A Winter Getaway to Austin, Texas

Mar 12, 2023

For many years now, we've done a little vacation somewhere warm and sunny during January to help stave off the winter blues. We planned to do the same this year, but the long MLK weekend in January seemed to follow too closely behind the holiday break that included a trip to St. George. So in order to maximize the anticipation of a vacation, we pushed it off until February.

We thought about doing a family trip, as we usually have done in the past, but none of our usual warm and driveable options were calling out to us. So Mike and I decided to go somewhere alone, much to the disappointment of our kids.

Our criteria were: somewhere we could fly to with our sky miles and warmer than Utah. 

We landed on Austin, Texas.

Besides meeting the above requirements, the area was also home to a few of Mike's relatives, and one of my friends from my college days used to live there and has always spoken so highly of it (we relied heavily on this blogpost of hers while planning). Plus, we had never been to Texas before, so it felt like something we needed to experience. 

We left on a Wednesday afternoon and came home on Saturday morning, and it was the best little vacation. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Here are some of the highlights:

The food

I don't know if I've ever been on a vacation where every single meal has hit it out of the park. Until now. All of the food was amazing. A recap:

Pappasito's Cantina: our first taste of Texas. We had to wait an hour to be seated. It was worth it. The salsa was different from anything we'd ever had before and the tortilla chips were paper thin and crispy. We ordered the fajitas sampler and couldn't quite believe how good it was. Maybe it helped that we were starving from a day of traveling. (This happened to be our only warm day while we were in Texas, and we marveled at being able to walk around at night without a jacket.)

Phoebe's Diner: Mike asked the waitress for recommendations. She said, "Well, our bacon is good." He thought that was a funny thing to specifically mention, but he never says no to bacon, so he ordered a side of it with his brisket benny, and it truly was unlike any bacon he'd ever had before. Nearly a quarter inch thick with a crackly crust and rich flavor, he wishes he could recreate it at home. I ordered the deep fried French toast with berries, and my mouth is watering as I write this.

Torchy's: This is the one place that was on my "must-go" list. I have heard about this chain for years, and I wasn't going to go to Texas without trying it. We only ordered a couple of tacos because we were still full from breakfast, but they were so yummy. But it's the queso that I still crave on an almost daily basis and wish I could easily get around here whenever the whim strikes.

Amy's Ice Creams: Quite possibly Silas's favorite stop from the trip. I got the Belgian chocolate. Mike got the Oreo shake. I said we didn't have any disappointing foods on this trip, but I forgot that Mike was actually unimpressed with his shake. It was super sweet and didn't taste like real Oreos. But mine was excellent. I told Mike he needed a redo before forming an opinion. 

Hopdoddy's: I ordered the Primetime, and Mike ordered the Classic, and he said it was in his top three burgers of all time. We also got fries and a side of brussels sprouts (which could have masqueraded as chips rather than vegetables).

Gourdough's: We were completely and utterly stuffed from a day of eating. But we couldn't pass up this donut truck. Sadly, we took them back to our apartment and literally could only manage one bite (and Mike had bought FOUR at $8 each). We ate them for breakfast the next morning, but it wasn't the same.

Cooper's Barbeque: I'm saving this for its own highlight because it was an experience unto itself.

Jeni's Ice Cream: yes, more ice cream. We got the brambleberry crisp, milkiest chocolate, and darkest chocolate. Yum, yum, yum. 

The last thing we ate was a cobb salad and fries in the hotel restaurant on our last night, and after gorging ourselves for two days straight, that salad was exactly what I needed.

Walking by the river

We spent some time on our first morning walking along the Colorado River that runs through downtown Austin. Our walk took us under the famous Congress Bridge, home to hundreds of bats, although we were too early in the season to see any.  The day was overcast and windy, which is not exactly the forecast we were hoping for when we planned our trip. However, we just kept reminding ourselves, "It's warmer than Utah," and really, once our bodies were warmed up from walking, it was pretty pleasant. 

The library and bookstore

When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is visit the public library and an independent bookstore. Luckily, these two places happened to be within walking distance of our apartment and each other.

Austin's downtown public library is really awesome. It has an open staircase that circles up to all five floors (yes, I walked up all five flights and checked out each section). Mike hung out in the atrium with a napping Silas while I explored a bit. I loved the reading porch off of the children's section and the rooftop patio accessible from the top floor. 

We made a stop at the Whole Foods flagship store where we let Silas run around on the playground for a bit until we all got too cold. Then we headed over to Book People: a fun, three-story independent bookstore. We spent some time wandering around looking at the cool book displays and choosing a few souvenirs for our kids. 

Hill Country Weavers

Once we decided on Austin as a destination, I had to look up the local yarn stores in the area. I found Hill Country Weavers, which I'd heard about before, and Mike was nice enough to let me make a stop there. I'm so glad I did. It's one of the best yarn stores I've ever been to. There was so much yarn, all beautifully displayed and thoughtfully organized. It was so fun to recognize many of the brands that I've seen other people knit with before but never personally seen myself. I ended up purchasing three skeins (which demonstrated considerable restraint, I assure you): two from Hill Country Weavers' own yarn line and one from another Texas dyer. 

Mount Bonnell

We hiked to the top of Mount Bonnell to get a bird's eye view of Austin. I use the term "hike" very generously as I think it took us all of five minutes to get to the top. It was windy and chilly, but Silas still loved running around. We explored the surrounding area a bit before heading back down. 


On Friday, we left Austin and traveled west to Fredericksburg. Mike's aunt and uncle live there, and they showed us all around this cute town. We walked from their home to Main Street, which was lined with such interesting and unique stores. We mostly just window shopped, except for Rustlin' Rob's, which we felt compelled to go into. It was basically the store of Mike's dreams, filled from top to bottom with sauces, spreads, and dips--and every single one of them available to sample. Pretty cool concept.

Cooper's Barbeque

Mike's one goal for this vacation was to get real Texas barbeque, and Brian and Claudia knew exactly where to take us. The day before, when we were still in Austin, Mike asked, "Where are all the Texas accents?" Well, we found them at Cooper's. That place was legit. You choose the meat you want, and they slice it at that moment. Per usual, Mike wanted to try everything and got the brisket, pork chop, prime rib, beef ribs, and sausage. Then you pick up your sides. We tried the the sauerkraut, mac and cheese, and beans. (The beans were really amazing--so much so that Mike tried to recreate them a couple of weeks later.) You find a place to sit at long tables, cafeteria style. In the middle of every table is a bag of the whitest of white bread, along with ketchup, mustard, and squeezable margarine. You dish up your food on a thick sheet of coated paper that acts as a plate and eat up. It was pretty fantastic. Definitely one of our favorite memories from Texas.

Brian and Claudia's property

Mike's uncle and aunt have a beautiful piece of property outside of Fredericksburg, and they are in the process of building a home on it. We got a sneak peek tour, and it was absolutely gorgeous. Claudia's attention to detail and design is inspiring, and everything about their home is so thoughtful. It was a treat to walk through the unfinished rooms and hear them talk about their vision for the space. Afterwards, we walked around the property and admired all of the work Brian has put into it already. We are planning to see them again next year for the solar eclipse, so it will be great to get to see everything finished.

When we told people we were going to Austin, they wanted to know why. I guess maybe it's not as obvious of a destination spot as, say, San Francisco or New York City, but I would definitely give it two thumbs up and go back again. There were things we would have liked to see that we didn't have time for and, more importantly, things we wanted to eat. We were so impressed with how nice and friendly everyone was--I don't know if any of my babies have ever received as much positive attention as Silas did in Austin. Thanks for showing us a good time, Texas!

(And a special thanks to my parents who watched our kids while we were away. This trip would not have been possible without their generosity!)

(And final side note: I know it looks like I'm wearing the exact same outfit during the entire trip. I maybe didn't plan for the cold temps as well as I should have so ended up wearing my one and only sweatshirt most of the time.) 

A Little of This and That in February

Mar 5, 2023

February went by in a quick blink. That's always the hope with this month, right? The boys were busy with school, Mike and I went on a quick little trip, and there was lots more snow. That's February in a nutshell, but some of the other happenings included . . . 

Moving . . . Silas to Bradley's room. After more than a year of having a baby in our room, he finally got the boot. It's not that we couldn't have moved him months ago; we just couldn't figure out room arrangements. I really wanted to move Bradley to a different bedroom (he currently occupies the smallest room in the house), but he said he'd rather stay where he was and just have Silas with him. So that's what we did. So far, it's working surprisingly well. 

Going . . . to a Disney-themed birthday party. Our good friend, James, turned forty and celebrated in style with a Disney-themed party. Costumes were encouraged, so Mike and I pulled out our Emperor's New Groove costumes from a couple of years ago and went as the llama and Kronk. (Mike took his character up to the next level by bringing homemade spinach puffs.) It was a fun evening with Disney food, a trivia game, drawing activity, and virtual firework show. 

Participating . . . in the chapter Mathcounts competition. Max has been participating in Mathcounts every week at school. He and a couple of his friends qualified for the chapter competition and spent most of a Saturday working out various math problems and puzzles. It didn't sound like a whole lot of fun to me, but he had a blast and did very well. 

Preferring . . . Mike. Following in his brothers' footsteps, as soon as Silas turned one, he started to prefer Mike over me. Before then, he liked Mike a lot, but if I reached out my arms, he would still come to me. Now if I do the same, he just shakes his head and bats my hands away. However, the other night, he rejected both of us in favor of Aaron who was playing music and dancing around in the kitchen. He knows what he wants, which is both good and bad. 

Advancing . . .  to the district level of the stem fair. Remember the project from last month that Bradley completed in the dark because of procrastination? It did well enough to move on from the school level to the district. He got to go on a Friday morning with several of his classmates who also advanced and present his project to a new set of judges. Sadly, it didn't advance any further (last-minute experiments can only take you so far), but it was still a good experience. 

Beginning . . . guitar lessons. I forgot to mention this in January, but Aaron started taking guitar lessons. We gave him a guitar for his birthday last summer; he had been wanting one, and I thought he would just teach himself with YouTube videos. But after several months of only minimal tinkering around, we decided he would benefit from actual lessons. It has been great so far. From the very first lesson, his teacher had him working on real songs that Aaron loves. It's so fun to walk past him room and hear him playing along to Don't Panic by Coldplay or Island in the Sun by Weezer. (The only problem with these lessons is now Aaron is convinced he also needs an electric guitar.) 

Making . . . Valentine boxes. Valentine boxes are one of those things I feel completely fine giving my kids full ownership over. I don't have any temptation to micromanage or take over, and they always do an awesome job with their own skills and creativity. Bradley made a castle, Clark made a boat on an ocean, and Ian made a truck (although he ended up not using his because they made Valentine bags in his class). 

Celebrating . . . Valentine's Day with books and breakfast (for dinner). As is tradition, everyone received a new book (actually, two because I got carried away). We had waffles and berries for dinner. Mike didn't get the book memo and instead gave me a tray of vegetables (to help me with my 1000 vegetables goal) and a poem. 

Relaxing . . . with the bunnies. Anytime we are watching a movie or reading, the kids like to bring the bunnies inside and hold them on their laps. It is so relaxing for them to have a snuggly bunny to pet and hold. It makes me happy because this is exactly what I hoped would happen when we decided to get bunnies. 

Savoring . . . medicine. Poor Silas had an ingrown toenail that led to an infection, so he was on an antibiotic for a week to help clear it up. I have never seen a kid love medicine so much. He always got so excited when we pulled it out in the morning and evening, and he was upset every time the dose was gone. Having had to beg and plead with some kids to take medicine before, this was such a piece of cake. 

Earning . . . a new nickname. We call him: Silas the helpful destroyer. Every day, he does his "jobs": pulling things out of cupboards, transferring items to random places, mixing up card games and puzzle pieces. In the process of all this helpfulness, things often get broken. For example, he pulled a jar of salsa off the table, knocked down a vase, and stretched out one of my tape measures so that it would no longer retract. It is a very busy stage. 

Aging . . . through the first 100 days of school. Ian became an old man, seemingly overnight. So did the rest of his class. School must really be working him hard. 

Making . . . an epic trip to Costco. It is not a good thing when we let too much time elapse between Costco trips. Usually Mike does the shopping alone, but I went with him this time, and we completely filled up two carts. There was much rejoicing when we got home because we have adolescent boys, and a fully stocked pantry makes them happy. 

Traveling . . . to Austin, Texas. Mike and I (and tagalong, Silas) traded in the Utah cold for the Texas cold for a few days. We were hoping for warm weather, but it didn't work out that way. Still, it was warmer than Utah, and the food made up for anything the weather lacked. I'll share more details in another post soon.

Staying . . . home from school due to a giant snowstorm. We got hammered by snow at the end of the month. Most of it arrived in the middle of the night, so we awoke to a foot of snow and notifications that school was moved to distance learning for the day. The boys were thrilled. However, I can tell that the excitement of snow has worn off because none of them had any desire to go out in it. To be honest, I found the snow a bit discouraging; all of the old snow had finally melted enough that we could see grass, and now it feels like we've started over and somehow have to melt all of this new stuff. By the next morning, the roads were clear, and we assumed everyone would go back to school. But the district called a second snow day. I guess the cities in the west part of the district got even more snow than we did, and the snowplows hadn't been able to keep up, so many roads were still unplowed and the school busses were trapped by snow. Our second snow day was much less magical than the first. Clark, especially, had so much virtual school work that by the end of the second day, he said, "If school is cancelled tomorrow, I'm going to be so annoyed." Thankfully, it wasn't. 

Continuing . . . my reading streak. My reading has not slowed down this month. I am so happy that I finally seem to have found a system that works for me right now. Here are the books I read this month: 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (finally finished reading this one to Clark and Ian)

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston (book club choice for February; fun idea, but not my favorite)

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley (loved this graphic novel memoir about pregnancy and birth)

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede (so inspiring; now I want to go to NYC and see the musical that is based on this same story)

Goldenrod by Maggie Smith (poetry collection; more cynical than I was expecting; still found some favorites)

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (a reread; loved every word)

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (a readaloud to Ian and Clark that all of the big kids joined in on, too)

Finishing . . . a cardigan and a pair of socks. I started the cardigan back in the fall, but I always seem to stall out on sweaters that are knit from the bottom up because I get stressed that they're not going to end up fitting. However, I finally ran out of other projects to distract myself with and buckled down and finished it. And I loooooove it. 

Attending . . . a marriage date night. Mike's cousin's wife teaches marriage and family classes at BYU, and she put together a fun evening focused on strengthening marriage. We attended with some friends in our neighborhood and were so happy to see a couple of Mike's other cousins there as well. We ate dinner first, and then Jen spent the rest of the evening sharing so much good information. We were completely filled up with new ideas and motivated to improve things in our own marriage. It was such a good night. 

Hanging . . . out with a little cousin. My brother and his wife recently moved about fifteen minutes away from us. We are hoping this means we'll get to see more of Calvin who is just a month younger than Silas (and more of my brother and sister-in-law, too, of course). 

That's it for February. Hoping for sunny skies and warmer temps in the weeks ahead!

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