Monthly Archives: September 2009

Starting My Own Little Kolache Factory

I’ve been traveling a lot lately from Austin to the Dallas area between my brother getting married, Kyle having shows there, and just good old visits to see the family. The drive really isn’t too bad, not much to see unless you want to make a pit stop for some Robertson’s Real Beef Jerkey or genuine Czech kolaches from the Little Czech Bakery in West.

I always stop in West. There is just something about a warm kolache made with real sweet and cinnamon-y fruit puree or perfectly seasoned jalapeno sausage. Then there is the beer bread – a dense, buttery loaf that is too heavy and crumbly to toast or even slice. I usually eat it straight out of the bag with my hands, maybe with some peanut butter kind of lumped on top.

Stopping at the Little Czech Bakery has become sort of a tradition for me and … myself, I guess. But more often than not, the place is packed with travelers who have stopped because of a word-of-mouth recommendation and it usually takes 20 to 3o minutes to get in and out because it’s always hard to decide which of the sweet, fruit-filled, and cream-cheesy kolaches to order. I’m a quick one – I’ll take a cherry, apricot, and lemon, warmed up and with a bag of beer bread on the side. Heck yes.

We have a few little kolache places here in Austin, and I like some of their breakfast kolaches even better than what they have at the Little Czech Bakery. Most of the bakery’s savory kolaches are really heavy on the meat, but I really dig on the breakfast ones with egg and cheese. The Kolache Factory makes a great egg and cheese kolache in whole wheat dough as well as one made with spinach and Swiss cheese. But I haven’t found any fruit kolaches in Austin that quite compare. So in an effort to fill my fruit kolache fix, I decided to open my own little kolache factory. Continue reading

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Austin Old Pecan Street Festival: A Weekend of Art, Crafts, and Fair Food

The Austin Old Pecan Street Festival is a free, bi-annual arts and crafts fair showcasing hundreds of Texas artists, charity groups, food vendors, and musicians on Sixth Street. So why isn’t is called the “Sixth Street Festival?” That’s because back in the early days when the street plans for the city were laid out, the east-west streets were named after trees. Eventually numbers replaced the street names, and festival goers have continued to celebrate and honor the street’s original name and the core of Austin’s live music scene for more than 30 years.

Vendors at the Pecan Street Festival

Vendors at the Pecan Street Festival

The city puts on the festival in the fall and the spring, and I usually attend one of the events each year. Last weekend I took poodle and we waltzed around the street vendors and music, drenched in heat and sweat (a typical Texas fall). While the tents full of tie-dye t-shirts and custom-fitted toe rings were intriguing and delightful to see, the fair food and fresh-squeezed lemonade were where it was at. Continue reading

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Listen to David Byrne Talk about Bikes – Sunday Sept. 27, 7 p.m. @ The Paramount

Did you know that David Byrne was an avid cyclist? In addition to being the brilliant front man and songwriter of the Talking Heads and a visual artist of all forms of media, David Byrne is a crazed bicycle advocate. In big cycling metropolises like Austin, San Francisco, and Portland, cycling in all forms is king. But Austin, and possibly the entire country, is lacking some kind of cohesive strategy around cycling as a true form of transportation, as a person’s only form of transportation.

The idea may seem modern, but how do you think people got around before cars and buses? To my understanding, a lot of them had bicycles, so the whole concept of exerting yourself to get to and fro isn’t that outdated.

But it seems like cyclists and urban planners in other major cities around the world have it all figured out: Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam – these cities all have dedicated bike lanes and street lights. Cyclists own the road just as much as drivers, but they don’t interfere with one another and the cohesiveness between the two seems so natural.

I want to know why we don’t have this kind of thing in Austin, or really anywhere in America. Tomorrow night at the Paramount Theatre David Byrne will participate in a panel discussion with the City of Austin Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager, an urban planner with ROMA Design Group, and the president of the League of Bicycling Voters to talk about urban planning, bicycle advocacy, and civic responsibility.

Maybe this will bring us one step closer to having some sort of harmony between drivers and bikers in Austin.

“Where We’re Going and Where We’ve Been – Bicycles, Cities, and Transportation in Austin” takes place tomorrow night at The Paramount Theater at 713 Congress Avenue at 7 p.m. The doors and bar open at 6 p.m.

Oh yea, and it’s free to the public.

Biking in Austin

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Shopping for Babies in Austin

No, I am not looking to buy a baby. I just got invited to my first baby shower. Ack. Just the “my first baby” part of the sentence freaks me out. Don’t get me wrong. I looove babies. Love, love, lurve them. I especially love the idea of other people’s babies because a) I don’t have to raise them, b) they are usually giggly and happy to see me because all I can do is act like a moron for them, and c) I am completely oblivious to the woes of being a parent. I totally get the idea that one of the many reasons couples decide to have children is to raise a family and spread all of their love and joy. But then I think about what my parents went through raising me and my sisters. While it was mostly loving, I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for them to start living their lives for other people, people a lot smaller and weaker.

But a friend of mine is having her first child, a little girl, and I am sure she is going to be one of the most loved little girls in the world of screaming infants. And I can already tell by the cute baby shower invitations that she is going to be a chic little baby with cute baby things all over the place like cute clothes, cute diapers, and cute baby gadgets for mommies. Continue reading

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Does MTV Make Austinites?

Yesterday evening I joined a few gals from work for happy hour at Jasper’s in the Domain. It’s a swanky place with swanky drinks and menu items (also participating in Austin Restaurant Week!), but the happy hour pretty much rocks with $5 martinis – both foofoo-girly with sugar on top and hardcore with bourbon and mint leaves.  However, the best part about Jasper’s happy hour is the gouda macaroni and cheese. Meant as a side dish for four, I finished the heaping helping in about two sittings.

Between glorious bites of mac and cheese and a blue-cheese-covered potato chip or two, we started talking about Austin appearances in television. Celebrity Austinites (ehem, Sandra) talk (and blab on) about how much they love the city, and word gets around. Apparently Austin is still a hot topic of conversation in other major cities like Manhattan and Los Angeles. But how much do TV appearances dedicated to Austin influence who moves here?

I keep thinking about MTV’s “The Real World” and the 2005 season-long stint in Austin. The group of seven strangers from all over the country took over a gigantic warehouse off Third and San Jacinto – now a Mexican restaurant and printing company.

The Real World Austin

The Real World Austin Cast

As an Austinite, I couldn’t even bring myself to watch the show more than a handful of times. But I can’t help but wonder, what did “The Real World” audience outside of Texas think of Austin when they watched the show? I can only recall a lot of fighting and a ton of partying on Sixth Street, also known as “Dirty Sixth” by many Austinites. Oh, and they had the coolest job in the world – shooting a documentary about a band at South by Southwest.

Cool job set aside, would incessant partying downtown and street fights make you want to move to a new city? I can’t really tell. But I think the show could have done a better job shining light on the city that serves as the true oasis of the Texas rather than silly Sixth Street bars.

But “The Real World Austin” wasn’t MTV’s first stab at bringing Austin into the limelight. In 1997, the network aired its first prime time sitcom called “Austin Stories” about three friends and their funny misadventures in Austin. It got canceled after one season and I was only 11 when it aired, so I can’t tell you if it was actually funny or if they did more than party it up on Sixth Street every night. Then again, this wasn’t reality TV.

Cast from Austin Stories ... Hello, 1997

Cast from Austin Stories ... Hello, 1997

But now I’m curious – if you moved to Austin in the last five t0 10 years, why? Was it because of MTV and shows like “The Real World,” or was it because of the music scene, rolling hills, and good old Austin weirdness?

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It’s the Last Day of Summer, Sort Of

Autumn is almost here. It’s so close I can smell the cold air already. Well, maybe it’s not exactly that close. The first official day of fall is tomorrow, September 22, but Central Texans will continue to get 90 degree weather through the end of October because that’s just Texas. So this has me thinking that the September Equinox is more about the cardinal directions than woolly scarves, Jack O’Lanterns, or Thanksgiving. Tomorrow will be one of just two days out of the entire year when the sun will be directly above one point on the equator, meaning that at 5:18 p.m. eastern daylight time we will be able to identify the true east and west cardinal directions using the sun.

I don’t know about you, but knowing that makes me feel all eerkie inside, like maybe I should go make my own modern Mayan calendar or Stonehenge replica using the perfect cardinal directions that the sun will so kindly identify for me.

I guess the good thing is that the equinoxes happen twice a year and every year. So if I don’t get to building that calendar or prehistoric monument in 2009, I know there is always next year.

But in honor of the summer of records – i.e. record-high heat, record-low rain, and record-high unemployment – I encourage all of us to take the time to reflect on our own summer 2009. What made it great? And if it wasn’t so great, what can you do to make summer 2010 even better?

I’m just trying to figure out what I can do to keep from melting away next year because, for some reason, record heat doesn’t seem so hard to break anymore.

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Dairy-Free and Delicious: Vegan Peanut Butter Soft Serve from Toy Joy

I have alluded to this stuff in several of my previous blog posts. If you’ve lived in Austin for awhile and still haven’t been to Toy Joy on the Drag, then you should start planning a weekend trip. This place is probably the grandest and wildest toy store for children and adults (minus “adult” toys). It’s like the mother ship of toy stores with everything from vintage robots to rubber snakes to Playmobile to Uglydolls. But it’s more than just toys: they sell unique and interesting journals, books, mugs, band aids, fake moustaches, and home decor; it’s beautiful. They even offer free gift-wrapping services with the coolest and most awesome wrapping paper so that you always know when a gift has come from Toy Joy.

As if indulging yourself in the world of toys wasn’t enough, Toy Joy opened its own version of Candy Land next door. The candy/coffee shop used to be Dhaba Joy, which was solely a coffee shop and vegan bakery that also served vegan soft serve made out of oatscreme. It was pretty flavorless and they only served classic chocolate and vanilla.

Before I had a chance to go back for a second tasting, the Dhaba Joy had completely changed and Toy Joy took over by covering the walls, ceilings, and floors with more toys and candy. No more baked goodies, but the soft serve options are even better. They always serve vanilla, but the second flavor changes every week. Last week it was strawberry and this week, peanut butter. Yummo. They also post the flavor of the week on their Web site. Continue reading

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