Austin Adventures: Weird Homes Tour

Austin Adventures: Weird Homes Tour

This weekend I did my part to help Keep Austin Weird by participating in the Weird Homes Tour. The tour is a self-paced, self-driving tour where you drive to different areas of Austin and walk through unique homes. The houses were all “weird” in different ways, some incorporating artistic elements, others showcasing more interesting architecture.

I got a lot of photos during my tour, and thought it would be fun to share them with you all, along with my thoughts on each of the homes. I’ve put them in order of least favorite to favorite, but overall enjoyed walking through each and every house!

Riggins’ Cabinet of Curiosities

The first house we visited was actually used as the home of a main character on a famous TV show. Let me know if you can guess which one in the comments! Hint: the name of the house gives it away if you’ve seen the show. (If you are absolutely stuck, click here for the answer.)

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The reason this house was my least favorite was because it seemed a bit cluttered and didn’t have a clear theme, or as many artistic elements as the others. On the other hand, there was a lot to look at and people who know a lot about history might have liked it more than I did. The owner of the house mentioned she had many knick knacks from past decades, and a history buff could have spent more time looking around and finding interesting things in that house.

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The Torres Temple

This next home was really clean and simple, unlike the previous one. The reason it comes in second to last place is because I didn’t feel it had enough “weird.” While the Cabinet of Curiosities was basically overflowing with weird, the Torres Temple left me wondering what was so weird about it.

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The unique element that it did have was the different color themes in each room, which were meant to represent “Feng Shui elements and chakra colors to envelop and energetically transform the observer who is entering into this world.” I liked the idea of this, but didn’t really notice much of an energy to each room. Maybe it was just over my head, and a more astute observer or open-minded individual would have loved it.

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Indra’s Awarehouse

This house immediately peaked my interest more than the previous two, and not just because of the on point pun in the name (it was an old warehouse, now used as a hostel for the creatively-minded). Artists, dancers, musicians (including Kendrick Lamar according to a man we talked to who lived there) all gather here to perform together and spread good vibes.

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I really liked all of the artistic touches, from the chalk paintings out front to the paintings on the wall of the bedroom, and the various art pieces hanging around the warehouse.  The only reason this was not higher on my list was because it felt more like an art gallery or some kind of studio as opposed to a “real house”, and I was more wowed by a couple of the traditional homes that still managed to be “weird.”

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Florence’s Comfort House

Coming in second place, this home really did have an element of comfort, with plenty of hippie vibes. I would say this house was the most iconically Austin, from the bejeweled guitars to the messages about peace. It also was the only house where the backyard was the main attraction instead of the inside of the house, which made it stand out from the rest.

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This was also the only home that seemed to be geared both towards adults and children, with much of the backyard comprised of things you might find on a playground. As it turns out, Florence uses her home to help children in the community “make the best of their lives both during their youth and beyond.”

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Under The Sea House

And finally, my choice for first place goes to Under The Sea! I had high hopes for this one just by looking at the name (I’m a Pisces after all), and it did not disappoint. I thought this one did the best job of being weird, while still having cohesiveness and artistic elements without being too cluttered. My favorite part was the garden in the backyard, which had this awesome fence painted with sea creatures (including mermaids).

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The inside of the house was just as whimsical. I loved all of the details in the dining area, from the colorful teacups to the tiled wall and the peacock-patterned lamp. The kitchen counter was also really cool, with lots of beads and photo cutouts under the surface.

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The final detail I wanted to mention was the bathroom, which had an awesome color-changing sink, which lit up and changed colors from green to pink.

Read more about Under The Sea.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of some of Austin’s weirdest homes. Based on these photos and my descriptions, which one do you think your favorite would be? Let me know in the comments!

Be sure to check out the Weird Homes Tour on Twitter and Facebook, and look through the hashtag #WeirdHomes on Twitter and Instagram to see more awesome photos from the events in Austin, Houston and New Orleans.

Table Talk Tuesday With Imelda Green

Table Talk Tuesday With Imelda Green

I can’t believe this is already my fourth Table Talk Tuesday interview. I’ve been having so much fun getting to know other bloggers through this blog series! Hopefully you all are enjoying reading these conversations so far.

For today’s interview, I’m very excited to introduce Imelda. I was immediately enchanted by her blog, which features her creative handmade products, as well as step-by-step guides to creating your own masterpieces. She is definitely an inspiration to me, and I’m sure many others, when it comes to following your passions.

Without further adieu, let’s jump into the interview so you can see what I mean:

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Can you tell me the story of how you decided to start your blog, and what your blogging journey has been like so far?

I was nearing the end of my engineering studies when it finally dawned on me that this was not my path in life and that if I wanted to pursue a creative career. Without disrespect for theoretical knowledge, I think that art and design is a profession that you master mainly by doing instead of pouring over books. So I decided that starting a blog about my creative journey would motivate me to do regular work. And so it has, for over a year.

What is the most important thing you think someone should know before starting a blog?

Know your passion. Blogging takes a lot of time and hard work but that all feels like a game when you write about something you are really fascinated with. If you blog about a topic you only choose for market (or whatever other) reasons, you will lose interest in the end.

You mention on the About section of your blog that blogging helped you not fall into the trap of laziness, because it pushed you to keep creating things. What are some other ways you stay productive and motivated?

The beauty of the creative field is that there are many different aspects of the work I do, so I don’t have to be productive in the same field all the time. Fed up with writing blog posts? No problem, time to illustrate! Been painting for days on end? It’s okay, I can spend my energy on building a community around my blog. But I also allow myself to be unproductive at times, those are the moments when I re-charge my batteries, which is crucial when you are a creative. 

You also talked how you realized during your time at university that you didn’t want to spend all of your life doing architecture/engineering, when your true passions were in design and beauty. What made you finally decide to pursue your passions? 

I think that creativity is something that bursts out of you; it finds its way to the surface, unless you repress it. For the moment I am doing engineering as well as designing, which is demanding but I find I’m really lucky because I have a comfortable job, which I am choosing to do as well as a designing career, which comes naturally, and which I will eventually do full-time. So I guess I never made a very conscious decision to pursue my passion, I just acted on the natural impulse. 

“I think that creativity is something that bursts out of you; it finds its way to the surface, unless you repress it.”

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

That is definitely a hard one, as I have a very long gratitude list and I don’t normally rank them, but here it goes: I am incredibly grateful to my grandmother for introducing art to me from a very early age, to my blogger friends who keep encouraging me even when blogging seems pointless and to Mr Mozart for his genius music, which cheers me up in every situation.

What is one of your favorite inspirational quotes?

There is a quote above my desk that I learned from Thomas Frank’s youtube channel: “’I don’t feel like it’ is a matter of choice”. It is very tempting – especially in the creative field – to only do work when you ‘feel inspired’. But inspiration is something you can actually control and the difference between amateur and professional artists is that professionals don’t wait for the perfect moment, they do it anyway. It might not be perfect, but a first draft is always better than an empty piece of paper.

Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

Uh, that’s another difficult one, I have so many. I’m really thankful for all the things I learned about running an online business from Melyssa Griffin, she is amazing, and I always find artistic motivation when I watch the youtube channel of Holly Exley.   

What is the best advice you have ever received from someone?

Better done than perfect. I have seen/heard this advice so many times and I honestly think that perfectionism sabotages our actions just too many times. It won’t be perfect, but it will get better with time. And better and better…

What is your greatest achievement so far in life, and what is one thing you still hope to accomplish?

I’m really proud of getting over the world constantly telling me I am not good enough and following my own path in the artistic field. I am hoping to continue this journey until I can run my business full time.    

“I’m really proud of getting over the world constantly telling me I am not good enough and following my own path in the artistic field.”

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could have one super power, which would you choose?

Well, I would definitely be grateful for the ability to teleport. Travelling can sometimes be stressful in a big city, especially when it’s cold and dark outside (hello February :). I also have some good friends abroad whom I’d love to see more often at slightly less expense.

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I just loved everything Imelda had t0 say about creativity and how she got to where she is today. My favorite part about these interviews is hearing everyone’s stories. Please be sure to check out Imelda’s blog and follow her on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/imeldagreens

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/imeldagreens/

Pinterest: https://hu.pinterest.com/imeldagreens/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/imeldagreens

Tumblr: http://imeldagreens.tumblr.com

Spring Break ’14: A Week in Italy

¡Hola amigos! Happy belated Easter! Though I may have been slightly jealous when the rest of you were on Spring Break a month ago, this past week definitely made all of the waiting worthwhile. In Spain, and most of the rest of Europe, they don’t really have a “Spring Break” like we do in the U.S. Instead, they have Easter Break, which falls, you guessed it, around Easter time. As I mentioned in my last post, I got a week off from class for our break, and Rowan and I decided to spend it together in Italy! We went to Venice for 4 days, and Florence for 4 days.

Venice was really cool and unlike any other city I’ve been to before. The city is on a group of islands, separated by canals and linked by a bunch of bridges. The streets are all really narrow because there are no cars on the island, and all of the streets kind of look the same (narrow, going along a canal with a bridge) so navigating around the city proved to be a difficult task. For example, it took us an extremely long time to get to our hostel because the map we had was tiny and the street we were supposed to turn on looked more like a sketchy alleyway to us (we actually called it “The Sketchy Alleyway” for the rest of our time there).

We decided to explore on our own for a while on Sunday, before we went on a walking tour. We stumbled across Teatro La Fenice, one of the most famous opera houses in Italy and all of Europe. We got to walk through the theatre and see all of the different rooms, and got free audio guides to hear about all of the history behind each room. We also got lucky enough to watch a few minutes of a rehearsal that was going on onstage. We think it was La Boheme. I wish I could have taken pictures or videos of the rehearsal, but that wasn’t allowed. But it was really cool to watch since I have never been to the opera before. 

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Teatro La Fenice

Later we went on our walking tour of the city, which was really nice because we got to hear a lot of things about the history of the city, including facts about how it is slowly sinking. The second part of our tour was on a boat, which was really fun, but apparently did not satisfy our urge to ride boats. We were really determined to go on a gondola ride down the canal, but when we asked for the price it was 80 euros per ride, which seemed way too expensive for just one ride. So we decided to try to get a group of people to go with us so we could all split the amount and it would be cheaper. This didn’t end up working out unfortunately, but we watched a lot of gondola rides and even got our picture taken by a random man who was going by on the boat, so I think we basically got the full experience.

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The gondola ride we should have been on

We spent our second full day there exploring some of the nearby islands. The first is called Burano, and is a really cute little town with canals like Venice. What makes it special is that all of the houses and buildings are painted really colorfully. It has become a bit touristy, and I couldn’t help wondering what the locals think of all of these people walking by and taking pictures of their brightly painted houses, which to them must just seem normal. Next we went to Torcello, which was even tinier, and only really had one church that we went inside, and a few cafes. We stopped at one cafe to have crepes, which were delicious. We then made our way back to Venice, which proved to be more difficult than it should have been because we got on the wrong water bus and had to get off and wait for the right one to take us back.

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The island of Burano

Venice was a lot of fun, and when it was time to leave on Tuesday we definitely felt that we could have stayed and seen more even though the city is fairly small. One of the highlights was definitely our hostel owner, Amran, who shared a bunch of funny stories with us about Venice and people who have stayed in the hostel, and let us sit and talk to him for hours! When two guys from New York started giving us a hard time and making fun of Texas, Amran agreed that he would rather visit Texas than New York, which kind of made our night. We were obviously not alone in our appreciation for Amran, because behind his desk the entire wall was filled with thank you notes written by people who had stayed in the hostel. We decided to make ours have a Texas theme, and poke a little fun at the New York boys.

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My thank you sign
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Rowan’s thank you sign

Tuesday afternoon we got on a train and headed to Florence, where we would stay until Friday night. The couple sitting next to us on the train were pretty friendly, and Rowan and I both agreed the husband was definitely not quite ready to leave behind his youth. He talked about his trip to Amsterdam with a bit too much enthusiasm, right before showing us pictures of his two young children.

Florence was definitely an easier city to navigate in comparison to Venice. There are a couple of big landmarks that, if you can find them, you can pretty much find anything. The first night we just wandered a bit and ended up stumbling upon a lot of the famous sights including the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Santa Maria Novella and Santa Crocce. But we waited until the next day to explore them more.

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In front of Santa Maria Novella

We had a list of things we wanted to do and see in Florence, and I think we did a pretty good job accomplishing all of them. We woke up bright and early Wednesday morning to go to the Uffizi Gallery, which is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world, and one of the top tourist attractions in the city. It took us hours to go through the whole thing, and it was definitely worth it. It has a huge collection of Renaissance art, including a lot of sculptures. Me and Rowan’s favorite part was laughing at all of the bizarre faces of the babies in paintings. Next time you go to a museum, pay special attention to the fact that all babies during the Renaissance period have the faces of adults. They don’t look like baby faces at all. It’s quite strange.

After the gallery we met up with our designated tour guide, Nathan, who I met in Barcelona and basically forced into being our tour guide for the week. He was nice enough to show us around and put up with listening to our incessant gossiping about people and places he didn’t know. First he took us to go inside the Basilica of Santa Crocce, the main church and another big tourist attraction in the city. The church happens to be the burial place of many well-known Italians, including Michelangelo, Galileo and Dante. It was really beautiful inside, with a lot of stained glass windows and really detailed wall paintings. We went back inside Thursday night, because all of the churches were free at night as part of Semana Santa (Holy Week) before Easter.

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Santa Crocce
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Galileo’s tomb
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Michaelangelo’s tomb

We also visited the Bobili Gardens, a big park with a lot of Roman sculptures, and Ponte Vecchio, a bridge over the Arno River, which was built back in Roman times. It is the oldest bridge in Florence, and one of the top tourist attractions. In Medieval times, Ponte Vecchio was a top place for jewelry shopping, and today the bridge is still lined with shops selling gold and jewelry as well as tourist souvenirs. We also went to Piazza Michelangelo which is on top of a hill and has an amazing view of the entire city, as well as a very pretty rose garden. 

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Me and Rowan at Ponte Vecchio

And of course I have to mention the food we ate, since this was a week in Italy and all. Rowan and I stumbled upon a couple of little cafes, one with really good pasta, and the other with salads. We were both really craving a salad, which I know sounds stupid since we were in the land of pasta, pizza, gelato, and other carb-stuffed things. But the salads we had were amazing! Nathan also took us to two different sandwich shops, which were both delicious, as well as a gelato place that serves organic flavors such as kiwi, pistachio, cinnamon and even a wine flavor. We also went to Secret Bakery, a bakery that really is secret unless you know where to find it. It is in a random alleyway, in a tiny room that I definitely would never have noticed on my own. They bake the pastries fresh, and they were delicious!

Overall my Spring Break was a week I will never forget. Italy was such a fun country to visit, and I feel like I actually learned a lot about the history from the tour in Venice (be proud mom and dad!) From the food, to the art, to the beautiful landmarks, I would definitely recommend both Venice and Florence. I hope I can go back someday and maybe explore Rome and other parts of Italy as well!

This Thursday I am traveling again, on my last trip before I return home. The semester has really flown by! I will be going to London for the weekend, then heading to Aberdeen, Scotland to visit Rowan! (Hopefully she didn’t get sick of me during our week together..)

Ciao for now,

Shelly