Vacation III: Waco, West, Austin – San Marcos – Shopping

with Faune

On our way back to Austin, we made a couple of stops. Thanks to Andi, our GPS and a small billboard I noticed, we found the Dr. Pepper Museum. Due to losing the bet, I thought we wouldn’t have to pay admission, I paid for admission and the headphones/tape deck of the tour. Why you ask did we even go here? Well, my favorite soft drink, which I try not to indulge more then once/day (I mean once/month), is Dr Pepper. Faune, on the other hand, loves both museums and diet A&W Rootbeer. So, the museum had it all for us. At the museum, there was a fascinating discussion of how they figured out the closing mechanism of the bottles to keeping the fizz in (the crown cap design which endured for 70 years), the original Artisan well where they got water for the drink, the original bottling equipment, a wide display of the vending machines keeping the bottles cold in the days of old, an endless loop of Dr Pepper commercials over time, tons of Dr Pepper trivia, a little history of all soft drinks and lots more. Who knew Dr Pepper came out in 1885, 1 year before Coco-Cola!! Read the site for more fun facts! Faune’s favorite part was at the end when we shared a good ol’ fashioned A&W Rootbeer float. Why you ask didn’t we have a Dr Pepper float? It just wasn’t meant to be!

West, TX

So, after about 2-3 hours filling up on Soft Drinks and trivia, we moved on toward Austin. We couldn’t pass up a stop at the Czech Stop in West Texas could we? Who ever heard of Kolaches before making this stop? We couldn’t eat our Kolaches fast enough! I had a berry filled one, whereas Faune had an Apricot one. These Kolaches delicacy was very close to our Jewish food called Hamantashen. They are folded pastries filled with fruit filling. In the Czech version, they put almost any type of food in their Kolaches. One of the coolest part of the Czech Stop and Bakery is that they are open 24/7 and baking all the time. Yummy!!!

Austin, part II
with Katie, Ann, Jonathon (and Chauncey and Murphy)

For our final 3 days of our wonderful Texas vacation, we stayed with Faune’s (and now my) good friends Katie, Ann, Jonathon and their fun dogs, Chauncey and Murphy. For this part of our trip, we ate at lots more vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Our favorite restaurant of this leg of the journey had to be Kerbey Lane Cafe. We had 3 meals there – Dinner, breakfast the next morning, then our last breakfast in Austin. For those of you living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kerbey Lane, which has been around for 25 years, is what Hobees aspires to. Although Hobees has more locations (8 to Kerbey’s 4), Kerbey has a more funky feel and has lots more vegetarian options then Hobees. Although it’s a small chain, each one feels quite different (we made it to two of the four on our trip – leaving two for discovery on our next visit!).

I wish we had dined at the Magnolia Cafe a few more times. The night we all went there, I wasn’t overly hungry. I ordered the potato dish which I loved. It was like hash browns on steroids (but these would have passed any drug test). There were about 4-5 veggie topping with lots of potatoes.

San Marcos Outlet Shopping

Not One Huge mall – but two of the – both the Prime and Tanger Outlet Centers were right next to each other providing a glut of shopping – my guesstimate is that there were over 250 shops. The most unique attraction there was the gondola ride! We got some great deals at Jockey and Eddie Bauer!! There wasn’t a lot of good eatings, but it looks like they’ll have a revamped mega food center by the December holidays! We ate at Cracker Barrel restaurant which was good news/bad news. Almost every dish contained meat, including many of the appetizers. The good news was that I found lots of candy from my childhood which I hadn’t seen for years. Visit site for some ol’ fashioned treats for sale online!

Barton Spring Pool
Huge Natural Springs

Our day set aside for swimming at the Barton Springs Pool, a Thursday, turned out to be “cleaning day” for the pool. We didn’t have time to return for a swim. Nonetheless, we were amazed by this pool! This is a super huge pool – 1,000 feet long – and pumps 27,000,000 gallons of water/day (Is everything BIG in Texas – except the brain of our president?) which is filled with natural spring water. It’s obviously made by humans, but looks more like a big watering hole. Over the years, the springs has been the site of a flour mill, a source of drinking water, a popular location for baptisms, family picnics, social gatherings, musical performances and swimming.

Sadly, we have just a couple of more days in Texas, then back home….

Dallas & Fort Worth Vacationing

Dallas & Fort Worth
with Ken, Ken and Richard (and Casper and Meow Meow)

Meow Meow

After the nice, warm, almost San Francisco-like Bay Area visit of Austin, we entered into conservative Dallas country. I can’t tell you exactly what it was about Dallas (the lack of anti-Bush bumper stickers, maybe?) that gave me pause that this wasn’t a vegetarian-friendly, liberal leaning town. In my favorite Vegetarian Dining Guide, there are 13 vegetarian restaurants listed for Austin, only 3 for Dallas. This should have been our first clue.

For the next couple of nights, we stayed at our friend’s (Ken, Ken and Richard) home along with their 2 cats Casper, the white friendly cat and Meow Meow, the cute kitten who liked to wake Faune up at night.

Our first breakfast was a wonderful one at Cafe Brazil. They had a folksy ambiance and some really good potatoes. Ken and Faune really liked their dishes as well. It’s hard to believe there is a chain of these in Texas, eight and counting. There is still hope for healthy food chains in this country if they have them in Dallas. Why don’t we have them in the SF Bay Area?? I only know of 1 vegetarian chain to date – Herbivore – with 2 in San Francisco and 1 coming to Berkeley.

Fort Worth Botanical Gardens

From the great breakfast we headed to the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens. We first visited the Roses, which just weren’t as plentiful as I’d hoped – but given the time of year, there were plenty to marvel at. We then journeyed around the rest of the gardens on foot and stood in wonderment at the huge trees towering over us. We also saw a couple of lakes which had several turtles. See the three above having a tea party in the sun.

Our favorite was the Conservatory or as we called it “The Rainforest.” It’s 10,000 square feet of lush jungle environment. Until I get to Costa Rica, this will have to do as my Rain Forest experience. This was a completely enclosed environment which imitated a rainforest. There was a very cool waterfall, bananas growing, vines (as seen above), a little creachers here and there. Go to the website and get some great 360 degree views of the place.

Our dinner that night was at the disappointing Cosmic Cafe. It’s a primarily Indian restaurant (we just had Indian food the night before), so this might have tainted our taste buds. The ambiance is really cool and I think had I gone there for a yoga or meditation class first, then eaten a wonderful meal, things would have been better. I would definitely try it again should I return to the area.

Next Stop….West, Texas!

It’s Texas Time – Let’s start with Austin

Veggie Heaven

with Faune, Mike, Deb and Gregory

Faune, my girlfriend, and I began our journey on Southwest flying the friendly skys (can I say that – with no decent food on planes, being strip searched, no leg room?) last Saturday via San Jose to Austin. We rented a PT Cruiser (Travel edition) from Enterprise, our favorite rental car company. Besides the car, we enjoyed the experience of working with Enterprise. Love ’em!

We arrived for some fun and chatting at Mike and Debbie’s house in Volente, Texas (a suburb of Austin). Sadly, the lake by their house was bone dry – so we had to give up on kayaking (temporarily) and water skiing. We did head over to a restaurant with one of the most gorgeous views around, The Oasis, but there was a 2.5 hour wait so we went in search for some quicker grub. We ended up at the Volante Water Park which is now offering fine dining. Candlelit dinner, black menu with blue writing, karaoke singer in the background – really set the mood! I had great company in Michael, Debbie, and Faune – which helped quite a bit!

On Sunday, it was time to go to church. We randomly picked a United Church of Christ Church in Austin, First Congregational Church of Austin. Turns out that the former pastor there – who preached for 30 years, was a distant relative of Faune’s from Kentucky. There were stained glass panels commemorating her relatives and the refreshment room was named after her ancestors. After the church experience we headed to one of my favorite restaurants on our vacation, Veggie Heaven. The 2000 Tofu, the bubble tea (blackberry was my favorite), and the oodles of broccoli were my favorites. Even my non-Veggie friends enjoyed the food!

Next stop – Dallas, Texas

Akeelah and the Bee – Wonderful Movie

Akeelah and the Bee

What a wonderful movie this is. Just when you thought they weren’t making heartwarming, thought-provoking, tear-jerking , intelligent movies – Akeelah and the Bee comes along. I can’t rave enough about this movie. It’s a story of cooperation, adversity, racism, classism, and a neighborhood coming together. The synopsis of the movie: It’s about a young girl, motivated by her father, when he was alive, strives to win a spelling bee. She faces many obstacles on her path. The tag line for the movie: “Changing the world… one word at a time” is similar to my Greeting Card Business’s tag line “Changing the world..one card at a time.”

One of my favorite quotes of all times, often attributed to Nelson Mandela, but in fact was written by Marianne Williamson appears in the movie:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Life Magazine at 70, Real Voices, Great Websites,

Life Magazine at 70

I sure love photos and I think Life Magazine does a wonderful job. Here they break down some of their more memorable cover photos into 3 categories: Famous Life Covers, Hollywood Covers, and War Covers. My favorite category are the famous life covers. If you really like this sampling, I suggest you buy the book!

Get REAL live voice on Customer Service

Don’t you just hate getting the run around with “Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, 3 for Russian, etc…,” then you get Spanish, now you have to go through about 10 more button pushes until you get to a real person? Cut through the virtual red tape and get a human being with GetHuman.com. Here’s a directory of hundreds of companies where you can just press the codes, one after another, to get a real person. Quite cool!

Top 2006 Websites

Most of us rely on the web for tons of stuff. Making plane reservations, ordering take out, buying clothes, reading the news, finding out about the latest gadget, etc. PC World publishes a top 100 every year. They have a Classic version, a printer-friendly (all in one) Classic Version and the 99 Undiscovered sites version. If you want, you can download all the links for future perusal.