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1.  New coffee table reading:  I just received a copy of the most gorgeous hardcover book, entitled DISTANT SHORES: Surfing The Ends of the Earth.  Renowned surf photographer, Chris Burkhard, created a book of breathtaking surf photography from the most remote surf locales around the globe.  Aside from containing stellar surf photography (which is captivating enough), the oversized pages also have a way of portraying human emotion in gorgeous landscapes all across the world.  The images are enthralling in an almost 3-D way…the color, angle, quality, etc. make you feel like you’re actually right there in the water.  Sometimes the photos are serene & tropical, other times they’re extremist & almost unbelievable:  “oh you know, here’s me…just surfing next to an ICEBERG!”  Distant Shores surfing photography coffee table book

It’s such a beautiful home decor accessory, too.  –Everyone needs quality table reading, y’all!  Don’t you think the reading material you’ve got setting around your house says so much about who you are, especially to your guests?  Personally, this book reminds me of my Dad, a former avid surfer who taught me how to ride and instilled in me a love for the beach.  Unfortunately, his recent liver transplant surgery has left him out of the water indefinitely.  I’m sure it’s excruciating for someone who’s got a new lease on life to hear he may never be able to step foot in the place he loves the most.  Actually, although it’s sittin’ pretty on my coffee table, this book really needs to be with him.  (Hello, perfect Father’s Day gift!)

2.  LaV:  Of all the amazing chef-driven restaurants thriving on Austin’s East side, LaV is the newest and thus, most in-demand dining hot spot.  Last weekend, we had guests in town from Dallas & Chicago and I wanted to take them to brunch before they headed back home.  They let me pick the place…I wanted a restaurant that wasn’t a chain, accepted reservations, and showed them a flavor unique to Austin.  Selfishly, I usually try to take out-of-towners to a local spot that I know is well-reviewed but, one that I haven’t yet been able to check out myself.  This might be risky, but Austin’s foodie culture has produced a slew of amazing dining options and if they’re highly rated here –in this competitive environment– I can confidently count on an impressive eating experience.  As I’ve said, I just can’t get to all the fabulous local restaurants in which I read positive critiques, so this little tactic of mine is a way to kill two birds with one stone.  Btw, I’m SO thankful to the hostess for working in our reservation…she almost wasn’t able to accommodate us but I charmed her over, I suppose. 😉  Sunday brunch at French-inspired LaV on Austin's Eastside

3.  LaV (the food & decor):  The menu offerings were quite inventive and it was delightfully difficult to choose just one dish!  We halfway-joked about ordering one of everything on the menu to share, actually.  Our party of four began with some pistachio buttercream shortbread cookies, a bluebonnet leaf salad, and wait for it:  …ruby red grapefruit brulee (half of a ruby red grapefruit with a thin layer of caramelization on top — amazing!)  My husband and I shared a main course of scrambled eggs with smoked trout caviar & toasted brioche with a side of house-made lamb sausage patties.  I ordered a decaf Americano espresso and I don’t know what kind of coffee beans they use, but the flavor was superb.  Not only is the Provence-inspired cuisine delightful, but the decor is drop-dead gorgeous…like a chic, modern-yet rustic French château.  It was Restoration Hardware heaven in there, dotted with bottles of choice wine, bunches of lavender, and decadent shades of grey.  I would love it if I could mimic the look of this restaurant in my own home…that’s how much I loved the atmosphere.  I’ll need to go back for dinner, but this fab French restaurant just might be my new favorite dining house in all of Austin! Scrambled eggs, smoked trout caviar, toasted brioche at LaV restaurant in Austin

4.  “Winning!”:  Recently, I had the surprise & delight to actually win a contest and even better:  the prize was SO CUTE!  Through Twitter, I found & followed a darling Miami-based travel accessories store called Arrive Chic.  Besides posting a stream of enviable beach pics, they hold monthly give-aways for their followers to enter.  I was absolutely tickled pink (pun intended!) to win their drawing for a Heys USA 20″ XCase Carry-On in Pink.  It’s a functional yet fabulous hard shell suitcase that is light as a feather.  When boarding the plane, I would struggle with heaving my old carry-on up into the overhead compartment, but NO MORE!  Although lighter, it’s a bit smaller than my old one & it wouldn’t get me through say, two weeks in Europe with just one carry-on as I’ve managed perviously.  This little number is ideal for long weekends and easy-breezy to roll through the terminal.  I broke it in during our Valentine’s trip to California and here’s me loading it into the trunk as we were leaving Carmel-by-the-Sea:Heys Xcase carry-on in Pink from Arrive Chic

5.  Craft Cocktail:  As y’all know from my previous raves about La Croix & Stevia Root Beer, I’m always looking to test out new drinks that come out on the market.  For some reason, beverages really interest me — people don’t realize how much of their daily caloric intake actually comes from what they drink.  I prefer to EAT most of my calories, thank you, so I’m keen to find lo-cal, yet natural, beverage alternatives.  In my past life as a full-time PR & advertising professional, most of my clients were actually beverage-centric:  PR for the “got milk?” campaign, advertising for the Route 44 big drink at Sonic Drive-In, and marketing for the entire Coca-Cola North America beverage portfolio.  So, I have to share one of my latest finds:  LO!  LO is a low sugar, low carb, and low calorie fruit beverage that tastes great when mixed in a cocktail, added to seltzer, combined with smoothies, or sipped alone.  I’m currently cutting down on (& eventually near-eliminating altogether) my caffeine, sugar, & alcohol intake, so I recently crafted a champagne spritzer utilizing LO’s Mango Mojito flavor.  I simply poured together 1/2 glass champs (or would be great w/ white rum, too), 1/2 glass Topo Chico, a squeeze of lime & splash of LO over ice…the result was a fresh, light, not-too-sweet concoction that my husband actually enjoyed, as well.  We were grilling out, so something cool & refreshing was nice in the weekend sunshine, and the lime & mango flavors paired perfectly with our Chipotle-style grilled chicken fajita bowls.  Bottom line:  LO Fruit Beverage is a healthy swap for sugary beverages & diet drinks and for my Texas readers: it’s now available at your neighborhood H-E-B.

.LO low glycemic organic fruit beverage