travel notes

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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.



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.

It’s good to be a girl

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2011 at 4:05 am

Took a little trip to The Domain this evening, the outside high-end shopping mall, and made some very happy discoveries.

Discovery no. 1: Southwest fabrics! I finally have a reason to wear them. As I am all about color this summer, these tops will give a nice pop with a skirt or just jean shorts: coral Navajo, black/taupe edgy lines, and fresh mint green pyramids.

Discovery no. 2: Madewell. Am I completely behind the times and revealing my “Spokaneitis?” It’s a sister store of J-Crew, and they incorporate vintage items into their aesthetics and décor such as old food scales, sewing machines, soap jars, suitcases, and old-timer cameras. The clean lines and stripes resemble J, but it’s much more of a boutique feel. They have an event on Thursday night to benefit the Art House. I promise lots of photos!

New mode in a new abode

In Uncategorized on February 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I’ve been doing a different kind of travelling, lately. The moving kind.

Although there are many parallels between taking a trip and relocating, there is one fundamental difference.

Travelling draws the attention OUTWARD. Moving draws the attention INWARD.

Moving Surrounded by a host of old photos and mementos, we’re confronted by the past in the form of all we have collected and kept, for either unconscious or deliberate reasons.

Travelling With only a small suitcase in tow and no familiar reminders of where we were born or went to high school, we’re allowed to lose ourselves in another culture, another place, another people.

The physical act of travelling to someone else’s home always raises this question for me:

How do these people live and what can I learn from them?

The physical effort it requires to move our stuff and ourselves to a new abode can be a powerful time of self-reflection.

What do I need to be comfortable?

What can I give away or throw away?

 What kind of space do I want to crate and inhabit?

Are you in a moving or travelling mode right now?

Driving in the rain on the first day of spring

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm

The gorgeous violins paired with the first paragraph of this song, by Noah and the Whale, capture the way I feel about my life right now.

It’s the first day of spring
And my life is starting over again
The trees grow, the river flows
And its water will wash away my sins
For I do believe that everyone has one chance
To f— up their lives
But like a cut down tree, I will rise again
And I’ll be bigger and stronger than ever before

The past year of my life has been underscored by grieving, gaining strength, and fighting to hold onto hope. Many mornings driving in my car, I resonated with songs about mourning and waiting. It was a miraculous discovery to find myself identifying with a song that embodies hope and light. This morning, I awake, stretch my arms to the sky, and feel myself filled with happiness about the life that is mine.

It is technically still winter for another two months. But the rain makes the air smell fresh and alive. I have crossed to the other side. I have endured the darkness. I have entered the light. It is spring in my soul.

Taking a stand

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2011 at 5:11 pm

 I get too caught up in making sure that I am thinking “rightly” or being politically correct. I want everyone to feel validated, and valued, and verified. I’m so afraid of making the “wrong” decision, because maybe my thought process is off-base.

So at the end of the day,

I’m wishy-washy, no decisions have been made, and no art has been created…

Sometimes I just have to

Take a stand, already.

Say something. Do something.

With gusto.

The fall can only be as glorious as the stand.

Miracle on Division Street; Spokane, Washington

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2010 at 5:16 am

I am driving home from Christmas shopping, down Division Street; even with snow tires I’m sliding in the slushy snow, a white rainbow of car headlights and store lights illuminate the night. And here is the miracle: everything about this scene caused hatred and resentment last winter, and the winter before, and the winter before…

Tonight, Adele christmas music is playing on the radio, I’m driving home to Christmas dinner  and plan on eating a bowlful of guacamole and drinking a fabulous Cab Sav wine (Irony, Napa Valley) around the fireplace, the football game is on (go Green Bay), and you know what? I have absolutely embraced this winter. And in doing so, I am absolutely loving this winter.

I love the white austere beauty of the trees and the mountains, I love the smell of fresh pine Christmas trees, I love  parties with co-workers and friends, I love Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas”, I love morning coffee by the fireplace, I love picking out fun white & silver gift wrap with gold bows at Target,  I love my red Navajo wool jacket that makes me feel like a modern day Pocahontas, and I love the sacred reflection of the season.

We scramble to buy gifts for the people we love that we probably can’t afford, and we eat too much and drink too much. And we grow solemn and contemplative as we light candles and read the story of Jesus’ birth. And we are delighted and renewed and grounded all at the same time by the fact that God himself became a baby. In this human flesh. In this messy world. The world that we inhabit. The world we struggle in, and cry in, and laugh in, and worry in, and rush in, and fuss in, and love in.

Tonight I am struck by the miracle of Jesus. How he redeems the big picture, the entire world, and the beauty of it seeps down to the tiny details, and catches me up in his story, here in Spokane. On Division Street. Among the ridiculous drivers and cheesy lights. I know I won’t be here forever. I know someday I will be in a town with culture and diversity and I’ll have this amazing flat where I can walk to the market  and WALK EVERYWHERE. But until then, I am absolutely embracing this winter in Spokane, for as long as it lasts. And the people and love and life surrounding me is thick and alive and rich and beautiful.

The fact that I am happy to be here, is the biggest miracle of all. The fact that my perspective is a complete 360 from last year – that is a witness to the truth that Jesus was born and is alive.

Glory to God in the highest! Joy to the World!