travel notes

Decision in the produce isle. Central Market, N Lamar Blvd.

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2011 at 3:59 am

In her book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin establishes some ground rules to be, well, happier.

Rule No. 1. Be Gretchen.

I love this, and have adopted the personal commandment for myself Be Leah. In all circumstances. In all company.

Gretchen also emphasizes certain aspects of life each month of the year, such as marriage, money, friendships, energy, and home.

In addition to my Be Leah commitment, I have declared October as my Focus on Finances month. It is time to get serious about moo-lah!

25 is a good age to learn to earn, save, spend, and give with purpose. I sat down with my calculator and my excel budget spreadsheet and got to work.

Thus, when I set out to do my weekly grocery shopping, I drove off in the opposite direction of my beloved (but admittedly more expensive Central Market) and in the direction of the W. And no, not the swanky hotel and bar downtown Austin. Yes, the American-mecca of Wal-Mart.

With my super-sized cart (a 1:4 ratio compared to CM’s tiny, perfectly engineered pusheroos), I circled the grimy isles.

I was like Zooey Deschanel in New Girl trying to work up the courage to stop in front of her ex-boyfriend’s house to claim her stuff back. Only after driving around the block a hundred times does she finally pull the car into park.

I at last stopped in the produce isle; the wilted lettuce looked at me sadly, the plastic-wrapped tomatoes made me wonder if they were REAL, and the grapes were so shriveled they should have been shelved as raisins. I half-heartedly put some apples and kale in my basket.

Two hours later and still balking, I made my way to the cash register. One by one, as the lady scanned each item, my heart sank a little lower.

Could. Not. Do. it.

Just at the last second, with the total on the screen, and my card ready to swipe, I walked away. The wilted lettuce gave a pathetic little wave. I got in my car and drove to Central Market. I didn’t look back.

Fresh flowers met me at the door. Interesting, happy people weighed organic purple onions and snacked on watermelon samples. The isles were bright and the food was beautiful. I was home, I was happy, I was Leah.

Life is a constant dance of priorities. In my hierarchy of priorities, I discovered that being wise with my money is incredibly important to me, and a goal to conquer in my twenties.

I also discovered that beauty and surroundings affect me deeply, and I was willing to pay a bit more in this case for the value of the experience.

Central Market just makes me happy. And that makes it worth every penny.



Cutting Off and Growing Up; A Local Salon

In Austin, Faith, Fashion, Moving, Traditions on September 30, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Dear Luscious Locks belonging to the likes of Kourtney Kardashion, oh how I love thee.

But I am a short-hair gal. And that’s just the way it is.

I’ve tried long tresses and below-the-shoulder glory, but I look better and like myself best in short and chic. After accepting this self-fact comes peace. Followed quickly by an onset of panic.

I have only ONE head of hairs and x amount of dollars, leaving no room for tomfoolery on my noggin. Thus, finding a new hairdresser poses one of the more traumatic scenarios of moving thus far.

A good hair-dresser is as essential to the female as finding a trusted OBGYN; it’s right up there with the need for a best friend, romance, a favorite Saturday brunch spot, and those jeans that make you feel sexy no matter what.

A good haircut can make you feel beautiful and more mature; an image that reflects how you feel on the inside can serve as a catalyst for living as the woman you want to be on the outside.


It can make you feel 12 years old again; there you are in a psychedelic t-shirt having awkward encounters with members of the opposite sex.

I’ve had several salon recommendations from women in the area, but due to uncertainty coupled with procrastination, I put off making an appointment until the split-ends were practically yelling at me for care and attention.

I will not tell you where I went or who cut my hair (Austin is too small of a town and word gets around!). But I will tell you, it was not what I wanted. The cut felt too thin around my face, the layers didn’t fall how I pictured them, and altogether, I felt just mediocre, instead of vogue-worthy fabulous.  I missed my hairdresser back home. I missed the salon, the repoire, and knowing I would come out looking the way I felt inside.

I have an idea of where I’m “headed” for my next “do.” But in the meantime, here is what I learned:

  1. Letting a stranger take scissors to my head, no matter how highly recommended, is scary.
  2. Letting go and cutting off hair is an incredible exercise in letting go of control in other aspects of life.
  3. Rituals, like a new haircut, symbolize more than just a new look. It’s a mile-marker. A stopping point. Like hair, I am constantly growing.
  4.  Relationships and history are built and earned over time. There are no shortcuts.
  5. Trimming is required for growth.

I look forward to the day when my hairdresser knows my sister’s names and where I go to church.

But right now, I rejoice in my current season of life. Sure, things feel a bit sparse. I’m still looking for the right barstools for the kitchen, and artwork for my apartment walls. It’s like looking out over a vineyard after it’s been pruned. It feels fragile and un-sturdy. But underneath the surface, invisible to the eye, growth is happening. Roots are burgeoning. What an incredible opportunity to spread my arms to the world, and say

“What next?”


“With what colors shall I paint?”


“Who shall I meet today?”

Grow. Let go. Cut. Grow some more.

And know what? My hair-cut is pretty darn sassy. Yes, yet it is.






Clarksville neighborhood: putting down roots

In Austin, Clarksville, downtown, Moving, Town Lake on September 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Alas, the honeymoon stage is over. No longer is Austin perfectly perfect; incapable of anything wrong in my eyes. Sometimes it is too hot, sometimes the traffic is exasperating in its random unpredictability, and sometimes the people are as weird as they try to be. That said, I am still in love. The “newlywed” newness may have faded, but I’m still as committed as ever. Moving requires transitioning from visitor to resident, from tourist to local, from sightseeing to becoming a landmark. It’s time to put down roots and peel back another layer of learning this city.

I’ve moved into the little neighborhood of Clarksville, within walking distance of Whole Foods and Town Lake, as well as several amazing local cafe’s and shops. So I’ve got a couple of ideas for making myself at home. 

1. Decorate my apartment in “Leah” style with a splash of Austin flavor. For inspiration, I walk to Wildflower Organics and Wendow Fine Living. I am in love with mixing textures of burlap and cream linen, and adding pops of color to neutrals like cool grays and warm ambers. 2. Tackle a DIY project. A run to Home Depot for a lovely grey/white “Cape Cod” wood stain and I’m ready to give my my kitchen table (an old wooden thing from my grandmother’s basement) a new paint job.

3. Cook a yummy dish in my own kitchen. My menu: Coho wild salmon, hand-rolled sweet corn cakes topped with pepper-jack soy cheese, sauteed spinach and kale, all garnished with pico de gallo and homemade salsa. A great reward for a good day’s work!