Summer’s Last Hurrah: Austin, TX

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Hey All!

I was lucky enough to say farewell to summer 2014 with my Andy in Austin, TX.  We try to take as many trips to as many new places as we can and as cheap as possible. Austin is an  amazing city for twenty somethings like us! Its like the entire city is one giant Wick Park/ Logan Square, where every bar has an outdoor patio decked out in string lights!

We had  a fantastic time, but couldn’t get our Midwest bodies to adjust to 100 degree weather. Here are a few highlights from our trip that you should definitely check out if your heading to Austin

1. Pools & Springs

It didn’t take long for us to realize its nearly impossible to be outside during the day if you are not in some kind of water. But not to worry, Austin has a ton of really fun and gorgeous places to go if you’re trying to beat the heat.

We paddle boarded on Lady Bird Lake (not as hard as I thought it would be), took a drive to Hamilton Pool,visited Barton Springs, another natural spring right in Austin.

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Hamilton Pool 
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Paddle Boarding on Lady Bird Lake 

2. Lodging & Transportation

Andy and I stayed at an AirBnb with a young couple who lived just a few miles from downtown. The room was only $45 a night (sooo cheap) and we were able to use their fridge, coffee, and TV! This was our second time using Airbnb and I would totally recommend it if you’re traveling on a tight budget.

So Andy and I aren’t 25 or older, so renting a car would have cost us our souls. BUT Austin just got Lyft and Uber, which made getting downtown and back super cheap. If you’re traveling to a big city, check and see what ride share programs they have and you could save yourself from wasting a ton of money on rentals.

We also rented a ZipCar for one day to get to Hamilton Pool. Its a really good idea to get a membership to ZipCar or Enterprise because you can rent cars by the hour AND they cover insurance and gas! Not a bad way to get around town.

3.  Food & Drinks

Obviously saving the best for last, FOOD and DRINKS. Let me tell you, Austin has no shortage of delicious food (TACOS) and craft cocktails, and the best part is they’re supa cheap. My favorite places were recommended by my friend who is from Texas (thanks Dacy!). The first being a hamburger place with all fresh local ingredients and buns made in house called Hopdoddy Burger Bar. We also went to a fantastic ice cream shop, Amy’s. It was decked out in superhero and cartoon creations and had a photo booth (I can never pass up a good photo booth)! It was a great place to beat the heat and enjoy a treat.

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Yellow Jacket Social Club

Here are a few more pics!

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Baylor Street Art

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Salt Lick BBQ

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Congress Bridge (home to the largest bat colony in North America-so squeaky!) 

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BBQ Pit at Salt Lick

 

What was the highlight of your summer?

kayla signiture

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Sunshine & Samples

Summer in the city is off to a great start, minus this week of constant overcast. A few weekends back we forced ourselves out of bed and went to the farmers market in Lincoln Park! Chicago is full of markets, almost every neighborhood has their own (Logan Square’s market is next on our list). The absolute best thing about farmers markets are all the *free samples* If you love trying jams, cheeses, and other yummy treats, make sure you pull yourself out of bed early at least one Saturday this summer to check out any of the Chicago markets. Shannon and I both got purple asparagus, which was super fresh and delicious on the grill. Andy got a cherry tomato plant, which weaka I get all the free tomatoes I want this summer (these plants produce like crazy so you get the best bang for your buck!). Click here to find a farmers market in your neighborhood!   FarmersFinds.jpg KLA.jpg SK SLband   *Alert: Dog lovers* The  second best thing to free samples are definitely all the pups at the market!

photo 2 (3) art Andy and I grilling our fresh and tasty food from the market! GrillingHow do you usually spend your Saturday mornings? kayla signiture

Kansas is cool: here’s proof

Logan and I set out on a little road trip to Kansas City last week. He has family that lives there, so we were dying to see them and use it as an excuse to take a mini vacay before our internships start. A quick 7 hours later, and we were ready to party: Kansas City style. Here are 5 reasons Kansas is way cooler than you think it is.

1. Beer, tapas, beer, sammys, beer, sushi 

FOOD.jpgKansas has AMAZING food, and beer! While we were down there, we were totally spoiled and were taken to lots of Kansas City restaurants. All of the food I had was delicious, but I think my favorite meal was actually this simple sandwich (first pic) from The Foundry. We also enjoyed tapas, tacos, paninis, sushi, pizza, salmon, and lots of treats! Logan even tried a bison burger (bottom right picture). It’s safe to say that I feel like I’ve gained about 10 lbs, but it was totally worth it.

2. They have movie theaters with beds

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You read that right guys, they have movie theaters with chairs that recline into beds! What?! Yes, it’s true. We went to see x-men at a theater where the super comfy leather seats reclined all the way back so it was like a bed. It was definitely the best movie-watching experience I’ve experienced in my short 21 years on this Earth.

P.S. the new X-Men movie is fantastic.

3. They give you free beer

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We went on a brewery tour at Boulevard! As you know, I do love brewery tours (read about my Galena brewery tour, and Milwaukee brewery tour experiences), but the best thing about this tour was that it was completely FREE and included 3 beer samples *yumm.* The one bit of beer info I held on to was that lagers ferment longer than ales. I discovered a new love for unfiltered wheat beer, have you ever tried it? Also, shout out to Mason (Logan’s brother, and our excellent Kansas City host) for joining the 21+ club!

4. They have markets galore

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The best part about exploring someone else’s city with them is that they know all of the best places to go. The City Market, and Overland Park’s farmers market were no exception. The City Market was filled with all kinds of little shops and produce stands. I got 3 delicious mangos for $2! We also wandered into an Indian spice and fruit shop (middle picture), where I loaded up on some tasty dried fruit. At the Farmer’s Market, Logan and I tried some delicious honey spread, and some unique caramels (rice krispie, butterscotch, and Nutella flavored) *yummm.*

5. The people there are pretty cool too

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The best thing about Kansas City is that it’s home to a lot of people we love. Logan’s brother, his brother’s girlfriend, his aunt, uncle, and cousins live there (along with their furry friends!). It was so much fun to spend some quality time with these amazing people. I feel so lucky to have a connection with such a great family (thanks for dating me Logan); I couldn’t have asked for better company while falling in love with a wonderful city.

Big thank yous go out to Mason & Alex for letting us stay with them, Kristy & David for spoiling us rotten, Kassie & Joe for giving up their weekend to hang out with us youths, and my 3 furry new boyfriends for letting me love on you all weekend. 

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Dining In: Salsa Chicken Tostadas

 

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Of all the cousines out there, Mexican is my all-time favorite by a long shot. Honestly, I could eat a burrito, quesadilla, or straight up taco anytime, anywhere, anyday. So it shouldn’t surprise you that Logan and I make a TON of Mexican dishes. These salsa chicken tostadas are easy, healthy, and cheap (can you say trifecta?!).

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Step 1: Lightly season chicken with whatever spices your heart desires. We used salt, chilly powder, cumin, and garlic. Bake chicken for about 40 mins at 400.

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Step 2: Once your chicken is done, start shredding it. The easiest way to do this is to take two forks and work with the grain on the chicken, pulling it apart into small strips.

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Step 3: On medium heat, mix together salsa and greek yogurt. Stir until mixed completely and warmed. Add your chicken to the sauce and mix together.

Step 4: While mixing your chicken, put four corn tortillas into the oven for a few minutes until they’re nice and crispy (about 7 minutes).

 

Add your chicken to your baked toastadas and enjoy! This meal comes in at about 325 calories, so eat up my healthy friends.

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What new and tasty recipes have you tried out?

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5 Highlights from New Orleans

Its hard to believe that just a week ago we were enduring a 15 hour car ride back from New Orleans. I am obsessed with southern states; warm weather, tasty food, and southern hospitality. What’s not to love?! If you get a chance to make it down to New Orleans here are a few of our personal favorites.

1. Food! *duh*

The food in New Orleans was all delicious, and mostly fried. I think we all took an unspoken vow to eat seafood every single day, because how could we not!? Logan is the yelp master so he was able to find a ton of great places for us to eat.

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A “Medium” Shrimp Po Boy, a po-boy is just a fancy nawlins term for giant sandwich, from a local restaurant

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Seafood tacos from The Rum House and the best oysters in the world from Acme Oyster House

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Beignets from Cafe Du Monde! (An absolute must)

2. Drinks!

Let me tell you my favorite thing about New Orleans: NO OPEN CONTAINER LAW! That means you can buy a bottle of beer at a grocery store, and then proceed to drink it in the street! Sounds pretty crazy right? This was especially convenient when we went out on Bourbon St. In the bars, a bottle of Miller Lite can run you $6 (Thats even more than Chicago!), but if you buy from the street venders you can get a 20 0z. cup for just 5 bucks *bargain*. The side street vendors also offer shots; if you’re looking for the worst tasting shot in the world get a Cherry Bomb. Those suckers are only $1 but consist of Maraschino Cherries soaked in Everclear.

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3. Live Music!

What’s better than live music in New Orleans?! Practically nothing. Almost all the bars on Bourbon St. had bands playing, and the best part was you could take your drinks from the street and listen to the bands while enjoying your $4 22 oz. Miller Lite. No cover! Check out Shannon’s Vine account for videos

4. Parks/ Scenery!

We went to one gorgeous park when we were in New Orleans. The park was gorgeous, and had so many trees covered in Spanish moss, which is my favorite *so pretty*. The park also had an outside sculpture exhibit fo’ free! The whole park was really pretty; my favorite piece had four corgi’s arranged in a cube. So cute!

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5. Tours

New Orleans offers more tours than I can even list. Unfortunately, they are all a little pricey. We wanted to do a Voodoo tour and a swamp tour, but ultimately had to choose one (you can read more about our vacay on a budget here). So we chose the swamp, mostly because all of us are avid nature lovers. It was a little cold on our tour, but that didn’t stop us from seeing so many animals. At one point our guide pulled the boat over and fed marshmallows to wild piglets! If you have never seen little piglets with their mouths full of marshmallows, you’re totally missing out.

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***BONUS*** Here are some extra pictures from our trip!

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What are some highlights from your spring break?

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Dining In: Stuffed Squash

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Logan and I love to find new recipes and try them out during the weekends. I eat campus food, and Logan makes quick meals Monday-Friday, so we like to spice things up during the weekend. Tonight we made stuffed squash! We were inspired by this recipe for Stuffed Zuchinni Boats, but since zucchini is out of season they were SUPER small, so we opted for butternut squash instead.

We used a very simple ingredient list:

  • 1 package lean ground turkey
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 3 oz. Reduced fat Colby Jack Cheese
  • Season to taste

All you do is carve out the squash with a fork or whatever utensil your little heart desires, cook the meat in a saucepan (add in some of the squash you carved out), line carved squash with spaghetti sauce, fill the squash boats with meat, and top with cheese*. Cook for 45 min at 350 degrees!

*I would recommend waiting until you take the squash out to add the cheese, because ours got a little tough.

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These pictures are the before and after cooking our butternut squash boats! They were super tasty, and also mega healthy. I ate 1/4 of it and it came in under 300 calories, and I was stuffed!

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What do you like to cook in your spare time?! Please share your wonderful recipes in the comments!

P.S. Yes, Logan and I eat dinner on the floor because he doesn’t have a kitchen table. #collegelife

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Valentine’s Day Getaway: Part 2

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I hope you all enjoyed the first part (which was actually our second day) of our adventure to Galena! We were so lucky to be able to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a long weekend of relaxation, and what’s more relaxing than having dinner by a fire with your favorite people? Nothing.

While going out to a fancy restaurant with you sweetheart is a great way to celebrate Valentine’s, we decided to take it down a notch and cook our own tasty meal at the cottage. We put the boys in charge of the main course (they’re way better cooks than either of us ladies), and divvied the appetizer and dessert between the two of us.

If you’ve met me, you probably know I am dangerously obsessed with avocados. I could definitely star in the Subway commercials where the women start naming their babies after my beloved avocado. So naturally, I made guacamole despite the fact it did not remotely relate to the entree.

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The boys decided to make chicken stuffed with feta and spinach, and then made some ratatouille topped with goat cheese! Andy bought all his ingredients from Eataly, this restaurant/grocery store combo that has the best cheese in the city. If you find yourself in downtown Chicago, it’s a must.

And what’s the point of dinner if there is no dessert?! Shannon made a fourless chocolate cake, which tasted a lot like chocolate cheesecake, but without all the guilt.

Needless to say we had a perfect Valentine’s day with the people we love the most.

We also had the chance to check out some cool shops downtown. Galena is full of fun boutiques with tons of knick knacks. We came across these hilarious animal masks, how could we not try them on!

How did you spend your Valentines weekend?

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