Exotic gifts & bellydancing from Arabic Bazaar on Wordfree Wednesday

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Last weekend, I visited the Arabic Bazaar in Austin for the first time, and I  immediately knew it had to be featured here on A is 4 Austin. I  had planned to put it on Find it in Austin Fridays. It is a great place to shop for unique imported gifts (everything here is handpicked by the owner, Zein, on her trips to Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Lebanon. No “Made in China” imitations here!) And it’s a place to find authentic belly dance classes for all levels. So it would fit.

But when I looked at my photos, I changed my mind. The photos tell the story of this beautiful place better than words possibly could. So here, without too many more words, is Arabic Bazaar.

Bellydance Costumes

Handblown glass perfume bottles

handwoven rugs

 

Amazing jewelry

 

Hookah pipes04-2014-12-07 14.19.40pillowRight now is a great time to visit Arabic Bazaar, too. Sunday December 14th and Sunday December 21st, they’re having a big sale (yes, I DID shop! Of course!), bellydance demonstrations, discounts on bellydancing classes and free henna from noon until 3 pm.

Arabic Bazaar sale Dec 2014The Specs

5013 Duval St
Austin, Texas 78751
(entrance in back of building in alley)
(512) 533-9227
Monday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Tuesday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Wednesday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Thursday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Friday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Sunday Closed (Except for special holiday events in December) 

BlogathonATX 2014 brings together bloggers, writers, information and fun

Blogathon ATX 2014 swagOnce again, BlogathonATX has offered Texas bloggers an amazing full day conference covering the need-to-know and want-to-know details for blogging better, protecting intellectual property and monetizing our creative work.

Okay, all of that plus a whole lot of sugar, hugs, caffeine, breakfast, laughter,  catching up, lunch….and did I mention sugar and caffeine?

Blogathon ATX 2014

Who goes to Blogathon ATX?

The simple answer is, well, it’s not so simple. This is a conference for for beginners. And pros. It’s for people who are just getting the courage to start that blog they’ve been thinking about for the past two years, and people who are thinking about rebranding an existing site. It’s for people who love to write for the joy of it, and for people who are looking for ways to turn writing a blog into a source of income.

But isn’t Blogathon ATX 2014 over?

Yes, this year’s event has come and gone. But I wanted to mention it because it’s not too early to start thinking about Blogathon ATX 2015. After all, there will be treats!

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SXSW 2014 in Pictures

Szkojani Charlatans

The SXSW experience is a lot of things.

It’s the sounds of music coming out of ten bars, and still being entranced by a busker playing on a street corner. It’s the smell of pizza and tacos and bar-b-que and something sweet right out of the oven as you walk past a row of food trucks. It’s free t-shirts and more can holders than anyone could every need (but you can’t help taking just one more.)

But most of that is impossible to capture on the page of a blog. So I’ll have to settle for sharing pictures.

I’m starting this post today, but I’ll be adding more pictures throughout the week. If you’re here, I hope you’re having a great time. But if you’re not, here’s a glimpse into the insanity that is SXSW.

(Oh, and one more thing…a new mascot is joining A is for Austin. Or rather a few mascots. When I was a kid, I loved trolls. So when a few showed up during a recent trip, I decided to make them a part of my blog for now. So look for Wanda (a pink haired troll) and a few other friends in some of my pictures, at least for awhile.  I hope you like the new addition!)

A line of guitar cases

monster drink truckunique guitar playing styleMable the dog chilling in AustinFree food A SXSW traditionBecause I believe in unicorns too20140309_182636Peruvian Creole Food TruckBuilindg the Vans venueNo badges neededRobot at the Game Expo SXSW 2014

Healthy and TASTY meals from a can? A special post on affordable cooking

pot pie

Let me start by saying food banks are wonderful. They’re a lifeline to put food on otherwise empty kitchen shelves, and keep hunger at bay when the budget doesn’t support a trip to the grocery store. At one point in my life, a box of typical food bank canned and boxed food that appeared on my porch was a lifesaving gift, so I know what I’m talking about.

But one of the biggest challenges facing people trying to use a food bank to survive is how to build healthy, tasty meals from canned and packaged foods. Even after my own financial crisis had passed, my single mom days were often filled with trying to make healthy, tasty meals for my kids and I from the case-lot canned good section of the grocery store, or even what was on the shelves at Dollar Tree. If you’ve never experienced that, let me tell you, it’s hard!

The Capital Area Food Bank here in Austin understands that struggle. That’s why they’ve asked local Canned-Food-Month-Badge-Featuredbloggers in the Austin Food Blogger Alliance to come up with a family friendly, low cost dinner using canned goods  likely to be found in a food bank. I jumped at the challenge, because I understand the need!

(Before I share the recipe, I need to let you know that even a meal as simple as this one is hard to make when you’re counting pennies. Food banks seldom include spices or seasonings on their shelves, simply because people don’t think to donate them, so making food flavorful is hard.  I chose to include them here, because the availability of bulk spices in local grocery stores like HEB makes it more affordable to get a small amount for under a dollar, and make a big impact on flavor. ) 

I started with a selection of canned good typical for a food pantry. Selecting a variety of vegetables means you’ll end up with a meal that’s heavy on nutrition. If low sodium versions are available, do select those cans.

canned goods

Vegetable (or Chicken) Pot Pie
6-8 small pot pies or one large casserole

Ingredients

Crust:

packets of biscuit mix

  • 2 packets biscuit mix (available at many food banks, or for .50/packet at HEB
  • 1/2 can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)

Filling

  • 1 can peas, drained
  • 1 can carrots, drained
  • 1 can potatoes, drained (diced, if not already diced from the can)
  • 1 can corn, (do not drain)
  • 1 can green beans (do not drain)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped

whole onion

  • 1/2 can vegetable broth
  • 1/2 can condensed cream soup (mushroom, potato, chicken, etc.,), low fat if available
  • 1/2 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can cooked chicken, tuna or turkey or one block tofu (optional)*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

poultry seasoning

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  • In a bowl, combine biscuit mix with 1/2 can of evaporated milk (or 1/2 cup regular milk)
  • Mix and set aside.
  • In a large sauce pan, combine all the vegetables, broth, remaining 1/2 can of milk, 1/2 can of condensed soup and seasoning.
  • Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until onions start to soften

pot pie filling

  • Make an egg-sized ball of the dough and pat it into the bottom of a pot pie tin or small loaf pan (I bought a package of 5 mini-loaf pans at Target for $1.45)

OR

  • Pat one half of the dough into the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking pan
  • Fill pans to within 1/2 inch of top of the pan(s)

filled pot pie

  • Pat out remaining dough to cover each pot pie (or the large pot pie.)

unbaked pot pies

  • Make 3 -4 small slits in the top of the crust
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or 45 minutes for a large pie)
  • Serve hot, in the pan or inverted onto a plate

Baked pot pieIf you have any leftover filling, as I did, mix the filling with the remaining broth mix and condensed soup. Add some extra milk, broth or water to make a nice cream soup to serve with another meal.

These pot pies freeze well. If you’re not planning on eating them immediately, assemble them, then freeze. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until hot in the center.

___________________________________

* I don’t eat meat, so I used vegetarian protein sources. Tofu, at about a dollar a package is a great choice for vegetarians on a budget who want to make this dish.

HOPE for Senegal on Make a Difference Monday

Hope for Senegal kidsI blog a lot about food. Food I cook, and food other people cook for me to eat in restaurants. And then there are the food festivals and the foodie groups and the best places to find the ingredients for the next food creation we’re planning to make.

So it’s hard me…and for many of us… to get our heads around the idea that right now, there are places in the world where a gift of some flour or oil or milk could make a life-or-death difference for women and kids. That information was my introduction to HOPE for Senegal — and their campaign to provide mothers in war-torn regions with the very basics of food for survival.

That campaign saved lives. It’s still saving lives. But they have a new campaign in progress now.

Before I share that, I want to tell you a little bit about the woman behind this world-changing campaign, Yasmin DialloTurk.

I learned about the HOPE for Senegal project when I met its Project Director Yasmin Turk at MomCom, here in Austin.  As a mom of three, I was drawn to her campaign’s goal of providing food and medical care to mothers and children in the most at-risk areas of the world.

But there’s more to the story. Yasmin has experienced hard times, too.  At one point, this woman who is now on the verge of earning her PhD was a single mom with GED who needed to take the next step to make her own dreams come true. That early struggle is probably part of the reason she so empathizes with those moms who have lost almost everything — except their love for their children.

These days, HOPE for Senegal has is focusing on its core goal: education. They’re working to make literacy and education available to children and women in high-risk region. Right now in Senegal, less than 3 out of 10 girls can read. Boys are not much better off.  And without literacy, there is little hope to break cycles of poverty, exploitation and abuse.

They have made significant progress…but there is so much more to do.

The project has a target goal of $22,500 to provide needed resources to help educate over 4,000 students. But with only 4 days left in the campaign, they are only about 10% funded.

Can you imagine the difference education can make in the lives of these children? So here it is….your chance on Make a Difference Monday.  Click over. Donate what you can. Change lives.

(If you’d like to hear Yasmin speak about the project and its goals, be sure to register for MomCom 2014, coming up on January 24-25th right here in Austin — she’s one of many speakers at the event who can help you make a difference in the world…or just in your corner of it!) 

The vegetarian way to welcome the New Year

Welcome to Wordfree Wednesday! Well, almost! Just a brief intro first.

My family is Southern, and that means New Year’s Day is greeted with Hoppin John. But because we don’t eat pork, and I don’t eat meat, the traditional recipes loaded with ham or bacon, just won’t cut it! So here’s a peek at our vegetarian version of Hoppin John, rich with spice (lots of spice!) and flavor!

Happy New Year, Veggie-style!!!

20140101_200654 Vegetarian Hoppin John 20140101_200807I promise to share the recipe soon!  But for today, it’s just a wish that your New Year is as full of wonderful as these plates are full of flavor!  Happy 2014!

South Congress Books on Find it in Austin Friday

South Congress BooksAnyone who knows me, knows that I LOVE books. And bookstores.

And while the big box chain stores are fine for picking up a magazine or the newest best seller, I have a special place in my heart for small, independent bookstores. Sadly, they seem to being a dying breed. So when I find one I love, I need to share it.

Today, that’s South Congress Books. This tiny treasure is tucked in among the quirky shops and restaurants on South Congress, near places like Big Top Candy and Guero’s Taco Bar. But it’s not a spot for the party crowd.

This is the place to go for that rare book you just have to have for yourself or a gift. Or an out-of-print or vintage treasure you just cannot find in a chain bookstore.

 It’s also a place to wander through, and find yourself inspired by a beautiful image on a book cover, or magnificent illustrations or a haunting opening sentence —  and discovering that THIS is a book you cannot live without.

If you’re searching for a certain title, you can check out their online inventory to see if they have it in stock. But I prefer to just stop in, and ask. That way, I get to browse the shelves — and maybe find that the book-I-did-not-know-I-needed (but now do!) is sitting right in front of me.