Monday, March 28, 2011

Thai Coconut Tomato Soup

After a week of catching up-- on work, school, sleep, you name it-- we finally headed out to Whole Foods yesterday to restock our empty fridge and pantry. The downtown Austin Whole Foods is the home of their corporate offices, and the store itself is an experience unlike any other. They have just redone their layout that includes extra wide aisles, an open market feel for fruits and veggies, a vegan/raw food bar, a clothing/household section, and a huge area dedicated to pre-made and made to order foods. It is so big and so different from other stores that I actually saw an associate giving a tour to some newbies, much like a large health club would to sell their services. In all of the hubbub and options, it is just glorious. The mecca to foodies near and far. It replenishes my soul the same way that stepping foot into WalMart zaps the life right out of it.

So to celebrate Sunday and our return to having a kitchen with edible elements, we made an event out of shopping. We ate our breakfast tacos on the second floor terrace looking over the other guests; took our time in making a list of recipes for the week; and meandered through the aisles to find just the right ingredients to tantalize our taste buds. Including a quick trip to Costco (probably where all soul fulfillment was immediately lost), our total time out equaled four hours. After this super long expedition, we decided we had to use some of the goodies we had just gathered, but sadly didn't have much energy.

Here enters thai coconut tomato soup. This quick and super easy dish was just what we were craving: fresh, tangy, and lightly filling. It takes very minimal prep time, so is perfect for an easy night. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Thai Coconut Tomato Soup

2 cups veggie broth
2-3 heads baby bok choy, chopped
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger (to taste)
1/4 cup Basil
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 (45 oz) container tomato juice
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
Fresh lime juice (1/2 to 1 lime)

1. Combine veggie stock, bok choy, ginger, and basil in pot over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes.
2. Add mushrooms, bean sprouts, tomato juice, and soy sauce. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, roughly 10 minutes.
3. Stir in coconut milk (add extra if you'd like creamier soup) and fresh lime juice. Serve hot.

We also had some sauteed tofu on a bed of steamed spinach with peanut sauce for some protein and extra veg. You could add tofu directly into the soup also if you so chose. What a delicious, easy meal that takes you on a little trip to a beautiful place. Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Positively Charged

It's interesting what you pick up on when you have plans of writing. My mind seeks out the obscure and spins it around to somehow connect it with the important. But maybe it is these small, everyday things that we see, or the thousands that we don't, that are what's important. Maybe they are what make our days interesting and wonderful but we rarely take the time to look. Maybe it's good to give your mind a chance to seek out the tiny wonders; to give your imagination a shot at adding storylines and colors. And just maybe they're what I need to spot to motivate myself to document moments in my life so later down the road I can look back and smile. So instead of pulling out timelines and events to explain my SXSW, I will give it a whirl with my memories, no matter how trivial they may seem.

The Good:

1. The year of the maraca. Day one: maracas are everywhere. I saw six bands this day, and four of them used the same yellow butternutsquash-esque maraca. What is going on here? Now, I admit, this could possibly (just possibly mind you!) be that I am drawn to bands that use maracas. In that case, I have just learned something about my, well, excellent taste. But still, the same one?! Trust me, there is a maraca conspiracy at hand... and I'm loving it like macaroni loves vegan cheese.

2. Friends. This week I was surrounded by people. We had nine extras in our house and throughout the streets there were thousands. My experience was what it was due to a few in particular. Hanging out with one of my life-long besties, Allie, and her friend Larissa, was great. I'm so glad that they got a chance to experience South By and their enthusiasm was definitely contagious. Fran, our manager friend from London, was a necessary part to the group as well. He gives us the scoop for many a show and adds a hilariously cynical element while sipping on a margarita. And as hard and frustrating as it can be to connect with people via text during those busy days, I was psyched to see three of my favorite B'more transplants (Emily, Sophie, and Dianna) out and about as well. All in all, great people in a great place!

3. Peyton. Overall, I just plain enjoyed being around him. But there are a few specific memories that come to mind that make me grin. Such as when he would hold my pink puma bag because it was simply too heavy for my delicate shoulders. Or when he would stay with me to see a show of my choosing even though his was going on simultaneously. Or how he would order my bloody marys (ies?) sans worstershire sauce because it has anchovies, even though I really wouldn't have known either way. But the best memory is the following conversation had at a show by Foster the People, a male pop/rock group:

Peyton (while holding the pink bag): You know who the bassist looks like?
Me (enjoying being told to take a good, long look at the bass strumming man): Who?
Peyton: Big.
Me: (No response... Just stares semi-blankly at P.)
Peyton: Come on, you know, from Sex and the City. Just like him. (He then took a sip of his drink with his pinky up just a bit... No joke.)

... So maybe this is a "had to be there" type convo, or maybe I've just scared more men into thinking that putting on their super macho show is definitely the way to go, but hearing Peyton so nonchalantly bring up a male Sex and the City character in conversation was just plain heartwarming.

His is the guy in blue.

4. The music. If this wasn't listed on everyone's "best ofs" then SXSW wouldn't be the hugely successful festival that it's become. There is just so much! You know you listened, clapped, and maybe boogied a bit, but the 20+ hours of songs all begins to run together. In the end these are the five six seven bands that are stuck in my mind.

- Matt Nathanson-- This pop rocker never fails to disappoint. Maybe he's my guilty pleasure, but he's good, and I even enjoyed his new stuff more than his old. Got my fix by seeing him twice. Listen here!

- Foster the People-- Their song "Pumped Up Kicks" got us to the show, and even though it wasn't representative of their other stuff, I liked it a lot. They are Maroon 5-esque with just enough rock to add some edginess.

- Still Corners-- The band we hosted was lovely, and were good musicians to boot. Labeled as "dream pop," they like to give a London in the 60s feel. The scene was set by turning off all the lights in the outside venue and just singing to the glow of their projector running interesting images. Their mellowness even melted into a highly enjoyable jam session. More on them here.

- French Horn Rebellion-- Our friend Fran found this band and has something good on his hands. They are a DJ/electro/dance duo who had me from the moment they requested the audience to dance like their favorite animal. While I did the elephant followed by a ferocious alligator, Peyton whipped out his best chicken. I would have loved to snap a pic, but the venue was a dark high-ceilinged cave like place nestled in next to a rock face. Very cool scene, and very fun band. Boogy break! (We also found out on Sunday that the curly haired one, David, has a potential career in bowling. We call him the Bulldozing Bullet.)

- The Airborne Toxic Event-- Maybe it's a desire to break from my happiness for a bit that gets me loving their darker, heart wrenching songs about love lost and life. Somehow, they just speak to my soul. They are rock and roll with a dramatic edge, this time including a string quartet to up the ante. We are seeing them in May for the fourth time and I am even more psyched. Here is their most popular and here is my favorite.

- The Head and The Heart-- If I could recommend only one band this would be it. We stumbled across them first thing on Wednesday at noon, and I made sure to see them every chance I could after that (three times total.) They are what Airborne isn't, inspirational, folky, and upbeat, but they also have a lot in common. They both have one female member who plays the violin, loads of energy and intensity, slow starts with dramatic buildups, and great storytelling abilities. Simply put, they stole my heart. Love love love. (Just found this video too from the noon show that took my heart. What makes it better? The maraca makes its appearance!! Plus I'm there... That's pretty cool too.)

- Yoko Ono-- How could seeing the granny-age, huge-part-of-the-Beatles-breakup girate her hips, style it up with a tophat, sunglasses (clearly she got Corey Heart's memo), and midway wardrobe change, all while making strange noises into the mic be anything but priceless? What a perfect way to end an unforgettable festival. You can get an idea here, even though there was a band with her at South By who was actually quite talented. Peyton pointed out that she is possibly the only singer who has ever had her mic volume lower than the instruments. We also would love to see her in a sing-off with Wing. Or maybe even a duet?

5. Walking. I love movement. I especially love movement with a purpose. And I really, really like walking with a purpose through a city. So our transportation of choice was highly enjoyable to me. I love walking the miles and miles exploring Austin. I enjoy the people, the smells (both good and bad), the posters, the energy. I do not enjoy the bruised heels, but they come with the territory of wearing flats whilst traversing city streets. Every year I look forward to making my way through this town on foot, and every year I find something new and interesting that I love.

This year's find: mustache see-saw complete with glasses.

6. Being alone in a crowd. One of the things on my life list is to see a movie alone. Sounds easy, I know, but I am a person who will stay home if going out means going solo. Being out and about means talking, socializing, interacting. That's why it surprises me just how much I love the solitary feeling I get at South By. Walking through the crowded streets, I feel encapsulated in my mind and my body. I am not hiding from the mania; it's the living and and breathing and enjoying that moment that makes me see myself as an individual in a spectacular world full of people. I am my own being who is wholly different and wholly the same as everyone else out there. The crowds create a calm stillness in my mind and soul that hugs me close. When I get to the silence of a parking garage, the lack of noise is almost deafening, but it then becomes a tight blanket around my thoughts in which I can truly appreciate all of my blessings.

And Now... The Bad:

1. Charging phone batteries. All. The. Time. I've become a pro at spotting outlets in hidden corners and shadowed ceilings. When wanting to disconnect from technology and needing to communicate through texts to make plans, this requirement was doubly annoying.

2. ..... 

... At a loss for the second, so for now, that's it. Bodes well when the goods far out weigh the bads. Or maybe it's that that bad was just so over poweringly annoying that I can't think of any others. Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure that in the long run only the goods will remain.  What can I say... they hold the most charge!

So all in all- live positively, don't be afraid to walk alone sometimes, and whenever possible, dance like a chicken. 


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hello Hipsters!

And welcome to South By South West week in the good old Austin, Texas! For those of you who don't know about this special time, let me explain. South By South West is a huge yearly festival held in Austin that has sections for interactive, film, and music. It lasts about two weeks and brings thousands upon thousands of people to this place of warmth, technology, and lots and lots of noise. I call it noise because with this many crowds, and the vast variety of music, that's what it becomes. It's talking everywhere you go, hip-hop beating out the good ol' country tune playing next door to disco rock. There are street vendors and police on horses and all sorts of promoters walking around. You are within 100 square feet of entertainment at any given spot in the city. With nearly two thousand bands participating in just four days (and that's the amount on the official calendar... who knows how many play unofficially,) there is barely room to house them all, so every bar opens its doors to live music and even offbeat places, such as the church on Seventh Street, get involved as well.

SXSW, or "South By" to regulars/locals, has been in our lives for all of our time here. Eight years ago when Peyton bought this three bedroom/two bathroom house he began participating in the group that hosts international bands. It made perfect sense: they get free shelter at a time where available hotel rooms are like flying pigs and the host gets wristbands for all housemates. He had the space, the time, the love for music, and the urge to party.

This year's band, Still Corners from London, will be my third. As exciting as it is, it's a lot of people, which means a lot of beds. Beyond this group of six we are also housing two friends from Baltimore and another from London. So this weekend was busily spent preparing for their arrival, which is T-minus 1 hour. Peyton is still scouring a leaky air mattress, I've just finished vacuuming, and then we will just wait and enjoy this hour of silence before four days of craziness begin.

Usually I try, albeit unsuccessfully, to relax and soak in my spring break weekend before guests arrive. This one was no exception, though through the activity and work I did get enjoyment in the final product and that glorious tired feeling deep in my bones as I hit the bed at night. It started off with a sharp downturn: we gave Clementine back to the shelter. It was time. She was a grown up puppy ready to find her forever home. And even though my head knew all the reasons why we couldn't keep her sweet self, my heart wouldn't have it. It knew she was special and didn't want to let go. It hurt. I cried. I sniffed her little toy frog as it came out of the dryer and missed her furry munchkin self. But sometimes smarts need to beat out hearts, and deep down I know we made the right choice.

So, with this lovely start to the weekend we had to keep our minds off of the lack of pee on the floors, chewing on our legs, escapes out of the back gate, etc. So we worked. We worked on the garden and the bedrooms and the office and the front yard. We worked on cleaning all surfaces we could find and cooking up yummy meals to fuel our working selves. We worked with music and without, with laundry detergent and vinegar spray, with a white cat that came in the door a dirty grey. And we feel good. We are ready for the onslaught of people in forty-five minutes and for the first year are not tearing around the house tidying up just to make the place semi-presentable. Not saying that we should create puppy heartbreaks every year, because my emotions just can't take that, but it did help keep me on track. That and the fact that I would get to blog about our progress! Let me warn you, there were no major overhauls or much money spent, so it might not be as monumental as I've made it out to be. But it's livable and we've done well with what we had. So here are some pictures to show you the slight transformation that's happened these past 72 hours.


Friday, March 11, 2011

The Tour of Our Home

It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes pictures to start improving on your house. "Really?" You might say. To which I would respond, "Absolutely! Positively!" and then add in quieter tones that I certainly hope so. In fact, I've already caught myself in a bit of a fib, because we have made some changes to our nest prior to pictures (sadly, because they would be nice to show.)

You see, two and a half years ago I pulled up to my new home after a thirty hour drive from Baltimore and unpacked all my belongings in a house of black, white, and orange (strange combo, I know... more on that another time.) I made a cozy, colorful, Christina haven in my room. There was blue, purple, green, orange, pink. It was a bit too wacky for me even, so I then toned it down and painted the walls brown. I was convinced I would make my single room Austin home "me," and was going strong until my world expanded.

As Peyton and I progressed, my decor kingdom grew immensely. Once we were married, I was given my half share in the upkeep and design of the house, about ten more rooms than I was managing before. It became clear that what housed my temporary room now would be home. This house has progressively become more akin to my spirit, but sill has quite a ways to go.

Now don't get me wrong here, I didn't get married with plans to change all things B.C. (Before Christina... My name is so convenient in times like this.) The first real project Peyton and I did together was redoing our bedroom, and that is the one room we are fully content with (at least for now!). Through that transformation Mr. P caught some of my excitement towards decorating and now is on board for the long haul. We make our design decisions together. The difference is he is content in many types of spaces while I feel the need to nest, to create, to feel one with my surroundings. For instance, the shower curtain we use (a relic of my Baltimore life) was once described by a friend as "Christina in shower curtain form!" And it's true. It will be a sad day when I have no place for that anymore. So, like my curtain, we have been gradually adding and creating things that embody "us" throughout the house, which is why the pictures you are about to see are not the true beginning. Some of these rooms are "In Progress," but for our blog I will keep them all as "Befores."

So without further adieu I give you the grand picture tour, as long as you leave your judgement and shoes at the door. Enjoy!

I've decided to start from the back of the house and work forward. Just as if you woke up in the morning (in the bathroom apparently?) and then started heading to the door. This is the master bath that holds the storied s.c. 

The bathroom is connected to our bedroom, seen below. The first pic is from the hall door; the second you can see the bathroom entrance. Plus, though sliding glass doors may not be the most attractive, they are oh so helpful for a dog that wakes you every day around 7:00 to use her facilities.

That dog, Tegan, decided to make an appearance.
Our amazing fertility goddess statue created by our wonderful friend Jenn.

So now we will take a peek down that hall in the above right. 

Exciting stuff that was. So let's take a gander to the immediate right in the hall, where we have our spare bedroom. This somehow, as you will clearly see, has become a hoarder's haven. I feel that this blog needs to be full disclosure though, so please shield your eyes if you are scared of carnage.

Whew! Glad we made it through that one. And on we go to the guest bedroom, down the hall to the right.  This also is not in its normal working order, but more on that with our goodbyes.

See Clementine making a guest appearance in the mirror.

Next to this bedroom we have the guest bathroom. We decided to paint it a deep, intense yellow and actually kinda like it. Either that or we've been too lazy to paint. (Small, low-light bathrooms are hard to capture accurately, so put your imagination to work a bit.)

And onward march to the living area! We have a big open dining room/family room space that has had to work with a semi at home movie theater arrangement. It's tough to make such a large space feel homey, but especially difficult when you have a wide expanse of room that has to be left empty. 

You've just stepped out from the hallway.

To the left we have our second war zone: the office.

One thing that we really love about this house is that its fireplace, the white wall behind the foosball table, is basically in one giant pillar that is between the living room and the kitchen. This picture is the little passage on left side of the pillar (between it and the office.) Two fireplaces in one. Woot woot!

And finally we end in our kitchen/dining area. It is also one long room broken into a few shots.

Just walked in from right of pillar.

Home through the back door , with Athena there to greet you.

So there you have it! Our humble abode. We are so excited to share our effort and progress with you. Even more exciting are that change is a'brewin this very weekend. Maybe not major ones, but enough that you might think we don't keep rooms in pig sty shape. You see, next week our house becomes the fabulous Hotel Murray and we have nine guests visiting. You heard me right. Nine extra adult humans will be added to our space for Austin's South By South West (SXSW) music festival, so we have our work cut out for us to make every room livable. I should go get my cheer on to pump us up for the work ahead, but stay tuned and we'll keep ya posted!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why We Joined the Blogging World

Now that we have our first post under our belt, it's high time to get down to the meat (or tofu...?) of the matter:

Why we started this lovely blog.

1. To share our home and lives with our loved ones up yonder. 
That's right; Austin may be home to welcoming Texans and warm weather, but it doesn't have those truly near and dear to our hearts. This is the perfect way to share our home with those who aren't here!

2. To post copious amounts of photos, videos and stories of little Declan.
Looking over our posts, this is what the main purpose has become. We love having the entries to look back on and see how he has developed, and all those north of us love to see how his little mug changes each week. It's a win-win, unless you don't like babies. Then our site probably isn't your cup of tea. But this ties back to our number one from the beginning. He is number one in our lives right now, so it's only right that we focus on that.

3. To plant seeds of veganism onto tastebuds. (Don't run!! Not as scary as it sounds...Promise.)
As vegans, we have become semi preachers. Not the annoying guys that approach you in the street and aggressively tell you that you don't love Jesus because you are chewing gum type. More the elegant ambassador to the lifestyle ones that live a glorious life of ease with delicious food that makes you want to question just how they do it. They then of course are more than happy to answer and show you the light. That is, of course, exactly what we are. None is in our heads. None. Anyhoo, we do believe in veganism and would love to share any simple insights to help anyone move in the "animals as friends only" direction. Blogging is a great avenue to share recipes and vegan living ideas as they come to us.

4. To bring out our "learning as we go" house development skills.
We are on a budget. A pretty tight budget which consists of paying bills, buying good groceries for great meals, and feeding the 160 pounds of dog we have in this house. It doesn't leave much room for an eat-out and party lifestyle, which in turn does leave lots of free time in our humble abode. It also plain old makes sense (cents?) to spend the majority of your time in the place that the vast majority of your cashola goes. So we'll make our house our home and haven. The house is a good shell and a great start, but it has a long way to go. On our budget, we've decided to invest in the Casa de Murray beyond the mortgage by fixing up the house. With little bits of money, there is only so far we can go. But we plan to have fun and be thrifty, and this blog will help us watch our own progress. By documenting our work, we are hoping to going to feel more motivated to do these projects! (If you tell yourself enough it makes it real, right?)

5. To share whatever other topics cross our mind.
Okay, okay. We confess. There are times that our posts will not pertain directly to the aforementioned reasons. But ya know, that's because sometimes life includes unexpected things that are too great to miss. When these jewels come around, or even any minor happiness inducing moment, we might pull the plug and share. And that's okay! Because learning about Clementine the puppy or all about foosball tournaments might just make you smile like it did us. And then our job is done. We are simply hoping that you will take something from what we live and learn, and in turn we truly hope to get some ideas back. We would love your comments and thoughts on our house and projects, as well as any recipes you've enjoyed, things you've done, blogs that have helped you, etc. Remember, sharing is caring! (Now Christina has been known to overshare a bit, but that's why Peyton will be here to help monitor.)

So with all this potentially fascinating (!!) subject matter, we are openly admitting that our blog seems very unfocused. But it's name is apropos to it's subject: put simply, life. Life mainly in a house, but sometimes out and about in Austin wanting to share the beauty. A life filled with different passions and ideas and a wife with a somewhat hyper, impatient mind, a mind that focuses on one thing vigorously for a while until its chasing after the next pretty project that passes by. It's a life of love, happiness, and color. One full of two dogs, one cat, one couple, and one baby who all enjoy being home together and establishing their family. It's a tender, learning, newlywed life which, like in its home improvement ventures, is learning its way. It will have some stumbles, but we are certain it will come out victorious. And that is why we want to share this Murrayed Life with you.


Monday, March 7, 2011

And Now Introducing... Clementine!

So it may seem strange to start our blog with the one thing we have that is definitely going to leave us. But, with all this cuteness, it only seems fair to share her with you! 

Clementine is our adorable foster pup who has called our house home for the last three weeks. She has already tripled in size, going from a bumbling ball to a long-legged sprouting dog. She has developed her hearing (she wouldn't react to any noises); is still learning to see things (she doesn't seem to have focusing power or any attention span); and has even realized that it's better to pee outside (even if it's only 13 out of 23 of her normal pees... Making progress!). Overall though, she has been a fantastic pup who has claimed our hearts. This might be partly my fault for giving her such an adorable name, or it might be the glorious fact that she sleeps through the night. That's right, from day one, no crying or whining while foster parents sleep. Love love love.

So here's some more of that little lady (at least what we could get of her... She seems to pick her fluffy black coat for pictures to add a little mystery...)

She chews.
Chews some more.
And naps yet again.
Not wanting to be rude, she demanded to say goodbye. 

**Disclaimer: Getting pictures of puppies is tough stuff. These pictures do not give an accurate portrayal of puppy sleep time!

So there she is. The black fruitilicious beauty herself. The bouncy fluff ball of play. And for all those in Austin, the gal for you!