Laugh through your date night at Austin Java

Austin Java Coffee House

No, I am not suggesting that you laugh at your date. But laughing together during your date? Now that would be a good idea.

That’s what we decided when we headed to Austin Java on 12th and Lamar for a late supper and their free comedy show.  And it turned out to be a good choice on both accounts.

First, there was the menu. Not your ordinary selection of tired sandwiches and boring soups. Not with things like a spicy African peanut soup, Avocadeaux Salad featuring Crawfish tails & greens or a Chicken Satay sandwich (yes, you read that right! Sandwich!) on the menu.  And everything was delicious!  I ordered the veggie plate, and was thrilled with my huge servings of red pepper humus, peanut soup, steamed veggies, tangy black bean and corn pico, fresh smashed potatoes, salad and crunchy french bread.  The Avocadeaux salad was pronounced “perfect!”, and well dotted with flavorful pieces of crawfish.

The show (no cover charge, by the way, so do be kind and order at least something to drink) featured about a half-dozen comics, ranging from polished to working on their act, but all of them kept us laughing.  A word of caution, though. Before we went, we called and asked about the show’s content, and were told it was PG-13.  Most of it was, but some parts were downright raunchy and clearly well into the adults-only realm, so I wouldn’t suggest it for families with teens (and certainly not for younger kids!)

The area for the comedy show is small, so do get there early especially if you want to have a table so you can eat while you watch. There’s table service in that section, too, so no need to order at the counter before you find your spot.

After the show, we checked out the rest of the place. The cozy setting was full of people eating, talking, working on computers or just enjoying a coffee or beer for a low-key Austin Saturday night.  We will definitely return, and also plan to check out their location on Barton Springs Road.

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Make a Difference Monday and Austin Pets Alive

sweet dog in need of rescue

I fell in love with this sweet girl, who wiggled everything she had when someone petted her!

Before I move here, one of the things I was told about Austin was that they love their dogs and welcome them into all kinds of places around town. And above all, they love their rescues.

And I was thrilled to discover it’s true. Maya the Wonder Puppy, our half Boxer, half Rhodesian mix (a rescue, of course!) has been welcomed all over Austin. Maya dogAnd when she’s home, she and our kitty are spoiled with an abundance of love and attention. But not all dogs and cats are as fortunate as Maya, Sanura and Bast. And not everyone in Austin, sadly, is good to their pets. And that’s where Austin Pets Alive comes in.

Pets Alive is a rescue group…and thankfully one of many in the Austin area. But their mission is unique. Unlike the other groups that might help find homes for a certain breed or category of dogs, Pets Alive gathers up the dogs and cats no one else is rescuing from the shelters.  But they say it better than I could…

We are currently focused on helping the healthy and treatable pets who are at risk of being killed in a shelter, by rescuing the pets who are at the greatest risk and helping owners who are having problems so great that they need to surrender their pet(s) to a shelter.

In our rescue program, to not duplicate work of other agencies, we focus solely on the pets who have already been passed over by other groups and the shelters’ adoption programs and only take the healthy and treatable pets who are about to be killed and have no other options.

So at Pets Alive, you won’t find that perfect, adorable Maltese, or that gorgeous Collie you can’t imagine anyone surrendering. But you will find loving animals with beautiful hearts who just want a special person or family to love.  They want someone who will love them even if they’re a bit scruffy looking, or are so terrified of being hurt again it takes half an hour to coax them out of their kennel.

And another thing you’ll find at Pets Alive is a committed corp of volunteers who spend their days, or evenings, or weekends walking, feeding, training, cleaning and of course, loving these sweet pets-in-search-of-a-forever-home.

We’ve spent several wonderful Saturday evenings walking the dogs, playing with them in the play yard, and just reminding them that they are lovable and wonderful and cared about.  It’s a great family night activity for families with teens — or even a date night activity where you can spend time together and make a difference at the same time.

If time isn’t something you can spare right now, a donation of anything on their wish list (from food and blankets to bleach and peanut butter) would make a difference for a dog or cat in need of food, warmth and love.

So Austin, are you ready to step up to you dog and cat loving reputation?

Zilker Botanical Gardens invite you to build a Faerie House and Garden

Zilker Botanical Gardens Faerie House WorkshopCalling all lovers of imagination and whimsy! Zilker Botanical Gardens is inviting you to design and build your very own Faerie House and Garden, in Zilker Park!

That’s what I discovered when I was playing around online, looking for cool images to pin to my Secret Garden Pinterest board. So of course, we had to head over on Sunday to check this out.  Could it be?  Could we really indulge our creativity and my love of all things Faerie and magical and build an actual space in the garden for everyone to see?  (Okay, so I’m an overgrown kid…everyone who knows me already knows that!)

Yes!  It’s true!  It turns out that I had stumbled on the very First Annual Faerie Home and Garden competition in Austin. We went to the free workshop on Sunday, and learned some Faerie lore (for instance, did you know that every time a flower blooms, a Faerie is born? News to me!)  We also got a chance to talk to the people in charge of the whole series of Faerie-focused events at Zilker Botanical Garden now through May.  (The poster for the events is below, or you can download the Fairy poster PDF to print yourself.)

Anyone can enter the competition to build their very own fairy house and garden (and yes, our family is already registered!).  The fee is $25 for families and $45 for designers and architects. In return, you get a 4′ by 4′ space to construct your own vision of a fairy dwelling.

The rules are simple. You’ll be assigned a space in the garden. You have to construct the dwelling using natural materials gathered from the designated area of the garden, or from your own home or favorite natural spots. You can build a home, add furniture (made of twigs and other natural materials faeries are likely to find, or you can create an entire faerie wonderland with multiple buildings. The choice is up to you and your family!

The masterpieces go on display in March (with setup the weekend of March 9th) , and will be in the garden until May. The deadline for registering is February 9th.  Download the forms from the Zilker site, then mail or fax in your registration and fee.

I was so excited, I’ve already gone to Michael’s to buy a little fairy figure to use as the scale for our creation! And it’s not just me. My daughter started her sketches for the furnishings, and my husband has been brainstorming design ideas to keep our creation true to fairy-lore.  This is going to be fun!

Zilker Park Faerie Homes and Gardens Poster

Citywide Garage Sale is Vintage, Collectible Heaven!

Austin Citywide Garage SaleI’d heard about it. I’d even walked past it on the way to another event.  But it wasn’t until this past weekend when someone dragged me to it that I actually went into Austin’s Citywide Garage Sale.

And I think it took all of about 30 seconds from walking in the door to be absolutely hooked!  First, there were the tables piled high with vintage linens, from quilts to hand-embroidered pillowcases.  Then there were the primitives…furniture, metal wheels, and so much more, all rich with patina and worn with use. And as if that wasn’t enough, there were the kitschy collectibles, that just begged me to stop and look.

Everything was tempting…and yes, I do mean EVERYTHING!  It took a lot of willpower to keep my wallet safely tucked away (well, most of the time!)  But even browsing and chatting with the vendors was a blast.  Even kids I saw were having a great time checking out the “old stuff”, and asking questions.  And if they find something they like, it could be a chance to start them on a collection of their own.

Best thing of all?  This is not a once a year event!  It happens every month! And with the low admission fee ($5.00 and kids under 12 are  free!), it’s a guilty pleasure I can afford over and over again.  Want to make it even cheaper?  Sign up for their e-mail list, and you’ll knock a dollar off your admission!

 

 

BurgerTex find proves a tasty (accidental!) discovery

Buger TexWe were heading to Buffalo Exchange for some vintage shopping when it happened.  We realized that we’d forgotten to eat lunch!  Oh, no!  That would NOT do!  But we didn’t want to spend a lot for lunch — the budget is tight and we wanted to save as much as possible for sweaters and boots.

And then we made a wrong turn, and ended up in a parking lot that said “BurgerTex Parking Only”.  Should we move?  Or might this little burger place have something cheap enough for two vegetarians on a budget?  We headed inside, and found a wonderful mix of Korean food and burgers, all at prices perfectly in keeping with thrift shopping.

Veggie burgers, fries and tea ordered, we wandered around, and looked at the place and talked to the manager. (Sadly, we were the only customers inside…but it was almost 3 pm on a weekday, so we probably missed the lunch crowd…I hope!)  The rolls, we learned, were not from a restaurant supply package…they are baked fresh daily right there.  And we had no worries about toppings…there was a topping bar filled with ripe red tomatoes, crisp lettuce, fresh onions and lots of sauces.

Our food was served quickly, accompanied with a pile of crispy, hot fries.  We filled our tea,  topped our burgers and sat down to enjoy our late lunch — and one of the best veggie burgers I’ve had so far in Austin. I do love these kinds of accidents!

I would love to tell you more about the food beyond the veggie burger…especially their Korean speacialties. But the menu at Burger Tex is almost all meat items.  But without the meat-eating member of our family along to test those, we have no way to evaluate the rest!  I guess we’ll just have to go back! (And yes, I will update this review when we do!)

PS…Lunch was great…but no so much the racks at Buffalo Exchange.  Today, we left empty-handed. Oh well! Another excuse to return for shopping…and burgers!

UPCOMING: Austin Kosher Chili Cookoff comes back for 8th year

pot of chiliYes, Texas is known for its chili…but with the pork that’s so often a part local cook-off recipes, people who choose to skip out on that particular beast for religious or health reasons have been kind of left out of the fun.  The pork meant Jews, Muslims and others couldn’t sample cook-off chili offerings.

Not so at the annual JCC Kosher Chili Cookoff! February 10th of this year  will be the 8th  year for the pork-free zone in Texas chili, held at Austin’s JCC campus.

Contestants can choose to enter the meat or the vegetarian division. And to keep everything truly Kosher, the meat division entry fee includes certified Kosher meat, as well as access to all needed cooking utensils.

According to Amy Kritzer, The Austin Jewish Outlook’s food writer,  the event was started by the grandfather of this year’s event chair Jerrod Kogut.   This year’s cook-off also includes arts and crafts, kids activities, and great food, and promises to be a full day of fun for families. 

The competition and the event are open to the public. Entry fees for a meat-chili team of 4 are $250, with meat provided.  Vegetarian teams have an entry fee of $125 (and yes, I will be there sampling those veggie chilis!)

Not ready to cook? Admission the event for everyone else is $12 for adults, $10 for students and free for kids under 4 (or over 65, for the young at heart!)

Sign your team up at the event website, or contact Jerrod for more information at KosherChiliAustin@gmail.com . Registration closes February 1st.

Veggie Heaven is indeed all it claims!

Veggie Heaven Austin TexasFor several months, my daughter has been pushing me to try a place called Veggie Heaven she had seen on one of our downtown forays.  But the time was never right when we were nearby — so we kept putting it off.

That had to be one of my sillier moves since moving to Austin!  It’s not fancy.  It’s not spacious.  But oh is it delicious!!!

First of all, as a vegetarian, I loved that absolutely everything on the menu was open to us.  But even more importantly, I loved that everything the four of us chose was delicious! I had the mock shrimp dish, extra hot (and yes, they believed me when I ordered extra hot!  Thank goodness!)  My daughter chose a kung pao and my husband (usually a meat eater) pronounced his eggplant garden amazing, and we all shared delicious steamed buns, spring rolls and Bubble teas.

And there’s more! The food is made-to-order, so small changes in a dish were no problem. The prices were amazingly low. The service was fast and friendly. And the owner made time to come to our table to chat after I asked about some art work on the wall.

I loved the fact that the customers weren’t all the same, too. When we walked in, there was a large tattooed man in bike leathers, several couples ranging in age from college to retirement, and a number of families of all shapes and sizes.  The diversity made it feel even more welcoming…everyone fits, everyone belongs.

The restaurant is tiny, so I imagine there are times when you have to wait for a table.  Do it. The plate set in front of you will be well worth the time.

I did not see a kids’ menu, but with prices this low, your kids can feast on almost anything on the menu for the average price of a fast food meal! Now that’s a great family deal!