About Christina Does It All

Doing it all, One blog at a time

The Factory: Café with a Soul

I knew as soon as I saw photos of The Factory that it was something special – magical, even. I had an inkling that it might become one of my new favorite Austin treasures. I love it when I’m doubly right.

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Walking into The Factory felt a lot like stepping inside of a dream come true. I went from being outside of Northcross Mall to being transported to a land of swings and beautiful artwork and hanging lights and unicorns. Okay, I’m totally lying about the unicorns part. But it was so enchanting, I almost wouldn’t have been surprised. Co-owner Wendy’s talent for design is remarkable, especially when learning that she originally created the gigantic wall mural from her iPhone.

I could have been satisfied just staring at The Factory for hours, but the interior beauty was only the beginning.

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I’m not somebody who often says sappy things like, “I can taste the love in this.” But, y’all. At this tasting, I swear I could taste the love put into every sip and bite. I think that’s partly because everything about The Factory is a labor of love. I knew this as soon as I started chatting with Wallace, who owns the café with wife Wendy.

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When I asked Wallace to tell me more about how the café came to be, he launched into the love story of how he and Wendy first met. They were both attending college in LA when they found each other through mutual friends at a movie theater. Neither of them were fond of the other girl sitting nearest them, so they decided to talk to each other instead. And the rest is history.

History that has, thankfully, brought The Factory to Austin.

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Everything about the café had me smitten, so it’s hard to begin listing the things that left me swooning. But I guess the drinks are a good place to start. The Viva Matcha Latte was one of the creations I was most antsy to try, and it did not disappoint. Made from premium matcha harvested from Aichi prefecture in Japan, this latte was hands down the best matcha I’ve ever had the chance to sip on or look at. Visually a work of art, it was the perfect amount of sweet, foamy and delicate to taste. It warmed my soul, y’all.

If the matcha warmed my soul, the Marymint Monroe refreshed it. Freshly picked mint leaves and concentrated cold brew over ice make for a heavenly and mojito reminiscent combination. I was convinced this drink was mixed with mocha, but the intense and divine flavor just comes from the high quality of coffee that is standard at The Factory.

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I’m not done raving yet, guys. The Factory’s chicken and waffles is my new favorite brunch item. (A brunch item that tastes great all day, and pairs amazingly with the prosecco on tap.)  The classic side of syrup has been traded in for an egg tartar sauce and coleslaw, and the result is completely exquisite. I could have easily devoured a bowl of the egg tartar sauce alone, and the eleven spices mixed into the chicken batter made for a savory and distinct flavor. Juicy and tender with just the right amount of crunch, the chicken paired wonderfully with the soft and decidedly anti-sweet waffle. This dish made a statement, and its a statement that I simply cannot stop daydreaming about.

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The Factory, in and of itself, seems like the best of daydreams. The creations here are not just something to sip or nibble on, but something to take the time to enjoy and savor. Wallace explained to me that he had never really enjoyed coffee until he realized there was an art to making it. This art is one that he and Wendy have mastered. They have traveled the world looking for the finest ingredients, and the pride and joy they put into their work is immediately apparent. The café itself is devoid of WIFI, and is meant to be a place to relax and get to know friends and strangers alike. Walking inside is like a gentle reminder to slow down, to be fully present and to enjoy the magic that every moment brings.

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The Factory is something really special. I told my best friend that I was having a hard time writing this post because, for me, the café embodied everything I adore about Austin. And that’s a lot of love to try to fit into one post. But I’ll try. The Factory is a little wacky, a lot lovable and above everything else, so very welcoming. When my first matcha got cold over the course of chatting,  Wendy insisted on bringing me another. When I reached out my hand to shake Wallace’s on my way out, he requested a hug instead. This is what spending time at The Factory feels like. A big hug. A hug that includes coffee, and swings and waffles and good vibes. Austinites, rejoice.

Svante’s Tasting

Svante’s Ranch Direct is located in the delightful downtown Round Rock. Home of the famous Round Rock donuts and some cherished childhood memories of mine. Add to this list of memories the treasure that is Svante’s.

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This month Svante’s celebrates their one year anniversary. I’m almost disappointed in myself for not having made it out prior to this tasting.

The interior of the restaurant is much like a Pinterest dream come true. Simple yet intricately decorated with knick-knacks, shrubbery and artwork. It was love at first sight. And sip. And bite. Oh yes, let me get to that good stuff now.

Round one started off with the Ancho Pama-Rita made with ancho chile, pomegranate and Dulce Vida Reposado. You guys, it was slightly sweet, a little bit spicy, just the right amount of tangy and all delicious.

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Now let me swoon over their steak salad a little or, okay, probably a lot. I never order steak or salads if I’m choosing from a menu, but this salad has converted me. I am now a believer of steaks and salads, especially if combined with fish sauce, peanuts and red wine vinegar. I am salivating just thinking about this perfect combination of flavors that happy danced on my tongue.

If I wasn’t already a believer, the steak skewers with pickled watermelon completely did me in. I’m a sucker for the sweet and salty combo, and with rich, melt-in-your-mouth steak as part of this combo? I’m a goner. A giddy goner.

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Next was the Space Jam Burger, beef broth, house-cured gravlax on potatoes with crème fraiche and the Persephone Sour.  The Persephone Sour, with pomegranate, Deep Eddy Lemon vodka and an egg white, was enough to leave me swooning. The beef broth, rich and perfectly seasoned, whetted my appetite perfectly. And the house cured gravlax? I’d never had salmon atop potatoes, and you guys, the combination was divine and mesmerizing. Yes, I was mesmerized by salmon. Almost hypnotized, really. Svante’s can do that to a person.

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Finally, the Space Jam Burger was a work of art. An edible work of art. Three words that will change your life: Bacon onion jam. BACON ONION JAM. A masterpiece, y’all.

If it’s not apparent, I have a new favorite Round Rock restaurant. It’s charming and delicious and rhymes with… Lvante’s.

It’s Svante’s, if you were stumped on that one.

An Open Letter To My Future Teenage Daughter

This week I was running and listening to streaming music when Taylor Swift’s oldie but goodie “Mean” started playing. For the first time, I felt a wave of satisfaction as the lyrics ran through my head. Years ago it was a song that helped me get through some tough moments, but now it sounded more like a victory tune. There’s a line in the chorus that says,

Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”

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I remember hearing that song when I was nineteen and twenty and thinking, “Someday that will be me. Someday these things that so and so is saying won’t hurt me anymore.” It felt so good listening the other day and realizing, I am there. I am at that place now. Here I am at this point where I feel happy and confident and where I’m even making strides towards successful. The meanies of the universe can’t reach me anymore. But, as I realized this, I also realized that one day my daughter will be a teenager and a young twenty-something. That she will have to deal with the cruelties of the world and the bitter hearts of others and the doubt in herself that both of these things will bring. So I decided to write a letter to my future teenage Bryn. I also decided to share it here because, let’s be real, there’s no way I wouldn’t lose the paper version eleven + years from now. Internet, I’m trusting that you’ll stick around for my daughter’s teens.

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Hey Bryn-Bryn.

I’m sure you’re embarrassed by me at this point in your life, and you probably don’t want to be called Bryn-Bryn either. But I’m writing this when you’re two and a half, so get over it.

I love you and your red curls and your chunky legs and your beautiful, wild, untamable spirit more than anything. I love your big hugs and your toddler smell and even how you line baby dolls in your bed up in a row all creepy and Chucky-like. I wish that I could keep you from the bad things forever. But since I can’t, there are a few things that I really want you to try to take to heart, as best you can. I still have so much learning and growing to do myself, but here is what I know at the ripe old age of twenty-seven that I didn’t as a slightly younger soul.

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First of all, please be kind. There is enough hate in this world, and I want so much for you to be the anti-venom. Don’t call people names. Apologize when you’re wrong. Be open to what others are communicating, especially if they disagree with you. Love on your family, even when we drive you crazy. Give compliments out generously. Tell a cashier that you like their hair. And while we’re at it, because as you know, I do give strange compliments like that, please always embrace your awkwardness. Own it. Be weird and silly and laugh loudly and when you want to.

I need you to know that, like it or not, not everyone is going to like you. That people are going to dislike you for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you. That sometimes someone will want so badly to make themselves the hero in their own story that they will turn you into their villain, even if you didn’t do anything to deserve this narrative. And sometimes, baby girl, people just aren’t nice. You have to know that these folks are fighting their own battles, and more often than not, you are only caught in their crossfire.

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Listen closely here, boo. You can’t and shouldn’t have to prove yourself to people who only want the abstract of who you are. The concrete version of you is flawed and scarred and imperfect, and this real person is so very beautiful, no matter who takes the time to see it.

And Bryn? You don’t ever have to retaliate in anger, or frustration, or sadness. It took me years to realize that one. Try your best to forgive and move on and to focus on you, not anyone else. Look towards your biggest goals and live your craziest dreams. I promise you, that is the only vindication you will ever need.

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Littlest love, this is important too. I don’t want you to ever let anyone put you into a box. Every now and again someone will try to tell you who you are and what you can and can’t be. They’ll try to say that there’s only one path to self-actualization, but please take note of the word “self” there. It’s up to you to find out what makes you, you. It’s up to you, not a stranger or an online opinion piece or your great Aunt Edna (to be clear, we don’t actually have an Aunt Edna. If we did, I’m sure she’d be lovely.) to learn and decide the paths that will bring you fulfillment and joy. It’s up to you to break down the walls that society has put up for you. It takes small minds to impose their barriers onto others, but you need to know that you are bigger and better than any cage anyone could ever try to squeeze you into. Please don’t ever let the world define you. You redefine the world, baby girl.

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I hate this one, but it’s inevitable that you will have your feelings hurt and your heart broken. I so badly wish that I could protect you from those things, but I can’t and I shouldn’t. You’ll be rejected. You’ll hurt others. You will have to let go of people who mean a lot to you, and though this is healthy, it can also be really, really hard. You are going to feel like you’ve made a mess of things sometimes, and you’ll probably wish for a take-back or two or ten. But I want you to make mistakes, because this is how you will grow. I want you to do things that scare you, because some of the most terrifying things in life can also end up being the most incredible ones.

Brynlee Mae, please don’t let these hurts and heartbreaks turn you cold. The world can be a mean place but it will surprise you with its goodness too. Always search for the good. Fight with everything you have to keep that joyous spirit and loving nature. Fight to keep the sparkle that dances in your blue eyes. Fight against becoming jaded, or pessimistic or unkind, and encourage others to do the same. Encourage others every chance you get. We could all use a little bit more of that.

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Finally, I need you to know that so often, more often than not, you will be your own worst enemy. That the voices in your head, you know, the cruelest ones that tell you the things that others probably think about you? That this will so often be only what you fear about yourself. So please, please, please take the time to be kind to yourself. To forgive yourself. To look at what you’ve done and to be proud. Women are so often told not to be proud. To be modest, and meek and to swat away compliments like flies. Lest we be considered full of ourselves. Boastful. Egotistical. Lest we be considered what men are applauded for being, every single day.

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But Bryn, I don’t want you to ever feel like you have to hide your shine just because the world isn’t ready for it. Shine, baby. Show them everything you’ve got. Be the hero that doesn’t need a villain, or a rescuer or the false reality created by unrealistic expectations. Be your own hero.

I promise you, that is a story that needs to be told and told again.

PS: By the time I give you this letter, I will also have a list of Taylor Swift songs ready to guide you through the trials, tribulations and dance parties of young adulthood. You’re welcome in advance.

PPS: Dad says you’re not allowed to like boys.

No One At The Kmart Knows About My Bologna

From my first days of knowing my husband, I also knew about his love for nonsensical phrases. He loves to incessantly repeat odd, meaningless things that he hears on films or commercials or on the side of the road. I’ve never watched Back to the Future or The Goonies from start to finish, but I can quote the crap out of both of them.

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So as we were binge-watching Shameless last week, and a stoned college student on a bad trip uttered the words, “No one at the Kmart knows about my bologna.”, I immediately knew this would be a new token phrase. Not only because Robby was nearly crying he was laughing so hard, but because it sounded just like him. I felt honored to be privy to a strange catchphrase in the making.

Robby and I are soon to celebrate seven years of marriage and an anniversary trip is in the works. Both of these things make me giddy.

In these seven years we’ve shared many things. Anger, but more joy. Fights, but more laughter. Eye rolls, but more weird dances around the house. Baby poop, but more group family cuddles. Okay, let’s be real, probably more baby poop. Babies poop a lot.

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 There’s a big learning curve when it comes to marriage, and I love that we’ve always found ways to learn and curve together. I was especially young when we said “I do”, and Robby has been unwaveringly patient and kind every step and misstep of the way. There are things I couldn’t have known at twenty that I know about myself now. That, as much as I value us, I also need space to breathe, to travel and to live outside of my marriage. That, as much as I cherish my family, I also value my independence and higher education and exploring the world. Not only that, I sincerely believe that having this time to myself makes me both a better wife and mother overall. This isn’t something that everyone understands, and that’s okay. Because he does. Robby has always wholeheartedly encouraged me to chase my dreams and to figure out what makes me feel happy and fulfilled. He is my person, and to have spent the past seven years crafting inside jokes and our own bizarre lingo makes me feel like I’m a part of the best private club. Ours.

I married young, but I married right.

His sweet laughter about secret bologna only reiterates that knowledge.

Notes on Whitewater Rafting, Grad School and Being Alive

I’m currently in the process of enjoying a week off from grad school, and I am reveling in the freedom of it all.

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I just got back from a trip to New Mexico to check off whitewater rafting from my bucket list. It was an incredible trip. The exhilaration of rafting aside, there was also gorgeous wineries and breathtaking sunsets and enjoying mountain views paired with breakfast from the balcony of our AirBnB. I also devoured arguably the best burger of my life, which was found at a tiny BBQ shack off the highway in Embudo, New Mexico. As a PSA, it’s called Sugar’s BBQ and Burgers and the Sugar Burger will change your life. Road-tripping New Mexico is always nothing short of astounding; Doing so with one of my favorite bucket list buddies made the Land of Enchantment all the more enchanting.

In the past 365 days, Shannon and I have shared some pretty sweet experiences. We’ve planted kisses on the Blarney Stone in Ireland, road-tripped from Ohio to Canada and now whitewater rafted in New Mexico. Shoutout to Shan for holding my knees as the rest of my body flew out of said raft within the first five minutes of our excursion. We hadn’t even hit a rapid yet. I’m just that good at life. Our guide then reinstructed my group on the importance of using our listening ears. I can’t remember if he actually used the term “listening ears”, but I do remember feeling like a disobedient kindergartner. When he said “lean in” for the rest of the trip, I was the best leaner-inner EVER.

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This entire summer has been such an adventure, and I am still basking in the wonder of it all. I’ve barely had a moment to collect my thoughts before turning in another assignment or taking off to another destination.

And now? For the next seven days?  I can read whatever books I want to! I can go out late and not worry about homework the next day! I can Netflix binge! I can give my little fam all of the extra cuddles! Never have I enjoyed the luxury of spare time as much as I have within these short breaks of my MBA program.

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This last semester was the most challenging semester I’ve yet to experience. Two weeks ago, I was writing an 8 page paper for one class while researching business acquisitions for the longest, most in-depth presentation of my life for another. This presentation had me feeling completely out of my element. One night I had a nightmare about having to perform a piano recital in front of an audience, though I haven’t any clue how to play piano. I woke up with the knowledge that the dream stemmed from feeling overwhelmed with a topic that, up until this semester, had been completely foreign to me. I was slightly terrified as my group got up to present last Tuesday. But we did it, and we must have done it well. Our professor, not one to hand out easy A’s, gave us a 100. A 100! In the past few months, I have learned so much and have developed a deeply rooted confidence in myself that I’ve never known before. It feels unbreakable. I feel unbreakable. It was the most challenging semester, but it was also hands down the most rewarding.

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The same professor mentioned above attached a small note to one of my grades. In the required journal articles for Organizational Change, I had tied in my years of being homeschooled to my transformational leadership story. Her comment made my day.

“I would have never guessed you had been kept out of the mainstream. You are remarkable.”

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Remarkable. I smile typing it out. What a word. What a compliment.

What a summer.

What a time to be alive.

Soundtrack of Summer 2016

“The sun will steal the magic from us soon,

So let’s take one more trip around the moon.”

– Sam Hunt, Leave The Night On

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Oh, you guys. What a summer.

Last night I finished my last day of my first year of grad school. A year from today I’ll graduate with my MBA, and tomorrow I leave for New Mexico to go whitewater rafting. I’m a little bit high on life right now, and nostalgic with the memories from the past few months.

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It’s been a summer of travels and healthy overdoses of laughter. House parties and balconies and swimming pools. Road-trips and best friendship and fun strangers. Family and fireflies and anticipation. Long runs and late nights. Schoolwork and a classroom and making a family out of the people sitting in that classroom. And dancing. So much dancing.

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I remember my summers, and all of my other seasons, partly through the music I’ve listened to at the time. A tune so effortlessly takes me back to a moment, and bookmarks the feelings and essence of certain pieces of my life. Last summer was the summer of Sam Hunt, though if you can’t tell from the intro to this blog, his songs are making a comeback for this one too. Sam Hunt transposes all summers. Also if you don’t like him we can’t be friends anymore. I’m just kidding. Kind of. Friend two pictures above can’t stand him and I only judge her every single day.

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 So while I show y’all some pictures from the dreamiest of summertimes, I thought I’d also share with you the songs I’ve been listening to on constant repeat. This is what my summer sounded like.

Vandalizer- Sam Hunt

(Okay, but for real if you don’t like that song we can’t be friends.)

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Setting The World On Fire – Kenny Chesney featuring P!nk

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Latch- Disclosure featuring Sam Smith

Vacation- Thomas Rhett

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Home- Blue October

Vice – Miranda Lambert

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Luck- American Authors

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Snapback- Old Dominion

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Closer- The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey

(Aka all I’ve listened to for the past two days)

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Hey. If you’ve been a part of my summer, thanks. You’ve helped make an unforgettable soundtrack.

Paige’s Bakehouse

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Paige’s Bakehouse is pure happiness in the form of little square cakes, y’all.

A couple of weeks ago I sat down to do a tasting with Paige, and my taste buds still haven’t recovered from overwhelming elation. If you don’t think your taste buds could be elated, you haven’t been to Paige’s yet.

I adore hidden gems and this is the very definition of a tucked away treasure. I found Paige’s down a small, unassuming road in Round Rock, Texas. It isn’t hard to find if you know what you’re looking for (which is heaven in a square), but the location would otherwise be easy to miss. But, here’s the thing- Once you taste these little cakes they are impossible not to miss, so people continue having no problem seeking out Paige and her bakehouse time and again.

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Before owning the bakehouse, Paige went to school and traveled for the culinary world. She’s a lady who knows what she’s doing, and it’s noticeable in each and every bite. Though I should admit I had to stop and stare and take pictures with the Texas-sized petit fours before engulfing them. They’re just SO pretty, guys.

Paige gifted me a feast of  treats, and I felt just like a kid in a cake store. I dare you not to salivate at this one – The signature cake was the Tres Leches, which is a sweet cream soaked vanilla cake with a cheesecake filling. I just lost my own dare.

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From Dreamsicle to Red Velvet, all of the other mini-cakes were equally great at making me swoon. These bites of perfection were just the right amount of rich and decadent. They were sweet but not overbearingly so, each with their own uniquely exquisite flavor. Just holding the platter made me feel a bit like royalty.

To make things extra sweet, Paige and staff are both welcoming and kind. I really felt like I could taste the love in every bite. Paige has owned her bakehouse since 2008 and it has been successful mostly just through word of mouth, and uh, cake in mouth.

I was nice enough to share the leftovers with my husband and he fell in love at first bite too. Paige’s Bakehouse also makes everything from cookies to pies to regular-sized cakes, so I know where we’ll be hightailing it to for our slew of sweet tooth needs. Pst- It’s Paige’s Bakehouse.