Monday, November 17, 2014

AYC Fave Awards

This weekend, Billy and I attended Austin Young Chamber's FAVE Awards. In it's 5th year, the AYC Fave Awards recognizes the young professionals' favorite business and organizations. We had a blast at last year's event and we were looking forward to this year's event because...

His company, SOS Leadership, and my employer, Hispanic Scholarship Consortium, were up for FAVE Professional Development Source and FAVE Non-Profit! While HSC didn't win, Billy won for the SECOND YEAR IN A ROW! Proud wifey right here.

Billy accepting the FAVE Professional Development Source award.
Being a small, family business up against Austin's best programs and universities, we were ecstatic to hear SOS's name when the winner was announced. His parents joined us for the event and we even shared a table with another family business- each family had stories to share that had us laughing throughout dinner!

Austin really is a great place for business- I'd like to think not every chamber awards organizations and businesses large and small, new and old, local or non-local. There were a wide range of nominees ranging from new businesses to national brands. We had a blast celebrating Austin's wonderful and ever-growing business community!

Here's a few more photos from the night and congrats to all the 2014 AYC Fave Award winners!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Greg Abbott Victory Party

Last night, we attended the Greg Abbott Victory Party at the Moody Hall at ACL Live. When we heard about this event we knew we had to attend since it was going ot be held just a few blocks away. I don't know how many times we will get the opportunity to attend a victory party! We had a blast... plus one of Billy's favorite's closed out the night-- Pat Green!

Here are some of the photos from the evening...

The entrance into ACL Live.
Billy & I waiting for the evening to start.
Governor-elect Greg Abbott with his wife, Cecilia and daughter, Audrey.
As Abbott introduced her, Texas' most famous mother-in-law, Mary Lucy Phalen.
Governor Rick Perry.
Senator Ted Cruz.
Us with Pat Green in the background.
Abbott greeting attendees during Pat Green.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hosting Guests in a Studio Apartment

When we told our friends and family we were moving Downtown Austin, most people’s first reaction was “Can I come stay with you?” We always joked, “Well, if you’re okay sleeping on the balcony—we’d love to have you!” A small studio doesn’t really leave a whole lot of room for entertaining overnight guests, but we made it work this weekend when my sister came to visit.

Before moving, we thought thoroughly about what furniture would best serve in our new place. While items like our extendable IKEA table easily made the cut, we needed to explore new options for a couch. Our hand-me-down reclining sofa and matching recliner were going to take up some valuable space in our 525 sq ft studio.

Not knowing how long we would be in our studio, we wanted to find something that we wouldn't mind saying bye to after our lease was up. And having such a small space we knew every piece of furniture needed to serve two purposes (our entertainment center is also our dresser!). We opted for a small grey futon over a sofabed. It’s small and affordable- we were set. &
But then one night, QVC and Lori Greiner did what they do best. They sucked us in to buying a beanbag! This beanbag (available at is filled with foam and then easily expands in to a bed. It was the perfect option for us as it served as additional seating most days and as a bed when we have overnight guests.

We love this chair so much that we often call “dibs” when watching a movie. Our two cats enjoy it too—we find one in the chair almost every time we come home. And as I mentioned this weekend we had our first overnight guests. My sister and her boyfriend were in town for week two of ACL. She says it’s like sleeping in a pile of pillows—even though I’m sure she could have slept anywhere after long days at ACL and 6th street!

Having furniture that serves dual purposes really helped us out this weekend. We had four people in a small studio but we didn't feel crowded once. It's tough to feel cramped when Downtown Austin is your backyard!
My sister and I on Sixth Street.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

One Less Car in Austin

When we decided to move into Downtown Austin, we had another decision to make. Would we pay the extra money to park two cars in our parking garage?

Parking is one of the challenges of living downtown. It is expensive and there are not a lot of spaces. We decided to make this challenge an opportunity to get rid of one of our cars. This was a decision that a lot of people did not understand. How are you both going to get around? What if Billy has to travel somewhere using the car? People kept questioning the decision. But it has now been more than six weeks since we got rid of a car, and I can tell you that it was the right decision.

Since going to only one car, Ashley and I have had to work on our communication. Every week/day we double check our calendars to see who needs to car. Sharing a car is easy with good communication and planning. We also get to spend extra time together when we ride to work together.

In Austin, there are a lot of Public Transportation options. Our new place downtown is only a couple blocks from a Capital MetroRail stop and Ashley works close to another stop. She has used the MetroRail a few times when it was tough for me to pick her up. She loves riding that thing! We also purchased a Car2Go membership and we have utilized that a few times so far. Last week we took a Car2Go to First Thursday on South Congress and then we walked back to our place. It was great exercise. The week before we went to a great event at the Hyatt on Barton Springs and we did the same thing.

Walking has not killed us yet. Neither has using Public Transportation. Improving our communication and planning has actually improved our marriage. How about that? And most important, we have taken a car (actually a gas guzzling SUV) off the road in Austin. For all of our Austin readers, you know how great that is.

The November elections are right around the corner and in Austin, transportation is a huge issue. Keep in mind that our political leaders will not solve our transportation issues. WE need to play a major role in this. We can do this by taking personal responsibility. Everyone can use Public Transportation. Everyone can find times to carpool. Ashley and I own only one car and we couldn't be happier.

I challenge you to look at your life and see how you can simplify things. Can you get rid of a car? Can you take the bus or the rail this trip? Can you ride with someone to that happy hour? Mobility Week is coming up in Austin (10/20-10/24). Learn more about what you can do that week to improve mobility is Austin. I promise it will make a difference and it won't kill you.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pecan Street Festival

Since Billy has lived in Austin over 9 years, its rare that we get to experience a "first" together. Having been in grad school (and working full-time) 2 of the 3.5 years I have been in Austin, it seems like everything is a first to me. So when we realized Pecan Street Festival was this past weekend, I was super excited because Billy had never been. We could have a "first" at one of Austin's biggest events!

According to their website, Pecan Street Festival is one of Central Texas' oldest and most popular events. Local artists, vendors, and musicians fill old Pecan Street, now 6th Street (yes THAT 6th St.), for a free two-day festival. Having and 11AM TCU game Saturday and a 3:25PM Eagles game Sunday afternoon, we strolled down Sunday morning to check out the festivities.

Knowing we were going to walk a bit and grab lunch, we opted to make mental notes of the places we wanted to make purchases. I think I stopped at every homemade candle, soap and bath product table -- I have a mild addiction! I just recently stocked up on some soaps so I decided I didn't need to buy any more right now. Plus, where would we store them in our tiny studio?! I joke.

With the large walls in our apartment, we knew this would be the perfect opportunity to do some art shopping. We stopped and checked out paintings and sculpted pieces, but knew we found our place when we stopped at a local photographer's booth. We both made a beeline for the panoramic photos of the Austin skyline. We finally decided on the piece below for the colors and couldn't help adding the smaller photographs of our Alma Maters.

Randy Smith of Campus Art Prints shared a great story of how he captured the shot of the skyline. He was driving through Downtown and noticed the greatly colors in the sky and as any photographer would, pulled over to capture the moment. As he was taking the photos, he told himself that the photos weren't going to come out well and was surprised with the final result. Its such a gorgeous photo - I can't wait to find frames so these photographs can find a home on our walls!

Not only did we find these great photos for our new place, but we also enjoyed some delicious food. While strolling, we shared a snow cone -- which I ate most of :). For lunch, Billy chose a hot dog while I was a bit more adventurous getting Chicken & Waffles on a stick from Cluckin Waffle. We also indulged on a hand-dipped chocolate covered cheesecake. Yum, yum and a little more yum! There are very few places to sit and eat so the items on a stick were greatly appreciated!

We shopped, we ate and we really had a blast at Pecan Street Festival. We were glad to hear the festival comes twice a year in May and September. I know we will be definitely be making the 2-block hike for it again in May!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Settled in Downtown

Ashley and I moved last week into our new studio apartment in Downtown Austin. As I mentioned in my first post, this has always been a dream of mine and I am so excited to cross it off my list.

Moving day was pretty crazy. We spent the Friday evening before putting the finishing touches on some excellent packing if I do say so myself. It is amazing how much easier moving is when you have a plan. The six weeks before we moved we were packing things everyday. We sold some things we could not take. We donated a lot of clothes (because we have a really small closet, and donating is fun!).

When our Saturday move finally came we were ready! We woke up early and went to pick up the moving truck. We used Budget Truck Rental, which was the cheapest one I could find. It cost us about $50 to rent a 16 foot truck (way bigger than we needed) for 24 hours. We drove less than 30 miles so the mileage charge was low. We packed the truck, with the help of our friend, Shane in less than an hour and a half. Then we headed to our new place, The Whitley on 3rd and Brazos. Moving in was a breeze because we had access to a loading dock and a freight elevator. We had all of our stuff moved in by 12:15PM.

After a quick move-out and move-in. It looks like we
have a lot of stuff.
The view from our balcony.
After that we started unpacking and arranging things. At first, we were really nervous about the size of the studio apartment. How would we make this work? It looked like we had so much stuff! But once we unpacked, we saw that we actually has a lot more space then expected. (Stay tuned for pictures of our new place all set up.)

The next day we got to experience our amazing pool and grill area. It felt like we are on vacation at a resort. We closed our second night out by walking around Downtown Austin. We were hungry for some kind of dessert. After walking a bit we came across a little coffee shop and bar called Halcyon. We saw that they had S'mores on their menu that you made yourself. We knew we had to try these and we weren't disappointed. Imagine a small fire at your table inside a coffee shop, roasting marshmallows and making S'mores. I mean how awesome is that?

It was the perfect way to end a busy first weekend in Downtown Austin. We have been there for over a week now and it has been nothing short of amazing. We are so happy with our decision and look forward to sharing more of our experiences with you.

Make your own S'mores at Halcyon on 4th and Lavaca. I
highly recommend trying these

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Austin Experience

Last week you heard from Billy about his dream of living downtown. I had only heard him mention this dream about every other month since we've been together. And I think every time he said it, I rolled my eyes. I grew up in the suburbs of DFW and love everything about the land of strips malls and Super Targets!

This summer I noticed my preferences changing. Maybe it was seeing friends purchase their first homes? Or seeing others start families? I think it really came down to the realization that I have not truly experienced Austin since moving here nearly three and a half years ago.  I haven't been to ACL, X Games, COTA or any of the other cool events that come to Austin. I haven't been to Austin staples like S. Congress' First Thursday, the Farmer's Market downtown, or to Zilker Park (aside from a Trail of Lights visit).When friends or family come down to visit, I quickly run out of ideas due to my lack of knowledge about my own city!
So what's the best way to experience Austin? MOVE TO THE CENTER OF THE CITY! In May, I finished a two year graduate program to earn my MBA. Our current lease was coming to an end. Between Billy and I, we have just a few years left in our twenties. When would we have a better opportunity than right now?

While it took us months to find something that was just right for us, we finally decided on our new place primarily because it had received a Walk Score of 94 (out of 100). We can't complain about traffic or parking when everything is within walking distance!

I'm excited for the next year of our lives and I look forward taking you all on this adventure as we experience our wonderful city!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Movin' On... Downtown

I have always been someone that goes after what I want. I love to "Go For It!" As a kid, I learned the overwhelming power of goal setting and dreams (learn more about this here). When I was in college at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas I decided that one day I wanted to live in a downtown of a good sized city. Ideally, I wanted to someday live in downtown Austin.

After I graduated from college, I started a business. I wrote some books. I continued to work hard to achieve my goals. Then I met Ashley, and before I knew it we were engaged (only six months later!). We were married a year later and over the past three years we have been building a life together. A few months ago, I thought about my dream of moving into downtown Austin. I shared it again with Ashley and we decided the time was now. Once you have been married a few years, the question you usually get is "you guys having kids soon?" Well our answer to that question now is: "No, we are moving downtown." Kids can wait. This is our time to experience life in a different way.

Ashley and I began searching out places in downtown Austin and we finally settled on a gorgeous highrise located on Brazos and San Jacinto. There was one catch though: It was only a studio! For us to move downtown, we had to lose a lot of square feet. But that was okay. It would be an adventure! Then we realized that paying to park two cars downtown was not smart so we sold one of our cars.

In a short time Ashley and I are going from a two bedroom place with 1000+ square feet in basically the suburbs to a 500 square foot studio downtown. We also were going from two cars to one car for us to share. More than anything we are leaving a somewhat predictable life and starting fresh with the next phase of that life. Realizing your dreams takes sacrifice. Ashley and I believe the sacrifices we will make for this dream are worth. This will be the downtown phase of our life and we know it will be incredible.

Achieving a dream is amazing. I love crossing things off my dream list and I am so happy I get to cross this one off my list with the love of my life. Over the next year, Ashley and I (people call us BAshley) will blog about our experience with this new lifestyle. We will share with you the good and the bad. We will post food and entertainment reviews. We will write about what its like sharing a car and using public transportation (if you're from Austin you should celebrate one less car on the roads!). We will even post ideas for getting the most out of your studio space! We want to share our adventure with others to hopefully encourage you to take a chance, a risk and do something people won't expect. We hope you will cross something off your dream list and maybe even share it with us!

We move in to our new place in less than two weeks! Stay tuned! This should be fun.