Life Lately

I don’t want to be different than every other blog on the Internet, so let me start out by saying: OMG guys, tomorrow is August! Can you believe it?! This year is just flying by!

Okay, now that that’s out of the way – let’s catch up on a few things, shall we?


1. I’m 110% over summer. Almost positive I say this every year. Sure, Austin has only seen a handful of days over 100 degrees making it an exceptionally mild year for us. Lora, if it was you who brought these “cooler” temps then you’re never allowed to leave. While we may not have broken 100, we’ve been in the high 90s most days and the daily low is between 75 & 80. This occurs somewhere in the 3-4am timeframe and is hideously accompanied by 90% humidity. I’m jealous of you northerners flaunting your windows-open weather and enjoying morning runs in the 60s. Anyway, I’ve decided it’s definitely okay for us southern state dwellers to complain about how hot it is since we spent all winter listening to the rest of the country complain about how cold it is. What’s fair is fair.

2. Recently I received a promotion and have been splitting time between training my replacement and transitioning into the new role. I had been in my past position for two and a half years so I’m really excited for the challenge and experience in a new role. That being said, work has been keeping me very busy. The hours are a little longer but it doesn’t really bother me until we’re eating dinner at 8:30. Once the transition is over everything will settle down. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

3. With marathon training starting in mid-September, we decided it was time to clean up our eating habits. 3 weeks ago we switched to a modified Paleo lifestyle. I say modified because we still have coffee, sweet potatoes and dark chocolate on occasion. Moderation! In the first 2 weeks we collectively lost 14 pounds and it wasn’t terribly hard to stay on track. I also noticed a significantly positive difference in my sleeping habits, which was a welcomed surprise. Last weekend while friends were in town we definitely bent the rules [because pizza. Tex-Mex. beer.] so we’re starting from scratch again.

Via 313 - Craft Pride

The plan is go hard for 30 days to allow our bodies to adjust and then maintain an 80/20 balance afterwards. The only downside is all of the cooking. The prep work can be tedious and letting a spaghetti squash cook for an hour in the oven after walking in the door from work at 7pm results in several late dinners each week. Eventually it will be second nature but for right now I’d rather just pour a bowl of cereal and call it a day.

4. Relay #2 is just around the corner! It’s hard to believe Hood to Coast is only 3 weeks away. I’ve never been to the PNW so spending 4 days out there should be pretty damn fantastic. Much like my last foray into slap-bracelet world, I haven’t met a single one of my teammates in real life. Each and every one of them is a Nuun Ambassador so we’ll have that in common at least. I’m fairly certain this girl and I will get along just fine, based on her appreciation for the Red Sox and stellar social media posts. The sarcasm that girl throws around unabashedly is top notch. I also just found out my best friend from high school will be out there running HTC as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to rendezvous on the beach in Seaside Saturday night. This will be the second Seaside city [next to our neighboring one in NJ] we’ve wreaked havoc in. Can’t wait.

5. Sox has pretty much turned into Dora the Explorer on our hikes and two weeks ago managed to snag a sweet case of poison ivy. Thankfully she didn’t eat any or it could have been a lot worse. Her poor face did swell up though. Dog - Poison Ivy

Sox - Poison Ivy

Sad puppy. Google Machine to the rescue, since it was Sunday and a visit to the emergency clinic would likely result in a $200 bill. A few rounds of Benadryl and she was good as new. Now that we’ve seen what Benadryl can do to her, we sometimes talk about giving it to her when she’s being spaztastic and we’re trying to sleep. Kidding, kind of. Parents of the Year over here.

6. Weird Al released “Word Crimes” [his spoof on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”] and it touches on almost every grammatical error I find myself getting fired up about. If you’re passionate about using the English language correctly, you’ll love this video. If you’re one of my friends on Facebook who doesn’t know what a run-on sentence is, writes words like L8R, or misuses ‘literally’ on a regular basis – you might not understand most of this video. But plz watch it neway, k thx.

7. I probably spent too many dollars at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but you won’t find any traces of regret here. I was able to grab a tote for work large enough to hold my beast of a laptop but small enough that it doesn’t feel like I’m carrying the entire world on my shoulder. I’ve been on the hunt for 6 months so it was nice to finally quit that adventure. I also picked up my first pair of Fryes– a little gift to myself for the recent promotion. Treat yo’ self, kids.

8. I had the absolute best Manhattan of my life last weekend at Travaasa. Not usually one to choose Makers Mark over other whiskeys but the bartender said he’d make one with it for us and we could order something else if we hated it.


Rather than using sweet vermouth and bitters, he used a bottle of something delicious from Barbados that sent the Manhattan way over the top. Between the two of us over the course of the evening we sent the bartender dashing out of the building to grab another bottle of Makers after flying through the first and landed ourselves a pretty healthy bar tab. Sadly, I can’t recreate this cocktail at home unless someone wants to make a quick trip to Barbados for me. Any takers? I will pay you in tasty whiskey beverages.

And that’s all folks! Until next time…

Tackling Holiday Travel

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Holiday Problems - Part 2

Aside from those mentioned in Part I, another huge source of anxiety for me is holiday travel. Not so much the ACTUAL traveling, but the planning and being able to afford it at a time of year where we’re already spending a significant amount of money on gifts and whatnot. When I lived in Florida, my parents came down for Christmas almost every year. I didn’t fight it, I mean come on – Christmas on the beach? Yes please. It was a no brainer.

Once I moved to Texas, things changed quite a bit. Here’s how Christmas has looked over the past few years:

2009: My family drove out to Texas for the week, Brad flew to Florida on Christmas Eve to see his family
2010: Brad went to Florida and I went to NJ. I got stuck there for an extra week due to a massive snowstorm. Yikes.
2011: We stayed in Texas.
2012: We stayed in Texas.


While spending the holiday alone is low-key and stress-free, we’re also spending the holiday alone without our families. So last December we made a pact to figure out some way to see both families for Christmas in 2013. I had the bright idea for us to fly to Florida, then on Christmas Eve fly to New Jersey, and then fly back to Texas a few days later. Once I priced that thing out it was obvious this option would NOT be in our budget. We also had the added obstacle of the two dogs. If we went out of town, we’d have to find somewhere for them to go. I’m not a huge fan of the boarding option, especially because of how much it would cost. I really didn’t want to have to leave them. After a ton of brainstorming and number crunching, we finally figured out a way to make it all work.

Road Trip!

Sox Drives

We’re jumping in the truck with the dogs and heading to Florida. I’ll spend a few days with Brad’s family and then fly up to New Jersey on Christmas Eve to see mine. Then we’ll meet back up the following weekend and drive back to Texas, making a pit stop to see this girl on the way. Somehow this crazy ass plan is the most cost-effective. I was able to book two one-way tickets to/from NJ for $100 each [on Jetblue + Southwest, so $0 bag fees] which is a RIDICULOUS steal for holiday airfare. Since I never take any time off and will be out of the office for quite awhile, my boss has been referring to this trip as my sabbatical. He’s hilarious.

Anyway, I’m glad it all worked out and that we’ll be able to bring the dogs. Not entirely sure how the drive is going to work to/from Florida with a 100lb and 70lb dog in the truck, but it should certainly be interesting. And I’m also kinda concerned about having to pack for two different climates. I have a feeling I’ll be bringing a lot of layers so there’s options.

I’m super excited to see family/friends in New Jersey and Florida. Can’t believe it’s only a couple weeks away!

How do you tackle the holidays in your house? Do you travel or does your family come to you?

Do the holidays usually run you into the ground? Will you definitely need a cure for your #HolidayProblems by the end of December? Enter to win a trip for two to Travaasa Austin in 2014!

holiday problems

Disclaimer: Earlier this year I fell in love with Travaasa Austin [reviews :: resort stay & culinary class / wine tasting] and they are offering to send me back in exchange for my participation in their #HolidayProblems campaign. My thoughts + opinions on Travaasa are 100% my own and no additional compensation will be received.

Share your #HolidayProblems and enter to win!

December Survival Guide

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Now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, the most magical and stressful time of year is upon us. While you may have saved the big bucks yesterday braving Black Friday, it provided only a glimpse into the holiday season that tends to swallow each and every one of us up over the next several weeks.

But it doesn’t have to. This is the first in a two-part series where we’ll identify – and tackle – those #HolidayProblems which summon anxiety and keep your heart rate elevated every December.

Holiday Problems - Part 1

Your credit card is cowering in the corner. This is inevitable unless you’re a super planner or are super rich. If you’ve waited until the last minute to start your shopping, you’ll need to assess your current financial situation. Determine the total you have to spend and then divide that amount across your list. Does this sound like a feasible number to spend on each person? If not, it’s time to re-prioritize your list. The holidays should be about spending time with your loved ones, not stressing over how far you put yourself in the hole trying to shower everyone with gifts. Set limits for yourself, such as only buying for the children – or in our case, nieces & nephews. The remaining family members can participate in Secret Santa with a spending limit or even a fun White Elephant swap. Get creative!

Duck Dynasty Chia Pet

Operation Eat All The Things. The fastest way to overindulge is to restrict. My social media feeds are bursting with tips on how to lighten up that sweet potato casserole or slash calories from your eggnog. Let’s be honest here: do those really taste the same as their full-fat counterparts? No, they certainly do not. Rather than saying ‘no’ to your favorite dishes, allow yourself to truly enjoy them in reasonable portions. Do you need to eat 3 pieces of that bourbon pecan pie? Probably not, but certainly have one – and savor every last bite.


Fitness keeps getting bumped to the bottom of the list. During the busiest time of the year, certain things fall by the wayside and for some people, their fitness routine is the first to slip. When you’re laying in bed the morning after your company holiday party with a chardonnay-hangover, it’s easy to forego that 5-mile run. DON’T SKIP IT! Exercise endorphins are the best for banishing stress – take advantage! Schedule spin classes & yoga sessions right into your calendar, the same way you would with a meeting or lunch with a friend. Alternate water with your champagne cocktails to keep wicked hangovers at bay. You’re your own worst enemy: stop dreaming up excuses and get your butt to the gym! Make your workouts a priority and retain some semblance of sanity.

Someone Who is Busier Than You is Running Right Now

Treat Yo Self. I know I know, this time of year you’re supposed to be shopping for others. But sometimes you’re seconds away from a meltdown in the middle of the mall on Saturday afternoon and retail therapy might be just what you need to pull yourself together. So treat yo self to that french press (<— you know I did) you’ve been eyeing or the cashmere scarf now on clearance that will go with basically everything in your closet. Hell, it can even be a latte from Starbucks! Nothing huge or extravagant, just something small to boost your spirits. Take a deep breath, swipe your card, and finish tackling that shopping list.

Keep Calm and Treat Yo Self

Do the holidays usually run you into the ground? Will you definitely need a cure for your #HolidayProblems by the end of December? Enter to win a trip for two to Travaasa Austin in 2014!


Disclaimer: Earlier this year I fell in love with Travaasa Austin [reviews :: resort stay & culinary class / wine tasting] and they are offering to send me back in exchange for my participation in their #HolidayProblems campaign. My thoughts + opinions on Travaasa are 100% my own and no additional compensation will be received.

Share your #HolidayProblems and enter to win!

Breakfast in Bed + A Few Bottles of Wine

Last weekend while we were out at Travaasa Austin we signed up for a culinary class and a wine tasting.



Executive Chef Benjamin Baker led a group of five of us in Jean’s Kitchen during the “Breakfast in Bed” themed culinary class.

We each had our own cooking station and immediately got down to work. First up on the menu: Almond & Cranberry Scones with Honey-Banana Cream Cheese and a salad comprised of Blueberries, Strawberries, Cinnamon Honey, and Fresh Mint.

Scones are a baked good I’ve steered clear of in the kitchen so I was excited to learn how to make them. They were much easier than expected!


Next was Seared Steel Head Trout with Grilled Heirloom Tomatoes, Asparagus, Basil and Toasted Pine Nuts.



Trout isn’t my favorite fish and asparagus is a vegetable I never eat, but I devoured every bite. We kept the flavors very simple (salt, pepper, white wine, lemon juice) and everything came together perfectly. This is definitely a recipe I’d recreate in my kitchen at home.



Huge thanks to Ben Baker for opening his kitchen to us Saturday afternoon and showing us how to prepare this sweet and savory breakfast in bed menu!

After the cooking demo we headed down to The Spur for our wine tasting.



Our master sommelier (or as he preferred, “wine geek”), Edward, was AWESOME. He was super knowledgeable, had a great sense of humor, and really kept the conversation flowing throughout the class.


We tasted two sauvignon blancs: Sancerre (France) and Jules Taylor (New Zealand). I preferred the latter, which is considered a New World wine.

New World: The Americas (United States, Canada, South America), Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa

Old World: France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and Austria

I’m a sucker for strong grapefruit notes in my SB and generally lean towards the bottles from New Zealand.


Next we tasted two reds: Chateau Laplagnotte-Bellevue (Bordeaux, France) and Deerfield Ranch “Merlot Cuvee” (Sonoma). Again, I preferred the latter, as did the majority of the room. It was a very smooth, rich red. (We were planning on ordering a bottle of the Deerfield with dinner but later decided on a bottle of malbec instead.)


Edward provided each of us with a packet of information that included the distinction between Old and New World, common questions + answers, detailed notes on each of the bottles we tasted, wine region maps, and a scent wheel.


Our discussion throughout the class ranged from glassware to sulfites to why wine hangovers can be so painful. For a reason I can’t remember (I blame it on the wine…) the conversation turned to Riesling and then Edward decided there was a bottle we needed to try. So we did.


Look at all those wine corks, we did some damage!

This was the first real wine tasting we had ever attended (there were a few informal ones I went to while bartending in Florida) and we were both really impressed. At first I was nervous it might be a bit too pretentious but once Edward introduced himself, my worries disappeared! He was very personable and is incredibly passionate about his job. I would love to attend another wine tasting out at Travaasa since their wine list is pretty extensive and unique. I highly recommend putting this on your to-do list during your stay.


Escaping the City :: A Travaasa Austin Review


This weekend Brad and I took a trip out to Travaasa Experiential Resort and Spa near Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. It was a short twenty minute drive from our house but felt as if we were vacationing in another part of the country.

Check-in isn’t until 3pm but you’re allowed on the property as early as 9am. There’s a pretty healthy list of activities scheduled for the day so ideally you’d plan your day out beforehand and arrive accordingly. We had booked a Breakfast in Bed Culinary Class at 2pm so we got to Travaasa just before 1. Luckily our room was ready so we were able to drop off our bags and get settled in.DSCN0598Guests rooms are located in three-story individual dwellings, which I thought was a nice change of pace from the cookie-cutter rooms in one large building. We stayed on the 3rd floor in Hacienda Alamo and it was the perfect location. 2013-02-24_08-56-22_473









After we spent 20 minutes ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the incredible views, we grabbed our property map and made our way to Jean’s Kitchen for the Culinary Class.






I’m going to dedicate a separate post to both the culinary class and a wine tasting we did immediately following it. They were both exceptional and deserve special attention.

After the tasting we settled in at a table on the Mesquite Patio to finish our wine and kill some time before dinner. It was nice to relax and unwind, catching up after a busy week.




Once our glasses were empty we decided to take a walk out to the spa and check out the rest of the grounds.





The views out there were absolutely breathtaking. Austin is such a huge city and we tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, forgetting about the Hill Country out west. We need to take advantage more often.


Our dinner reservations were for 7pm so we thought we’d grab a drink at the bar across from the restaurant.




Brad went with a local beer, Stash IPA, and I chose a glass of Illahe Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. Our bartender was very helpful and allowed us to also taste a Malbec we were interested in ordering with dinner. Another gentleman (a manager, I assume) overheard Brad and I talking about how my phone was about to die and inquired what kind of phone I had. He disappeared behind the bar and produced a charger for me. Awesome customer service.2013-02-23_18-21-18_835



Dinner was, as expected, awesome. It was pretty cool to watch Executive Chef Ben Baker hard at work. I love open air kitchens and wish we had requested to sit up at the bar so we had a better view!



It was really dark in the restaurant so our meals didn’t photograph well. But the wine did.



We started with Portobello Lettuce Cups, and then for dinner Brad ordered the Wild Boar with Blue Polenta and I had Texas Wagyu New York Strip with Oven Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli. Everything was excellent. New York Strip is pretty far down on my list of favorite cuts of meat but this was unlike any strip I’ve had before. And probably the only restaurant who has ever nailed the “Medium” cooking temperature. It was perfect.

For dessert we had Beignets with Mexican Chocolate “Cappucino” Fondue and a 12-year honeyed single malt scotch. Yes, scotch. Honestly I wasn’t interested at all in sharing the Beignets. We probably should have each ordered our own – they were that good!

We brought our bottle of wine back to the room with us and enjoyed it on the patio, watched a little bit of TV and were asleep by 10:30. We party HARD.

Around 3am I woke up VERY thirsty. I cracked open a bottle of water, but I really wanted ice for it. Or maybe I wanted a soda. One of the two would work. We grabbed the ice bucket and decided to go on an adventure. Our building didn’t have an ice machine or a vending machine, so we headed to the welcome center. An employee saw us out on our walk and asked if there was anything he could help with. He unfortunately told us there wasn’t a vending machine in the welcome center but he would be happy to grab us some ice. We gave him our room number and then headed back to the building.

Ten minutes later this amazing employee arrived at our door with a full ice bucket, four different cans of sodas, and three bags of chips. He seriously made my morning. Talk about going above and beyond. Customer service at Travaasa is definitely top notch.

At 7:30 we headed to Jean’s Kitchen for breakfast.







After breakfast we hit one of the hiking trails so we could see the Solidago Gardens. The front desk recommended we check it out, as the waterfalls make it very serene and peaceful. This was definitely a last minute decision so we went hiking in flip-flops. Wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s doable.2013-02-24_08-42-09_432













So now we get to the only disappointing part of our weekend. Some of the activities required signing up the day before since there were limited spots. When we checked in at 1pm on Saturday, the Challenge Course’s (an obstacle course with ziplining) eight slots were already full. We penciled ourselves in as two of the alternates just in case someone couldn’t make it. Unfortunately, everyone showed up so we were stuck with nothing to do for the remainder of the morning. Bummer. No one’s fault but our own – if we had shown up earlier in the day we probably could have gotten on the list.

We spent a little bit of time relaxing in a hammock and then headed back to the infinity pool.


We lounged by the pool for about an hour or so, soaking up some sunshine and enjoying the killer view.

Seriously, how can you beat this? Hard to believe we were actually still in Texas.




We had an early lunch and our final meal on the Mesquite Patio before checking out.


Overall, Travaasa is a pretty amazing place. It’s definitely a hidden gem out there near Lake Travis and I’m glad we were able to visit. I’ll follow up with the Culinary Class and Wine Tasting reviews because I think they were my favorite parts of the weekend. Me? Love a wine tasting? Shocking, no?