the 5 dollar, 5 ounce smoothie

Behold the "Pick Me Up". A simple blend of rice milk, bananas, peanut butter, ice and one shot of espresso (plus a little agave nectar for sweetness). The straw looked so ridiculous in the little cup I just had to share this photo. And yes, I finished it in about eight seconds.


royal blue grocery

It's been a dream of mine for several years to open a corner grocery store that sells gourmet products, select kitchenware like dishtowels and wooden spoons, flowers, and a small selection of good cheeses and cured meats. My store would have a little of this and a little of that, and I based the idea for it on the local grocery stores where I'd done my own shopping over the years. Mostly small independent merchants who had created a cozy, neighborhood destination, or sold unique items that were just beautiful to touch and see. The types of stores where you feel so comfortable you could browse for an hour and leave empty-handed (although this is rarely the case). Or stores that inspire you so much with their goods, that you want to rush home to cook or bake or taste-make.

The recipe for my store was one part Mayflower Market in Pacific Heights, SF, for its inviting corner location, delicious sandwiches, and friendly staff. I used to leave my keys with Chris behind the cash register for my out-of-town guests.

One part Bay Cities Italian Deli and Bakery in Santa Monica, for their incredible specialty Mediterranean foods like dried pastas, capers and prepared antipasti.

And one part Marty's Liquors in Newton, MA for its vast selection of mustards, cocoa powder, olive oil. Not to mention their rows and rows of wine and craft beers that are nearly impossible to find anywhere else in the Boston area.

There are a few other parts to the recipe, of course, but allow me to add yet another inspiration to my list. Perhaps the very prototype for the store I've always dreamed of having: Royal Blue Grocery in Austin. I have been going to their their location on 3rd Street since I got here three weeks ago, buying a coffee on my way to work, and a bottle of wine on my way home (don't worry - not every day). Not long after I got here, I saw a sign go up on the ground floor of a building around the corner from me that said Royal Blue Grocery Coming Soon! I was overjoyed! They finally finished construction and opened their doors on Friday. Yesterday I went in to buy some milk and check it out. I tried to sneak some photos but this was the only one I could get - but I think you get the idea. Specialty food heaven.

They are still stocking the shelves and refrigerators, but I can tell it's going to be beautiful. I just love it all - the blue sign, the great music playing, the cafe seating outside, the big flower boxes being built, and mostly, the random assortment of products they sell, from a $1 bar of Dove soap, to $200 bottles of wine. I have met the owner once or twice while getting my morning coffee (a Red Sox fan!), so I may try to get a little closer to him to see how he made Royal Blue a reality.


week three

I'm going to skip past the work bit and get right to the weekend! And it's a 3-day weekend, so my Sunday spirits are even higher today. By Noon on Saturday I'd already done so much within the four blocks around my apartment. My first two weekends here I regret to say that I'd been so tired, I had spent my Saturday mornings making coffee at home, catching up on the phone with friends, and finally making it out the door in the early afternoon to start my days. Each Saturday I came upon the Austin Farmers Market being broken down around the corner, vendors packing up their trucks and police removing the barricades around the 2-block area where farmers come to sell their produce and goods. I was not going to let that happen again, so I was out the door by 9 a.m. yesterday to explore.

Now, despite the fact that some Austinites choose to drive their cars 6 blocks to work (several co-workers are guilty of this, and it drives me mad), in general Austin is a very earthy, community-centered kind of place. People ride their bikes on the weekends, the city sponsors "I live here, I give here" philanthropic events. And I don't think there's a better way to get a feel for a community than to hit the local farmer's market.

The produce at the Austin Farmer's Market was simply beautiful. I am proud of the restraint I showed by not hitting the breakfast burrito or tamale stands, and instead, tried to be an observer. I bought only one item, these beautiful, miniature Brussels sprouts. Some of them are as small as marbles, and I cannot wait to roast these sweet gems!

I definitely plan to come back again next weekend when my colleague from the Boston office, and good friend, Robyn, will be here. I don't know how she is going to feel about the pace of life in Austin, as another Bostonian we are quite used to moving fast and getting from point A - B in the least time possible. I admit that I am still tightly-wound compared to most people in this town. In fact, I was about 10 steps into the market when an older man asked me (actually he really told me) "In a rush this morning, are we?". I am working on it.


week two

I am going to try to be consistent with these these updates, even though I am so exhausted I could pass out right now! It was another challenging week at the office, but I think the team here is getting adjusted to the new work load and responsibilities. I did not expect to feel confusion about who I work for, or what office I work in, but I admit that having a new team to build and mold has been rewarding and I will truly miss the people here. I still participate in my research group's daily call, but I am feeling a bit out of the loop with what is happening, and in a way I feel more connected to and proud of the people I work with in Austin.

When Friday came, I was so tired, but looked forward to another weekend of getting to know Austin. After work I went to dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Uchi with some girls from work. I know, sushi in land-locked Austin would probably make most stomachs turn, but it was some of the freshest, most delicious I've ever had. The restaurant is in this charming little house off of a busy street that is hidden behind tall swaying bamboo and rattan screens. The interior is beautiful with a bold red Asian-inspired toile wallpaper and very pale, egg blue ceilings. We started with these amazing bond rolls filled avocado, sun dried tomato, salmon and wrapped in delicate white soybean paper. They were so small, and slightly smokey. I think I could eat them every day. Another memorable part of the meal was a little appetizer of tiny brie cubes served tempura-style with tart apple matchsticks and shoe string squash, served over a sweet vinegar reduction. The food was delicious and affordable. Including wine and several courses, it was only around $55 per person. A far cry from what you'd pay in Boston or LA.

On Saturday, I mostly relaxed, got my first Texan manicure and pedicure (it took forrrrrrrever - there is no rushing here!) Then I stopped into this amazing Mexican supermarket called Fiesta. I meant to take a picture because it just had so many interesting things, including authentic Mexican dresses, cowboy hats, cowboy boots, Mexican spices, dry bulk containers with everything you could think of. The shelves were also really low, and you could see over them across the entire market. There was also a place to get your jewelry repaired, a pawn shop, a small health clinic, a huge food court, and a Wells Fargo. There was a line of about 30 people waiting at the bank, mostly immigrants transferring money home to their families, I presume. This reminded me a lot of California.

Today, I woke up late and went for a 2 hour walk around Town Lake. This could be why I am so exhausted now! It was really windy today, but just great to be outside and clear my head a little. I was telling my sister Christina earlier today that it seems like
everyone here exercises. One moment you'll pass a ripped, 70 year hippy dude with a ponytail, and the next, a tattooed 26 year old bartender with huge headphones will sprint by you. There are also quite a few UT athletes and others who take advantage of any of the different distance loops around the lake. I am going to try to make these Sunday walks a ritual, as it is great people watching and I have figured out a strategic way of arriving right at Whole Foods to do a little shopping for the week before I return home. Dangerous, expensive, but amazing. I could dedicate an entire post to the Whole Foods world headquarters in Austin. It's truly incredible.

Right now it is close to 10p.m. and I have the big windows in my bedroom open to let in the breeze. It's about 70 degrees out and I have not figured the AC out in this place. I am actually not sure that there is a "cool" setting on my thermostat, only a "no heat" setting... That could be a problem as we get closer to summer. I have a big tree outside of my window so I can hear the leaves blowing in the wind, as well as the fountain in the courtyard. It's quite peaceful, and the perfect sound to soothe me to sleep before an another early morning and long week.

More from me later...


week one

It's been a week since I arrived in Austin and I have a lot to say about this city. In short: Austin has terrific music. Music makes people happy. Happy people are nice. Yesterday I caught myself wondering something I've only ever wondered about San Francisco, which is: why would you live anywhere else? I know, that's a loaded question, and to be perfectly honest the fact that I could barely support myself in SF is one of the reasons I probably could never move back there. But life in Austin is so incredibly care-free and fun, it's someplace I hope to visit throughout the rest of my life, and maybe even live at some point.

My corporate apartment is comfortable and only about a 10 minute walk to the office, which is a good thing since I've been spending most of my time there. This job is going to be a challenge but I'm trying to take it one day at a time, one project at a time. The people I'm working with and training have been great so far. I think that we're going to have at least a month of growing pains as we transition project work from our New York, Boston and SF offices to our colleagues in Austin. Many of the people I am training have never worked with clients before, so in addition to the challenge of learning the subject matter of each project, there's a big "client service" learning curve. (sorry for the work lingo...)

The apartment is also a few blocks away from 2nd Street which has some nice boutiques and cafes. It's all brand new, like less than a year old, so it seems a bit contrived, but it's really neat to see things being built and developed in this city. Yesterday my colleague David (who also went to Hamilton with me), was nice enough to pick me up and give me a tour of the city. He's been so good to me and has invited me to go out every night and even watch the Super Bowl with him and his friends today. David has lived in Austin for a few years and shared all sorts of fun facts about the city. One interesting story has to do with Pres. Linden Johnson's wife. Legend has it that, in the last years of her life, Lady Bird Johnson donated massive amounts of money to the city and UT to convince them not to build a skyline. She said she wanted to be able to look down Congress Avenue and have an unobstructed view of the State Capitol. Unfortunately, the moment she died, tall office buildings and condos started flying up, and today every street you walk down is the site of some sort of large construction or development project. Maybe people felt guilty about doing that to the former first lady, so they recently re-named Town Lake "Lady Bird Lake". Hopefully she's got a good view of the Capitol from Heaven.

After driving around the city and seeing some neat neighborhoods, David and I stopped in to a restaurant/bar called Doc's where we ate and drank in the 72 degree sunny weather. I felt like I was in California and couldn't stop smiling. A few other people from GLG met us at Doc's (people in our office here also hang out socially all the time). After drinking outside for 4 hours, we decided to leave and check out some of the cools shops on South Congress. Some of you have heard me talk about Allen's Boots, and maybe some of you have even seen the boots I got there last year. Allen's is an Austin tradition, and a must-see for anyone visiting this city. I think, like me, people aren't even there to shop, but to take in all the rows of colorful boots and leathery smells. Some of these boots are true works of art and can cost as much as $5,000. After Allen's we went to a handful of vintage clothing stores, and I have to say they are some of the best I've ever seen. I definitely plan to spend more time on South Congress as it's a really great part of town.

Today I am going to go for a run along the river/lake (no one can really give me a straight answer as to what this body of water is). But whatever it is, there are trails all along it, not unlike the walking and biking trails along the Charles River or even Chrissy Field. Then it's back to work in the morning and I hope to have more to share throughout the week, or at the very least, next weekend after some new adventures.

as seen in austin