Archive for November, 2008

It didn’t rain on the parade

But it came close. This is one of the two balloons we saw at Chuy’s parade; Hello Kitty led off the parade and this was the other. Music was light this year. Los Texas Wranglers played nonstop. The Anderson High band was in full winter uniform. The Kyle Sisters and the Biscuit Brothers sang. And there was a karaoke contingent from GSD&M.

Crowd favorites were the little chihuahua in red holiday garb who kept jumping out of his tiny wicker sleigh. Other favorites were the Hawaiian dancers, the child gymnasts, and the gift-gatherers from Whole Foods masquerading as fruits and vegetables.

Maybe it was the sight of them that made us hungry, or maybe it was just the good fresh air. It was on to Matt’s, which was busy, busy, busy (and where the food was tasty, as always), followed by a stop at Rudolph’s tree lot on South Lamar next to the Walgreen’s – Maria’s Taco Xpress complex. I can’t think what else there could be that could possibly make this holiday weekend a happier one. And there’s still one day left!

2nd Austin Santa Speedo run

Santa Speedo AustinWell things are getting going for this years Santa Speedo run. I met with Head Santa Ed last week for lunch to plan out the 2nd Annual Austin Santa Speedo run. As Head Elf I should have written this post days ago. Between Ed and I we’ve created evites, Facebook events and more. While I blog here on Austin metroblog, Allen Chen over on the Austinist covered it first, and to be honest they did a great job last year too!

The purpose is to raise awareness and promote the work of Out Youth Austin! To take part, you must register for the 5k via the Trail of Lights 5k, and then show up on the night, at least by 6.15pm near the bonfire and we will strip down to red speedo, or swim costume and then start the run together. See last years video on youtube or the pictures on Flickr.

So, if you have not received an evite, or on facebook, now’s your chance to join in and have the most fun you can in a red speedo or bikini. We’ve got members from the Texas State tri team coming along, a number of people have signed up for the evite. Last year the temperatures were in the high 70’s for the run, @alkaloids and Derek Yorek of Team Hump started up front and finished up there, the rest of us mingled around near the back and ran through the crowds.

Now, I understand the whole speedo thing here in America. If you feel that going and buying a speedo is something that is just ‘beyond the pale‘ and not to be seen doing in public, do I have a deal for you. The swimoutlet.com has red speedos and bikini seperates on sale for just $9.95 plus postage. Don’t delay, get yours in time for the run!

This year the plan is to have three or four groups if people show interest. there will be the fast, the joggers, the back of the pack crew(which will inclide me this year as I’m doing a 100-mile bike ride the same day), and the supporters.

If you really can’t see running through some 1,000 people in a speedo or bikini then why not come along and support? Instead of paying the race entry fee, donate the same amount to OutYouth Austin.

Otherwise, see you there. Don’t forget to confirm your attendance via either the evite or the facebook event.

Maria Maria leisure lunch

It could have been a quick-lunch, but we lingered and enjoyed the wonderful food without haste. Service was impeccable. It will be difficult to decide next time whether to go around again with today’s delights or to venture ordering some of the many other temptations that the menu describes.

We had forgotten that the day after Thanksgiving is often a restaurant holiday. Lunch was late today and our faithful downtown spot that serves food continuously all afternoon long was closed. So it was by chance that we noticed a delivery being made at 415 Colorado and learned that Maria Maria was open. We were told that this spot currently serves continuously throughout the afternoons seven days a wek (call 687-6800 to confirm for yourself).

The three salsas that arrived with the warm chips were superlative: one green, one smokey, and one a fresh tomato version. The guacamole is outstanding also, but is extremely generous in portion and should be shared among at least four people, I think. I did not sample the chicken and mole tortilla casserole. I can only testify that the duck tacos were too delicious to be properly described and that a fellow diner wanted more, more, more, but in my opinion I had already displayed beneficence beyond the call of duty. This, also, is a generous plate. I loved my carnitas dish. The fat was rendered out, leaving only browned and tender morsels, which came to the table in a small cast-iron skillet with mildly pickled onions and cucumbers, some green sauce, some black beans, and the finest of handmade corn tortillas. Diners at another table raved about the lime pie. I’d like to try the sorbets another time. I was not the designated driver, so I tried the house margarita straight up. It’s not cheap, but it’s excellent in every way.

Maria Maria occupies an extremely handsome and pleasant space. The lighting has been designed very well. There is background music, but it does not interfere with conversation. The bar means business. Behind it is a large-screen television with the sound muted. I love it that the knives, forks, and spoons are sturdy and large; there’s nothing flimsy or dainty about them. Roberto Santibanez is the person credited with developing the menu. Long-time Austinites will remember his tenure with Fonda San Miguel. There is nothing pedestrian or commonplace about any of the food that we saw or tasted ourselves. These flavors are decided, yet subtle. Maria Maria is a most welcome addition to downtown venues, and the menu is like no other.

Get Motivated, Get Fit

If you are exhausted after trailing around the shops today, or feeling a little round after eating too much yesterday, two events to get you back off the couch and active again. Just as the doldrums about the economy kick back in, these are two events to either make you think again or give you a new opportunity.

The first up is the Austin Get Motivated event. Not so much for me, while I could use some motivation at this point, I somehow think that my cynical personality would come out and I’d miss the message while criticizing the messenger. Peter and Tamara Lowe are the latest in a long line of almost evangelical, motivational speakers and they’ll be in town on December 2nd at the Austin Convention Center with General Colin Powell and Rudy Giuliani, as well as a host of other speakers. I talked to a ‘city official” at yesterdays Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot, and was told they were expecting 12,000 people to turn up. The convention/seminar starts at 8.00am, seems like downtown is likely to be jammed from 7am.

If you want to go, it will cost $299. However, for that you can apparently take your whole office.

Next up is a date for the diary. On Tuesday January 13th the City of Austin is hosting the Active Texas Summit at the Palmer Events Center on Barton Springs Road. It doesn’t appear to be aimed at the general public, but at $95 for early registraion, I actually think the ability to hear first hand on what is being proposed, strategies to get involved in sports related events in Austin and Texas, if you are looking for something to get you back on track after the Christmas holidays, this could be it.

The leisure sector, fitness, events etc. are an important service industry in North America. If times continue to get hard and people hunker down, keeping this vital part of the economy going will be key. It’s all too easy to complain about the events that go on downtown, and I take part in both, the events and complaining, they do provide an essential link to the economy through food sellers, facilities providers, fencing, porta-lets, printing, police, the list go’s on and on. Continuing and growing the tradition is an opportunity even in hard times. People need distractions, they need focus and for many sports not only fulfill those needs, but they also are a significant aid in fitness and health.

The day starts early, at 6:30 with an optional exercise program, and ends late with Health and Fitness Awards and a Blues show at Antones, with (healthy)meals and (virtuous)breaks, and transportation to Antones included. In the middle there will be a host of speakers and sessions, the agenda has Mayor Will Wynn, Governor Perry, Luci Baines Johnson, Paul Carroza, Marc Ott, and Susan Dell who is a member of the President’s Council for Physical Fitness and Sports.

So, feeling a bit overloaded after yesterdays bird? Maybe one of these is for you!

Focus on fashion

Austin’s own By George is studied in an article of many column inches in today’s NYT as an example of how an independent fashion retailer copes in today’s economy. There are several photographs, and two competitors at The Domain come in for a mention. This is don’t-miss reading: “Retail Rx for a Hip Mom and Pop,” byline Cathy Horyn.

A mile of marching

It’s really more than a mile. The A&M marching band formed up across the river and stepped out lively at 1 pm, headed across the bridge and up toward the Capitol. And when the parade disbanded, most of the marchers headed back across the river. Only the mounted contingent headed southward in the street, accompanied by their faithful cleaners-up and their wheelbarrow; the remainder of those afoot walked back on the sidewalks. We walked up to Eleventh Street and then we walked back down. Manuel’s was closed; McCormick & Schmick had people waiting to be seated to dine; the same was true at the Shoreline. H-E-B closed at 2 pm; at 2:30, Luby’s was still going strong, with the line of people not quite out the door. I love to see people strolling around downtown on a beautiful day like today. There’d be more in the way of visuals, but the batteries in my toy camera were old, and we thought that the Flip was on when it wasn’t, so that there are just two not-so-good videos on line. Parades must be enjoyed on the spot, anyhow; nothing’s ever been invented that captures how wonderful they are.

Farm to Market Grocery and Texas French Bread open today

Farm to Market Grocery is open until 3 pm today. So far as I could tell, snacks, beer, eggs, and souvenirs were the big sellers while we were there.

We noticed that lime-squeezers and also lemon-squeezers are in stock right now. This is the time of year when it can be tough to find them. These are the enameled versions, not the squeezers made from the naked mysterious alloy.

Next door at Texas French Bread, people were talking about “power bagels.” I’d be afraid to meet one in person, weakling that I am.

This may be the first time ever that I’ve seen absolutely no vehicle in any of the parallel-parking spaces along Congress. This will change, no doubt, as sleepyheads stumble out for food and refreshment generally in the process of preparing to get out to see the Aggies parade up Congress from the bridge, starting at 1 pm.

Part of our preparation was sampling the Maine Root Ginger Brew. I don’t even like carbonated beverages much, but this is wonderful, with the true (and hot) taste of plenty of ginger and not too much sweetness. I’m eager to try the Lemon Lime next time around. The name may include “Maine,” but Maine Root is an Austin business.

Tracking down the turkey

In this household convention doesn’t always hold sway: some years it’s turkey before the day, or turkey after it, or turkey before and after, and sometimes even turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

At Wheatsville Co-op, there’ve been years when we lucked into a last-minute bird ordered by someone else but not picked up. We found a turkey locally raised one year at the farmers’ market. That place is gone now, but I’ve heard that the Alexander Family Farm of egg fame has taken some orders this year. Our former Wheatsville trophies were Mary’s; this year Wheatsville has birds from another source (Grateful Harvest) and we loved the Mary’s birds so much that we’ve watched for them.

And we found some Mary’s beauties at Fresh Plus / Kash-Karry in Clarksville. They’re fresh, not frozen, and they’re wonderful. We roasted one on Sunday and we’ll return for another. The price? We paid $1.29 a pound, worth every penny. Fresh Plus also stocks Bell’s Seasoning, that old-fashioned standby.

This year, the Chron lists a number of dining spots open on Thanksgiving Day. The info’s to be found on pages 58 and 60 of the print edition (links are to PDF files of the individual pages). The quite extensive roster is probably intended to include only those venues offering turkey; in past years Indian and some Chinese restaurants have been open on The Day and serving more exotic fare. I can remember enjoying turkey (instead of chicken) jalfrezi one year at Taj Palace.

I never know whether to write about events before or after they occur. Those mentioned beforehand are always ones that I plan to attend. Sometimes I write about them afterward; sometimes, not. Here are two that are great for families, and free. The cadets from College Station will march up Congress to the Capitol grounds on Thanksgiving Day, starting at 1 pm, and the Chuy’s parade will be on Saturday, marching down Congress at 11 am after forming up on the east side of the Capitol grounds. I know what band will march on Thanksgiving Day; I hope that the Hardin-Simmons Cowboy Band, a great favorite of all (check out that audio of Hey! Baby), will be among the marchers in Chuy’s parade.

I like my turkeys fresh, not frozen, and my music carried to my ears in the open air.

While the selection’s good

This is a detail from one of the many calendars at Tesoros right now. Select from Aztec warriors and maidens, scenes of rural romance, religious images, and more. Look for this couple on the “good vintage” calendar, number 2813 from Landin. A person with one of these beauties on the wall has no excuse for ignoring the phases of the moon or for not knowing the most important saint for any given day.

This will be the first holiday season for Tesoros Trading Company in its new location on South Congress, more spacious than ever. The natural light the floods the front windows is a great aid in seeing the true colors of any object. Tesoros continues to be as much a folk-art museum as a store, and bargains abound. One-stop shopping for every single person on your gift list, and in record time, is entirely within the realm of possibility.

As always, Tesoros offers one of the best selections of post cards in town. Also tempting people were the numerous Taschen Icon books in stock, perfect for those who love pictures, and greatly varied in subject matter. Tesoros stocks some items always, but completely new and different inspirations and temptations arrive every day.

Location, location, location

Street permits for movie and for still-photo shoots are now integrated with the City of Austin searchable permit database. Evidently, though, there’s still no requirement for advance notification of any kind.

Today, it’s only still photography, and there’s only one generator, with its attendant Diesel fumes and throbbing noise. We guessed what was on the way when we saw the big unmarked white trucks roll in this morning before it was quite light. But we knew for sure when we saw the folding director’s chairs being unloaded.

This gets old really fast. This project is scheduled to be for one day only. We’ve had people set up for way longer than that, for filming. These were just some of the inconveniences: driveways blocked, trash strewn, curbs broken, over-powering smells of cooking, bright lights, noise of every description, ubiquitous cables, landscapes trampled and chopped down, and much, much more. We did enjoy the artificial rain, though, provided courtesy of an antique pumper truck that had done real fire-fighting duty in its day.

Today we’re thankful that we’re expecting delivery of no packages, that it’s not trash-collection day, and that our newspapers were dropped off at 3:30 am as is usual; otherwise, past experience causes us to believe we’d be just plain out of luck if we were were expecting any of these to occur.

So, think twice before offering your property as a location. I have noticed, though, that when people do this their next move is usually to put the real estate up for sale. Neighbors like us take steps to be cut in on some of the bucks, but others don’t think of it and suffer entirely without recompense.

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