Friday, August 31, 2012

Like you need another reason to love Adam Savage

I forgot how much I love reading Wired. The only problem I have with Wired is that I love reading the physical copy (yes, the paper version sold on shelves in stores), there's just something about the matte pages and staring at how well-designed each page is; but greedy ol' me also wants to keep copies of it. Having dealt with several moves, some of which involved going across the Pacific Ocean several times, I've learnt several lessons the hard way: (a) Magazines don't keep well (they slouch on shelves so they get all dog-eared) and (b) Two year's subscription of Wired, National Geographic, Real Simple and Creating Keepsakes takes up a helluva space and weighs a ton. Paying international shipping for them is no fun. So darn it, I may be "forced" (fine, "coerced") into paying for the magazine + iPad subscription at $19.99. The magazine-only subscription is $14.99, which I guess isn't all that bad.

Now that I've got that completely random rant out of the way -- if you need more reasons to love Adam Savage of Mythbusters, check out this month's issue of Wired, as Adam talks about his toolbox (think Mary Poppin's carpet bag but made of metal and waaaaaaaaay cooler) and his organizing concept of "first order retrievability." The only thing that will potentially make Adam's toolbox cooler is to find Dr Who's sonic screwdriver in there. A fangirl can hope. If you're wondering if the toolbox on steroids photo above is by Adam, yup, it is! Adam's fully customized toolbox is built in such a way that no tool had to be moved out of the way for him to get another tool. Awesomness. Drool.

As a self-confessed organizational freak (I love my lists and putting things into containers, then stacking them on neatly on top of each other!), I'm totally with Adam on his concept of "first order retrievability" -- basically, it's a way of organizing that allows you to find anything in the fastest, most efficient way possible. And you know what? "First order retriveability" works not just when it comes to organizing tools, kitchen drawers, scrapbooking chests but also when it comes to writing. In my day, I've had to write, review and revise enough press releases and fact sheets to last a lifetime and I still do. Nothing annoys me more than having to get a search party going to find the freakin' key message (the subject matter or main topic for the non-PR folks). If you can't say what you need to say in your headline, subheadline and first paragraph -- rewrite it. I've had the privilege of having the basics of writing drilled into me in college, in classes and at work and I'm forever grateful. So the next time you see a mess, pause and think: WWASD? And noooo, the answer isn't "let's blow it up!" First order retrievability, folks.

Read the Wired article here: Inside Adam Savage's Toolbox

More on Adam's toys here:


Monday, August 20, 2012

Adventures in Apartment Hunting

You would think that after at least 10 moves in the past 11 years, we would be better at this. But nope, we go through the same frustrations and information overload everytime we look for a place to rent. I don't even want to think about what it's going to be like when we decide to buy a place.

The good news: After shopping around for two weeks (felt like forever), we found a place, signed the lease and paid the deposit and first month's rent last Friday! We'll be calling NoPa (North of the Panhandle) home from this weekend, so while I'm not looking forward to full day of moving this Saturday, I can't wait to get settled in to a place we can call home!
Our current two-bedroom apartment is lovely and checks off most things on our list, but sadly, it doesn't allow pets. Cats are negotiable (boo!) but no dogs. While we have been toying with the idea of dressing up our pug-to-be in a catsuit, for now, we'll have to hold off getting a pug. It saddens me knowing that somewhere out there, a pug with a sad face needs a home. Since we're talking pugs in costumes, here's one of my favorite pugs on YouTube (Yes, I google pugs on YouTube. Judge me all you want, you know you do it too!): Chubbs the Wampug. So, knowing that we may have to do this again in a year or more, I'm writing an Apartment Hunting 101 post to console my future self, and avoid making the same mistakes again!

Tip #1: Do your research before heading out
Yes, it's exciting to comb through Craigslist and start making appointments for apartment viewings, but you'll be so tired, overwhelmed and frazzled by your third or fourth apartment viewing that it'll be pointless and a waste of time. So what research is needed? Curbed SF has some awesome articles that you shoudl start with and it gets you in the right mindset and armed with the right questions when apartment viewing.
For the record, we made the mistake of jumping into the deep end, only to take a breather after seeing a handful of apartments. Honestly, while I was still stressed out about not finding an apartment closer to the move-out date of our current place, the tips and tools from Curbed definitely helped make the hunt slightly less painful. Craigslist was our go-to for apartments, but anyone who loves Craigslist knows that it's not exactly the most visually-exciting website.Definitely try Lovely, a tool which extracts info from Craigslist postings and puts in a super easy to read, visual way. But as Curbed noted, be sure to double check the posting on Craiglist too, because sometimes, the info may be off. 

Also, Curbed has lots of articles on current rental and sale prices of houses and apartments in different neighborhoods, so you'll know what to expect depending on the price you're willing to pay.

Tip #2: Set a budget
How much are you willing to pay? Do you have roommates or a partner? Rule of thumb is that you should not be forking out more than 30% of your income for rent (just had a Suze Orman moment there). You can't run from this because when you're filling out your rental applications, you'll need to prove that the combined gross monthly income for each household must be at least three times the monthly rent.

If you're living alone and looking for a studio or tiny one-bedroom in the city, you can probably get away with paying $2,000 a month, but don't expect brand new everything. If you housemates, it definitely ups your budget and options -- it's economies of scale. 

Setting a budget will also help you figure out what you can get for what you're able to pay for. The boyf and I were looking for one-bedroom apartments based on our budget, so studios were a no-go but we did extend our search to two-bedroom apartments if it was within our budget. Give some wiggle room as well -- we even looked at places that were $100-200 above our budget just to see what's out there.

Tip #3: Make a list of what's important to you
What's home to you? A quiet neighborhood? Cafes up and down the street? Public transportation? The list is endless but this helps put everything into perspective. Make a list of what's most important to you. This could be a short or long list, it's up to you, but we had about 10 things on our list. Prioritize the list as well from dealbreakers to love-to-have-but-we-can-live-without-it. 

This was our list. The first six were dealbreakers, the other four were not in order of priority, but things that we would like to have. We knew that we definitely wanted hardwood floors instead of carpets, so that didn't need to be on the list because it was a no-go zone. At one point, we were so stressed out by our apartment that we even viewed an apartment that checked off everything on our list (except pet-friendly) but it was carpeted, and it just didn't feel right.
  1. Neighborhood
  2. Natural light
  3. Laundry in-unit or on-site
  4. Space, which included size and apartment layout
  5. Noise
  6. Transportation
  7. Fittings
  8. Dishwasher
  9. Pet-friendly
  10. Parking
Other things you can add to your list: "family friendly," "bars & restaurants," "close to park," etc. Having the list also helps you focus on what's important to you as you're shortlisting your viewings and final choices. As you're apartment hunting, just check off the list.

If you want to take it to the next level, we had an excel spreadsheet with the monthly rent, location, Craigslist posting (in case we needed to double check details) and allocated points for each of the things on our list. We then took the rent and divided it by the total score, whichever had the highest index, in theory, would be our top and best choice. Then again, we both love excel and I love making lists, so if you want to skip this, check marks work great too.

Tip #4 Decide on a neighborhood, or two
One of the mistakes we made was we had too many neighborhoods in mind. When we were students, we always wanted to live in the city. I loved Inner Sunset and Hayes Valley. But obviously, after five years of being away, not only has the city changed but we had as well. So on my list was: Noe Valley, Bernal Heights, Mission, Hayes Valley. On the boyf's list: Similar to mine, but he was also interested in the Marina, Pacific Heights, Cole Valley and places around the Golden Gate Park. At one point, he was also thinking of North Bay -- while we loved the sunshine and views, it just didn't make a lot of sense as we would have to travel into the city for work everyday. So as you can see, that's A LOT of neighborhoods. Can you imagine viewing apartments in that many neighborhoods? We can, because we did. Driving from place to place was one thing, but it was utter madness. Even though we took photos of every place we viewed, everything just warped into one at the end of the day and it was complete and utter info overload.

So my tip: Decide on one neighborhood. If you're not familiar with the area, decide on two or maximum three neighborhoods, but honestly, even three is a bit of an overkill.
How do you decide on a neighborhood? Take a walk. Do what you normally do in the neighborhoods that you're considering. When we moved back to San Francisco, we rented a summer sublet in Noe Valley because we knew we wanted to be in a sunny neighborhood. We lucked out because we found an amazing one-bedroom with hardwood floors, close to transportation and cafes, and it was on the top floor, so the views of the Bay Bridge and Sutro Tower was utter plusses. As we were on 28th and Dolores, this also meant that we were super close to the Mission and Dolores Park, restaurants, cafes and shopping in Noe Valley, and a walk away from Bernal Heights.

But if you hate moving around, spend the day in the neighborhood you're considering, grab a bite, do some shopping, explore. Driving around doesn't do the neighborhood justice (but does give you an idea of how difficult it is to find a place to park), so definitely try walking or biking. Schedule time in between apartment viewings to check out the neighborhood -- you want to feel like you belong, you want to feel like you call it your neighborhood.

By our 10th viewing, we were down to three neighborhoods: Noe Valley, Mission and NoPa. Then we decided that while we love the restaurants and shops in the Mission, we weren't hipster enough to call it home.

Tip #5 Off we go!
Now we're ready. Schedule your apartment viewings by neighborhoods so you don't end up running around in circles or across the city. This is especially important if you don't drive.
Don't schedule too many apartment viewings because it's important to give yourself a breather after each apartment viewing and make notes of things you liked and things you didn't. Remember, everything will become a blur after 3-4 viewings. We went overboard and scheduled at least 7-8 viewings on a Saturday, so from 10am to 2pm, we were in and out of apartments.

Take photos! Lots of photos. It's way easier to remember if the unit had a dishwaster or what type of windows a unit has from photos than having to call an agent or landlord. Here's a tip on how to segment the photos between viewings. Start and end your photos with a photo of the front door (so you have the apartment number) and business card of the agent or landlord, so you have the contact info! Photos are a great way to remind you of what you liked and didn't like about the place.

Also, if you see a unit in a neighborhood that you like but the unit's not ideal, ask the agent or landlord if he/she has other units in the neighborhood that's closer to what you're looking for. You'll never know till you ask!

Tip #6 Your application starts at hello
San Francisco is a competitive rental market. Sure, you have to have a good credit history to rent. But it's also important that you like your landlord and vice versa. So be nice at the apartment viewings. If you think you like the place, talk to the agent or landlord who's showing it -- ask questions, be interested, tell them about yourself. Think of it as an interview process. Remember, all this happens before you even fill out an application. If you don't like a place, don't be mean, just thank the host and leave. Don't take an application unless you actually like a place. Submit your application for the one you like best. If money's not an issue (it ranges around $20-$40 for each application), then submit applications for your top 2-3 choices.

When you're ready to apply, prepare an application packet. Yes, this is starting to sound like applying for school, but it makes it so much easier! You'll need both items below, but we also provided a cover letter explaining our situation and had our past tenancy agreements handy. 
  1. Pay stubs from past 3 months
  2. References, one from current employer and one from previous landlord
So there you have it, sounds like a lot but at least it gives you some sanity to the apartment hunting madness. It's not going to be easy and you might need to make compromises along the way, but what's important is that once you've made a decision, stick with it and don't doubt yourself.

After at least 20+ viewings, it came down to two apartments, one in NoPa and the other in Noe Valley. And the problem was, the entire time we took to shortlist the two apartments, we were worried that someone would have swoop in and taken them already. We were toying with the idea of submitting applications for both apartments, but then decided on submitting it for our first choice -- the two-bedroom in NoPa, only to find out that there was an application before us. What was tougher news was that we found out that the applicant had decided to take the apartment, so our first choice was gone. By that time, we had decided that we wanted to live in NoPa so we axed our second choice and starting viewings again in NoPa, but this time, we knew we wanted two-bedrooms instead of one-bedroom because we knew that for our budget, we could get the extra space which comes in handy for friends and family. 

We found ourselves comparing viewings to the first choice apartment that we wanted, but the best part was finding out a few viewings and days later that the original applicant had decided that he/she didn't want to the place anymore! So it was ours if our application went through! The funny thing was, when we got this news, we were planning to view another apartment that was in the same area, was pet-friendly and laundry in the unit, although it was $300 more. Ahh, when it rains, it pours. Needless to say, we ended up signing the lease for our first choice apartment on Hayes and Broderick, and can't wait to move in and go garage sale hunting!

Photos of our new place in upcoming posts!

Oh Oakland, thou art strange...

[UPDATE: Didn't realize this post has been sitting in Drafts for the past three weeks! Better late than never I guess.]

...and that's why I'll be back for more! A night of art, street performances, live music, good food and in the company of friends, what more can a girl ask for? Last Friday, Yoshi suggested we check out the Oakland Art Murmur, which happens the first Friday of every month. Two words: Loved it! Not crazy about the art on display in the open galleries, but loved the vibe of the live music, street performers, DIY jewelry vendors and just the weirdness of it all.

Check out the web site for more details, including maps and directions.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cookin' in the Noe: The Squash Special

In the spirit of Julia Child and celebrating her 100th birthday today, we decided to try cooking squash for the first time! I've had squash before, but never really knew how it looked like fresh and no idea how to cook it!

We were on our way to Whole Foods to get a bunch of vegetables for a chicken stew and we chanced upon Castro Farmers' Market (another thing to love about San Francisco!) instead! We saw the squash and had no idea what they were, so had asked the vendor and he basically told us that they were different types of summer squashes (?), so we bought a few of each -- you're looking at three of them in the photo: the yellow banana-looking one, the yellow pepper-looking one and the small green ones that look like garlic bulbs.

Verdict: All super sweet and yummy but definitely more suitable for sautéing or grilling, rather than as a stew. Love fresh produce!

Friday, August 10, 2012

In search of that perfect cuppa joe

One of the things that I was really looking forward to in our move back to San Francisco was trying out all the coffee places that have sprouted up and taken root the couple of years that we've been away. When I was studying at State, Peets was as good as it gets. And Peets was good. Sadly, Peets is pretty awful now -- I would still pop in for regular brewed coffee, but gone are the days when I looked forward to a hot sunny day just so I can savor on the Swirl -- imagine drinking soft serve ice-cream with espresso; now it's just ice blended milk with some coffee, and you can barely taste the coffee.

So far, here are the coffee places that Zhuang and I have tried and in order of my preference:
  1. Ritual
  2. Blue Bottle
  3. Philz Coffee and Four Barrel (it's a tie for now)
Funny thing is, it also depends on what's your drink of choice.

In the cappucino vs latte corner -- at Ritual, I'd pick the cappucino over the latte. The milk brings out the espresso much better in a cappucino, and I find the latte slightly too weak. At Ritual, they steam individual cups of milk not an entire jug. Zhuang's not a fan of Ritual because he feels that the espresso has a tinge of sourness that he doesn't like. At Four Barrel, the latte kicks ass over the cappucino. My cappucino was really acidic and rough, had no smoothness at all. The latte though, was smooth and creamy. Definitely go for the latte at Four Barrel.

Personally, in terms of store ambiance, both Ritual and Four Barrel has the same vibe and even their store layouts are quite similar. Oh, and they both scream hipster. Plus point for Four Barrel, they have a public parklet outside their store on 16th Street at Valencia. I'm a big fan of Proxy -- great place to grab a bite, shop, get coffee, dessert and sit in the sun.

As for Blue Bottle and Philz, I haven't made up my mind completely about either of them yet but definitely tried some good ones and will be back for more.

The affogato at Blue Bottle is mind blowingly good. Helps that they serve the espresso with a scoop of Humphry Slocombe ice cream -- we forgot to ask what flavor it was, but the saltiness (yes, salty) from the vanilla-like ice cream is perfect for the strong espresso. Sooooo good. It's like a coffee and cream explosion in yoru mouth. I wasn't impressed with the Blue Bottle latte -- it was good, slightly better by Ritual's latte for sure. I was at the Blue Bottle store at Ferry Building, and there's always a line but if you're there and needing a caffeine boost or something sweet, look out for the Blue Bottle signage -- yes literally, a blue bottle.

As for Philz, I only had the iced mint mojito coffee. I'm not a fan of flavored coffee -- hazelnut and vanilla lattes give me headaches, but mmmm, Philz does it right. Iced coffee with milk and fresh mint. Yup, leaves and all! It sounds weird but if you're a fan of mint, definitely try it. If you don't have enough mint after a cup of that, go get a scoop of Smitten's mint ice cream. You'll be all minted out after that. Of the four stores, Philz Coffee's stores are probably closest to the neighborhoodie type of stores ala Peets and Martha's Brothers (with less old people, at least less than the one on Church and 27th).

Ritual Coffee Roasters
1026 Valencia Street at 21st St (Mission)
Proxy at 432 Octavia St at Linden (Hayes Valley) Pssst, Smitten ice cream is at Proxy too!

Blue Bottle
Ferry Building but they also have several other stores and kiosks in the city, in SFMOMA and on Linden St, a block from Proxy

Four Barrel Coffee
375 Valencia St at 15th St (Mission)

Philz Coffee
Locations all over the city and Bay Area, but the original Philz is at 3101 24th St at Folsom

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Celeb Chow: Pearl's Phat Burger

On Sunday, my poor jelly legs took a grueling hike up the Bay Area's highest point at Mount Tamalpais -- and even though Zhuang claims that it was only a 2.5 mile hike,- it was
still uphill and a freakin' three-hour hike which I'm amazed that I survived having had only a cup of coffee and two pieces of my homemade Strawberry Marshmallow Meteorite Biskies for breakfast! (PS: Photos of Mount Tamalpais to come!)

So what better way to reward ourselves than with stuffing our faces with *drumroll* Pearl's Deluxe Burgers. We were starving after our hike so we stopped by Mill Valley for lunch since it was a 15-20 min drive from Mount Tamalpais (I still think it sounds like Mount Tamales). We parked, came out of the car and smelled BACON. Needless to say, the hungry folks followed the bacon and ended upp at Pearl's Phat Burger, a few stores down from Tyler Florence's store. Trivia time: Food Network chef Tyler Florence is from Mill Valley! Of course, the Mill Valley boy would have his "Best Thing I Ever Ate - Burgers" at Pearl's. His fave was Pearl's Phat Burger with bacon and cheese, rare. I had a mini version of the burger (1/4 pound of beef instead of 1/2 pound), medium and had it with Swiss cheese, no onions. My verdict: Doesn't look like much in the photo but yums! Definitely good quality beef done just right!

Other burgers that the rest of the crew tried: Bula (with spicy pineapple teriyaki sauce and bacon) and Prized Pearl (bacon, onions, blue cheese) and we also had onion rings (thumbs up!) and sweet potato fries (meh). Zhuang and I shared a mint chocolate milkshake with malt but we've had better.

Here's the video of Tyler Florence at Pearl's:

Pearl's Deluxe Burgers
8 E. Blithedale Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941 (They also have locations in San Francisco and Alameda too)


Cookin' in the Noe: Strawberry marshmallow meteorite biskies

Sooo... I overdid it on the fruits during last week's grocery run and bought way too much. How much? Err, 3 pounds of grapes, 2 pounds of strawberries, 2 mangoes, 4 navel oranges, some lemons and I can't remember anymore! So here I was staring at my box of strawberries and Zhuang's leftover July 4 marshmallows and craving baked goods. What's a girl to do but bake strawberry marshmallow cookies?
At least, that was the intention. But greedy ol' me put too many cookies in tray and when I pulled them out of the oven, Zhuang's first reaction was, "They look like meteorites!" I think I also put too much strawberries and didn't dry them enough (you're supposed to remove as much liquid from the strawberries before you mix them in) so my cookies turned out to be: Strawberry Marshmallow Meterorite Biskies, i.e. what happens when biscuits and cookies loved each other so much, they made baby Biskies. That's my excuse coz the texture is in between a biscuit and a cookie. It tastes way better than it looks!

I tweaked the recipe from Confessions of a Recipe Junkie by substituting all the sugar for brown sugar, so my biskies turned out a little darker and I didn't have a baking sheet or a proper cookie baking tray. Also put too much strawberries! So there, I love my strawberries. Also I forgot that the butter and egg was supposed to be at room temperature. Oh well, you still gotta love freshly baked cookies from scratch! Not bad for a first try.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Keep Austin Weird and San Antonio, well, for a weekend trip

When I found out that  Zhuang was heading to San Antonio for work, my first thought was: Alamo Drafthouse! And this coming from someone who has no clue how far Austin was from San Antonio in the country's largest state (besides Alaska!). The good news was, Austin was about 1.5 hours drive from San Antonio and even odder, the flights into Austin were cheaper than San Antonio, so yay!
To me, Texas = BIG. Big cars/trucks, big gallon hats, big meals, big people. Suprisingly though, it wasn't really that BIG, at least not from what we saw of San Antonio and Austin.


If I had to live in the Midwest, Austin would definitely be it. Definitely locavore haven, from food to shopping. I loved the pride Austinites have for their local restaurants and you must go shopping on South Congress (SoCo) for local designer jelwery and clothes. I couldn't leave Texas without a pair of cowboy boots, so a beautiful pair of Lucchese, handmade in El Paso since 1883, came home with me and when they claim that it fits like a glove, they're not kidding. So in love with them. I got my Lucchese's at Allens Boots -- rows and rows and rows of cowboy boots. I've never seen so many options in my life! At SoCo, definitely check out Uncommon Objects for completely random things, from old keys to old advertising signs -- things you never knew you need but absolutely wanted. Zhuang had to pry me away from a retrolicious pin-up girl calendar from the 40s. You can't miss Uncommon Objects coz it has a jacklope head proudly mounted on the store front.

If you need a mid-afternoon snack to cool you down, head to Amy's Ice Creams for a scoop -- you can have it with crunch-ins (basically mix-ins like Cold Stone Creamery). There are several Amy's in Austin and each location has their own special flavors on top of their basics, so definitely check them out. I had creamy Mexican Vanilla and Zhuang had Guinness Stout, both yums, even though I still love my Smitten ice-cream better.

The ultimate cool-down in Austin though, has to be the Barton Springs Pool. For a hot summer day, it's the best $3 you'll ever spend. It's basically a creek that was dammed up to create a 900-feet public swimming pool, so it still has cool and clean spring water running through it and natural rock bottom. It's great for people-watching, getting a tan or just a fun afternoon dip with the family. Wish I had this in my backyard.

We weren't crazy about the food in Texas, but would recommend The Salt Lick for fuss-free and good BBQ. It's about a 35-min drive from downtown Austin but definitely worth the drive for the beef ribs, sausage and pork ribs. It's dry-rub BBQ, so not one of those where the ribs are drowning in BBQ sauce. We shared Thurman's Choice, which was a platter of brisket, sausage and pork ribs, and additional order of beef ribs; rounding up the feast with pecan pie that had butterscotch filling -- when in Texas, go big or go home.

There were also food trucks galore in Austin and the best part about them? You don't have to go around hunting for the food trucks. They're always parked in the same location, so definitely stop for a bite whether you're in SoCo or just driving around Austin. We found some really good ones on East 6th Street, where I had my 10pm ice-cream between two super duper yummy chocolate banana cookie at Coolhaus.

But ahhh, if there was something I absolutely had to cross off my bucket list, it would be a visit to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. It was a tad confusing because I didn't know they had turned into a chain of sorts, but from what I understand, although the original Drafthouse warehouse location had to be closed in 2007, and founders Tim and Karrie League had sold the brand name and rights to some CEO dudes, the Leagues still retain "independence" for three Austin locations: Village, South Lamar and Ritz Downtown. We saw "Beasts of the Southern Wild" at South Lamar and I adored the pre-show, which contained old clips from music performances, cartoons, etc that may share similar themes with the movie. We of course had to have dinner at Alamo Drafthouse. I heard the shakes are must-have, but I was too stuffed from my blue cheese burger to have anything else, but there's always next time! Portions are huge, so I suggest sharing if you want dessert. If it's your first visit to the Drafthouse, check out the How Things Work (what time you should arrive, system to order food) and I highly recommend forking the additional $2 to buy the reserved seating tickets. The cinema is small and the reserved seatings are the best seats in the house -- so definitely worth the $2. We bought walk-in tickets and there was already a line forming when we arrived. We sat four rows from the front and it was still okay. We found the eating slightly distracting from the movie, so I would suggest checking out sa movie that you've already seen rather than something new. I can't imagine watching "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" while having to wolf down my burger. Can't wait for The Drafthouse when it arrives in San Francisco!

For more ideas and to-dos in Austin, I really liked and below is a list of some of the places we tried, as recommended by people who lived in Austin. If you love live music, be sure to head to a bar since Austin is apparently the "live music capital of the world" or so says the endless promotional signs at the airport. PS: Skip the Austin Ghost Tour -- totally not worth it.

  • Catch a movie and dinner at Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, either at South Lamar, Village or Ritz Downtown. Check their schedule for special screenings on their web site.
  • Afternoon soak in Barton Springs Pool. Guaranteed one of the best dips of your life.
  • The Salt Lick for BBQ -- either at Round Rock or Driftwood. Good ol' finger lickin' BBQ.
  • Lucy's Fried Chicken -- down home Southern deep fried goodness located at the end of SoCo. Love the dining in the back yard vibe. Give the deviled eggs a miss but the oysters were spicy kickin' and leave room for their pies! 
  • Amy's Ice Creams -- locations all over Austin with unique special flavors, even adult-friendly ones like Stout or Pina Colada.
  • Kerbey Lane Cafe -- open 24 hours but most folks go for breakfast. IMHO, not a must-do.
  • Hula Hut for Hawaiian-style Tex Mex -- we didn't manage to try this coz we were all Tex Mex-ed out.
  • South Congress or SoCo -- lotsa great local stores here. Definitely check out Stag, By George, Allens Boots, Uncommon Objects and honestly, just pop into any store
  • San Marcos Premium Outlets -- about a half hour drive from Austin, located in between San Antonio and Austin. Not as awesome as Woodbury in New York (I don't think anything's come close) but accceptable. There's also Tangers Outlets next to do. Drive around, don't walk especially in the summer heat.
  • The Domain -- if you're looking for a strip mall with slightly higher-end brands, check it out. It's about a 20-minute drive from downtown Austin. Not a must-do.

Daily Candy: Reasons to Love San Francisco