27 April 2013

that time i messed up my blog

Last week I attempted to switch to a different format for commenting. Long story short, I somehow disabled all comments and removed a couple of other things. Help is coming, though. And once it's here, feel free to comment all you'd like on my last few posts.

Have a great weekend!

24 April 2013

the second time we went to austin

You might remember that I gave Jeremy a trip to Austin for his Christmas gift. I was so proud of coming up with such a creative gift that was SO HIM: a tour of Shiner Brewery, trapeze lessons for him, a ghost tour, good restaurants. I had so much fun planning it. Though we're almost a full four months from Christmas, let me tell you about my gift from him.

Our tradition for now is to open gifts from each other on Christmas Eve. I was dying for him to open his gift. I made cute little cards with hand-sketched pictures: a beer bottle, a trapeze bar, the logo for Uchiko. As proud as I was of throwing this gift together, the cards MADE the gift. But he wanted me to open my present first. And I don't argue when someone wants me to open a gift. Imagine my surprise when I pulled an envelope from my stocking with "A Weekend in Austin," written on the front. I was so very confused. I don't have the best poker face, so I'm sure that my confusion was evident. Not to mention, it completely overshadowed any excitement.

My reaction was not what he expected, I'm sure. I fumbled through thanking him, looking at each part of my gift, knowing that when he opened his gift, he would understand. Though my gift to him was cuter, his was no less impressive. He is such a great gift-giver, and this one was no exception.

Thankfully, our trips to Austin were a month apart. And quite different. We drove down to Austin in time to make the matinee performance of The Lion King. I've wanted to see it for several years, but haven't had the chance. We were wowed by this musical! The puppetry and costuming, choreography and music is phenomenal. It totally lived up to it's hype.

After The Lion King, we headed to an early dinner. For some reason, we'd both decided on Mexican food. Though I'm sure there are hundreds of Mexican food places in Austin, we decided on a restaurant that's more familiar to me, Serrano's. (Only because I knew exactly where it is and where to park.) When I organize trips to Austin for my students, we always eat at this restaurant, but always order fajitas. This time, though, I decided to stay away from safe options like fajitas and enchiladas. Instead, I had fried oyster tacos. And, oh my gosh, they were great!

The next day, Jeremy had tickets for a food tour along South Congress in Austin. I was only mildly excited about this, hoping it wasn't a bust. And, perhaps, wondering if it was such a great tour, why didn't I come across it in my planning his trip? Boy, was I wrong. This was the highlight of our trip, and included several restaurants that I'd wanted to try. You should know that when I talk about this in person, I've been likened to Stefon on Saturday Night Live. It's actually a compliment.

We met our tour guide--and owner--from Austin Eats Food Tours at Jo's Coffee. He had an option of iced or hot coffee waiting for us, along with morning buns from La Patisserie to munch on while we made introductions among the 15 or so members of our group. Then we headed off to our first restaurant stop: Snack Bar. We were able to meet the owners who were so very passionate about their restaurant. We tried the Tamago Yoko; the description is in the menu picture below. It was so very different from anything I've ever had, and I loved it. It's highly likely that I'll eat almost anything with a fried egg on top. Snack Bar is a restaurant that we'll return to the next time we're in Austin.

Jo's Coffee | Snack Bar

Our next stop was up a slight hill at Guero's. We were seated around a grill where corn tortillas were being made. In front of us, plates with halves of tamales and queso. (If you're not from Texas, "queso" is cheese dip, not just the word for "cheese" in Spanish.) We also had mini margaritas made with fresh-squeezed lime juice. Which made me feel a little better since we were downing them at 10:45am. It's close to fresh-squeezed orange juice, right? Then they wrapped up some warm corn tortillas that we shared as we walked out the door.


After Guero's, we headed to Hopdoddy. I claim the hamburger as my favorite food, so I was super excited to try this restaurant! It did not disappoint. Before the food came, we were able to order an adult beverage (Dutch treat). Jeremy and I shared a Black Cherry Hard Lemonade; it was refreshing for the 70 degree January day outside. The burgers that arrived at our tall tables were perfect and paired with Kennebec fries and three dipping sauces; my favorite sauce was horseradish honey mustard. For dessert--because who doesn't need dessert at this point--we had a mini caramel & sea salt shake. They were heavenly. 

hopdoddy: the classic burger

Honestly, I was a little concerned at this point that I was too full. But we continued on our journey to The Woodland where we had shrimp and grits. This was only my second time to have shrimp and grits; the first was in Savannah which clearly has the market on shrimp and grits. Again, these were delicious. I mean, really, if we'd just had one thing that wasn't good, we'd have been much better off at this point. After a peek at the menu, I decided that if we returned for a meal at The Woodland, I'd order the butternut squash ravioli. That's right up my alley.

And then? We had a bit of a break. The guide apologized for a delay, but I think that we were all happy for some down time. Actually, I'm pretty sure the break was caused by Texas liquor laws. Since our guide was about to buy local beer to drink at our next stop, he had to wait until noon to make the purchase. (We all know that purchasing alcohol before noon on Sundays is frowned upon by the Lord.) Once the beer was packed to go, we headed to our final destination: the food trucks. I was so excited.

Our first food truck was Hey!...You Gonna Eat That or What? It may have been my favorite stop of the day. We had a Shiner Bock beer battered Monte Cristo with cherry-fig jelly for dipping. To say that I wanted to lick the remaining jelly from the little cup would be an understatement. 

Our second food truck and final stop of the tour was Little Big Mikes. It's a personal pan pizza place and was new to the food truck scene. We had thick slices of Veggie Mac & Cheese pizza, covered with caramelized onions, macaroni and cheese, and sriracha aioli. It was delicious, but at this point, I was overly stuffed. So when I took two bites, and then dropped the rest of my pizza, I was only a smidge disappointed. I'm sure it was the Lord preventing me from being even more gluttonous. 

clockwise from top: local beer, Hey!...You Gonna Eat That or What?,
Monte Cristo with cherry-fig jelly, "i love you so much" outside of Jo's Coffee

Once the tour ended, we strolled along South Congress. Since it was "my" trip, Jeremy willingly went into a couple of junky antique stores before we headed back to the hotel to read and sleep off some of the food. For dinner, we decided ice cream would be enough. And it was. 

As wonderful as I thought Jeremy's trip to Austin was for him, this was for me. We had such a memorable time.

23 April 2013

tuesday things

1. I just finished reading Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. Y'all. It is good. I've adored her previous books, and I waited expectantly for this book to release early in the month. It's a memoir, written as a series of essays with recipes scattered throughout. So far, I've made three of the recipes, with great success. The Spicy Caesar Vinaigrette was delicious, and I'm normally not a fan of Caesar dressing. I actually was able to test a recipe for the book, so it was fun looking for my name in the book.

2. My breakfast for the past week has been yogurt and granola. I found a new yogurt that I like because it isn't overly sweet. Typically, I eat the same thing for breakfast for so long that I don't want to eat it again for a year or so. Brown Cow maple yogurt with granola full of nuts and dried fruit is my go-to breakfast for now.

3. Last Tuesday, Jeremy and I went to Dallas; he gave me tickets for my birthday to see Wicked. We headed out pretty early in the afternoon so that we wouldn't get stuck in traffic. The theater where it played isn't known for being in the safest part of town, so I called a friend to get a restaurant suggestion that would be close-ish to the theater  Though he gave a few, we settled on a suggestion in the Bishop Arts District. We had dinner at Eno's Pizza. We started with salads (mine was delicious with crisp Romaine lettuce, roasted pork belly, shaved jalapeno and honey tarragon dressing), and then shared a pizza with crust as crisp as a cracker. It was so good.

And although we were satisfied, we couldn't pass up the second part of the suggestion: dessert at Emporium Pies. We took an indirect route so that I could spy a couple having engagement pictures done. When we arrived, it was so difficult making a decision from the seven or so pies that they offer. Ultimately, I wound up with key lime pie, and Jeremy with the coconut cream pie. We both favored the mine; I've never had a better graham cracker crust! Though his was tasty, I make a coconut cream pie that's hard to beat.

When we arrived at the theater, I was at bit shocked by how good our seats were. I typically have the theory that as long as you can hear the music, it's close enough. But I have been so wrong! Sitting close was fun and definitely a treat!

me + my date

22 April 2013

a little sprucing up

You may have noticed over the past week-ish some changes on the blog. After months of not writing, and then deciding that a blog makeover would help me want to write, and then trying to find an affordable, cute and clean option, I did it. And I love it!
Here are the changes:
First, I decided to change the name of my blog to match my URL address. It drives me a little crazy when blog names don't match the address. And so I don't know why mine didn't match. I remember sitting in a big, comfy chair in Christine's house years ago, with a borrowed laptop, trying to brainstorm a creative blog name. Sometimes, I come up with names without knowing the origin. If somehow I come up with something and like it, it sticks.
(This happened with my dog, Crickett. I think I've determined how I came up with that, though.)
(And my cat, Persephone. I still have no idea where it came from.)
(I also have the name of a business, should I need that at some point.)
(Jeremy is able to temper the names for future children, thankfully.)
It makes perfect sense that my blog name originated this way. Although I did live in a green house when I started my blog, I think it was based more on my initials. Before marriage, my initials were KI. That's how I signed cards and emails. I love my initials. And then I married, and my initials became KIW. Jeremy thought a cute nickname would be "Kiwi." Umm...perfect! Especially since it matched my blog! 
So that's how Kiwi Cottage became the official name of my blog about 10 days ago. And I've had more people call it by name in the last week than ever before. I guess it was a good change!
There are some new items in the navigation bar. I've had a few things listed over the last year, but I added my Book List and Favorites.
After reading a book, I'll list the title and a quick bit about the book in my Book List. You'll notice I've been on a memoir and food writing kick.
Under Favorites is a list of blogs that inspire me. This is in addition to the Blogs I Like on the right side of my home page. It helps reduce the clutter. There's some good writing in there, y'all. Take a look!
If you'd like to find me on an social media sites, I've listed quick links to each site. There's a pretty decent ebb and flow with my social media. Currently, I'm on a Facebook and Instagram kick. Which, no doubt, will be replaced by Pinterest and Twitter at some point.
(And when I get on a Pinterest kick, watch out!)
(Just so you know, my Facebook and Instagram are private, but I'm happy to have new friends and followers that aren't my students at school!)
So, I'm super excited about these changes. I love the colors and layout and fonts. I do hope that it makes me more inclined to write!

19 April 2013

cute gift ideas

Because of the awful events of the week, I've read and listened to more news than any blog posts. Instead of reads for the weekend, I thought I'd share some things that I've seen recently that would make cute gifts!

These pencils are super cute! Although a little pricey, I think they'd be perfect paired with a book.

This cross body clutch from Marley Lilly has been a hit as a gift! I love a monogram, and I'm always tempted to order one for me. Every now and then, they offer the monogrammed clutch for less than $30. The clutch comes in over a dozen colors, with over two dozen monogram colors.
I think this tassel key fob is adorable. I really should keep something on my key chain to make my keys easier to find in my purse.

These bowls from West Elm are the perfect size for soup or ice cream. I have four different colors, instead of a set of one color. You can find the here, here, here, and here. A set of four would make a great gift!

12 April 2013

reads for your weekend

"Your 'tone' is the way that you talk to someone, especially when they are doing something wrong, or not doing something that you want. We all have a tendency at some level to get aggravated and amped up a bit, depending on how much we are hurt, frustrated, or afraid. But, the kicker is this: the more our tone is negative towards someone, or angry, or escalated, the less chance we have of getting the outcome we desire."
If you haven't tried roasted broccoli, do it. And then do the same with cauliflower.  
This post really hit a nerve. I buy way too much stuff. Target gets me every.time. Every time. 
"When we hear about grieving parents it can be so tempting to try to assign blame, because if they aren’t to blame, then we have to grapple with the reality that sometimes, tragedy is senseless. This is an uncomfortable truth: awful things happen to children that parents cannot prevent.  It’s a truth so painful that we would rather throw grieving parents under the bus than face it."
"I want you to stop running from thing to thing to thing, and to sit down at the table, to offer the people you love something humble and nourishing, like soup and bread, like a story, like a hand holding another hand while you pray. We live in a world that values us for how fast we go, for how much we accomplish, for how much life we can pack into one day. But I’m coming to believe it’s in the in-between spaces that our lives change, and that the real beauty lies there. "

02 April 2013

tuesday things

1. About a month ago, I decided to switch to L'Oreal Sulfate Free shampoo and conditioner. Hello, hair transformation! It makes my hair so smooth. I've tried other sulfate free shampoo and conditioner, but my hair was so dry and wiry. This one's a keeper. (Plus fewer chemicals in my s&c means that I'll have a little extra room for the chemicals that I drink in Diet Coke. Even trade. Right?)

2. To keep hair care as a theme, Melanie on The Big Mama Blog recommended two products a few months ago. Her book is great (finished it in two days), but her hair care recommendations turned out even better. Both of these are by Kenra; the first is blow-dry spray. What used to be 15 minutes spent drying my hair is just over five minutes. Totally worth it. (Be careful though, one spray too many will result in some greasy hair.) The other product is dry shampoo. It is so much better than using baby powder. How did I not know this?

3. Disclaimer for the above: I hate the getting-ready process. These products speed it up and/or make my hair look good. I realize it's quite contradictory to use a shampoo and conditioner with fewer chemicals, and then use two new products on my hair AND drink a bit of Diet Coke. For now, I'm totally okay with it.

4. As of now, we don't miss paying for cable. Or even having cable, for that matter. Early this week I had some withdrawal symptoms since it was two weeks without New Girl, The Mindy Project and Modern Family. (Apparently, they aren't usually released to Roku for at least one week.) But all is well. I've caught up. Maybe not on the most recent episode, but it's okay.

5. We've developed a deep affinity for Community. It is so much fun. We've also tried The Following; I can't do it. Way too intense in the first six minutes. So Jeremy will watch that one alone.

6.We had a wonderful Easter Sunday. Although we've been known to skip church on Easter in the past (because we go year-round), we served during two services. This is definitely a Sunday that the church needs volunteers! We greeted and filled trays of pastries. It was a really nice morning. Then we headed to J's parents where we ate lunch and stayed the afternoon. Some of my family came over, which made it even better.

7. On Monday, I had a root canal. These get such a bad rap, but really aren't that bad. Plus it's the only time I'm prescribed a Valium. Valium + laughing gas = one not bad procedure. I'm a little sore, but it'll fade in the next few days.