This post is part of my ongoing relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.
I love this time of year! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and I’m crazy about costumes, pumpkins, and even candy corn. I’ve thrown many Halloween parties in my day, although it’ll likely be a few years before we’re throwing big grown-up bashes again. For now, we’re enjoying the holiday with our little strawberry and finding the spooky in the everyday.
As Netflix continues to add more and more things we want to see, our watch list grows exponentially. Here’s what we’ve watched lately:
I was eagerly awaiting Mascots and it did not disappoint. I love all of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries and was excited that Zach Woods joined Guest regulars Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, and Ed Begley, Jr. If I had a dream dinner party, these are the people I would invite. I’ll be watching this one again soon.
I put off watching Tallulah because I thought it was going to be really sad. When I finally got around to viewing it I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t quite as heavy as the trailer made it seem. Ellen Page and Allison Janney reunited for the first time since Juno and both are tremendously talented and likable actresses. It’s a deep story that plucks at your sympathies.
Another mockumentary, No Men Beyond This Point is less enjoyable than Mascots. In fact, it stinks. But the subject matter was interesting enough to get me to watch it. In a world where men are no longer needed to procreate, women take over everything. The dwindling community of men either take to the woods or are employed as mannies. It’s a clever idea executed in the most boring, un-funny way possible.
I’m an unabashed Justin Timberlake fan. If you’re like me you’ll be happy to see that they filmed the last show of his most recent tour. I didn’t get to see this tour in person and now I know what I missed.
What have you been watching lately? Here’s a Stream and Scream Guide to help you with your Netflix watching all Halloween weekend.
I don’t normally use my blog as therapy or get too personal here. But something happened in my life that is so intensely painful that I’m having trouble moving on. I’m hoping that the practical process of writing and organizing my thoughts will serve as a means of catharsis.
A close friend of mine died last month. It came as a surprise. She was young in years and even younger in spirit. We hadn’t spoken in several months, which was not unusual for us. Our friendship didn’t require constant maintenance or checking in. She shunned social media so our catch-ups happened over email or even better, in person. I would save up stories and photos our mutual friends shared on Facebook and deliver the news, savoring each piece of juicy gossip. She always had news for me, too, and even after marathon sessions of chatting, we never ran out of things to talk about.
If I had known the last time I saw her that it would be the very last time, I would have made every moment count. I would have hugged her tight and said the important things that friends should say to each other: You taught me so much about being kind and selfless, just by being that way yourself. You are worthy and talented and smart. You are supposed to be on this planet a long, long time because you make it a better world.
I didn’t get to say those things and apparently she didn’t know those things. It took several weeks of digging and finding out information in small terrible pieces, each one deepening my grief, lessening my understanding. Eventually it was through the police that I found out my sweet friend took her own life in a horrifically violent, punishing way.
When I was trying to find out answers, suicide was not something I considered. Because she was healthy and happy. She could (and did) run marathons without even training for them. She regularly did yoga and got massages because she believed in treating herself well. She didn’t struggle for money, nor did she care about material things. She volunteered constantly because she enjoyed giving back and didn’t even view it as a sacrifice. She played the violin and never missed a performance of the Austin Symphony, buying season passes and bringing a different friend to each show. She had no enemies, only legions of friends who loved her. Her family was doting and supportive. She loved good food and didn’t smoke or do drugs, and could barely handle a glass of wine. No, she lived life unaltered and wasn’t looking for an escape.
Except that she was.
There was no depression or mental illness, but something was very, very wrong and I missed it. We all missed it.
And now it’s too late. There are no more answers to be had, only questions upon questions. Still, I google her name in vain. I check her obituary online several times a day, hoping that someone new leaves a comment that will provide some answers. Anything. I compulsively look at the one social media account she had—LinkedIn—which I made her get when she was job searching years ago. But there are no answers.
Eventually I’ll have to let this go and learn to live with the questions. I’ll have to stop obsessing over the terrible way she died and try to remember the gentle way she lived. But this loss has left a hole in my heart. I look at Violet and see all the promise and happiness the future holds and it devastates me how much my friend lost. I think of her parents and my body shudders with sobs. It’s a tragedy unlike any other I’ve ever experienced and my sorrow feels bottomless.
So much of Austin reminds me of her. Our regular dinners at Whole Foods downtown where we’d linger at the seafood counter. Of Eeyore’s Picnic. Of a North Austin spa we went to and a restaurant around corner where we sipped wine and ate oysters in a treat yo’self day. The Driskill Hotel, where we met at a Halloween ball and were wearing the same costumes. So many memories.
Death is a dreaded topic on its own, but suicide is so much more complicated. Because mixed in with the grief are confusion, regret, and anger. I feel all of those things. I’m angry that she robbed herself of a future. And that she robbed us of her. And I’m filled with regret that I waited too long to reach out and plan our next dinner. And I’m confused as to why she didn’t think her life was worth living. But through those feelings, it’s the grief that has the tightest grip.
This post is part of my relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.
She’s only six months old, but Violet has a more active social life than many adults I know. Chris and I commit to a lot of social events and, so far, it’s been relatively easy to bring Violet to most things. Having a baby hasn’t slowed us down much yet, which is why those rare nights at home are so special.
When we stay at home I cook a simple meal and we’ll play settle in to play with Violet. She’s actively rolling around, playing with toys, and vetoing the food we give her. Those nights are filled with giggles and baby sighs and something fun on Netflix. Sometimes we’ll opt for a movie, other times we’ll watch a few episodes of a series.
Of course, the series everyone is talking about this week is Fuller House. The beloved family show is back after 21 years for a sentimental revisit of the sappy, silly show I loved as a kid. The cast aged well and it’s a great bit of nostalgia to see them back, laugh track and all.
Here are a few things I’ve watched lately:
Luther is a must-see for anyone who is debating giving in to a full-blown Idris Elba obsession. Just give in. The British cop show is the oft-told tale of a troubled cop who doesn’t play by the rules but it’s SO MUCH MORE! Unlike our American cops shows, this one is disturbing as hell. It’s not a show I can binge watch because it’s so dark, but it’s simply fantastic.
Sigh. I really, really loved this show, you guys. Love is a binge-watcher for sure and feels made for that purpose. Each episode picks up right where the last leaves off. It’s a ten-episode tale of two people, a hot mess of a woman and a slightly less messed-up dork. We watch them meet, see them interact with each other and with friends. It’s not exactly the romantic comedy the name implies. A+ to Judd Apatow.
The Tiger and The Monk
I was so enthralled with The Tiger and The Monk that I watched it twice. The 50-minute documentary from 2007 is a glimpse into the idyllic Tiger Temple, where monks and tigers live in harmony together. I was actually coming up with a plan as to how we could make a trip to Thailand to see it in person. But in recent weeks, extremely distressing news has come out about the temple. My heart is broken. Watch it before reading this.
What are you guys watching? What do you do on your nights at home?
This Friday, January 1st 2016, the open carry law takes effect giving licensed gun owners freedom to wear their firearms in plain site. Up until now, the law allowed for concealed firearms, so the argument has been, wouldn’t you rather see who’s walking around with guns?
Um, no. Not in the slightest. Without turning this into a discussion about political leanings and beliefs, guns don’t make me feel safe. They make me feel scared. And I feel that seeing someone walking around in public with a gun holstered to their body is going to be intimidating to those of us who are unarmed. Without even distinguishing between the good guys and bad guys, the very presence of firearms changes the setting. There are places where I expect to see guns, like when I get off an airplane in Mexico. But when I’m pushing my baby in a stroller around Town Lake, or having coffee with a friend, I’d prefer not to feel scared or intimidated.
And what is the point of open-carrying, if not to intimidate? I’ve seen some feedback from pro-gun folks who think it’s a bad idea because it could make the carrier a target. If the shit is going to go down, isn’t it wise to take out the person with the gun first? What exactly is the benefit to anyone to have firearms out in the open?
I only hope that the state’s almost million registered gun owners choose to keep their firearms hidden, or better yet, locked up at home. But I guess that remains to be seen. I hope that many companies exercise their right to ban open-carrying in their establishments, such as the following businesses have done:
I’m not trying to change anyone else’s views here or debate the Second Amendment. So if you’ve stumbled on this post and are looking for a fight in the comments section, I’m not interested. You aren’t going to change my mind about what makes me comfortable. But thoughtful discussion is welcome.
And yes, most states have some degree of open-carry laws in effect. For a quick explanation of permission vs. non-permissive states, you can find more information here.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
In my defense, I was celebrating someone else’s birthday the same week, too. World, meet Violet Carol.
Chris and I couldn’t be happier with our sweet newborn girl. Here’s her birth story for those of you who are into that kind of thing.
Cheers to four years of blogging. Hopefully I can get my act together for my five year anniversary next year and do a big giveaway or a happy hour or something. Until then, thanks for reading and be on the lookout for some fun things on the horizon for Mad Betty.
What’s happening to this poor blog? Ignored, barely updated, a ghost town of its former self. I did exactly what I swore I’d never do, which is become one of those bloggers who is just “too busy” right now.
But the truth is, I am too busy. For the last month (plus) Mr. Betty and I have been immersed in renovating our new house, taking baby classes, and just dealing with time-consuming nature of all these big life changes.
For those of you who don’t already know, we have a baby joining us around August 1st. To answer the most common questions:
1. It’s a girl
2. I feel pretty good
3. We’re still talking about names, but won’t announce it until she’s born
This blog isn’t going to turn into a “mommy blog” which is another question I’ve been asked. Mad Betty will remain about pop culture and Austin. Even though blogs about parenting and coupons get thousands and thousands (millions, really) more hits than I do, I still plan on being the same old me. Just more tired and with more love. Anyway, I started a tiny blog to share news with friends and family back home, which you are welcome to look at if you want. Now I have another blog to fail at! Hooray!
Anyway, that’s the scoop. Right now we’re overwhelmed with house stuff and I spend my days painting, sanding, hiring and paying various helpers, looking at furniture, and yes, also working. I’m tired and haven’t had time to paint my nails or even watch one new episode of Mad Men yet. (I know!) I’ll do a separate post about the house and the vendors I used and recommend. Other posts coming up will include:
Features on Banger’s and St. Philip
Weird Homes Tour
Musings on late night TV
How to buy sunglasses
A recent Sephora haul
Anyway, sorry to be absent for so long. Thanks for sticking around. Please leave me a comment and tell me about your life these days.
So you can’t shell out for a pricey badge, nor will your job pay for you to attend SXSW 2015. Does that mean you have to miss out on the fun? Hell no! Each year the unofficial events get as much, if not more, press than the official programming. There’s no reason why you can’t join in on the fun!
First, if you haven’t participated in South by Southwest before (or just need a refresher) you can check out my survival guide. Whether you are in it for the swag, the free noms and drinks, parties, networking, etc, you’ll want to be prepared for long days, crazy nights, and sensory overload.
Here are my picks for free events and parties at SXSW this year. This is not a comprehensive list, not even close. Don’t forget that you can tap RSVPster to do the legwork for you. Note that RSVPing does not guarantee you’ll get in to anything, so show up early to the events you really care about.
Startup Crawl. Austin’s finest pre-conference (March 12) kickoff is a night of startup hopping downtown. It’s free and you can hit as many offices as you like, most of whom have free booze, casual eats, and kickass DJs. Those of us who live in Austin get to do this twice a year, but the excitement of the spring crawl can’t be beat.
The BIG BASHH. Another regular local event, the Big Ass Social Happy Hour is how many of us network, blow off steam, and just enjoy Austin’s fun professional scene. The big BASHH, the one that leads into SXSW is the best of the year. It’s buzzing with energy and those who travel in for the conference know that’s the best place to get a real taste of Austin with the locals. (March 12)
Umbelmania. Local tech company Umbel will pack the Moody Theater with interactive attendees (and the general public) with live performance by Spoon and (my personal favorite DJ) DJ Chicken George. RSVP and do your best to get there early as badge-holders will get priority access. (March 13)
Gigya Grill. Those seeking refuge and some satiation can stop by El Sol y La Luna for complimentary breakfast, lunch, or happy hour, 10-6. More than just some free noms, Gigya offers networking opportunities and panels. (March 13-15)
Spotify House. Five days of music and fun, plan on waiting in line to get in. But waiting in line is part of SXSW, so embrace it and make friends with the people around you. (March 15-20)
Do512 Family Picnic. For family-friendly fun, head out of the crazy zone to Midway Park for music, food trucks, face painting, magic shows, and more. It’ll be crowded, so bring the kiddies closer to 2:00 and hope they can stay awake till 8. (March 17)
Hype Hotel. The tenth year of this event promises big names paid for by big sponsors like Mazda, Taco Bell, Miller Lite, and Tito’s Vodka. Crazy crowded, plan to be packed in like a sardine any day or time that you go. (March 17-21)
Music Tech Mashup. The fifth anniversary of this event brings a really good music lineup to Empire Control Room and Garage. RSVP on the Facebook page for a chance to win VIP entry. (March 17)
Waterloo Records. The line-up is always fantastic at our favorite little local music shop. This is always the first place I recommend for those who want free access to the biggest acts. It’s a classic Austin location that we’re all so proud of and they always bring some of the magic of SX to locals who may otherwise feel left out of the festival. (March 18-21)
Pandora Discovery Den. Four days of eclectic bands means there’s something for everyone: Electronic, Hip Hop, Americana, and Rock. Head to The Gatsby 1-6 when shows are open to the public. (March 18-21)
Ray Ban\Boiler Room Official Showcase. As hip hop becomes increasingly popular at SXSW the showcases get more and more impressive. You might have a shot at getting into this one to see Ghostface Killah and plenty more great acts by applying for a ticket on their site. (March 18)
KUTX Live at the Four Seasons. Early birds flock to the Four Seasons where $10 gets you entry to four hours of live music, breakfast tacos, coffee, and granola bars. First come first served, there’s no RSVP list. (March 18-21)
Austin Party Weekend. There’s not much info about the APW party yet, but you can show up at Empire Control Room and Garage for day parties March 18-21 and you’ll be sure to have a good time. Don’t forget to RSVP.
Culture Collide. Rainey Street is normally a perfect spot for more intimate—if packed—shows and surprise artists pop up there from time to time. More than 100 bands will be on three stages. RSVP and scroll through the website to handpick your music schedule. Bonus, SouthBites Trailer Park is close by so you can sample the yummiest trucks when you get hungry.
Party in My Pants. The Live Vibe day party will take place at Little Woodrow’s March 20-21st with new bands each hour. Should you hang out all day you’ll get to taste a nice chunk of the music offerings this year.
If you want to check out even more parties and events, Austin 360 has a handy, easy-to-search database of every side party. You can also see who applied for city permits this year, both official and non-official SXSW events.
Want to tell share another event? Leave a comment with the details.