travel notes

Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

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!

South Congress Cafe

In Austin, Food, SoCo, Travel, Visiting Austin on August 20, 2011 at 2:41 pm

South Congress Café

lull (ll)v. lulled, lull·ing, lullsn.1. A relatively calm interval, as in a storm.

2. An interval of lessened activity.

Admittedly, there has been a lull in my postings. But not in my adventuring. I will leave no stone unturned in my

discovery of Austin. Plunging back in:

A hot Wednesday left me in need of an air-conditioned restaurant and a glass of wine. I met a friend at the South

Congress Café (corner of Monroe and SoCo). Like everything on SoCo, the atmosphere reminded me of the Jetsons.

Quirky, off-beat, vintage colliding with futuristic, whimsical. And like the 60s TV hit, the pace and fashion of SoCo is fresh, like seeing everything in color for the first time.

We sat at the bar, which was great for two reasons. One. Current promotion: receiving 20% off food purchases. Two.

Getting to meet and interact with the bar tenders and the people coming and going.

[Side note: We met a woman eating the Caesar shrimp salad with polenta croutons which looked to die for, reading Eat, Pray, Love and got into a long discussion about the wonders of the book and the digression of the movie(Julia Roberts, I adore you, but the

film missed the entire point of the book!)].

We ordered the Spicy Sesame Tuna Tartare, (which was created in three mini triangles, instead of

the traditional solitaire tower), The Endive and Spinach Salad (topped with generous dollops of blue cheese, dried cherries, and pomegranate dressing), and

the Calamari with orange ginger red chile sauce (really fresh tasting, really good).

The wine list was long, the bartenders suave and knowledgeable, and the pour tasty! First glass: Rosenblum Petite Syrah from California. Astonishing. Blackberries. Second glass: martin ulisee montepulciano d’abruzzo. From Italy. Crimson. Leather. Smooth.

Overall, a good spot for happy hour, brunch, and dinner.


Comfort food: Chick-Fil-A

In Austin, Food, Moving, Texas, Traditions, Visiting Austin on July 7, 2011 at 2:20 am

When I came down with a cold in Washington state, friends brought me chicken noodle soup.

When I came down with what I thought was the flu here in Austin, Texas, a friend I met at Austin Stone brought me chicken, too. Chick-Fil-A.

Now I do not usually eat fast food. By usually I mean never. But I eat Chick-Fil-A. Yes. Yes I do. It is real  chicken and the sauce is so good you just have to say mmmmm and smack your lips together.

In addition, the company is incredibly cool. The founder felt convicted in having a Sabbath (a day of rest and worship) to be with his family and honor God, he forfeited the profits and made a statement by closing shop on Sundays. His collegeus in the food industry told him he was crazy. But Chick-Fil-A continues to be closed on Sunday, and it continues to be profitable enough throughout the week and on Saturday, to make the issue irrelevant.

So if you’re like me and don’t usually indulge in drive-through grease-on-a-bun, you should make an exception and go to Chick-Fil-A.

You can eat it with a clean conscience, happy tummy, and reflect on where you need to make a statement, because you know in your gut it’s what you need to do.

I believe more and more that we reap what we sow. I wonder what good profits will come back to you?

Side note: turns out I didn’t have the flu. I had allergies! Apparently Austin is one of the worst cities for it. So if you’re planning a visit or a move, make sure you pick up some claritin. It will change your life, promise. 

Weekend adventuring

In Austin, downtown, Faith, Food, Music, Outdoors, Texas, Town Lake, Traditions, Travel, Venues on June 27, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Looking to spend a weekend away in Austin, or just get out and explore the city? Hopefully my weekend highlights will help you plan your next adventure.

Friday evening: 

Get your groove on at a live show by The Matchmaker Band: a mo-town cover band, funky, great for dancing! 

Saturday morning: 

Stroll the Farmer’s Market on 5th and Guadalupe (9 am – 1 pm).  I bought an odd-shaped heirloom tomato, and drank a mango hibiscus iced tea. I sampled locally made Kombucha Ginger drink – I love love love Kombucha! – and this small batch was just as good as any of the bigger companies I’ve tasted. Also nibbled on yummy goat cheese from Swede Farm Artisanal Goat Dairy. 

Visit some of the downtown shops such as Finch (appropriately featured on Apartment Therapy’s blog).

 Saturday afternoon: 

Stroll around Town Lake

Grab a bite at Whole Foods Market 


Saturday evening: 

See a movie at The Alamo Draft House– one of the coolest things in Austin. You order drink and food by candlelight, and enjoy a scrumptious meal while watching a movie. This is a must-do!

Sunday morning: 

Visit Austin Stone Community Church

 Have brunch at Halcyon on 4th and Lavaca St.  A hip little spot for coffee by day or wine by night. I recommend the spinach, egg, and mushroom crepe – delicious and light! And one of the better cups of coffee I’ve had in a while.

Sunday afternoon: 

Breathe, smile, be thankful 

Thursday Therapy Chilean Style

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm

You know those networking events where you’re bored of small talk after the first five minutes and giving the bartender a nod to pour you another? Last night was no such thing!

I arrived at Le Sombra Bar & Grill promptly at 6 p.m. and had to pull myself away three hours later. It was the launch of Austin’s Thursday Therapy, a casual networking event for wedding planning industry professionals. I was invited by Kelly Simants who started it back in Dallas and is now taking it nation wide. She is originally from Seattle, so it was love at first sight. I met so many other  amazing people (mostly photographers) in the industry. I was once again humbled by how welcoming and affirming Austin folk are of my decision to up and move to a new place.

A note about La Sombra: the plantain cakes were yummy, as well as these little fried balls of dough sandwiching black beans and pulled pork on top. The $5 cocktail of the night was agave and guava topped with a splash of champagne. Really unique, not too sweet, refreshing! Live classical guitar music, a delightful little patio with umbrellas, and tropical foliage really did make me feel like I was in Chile.

Armonia di Spirito, Driftwood TX

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I took a drive out to Driftwood, Texas to visit a new event venue, Armonia di Spirito. And boy was it worth it! Marcia, the owner, is so gracious, and I can hardly wait to plan events here in the future.

Armonia di Spirito photo gallery

It is a very upscale place, so if you’re wanting luxurious and intimate, this is ideal. And yet, located in the Texas hill country, with the best barbeque joint (Saltlick) literally around the corner available for catering, it would make for a great ranch style wedding as well.

Have an upcoming event? I would be happy to give you a tour of the venue. 

Daily discovery 3: Blues on the Green

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2011 at 5:04 am

I almost missed the day’s greatest discovery. Hot, hungry, sweaty, stuck in traffic, I realized I was across the country from home, family, and many people I love, all symptoms leading to a grouchy, teary meltdown. I nearly just called it a day and drove home. But didn’t.

So happy I went through with the evening plans. I discovered:

 BLUES ON THE GREEN.  Free summer concert series at Zilker Park.

Every other wednesday, local musicians play on a big stage, the city skyscrapers light up behind them as the sun sets, and people sprawl their picnic blankets across the lawn for what seems a mile, with their plastic wine and beer glasses. Some people dance, some twirl glow-in-the-dark hula hoops, some people are throwing frisbees.

Austin is absolutely the most fantastic city in the world. I heard someone describe Austin-ians as “laid-back, good-hearted” people. I think this sums them up nicely. I am inspired by how they live life having FUN and they inspire me to have fun alongside of them.  While so much of the world is trying to exemplify a cool image, Austin folks are too busy having a good time, and in doing so, they are nonchalantly, decidedly cool.



Hello, world.

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2011 at 4:45 am

Hello, World. What will we discover today?

In lieu of conscious stweardship, I reminded myself  I do not have to try every restaurant in Austin  the first couple weeks. And believe me, I want to! Instead for lunch I grilled some chicken with my (locally made) Stubbs BBQ sauce atop mixed greens, strawberries, feta cheese, and blush wine vinagrette. Yum!

(Side note: Stubbs is an awesome Texan BBQ joint on Red River – old stone building restaurant with a concert venue below, so you can chow down on brisket and ribs and hear some great musicians. Last week I heard Ponderosa from Atlanta, and Eagle Murray Pritchard band, both really good.

After experiencing my first Texas storm, (yep, the lightning, rain, and thunder really is bigger here!), I was thankful for a little cooler morning to run. I am excited to see what the day will bring.