Friday, March 14, 2014

SXSW meets Daylight Savings Time meets an unfortunately-timed nap

Yesterday, I had been very sleepy so ended up napping at 4:00 PM, intending to be asleep for 20 minutes and instead konking out for two hours. James didn't get home until about 8:00, so we finished dinner shortly before 9:00.

James and Daphne both had things to do, but I felt sleepy and didn't want to try to go to bed yet, so I decided to walk. Daphne needed me to pick up a couple of things from CVS, anyway, so I strapped on my backpack and took off.

I always take my camera with me, just in case, but had not planned necessarily to try to put together any kind of blog post... Until I saw this. I'm pretty sure it's new.

The Hotel Ella has a gorgeous red-accented chandelier. In a tree.

It almost makes me want to try something of this ilk, except: 1) we don't have a deterrent fence and 2) that's way too fancy for the Nuthaus.

On the other end of the "fancy" spectrum is student co-op housing. A couple of weekends ago, all of the co-ops seemed to be having spring clean-up. I don't think I've ever seen the yard this tidy.

Also, last time we walked past, there was a large decapitated baby doll's head on the see-saw. It was morbidly funny, and I wish is were there... but it'd still be pretty cool to have a see-saw in the front yard. Actually, this *is* something we could cobble together and that would go perfect with our flamingo decor.

I'd say that this is ornamental lighting, but they obviously don't need it, so it's just ornamental. :)

Most of the trucks from the Rancho Rio eatery are gone for SXSW, but they're still all lit up and there were a couple of couples eating a late dinner.

Graffiti on the corner of The Old Grocery Store apartment building. I love this building; almost everything else in the area is new construction student housing, and this building looks like it could be in some down-on-its-luck 1940s European small town sreet.

As much as I have zero need for a water pipe, I think they're awfully pretty. Just like every time I see a prettily-arranged and well-lit bar, I long to collect liquor for display.

This is outside of a church and when they put out the sandwich board sign last year, it made me giggle. This is located right behind a bus stop, and hundreds of people (maybe thousands; I haven't researched it) walk past it every day. It's cool that the church decided to try to inspire people by writing something encouraging to meditate on every day. But they don't exactly trust us. The board is securely chained to a wrought-iron fence. 

I happened to reach CVS precisely as the employee was turning the lock at 10:00 PM... so I guess it's not open 24 hours. Oh well. The walk was totally worth it.

As I was watching the guy lock the door, an inebriated gentleman sitting under the awning called out to me.

Man: Hey, woman. You're a woman.
Me: I am. Thanks for noticing.
Man: I'm a man. And I'm gay. And I have more boyfriends than you'll ever have.
Me: You're probably right. I am not popular with the dudes.
Man: What I've got going for me is, well, right now, I have a cute butt.
Me: You must be very proud.

Right then, three college guys walked by, and he started talking to them, but I don't think they were interested in his admiration. Every time a street person (which I say because I don't know whether some of them are technically homeless; this guy didn't have all of the encumberments most homeless people have; I think he might have just settled in to sit off his buzz) and they try to engage me, even if they're asking for help and I can't do anything for them, I try at least to make eye contact and talk.

There's a scene in "The Fisher King" where this homeless guy is sitting with a change cup in a subway station, and people are walking by dropping coins into his cup. Jeff Bridges' character is sitting with him and comments that no one even makes eye contact with him. The homeless man says something to the effect of, "They give me money so they don't have to. I'm like this great warning for them to keep doing what they're doing or else they could end up like me..." Then he goes on to explain that any time they feel like ramming a stapler into their boss's head, all they have to do is think of this homeless guy begging for money, and that's their warning to abort their mission and go about kissing the boss's butt.

I want people to know that I see them as people. Not as scenery or "them" or that I don't see them at all. Besides, most of the time, interactions with random people tend to be either entertaining or heart-warming.

In case I haven't mentioned this, I *love* our neighborhood. I was thinking as I was walking last night that when I used to live in the suburbs, I would sometimes feel nervous walking later in the evening. I don't feel that way at all around here. There are just too many people, and everything is well-lit. I wouldn't walk alone at 2:00 AM, but that's largely because I'm not such a night owl.

We got official word of our lease renewal a couple of days ago, so we're looking forward to at least another year at the Nuthaus! 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Royer's Pie Haven Ding Dong

"Vitamin Fortified!"
So, all of us have eaten a Hostess Ding Dong, right? Don't lie; yes, you have. When I was little, I used to like to try to peel off the chocolate coating and save it for last.

Recently, an outlet of Round Rock's Royer's Pie Haven opened in a corner of what used to be Toy Joy (which is sadly closing forever today) on the northwest corner of Guadalupe and 29th street in Austin. Ever since I'd looked through their menu*, I've wanted to visit, but we've never been there at a time when it was convenient to go in for a bite.

Yesterday, however, Daphne and I did stop in specifically to purchase something I'd read about on their website: A "homemade" Ding Dong. They describe it thusly: Chocolate cake filled with butter cream icing and dipped in double fudge!

Well. Hello, gorgeous!

First of all, I have to give mad props to pretty much everything that was in their bakery case. The pie pops (think of the popular cake pops, but with pie stuff in them instead), the pie-wiches (think oatmeal creme pies, but homemade and with different varieties of cookies), the whole pies... It all looked delicious and very tempting, except that I had tunnel vision.

I was bent on a Ding Dong. I didn't realize it'd be heart-shaped! That made it even better.

This is after the cake lived in my backpack for a mile-long walk home. I think it held up pretty well!
See the red checkered liner paper? That is what the whole cafe looks like. It's all cute and shabby chic and would be a nice place to hang out for coffee (if you like that kind of thing) and pie... And allegedly, they have sandwiches and stuff, but why bother?

Anyway, as a testament of love for my husband, I did not, in fact, tear into the Ding Dong as soon as I got home. Nay, I put it on the shelf for six long hours, until he'd gotten home, we'd had dinner, and we were all ready to enjoy it (hopefully) together. We cut into it, and here's the cross-section.

They keep the Ding Dong refrigerated, and with good reason. It's very delicate at room temperature, but that is, of course, the best way to eat it. If you bring one home, though, I'd recommend cutting it while it's cold, because our cutting it when it was warm and without having prepped the knife by dipping it into hot water caused the top layer of chocolate to slide off. Fortunately, we salvaged it.

The chocolate coating is actually not very sweet at all. Neither is the buttercream frosting, which is both lighter, consistency-wise, and milder than typical cake frosting. The chocolate cake is spongy and moist and is probably the sweetest component of the Ding Dong. Individually, they're all good, but together, it's really something special. The suggestion is nostalgic, but the flavor is so much better. I told James, "I don't have that plastic coating around my mouth like with a real Ding Dong!"

Bottom line: This snack is an adequate dessert for three people, if you've eaten dinner, or two people if you're in the middle of the afternoon and need a substantial nosh. It costs $10, or $10.83 with tax. Obviously, you could get three BOXES of actual Ding Dongs for about the same price, but they're not nearly as good (even if they happen still to be vitamin fortified). You can also get three fancy cupcakes for about the same price. But I think it's worth splurging on an elevated Ding Dong (that sounds dirtier in writing than it did in my head) every once in a while.

I was about to say that I'd purchase another one, and I might... but first I want to try the Salted Caramel Pie-wich. Who's with me?

*according to their menu, it's "pa-CAN," not "PEE-CAN." Thank you very much. (Although, I say it more like "puh-CAHN." A pee can is where you go when you don't have a proper toilet. Dang hillbillies.)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Night Rider

Lately, I have been feeling lethargic, fatigued, and exhausted. When I'm moving, I'm fine. But I have to sit down. A lot. Like for work, and because my daughter is in school. Things like that.

Tonight, after James and I had set up D's computer and played a game of Scrabble, he was ready to settle in for his own computer stuff and I wanted to ride my bike. I sat at the table, pendulum ready to swing to "get a head-start on sleep" and "take a ride."

I knew I'd feel better once I got out, so I did it. The sun was mostly down, so I turned my obnoxious flashers on and headed out, planning to ride just a couple of miles, just to knock the cobwebs out.

The night is clear and beautiful. Today started off very foggy and was warm and humid. With the sun down, it was pleasant. I easily made my way up a hill that is exceedingly more difficult when it's sunny and hot.

I drove down a West Campus street, where students were converging for a night out. It's warm enough that many have broken out the cut-offs and tank tops. I saw one already-drunk pretty boy wearing cowboy boots and Daisy Dukes stumble-skipping across the road in front of me. Good thing I drive defensively!

Then I hit "The Drag," enjoying the newish bike lane. Again, lots of students out and about. The bars and restaurants were packed, including Kerbey Lane. When I got to where I needed to turn off to come home, though, I wasn't tired. I felt like I needed a better workout, and the night was so gorgeous. I kept riding until I could see the downtown buildings popping up over the tops of closer parking garages. I drove past the lit-up courthouse.

Approaching 2nd, I realized that something was going on. The whole street was cordoned off and there were
security guards manning the sidewalk "entrances." Since I was on my bike, I got to zip past lines of cars trying to figure out where to park. I drove only about a block on 2nd before getting out of the way so as not to endanger pedestrians.

Heading toward Congress on 4th, I passed Fado's, which had live music spilling out into the street. Another bar was blasting Michael Jackson's "PYT" and the next Guns and Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine." Also, there was a pedicab in front of me booming "Thrift Shop." The trailer had a life-sized Darth Vader attached to the back of it, and picturing him singing "Thrift Shop" kind of made my night.

When I got home I found out that an Alzheimer's fund-raiser called "2nd Street Sound Check" was what I happened upon during the ride. Most of downtown was packed. I love seeing all of the people out, and experiencing the energy... quickly, and in passing, on my bike.

There are rooftop lounges with white billowing curtains and all blue lighting. There are construction tunnels and trees strung with white lights. There are upscale restaurants, a CVS, and a 7-11. You can't "type" the people on the street. There are kids in helmets riding bikes with their parents. There are DINKs going out to dinner. There are indigent people, likely relieved that tonight is so mild. There are pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages. Oh, and, of course, buses. Lots and lots of buses.

I drove up Congress, literally smiling, enjoying the cool breeze as the Capitol neared. Then it was up the hill past the Governor's Mansion, particularly enchanting at night. After that, I was ready to head home.

As I drove in, I realized that when I moved here almost a year ago (actually, eleven months ago to the day), I started calling this "my" neighborhood. At the time, I just meant the area around where I live. But now, I feel like it is truly mine. I know its personalities... It does change. It's different at lunchtime on weekdays, and on weekends when students' parents are in town. It's different on weeknights and on weekends. It changes, but it's all so familiar to me now. We have legitimate neighbors like "Grandma" (who has recently appeared on two occasions, after having holed up most of the winter) and "Grandpa," whom I learned is called "Santa Claus" by the attorney on whose stoop he frequently sleeps. And Crazy Guy. There are all of the cops who frequent Taco Cabana. There are the business people who walk past the house to Chick-fil-A at least twice a week. There are the Jimmy John's bike delivery drivers.There is the lady who stands in front of the Scientology building selling carnations (Daphne asks, "Where does she get those?"). Oh, man, and there are dogs. The dog across the street whose owner brings him out every morning, lets him do his business, and never ever cleans it up. There are the dogs that belong to homeless people... those dogs are super well-behaved and most of them are pit mixes. There are dogs that are apparently too delicate to walk across a busy street because the owner picks them up in his arms to run the crosswalk.

This place is my home. I love it. I'm not intimidated by traffic patterns I don't understand anymore. I'm never worried about going out alone after dark. I know this place, and it knows me, and we belong together. Now if only our landlord would let us buy this house...