Brooklyn’s Down South

You may know that I’m a big believer in going a little off the beaten path to find treasures. To Austinites, the city of Buda can be off the beaten path. But, oh, does this path have its share of treasures. The most recent gem I found is Brooklyn’s Down South. Located in the heart of downtown Buda, this is a must-visit if you’re ever in the area. Though I’d go so far as to say that it’s a must-visit even if you’re not in the area.

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I was instantly charmed walking into Brooklyn’s Down South. The interior is simple, sleek and quickly introduces you to an open bar area. The cocktails are a big part of the beauty of Brooklyn’s, so the prominence of the bar seemed appropriate. But, ahem. I’ll get back to that.

I requested to sit on the patio because Austin just experienced a “cold” front (meaning it’s 85 degrees instead of 105), and because #foodbloggerlightingproblems. And the back patio? Gorgeous. Magical. Spacious and filled with string lights, picnic benches and comfy couches to relax your food baby on.  So now you that know I’m swooning over the ambiance at Brooklyn’s Down South, let’s get to my favorite part. DA EATS.

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I was brought an array of plates, all beautiful and delicious in their own right. Seriously guys, my taste buds felt like they were on vacation. From the cheesy and creamy shrimp and grits to the spicy, tangy and perfectly crunchy carnitas tacos, my senses were taken on a wild rollercoaster of deliciousness. I realize this is all sounding very superfluous, but that’s okay because it’s also true.

Marrying into a Cajun family, I have a long love for boudin. For those of you who don’t know (as I didn’t before I married a Boudreaux) what boudin is, it is a spicy sausage containing rice and some type of meat, usually pork. Also, It is DELICIOUS. So my one request at Brooklyn’s was the bouldin balls. This is fried bouldin. Shaped into balls. It’s a dish I’ve long been obsessed with, and Brooklyn’s Down South only fueled said obsession. The fried balls (I’m giggling writing this, because I’m mature.) complemented the soft, flavorful boudin inside so wonderfully. I WANT MORE NOW.

Oh, oh and the Gumbo. It was 85 degrees outside, but this instantaneously took me to Christmas Day with the Boudreauxs. It tasted so similar to the thick, rich broth served to me by a Cajun clan in December. So I can tell you from experience, the gumbo served at Brooklyn’s is about as authentic as it gets.

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And it only gets better. The 967 burger is topped with American cheese, jalapeno bacon jam, crispy onion strings, and an egg. As if that doesn’t already sound incredible enough, it’s served on a toasted sourdough honey bun. I KNOW RIGHT.

I also have to give a shoutout to my new friend, Brooklyn’s bread pudding. Let me tell you about my new friend. This is French bread baked in a rich vanilla cinnamon custard topped with Bourbon sauce, powdered sugar and fresh fruit. Guys. Arguably the best bread pudding I’ve ever devoured. And I love me some bread pudding. It was the vanilla cinnamon custard that really did me in. The decadence of said custard soaked into the bread pudding and it was simply divine, y’all.

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Can I tell you about the drinks now? Because, yum. I started with the Buda Bowl which is a big, green, fruity concoction that I adored. But my favorite cocktail was the Prickly Pear ‘Rita, made with El Jimador silver, Patron Citronage, prickly pear puree, fresh lime juice, simple syrup & a splash of orange juice. It is even more refreshing and delightful than it sounds. The puree pairs perfectly with the lime and orange juice, making for the greatest of patio sippers.

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You might be catching onto the fact that I’m hooked on Brooklyn’s. This lovely new obsession is about a forty five minute drive from my house, but is easily worth every minute of annoying Austin traffic. Because boudin balls and bread pudding and prickly pear ‘ritas, y’all.

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Tasting at PS 35

Let’s talk pizza, y’all.

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More specifically, let’s talk pizza at PS 35.

This is new the spot in my neck of the woods that is creating quite the buzz.

After visiting, I completely understand said buzz.

PS 35 is located in Round Rock, a suburb of Austin. But there is nothing suburban about the vibes of this joint. PS35 explodes with personality and pizazz, from the graffiti-laden walls to the classic video games inside and the patio foosball. Walking inside is an experience all its own, both a throwback to the 70’s and a tribute to New York public spaces.

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The beers on tap are a-plenty, and I found myself getting happily lost with the chalkboard menus. I’m one of the few and far between that absolutely loves sour beers, and they had not one but two choices for me here. So, before a bite had ever entered my mouth, I was sold on this place.

But then food did enter my mouth and TRUFFLE TOTS and HOT HONEY PIZZA. Excuse the word vomit. PS 35 has been the word on the street lately and those two things alone could justify this joint being the talk of the town.

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The truffle tots boasted just the right amount of crunch and seasoning, and the truffle salt complimented this combination in the most toothsome of ways.

The Hot Honey pizza is like crack for honey addicts. My friends, I have a confession to make. I AM A HONEY ADDICT. I shriek and run every time a bee gets near me (Don’t ask me how I ever took beekeeping classes. This is still a mystery to me.), but I love those terrifying little creatures for the miraculous substance that they create. Okay, I digress. The point here is that the sweet and salty combo of Mike’s hot honey, ricotta, pepperoni, sausage and tomato sauce was joy delivered straight to my taste buds.

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Another favorite was the Harlem Chopped Cheese. I was a little hesitant to try this one as it reminded me just ever so slightly of a Philadelphia Cheese Steak, which I have a strong aversion to.  In my undergrad years, I performed in a short play in which I was required to eat a microwaveable Philly Cheese Steak for all rehearsals and performance nights. By the end of this experience, just hearing the word Philly Cheese Steak made me want to vomit. It takes a strong sandwich to reverse this feeling, but the Harlem Chopped Cheese did just this. It was juicy and cheesy and filled with fresh veggies and just the right amount of hot sauce, mayo and oil and vinegar. Is your mouth watering?! Because mine is. The sesame seed bun simply perfected this work of sandwich art.

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I cannot forget the New York Sour. This frozen drink stars bourbon, lemon and a red wine float. It was strong but smooth, just a little fruity and absolutely ideal for pairing with pizza or tots. I would go back just for this cocktail. But I could say that about most things on the menu.

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One of the owner’s and head chef of PS 35 Clint Elmore has a story that adds to the uniqueness of this pizza joint. After attending law school and practicing law for a bit, he decided it wasn’t the life for him. Originally from Mississippi, he moved to New York to pursue his dreams of creating art through food. From there, he travelled to Italy for a month to become a culinary expert. Fast forward years later, and Austin is blessed with PS35.

It’s a beautiful and delicious story, but the ending is definitely my favorite part.

Welcome to Austin, PS 35! I will be seeing lots of you. And your honey pizza. And those truffle tots. And your… Okay, y’all get it. I’m obsessed.

Vivel’s Blog Tasting

I’ve never been a big pancake fan. A few bites in, and I’m bored. But crepes? Crepes I adore. Their thin texture paired with their versatility makes for a winning combo in my book/blog.

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Despite this founded adoration, my experiences with crepes have been few and far between. In fact, until yesterday, I had never tasted a savory crepe. I know, I know, such a food blogger fail. Luckily, my tasting with Vivel Coffee and Crepes changed all of that and opened my eyes (and mouth) to the beauty and variety of LIFE.

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But, really. The word Vivel translates from Latin to mean “Life.” Owner Ali noted that he thought of this name during construction. While looking at the hills and greenery that Vivel is surrounded by in Lakeway, Texas, the name just seemed to fit. And it does.

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Because, y’all, these crepes gave me life.

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Ali spoiled me with all of the crepes. Like, all of them. I could have taken a crepe bath, and the bathtub would have been full. Of crepes. It was magical. Before I get into serenading my favorites, let me tell you a little story about meeting Ali. As we were emailing back and forth, I assumed Ali was a female. Hear me out. I SWEAR, somewhere I read that his name was “Ally” and not “Ali.” Obviously, the pronunciation in my head was completely wrong. When I met Ali the man in person, I was confused enough to stumble with my words and feel the need to explain myself. “I um. Sorry. Thought you were going to be a woman.” So yes, my first words to this kind gentleman were that I thought he was going to be the opposite gender. Typical smooth talking Christina, y’all.

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Back to crepe talk now. Ali the man spoiled the heck out of me with these beautiful creations. A gorgeous combination of French, Italian and Mediterranean, I found myself swooning over each and every one. It’s going to be tough, but I’ve narrowed it down to my top five so that this blog doesn’t turn into a short novel. Ahem.

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  1. Smoked Salmon Crepe – This was my one request at Vivel’s because I have a slight obsession with smoked salmon with all the fixin’s. It was everything I dreamed of and so much more. The lightness of the crepe paired with the decadence of the cream cheese, capers and salmon was DIVINE. I’m salivating just writing this. Sexy, I know.
  2. Citronade – Are y’all ready for this?! Lemon reduction, brown sugar, whipped butter and vanilla gelato. I know, right?! Butter and lemon are two of my favorite things in life, and this pairing was pure happiness. The creamy, homemade gelato perfected an already heavenly masterpiece.
  3. Cannelle – This is simplicity at its finest and most delicious. Cinnamon, brown sugar and whipped butter. That’s all it took to leave me with a crepe crush.
  4. The Marrakesh Express – I’m a firm believer in putting an egg on it. This crepe did just that sunny side up, and added some shredded spiced lamb, cumin and extra virgin olive oil. That runny egg matched with the tender lamb and the light, airy crepe? Words cannot even express the feelings of elation I felt biting into this one.
  5. The Nutty Nutella – Okay, so it’s hard to go wrong with Nutella but Vivel somehow made it taste more right than ever before. The walnuts and toasted almonds made the Nutella feel perfectly at home in the crepe paradise that it so rightly deserves.

Special mention also goes out to the Vivel Latte with the lavender infused milk. I knew by my second sip of this strong and slightly sweet concoction that I had found myself a new beloved latte.

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Vivel know how to put life into crepes, you guys. Every single bite of every single crepe that I bit into was exquisite. Ali is a worldwide and longtime expert of the food industry, and this is evident in the mesmerizing combinations of flavors he so masterfully creates. Forget pancakes, guys. Vivel’s will have you exclaiming ‘Holy Crepe!’ in no time.

 

Baked By Amy’s Tasting

You walk in, and are immediately hit with the smell of happiness. The sweet warmth of cupcakes and cookies fill your lungs, and there’s suddenly an extra bounce in your step.  It’s like magic. Beautiful, delicious magic.

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This is how I felt walking into Baked by Amy’s. I was immediately greeted with four seasonal macarons, two cookies the size of my face and three gigantic cupcakes. They sure do know how to woo a girl. I was also immediately charmed by the interior. Bright and merry and full of flowers and gorgeously decorated chalkboards.

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I was so excited about all of the things that it took me a while to settle down and actually bite into anything.  But once I started eating, stopping was not an option.

The pina colada macaron had me from first taste. I had forgotten the description given to me by the time I bit into it, but it might as well have been called “summer.” It tasted like a first dip into a swimming pool, like the sweet smell of tropical suntan lotion, like a perfect vacation in the middle of July. Put simply, it was paradise to my taste buds.

Another source of pure joy? The lemon tart cupcake donned a light, whipped topping which was an ideal match for the crumbly, curd filled cupcake. Another addition that pairs wonderfully with a hot, summer’s day.

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The rest of the baked goodness did not disappoint. From the Tres Leches cupcake full of fresh fruit and cream to the blissfully sweet cherry and berry macarons, every little thing Baked by Amy’s does is magic.

The best part of all of this for someone as indecisive as me? I don’t have to choose between cupcakes, cookies or macarons before coming in. They have ’em all! Not in the mood for any of that (you crazy, boo) either? There’s an Amy’s Ice Creams RIGHT next door.

Did I mention yet Baked by Amy’s is ten minutes from my house? Ain’t that the sweetest?!

 

Tasting at La Patisserie

I have macarons on my mind.  Pistachio macarons, white macadamia macarons, rose macarons.  All of the macarons. Also chocolate croissants, lemon tarts and various other French pastries. Who is to blame for my fixation, you might ask? La Patisserie is the culprit. Two weeks ago I had a tasting at this French pastry shop and it’s roughly 75% of what I’ve been thinking about for the past fourteen days.  Obsessive? Maybe. Croissant crazed? Perhaps. Delicious? AN UNDERSTATEMENT.

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The rose flavored macaron, which was light and airy as a cloud, surprised me. I’m not usually big on floral flavors, but the delicately delicious taste changed all of that for me. It was immediately a favorite, though the white macadamia was also in the running. Rich but smooth, this is a flavor that the masses will enjoy. The Funfetti flavor boasts sprinkles and sweetness – I took this one home to my three-year-old (Okay, I took a bite out of it first. For the blog, of course.) and she devoured it and commented, “Mmmm! It’s good.” Food critic in the making, y’all.

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I can’t not mention the lemon meringue tart. Both tiny and regal, this little guy packs a big and beautiful tart punch. This paired with the buttery flakiness that nearly melted in my mouth have me swooning while typing. And the Millefeuille? Bliss. Chocolate and butter loaded bliss. Need I say more?

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Actually, I do need to say a little more. Soraiya, the owner of La Patisserie, is such a joy.  It was immediately evident to me both the love and care she puts into everything from her sweet treats to her equally sweet staff. She is an attentive, warm and genuinely kindhearted individual. Speaking with her warmed my soul as much as the delicious Green Tea/ Coffee hybrid I was drinking. In the time I spent at La Patisserie, we talked everything from our kids to travel to the importance of women banding together. All of this while I’m nibbling on the most heavenly of macarons. It was truly a lovely experience.

I’d love to tell you how the idea for all of the loveliness began. After a childhood trip to France, Soraiya told her parents she would open a French pastry shop one day. La Patisserie now boasts both a downtown and a north Austin location on Burnet Road. They are both reminiscent of the quaintest of European cafes. She is truly living her dream, and that is pretty inspiring stuff.

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Soraiya’s favorite thing about owning a pastry shop? Seeing people’s faces light up when they try macarons for the first time. This was not my first macaron, but I know my face lit up just the same.

Tasting at Coffee Shark

I have a new favorite coffee shop in Austin. Maybe even new favorite coffee shop ever.  It’s called Coffee Shark, and it will change your life in the best, most caffeinated way possible.

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Don’t let the name fool you. Coffee Shark serves far more than just coffee (also there’s no sharks), my friends. They’ve also got an amazing array of beer, sandwiches, (may I suggest the Pesto Mozzarella Tomato? Because I’m daydreaming about that cheese and pesto filled ciabatta bun right about now.) soups, pizza (from East Side Pies!), and so much more. I’m going to make a suggestion. Order the soft pretzels and the cheese plate and proceed to immediately dip the soft pretzels into the brie. GUYS. I am salivating thinking about this right now.

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The inside dons the open, industrial vibes that I am learning is something that I like a lot in my coffee shops. Games like cornhole and giant Jenga grace the back patio, which is perfect for drinking a cold beer on a hot, summer’s day. As far as beer goes, the flirty and fruity Hye-Biscus had me hooked from first sip.

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The best part? All is served with a heaping side of LOVE, y’all. Okay, I know that sounds super cheesy, (Speaking of cheese – Coffee Shark’s all comes from the local Antonelli’s Cheese Shop) but it’s true. Both the staff and clientele at Coffee Shark made me feel like family. I spent over three hours at this tasting, and when I wasn’t eating I was probably laughing or lost in good conversation. I hit it off with one group of customers so well that I made them take a picture with me and the owner joked that he had hired them for the day. After that, I spent another hour and a half chuckling and chatting with the Coffee Shark team.

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Though mine was more of a beer and food tasting, I can’t not mention the coffee. I had a regular drip coffee but this was far from any ‘ole regular drip coffee. Coffee Shark uses a steampunk coffee brewer. This is a hybrid (trybrid?) of the French press, siphon and pour over. They make their delightful drip coffees by using temperature, time, volume and water agitation.  So basically this coffee is pure MAGIC.

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I almost wish I could keep this place a secret, but that would be nearly criminal. I must share this good with the world. So, here you go, world. Coffee Shark is where it’s at.  Prepare to eat good food, drink good drinks, and make new friends.

Nate’s Coffee & Cocktails

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Last week I had a cocktail and cake ball tasting at Nate’s in downtown Buda. I’ve worked in this Buda once a week for years, but have only recently become smitten with the downtown area. Nate’s only made me fall so much harder.

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Before Nate’s was a cocktail bar, it was an auto part’s store. I adored the open and airy feel that was leftover from the past, and that they’ve kept some of the rustic warehouse vibes too.  Oh, and have I mentioned the spacious wooden patio? All of this goodness makes for such a charming environment, friends.

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The cocktails just put the cherry on top of all of said charm. Nate’s has this drink-making stuff down pat, y’all. Strong? Check. Unique and magical flavor combinations? Check. Delicious? Check, check, check. Probably my favorite drink was the Main Street Smash, which consisted of Deep Eddy Ruby Red, Starlite vodka, fresh lemon, cucumber and mint, St. Germain. Sipping on this was refreshing and delightful and reminiscent of the perfect summer day.

Nate’s also offers an extensive beer and wine menu, coffee, sandwiches, snacks and CAKE BALLS which, if you can’t tell by my all caps there, are amazing. Their coffee comes from the local and loved Cuvee and their eats from the delightful Crema Bakery.  The in-house created meat and cheese plate is also delightful and was the perfect match for my cocktails.

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Being at Nate’s solo was wonderful, but this is such an ideal spot to laugh and chat with people you like a lot. Living in North Austin, this is a bit of a drive for me. But, man, oh man. It’s worth the drive. I would more than happily daydream about cocktails and cake balls for the entirety of this little road-trip.

This Right Now

Hello, friends!

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It’s been a hot minute.

Grad school is cray, but guess what?! I graduate in THREE months. I’m currently on a short (but much needed) break, and when I start back up it will be for my last semester. I’ll spare you the that-makes-me-a-little-weepy-because-I-love-my-cohort-SO-MUCH-and-what-the-heck-where-did -the-two-years-go, but really I won’t because there it is. HA.

What else?

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So far this year I’ve traveled to Seattle, Vancouver, DC, Maryland and Marfa, Texas. I somewhat unexpectedly fell in love with West Texas and am already trying to plan a trip back. Think the culture of Mexico/New Mexico but with the hippie/artsy vibes of Austin. I was instantly smitten. I’m lucky my little fam rolls with my whims and was down for a quick weekend trip and, you know, fifteen hours of driving in three days. They’re champs, my people.

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For our Capstone in this last semester, our cohort has been assigned the task of becoming consultants for a local Austin business of our choosing.  It’s quite the undertaking, and I am slightly terrified but mostly excited for how this program is helping to shape my future.

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It’s hard for me to not constantly be asking myself, “What’s next, what’s next, what’s next?!” This is a monumental point in my life, and I’m aware of that. But I’m also aware of the fact that I’ll never be twenty-eight again. My daughter will never be three again. She won’t sing herself to sleep or ask for my help finding snails for too much longer. My husband and I will only celebrate nine years of togetherness, just this one month of this one year. I’ll only be sitting in a classroom, laughing with my cohort fam and sometimes sneaking in boxed wine for one more summer. This is the last bit of time that I’ll take weekly walks through the gorgeous campus that has now become my second home. It’s a special time, this right now. I’m just trying to remind myself to slow down and cherish the heck out of it all.

Tasting at Shack 512

Entering Shack 512 made me feel as if I was instantly transported to a luxurious vacation.  The drive out was a bit of a road-trip, albeit a beautiful and scenic one. But I knew as soon as I was taking the trolley ride down to the restaurant that it would be more than worth the miles.

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Breathtaking views of the lake paired with a relaxed yet stylish environment made me giddy for the rest of the evening. The eats and drinks I was served after, and the service that made me feel like I was part of the family only confirmed my giddiness.

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Shack512 has recently undergone a few alterations, this including name and ownership changes. Speaking with the owner Ashley, it was so clear to me the love and consideration that has gone into preparing each new dish and decision. As most Austinites will attest too, many of our lakeside restaurants are more about the location and less about the food. At Shack 512, the location and food compete for first place. The culinary creations here are unique, flavorful and fun. Take for example the pulled pork nachos that come topped with pico and smothered with queso blanco. Or the dipping sauce that perfectly accompanies this (and many other dishes), the Bourbon Glaze. Said glaze consists of (get ready for your mouth to water) sautéed garlic and onions in a sweet Kentucky bourbon and brown sugar reduction. It’s DIVINE, you guys. And let’s not forget the Mexican Martini,  which is spiced up with jalapenos and served in a HUGE shaker. It’s just as magical as it sounds.

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Really, I just loved being there. I loved sipping my Mexican Martini as the sun set. I loved the open, outdoor seating and feeling the wind through my hair as I laughed with other guests. I loved stuffing my face with bacon wrapped shrimp and Texas chicken alfredo. The whole evening was just so very enchanting. It was hard to believe that I had never been there before, because it felt like an evening spent with friends.

Did I mention yet that I was delivered a make-your-own-smores buffet with my own personal fire? Because that also happened. And it was just as amazing as it sounds.

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Shack 512 is something special, you guys. They’ll make you feel like you’re at home. But a home with gorgeous  and the biggest and the best Mexican Martini you ever did taste. So like, the best home ever.

Going Places

Hi, friends!

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You may have noticed I’ve made a couple of changes? After nearly eight years as christinadoesitall, I am now christinagoingplaces. Bittersweet. Bitter, because I’ve made so many happy memories and friends as christinadoesitall. Sweet, because I’m slowly finding my niche and place in this world. After years of dabbling in a little bit of everything and loving every moment of that, I am beginning to realize my passions. I’m both an MBA student and a girl who just really loves to explore the world. Education and travel are both so very valuable to me. So in more than one sense of the term, my goal is to be going places.

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So here I am! Doing things! Going places!

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Later this week I’ll be heading to Virginia and Maryland to visit my best friend of sixteen years. Because of Meg and her family, this part of the world has become much like a second home to me. I can’t wait to hug and laugh and dance and adventure with one of my favorite human beings.

When I return to Austin, it will be the beginning of crunch time. I graduate in five months, y’all! Part of me is so ready and the other part just wants time to slow down. The past year and seven months of grad school has been a blur of hard work and magic. I’m not ready for another semester of grueling coursework, but I’m not quite ready for it to all be over yet either.

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Speaking of not being quite ready for things. This month I turn twenty-eight. Like what? When? HOW?! I wonder where all the time has gone, but then I remember. It’s been spent doing really great things. Like building a home and a family with the dude I love the most. And getting lost in happy hours and good conversation and captivating reads. Chasing big dreams, and catching many of them. Trying new things and facing fears head on. (Unless this fear involves getting my blood drawn and then I will definitely turn my head away and also possibly pass out.) Driving through states and boarding lots and lots of airplanes. And learning. Always learning.

And all of that? It makes twenty-eight sound way less scary and much more like a wonderland of possibility. I can’t wait to see where I’ll go next.

Pst –

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By the way, I’m way blonde now! It feels fun and right.