Monday, January 25th

Korea House

Korea House, Austin Texas

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about food over here. Or, ahem, ANYTHING. So if you’re reading this and haven’t written me off for dead, thanks. I recently bought a new laptop which prompted me to clean up my old laptop. Buried in a series of forgotten folders, I discovered these photos I had taken at Korea House.

I can’t remember when I last ate there, but Chris and I used to visit from time to time for some grilling. I had heard that their sushi was pretty good, too, so on this particular visit I ordered a spicy roll of some sort. Probably tuna. Based on this one roll, can’t say much about the sushi. But for some simple grilling and light Asian beers, this place is A-OK.

Spicy Tuna Roll at Korea House, Austin Texas

The banchan is solid and my favorites are fermented black beans, kimchi, and pickled cucumbers. If you want bean paste, you’ll have to ask for it. Most people come for the bulgogi, and I am no different. It’s flavorful and satisfying. Perfect for a novice griller because it doesn’t matter too much if you overcook it.

Korean BBQ at Korean House, Austin Texas

Octopus at Korea House, Austin Texas

Now octopus takes a little skill. It’s easy to overcook. But you also don’t want to undercook it. When you hit that sweet spot it’s nice and tender, slightly chewy.

Banchan at Korea House, Austin Texas

While the atmosphere falls far short of charming, Korea House is the type of place you feel immediately comfortable, such as you would in a dive bar. It feels worn in, tried and true. The service is efficient and sometimes terse, but you’ll be glad of that when you’re waiting outside for a table. Despite the crowds, the wait is never too long. Everything moves quickly and your water glasses will be refilled and you won’t want for anything. Looking at these photos, I think it’s time I go back.

Kirin at Korea House, Austin Texas

What are your favorites at Korea House?

Korea House

2700 W. Anderson Lane, Austin TX 78757

M-F 11 am-10pm, Sat-Sun 12 pm-10 pm

Thursday, January 7th

Jamming with the Presidents

My love for TV intros has been previously documented, but recently I realized a love for both the imagery and scores (especially the scores) of American president shows. Maybe I’m feeling extra patriotic because we’re in an election year.

BIll Clinton playing saxophone for Boris Yeltsin

The West Wing is beloved by many. Including me. The show’s writing is unbelievable. And Martin Sheen is the best president ever. And how did Josh Malina go from acting on a show this good to the shit that is Scandal? But I’m getting off track here.

W. G. Snuffy Walden composed the music for many TV shows, including The Wonder Years, thirtysomething, Felicity, My So-Called Life, Friday Night Lights, Roswell, and many, many more. But The West Wing is his most famous and won him an Emmy.

The Kennedys features a magnificent solo trumpet that paves the way for swelling strings and takes a turn toward darkness. It’s hopeful, then sad. Much like the story of the Kennedys. I believe that the opening would have made a stronger visual impact with just the swirling flag and credits, nothing else. But it still makes a powerful statement.

Composer Sean Callery also did Homeland, 24, Medium, Elementary, Bones, and lots more. Another prolific, talented TV composer.

I think my favorite of the three openings is House of Cards. The score is sinister, mysterious, and compelling. The time lapse footage of DC is all shadows and light, hinting at the evil that lurks within the city and the government.

I am drawn to this music and find myself listening to it semi-regularly. It’s my favorite part of the show, along with the styling of Robin Wright Penn. I’m not the only who loves it, as there are several articles about the song and composer Jeff Beal. This piece on Slate talks about how the music evolved between the first and second season.

Beal also wrote music for The Newsroom, GCB, Monk, Ugly Betty, Rome, and Carnivàle, among many others.

Tuesday, December 29th

Why I’m Against the Open-Carry Handgun Law

handgun

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:

  • Chili’s
  • Chipotle
  • HEB
  • Panera Bread
  • Randall’s
  • Sonic
  • Starbucks
  • Target
  • Whataburger
  • Whole Foods

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.

Tuesday, December 22nd

End of the Year Netflix Binge

We’re approaching the holiday in mere days. Hopefully that means some time off for most of you and in between gifts and lovely meals and family hugs and puppy snuggles and taking those giant bows off your brand new cars, you’ll have some downtime. (And my, don’t you all have such idyllic lives?) I’ll be hitting the Netflix pretty hard in my downtime, and I can’t wait. I think I’m going to pick one series to binge watch. What should it be?

I’ve been keeping up with my streaming of new and old things so that we could discuss them here. Leave me a comment and let this ole Stream Team gal know what else to watch. Here’s what’s been keeping my eyes company lately:

Master of None

Master of None starring Aziz Ansari

I’ve always been on the fence about Aziz Ansari, unsure if I really liked him or not. But after watching Master of None, I am 100% TEAM AZIZ. The ten-episode season is among the best shows of 2015 and instantly garnered tons of attention. The premise of a single Indian actor living in New York is somewhat autobiographical in nature and his character’s parents are played by his actual parents. Although funny, the show tackles some deep subject matter and left me thinking about it for a long time.

Bonus for Adult Swim fans: H. Jon Benjamin and Eric Wareheim play two of his friends.

Laid

Laid TV Show

Aaaaaahhh! I love this show. Laid is an Australian comedy that was tragically put down after two six-episode seasons. I almost hate to tell you about this show because it’ll break your heart to only have a dozen episodes, but it’s too good not to share.

The premise: Woman realizes that everyone she’s ever slept with dies! The second season digs deeper and gets a little poignant on us, but by and large this is a hilariously dry comedy. NETFLIX! PLEASE BUY THIS SERIES AND MAKE MORE EPISODES.

Related: If you watch Laid Netflix will recommend a movie called The Little Death. This one is also completely worth your time. I watched it twice, actually.

The Little Death

Call the Midwife

With four seasons streaming on Netflix and no sign of BBC calling it quits (they just announced Season 6) Call the Midwife is a solid bet for hours of entertainment. It’s joyful, incredibly sad, and so very touching. It’s a story where people are good and kind; poverty is the villain.

Demetri Martin: Live (At the Time)

Demetri Martin: Live (At the Time)

Demetri Martin looks like a little boy from the seventies and is one of the smartest comics out there. He went to Yale and then blew off Harvard to study law at NYU, which he also blew off…for comedy. Lucky for us. If you like stand up, don’t miss this one.

Okay, my Netflix people. Tell me what you’ve been watching. And have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21st

The Big Fake Wedding

The Big Fake Wedding

Photo by Grey to Blue

Recently I was tipped off to a unique experience for brides. The Big Fake Wedding is a bridal show alternative, with vendors showcasing their stuff in a wedding format. Kind of like Tony and Tina’s Wedding, but attendees are scoping out the dresses, catering, and other details for their own big day. My friends Rachel and Brian are getting married next year and I wanted to hear their take on The Big Fake Wedding when they were in Austin. To my delight, Brian wrote down his thoughts and I wanted to share it will all of you. My message to all the brides out there is to get your grooms involved! 

A Whole New World

This fall The Big Fake Wedding was kind enough to host an event at The Palm Door on 6th Street. My fiancée—let’s call her Brachel—and I had tickets; Brachel thought it would be a great way to introduce me to the upcoming steps we would need to take for planning our wedding. She was absolutely right. I did not title this A Whole New World because Aladdin was my favorite Disney movie as a child (who doesn’t love Gilbert Gottfried?) but because I learned more in one night than I had in attending a lifetime’s worth of weddings.

We arrived right before the wedding vow renewal was about to begin. This is the part of weddings with which I am most familiar. A couple stood in front of an officiant to exchange vows, rings, and a prayer that no one stood up to shout any objections. After the ceremony we were invited to stay for dinner, enjoy the music, and meet with area wedding professionals.

There was not a wasted space, nor a wasted opportunity for me to learn. Brachel herself has worked in facets of the wedding industry for years and had always told me I had no idea what we were signing up for. While waiting in line for food and drink I learned that tables and chairs are not always provided by the venue. China, flatware, tablecloths and napkins are also available to rent for the big day. Each table was decorated to show different décor options. The menu was also diverse and featured items that I would not have previously thought would be served at a wedding. Like quinoa. (Did you know that quinoa and couscous are two different things? #deepthoughts)

The second half of the venue was the vendors’ space. This is where Brachel really shined, as she introduced me to some professionals in industries I was familiar with, like photographers, and others I was not aware of, such as invitation and save-the-date designers. It was like a baby visiting Santa Claus for the first time: overwhelming with a lot of shiny objects to catch my eye.

My visit to The Big Fake Wedding was a blast, and I learned so much more about what we can consider as options for our big day. Long country tables, vibrant linens, German chocolate cake. The possibilities are endless! This event is a must attend for any engaged couple, and has helped me get more involved in the planning process.

-by Brian Helmick, with fiancée Brachel Rachel Gill

Monday, December 14th

Prevention R3 Summit at Moody Theater: TICKET GIVEAWAY!

Having gone to the Prevention R3 Summit when they were last here in 2014, I was so happy to hear they are returning next month. It’s a new time of year and a new venue, but we can expect the same quality of programming and fun from the great people from Rodale. I’m excited about the changes!

Prevention R3 Summit logo

January 15th and 16th will be two days of reviving, refreshing, and reinventing with speakers talking about everything from nutrition and exercise, to sexual health and meditation. I’ll be attending again as an invited guest and hope to see you there.

Some of what you can expect to see this year:

  • Keynote speaker Joan Lunden will talk about how her healthy lifestyle helped her navigate a successful career in the public eye, through breast cancer, and beyond.
  • Headliners Dr. Travis Stork and Dr. Jennifer Ashton (The Doctors) will provide the roadmap to your healthiest year ever.
  • Motivational speaker Lizzie Velasquez (A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story) with share her uplifting story.
  • Chef Chad Sarno (former head chef of Whole Foods) will demonstrate how to achieve your health goals starting in the kitchen.
  • Larysa DiDio (celebrity personal trainer) will lead a Fit 10 workshop. Wear your workout gear, ladies!
  • And there’s lots more including beauty consultations, yummy things to eat, natural wellness workshops, and all while bonding with a sisterhood who have their own personal health on the brain.

Tickets are available here and you can use code R3BLOG for $20 off a weekend pass.

*One lucky reader will win a free pair tickets simply by sharing this post and leaving a comment below telling me one thing you’ve incorporated into your lifestyle to make your own health a priority.

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?!

RIP

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?”