Love where you Live : Austin Texas

AustinSome people just have a need to travel. It’s something that extends past mild curiosity or a spark of spontaneity. Somewhere in the soul is a yearning to explore and see what’s beyond their current radius. I am definitely one of those people. I am also extremely fortunate to have frequent opportunities fulfill that in my life. As much as I love packing up for new adventures, one of the best parts of traveling for me is knowing I will be coming back to the place I call home. Home is just what Austin, Texas has become for me over the last three years. It’s the place that makes my eyes light up when I’m asked about where I’m from. Huge thanks to Ozarka Brand Spring Water (made in Texas!!) for sponsoring todays conversation so I can share my excitement over this wonderfully fun place I call home!

Austin Texas

It just isn’t like any place I’ve lived before but it didn’t take long before I knew this was home base for me.  I don’t know whether it’s specifically one thing or just everything quilted together that makes it so special. If you love music, great food, outdoor adventure, and just a little weird, you will fit right in! Here are a few reasons I truly love where I live:

Great Music
Austin is also home to some of the largest music events and festivals in the world, including South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL), The Urban Music Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest,  and more. It has long held the title “Live Music Capital of the World” because it has more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the nation. Listen closely and you’ll hear the sounds of more than 1,900 bands and performing artists living in and around our city. From blues to indie rock, country to jazz, Austin’s nearly 200 live music venues means you can catch a show any day, at almost any time.

Active Outdoor Lifestyle
Austin is known for being one of the most active cities in the nation. From marathons, hiking, climbing, kayaking, and more we love spending our free time exploring outside with our people. No matter what you choose to do while you are here, be sure to have plenty of Ozarka Brand Spring Water, which comes from 3 local Texas springs, to stay hydrated in the Texas heat.

Ozarka Made in Texas

Prepared with water and a sense of adventure you will be more than ready for the awesome outdoor activities you can enjoy in Austin year round. These are just 3 of my favorites!

Barton Springs texas

  • Barton Springs: Barton Springs Pool. The pool itself measures three acres in size, and is fed from underground springs with an average temperature of 68-70 degrees, ideal for year-round swimming.Hamilton Pool Texas 
  • Hamilton Pool: Hamilton Pool Preserve is a historic swimming hole which was designated a preserve by the Travis County Commissioner’s Court in 1990. Located 3/4 mile upstream from its confluence with the Pedernales River, Hamilton Creek spills out over limestone outcroppings to create a 50 foot waterfallAustin Bats
  • Congress Bridge Bats : The Congress Avenue Bridge, which spans Lady Bird Lake, formally Town Lake, in downtown Austin, is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. The colony is estimated at 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats. Each night from mid-March to November, the bats emerge from under the bridge at dusk to blanket the sky as they head out to forage for food. This event has become one of the most spectacular and unusual tourist attractions in Texas.

Unique Things to See and Do

Hope Gallery Austin Texas

The phrase “Keep Austin Weird” is well earned and perfect for our eclectic personalities. It seems there is always something unique and creative to watch, see, taste or try.

  • Castle Hill Graffiti Park /HOPE Outdoor Art Gallery  :
  • Austin Murals : There is certainly no shortage of free art on the streets of Austin. Just drive around and you will see murals adorning the sides of buildings all over town. We’ve made a game of looking for the best ones and trying to make a tour map.
  • Shopping is an experience on South Congress : When you are ready to get out and do some shopping don’t miss the shops lining South Congress Avenue, two to three blocks are filled with a diverse selection of quirkiness featuring everything from ’50s-style furniture to folk art. Boot shops, galleries, antiques and other curiosities fill the boutiques. In between the shops, you will find a wide variety of culinary delights.

Amazing Food and Drink

A photo posted by Alice Chase (@alicechase) on


After all the exploring and sightseeing you and your crew will have worked up quite the appetite and this city is ready for you. No matter what you are craving Austin has it and has put its own unique twist on it. I have fallen in love with the selection of food trucks, craft beers, and endless varieties of queso.*Note: the great food options also contribute to Austin being so active. We’ve got to earn and burn those calories!   Check out the Austin Food Blogger alliance’s 2016 City Guide for this year’s best local recommendations.

By now I’m sure you are already planning a trip of your own. Here are a few local brands you can take home to help share all the Texas flavor you’ll certainly fall in love with:

Made in Texas

Texas foods

  • Paqui Tortilla Chips   Paqui brand offers “better-for-you” tortilla chips and tortillas. Paqui is an Aztec word that means “to be happy.” Paqui sells great tasting tortillas and tortilla chips that are crafted with unbleached, untreated flour, or by stone grinding corn and adding mouth-watering flavors using high-quality ingredients, such as fire-roasted jalapenos, fresh cilantro leaves, buttermilk, pumpkin and other spices and flavors.
  • Snow’s BBQ Sauce : Texas Monthly magazine named Snow’s BBQ as the best in Texas! Since that time, the entire staff at Snow’s BBQ has been doing everything possible to keep up with the demand and most important, maintain the quality. With complex Texas flavor, Snow’s Original BBQ Sauce is excellent on any cut of beef, chicken, or pork. It’s just as good as a dipping sauce as it is a marinade or brush-on sauce during the last minutes of grilling.
  • Yellowbird Sauce Habanero Sauces: Totally natural, spicy pepper condiments. Made with ♥ in Austin, Tx. These are the most delicious, most versatile, most satisfying condiment that will ever hit your lips! Yellowbird Sauce goes great on tacos, burgers, wings, sushi, pasta, steak, fish, eggs, pizza, soup….anything you can think of!
  • The Jelly Queens Black Garlic Rosemary BBQ Sauce: The Jelly Queens is an award-winning, Dallas and Austin-based artisan food company that makes gourmet jams, jellies, spices, sauces and more. Each product is handmade in small batches using organic and, whenever possible, locally grown Texas ingredients. The Jelly Queens was born out of a love for sustainable food, delicious flavors and words of encouragement.
  • Taste Elevated Sweet & Spicy Mustard Seeds: These little flavor-packed pearls are absolutely addicting. We cook them to make them just tender enough to burst in your mouth. Then we add a little sweet and a little heat. Add them to a charcuterie tray to surprise your guests, use as a condiment–any place you use mustard (you’ll love it on bbq sandwiches and hot dogs), pair with main dishes–terrific with meatloaf, use in homemade vinaigrettes!
  • Cookwell & Company Queso: This Queso con Salsa Escabeche is built around a flavorful blend of cheddar and blue cheeses combined with fire-roasted tomatoes, onions, diced jalapeños, and fresh-squeezed lime juice to create simply the best and authentic queso you can buy. Cookwell & Company is located in the heart of Austin, Texas. These guys wear boots to work and boast three grills and a smoker at their office.

I do hope you come for a visit to enjoy everything that’s here! I can’t wait to see what adventures you choose!

The Brightest Holiday Lights in Austin are on the 2015 Trail of Lights (Dec 8th-22nd)

Austin Trail of Lights 2015

Seeking out the most magical display of twinkling holiday lights with your family this year? After relocating last fall, we soon came to find that we didn’t have to look any farther than the Trail of Lights Austin TX to complete our holiday tradition.  Surrounded by TWO MILLION lights, taking 15, 000 man hours to assemble, there is certainly no shortage of holiday magic here.  Our family was given early access this year to share some highlights and help you plan a wonderful visit with your friends and family too!

Austin Trail of Lights couple

This year, visitors to the Trail of Lights have a host of new reasons to celebrate their holiday in grand Austin style. Beginning Dec 8th- 15th, gates open at 7:00 p.m, admission is FREE for guests of all ages. the last 7 nights(16th-22nd) admission is $3.00 and tickets can be purchased online or at the  gate box office. I highly recommend buying in advance here or at H-E-B stores.

Trail of Lights light tunnel

There is plenty of free fun to be had on the trail but you will get one of the best views from about 90′ up. The downtown skyline view from the top of this classic ferris wheel is totally worth the splurge, each ride 6 tokens ( 1 token=$1), so plan to include that as part of your visit.

City view of Austin from ferris wheel

Inside candyland, the kids can play carnival games operated by the sweetest elves you’ve ever met and receive a sweet treat in exchange. If all this fun has you hungry for more than candy, you will find more than 30+ food vendors onsite.

Candyland Trail of Lights

We ended the night taking nostalgic carousel rides capturing glimpses of the Zilker Tree on each rotation. We all left sharing a little more Christmas spirit than when we arrived.

Trail of Lights Carousel

For more information on planning your visit, be sure to check out the Austin Trail of Lights FAQs. Make sure you are following Austin Trail of Lights on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest to join in the conversation, ask questions, and post pictures after your visit!

Celebrating Small Business with The UPS Store #SmallBizSalute #CollectiveBias #giveaway

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SmallBizSalute #CollectiveBias

TUPSS-SMALL-BIZ-SALUTE-SOCIAL-POSTS-2

At a conference I was at recently one of the speakers asked us to define where were from. To some, it was defined by where we were born. Others referenced a “hometown” location and to some it was the city they currently live in.  Our speaker gave us a new perspective when she asked us “Where do the shopkeepers know your name?”  That’s how you know, where you are really from she said.

#SmallBizSalute

When I think of shopkeepers, I think of local businesses. I think of people of the community serving with dillegence to make the city great. People with  heart and an entrepreneurial spirit. That fresh perspective from our speaker couldn’t have come upon the heels of a better time. I returned home to Austin with a fresh invitation from The UPS Store inviting my husband to network and to get to know more small businesses in our area. The event would help celebrate National Small Business Week and all the hard working small businesses around the country.

The UPS Store #SmallBizSalute

The UPS Store does a great job of supporting small business owners in their endeavors. I believe they are able to do this so effectively because The UPS Store locations are locally owned and operated themselves. The stores are not only run by small business owners, but are there to support local startups, entrepreneurs and other small businesses, help solve their problems and connect with their peers.

The UPS Store Chi'lantro

As small business owners ourselves for many years, we identified with the success and struggles mentioned that night. Jae Kim, local business owner of Chi’Lantro BBQ, spoke to us sharing his story of growing his business from the ground up. The late nights and early mornings he talked about made my husband and I exchange knowing glances, remembering what it like. I can only describe it like becoming new parents again. Everything you do is centered around making your business a success because as a small business owner the health of your business really is dependent upon your dedication and commitment to it.

Avocado Bar

I was so impressed with the event that evening. In addition to networking with other amazing business owners over drinks and an amazing avocado bar, we also heard from representatives from other organizations who provide growth opportunities for small businesses. SCORE, a non-profit organization offers free Small Business Counseling and Resources, low-cost Business Workshops, and special customized services. They know the time of most small business owners is in high demand so there are even online workshops available. The U.S. Small Business Association also spoke to us and offered an open door to all the benefits they provide.

I speak from experience when I say, growing a small business can be one of the toughest most rewarding jobs that exists (outside of parenting, of course). Having these organisations brought together by The UPS Store to share their support and encouragement was so uplifting. It takes drive, resilience, and courage to start and maintain small business success. Hats off to all the small business owners out there- We salute you!!

How often do you shop local? Do the shopkeepers near you know your name? Do you know theirs? I encourage you you to visit a small business near you this week and get to know them. I’m sure if you asked they would have some interesting stories to share about why they choose to start their business. Take the time- I’m sure you wont regret it!

The UPS Store

To help spread the love and celebrate the love of small businesses, we are hosting a giveaway!! We are giving away 4 ($25) GC to The UPS Store. There will be 4 winners total. Open to US residents. Giveaway will end 5/18 at midnight.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hotel Ella Austin’s Iconic Landmark Boutique Hotel

Hotel Ella

As part of the Volkswagen #VWDrive event, Randall and I had the privilege of being guests at Hotel Ella.  As Austin “locals” now, it was fun to explore a new spot in our own city. After our stay, I am officially claiming Hotel Ella my favorite luxury staycation destination in Austin! It is a spot rich in local history, art, and luxury making it my ideal combination. Hotel Ella registrationFrom the moment we arrived on property, we were greeted with exceptional care and attentiveness. The hotel staff were at the ready attending to every detail. Their hospitality was so genuine and able to anticipate our every need to meet it with superior quality. When you visit I recommend planning to talk with a staff member about their favorite part the hotel, everyone has a unique story to share and are well versed in the property’s history.

hotel ella lobby

And what a history it has! Previously known as the Mansion at Judges’ Hill and the Goodall Wooten Mansion, this elegant estate stands today as an iconic Austin landmark.  The origins of the property can be traced back to 1846 when the land was first granted to Adam Mag by the State of Texas only a year after it was admitted to the union. Hotel Ella Front doorAfter undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation in the late summer of 2013, it opened as the world-class travel experience, Hotel Ella. So much of the original architecture is still intact today , including the beautifully detailed fireplace mantel and doorways seen in the pictures above.  They are an esteemed part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, as well as the Southern Living hotel collection.
Hotel Ella guestroomHotel Ella features 47 impressive guestrooms, a cabana lined lap pool, and a wraparound veranda overlooking the well-manicured lawn.Hotel Ella veranda
Around every corner you can enjoy an abundance of art pieces that are periodically exchanged. Being the art lovers that we are, we could have enjoyed walking the hallways as our personal art gallery for a portion of our stay.Hotel Ella Art

If you’re famished from your journey, you’ll be glad to know that the dining options on site have received just as much attention to detail. Goodall’s Kitchen & Bar is a local American Bistro with lovely indoor and outdoor dining options. Foodies will not be disappointed.

Hotel Ella foods

Whether you are traveling to Austin or a local resident, be sure to put Hotel Ella on your agenda of “must see Austin”.  Take a tour of the property for your next event, or stop into the Parlor Bar for signature hand-crafted cocktails( half-off during weekday happy hour 4-7 pm). After one visit, this luxe mansion estate will feel like home. We didn’t want to leave.

To see more of Hotel Ella and reserve your next stay visit hotelella.com. and follow on twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Hotel Ella|1900 Rio Grande, Austin TX 78705|800-311-1619

*We received an overnight stay on this property as part of our participation in the VWDrive event and all thoughts/opinions are solely our own. 

 

Join us for a #HoliSPRAY Toy Donation benefiting Second Chance Toys 12/9

We are so excited to be partnering with Old Spice and the #HoliSPRAY Toy Donation benefiting Second Chance Toys!!

old spice logosecond chance toys logo

We are thrilled to announce that our family will be working as #HoliSPRAY ambassadors collecting  gently used toys to benifit the mission of Second Chance Toys!  Old Spice has launched a first-of-its-kind, holiday toy donation program with non-profit Second Chance Toys, an organization dedicated to keeping plastic toys out of landfills by donating them to children in need throughout local communities in the U.S.

Second Chance Toys was recently featured on Good Morning America!

Together, we’re encouraging moms and dads and sons (and anyone with gently used plastic toys that they’ve outgrown) to donate them to kids in need. As a reward for this grown-up gesture, Old Spice will be gifting them with Re-fresh Body Spray in exchange for their donation. The inaugural Old Spice HoliSPRAY Toy Donation Exchange runs from Dec. 3 through Dec. 15.

Inspired by the hilarious moment from the new Old Spice “Dadsong” (:60) TV ad when the dad runs over his son’s childhood toys with a riding lawnmower, the Old Spice HoliSPRAY Exchange is designed to rescue all of those used dump trucks and fire engines to bring joy to the lives of disadvantaged children during the holidays.

Isaiah Mustafa, Nolan Gould

To help drive awareness and participation for the program, Nolan Gould of ABC’s acclaimed hit comedy, “Modern Family,” and Old Spice Guy Isaiah Mustafa will also act as HoliSPRAY Toy Donation Exchange Ambassadors. On Dec. 10, Gould and Mustafa will host a toy collection event at Hollywood High School in Los Angeles, which will serve as one of many toy collection locations across the U.S. participating in the program.

Donate Locally in Austin, TX! 

If you are my local area, I would love for you to come see me & donate your used or outgrown toys on Dec 9th!

(TOY GUIDELINES: • Plastic only • Clean/gently used • No small or missing parts* • Batteries need to operate
*Parts that can fit through a toilet paper roll are too small)

Circle C Community Center
7817 La Crosse Ave
Austin, TX 78739
Dec. 9 (3:30pm-5pm)

Not in in Texas? Click here to find a location near you to donate.