Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Out and About: Easy Tiger

It's yet another end-of-quarter and I'm starting to wonder where this time is going by so quickly!! It's crazy busy at work and it just leaves me without much time to blog how I would like to. So pardon the tardiness of this post.

On St. Paddy's Day, Hunk and I took the Metro Rail (along with half of Austin) into downtown in order to avoid the hassle of parking  on a day when two monster events collided- the final day of SXSW and St. Patrick's Day. I've always had a strange interest in public transportation, of which Austin really isn't known for. But now that there is service on weekends, it might the something that we take advantage of more in the future.

Anywho, we finally arrived downtown and exited the can of sardines, only to find mass chaos on the streets. The people watching was spectacular!! We walked about 8 blocks down to find a friend at The Rattle Inn.  It's a somewhat new bar sandwiched in between Star Bar and Ranch 616, and to be honest with you- it just didn't stand out that much. Sure- it has a big patio upstairs, and a place for live music inside. But so do lots of places in that area. We stayed long enough for a drink or two, but then made our way back towards the center of downtown.

Need I remind you that we're still observing Lent, and not eating any meat or dairy (or oil, if possible). So far, our will power has been tremendous. But on this sunny day of celebration, we absolutely broke down. And we couldn't have done it at a better place! We took a slight detour on our way back to the rail station, to a hidden little gem called Easy Tiger. It had just opened up when we started this crazy diet, so we didn't have the chance to go and sample all of their goodness. The thought of waiting another 3 weeks was just too much to bear, so off we went down the steps of temptation, into their wonderful little oasis on Waller Creek.

Easy Tiger is, quite possibly, the most amazing place on earth. It's a bakery, AND a beer garten. And I couldn't believe our luck that day when Hunk found us the most perfect table for two, close enough to the back door that we could hear all the great music playing on their patio. We had already decided to hell with no meat or dairy- that we would enjoy this one indulgence, and then move on. Making decisions regarding the menu was certain torture. We really wanted one of everything. But we first decided on a fresh baked pretzel with beer cheese for starters, and then ordered the New Yorker board to share. We must have look barbarian in the way that we scarfed down every crumb of food in front of us. I swear Hunk was salivating with each bite of corned beef that he took. And I'm pretty sure that I was guarding the container of beer cheese as if my life depended on it. God help the wait staff who tried to pry it from my greasy hands!!

Needless to say, the food was delicious! The small pretzel and beer cheese, at only $4, was a downright bargain. The New Yorker board ($15) contained yet another pretzel, fresh baked bread, and the juiciest slabs of corned beef and pastrami I have ever seen. It also had house made sauerkraut and mustard- perfect for making little sandwiches. And then there was the beer. Definitely one of the best beer menus I've seen in Austin, again at reasonable prices. I think we made it our of there around $40 (not including tip), which is a real steal in my book!

The decor is exceptional, and I cannot wait to go back and give their patio a try. It's one of the first places along Waller Creek as the city attempts to revive that area, and I believe they have set the bar really high! It's a great place to meet up with friends, certainly a fun afternoon/evening date location, and the crowd contained a little bit of everything. Definitely one of my new favorite places in Austin.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beauty: Birchbox

I first heard about Birchbox from my sister in law, and then from another blogger friend. Though I'm not the girliest of girls, there is a lot of appeal in getting a cute little box with goodies packaged inside. I couldn't resist any longer, and signed myself up for the waiting list. 5 weeks later...I finally got my very first Birchbox. It was everything I had hoped for.

First, I open my mailbox to find this adorable pink box:

I open up the pink box to find an even more adorable cardboard box inside with the pink Birchbox label. Inside is pink tissue paper folded around 6 delightful samples. There was even a helpful welcome card that listed the items in my box, as well as how much each full-sized item costs. Another plus- you get free shipping if you order any of the items that came in your box. 

When you first join, Birchbox asks that you fill out a profile so that they can do their best to customize your box. I think they did a really great job, as I just about love everything that came in it. Mine contained 5 beauty samples of the following products:

Color Club Nail Lacquer in "He Loves Me"- This is a pretty, Spring pink color (it reminds me of Easter), and not something I would normally choose. (I usually stick with OPI Red. End of story.) So I'm excited to try this fun, light color. Now if only I could get a little color on my legs.....

Harvey Prince "Ageless" Pink Grapefruit Scent- This is the only thing that I was a little meh about. It's not that I dislike the scent. It's just a little sweeter than what I usually wear. Besides, I'm 100% dedicated to my Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb scent, and not really looking for something new right now. But this is (again) something that seems perfect for Spring. Light, and a tad sweet.

Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint- This product is by far my favorite, and I'm likely to order it next paycheck. At $38, I think it's a very reasonable price. It's extremely lightweight, but gave my skin a wonderful dewy look. Given that I'm battling dry skin/aging issues, I think this is a really good match for me. It also received Allure magazine's "Best in Beauty" seal. Good enough for me!

Orofluido Beauty Elixir- This oil serum is supposed to strengthen, smooth, and shiny-up your hair. Given that I have really fine (and sometimes oily) hair, I'm not too sure about this one. I'm worried that it's going to weigh mine down, so I haven't tried it yet. It sure does smell good though!

Stila "Smoky Eye" Card- I'm saving this one for a fancy date night. The colors look fantastic, but not something I would use everyday. I love that the card has instructions for how to apply. Given my limited make-up application skills, that should come in handy.

Last but not least, each box contains one "lifestyle" sample. I've heard they have included music downloads before, which sounds great. In my box, I got 3 samples of Tea forté skin smart teas. Since I'm not drinking soda or any other artificially flavored drinks right now (and hopefully never), this was a welcome surprise. I've already tried the Cucumber Mint (for youth recovery) and the Cherry Marzipan (for anti-aging) and both were delicious. A box of 16 bags cost $6, which seems a bit pricey. But if they can reverse aging, I'll pay whatever!!!

Overall, I was really pleased with my first Birchbox, and I can't wait until April for my next one. Signing up is easy, just be prepared to wait for a bit.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Song of the Day: Hold On by Alabama Shakes

In my old blog, I used to highlight new (or sometimes new-to-me) songs that I really loved. It's been awhile since I heard something worth sharing- but I would feel awful if I didn't tell you about my my most recent music experience.

I don't consider myself to be a very lucky person. Good things have happened to me, but it's usually because I work hard to make them happen. Yesterday was a different story. I got a text from a good friend asking if I had plans for the evening. I almost answered "yes", since I usually run with Gazelle's on Tuesday. But this friend always knows the cool things going on, so I asked for more information. Turns out she had won tickets to see an ACL Live taping, but wasn't going to be able to make it. I had not heard of the band before, but one short iTunes search later and I knew it was a show not to be missed. Although the band was formed in 2009, I think they only started to tour last year. Their album isn't even going to be released until next month, though they do have the single "Hold On" available. They are already selling out shows, and getting tons of buzz. If you don't believe me, you can find several reviews already from the land of SXSW here and here.

I have never been to an ACL taping, and if you ever get the chance to go- do it, no matter who is playing. They are always on top of what is sure to be the next big thing, and I have no doubt we will be hearing more from this young and talented band. Brittany Murphy, the lead singer, is only like 22ish years old, with a voice well beyond her years. It's a deep, soulful sound and it's hard to get enough of it. She can go from singing a softer ballad like "Boys & Girls", to belting out "Be Mine". If I have to pick a favorite though, besides Hold On, it would be "I Found You". I am in love with the lyrics...  "Well, I traveled a long way, and it took a long time. But I found you. You know I found you!" Overall, it was a super fun, impromptu date night with Hunk, and hopefully I'll get the chance to see them in action again soon.

Enjoy the video of their single "Hold On".

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Week 11: Plant-Based Diet Update

Well, I've survived 3 whole weeks of eating not eating meat/dairy/oil. I thought it would get a little bit easier each week, but the truth is- it's only getting harder. The first week I think the novelty of it helped me get through. The second week, I did more meal planning with Hunk, and that was fun. But this week? All I want to do is stuff my face with the biggest slice of cheese pizza I can get my hands on. Instead, I tried to meal plan efficiently, and spent about 2.5 hours in the kitchen yesterday prepping some new dishes so that I wouldn't spend all my time thinking about cheese. To make matters worse, SXSW is in full effect this week with opportunities at every corner to partake in all the food goodness that Austin has to offer.

The good news is that I've lost about 3.5 pounds, and my jeans are definitely looser. I have a few more to go, but I'm trying not to lose more than a pound a week. I met with a nutritionist last week and we went over all the things I should be including in my diet to stay healthy (including calories and grams of protein p/day), and that has definitely helped with keeping my energy level up. Overall, I would say that I feel great. I'm sleeping fine, and able to get through my work-outs without any problem. Hunk is another story. I don't think he's been getting enough calories OR protein, and is having to make some major adjustments this week. Hopefully he'll feel better by doing so.

This weekend we had a "what happens after Lent" discussion, and how we incorporate the good things about a plant-based diet in with the things that we really just don't want to give up permanently. The key to keeping the pounds off of course is moderation. Duh. We have 4 more weeks to go before we have to worry about that, and I think we can do it. In the meantime, we're just going to do our best to have a good variety of foods, and not focus too much on what we're missing. For all the benefits of eating this way, I will say that it feels isolating- and that's just not something I'm willing to deal with for the rest of my life. I have still been able to go out and eat with friends, but there is way too much thought (and high-maintenance ordering) to deal with for me to make this a long term lifestyle.

To make things more interesting, I ordered some bento-style lunch boxes from Easy Lunchboxes. There's something about packing a neat and organized lunch that makes it more enjoyable for me (it's the OCD, I know). Today was the first day that I got to use it, and I have to say I made a pretty killer lunch. It's colorful, full of great things for me, and tasty to boot. Unless I bring leftovers, lunch for me is usually salad and fruit, along with morning and afternoon snacks. Today I had a spinach salad with roasted beets, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini and a 3-bean salad with an oil-free apple cider vinaigrette. I also had roasted red pepper hummus with carrot sticks and strawberries for dessert. In case I get hungry this afternoon, I have soy yogurt to tide me over. Not too shabby, if I say so myself.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Week 10: Get Dirty

This past weekend was one of the prettiest that Austin has seen in awhile. The sun was out, there was a nice breeze, and temps hovered in the upper 70's. If you weren't outside at some point, you seriously missed out. I had a great weekend, and did my best to enjoy as much of the weather as possible. Part of that time was spent in the yard over at Hunk's house, getting his backyard ready for hopefully some more beautiful Spring days. He has a neat corner of the yard designated for lounging, but everything surrounding it needed to be brought back to life after winter.

We headed over to Home Depot, and for around $100, made some major improvements to the backyard. He did a ton of trimming, worked on digging up some bushes to transplant in a different location, and also planted 3 trees (2 of them are peach trees, which I'm very excited about). I planted some  herbs and vegetables, and generally bossed him around the rest of the time. We got some sun, some dirt on our hands, and overall had a great time. I'm sure my mom is laughing because I'm not known for having much of a green thumb, but it was a fun way to spend an afternoon together. And hopefully, fingers crossed, we'll have some fresh herbs and veggies soon. (Unless his dog continues to eat the broccoli I planted.)

Veggie Garden Before.
 Marley is already stalking the empty bed.

Veggie Garden After.
Two kinds of tomatoes in the back, broccoli in the middle, and peppers in the front. 

Compost Bin Before.
Hunk built this himself, but it really needed a few friends.

Compost Bin After.
We moved some Texas Sage Shrubs from another location to here. 

My favorite- Strawberries!!! Not sure if they'll take, but I'm hoping to grow at least a few before Marley eats them. I also planted basil, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and mint close to these.