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

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urban american grill: Who knew food like this existed in a chain hotel?

urban american grill in the Westin Domain

It was the Sunday morning after MomCom 2014, and I was exhausted. I had enjoyed the event, and my stay at the Austin Westin Hotel in the Domain –and I wasn’t quite ready to head back to the “real world.”  After sleeping in, and skipping breakfast, brunch was definitely on my mind. But where?

Walking across the parking lot to the Domain was an option, but I really wanted to stay put, so I headed for the hotel’s cafe, urban american grill. I didn’t have high hopes, but it was right there, and I was hungry.

As I walked in, I heard Bluegrass music, but I thought it was a recording. Nope. It was LIVE Bluegrass. In a hotel restaurant. In the morning. Awesome!

20140126_134142I sat down and took a look at the menu, expecting the typical boring selection of breakfast dishes for outrageous hotel prices. Wrong again!  There were all kinds of tempting choices, and the prices were less than some regular brunch haunts.

urban american grill menu

Instead of struggling to find something “okay,” I was torn among a whole bunch of delicious choices. This was getting better and better!

I finally settled on the Forager pizza, with pears, apples, gorgonzola cheese, pecans, and roasted tomato, topped with arugula. Again, I kept my expectations low…it sounded good, but…

urban american grill menuAnd then it arrived. It was large, and covered with deliciousness! I tend to be a light eater, and usually leave at least half an entrée. Not with this dish. I ate almost every bite, while sipping iced tea and enjoying the music.

urban american grill kitchenWhat had started out as an “it’ll be okay” turned out to be a great choice I’ll be happy to experience again.

The grill is located in the Westin Austin at the Domain at 11301 Domain Drive. There’s plenty of free parking, and there’s the added attraction of the Domain shops and the iPic movie theatre, too. Sunday brunch is served from 11 am to 3 pm, but there’s also a weekday breakfast buffet, and a lunch and dinner menu, too. It’s family friendly, too.

urban american is open from 6:30 am to 10 pm, making it perfect for lunch while shopping or dinner before or after a movie.

Urban an American grill on Urbanspoon

Wild Child Rocks it on Wordfree Wednesday

Wild Chld video set at The Boneyard in Austin

I think I heard Wild Child for the first time at a show in one of Austin’s clubs. I had no idea who they were when the show started…by the end, I had become a fan!

Since then, I have made it to several other shows, and they were all amazing.

But nothing was as incredible as being invited to participate in the filming of their new videos!  So off we headed to a place called The Boneyard (more about that place in another post!), and the fun began. Unfortunately, we left the good camera behind!  So please forgive us for these camera phone-quality shots. We promise to do better next time!

Wild Child video prep

Classic stage crew poseRehersalwarm up2014-02-01 17.11.042014-02-01 17.11.0020140201_17582320140201_18240420140201_182416-0012014-02-01 18.13.34We were so happy to be a part of Wild Child’s new video event!  Next time, though, we’ll remember the camera!

You can learn more about Wild Child and their upcoming performances on their Facebook page and website. Hope to see y’all at a show!

Hope Market offers freshest produce on “Find it in Austin Friday”

close up of okra in basket

Fresh okra….

Every Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm, Austanites can by-pass the tasteless, mealy textured produced served up by  grocery stores and experience the real thing at the Hope Farmer’s Market located at East 5th and Comal.

The Market began in October 2009, a challenge in a city known for stores selling organic and local produce. But almost four years later, it’s still going and growing, bringing Austin residents a weekly destination where they can connect with the farmers who grow the food instead of just a clerk who’s stocking it.

baskets of persimmons

Ripe persimmons….

Shoppers can find all sorts of fresh vegetable, fruits, nuts and herbs in season. Vendors also sell fresh milk and dairy products (including my favorite goat dairy products from Swede Farm), honey, syrup, eggs, meats and baked goods.

Radishes

Just picked radishes….

And while you shop you can also listen to live music, and maybe snack on some of the treats you just bought. If you go, please bring plenty of reusable bags — remember, no more plastic bags in Austin. Personally, I like using one of those old-lady folding carts, too. Hey, veggies get heavy!

Most of the stands accept EBT/SNAP and WIC benefits, making it easier for people in need of a hand to get the healthy food they really deserve. You can find out more about that at the Hope Farm Stand at the market. Most vendors don’t accept credit or debit cards, so if you’re not using one of the food assistance programs, do bring cash.

Kale

Fresh kale…

The Farmer’s Market is also a great place to take your kids shopping. Once they see all those brightly colored, tempting veggies and fruits you might have an easier time getting them to try them.

pecans in basket

Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome, too.

Breakfast Tacos, Hippie Church meet at Maria’s Taco Express

Maria Taco Express June 2012

I kept hearing people talking about Austin’s “Hippie Church” and imagined some sort of New Age gathering. I had no idea breakfast tacos were involved, and I couldn’t have been more wrong about the vibe.  Ten minutes on a Sunday morning at Maria’s Taco Express and I discovered exactly what they meant.

The music? A mixture of amazing blues and gospel, with a classic rock edge.  The people? Lots of people who were probably around when “hippies” were something new and controversial.  The food?  Big servings of classic homemade Tex-Mex served on a mixture of plastic and wood picnic tables.

And the setting?  Pure Austin unique.  Part dive bar feel, part old west/old Mexico theme (don’t miss the old “village” down the outside wall!), part someone’s backyard patio.

There’s no table service at Maria’s and the line to order is long, but please don’t let that keep you away.  You’d miss the chance to dance to blues with some of Austin’s most unique residents. You’d miss some truly amazing tacos, chicken stew and other Maria’s favorites. And you’d miss sitting in a plastic patio chair and listening to some of the very best gospel and blues for no cost beyond your breakfast.  (Of course, the tip jar beckons, so do contribute generously!)

Space downstairs near the live music is limited, so get there early (the music starts at noon) or be prepared to share a table with some of the other friendly diners (we have, and it’s fun!). There’s more seating upstairs (super hot in summer!) and indoors.

Maria’s is open all week, but so far it’s the Sunday Hippie Church that’s drawn us in again and again.  Once we finally do check it out on another day, I’ll update this review.

Pets are welcome on the patio, although it’s crowded so make sure they’re very well-behaved! Prices are low, so this a great place to go with little kids — there’s lots to choose from without breaking mom and dad’s budget.

Austin Celtic Festival brings Ireland and Scotland Deep in the Heart of Texas

Austin Celtic Festival 2012I am cautious about Celtic fairs.  I’ve been to far too many of them that are more flea market and carnival food meets Ren Faire than a real Celtic gathering.  So I was thrilled when the Austin Celtic Festival was everything it promised.

The musicians were amazing…it was hard to believe that the small admission fee ($15 at the gate, $12 in advance online and kids under 13 free) covered the incredible music.  My personal favorites, The Tea Merchants, made me forget that I was in Texas at all.  I seriously expected to look out over rolling green hills or peat bogs instead of a slightly dry park.  Harpist Thomas (Doc) Grauzer‘s music was haunting, and the Celtic dance bands made it hard to stand still.

I loved the Viking encampment (ok, I admit it…I did think Vikings wore horned helmets!  Blame it on Hagar the Horrible!). Did you know that they typically carried a nail kit and comb?  Who knew?  Vikings were the first metrosexuals!

There were dozens of booths offering Celtic jewelry, kilts and other gifts (NOT good for my budget! It was all so tempting!), and lots of demos (sheep herding, or rather goose herding, weaving, dancing). There were also Celtic music workshops for guitar and violin players and Gaelic language classes.

But my favorite part of the whole event was the Irish storyteller Máirtín de Cógáin.  His tales had us all laughing — and had me wishing I  could meet the characters from his town back home.

This Festival is an annual gathering…2012 is its 16th year.  I can’t wait for the 17th!

Native American PowWow brings history, music, food to Austin

Native American Powwow Austin Texas via Ais4Austin.comYesterday, it was time to discover yet another new event in Austin, so we headed out for the 21st Annual Austin Powwow.

I love powwows…we used to go to the Native American Pow-Wow every year on City Island near Harrisburg, PA. when we lived there.  And we always tried to go to gatherings in Florida and in the Rockies, too.

The music, dancing and the clothing are my favorite parts, so I was thrilled to see that Austin’s Powwow was focused around those elements. The auditorium at Sunset Valley was filled with drummers, singers and dancers in dramatic traditional apparel.  As each dance was called, the music changed, the drum beat shifted, and a new group of dancers took center stage.

Austin PowWow 2012

Unlike many “shows” which focus on providing cultural demonstrations for visitors, this was clearly a gathering for members of the local and regional tribes.  Those of us who were not identifiably Native Americans were there as guests, not spectators. And that gave the whole event a different feel than more commercial, touristy “Indian events” — and one that I appreciated.

At one point, guests were invited to join in a dance, and most seemed to really enjoy the chance to be a part of the celebration.  Kids, especially little ones, loved this!

Outside, the celebration continued, with stands selling handmade flutes, beautiful drums and herbs used in healing. Yes, there were stands offering nearly identical jewelry, but the authentic craftspeople at other stands made it worth walking around, asking questions and shopping.

Austin PowWow 2012 Flutes for saleThere were also stands offering educational information about tribal history and customs.  We spent quite a bit of time at the Chickasaw table, learning about their history, stories and their new Oklahoma Chickasaw Cultural Center. A future road trip, maybe?

The event also includes a food court, with Fry Bread dominating the menus (no complaints from me!  I love Fry Bread with honey or beans and veggies, and they had both in abundance!) Austin PowWow 2012 Arrows for sale

Admission and parking were free, which makes this a great choice for families with kids. It also leaves more cash for lunch or shopping — another big plus in my book!  Pets are not permitted at the festival.

I just want to leave you with a few more images from the Festival…not my usual format, but I can’t resist.

Austin PowWow 2012 Sage

Austin PowWow 2012 Dream Catchers

Austin PowWow 2012 Cherokee Story Tellers