iACT is changing lives in Austin – Make A Difference Monday


iACT Hands on Homes project AustinYesterday, my family and I got to help change someone’s life. Now that might sound like an big, unlikely thing, but it’s true.

We spent the day working with other iACT (Interfaith Action of Central Texas) volunteers to paint someone’s home. The woman who graciously allowed us to work with her on her home is a senior and a recent widow. Her husband had been ill and disabled for some time before he passed, so between time and lack of income, things on the home they had owned for three decades had fallen behind.

Her home repairs and painting were part of iACTS’ Hands On Housing program which brings together willing volunteers and skilled home repair professionals to “repair the homes of senior citizens and disabled individuals who are living in deep poverty.”  Teams gather for work days at the clients’ homes, and fix them up so these struggling long-term residents can remain in their Central Texas homes, giving continuity to our neighborhoods.

So what was it like? It was wonderful! And hard. Our group of volunteers and professionals ranged in age from teens to 60+. There were lifetime locals, transplants and immigrants. There were Christians and Muslims and Jews. And everyone worked. We scraped and painted. We worked and we got to know each other. And we were blessed to get to know the homeowner, too. We all shared our stories from the tops of ladders, over pizza when we took a break to eat, and while we were stirring paint. We painted trim and shutters. We painted the sides and the back.

Painting shutters at iACT Austin

At the end of the day, the whole house was painted and beautiful. Earlier in the project, plumbing issues had been addressed. At the end of the project, a valuable member of Austin had a home she could once again safely live in with pride. And a group of strangers had gotten to know each other.

I am always amazed by the power of volunteer action to bring together people who might never otherwise meet. And to accomplish so much with so little time and limited resources. So yes, yesterday my family and I got to help change someone’s life. Thank you iACT! And thank you to the wonderful lady who invited us to her home to help.

iACT is a registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit. They work with faith communities and partner organizations throughout Central Texas. If you would like to get your faith community involved, volunteer for projects or donate your professional skills or building materials, new paint or make a monetary donation, please check out their website or contact them at iact@interfaithtexas.org. 

The Specs

2921 E 17th Street
Building D, Suite 3
Austin, TX 78702

(512) 386-9145

http://www.interfaithtexas.org/

Texas Conference for Women 2014 is almost here!

1-20131119_082619    It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since the last Texas Conference for Women here in Austin. I loved hearing from Rachael Ray and Esmerelda Santiago. Jenny Lawson kept us laughing…oh how she understood our lives!  And Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate brought tears to our eyes — it’s amazing what one powerful, committed and compassionate woman can do to change so many lives.

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As amazing as last year’s event was, I am counting the days until this year’s conference on November 13th. I want to hear Diana Nyad, who will remind us that dreams don’t come with an age limit. Dr. Cynthia Ackrill will be teaching us how to take stress and turn it into accomplishments, and Jenny Bowen who works tireless on behalf of the world’s orphans and other forgotten children will inspire us to make a difference. And then there’s Soledad O’Brien and Debbie Sterling and author John Gray (yes, a few men are on the agenda!)

I don’t know what your plans are for the 13th of November, but if you’re a woman in Texas and you want the tools to change your life or make it better or figure out how to get over that last sticky obstacle, let me suggest this conference. It might just have the answers you need.

I don’t advocate for many events. But this incredible gathering of wisdom and advice and experience is not to be missed. I think tickets might still be available. Do check it out.

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The Specs

November 13, 2014

Austin Convention Center
500 East Cesar Chavez
Austin, Texas 78701

http://www.txconferenceforwomen.org/

7:30 am – 5:00 pm

Round Top Antique Heaven on Wordfree Wednesday

I had heard about it for several years. I wanted to go last year and the year before, but something always got in the way. This year, finally, was my time to visit Warrenton, Round Top and the rest of antique heaven in Central Texas for Antiques Week(end) — hard to stick to the “weekend” label when it runs for almost three weeks now. And I loved every second of it!

Now it’s time for the pictures to tell the story…

weird looking machine

1-Unfortunate pairing

An unfortunate pairing!
4-Steampunk Hat Old bird cage

Antique Crib

Old church windows

weird door

Metal people

Old stage light

Dead Peoples StuffBecause, yes, that pretty much is what it is!!  Antiques WeekJunk Gypsies Trailer(More about the Junk Gypsies in another post…too good for just one picture!)

Easy Tiger feels like Europe, right here in Austin

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Europeans know their bread. And pastries. And they know there’s no connection between the real thing and what passes for bread in grocery stores and big box discounters.

Thank goodness Austin isn’t condemed to live on mass produced bread. Nope. Because we have Easy Tiger.

But Easy Tiger isn’t easy to pin down.

Yes, it’s a bakery in the best tradition of bakeries in Germany, Italy, and France.

06-DSC04686Not only can you smell the wonderful breads, croissants and pastries baking as soon as you walk in, you can see it. A big glass window lets you peek at all the wonderful baking in process. And oh how wonderful it is.

Big, chewy loaves with real substance instead of air and chemicals.

10-DSC04693Flaky, sweet croissant and other treats baked with real butter.

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But turn around and head down the stairs, and Easy Tiger is something else entirely.

07-DSC04687Yes, you can order those luscious pastries downstairs with coffee and tea. But you can also order lunch or supper, or head to the beer garden just off the dining room/pub.

Like I said, Easy Tiger is hard to pin down. But as long as they keep making Pan au Chocolat, I’m a happy (and frequent) visitor.

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The Specs

709 East 6th Street
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 332-1122

http://www.easytigeraustin.com/

Bakery
Sun-Sat 7 am – 2 am

Beer Garten
Sun-Sat 11am – 2 am

Easy Tiger on Urbanspoon

County Line delights with food…and turtles?

County Line
It’s bound to happen when you live in Austin. Company comes from out of town, and they want bar-b-que. As in piles of the ribs Austin is so famous for. But where can a vegetarian take someone for ribs…and still eat something beside a side salad and rolls?

The answer is County Line on the Lake. For our guest, the menu had an assortment of mouthwatering ribs, brisket and sausages. For me, a perfectly prepared vegetarian kabob. Add the housemade bread, plus a couple of sides and everyone at the table was happy and very full.

But as good as the food was, the high point of our County Line meal was the turtles. No, not on the menu! In the river!

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This location of County Line is on Bull Creek, a tributary to Lake Austin, which means the view from the patio seating is beautiful.

06-DSC04703My husband had been there before, so he knew there was something beside the view that I would love. A few steps down from the patio, to the edge of the river and I saw what. The water was FULL of turtles. Hundreds of turtles, of all different kinds. Big ones and tiny ones the size of silver dollar.

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And there was turtle food, too. For .25, you could fill a cup with turtle food and sit down at the water’s edge and feed the turtles!

07-DSC04706I’m such a little kid wihen it comes to things like this. And I loved every second of it. A beautiful setting, delicious food, and turtles!

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The County Line on the Lake also has an extensive children’s menu, so kids can enjoy lunch or dinner and feeding the turtles, too. The lovely patio on the river makes it a wonderful choice for a date night, too.

The Specs

5204 FM 2222
Austin, Texas 78731
(512) 346-3664

http://www.countyline.com/CountyLineLake.html

Sun-Mon 11 am - 9 pm
Tues-Thur 11 am – 9:30 pm
Fri-Sat 11 am – 10 pm

 

County Line on the Lake on Urbanspoon

Wild Wood Bakehouse does gluten free sweets, breads that taste like the real thing

Wild Wood BakehouseI have to confess. I LOVE bread. Crunchy loaves of French bread and rich tasty muffins. So when I was invited to meet some friends at the Wild Wood Bakehouse, a completely gluten-free bakery and cafe, I had my doubts.

I’ve tried some gluten free versions of baked goods and well, I was underimpressed. Very.

I was wrong. This place must have some kind of magic because everything I tasted, tasted like it belonged in a regular bakery.

cupcakesThese cupcakes? I couldn’t tell the difference. My toast? It was toast…made of bread. I swear. But they managed to do it without wheat. And for many products, without dairy either.

1-20140413_133114And not only was it delicious, it was affordable. No $7.00 cupcakes like I saw recently at a popular natural foods store. No $5.00 brownies. Even the prices were like a regular bakery!

3-20140413_133141The cafe is small but adorable, with regular seating in one section and a few high-tops towards to the front. The small space means there’s a line during peak cafe times like Sunday brunch but the wait wasn’t too bad.

4-20140413_133153I do need to warn my fellow vegetarians and especially vegans. The pickings for us on the buffet are slim. In place of the typical pastries, cereals and quiches we can usually find for brunch, there were lots of meat items. A vegetarian could probably do okay, but a vegan might leave hungry. This isn’t a criticism…just an observation. What the Wild Wood does, it does exceptionally well.

There’s a children’s buffet price, which makes this a good choice for families, too.

The Specs

3016 Guadalupe St., Ste. 200
Austin, Texas 78705
(512) 327-9660

http://www.wildwoodbakehouse.com/

Mon-Sat 10 am - 9 pm
Sun 9 am – 3 pm (Brunch menu all day)

 

Wild Wood Bake House on Urbanspoon

Buc-ees is a driving to or from Austin must-stop

Buc-ee's sign

The first time we stopped at Buc-ee’s, I wasn’t sure if I thought it was adorable or kind of weird. I mean, there are pictures of Buc-ee the Beaver on everything you can imagine: t-shirts, cups, bags of snack food and home decor items.

buc-ees sncksAnd the place is big…really big.

Buc-ees interiorThey serve hot food and cold. They have a produce section and the biggest self-serve soda fountain area I have ever seen. There are talking characters on the way into the giant (and spotless) restrooms (they’ve won awards for their clean bathrooms! Really!)

So in one place, you can get themed shirts, hats and shorts for the whole family, lunch or dinner, the food you forgot to bring for cooking over the campfire, candy and snacks for every taste, fresh baked goods, a new phone charger, wall decor for your house, oh and more unique canned jams, jellies and pickles that I knew existed. They even have a whole rack of flavored Buc-ee’s brand garlic! (You HAVE to try the habanero garlic! Seriously!)

1-20131117_182840And did I mention gas for your car? This is not a truck stop…in fact 18-wheelers aren’t allowed at Buc-ee’s. That space is ALL for cars and pick-ups.

1-20131117_181608So what separates Buc-ee’s from a convenience store? I think it’s the Beaver. Seeing that Buc-ee face on almost everything makes it feel more like an odd theme park than a road-side store . People pose with the Buc-ee’s statue for pictures!

4-20140316_101141So yeah, it’s kind of weird. But after a couple of stops, that silly beaver kind of grows on you.

The Specs

There are Buc-ee’s locations all over Texas. Here’s the one I visited:

2760 IH 35 North
New Braunfels, TX 78130

http://www.buc-ees.com

Open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year