Thursday, July 28, 2011

Show Your Heart

You might be seeing a lot of this picture on Facebook lately. The organization is called "Show Your Heart" and it is a trust fund established for the three children of Joshua and Robin Berry who were killed in a tragic car accident on the way home to Houston, TX after vacationing in Colorado over July 4th weekend. The children were all in the minivan during the accident when another car veered into their lane and hit them head on. The two boys, Peter and Aaron age 9 and 8 sustained spinal injuries that will leave them paralyzed from the waist down. They are currently in a hospital in Lubbock, TX. The Berry's daughter, Willa, age 6, has a broken arm and ankle and is currently staying with family friends in Houston. The children's Aunt and Uncle have been named legal guardians. You can read more and make a donation on the website. I donated $5.00, which doesn't seem like much, but so many people are helping that I know combined we can all make a difference. There is also a Facebook page to join, where you can see the support from all around the world that the children are receiving.

Here's to doing what you can to help others,
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Truly Scrumptious

Austinites, have you tried Yogurtland yet? There is a new location of this chain on Anderson Lane, and while I usually prefer to review local places, this yogurt is divine and the price is great, so I feel I need to share the news. Brendan and I both got huge cups of yogurt with toppings for $7.00. I've been twice! They have tons of fresh fruit and all kinds of candies. There is indoor and outdoor seating, and lately, adorable hello kitty cups and spoons! The best part is, it reminds me of the beloved Los Angeles Pinkberry, which I can't get my hands on.
Guava Pineapple :) Yummy!
In other news, Brendan and I went to Thai Spice again which I talked about in an earlier blog post. It did not disappoint!

Are you looking for plans this week? My dear friend, Corley Pillsbury, is playing an awesome show at Swan Dive tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 10:30p.m. What can I tell you about her? She writes her own music, plays piano and accordion, has a beautiful, spectacular voice, can sing in French, and is a blast to hang out with and one of the smartest people I know. As for Swan Dive? It's an awesome venue with a great vibe, good drinks, and a lovely outdoor patio area.

And, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night catch Austin's own legendary Ken Webster in the hilarious and horrifying play The Good Thief at 8pm at Hyde Park Theatre (Tip: Thursdays are "Pay what you can"). For more info, see my post about the show or visit the Hyde Park Theatre website. 

Three things I'm looking forward to: I found out I am going to be able to teach 4 classes at Midland College instead of 3 next semester (depending on enrollment of course). Also, Brendan and I have booked tickets to visit his family in Connecticut and vacation with them in Maine August 3rd-15th. I have never been to Maine, but my brother tells me it is so beautiful, and I adore Brendan's family, so I'm super excited. AND, tomorrow, we're headed to Schlitterbahn as a b-day gift from my mom. It's my favorite place to stay cool in Texas, and I can't wait!

Please share your own good news, your own great discoveries in your city, or your own ideas about what to do this week. It may be hot (so hot my 10am run almost killed me), but at least it's summer!

Here's to fun,
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

Monday, July 25, 2011

Great Auction, Great Cause

I love auctions and always have. There is something about the thrill of the bid, which I guess explains why ebay is so successful. But this upcoming auction on Meals and Moves is not only jammed packed with amazing items (trips, gift cards, website design, books, baked goods, and so much stuff I love to boot), but 100% of the proceeds are going to a great cause.

Susan, get well soon!
A 25 year-old blogger from Canada named Susan was recently diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer. You can read her blog and about her progress here. Though there is universal health care in Canada, not all of Susan's treatments are covered and going through chemo and radiation will leave her with a lot of out of pocket expenses. The blogging community put this auction together to raise money that Susan will need to cover treatment that isn't taken care of and expenses associated with being out of work and in the hospital.

The bidding opens tomorrow at 8am EST. Get your week off to a good start by doing something nice for someone else and you just might walk away with a great deal on something you love in return. It's also so nice to see how many people donated items to the auction. I'll be participating and thinking about Susan and wishing her a speedy recovery. She is exactly my age, and this is a chilling reminder that life can take scary turns. It's nice to think that at least we can help each other navigate them.

Here's to fighting the good fight,
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

Edit: This event raised $26, 432. Wow! 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Simple & Spicy, Perfect Vegetarian/Vegan Chili

This recipe is sure to delight your taste buds and your time frame! Remember my first ever post, the hodge-podge stir-fry? Well, last night was another one of those "what can I make for dinner with the stuff in my pantry with relative ease?" kind of cooking nights. Enter my idea to make chili. Thank goodness Brendan was also on hand to rein in my ideas and help me create the perfect vegan/vegetarian dish, which was enjoyed by all, even my Dad, a self-professed meat lover. It earns a fast recipe star, as you can whip it together in 45 minutes AND if you have spices/canned food on hand, you might even skip a trip to the store. Plus, it's packed with protein and healthy. Have I inspired you to try it? Well, what are you waiting for? Ready, set, chili!

You will need:
  • 1/2 can black beans 
  • 1 can red kidney beans 
  • 1/2 can white kidney beans 
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chile
  • 1 can corn 
  • 1/2 purple onion diced 
  • 6 cloves of garlic minced 
  • 1 bell pepper (we used green) diced 
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth 
  • olive oil to coat a pan 
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder 
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cumin powder
  • cayenne pepper, Tabasco, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal 
  • 1 handful basil chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro chopped 
here we go:
  1. Coat a large pot with olive oil and saute onion, bell pepper, and garlic on medium/high heat (takes about 5 minutes) stirring constantly. 
  2. Add tomato, vegetable broth, and chili powder. Cook 5 minutes continuing to stir constantly.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and add beans and the rest of the spices, salt, and pepper. (You have to play around with the spices to get the taste you desire-the spices I don't give measurements for, I just added several dashes of and it turned out medium spicy). Cook 10 minutes and continue to stir (it's a nice mini pre-meal workout!)
  4. Add the corn and cornmeal (to thicken), stir, continue cooking another 10 minutes.
  5. Add the basil and cilantro, cook another 2-5 minutes. 
Serve in a bowl and top with cheddar cheese (leave off the cheese if you want the chili to be vegan). You can serve it with Fritos or cornbread if you prefer. 
Simple & Spicy, Perfect Vegetarian/Vegan Chili in a vintage bowl :)
Total prep and cook time: 45 minutes.
Deliciousness factor: 5 out of 5 stars. It's rare that we give this rating, but all agree, this is flavorful and yummy and will leave you coming back for seconds. I love all the colors, the smells, and the thick texture. Brendan thinks the basil and cilantro are inspired touches. My mom loves the spicy flavor, and Dad, he likes the zippy? tangy? spicy? parents have spent the last 10 minutes arguing over what exactly the flavor Dad liked was. Dad says, "Why does this have to turn into a family debate! I can't describe it, it's very unique!" Okay, unique, we'll stick with that.

Enjoy your weekend! Here's to hoping it's unique and flavorful ;)
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

Friday, July 22, 2011

Finding A Place

So, I recently wrote that Brendan and I were planning to spend this past week relaxing. Well, that didn't exactly happen. I spent all day Monday calling about houses to rent in Midland...I discovered that there were none least, not in a price range that anyone we know would consider reasonable (well, maybe our NYC friends could relate). You see, Midland, TX is in a huge oil boom now, which means housing is scarce to say the least. I relented and called about 50 apartment complexes...and 6 of them had openings for August (most of the others said, "Can you wait until October?" to which I responded, "um, no.") After my day on the phone, I realized we needed to get to Midland fast.

We left the next day, stayed overnight in San Angelo with my Aunt, and made it to Midland at the start of the day on Wednesday. We spent all day looking at rental property, most apartments, but we saw some houses/townhouses/duplexes too. Some were really bad (bring your own stove bad), and all were overpriced. We decided a house isn't in the cards for this year. So, apartments in Midland, it was explained to us, are only built during booms, so either the complexes were built in the 1980s or just recently. The strange thing to us? The apartments built in the 1980s are hardly any cheaper than the complexes built just recently...though they are 30 years older (I guess when people are desperate for housing, you can charge anything you want).

We looked at a new complex, built just 3 years ago that had 1 space available for August. At the end of the day after seeing the other options, we decided that's what we wanted to do. It wasn't exactly what we had in mind, but we feel happy about our decision. The complex is 2.3 miles from campus (a 10 minute drive), we scored a teacher discount, it has all new appliances, and is in good shape. It has a small workout room and pool, which I would actually swim in. It's close to grocery stores, restaurants, etc. and we have a real walk-in closet! Here are some pictures of the model apartment/complex:
kitchen (I like that little built in desk too)
Master bath connected to bedroom

Master Bedroom-(Did my friend Emily Shew decorate this?)
We'll use the second room as a guest bedroom/office
At the end of the day, we found a place we could afford and are happy about moving into. I look forward to posting pictures of our real place.

On another note, check out these awesome Lego life-size zoo animals and have a great weekend.

Here's to finding a place (and I mean that in multiple ways)
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe (soon to be desert cats!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

BIG News

View Larger Map

As the above map shows, we've  been on the road a LOT lately (Austin is points A, D, and F). We spent a total of 21 hours and 45 minutes (not including stops) on the road and added 1,168 miles on my car (ouch). We drove from central Texas to west Texas and east Texas for job interviews, the job search started in December (for me) and March (for Brendan) and has consumed many many hours of our lives. My grand total of applications was at 60, Brendan's somewhere in the 40s, and we are so glad to say we found jobs and that our search is (for the most part) over.

Brendan landed a job as an English Instructor at Midland College in Midland, TX and I will be an adjunct there, teaching 3 courses per semester. I do have some applications out for full time jobs in the area, but for now that's the plan. All along, we were really hoping to both be able to find work in the same area, and we feel really lucky about how things worked out. Brendan will have the benefits he needs, and I'm still covered for one more year. And compared to our joint grad school income, we'll be doing great. The process has been stressful and we definitely took lots of time to think and talk about what was best for both of us. Having an option that made it easy to be together and both be gaining more teaching experience made the final choice pretty easy.  Plus we really liked the college and the people we met.

We are headed back to Midland early next week to look at housing options. We're excited that the area is within driving distance to some cool places like Big Bend National Park , Marfa, Texas, Alpine, Texas, Chinati Mountains, Balmorhea and New Mexico. We both think west Texas is pretty, and I have a special connection to it because my mom grew up there (in San Angelo, TX). I'm ready to see more of my home state and discover all the beauty it has to offer. Added bonuses, I have 2 sets of aunts and uncles and 2 cousins that live in San Angelo (Mom's side), which is a 2 hour drive away, and our great friends, the Shewmakers, will be in Lubbock, TX, which is only 2 hours away. 

Everything is going to happen really fast now. Once we find a place, we plan to head back to Lake Charles, get our stuff out of storage, load a U-Haul truck, drive to Austin, spend the night, then haul our stuff to the new place at the beginning of August. Then, we'll return to Austin to fly out and vacation with Brendan's family in Maine. After, we'll return to Austin, then drive to Midland with Lola and Zoe about a week before the start of the semester so we can unpack and get acquainted with the town. It feels like a big step to both of us: starting new jobs, moving in together; but it feels like a natural step, and I'm excited to find a place with Brendan and make it our own.

For now the plan is to spend this week relaxing. We're ready to experience a little bit of summer. Plus, I'm taking Bren to Schlitterbahn! We are thankful for all the support from family and friends and especially references during this process. We couldn't have kept our sanity without ya'll. This is a great beginning for us and we hope people will come visit us in Midland! I promise, we'll have a guestroom. 

Here's to the future and all that it holds, 
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

2nd 5K Day

Good morning! Brendan and I woke up at 6:30 am to get ready for the Caleb 5K. This run honors the life of Caleb Koke, a 16 year-old Austinite, who died two years ago in a car accident. All the money from the 5K (last year's raised $18,192-I'll let you know this year's amount when I can) goes to help Children in the Texas foster care system. Brendan and I were excited to participate and run for a good cause. Though we were doing good on training last week, a week of traveling this week for unforeseen interviews meant we hadn't practiced this last week. However, considering it is July in Austin, TX and that most of the race was on an uphill incline (the last mile being steadily uphill the whole time), we did great! Brendan finished 3rd in his age group (out of 20 runners) and ran 8.16 min/miles (wow!) He finished in 25 min./30 sec. I finished 21st in my age group (out of 35 runners) and ran 12.29 min/miles (I was faster until that last uphill one, I swear). I finished in 38 min/57 sec. (a tad bit faster than my last 5K). Better yet, I managed to run 2.5 miles without stopping to walk, and only slowed down for a few 30 sec increments when I saw someone next to me throw up (gross I know, sorry) and started feeling pretty light headed and chilled myself.

All in all, we had a good time and we'd definitely do another 5K again. It feels good to try hard at something, even when you aren't the best at it, and running definitely makes me appreciate my body and what it can do in new ways. It's also nice to do these events together because I definitely feel encouraged by Brendan. At the second mile, I could see him about 1/4 of a mile ahead of me, and I was trying really hard to catch up! No luck though, he's super fast.

Team Us :)
 I hope whatever you do with your weekend, you have a good time.

Here's to continuing to keep going, even when the going gets tough uphill.
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

EDIT: This event raised nearly $20,000, ALRIGHT! 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Week of Running

This week, I ran lots in prep for my upcoming 5K and decided to summarize my adventures. 

On July 1st, I ran 2 miles without stopping, walked 1/2 a mile and ran another 1/2 mile. We went to a track by my house at night. It was pretty cool for Austin, and I was feeling good about myself, though I felt sick after.

Then, on the 4th of July, Brendan and I started our run at 7:15am. It felt much harder with the sun beating down, and I was sort of whining. But, I did run 2 miles without stopping again, then walked 1/3 of a mile and ran the last 2/3 mile.

The next day, I ran 2.5 miles without stopping (I wanted to stop, but Brendan said "keep going!") then walked 1/2 of a lap (which is 1/4 of a mile) and finished out the rest of the lap and 1/2 by running.

 Then, Brendan discovered that some of our 5K is uphill? This was discouraging, so Brendan decided I needed hill practice. I made it running 1 mile yesterday on hills and then could not keep going. My legs felt shot. We walked another couple of miles or so. I was frustrated with myself, but then again, I did increase my endurance this week. And I ran like 9 miles and walked another 3 this week, so that's not bad! It wasn't easy, there were a little tears and feeling like I was going to throw up. I still can't say I find running fun, but I'm dropping weight and feeling physically good, which is motivation enough for me to keep going. I'm still slow, but as long as I run the whole time in the 5K, I don't really care what my time is, but a 12 minute mile would be nice!

Maybe I will go for a neighborhood run tonight...but this time, sans hills. As for the actual 5K, do you think anyone would notice if I drove a golf cart during the uphill parts? :)

Here's to practice making perfect improvements.
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tasty Mexican Salad & Deliciously Dark Irish Play

It's always good to get a taste of something different and new. Here are my ideas for what to try this week.

Last night, my mom and I threw together this Tasty Mexican Salad. (I know, we ate Mexican salad on 4th of July, but stay with me). This was delicious, simple and fast, and would be the perfect solution of what to bring to your next summer BBQ. Also, it is vegetarian and with one simple substitution, easily vegan. This recipe will make about 4 dinner sized servings, double if you want more (makes about 8-10 small potluck party servings). Ready...set...make it!

  • Put 5 big handfuls of spring mix lettuce in a large bowl
  • Cut 2 large handfuls of cherry tomatoes in half, add to bowl
  • Dice 1/2 of a yellow onion, add to bowl 
  • Slice 1 avocado, add to bowl 
  • Add one regular can of chili beans or pinto beans (your choice)
  • Chop a bit of cilantro to taste and add it in
  • Top with a bit of shredded Mexican cheese and Kraft Reduced Fat Catalina Dressing (yes, it's vegan too)
  •  Add a dash of salt and pepper and toss the salad
The result...a picture is worth 1,000 words:
Tasty Mexican Salad
Total Prep/Cook Time: A breezy 10 minutes earns this recipe a "fast recipe" tag.
Deliciousness Factor: 4.5 out of 5 stars. I love the mix of all the flavors and the beautiful and colorful presentation. Brendan isn't feeling creative today, he says, "it's delicious."

Now for my second pick, if you live in Austin, I highly recommend treating yourself to some theater by checking out Hyde Park Theatre's The Good Thief. It is a twisted and dark (very dark) comedy and one man show starring Ken Webster at his best. Brendan, my mom and I were treated to a preview of this show on Sunday and we all loved it. Again, Hyde Park delivers a show that is simultaneously laugh out loud funny, sad, and so thought provoking. The Good Thief by Conner McPherson is about an Irish thug for whom one "job" goes terribly wrong, altering his life forever. A couple of added bonuses? Every Thursday is "Pay what you can," allowing you to pick your own price. And, at a running time of 1 hour, 5 minutes with no intermission this is the perfect show to see with a friend or date. Grab a drink at the Parlor afterwards and you'll have plenty of time to hang out before calling it a night. You can thank me for this idea later.

The Good Thief by Conner McPherson, Featuring Ken Webster
Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd St., Austin, TX 
July 7th-Aug. 6th 2011. Thurs-Sat at 8pm
Thurs. Pay what you can
Fri-Sat $19.00 ($17.00-students, seniors, ACOT members).
Tickets at (512) 479-PLAY or buy online

Here's to expanding your horizons!
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

Friday, July 1, 2011

July Goals

Ah, the start of a new month, it always feels like a new beginning and a chance to do everything right. This month feels especially like a new beginning because I woke up in a new place. I'm forming a list of my July goals. If you feel so inclined, please comment with yours!

1.) In addition to reading more literary journals (Brendan got me issues of The Kenyon Review, New Orleans Review, and A Public Space for my birthday-sweet), I will finish One Hundred Years of Solitude and start on my next book.

2.) I will run 3 miles without stopping in my next 5K on July 16th (meaning I'll have to run to train). Brendan and I signed up for the Caleb 5K honoring Caleb Koke, a 16 year-old Austinite and pastor's son who died in a car wreck in 2009. This year, all proceeds from the 5K (it costs $20.00 to run) will be donated to the Texas foster care system in Caleb's memory (last year, they raised over $18,000). While I don't personally know this family, I think it is a really great way to honor his life. I love that 5Ks are usually for a good cause. Signing up motivates me to work out & gives me a chance to give back.

3.) I will write a short story. That's right, one new short story, and I will revise until I'm blue in the face. I'm participating in exercises from Julianna Baggott's blog. I will then submit said story to appropriate journals.

4.) WAY LESS eating out. I've been eating out because of the move, but now that I'm in Austin, I want to eat at home more and save money and cook new things. Right now, I will help my mom make pasta (my post run dinner-I'm wishing I went at 8am when it was 77 instead of going at 9pm when it's still 91, yikes).

5.) It's an obvious one, but I will continue applying to jobs. I applied to 5 this morning. I don't need to write this goal to be motivated to do it, the fact that I need a salary is motivation enough!

So there are my July goals, now lets see yours.
Happy July!
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe 
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