The Week That Was: February 27, 2015

Geetar
Lest we forget we live in the live music capital of the world

Another week in Austin, another week spent sporting my winter coat and kind of feeling like I still live in Chicago. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. There’s no snow and the coldest it’s been was the 30s. Still, I’d like the 70+ degree days to return any day now.

It’s been a busy few weeks getting ready to close on our new house on Monday (fingers crossed). I’ve done more appliance research than I ever imagined possible, and will soon be the proud owner of a new refrigerator and washer/dryer set. In the midst of all that, Nora managed to take a tumble at the park over the weekend, which resulted in a chipped (!) top front tooth, so she will be taking her first trip to the dentist next week. Never a dull moment around here.

Our weekend looks to be rainy and chilly, but that will just make me appreciate all the more the California sunshine I’ll be seeing in a week! In preparation for girls’ weekend next weekend, I’ll be doing a little pre-packing and undoubtedly, a tiny bit of shopping this weekend. What better way to spend a rainy day?

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Can you imagine being on a flight where cigarette smoking is allowed? Me, neither. Thank goodness that was banned — 25 years ago this week, in fact.

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Photos are the best souvenir. Here’s how to take great ones, even if you’re traveling solo.

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Ever see a really cute top or must-have pair of shoes on someone else or in a mag, and you think, where can I find that? As if I need another reason to love Zappos, they’ve added Ask Zappos to their arsenal. Text, email, Instagram or upload a photo of said coveted item, and they’ll find it for you!

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I know I’m one of the last women on earth to jump on the Stitchfix bandwagon. But after receiving my first shipment of adorable clothes, I highly recommend trying this personalized styling service. They even have casual numbers for stay-at-home moms like me.

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I’m a big proponent of family travel. Nora took her first road trip at two months and her first flight at three months. Of course it’s different from traveling sans child, but definitely doable.

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My headache won yesterday afternoon and I took a nap. When I awoke, my Twitter feed was exploding with llamas!

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TripAdvisor turned 15 this week! And a little extra tidbit, the name of the owl referenced in #6 is Ollie.

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Have a lovely weekend and stay warm and dry, depending on where you are!

At Home in Austin’s 2nd Street District

Home

This is our fourth week in Austin. Some days it feels like we just got here and other days it feels like we’ve been here forever. I guess that’s normal. We’re in a very transient stage, living in this temporary apartment, but it’s home — luckily only for about two more weeks.

We’re living in a furnished apartment in Austin’s 2nd Street District, which is an area of downtown that’s dotted with shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, many of which are local. There are some adorable clothing shops over on 2nd Street, like Langford Market and Luxe Apothetique, which has a little bit of everything. And I’ve already waxed poetic about my favorite bakery in the ‘hood, Delish. Best of all, our temporary home is within walking distance to KP’s office, so most mornings (save for those rare ones when it’s in the chilly 30s) Nora and I walk with him to get out and about for a bit.

Our view from the 14th floor isn’t too shabby. Nora likes looking at the cars and busses below and KP and I like all the cool, tall buildings. There’s a lot of construction and new buildings shooting up all over the place downtown, especially just west of us, so it’ll be interesting to see what will fill all of those new spaces.

The view

Though living right downtown for a few short weeks has quickly reminded me that I’m over this kind of living (loud and busy), we’re definitely appreciating some of the perks. Our building has a really nice sun deck on the fifth floor, complete with a gym, two swimming pools and two grills. Oddly, I think we’re the only people in this building who ever take advantage of it because we rarely see anyone else out there. Fine by me!

Our very own sun deck
Friday afternoon R & R on our very own sun deck

With just over two weeks until we move into our new house (hooray!), we’re going to keep on enjoying that sun deck and exploring the cool, yummy spots the 2nd Street District has to offer.

Staycation at Hotel Palomar in Chicago

Our last night in Chicago, our bedroom looked like this:

Bedroom

Those hardwood floors are beautiful, I know, but they don’t look so inviting, do they? All of our treasured belongings — including our bed — were ready to be packed into a big North American moving truck, so we had to stay at a hotel. I like Kimptons, so we decided to stay at Hotel Palomar in River North.

Hotel Palomar

Ah yes, that looks like a bedroom I’d much rather spend a night in.

We checked in just in time for one of my favorite things that Kimpton offers: wine hour. But by “just in time,” I mean there was only about ten minutes left so we made plans for our own wine hour elsewhere. Still, I love this little perk. Who doesn’t enjoy free wine in a cool atmosphere? No one I’m friends with…

Our room was on the 14th floor and although we didn’t have a view (except for the office building next door) the room was huge. And quite frankly, I’d rather sleep in the Palomar’s comfy bed versus my own any night of the week. The only thing I didn’t like is that we somehow ended up in an accessible room, which meant a massive bathroom with zero counter space or wall hooks to hang things. First world problems: having to apply makeup in front of the closet door mirror.

I really like this hotel and if you watch, you can usually get a pretty reasonable rate by Chicago standards. The swanky Sable Kitchen & Bar is on the ground floor and never disappoints. They had me at deviled eggs with white truffle oil.

Around Town in Austin

Around Town in Austin

These are a few of my favorite things in our new city of Austin, Texas: the skyline, Lady Bird Lake, Patika Coffee and Delish bakery.

We’re kind of spoiled with the fantastic views of the Austin skyline from our apartment, especially at nighttime. Nora’s keen on watching the cars and busses whiz by on the streets below, and checking out what’s going on in Republic Square Park just across the street. She also likes pointing out “tick tock” (the Frost Bank building with the clock on top).

Lady Bird Lake (or Town Lake, depending on who you ask) is just two blocks from our apartment. I’ve yet to run the path along the lake (color me intimidated – some of these fit Austinites book it!) but we’ve taken plenty of walks there and it is just lovely. There are people walking, running and biking constantly — and lots of dogs. This is a dog-friendly city for sure. We like to walk along Cesar Chavez and then cross over the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge. This is typically where I let Nora disembark the stroller and “walk walk walk,” which is what she requests the entire way until we get to this spot. There are just too many runners and bikers along the path and I don’t want her to get in the way. Over on the Riverside Drive side of the path, there’s even a “leash-free” zone for dogs and there are always lots of them over there playing fetch or taking a dip.

What better way to end a jaunt around the lake than with a coffee and a decadent pretzel magic bar? Patika operates a cute little coffee kart on 4th Street between Congress and Colorado. They support local roasters plus some others from around the country. Given the number of independent coffee shops around town, I made it my mission to check out a new one each Friday. I haven’t gotten past Patika! And after I get my coffee, I stroll over to Delish bakery which is conveniently right on my way home. I’m told it was featured on some food show on TV, but I’d like to keep this shop under wraps. I’ve tried more of their cupcakes than I care to admit, plus the pretzel magic bar which truly is magical. The carrot cake cookie (which is what I’d call a whoopie pie) is next on my Nora’s list.

We’re having a great time exploring our new city, both on foot and through our tummies.

The Week That Was: February 13, 2015

Our view of AustinThough there are some things about our temporary place here in Austin that we don’t love, the view isn’t one of them! This is what we wake up to each morning, and most days Nora asks to say “hi” to the building she’s dubbed, “tick tock.” It’s the Frost Bank Tower (top right with the crown on top — hard to see the clock). It really is a great view and we’re constantly asking aloud things like, “what is that on the top floor of the Chase building?” (For the record, it’s a private club.)

We’re taking in the view and the convenience of being downtown while we can, because in less than a month we’ll be moving into our new house! Luckily we found something we loved so quickly, and since it’s a new house we don’t have to wait for anyone to move out. So this weekend, we’ll hit up the farmer’s market across the street from our apartment on Saturday morning. And maybe on Sunday we’ll cheer on some of the runners in the Austin marathon.

While I go help Nora work on her Valentine for Daddy, enjoy these links.

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Airbnb isn’t the only place to book a vacation rental, particularly if you’re looking for someplace kid-friendly.

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We’ve yet to take a long flight with Nora; I think she’s maxed out around three or so hours. Why? Because I’m scared shitless that it will be a disaster, despite knowing plenty of people who’ve done it and gotten along just fine. Here, some great advice to heed for the day that we do take that long flight.

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My love for both sushi and travel knows no bounds. But I just can’t see myself using this.

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Someone sent me a recipe for 40 cloves of garlic chicken and I thought it was a joke. Apparently not, but it is a great anti-Valentine’s Day dish.

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I’m constantly looking at all things house-related — appliances (who knew how pricey fridges are?!), decorating, furniture, you name it. Our builder beige walls had me cringing, until I discovered how beautiful they could actually be.

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I love entertaining and a beautifully set table.

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Have a lovely weekend and a happy Valentine’s Day!

The Week That Was: February 6, 2015

55th anniversary

Today marks my parents’ 55th wedding anniversary. 55 years. How incredible is that? In this age of “conscious uncoupling,” 55 years of wedded bliss is a rarity. Congrats to you, Mom and Dad.

Tomorrow’s milestone certainly pales in comparison to 55 years of marriage. It’s just the end of our first week in Austin. But hey, it doesn’t take much for us to come up with an excuse to celebrate, so we’re heading to dinner at Parkside tonight. And we’ll toast to my parents, too.

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I hate football, and I could care less about the Super Bowl. I don’t even really watch for the commercials or halftime show, but for whatever reason, I did this year. And thanks to Nationwide, I spent Sunday night tossing and turning instead of sleeping. Apparently I wasn’t the only one they pissed off. Seriously, what were they thinking?

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Loving these unique Valentine’s Day gifts. But I’m really hoping for tickets to the Austin Food & Wine Festival from my Valentine. A-hem…

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Think flight attendants are talking about you? They are.

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As soon as I get myself to the Austin Public Library, I intend to check out some of these travel reads.

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Travel apps have to be really amazing to wow me anymore, but I think this new one from Hopper, which predicts when you should book your flight, is worth checking out.

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Easy tricks for choosing wine. No wonder I like Pinot Noir so much (mmm bacon!).

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Who doesn’t love a quiz? How efficient a traveler are you? Spoiler alert: I’m an “ultra-efficient traveler.” Surprise, surprise…

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Have a lovely weekend.

Goodbye, Chicago. Hello, Austin!

Chicago

“This is my kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of people, too
People who smile at you”

— Frank Sinatra

It’s official. We’re no longer Chicagoans. We’re Austinites. With the chaos of packing, saying goodbyes, driving 1,100+ miles and unpacking (partially) behind us, we’re slowly settling in and will hopefully have a new routine in place soon.

Our last week in Chicago was a busy one. I drove Nora to my parents’ so that she could have some one-on-one time with them before we moved, and so that she was out of the way when the movers came. And then I drove back to Chicago. I wanted to see exactly how much time I could spend in the car in one week… KP and I spent the final days sitting around while the movers packed up our home, and then waiting for them to load the truck. Why is it that moving companies always tell you they’ll send three to four people to tackle your move, but then only two show up? And then they’re surprised when you’re angry. As is par for the course with our moves, Mother Nature decided to drop a few flurries on us on loading day. It was nothing like we had our past two moves, but snow, nonetheless. I’m just glad we got out when we did; Chicago got 15″ of snow the weekend that we arrived in Austin.

Since Nora was with Grammie and Gampa our very last night in Chicago, we made grand plans. We had to stay in a hotel since our entire home was packed up, so we booked a room at Hotel Palomar. After we checked in, we walked to the Signature Lounge on the 95th floor of the Hancock building for pre-dinner cocktails– something I’ve wanted to do ever since we moved to Chicago but never got around to doing.  The people-watching was fantastic and the view is spectacular.

Chicago, as seen from the Signature Lounge
Chicago, as seen from the Signature Lounge

We finally made it to RPM for dinner. We were supposed to go for my birthday but it didn’t happen, and I’m glad we were able to squeeze it in, if for nothing more than the light, fluffy mozzarella balls in the lobster (!) caprese salad. A baby-free night called for an after-dinner hot toddy at Sable in our hotel. Had to go out with a bang! Although my head at 2:30 a.m. kind of wishes we hadn’t made that decision.

But a good night out is just what we needed before returning home to a house full of boxes. This was my seventh move and seeing your home and all of your belongings packed in boxes doesn’t ever get easy. There are always memories that were made in the place that you’re leaving, and our home in Chicago was chock-full of them. It’s the first house KP and I bought together as a married couple, and the home that we brought Nora home to after she was born. I couldn’t linger in her empty room too long.

Nora's room
Nora’s room

Leaving Chicago was really bittersweet. I love the city, and I don’t think I’ve been this sad to leave any place else that I’ve lived (except for maybe London). I had to remind myself (and still do) of all of the great things we’re going to have and experience in Austin. And the sunshine and warm weather Austin greeted us with our first full day here certainly helped (especially when Chicago got more snow dumped on it right after we left).

Life in Austin has been good so far, save for getting reacquainted with apartment life and a parking garage and hauling grocery and Target bags from said parking garage up to our 14th floor apartment. We’re living in corporate housing for the next two months or so. It’s right in the heart of downtown and we have amazing floor-to-ceiling windows that Nora can’t stop looking out of and watching the “cars! cars! cars!” It’s spacious and comfortable and both KP and I commented on how quiet it is and how well we’re sleeping — save for the usual sirens and city sounds. I think it’s good that we’re parked here for a few months; it’ll force us to get out and about and get the lay of the land downtown, plus we’re within walking distance of beautiful Lady Bird Lake.

Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake