Ski

I’m not a skier.

My friends and skiing compadres told me that when I was 15 just after I mistakenly darted through a half-pipe at 90 miles an hour, narrowly missing my fellow terrain park ski bums. That was fine with me. As far as I was concerned I could go the rest of my life without setting foot or ski on another slope. Texas has a shortage of snow-capped mountain peaks anyway, so what did I need to know how to ski for?

As it turns out, when your buds Maranjanark offer up their family’s condo in Vail for a long weekend of gratis mountaineering, you don’t exactly turn them down. So, away we went with a few other snow-loving Austinites for a post-Christmas friend trip to the great state of Colorado.

I’d had one other brush with Vail before taking off. A summer Vail vacation with my family when I was 13 was pretty enjoyable until a 40-year-old naked male sunbather opted to position himself right outside our condo window. Heath knew only that Vail was “where rich people go to ski.” So that’s what we were working with. Vail: a destination for the wealthy and naked.

The trip to Vail proved neither pricey nor scantily clad. The little mountain town does rob you blind with $100-a-day lift tickets, but that was about as bold as we got when it came to emptying our wallets. We saved a chunk of change by cooking at home rather than shelling out dollar after dollar at over-priced downtown restaurants. (Like seriously over-priced, we’re talking the neighborhood of $9 for a warm Bud Light…cruise ship expensive.) So rather than wine and dine in town, we munched on breakfast tacos by Nick, Mark’s meatloaf and Jaime’s Oreo cookie balls. At nights we drank boxed wine on the couch and enjoyed locally brewed beer over riotous games of Things. Perhaps it’s not how the rich and famous (and naked) do Vail, but it is how we rolled on this particular MLK weekend.

We did live it up too, of course. There was mountain skiing (no half-pipes this time), ice skating, gondola riding, snow tubing, city walking, photography jaunting (I feel like Vail is a place people “jaunt”), snow ball throwing, salad bar cruising, brewery touring, Australian tourist meeting and even heated pool swimming.

We packed a lot of living into 3 days of vacation, but as all trips by privileged 20-somethings go, it was the company and conversation, not the location, that made the weekend getaway one for the books blog.

 

 

 

 


You are what you eat

To start the new year off with a bang (and to undo some of the damage we inflicted upon ourselves over the holidays) Heath and I vowed to go on a two week binge of micronutrients. No savory poultry, no delectable cheese, no fluffy breads or creamy desserts or salty snacks. Just a lot of this…

this…

this…

and this.

Think blueberries for breakfast, salads for lunch and veggie stews for dinner. Snacks of Hershey’s kisses have been traded for fistfuls of Craisins, and desserts of red wine are being subbed out for freshly squeezed OJ. The dining  table is topped with celery and salsa instead of chips and dip, and a shiny, substantial juicer is taking up valuable real estate on the kitchen counter. Overhaul indeed.

The fruit/veggie cleanse/fast was inspired by some friends who endured a juice fast (and swear by its powers) and further spurred on by agenda-pushing documentaries like Food Inc., Supersize Me and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. We realized over the last few months we ate far too many processed Cheez-Its and far too few fresh spinach salads. We wanted to do something that would make us more conscious of what we put into our bodies and perhaps influence our future eating habits. Boy has it.

It’s day 10 of vegging out and here’s what we’ve discovered:

It’s nearly impossible to dine out. I’ve heard vegans make this complaint before, but didn’t understand just how saturated modern menus are with the things we have declared temporarily forbidden. You can be hard pressed to find a salad without cheese and croutons or a soup made without chicken broth. The diet has certainly pushed kitchen creativity to the limit.
Fresh foods–turns out they really do keep you fuller longer.  On lazy days, or days where I thought I earned a treat, I’d be known to grab a breakfast taco or two to start the morning. About 4,000 calories and 2 hours later I’d be hungry again…and usually for something equally greasy and icky. But on the fruit/veggie diet I can stay full for hours on a freshly blended smoothie or guac salad. It really gets you thinking about how your body digests food.
I really miss cheese. I miss bread and eggs and fish too, but cheese…that’s the kicker. I know cheese rounds out the the top of the list of foods that are pretty horribly unhealthy, but I can’t help but fantasize about chomping down on a slice of cheesy goodness. I have even dreamed of swimming through pools of queso. It’s been the hardest habit to kick, hands down.

With 4 days of apple juice drinking, pistachio snacking and salad munching left, I feel pretty good about the whole experience (and by “pretty good” I mean, confident I can survive the remaining days without cheese). I know we are no heroes; we didn’t endure a month of vegan-ing, or a 60-day juice fast or 2 week Master Cleanse, but we did find a way to incorporate more of the good stuff into our routine and think differently about how the food we eat affects our mood, mind and waist line. I think it’s the beginning of a major diet overhaul and hopefully a longer life.


Not your grandmother’s farmers market

How, HOW can I possibly make my life appear as exciting and exotic as possible? I mean, I’m competing with the entire internet. Have you seen the internet lately? There is some crazy stuff happening there. So how can I  make a trip to the farmers market sound invigorating and modern and sexy? Maybe by mentioning some of the more interesting details of  the HOPE Farmers Market.

Invigorating: The free cocktails and beer. Free drinks are becoming increasingly mandatory at Austin events and the HOPE market is embracing that idea tenfold. To ease the heat-related sorrows of midday market goers, HOPE offers obscenely delicious cocktails and local brews for the price of free–a good move considering the river of free flowing vodka lemonade kept us in the 100-plus degree heat about an hour longer than I would have normally planned. Live music…that didn’t hurt either.

Modern: The location. The setting of the HOPE market has an intriguing history. During the South by Southwest music festival, the small collection of art studios on East 5th Street is transformed from a mini artist colony into a hipster’s dream also known as  Fader Fort . But when the glitz and glam of SXSW is over, the East side art space transforms yet again. Only this time the change is less hipster, more hippie. Less one-week parade and more a 4-hour celebration of all things local, namely the HOPE market.

Sexy: The Art. One perk of hosting a farmers market within an artist’s paradise is the easy access to pieces by local artists. Fresh food and free art…sexy indeed.

So, yeah, Internet. I’m cool too. I can hang. My life, and specifically this blog, is  invigorating, modern and sexy. Deal with it.


They grow up so fast

Little Francis Sue has joined the egg layers club. Yesterday we found two tiny bright white eggs in the coop.

Her egg laying days could not have come at a better time since Marion is on hiatus from her egg laying. Her embryos are nowhere to be found, at least not in the coop; although it’s possible she could have stashed them somewhere in the yard as she is known to do. If she did take a vacation from laying, I can’t blame her. It’s too hot outside to do anything but think about being inside.

At any rate, here’s a toast to Francis Sue’s coming of age and the promise of many omelettes to come.


Monumental

Do I really want to drive an hour north on I 35 to Georgetown for good eatin’ when there are hundreds, nay, thousands of trendy eating establishments in Austin? It certainly doesn’t seem like a task I would volunteer for. But after consuming vast amounts of freshly made strawberry lemonade and more than my fair share of flaky, buttery biscuits, I dare say a return trip to Georgetown is in the cards. Monument Cafe, thou hath converted me.

The cafe’s organic backyard garden provides much of the restaurant’s produce, and what isn’t grown there is sourced from local farms. The same goes for the eatery’s meat, poultry and dairy products. The on-site garden and menu of rich comfort foods combined with the sleek and minimalist interior provides a unique atmosphere that feels simultaneously homey and upscale.

And the food is good, really good. The menu is simple: club sandwiches, chicken fried steak, catfish, etc. But it doesn’t need to be fancy or novel because the quality of the ingredients and attention to detail is what has kept people coming to the cafe repeatedly since 1995.

It may be in Georgetown, but I can always find an excuse to visit the Round Rock outlet mall or stroll Georgetown’s historic square if it means I can stop for lunch at The Monument Cafe.


July 4

When fireworks are banned across Central Texas, the only logical substitue for outdoor explosions is to watch Independence Day projected onto a sheet in your backyard while enjoying sliders, potato salad and watermelon. That’s what we decided to do, anyway. What’s more American than mini sandwiches, and excessively large TV screens? Nothing, that’s what.


A peek at our makeshift movie theater.

The Menu: Chips and salsa, watermelon and peaches, turkey sliders, BLT dip, curried potato salad and lots of beer.

Friends–also an important July 4 ingredient.

 

Happy b-day, America.

 


Brunch

I get the concept of brunch. You take the first meal of the day, breakfast, and combine it with the second, lunch. Tada…Brunch. Noted. I got the concept just fine; it’s breakfast for late risers.

For some reason I was never a big bruncher. Weekends are precious and we don’t have the time to waste preparing elaborate mid-day meals. The days ought to, instead, be filled with swimming, shopping, dog walking and other activities that are “productive” and don’t squander the best part of a summer Sunday, the morning time.

But when Ranjana suggested a group brunch where each couple spends the morning contributing to a divine breakfast/lunch combo that tickles all the senses and provides a much-needed bonding experience, I found it hard to say no. Brunch it would be.

The menu:
• Pigs in a blanket
• Scrambled eggs with cheese
• Chipotle  sweet potato tamales
• Fresh peaches, strawberries and blueberries
• Bacon
• Bloody Marys, coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice
• Salsa

It turns out cooking with friends and enjoying a community meal, even if it is mid-day, is not a squander of time. It’s a celebration of diverse backgrounds, friendship and genuine deliciousness. What better way to create a family away from home than over a group brunch? Consider me sold on Sunday brunch.

Heath prepares the O.J.

A Bloody Mary sans celery and instead with bacon. At the end, the bacon tastes so good. Give it a try.

Even the dogs get to enjoy a little brunching.

Brunch time agrees with Heath.