dealing with stress

This post has been a long time coming, but it’s not what I thought it would be. There have been plenty of mounting motivations to write it, but it just takes one, terrible, unexpected, frightening thing to make you realize it’s time. It’s that point when life is just out of your control and you’re left to completely reevaluate who you are as a person, what you’re doing, and where you’re going. If it’s all worth it, if  Continue reading

the blogger’s guide to not letting social media ruin your life

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Let me preface this by saying I love social media. But I also love bacon. Like bacon, constant consumption of social media is not good for the heart, mind, or soul. Here’s to keeping your social diet a healthy one.


turn off mobile notifications

You’re addicted and you know it. With the all-knowing iPhone we’ve become conditioned to crave digital interaction. We are social beings after all. And while the numbers and rising stats are intoxicating, insta-likes and retweets are a poor representation of where your content fits in with the world. So turn off the push-notifications from social media. From Instagram, from twitter, from facebook, wordpress, etc. Those likes aren’t going anywhere, and monitoring them won’t make them go up any faster. Save that phone buzz excitement for a text from a friend or your mom or that aloof and mysterious bartender you gave your number to a week ago.


take a break from social media one day a week

Yes, the whole day. Step back from the sharing, the liking, the being in everyone else’s business. Take a sabbatical from reading through the comments sections of politicians’ facebook pages where you already know you won’t find anything good. You don’t need to scroll through so-and-so’s album of “sunday funday at the lake ;D”. You can do that tomorrow. For one day, give your full attention to your family, your significant other, your friends, your pets, and yourself. For one day, be fully immersed in living, in existing in the world rather than on a screen.


don’t stand on the chair

You’re tempted to get that perfect, aerial shot from above of the magnificent spread before you. You’ve come to terms with how ridiculous you look. That’s great. But unless you’re on a picnic bench outside, or you’ve explicitly asked the restaurant staff if it’s alright to stand on the furniture that other people have to sit on, that the restaurant paid for and has to maintain, just don’t. Take a shot from standing on the floor. More importantly, the aerial shot has been done. Get creative and find a different way to capture the moment. Try a minimalist approach with just one dish. Make it more than a picture, make it art.


the 30 second-1 flash rule

For the love of Yaweh, don’t let your friend’s food get cold. After you’ve asked your tablemates if you can photograph their food (because, manners) you have 30 seconds to take all the photographs you can. You will be disappointed with your loot the first few times, but you will become a more skilled photographer, and your meal partners will thank you for it. If you’re in a dark restaurant I strongly advise not even bothering with pictures because A) even with a flash they won’t turn out and B) you don’t want to be that person. But if you just absolutement have to take a picture, you get one flash. That’s it. It’s presumptuous and selfish to infringe on the dining experience of others. For the best quality photos, stop by earlier, or talk to the management about a photoshoot. You never know, see what happens.


save filtering and posting for later

So you’ve used your 30 seconds to take as many pictures as possible. Now put your phone away (see next section). Who cares if it’s a #latergram. Who’s gonna know anyways, right? Find that perfect filter, the perfect exposure, crop, rotation, and blur after. Whether at a restaurant or an event, you’re only there for a limited time, that photo will be on your phone when you get home. So while you’re there, be there.


keep your phone off the table

The servers at a local restaurant a while back had an employees game of bingo they liked to play. And there was one square you could cross off if everyone at the table of 4+ had their phone on the table. Again, you don’t want to be that table. Besides, having it right in front of your face, you’ll want to edit the photo. You’ll want to post it. And you’ll want to see if everyone liked it. See above.

I’m currently working on this one myself. You put it away at first, but it somehow finds its way out again because you just have to show someone that picture or video your cousin, roommate, neighbor posted earlier, or that crazy sexist article from that openly anti-feminist site (which you really shouldn’t be surprised about anyways). Et voilà. Phone on the table. But don’t do it. Don’t even pull it out. Find better words to explain the picture, summarize the article (or just forget about it), and engage with the people around you rather than shoving more media in their face.


take mockery in stride

Taking into account the rest of this guide, you should be able to keep mockery to a minimum, but along the way, someone is going to make fun of you for live-tweeting an event, or taking that overhead shot of your food. I mean, it does look kind of silly. But you know what it’s for, and you know why you’re doing it. You know there’s a demand, and you have the supply. It’s just good business. Don’t internalize it and let it eat at your self esteem, but don’t retort with snark. When the server walks by and in his girliest voice says “Instahgrahhhhmmm!” find a witty reply like, “Hey man, this foodporn on my digital profile will distract the NSA from my illegal internet gambling.” Ya know, or just gracefully brush it off.


create content you’re proud of

You’ve followed the guides, posting regularly and frequently, but just aren’t seeing the stats to reflect it? Evaluate your content. Whether promoting your personal site or just developing a following on a singular platform, people really do respond to quality content. Social media is only as useful as the content it promotes. If it’s not good, don’t force it, move on. Your next idea, your next photo, your next post will be better.


be your own brand

Aristotle had Plato. Andy Warhol had soup. Artists have their muses. It’s only smart to follow social media accounts that inspire you. But be careful with how that inspiration affects your own actions. A strong following is born from true innovation, from individuality. Unless it’s part of your brand or you’re doing something über creative, stay away from words like “darling,”, “much,” “tasty,” “effortlessly chic,” “delicious,” “extremely,” or “gem.” They’re all good words, but used up at this point. Revisit them in 15 years. For now, take the extra minute to find the word you actually want and create your own voice.


ceci n’est pas une pipe

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and this is not a macchiato

Magritte had it right, and his message is ever more prescient in our age of digital distance. Social media is used for sharing moments with people who aren’t there, but it’s also undeniably used as a tool for promotion. With that in mind, as in all things, we must remember that the subject of our images have meaning and value in themselves. Whether it’s a dish at a restaurant, a stunning landscape, or a candid moment between friends, we must remember that it is the subject, not the image or the digital engagement it may generate, that is real.

the native’s guide to avoiding SXSW

picture from 365thingsaustin.com

No, I don’t really hate you, but sometimes I hate SXSW. While the festival brings some kickass art (and a lot of money) to our not-so-tiny Texas town, it’s no secret that the presence of thousand upon thousands of LAers kinda drives us Austinites a little batty. Too often the art is overshadowed by the incessant marketing and media coverage that it’s hard to see where the festival originated. The restaurants and roads are full, everyone is dressed better than you, and apparently you’re not cool enough to get into the party, even though you live in the coolest city in the world. You’ve got a right to be a little frustrated. So I’ve made this for you: The Native’s Guide to Avoiding South-by.


hike in the greenbelt
photo from hillcountryoutdoors.com

Whenever people ask me what to do when they come to Austin, I find my advice is always centered around food or one of the many watering holes. Given the SXSW crowd will be swarming some of my favorite haunts, I find myself leaning towards swimming suggestions. But as always, Austin weather is unpredictable, and this year unseasonably cold. While swimming might not be an option either, the massive Greenbelt should be beautiful for a little hike. And after all this rain, there might even be some water in the creek, a truly rare sight.

Austin Greenbelt – Use the Capital of Tx Hwy entrance for maximum traffic avoidance


hide out at Aviary

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Sshhhhh! I am sharing one of Austin’s best-kept secrets with you, so cherish it. What opened as a home décor store quickly turned into South Lamar’s secret wine bar, which turns out to be the perfect combination. Lounge around on the comfortably modern sofas while playing cards against humanity with Marco, the owner, bar tender, and badass while he tells you about that time he fell asleep on a beach in Thailand, or was it Greece? A more recent addition and even better secret is John, culinary extraordinaire and hot plate genius, who whips up some incredible small plates in the makeshift kitchen. When the weather’s nice there’s always the patio for some people watching on South Lamar. This place is more of a second home to me than just a wine lounge, so a more extensive description will be reserved for a later time, but let it suffice to say that you won’t see any SXSW badges here.

Aviary – 2110 South Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704


 for the thrill seeker

A blessing and a curse, SXSW coincides with the spring breaks of all Austin area school districts and college campuses. It’s as if Black Friday and July 4th on the Guadalupe River had a baby. Where you may avoid the hipster overload, you’re more likely to run into spring breakers. While these places might be buzzing with the energy of 12 year olds hopped up on Monsters, at least you won’t be scoffed at because your mustache is genuine, not ironic.

K1 Speedway – 2500 McHale Ct, Austin, TX 78758

Indoor Skydiving – 13265 N Hwy 183, Austin, TX 78750

Blazer Tag – Southwood Mall, 1701 W Ben White Blvd, Austin, TX 78704


 don’t starve

Don’t worry, you’ll be able to go back to Elizabeth Street in a few weeks, but you have to eat sometime right? There might even be some specials around town showing appreciation for local endurance. In the mean time, head out to the hill country to try the Parisian owned Baguette et Chocolat, or Café Blue. Craving French food a little closer? Try épicerie! Kind of risky since the rise of Burnet’s kitchen district, but a cinnamon roll at Uppercrust and a pancake at Pacha never disappoint. You won’t get a table at Clay Pit, but you can try their little sister Tärka down on Brodie Lane. Instead of Hopdoddy’s, check out Wholly Cow on South Lamar, or maybe trek up to the Hopdoddy’s location on Anderson Lane. While badges have been spotted as far out as The Salt Lick in Spicewood, Moontower Saloon might just be far south enough to deter the festival goers without cars/copious amounts of cash for Uber fares.


 get the hell out
photo from viator.com
photo from viator.com

New Orleans happens to be my own personal MO. Just get the hell out of dodge. While all the tourists flood downtown, I’m happy to take a road trip with friends and be a tourist somewhere else for a while. See you later Ruby Red and breakfast tacos, I’ll be sippin’ on hurricanes and nommin’ on some beignets.


go camping

At the foothills of the hill country, it only takes a 30-minute drive to realize Austin might not be the sprawling metropolis Austinites sometimes mistake it for. From beautiful Cyprus trees lining the Guadalupe to an environmental history to explore, this is the perfect time to take advantage of Central Texas’s ecological assets. Take a step out of town and realize that Texas is bigger than Austin, and it should be appreciated as such. Might just convince you Tim Riggins was right: Texas forever, man.

Enchanted Rock – 16710 Ranch Rd. 965, Fredericksburg, TX 78624

Perdanales State Park – 2585 Park Rd 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636

McKinney Falls – 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744

Pace Bend – 2011 Pace Bend Rd N, Spicewood, TX 78669


take a day trip

You don’t have to watch Friday Night Lights to fall in love with small town Texas. Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Fredericksburg has embraced its role in the scheme of Texas towns as home of peaches and German heritage. A few Austin establishments have tried, but bratwurst just tastes better in the hill country.


make the great pilgrimage
photo from insideanabreadshead.com
photo from insideanabreadshead.com

Face it: you won’t be eating at Franklin’s. While the east side joint is nothing to scoff at, there’s nothing like a city practically built around barbecue. Make your own barbecue tour in Lockhart, the undisputed Capital of Texas barbecue. Visit all the hot spots like Black’s, Smitty’s, and Kreuz’s and educate yourself on all the family drama. Plus, do the math: the drive to Lockhart is 45 minutes. The line for Franklin’s is 3+ hours. Hardly even a choice there.

Black’s BBQ – 215 N Main St, Lockhart, TX 78644

Smitty’s Market – 208 S Commerce St, Lockhart, TX 78644

Kreuz’s Market – 619 N Colorado St, Lockhart, TX 78644


tour a brewery

Banger’s will be packed. Easy Tiger will be packed. Ale House, Craft Pride, every beer joint you love will be packed. Can you still get beer? Duh! But make a trip of it and find it at the source. There are tons of breweries in the Austin area and they can give you a tour of the place. So learn a little about what you consume why don’t you (you might even get a little free beer while you’re at it).

Jester King Brewery – 13187 Fitzhugh Rd, Austin, TX 78736

Independence Brewing Co. – 3913 Todd Ln #607, Austin, TX 78744

512 Brewery – 407 Radam Ln, Austin, TX 78745

Austin Beer Works – 3009 Industrial Terrace, Austin, TX 78758

Spoetzl Brewery (home of Shiner) – 603 E Brewery St, Shiner, TX 77984


suck it up
photo from yelp.com
photo from yelp.com

You know you want to, so just suck it up and go to a show. There’s an incredible amount of talent that comes in for just a week, and while their groupies might be a tad on the irksome side, there is really a lot to be appreciated about sentiment of the festival. Everyone else is enjoying it, so you might as well, too. You don’t have to get drawn into the ‘who’s who’ and ‘OMG what party should I go to,’ because what makes SXSW cooler than any other festival is that at least some people still try to make it about the art. Find somewhere where music fits your taste, the beer is cold, and the people aren’t too trendy, then go home whenever the hell you feel like it because no one really needs to stay out ‘til 2 Monday thru Friday. Because when life gives you a music, film, and interactive festival, make lemonade (not a Moscow Mule, you hipster).


Have your own way of avoiding SXSW madness? Comment with your own tips!

on youth

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I want to stay up until 4 one weekend and not bat an eye if the next weekend I’m in bed by 10.

I don’t want this to be the best time of my life because the thought of reaching a point where everything will only get worse is down-right terrifying.

I want to have debates about important things and not have my youth thrown in my face as a counterargument.

I want to tell the powerful, middle-aged men at the adjacent table at breakfast that it’s not okay to say things like “dating younger is like dating down, like dating dumb,” because I know some pretty damn intelligent young women half their age and twice their worth that will probably be their bosses some day.

I want to tell the world just how spectacularly creative and determined my peers are because they haven’t been beaten into the ground yet by a society that tells them they’re naive. Because what are we doing this whole life thing for anyway if not to make our world a better place?

I want to stop being told that my generation’s methods of communication, of working, of creating, that our gadgets and gizmos are making us dumber and are a detriment to society. I’m proud that I can learn about a problem fast enough to be able to possibly do something about it.

I want children to know that you can effect change at any age.

I want to ask my little sister hard questions so she will be ready when the world confronts her with their reality; but I want to listen to her answers and explanations, because how can she possibly become a thinking adult if no one treats her like her answers have weight?

I want adults to know that you win a child’s respect by respecting them and their humanity in return.

I’m tired of feeling like I’m not ready for anything.

Like I’m not good enough. Not smart enough. Not worldly enough.

Like I’m too young.

But I’m ready to embrace the fact that I never will be.


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christmas by the highway

A few years ago, some smart Austinite decided to bring a little Christmas cheer to the most dreaded of daily tasks: the commute. On the Capital of Texas highway, between Mopac and Lamar, some ornaments and tinsel appeared on one of the many evergreens that line the highway. The next year, there was a little more sparkle on the berm, and the next year, a little more. The tradition has since expanded to other strips of road across Austin, and this year we braved the traffic and the deceptively steep cliff to do our part.


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not too big, not too small: the perfect tree

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