A cool retreat at Inner Space Caverns on Wordfree Wednesday

With summer closing in quickly on Austin, it’s a good idea to have a few cool destinations planned. If spending some time in a place that’s a constant 72 degrees sounds like a good idea when the mercury hits 100 degrees outside, I have just the place for you. Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown. It’s cool, it’s amazing to see…and, well, I’ll let the pictures speak for me.

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Family friendly, although you’ll need to keep a hold on little ones. Snack bar and gift shop on the premises. No strollers in the caverns, and some slippery spots. Bring your camera, but tripods aren’t allowed.

The Specs

4200 S. I-35 Frontage Road
Georgetown TX 78626
512-931-2283
http://innerspacecavern.com/

Mon-Fri: 9am-4pm
Sat: 10am-5pm
Sun: 10am-5pm

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Austin Diner rocks it for breakfast

Austin DinerIt’s cute. It’s kitschy. And it’s another diner here in Austin!

Those we’re my thoughts when we walked in the Austin Diner over the weekend. I immediately fell in love with the collections of vintage mixers and other kitchen ware from the 50’s and 60’s.

classic mixers

Then the waitress came over, and welcomed us to this adorable place. She was friendly — and once we told her it was our first visit, she her smile got even bigger. We felt like guests, instead of just customers!

The menu was just as inviting. Lots of delicious choices for our breakfast — and even after we had made our choices, we kept looking at the options for a later lunch or dinner visit, if the food was good.

Austin Diner insideIt wasn’t long until that “if the food was good” turned into “Oh yeah, the food is good!” I ordered Migas — my favorite food in Austin. And I wasn’t disappointed! The mixture was delicious, and it was topped with just enough queso.

Others in our group opted for pancakes, eggs, sausages and other breakfast classics. And by the time we left, every plate on the table was empty.  In fact, we were already talking about coming back again for the next weekend brunch. The diner has lots of vegetarian choices, in addition to classic diner food like chicken and dumplings. It’s a great choice for families, too. There’s a very limited, partial menu online, but the complete menu has a lot more choices.

I’m still in search of that real 24-hour diner somewhere in the Austin area (gotta know I can fill my eggs, potato and toast craving at 2 a.m.!), but the daytime diners I’m finding, like Austin Diner, are doing a good job of filling the void at breakfast time.

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

There IS great Italian food in Austin!

Reale Pizza and Cafe on www.Ais4Austin.comWhen we moved to Austin, we were told there were a few things we would have to give up. One was the beach, and the other was really good Italian food.

While the beach is still no where to be found, we have proven the other half of that pronouncement wrong. It started with a gift card to Reale’s Pizza and Cafe I received for doing some online work for the Austin Family History Center.

We looked up the address, and discovered that it was only a few miles away, so we headed out for lunch.  The plan was to get a pizza.  But when we walked in and the smell of real Italian cooking reached us, that plan was scraped. In a place that smelled this good, pizza would have to wait for another day.

And oh what a great choice that was!  From the spinach lasagna stuffed with a delicious blend of cheeses and fresh spinach, all topped with a lick-your-plate-its-so-good marinara sauce, to Lance’s chicken cacciatore rich with peppers, mushrooms and onions, it was hands down one of the best Italian meals I’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot for someone who has eaten in great Italian places in New York, Boston, Baltimore and Miami.

Owner Bob Reale was on hand, and stopped by to chat with us while we ate, making us feel more like guests in an Italian home than customers in a restaurant.

No, this place is not fancy. The location is in a strip mall just off 183 in northwest Austin. But fancy won’t get me to eat every bite of a lasagna (I usually eat far less!).  And fancy won’t have the three of diving into our dessert canolli, and declaring it “just right”.

In just one lunch, Reale’s quickly went from a way to use a gift card, to a place we plan to return to again and again. And maybe next time, we’ll even try the pizza.