Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hey Cupcake!

While my family was visiting, we headed down to SoCo (short for South Congress) to wander around the shops. I had heard rave reviews of a cupcake stand, Hey Cupcake!, so we decided to try it out. Oh. My. Sweet. Goodness.

First of all, the cupcakes are served out of this fabulous retro camper. With a giant cupcake on top to boot! Could it be any cuter? It is definitely not your "traditional" cupcakery.

And the cupcakes? They are SO delicious. Quite possibly some of the best I've ever had. Moist and rich, with the yummiest icing that wasn't too soft or sickeningly sweet. And of course, no cupcake is complete without fancy sprinkles or adornment.

The pink and brown snowcap was my favorite. Do you love whipped cream? Make your cupcake a Whipper Snapper and get a free shot of fresh whipped cream injected into the center of the cake.

These definitely came in handy to remove the evidence. Can you really worry about a messy cheek while enjoying that sweet goodness?

My mom and I before we dug into and polished off our sugary delights. I have to tell you about this precious little blond cutie who was patiently waiting in line with her mom. She intently watched every single bite that went into my mouth, with her little jaw hanging open. I can only imagine that she was dreaming about just how lovely her little cake was going to taste when it was finally her turn to bite into that pile of icing!

I think I'm quite thankful that this little stand isn't just around the corner! I know I'd be visiting more often than I should!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Day in San Antonio

My family (except for my dad who stayed behind in Ohio to work) recently came to Texas for their first visit of my new "home." They flew into San Antonio, so we spent their first day exploring the Alamo and the Riverwalk. I hadn't had a chance to visit San Antonio yet either, and I was really looking forward to checking out this city that I had heard many great things about.

This sparkling glass tile mosaic was a colorful depiction of the city:

Our first stop was lunch at Casa Rio, a mexican restaurant right along the Riverwalk. The atmosphere was vibrant with a mariachi band playing on the patio among the bright umbrella tables. The food was ok. Most of our group enjoyed their plates, but I wasn't quite as lucky.

After lunch, we walked over to the famous Alamo. I honestly didn't know much about the history of this U.S. landmark before our visit. If you are expecting a sprawling, desert-like compound as you may have seen in the movies, you will likely be disappointed. The Alamo is smack dab in the middle of the city, across the street from stores and the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum. I kid you not. You can also beat the heat with a snow cone from the vendor cart on the edge of the Alamo property. Having gotten that disclaimer out of the way, once you pass through the entrance to the Alamo, the surrounding area fades away.

The property is actually fairly small. The hubby and I both enjoy history, and the Alamo was full of interesting information & artifacts. The grounds surrounding the church include green shady gardens and beautiful fountains. There is a large gift shop building beside the main church structure with a model of the former mission complex and a striking depiction of the battle. It brings to life a picture of what the Alamo would have looked like during the well known siege. Only a few of the original buildings are left standing today.

With my brothers outside The Alamo.

After our visit to the Alamo, we returned to the Riverwalk and toured the area by foot. It was HOT and by the end of our stroll along the extensive paths lining the river, I was wishing we had opted for the boat tour! Having worked at a landscape architecture and urban planning firm when I was living in Denver, I had seen many photos of the unique Riverwalk and heard my fair share of discussions about this San Antonio landmark.

The Riverwalk was different than I expected. I had anticipated many shops along the waterfront and a more bustling atmosphere, but rather, the riverfront is lined almost exclusively with hotels and restaurants. There was an unexpected calmness and peacefulness to long stretches of the Riverwalk.
Beautiful landscape architecture lines the waterfront, differing around each turn, with views of the San Antonio skyline peaking out over bridges. The unique architecture of the surrounding buildings, some with a European flair and others with ornate historic detailing, is also a highlight.

It was a tiring but fun day and after cooling off with some Texas Blue Bell ice cream, we headed for Austin. I want to share just one more picture with you of some beautiful blown glass we passed in one of the shops in downtown San Antonio. I am a huge fan of Dale Chihuly, an amazingly talented glass artist, and this sculpture reminded me of his intricate pieces.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tour of Portland: Final Day

I first heard about Mother's from this fabulous blog, so I definitely wanted to check it out for brunch during our time in Portland. I enjoyed it every bit as much as I had hoped! The biscuits and gravy were delicious, creamy, not greasy, with a good flavor (and they even brought me a sample before I ordered!) The corn flake dipped french toast was a favorite as well. And the interior was even more lovely than the food.

We had an unexpected visitor, though, who interrupted our quiet breakfast with friends. He's sitting just between me and hubby. (Go ahead and enlarge if you need!) Do you recognize him?

Everyone else did! There were onlookers taking pictures through the windows (do you see them in the picture?), staff hustling and bustling around to prepare for his arrival, and secret service men on the prowl.

Don't forget to notice that gorgeous sparkly chandelier and soft white drapes. It was hard to capture pictures of the dining room that didn't include the man of the hour.

The Oregon primaries were just around the corner, so he and Chelsea were out campaigning for the wife. It honestly would have been much more exciting if I was a fan. Chelsea was every bit more likable than Bill. She stopped to chat and admire our friends' precious baby boy, as did the former president.

I did manage to snag a few highly desired (by me!) pictures of the wonderful cottage chic decor, but not without interruption. I have a hundred shots of blurry hostess heads buzzing through the picture. Thank goodness for digital cameras. And then there was the "Excuse me, Miss, are you with the press?" NO! I'm not with the press. I hardly care about his visit. I just want to snap some photos of this fabulous restaurant! So here they are...I worked hard for them!

(Any guesses at who the men in the dark suits are? I'll give you one hint. They were wearing little earpieces...)

I loved the clever coffee mugs. So did my mom!

Later that afternoon, we headed over for some sweet treats at the well known Saint Cupcake. It was my first visit to a cupcakery and I was very much looking forward to some sugary goodness. I was somewhat disappointed. The shop was cute, the umbrella tables out front even cuter, the cupcakes were eye-catching with their twirly icing and sprinkles, but the wow factor in my mouth was lacking. I've definitely had moister, richer cupcakes at home. But, even a mediocre cupcake is still a cupcake, so I didn't complain too loudly!

We spent a couple of hours at the Japanese Garden. It was pretty and peaceful, with interesting landscape design and water features. It was smaller than we expected, and you can easily tour the grounds in an hour or so. But, if you enjoy Asian inspired gardens or architecture, it is definitely worth a visit!

We also hit the Portland City Grill for a happy hour dinner. I explained the awesome Portland Happy Hour concept here. Portland City Grill is on the 30th floor and has some of the best views of the city. They also have a huge variety of tasty appetizers.

And we finally conclude the tour of Portland! I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of the city and our trip...despite the delays in my posts. Believe it or not, I didn't even share with you every stop we made in this fun city!

My family has been in town for the last week and a half, so I have lots of pictures and projects to share in the next week or so! I also hit a couple of fruitful tag sales last Saturday, so I have some finds to share as well.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Prize Winning Shot

I have to take a minute and brag about my talented hubby! He has taken up photography as a hobby and I love how much he enjoys experimenting with pictures. I love having so many wonderful photos to document our trips, daily life & memories.

During the year he lived in New Orleans to help rebuild the city after Katrina, doing ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ, I visited him (my then fiance) and we had a fun date night in the French Quarter.
He took this.

Fast forward a year and a half later. The Austin American Statesman, our local newspaper, is hosting a photo contest. The June category was shots of New Orleans.

Voted on by readers and selected by a professional photographer, he won!!! This appeared on the front page of the travel section in the Sunday newspaper yesterday...

His prize is one night's stay at this fabulous Austin resort and a round of golf for two!

I'm excited for this.

And this.

I'm really looking forward to a relaxing and romantic night away before our busy fall season of ministry kicks off! A sweet and unexpected blessing.

Congratulations babe! I'm proud of you!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

We had a fun day celebrating our freedom as Americans! I am so thankful for the men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect our freedom, for their families who are left behind with a void while their loved ones are away...worrying & missing their husband or wife, mom or dad, son or daughter, or friend on a daily basis, for the bravery and pride that touches every part of their lives as they represent our country.

We joined two other couples from our small group for an Austin style 4th of July celebration. First stop, Rudy's, for some Texas BBQ.

Ryan, Truman & James
Katie & JennAfter dinner, we all headed over to the Congress Ave. Bridge in downtown Austin. It is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America, estimated at 1.5 million bats. Each night in the summer, the bats emerge from under the bridge at dusk, blanketing the sky as they go out to forage for food. The event has become an unusual tourist attraction, drawing crowds of visitors and locals alike to the bridge most summer nights.

The lake was busy with boaters & kayakers out to enjoy the holiday, and they began lining up in the water below the bridge to watch, as spectators began lining the bridge.

Do you see those swarms moving past the skyline? They could easily be mistaken from a distance by an unknowning viewer as swarms of bugs, or even birds. Nope. Bats. Millions of bats.

This was my first time viewing the bats. It was quite a site! The individual bats are much smaller in size than I had imagined. Swarms of bats appeared from under the bridge for a good ten minutes, making their way over the water & trees before disappearing in the distance.

We chatted as dusk turned to dark, and then enjoyed a colorful fireworks display from our spot on the bridge. We had one of the coolest evenings we've had in Austin lately, and there was a great breeze, which made for a pleasant evening outside and a rare break from the heat of a Texas summer. Such a blessing! We capped our night off with some local Amy's ice cream.

I hope you enjoyed a fun celebration with your family and friends as well!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tour of Portland: Day 2

Our second day in Portland was predicted to be the most hot, so we decided that it would be the perfect day to escape to the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood. Just an hour drive out of Portland and you will find yourself in the midst of God's beautiful, grand, and detailed creation.

The Historic Columbia River Highway was the first planned scenic roadway in the US. It has sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge, and winds along the "tour of waterfalls," as I like to call it.

The first stop you should make is at Chanticleer Point, at the Portland Women's Forum. We loved watching the gathering of painters who were there that morning capturing the beauty of the view!

And don't miss the Vista House at Crown Point. Another picture perfect spot for views of the Gorge.

There are many pull-offs along the route where you can park alongside the road and take a short walk or a long hike to view majestic waterfalls that dot the drive. We stuck to the shorter walks and easier hikes, but still saw a breathtaking array of waterfalls. The power of the thousands of gallons of rushing water was stunning. To truly experience the beauty of the scenic byway, you definitely need to plan for a block of several hours to explore all of the stops along the way. I'll share just a few of our stops with you....

Bridal Veil Falls
And the most well known of the falls, Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls drops in two major steps and is the second tallest waterfall in the United States. Truman hiked to the top of the falls, while I waited near the bridge. We took a little break and had a relaxed lunch on the Multnomah Lodge patio with a great view of the falls, before continuing on the drive.

Wahkeena Falls
Each waterfall along the drive is identified with a name, often reflecting its unique & distinguishing characteristics.

Horsetail FallsNear the end of the Historic Columbia River Highway, you can pick up the Fruit Loop. The Fruit Loop winds around orchard after orchard, neat rows of trees with a few vineyards tucked between, and the backdrop of Mt. Hood, the tallest mountain in Oregon.

It is a beautiful drive and you can follow half the loop to the highway entering Mt. Hood National Forest. We then continued on into the National Forest and up to Timberline Lodge at the top of Mt. Hood.

Despite 90 degree temperatures in the city, the mountains were still covered in snow. We took in both the cooler temperatures and the grand views before heading back to Portland. We spent about 10 hours making the round trip up the Historic Columbia River Highway, on to Mt. Hood, and then back to Portland. It was a really full day, but so worth it!

We were obviously tired and hungry when we arrived back at the B&B! We headed out for a late bite to eat & loved our dinner at the unique elementary school turned hotel & restaurant, The Kennedy School! It is one of the most original restaurants we've ever been to, maintaining the historic character of the school with a funky twist.

The old cafeteria has been transformed into a restaurant, the gym an eclectic movie theater where you can order from the menu during the show, and the classrooms have become hotel rooms in an adjoining wing. There is even a pool. It seemed to be another fun option for accommodations in Portland. It was a pleasant evening to enjoy a meal al fresco on the patio.