Deep in the Heart of Texas: Days 1 & 2

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Guess what we did for spring break! Nope, we didn’t pile into an RV bound for a booze-soaked Florida beach to shed our inhibitions, clothing, and sobriety. Instead, we hightailed it to Austin so that I could attend (and do a couple of cooking demos at) PaleoFX — and where Henry and the kids could roam around town doing whatever it is that boys do.

On Wednesday, after hurriedly chucking some clothes and toiletries into our luggage and hustling our children out the door, we caught a flight for Austin.

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Coincidentally, Danielle Walker of Against All Grain was booked on our same flight.

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I still can’t get over how weird it can be to meet people IRL — especially folks whom I’ve followed on the interwebs. When you spot them, you feel like you already know them, even though you’ve never actually met before. Know what I mean?

By the time we arrived in Austin, dusk had fallen, and we were bushed and hungry. Our family had rented a cute bungalow about a mile from the PaleoFX venue, and we were sharing our digs with our pals, Diana and Cathy. Because they’re over-the-top awesome, we had a stocked fridge and a lip-smacking home-cooked Paleo dinner awaiting us when we arrived at the house: Baked pesto chicken, roasted asparagus with bacon, and sweet potatoes.

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Note to self: From now on, I’m only going to share lodging with people who feed me. 

The next morning, as we chowed on an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink frittata stuffed with the previous night’s leftovers, Diana showed us a preview copy of her upcoming book, Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go

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As I mentioned before, Diana’s book is stuffed with super-inventive, easy-to-prepare recipes. Be forewarned: Anyone who emails me asking what Paleo-friendly meal they could possibly make for breakfast or lunch will get a one-sentence reply: Get Diana’s book.

Before heading to PaleoFX, we stopped by 24 Diner for lunch. I’d call it an annual pilgrimage, but we never eat just one meal here per visit.

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Last year, we enjoyed a bunch of meals here, and we did the same this go-around. The menu’s eclectic dishes offer something for everyone — even picky Lil-O, who ordered his usual: plain scrambled eggs.

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The rest of us were a bit more adventurous, though we mostly stuck with our old favorites.

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For starters, we shared two orders of bacon-topped deviled eggs…

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…and Henry and I split a pork chop with herb butter, bacony greens, and mashed sweet potatoes.

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Also? A plate of sweet potato hash topped with fried eggs and chili.

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The hash was as comforting and filling as ever…

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…and the chop was as generously-sized and holy-swine-delicious as I remembered. As you can see, I was one happy camper:

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By the time Diana, Cathy and I made it to the conference, our bellies were full and we were ready to mingle. A sea of friendly volunteers greeted and guided us as we made our way to the expo area, where we immediately spotted some familiar faces. I love going to these events and pinballing into old pals and new friends. I especially want to give a shout out to Sylvie, who bought me a kombucha when I loudly (and desperately, and passive-aggressively) whined that I didn’t have any cash to buy a drink. You rock, sistah.

I was delighted to finally meet Joshua Weissman, the young dynamo behind Slim Palate, and we hung out for the rest of the conference until I left for the day.

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(And no, I didn’t change my shirt — this pic is from Day 3. I neglected to bring my camera to the first day of PaleoFX. I know, I’m terrible.)

What did the boys do while I was at PaleoFX?

They slurped down frozen confections at Amy’s Ice Cream

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…visited the Museum of the Weird downtown, where they gawked at the freaky displays… 

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…and hung out with lizards both fake…

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…and real.

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Apparently, this big girl likes to eat cockroaches…

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…which Lil-O thought was “cute.”

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Big-O, on the other hand, was more interested in pulling nails out of sideshow performers’ nostrils and helping them attach fishhooks to their eyelids. I’m kind of glad I missed the festivities (because ewww), but the boys had a blast.

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They especially enjoyed spending the afternoon at The Driskill Hotel, hunting for ghosts.

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Big-O is obsessed with ghostbusting and carried a tattered copy of The Ghosts of Austin book all over town, pointing out haunted spots to his dad — that is, when he wasn’t strumming one of the many huge prop guitars scattered around the city.

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At dinnertime, we reunited and drove out to Hill Country to get some ‘cue at The Salt Lick with Melicous, Dave, and Danielle.

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Dave and Mel introduced us to The Salt Lick last year, and I was eager to show the Double-Os how Texans get their smoked meats on. Unfortunately, the wait for a table was over an hour long(!), so the kids burned some calories in the play area…

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…while I caught up with Mel, one of my favorite people both on and off the internet. Whenever we’re together, it feels like we can’t stop gabbing — mostly because I don’t want to.

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By the time our pager buzzed to summon us inside, we were famished. We all ate family-style and stuffed our faces with all-you-can-eat brisket, ribs, sausage…

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…cole slaw…

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…and potato salad. Days later, I remained full.

But best of all was the company. (Including my kids, who refused to be in the picture. Oh, and Henry, who manned the camera and doesn’t mind staying invisible.)

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I’ve got so many more great Austin meals to write about; we ate like kings at Barley Swine, Elizabeth Street Café, Lambert’s and much, much more. I want to tell you all about my cooking demos, too! Stay tuned.

But for now, I gotta get my beauty sleep. As I learned at PaleoFX, if we don’t minimize stress and maximize sleep, we’ll feel crappy no matter how clean our diet. (Plus, this way I can milk my Austin trip for a bunch of blog posts and not have to take pictures of my food for a few more days. Win-win.)