February 28, 2013

Fish tacos at Hula Hut

Where my Austin people at? Have you been to Hula Hut? I feel like that's a stupid question, because every time I go there, the rest of the city seems to be there are, as well. 

There are certain restaurants in town we totally take for granted and definitely frequent, but I never really think to post about. Hula Hut is one of them. It's a super busy Mexican restaurant (with a Hawaiian theme!) nestled in on Lake Austin, and it's always a fun, party-like atmosphere and consistently good food. And by consistently good food, I mean that the fish tacos I get 100% of the time I go there are always freakin' delicious. I used to try fish tacos wherever I'd go, but eventually I gave up since they were never ever as good as Hula Hut's, and who likes to set themselves up for constant regret and disappointment in life? Not I. 

So if you've never been, give 'er a try! I'd recommend going on slightly off-peak hours, though, because this place has a wait list a mile long sometimes, especially on weekends. I'd also recommend the "HuLaLa" (drink) which is as big as my head.  I have an abnormally large head, so that's saying something.

Other Austin posts:

Barton Creek Greenbelt (ancient post alert!)
Hillside Farmacy
Homeslice Pizza
Hope Farmer's Market
Saltlick BBQ
Snack Bar
Triangle Farmer's Market
The Oasis (ancient post alert!)
Vintage Heart Coffee - 1 | 2

February 27, 2013

If you don't ask, you don't get.

an oldie, but still one of my faves.

Can I talk about this guy for a minute? Just for a minute, I promise. To be quite honest with you, three-quarters of the time this guy drives me bat-shit crazy, and we both, in fact, routinely make sadistic jokes about desiring to push the other down the stairs or inflict other mild injuries that won't necessarily mortally wound but will definitely cause discomfort, but despite that, we love each other like crazy. I think finally, after three years of marriage, we're both feeling very secure in that fact. 

Lately I have felt this profound sense of gratitude for being given the gift of this relationship and its influence in my life. I remember having a conversation with my mom once, really early on in my relationship with Matthew, and I was telling her about what a go-getter he is, how driven and determined and assertive he is. She was super happy for me and my happiness, of course, but I remember her bringing it to my attention that often the things we love about our sigO in the beginning are the very same personality traits that wind up driving us nuts later on, or manifesting themselves in different ways that aren't as attractive. And I think that has been so true for both me and Matthew. Determined and assertive can also feel like stubborn and abrasive, at times... things like that. But I am learning to accept the good with the not-so-good, and love this man I married for all the things that make up who he is, even the parts I'm not as fond of. I'm sure he could write an entire book on my not-so-good traits, as well, so touché. 

Anyway, that was two whole paragraphs just to get warmed up and say what I really want to say. I felt compelled to tell it here because not everyone has a Matthew in their life, and I wanted to share some of the lessons this guy has taught me.  

From day one of meeting him, I have been blown away by his sheer tenacity (as evidenced in our love story and his persistence in the beginning there). Nevermind that he's a good-looking guy who may or may not possess a Super Power of melting people's brains with his eyes, but besides that, he simply does the hard or uncomfortable things that most people won't, like sometimes simply asking for what he wants or needs. Not accepting the current standard or rules. Expecting better from people.

I think the number one thing I've learned from Matthew can be summed up in a phrase I've heard him say multiple times over the last four years of knowing him: "if you don't ask, you don't get." I think so often we all live with this crippling fear of rejection... maybe it's a pride thing, or maybe it's just a lack of confidence thing. But too often we are afraid to reach out, to negotiate, to ask for a discount, to invite a prominent person in your profession out to lunch, and so on. I can't tell you how many times I've witnessed this guy simply asking for something I would have been way too chicken to ask for, and then he gets it. So much of the time! He has saved us literally thousands of dollars on things like furniture or car repairs or vet visits or prescriptions, because he'll ask if there are discounts available to people like students or he'll search online for coupons or otherwise just take extra steps that "normal" people (such as myself) are too lazy to take, and then we pay extra for it. Another example! Back when he started law school, he found a guy on LinkedIn that was a part of the same fraternity in a different state back in college, graduated from his same law school, and is now a partner in a local law firm, and Matthew just cold-called the guy and asked him out to lunch. He made a good connection and friend he now sees all the time. Things like that. The list goes on and on of these things I've seen Matthew do, but the bottom line is it's just a little extra effort that most people wouldn't make, and most importantly, he doesn't let fear of failure or rejection paralyze his life. The worst someone can say to you when you ask them for a favor is "no." And really, how bad is that? The reward usually always outweighs the potential risk. A little at a time, Matthew's no-apologies approach to pursuing goals is rubbing off on me, though I like to think I bring fine feminine sensibilities and more empathy to the table, which makes us a good team. ;)

Bottom line: ask for what you need! Whether that's from your significant other (I need more words of affirmation! I need more foreplay! I need marriage counseling! ha), from your cable provider (Matthew actually got our monthly bill down from over $100 to $40 once?!), your car mechanic, your wedding vendors, your boss, your friend, and the list goes on! It's not always about money, I hope I'm making that clear. It's just about not being ashamed or timid when it comes to creating your own life. If you don't ask, you don't get. A good thing to remember. :)

Happy Wednesday!

February 26, 2013

Feeling blue

I'm writing this post on Monday evening, a half eaten plate of pasta and meatballs and an empty glass of wine by my side here at my office desk. It was a weird day, one that I chalked up to being weird because I'm female, and I cut myself some slack and permission to take it easy. Everything I planned for the blog this week never really materialized over the weekend, but ah well. Such is life. It really was a busy and full and good weekend, and on Sunday night I found myself sobbing and wishing another week of losing my husband to law school wasn't about to begin and also wishing that Hugh Jackman had won best actor at the Oscar's. It's hard having ovaries.

As for today's post, it seems I truly excel at picking the worst possible days to shoot outfit pictures, because it just so happened that some sort of bizarre hurricane-force winds blew in today (Monday), even worse than last week's windy shoot. Even now as I write this the wind is tearing at the trees outside my window, though to be honest with you, I really love the sound.

This outfit is varying shade of blue and sea green, with the most adorable yellow boat shoes from Old Navy for the finishing touch. I went there over the weekend, and was so surprised by how awesome so much of their stuff was! I wanted these shoes in every single color, but alas, I settled on yellow and only yellow. Not promising I won't order more online, though. The temptation may be too great to bear.

I look like a pirate here.

{ Shirt: c/o Tailor and Stylist (10% off your purchase with the code storyofmylife10), Skirt: J.Crew (similar), Hat: Banana Republic outlet, Shoes: Old Navy, Necklace: from Megan's old shop }

February 22, 2013

Two (or ten!) heads are better than one

I adore this girl.

Lately I've been learning a lesson on how important it is to surround yourself with like-minded individuals and other professionals in your same career path and otherwise people whom you can bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with and learn from. The other day Shalyn and I met at the cutest little coffee shop in town (Vintage Heart) and a work date turned into a dream/brainstorm session that got both of us fired up and excited. And then last night, Erin and I met up on Google Hangout with 8 other newer bloggers and had this awesome and fun Q&A chat, which also left me feeling re-inspired and motivated, even though Erin and I were supposed to be the ones doing that for the others. Point being, sometimes you really DO need to get out of your comfort zone and meet your counterparts or competition in your field or make mutually beneficial relationships and share knowledge and dreams and fears and hopes. I tend to be such an individualist (I don't need anyone! I got this! I'll figure it out myself!), but maybe the people who wind up truly successful at what they do are the ones who involve others in their goals. Just some food for thought on this fine Friday. :)

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And now for today's featured sponsors! Let's do this!

I know this is hard to fathom, but A Girl Named Gay is a blog by a girl named Gay! :) Or more specifically, an awesome and witty, beautiful lady, wife to a guy named Yosh (cool name, huh?), mama to four kiddos (major kudos there, Miss Gay! a little more about her family here), and fabulous blogger with sweet post topics like her Ask Gay series (good stuff there, seriously!). There's a bit of an intro to Gay here, but for more, you'll just have to read and get to know her. :)

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Pretty Leanne is the brains behind Fresh Season, a beauty, style, and life blog based in Ottawa, Canada!  Go Canadians! :) You can get to know miss Leanne a bit over here on her about page, but I'll give you a hint: she's a grad student studying really smart-sounding stuff that intimidates me (hehe), loves her pup and her man, cooking (great recipes here!), traveling, and more! Head on over and say hello.

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Last but not least is the truly lovely Amanda of Marshalls Abroad, a blog that radiates light and love throughout the blogosphere, and also happens to post the most amazingly beautiful and delicious recipes that actually make me want to eat healthy! :) Amanda and her handsome military man live overseas in Japan, and their blog is escapism at its finest. I dare you to go there and not immediately fall in love with the two of them. Perhaps start here with their love story? You will swoon.

Happy Friday!! :)

February 21, 2013

Advice for bloggers, vol. 2: blogging your life

Today is the next installment of the advice for bloggers I promised last week, so, giddy up! Here we go!

Blogging your life. What's the trick to it? IS there a trick to it? How come some people's lifestyle blogs are more interesting than others? Is it because they just have better lives? Better STUFF to take pictures of? Because they're attractive and funny and charming? Well, perhaps. Not going to lie, those things don't seem to hurt in the lifestyle blogging department. Chances are good that at least a couple, if not most, of your favorite blogs are written by interesting people who are easy on the eyes and who have a unique sense of style or a cool apartment or they live in some exotic faraway land, or NYC, or something. None of those things hurt.

But is it possible to have an awesome lifestyle blog if you're, well, average?
I say yes.
And you might not be as average as you think. Blogs tend to snap a picture that is only representative of the whole - not the whole whole.  So basically, you just have to snap the right pictures, so to speak. Draw your readers in with great topics and great images.

Speaking of images, when I first started this blog, I felt SO weird about posting pictures of myself. I thought to myself, "ugh, people (specifically real life friends and family) must think I'm pretty egotistical to write all about my own life and experiences all the time, alongside so many pictures of myself." And you know what? To some people it will look that way (egotistical). To people who don't understand blogging and don't "get" what it's all about, and potentially to jealous types who are inclined towards negative thinking/judging anyway. You have to let them go. They are not your target audience and never will be.

Because guess what? YOU and YOUR LIFE and YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES are the only things that set your blog apart from all the rest. I like to say that lifestyle blogs (and often fashion blogs) are like a reality show on the Internet, and why would anyone be interested in watching/reading if they never get to see and read about the characters the show is about?  When I enter into a blog and don't see a single photo of the blogger in any of the initial posts I skim, or get any strong feel for a person's personality and life, my interest is immediately lost and I'll probably click out. Words on a screen and inspiration boards and recipes and pictures of babies and curated link lists and guest posts aren't even a dime a dozen in blog land - they're, like, a penny a dozen. Harsh truth: why should we care about your latest Pinterest finds if we haven't grown to know, love, and respect the person behind the screen? Give your readers content that you and only you can give them. This is achieved through photos of yourself and the people you love, stories about things that happened to you, insights into your life that others might relate to, pictures from around your home, personality that only you can insert. OK, so maybe you have a third eyeball in the middle of your forehead and don't want to post a lot of photos of yourself, or maybe you have zero design eye and your house is bare and blah. Those might not be your strong points, but I bet you DO have strong points. Maybe you're a really inspirational writer and can share what it's been like having that third eyeball and how you've overcome it, or maybe you live in a really cool city and can post photos from your adventures exploring around town, or maybe you're really funny and you can't tell a story without making people  laugh. Create your own niche, and attach your personality to everything you do.

Fact of the matter is, people need to feel who you are through the screen or you probably won't stand out. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, like Joanna Goddard (A Cup of Jo) who mostly curates content, but she also inserts her own personality and thoughts and is respected because she produces really consistently interesting content that people enjoy and relate to.

So, to recap: posting lots of pictures of yourself and from your life, and writing about your experiences, doesn't make you conceited. It simply gives your blog and you as the "main character" depth and dimension. The person that is YOU is what will set your blog apart. Sure, people will sometimes misunderstand you. Not like you. Not agree with you. Unfollow you. But for every person you turn away by being yourself, you'll attract five more. MOST people are drawn to authenticity. To bloggers with a distinct voice. That aren't always walking on eggshells, trying to please everyone. What's that saying... if you're not pissing people off, you're doing it wrong?! I still try not piss people off, but it's not paralyzing like it used to be.  Being completely yourself and blogging your life as you live it is freeing and confidence building and perspective changing and all around awesome. Try it!

Do you have anything to add? What do you think makes a great lifestyle blog?

**note: this advice series is for people who are looking to grow their blogs, not people who just blog for fun or for friends and families. I don't want to make anyone feel bad about their blog, if they're just doing it for a creative outlet. So, take what I say with a grain of salt. I know not everyone cares to blog professionally! 

February 20, 2013

The people you choose.

We spent some time out at the ranch this past weekend, and while we were there I kept feeling this overwhelming sense of gratitude for the family placed in my life and for the blessing it is to be surrounded by people who are loving and accepting and kind and good and an example of how family should be for one another. I'm not a perfect person. We all have our faults and our deeply held beliefs and opinions and our life path that we chose and our weird personality traits that are sometimes good and sometimes bad, but I kept thinking to myself how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who choose to love others just the way they are.  I think you have to come to a place of security in yourself to see differences in others - areas where you may disagree and sometimes strongly - but love them anyway.

Just when we got home from the ranch on Monday, I got into yet another fight with a challenging person in my life (sorry to be vague, but this one is a bit too personal to get into details about - it's a relationship I've chosen not to discuss on my blog), and I got to thinking about the difference between accepting and loving someone fully when it's easy, because they're just like you, and accepting and loving someone fully when it's hard... when they are very different. And that's the measure of real love, isn't it? It's our natural inclination to surround ourselves with people who are just like us, because they make us feel good about ourselves and they agree with us and they don't challenge us or make us question the paths we've chosen. But I think it's so important, as a citizen of the world, as cheesy as that sounds, to be OK with people who are different. Who come from a different culture. Who believe in a different God, or none at all. Who have more money than we do, or less. Who voted for a different president. Who speak differently, live differently, look differently, make different choices. IT'S ALL OK. The only thing that isn't OK is when someone discriminates against you or is cruel or makes assumptions or casts insults because of those perceived differences. That's been my struggle with this person in my life. Where do you draw the line between loving someone despite your differences and "taking their crap?"

Personally, I think it's important to respect yourself enough to let go of relationships that only add toxicity to you life, and focus your energy on the ones that add light, instead. Not because they agree with you and make you feel good about yourself and have things in common with you, because they may not even have all of those things! But because there is no excuse for hatred. There is no excuse for purposefully being cruel or knowingly hurtful. There are rules in relationships. There just are. And I guess, as a rule follower type of person, I'm willing to let go of relationships that break the rules. And my rules are simple: 1) love, always, and show it with your actions 2) accept, even if you don't agree with 3) respect, always.

I haven't always been perfect at keeping those rules, myself, but I think I'm coming to a place in my life where I'm realizing that these simple things are all it takes for a successful friendship/marriage/relationship of any kind. It sure is fun to really bond with someone over your similarities, but differences are totally OK too. We need all kinds of people in the world.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling thoughts this morning. Thanks for listening. :) Here are a few more random pictures from our weekend at the ranch. Happy Wednesday!

PS - If you'd like to read more of my ramblings today, this time on what it takes to "follow your dreams," head over here. :)

February 19, 2013

A very windy day (and some lulus.com goodness)

A very gusty day yesterday provided a challenge during this outfit shoot. There was lots of awkward flailing and blowing hair, but in a bad way, not in a sexy, someone-is-pointing-a-giant-fan-at-me-and-I'm-working-it kind of way. Despite the wind, though, I was happy to show off a few fabulous LuLu's pieces that are most definitely new staples in my wardrobe. Great quality, good prices, and just my style. I'm a convert. Definitely not the last from LuLu's you'll be seeing on this blog. Scroll down for a discount code, if you're interested!

LuLu's discont code (case sensitive, US and Canada): MYLIFE for 15% off through this Saturday, Feb 23)
 purse thrifted | necklace: petitor

February 18, 2013

Chicken vegetable soup with orzo

I made this soup for Matthew when he got sick a couple weekends ago, and then again last week because it is just. so. good. Very wholesome and delicious, and trust me that the avocado on top makes a big difference!

I'm mad at myself for forgetting the can of diced tomatoes this second time I made it, but you can imagine them being there in the pictures, right?! It did still taste great without them, but would have been better (and prettier!) with. Hope you try it, and enjoy!

Chicken vegetable soup with orzo
serves 8-10 (I always freeze the extra!)

1 ready-cooked rotisserie chicken (or 3-4 large, cooked chicken breasts)
1 medium onion, diced
2 minced garlic cloves
8-10 oz of frozen mixed veggies (or feel free to add in a couple cups of the fresh veggies of your choice in place of the frozen!)
1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
5 cups of lower sodium chicken broth
1 cup of water
1/4 tsp. pepper
salt to taste (check and see if you think it needs it at the end)
1 1/2 cups of cooked orzo (according to package directions). Cook orzo to al dente, not super soft
ripe avocado for serving

Heat chicken broth, water, and tomatoes in a large pot while you dice up all the meat (both white and dark) from the rotisserie chicken. Place the chicken in the pot with the broth (heat should be on about medium). Heat oil in a skillet and dice onion. Place onion in skillet and cook until soft but not brown, stirring occasionally. Add in garlic and cook another minute or two, until good and fragrant. Add in 8-10 oz of frozen veggies, and sauté for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then throw it all in the pot with the chopped parsley, pepper, and cooked orzo. Let it all simmer about 10 minutes, and serve each bowl with sliced avocado on top. Enjoy!

February 15, 2013

Probably the last time I'll wear red before Christmas

Jeans and hat: Banana Republic, pink shirt: Loft, Sweater: J.Crew, Scarf: F21, Boots: Franco Sarto from Famous Footwear. all past season.

Yesterday sweet Alisha was in town staying at Barton Creek Resort, and we met up for a quick coffee date and outfit pictures. I love blogger friends... they just get you, you know?

This outfit isn't anything too special, but I thought I'd wear a little pink and red and polka dots in honor of Valentine's Day. :) Did any of you celebrate last night, or are you waiting 'til the weekend?

And now, for today's featured sponsors...

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Nadia is the blogger behind A Culinary Education, and as the title of the blog suggests, this lovely lady is currently a culinary school student (though she's an IT nerd by day). Nadia posts delicious recipes like this one for Lemon Thyme Chicken Stew or this one for Billionaire's Bacon. I am the world's biggest bacon fan (in fact, when I was little I used to say I had a whole separate stomach for bacon), so that recipe pretty much rocked my world. I'm afraid to try it, because it would probably be much too good. Go say hello to Nadia, and support her culinary adventures!


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Miss Carly is the beautiful brains behind Lipgloss and Crayons, a life and fashion blog based in sunny Los Angeles, California. Carly is an elementary school teacher (that's where the "crayons" come in!), and she puts together such fun outfits and finds from around the web. You can tell this girl truly loves fashion, and I always enjoy seeing what she'll come up with next! Get to know her better over here, and enjoy those cute engagement photos while you're at it! :)

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Last but not least is lovely Devon of the Mermaid Chronicles! How many blogs do you read about writers who are also surfers?! Not many, I bet. Devon lives in San Diego, California and is an incredible surfer and writer - in fact, she recently quit her job to pursue both passions. I absolutely love the way she has life posts categorized here (a fantastic roadmap to get to know her!), and over here you'll find her and her husband's super cute love story (gave me goosebumps to read!). Enjoy, and be sure to let her know you stopped by!

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