Tuesday, November 24th

Netflix and Chill

I really, really LOVE TV. When we cut the cord on our cable more than a year ago, I was a little afraid. But in a post-cable world where we can stream everything, cable just isn’t necessary anymore. I have to credit Netflix for changing the game. It was their original content that spurred other companies to follow suit. After a dark period of lackluster programming, things have swung back around to quality and sophistication.

Now we have lots of incredible series. They are being cranked out as fast as we can watch. Projects that might never have seen the light of day on traditional networks now have a shot. It means the shows we are watching are more creative, interesting, and not as targeted toward demographics and time slots. Do you guys realize how huge that is? We’re living in a new world, people.

Netflix logo

In what might be the best fitting partnership I’ve ever had on this blog, I’m now a part of the Netflix Stream Team. That means that once a month or so I’ll be talking about what I’m watching. New things available on Netflix or perhaps old things that I’m just discovering or revisiting. So make sure you give me your recommendations!

This month the Stream Team is talking about five more minutes. Like, what your kids beg for at bedtime. I definitely did this as a kid, as I was a night owl born to two early birds. By the time I was nine I learned that I could fulfill all my late-night fantasies fairly easily. My dad would turn on Letterman and promptly fall asleep, unaware that I was curled up on the floor watching. In my house it was as simply as getting out of bed and crawling back to the living room like a spy.

Violet is only three months old, but she’s pulling that #5moreminutes routine in her own way. She fights to stay awake and half the time when she finally goes down it doesn’t stick. But who could resist this face:

Five More Minutes

I’m sure that when she’s old enough, Violet will give me some compelling reasons to stay up an extra five minutes. Netflix and DreamWorks Animation have teamed up to create Dinotrux 5 Minute Favorites for just these moments. I mean, sometimes your kids need an extra five before bed.

I’ve been streaming a bunch of grown-up Netflix shows lately that are longer than five minutes. One that’s stuck with me is Bloodline. Have you guys watched it? It’s a 13-episode Netflix original about a family with devastating secrets, starring Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini, Chloë Sevigny, and most notably, Kyle Chandler. (Is there anyone on earth who doesn’t have a crush on Kyle Chandler?)

Kyle Chandler in Bloodline

The show is a bit slow-paced in the beginning, enough so that I almost gave up. But around the sixth episode it gained serious momentum and I was hooked. I never spoil TV shows, so I’ll just describe the series as mysterious, creepy, thrilling, and quite sad. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Keys, it’s an enticing world to immerse yourself in for a week or so, despite the dark subject matter. I’m even crazy about the opening credits. Season Two will come out in early 2016 and I can’t wait.

Another show I freaking love is The Great British Bake Off. How could a reality show about baking be that good? Trust me, it’s amazing. Right now Netflix is only streaming the sixth season, but I’m hoping they’ll add more. I laughed, I cried, I craved dessert. This is far better than any American competition show. If you’re skeptical, just watch the first episode and you’ll see what I mean.

The Great British Bake Off

What have you been watching?

Tuesday, November 17th

First Look: Wu Chow

Wu Chow, Austin Texas

The most anticipated restaurant opening of the year (for me, at least) has finally happened. Wu Chow has appeared at various events over the last year treating us to samples of egg rolls and soup dumplings and the city has worked itself up into a lather while we waited for more.

Ever since I went to the dim sum pop-up, I’ve been obsessed with checking out the dinner offerings. A couple weeks ago I had my chance at the soft opening. Our group of four sat outside on the patio to enjoy the beautiful weather, although I took a quick stroll inside and saw that it was equally chic and modern. There’s not a bad seat in the house and the music is mostly 90s hip hop, just like at sister restaurant Swift’s Attic. I completely dig this vibe.

Chicken & Taro Eggrolls at Wu Chow, Austin Texas

Shanghai Soup Dumplings at Wu Chow, Austin Texas

In addition to the aforementioned egg rolls ($6) and soup dumplings ($10), pictured above, we ordered a few more starters. The Hot & Sour Soup ($4) was close to the version I grew up eating, just a little less spicy. Did your mom feed you hot and sour soup from your favorite Chinese take-out when you were sick? Mine did, and it’s such a comfort food to me.

We also had the Pork Steamed Dumplings ($8), which are delicious in their own right. Soup dumplings get all the attention, but I have enough love to give all the dumplings. It’s been a long time since I’ve had Mushu Pork ($11), many years, actually, but it was such a treat. I won’t let so much time pass before ordering this again. A steaming mound of savory pork, eggs, and veggies was served with delightfully thin pancakes and house-made hoisin. It was one of the most filling dishes we ordered.

Hot & Sour Soup at Wu Chow, Austin Texas

Pork Steamed Dumplings at Wu Chow, Austin Texas

Mushu Pork at Wu Chow, Austin Texas

Pancakes at Wu Chow, Austin Texas

A dish that came highly recommended by our server was the Twice Cooked Pork Belly ($15). He did not steer us wrong. The slices were perfectly cooked and loaded with saucy and oniony flavor. It was the unanimous favorite at the table.

Twice Cooked Pork Belly at Wu Chow Austin Texas

Another dish that’s getting a lot of attention is the Mapo Tofu ($14). The tofu is pillowy soft and the black bean sauce and ground meat make for a hearty bowl of goodness. Mapo Tofu normally packs an intense heat and numbing quality, but this version is mellow. Wu Chow has a house made chili oil that’s loaded with flavor and like fire in your mouth, so you can add more heat if you want.

Mapo Tofu at Wu Chow Austin Texas

The Spicy Deep-Fried Chicken ($12) is one of the best values on the menu. The tender, crispy bites of chicken are ideal for sharing and the plate felt bottomless. The Singapore Noodles ($17) were lighter in texture and flavor than expected. Those looking for the curry to pack a bigger wallop might want to ask for that when ordering.

Spicy Deep-Fried Chicken at Wu Chow Austin Texas

Singapore Noodles at Wu Chow Austin Texas

Salt & Pepper Squid ($16) is a personal favorite and I was so happy with Wu Chow’s rendition. It was light, tender, and uncomplicated. The fresh squid was allowed to shine and wasn’t buried under heavy batter or overcooked. Dry Fried Green Beans ($10) were tasty and bright. Like the chicken, this is a great dish to share with a table of friends and nibble on throughout the night.

Salt & Pepper Squid at Wu Chow, Austin Texas

Dry Fried Green Beans at Wu Chow, Austin Texas

A note about the quantity of food you should order and portion size: Upon seating, our server described the portions as small plates and even used the term “Chinese tapas.” So we ordered quite a few things to share. These are decidedly NOT small plates, but normal portions. So there’s no need to go crazy. Go with a few people, order a few things to share, and enjoy.

Have you been to Wu Chow yet? Tell me what you think.

Wu Chow

500 W. 5th, Austin, TX 78701

M-Th 5 pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5 pm-11 pm, Sun 11-3 

Tuesday, October 27th

The Home Zone

Disclosure: Zaarly reached out to me to help spread the word of their Austin launch and sent me some friendly baby gifts, pictured below. Beyond that, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. 

A photo posted by Kristin Sheppard (@madbettyatx) on

As new home owners, Chris and I have recently discovered how unhandy we are. Sure, we can paint, install shelves, and do minor repairs. But when it comes to the big stuff? Or even stuff that seems small but is actually a huge pain in the ass—like installing a ceiling fan—that’s when we need to call in the experts.

And Austin’s got a lot of experts. I mentioned in a previous post that we’d hired help with our renovations and it was a mixed bag. Some of the people were great, some…meh. Normally one might hire this type of help using referrals from friends, but with a labor shortage in Austin, this isn’t always possible. So what do you do?

What I did was search Yelp. And Googled away. And asked on Facebook. And approached strange men in work trucks. In the end, I did find a bunch of guys to do our work in a somewhat timely manner, but it wasn’t the most efficient method I could have used. Nor did I have any guarantee that the work would be completed well or on time. So when I heard about Zaarly, it struck a chord.

The platform makes it easy for users to search for help in three categories: Cleaning, Landscaping, and Handy Services. Each vendor lists their specialties, service areas, and in some cases, prices. In choosing a vendor, the user can ask questions within the platform and will receive a response within three hours. It’s all very convenient.

But for me, what makes the platform really worthwhile is that all vendors are licensed and insured, reference-checked by Zaarly, and they’ll even back you up to $10,000 if something goes wrong. So they do the vetting for you and take away some of the risk. If you’ve never had a bad experience hiring someone, you might not realize how big a deal this is. But trust me, it’s big.

Do you have any projects you need accomplish? If you’d like to try out Zaarly and get help with yard work, HVAC, plumbing, electrical work, flooring, or want someone to give your place a good cleaning, use code MADBETTY to get $25 off your first service.

And since I’m curious, if you’ve ever had a great experience (or horror story) getting help around the house, please share in the comments.

Tuesday, October 6th

Is Blogging Dead?

Don’t you love these clickbait titles that proclaim the death of everything? Is rock and roll dead? Is SXSW so over?! Who killed art?!


I’m seriously asking though, is blogging really dead? I guess a more accurate question is “Is blogging dying?” Because clearly it’s not dead. There are plenty of blogs. Too many blogs. But does anyone care? Is anyone reading them? Are we all just stroking our own egos by putting our thoughts out there and thinking our opinions matter? What’s the point of a blog anyway?

For some, it’s a place to express themselves. Maybe there’s no other place to comfortably speak the truth and the anonymity of a blog provides a much-needed outlet. For some it’s merely monetary. Sigh. Some use their blogs to curate the image of an ideal lifestyle. (I call these the “pretty” blogs.) Many are passionate subject matter experts and want to contribute. Some just want to keep a record. There are endless motivating factors to start a blog.

My own motivation was that I enjoyed reading blogs. (Blog = Good. Me do blog!) At the time I started this blog I was working a job that left me uninspired and it gave me lots of free hours to learn WordPress. Blogging made me look at my life differently. The notion that everything I did/ate/watched/listened to could become fodder to write about was exciting. Rather than a place to hide, it opened up my life, encouraging me to see more, do more, take pictures, remember details. Abuse commas.

Like all lives, mine has changed plenty over the last several years. I have less time to focus on my blog and less of a need for a creative outlet. I’m busy. I write and I get paid for it. So why keep Mad Betty going?

One reason is that I’m in the Austin Food Blogger Alliance and there’s a minimum quota to stay in the group. It’s important to me, and I want to continue my membership, so I make sure to write about food. Another is that I pay for my domain and hosting, so I feel the urge to keep things at least sporadically active. Another reason is the guilt of leaving something unfinished. I feel stressed out if I haven’t posted in a long time. When I have deadlines to others, my own writing falls to the bottom of the priority list. Many nights I’ve found myself falling asleep at my laptop, trying to get a post together for the morning. I’ve failed to be as prolific as I’d like.

As a trend, blogging is down. Most of my friends have blogs and I’m noticing that people post less, read less, care less. We don’t talk about blogging as much as we used to. Our blogging dates don’t happen anymore. What was once so important to us feels like a thing of the past now.

I do think that Instagram is partially to blame, because we can document our lives, curate the hell out of everything, and all become visual stylists. It’s an easy format to engage in. You can like a photo or comment and it doesn’t come back to annoy you like Facebook. I relish double-tapping with reckless abandon because it’s kind. It’s easy. People like feedback. Even the social media weary can still muster the energy for Instagram.

I find myself reading less blogs and maybe that’s because I’m getting a synopsis on Instagram. I don’t need to read about your meal/vacation/life, because I already saw all the photos. We’re all so busy. Why read? Why write? WHY BOTHER?!

And that sucks. Because in whatever form it takes place, I’m an advocate of reading. And of writing. Writing makes you concentrate, think things through, use your voice (or someone else’s voice) and gives you the satisfaction of having done something substantial. It sets apart the lazy and the non-lazy.

I’m not making a case for maintaining a blog forever. I think it’s a passing phase for many writers and that’s okay. I’m not sure what the end point is when you have a blog and want to stop. I guess these things just peter out. Trends come and go and the internet is beyond oversaturated as it is. Social media has given people multiple free outlets to express their every thought. There’s no need to learn a platform, build an audience, or make a commitment. So maybe the death of blogging is inevitable.

But here’s a thought: The satisfying part of blogging is in the creating. The exhausting part of blogging is the work involved in marketing it. The building an audience, monitoring traffic, constantly prompting people on social media to “look at meeee! Look what I wrote!!” It becomes a job and an undignified one at that. This blog makes a few bucks, but by no means is a pro blog. I have no reason to constantly try to drive readers here or work to build a huge audience. There’s no need for Mad Betty to “keep up” with other bloggers. Sometimes I forget that.

Letting go of the metrics or the desire to cut through the noise is quite liberating. I’m hoping other bloggers feel the same and that those who have lapsed but still possess even a small ember of desire will continue blogging. Maybe we’ll see the trend swing back around to passion blogging, where the content is executed with personal intention alone. People creating something just for the hell of it, expecting nothing in return but the reward of having done it. Or maybe it will die off and we’ll look back and say, “Remember when blogs were a thing?”

Monday, October 5th

The Texas Conference for Women: GIVEAWAY!

The Texas Conference for Women logo

The Texas Conference for Women is next week and ladies, it’s a good one. The annual conference draws thousands who want to witness inspirational and empowering speakers, from entrepreneurs to doctors to politicians to celebrities. In fact this year’s keynotes are some of the best yet: Robin Roberts, Candy Chang, Bert Jacobs, and Patricia Arquette.

Robin Roberts

In addition to the fabulous speakers, there’s a career pavilion with one-on-one coaching sessions and resume review, book signings, and a large exhibition hall to stroll (and pick up some swag!) You can also find an all-day networking lounge in the center of the exhibits, hosted by Cisco, who will have representatives on hand to answer questions and provide LinkedIn profile makeovers. (Who doesn’t love a good makeover?) The Texas Conference for Women is THE place for professional women to mingle with other professionals, learn, and reaffirm career goals.

Patricia Arquette

You can be a part of this memorable event by winning a ticket right here! Just leave me a comment and tell me about a woman who inspired you to take a step outside your comfort zone and try something new. I’ll randomly draw a name on Friday and notify the winner.

The Texas Conference for Women

October 15th, 2015

Austin Convention Center

500 East Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78701

*Tickets are still available! Use code TXBG15 for $10 off your registration.

Monday, September 28th

Heritage BBQ by Cochon 555

We have no shortage of barbecue events in Austin. This city is crazy for meat, and dare I say, our barbecue is the best in the world. I might be biased. So we’re an obvious choice for a stop on the Cochon Tour, where a nose-to-tail competition featuring the heritage breed pigs helps support family farms and treat ticket holders to damn good eats.

Cochon 555 Heritage BBQ

The event takes place at the Driskill on October 18th. It will be my first time attending a Cochon 555 event and I’m excited to see what the local talent brings to the table. Competing this year:

  • Josh Jones (Salt & Time)
  • Andrew Wiseheart (Contigo, Gardner)
  • Sarah McIntosh (Epicerie)
  • Thai Changthong (Thai-Kun)
  • Quealy Watson (Hot Joy)

Each chef will create six unique dishes from a 180 pound heritage breed pig, so attendees should bring their appetites. As if that wasn’t enough food, some badass chefs who aren’t competing will also be cooking.

  • Daniel Olivella (Barlata)
  • Andrew Curren (Italic)
  • Shane Stiles (Stiles Switch)

15773803795_408eb5227c_z (1)

To learn more about the competition or to purchase tickets visit their website. 


Tuesday, September 22nd


This post is sponsored by Topgolf International in the promotion of the #FirstTimersClub.

Top Golf Austin

I’d always been curious about Topgolf but until recently had never been. I confess, I’m a little intimidated by golf because I think of it as an older gentleman’s pastime. But the truth is, golf is for everyone: men, women, young, old, my Pop-Pop, Justin Timberlake, and everyone in between and beyond. I don’t know that I’m ready to take on 18 holes yet, but practicing driving balls is fun. Add brunch + friends + cocktails for a relaxing way to spend some downtime on the weekend.

Top Golf Austin

Top Golf Austin

There are lots of games to choose from and you can get as competitive as you desire. My group was more competitive at the Bloody Mary bar, seeing who could cram the most olives and bacon into their drinks. That’s a game where everyone wins.

Bloody Mary bar at Top Golf Austin

We took turns swinging from our two bays, complete with comfortable couches and attentive servers. You don’t have to be a pro, obviously, or even any good at all. But you can take lessons if you’re looking to improve your game.

The menu is surprisingly diverse. Our resident banh mi afficionado gave her meal a thumbs up and other favorites included Asian Sesame Wings, the flatbreads (we tried three!) and the Cobb Salad, which was what I ordered.

Pepperoni and Sausage Flatbread at Top Golf Austin

Cobb Salad at Top Golf Austin

Topgolf Wings at Topgolf Austin

Smokehouse Burger at Topgolf Austin

Char-grilled Steak Flatbread at Topgolf Austin

Mushi at Topgolf Austin

The dessert offerings are also interesting. We tried the Sensational S’Mores (on chocolate chip cookies) and Injectable Donut Holes. The group loved the interactive nature of the donuts, trying the chocolate, raspberry, and Bavarian cream fillings.

Sensational S'Mores at Topgolf Austin

Injectable Donut Holes at Topgolf Austin

Maybe you don’t identify with the labels golfer or foodie. That’s okay. They love newcomers and will walk you through the process so you don’t have to feel weird. In fact, there’s an official group for Topgolf novices, the First Timers Club.

First Timers Club, Topgolf, Austin

Sign up by October 31st and you’ll receive a free Lifetime Membership to Topgolf as well as $10 off Game Play. This is the time to try something new. Still have reservations about trying it? This hilarious video might change your mind:

There are plenty of TVs and a comfortable bar if you’re just looking for a place to watch a game and grab some good grub. But give the golf a try. You might be surprised at how much fun it is!


2700 Esperanza Crossing, Austin, TX 78758

M-Th 9 am-12 am, F 9 am-2 am, Sat 8 am-2 am, Sun 9 am-12 am

Thursday, September 17th

All Aboard the Meal Train

Japanese Beef Noodles

A month into parenthood, I can look back at the following weeks and am grateful for our survival. I’ve mostly been hunkered down at home with Violet following her endless demands for food, diapering, and snuggling her tiny face into my neck. I’ve accomplished little else and am finding it difficult to even respond to texts or emails. My house is messier than I’d like it to be. So it’s been an adjustment, having little control of my days. I’m learning to go with the flow…most of the time.

Sausage Mac & Cheese

Boozy Chocolate Covered Strawberry

But overall, it’s been less stressful than I anticipated. I have to credit much of that to my fabulous friends who have taken such good care of Chris and I. My friend Mary Helen organized a Meal Train, which essentially is an online scheduler where people can sign up to drop off meals at a specific date and time. And sign up, they did! We didn’t have to worry about cooking for weeks. Almost everyday brought a new visitor, along with something tasty and nourishing.

Jambalaya and Cheddar Biscuits

In fact, since Violet was so late, we had some meals delivered before she was even born. Nelly made some of her famous salads, South Austin Foodie hit up Central Market’s one-day barbecue special and brought us sandwiches, and Addie worked on a crab cake mac and cheese recipe for The Statesman and we reaped the rewards.

Cuban Meal from Whole Foods

Having a bunch of foodies for friend certainly has its perks! We had homemade stromboli, lactation cookies, dal, and Linda‘s sausage mac and cheese. Lots more salads. Beef noodles and salad and kimchi with produce right from Melody and Pete’s garden. Jambalaya and cheese biscuits from an authentic Louisiana girl. Beautifully presented enchiladas and salted caramel bars from Girl Gone Grits.

Enchiladas, Chips and Guacamole, Salted Caramel Bars

Tempeh Salad

We savored Black Bean Soup, Vietnamese spring rolls with chicken and tofu, a recreation of my favorite menu item at the JW downtown, Faro Salad, a couple key lime pies (Chris’ favorite!)


Faro Salad

This list is by no means exhaustive, nor are the photos. Chris and I would dig in and relish every bite and then I’d jolt awake from my food and baby induced delirium and realize I didn’t take a picture. In addition to all the homemade food, we had lots of restaurant favorites, too. South Austin Foodie and Jodi brought us Vietnamese noodle bowls. Michelle knew we couldn’t go too long without Indian and we dined on curries together. Elizabeth brought a decadent Cuban feast from Whole Foods. Natasha brought us popcorn tofu sandwiches from Wheatsville and yummy vegan cupcakes.


Lactation Cookies

So, yes. We ate well. And we are so very spoiled by the kind and generous friends around us who showered us with love. I shed more than a few tears over the thought of each of them taking time out of their busy lives to feed us, choosing things that were special, that they knew we would love.

To those of you reading this, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!


Kristin, Chris & Violet

Wednesday, September 2nd

The Cost of Living in Austin

The following post is sponsored by Pauly + Presley Realty.

When Chris and I moved to Austin in 2008, most of our friends back home (back home = Philly and Jersey Shore) didn’t get it. Texas? they asked incredulously? The home of George Bush and tumbleweeds and cowboy hats and other dusty Texas stereotypes? One by one, as people came to visit us, they quickly understood the draw of Austin.

Of course, in the years that have passed only someone living under a rock hasn’t heard how cool Austin is. Seems we got here right before things exploded, although that depends on who you ask, as the Old Austin vs. New Austin debate has waged on for decades. One thing I’m certain of is that the cost of living has gone way up during our years here.

I’m not on board with our unofficial slogan, Don’t Move Here, although I do understand the motivation. After all, I moved here. Most of my friends moved here. I know very few native Austinites. I enjoy having friends from all over the world and know that it’s enriched my life and our city.

But still, the speed of growth and cost seem untenable for the Average Josephine like me, who doesn’t command a huge salary and feels the city getting smaller as her options become more limited. Our city that’s known for innovation and jobs doesn’t seem to be the best place to work anymore because salaries aren’t increasing with the cost of living. Why should they? There are a hundred people waiting to pounce on every opportunity, regardless of how poor the pay might be. This is not everywhere, mind you, but it is happening.

Anyway, I’m not harshing on Austin. This is just a part of residing in an extremely desirable place to live, the number one fastest growing city four years running, according to Forbes. The housing market has kept pace, and as a recent homebuyer, I can attest to that. The infographic below illustrates some interesting statistics on where Austin stands now.

10 Unbelievable Facts About The Austin Real Estate Market

Do you live in Austin? Do you own a home? What other changes have you noticed about our city, for better or for worse?

Monday, August 31st

Chen Z

Scallion Pancakes at Chen Z in Austin, Texas, Oak Hill

It’s been a while since I’ve actually eaten at Chen Z, but as I’m making my Thanksgiving plans to travel back east, I have Chinese on the brain. And look at those scallion pancakes. Tell me that doesn’t have you craving some Chinese now, too.

Scallion pancakes are just one thing Chen Z is known for, another being hand cut noodles which are made fresh every day.

Spicy Cold Noodles at Chen Z, Austin, Texas, Oak Hill

Like most other good hole-in-the-wall Chinese spots, this one offers little in the way of ambiance. The copper penny countertop is as fancy as it gets, but you’re not here for the decor. You’re here for the stir fried noodles.

Penny countertop at Chen Z, Austin, Texas

Pork Stir Fried Noodles at Chen Z, Austin, Texas, Oak Hill

The dumplings are serviceable and I’d recommend the pan fried over the steamed. I can’t think of another place that serves this many dumplings in a single order, so this is ideal to share.

Dumplings at Chen Z, Austin, Texas, Oak Hill

The menu is fairly small, with most dishes offering a combination of meat and noodles, topped with sauce in varying heat levels.

Spicy Oil Noodles at Chen Z, Austin, Texas, Oak Hill

Black Bean Noodles at Chen Z, Austin, Texas, Oak Hill

Everything I’ve tasted has been delicious, but there aren’t any dishes I’m loyal to just yet. Which means I can try something new each time. How about you? Have you been to Chen Z? What are your favorite dishes?

Chen Z

6705 Hwy 290, Ste 606, Austin, TX 78735

Tues-Sun 11 am-9 pm