Friday, December 07, 2007

Yes, I Know I'm Ignoring My Blog

Life has been crazy busy and my Statesman blog has gobbled up the tiny bit of free time I have for my blogs. I promise I'll start posting regulary on here soon. Besides, I have great pics from the Show Us Your Goods event at the Marq last night. Gotta post the one of the giant penis piñata, it's a scream.

For those of you who made it out, a huge thank you! The evening was a huge success. And my gawd, could there have been any more of the Beautiful People out last night? I swear the remaining bars in Austin had only the plain folk in them between 5-9pm.

Will post soon. Soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Satisfying My Mehndi Craving in Austin

Tattoos have always intrigued me with their vibrancy and unique designs. I’m far too indecisive to ever have permanent body art but longed for a way to decorate my body. I was thrilled when I discovered henna. Austin native and local henna artist Megan Sela helped me achieve my goal of a feminine and exotic looking temporary creation which is still bold enough to satisfy my inner biker chick.

Henna, also called mehndi, is an all natural auburn dye. Mehndi artists utilize dry henna powder mixed with sugar and natural acid, usually either lemon or lime juice. Many artists will add essential oils and liquids with natural tannins such as coffee or wine while others will use spices like whole cloves and black peppercorns. It's the artists' personal decision what to use, much like a practiced cook will add their own touches to even the most basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. Megan mixes her henna with tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender oils for a wonderful scent and to help the stain turn a darker, deeper color.

Since henna tattoing has been documented as far back as the Bronze Age, it’s obviously a classic and popular form of body decoration. The intricate designs resemble lacey embroidery, with swirls and flowers predominant in traditional patterns. The designs sometimes reflect cultural beliefs, blessings and wishes but in my case they are simply very pretty art, a fun way for me to be expressive with my body.

My henna session was all about relaxation and art on a beautiful day outdoors. Megan welcomed me and gave a brief explanation of henna tattooing and care before starting on my artwork. I'd chosen to have henna done on my feet and should've had a pedicure a day or two before, but at least my nail polish was fairly fresh.

Megan shared with me that she’s found much satisfaction in hearing why a person wants mehndi, and with over six years of temporary tattooing she's heard all kinds of stories. I explained my desire for a way to decorate my body that would not result in buyer's remorse years down the road. Megan brought along pictures of her work and design books and I admired the beauty of henna designs while she started on my feet.
The fragrance of the henna paste spiraled up on the breeze, adding to my sense of wellbeing and comfort. The essential oils used in the paste are basics in relaxation aromatherapy. In no time at all I was stress free and enjoying the whispery wet feel of the paste being applied.
Megan mentioned she’d henna tattooed the bellies of pregnant women, a safe process since the dye is all natural. I think if I was a heavily pregnant woman there isn’t much that would make me feel beautiful outside of a delicately lovely henna design. Middle Eastern women have been decorating their pregnant bellies with henna designs for ages, in hopes of bringing good luck and safe passage to the babies they are carrying while also celebrating the changes in their bodies.

The process was unhurried and allowed ample time to enjoy the session. Once Megan had the design finished on one foot, she started on the other. The henna was beginning to dry to a milk chocolate color when she had completed both feet. She dampened the paste with a mix of sugar and lemon that looked quite a bit like watery honey. The paste instantly darkened with the sugar mix application, a magical process that was striking to watch. Henna darkens over time and the longer you wear the paste the deeper the color becomes. I went barefoot the rest of the day, at bedtime removing what paste hadn’t flaked off naturally with a little olive oil. Our skin’s ability to naturally exfoliate will cause the design to wear off in time. Most henna tattoos will last a week or more, depending upon your skin type, the location of your tattoo and other variables, such as additives to the powder. The next morning my feet wore a gorgeous reddish-brown design. My design lasted until the cooler temps have forced me to wear shoes that cover my feet. The friction of socks and shoe have rubbed off much of the color, as I expected. Megan, who does her artwork part-time, is luckily easy to schedule with and I’m certain I’ll do it again soon. To contact Megan, visit her online at Sela Design. She’s recently begun offering henna designs on clothing as well, a venture I'll be checking out as well.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Panamanian Food Take 2...or Three Helpings

My newfound love of the cuisine of Panama had me thrilled to no end that I was scheduled for a class with Chef Melissa De Leon at Whole Foods Market Culinary Center. Quick thank you to Chel, who knew I'd love it when she gave me a fat WF gift card for my 40th back in July. Birthday month extended all the way to September is the way to go, most assuredly.

It was a girls night out with Chel, Christine, Rockett and I meeting up at the cheese counter in WF for pre-class vino and lots of it. Sufficiently relaxed and ready to soak up our lesson, we headed down to the culinary center and grabbed front row seats. We were ready to become teacher's pets.

First up on the menu, platacones with salsa chimichurri. I was intrigued with the platacones (plantains) because I'd never tasted them before. Chef Melissa explained that we were using the completely green platacones because the ones that are yellow and green are sweeter. We wanted savory platacones for this appetizer. After peeling, she chopped the platacone into inch thick rounds and transferred them to a frying pan holding medium hot oil until they were golden brown.

Chef Melissa explained that most cooks then press the hot platacone into a round disk by using the bottom of a clean bottle. She demonstrated this and used a knife to carefully slide the platacone disk off the bottle. Others may use a wooden press that forms the wedges into tiny cups. She did both, and returned the platacones to the oil to fry again. Meanwhile, WF staff brought out the finished product to us to enjoy. The crispy cup was filled with chimichurri salsa, a garlicky delight.

I'd never tasted chimichurri but now that I have you can bet I'll be eating it often. Chimichurri is usually made with parsley as the primary herb but the Chef substituted half of the called for amount with cilantro. The result was a chimichurri tailored for the Tex Mex palate. The lime, garlic and onion in the salsa claimed just the right sassiness for the mild platacones. The cups, Chef Melissa explained, could be filled with any number of foods such as ceviche. I'm thinking they'd be great for guacamole, sour cream or spinach dip. Pico de gallo holders! A handy little dollop of raspberry chipotle dipping sauce in an edible cup.

Platacones devoured and our glasses of champagne half gone, we moved on to crab cakes. Chef Melissa kept the cakes simple, mostly crab meat with a bit of shredded coconut and a few other ingredients. She pan grilled them with a bit of oil until both sides were browned. Panama, she explained, means 'an abundance of fish' and it's less than hour from the Pacific coast to the Carribbean coast.

As she was chatting, she was slicing mango and chili peppers for a mango salsa. The sweetness of the mango pairs well with the heat of the peppers. The crab cakes were topped with a tomato chutney, mango salsa on the side. The chutney was deeply flavored, with fenugreek and cumin seeds browned in olive oil along with Roma tomatoes. An incredible plate of food, with the tomatoes a rich brown color after carmelizing in the spiced oil. Perfection with a glass of white wine!

Dessert was a lucious coconut and chocolate flan. I've never been a huge fan of flan. It always seems too delicately flavored for me and really, eating an almost tasteless chilled jellyish cream isn't my favorite. This flan is the mother of all flans. It is the alpha to omega of flan. It is a tidal wave of flavor in one tiny little bite. I didn't get a picture because it disappeared off my plate too fast. It was divine with the tiny cup of Panamanian coffee we were served.
Our evening even had entertainment. Local dancers with a Panamanian troupe visited, showing off the elaborate dress costumes that are painstakingly hand made.
Delicious foods, delightful friends and a cooking diva. It was a fantastic evening. We exchanged promises to keep in touch with Chef Melissa, to visit Panama and to plan a girls night out the next time she is in the states. I'm certain Panama Boutique can help us plan the perfect trip once they kick off their cooking tours in the Spring.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Savoring the Foods of Panama

One mouthful and I fell in love with a country I’ve never visited. A coconut explosion of lime, mint, cilantro and lemongrass marinated tilapia that has woken up my taste buds to the wonders of Panamanian food. The baked banana leaf wrapped fish, paired with rice and black beans and accompanied by a baby greens salad with coffee vinaigrette was the main attraction of an evening this week with Chef Melissa De Leon.

Chef Melissa is visiting Austin from her home in Panama City. Wednesday night she held court at the Travis Heights home of a co-owner of Panama Boutique, the local company that organizes tours of the Central American country. Gathering the group close, she demonstrated how to form croquettes of yuca dough. Showing us the raw root vegetable, Melissa admonished the assorted food enthusiasts to not let the fear of the unknown prevent you from cooking with unusual ingredients.

Yuca, also known as manioc, cassava or mandioca, has a delicate flavor somewhat like extremely plain potatoes, without the earthy starchiness. Mixed with ricotta cheese or another queso fresco, they’re the perfect foil for any number of fillings. We were using a mixture of chorizo and steamed broccoli in our croquettes. Volunteers rolled the filled puffs in seasoned breadcrumbs and sprayed them with a bit of oil before hustling them in the oven. The night was young, more cooking was in store but we were all hungry for a taste of exotic goodness. The finished appetizers were browned and crunchy bites served up with an orange-tamarind dipping sauce. The serving tray circled the room only once before returning empty to the kitchen.

We were spellbound by the idea of the main dish, let alone the production. Wrapping anything in banana leaves and baking it is the stuff of Caribbean vacation meals, not dinner in Austin. Chef Melissa showed us just how easy it is to impress your friends with a meal most often found on outside the states. The marinade was incredible on its own, a mixture of finely diced ingredients that had a powerful citrus punch but once cooked mellowed to a pleasantly zippy crunch of fruits and herbs. The leaf wrapped fish made for a pretty plate and the marinade juice soaked into the rice and beans, adding a sassy sharpness.

“Love is the secret ingredient” said Chef Melissa with a smile. Her passion for cooking is obvious, as she gave tips for working with the staples of Panama. Even beverages were brought in as ingredients. The coffee vinaigrette is an easy and unusual dressing but the deep, earthy flavor was complimentary instead of overpowering the greens.

As the fish was pulled from the ovens, the class broke down into small groups to eat. The simple combinations of ingredients easily found in Austin but so exotic to most of us were quite delicious. With the exception of fish purchased at Quality Seafood, all the necessary foods were found at Fiesta. Banana leaves, it seems, are not completely uncommon in our city’s kitchens.

Chef Melissa’s Coffee Vinaigrette

Yield: 2-3 servings
1 tsp very finely ground coffee
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad greens, bread or meats and serve immediately. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week

Visit Chef Melissa's blog, The Cooking Diva, for more recipes and insights into the land of Panama. And for information on cooking tours of Panama check out Austin's own Panama Boutique.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cocktails, Killer Dessert and Hangin' With a Chef

It's not every Tuesday that I get a five o'clock whistle text from Chel with one single word "bevies?". Okay...that statement isn't exactly true. "It's almost every Tuesday" would be more accurate. It's a great way to wind down after the work day and most Tuesdays our SO's are off doing their own thing, too. Yesterday we met up at South Congress Cafe, a hipster hangout with delectable food and a small selection of great beer on tap. I always give kudos when the draft is a higher quality than Miller Lite or Budweiser.

We hung out, chatting it up and drinking a rita on the rocks and a bellini. Neither of those cocktails were doing it for us so we switched to beer. I had a Stella Artois and Chel chose a Firemans #4 and we happily caught up on life while waiting for our appetizer, the chipotle shrimp quesadilla. The quesadilla was simple yet fabulous, with three types of gooey melted Mexican cheese, pico de gallo and marinated shrimp. It was served with guacamole, sour cream and more pico....mmmmm!

Hanging out in a SoCo hot spot is always entertaining. There was a small group in the bar who had accents I just couldn't place. European, judging by the skinny jeans one of the guys was wearing. Or should I say they were wearing him? Skinny jeans with their tight, smooth fit just don't appeal to me, especially on men. It makes their legs look like toothpicks, their backsides flat and accentuates their tiny waist and hips which in turn just pisses me off. Really? Your waist is the same size as mine was in 9th grade? How nice for you.

I did get to see Austin high society ladies, all decked out in Nordstrom attire, fully accessorized, meet up and air kiss. Their cheeks never so much as brushed each other's as they muah muah'd ever so politely. Freakin' hilarious. I tried to sneak a peek at what they were drinking as we left to indulge in some retail therapy.

Parts & Labour has to be one of my favorite stores on the strip for two reasons: the tee shirts and the jewelry. I don't know who designs the majority of their tee's but it's someone who shares my sense of humor. I laughed at the shirts that said "Sorry, I'm straight" and "Sorry, I'm gay". So Austin appropriate. After trying on oodles of rings and finally deciding that no, I did not need anything although I did want lots of things, we tripped on down Congress to Vespaio.

Vespaio's bar is absolutely one of the nicest to sit and sip a chilly flute of prosecco, which is exactly what we did. Tom, the master mixologist of a bartender, pointed us toward a heavenly dessert as well. It was a hazelnut doughnut with a mild spice cake flavor that had decadent port poached figs layered on it and topped with a honey gelato. Sprinkled around the plate were crumbly bits of hazelnut brittle or toffee, I'm unsure which. The next time I'm in Vespaio I'm going to ask if I can order just a tiny bowl of the deeply flavorful figs and a scoop of the gelato. Okay, maybe with a bit of the buttery candy, too. This is one of those desserts that you remember long after you forget who you were with when you first tasted it (although I promise not to forget you, Chel). The honey gelato was such a creamy, icy delight with a delicate sweetness that lent just the right amount of balance to the figs. Never again will I look at their chocolate offerings, never. And coming from me, that's saying a lot.

While we were lingering over our bubbly, a man dressed in chef's pants came to sit next to us. After almost every staff member had stopped to say hello to him, we couldn't bear it any longer. We had to introduce ourselves. Turns out he was Brenton Childs, executive chef at Bess Bistro. Ever so shy, Chel and I chatted away with Brenton, talking about everything from his upcoming long awaited and much needed vacation to the fact that neither of us had yet eaten at Bess. I cut to the chase immediately and asked what should I order at Bess if I was in Austin only long enough for one meal. Brenton's answer is to order the Porcini Crusted Halibut, which sounded mouthwatering as he described the pan seared fish plated on top of braised cabbage and onion and served with a big ole lump of crabmeat and some vermouth cream. I know what I'm having, when I visit Bess soon. Very soon.

The conversation turned to cocktails, as Tom had mixed up the city's finest Manhattan for Brenton. Chel and I had already discussed the best dirty martini in town (Sullivan's) and so I quizzed the Chef again, asking what to drink at Bess. He immediately recommended the Bess Cocktail, a refreshing glass of demi-sec with a squeeze of fresh lime juice to contrast the sweetness of the sparkling wine. Sounds like a perfect drink for our warm climate, the kind of cocktail you can sip as you relax into your evening.

I always enjoy talking with people who are passionate about their lives. Brenton is the type of person who has a zeal for his work and for his ambitions. While speaking of his cookbook, titled The Convert, the Chef explained he likes to create dishes using foods that many people avoid. The ones where they'll say "I hate _____, ever since I was 9 years old and I had to eat it". One such creation is the caramelized cauliflower Brenton has on the menu at Bess. His father avoided cauliflower at all costs, explaining he hated it and his mother used to make him eat it. Brenton thinly slices the cauliflower and cooks it down to a buttery caramelized softness so rich in flavor that has his father ordering it each time he visits.

The evening came to a close, with Chel and I promising to stop in at Bess once the Chef is back from his vacation and telling Tom we'd see him again, on a Manhattan kind of night. Air kisses exchanged, I headed home, happy to be living in Austin.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Life Keeps Me Busy

About a month or so ago I vowed to cut down on all my activities and have more free time to relax and enjoy life. I managed to do that, somewhat. At least I'm feeling less pulled in twenty directions than I had been. Of course, I'm the one doing the pulling, since I'm the one setting up my social events calendar. I have only myself to blame.

Last week I went out to see Supercrash play at the Red Eyed Fly. I like REF as a live music venue except during late summer. The mosquitos swarming off Waller Creek and the oppressive humidity are at their worst at this time. REF tries to keep it comfortable by running large fans but hey, when you're outdoors in August in Texas there's just not much you can do, y'know? Supercrash rocked out, as usual, and for a while I forgot how miserable the weather was and found myself caught up in the music.

Friday was Family Night with my Miller-Reinhardt clan. Our Fam Nites are always about three things: food, fun and flinging the one liners. No one is safe and no topic is taboo. Laughing your way through an evening is the absolute best. I did find out that my 3 year old nephew thinks I'm a boy. He giggled at me everytime I told him "no, I'm a girl. You're a boy." I don't think he was convinced of my gender.

I woke up superfreaking early on Saturday for the first registration day of Austin Fit. I'm coaching the slowest running group this season. For those of you out there who are already raising their eyebrows, please remember that it is a combo of running and walking. And the slowest of the slow runners. I'm intimidated, but feel pretty good about this coaching gig. I'm going to be completely upbeat, positive and cheerful when I meet my runners. I have to...they can smell fear and I don't want them to find out I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

After handing out shoe tags for the Orange color group of runners, answering a gazillion questions and breaking down tables and tents at Aus Fit, I headed home to get ready for The Event of the Weekend: tubing! I'd never been tubing before, despite having lived in Austin half my life. I had no idea what I'd been missing.

Jaime and I met up with friends at City Park in San Marcos, right on the river. We found a shady spot for our stuff, rented our tubes and got into the water as soon as we could. The spring-fed river was cold but not too cold. Think refreshing instead of take your breath away chilly. We lazed our way downriver, then hopped the tram back to the start. After a bathroom-bevie-bite to eat break, we were back in for a second float trip. It was a beautiful day, sunny and bright. I was content with being able to float 3 times, considering we didn't make it out to the park until a bit after noon. I want to go again, as soon as possible. This time I won't make Jaime eat a bite of papaya, which the group dubbed "assfruit" for its peculiar flavor.

Sunday was a different kind of family day. We went over to my parents' house where I was making enchiladas for lunch. When I pulled up, my father was outside admiring his brand spankin' new truck. He hadn't told me he'd bought a beautiful Ford F150 double cab truck with a sweet V8 under the hood. At least he had the decency to simply hand me the keys as I walked up the drive toward it. We took it around the block and I ooh'd and aah'd over how comfortable it is and how well it drives. Makes my Kia Sportage look like a Tonka toy.

The enchiladas turned out yummy. I posted pics of the process on my Statesman blog. And for you myspacers, there's pics plus a link for a video of me rolling out the enchi's. I think I could eat enchiladas almost every day. Oh, sure, eventually I'd get tired of them, but it would take a while.
How was your weekend?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Attack of the Angry Vegetarian Duathlete!

I dragged my carcass outta bed Sunday morning after a 4 hour nap between days to go volunteer at a duathlon in San Marcos. Yeah, it was my own fault I didn't get to bed until 1am and I only have myself to blame for volunteering but I'm still going to complain about the Angry Vegetarian Duathlete. Besides, I love being an athletic supporter. ;-)

My friend Chel makes sure that I am a part of the athletic community even when I'm at my couch potato worst. She believes in tough love and in your face lessons and in the past has kicked my butt into a healthier place. So, at 5:40am I rolled up to her place and we headed off, slightly bleary-eyed, to the Darnd'st Du.

Chel's a member of Austin Duathletes, the crazy group who goes out first thing in the morning and runs a 5K before biking a few 20 miles or so. They also have spectacularly fun pub runs, which involves running to a bar, drinking, then running to the next one. Check out Chel's blog for pics of her bashed up knee, courtesy of running into a bike rack outside Rainbow Cattle Company last week.

But I digress. The story here is that after spending the early morning hours slicing two cases of tomatoes for the chow line and cheering on duathletes I ended up serving freshly grilled burgers and hot dogs. I knew there was going to be a problem when the veggie burgers started going fast. The sun was scorching, sweat was trickling down in the most annoying places and trust me when I say "moist" was the word of the day. But I was happy, doing what I do best, smiling and chatting away with the athletes I was serving. Until the Boca burgers ran low.

The first several vegetarians who came through my line and found that we were out of veggie burgers were disappointed but polite. One of them made a "salad burger" with his hamburger bun, lettuce, tomato and onion plus condiments. When you're that hungry, after running a combined total of 6.2 miles and biking 12 miles in the 100 degree weather, you do what you gotta do for nutrition. Luckily there was a table with bananas nearby as well.

The lowlight of the duathlon was the Angry Vegetarian Duathlete. When I told her we were out of veggie burgers, she slammed her paper plate down on the table in front of me, bouncing the bun off it and yelled "damnit!!" into my face. She stood, hands on hips, scowling at me as I quietly apologized, explaining that we were given only a limited number of veggie patties and had simply run out. She said nothing else but gave me one last glare and turned, stalking off. I recovered enough to greet the next person and serve up a 100% beef burger but my mind was racing.

Why was I so polite to someone who verbally attacked me? Probably because I realize that when you've pushed your body to the limit and you're drained of energy you can become quite testy in the search of food. But seriously? Why curse at the person serving you, who had no part in ordering the food she was helping to prepare and pass out? And I was in "upbeat and chipper support staff" mode and just couldn't pass from cheerleader to street floozy in the 5 seconds the Angry Vegetarian was in front of me so I missed my moment where I could've released my inner bitch.

But after she took off, leaving me shocked at her outburst (really, most athletes are very appreciative to have volunteers out at events no matter if the vegetarian option has run out) I thought of all the come backs I didn't utter. Such as "Well, if you'd just trained harder you would've made better time and been back sooner and scored a veggie burger!".

Or, "I was soooo hungry after showing up to cheer your ungrateful self on to victory that I just had to eat both cases of Boca burgers". Or even "I know the saying is 'fat & happy' but I didn't realize the flip side was 'lean & crabby'.

The Austin Duathletes commiserated with me, as we drank beers & mimosas before cleaning up the dregs of the food table. They were as shocked as I was that an athlete was so crappy to a volunteer/supporter. We had a great round of laughs at the Angry Vegetarian Duathlete's expense. She has no idea that her rudeness spawned creative stories that all started with "I would've said..." and much laughing at her militant rancor. Wherever she is, I hope she's eaten a sandwich. All natural peanut butter, of course.

This blog is in no way meant to diminish the accomplishments of the many fine athletes out that morning. These phenomenal athletes showed up with one sole purpose: to meet, greet and destroy their personal challenge while most of Central Texas was still asleep in bed. Special congratulations go out to the team members of Camp Punishment, who kicked some serious asphalt at the Du. You guys ROCK!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

You'd Think It Was a Quiet Summer

I've neglected my blog lately. You'd think I was having a quiet summer, peaceful and lazy, with no desire to have fingers hovering over a keyboard. Instead, the month of July has been so busy that I haven't had time to post.

First there was the holiday. It's a requirement that there be BBQ and beer, margaritas and fun. I celebrated with Jaime and the Supercrash family. Independence Day fun was followed by my nephew Adie's birthday celebration. On the heels of Adie's party was Primas Por Vida Weekend, when my cousin Vickie came to town. I can sum it up this way: BBQ, booze and music. We hightailed it up to Pflugerville to hear Supercrash play at Hanover's. Darci, Mark and Kela met up with us for great music and cold drinks. Oh, and finding a baggie of a white powder in the parking lot had Kela convinced that Pahflug isn't the sweet little low crime zone it appears to be...unless of course we're totally mistaken and that stamp sized clear plastic baggie was obviously holding powdered sugar, not coke.

Then there was the birthday. Frederick started off the festivities with 40 breakfast tacos (yup, one for each year) at the office, then continued it when he and Darla escorted me to lunch. Lunch, although tasty, was an exercise in patience and definitely worth a blog of its own. Let's just say we ate for free and leave it at that. In the afternoon, we indulged in an Amy's Oreo Cookie ice cream cake. Delicious! In the evening, Jaime whisked me off for a meal of steak, steak, steak! Despite the fact that I hadn't stopped eating since well, dawn, I devoured every bit of my black & blue ribeye at Austin Land & Cattle Company, ate most of the just garlicky enough mashed potatoes and picked at the spinach and carrots...really, aren't they more for colorful decoration and good plate presentation?

We retired to the Warehouse District for cocktails, meeting up with Jessee, Chel &Jenene at Fado's. Rockett, Jason and Chuck joined us for a quick drink, too. Then we tripped across the street to introduce Jaime to how a cocktail should be made---strong. You guessed it, we visited Sloppy Joe at Oil Can Harry's. A scantily clad shot boy gave Jenene a bit of a shock when he walked up and hugged her. It's not every day you discover that one of your daughter's friends works in little else than hotpants and shoes. After multiple birthday drinks with the OCH men, the crew said goodnight to us and Jaime & I left to visit Jonathan at Rain. It isn't a birthday without a pineapple upside down cake shot. Or an X-Rated Punch. Or whatever else I imbibed whilst holding up the bar in front of Jonathan's post. Jaime was a newbie to the gay bar scene, but he held up well. And lived, although the next morning was rough. :-)

Saturday I skittered around setting up for my party. It was all about food, drink and karaoke love. It's safe to say there are few really good singers amongst my set, but we don't lack for entertaining ones. I butchered a few songs, it's true. Okay, more than a few. All the ones I attempted! And the multiple choice Kay trivia contest was a success. Chel knows me best, triumphing in a tie breaker round with Heather for that claim to fame. Scott knows me the least well out of anyone, including total strangers, if you consider the odds of getting at least 4 questions out of 10 correct. Scott had a whopping 3 right, all lucky guesses, I'm certain. John & Frederick wrote in their own answers, which were much funnier than the truth. As for all of you who got the virginity question wrong, I did NOT become a trollop until after high school.

I was showered with attention and gifts (which weren't necessary but oh so thoughtful) and basically treated like royalty, complete with tiara. I had a houseful of friends that I love and all were having a fantastic time. What a perfect way to turn 4 decades old! Suffice it to say that the morning light revealed every inch of every flat, elevated space in the kitchen and dining room was littered with empty cups, bottles, soiled paper plates and the crumbs of party munchies. I'm not sure how many people we packed into a not-so-large living area, but as one friend said "It's not overcrowded until you can pass out and not fall down". (You're sooo right, Taka!). My terrific roomies, Darren & David, granted me the gift of cleaning up the mess. By the time I wandered downstairs they had the place spic and span.

After a recovery day, the next Fab 40 event was a road trip with Jaime to Schlitterbahn. Voted America's best water park, Schlitterbahn started out as a family oriented motel on the Comal River. The owners, Bob and Billye Henry, their three kids and guests spent much of their time in the water, tubing and swimming. Bob launched his idea for a water park in 1979 and has had people flocking to his ever growing resort as each year passes.

Why had I never visited? All day long I repeated that question in my mind. The rides are fantastic, with my chief complaint only that some are too short. There's uphill water coasters, lazy rivers, swirling tube chutes, rides that start at the top of a six story tower and so much more spread across 65 acres. Sure, there was some waiting in line for popular attractions but they were well worth it. From kiddie play zones to the bar, there is definitely something for everyone.

Near the end of the day we climbed the 60 foot tower to ride the Master Blaster, a whopping 1,000 feet of uphill water coaster. As we waited in line, Jaime and I noticed the weather turning a bit sour. Dark clouds were blowing in as the wind picked up speed. Soon, lightning started and we're on a 6 story tower made of metal and fiberglass. Yeeeeaaaah. It didn't take long for the park to send out the "we're closing so that our insurance carriers don't have to pay out on medical claims for you dumbasses still trying to get on our water rides" message. Seriously, when the sky has darkened to the point of semi-twilight and the lightning flashes are rampant, do ya really want to court disaster? Apparently, many do, as evidenced by the number of Schlitterbahn employees tactfully explaining that it is dangerous to be in the water during lightening. And we wonder why so many Texans drown when their cars stall after they've driven onto a flooded bridge. Darwinism.

We exhibited a higher level of intelligence on our way home. With the rain coming down in sheets and the wind blowing it sideways, Jaime was convinced we should pull over and take refuge in a restaurant. Two other factors he considered: rumbling tummies and my shrieking "We're All Gonna Die!" while clawing at the dashboard. I'm a baby when it comes to storms. We managed to avoid the wrath of Hurricane New Braunfels and be warm and well fed.

I had a few days of down time before Toddfest 2007. As always, this is a highlight of summer in ATX for me. With 3 bands and Austin's best burlesque babe onstage plus many friends hanging out at the bar, who can't have a good time at Toddfest? Kickin' off the night's music was The Whoremoans, an Austin band with a knack for stirring up the crowd. Miss Maulie performed her sultry moves both before and after The Humiliators rocked out onstage. What's not to love when you have a feathery fan dance followed by Godzilla rock? After a wet & wild Maulie encore, Steamroller brought the night to a close with their solid sound. Happy birthday, Todd!

My first soiree-free July weekend's looming on the horizon. Can it be done? Can I actually make it from Friday afternoon to Monday morning without doing much at all? Ahhh....don't think so but we'll see. It's Austin, there's always a party somewhere.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

40 Is Fixin' To Smack Me in the Face

Fixin' to. Is it just a Texas thing to say or does it show that I grew up in the Southern portion of the U.S.? I don't know where I picked up the habit of using the phrase. Perhaps it was during years of captivity growing up in the redneck capitol of the South. I spent 5 years on the East side of the Ouachita River, then another 5 on the West, effectively allowing both Twin Cities equal time to convince me to move elsewhere. Go Rebs! Ah, but I'm off topic.

My 40th year is fixin' to smack me in the face. Yup. I probably need Botox, microdermabrasion, a chemical peel and collagen. I already know I need to drop 20lbs, but that's an ongoing battle. Today I made a desperate call to my stylist, the sassy Kathryn who wields magic in her quest to fulfill the salon's mission to make me "dangerously beautiful". She'll hide the grays with skillful coloring and chop a bunch of hair off and I'll become, well, if not dangerously beautiful then maybe ummm carelessly attractive. As long as I'm not plain jane middle aged then it's all good.

I think it's a good idea to reflect back on life when you reach a milestone year. Please, no eye rolls. I realize most of you think I reflect too often as evidenced by comments in my archived blogs. I believe that I need to recognize where I've come from and how difficult and sometimes easy the trip has been.

I'm having a great summer. My life is in perpetual forward motion and I'm savoring the adventures. I recently spent a week with my parents, brother and sister and although it wasn't an exotic vacation, it was wonderful to be together. I didn't grow up with my oldest sister and brother, so our time together as adults is precious to us. Right before our family vacation, I spent a weekend at my twin's home in Missouri. It was great to be there although most of the trip was spent prostrate and cursing whomever passed a nasty stomach virus on to me. At least vomiting is a spectator sport in their household, so my niece and nephew didn't feel as if they hadn't seen me. Note to Kim: next house needs at least 2 full bathrooms.

My social life is, as always, a series of one exuberant event after another. It's a simple statement, but I'm happy. I've shrugged off the last of my gloominess, chased away the lingering shadows and filled myself full of the effervesence I've enjoyed in the past. The struggle was worth it.

I cherish my family and chosen family more than ever. My friends are incredible. I wouldn't be who I am today if not for my friends. When I needed a shoulder, when I vented for the thousandth time over a particular subject, when I relentlessly discussed parenthood, when I cried, when I laughed, when I needed a kick in the ass, ya'll were there. It takes a village to raise a Kay. I've profited from your support, your kindness and of course, from your no holds barred take on reality.

I still don't feel my age. It's hard to wrap my mind around the idea that on the 19th I will have had 14,600 days of life. Such a large number! It just can't be true, but it is. Since I don't feel this old, it's easy to embrace my age. I'm hellbent on making my 40th year the best I've ever had. It's a jumping off point for the next phase of my life. If I were a product, someone could stamp "New & Improved" across me.

For now I'm adopting a new outlook. Kierkegaard said it best with "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards". He also said "Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own". With that, I think 40 will be a very fine year.

A quick look back on my decades:

The 60's: Started off with a long hospital stay during which my twin claimed her spot as ruler of the pack. Lots of cloth diapers, baby food and music. Mom was fresh outta the convent and catching up on pop culture. My earliest memory is watching the televised broadcast of the first moonwalk.

The 70's: We moved around a lot. After leaving San Antonio for Friendswood, Fort Worth and the booming metropolis of Childress we finally made it to Louisiana. Lots of listening to the radio & records, probably because we only had four channels of tv. Kim & I honed our Wonder Twins powers and made a lot of memories. One that comes to mind right now is how my 2nd grade boyfriend zapped me with a cattle prod...a few weeks before he gave me my first black eye. I ditched him for a guy who ate Dog Chow nuggets, thus cementing my ability to pick good romantic partners (just lucked out with my current SO). We spent most of our free time outside, no matter what city we lived in. Elvis died and I played his "Viva Las Vegas" album for hours as a tribute to The King.

The 80's: Did I mention listening to music? And finally watching videos! Yes, back when MTV actually showed 'em. I was an 80's child, through and through. I mourned John Lennon with an AC/DC album in one hand and the B-52's in the other. My home life was so-so, but there was 4-H camp, Theatre-Forensics, FBLA, Thespian Troupe #442, livestock shows, rodeos, cruising Forsythe park, Tickled Pink and much more. Remember when Madonna had body fat? Best decision of the decade was to move to Austin with a side trip to OKC.

The 90's: Spent in debauchery, mostly. Let's sum it up: gay bars. There was a lot more to it, but it still revolved around partying.

The 2000's so far: Learning a lot, growing up finally and loving my life. Good times and not-so-great times, quick and easy lessons, long drawn out painful lessons but above all abundant laughter.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm Not Old, I'm Vintage!

Six bits of trivia that uphold the fact that I am definitely turning 40 in five weeks:

1. My friends and I were excited when Pop Rocks appeared on the market in 1975.

2. I stood in line to see the very first Star Wars movie and know without a doubt that it was named Star Wars, not Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I also owned the Luke Skywalker action figure from The Empire Strikes Back. It came with a Tauntaun that had a slit in it's belly so you could slide Luke inside and keep him from freezing to death on the ice planet Hoth.

3. I bought the single (on 45rpm) of Music Box Dancer after it hit #3 on the charts in 1979. I think it's still a pretty pop instrumental.

4. And later, I wore out my cassette tape of Billy Idol "Rebel Yell".

5. I know that Hong Kong Phooey changed into his crime fighting costume in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet.

6. The same year I saw Star Wars, I also attended my first R rated movie...with my mother and sister. It was the disco classic Saturday Night Fever. "It's a decision a girl's gotta make early in life, if she's gonna be a nice girl or a cunt." ~Tony Manero.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gay? Straight? Slightly Crooked.

Define your sexual orientation. For 99% of you, that's a simple thing to do. For me, not so easy. I dated women for a decade. Then I dated men. These days I'm all about personality, rather than gender. So what does that make me? Some friends call me a hasbian, other say I'm gay, some insist on bisexual and a few think I'm straight.

I've never been given to defining my orientation until now. I found out today that I'm not included in my company's GLBTQQ luncheon because I am apparently completely heterosexual. The organizers of the very first of it's kind lunch meeting for our firm passed me over as not being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer or Questioning. Interesting, given that I've been an active member of the GLBTQQ social scene in Austin since 1989.

My straight friends insist that since I've have romantic relationships with women I cannot be heterosexual. Now I'm hearing that since I have a boyfriend--a very understanding and supportive one--I cannot be homosexual. Labels have never been important to me until now, simply because I've been kicked out of both camps. The Mo's say I'm not their's and the Ro's say I'm not straight. Where do I belong?

I'm used to not fitting in. I've always lived on the fringe, so I guess being excluded from the diversity luncheon shouldn't come as a surprise. Though it has compelled me to examine my orientation more closely than usual. I find both genders attractive although I haven't dated a woman in a long time. I am not a fag hag or fruit fly, the straight women who's closest friend is a gay man. The term fag hag conjures up images of a slightly drunk woman, leaning on her gay while trying not to spill her cosmopolitan and leering at the go go boys dancing on the bar. The woman who will at some point loudly proclaim "He is soooo hot! What a waste!" and one of the boyz around her will throw their hands in the air and twitter out "Haaaay, he's my man, honey! You keep your whore red Mac lipsticked mouth offa him!". Ugh.

I spent years in Austin supporting the fight to repeal Texas Penal Code Statue 21.06 which asserted couples of the same sex involved in mouth to genital contact or penetration of any part of the genitals by an object was illegal criminal behavior, a sexual offense. In fact, a favorite tee shirt at the time had the statute printed out in it and a large red "Repeat Offender" stamped across it. I have a cute photo of me wearing it while leaning against an APD vehicle. That part of the penal code was eventually ruled unconstitutional and I was no longer a criminal. Oddly enough, the same contact between heterosexuals has always been completely legal.

Of course, some may insist that I was merely a good social rights advocate, not that I was looking out for my own self interests in that I did not want to be called a sex offender as defined by the statute which also contains public lewdness, indecency with a child and indecent exposure. I guess you can twist my life to suit anyone's needs.

I've dodged the bisexuality label for years only because it is the vaguest one of the bunch. Gay men will insist that a bisexual man is really gay, he just can't deal with it yet. Gay women will tell you not to date bisexual women because they'll only leave you for a man. Not the sweetest picture, is it?

I'm still not certain which one of the alphabet letters in GLBTQQ is best for me but the cetainty in my mind is that I am not a true heterosexual, and that leaves only one other group. The Mo's have me, even if they don't want me. I'm here, I'm queer, I'm Kay.

Webster's says it all:
Main Entry:
Pronunciation: 'kwir
Function: adjective
Etymology: origin unknown
2 a : differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal b (1) : ECCENTRIC, UNCONVENTIONAL (2) : mildly insane : TOUCHED c : absorbed or interested to an extreme or unreasonable degree : OBSESSED d (1) often disparaging : HOMOSEXUAL (2) sometimes offensive : GAY 4b3 : not quite well - queer·ish /-ish/ adjective - queer·ly adverb - queer·ness

Over the past two decades, an important change has occurred in the use of queer in sense 2d. The older, strongly pejorative use has certainly not vanished, but a use by some gay people and some academics as a neutral or even positive term has established itself. This development is most noticeable in the adjective but is reflected in the corresponding noun as well. The newer use is sometimes taken to be offensive, especially by older gay men who fostered the acceptance of gay in these uses and still have a strong preference for it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Weekend Wrap Up

Holiday weekends are usually jam packed full of activities that revolve around alcoholic bevies, food and as much fun as you can manage to have and not be thrown in jail. This year's Memorial Day weekend did not disappoint.

Kickin' it off on Friday evening was the Booze Cruise roadtrip to San Antonio for the Humiliators first gig outside of Austin. Yes, folks, they're statewide now and rapidly advancing their plan for world domination. The venue, Jigger's, is a smallish place that reminded us of a cleaner although just as smoky Trophy's. The ladies' room certainly made Trophy's restrooms look like they're one step up from an outhouse. Oh, wait. Trophy's restrooms are one step up from outhouses. After checking out the place and verifying what time the band would take the stage, we set off in search of food and of course, more drinks. Cha-Cha's, just down the road, satisfied both needs with their Tex Mex hospitality. Check them out on your next trip to SA--their margarita list is incredibly impressive.

The other bands on the lineup that night were pretty rockin' good. The crowd was an interesting mix of punkish goths...or maybe gothic punks? I had a great time people watching, especially one interesting beer bellied character wearing a hat a few sizes too small for his shaved head, a workshirt (the kind with the name patch sewn on it) with the sleeves cut off, skinny jeans and a chunky silver studded belt. After a short conversation and a round of beers, introductions were made and Vile (yes, his name is Vile and his name patch confirmed it) revealed he'd spent a month in county lockup and was determined to have one hell of a good time that night. Bless his small-hatted self, he did, including being a one man dance machine during the second band's set.

By the time the Humiliators seized the stage we were well into the libations and feeling no pain. Jiggers serves draft beer in small, single serve plastic pitchers, a fun fact that I thought was completely delightful in my well lubricated state. The band rocked it hard, I narrowly avoided slipping in spilt beer (probably my own, or possibly Vile's) and Marc snapped blackmail pics the entire time. What a night!

Saturday was a recovery day. I'm not as young as I think I am and the beer demons were dancing on my head in metal tipped heels the next morning. I did manage to pull it together eventually, and spend some quality time with my goddaughter. We had great fun hanging out at the Reinhardt-Miller home and with my parents. Brynn is so sweet. She loves me enough to save the poopy diapers for her mother.

Sunday found me out at the Cap Tex Tri, checking in bikes for the olympic distance athletes. Unfortunately, I was not bright enough to bring an umbrella or rain jacket. It only rained oh, every day last week in Austin but with sacrificing all those brain cells on Friday night I naturally did not have the sense to heed any weather warnings. I worked for hours in the rain, then dragged home resembling something pulled from the flooded gutter and threw myself into a hot shower. There was still fun to be had and I wasn't going to let a little hypothermia stand in the way.

Once I was warm and dry, Jaime and I headed over to the Mean Eyed Cat to catch the Austin Homegrown show. It was his very first visit to MEC and ya'll know I'm all about helping out the virgins. We drank some Lone Star and grooved along with the band. Shithowdy! You have to love a band who's fans buy bottles of Boone's Farm and pass it around as a shot chug. Yes, I had some Strawberry Hill that night. AH has just as unique fans as The Humiliators, or possibly even cooler ones. I've never seen the tip bucket passed around by a shirtless man and then a shirtless woman at one of the Hums shows. Yeeeaaahh...and unless someone else is volunteering, don't even think this groupie is going topless. I like to keep what little I've got covered, like the good girl I am. After the band wrapped, we headed out for a quick stop at Paradise on Sixth, a slice of midnight pizza and over to Club Deville to finish off the night.

Monday was another R&R day, but I did venture out to Margie's casa in the afternoon. Mama grilled steaks, Dane kept us entertained, and we laughed through the afternoon. We took a break to rush grilled chicken, ribs, potato salad and beans over to the Can for their buffet and then turned the car around and went straight back to the house to continue our gabfest. A few cocktails and a lot of feisty conversation later, Dane reluctantly left to start his bartending shift and I wandered home, not eager to see the holiday come to a close but definitely in need of more sleep.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Releasing My Inner Hans Hofmann

One of these days I'm going to paint. I even have a set of acrylics, brushes, palette and my first canvas. I have visions in my head of colorful abstracts. Why abstracts? Because I can't draw worth a damn. Why even attempt to create a realistic rendition of something when I know it'll come out looking like a child's finger painting?

I don't quite know how I'll transfer the images in my head onto the canvas. My last art lessons were in 8th grade. I am fairly certain I did not make an A in that class. It wasn't as bad as my band class. The band director, extremely frustrated with my eager yet awful fumblings on the little red plastic recorder, screeched at me to stop! stop! stop! before publicly humiliating me by announcing that "You! Will! Never! Be! In! My! Band!" and suggesting I go join the choir. Unfortunately for me, I have the type of singing voice that no one wants to hear. Fortunately for me, my band director did not return the next day to school, or the next, or the next. He'd had a nervous breakdown and never came back. I like to think it wasn't entirely my lack of talent that sent him over the edge.

Back to painting. I have the desire, the tools and the images swirling around my brain. Now I have to take the plunge and actually put brush to canvas and see what happens. At worst it will be a very creative and colorful mess. Kind of like me.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Baby I'm a Star!

Hey, look me over
Tell me do u like what u see?
Hey, I ain't got no money
But honey I'm rich on personality
Hey, check it all out
Baby I know what it's all about
Before the night is through
U will see my point of view
Even if I have 2 scream and shout
Baby I'm a (star)
Might not know it now
Baby but I r, I'm a (star)
I don't want to stop, 'til I reach the top
Sing it (We are all a star!)

Eyes closed, on a plane somewhere over mid-America, I turn up the volume on my iPod and fall back in time to the 80's. Instantly, a flood of memories of my high school girlfriends and I singing as loudly as we could come to mind. Prince on the car radio (he was still called by his first name back then), music thumping, hearts beating in time, we'd be caught up in singing our chosen theme song. Baby, I'm a star! Might not know it now...but we knew that we were destined for more than our small town held. We knew that we were special, had Important Things ahead in life. It was our four minutes of feel good confidence, therapeutic lyrics spurring us to believe in ourselves and we could, would conquer the world. I was part of a group of self-assured, bold and decisive, comfortable in our skin kind of young women.

What happened to that girl? Nothing. Because she didn't really exist. She was a myth, or perhaps a promise. She was what I became when I let the words of a song speak to me. The unfortunate reality is that my teen years were spent feeling insecure. Inwardly, I cornered the market on teen angst. On the surface, I looked like any other teenage girl of the time, zits and all.

My home life was less than stellar, due to a parent who had finally decided to address an alcoholism issue just as I was entering high school. I'd spent years learning how to tip toe around while polishing my skills at being a human barometer. Even today I am an excellent judge of emotion, whether I'm in a room full of friends or complete strangers. It's an aptitude most children of alcoholics learn early on, simply so as not to topple the delicate balance of peace and stability by doing or saying something wrong. Never mind that the exact same words or actions were fine the day before, or would be the day after.

I spent my late teen years with a perpetual nagging feeling that I would never measure up in life. I'd never the the pretty, witty girl surrounded by perfect friends. I'd never make pots of money in a fabulous career. I'd never be scorchingly in love with someone who returned the emotion so intensely that shared glances between us could start forest fires. I'd counter these negatives with what I knew to be true: no matter what my life became, I'd be okay. It wasn't very convincing, but I clung to that belief.

Over time I learned to mask my true feelings. I was self-aware enough to realize that what I thought of as shyness was actually fear. I was scared I'd never fit in. I was terrified the people around me would suddenly come to their senses and realize that I was not worth their time or effort. My method to combat that fear was to become outgoing, extroverted. I reasoned that if I could pretend to be the Queen Social Butterfly Whom All Are Dying To Know that then perhaps no one would see the real me. I would fake it until I felt it. Or at least felt accepted.

A few decades passed. These days I can walk into a bar alone, sit down and order a drink and not feel odd or out of place. I can work a party like a politician, making small talk with anyone who crosses my path. I still have the occasional fleeting worry but am in no way insecure. Even better, I'm happy with who I've become. I even learned to own my emotions.

I put in my time at a job I like to think of as a marriage of convenience. I'm not exactly in love with my career, but it pays the bills. And while I may not be the pretty, witty girl, I do have fabulous friends. I've lost a few in recent times, much to my painful regret, but life is made fuller through change. I am thrilled to have a circle of dynamic friends. In my social set there are athletes, massage therapists, attorneys, nurses, rockstars (okay, maybe only in our group, but they are great musicians), students, doctors, computer geeks, paralegals, average joes, mommies, daddies and more. They are pretty and most definitely witty people.

Even better, I still have close girlfriends who are the sort to turn the volume up and launch into singing our current feel good total confidence song du jour. Whether it's Prince on the oldies station or anyone else, we haven't lost the essence of who we once were, those young girls with dreams as big as the sky. I don't have to book an appointment with my therapist when I'm feeling down. I simply grab my cell, dial up the chicas and ask the magic question. "Who's up for karaoke?"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Way We Identify Ourselves as Women

I was out in the beautiful Salado hill country this weekend, at a womens' retreat. During our first session, the retreat leaders led a series of ice breaker games starting with a simple one. We were to go around the room stating our name and telling the group one thing about ourselves.

The fact that 99% of the women followed the "My name is" part with how many children and/or grandchildren they had didn't surprise me. It shocked me. It brought to the surface how ingrained in women it is that we are identified by bearing children. It amazed me that almost all of these unique ladies, many of whom were highly accomplished in other areas chose to define themselves by stating that they had created at least one living being. And most of the mothers also added "I'm married to ____".

We are a society very attuned to marriage and producing children. Of the few women present who weren't mothers, we all said something like "My name is Kay and I don't have a husband or kids but I do have _____". As if we were compensating for the shortcoming of being single and childless. Finally, I saw it plainly. I had some validation of my theory that a woman who doesn't further the species expends a lot of energy proving she is still useful.

Let me restate one thing: Every woman, including myself, who weren't mothers mentioned not having kids. Half of us childless ones mentioned mothering cats or dogs. By the time we made it all the way around the room to me, I felt almost embarrassed at having neither a partner nor children as proof of my success. It was as if, without actually voicing it themselves, the wives/mothers were more extraordinary than the three or four of us who weren't wives and mothers.

Is it any wonder that many women my age who haven't yet conceived a child spend so much free time analyzing their emotions, wondering and worrying over whether or not they'll be passing up something incredible if they choose not to become a mother? My friends have all been subjected to endless conversations where I talk, talk, talk about motherhood. Five or ten years down the road, I'll probably be on the listening end of their own gabfest on the pro's and con's of starting a family.

Until then, let me redirect my thinking a bit and revisit the ice breaker. "My name is Kay and I have an amazing group of friends who love me just the way I am."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Today's Bizarro News

I need a break from the tragic stories coming out of Virginia, Iraq, Iran, Darfur and other countries. My mind is filled with news of the Virginia Tech murders, the deaths of civilians and soldiers, the attempt to wipe out a significant number of the population of Sudan. What do I need today? I need a diversion and what better than the bizarre, the strange and the odd but true news stories found on the wire this morning. Here are my choices:

  1. Wow, that's a big dog chasing my car! Residents of a Minnesota town have had dogs, turkeys, ducks and geese chase their cars but up until now, the timber wolves weren't in on the action.
  2. Okay, this one is about death, too, but it's so strange I had to include it. An American Airlines passenger died in the lavatory but wasn't found until 2 hours later when the cleaning crew discovered his body. Yeah, your flight crew is supposed to ensure all passengers are off the plane and restrooms are empty.
  3. A 14 year old girl finds out her "boyfriend" is a 30 year old woman. Okay, I know I was fairly naive as a 14 year old but what was up with this child's parents? Could they not figure it out? Of course, knowing the couple had allowed their daughter's "boyfriend" to move into their home points out the obvious: poor parenting.
  4. A Wisconsin man may get off (pun intended) scot-free due to a state law prohibiting a city library from turning over to police a video of him wanking off in the stacks. Hmmmm....libraries always make me a bit frisky, too.
  5. Children in England find a three-headed frog. Environmentalists speculate it could be a sign of problems with nature.
  6. Whole Foods could sell more pricey organics if they took the same approach as UK grocery chain Tesco. They're marketing magic mushrooms.
  7. A man-hating cockatoo tries to hatch chocolate Easter eggs.
  8. My teacher-of-the-month award goes to the UC Davis doctoral student who teaches art workshops using maggots instead of paintbrushes.
  9. Just in case breaking up with your ex-lover in person, on the phone or by text is waaaay too personal for you, use this Berlin service.
  10. And from the town that I (mostly) grew up in, the place that helped shape my personality and form my psyche: DWI on a riding lawn mower. And ya'll wonder why I am the way I am.

What Has Happened To Drive Friendly?

Almost every morning and evening as I make my commute to and from work I sit in traffic and wonder "what has happened to the Drive Friendly campaign"?
I try to be polite, let folks in when I know they have a scant chance of a break in traffic. Do they even give a friendly wave? Most of the time, no. And when I'm the one needing to merge into traffic it seems as if each car spots me and then edges up inches away from the bumper in front of them. When did Austin become so aggressively selfish on the roads?
I can recall when everyone in the neighborhood did the "dashboard wave" when driving by, whether you knew them or not. If I did that now my neighbors would probably classify me as the "weirdo who lives six doors down and thinks she knows us".
Come on, people. Make a payment toward good car karma. Lighten up a little and realize that allowing a car into your lane isn't going to make you any later to work than you already are. The other cars on the road aren't the enemy. And for pete's sake, watch out for the cyclists! I know that they piss you off by not obeying all the rules of the road as they should, but don't persecute the conscientious cyclists for the sins of the bad ones.
With the huge number of cars and trucks clogging up Austin's roads there is a definite need to drive friendly. And maybe, just maybe, you can wave when you drive through my neighborhood.

Carnivores in the House

Despite the urgings from my vegetarian friends, I am an unrepentent meat lover. And on those days when I'm struck with a carnivorous craving the only obstacle to happiness is deciding what and where to eat. Writing about the best chicken fried steak or fajitas in town is a dicey business. Everyone has their fiercely defended favorite, so feel free to leave a comment informing me of where I should've eaten instead of where I do. At least I'm sticking with locally owned establishments.

1. What's the first thing that comes to my mind when conjuring up an image of a tender, juicy slab of prime Texas beef? A steak from Austin Land & Cattle. I always order the 10oz ribeye, black and blue, with a side of jalapeño blue cheese sauce, mashed potatoes and the veggies of the day. Ordering a steak "black and blue" ensures that it's charred on the outside but cool bordering on cold in the center. Definitely not for those who eat their beef grilled dead, but it's oh so fork tender and juicy.

ALC offers a choice of hand cut in house ribeye, filet mignon, top sirloin, New York strip, t-bone and porterhouse steaks, cooked to your specification. Prices range, depending on the size and cut of meat. Expect to pay between $20-30 per entree.

2. Did someone mention fajitas? I know this is a hotly contested topic, but I get mine from Enchiladas y Mas, where they come grilled with onions, bell pepper, tomatoes and even serrano peppers, if you order the spicy version. Add the usual sides of rice and beans and sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo for toppings and you're one bite away from sheer satisfaction. A spicy fajita platter for two is $19.95, a plate is $9.95.

3. Dining in? Order up a Carnivore Special from Mangia Pizza. Available thin or Chicago style stuffed, this pie features "two layers of pepperoni buried beneath beef and sausage". This pizza is not for the faint of heart (or those with high cholesterol). I've never gotten beyond two slices of the stuffed version before heading to the couch to sleep through whatever dvd was chosen for our dinner and a movie night. A 14" large stuffed pizza is $23.55 while the thin version is $17.95.

4. Ask five people who has the best BBQ in Austin and you'll probably get at least 4 different answers. My choice for a mixed plate of smoky meats is the Saltlick, just outside the city limits. My friends and I love the all you can eat 'cue served family style with beans, cole slaw, potato salad, pickles, onion and bread. For $15.95 per adult or $4.95 for kids under 12, you can devour all the pork ribs, beef and sausage you want. Even better, children under 4 eat for free.

The Saltlick doesn't sell alcoholic beverages, but allows you to bring in coolers of beer. There's nothing better with their just greasy enough ribs than an icey cold Lone Star, so come prepared. Be warned, this establishment is cash only.

5. Chicken fried what? My yankee friends don't understand chicken fried steak. But Hoover's Cooking does, and that's all that matters to me. Hoover's serves their CFS with a peppery breading and full flavored cream gravy, your choice of two sides, or "house mates" as the menu calls them, and a basket of hot breads, all for $9.79. I recommend the traditional mashed potatoes as one side item and the jalapeño creamed spinach as another.

Aficionados of CFS know that it's rare to find a fork tender one. Because of the cut of steak and method of cooking, it can often be chewy. Hoover's steak is as close to an optimum CFS as I've found in the Hill Country. I've been eating Hoover Alexander's CFS ever since I discovered the 1/2 price night at the now defunct Good Eats Cafe. There are others in town that run a close second, but this is my standard first choice for a beefy southern comfort meal.

Tell me, is there an entree I've not mentioned that will sate my most ravenous cravings for red meat?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Restaurant Poll 2007

The Chronicle has their annual restaurant poll going on right now. I thought I'd share my votes with you. And yes, Chel, I voted for Giss's, only not as my top three.

One: La Reyna
Two: Wink
Three: Austin Land & Cattle

Appetizers: Sampaio's
Barbecue: Saltlick in Driftwood
Hamburger: Billy's on Burnet
Steak: Austin Land & Cattle
Comfort Food: Giss's Cafe
Chicken-Fried Steak: Hoover's
Chile Pepper Dish: Green Chile Cheeseburger from Shady Grove
French Fries: Billy's on Burnet
Hot Dog: Bad Dog from Shady Grove
Chips and Hot Sauce: Chuy's (the chunkier salsa, not the thin one)
Taco: Juan in a Million's Don Juan
Soup: The Soup Peddler
Salad/Dressing: Baby Greens grilled veggie salad with lowfat lemon vinaigrette
Seafood Dish: Sampaio's Camarão ao Molho de Cachaça
Pub Grub: Mother Egan's
Bagels: Einstein's (yeah, I know they're a chain, but I like 'em)
Sushi: Musashino Sushi Dokoro
Tofu Dish: Chooby Doo International Cafe's Buddha Tofu Sandwich
Dim Sum: no fav
Bowl of Pho: no fav
American Breakfast: Kerby Lane Cafe
Mexican Breakfast: La Reyna
Sandwich: Thistle Cafe's BLT
Dessert: no fav
Bread: Texas French Bread
Ice Cream: Amy's Ice Creams
Gelato: Whole Foods (is there anyone out there who hasn't heard me rave about the avocado gelato?)
Coffee: Austin Java
Pizza: Frank & Angie's
Enchiladas: It's a tie between La Reyan & Enchiladas y Mas
Vegetables: Threadgill's
Chicken Dish: Chicken, mushroom, Gruyere, carmelinzed onions and scallions crepe from Flip Happy Crepes
Wild-Game Dish: I know it doesn't qualify as "wild game" but the sweetbreads at Wink are fantastic.

Dish: Any La Reyna breakfast plate---they're all under $5
Restaurant: Taco Xpress
Veggie Burger: P. Terry's
Vegetarian Dish: Stuffed Poblano from Kerby Lane Cafe

Mexican(non-Tex-Mex): Fonda San Miguel
Tex-Mex: La Reyna
Taqueria: Taco Xpress
Italian: Vespaio
Cajun/Creole: Evangeline Cafe
Middle Eastern: Phoenicia Bakery & Deli
Indian: Sarovar
Chinese: Hao Hao
Korean: Koreana
Thai: Thai Passion
Vietnamese: Sunflower
Other Oriental/Asian: Zen
American: Giss's Cafe
Vegetarian/Natural Food: Eastside Cafe
French: no faav
Other Ethnic
Type: Romanian
Restaurant: Drakula

New Restaurant Opened in 2006-2007: Bess Bistro

Name: Lawrence Kocurek
Restaurant: Roy's

Service/Waitstaff: Daniel Webb at El Chile
Full-Service Bakery: Sweetish Hill
Pastry Shop: Mi Victoria
Grocery Store: Central Market (N. Lamar location)
Ethnic Market: no fav
Patio/Beer Garden: Shady Grove
Decor: Vivo
Romantic Dinner Spot: Wink
Sunday Brunch: Moonshine Bar & Grill ties with Fonda San Miguel
Fast Food: Zen
Takeout: Whole Foods
Delivery: Austin's Pizza ties with China Hill
Wine List: Cork & Co
Smokers Restaurant: Shady Grove
Beer Selection: The Gingerman
Buffet: Moonshine's brunch buffet

Happy Hour/Free or Cheap Deal
Happy Hour Deal: Eddie V's half price appetizers
Restaurant: Hut's Hamburgers
Late Night/All Night: Magnolia Cafe
Restaurant Bathroom: Vivo
Place to Take Kids: Phil's Ice House
Place to Take Parents: Austin Land & Cattle
Restaurant Within 60 Miles of Austin: Bluebonnet Cafe in Burnet
Place We Wish Were Still Open: Paggi House, just for their Sunday brunch
Any Other Restaurant Worth Noting: Taco Shack
Food Event: Tour de Vin

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rockin' at Red Eyed Fly, Red Eyed at Hoek's Pizza

Last night's Humiliator's show at the Red Eyed Fly was a rockin' great time! Although short a member due to a family emergency, the guys pulled off a fantastic show. Interestingly, the combination of 8pm and Wednesday must be magical. The crowd was the largest it's been since Toddfest and Rock For The Ride.

Panties were thrown (see above pic), shots were bought for the band, crazy headbangers stormed the stage during the last song...what a great night. The euphoria lasted through a trip down to see Ashley, the hottest bartender at the Library. The feeling even maintained itself through a visit to see Hunter, Ashley's boyfriend, next door at The Aquarium.

It came to a screeching halt when we walked across to Hoek's, for a slice of death metal pizza. The music was low, too low. The staff was somber. Things were not all right with the world. Sensing impending doom, I ordered pizza and asked the staff why it was so quiet.

DEATH METAL PIZZA IS CLOSING! Because their building, which also houses The Ritz, is being turned into Alamo Drafthouse's downtown location (lease is out on the old spot), they're closing shop. Saturday is their last night, so make the time to go see the only heavy metal rocking pizza guys in town. And buy a slice or two, or a whole pie.

The word on the street is that the owner is looking for a new location. Seriously, the staff came out on the street to talk to us as Chel took pics and posed for snapshots in front of Hoek's. I hate to see a 6th Street landmark leave, especially one as entertaining (not to mention delicious) as Austin's own Death Metal Pizza.

Get your last taste before the the order window is permanently shut.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Five Delicious Dives in Austin

One of the biggest perks of living in Austin is that we have so many restaurants per capita. You can find everything from BBQ to dim sum, upscale fine dining to dives. While I'm not one to pass up a gourmet meal served on fine china, I have to admit that I love dives. Not only are they usually cheap eats, but they're normally quick to serve you a delicious meal. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Chooby Doo International Cafe located in a strip center on W. William Cannon at Brodie Lane. Chooby Doo serves up bubble teas with tapioca pearls made fresh on site daily. They offer various sandwiches, gyros and soups, including Tom Yum, the spicy hot and sour Thai soup. I recommend the Buddha Tofu sandwich. While I don't always go for vegetarian fare, this grilled tofu sandwich is tasty enough for me to ignore the Chicago Style hot dogs and Chinese BBQ sandwiches on the menu. You[ll be happy with the prices, too. I don't think I found anything over $5 on their menu.

2. Flip Happy Crepes was one of South Austin's best kept secrets until a great review in the Statesmen trumpeted the news that fabulous crepes are easy to find. Flip Happy is an Airstream trailer restaurant at 400 Jessie Street, off Barton Springs and close enough to S. Lamar that you can see the "silver bullet" and awnings from your stuck-in-rush-hour-traffic vantage point. Hands down, my choice of crepes will almost always be a roast chicken, carmelized onion, goat cheese one and a shredded pork, cheddar cheese, Tabasco, pickles and mustard one. Not as inexpensive as Chooby Doo, the crepes range between $6 and $6.50 each. For made from scratch savory crepes, I'm not complaining about cost. Dessert crepes and a kids menu are also available. Cash only, unless they've added a telephone line for a credit card machine when I wasn't paying attention.

3. La Reyna is the closest to a non-dive restaurant on my list. I've heard it described as looking like a "Mexican diner". La Reyna is pure, no frills Tex Mex food, the kind you can find in any home kitchen but that you don't have to trouble yourself to cook. While I do enjoy their enchilada plates ($6.45-$7.25), I am there most often for breakfast. Their priciest breakfast plates top out at under $4 and are always enjoyable. If you're a fan of huevos rancheros or migas, this is the place to satisfy your cravings. Their homemade corn and flour tortillas go perfectly with some of the best refried beans in town. Here's a hint from a regular: ask to try the "morning salsa". The table salsa is fresh, spicy enough and good but the morning salsa, served warm, has more of a kick. Service is fast and friendly although you may find that your waitress only speaks Spanish. Even so, I've never had an order come to the table wrong.

4. Hoek's Pizza is known among my social group as "Death Metal Pizza". This joint is tops among the 6th Street pizza places and blares out hard/metal rock all night long. The pizza is unpretentious New York style thin crust fare, perfect for a midnight snack. Sold by the gigantic slice for just a few bucks, it's well worth it. I'm sure I'll have comments extolling the virtues of Roppolo's, but after eating pizza for 5 meals out of 6 during SXSW it's my pic as the best on 6th.

5. Mike's Pub is where my work friends and I head to when we need a good burger without the lengthy wait at Hut's. Mike's is, I kid you not, in a parking garage. Okay, more like on the side edge of a parking garage. Their website says the are on "north side of E. 7th St. between Congress Ave. and Brazos St. Next door to the Stephen F. Austin Hotel, and directly across the street from the Driskill Hotel Bar." Take the short flight of stairs up to the pub and you'll enter a world of scrumptious greasy burgers and beer. The "salad bar" next to the cash register is your toppings headquarters. In other words, they cook 'em but you build 'em. Any given lunch hour you'll see blue collar workers, business men in suits and all kinds of downtown office staff like me wolfing down a cheeseburger and fries. Some days you may even run into local celebrities like Earl Campbell. When the Lege is in session, you may sit next to a well known politician or two, and the inevitable lobbyist. Check them out for breakfast or lunch, where a double meat/double cheeseburger is under 6 bucks.

There's so many more inexpensive but great eats in Austin that I could blog about, but hey, who has the time? If you think I've missed a fabulous dive, leave a comment and tell me where I need to eat next.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Goodwill Ambassadorship, Here I Come!

Update: In order to protect employment, images have been removed from my blog. If you're a friend of mine and want to see the photographic proof of a particularly excellent SXSW, email me.

I've had a particularly festive time, these last 7 days. Celebrating SXSW and St. Patrick's Day alone would've been a rockin' out few days, but I added goodwill ambassadorship to the mix.

My friend who does not dip her feet into the waters of the internet was my partner in crime one evening last week. Let's call her Roxie. She was feeling restless, texting me from home and asking where I was and what I was doing. I was, of course, ordering up a Lone Star draft and a Fabulous Jack (that's black label) shot on the side.

Roxie decided to join me downtown and see what trouble, err, adventure we could find. Little did I know that we'd spend the night fostering good will between nations, forming alliances and toasting pints of beer toward newfound friends. Yes, it was an Italy, Ireland and USA evening.

We ended up barhopping with two Irish lads, one of whom was giddily jetlagged from his flight over that morning, and one Italian man. I can honestly say that I haven't had that much fun in one night in a long time. Nor have I said "I'm sorry, I didn't understand" more often.

Luckily, Alessandro was fluent in Spanish so when I didn't understand his heavily accented English, he'd switch languages. Donal and his brother (sorry, forgotten his name) had lovely Irish brogues. Their accents made it sound so much better when they pronounced my favorite Texas beer "shyte". The pic at the top of the page is the group is trying to determine if Lone Star is, in fact, real beer. I did retain a sense of humor although they were panning my brew.

The night was young, the beer was flowing freely and the meeting of 3 nations was in full swing. Because the music festival was ongoing, we were blasted by live music everywhere. Some good, some not so good. So we entertained ourselves with the Warehouse District version of prom photos. Due to concerns over job security, those images have been removed from this blog.

The week has flown by in a whirlwind of coffeehouse visits, pub meetups and crazy mad trivia at Mother Egan's. I've had a few language lessons which will be ever so helpful if I have a need to say "Tomorrow is another day" or "fuck you!" in Italian. For the record, it's "Il domani è un altro giorno" and "vaffanculo!". We also had an indepth conversation about the use of contractions in American English. I was asked why we didn't use mere seconds to turn the words into proper English. I shrugged, "we're lazy". And smiled.

As we edge closer to the end of the Irish & Italian visit, I know one thing. I love Texas and I adore the U.S., but I really, really need to get a stamp or to or six in my passport. I need to experience more of the world and its many unique cultures. Enjoying the company of foreign visitors made me realize how small I've drawn my borders. The next time I'm sharing a pint with laughing Irishmen, I'd prefer it to be in their mother country. And now each time I taste a good montepulciano d'abruzzo, I'll think of Italy and how much better it would be to savor the deep red richness while sitting in a ristorante in Rome.

Monday, March 19, 2007

SXSW in the ATX

This past five days in Austin have been nothing but music, fun, food, drink and friends. I'm exhausted but had a freakin' blast. SXSW had me flitting from venue to venue all over town in an effort to hear/see/experience all that the music festival had to offer. There was so much squashed into such a short period of time that I can't possibly share all. Here are the highlights in no particular order:

1. Keanu Reeves bumped into me on the street. Literally. It was so crowded that when he was easing through the masses he bumped shoulders with me. Strangely, though he's very cute, he looked ummm, well, more average than I expected. And he was with a chick who appeared to be 12 years old.

2. Thomas Dolby rocked! Yes, Thomas Dolby of "She Blinded Me With Science" fame. He gave a great concert to a disappointingly small crowd. During South By, it's sometimes difficult to pack the house for the earlier shows. Thomas was gracious, funny and handsome. My friend Rockett took a pic with him after the show. I simply stared.

3. Meeting new people! Donald & his brother from Ireland and the charming Alessandro from Italy. And then there was Rob, the triathlete and music industry guy from San Fran. We shared a delightful interlude hiding out from the sheer overwhelming wave of sensory overload that is SXSW.

4. Princess parking. The parking gods blessed me with free and close parking every day. I did not pay $20 to park. This meant I had $20 to spend on pizza and Pearl pomegranate vodka & Seven.

5. New-to-me bands. There were so many that I saw and loved, so many I saw and thought "eh" and so many that I'd love to see again because they were just that different. A few of my top picks include Vaeda and The Panda Band. I also am officially now a fan of Never the Nines whose bass player was kind enough to invite me to their show at Flamingo Cantina.

It was a fabulous festival but I'm relieved it's over. Now I can get some rest. This party girl is tired out. But...last night Austin Homegrown was rockin' the Mean Eyed Cat and Mr. Italian Man hadn't experienced either one so we ended up chillin' out on the patio for a set. I'd never heard Paul's band before and now I'm smitten. Austin Homegrown was slammin' through some serious good music.

I'll sleep tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2007

It's All About Me

The inside joke about my blog title is that 90% of the time it isn't All About Me. I'm tireless in my volunteer work as well as my support of friends and family. In fact, I think I tend to overextend often. I've found in the last month or so that at least once I week I'm exhausted and wondering why in the world I found it necessary to schedule so many activities into a small timeframe. But I thrive on being everyone's cheerleader.

My extracurriculars span from my running/walking group, Austin Fit, my cycling team the Cap City Cyclists, various work at race expos and water stops, organizing cheer squads for races and triathlons and more. I just passed my three year anniversary as a Meals on Wheels delivery person. I help promote my favorite bands and burlesque troops, especially The Humiliators, where I'm in charge of Panties To Be Thrown Onstage. I recently joined the planning committee for a 5K walk/run for my Hispanic business womens' networking group, Las Comadres. I'm waiting to hear if a local triathlete group needs help with coordinating volunteers for various events, too.

All of my free time fun stuff is designed to not only bring me pleasure but also to help me become part of a bigger portion of life. I don't want to come home every day and make dinner before sitting on the couch in front of the television for hours. I want to live life, not watch it on cable.

Now the other ten percent of the time, when I want it to be All About Me, is when I have legitimate needs. There are times when I need to feel needed. When I need to feel important to someone and need acknowledgement and support and hell, sometimes just a thank you.

For half my life I came second. I am the younger of twins. My sister emerged into this world a few minutes ahead of me and was large and in charge. Before you think oooh, how hateful commenting on someone's build let me just say that Kim was 5lbs, 15 oz and I was 3lbs, 13oz. So yes, she was large and in charge. For half my life, or even a bit more, Kim was primary and what she said, went. She was born alpha.

Kim spent the rest of our childhood and young adult years being the decision maker. We used to joke that it was Kim's way or the highway. She was older by minutes and so by nature took the lead. Trust me when I say that she still has no problem telling me what I should & should not be doing. It's all out of love, of course.

Growing up the younger twin instilled in me the desire to take care of others first, to be the organizer, the caretaker and the mother. Why? Maybe because I was taken care of for so long. C'mon, I didn't even get my driver's license until I was 18 because Kim drove us everywhere. It also fashioned me into the being the peacemaker. Kim was much more opinionated and strong willed than me. (And I mean that in a nice way, Kim). I was always the one who wanted to soothe ruffled feathers, mediate between hurt parties and above all, bring comfortable and agreeable closure to painful or hurtful events. It's taken me a long time to learn I don't always have to "fix" things.

Oddly enough, Kim became a social worker. I became....well, my career choices have never been a good definition of me. You can find "Kay" in the dictionary and see that the first entry for the noun is one for the "rude, boastful foster brother and steward of King Arthur" and the second entry informs you that it is a female or male given name from a Greek word meaning "rejoice".

Hmmm...I do have an unnatural attraction to Arthurian legend. I found this information about Sir Kay, one of the Three Enchanters of England: "nine nights and nine days his breath lasted under water, nine nights and nine days would he be without sleep. A wound from Cai's sword no physician might heal. When it pleased him, he would be as tall as the tallest tree in the forest. When the rain was heaviest, whatever he held in his hand would be dry for a handbreadth before and behind, because of the greatness of his heat, and, when his companions were coldest, he would be as fuel for them to light a fire".

{Blogger's Note: The part about heat is true. Anyone who has shared a bed with me knows I'm a heatilator. I put out enough BTU's to light up a small town. However, the part about the water is so not me.}

I think a better definition for me would be something like this: loves hard, lives fully, looks ahead to wonderful things yet to come. A woman who fills her life with good friends and family, freely gives of herself to those she cares for, laughs daily and often at herself, is loyal like a good Labrador retriever, and wishes everyone, including herself, every happiness the world has to offer.

Yeah, I don't measure up to my own definition but at least I have goals. And so now you know why it's only sometimes All About Me but it is always All About Those I Love. I give up my weekend mornings with no second thoughts when a friend needs to see a cheering, smiling face at a tough mile marker. I jump in and help out when asked and often volunteer before I'm asked. I give, and in giving I receive. I'm happy and thankful and moving forward in this crazy world of mine.

It's good to be All About Me.