Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Instacart: Awesome, but Not for Every Week.

My experience with Instacart was great!  But in my household, it's not for every week.

I shop at HEB once a week, which is one of the stores they offer (there are more).  This weekly outing requires an entire morning because of the kids and the amount of food I buy for my family of seven.  I'm not a grocery store hater per se but I'm very attracted to the idea of having a whole extra morning to devote to other activities.  So the primary benefit, for me, is time.

The initial setup was lengthy.  But if I use the service again, the order time will be nominal since all the items I selected are stored in order history.  The website was efficient and user friendly.  I was impressed with how easy it was to get started, although I did have to add a lot of "special" items that I know HEB carries but were not listed on the Instacart catalogue.

My shopper called me once to clarify about a few items; she was friendly easy to talk to.  She found everything I ordered and delivered it to my house within the two hour time frame.  Even helped me carry the groceries upstairs!!!

It was surreal to have the entire process completed and skip straight to the "putting away" step.  I loved it!

What I did not love was the extra cost.  There is a small delivery fee and tips are encouraged.  However, they make money by slightly raising the prices on most items.  Today's bill was about 25% higher than usual.  Ouch.

So here's my final conclusion: I would use this service again but not every week.  I can recall MANY late-pregnancy, postpartum, everyone's-sick, everyone's-home-for-summer days when this service would have been an absolute gamer changer and worth every penny!!  I would recommend doing it at least once so that your basics are saved into their system.  That way, when the disaster days hit, you can give yourself the gift of NOT grocery shopping.

That's my plan anyway.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A thought

I'm coming to believe that the most constant and most rewarding work of every great mother is to overcome fear.

Here is a blog post to back that up.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Guad: The Take Over

Almost the entire Medici family at the time we took over Metro (2008).  I get weepy considering all the amazing people we have had the honor of working with.  And many that still call Medici their home.  Seriously, how did we get so fortunate?

Demolition or rebuild?  I can't even tell.  All I know is that it was a hell of a lot of work.  Hard work that was done by Michael and a few multi-functional baristas and executed in a shockingly short time.

(rain)water slide.
At the Guad location we hoped to create continuity of the Medici atmosphere without masking the unique character of the building.  We got pretty close.  Wood tones balanced out the industrial edge and a big splash of the West Lynn red brought color and warmth to the space.  It came together in a distinct and fresh expression of Medici in all ways but one: we were unable to replace the heinous metal furniture.  But oh well.  One thing at a time.  
Documenting the leaks.

One malfunction at a time is another way to say it, but since we prefer to stay positive we will call the next series of events in the life of the Guad Store "challenges."  Not long after opening the doors, the roof crapped out.  Here you can see the effects and how we MacGyvered our way through it.

The other challenges we faced in the initial years do not deserve visual representation.  We just hope that if you have ever been to the Guad Store it was NOT one of the times the a/c was down.  Or when a mysterious odor skunked up the place.  Or that you encountered the bloody invincible spawn-out-of-thin-air flies that plagued the store.  Plagued I tell you.  Come to think of it...it's really not worth recalling.

What is fun to remember are all the ways we began to experiment with the building's potential. Many endeavors were inspired by employees looking for outlets to express their creative passion.  For instance, Guad had a kitchen and we had a few baristas who loved food.   So we opened our own baking operation.  When that ran its course, we started making in-house sandwiches.  At one point we were even serving hot breakfast (much to the owners' delight).

But the creative reservoir within the Medici family was not limited to just food and drink.  We also attracted an incredibly talented lot of artists and musicians into the barista world.  Releasing their creative energy into the space always produced something exciting.  For a while we had weekly concerts in the shop.  Over several seasons we partnered with one of our long-time employees to create a media business, which among other things promoted the shop through video and animated commercials.   Our current manager is an artist and curates the space as a gallery for other local artists.

Over these first five years, some experiments worked and some didn't, but we had fun with each endeavor and increased our understanding of what Medici on the Drag could hold.  One thing it does quite well are large events--everything from SXSW concerts, to craft fairs, to birthdays and even weddings.

Stoney playing in 2009 for SXSW
First wedding hosted at Caffe Medici on the Drag.
Dear friends Doug and Meg Kuehn christened our shop with matrimonial bliss.
Medici hosted several craft fairs organized by local artist Han Stoney.
Packed full of sellers and shoppers and study-ers.
Medici Christmas party.  Told you we have a lot of musicians.

Birthday parties do well here...
...especially when they're mine.  Yes, it was that fun!!!

And we've been known to host a few dance parties.
There is a world of potential at this store, and it feels like we have not even begun to tap into it.  The already-adventurous start is a small taste of what's to come.  But oh the process of realizing potential!!  It is wrought with tension.  We see the grand possibilities of this store but making them a reality is an entire journey.  It requires total belief in the goodness of what we have offer and total willingness to walk through every manner of bullshit so that others can receive it.

Most days, we are up for it.  Perhaps you've seen Michael sporting his favorite (non-white) t-shirt that says: Impossible Possibilities.  That's his approach to life and business, and it's a good one.  But to be honest there several points at which we have wanted to walk away. There have been setbacks so big that it was only prudent to consider the value (and cost) of our continued presence on the Drag.  But each time a hardship threatened our resolve, some miracle would happen.

And this last one has been the best so far...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Guad: Where Things Take Root

Michael was a permanent fixture at Metro.  He knew and liked everyone.  And he was liked by everyone in return because that's just who he is: a downright likable guy and great conversationalist.  But he did spend an excessive amount of time at Metro.  If you ever wanted to just shoot-the-shit or delve into the very meaning of life, you could count on Michael Vaclav to be there.  I did.  Many times.  So many times, in fact, that I fell in love.   

Don't get me wrong.  Michael and I had a tight circle of friends through whom we first got to know each other. So our relationship didn't actually start at the coffee shop. But in the spring of 2001 we found ourselves hanging out at Metro...together...a lot...A LOT.
Then one night in April we were at Metro, and I offered to drive him home.  I pulled up outside his house but he didn't get out of the car and didn't say anything; he just sat there staring out the windshield.  After a painfully awkward pause he said, "Alison, I need to ask you something..."  The next day we were officially dating.  Seven months later we were engaged.  Eight months after that we were married, young and unafraid to dream big.

Ironically, the path to pursuing big dreams started when Michael was laid-off from his job with the state in 2003.   He took a part-time job at JP's Java, which was the only place in town truly crafting specialty coffee at the time.  The true "seeds" of specialty coffee were planted in us there, and it was there we met many folks with whom we would sojourn into the coffee world. By spring 2004 we were busy creating the first Medici, which finally opened in autumn 2006 (which is a whole other glorious story).  But THEN... in late 2007 Michael had a serendipitous encounter with the owner of Metro who, of course, remembered him fondly.

The long-time owner was ready to sell his business, and (as I would say it) did not want the space to be eaten up by the monster of inauthenticity that already plagued the Drag.  Other local shops on Guadalupe such as By George, The Cadeau, Einstein's Arcade, Tower Records, etc... had all closed or relocated because leases for retail spaces on the Drag were exorbitant.  I have no doubt that Metro's owner could have sold his business in a jiffy to some drooly-panting chain store waiting to sink it's teeth into the UT demographic.  But instead he sold to us.  Newbie entrepreneurs with a huge heart for places were people drink coffee.

So in a manner of speaking, it came full circle.  Metro Espresso Bar reopened as Caffe Medici in June 2008.  We became stewards of the very space in which our relationship took root, which is why this store has such a deep, enduring place in our hearts.

And it's a good thing too.  Because running a business on the Drag has not been a walk in the park...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Guad: First Love

I didn't drink coffee until I started college at UT.  At first I drank the weak dormitory brew, which I so inundated with flavored creamers and sugar that it barely qualified as coffee.  But never mind that.  It caffeinated me through late night essays and somehow validated my status as a university student.

Post dorm life, my stimulant-riddled study habits compelled me to find a coffee shop I could call home.  Honestly, the idea of it was intimidating for this still-new-to-Austin girl.  I imagined having to sip espresso (what's that?) made by a barista (what's that?) over philosophical conversations with a niche of academics using words I'd never heard.  I did not feel at all qualified to belong to such a scene.  But I still needed coffee and a place outside my sleepy apartment to study, so I was going to have to embrace what we now call...coffee culture.

Naturally, I chose the place where all my friends went: Metro.  It was a 24hr-edgy-grungy-spacious coffee bar on the Drag, chock full of character and characters.  The business originally opened as Insomnia in the early 90's, but changed over to Metro Espresso Bar a couple of years later.  And despite the volatile retail market that forced out many local businesses on the Drag, Metro hung in there steadily serving the communities around UT for more than a decade.

There was something raw and visceral about the space.  Towering brick walls, exposed steel beams and torturously geometric chairs gave you a sense of being simultaneously welcomed and accosted.  Nights at Metro were frenetic and pulsating in a sleep-deprivation-meets-Paul-Oakenfold+a-quad-shot-latte kind of way.  Weekends were languid and introspective in a Mazzy Star kind of way. I preferred the Ben Harper/Bjork mid-afternoons with a too-sweet iced chai latte. But atmospheric preferences aside, one thing was for sure: a haze of cheap cigarette smoke pervaded every conversation and every page of every book.  For, during my turn-of-the-century era at Metro, people still smoked in doors and (for the most part) read from books and wrote on paper.

Metro Espresso Bar, Spring 2008

And read I did.  Spent hours reading and drafting essays sustained in part by the sheer energy of the place.  I can honestly say I was far more academically productive there than at the library where I immediately fell asleep or at my apartment where I studied the fridge and the Food Network.  After my school days and even now, I do some of my best writing there.  But that is only half of why I made Metro my coffee home.  I also went because of the people.

Thank goodness my stereotype of coffee shop cliques was mostly unfounded.  Certainly there were a few intimidating regulars much smarter and more loquacious than I.  But most regulars were students in need of a social living room just like me.  All kinds of young people set-up camp in Metro, which produced a steady stream of dynamic conversation.  There were passionate discussions, heated debates and outright arguments fueled by youth and ferocious appetites for truth.  Perhaps I'm romanticizing a bit here.   But as I remember it, the essence of what happened through conversations at Metro was nothing short of formative.

I loved Metro.  The coffee was college-student-passable. The espresso Rocket Shake was to die for.  The baristas were endearingly disgruntled.  I am thankful for that dirty-brilliant coffee dive with ever-open doors because it was there that I first came to love coffee culture.  And what's more, the people I came to know during that season of life are unforgettable.  Especially one...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

not so much

"It was like a crumpled piece of paper under a thousand books."

This afternoon was hard. 

Elia cried. 
I cried.
Might have even made some other mamas cry.
Michael was the safe place in the midst of our insecurity.

In the end we learned some things about ourselves and each other,
which is good
and hard.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I am so behind on blogging.  There are a load of things I wish to share, record and blog about because there is so much going on in our world.  But life with a newborn does not included a lot of two-handed time.  Hours of nursing provides ample time for composing posts but little time (or energy) for actually typing them.  What to do...?...

I may try blogging from my phone--shorter snippets of daily life as opposed to the lengthy photo-stories I usually share.  May work, may not. But let's give it ago!

Hazel's first visit to Medici on West Lynn

Hazel's first visit to Medici downtown