Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halloween Freebies!!!

By Marisa Pullan

So Halloween is right around the corner!! It's a really exciting and fun time for most people. Are you planning a party or maybe an extra artsy craftsy project? Maybe you're just looking for coloring pages for your kids. I've been compiling a list of Halloween freebies to help you out with your Halloween décor! Enjoy!!


How would you like a ton of free children's Halloween songs and poetry? It's a great way to have some ghoulish fun around the house! You could even have these playing out of your window on the night of Halloween! There isn't anything scary about them; they're all kid-friendly!

This site is probably one of the best out there for free Halloween ideas. There are over 600 pages worth of stuff for children, teachers, parents, you name it! Everything from coloring pages to puzzles can keep you all enjoying every minute of Halloween fun!

I love online games just like this one! You can carve a pumpkin without the mess! I'll bet your kids would thoroughly enjoy it and it's so easy, even a 4 year old can do it!

If you have a party coming up and you need to do some planning, this is a great site to check out! There are so many free Halloween recipes! Imagine your party looking every bit the zombie pantry!

This isn't technically a freebie, but it's a great deal from Disney! You can get 25% off all Halloween costumes and 40% off of accessories! If you order by October 21st, you'll be guaranteed to get the costume of your choice in time for Halloween!

Here is more fun stuff from Disney! They have so many great Halloween downloadables over on their main site! Everything from coloring pages to treat boxes and so much more! It has enough stuff to keep your kid busy for a good long while!

How about a free recipe book? If you need even more food ideas, you can get this free download from Mr. Food! It is a pretty nifty book with lots of great recipes!

Discovery Kids is one of my personal favorite brands because of all the great kids' stuff they have. They have a great downloadable Halloween activities booklet. There are arts and crafts along with really interesting ideas and information. It is really cool!

If you have any other Halloween freebies that you'd like to add, feel free to add them in the comments! See ya later, alligator!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No Small Moments

As a new school semester starts and a routines are formed,  I am reminded of just how fleeting time can be. My daughter is growing so fast, and becoming more and more independent each and every day. I know that one day there will come a time that she no longer needs my help to do the small things, or even the big things. I am so proud to see each and every milestone she passes. She is so intelligent, and has the sweetest little disposition. She understands so much more than you would expect from a toddler her age! I am just so very proud and so thankful that God gave me the privilege of being her Mommy.


When life gets busy, it is so easy to get lost in the "small moments". I cherish these times. I cherish the times that my daughter reaches up from her crib after a nap and just wants to relish in a long hug. I cherish those little wet kisses. I even cherish each and every tantrum, because I know those are just an opportunity for me to teach her patience, grace, and maybe even wisdom. There will come a time when those values are harder to teach because she may refuse to listen. It's easy to get lost in all of the things you aren't getting and forget what a great privilege and blessing it is to be able to give. I am blessed beyond measure to be able to have this time getting know my daughter and forming a beautiful bond. That bond may not always be pretty. There may be plenty of screaming fits (from both she and I), tantrums, and tears, but there will be hugs, kisses and lots of love.

My daughter is such a blessing, and it is my greatest privilege to be her Mommy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Girls' Weekend and the Coffee Bar


Recently my very best lifelong gal pals decided to come down for the weekend and visit me. We had a great time, we went tubing on the Comal River, played around on 6th Street and had some seriously good eats along the way! We were all in need of a kid-free, diet-free weekend. It was fabulous! I wish we could do that once a month. A girl can dream, right? Maybe once every 2-3 months.








After a night of serious partying on Austin's famed 6th Street, we needed a some breakfast and a big cup o' joe. On a side note: When I was a few years younger and single, I absolutely loved 6th Street. Now that I'm a few years older and not an Austin tourist anymore...I wanted to just say, "Can't we just go to a winery?".


We stayed in downtown the previous night, so we were certain we could find some place better than IHOP. After driving around aimlessly for thirty minutes trying to find something, we stumbled across Halcyon off of 4th and Lavaca. I have driven by this place at least one hundred times, but I figured it was just another eclectic Austin bar. Seeing as it was open for breakfast that morning, we decided to give it a try.

We were all very pleasantly surprised when we walked in. It wasn't a bar at all, but a very charming coffee bar! They even sell specialty cigars, if that is your thing. (I don't think you can smoke them inside...THANKFULLY.) I first was delighted to see that I could order Cafe Au Lait. If I had to choose my last meal, it would be a Cafe Au Lait and beignets from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. So, I got my pretty little Cafe Au Lait, which Halcyon served with two little animal crackers...how charming!! I never knew coffee and animal crackers went together so well, but they certainly do. One of my friends decided on the bottomless mimosas that morning for a little hair of the dog. They were delicious, too!



My friends and I were just as impressed with our meals as we were with our beverages. I got a delicious panini with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. My friend Anne got french toast. Lauren got the Breakfast Panini, and all I remember Danielle getting is tanked on mimosas. Giggle. :)

WOW...was the food good! I wish this place was just a little closer to where I lived because I would have to go there at least once a week. If you haven't been to Halcyon off 4th and Lavaca, I highly suggest you make a trip.



Skinny Apple Tart

The original French apple tart from Barefoot Contessa
You know that question, "If you could have anyone over for dinner that is currently living, who would it be?" For me the answer to that question is simple...Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa. That is, as long as she is cooking. That woman has the absolute best recipes I've ever made. Almost all of which are very high in fat, which is probably what makes them all so darn tasty. Random fact: Did you know that Ina's husband Jeffery, who frequently appears on the show, was the Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade and former Dean of the Yale School of Management? Let's just say the Barefoot Contessa shop didn't move them to the Hamptons.

My dearest Ina makes this delicious French apple tart that is just soaked in butter. It is SO good. I could eat it for dessert every night. I decided to try and lighten up this recipe and see if it even turned out to be edible. Sure enough, it was pretty tasty. Don't get me wrong, Ina's version is better. Butter makes everything better, right? However, if I can't have the real thing and lose thirty pounds then I will settle for the skinny version. All joking aside, the skinny version turned out to be delicious in it's own right! If I wasn't comparing it to Ina's then I would think this little tart is the bee's knees.






  • 3 granny smith apples, sliced thinly
  • 4 sheets phyllo dough
  • 1 Tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 spray cooking oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a tart pan with oil. Lay out phyllo dough very gently in the tart pan and allow the excess to hang over the side. Using 1/2 Tbsp of apricot jam, spread across the phyllo dough. I like to mix the jam with a splash of water and microwave for about 10 seconds. This makes it really easy to spread and helps the jam to go a little further. Layer apples as decoratively as you like. I like to do a circular pattern. Fold over phyllo dough to create a top crust. In a ramekin, mix together remaining apricot jam and butter. Brush on top of the apples and phyllo dough. Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. 

This is really delicious!!



Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Low-Fat Version of CPK's Barbecue Chicken Pizza

One of my all time favorite treats is the Barbecue Chicken Pizza at California Pizza Kitchen. While certainly not the most fattening thing on their menu, it still weighs in with a whopping 30 grams of fat and 930 calories. I decided to try my hand at lightening up this bad boy!


I used a whole wheat, ultra thin pizza crust which saved the most calories. I also used a boneless, skinless chicken breast to save more calories. 

  • 1 pre-packaged, ultra thin, whole-wheat pizza crust
  • 1 grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 1/2 cup fat free mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
Turn on oven broiler. I like the oven extra hot for pizzas. The closer to a brick oven, the better! If you have a pizza stone, use it. If not, a regular pizza pan will work fine. To assemble the pizza, top crust with barbecue sauce, chicken breast, onion and cheese. Broil for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted.  Top with cilantro.


My version. :) 
This version saves so many calories! 1/6 of the pie comes out to 221 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 35.5 carbs, 1 gram of fiber, and 17.8 grams of protein. That's 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus to those of you counting. Pizza is always going to be a splurge, but compared to the numbers you see on the pizza from CPK, this one beats it any day! Not to mention it tasted great!

Rice Noodles and Veggies

This dish came to fruition simply because I hadn't been to the store in longer than I care to admit! I had been to the farmers' market that morning and I picked up some delicious cherry tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, and zucchini. Zucchini must grow like crazy in Central Texas, because the zucchini you find at any given farmers' market are huge.  I only used half for this recipe, but for a normal size squash you would use the entire thing.

Normally, I probably would have served these veggies with whole wheat farfalle or penne. I had brown rice noodles, so that's what we got! This recipe turned out to be a really nice, light meal that was easy to prepare. I hope you all enjoy this as much as my family did!



  • 1/2 package brown rice noodles (I use Maifun)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bit sized pieces
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces then halved
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsp basil, julienned 

In a large pot, boil water. The rice noodles will cook almost instantly, so don't cook them until you are done with your sauce. In a separate pan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until onions appear translucent. Add all vegetables, and let cook until slightly tender, but still have some bite.

Add rice noodles to boiling water, and remove after about 30 seconds. Add to pan with vegetables. Reserve a 1/4 cup cooking liquid from the pasta and add to the vegetable and noodles. You could probably substitute chicken broth as well. 


Sprinkle parmesan cheese and basil over the top. Enjoy!

Cioppino Stew

I am a huge fan of the Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I don't know what it is, but there is just something that appeals to me about Guy Fieri. :) On one recent episode, he went to Duarte's in San Francisco and indulged in Cioppino Stew. Now, being from Texas, this rich seafood stew is not something you see on menus in this area. In fact, from what I can tell, people on the west coast must hog this dish because I can't seem to find it anywhere else!

The original Cioppino Stew from Duarte's in San Francisco
After seeing this episode my mouth started watering for this deep red stew filled with goodies from the ocean! It's a fish stew that originated in San Francisco, although it's considered an Italian dish. This delectable soup usually consists of crab, mussels, scallops, and white fish simmered for hours in a tomato, wine and saffron broth. Served up with crusty bread, it is perfection. I've never tried this dish in San Fran, but needless to say it is on my bucket list!


Since I can't seem to find Cioppino anywhere in the great state of Texas, I decided to just make it myself. I didn't have all of the seafood ingredients on hand, and since I'm the only seafood eater in my house I wasn't going to spend a ton to make this just so I could eat it. I decided to use only shrimp, tilapia, and lump crab meat. I found several recipes only, but I decided to mix them together and come up with my own concoction. Here is what I did:


Seafood:

3 filets tilapia
1/2 pound shrimp
1 cup lump crab meat

Sauce:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp saffron
1 cup seafood stock (I wasn't about to use this from a box. You can ask the fishmonger if they have any on hand. Thankfully, at Whole Foods they do.)
1 cup chicken stock
2-3 bay leaves


Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley for garnish

First, I sauteed the seafood in 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Start with the tilapia, and add the shrimp when the tilapia is almost done. It won't take very long at all. The crab meat will be cooked, but I add it to this just to coat it with a little oil. Add a small amount of salt and pepper, but not too much. Break up tilapia into bite sized chunks, and set aside.

In the same pot, add remaining oil and saute onion, bell pepper, garlic and saffron strands. When onions are translucent, add tomatoes, wine, seafood stock, chicken stock and bay leaves. Add seafood to mixture, and bring to boil. Once it comes to a boil, bring down to medium low heat and let simmer for 35-40 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves, top with parsley and serve with a crusty garlic bread.

This turned out sooooooooooo good. I'm sure my version doesn't even compare to those found in San Francisco, but in the meantime I am more than pleased with this substitution!

Mine may not be as pretty, but it sure was tasty!






Wednesday, August 01, 2012

7 Stupid Health Mistakes

Now that I'm on Weight Watchers, I've also transitioned myself and my family into a "Clean Eating" lifestyle. I've been doing it off and on for years. I've been researching the subject in depth for a few weeks, and now I feel it's imperative to make a complete change! If not just for the nutritional values of eating healthy, but because of the unbelievable chemicals they put in most of the food we have all purchased at the store. Anyhoo....that's another entry for another day!! It's coming. :) 


I ran across this article written by Emily Battaglia of Lifescript.com, and I just had to share this valuable knowledge. 


Here are 7 completely STUPID mistakes that are detrimental to your health. I had to share because I've been guilty of doing each one of these at different times in my life.


Do you constantly go to bed at 1 a.m. and wake up feeling groggy and more tired than when you finally hit the sack? Or do you insist on being tan in the dead of winter by using tanning 
beds? If so, you could be one of many intelligent people still making stupid health mistakes. If you’re guilty as charged, you should know exactly what you’re risking and how to make smarter decisions starting today. 

You’re educated, well-read and are the go-to person for solving your family’s and friend’s 
problems. You consider yourself pretty knowledgeable on many topics but somehow you still manage to make stupid health mistakes. But why? Your well-being should be one of your top priorities. 

So if the one area you’re lacking in expertise is how to maintain proper health, or if you are just ignoring what you know to be true, it’s time to wise up. 

Here are seven stupid health mistakes even the smartest of adults are making: 

1. Sabotaging Your Skin for a Little Color. 

We all know that too much sun damages our skin, so why do we continue frying ourselves in the pursuit of a golden tan? 

Sun tanning and skipping the sunscreen both increase your exposure to the sun’s harmful rays, which can cause premature aging and even worse, skin cancer. 

Tanning is simply not worth it, especially when so many good self-tanners are available. 

2. Skipping Breakfast. 

Breakfast is too easy and beneficial a meal to pass up in the mornings. 

As you sleep, your body’s metabolism slows down, so when you wake up, your body needs food to get your metabolism going again. 

When you skip breakfast, your energy levels suffer. 

Although you may try skipping breakfast in an attempt to cut calories and lose weight, you actually tend to eat more throughout the day to compensate for your hunger and may gain more weight. 

Studies have also shown that eating breakfast increases your ability to perform better mentally. 

3. Smoking. 

If you don’t know by now that smoking is bad for your health – not just bad, but deadly – you’re either in denial or have been living under a rock for the past 30 years. 

The consequences of smoking include lung and throat cancer, premature wrinkles, an increase in men’s risk of impotence, and complication of pregnancies for women. And these are just some of the consequences of smoking. 

While smoking is addictive and quitting can be challenging, it’s one of the best things you can do for your health today. 

4. Skipping the Weights. 

Contrary to popular myth, lifting weights will not necessarily make you bulk up, an effect that many people, especially women, want to avoid. In fact, women actually lack the testosterone and often the time it takes in the gym to really get beefy. 

It’s true that when you start lifting weights or using a resistance training program, you generally gain a bit of weight before you start to lose it, but that’s simply because muscle weighs more than fat. 

If you want to get in shape, “pumping iron” will make you look trimmer and more toned, and will help you burn more calories even after your workout is done. 

5. Avoiding the Dreaded Doctors. 

Nobody can attest to doctor visits as being pleasant experiences; in fact, seeing the doctor can be time-consuming, require tons of paperwork and even be somewhat embarrassing, depending on why you’re there. 

Even so, having a checkup can mean detecting a problem and treating it early enough to avoid further complications. 

Women should visit the gynecologist yearly for a pap smear and breast exam, as well as a yearly mammogram once over the age of 40. Men should have their testicles examined for irregularities and should also be checked for colon cancer. 

You should also be visiting your dentist and general practitioner yearly. These doctor visits may be uncomfortable, but they can potentially save your life. 

6. Not Getting Enough Sleep. 

Doctors have been telling us for years that most people need at least eight hours of sleep a night to function at their fullest the next day, so why are you going to bed so late? 

Sleep deprivation not only makes you feel less than your usual perky self, but has been linked to weight gain, depression, anxiety, heart disease, and insulin resistance, not to mention the accidents that can occur from limited mental alertness. 

Many people find that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get things accomplished, so they sacrifice sleep. Instead, you should sacrifice less important commitments and set a regular bedtime to get a full eight hours in to avoid the effects of sleep deprivation. 

7. Drinking your Calories. 

Starbucks lattes and Jamba Juice smoothies might be a regular fixture in your day, but you could be consuming nearly all of your calories for the day in just one cup. 

Coffee drinks, smoothies, sodas, juices, and alcohol are all notorious for being high in calories. 

If you’re drinking these regularly and not cutting back on your calories from food, you could be consuming up to an extra 1,000 calories a day, which leads to weight gain. Instead, try limiting yourself to one liquid treat once a week and drink plenty of water. 

You are now armed with great information, so no more excuses when it comes to making stupid health mistakes! 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Skinny Chicken Tikka Masala






Many of you know that I am currently on Weight Watchers. I started about 4 weeks ago, and I'm already down 7 pounds! WooHoo! I just love Weight Watchers. When I was about 20 years old, I lost nearly 60 pounds on the plan. I even kept most of it off until I had a baby in late 2010. Now I've started again, and I can't wait to start seeing results. 

You've probably heard me mention one of my favorite food blogs, Skinnytaste. It's full of delicious recipes that are designed to fit into a healthy lifestyle. This particular recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala came from this site. I did modify it just a bit, but only because I lacked some ingredients. I've always been leery of Indian food, simply because the smell is so different from that of traditional American cuisine. The only thing I've tried so far is Tikka Masala, which is a pretty common dish. This recipe was incredibly easy to make. I think it took all of 20 minutes to make. It might take longer if I hadn't already had the chicken pre-cooked. Even still, an easy dish.

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp canola oil or you could use butter
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 4 oz fat free yogurt (I used Chobani)
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp garam masala or curry powder (Garam masala is a mix of several Indian spices) 
  • 1 tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • 16 oz (2 boneless) chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 4 tbsp fresh cilantro (or to taste) I forgot this one!!

Directions:

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until golden. Add the crushed ginger, stir for a few minutes then add the garlic and cook another minute. Add cumin, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, and salt; mix well until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, yogurt and milk. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Add chicken and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or until cooked through. Add a generous amount of chopped cilantro and serve with Bamati Rice or Naan.


Here is the nutritional information according to Skinnytaste:


Servings: 4 • Size: 3 oz chicken + sauce • Old Points: 4 pts • Points+: 5 pts
Calories: 190.4 • Fat: 4.5 g • Carb: 12.8 g • Fiber: 2.0 g • Protein: 24.5 g • Sugar:5.1
Sodium: 99.3 (without salt)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nom Nom....Cookie Dippers!

For those of you on Weight Watchers, or other diets....CHECK OUT THESE BAD BOYS!!!!!

These lovely little Fudgy Caramel Pecan Cookie Dippers have 100 calories(each), or 3 points for those of you on Weight Watchers. They are surprisingly fulfilling. I think it must be because of the pecans throughout. They are fantastically delicious.  A delightfully crunchy cookie dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with pecans, they are sure to please your taste buds!


I found these at Sprouts for $3.99. Although, they are manufactured by the Original Two-Bite Brownie brand, so I'm sure you can find them at other stores in your area.

These are such a treat in the afternoon with a cup of coffee!




Thursday, July 05, 2012

Little Red Wagon in Round Rock: Save Your Money.

I really hate to write a bad review about any restaurant, especially one that is a locally owned business. We've been to Little Red Wagon Hamburgers in Round Rock now on THREE separate occasions, and it has been horrible each time. I am a huge fan of hole in the wall joints, and they usually don't disappoint. My husband and I heard rave reviews about Little Red Wagon after we moved here, so we really tried to give it a fighting chance. The atmosphere is okay. It's a small building, and you might be able to fit forty people in there on a good day. It's very dated, but for a hole in the wall, the decor is usually eclectic. I wouldn't call it dirty, but I wouldn't call it clean either.

The two girls working the front have been the same each time we go in. They are both so rude and act like it pains them to take your order. God forbid you ask for a refill, which they actually charge you for. I can understand doing that if they are serving cans, but these are just fountain drinks. It costs them a fraction of a penny to fill up your cup. The cups cost more than anything else, and they charge almost $2 for that!

On our first visit, we both got hamburgers. We were both underwhelmed, but thought maybe they were just having a bad night. It tasted like the hamburgers they used to make in the school cafeteria. The next time we went, I got tacos. Again, school cafeteria...and the cheese was that shredded velveeta crap. Whoever thought that belonged on a taco was misinformed. On our most recent visit, I decided on the Baja Fish tacos. I'm not really sure what possessed me to order these. I should know better. The fish was so gross. It didn't look or taste anything like any fish I've ever had. I kid you not, there was at least 1/2 cup of the most horrible tartar sauce known to man doused all over that thing. Even the rice on the side was disgusting. How do you mess up rice? They managed to. It was actually greasy. I ate half of a taco, and I couldn't even eat the rest. It was so gross!

Okay, sorry to rant. Save your money!!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Summer Vacations

Wow! I'm a horrible blogger! Since this semester started I have barely blogged at all. So sorry!

I just finished my psychology class, and now I am focused on vacations. I need one! My family and I went to Corpus Christi a few months ago, and now we are already dreaming of going back. Our budget limits us from going anywhere one might normally think of to vacation. The Texas coast is often overlooked, because there is a generalization that Texas beaches are all brown and dirty. That's hardly the case. Though I haven't spent much time on any coast, I found North Padre Island to be a beautiful beach, and a wonderful family destination. We have decided to try to go back at the end of the summer, and have set our sights on Rockport or Port Aransas. My hubby and I both firmly believe that no matter what the circumstances, we need to try to go on at least one family vacation per year, even if it isn't very far away! We are only a short three hours away from the coast here in Austin! Such a change from living in Dallas, where it would have been at least a six hour drive. Has anyone else had a good experience on the Texas coast? What other beaches would you recommend?








Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Attention All Writers!


Austintxmom.com is looking for writers!

It occurred to me some time ago that Austintxmom.com isn't exactly representative of the average Austin, Texas Mom. Although, I can't say that anything about most moms, especially here in Austin is average. Most moms I know are supermoms, and far exceed average!

I'd like to add different perspectives to this blog. I'm looking for someone to write a parenting segment, cooking segment, a segment about local activities, and a craft segment. Blogs would be written by each writer once per week. I'm not looking for a professional writer or blogger. I just want genuine everyday Moms who can offer another perspective from my own. It does not matter to me if you aren't the perfect writer. I will handle proofreading and editing. The main thing I'm looking for is someone who just wants to share all the neat things they know with the public.

If you are interested, please comment below. You can also reach me by email here.  Looking forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

50 Completely Free Anytime Adventures in ATX for Kids This Summer



I am always looking for fun and exciting things to do around town with my daughter, especially during the summer months. My daughter may not be in school yet, but with so many beautiful, sunny days here in ATX, who wants to waste a single one stuck in the house?

As you all know, I am a huge fan of the blog Free Fun in Austin. They just published a fantastic list of of 50 Free Anytime Adventures in Austin. I just had to share this!

  1. Explore the quirky wonderland that is the Cathedral of Junk
  2. Run around Ghost Town in Manor. 
  3. Take your bike on a bumpy ride at the BMX park on 9th Street. 
  4. Dig for dino bones at the Austin Nature and Science Center
  5. Check out the impressive taxidermy displays and aquarium at Cabela’s in Buda. 
  6. Ride the saucer swings at Mueller Lake Park
  7. See the bats emerge from under Congress Avenue Bridge. 
  8. Climb the wooden forts in Georgetown's Creative Playscape
  9. Catch some free music on the Central Market patio, while kids burn off steam on the playground. 
  10. Head to a free Sunday morning kids’ show at Ruta Maya Coffee House.
  11. Play your heart out at the brand new Play for All Abilities Park in Round Rock. 
  12. Explore the Asian Supermarket
  13. Take your skateboard to the downtown Austin Skate and BMX park
  14. Go for a romp at Children’s Playground in San Marcos. 
  15. Ride your bike around the Veloway
  16. Load up on fruits and veggies at a Farmer’s Market
  17. Take a docent-led tour at Laguna Gloria (suggested donation).
  18. Climb Mount Bonnell
  19. Go on a self-led tour of the Texas Capitol. 
  20. Commune with the peacocks at Mayfield Park
  21. Enjoy the air-conditioned Texas Memorial Museum. 
  22. Visit the turtle pond on the UT campus. 
  23. Feed ducks at Mills Pond in Wells Branch. 
  24. Pet the cow statues in The Arboretum. 
  25. Visit the Austin Children’s Museum for free on Sundays, from 4 – 5 p.m. 
  26. Practice amateur Paleontology in Brushy Creek
  27. Take a hike in Wild Basin Preserve (suggested donation). 
  28. Touch a tank at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry. 
  29. Peruse modern art exhibits at AMOA-Arthouse at The Jones Center (suggested donation). 
  30. Pose for a family portrait in front of the "Greetings from Austin" mural.
  31. Embark on a Historic Walking Tour
  32. Picnic in Zilker Park
  33. Head out on a creek expedition along the Barton Greenbelt. 
  34. Explore the Mexic-Arte Museum for free on Sundays. 
  35. Take the Family Nature Quest at McKinney Roughs Nature Park.
  36. Dine at a local food trailer.
  37. Navigate the incredible maze of costumes at Lucy in Disguise on South Congress. 
  38. Attend a Star Party on the UT campus. 
  39. Go on a scavenger hunt in The Blanton Museum of Art (free on Thursdays). 
  40. Satisfy your sweet tooth at the old-fashioned Big Top Candy Shop.
  41. Wade in Bull Creek
  42. Give geocaching a try. 
  43. Attend storytime at BookPeople
  44. Buy lunch fixins at Whole Foods and eat by the playground on the rooftop plaza.
  45. Tour a steam train.
  46. B.Y.O.Kayak or swim in Lake Pflugerville
  47. Learn about famous Texans, like Stephen F. Austin, who were laid to rest at Texas State Cemetery.
  48. Pile the kids into a red wagon at The Natural Gardener.
  49. Take a dip in Barton Creek.
  50. Visit the chickens at East Side Café. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A New Adventure

Nearly a year after officially making the decision, I'm starting nursing school today.  My "day job" since I was 22 years old has been in real estate marketing, and I've always had this desire deep down to be a nurse. Actually, my ultimate goal is to be a CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist), or maybe even an MD. Who knows? I do know that I'll be making baby steps through this journey. I have this problem...I set huge goals for myself and never think about what it takes to get there, so I usually end up giving up halfway through. Even though it's a long way away, and I've already devoted so much time, energy and money into being successful in real estate (which has never been a dream of mine, but somehow it took off and I became too successful to quit) I've decided to start pursuing this goal now, and to take it one step, one day at a time. Just as with any challenge, if you look at the entire road it is long and arduous, and can make you give up...but I know one thing...I can get through today.

I do still have a deep love for marketing, and run a marketing company devoted to small businesses. www.truegritmarketing.net. Who knows, maybe someday I can eventually bring my two passions together.

I'm a little nervous, but not as much as I am excited to get this challenge started. Wish  me luck!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Official Review: Fifty Shades Trilogy


I've officially finished the entire Fifty Shades trilogy, by E.L. James. It includes Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed. I read through all three books in a little under a week. They are a very quick read, but oh, so delightful.

I don't want to say they are poorly written, because I think the storyline itself is incredible, as are the characters. I do think it could have used a little more editing, but frankly, editing is going to be the last thing on your mind when you pick up these books.

The stories center around Anastasia Steele, an inexperienced recent college grad and Christian Grey, an extremely eligible multi-billionaire, megalomaniac, control-freak extraordinaire. I would love to do true character study on these two characters. Ana is so easy to relate to, she could easily be one of my best friends. She's shy, caring, and yet so strong and willful. Christian is so opposite, though he appears to be "Master of his Universe", as is quoted so many times, he is so fragile and insecure. What starts off in the first book as nothing but "Mommy porn" actually turns into a beautiful love story. Yes, there is sex in these books...okay, it's not just sex, it's whips, chains, all kinds of things that will make you blush. I'm blushing just writing about it!

I've always had a thing for "bad boys" as most girls do, and most girls want to fix them and make them perfect...well, that's pretty much how it happens in these books. (Doesn't usually work that way in real life girls, trust me I've tried...several times.) Although, several things happen in the middle. Several things that make the series worth reading.

I HIGHLY recommend you read these books, as long as you can stand (even enjoy...oh Heavens to Betsy! I just said it...what will they say now!?) the occasional explicit romp in the hay.

I can't wait for the movie to come out. I think they could probably take the whole trilogy and turn it into one movie, in fact, I hope they do. I wouldn't want to wait any longer! Although, I still have no idea how on earth they are going to make this movie with anything less than an NC-17 rating.  You'd lose the "spirit" of the book if they took too much out!

So now, just for my own enjoyment, and perhaps yours...I've chosen my mental cast for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie just like so many other bloggers have. :) Enjoy.


I will NEVER be able to picture anyone but Armie Hammer as Christian Grey. He's so outwardly strong and commanding. Oh yes, he will do quite nicely. 


I think Lilly Collins is quite possibly the only person who could play Anastasia Steele without doing it all wrong. I know there is this whole "Kristen Stewart-Rob Pattinson" movement. PUH-lease. They would be horrible as Christian and Ana, especially Kristen Stewart. I'm sorry, I like Twilight, but I thought she lacked emotion through the entire thing. Anastasia is extremely emotional, and Kristen could never pull it off. Just wait, though...I have the perfect part for her.

I pictured Victor Garber as Carrick Grey the whole time. He just fits.
Who better to place Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey than Sela Ward? 
Elena Lincoln....it came down to Michelle Pfieffer and Ellen Barkin. I honestly think either one could pull it off.
Chace Crawford as Elliot Grey. He's just eye-candy, had to throw him in somewhere.

Kristen Stewart as Lelia Williams. I always thought she'd be perfect to play a crazy loon.
Ashley Greene as Mia Grey. I pictured her the whole time I was reading the book.
Blake Lively as Kate Kavanaugh...as long as she can appear a little less flighty than she usually does.
 David Morse as Taylor. He's perfect!
Jessica Lange as Mrs. Jones. Doesn't it just make you laugh to think of Jessica Lange cleaning the Red Room of Pain?
For obvious reasons....I think Charlie Sheen would be a PERFECT Jack Hyde. He could act like himself and pull it off wonderfully. WINNING!


Thank You

I want to take a moment to remember those that have given their lives for this country, so that we may enjoy the freedoms that we so often take for granted.

In this country, we enjoy so many rights and freedoms that many people in other countries could be killed for.

Because these soldiers fought for my freedom....I can write this blog, I can protect my family, I have the right to privacy, I can go to school, I can vote for the leader of my country...my children will have the right and freedoms to succeed and flourish in ways not possible in other countries around the world.

Despite the constant battle in Washington between political parties, the rising cost of living, and all of the other things we complain about throughout the year (which we have the RIGHT and FREEDOM to speak and debate about, which in itself is amazing)...we live in the greatest country in the world.


Thank you to each and every soldier that has sacrificed their lives, sacrificed time away from their families, fought on the battlefields, the air or the sea, for every spouse and child that is torn away from that soldier for months, sometimes even years at a time and fears what each knock on the door may bring...THANK YOU. I am so proud and honored to know so many of you.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fifty Shades of....HOT




Well, I gave in...I very reluctantly bought Fifty Shades of Grey right in the middle of the hype. I usually wait until after the hype has died down. I really don't know why I do that...it's my way of rebelling against society, I guess. AnyHOO, I decided since this clearly wasn't a book that all the teeny-boppers and Twi-hards were going to be raving about, maybe it could be interesting after all.


O.............M.............G.

Exquisitely Explicit.

As my dear friend Lori so eloquently described it...Mommy porn. I think she hit the nail on the head! Although, I will say this book has many graphic moments. However, that's really not the heart of the story at all. It revolves around the innocent Anastasia Steele and kinky, jaded billionaire Christian Grey and how they come to have a real relationship. Unhealthy relationship, absolutely. I don't think that E.L. James was trying to portray a happily-ever after perfect existence between these two. I think she meant to show their relationship and their characters exactly as they are...imperfect people with  deranged inner demons in a toxic relationship.

I've never written a book review, and don't really intend to start, either. However, if you are looking for a good, quick read that will leave you and quite possibly your significant other with a great big smile, go pick up the whole series. I've only read the first book, but I am waiting impatiently for the next one, Fifty Shades Darker to come in on Wednesday.

I may write an actual review once I finish the series. In the meantime, go buy a copy so we can all dish about it! :-)




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

tarka Indian Kitchen- Round Rock



I don't think I've mentioned on here, but as of Monday...I am a vegetarian. I'm not making this choice because of any political reasons. I still believe that cows were put on this Earth to feed man. I have decided that at least for the next 30 days, I'm going to give this lifestyle a shot because of the numerous health benefits. It's been two days, and I honestly haven't missed meat yet. 



Anyway, recently when I mentioned to some friends that I would be making this lifestyle change, they told me that Indian food was a great cuisine for vegetarians! When I was pregnant, I worked in an apartment community that was predominately folks of middle-eastern descent. At that time, having never tried Indian cuisine before,  and having an extra sensitive sniffer I had pretty much sworn off all Indian food before trying any of it. I pride myself on being able to try new things without hesitation, so I didn't want this to be any different! Today a friend of mine marched up to a local Indian kitchen and decided to give it a whirl! 


We went to tarka Indian Kitchen in Round Rock. The atmosphere was lovely! Reminded me  of Pei Wei a little bit, just brighter. For a party like us, that was slightly nervous about the unknown, the atmosphere was welcoming and familiar. 

We both ordered the Tikka Masala. My friend got hers with chicken, and I got mine with Paneer (a creamy Indian cheese). I decided to get this because it seems to be a pretty popular dish, and I wanted to err on the side of caution. The masses can't wrong, right? Ha! At least not when it comes to food. I'm so glad this was my first experience with Indian food. It was absolutely delicious. Not only were the serving sizes perfect, but it was so tasty! I got mine "medium spicy". I can handle heat, but the difference between TexMex heat and Thai heat is outrageous, so I didn't know what their definition of heat was yet. I could have easily done hot, the medium was just a little spicy, but only enough to tingle. Served with Basmati Rice, which is one of the best rices out there in my opinion, it was a perfect lunch! It had an interesting flavor, I can't really compare it to anything I've ever had. I would get it again in a heartbeat, and now I'm more open to trying other dishes, too. Oh, if you go, get the garlic naan. OMGsh....so good.




tarka Indian Kitchen is in Round Rock across the street from IKEA. 
201 University Blvd., Round Rock, TX 78665

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