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

Saturday, August 29th

Mad Betty is Another Year Older

Whoops. I missed my blog’s fourth birthday. Derp.
Happy Birthday horse

In my defense, I was celebrating someone else’s birthday the same week, too. World, meet Violet Carol.

Newborn infant lying on a bobby with a mermaid doll

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.

Wednesday, August 5th

Summer Movie Round-up

I don’t let too much time pass between seeing movies. The Alamo Drafthouse is a second home to Chris and I; we keep them in business. The heat of summer gives us even more reason to retreat to the cool, dark theaters and it’s one of my very favorite things to do. Here are a few movies we’ve seen lately:


Trainwreck movie poster

By far, the most humorous movie we’ve seen this summer is Trainwreck. Already a huge Amy Schumer fan, I’ve really grown to love movies written by comedians. For one thing, they are funny. And another? Comedians look out for each other which means there are always lots of good cameos. (See Chris Rock’s Top Five.) If you indulge me in one more comparison to Top Five, standup comedy often walks on the dark side with depression, addiction, and general dysfunction at its core. Rock overtly explored these themes, as Louie CK regularly does on his eponymous show. While Schumer’s fictional tale doesn’t delve into the underbelly of the standup world, it doesn’t shy away from dark themes of dysfunction and a life not lived to its fullest. She’s clearly seen plenty of sadness and isn’t afraid to go there.

A well-rounded cast that most notably included LeBron James playing a highly likable version of himself, perhaps to keep this from being a “girl” movie. Rich in both character development and jokes, Trainwreck is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.


Amy Winehouse

There’s been plenty of buzz about Amy, the documentary about deceased singer Amy Winehouse. Chris and I went to a morning screening and downed coffee and French toast while I tried not to cry. We were (are) big fans of Winehouse and I was deeply saddened by her passing four years ago. Her talent was often overshadowed by her troubled life, so well-documented by the tabloids. Much of the footage in the documentary came from home movies and that same tabloid footage, with interviews all taking the form of voiceovers.

My favorite moments were seeing her live performances, least favorite thing was watching her go from young and healthy to a ghostly drug-addicted shell of a person. For me, this was very difficult to watch. Apparently her father didn’t like the way he was portrayed and will put out his own film to set the record straight. We’ll see about that.

Jurassic World

Jurassic World starring Chris Pratt as the dinosaur whisperer

For me, Jurassic World goes does down as the biggest disappointment of the summer movies. A fan of the original Jurassic Park, I was happy to see nods to the 1993 classic, in small references throughout as well as the opening music. I also really like Chris Pratt and am thrilled to see his career has taken him so far. Well, I should advise fellow Pratt fans to stick to Guardians of the Galaxy if you like plot, character depth, and satisfying story development. If you like a couple screaming hours of dinosaur chasing and little else, then you’d probably like Jurassic World. But I thought it was terrible.


Aloha Movie Poster

Speaking of terrible, Aloha was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Early buzz was not good, but we chose to see it because 1) I wasn’t paying attention to the buzz, 2) it had a good cast, and 3) a Cameron Crowe movie should at least have a killer soundtrack. Would that I could get those hours of my life back, they’d be better spent doing literally anything else.

Aside from the offensive whitewashing, etc, this was a piece of garbage on every level. A week after seeing it, Chris and I were still talking about how awful it was. He said, “I just can’t get it out of my head…how BAD it was. I feel traumatized!”

Inside Out

Disney Pixar's Inside Out

There’s little risk involved in seeing a Disney Pixar film. While I’m not exactly a hardcore Disney buff by any means, I appreciate the movies and how much talent and work go into each one. The writing, acting, and animation are always superb and Inside Out was no different. Plus, Amy Poehler as the lead voice? YES, please!

What I didn’t expect was how much I’d cry. I’m quick to cry in a movie anyway, so this isn’t a foreign concept to me. But I didn’t think I’d sob quite this much. Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones. Maybe I was tired. Maybe the movie stirred up some deep mourning of childhood happiness and innocence. Either way, I’d recommend tissues.

People Places Things

People Places and Things movie starring Jemaine Clement

People Places Things opens at Alamo Drafthouse on August 14th. I watched an early press screener so that I could report back to you and am happy to say, it was fantasticFlight of the Conchords fans will love Jemaine Clement in this role of loving father, teacher, and graphic novelist. It’s funny, heartwarming, a bit melancholy…everything you’d want in a charming indie dramedy. I’ll watch this one again.

What have you seen lately? Any recommendations for me?