Places: Cute Nail Studio

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Located on the East Side in a bright rainbow house, this spot was recommended to me by none other than Danneel Ackles. The artists here use Japanese Hard Gel to create nails that stun and last longer than any other gels I’ve had in the area. My only recommendation would be to skip the matte finish. This will scuff more quickly than a classic gel overcoat and decrease the amount of wear you can get from your investment.

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ATX Life: My Favorite Dates

Austin is a really awesome place to meet young, fun humans, but can be a really overwhelming place to date. There are so many choices with such a huge range of prices that planning is key. Here are my top three picks for you!

Dinner & Putt-Putt on Barton Springs

Down the road from Zilker there are plenty of restaurants to choose from: Picnic Food Truck Park, Chuy’s, Shady Grove just to nane a few of the staples. I personally think having a bit of a wait is a really awesome way to get to know someone on a date, but be warned you’ll definitely have a wait on a weekend. There are a couple of restaurants tucked into the area like Juliet where you’ll be able to reserve a table ahead of time.

Your two other pre-date necessities for a night at Peter Pan Mini Golf are a quick trip to the bank and packing a cooler. This classic Putt-Putt stop is cash only ($6/person/round) and BYOB. Bring something portable to take around the course with you and enjoy!

This is us at another favorite stop in the Barton Springs area – Lou Neff Point.

Bonus romance: The whole area around Barton Springs is just a step away from the trail at Lady Bird Lake, and one of my favorite spots: Doug Sahm Hill. The peaceful little hillside is one of the coolest views of downtown and there’s a really awesome fountain fixture right behind your path.

Coffee & Art in West Austin

West Austin is my favorite part of the city, especially if I want to get some quality time in with people. There are so many beautiful homes just to drive around and look at, but a couple of destinations that are a must see.

Start your morning off at Mozart’s. The coffee from these roasters is delicious, and none of their baked goods disappoint. They have everything from croissants to gelato to miniature pies. And there patio is nestled right on the edge of Lake Austin, making it a perfect backdrop for chatting and just being for awhile.

Right down the road is Laguna Gloria – one of my favorite spots in all of Austin. This compound by The Contemporary Austin features outdoor art installations along a Laguna on the lake. The sculptures themselves are breathtaking. You can see some of the pictures I’ve taken there, here.

Bonus Romance: If you’re feeling like extending your date, the original Kerbey Lane Cafe is right down the street from the Laguna. Russell’s, another Austin original bistro is close by, too.

Mexican and Beer on Hamilton Pool Road

I feel a little bit like I’m letting you in on a family secret by telling you this, but my favorite date starts with taking the drive to the Southwest corner of Austin. The drive itself is on pretty stretches of road that are perfect for a little catching up.

Start your night at Verde’s Mexican Parilla – a Mexican grill where the margaritas are mostly tequila and the food is always fresh. I recommend getting the queso here always. Anything from their grill won’t disappoint, and their enchiladas are delicious. Even at peak times you usually won’t wait more than 25 minutes.

The next stop is Family Business Brewery. I’ve featured them on my website before – and they’ll fit great into a getting to know you atmosphere. They are a straight shot down Hamilton Pool Road from Verde’s, tucked into a patch of Hill country that is worth the short drive. They have a beer for every taste. Use the IB measurements they have listed to pick based on bitterness.

Bonus Romance: If you’re looking to make a day of your date, I recommend starting off at Reimer’s Ranch Park down Hamilton Pool. It’s an incredible place for hiking and exploring. Show off your adventurous side and get some exercise in at the same time.

ATX Life: My Favorite Enchanted Forest

Violet Crown Trail

A little slice of enchanted forest running through the heart of the Greenbelt. 

There are a few separate swimming holes in the greenbelt – click the link above to check the water levels.

Steep Gradients

With sections of the trail reaching around 10% incline, this trail will get your heartrate up and is great for training.

Great Maintenance 

Some of the rockier trails around ATX can get you turned around – one of my favorite bonuses is the excellent planning on VCT.

ATX Life: Five Breakfast Diners for your weekend

As I continue posting about things that make me happy, I can’t forget breakfast. Growing up on breakfast for dinner and Mickey waffles has created a woman nostalgic for my breakfast foods – especially diners. My favorite diners in Austin are great for local fare and nostalgia to go around:

The Omelettry

This local spot is especially great at waffles and coffee. During peak breakfast times you might encounter a bit of a wait, but this Austin staple is worth staying around for a bit. They’ve recently made the move to Airport, and the service has improved because of the space.

The Magnolia Cafe

Our favorite location is the Lake Austin diner because of pure proximity, but you can’t go wrong with a Magnolia Cafe breakfast at either location. They have a diverse menu, high quality ingredients, and a wait that never lasts too long. My absolute favorite staple here are the Elvis Pancakes (served only from 11 pm to 11 am). As an added bonus – this is the place where Zach and I had our first date.

Kerbey Lane

Kerbey has locations all throughout Austin, a sprawling menu and several tweny-four hour options. The cinnamon roll pancakes were only a weekly special when I was in college but graduated there way into the main menu these last couple of years. I recommend getting them as a side no matter what you decide on as the main course.

Austin Diner

The diner coffee here is undoubtedly my favorite on the Austin circuit (you know, plain unpretentious unsuspecting coffee). The early bird specials are definitely nothing to sneeze at, either. The pancakes here are similar to the Mexican sweeter, chewier staples you can find at some of your favorite brunch spots.

Counter Cafe

Head to the downtown location for your favorite nostalgic diner vibes. All of the food at this Austin spot is local, fresh and tasty. Find all of your favorite diner favorites sans the copious amounts of grease. You can find more info on this diner (featured on the site before): here.

ATX Life: Turkey Creek Trail

Off Leash

One of the biggest draws for this trail is the ability for the pups to roam free.

2.5 Mile Loop
You’ll follow creek and prairie for about 2.7 miles from the parking lot.
170 ft  Elevation Gain

This trail is more of a leisurely stroll than an intense hike.

Turkey Creek Trail is nestled along City Park Rd – near Austin iconic sites like Emma Long Metropolitan Park and the Pennybacker Bridge. However, unlike either of those locales, Turkey Creek Trail has a pretty consistent low level of foot traffic/paw traffic (yes – the pups can roam free here. They’ll love the creek and the trails are well-maintained). And although the trail is on City Park Rd, there’s no admission fee for entrance (Emma Long does require a modest fee).


My tips:

  • Save the Google Map to your phone. There’s a couple of forks in the road along the loop that are not an intentional addition to the trail. Natural watershed has created a couple of ghost trails that will lead you astray. The map will keep you on the right track.
  • Don’t go here for swimming! The water levels in this area are pretty consistently low. Let the addition of a flowing creek be icing on the cake instead of the goal. 
  • Do the full loop. At the top of the trail there are some really incredible views into the surrounding canyons, and the fern wall really is worth the extra half mile. 

ATX Life: River Place Nature Trail

Shaded Throughout

Tucked into the River Place neighborhood in the northwest hills of Austin, this shaded area is a gorgeous slice of hill country that stays relatively cool in the summer.

Highest Elevation Change

This trail is not for the faint of heart or those afraid of a workout. Even on the shortest trail, you’ll get a gain of about 530 – 700′ depending on where you end your journey.

Well Maintained Trails 

At points in the hike, the trail can get narrow and/or a little precarious. However, the dirt itself is packed really well and easy on the knees. You’ll even find trail runners in this park.

My tips: 

  • Pack plenty of water. The ups and downs of this trail make it a little more of an interval workout than most people are used to in a hike. You’ll want to stay hydrated.
  • Don’t come here for the swim. Even though there are definitely places where the water moves, the makeup of the trail makes it really susceptible to drought. Come for the hike, or visit another trail like Hill of Life for a swimming hole.
  • Start with a shorter trail than you’re used to. Little Fern, the shortest trail is a small but mighty push with a pretty dramatic elevation gain. This is much more of a hike than most of the trails in Austin. 

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ATX Life: The Barrel Room

Tucked at the back of the Oasis is the cocktail floor for the Oasis Texas Brewing Company. As someone who is pretty ambivalent to the food offered by Austin's staple, The Oasis, we went in search of a reason to enjoy the view. We found it in the smooth cocktails offered by The Barrel Room.


The whole bar is covered in posh decor, including tons of cozy barrel chairs. 


Check out the cocktails menu above, including fresh made fruits and local liquor. The prices are somewhere around $10/drink.


If you don't mind starting your night a little early, this place has one of the best Austin sunsets around. And a view of the surrounding mansions. 

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Invalid Lives: Bethany Summersizzle

Invalid Lives:

Bethany Summersizzle

Meet the performer who collects new skills like stamps and fought for a creative life.

Aerial Burlesque. Roller Skating. Greyhound Buses.

From left to right:

-Photo by Mike Williams

-Photo by Bethany Summersizzle

-Photo by Rod Nunley

-Photo by Dallas Pinups / Hair and Makeup by LaDonna Stein

Ten years ago, in a Wisconsin bathroom, Bethany Summersizzle (at the time just a screen name for her online persona) stood with a camera in her hands staring at her wrecked reflection. The horror convention that was
supposed to be her big break had spiraled into nothing but a mess of pervy producers and a wasted Greyhound ticket from Killeen, Texas. All of the pain she could see in her young reflection mattered to her in a way she couldn’t quite explain. So, she snapped a picture, if nothing else because she wanted to learn from this stranded week in a strange city to know the difference between a scam and an opportunity. But more than that, she photographed the moment because she knew this horrible week didn’t change anything. She was going to make a life for herself. Ten years later, I snap a picture of the same girl in front of a coffee shop in downtown Austin. But she’s not that confused teen anymore. She’s confident, a performer on a completely different path than the one she
had set for herself all of those years ago. The rest of Bethany’s “making of” story has more bumps.

Another Greyhound trip to Glendale, Arizona to visit an online friend who was a “model” in the time of MySpace – a model whose mother was convinced that the petite teen was a literal demon sent to corrupt her daughter. Weekends of bus trips to Austin on the weekends for whatever gigs came up on Craig’s list and couchsurfing from one place to another. Walking in on a bloody crime scene at one of the apartments she was crashing in at the time. Sitting across from this small, pixie-like woman, my jaw can’t help but drop open when she tells me all of the battles she’s had in the process of being a performer. She radiates strength and a no-bullshit attitude that can only be learned from letting naivete steer the ship for too long.

I think about how much easier it would have been to walk away from all of this. Bethany’s parents are pretty well-off people in Killeen. A normal life wouldn’t have been too hard to go back to, she had a boring, but
steady job as a hostess at Egg Town. It would have been easier to give up on her dreams – I imagine she was probably told to often enough. But instead, between a job at Jamba Juice and a few modeling gigs, Bethany found a circus school. A circus school where she met a friend that would open an aerial school. Aerial
classes that would turn into burlesque troupe performances. And then, a friend had to give a gig to Bethany and as usually happens, circumstance gave birth to something new.

“She said, why don’t you do aerial burlesque. And I said ‘aerial burlesque?’ What even is that.. So I just showed up in something like yoga shorts and a sports bra and jazz shoes and leg warmers and just did the show in an aerial hoop. When I saw all the other performers in these sparkly outfits I felt really out of place. It was kind of a disaster.”

But the disaster turned into more bookings for her accidentally created aerial burlesque skills, and Bethany Summersizzle stepped into a new realm of performing. Listening to her talk, I can’t help but smile with the casual way she talks about adding skills to her sets just because she can. After a rough breakup, a drunken night at a roller rink led to her entire body being covered in bruises and a new hobby she now adds into her shows. Because most
venues don’t have the space for an aerial rig, she taught herself contortion for a ground skill. She still doesn’t drive – leading to missed planes and buses and getting stranded at out of town gigs more than once. But she always goes.
She always pushes herself. More than once she’s had to completely change her set because the convention or booking didn’t have the setup for her aerial hoops or her roller skates. As is typical in any type of entertainment environment, there are supportive performers and toxic environments. But as I watch her shrug her
shoulders and give a small smile after describing a particularly stressful conference setup, the word that comes to mind is resilience.

Because an easy life doing something you don’t want to do doesn’t require grit. Following the little voice inside that says, “No matter what happens, this is right” takes everything. Although Bethany works a full time job at Hilton, her life isn’t what you would call “normal.” I think the steampunk costumes and the mid-air backbends are enough to prove that statement. But just like any invalid life, her life as a performer comes from a place deeply rooted outside of mainstream opinions on what constitutes a successful life.

We talk about whether or not to be a “real person” on Instagram when you’re trying to promote your creative self. We talk about the importance of hobbies. We talk about fan websites and how easy it is to get caught up in a fantasy instead of reality. We talk about some MySpace dating horror stories and all of the other things that happen when Bethany’s not on stage. As we sit, I think to myself how many times Bethany could have given up
but didn’t. She smiles gently as she finishes the story, Everyone at some point in their life has felt like it was falling apart, but I’m still here.”

ATX Life: Sweetish Hill Bakery

Tucked into the shops on West 6th is the best fresh breakfast you can find downtown. What the menu lacks in pizazz (no versions of your favorite avocado toast here) – the food makes up for in freshness. 


There isn’t a baked good you can go wrong ordering here. But my favorite order is the 6th Street Special. Eggs, bacon and toast (the Gergich breakfast for you Parks & Rec fans) – and bacon or sausage. It sounds like something you can do at home, but let me just tell you – you can’t do it like they do here. 


Grab some fresh breakfast here and take away sweets enough to get you through the entire week! 


ATX Life: Counter Cafe

ATX Life: Counter Cafe

My husband and I started going to Counter Cafe in college and we still make the trip to our favorite diner in town a few times a year. I order a breakfast taco and a chocolate chip baby cake (obviously with coffee). 

The original location is full of classic diner charm in a small brick building across the street from Book People.

East Side

Nestled in the middle of E. 6th’s blooming entertainment district is the newer location, one with a little more seating but the same menu. 

One of my favorite parts about Counter Cafe is that you can pretty much eat as cheap as you want, but everything is fresh and everything is delicious. But seriously, try the breakfast tacos. Splurge for the special of the day whenever you can – I’ve never been disappointed. Their burgers and their bacon are equal to each other. Think of this as classic American diner fare without all of the extra grease. Expect to spend about $30 for two people with coffee and enough food to make you full all day.


My tip? Go on a weekday to either location. One of my favorite parts of both locations is the charming spaces and the friendly staff – but the combo can make for an extra long wait on the weekends. Seriously though, it’s the best classic breakfast in town. 


Adventures in the Hill Country: Reimer’s Ranch Park

Rock Climbing 

Away from the river is rock climbing that offers open-face limestone walls tough enough to draw climbers from all over the country. 

Pedernales River

Though the trail down to the river is definitely a climbing shoes task (we learned that the hard way)- three miles of open access to pristine waters are worth the effort. 

Mountain Biking

Winding through the rolling grasses of the hill country are 18 miles of trails through the heart of Texas hill country.

Nestled on the way to Hamilton Pool is a sprawling Travis County Park, Reimer’s Ranch. The area itself is breathtaking – Hamilton Pool Road is actually one of my favorites to just drive down with the windows rolled down. Since it was a quiet weeknight, my husband and I decided to just fork up the $10/car entrance fee to watch the sunset along the riverbed. Fees climb to $15 on the weekends in the Summer


The park itself is a study of the contrasting landscapes of Austin’s hill country. There are rolling beds of wild grass, huge, knotted Cedar trees, and rocky trails leading down to the Pedernales River (having been to the Pedernales Falls State Park, I recommend Reimer’s instead – the entrance fees are comparable).  There are 18 miles of mountain biking trails, world class rock climbing, an astronomic observatory and three miles of river access. The whole place feels like a natural playground for the adventurous spirit.


ATX Life: There’s something about Mary’s

3209 Red River, Austin 78705

share_temporary-5.jpgTucked into an unassuming strip mall near campus is Mary’s, a coffee shop, bakery and breakfast spot that pulled me in with a quaint little “We have breakfast tacos” banner. But once I got inside, the fresh food and the atmosphere made me a little more interested in a quick breakfast taco to go.

From authentic belgian waffles with fruit and whipped cream, to a hearty whole wheat wrap with eggs, avocado, tomato, sausage and the works – everything on the menu is made to order and the ingredients are fresh and high quality – and the prices are incredibly reasonable. I dig Starbuck’s breakfast sandwiches, especially of the english muffin variety, so I ordered the Mary’s equivalent for around $4. It was huge and filling and delicious.


  • Food is made to order here – they’re quick but expect at least a ten minute trip even for to-go orders.
  • Try and eat food here. The food is full of veggies and cheeses and more than just a quick breakfast wrap – it’s a little messy for the car.
  • Check out the Wall of Mary’s. I recognized fifteen – tell me if you recognize more sans Google (;