to my husband next to me, so I turned my head towards my husband to tell him to say his drink order, the waiter goes "Ma'am! I'm so sorry...uh...sorry...that deserves a free dessert or something"
*note: I did NOT get a free dessert out of it

But I guess you couldn't really blame him (too much) when he just saw short hair from behind and a blazer.

So I'm gonna say that it was because of his comment that I ate about 3 times my weight in chips, salsa, creamy jalapeño dip, and tacos (and not because I have no self control. nope. it was the man comment).

Anyway, feeling very, very full we headed to Austin Karaoke afterward. I prefer the Highball for song selection but you can't beat $5 an hour karaoke in private rooms with bring your own beer.
I did a wonderfully off-key rendition of

because it's just. so. amazing.

In general my whole week has been pretty busy.
Monday after work was spent at Weirdos with a co-worker trying out their pizza special that my sister and brother-in-law talk a lot about.
Tuesday was spent with a friend eating and checking out the Sam Moon that opened in Austin. There is apparently a large one in Dallas and we had both had people talk it up a lot to us. So many people were excited they opened one here...but the styles seemed much more geared towards an older crowd.
Also I voted, which is important, even if no one I wanted to win won.
Today was to be uneventful except that my husband called me at work to say the door to our place wouldn't unlock. Poor guy spent well over an hour sitting out front waiting for a locksmith. I came home just as they were drilling off the whole lock.

I am ready for the weekend! err... for Saturday! my one weekend day off!