Austin: Coffeehouses + SoCo Shopping

I drank a lot of coffee in Austin. A.lot.of.it. As a result, I feel somewhat qualified to tell you the best places to nab a morning joe or an afternoon-perk-me-up.

Coffee Houses

Houndstooth

I had heard and heard and heard about this coffee house and so expected great things on visiting it. I wasn’t disappointed and I don’t think you will be, either.

Royal Blue Grocery

I can’t in all fairness recommend this place as I only got tea there. My friend ordered a soy latte and said it was good. I am anxious to visit the store that will be opening in my area later this year and try their espresso offerings for myself. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to stop in for a try and get some groceries while you’re waiting on your coffee.

Seventh Flag

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This was my favorite. It anchored the street we were staying on, so I was here several times over the course of our weekend. The staff were very friendly, as were the customers. It was definitely more of a local place than some of the larger offerings in Austin. The fact that a Gourdough’s food truck was right across the street was definitely a bonus.

Halcyon

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Late night coffee bar? Yes please! The coffee was good but the atmosphere was even better. It’s everything you’d imagine a late-night coffee bar full of java’d people would be.

Toms

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Maker of shoes AND coffee. Who knew? In any case, their latte was a satisfying afternoon perk. The free citrus-infused water was a major bonus as well. Oh, and the surroundings were – in typical Toms fashion – self-consciously comfort-meets modern-meets hipster-meets save the world style. (Quick Query: for every cup of coffee sold, do they give away a cup to someone in need?)

Shopping

The problem with the stores in Austin is the problem with everything in that city: which to choose when you have limited time? This is where we went, so hopefully our experiences will help you to decide whether it’s worth visiting or not should you be facing the same scheduling conundrum. Honestly, we didn’t visit as many independent shops as we would have liked, but we also had limited amounts of time and so confined ourselves to the tourist areas of Austin. Hopefully next time we’ll be able to explore stores in other parts of the city (and if you have any suggestions, please feel free to share them in the comments!)

Book People

This place is paradise for bibliophiles. You won’t find shelves full of the conventional offerings (although they are offered, just not in the quantity of Barnes & Noble, for instance), which is why this place is so great. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet new books, or even just new editions of favorites. I had been looking for an affordable copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast for quite a while (no success anywhere!) and so was delighted to find a lovely paperback on sale here.

Visit their website for store info.

St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store

This place was a madhouse, but getting past people is only part of your problem. The other part is deciding on which vintage items to buy! I happened to be there on a sale day and scored a gorgeous pastel dress and an Italian-made wool dress (from the 60’s, presumably) for less than $15. There was much, much more to be had but one must draw the line somewhere…

Here is their website for store location and hours.

Uncommon Objects

This place is the most eclectic mix of antique, retro, junky, and chic. You have to see it to believe it.

Visit their website for store info.

Outdoor Markets on South Congress 

If supporting local artists is your thing, then the outdoor market (mostly jewelry and soaps) will make you happy. It is small and right on the well-trod path of South Congress.

Whole Foods

The mother of all Whole Foods, the Lamar location is their flagship store. Unless you have a tiny Whole Foods near you, this place can be skipped as it was simply a larger version of their typical offerings.

But if you really must visit, here is their store info.

South Congress Books

I enjoyed stopping in this bookstore for a quick look. It had a clean layout and its small space was well-stocked with interesting books. I’ll definitely be returning on my next trip!

Visit their website for store info.

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Enneagram Insights

Hello Readers, I am so pleased to introduce you to Sarah of Look and Joy! A gracious and lovely Southern gal with many gifts, Sarah is not only musical (she sings and plays instruments!), but also an avid reader, marketing expert, cyclist extraordinaire, adventuress (in fact, we take trips together! See the photo following this post for a snapshot of us on a trip last month), a personal life coach in the making, and best of all, my long-time friend who has never stopped encouraging me to pursue my passions while inspiring me with her zeal for life. She will inspire you as well with her knowledge of personalities and how pursuing a greater understanding of this topic can bring freedom and peace into your life. Please read on for her knowledge and insight into the importance of personality testing and understanding people better!

Enneagram Insights:  Free Spirit or Flake?

I’ve always admired people who seem to unequivocally know who they are, what they want and how to be immune to the judgments of others.  This isn’t most of us, is it?  Most people have blindspots in their personalities.  For life to function well, there must be a myriad of gifts, perspectives, motivations and personality types, but appreciating this diversity is not easy!

Take social media as an example of this personality quagmire.  We see epic digital battles over dresses, politics, celebrities – some want us to just get along, some don’t want to be involved at all, some see issues as black and white, some see grey, some see purple. Who’s wrong? Who’s right? Who cares?  It can be maddening to navigate these waters!

I am a personality testing and self-awareness enthusiast.   You can’t have your feet firmly planted in life without understanding what makes you (and others) unique. If you’ve interviewed for a corporate job, you probably took some sort of generic test to see if you were right for the role. In retrospect, my results were normally wrong, because I unconsciously put on work “masks” to project what I was “supposed” to be.  I spent years thinking and acting like someone I wasn’t, which leads to an imbalance of mind, soul, and body.  I unknowingly did things I didn’t really want to do, nurtured relationships with people who drained me, and fell prey to the illegitimate criticism of others.

A life coach and friend introduced me to The Enneagram, which is a personality insight tool.   It has spiritual roots and can be tricky to navigate at first without some help, but it is dynamic and practical.  I’m a type seven, which is the experiential, free-spirited, non-judgmental, compulsive type (some associated types – hippie, playboy, traveler, entertainer).  Sevens can make a huge impact on the world with their passion, independent thinking and risk taking.  However, other types can view sevens as flaky, non-committal and lacking in substance.  Conversely, I can view aggressive, competitive, no-nonsense people as being self-absorbed, rude and obtuse.  You see the dilemma!  Of course, every person has room for improvement, but if we don’t recognize our own gifting/bias, we can kill the spark of what makes other people unique, optimized and powerful.

The Enneagram is not binary (either/or) like Myers Briggs.  It accommodates for periods in life of stress and health.  For each type, there is an option for a sub-type (known as a “wing”) to add even more dimension and insight.

Even if you explored personality testing in the past, check out the Enneagram.  My favorite website is enneagraminstitute.com, which has free short tests and thorough type descriptions.  My favorite book is “Enneagram in Life and Work” by Helen Palmer, but do some general context research online first for this book to be even more helpful. I encourage you to start, or continue, the wonderful journey of learning to be our truest selves.

You can find more of Sarah’s insights and book recommendations at her blog. Thank you for sharing, Sarah! I hope you’ll do it again soon… 

 

Winter’s Last Hurrah (I Hope)

December days were brief and chill,
The winds of March were wild and drear,
And, nearing and receding still,
Spring never would, we thought, be here.
Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861)

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We just thought that the arrival of March meant the advent of spring. Winter is having the final say in this matter, however, and I am writing this post while bracing for another round of icy winter weather. This being Texas, we had a relatively mild, wet day until the temperature began to plummet (and I do mean plummet). I sincerely hope that this is the last of the winter weather. I love a good cold front as much as anyone, but not when it proceeds to disrupt my life by keeping me homebound with icy conditions outside. You can bet that I’ll be in my coziest clothes and snuggled by the fire tonight with this hot chocolate topped with my favorite homemade marshmallows (recipe at the bottom of this post).

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To bring some humor to the midweek, I thought I’d share the outtakes from my #ootd photo this afternoon. Of course only I would decide to head out for a photo right as a cold front blew in (sarcasm ya’ll – I really didn’t plan on being blown away!).

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hmm… Is this even going to work?
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I’m just not sure about this.
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Yikes!

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It.was.freezing.

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Trying to gain some composure between wind gusts and then…
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…success! A photo with my hair on my shoulders and not flying in the air.

I need not tell you that with a dropping temperature, gusty wind chills in the 20’s and a cold rain falling, today was perhaps the shortest #ootd photography session ever.

Marshmallows

Okay, now on to the sweetest (harhar) part of this post: soft, fluffy, homemade, melt-in-your-mouth-I-can’t-even-take-it marshmallows!

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This recipe was adapted from The Smitten Kitchen (I love that site – love it!!) and is presented here using directions for a standing electric mixer. If you don’t own one, then please surf over to the original recipe for a how-to using a hand mixer.

Homemade Marshmallows

Makes about 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows

Approx. 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup very cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla*

Spray oil evenly on the bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes.

In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t worry about getting it all out – you won’t! Just do your best to get most of it into the pan. Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours and up to one day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) You can also have some fun and use mini cookie cutters to make shaped marshmallows, as shown in the above photo. Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

Marshmallows will keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.

*The original recipe suggests other flavors, but after playing around with mint, peppermint, and almond that the best flavor happens when you just use vanilla. Of course, you can do whatever you want, and if you find a fabulous combination, definitely share it please!

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