Monday, June 27, 2016

Allergen Friendly Austin, Texas

This is the second in a series of allergen-friendly spots in different U.S. cities.  Whether it's GF/CF, Vegan, Nut-free, there are some spots to love in some of America's great cities.  Check out Allergen Friendly New York City here.

Keep Austin Weird...and gluten-free ;)

Austin is Home
Austin, Texas is our current home, and perhaps, it's the best city in the world for our dietary lifestyle.  I absolutely love it here and you can find all sorts of local spots catering to different needs.  If you're on Instagram, you can search hashtags like #austinvegan and find thousands of vegan-friendly places and pics!

To my surprise, gluten-free dining out here has been a total dream!  I have dozens of places I love, but for now I will share my tops.  Maybe this post will become an "Allergen Friendly Austin 1.0".
Enjoying a book at Thai Fresh along with a Yummy Almond Milk Latte with a GF/ Vegan Carrot Whoopie Pie!

My Top Absolute Favorite Restaurant of All Time: Thai Fresh

I came to Austin only once before we moved here for good.  It was two years ago, and somehow I magically found this place.  I immediately called David and said, "What city on earth has a farm-to-table gluten-free Thai restaurant combined with a gluten-free, vegan friendly bakery, ice cream shop, and coffee house??  We are moving here someday."  I was joking, but as soon as we knew we were moving, I knew our first eat out adventure would be Thai Fresh.  The kids love the rich ice cream (I mean they have gluten-free/vegan waffle cones!!) and I love the charm.  And hat's off to Thai Fresh for recently trying something new to bridge the wage gap between the front and back of the house.  You can either sit down like a nice restaurant or grab something to go from the coffee/ice cream/ pastry area, but no need to tip as their food is priced to eliminate that.  They take care of their employees and it shows in the food and the service!
I recommend the Pad Thai with grass-fed beef or chicken, the drunken noodles, the coconut soup (all are gluten and dairy free), the gf/df/ef cinnamon roll bread, and most of the ice cream flavors (coconut base, not a tree nut), in a gf/df/ef waffle cone of course ;)

Burger Joints

Whether the chain-types like In-and-Out, or local chains like P.Terry's, Austin has some good burger options.  Our two favorite ones, however, are:
  • Hat Creek, gluten-free buns are available and they also have paleo-friendly chicken nuggets for the kids (egg-free too!).  These restaurants (several throughout Austin) all have a fun playground for the kids.  This place is one of our top meet-up spots!
  • Wholly Cow offers grass-fed burgers with GF buns and is super yum.  It's also in a convenience store so you can get some local kombucha and some yummy local snacks while you wait for your burger!
  • Salt Lick BBQ- not a burger joint, but a meat-lovers delight!  All their BBQ sauces are gluten free- and if you don't get the bread with your meal (or dessert) your whole meal will be gluten free!  We usually eat outside and get the family style combo meal, which is all you can eat!  This was Braylen's face when we told him we were getting a giant plate of meat ;)  This boy loves meat!
Outdoors at Salt Lick Driftwood

Vegan and Gluten Free Austin

There are several places that offer Vegan/ GF goods from restaurants to bakeries.  Since we mainly eat GF/CF and some of us are egg-free, we love these types of places in Austin.  Better Bites Bakery is a bit outside the city but their items are sold in Whole Foods stores and local places.  Their bakery is worth a visit if you are in town.  I got all the kid's birthday cakes from them.  They are also nut-free (and top 8 free!) too so that works for our two with almond allergies!
Braylen's Birthday cake with Better-Bites Mostess Cupcakes!
And our favorite vegan restaurant is Counter Culture.  I highly recommend the BBQ Cauliflower pizza and the Mac-N-Cheeze.  This place has comfort food and raw, vegan dishes.  I like the raw pad Thai and David likes the more comfort dishes.  They also have really good dessert specials and juices and teas.
BBQ Cali Pizza with Raw Pad Thai at Counter Culture patio

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Stuff and Space

Our Hope St. Home with Dream by Ashley Woodson Bailey 
If you know me, you would never think to call me "A Minimalist".  Because I'm so not.

I am the person who always takes home leftovers just in case, even though 79% of the time I forget about them.
I usually have at least 4 beverages scattered throughout the house at any given time: 1 tea mug, a large glass of water, a non-water drink, and the water I get when I can't find the first water.
My kids artwork is kept far too long because someday I might want to frame it (yes, I've even already taken a picture of it with my phone).
I have several projects going around the same time.  Always.
I still have notes from high school best friends and old boyfriends.  (yes, I am 33 and I have been married for 10 years!)
Our Hope St. Kitchen I designed with the help of good 'ole IKEA and a custom ETSY shop

So, I never thought I would fit into this Minimalist Paradigm.  In fact, I like keeping things just in case.  Every six months to a year, I actually can dig around and happen to find that one random item, like a single hole puncher or the tiny screw driver for the tiny toy batteries, and think, "Aha!  I knew I kept this for a reason."  And every six months or so I'm trying to find that hard-to-find random item and I can't (it's not anywhere!) so I go out and buy it instead- adding to all the stuff.

But lately, I've been feeling that something has changed within me...something is not the same...

I've talked a bit about my sensory challenges.  I talk a lot with moms and online about sensory issues/ sensitivities/ sensory rich activities for input/ etc.  We parents deal with all the sensory stuff too, just like our kids do.  One of my main issues is visual clutter, and that is why this post is filled with lovely simple photos of my spaces I have created in all our many homes to try to deal with the rest of the clutter in the home that oppressed me.
An inherited couch and smattering of other items we have inherited and bought in our Memphis Home.  The other side of this pictured room had a stack of boxes, I think :)
We have just found out some interesting news that we will have to move....again.  Our third move in 14 months, our family's fourth home in 14 months!!  Each move over the last year has been on-to-the-next-better thing.  I have loved all of our homes, but we accumulated So. Much. Stuff along the way.

When my mother passed away in 2013, we inherited all of her things.  Many items were my childhood things that she kept because she was a woman who kept things.  It was sweet to see what all she had kept and cherished of mine and other friends and family through the years.  Growing up, I thought that was what you were supposed to do: keep all the things.  All the reminders of the wedding showers for that friend of the family, all the party favors from birthdays, all the art projects, all the christmas cards, all the pictures, all the memories...right?  (Right about now I'm picturing my sister-in-law, Sarah [world class at only keeping the essentials], cringing!)
I'm wondering if memories can be stored, though, in my head.  I'm wondering if it might be time to let go of the last of the things I have been holding on to of my mother's things.  And if I'm being completely honest, the 15-20 boxes of her and my childhood things--I truly have no clue what is in them unless I go into the attic to find out!  If I can't remember what is in them, can't I let them go?!

When we moved to Memphis, we bought our home fully furnished.  We moved from 1600 square feet to 3300 square feet and we thought we needed things to fill the space.  Our previous homeowner had nice things, so we kept many of those things.  When we decided to move to Austin, though, we pared down a bit because we wanted to fit it all in one moving truck to save money.  We sold some and thought we were in a good spot with the amount of stuff we possessed.  

Our Austin home is 3700 square feet.  I thought when we got to Austin with just one truck's worth of stuff and even more space, we would feel even more at peace and relaxed...We had this great, aesthetically pleasing home, wouldn't we all be happiest here?

What happened was that we filled this home up in 6 short months with too much for my brain.  Half of it looks like the picture below, and half of it looks like a lot of places for tiny piles of clutter to hide.  Too many dishes (I own four different sets), too many craft supplies (and too many stickers to get stuck in my vacuum), too many stacks of paper (oh elementary school, you fill my life with way too much paper things).
The home we are leaving behind in a few short weeks on our next adventure!
We asked the kids what house they liked best (out of the three we have lived in the past year).  I thought they were going to say the one we are in now.  They didn't have to think and said, "The Hope St. house".  The 1600 square foot home in Marietta, GA, our smallest one so far.  I think they felt cozy there, they felt secure.  It was small, but we didn't have all the stuff we have now.  

Here in 3700 square feet they tend to just stick to the kitchen or their bedrooms anyways!  But the kitchen and the bedrooms are always so very crowded and cluttered with things, tiny things.  They don't even have very much in the way of toy sets, but after each playtime their rooms are so filled with trinket clutter, like they need to fill all the space with something.  It almost seems like more space invites them to fill it with something...too much space is unsettling and needs to be inhabited?  I gave away seven dress up purses for this very reason, always being filled with nicknacks, tiny things....sticky things.  We keep donating the kids' stuff and they keep finding more and more things to fill the space!

So what if it's not about just less stuff but more space, but what if it's about less stuff and LESS space?

These are the questions I'm pondering.  If you have downsized or headed towards minimalism in any form, I would love to hear from you!
Can mental clarity be better gained with less space?  The freedom from all the things?
What if less stuff means more mental space no matter the square feet?
What if the kids had less space AND less stuff to deal with?  Would that be better for their tiny burdened brains and my big burdened one?  
Less space and less stuff.  We don't know where we will be end of July, but we are thinking it might be somewhere with less of everything!  I'll keep you posted :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Allergen Friendly New York City

In honor of Summer, I've decided to start a little series on great allergen-friendly spots in the cities we have lived in or visited. If you are a family who deals with food allergens and traveling to New York, Atlanta, Austin, Memphis, Nashville or San Diego this summer...this series is for you! Will post links as I add cities!

Allergen Friendly NEW YORK, NY

If I'm being honest, this city was not in my top 10 to visit, but when it came time that I needed some serious one-on-one time with my oldest, we took a trip here as it was her most coveted spot to see in all America.  She was not disappointed, and I ended up falling a little bit in love with NY City's charm.

New York is full of great places that offer dairy/egg-free, vegan, gluten free's easy to find places here to accommodate your dietary needs; however, finding them can be a bit challenging!  Here's a good starting point for your visit <3

Gluten-Free Bakeries

Erin McKenna's Bakery
This lovely little spot is also Vegan, Soy-free, and Refined Sugar-free as well.  So. Many. Different. Yummy baked goods!!  We enjoyed the oregano bagel with vegan butter- this was my fav, and I instagram-ed it.  But you also don't want to miss the apple churros, donuts, and cupcake options, which we also partook in.  It's a small storefront, but look for the cute teal and pink retro stuff in the window and you won't miss it.  We took the subway to Delancey St station, got out and walked two blocks West on Broome St.  There is also a little park in the median if you keep going a block and a half West on Broome.  We enjoyed our treats there and people watched.
Alisa in front of Erin McKenna's Bakery

Tu-Lu's Gluten Free Bakery
This place is not all-vegan, so there are some GF options that contain dairy or eggs, but we had super yummy Pumpkin loaf that was GF/CF, and had the best GF/Vegan glazed donuts here!  We actually ate two donuts each because they were so light and fluffy and we needed extra walking around energy ;)  Didn't take a picture here, but the vibe was sort of the same as Erin McKenna's- cute pink and white small store front on E 11th St near 4th Ave.  There wasn't a subway stop super close by, but we enjoyed seeing more of this area of the city.  There were some older, beautiful churches near here for a sight-seeing detour.
Hu Kitchen for Paleo Baked Goods
This place was where we split an amazing paleo meal.  Highly recommend the wild meatloaf and any of the veggie sides!  Also the chicken quinoa soup was amazing here.  We also had the best paleo (so naturally gluten and dairy free! but so many of their baked goods are also nut free here, which is refreshing for a paleo place and Alisa cannot have almonds!) carrot cake and pudding here.  Their paleo-friendly baked good and dessert section was extensive!

Gluten-Free Asian Food

We tried a couple places, but if you are staying in Midtown or near Central Park, Lili's 57 was super good!  They had a decent choice of sushi, Thai food, and traditional Chinese food.  We had dairy-free bubble tea and I enjoyed great GF drunken noodles from their GF specific menu.  Request one when you go in. The meal was light and not too heavy, but we definitely could have just shared one Bubble Tea as those were kind of on the sweet side.

Chelsea Market

This place had a ton of restaurants inside, plus super fun shopping, so this is a must!  Also, it's near The High Line, which we enjoyed touring despite the crowds on a Sat afternoon.  We at at Los Tacos No.1 and had some amazing tacos on corn tortillas.  (FYI: they don't do cheese on tacos, but the guacamole here does have dairy so we didn't get that, but they do have a sign warning you so we knew not to order it)

Rockin' Raw Restaurant

This place was a total last minute decision.  We has just seen Wicked and were going to stop somewhere close, but Alisa was really in the mood for a milk-shake and this place has 10 different vegan milkshake options!  So we headed downtown to this elegant place.  It only seats 22 people, but it's such a hidden gem!  Everything is gluten-free, soy-free, organic, vegan, and veggie packed!  They have a huge list of raw desserts and AMAZING jambalaya (it is warmed a bit).  Also would highly recommend the Buffalo Mushroom Poppers.  The vegan milks and milkshakes have a choice of almond or coconut bases, so if you can't do nuts, you can still get dessert or enjoy some hot chocolate.
Our waitress was the sweetest.  Only one server per shift so expect to sit and relax a bit!

Best Burger In New York!

Bareburger is an all Organic burger joint and has several locations in NYC.  We loved the decor inside too- super fun portraits of humans with farm animal heads and muted pastels.  I heart muted pastels ;)  Bareburger has plenty of options for healthy low-sugar drinks, gluten-free buns, and collard wraps for bun-less.  They have everything clearly marked on their extensive menu.  If we go back to NYC soon, I will definitely visit a Bareburger!

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