View The Austin Gastronomist blog the traditional way– in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent post.
In case you haven’t heard, I’m moving into my own place next week. I am super psyched about having an apartment, but the increase in rent means I will have about $200 less disposable income each month. Luckily I live in Austin, where there are lots of free things to do. These are some of my favorite free things to do in Austin!!
1. Watching the sun set over Ladybird Lake. Thanks to the Austin Trail Foundation, there is a well maintained walking trail around the perimeter of Ladybird Lake. I love walking a two mile loop in the evening and watching the sun set over the lake. The trail is dog friendly, so there is always great dog and people watching around the lake, and lots of benches where you can chill. Bonus: Run Tex provides free water at the Lake Austin entrance to the trail (near their south Austin store) and free trail maps at their website.
2. Eating free samples at Sun Harvest, Central Market, and Whole Foods. Not to sound chintzy, but sometimes I stretch out my weekend grocery shopping to include all three of these awesome stores just so I can maximize my sample-tasting opportunities. This allows me to purchase everything on special, too! The Central Market in central Austin (40th & Lamar) always has awesome produce and meat samples between 11 AM and 2 PM on Saturdays, and occasionally they have special events like the Hatch Chile Festival where the samples are even better than usual! Sun Harvest usually has samples of their prepared foods (chips, cookies, crackers) available on weekends, as does Whole Foods.
3. Looking at art at the Blanton. This is free for UT staff/students/faculty every day, and free for the general public every Thursday. Every Third Thursday of the month, they have special classes, Yoga, and meet-the-artist sessions which are free to the public. The Blanton is pretty much amazing, especially their collection of modern art and special exhibits. Here is my favorite painting at the Blanton. Look for it when you visit!
4. People watching at First Thursday on South Congress. It’s hard to go to South Congress without shopping at all the cute boutiques, but it is possible! Every first Thursday of the month all the stores on South Congress Avenue stay open until 10 PM; some have free live music and other activities. There’s inevitably a weird drum circle at the south end of SoCo and a really great vibe on the street. Lots of hippies, too. I usually tuck a snack and a bottle of water in my purse to help me fight the urge to buy food along the street. And whatever you do, DO NOT TAKE CASH to First Thursday. There are lots of cash-only street vendors who sell adorable jewelry and other handmade goods along SoCo. Having cash in your pocket makes it nearly impossible to keep this event free-of-charge.
5. Listening to concerts at the Butler School of Music. Almost all concerts at UT’s Butler School of Music are free for BSOM faculty/staff/students, but an enormous number of the school’s events are free for everyone. There is an event calendar on the school’s website where you can browse upcoming concerts and see which ones have free admission. Best bets include any doctoral recitals, which are always free to attend and feature professional-level players in most cases. Other awesome free groups include the UT Trombone Choir, Saxophone Choir, Concert Chorale, Bach Cantata Project, longHORN choir (a French horn ensemble), and the percussion ensemble.
Our seats for the game were in the top section of the stadium. Eight rows from the top of the stadium, to be exact. Even from the cheap seats, the view of the field is unobstructed. It’s easy to watch the game on the ginormo-tron (bigass television suspended from the ceiling).
This is me during pre-game. I am hooking ‘em in support of all the Longhorns playing in the game. For the Cowboys, wide receiver Roy Williams and guard Leonard David. For the Titans, safety Michael Griffin, fullback Ahmard Hall, super pimp tight end Bo Scaife, and QB Vince Young.
We saw the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders perform their world famous crotch line kick line before the show.
The American Airlines Dallas Cowboys National Anthem (seriously, Jerry Jones sold the naming rights to the national anthem) was sung trumpeted by athem singer trumpeter Adam Rapa. Just for the record, they spelled this guy’s name wrong and called him a singer. Way to go, Jerry Jones. I blame you personally.
By the third quarter of the game Katie and I were bored so we started taking pictures of each other. (It was a preseason game so most of the starters were off the field by then.) Notice that I was able to wear a sweater in the comfy air-conditioning of the Cowboys Stadium. Notice also that I did not wear an oversized Cowboys jersey and skanky cut-off shorts to the game. No cowboy boots, either. I chose a team-neutral sundress I found on sale for $7 at Ross.
Before the game, Katie and I spent about an hour playing make-up inside a Merle Norman near the stadium. We were able to park for free at that strip mall if we spent $40 there, so I splurged on some tinted moisturizer, eyeliner, and mascara. I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but the lady at Merle Norman did my eye makeup in fuschia and seafoam to match my $7 Ross sundress. The whole effect was unbelievably tasteful, considering. I have not been able to replicate it at home.
During the fourth quarter I went to get a hot dog and beer. It felt good knowing that my hotdog cost $8, and a percentage of the taxes actually went towards paying for the stadium. The beer was in a plastic bottle and cost $8 too.
We had a great time at the game and a nice man took our picture before we left. The Cowboys won, too. All in all a good night.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, Cowboys Stadium is gorgeous.
The game started at 7:00 PM, so the light played off the building beautifully as we were walking into the stadium. I’m sure Jerry Jones signed some kind of contract with Jesus to make sure the sky wasn’t overcast that night.
This is the inside of entrance “G.” Jerry Jones hired an artist to paint large, colorful murals inside the open areas of the stadium. I was shocked that these murals did not feature any product placement– they seem to serve aesthetic purposes only. Note the three-story double escalators that take plebians up to the top levels of the stadium.
Once you take the escalator up to your level, you walk through a large concession stand area to get to your seat. Look at how shiny the floors are! Also note the signage along the back wall of the concession area. Every one of those are flat screen LCD televisions. Even the advertising on the interior of the stadium is on televisions.
Who is the wealthy alumni who paid for these UT Arlington advertisements, I wonder?
Pictures of Katie and me plus the playing field coming soon. It’s time for dinner and college football now.
Yesterday I was reading the internet and I saw that the Dallas Cowboys are worth $1.65 billion, more than any other U.S. sports team. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has ever been to a Cowboys game and it certainly didn’t surprise me.
Last month I went with my friend Katie and her parents to the first Cowboys game in the new stadium. The stadium cost $1.15 billion to build and was financed with an increase in sales and hospitality taxes in Arlington, Texas, and over $933 billion in bonds from the city.
At least it’s pretty. It is the largest domed stadium in the world, nicknamed Jerryland, (for Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys), and pimped out in every way possible. Do you see the large, semi-full parking lot behind me? Spots there are only open to season ticket holders and start at $65 per game.
This new Super Wal-mart is directly across the street from the stadium. I think it cost $65 to park in their lot, too.
Not sure how much is cost to use this licensed, Cowboys port-a-potty. I didn’t ask.
More crazy commercialism and some pictures inside the stadium coming soon… I have to go get ready for work.
UT’s school year is in its second week, which means work is bat shit crazy right now. I spent about 7 hours of my day in meetings today, so the verbal part of my brain is plum tuckered out. I think I have done enough talking for the day, so today’s update is coming to you in simple, unembellished list format.
Topic: 30 things I’d like to do before I’m 30 years old.
- Give $1,000 in a lump sum to a charity of my choice.
- Visit the Pacific Northwest.
- Roller skate.
- Finish my MBA.
- Learn how to bake cheesecake in a springform pan.
- Write a research paper of some kind & publish it.
- Go fishing with my dad.
- Bait my own hook.
- Get a dog from Paws in Prison.
- Spend a few weeks in New York City.
- See the sun rise on a beach I’ve never seen before.
- Make almond butter toffee.
- Meet Rami’s dad.
- Run a 5K.
- Eat at Tru in Chicago again.
- Create a painting or other piece of visual art.
- Watch AFI’s top 100 films.
- Figure out how to wear a belt on the outside of my clothes. (Not in the belt loops.)
- Write some poetry.
- Host a themed cocktail or dinner party
- Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
- Play my oboe again.
- Get drunk on champagne on New Year’s Eve.
- Invest 10 % of my salary in my retirement account & other savings.
- Take a vacation by myself.
- Meet my neighbors.
- Collect a few nice pieces of vintage jewelry and wear them regularly.
- Bake and frost a layer cake.
- Hug my grandparents.
- Find a shade of lipstick that I like to wear.
There are certain situations– high school, church, and family reunions, for example– where it sucks to be different from everyone else. A lot of times I get uncomfortable in situations like those because I have trouble fitting in.
Next time I am in situations like those, I will think of Imogen Heap, and how she is powerful in her weirdness, and how she wears a bird’s nest with a flower in her hair, and how she can look chaste wearing a jumper with no sides. Plus, who else is making music like this on mainstream television? This is a live performance in which Imogen Heap kicks ass with a freaking Judy Jetson soundboard and a Yamaha acoustic piano. Unbelievable.
While we’re paying tribute to incredible, one-of-a-kind musicians, please let me introduce you to Philippe Jarousky. He is one of my favorite singers in the world. In the video below, he is performing with a woman. Can you tell which voice is a man’s and which is a woman’s?
Hint: his is the slightly richer sounding voice which enters second. Remember the sound of Philippe’s voice next time you feel self conscious because you are different from other people. Then be thankful for the gifts you have, get over yourself, and sing your heart out. Like so:
I have been nesting a bit in preparation for my big move this weekend. Look at the treasures I found on Etsy:
This wall hanging would look wonderful in my bedroom. Clearly, these bigfeets are in love. And I think it’s lesbian love since one is pink and the other is red.
The next wall hanging is for my dining area:
I have been thinking for a few weeks about hanging decorative plates in an interesting pattern on my dining room wall. These would be a lovely way to discourage company from lingering too long after dinner parties.
But what if I want to discourage company from coming over at all?
This uncomfortable picture will be my secret weapon.
Today is my sister and her husband’s first wedding anniversary! They spent the weekend in Washington DC celebrating. While they were gone, their cat Sebastian suggested that I should cook them a surprise anniversary dinner so we could all hang out together when they got home.
Sebastian likes boxes. He also like surprise dinners. My sister and her hubby’s flight landed around 5:30 PM, so the timing was perfect for some stealth dining preparation. One tiny bummer was that the happy couple chose to get married at the end of the month, so I only had $15 to put together a fabulous meal. Here’s how I did it:
First, I chilled some free champagne. (I had a bottle left over from my So You Think You Can Dance 100th episode celebration, and since I paid for it last month, it counts as free this month.)
Then I made some Corn Dog casserole. This was inspired by the free lunch I ate yesterday courtesy of the Casserole Queens. I know it’s not the fanciest casserole in the world, but it is delicious. Plus, what is more romantic for your first wedding anniversary than hot dogs, cheddar cheese, and cornbread? Total cost only $9, and I splurged on name brand hot dogs!
For a side dish, I served steamed baby carrots with honey mustard sauce. I chose mustard sauce to compliment the corn dog flavors, and I chose baby carrots just in case Beth and Andy are trying to conceive. Get it, “baby” carrots? Recipe for honey mustard sauce is as follows:
2 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. dijon mustard
4 shakes of cinnamon (about 1/4 tsp.)
4 shakes of cumin (about 1/4 tsp.)
2 Tbs. butter
No need to cook the sauce. Just mix it up and put it on the steamed carrots before serving. Total cost of sauce and carrots $1.89. (I had everything on hand already to make the sauce, so the total cost is lower than if I had needed to buy expensive things like honey and dijon mustard.)
The grand finale of the dinner was vanilla ice cream with spicy strawberry syrup. Large cartons of strawberries were on sale today at HEB for $2.50. I had the rest of the ingredients for the syrup on hand:
1 carton strawberries, hulled & quartered
1 c. sugar (I used half splenda, half real sugar)
1 c. water
5 drops red food coloring
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. finely ground black pepper
Combine everything in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and stir frequently for 10-15 minutes. The syrup will thicken as it cooks and even more once it cools. If you use splenda like I did, or if you like thick syrup, you may have to add a slurry of cornstarch in the last few minutes to help things gel. Homemade strawberry syrup is so easy and delicious, I will never understand why people buy that Hershey’s imitation crap. I like the real thing, without high fructose corn syrup!
I’m going to end this post with some fun pictures from Beth and Andy’s wedding. Thanks for the memories, y’all, and many happy years ahead!
That last one was actually taken after the wedding, at a barbecue celebration we had that night. After dinner Rami made bananas foster for everyone, and you can see his entire BF set-up on the counter. He lugged a portable burner, 3 bottles of liquor, and countless bananas to Dallas for the sake of winning over my family and Beth’s new in-laws. Needless to say, it worked!
Sometimes I forget to brush my teeth in the morning, usually because I am busy worrying about where to part my hair, or whether gladiator sandals make my ankles look thick.
Today I forgot to brush my teeth because I was busy thinking about my boyfriend. I wonder so many things about him. Does he ever forget to brush his teeth because he’s thinking about his hair? or gladiator sandals? or me?
This morning I wondered, does he get in the shower on the faucet side or the other side? How often does he switch bath towels? Does he put down the toilet seat every time???
All these questions seemed urgent this morning. I had a little breakdown and forgot to brush my teeth because I realized that I have fallen completely in love with a man who could use the same bath towel for weeks at a time until it smells. He could get in the shower on the faucet side and spill bathwater all over the floor. HE COULD LEAVE UP THE TOILET SEAT. EVERY TIME.
I COULD FALL IN.
As scary as that possibility is, it’s even scarier to know that I would love him anyway.
My boyfriend and I made an agreement on our fourth date not to live together before marriage. I know that seems prudish and old fashioned to most couples our age, but our decision feels right so far. Plus I love the little mysteries that remain in our relationship over two years later.
It’s also scary as hell. I mean, without mundane crap like toilet seats and bath towels, what do we have to discuss? Real feelings? Vulnerability? The kind of life that we want to build?? Jesus, that’s terrifying.
The more I think about it, the more I think the fear is worth it. Some day it will feel so good to have answers to all my urgent questions about him. It will also feel good for him to learn about me. For example, he probably didn’t know before reading this that I forget to brush my teeth once in a while.
Luckily, I have a whole stash of disposable toothbrushes in my glove compartment for days like today. I’m not in any hurry for him to know about my morning breath.
Today was a good day. Today, if my soul were water, it would look like this.
If my soul were water it would be smooth and calm. My thoughts would be evenly spaced like sail boats in the bay. But fluid, still, and there would be bobbers.
Today, I had space in my thoughts for ideas like, “If I ever have a child, I would like to take him fishing.” Bonus points for striped shirts and wild, curly hair.
Yes, today was a good day.