Monday, December 15th

Ann Webb Clinicals

Ann Webb Skin Clinic might be Austin’s best kept beauty secret. Those in the know have been visiting the huge spa in North Austin for the best prices on treatments from facials and massages, to injectables and lasers.

I’ve been a client for a while, so when I was invited to come in and check out Ann’s new clinical line of products, I jumped at the chance. My good friend and girly partner in crime, Melissa Lombard, accompanied me for complimentary facials and a tour of the new product line. (You may remember Melissa and I reviewed some Mineral Fusion products in the past, too.)

First, the facials were phenomenal. Ann Webb Skin Clinic uses a gentler technique. No hot steam blowing at your face, rather hot towels are places as compresses throughout. Many of the products used come from nature, so aromas of mint, pumpkin, citrus, and lots of other good stuff punctuate the relaxing sessions. Melissa and I each left with a four-step routine to try out at home. I took a morning routine, Melissa, evening.

Ann Webb Skin Clinicals
Kristin’s Morning Routine | Cleansing Milk ($14) | The Mist ($16) | Day Moisture ($26) | Eye Bright ($30) | The Balm ($12)

I love a good cleanser and appreciate the classics. Cetaphil and Origins Checks & Balances have long been staples in my arsenal, and now Ann Webb’s Cleansing Milk joins their ranks, the light, pleasant scent and thick creamy texture brings me right back to the spa. It’s incredibly luxurious and moisturizing and a huge value at the price. For my skin, this is a little rich for daily use, so I’m reserving it for times when I need a little extra moisture.

The Mist is exactly like it sounds, a refreshing mist that offers a cooling burst of orange-scenting moisture. I love it for setting my makeup and also a quick spritz before bed. This would be good all day, actually.

If I had to pick one superstar of the lineup, Day Moisture is it. It’s light, absorbs quickly, and lasts all day. Notes of orange and mint are pleasant and fade quickly. It feels like there’s nothing on the skin, but that you’re in perfect balance, the way nature intended.

The Eye Bright serves as not only a protectant, but a luminizing brightener. A little zinc and titanium boost your natural glow and are a nice addition to the cheekbones, forehead, and anywhere you want a little brightness. The Balm, which is a nice fat stick of moisture can serve double-duty under the eyes, on the lips, the elbows, or any dry spot. It gives thick, lasting coverage and is a nice smell and texture.

Ann Webb Clinicals

Melissa’s Evening Routine | Cleansing Scrub ($18) | The Toner ($16) | Enzyme Peel ($28) | Night Moisture ($38)

True confession. My nightly beauty routine occasionally, often, almost always involves a warm washcloth and some face soap procured from Target. The selection criteria? What’s on sale? Okay, if I’m being totally honest, if I find myself drifting off on the couch after The Blacklist, I have been known to skip the washcloth and soap and head straight for the pillow.

Clearly, I am not the ideal candidate for a multistep beauty regimen. But after the facial and product demonstration at Ann Webb Skin Clinic I left the spa with a commitment to an evening routine and to take better care of my skin.

Gotta say, I am a total convert! I’m not going to lie and say it doesn’t take time. But it’s just been a matter of creating a routine. Here’s mine: Apply the Cleansing Scrub and then chill out or 20 minutes or so. Did you know you were supposed to leave cleanser on for a while before rinsing it off? I had no clue. Next, I apply The Toner with a cotton pad. I haven’t used toner since the Sea Breeze days of my early 20’s when I assumed the burning meant it was working. Apparently, astringents aren’t so great for your face. Oops! Next up, I do the Enzyme Peel (usually an every other night thing). I let that sit on my face for at least 20 minutes, though longer is even better. Next up is my favorite product, Night Moisture. This product is fabulous! Extremely moisturizing, but not at all sticky or heavy feeling. I finish up with The Balm—generally on my lips and around my eyes—for a little extra moisture. This little stick is very versatile and I’ve used it on rough elbows and to soften my cuticles.

As someone who appreciates value, I was pleasantly surprised to learn just how affordable the Ann Webb products are. And a little goes a long way, meaning your products are going to last much longer. All in all, I’m enjoying the products and the routine and look forward to checking out some of the other goodies from the new clinical collection.

Wednesday, December 10th

Sichuan River

Dan Dan Noodles at Sichuan River, Austin Texas

You might have heard some buzz about Sichuan River, which took over the old Tien Jin spot at Westgate several months ago. If you haven’t been yet, go now. Previously, the best Szechuan I’ve had in Austin was at Szechuan House, and I’m happy to say they finally have a rival. And in South Austin to boot! No more hopping on the highway for decent Chinese.

Dumplings at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

I’ve been several times now, including an evening of a very successful Asian Supper Club. When they’re on the menu, we always begin our club nights with dumplings. Here, they come fried or steamed and are your basic dumplings. Yummy, but not particularly standout in any way, other than the dipping sauce which is above average.

Ma-Po Tofu at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

Ma-Po Tofu is one of my favorite dishes, and Sichuan River’s is fragrant, rich, and fluffy. It’s not as atomic-spicy as Szechuan House’s version, but it still packs a good punch.

Sizzling Lamb at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

But if atomic-hot is what you’re craving, let me direct you to the Sizzling Lamb. Covered with chili paste, whole chiles, jalapeño slices, and lots of cumin, this dish is for serious spice-lovers. I have a little bit of an aversion to cumin, but I like this dish anyway and highly recommend it.

Dry Fried Green Beans at Sichuan River, Austin Texas

My friend Foodie is the New Forty is a connoisseur of Dry Fried Green Beans and declared these exceptional. The shallow-fry just blisters the outside of the beans, so they retain a healthy snap. They are salty, seasoned, and downright addictive.

Eggplant with Curry Sauce at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

For those who like something on the sweeter side, a good option is the Eggplant with Garlic Sauce. I’d say this is an acquired taste. While not my cup of tea, my friend South Austin Foodie really likes this dish. So give it a whirl if you like a sweet curry.

Egg Foo Young at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

Egg Foo Young is a Chinese omelette, loaded with veggies and whatever meat you choose. It’s fried and served with a savory brown gravy and…it’s just incredible. I had to be talked into this dish but now I’m a convert. I highly encourage you to try it if you haven’t before.

Dan Dan Noodles at Sichuan House, Austin Texas

The last dish I’ll share with you is the Dan Dan Noodles. The springy noodles are covered with pork and pickled and fresh vegetables, and are immersed in a spicy, soupy chili-oil sauce. I think this is best shared with friends because, like many Szechuan dishes, it can be a little heavy on the oil.

Sichuan River is a good place to pop in for lunch, a casual dinner, or to grab takeout. The service is fast and friendly; prices are reasonable. Have you been? What are your favorite dishes?

Sichuan River, 4534 Westgate Blvd, Ste 105, Austin TX

Wednesday, December 3rd

This Bar Saves Lives

Disclosure: I received a box of This Bar Saves Lives in exchange for a blog post to help spread the awareness of this important work they are doing to help end malnutrition in children around the world. 

This Bar Saves Lives

Do you eat granola bars? They are a staple in my house. We rely on bars for days when we’re on the go and need to eat in the car, or when we wake up too late to make breakfast, or when the fridge is a little bare and we need something more than an apple for lunch. So, pretty much all the time.

I like the trend of granola bars getting healthier and being made with high quality ingredients. This Bar Saves Lives is a relatively new company that makes seriously delicious bars. Made with organic, non-GMO ingredients, they are gluten-free, all natural, and kosher. The three flavors are Wild Blueberry Pistachio, Dark Chocolate Cherry & Sea Salt, and Madagascar Vanilla Almond & Honey. Yum!

This Bar Saves Lives

So what’s the name all about? Well, this is the best part. Each time you buy a bar, a nutritious packet of life-saving food is given to a child in need. It’s a buy-one give-one model (like TOMS) where you get to help end malnourishment. Check out the website for more information about the cause. Be warned that it’s pretty powerful. I hope that it moves you to buy some bars.

I, for one, am committed to including these bars as part of my regular Whole Foods shopping. You can also get them online along with some cool wearable stuff. I like the idea that my buying power can help nourish those who really need it, along with sustaining my grab-and-go lifestyle.

If you’d like to try This Bar Saves Lives, use code THISBAR for 20% off. Code is good for one week.

Monday, December 1st

Texas Rio Star Grapefruit

Disclosure: I was gifted a box of Rio Star grapefruits and some tools and recipe cards from TexaSweet. Opinions, photos, and grapefruit love are my own!

Grapefruit Guacamole

I did a grapefruit post last year and jumped at the chance to do another one this year. I’ve always liked juicy red grapefruit, but since moving to Austin and having access to the Rio Stars—which are ten times redder than Ruby Reds—I just can’t get enough. Mr. Betty and I buy giant bags while they are in season and enjoy them for breakfast for weeks on end.

But last year’s grapefruit extravaganza had me expanding my repertoire and I started including the fruit in dinner salads, with shrimp, quinoa, and more. It’s in that spirit that I made a refreshing grapefruit guacamole to snack on before Thanksgiving dinner. Grapefruit is a natural fit for the creamy treat, with the bursts of acidity playing nicely just like lime does. Plus, you can’t beat that color combination.

Mash together:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 3 TB finely minced red onion
  • 3 TB chopped cilantro
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Top with fresh Ruby Red segments

Grapefruit Breakfast

For those who prefer to keep grapefruit to their mornings, try pairing it with a toasted bagel. Mix the zest of one grapefruit into plain, light cream cheese before slathering onto your favorite bagel. Top with additional segments. Enjoy with a cappuccino on a sunny porch while catching up on Serial.

Grapefruit Breakfast

Need some grapefruit tools?

Set of 2 Grapefruit Spoons and 1 Grapefruit Knife, Stainless Steel, Serrated Edges

Friday, November 21st

Kerbey Lane Cafe

Kerbey Queso at Kerby Lane, Austin Texas

Long before Austin became the hot foodie destination it is today, Kerbey Lane was there, serving up a high quality menu that catered to vegans, dessert-lovers, and everyone in between. Now there are hundreds of newer restaurants to compete with Kerbey Lane, but they are as busy as ever, partly due to their famous Kerbey Queso, pictured above.

I was recently invited to taste some new special dishes at the South Lamar location and can report that each are worth returning for, just like that queso.

I’ve always liked that Kerbey Lane has really special dishes for those who don’t eat meat. Not just the typical salad fare, but interesting, flavorful choices that aren’t an afterthought. The Eggplant Tartine is an appetizer, but is enough for a very satisfying meal. Layers of hummus, roasted eggplant, tomato, onion, garlic, and pesto cover a crisp pita.

Eggplant Tartine at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

The Cuban Pork Benedict is a twist on the classic Benedict with the inclusion of Cuban-style pulled pork and a hoagie roll. This was a crowd favorite. I found the hollandaise to be better than most, with the bright lemony flavor cutting through the richness.

Cuban Port Benedict at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

If color = flavor, then the Huevos Motuleños has both in spades. Eggs, ranchero sauce, queso fresco, ham, are dotted with peas and other fresh vegetables. I love to see plantain at breakfast!

Huevos Motulenos at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

Since we’re fully in pumpkin season, it was only right to try both the fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes and the Pumpkin Bread French Toast. Both were excellent and had us swooning. The French Toast was so decadent that it could double as a dessert.

Pumpkin Pancakes at Kerbey Lane Cafe

Pumpkin Bread French Toast at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

Another favorite of the table was the Moroccan Beef with apricot, ginger, garbanzo beans and spices served with curried mashed potatoes and warm pita. Add this to your comfort food rotation on chilly days.

Moroccan Beef at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

The Pear & Bacon Grilled Cheese is a fall item that customers go crazy for every year. Crisp bacon and grilled pear are smothered in melty Antonelli’s aged white cheddar and a garlic basil aioli. Grilled cheese perfection!

Pear & Bacon Grilled Cheese at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

One last pumpkin item, the pumpkin mousse pie (from The Cake Plate) was lighter than traditional pumpkin pie both in texture and pumpkin flavor. This would be a good pie for people who like pumpkin but aren’t in love with pumpkin. The chocolate graham cracker crust was a nice touch. All in all, a splendid meal!

Pumpkin Mousse Pie at Kerbey Lane, Austin Texas

What are your favorites at Kerbey Lane Cafe? Have you sampled the fall menu and pumpkin dishes?

Wednesday, November 12th

Bess Bistro

In our quickly evolving restaurant environment, it’s nice to see some of our older eateries hanging in there. Now most people wouldn’t classify a business that opened in 2006 as old but given that most places we talk about in Austin came into play after 2008 or so, let’s go with it. I believe each generation of Austinites has a valid point of view in the Old Austin vs. New Austin debate, as old means something different to all of us.

Anyway, Bess Bistro has been around for about eight years, a mainstay on West 6th for locals and tourists alike. Sandra Bullock’s name brings a bit of glamour and a lot of cache, but Bess doesn’t want to ride on that indefinitely. To keep up with Austin’s changing tastes and constantly elevating standards, they’ve reinvented their New American menu, while keeping the same cozy, romantic ambiance.

In fact, it’s so dark and cozy in there that my photos didn’t come out. Luckily, I was able to snag some professional photos* of what we ordered. First—my favorite dish of the night—mussels sautéed in a rich tomato broth with lardons and crunchy ciabatta to soak it all up.

Sauteed Mussels at Bess BIstro in Austin Texas

We also had Mushroom Arancini as a starter, and they were crunchy on the outside with a dense and fragrant center.

Mushroom Arancini at Bess Bistro, Austin Texas

For our entrees we had the Diver Seared Scallops and Berkshire Pork Chop. Of the two, the chop was better cooked. But I’m a professional scallop eater and am extra particular about my sear. It should be noted that when I ate at Bess my plates looked just these, so beautiful and artfully presented.

Pan Seared Diver Scallops at Bess Bistro, Austin Texas

Berkshire Pork Chop at Bess Bistro, Austin Texas

The Chocolate Hazelnut Napoleon was a perfect finish with its comforting flavors and satisfying textures. The hazelnut mascarpone ice cream was so decadent and would be a fantastic dessert on its own.

Chocolate Hazlenut Napoleon at Bess Bistro, Austin, Texas

Have you been to the new Bess Bistro yet? What are your favorites from the fall menu? What do you think Sandra’s favorite is? Probably something light…

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

*All photos by Jody Horton

Thursday, November 6th

Bloggy School

Bloggy School

Almost everyday someone asks me questions about blogging. Or advice about social media. Or general questions about branding or marketing. And there’s nothing I love to talk about more. I do it for a living, I talk about it for fun, and most of my dinner conversations revolve around bloggers, blogging, tech, social media…and TV. (TV doesn’t apply here, but I’m always up to talk about The Real Housewives of New Jersey.)

So I’m taking all this blog conversation and turning it into a class series with good friend and brilliant, knowledgable blogger Corrin from Oh Hey, What’s Up. We’ll be scheduling classes around Austin (and maybe further!) and offering sessions for all levels of bloggers. We’re also planning more intimate, guided courses for newbies and will walk you through the entire process, from buying your domain and hosting, to choosing a platform, to creating content and establishing a social media presence.

At some point we’ll put these sessions online so that people around the world can access them, too. Information on how to do these things is out there, but it’s scattered, always changing, and for the most part takes a trial-and-error approach to get it right. We’d like to make it easy for you.

Our first class is scheduled on November 18th and tickets are available now. We’ve compiled feedback from our recent speaking engagements at Byte of Texas Conference and DFW WordCamp and honed in on what people really seem to want to know. We’ll utilize further feedback from this first Blogging 360 class to help inform next sessions. (And if you’re going to SXSW Interactive, we’ll be speaking there, too!)

Bloggy School

We’re excited to be holding classes at Center61 and if you haven’t been in that coworking space yet, you should check it out. Not only is it cool, but it’s a community-driven place where creatives and entrepreneurs do work that contributes to Austin’s success. Joining our class is a way to skip the wait list and get in their doors.

The Bloggy classes are designed to help people reach the next level in their personal blogs, assist businesses develop a corporate blogs that work, teach nonprofits to use digital to further their missions, and everyone in between. We’re excited to share the bloggy love and hope to see you on the 18th!

Spock Blog Meme

Want to win a free ticket to Blogging 360? Leave a comment and share something you’d like to learn about blogging. A random winner will be chosen on November 14th.

Monday, November 3rd

Fall Back

(512) Brewing Company

It takes awhile for autumn to creep into my Austin life. But fall is finally here, months after the back-to-school seasonal merchandise change told us it was time to start wearing coats and clothing with leather and wool trim. Personally, I still have another month or so in flip flops. (My flip flops and sandals don’t get much of a break at all, actually, and my poor feet have paid the price.)

If a few cooler days in Austin didn’t force us to embrace autumn, setting the clocks back certainly will. I’m writing this on the first evening of the time change and it feels later than it should. I’m not a fan of messing with our clocks.

Since I left the east coast and moved to Austin, I’ve had to reevaluate what fall means to me. It was easy back home. Jewel-toned mums from the farmers markets were on everyone’s porches, people would clutch their steaming cups of coffee and cider to watch Halloween parades, and most notably, the leaves turned stunning colors. Fall in Austin means the heat subsides and I get to cease my strike on outdoor activities. I go back to the greenbelt, resume patio dining, and soak up the best season in our fair city.

(512) Anniversary Party keg fence

The real turning point is the annual (512) party, a kickoff to Austin Beer Week. Originally held in midsummer, (512) mercifully moved their anniversary party to cooler days a few years ago. For me, sipping special beers on the grounds of their brewery with giant carved pumpkins is the official start of the season. Despite it being about 90° out, this year I reveled in the spices of Pecan Porter served out of a pumpkin and idled away a few hours with friends in patches of shade. Some people come dressed for the heat, while others dress for Halloween. Like this guy, who dressed as a keg:

Keg Guy

Talk about committing to a theme!

(512) Brewing Company anniversary party

So when does fall start for you?

Wednesday, October 29th

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Disclosure: I attended the R3 Prevention Summit as an invited guest. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this post. 

Prevention R3 Summit logo

 

It’s been a little over a week since I went to the Prevention R3 Summit. And like the theme suggested, I feel refreshed, revived, and reinvented.

Resistance the Film

The summit started off with a movie and panel discussion. After a sunset cocktail party full of excited mingling, we headed into the Long Center to watch Resistance, a sobering documentary on the overuse of antibiotics, our growing resistance, and the disastrous effects that result from the loss of their effectiveness. As expected, the film was depressing and scary. But I left feeling empowered, vowing to  do my part. I will only buy antibiotic-free meat and get rid of the antibacterial soaps and products I use, as well as give my body the chance to recover on its own from illness before seeking medical intervention. I encourage you to seek out this movie and watch it when you have a chance.

The following day, my mom and I woke up bright and early to head to the summit. If we’d realized the whole thing was going to be outdoors we’d have dressed for the 90+ temperatures and worn sun shielding hats. I have a good sunscreen regimen and wear it daily, but my morning application was not sufficient for the long hours in the sun. Sunburn aside, it was a great day of interesting panels and things to do.

Henna

I might be obsessed with henna now. The talented artists whipped out intricate designs at lightning speed and everyone showed off their decorated limbs like peacocks. We sampled drinks and bites, scents and beauty products, and learned a few new workout moves, too. It was a full day of enjoyment and information.

Salada Tea

Applegate Hotdog

Where the conference really dazzled was the programming. Personal favorites were the Love Your Age panel with Andie MacDowell, Mallika Chopra, Annabelle Gurwitch, and Dr. Holly Phillips, as well as a one-on-one interview with Andie MacDowell. I attended a workshop with Mallika Chopra to learn a few breathing exercises which I’ve already utilized a few times since. Turns out a few deep, controlled breaths truly make a difference in moments of stress. Even for a spaz like me.

Love Your Age Panel at Prevention R3 Summit

Annabelle Gurwitch at Prevention R3 Summit

For me, the biggest takeaway from the conference was realizing the small changes I can make to improve my health and well-being. I don’t need to overhaul my whole life, but tiny shifts can make a real difference.

Thank you Prevention Magazine and Rodale for including me in such a special weekend. Hope to see you back in Austin next year!

Tuesday, October 21st

Anyone Can Learn to Write

This post was sponsored by The Loft Literary Center, a nonprofit that advances the artistic development of writers, fosters a thriving literary community, and inspires a passion for literature. 

The Loft Literary Center

I feel like I’m always talking about writing because it’s what I do for a living. And then I do more of it for fun, in the form of this blog. But I don’t often write about writing. Or even think about it. It’s just what I do. When The Loft Literary Center approached me recently and offered an online class I was forced to evaluate my work and be more attuned to the process.

First, a little about The Loft Literary Center. For 40 years they’ve been helping writers write. And turning non-writers into writers. I really dig their core values of inclusiveness, community, and most importantly, that writing can be taught. Many people don’t realize that just because writing may not come easily to them at first, it doesn’t mean there’s not a wealth of talent lying dormant or that it will always be difficult. Like learning to play a musical instrument, it takes time, education, and practice. And the journey should be an enjoyable one. It doesn’t have to be grueling.

Based in Minneapolis, Loft has made their fantastic offerings available to everyone with a great online format. I found my own class to be interesting and informative. Not only did I find the readings and advice from the teacher most useful, but I truly enjoyed the community of the class. Writers from all walks of life and at various stages were working towards a common goal and as different as we all were, everyone was so supportive of each other. It’s been a while since I ventured into a class setting and this was the ideal way to dip my toe in again. The classes are affordable and the personal attention from the teacher increases the value even more. I found the whole thing just a real pleasure. The site was easy to navigate and it was friendly and low-pressure.

Beyond classes, Loft has manuscript critiques, conferences, residency programs, and scholarships to help you get there. They’re welcoming the talented people of Austin with open arms, and you might spot them at the Texas Book Festival this weekend. If you see them, say hello!

And if you’re looking for help with a writing project, need to accomplish some writing for your job, or just want to explore a creative outlet, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out the courses at The Loft Literary Center.

Fountain pen

I was offered a class at Loft free of charge and compensated for this post. All opinions and grammatical errors are my own.