Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


A book introduced me to Tasha Brieger, owner of Hill Country Lavender. Jeannie Ralston’s The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected Blossoming is the story of a couple who, after several trips to Provence, noted how similar the Hill Country was to the terrain and climate of southern France. Jeannie and her husband Robb Kendrick, a professional photographer, became pioneers when they opened a lavender farm in Blanco, TX in 1999.

Click HERE to finish reading.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

La Patisserie: Scrumptious Piece of Paris in Austin

“When I’m having a bad day, I go to work.” Welcome to the sugar coated world of Soraiya Nagree, owner and pastry chef at Austin’s La Patisserie.

A darling little cottage sits surrounded by a sprinkling of flowers and colorful umbrella canopies that offer shade for outdoor café tables. While the scene is inviting and tempts passerbys to stop and relax, it’s the dainty pastel confections inside that will entice their return.

To read more, click HERE

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Photo Credit Josh Huskin

Her long lashes accentuate bright eyes that radiate one word, happiness.  Sporting a plaid skirt, white button down blouse, and a pair of Nike tennis shoes, the young woman sitting opposite of me exuded a vibrant energy that was contagious!   I’m not sure which was sweeter, Mikaila Ulmer, the founder of BeeSweet Lemonade, or the liquid in my glass that tasted like summer.  

Read full article, HERE

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


I snapped this couple's photo last April.  Both were happy and at ease, which is how I felt walking along the beaches of Nice...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


It bodes well for a place that can make a woman with four kids recall the sensation that accompanies the words, sleek and sexy.   It took a departure from suburbia for me to embrace a place that offered an opportunity to escape.  Once settled into your plush seat, you may decide to stay and linger.  No flotation device required and you won’t find safety information in your seat back pocket.  But it may induce wanderlust dreams you’ve managed to stow in your overhead compartment.   Departure Lounge inspires your mind to open and like a fine glass of wine - to breathe. Departure Lounge isn’t just a travel agency, it’s a coffee and wine bar that just so happens to sell customized travel.
To continue reading, click HERE.


Thursday, March 12, 2015


Thankfully the sun wasn’t shining the day I met Christopher Locke, owner of Heartless Machine, or I would have been blinded by countless brass instruments strung across his shop, oddly resembling the dangling nocturnal colony that clings under Congress Bridge.  These discarded musical remnants are waiting for him to free them from restraint, and provide a new set of responsibilities.  These metal scraps may not have a heartbeat, but Mr. Locke has engineered a way to unlock a melody that caused my heart to skip a few beats. 

Monday, March 9, 2015


Even the best departments stores lack the ability to bottle and sell a quality most only dream of obtaining, grace. Nicole Patel, proprietor of Delysia Chocolatier, wears it with ease.  Her posture is perpetually poised, leaving me to wonder if she were a dancer in her childhood.  Her smile is enhanced by warm expressive doe eyes framed by fluid dark shoulder length hair, both physical features mimic her passion, chocolate. 
Article continued... http://austinot.com/delysia-chocolatier

Saturday, February 21, 2015


I’m a sucker for monkeys.  Their expressive eyes, curious nature, and playful demeanor have captured my heart since childhood.  And so it was no surprise the day my car veered into a parking lot off Burnet that had an animated circular face with tiny ears resembling the classic 80’s stuffed sock monkey.  The little primate’s paws and curled tail grip a circular sign with bold letters identifying the establishment, Monkey Nest Organic Coffee and Bakery.

Article continued... http://austinot.com/?s=monkey+nest



Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Showing up at the Moody Theater in Austin, I was the demographic: middle-class female, 30-60, chasing a raspy masculine voice known only through airwaves.  When my husband surprised me with tickets to see Bob Schneider for Valentine's, I was thrilled!  But the real surprise didn't come until 30 minutes into the show.  

Lex Land.  There was nothing grand about her introduction or entrance onto the stage.  She walked with slow calculated steps up to a microphone and looked out upon a crowd of couples.  Her black floor length sequined gown didn't hold a candle to the sparkle that ignited once her sultry voice spilled out lyrics that cracked with slow rendering heartbreak.  Her cover of Bonnie Raitt’s "I Can't Make You Love Me" captured a spirit I wasn't searching for on Valentine’s Day and have managed to avoid since marrying. My soul crushed as I listened and remembered the blistering pain that accompanies unreciprocated affection.  Like a jar of lightening bugs springing from release, her voice offered a flurry of painful recollection of times past.  The memories were unavoidable and inescapable.  My eyes searched the room full of romantics and wondered how many clasped hands would ultimately survive the roller coaster ride that accompanies commitment.  It may have been a day to bask in love, but the silent phantom that drifted overhead made me question love and its inescapable tragic beauty.

I wouldn’t have thought it possible to turn a Bonnie Raitt classic into something more. In an instant the original was replaced. Poof. Gone. It was exhilarating, scary and unnerving to have the ability to toss Bonnie aside.

I took solace the night those memories were awakened by the velvet voice of Lex Land. And as the warmth of my husband’s shoulder nestled against my own, I paused to be grateful for the moment.

On the tumultuous sea of love, I’m thankful to have found Land.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


It seemed like a good idea, at first.  My husband and I were sober the day we purchased our 14 and 15 year old daughters tickets to see Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias.  The girls were ecstatic when they heard on the radio these guys were coming to our town.  Neither thought to ask for tickets for Christmas, which made the purchase that much more exciting.  Our goal was to give the girls a gift they’d remember long after the scent of pine, scotch tape, and cider faded from air. 

The girls were excited, initially.  Not only were they going to their first concert, but they were going alone.  That’s right, mom and dad were staying out of the picture.  But I noticed as the two month countdown began to the big day, no one was counting but me. When I asked if any of their friends were going, the answer came with a perturbed eye roll, “no mom.”   And I was surprised neither of them bothered to mention the concert to their grandparents.  This is when I started to question the purchase.  Was this a bad idea?  Our city claims to be the “Live Music Capital of the World”, but maybe we were thrusting our girls into a world they weren’t ready to experience? And why wasn’t I sharing the idea I thought was brilliant with my friends and family?  Was I embarrassed by my actions?  And then I realized something I’m not proud to admit, I was.  I was afraid of being judged, poorly.  What kind of mom thinks it’s a good idea to throw her girls into an arena with 17,000 strangers and no parental supervision? 
The ugly word “doubt” ruled my brainwaves as I sat at the laptop and searched online for reviews of the previous performances.  Any crowd induced deaths?  No.  Any muggings? No.  Any fights? No.  Instead of finding proof that my doubts were justified, I read things like, “it’s one giant party…everyone is out of their seat dancing… an amazing night worth the money....Enrique really bonds with the crowd and Pitbull is incredible.”  Doubts diminished.

The night was clear and the drive downtown was quiet.  I put a Pitbull CD in hoping it would bring life to the backseat, but the girls didn’t offer a word – only looked out their windows.  As we made our exit off the interstate, traffic came to a halt.   A beat up little Hyundai next to us had windows rolled down, and two young men wildly bobbing their heads to a beat in tune with ours.  The tiny metal on wheels shook with excitement as their bodies jumped up and down.  A few guys and a lady roamed the street selling t-shirts. I could feel energy surging, not from the backseat, but from my own. Knowing our girls were going to their first concert released memories that fluttered back with vivid clarity.  I was their age when I was released in the wild to my first big venue concert.  Unlike the girls, I didn’t go with my sister.  I had a cool Aunt a decade older than me that invited me to tag along.  My Aunt’s sprayed hair (it was the 80’s) was the only thing higher than my spirit! I recalled the thrill that came with my entry ticket. I understood why some guitars were called “electric”, my ears rang and carried the beat long after the concert ended, and I loved it.  The experience also taught me if you’re going to a concert where the musicians are getting a workout performing on stage, they sweat…and it flies onto anyone within spitting distance (which isn’t always good!).  Most importantly, I learned the exhilaration that stems from being in a room full of people who share your musical tastes.  The energy and excitement are tangible, electric!  That magical night opened up a new world, one where I was on the fringe of something beyond comprehension.  No longer a girl, and not yet a woman.  I was in a state of becoming.

And I let them go.
The traffic wasn’t moving, and the girls only had 20 minutes before the concert started.  My husband pointed out a sidewalk that appeared to go in the direction we were heading.  It was a ½ mile walk to the stadium.  We could get there in time, but I would have to get out of the car with reluctant girls, dodge traffic, cross multiple busy intersections and walk – fast.

As we reached the front of the arena, I wasn’t sure if my heart or the radio station playing Pitbull tunes overhead pounded harder. A helpful man looked at my girls’ tickets and pointed them in the direction closest to their seats.  I watched as their body language shifted from doubt to eager anticipation.  And I smiled when they went through the entrance without me, and didn’t look back.
Two hours into the show I received a text along with a photograph, “This is awesome, OMG!” 

I let them go. 
They survived.  And memories were made, for everyone.

Monday, January 26, 2015


We first met a decade ago. I was a nervous mom with three girls: 7, 4, and 2. Every Wednesday I would pack up my two-year old and commute to her four-year old sister’s ballet class in Hyde Park.  Parents weren’t allowed to see the twirling pink confections practice, as we were expected to wait in a quiet, damp, narrow hallway for one hour.  This didn’t work for me; I’m socially awkward and had a toddler in tow which made waiting in a hall unbearable.  Stepping outside with my daughter strapped into her stroller, I set out in search of a spot where we could both find comfort.  After passing a colorful assortment of homes with front porches and picket fences, the stroller stopped in front of a café called NeWorlDeli.  It didn’t look snooty or pretentious.  It wore a patina that's often accompanied by history, stories.  As we entered, the man perched behind the counter welcomed us in a thick New Jersey accent.  He embodied the Garden State: rugged and genuine, with hands that were worn and weathered from use.  His face didn’t offer smiles generously, but exuded a warmth that made a smile unnecessary.  His head was topped with a battered baseball cap and as he tinkered with prepping the day’s menu, he effortlessly interacted with both customers and staff, I realized my daughter and I had found our spot.

Eventually, my father-in-law joined us for coffee and tacos.  I have fond memories of the three of us sitting by the back door of the café, the area closest to the coffee thermos and bathrooms.  We would laugh as we watched Emma fumble as she tried to maneuver her gigantic taco into her gumball sized mouth.  As food remnants hit the floor my father-in-law applied the “five second rule” and devoured anything dropped.   It was a happy time.
Years passed.

We moved back to Austin last year.  I was fearful returning.  The friends I kept in touch with consistently depicted the home we left, “You won’t believe how much Austin has changed.”  I was uneasy with that word, change.

Coincidentally, our first two weeks back we rented a Hyde Park bungalow one block behind NeWorlDeli. One afternoon I gave my two teenagers a few dollars and suggested they walk over and grab a cookie or brownie from the deli.  As they returned, all smiles, they gushed over how nice the people were and how rich and delicious the brownie tasted.  My oldest went on to say, “Mom you didn’t give us enough money, but the girl checking us out gave us the extra .86 cents.”  Later that evening my husband and I dropped by the deli to pick up our takeout order, I wasn’t surprised to see the Garden State man standing stoically behind his counter, just as he had a decade earlier.  We explained how we appreciated the staff helping our girls out when they didn’t have enough money for their sweets.  He shrugged as if this were common and mentioned the deli being “old school.”  Out of the corner of my eye I could see a giddy employee with a Cheshire grin winking at me. Returning to our rental, we unloaded our dinner order and found an unexpected surprise.  A big fat brownie had sneaked in with our meals.  We were happy.

Arranging to meet a friend for 9am coffee recently, I opted for something new, I suggested we meet at a trendy café right off the UT campus.  As I heard warnings on the radio to stay away from campus: it was the first day of spring semester, I called NeWorlDeli to see if they were open – no one picked up.  A few seconds later my phone rang. A thick New Jersey accent asked, “Did you just call the deli?”  Explaining my dilemma, the voice explained they weren’t open until 11am, but he and a chef were prepping for lunch.   “Why don’t you come here and we’ll put on a pot of coffee.” 

As I pushed the door open, I could see there were two cups and saucers waiting near the register.  And as I thanked the Garden State man, he grumbled something along the lines, “We’re old school, it’s nothing. This is what we do.”  My friend and I felt special, happy even.

 My visits to this neighborhood deli over the years have been just as unpredictable and sporadic as my hair color.  My twirling pink ballerina traded her dance shoes for soccer cleats years ago and enters high school in the fall, the taco eating toddler I laughed with is a 6th grader with a schedule, and my father-in-law moved away several years ago.  Life has changed, Austin has changed, and I have changed.  But thankfully, in an ever-changing world, NeWorlDeli remains constant and reliable.  Thanks for the smiles...and the memories.