Keep it weird, Austin! 

Austin may be the capital of Texas but if you are expecting Cowboys and steaks, you’d be surprised to find hipsters and vegans instead. It’s my most favorite city in Texas and if I live here, I can honestly say my life is going to be a lot more exciting.

Austin is one of the best cities in Texas! 

Nah…..let me take that back. Austin is THE best city in Texas! No one can argue with that because it’s true. Although Austin is Texas’ prodigal son, a city completely different from the rest of the state. And f not for the unbearable summer heat and the crazy weather Texas is known for, you might even mistake it for Portland or Los Angeles. Also, unlike Texas, Austin is progressive, a perfect oasis  for the free-spirited liberal young minds. 

Believe it or not, Austin is the #1 most desirable place to live in the United States. Now that’s an argument I can see brewing from other cities. ! I’ll tell you why it’s true. Not only Austin is less expensive than most major cities, it’s exciting, colorful, diverse, healthy, active, vibrant, lively, interesting, artsy, and yes…weird!!

Murals are a part of the city’s charm

“Keep Austin weird” is a famous slogan found everywhere in Austin. Just in case you’re wondering what it means— it was a campaign that was started by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote small local businesses. Texas is home to many big corporations such as the oil and gas industry (Exxon, Valero, Halliburton), airlines (American and Southwest), telecommunication (AT&T), grocery stores (Whole Foods), and many more large corporations. My guess is this is the reason why Austin campaigned for supporting local small businesses. “Keeping it weird” is also a movement to preserve its offbeat culture.

Austin has pretty much everything I need in a city to be happy.

The people here have a healthy and active lifestyle. The city is surrounded by walking, running, or biking trails, where residents use for their daily exercise. Dogs are also a huge part of the community, making Austin a very fur-friendly city. 

Austinites are hipsters…like me! This is something I say that makes my older son cringe. He insists I am far from being a hipster. First of all, he said, I’m too old (age discrimination?). Second, I don’t even look or dress like one (I suppose you need to have tattoos and nose rings to be a hipster?yeah, whatever!). Well, let’s just say, if I was much younger, I probably would’ve been a hipster. Going back to the people, hipsters outnumber cowboys and that proves my point that Austin is NOT Texas!  

*FYI, I don’t have too many “weird” pictures of Austin but I promise you the city is eclectic and vivacious!

The dog park near our hotel
Beautiful trails in the city
Austinites are very active

Austin is home to an incredible food scene. In recent years it has grown immensely in sophistication, boasting numerous world-renowned chefs. From BBQ joints to taco shops, from creative sushi to delicious tapas, the city caters to everyone’s taste.

We had the pleasure to dine at Uchi, one of the best sushi spots in America (according to Thrillist). I’ve lived in the Dallas metroplex for 16 years now and I haven’t found a Japanese restaurant as exciting and as creative as Uchi. Fortunately for us, Uchi opened in Dallas just recently!

Austin is also the most vegan friendly in the United States—this is nowhere close to what you might expect from Texas that’s known for its cattle industry. If you think of Texas food, it’s usually BBQ!

When it comes to food trucks, Austin is always in the top 10 spots for best food trucks in America. In fact, in 2014, proclaimed Austin as #1 for ten best cities for food trucks in the United States.

One of many food trucks in the city

Because of its close proximity to Dallas (only 3 hours away), we drive to Austin at least a couple of times a year. Sometimes we’re just passing through when we go to San Antonio (my second favorite city in Texas). We are currently here on spring break and lucky for us, it’s the same week as SWSX (South by South West). If you haven’t heard, Austin is dubbed as the music capital of the world and SWSX is an annual fusion of film, interactive media, music festivals and conferences that takes place in mid-March. Approximately 600,000 people visit Austin just for this reason. We didn’t get a pass this year but we are planning to get one hopefully next year. Although you can still find free concerts somewhere in the city or things to do even if you don’t own a pass.

Waiting for the (free) concert to start during the SWSX

We always stay at the Hyatt Regency in Barton Springs, located on the shores of Lady Bird Lake. The lake is where people go kayaking, boating, or wake boarding. There’s also a nice trail that surrounds the hotel, where both tourists and residents use. The hotel allows easy access to all the cool areas hence we usually don’t need to wander far. But this time, as part of my personal challenge, I made sure we explore Austin away from the hotel and embark on a little adventure. 

This is the view from the balcony of our hotel

This is my personal challenge #3

Our normal route to Austin would have been  from our house directly to the hotel, but I convinced my husband that we stop at Lake Travis (25 minutes away from downtown Austin). I wanted to see The Oasis, a restaurant located on a cliff 450 feet above Lake Travis, offering a breathtaking view of the lake and surrounding Texas hill county.

The food wasn’t great but the ambience made up for its mediocrity. The view reminded me of the time when we were in Sorrento, Italy. We had our sumptuous breakfast everyday at the hotel’s balcony and right in front of our eyes was the spectacular view of the Bay of Naples.

If we hadn’t stopped by at The Oasis, we would’ve never known that Austin’s terrain also includes rolling hills reminiscent of Hollywood Hills or Malibu in Southern California. As a consequence of visiting Austin often, I took its familiarity for granted, neglecting to explore it in depth (thinking that it’ll always be there and in within reach). 

Also included in the itinerary is hiking, something I have never done in Austin.  I googled the best hiking spots in the area, and found McKinney Falls State Park, along the banks of Onion Creek. The park has two waterfalls, the lower and upper McKinney Falls where people can go swimming. Also, there are a lot of small trails (not as strenuous which is appropriate for my younger son) but it’s hard to know where to start or where to end.

upper McKinney Falls
Lower McKinney Falls

This trip was short but it was more productive than our previous visits. Thanks to my personal challenges this year, it inspired me to divert from our usual routine. As I mentioned, our hotel’s location is near all the excitement that it’s easy not to go far (sure, we can blame it on the hotel).

But, hey, you’re in Austin. There’s nothing boring about this city. Even if you don’t wander far from where you are, the city is weird enough to entertain.

Activism in the wake of a Trump Presidency

On my last post, I wrote about some of my goals for 2017 (reading more books, writing often, daily meditation, etc.) and also personal challenges that would hopefully  include 12 adventures—new places and/or new experiences:

1) going to a new place—by plane, train, automobile or even on foot, and not necessarily far from where I live.

2) by experiencing something new, something I have never done before—whether taking a class for personal growth, learning a new craft, or participating in something within the community.


“This is What Democracy Looks Like”

This is my personal challenge #1 (a disclaimer and my sincere apology to my blogger friends that if you have voted for Trump, this blog may not be properly suited for you):


I was hoping that the year 2017 is going to be a quiet year and a lot less eventful than the past couple of years. So far, politically speaking, it’s been a wreck and the year just started! Since Donald Trump was sworn in as the President of the United States, I haven’t been able to focus on accomplishing any of my goals I mentioned in my last post, such as reading the books I’ve collected over the years. Instead I’ve spent the majority of my days catching up on the news. His first week was a whirlwind of activity with unimaginable executive orders and one after the other caused my world to crash, spiraling down quickly. However, the upside is I’ve been able to take on challenges far from what I thought I was capable of accomplishing. 

The month of January was all about pushing myself. I’ve gone outside my comfort zone, doing things I wouldn’t have done in the past, and experiencing a whole new world!

The Presidential election in the United States in November left a big hole in my heart. I’ve never cried in any elections in the past but I did with this one. I cried until 4am the next day, and the days that followed. I was so shocked at this outcome and for a man who’s lacking decency and proper diplomacy is now the 45th President of the United States. He ran his campaign by pandering on xenophobia (by insulting immigrants, accusing Mexicans as rapists and thieves, by suggesting a Muslim ban); by demeaning women as evident on the tapes (bragging about grabbing them by their genitals); and by spreading hate (encouraging violence in his rallies). For the first time in my 25 years as an American citizen, I was afraid and embarrassed. I feared for my country, for Americans without privilege, and most especially for my sons.

A Trump presidency became much more personal when he campaigned for the repeal of the ACA—Affordable Care Act (nicknamed by the republicans as Obamacare). Before the year 2010, insurance companies can deny coverage to people who have pre-existing conditions, have imposed a lifetime cap on patients, and children under 26 years old did not have the privilege to be covered under their parents’ insurance. These provisions were changed when the ACA became a law.

In 2010, my younger son was first diagnosed with his leukemia and if it hadn’t been for the ACA, he could have been denied insurance the second time his cancer came back due to pre-existing condition and lifetime cap. Also his medical bill has already accumulated close to $2 million (his lifetime cap was $3 million). Trump said he won’t take away these provisions but I honestly do not know what to expect. His administration has been caught in web of lies that I find it hard to trust them. As far as I’m concerned, the law is already in place and I see no reason to repeal it.

Worried about where the healthcare’s direction is going under the Republican Party, it was now up to me if I should sit back and wait for others to do the work. Or I can challenge myself to become active and be a part of the solution.

I called my state representative to  remind them that there will be millions of people who will get hurt, including my son, if Obamacare was repealed without a viable replacement. I also joined local Facebook groups, where members are mainly made up of women, who are active in the community, organizing rallies, protests, or phone calls to legislators whether it be resisting Trump’s cabinet appointments or demanding to restore democracy. They are among the millions of Americans nationwide who resist Trump’s unconventional and dangerous leadership. 
And this has become my new world, being a part of the resistance movement.

Together with these women (and some men), we went to protest at our senator’s office (Ted Cruz) regarding the future of Obamacare. I was chosen to speak with the senator’s staff, explaining to him why Obamacare is important not only to my family but for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions who may lose their insurance coverage. It was the very first protest I participated and guaranteed, there will be more to come.

I’m the nasty woman in the pink pussy hat 🙂
But the most empowering event I participated thus far was the Women’s March on January 21, a day after Trump’s inauguration. I couldn’t fly to Washington DC so I asked two of my friends if they were interested in joining me to do The Women’s March on Austin. There were several women’s groups who organized round trip bus transportations to and from Austin. At 7:30 am, we left Dallas and it took three hours to get there with a restroom stop along the way. The bus was full of women with their pink knitted “pussy” hats  and/or “nasty women” shirts. We were all proud to be part of the (estimated 4 million) marchers worldwide, who protested against Donald Trump and his authoritarian-like regime. However, the protest was not only about Donald Trump. It also covered issues such as:

1) women’s issues— (lashing out against his treatment of women, with his infamous line, “grab them by the pussy”;

2) healthcare— (as I already have explained); 

3) immigration issues—building a wall on the border of Mexico and the U.S., deporting (and separating families) the 11 million undocumented immigrants, putting a ban on Muslims, etc.;

3) environment—the Republicans are known to be climate change deniers;


4) his choices of cabinet members who will definitely not drain the swamp but instead will benefit the top 1%;

5) LGBTQ issues—it is especially concerning that with a Vice President like Mike Pence who was known for favoring discrimination against the LGBTQ community, we are now going backwards. Marriage equality was just passed under the Obama administration which states that a person can marry whoever they love regardless of their sex and gender orientation but that is now being threatened under this new administration.


Everyone initially gathered at the Capitol. Then we slowly made a loop around South Congress, which took about an hour or so. It was nonstop chanting and we were getting cheers from onlookers. It was uncomfortably warm that day and the sun was shining bright on my face but the heat didn’t bother me. It felt great. For the first time in months, I felt alive.

The march was not just for myself but also for my sons, for everyone’s sons and daughters, and for the men and women whose voices needed to be heard.

The tears I shed on election night had transformed me into a much better American. However, my activism won’t begin and end with Trump. Complacency is no longer an option because America is changing and she will always need my voice. My voice, together with million other voices, will be heard. Because this is what democracy will always look like.

Fonda San Miguel, an old world hacienda in Austin

It’s been a difficult month for us—having gone through the stress of dealing with some health issues, the shock of my father-in-law passing a few weeks ago while we were on vacation in New York, and for missing our older son, Joshua, terribly who is currently away for a Debate Camp at the University of Texas at Austin. With all that, I haven’t had enough time (or energy) to plan a party for my husband’s 50th birthday.

For the Fourth of July, my older son had a free day from his Debate camp. We decided to drive to Austin to see him and also to start celebrating Hub’s birthday. Since time and (a ton of) money are two luxuries we don’t have at the moment, I came up with the idea of taking him “around the world” — that is, eating different cuisines at several restaurants. First stop is Mexico at Fonda San Miguel.



This place is tucked away in a residential area in Austin. The restaurant is reminiscent of a Mexican hacienda, colorful and vibrant. Interesting artwork hung on the wall, full of character and charm. Inside the main dining room is a center table that has a display of different terracota clay pots and Mexican potteries. (I also noticed that several of the waiters are very handsome. If only I could’ve taken a picture of ours 😄). Moving along, I would give the food a B. I had the Pescado Veracruzano, broiled fish filet in the traditional Vera Cruz tomato sauce with capers, onions, and Spanish olives. The fish was delicious but I didn’t see much of the capers and olives. Instead it was topped with a lot of onions (and I hate onions). Hubby got the Cochinita Pibil, a Yucatan specialty baked in banana leaves. I tasted it and it was delicious. Perhaps the best Cochinita Pibil I have had so far.



My plan for the second stop is Brazil (churrasco) but since we are still in Austin, and older son doesn’t like eating a lot of meat, we may just opt for Thai food instead. Perhaps we will do Brazilian when we go back to Dallas. All I know is we will end up in Hawaii (Roy’s) on his actual birthday because he originally planned to spend his 50th in Hawaii. I’m hoping in spite of the lack of a grand trip for this special milestone, I can make it up to him through his palate and still make it a memorable birthday celebration.



Food trucks: still worth it?

Whenever we come to Austin, we never fail to stop and eat at  food trucks. If you didn’t know it yet, Austin is the food truck capital of Texas, if not in the nation. I was excited to try Kyoten, the sushi food truck after reading  about it on Eater (22 Hottest Food Trucks Across the US Right Now). “Kyoten is commanding great attention in Austin’s trailer dining scene. Chefs Otto Phan and Leo Rodriguez have trained in kitchens such as Masa, Nobu, Uchi, and more and are offering sushi and rice bowls from their East 6th Street trailer”.


We were quite impressed with its location —it had its own lot unlike other trucks where they are all nestled together in one area. We ordered a few sushi rolls and I noticed the sign, “no soy sauce please”. I asked why. He said they have a certain culture that do not believe in soy sauce. I lived in Japan for 6 years and I know for a fact that it is almost a taboo to drown your sushi in soy sauce (the rice must never touch the soy sauce and the fish is dipped in it very lightly). But the difference is the fish in Japan is melt-in-your-mouth fresh that you really didn’t need soy sauce to enjoy it.


We ordered three items in the menu:
*California- real red crab, avocado, cucumber
*Masu-zushi (boxed style sushi)- ocean trout, citrus, herbs, red onion
*Spicy, Creamy, Crunchy- tuna, avocado, cucumber, serrano
Total price: $28 plus $3 tip= $31


The verdict: I really wanted to like the sushi (honestly) but  none of the rolls stood out. We went out of our way to find the trailer, in spite of the violent rain we encountered in the city that day. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that ‘wow I can’t live without these sushi’ moment. But perhaps if I drowned them in soy sauce, it would’ve been more enjoyable!

20140701-212227-76947560.jpg 20140701-212227-76947794.jpg

Next to their lot was Patakon, a Colombian food truck. I was even more excited to try this trailer because I have many Colombian friends. Plus how often would you find a Colombian food truck? In Dallas, never!  None of the items we wanted in their menu were available (arepa and empanadas). So we got the chicken combination (with rice and fried plantains). It seemed they were the only things in the menu that wereready to be served.  Price: $9

The verdict: with the one piece of chicken thigh, two small plantains, and most of the  rice was submerged in the chicken’s grease, I didn’t find this food as enjoyable as I thought I would. I wanted to brag to my Colombian friends that I found this truck but…


My opinion: I honestly don’t think eating at a food truck is as pleasurable as it used to be. Perhaps my excitement over this trend is fading. Eating outdoors in a piercing hot summer day in Texas is not pleasant at all. The prices do not make up for this inconvenience as well. They cost just as much as eating in a restaurant (or in fact you may pay even more). In addition, there are no bugs or flies when inside a restaurant. And the heat won’t bother your zen either.

What do you think?