I put Odd Duck on my list of my top 10 favorite restaurants.
It’s a place I love visiting again and again, which I can’t say about every restaurant I try!
There are plenty of farm-to-table restaurants in Austin, like Barley Swine (also owned by Odd Duck’s Bryce Gilmore!), Dai Due (love love love for brunch!!), and Eastside Cafe (one of my first restaurants to try in Austin), just to name a few of the many. What sets Odd Duck apart, for me, is that the menu is constantly evolving, so you can go back month after month and always have new things to try. The brunch menu changes more often than any of their other menus.
I started with a mimosa because #SundayFunday. They had three fresh squeezed juices to choose from: tangerine, grapefruit, and apple! Throughout the brunch Nate and I might have tried all three… The apple was surprisingly delicious!
This little tostado was something awesome. I love farm-to-table restaurants because the produce is so fresh! From the taste of these tomatoes, you never would have guessed that it’s winter in Austin. They tasted like summer.
|Crab pimento, tostada, sun gold tomato|
I’ve never ventured into the world of savory waffles (I’ve had chicken ‘n waffles once, but I’m not a huge fried chicken fan), but after this number I might start creating some savory waffle recipes at home for dinner. The waffle batter was made with green chile, so even the fluffy bread under the waffle had a delicious flavor.
|Grilled chicken, green chile waffle, herb butter, chicken glaze|
Three dishes, which is what our waiter recommended for two people, turned out to be the perfect amount. This one might have been my favorite! The savory jerk glaze on top was finger lickin’ good!
Aaaaaaand…when I thought we were done, the waiter walked over with a sampler tray with 4 pastries from the pastry chef, Susana Querejazu. If you would have had the willpower to avoid this little guy, teach me your ways..
So much yum packed into one meal! I love you, Odd Duck. Austin continues to blow me away not only with the number of restaurants, but with the outstanding quality so many of them bring.
It’s now December and I’m one month away of *hopefully* hitting my 100 books in a year goals from my 30 Before 30 list! Yay! It’s been an interesting year of learning how to make reading a part of my everyday life. (According to goodreads I read 27 books in 2015, and I think, like, 4 in 2014…). Needless to say, I’m looking forward to having a break from teaching and performing and practicing during the last couple of weeks of December so I can polish off this list with some good ones!
Now, onto what I’ve been reading lately:
I actually didn’t know about Joshilyn Jackson until recently, and in case you’re new to her like me, she’s a New York Times best selling author who writes mostly southern fiction (both books I read last month were set in Alabama). She was an actor before an author, so she narrates her own audio books and the southern twang is spot on. I listened to two books as audiobooks, and now I’m reading a third as an ebook. I would recommend the audiobook version for your first Joshilyn Jackson book.
Gods in Alabamawas my first one and I loved it! The story line follows a young girl who, after living in Chicago for 10 years to hide from her past, brings her black boyfriend home to Alabama to meet her (more than a little) racist family. There’s a lot of scandal and mystery and fun plot twists, and this audiobook kept me entertained while I was driving home from an orchestra gig until 1:00 in the morning.
I’ll say that Jackson’s A Grown Up Kind of Pretty didn’t capture me in the same way, though. There are more main characters, so I feel that each one wasn’t developed quite as much, and plot just seemed a lot sillier to me than in Gods in Alabama. (I know…it’s a chick lit sort of book, and it’s supposed to be kind of silly. But this was one especially hard to believe..). I’d skip this one and start with Gods in Alabama if you want to I’ve Joshilyn Jackson a try !
I picked A Gambler’s Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem as my Book of the Month November pick. Anthony Bourdain was one of the guest judges last month, and this was the book that he suggested. This book follows a backgammon gambler who believes he is psychic, but as his luck starts to disappear, learns he has a tumor under the surface of his face that is partially obstructing his vision and psychic abilities… It was my first time to read something by Jonathan Lethem, and I didn’t love it. It was a weird book, ha. I can’t place exactly what it was, but this was one of those books that I had to keep re-reading the same page over and over because my mind would wander. Part of that could be due to the fact that I was reading it on a plane at 10 pm on our way home Ohio last month and I was super sleepy..
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight was a book that I would totally recommend to others, and probably even read it again myself! I stumbled upon it in a weird way.. I was flipping through Vogue while I was in a book store one day, and there was a feature on some photographs by Annie Leibovitz, and author Aleandra Fuller was one of Leibovitz’s subjects. When I read about the books she had written, I was interested and looked them up on my kindle library and grabbed the first one that was available, which was Don’t Let’s Go to the dogs Tonight. It’s Fuller’s memoir about growing up in Africa in the 1980s, before and then after the Rhodesian Bush War. Her humor is dry and witty, and the book is moving and surprising. One of my favorite parts was how miserable so many parts of growing up in Africa sounded (uh, 5 foot lizards anyone?), yet how much she fell in love with the country.
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley was another novel that I loved! Noah Hawley is best known for writing and producing the TV series Fargo. He’s written 5 novels, but this is my first to read. The story revolves around the plane crash of a private charter plane traveling from Martha’s Vineyard. Of the 11 passengers on board, 9 are dead from the crash only 16 minutes after take-off. The rest of the novel jumps backward and forward in time, examining each passenger, their stories and motives, and….oh my gosh, I flew through this book! I couldn’t put it down!
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of the crash of the Hindenburg in 1937. This book captured me from the beginning. I really enjoyed this one because I didn’t know much about the Hindenburg Disaster, so I kept jumping back to the Wikipedia page while I was reading the book. The story uses the real names of the passengers who were aboard the airship, but Lawhon puts her own spin on what happened and how it actually exploded, which was fascinating to read. This is another book that kept me guessing right up until the very end and definitely kept me up later than my typical bed time…
The name is super cheesy, I know, but The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande was actually really good! Gawande is a surgeon and researcher, and in this book he discusses how the use of creating simple check lists in professional areas like surgery, building construction, and disaster relief can reduce or even eliminate mistakes. Ok, a couple of things about this book. First of all, I didn’t realize that many mistakes were made in a hospital…yikes. Haha. It makes me a little nervous to ever be placed in the ICU! (It totally makes sense, though…doctors and nurses are human, and they can make mistakes just like everyone else..). Secondly, I currently use a system called OmniFocus for my task management. (It’s awesome! If you’ve read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and are intrigued by accomplishing more in your day, you seriously need to check out this app!). OmniFocus uses a simple system of having users create step-by-step goals for daily tasks, and then check them off. (I’m overly simplifying the system, but in its most basic form, it’s a check list!). The whole time I was listening to this audio book, I was thinking about OmniFocus and how much I love it. 🙂
I read Alice and Oliver by Charles Bock without knowing one key issue: that the author’s wife passed away from leukemia just before their daughter’s third birthday. I think if I had known this, I would have felt a lot more emotion while I was reading the book this story about a young family of a mother, father, and baby girl, and their struggle through the mother’s diagnosis and treatment of cancer. If you’re going to read this one, be sure to read a little background on the author first! That would have made all the difference and I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more than I did…
Ok, that’s it! Have you read any great books lately that you want to let me know about? I still have a few more to read to hit my yearly goal, and then it’s on to 2017 and a whole new batch of books! Crazy. How is 2016 almost over???
A capp and a latte to start. Ok, if I have to be 100% honest here, I’ll say that the coffee was decent, but not the best I’ve had. The espresso had a nice, nutty flavor to it, but the milk on both drinks seems to be frothed a little too heavy-handed, so the milk bubbles weren’t quite as smooth and velvety as I like.
We ordered a HUUUGE cinnamon roll to share with coffee.
Nate ordered the waffle sandwich, and I stole bites because that’s what fiancés do. It was pretty tasty! If I had one complaint, I’d say that the waffle was a little dry and needed just a daaaash more maple syrup. Ain’t nobody want a dry waffle sandwich.
| FORTHWRIGHT WAFFLE SANDWICH: smoked bacon, gruyére, over easy egg, maple syrup |
I picked the pork belly hash, which was deeeelish. (Nate’s normally the one who always orders the hash, but I picked it this time.)
Just looking at this shot of our brunch table makes me so happy! I don’t know what it is about you, brunch, but I’m your gal. We will be together forever.
Literally my very favorite brunch shirt, 1) because its’ so super soft and comfy, and 2) because it’s so ridiculous and Austin-y.
I’ve been in the Christmas spirit lately! I’ve got my Frank Sinatra Christmas album playing, the tree is up, and I’m working on my holiday shopping! Which is quite a feat for a family the size of mine..
This post is they type of thing I read a lot of about 3 years ago when I was first getting into online dating. I was curious about how it worked, and I wanted to know more about the type of people who *actually* met someone on a dating site. So I’m typing it up for anyone out there who would like to hear about the process of going from online dating -> engaged!
First of all, I should say that the online dating process that led me to my fiancé was my second attempt… The first time I tried online dating was when I lived in downtown Chicago after college. That time didn’t go so well. I met a couple weird people. Ha. I don’t think that I was emotionally ready to be seriously dating. I didn’t give it much effort, either, so the outcome wasn’t anything to talk about.
But this time was a different story, because it’s how I met my fiancé! This is how it happened:
I was approaching my first winter break of graduate school in Austin, TX. I went to a small private school for my undergrad, so I was unaccustomed to the 6+ weeks of winter break that I had during grad school at a large state university. I needed something to do during break other than practice my violin and watch netflix, so I decided to try two different “hobbies.” The first was training for a marathon (which I ran the following February!), and the other was trying online dating.
I’m a planner, so I totally did my research before I signed up for an account. I know…it’s kind of embarrassing. Some people are great at dating, but let me tell you that I am not that girl. Nope. I had done very little dating in my life, and I wanted to have fun with the process and not be freaked out the whole time, so I prepared. I read dating books, (<- uggh, so embarrassing. But true.), I researched which dating site to use, and I read way too many online articles about how to fill out an online dating profile with cheesy titles like “6 Things To Put On Your Dating Profile To Make It POP!” and “15 Things To Never Say On Your OKCupid Profile.” IknowIknowIknow… I told you that I am not a natural at this!
I picked OkCupid because it was 1) one of the most popular sites (more fish in the sea, eh eh?), and 2) it was FREE! (#brokegradschoolgirl) This was several years ago, so I can’t say what OkCupid is like right now, but I’ve heard from a couple sources that’s it’s been going downhill…
I wish I had saved what I put on that profile, because I would love to read it now and laugh! (I’d also love to see my message thread with Nate at the beginning, but I don’t have that either.) But being a girl on a dating site is an easy way to go on a lot of dates in a short amount of time. And I had a blast! Ha. That December, I sorted through a bunch of messages. (Some were kind, some not so much…if you’re using a free dating service, be prepared to filter through a lot of messages. It’s sad how people assume they can talk to others when there’s a computer screen between them.) I went on a lot of dates, and although no sparks flew, I met some nice men and got to experience a lot of new coffee shops and bars and restaurants in Austin, a city that was new to me at the time.
One of the challenges of online dating is to know when to quit. It’s a pretty time-consuming task, which is why I did it when grad school was out of session. It’s not like dating IRL, when something happens every few weeks or months or years…online dating is a constant fire hydrant of attention and messages, new profiles to look at and potential dates to message. It got a little exhausting. I decided to stop when school started again, which was mid-January.
But there was this one guy I had been messaging who I still wanted to meet in person….
Nate messaged me, and we instantly hit it off, messaging back and forth for a couple weeks. I knew that I wanted to meet him, so I messaged him my phone number and told him I’d be deleting my OkCupid account now that school was back in session for the spring semester, but he could text if he wanted.
We texted for a couple more weeks before we finally went out for our first date. I’ll say that, with online dating, expectations are set pretty low for first dates. It’s kinda easy to lie about your appearance/personality on a dating profile. (Everyone who’s tried online dating has a story about that one date whose profile picture was actually 5 years younger or 30 pounds slimmer or a head of hair fuller than their actual appearance, y’know? Haha.)
Our first date was at Craft Pride on Rainey Street in Austin, TX. I knew I liked him a lot from the second we sat down across the table from each other with our flight of beers. That was something I hadn’t I hadn’t felt with any of the other dates. I remember that exact moment when I thought “this one is different.”
(Ha! It sounds cheesy! I just erased that sentence and tried re-writing it, but I can’t explain it any other way… If you’ve met “your person”, you know exactly what I’m talking about!)
The story goes on from there through several years of dating, a proposal, and now planning a wedding! After the initial meeting process, there’s nothing about our dating story that’s different from two people who might have met in person instead of from a dating site. Sometimes we talk about how we met and think, “isn’t it funny that this all started with online dating?” I also often think that if I hadn’t decided to try online dating that month, I most likely wouldn’t ever have met Nate.
So that’s my story! I’m headed to enjoy a yoga class and then do some violin practicing for a weekend gig. It’s finally getting cold in Austin this weekend, and I couldn’t be more excited!! My cold weather clothes have been waiting patiently in my closet for weeks!
I’m back in Austin after a week of exploring Ohio with Nate. His immediate family doesn’t live there, but it’s where he was born, went to undergrad and law school, and where lots of his extended family lives. So we decided to spend the whole week there to explore the state and enjoy the cold weather!
Nate showed me around the Ohio State University campus and the building where he attended law school. I love being able to glimpse into those memories of his.
Oh my gosh. Y’all. I’ve heard about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for years now on instagram and blogs. I’m telling you that it did not disappoint. So much yum packed into one little store! I went with salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks and gooey butter cake. Hey Jeni’s: Austin needs you to put in a shop on South Congress, ok?
We walked up and down the shops on High Street and grabbed a couple ornaments to bring back home to Texas.
This weather had me feeling so Christmas-y the whole week!
This book store in German Village is officially one of my favorites. My one, sad, lonely picture isn’t doing a very good job showing how cute this place really is!
The 32-room store is packed with the smell of books! There’s a map showing how to get around (I got lost once or twice..) and arrows pointing in directions up-and-down various flights of stairs to help customers find a certain genre.
While we were in Columbus, we stopped at the house my grandparents lived in about 50 years ago with my mom her two sisters. They were the original owners then, and my grandpa asked us to take a picture so he could see what it looks like now. Still beautiful!
I had to stop and take some pictures of these pretty trees while walking through Victorian Village. They’re beautiful! I have a lot of good things to say about Austin, but I’ll confess that we don’t get these gorgeous fall colors. They were stunning.
After Columbus, we drove further East to Athens, OH, the little town where Nate went to college. OU is Ohio’s first university, and it’s over 200 years old and beautiful! I had so much fun wandering through the brick-lined streets and hearing Nate’s college stories.
The town is teeny tiny, so we were able to walk down the main streets of downtown before we got too cold and went to share a few flights at Jackie O’s, a local brewery in Athens, OH. I love these Ohio shaped serving boards!
Since Nate was in ROTC in college, he had plenty of memories of early morning runs in the frigid air. I told him I could relate with my memories of walking in the snow to swim practice in the dark morning hours. Then we both agreed we’re happy to be living in Texas now. Ha.
The actual Thanksgiving holiday was spent in Dayton, OH with a bunch of his immediate and extended family members. I seriously had the best time getting to know all of these people who will be party of my family when Nate and I get married in just a few months!
We prepared for the feast by eating pizza the day before Thanksgiving. #smartmove
I had no idea that “Dayton-style pizza” was a thing, but Marion’s Pizza is famous for their thin crust pizza that’s cut into little-bitty squares. This pizza is dangerous because the pieces are so tiny, you can’t keep track of how much you’ve eaten!
And for our final meal in Ohio, we ate at Skyline Chili, which everyone told me I had to try. In case you don’t know this (I didn’t…), Cincinnati chili is a whole thang. It’s not like the typical chili I would expect, which is thick of beef and almost like a stew, served with corn chips and cheese. Cincinnati chili is thin, sweet (with what I think is nutmeg and cinnamon), and layered on top of a pile of spaghetti (weird, I know!) and a HUGE pile of shredded cheese on top. This is 3-way chili, and you can choose to make it 4-way by adding either beans or onions, or 5-way by adding beans and onions. Everyone has their own opinion about which way is best, and they all seem to be pretty passionate about it! Haha.
I chose 4-way with beans. I never thought I’d be eating chili, spaghetti, and beans all on the same plate… It was actually pretty good 🙂
Thanksgiving was such a blast this year. I’m grateful to have experienced this part of the country with my fiancé. I love hearing his stories and memories from the years before we knew each other. And I’m especially thankful to be building more memories together!