Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cool Concept

So Ryan just discovered this place in Austin called: Odd Duck to Farm Trailer. He read about it on his bus ride this morning. It's a little restaurant out of a trailer, but this guy buys only local produce and meat from farmers around town.
I think this is really, really cool. Ever since watching that film, Food, Inc. I have completely changed how I have been eating.

  • No fast food. (it's been over a month)
  • Bringing lunch everyday. Eating A LOT more fruits and veggies.
  • Making dinner/ eating at home...even if I get home really late.
  • No soda, and really trying to avoid things with high fructose corn syrup.

Those are the biggest changes but for me, they are major. It takes a lot of work to meal plan and go shopping to eat healthy. Its even harder to do these things when you have only one day off of work. I've also been trying to be better about WHERE I am getting my food from, farmers markets, etc. (Sprouts, Sun Harvest, Whole Foods and Central Market are places I frequent now since the only real farmers market is currently only open in the middle of my work days). Which also means trips to different stores since I have not found a single place that has everything on my list. time consuming. I am not complaining, I am sure there are people more busy than I, but that's the whole reason those food corporations have been so successful....because they make food convenient. And cheap. But, I've been faithful and sticking to this resolution. And it's worth it. I feel great. Ryan feels great. (I have been packing lunches for him too). His pants fall off of him now, so besides feeling good, he is actually seeing the benefits of eating this way too.

But this brings me back to why I think this new place sounds really cool. Even at the so-called farmers markets, I see blueberries, raspberries, apricots, and all kinds of summer fruits for sale. what?!?! It's WINTER here. even in Austin. When you look at the label, it's from Mexico or Chile. Americans are so spoiled. So accustomed to having what they want, when they want it, despite the practicality. Needless to say, I am slightly disappointed...that even at the "farmers market" I have to be wary about the produce I buy. Don't buy produce from Mexico or Chile! I don't know how much gas it takes to get produce from down there to up here, but I just calculated the distance from Arica, Chile (at the very northern end) to Austin and its 3828 miles. That is A LOT of gas people! AND their pesticide regulations are nowhere near as strict as the US (which I think even some currently used here are questionable), so you're definitely getting some extra (not) goodies with your purchase.

So yeah, I think this guy's place sounds pretty cool. He rotates daily menus and plans them based on what is in season here. Ryan and I will go check him out and show our support.

The Trailer. Looks cute, huh?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Some Things to Know About Austin

Thank God for holidays. I am at the lab today, just to take care of a couple things, but will cut out a bit early. In general, we have learned that we have strength in numbers, so most of the American students in the group (which is now a significant portion) as well as a few of the foreign post-docs are going to be coming over to my apt. complex for some grilling. It is kind of chilly outside, so the guys will probably handle the outdoor food prep, and then we will hang out, eat inside and play some games. I'm hoping I can fit some sewing in later on . . . I didn't get nearly as much done (craft wise) as I was hoping this weekend. Time flies when you have tons of errands to run. More about the hunting trips later on, but in the meantime . . . I saw this and thought it was too funny. Not only that, but having lived here for the past almost-five years, I have found all of these things to be true. Enjoy

A few observations for those of you who live here... or used to live here....or plan to live here.

1. First, it's pronounced AWS-TUN. It doesn't matter how they say it in other places.

2. Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere. Austin has its own set of traffic rules. There's no book about them. All you can do is get in your car and hope you survive to learn them.

3. All directions start with "Go down Mopac... 'cause you don't want to get on I-35. Oh, yes, Mopac is Loop 1.

4. Burnet Road, Braker Lane, and Lamar Blvd. have no beginning and no end.

5. It is impossible to go around a block and wind up on the same street that you started on. The Chamber of Commerce calls this a scenic drive.

6. Stay away from the Congress Ave. bridge at sundown if you do not like the thought of being in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. (Largest Mexican Free Tail Bat Population in the US )

The bats leaving the bridge at sundown, taken from shewhopaints' flickr stream

7. The 8:00am rush hour is from 6:30am to 9:30am . The 5:00pm rush hour is from 3:30p to 7:15pm. Friday's rush hour starts on Thursday morning.

8. If you actually stop at a yellow light, then you cannot be from Austin . Green means "GO"; Yellow means "GO"; and Red means "three more of y'all can GO". You may only apply your brakes at the end of a yellow light and the beginning of the red light when they create a burnt-orange hue. This is Longhorn Country, after all.

9. Just remember that -
- Mopac is Loop 1;
- Capital of Texas Hwy is 360;
- Hwy. 183 is Research Blvd. , Anderson Lane; Ed Bluestein or
the Old Bastrop Hwy ;
- Hwy. 290 is Lamar Blvd ;
- FM 2222 is Northland Dr., Bull Creek Rd., Allendale Rd.,
Bullick or Koenig Lane ...

Don't try to figure it out. Just accept it. If you question the intelligence behind this naming convention, people will simply tilt their heads to the right and stare at you.

10. If moisture is determined to be rain, and not sweat, all traffic must immediately come to a screeching halt; ditto for daylight savings time, a female UT student applying eye-shadow crossing the street, or a flat tire three lanes over.

11. DO NOT attempt to access any road after an apocalyptic event like ice, snow, SXSW (South by Southwest Music Convention). Construction on I-35 AND Hwy. 183 is a way of life and a permanent form of entertainment. Get used to it! ( I also avoid being on the roads after a football game....if they're not leaving the stadium, they are leaving any place-of-business that shows the game and serves beer).

12. Attn: All telephone solicitors...DO NOT correct my pronunciation when I say I live in Manchaca , TX .. It's pronounced MAN-shack (just like a man living in shack). Also realize that the city of Manchaca (MANshack) is in Hays and Travis Counties , and there is also a very long street in Austin named Manchaca (MANshack)! The city of Manor and Manor Rd. are pronounced 'MAY-ner'. We don't like corrections on that either. And, for God's sake, DON'T pronounce the 'E' at the end of Guadalupe. It's Gwada-LOOP and we like it that way!

13. Burnet Road is pronounced BURN-it, not Bur-NET. Koenig Lane is pronounced KAE-nig not KOE-nig. The old airport (Robert Mueller) is pronounced Robert Miller and is on Airport Boulevard . The new airport (Austin-Bergstrom) is no where near Airport Boulevard . It's in the city of Del Valle pronounced Dell Valley !

14. Keep in mind that the sloppily dressed 'hippie' in worn-out sandals and earrings is probably the latest IPO millionaire around here.

15. Regardless of what you are told, the Capitol is CENTRAL AUSTIN, and yes, we do have a body of water splitting Austin into North Austin and South Austin and it is called "Town Lake" (by longtime Austinites, and Lady Bird Lake by newcomers) not the Colorado River (even though it is part of it).

a picture I found of a partial view of downtown from the southeast

16. And, yes, we all know that there's a man in a teddy and a tiara on Congress Ave. It's Leslie and he probably makes more money than you do. (Surely, you have a homeless, celebrity drag queen that likes to run for Mayor where you live, too, right?)


**And you wonder why there are so many bumper stickers that say 'Keep Austin Weird'!**
And why Pflugerville (which is between Austin and Round Rock) residents wear tee shirts that say, Pflugerville -- Between a Rock and a Weird Place !!!!

This is a weird place, huh? There are so many things that Ryan and I see and we always end up saying "...only in Austin."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hunting Adventures Pt. 1

Check out that rainstorm moving away just as we were heading out into the fields. That beacon of orange there? That's my mom. Ingrid is so camo-ed out, I didn't notice her near the shrubbery until just now. Anyhow, more about our hunting trips next week.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. As for me, I have been good about tidying up the apartment this week, so besides a couple loads of laundry (I got behind because of pipes bursting and having my water shut off this week. I know, NOT FUN.) I don't have much housework to do. AND, it's supposed to be raining most of the weekend. I won't mind being cooped up indoors with some movies and WIPs (works in progress. It took me a while to figure out what that stood for when I first read it). No, siree. I have lots of things to finish up before I can even think about starting the things I want/need to start. Here's to a productive weekend!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Death by Chocolate

I love chocolate. Who doesn't? One day over the break, everyone was over at my parent's house hanging out, preparing and waiting for dinner when my brother casually mentioned he was craving something sweet. So, I thought I would find a quick recipe for a yummy sweet treat. I needed something relatively fast and easy, and I wanted some chocolate, so a chocolate trifle sounded just right. Wow, the first time I made it, it disappeared! By the time it was done (everyone was so anxious for it, we didn't even let it set in the fridge), there were some who had drifted off to sleep and they didn't even get any. Hah! That's how it is in our family. When I said would make it again for the New Year's crowd, everyone was so excited. Really, this thing is that good.

Doesn't it look so pretty in Tante Bay's crystal bowl? I am sure there is a fancy name for it, but I don't know what it is. Actually, it's also a cake stand and cover! I didn't make nearly as much as this the first time, this is double the original batch. We had more people over, but it still did not make it through the next day!


Want to know how to make it too?

Death by Chocolate (these amounts are for the big batch)

What you need:
2 packages instant chocolate Jell-o pudding
3 packages Dream Whip
2 boxes German chocolate cake mix
2 cups really strong coffee or espresso
2 lg. containers cool whip (I like really thick layers of cool whip! but you will still have some left over)
1 bag crumbled Heath chocolate toffee bars (as found in baking section)

What to do:
Bake cake as per box instructions. Let it cool.
Prepare pudding as per instructions, but also add the packages of Dream Whip and appropriate amount of milk. This makes the chocolate layers not as heavy and dense as pudding, but more mousse-like. You can opt to leave out the Dream Whip too, and I am sure it will taste just as heavenly.

When pudding/mousse is set and the cake is cooled begin making the layers in your trifle dish as such:
1) crumble the cake to completely cover the bottom of the dish.
2) distribute 1 c. coffee over the cake, thus soaking it.
3) spread a layer of the pudding/ mousse next.
4) next comes the cool whip layer.
5) sprinkle the Heath bar crumbles over the cool whip layer.

Let it set in the fridge for about an hour or so. Serve cold in pretty glasses and ENJOY!

The first batch

Due to the pressure of yummy-chocolate-dessert-craving family members surrounding me, I barely had time take these photos! What's really cool is you can add layers, and other toppings. The first one I made had strawberries too. I will be making this again for sure.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Aaron and Carmelita's Wedding Quilt

This past August, my cousin Aaron got married! I am so glad I was able to go up to Oregon to celebrate their tying the knot. It was such a great time with all the Oregon had been over 4 years since I had seen some of them! I love my family, because no matter how long it is between seeing each other, whenever we get back together, it's as if we've never spent a day apart. GOOD TIMES.

I had the hardest time deciding what to get them for a wedding present, so I tried to go for something more meaningful and special. They were registered at REI, so I figured they love to do outdoorsy things. Ding! Then I remembered Erin's picnic blanket, and I thought that would be the perfect thing to make for them.

I had never made a big blanket like this before, let alone one that is a sandwich (top, batting, back). So even though it's not really a quilt (or is it?) it kind of is. I only had the week leading up to the wedding, and since the top is not a complicated pattern I thought it would be doable and that I could finish it on time.

I was unsure about what colors to do, but I thought purple, green and white prints would look nice together, and made me think of the beautiful Oregon outdoors.

I got the top piece and the quilt sandwich finished just in time to be able to pack it up in my suitcase and leave for the airport. It was that close. I finished it off by adding the ties while I was up there in the time leading up to the wedding, which ended up being late the night before since we were all running around doing errands. It was all so much fun. Since it was late though, the lighting was bad and I did not get to take any pictures of it so these photos come by way of the bride herself. Thank you Carmelita!

A closer image of some of the prints.
(Pictures will open a bigger viewing window when clicked)

Rather than quilting the sandwich by machine or hand, it is tied down at the intersections of the squares and in the center of each square with white embroidery floss.

The pocket

Each corner has a pocket on the underside for rocks to be put in to weigh them down. No blankets blowing over and away in the wind! GENIUS idea.

It's pretty much queen-sized . . . I made it considerably larger than the pattern called for, which could fit two smaller sized people. At least this one can be taken out on future family outings. =)

I am so glad that they loved it. I don't think I could have chosen a more perfect thing to make. When Aaron proposed to Carmelita, he took her on a picnic to the Oregon coast. Her favorite color is purple, and the wedding colors were purple, green and white. I had no idea!! Pretty awesome, huh?

I love you guys!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Dirty Dozen

I did my grocery shopping yesterday and noticed that the organic produce section is considerably larger than it was when I first moved to Austin. This is awesome! Buying organic is great for you and the environment....but it's so expensive! So if you're on a tighter budget like I am, knowing which produce is really worth buying organic helps alot. Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has put together a list of the Dirty Dozen. This is the list of vegetables and fruit that have the most pesticides on them. Why should you care?
  • Pesticides are designed to kill pests. As such, they are toxic. This means that ingested pesticides will cause damage to your body. This is especially true for children. The harms include: damage to hormonal sytem and nervous system, skin, eye and lung irritation, and carcinogenic effects.
  • Some stats by the EWG: those who eat the 12 most contaminated fruits and veggies ingest an average of 10 pesticides a day. On the other hand, those who ate the 15 most clean ingested fewer than 2 pesticides a day.
  • Washing and peeling don't help as much as you would think. Rinsing only reduces the amount of pesticide on the produce, but does not get rid of it. Peeling does eliminate any pesticidal residue, but it all the nutrients and vitamins in the skin are also lost.
The list

They also have a full list here. Go check it out. Eat smart and healthy!

I also found a database compiled of cosmetics and they rate them on a hazard scale based on their ingredients. Pretty cool! It's called Skin Deep.

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's good to be back

I had a wonderful break in California spending Christmas, New Years and everything in between with Ryan and all my family. It was a REAL break, doing some traveling around but not too much where things are constantly go, go, go and you end up being more tired after the vacation than before.
Trip highlights:
We landed in San Francisco and spent the day there visiting Stanford since that is Ryan's top choice for applying for post-docs. Then we stayed with my uncle's friend and his family in Sonoma for another day to rest up from our extremely hectic day of preparing for our trip and travel (long, frustrating story that does really belong here). Nonetheless, our time with them was refreshing and I am pretty sure Ryan fell in love with northern California.
Then we headed down to Porterville for some pheasant hunting. Beautiful scenery, clean crisp air, good company....but no birds.
Back down to southern California for my brother's birthday on Christmas Eve. Christmas cookie-making with my sisters.
We actually didn't do a whole lot on Christmas day since we delayed opening presents and everything until the 29th when Tante San (who now lives in Washington) and Meryl came in from Vegas (Meryl had to work until the 28th but they wanted to celebrate with us so we waited for them). The 29th was an awesome day full of family, much like old times when we were all together.
Lot's of game playing.
Ryan did a lot of duck hunting with Oom Jopie and Oom Tiki. He got 3 ducks! He's definitely got the hunting bug now. He also spent a few days up in the mountain snow-shoeing with Oom Jopie, Ingrid and Brad. I couldn't go because I had my tea-date with the high school girlfriends, which was totally worth it.
Sight-seeing in the cold, with a hot tea latte, the Mister, Ingrid, Chanelle, Ashley and Stevie at the Festival of Lights downtown at the Mission Inn. Too bad everything was closed off inside....I wanted to explore but security was tight.
We saw a lot of movies. That's the nice thing about having nothing to worry about and being able to VEG. I am kind of movied out now though. We saw Avatar (awesome, but the 3D gives me a headache after a while), Invictus (great story), Sherlock Holmes (very entertaining) in Justify Fulltheater and many others on DVD, including Food, Inc. Life-changing I tell you. I used to eat a lot more healthily before I came out here, but for someone that oftentimes doesn't leave work until it's already quite late, and is too tired to make something for herself and a convenient drive-thru dinner becomes "worth it" so that I get go to bed earlier and do it all over again, I would rather now go to bed on an empty stomach. And now knowing what goes into most of the food that is out there, indulging myself and eating whatever I want (as I have been doing these past few years - it's lazy, I know)....not anymore. What spending my money on food like that means for the planet, corporations who think they can run us around by monopolizing the agricultural industry and producing food that IS NOT GOOD for people but good for their pockets, animal treatment, and my own personal health....motivates me to be diligent about taking the time to plan out meals, be smart about what I buy, be better about enforcing a better work/life balance so that I can take care of myself (and helping Ryan to do so too), and knowing what it is I am eating. You are what you eat. The convenience, easiness, (and now) cheapness does not justify it at all! Really, you won't want to eat drive-thru again. go watch it.
We also went to San Diego to visit my cousin Briana and her husband, and catch up with some of the guys I met while interning at Pfizer.

I promise I'll have more posts detailing some of said highlights and crafts done, with pictures of course. My camera is dead, and I need to find my charger. . . I'm really hoping it didn't get left behind in Cali. Have a super fine weekend!