2017 Resolutions

I was hesitant to publically show my 2017 resolutions this year as I have a few lofty goals and a couple of scary ones. It’d be easier to skip them if I didn’t flaunt them which is exactly why I’m sharing them. You guys get to hold me accountable. Yay!?

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Here they are:

  • Run a full marathon (see “lofty goals”)
  • Visit three new-to-me states, one new-to-me country
  • Graduate with my MBA
  • Take a solo trip (I have fond memories experimenting with the starts of solo travel. In 2013, I flew to Detroit to film a commercial and met up with the production team upon arrival. Last year I drove to New Orleans solo to meet up with friends and flew companionless to Ireland to then adventure with cousins. I’ve found all of these unaccompanied moments both meditative and thrilling. I’m keeping my options open here. Maybe I’ll have a weekend away in a sleepy little Texas town. Maybe I’ll fly to new lands. Either way, I’m excited for this one.)
  • Get a tattoo (see “scary goals”; I have one tattoo. I’ve wanted a second for years. My one big irrational fear is needles and I was a huge baby when getting tatted at eighteen. Like, the tattoo artist kind of hated me. But at this point I’ve given birth to an actual baby so I figure that process must be scarier and I can handle this. Eh?)
  • Record books read (Every year, I devour so many delicious words and recollect very few of them. I hate that! I started on this goal slightly early, by creating a Goodreads account in late December.)
  • Blog 1+ times weekly, post to Instagram 3+ weekly
  • Vlog Resolution Progress Report (I want to have some way of keeping up with these goals, and I’ve also been wanting to start vlogging. Thought I might as well combine the two! This is another lofty objective for me as I have a record of being terrible at keeping up with video blogs. Wish me luck!)

I’m doing my best to get off to a good start with said goals.

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I recorded my first book read of the year, The Girl With All The Gifts. I’m no sci-fi or fantasy fan, and usually shy away from books in either genre. But I found this zombie book for 50 cents at a little bookstore in Brenham, Texas and thought I’d give it a go. Y’all, I surprised myself with how much I adored this one. I originally gave it four stars but when I found myself still thinking about it days later, I went back and changed it to five.

Tomorrow, I fly to Seattle and Washington will mark my first new-to-me state of the year. This has been on my travel list for years, and I’m eager to start exploring with one of my best gal pals.

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It’s January and I’m already feeling the butterflies that travel and good books and new things bring my way. So I’d say 2017 is off to a pretty swell start.

Reviewing 2016

Two weeks into the new year and I still can’t quite believe 2016 is over.

What a whirlwind of 365 days, y’all. I originally spelled that whirlwine, so you all know what’s on my mind.

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I have to smile when I reflect on the adventuring and the milestones marked this last year.

I road-tripped Ireland with two of my cousins and kissed the Blarney Stone. We drove through rolling hillsides full of spotted cows, drank more than our fair share of Guinness in many a pub and stood at the edges of the Ciffs of Moher. We frolicked through the Hills of Tara, climbed on basalt columns at Giant’s Causeway and wobbled in awe down the crickety Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. The beauty and history of this country is something that I feel so lucky to have witnessed firsthand and with people that I love a lot.

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Months later, cousin Shannon and I were checking off another shared bucket list item by whitewater rafting in New Mexico. I almost fell out within the first five minutes and had to be yanked back onto the raft by my lower body. It was exhilarating.

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Summer road trips to Oklahoma and New Orleans left me feeling grateful for long drives, adventures and the loved ones that made these things all the more worthwhile.

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My husband and I spent an anniversary trip in the enchanting Caye Caulker, Belize. We snorkeled with stingrays and sharks and that was slightly scary but mostly delightful. We bought a brownie from a stranger and laughed the night away. I took a group yoga class on a Belizean rooftop, and clumsily moved my limbs as the sun set. We sipped on four for one drinks and devoured the freshest of lobster and rode bikes through sandy, narrow streets. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better way to celebrate seven years of marriage with my best friend.

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2016 marked my first completed year and halfway point of grad school. It marked a year of development within my career and the blogging world. And it marked my one year of attending counseling, which has proven to be a turning point for my personal growth.

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There were a few times this past year where I noticed history trying to repeat itself in detrimental ways. The difference this time was that I didn’t let it. Can I just tell you how empowering that is? I found my voice, and I learned when and how to use it. I learned how to stand my ground, and I realized that sometimes this can and should be done silently. It was a year that taught me to openly make mistakes, to firmly disagree with those I love and to proudly show off both my victories and my scars. I wasn’t always right, so it was also a year that taught me how to be wrong. It was a year that left me feeling strong, brave and inspired. 2016 wasn’t perfect, but it taught me to roll with and even to sometimes revel in the imperfections.

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It was a year of discovery, of both things big and small, gentle and wild.

Happy 2017, friends.

Let’s be unapologetically flawed and untamable this year, shall we?

Scoop and Score Ice Cream Tasting

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I love finding treasures in my neck of the woods, and I especially love when these treasures involve things that are delicious.

So you can all just imagine my delight when a blog tasting presented itself with the local-to-me ice cream/coffee shop that is Scoop and Score.

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If any of you are reading this and are from Ohio, Kentucky or (hold up, about to use some Texan terminology on y’all) somewhere up there, than you are lucky enough to have a Graeter’s Ice Cream in your general vicinity.

I had never been this fortunate until visiting Scoop and Score. See, the owners are Ohioans who now reside in Texas. Realizing how much they missed their Graeters ice cream, husband and wife duo Alex and Angie were able to strike up a deal with this family run shop. They are the only ice cream shop in Texas to sell Graeter’s, and this makes me want to do a happy dance.

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Because guys, after you taste this ice cream, there is no going back to the ordinary stuff. Welcome to the dark (aka delicious) side.

Upon walking in, I was immediately warmed by the inviting atmosphere. The interior is at once fun and friendly, with a variety of seating to meet all of your cozy needs.

Okay, okay. I’m trying to be patient but I just need to tell you guys about the Graeter’s ice cream now. It’s the only ice cream in the United States to be made in a French pot. This unique fact is immediately evident in the smooth and rich divinity that is Scoop and Score’s selling point. I tried every single flavor, and they were all insanely and superbly delicious. But, friends? If you have to choose one ice cream to eat for the rest of your entire life, make sure it’s Graeter’s black raspberry chocolate chip ice cream. This is what lactose dreams are made of, y’all.

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Let me brag about this place just a little more. The cones at Scoop and Score are hand spun. The salted caramel affogato? What espresso ice cream dreams are made of. And the chocolate chips in the ice cream? Humongous chunks of heaven. This is no Hershey’s chocolate. It’s Peter’s, if you were wondering. We don’t have a Peter’s chocolate here in Texas, so I’ll gladly just keep getting my fix from Scoop and Score. To make things even more spectacular, Austin’s famous Cuvee coffee is brewed here. Basically, all bases are covered. Score. (I’m trying to make a sporty pun based on their name but feel like I’m failing miserably. Humor me here.)

Another fun fact? Oprah’s favorite ice cream is Graeter’s Butter Pecan. Austinites, Oprah’s favorite ice cream is now just a short drive away. You get a Scoop and Score, you get a Scoop and Score, EVERYBODY GETS A SCOOP AND SCORE!

And how very lucky that makes us.

(Pst- Scoop and Score has some big community goals and plans coming up, and to help with these they’ve started a GoFundMe account. Click here to donate!)

Now

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It’s a Christmas party at my house, and my husband is putting our daughter to bed. Bryn, in typical Bryn fashion, has been chatting and hamming it up with everybody for the hour and a half prior. I’ve been told more than once this evening that she is definitely my kid. Now she requests that “everybody” come say goodnight to her. One by one my friends pile in, giving Bryn a hug and wishing her sweet dreams.

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It’s one of the many moments that fills my heart this evening.

Later, Lauren and I are speedily walking in place. She and I are in the same MBA cohort, so our shared competitive natures don’t come as a big surprise. A week prior to my party, we had been in a FitBit challenge together. I won by the hair of my chinny chin chin, and I had to log forty (40) miles in five days to do so. So here we are jogging on my floor as our husbands share stories about what it’s like to live with such intense humans. IT’S OBVIOUSLY SO MUCH FUN, by the way.

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And now here I am.

Another grueling semester of grad school down.

I have nearly a month of school freedom, which seems like the most luxurious of Christmas presents. I’ll be using said luxury to read all of the books, drink all of the wine and Netflix binge on all of the Parks and Rec.

Eight months from now, I’ll graduate with my Master’s in Business.

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There’s mixed feelings that come with that statement. They are mostly happy, but still bittersweet. My cohort, who made up a good amount of this Christmas party, has become a second family. Grad school is a crazy, chaotic ride and to be on that rollercoaster together makes for one hell of a bond. We’re around each other so often that we have grown way beyond the point of niceties. We laugh loudly and argue sarcastically and call each other out on our crap. We send cheesy, feel-good group messages and collaboratively complain about our shared woes and get into major FitBit wars. And all of that feels like home to me.

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The future is beckoning so sweetly right now. Upon graduation, I’ll have my master’s paired with over four years experience as a social media director. I’m mulling over the possibilities and I am uncertain but so giddy to see where this next part of my life is going to take me. As I ponder what’s next, the world is feeling a lot like my playground.

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But can I just tell you how much I am going to miss sneaking in an economy sized bottle of  wine and dancing on tables to end a semester? Or group study sessions that turn into late night guffawing and the telling of life stories? Or pre-class happy hours that lead to us rushing and laughing our way to class? Because, yeah. I’m going to miss all of those things a whole lot.

As excited as I am for the next season of my life, I’m not ready for it just yet. For the next eight months, you can find me savoring this place that I belong in right now. It’s a place with lots of dancing, plenty of happy hours, an obnoxious amount of laughter, a bit of competitive jogging and a whole bunch of love.

DeSano Pizza Tasting

I’m a picky pizza person.

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I’ve always been particular about the width of the crust paired with the amount and taste of sauce, and the ratio of said sauce to cheese and other toppings. It’s a tricky business, y’all. My husband and daughter both love Little Caesar’s. Just the name makes my nose involuntarily turn up, so they share a father-daughter pizza night during my grad school classes on Tuesday nights. So really you could argue that my pizza snobbery has started a cute tradition.

But I digress. I recently was lucky enough to have a blog tasting at DeSano Pizerria. Please know that I do not take it lightly when I tell you I have found my new favorite pizza place, or that this was amongst the best pizza that I’ve had in the United States.

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In fact, everything about this fast-casual restaurant was reminiscent of Italy to me.

This might have been due to of all of the ingredients transported from Italy to Texas. Or possibly the four brick ovens from Naples. Or the Italian wine sold by the bottle, crazy affordable yet noticeably high quality. Maybe it was the fact that all of the inventory is placed in the front, so that the authenticity became apparent as soon as I walked through the doors. Perhaps it was the charming and welcoming staff, who could toss some mean pizza dough to boot. Or maybe it was the moment my eyes met their first Italian fork mixer, which spins the dough as delicately as would a person’s hands.

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Speaking of quality, this might be the word that describes DeSano Pizzeria best. Owner Jimmy Fitzgerald, whom I had the honor of sitting down to dinner with, knows a little something about this noun. He’s opened and worked in restaurants all over the world, and does so with both integrity and pizazz. (A coincidence that pizza and pizazz are so close in spelling? I think not.) Every single ingredient put into the pizza at DeSano is so clearly of the highest caliber. The world is literally searched until the absolute best is found, and this fact is evident in every bite. But more than anything for me, it was simply Italy at first bite.

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 Take the mozzarella di buffalo, for example. This is the cheese that is added to all but one pizza, and is also found in the best caprese salad I’ve ever had the honor of tasting. It comes from not a cow, but a water buffalo. A water buffalo! Jimmy explained to me that this is the “secret” ingredient of DeSano. Upon tasting, I immediately understood why. It is richer, creamier and more decadent than cow-based caprese. It also made me want to invest in a water buffalo. Let me know if y’all have any leads for me there.

Can I just rave a little more about the pizza? Because it was everything. The crust was thin but sturdy and perfectly charred. The mozzarella di buffalo, in all of its glory, paired magnificently with just the right amount of tomato sauce. This pizza passed my picky-pizza-test with flying colors, guys. I’m talking head of the class, teacher’s pet, A+,all-the-other-pizzas-are-annoyed-but-secretly-jealous kind of passing.

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As my conversation with Jimmy continued and course after course appeared, the more deeply I fell in love with DeSano. I swooned with adoration and mouthwatering happiness over the Nutella pizza and the homemade meatballs and the pistachio cannoli. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when the sweet and spicy flavor of peppadews danced in my mouth. All the while, I felt as if I had been transported to a café in Italy, whilst drinking wine on tap, sitting on a gorgeous wooden bench and getting lost in good conversation.

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DeSano started in Nashville and has, thankfully, just found its way here to Austin. This pizzeria is so authentic that born and bred Italians often visit for comfort food. As for us Austinites? Until we figure out how to create a transportation device, this might just be our next closest thing.

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I’m already itching to take my little tribe back to my new favorite and family-friendly pizzeria. Bryn can play with pizza dough while I sip on red wine and Robby enjoys a draft Peroni. Then we’ll all feast on a Margherita pizza made with the exquisite mozzarella di bufala. That’s my kind of family tradition.

The Factory: Café with a Soul

I knew as soon as I saw photos of The Factory that it was something special – magical, even. I had an inkling that it might become one of my new favorite Austin treasures. I love it when I’m doubly right.

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Walking into The Factory felt a lot like stepping inside of a dream come true. I went from being outside of Northcross Mall to being transported to a land of swings and beautiful artwork and hanging lights and unicorns. Okay, I’m totally lying about the unicorns part. But it was so enchanting, I almost wouldn’t have been surprised. Co-owner Wendy’s talent for design is remarkable, especially when learning that she originally created the gigantic wall mural from her iPhone.

I could have been satisfied just staring at The Factory for hours, but the interior beauty was only the beginning.

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I’m not somebody who often says sappy things like, “I can taste the love in this.” But, y’all. At this tasting, I swear I could taste the love put into every sip and bite. I think that’s partly because everything about The Factory is a labor of love. I knew this as soon as I started chatting with Wallace, who owns the café with wife Wendy.

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When I asked Wallace to tell me more about how the café came to be, he launched into the love story of how he and Wendy first met. They were both attending college in LA when they found each other through mutual friends at a movie theater. Neither of them were fond of the other girl sitting nearest them, so they decided to talk to each other instead. And the rest is history.

History that has, thankfully, brought The Factory to Austin.

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Everything about the café had me smitten, so it’s hard to begin listing the things that left me swooning. But I guess the drinks are a good place to start. The Viva Matcha Latte was one of the creations I was most antsy to try, and it did not disappoint. Made from premium matcha harvested from Aichi prefecture in Japan, this latte was hands down the best matcha I’ve ever had the chance to sip on or look at. Visually a work of art, it was the perfect amount of sweet, foamy and delicate to taste. It warmed my soul, y’all.

If the matcha warmed my soul, the Marymint Monroe refreshed it. Freshly picked mint leaves and concentrated cold brew over ice make for a heavenly and mojito reminiscent combination. I was convinced this drink was mixed with mocha, but the intense and divine flavor just comes from the high quality of coffee that is standard at The Factory.

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I’m not done raving yet, guys. The Factory’s chicken and waffles is my new favorite brunch item. (A brunch item that tastes great all day, and pairs amazingly with the prosecco on tap.)  The classic side of syrup has been traded in for an egg tartar sauce and coleslaw, and the result is completely exquisite. I could have easily devoured a bowl of the egg tartar sauce alone, and the eleven spices mixed into the chicken batter made for a savory and distinct flavor. Juicy and tender with just the right amount of crunch, the chicken paired wonderfully with the soft and decidedly anti-sweet waffle. This dish made a statement, and its a statement that I simply cannot stop daydreaming about.

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The Factory, in and of itself, seems like the best of daydreams. The creations here are not just something to sip or nibble on, but something to take the time to enjoy and savor. Wallace explained to me that he had never really enjoyed coffee until he realized there was an art to making it. This art is one that he and Wendy have mastered. They have traveled the world looking for the finest ingredients, and the pride and joy they put into their work is immediately apparent. The café itself is devoid of WIFI, and is meant to be a place to relax and get to know friends and strangers alike. Walking inside is like a gentle reminder to slow down, to be fully present and to enjoy the magic that every moment brings.

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The Factory is something really special. I told my best friend that I was having a hard time writing this post because, for me, the café embodied everything I adore about Austin. And that’s a lot of love to try to fit into one post. But I’ll try. The Factory is a little wacky, a lot lovable and above everything else, so very welcoming. When my first matcha got cold over the course of chatting,  Wendy insisted on bringing me another. When I reached out my hand to shake Wallace’s on my way out, he requested a hug instead. This is what spending time at The Factory feels like. A big hug. A hug that includes coffee, and swings and waffles and good vibes. Austinites, rejoice.

Svante’s Tasting

Svante’s Ranch Direct is located in the delightful downtown Round Rock. Home of the famous Round Rock donuts and some cherished childhood memories of mine. Add to this list of memories the treasure that is Svante’s.

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This month Svante’s celebrates their one year anniversary. I’m almost disappointed in myself for not having made it out prior to this tasting.

The interior of the restaurant is much like a Pinterest dream come true. Simple yet intricately decorated with knick-knacks, shrubbery and artwork. It was love at first sight. And sip. And bite. Oh yes, let me get to that good stuff now.

Round one started off with the Ancho Pama-Rita made with ancho chile, pomegranate and Dulce Vida Reposado. You guys, it was slightly sweet, a little bit spicy, just the right amount of tangy and all delicious.

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Now let me swoon over their steak salad a little or, okay, probably a lot. I never order steak or salads if I’m choosing from a menu, but this salad has converted me. I am now a believer of steaks and salads, especially if combined with fish sauce, peanuts and red wine vinegar. I am salivating just thinking about this perfect combination of flavors that happy danced on my tongue.

If I wasn’t already a believer, the steak skewers with pickled watermelon completely did me in. I’m a sucker for the sweet and salty combo, and with rich, melt-in-your-mouth steak as part of this combo? I’m a goner. A giddy goner.

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Next was the Space Jam Burger, beef broth, house-cured gravlax on potatoes with crème fraiche and the Persephone Sour.  The Persephone Sour, with pomegranate, Deep Eddy Lemon vodka and an egg white, was enough to leave me swooning. The beef broth, rich and perfectly seasoned, whetted my appetite perfectly. And the house cured gravlax? I’d never had salmon atop potatoes, and you guys, the combination was divine and mesmerizing. Yes, I was mesmerized by salmon. Almost hypnotized, really. Svante’s can do that to a person.

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Finally, the Space Jam Burger was a work of art. An edible work of art. Three words that will change your life: Bacon onion jam. BACON ONION JAM. A masterpiece, y’all.

If it’s not apparent, I have a new favorite Round Rock restaurant. It’s charming and delicious and rhymes with… Lvante’s.

It’s Svante’s, if you were stumped on that one.