Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Austin Rocks

A little birdie got onto me for not updating my blog sooner! I won't say her name, but I'll give you a hint: It starts with "A" and ends in "lisa". She didn't really get onto me, she just wanted to encourage me because she knows of all the fun stuff that's been up with me in the last couple of months. That's part of the problem, you see. The more neat stuff happening, the less time to write about it! I've got a series of events that I want to share about, but feel I have to blog them in chronological order. Plus, I tend to "overwrite" about everything instead of just placing a couple of great photos. Ergo, the delay. You know how sometimes you just have so much to do that you avoid it or find other things to do instead? That's been my problem both with blogging AND creating. I find that instead of actually getting into my craft room (known as my "studio" when I'm trying to impress people), instead I find ways to think about what I'm going to create or hunt for new items!

Following my awesome birthday in January and the fun scrapbooking retreat some friends and I shared at Memory Lane Inn in McKinney TX, in February we had a fun girls-weekend trip to Austin. My friend, Clare, turned 40 this year so we decided on a jaunt "out and about" to celebrate! A caravan of us drove the short 3 hour trip south on February 7th, and returned the next afternoon.

I had never been "to" Austin before...had merely passed through on my way to Houston, San Antonio or Galveston. I had heard really cool stuff about it, however. The biggest thing I knew about it (other than it being the state's capitol) was that every spring there is an uber-cool music festival known as SXSW (South by SouthWest). It's really more than just your average "festival", as it lasts over a week and "showcases more than 1,800 musical acts of all genres from around the globe on over eighty stages in downtown Austin." Since I first learned of SXSW from MTV's Real World Season 16 in 2005, I've always imagined that it would be one of the coolest things EVER to be a part of. (Personal notes: A)yes, I LOVE "reality" tv. B) yes, I only learned about SXSW in 2005 and feel like an uncool loser for not having been aware of it sooner!)

Me and the BLUE Guitar!

Anyway, I digress. So, we went to Austin, but not for SXSW. (Although I would like to go someday, I'm kind of put off by the idea of mingling with the masses of teens and twenty-somethings and the drunken chaos that likely ensues. However, it could be worth it, as the MUSIC aspect of it would be AMAZING!) We went to just "see" what's there and do a little scrapbook shoppping, as we no longer have a real scrapbook store here in Dallas. I know, weird, huh?

A couple of friends and I wanted to leave Dallas a little earlier than the rest of the group was planning to leave, as we wanted to visit a few antique stores, specifically Alisa's favorite, Uncommon Objects. Uncommon Objects is truly that, uncommon. From the giant-sized rabbit? with a lassoing cowboy atop the entrance, to the prettiest little handmade doiley you've ever seen, this place is a haven for collectors, artists, and those who just love the idea of making something old into something "new". We could have easily spent hours purusing the nooks and cubbies that make up the layout. But, alas, our pocketbooks only permitted so much! I walked away with some great vintage sheet music, bingo cards, books, doilies, lace, and other trinkets. There were at least 3 giant cases of jewelry that I remember seeing, with some gorgeous antiqueware that I covet! Maybe someday I'll get to go back and pick out something for my birthday!

Uncommon Objects

Upon arriving in Austin, our first priority was to EAT! Although, as is customary with any self-respecting road trip, we had managed to consume ridiculous amounts of sugar and caffeine on our drive down, our bellies were now urging us toward "real food". Alisa and Donna both being the "civilized" type ladies that they are, were in search of a fine "spot of tea". All I really cared about was eating somewhere unique/different and perhaps a little on the Frenchy/froo-froo side. After multiple what we'll refer to as "sightseeing" trips around the block, we finally managed to arrive at The Driskill. This hotel "offers an elite level of luxury and service to rank as one the world's finest hotels." I had read about the Driskill prior to our Austin trip and had longed for it's luxury. Though our party had selected a different hotel venue for our stay, we were delighted with the opportunity to dine at the historic 1886 Cafe & Bakery, "long known as 'Austin's socializing parlor'." We enjoyed an absolutely delightful (and I don't use that word often, but that is truly what our experience was) brunch, as we basked in the warm sunshine cascading through the original stained glass windows. The food was simple, but elegant, and although I didn't care much for my french fries cooked in truffle oil (I guess my palate isn't sophisticated enough!), Alisa and Donna both immensely enjoyed their afternoon tea!

The Driskill Hotel Exterior

The Driskill Lobby

Donna Thinks She's Oh-So-Proper on This Phone in the Driskill Lobby

1886 Cafe & Bakery

Donna at Driskill

Alisa enjoying her "spot of tea".

Driskill Dessert

While in Austin we also visited Archiver's Scrapbook store (in which I only spent a whopping $11.31--I guess I've seen it all before!)

The Gang at Archiver's

In the hotel, before dinner, we had presented Clare with a 12x12 scrapbook with pages created from many different friends and family. Clare's best friend (and a wonderful person!), Dunree, had worked dilligently behind the scenes for several weeks. She discreetly collected everyone's finished 12x12 pages and put them together in an album for Clare. What a great idea! I hope someday I have a friend who thinks to do that for me--what a cherished gift to have a book with pictures and stories of all your friends! Here's the page I had completed for Clare.

Later in the evening we went out to dinner to celebrate Clare's birthday at Austin Land & Cattle (not to be confused with the chain-restaurant, Texas Land & Cattle.) Again, being the research geek that I am, I had both Googled and visited TripAdvisor.com to ascertain the general consensus of where we would be dining. Although the restuarant boasts having won the "Best of CitySearch.com" award in both 2002 and 2006 (along with a Zagat rating of "Very Good to Excellent"), I was not particularly impressed. Obviously, it would have been poor form to say such a thing at the time, so I kept my mouth shut. Later discussion, however, found there were others in our party of the same opinion. While the food was clearly not "inedible", we were disappointed with the cook's lack of accuracy with cooking the steaks to the requested doneness. Further, there were no notable "highs" for any of us...nothing stood out. In my mind, if a restaurant is "great", it has to have at least one dish or item that is exceptional and/or that stands out from competitors'. At this point, I can't even remember what was served other than the steak. Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time sharing Clare's birthday and she seemed to really enjoy it, which is what really matters! Besides, no matter where you go, with Clare it's always a PARTY!

Austin Land & Cattle

Me & Alisa at Dinner

After dinner, as we returned to the hotel, there was talk of "doing 6th Street." As I am neither a drinker, nor a partier, I was not inclined to join. Fortunately, Alisa was ready to put on her "comfies" with me and return to the room. It was funny how we both curled up on our beds and enjoyed reading the Sommerset Studio Magazines she had brought. Though we didn't speak much (other than the occasional, "Hey, look at this! Isn't this cool what she's done?" in regards to someone's work), there was a palpable feeling of relaxation and shared contentment.

I thought Alisa looked so cute in her flannel PJs enjoying her Sommerset!

After a decent night of sleep (I consider 6 hours pretty good when you're on a girls trip!), we awoke somewhat refreshed and, you guessed it, hungry...yet again! A few text messages from our other party members suggested breakfast at the local Denny's, for lack of a better plan. Now, don't get me wrong, in college I was all over Denny's like white on rice. It offers a mean "Super Bird" sandwich and stays open 24/7/365. But, on this occasion, I had really been hoping for something a little less 1970s and a lot more 2009! Someone, more familiar with the area, recommended a local spot, Austin Java on 12th & Lamar. Two Words: HAL.....ELUJIAH! They had everything from your standard bacon and eggs, to signature made-to-order omelettes. Though not a coffee drinker, their available bean confections were fascinating! My friend, Nina, thoroughly enjoyed her Mexican-style "migas", and I couldn't help but "eye" someone else's breakfast quesadillas. My favorite, though, was the giant full-plate-sized Gingerbread pancake I had dared to order. Having never had a Gingerbread pancake, I could only imagine the delectable combination of sweetness and piquant spice that would culminate in my tastebuds singing! All I can say is that Waffle House's Pecan Waffle has some fierce competition in the Gingerbread pancake.

After a short tour at the Capitol (where some walked off their morning's caloric consumption), we were soon back on the road.

The Capitol

Though our trip wasn't ALL about food, though admittedly it is one of my favorite topics of discussion, we also stopped at this gas station-type joint in West, TX, known as Czech Stop & Little Czech Bakery. Throughout the last 10 years of my Texas residency, I had heard tales of this legendary pastry and dessert deli, but had yet to experience it for myself. Though it was an average-nothing-special-going-on weekend afternoon, I was surprised to see a long line of customers waiting for their specially selected little "treats". The line DID move quickly; however, it just wasn't quickly enough for me! From the moment I selected my cream cheese and lemon "Danish" from behind the glass display case, until I was seated in the car, it was all I could do to keep from inhaling my pastry! The aroma alone could have tempted me to seriously injure anyone who dared get between me and my intended victual!

Here's a picture I found on the internet of a similar Raspberry Cream Cheese Danish from the Czech Stop

(P.S. Why do they call them Danishes at the Czech Stop? Shouldn't they be "Czechishes"?)

The trip was fun, the company was both entertaining and enlightening (had some pretty serious discussions in the car ride), and as well-documented here, the food was plentiful! Thanks to all for a splendid time!


  1. Your descriptions of the weekend are spot on. It really was a fabulous time.
    ~your little bird

  2. So glad to see you've been updating.
    I enjoying seeing what's been up with my friends! Looks like y'all had another fabulous weekend ~kinda jealous~ LOL!! I really hope to get to a crop soon...I'm missing all the FUN!!


    p.s. the wanna be photog in me couldn't help but notice you got some great shots of Austin.

  3. And oddly enough, the Czech Stop also has some of the best tamalas that you will ever put in your mouth...go figure that one. Glad you gals had a wonderful time...I LOVE Austin and we were lucky enough to live there for 10 years. One day I hope to move back. Looks like ya'll have so much fun together...