A really good chocolate chip cookie just can’t be beat. I would even argue that they are the best dessert of all time! Chocolate chip cookies are classic and comforting, but the coolest part is that they can be made so many ways. Whether you like chewy, bakery-style cookies or giant, thick cookies or crispy and flat cookies, there’s definitely a perfect chocolate chip cookie for you in Austin.[Read more…]
One of my favorite things about Austin is that there is an almost never ending list of activities to do and events to attend. At the top of that list of activities are all the things that allow one to splash into some water-filled fun: swimming in Barton Springs, paddleboarding in Lady Bird Lake, or even heading out to San Marcos to float the river. Anything to get some relief from the Texas summer heat, right?
And when you’re swimming, you’re going to need something to wear into the water. Enter House of ZZ. They are a local brand that sells sustainable swimwear for women – so you can feel and look fabulous while out in the water.
Diving Into New Adventures
Owners Morgan and Michael Rizzuti started their careers in fields much different from where they’ve ended up. They both attended the University of Texas in history and engineering, respectively. While their educational journey didn’t teach them the inner workings of running and operating a business, there was something about Austin’s creative pull that made them realize that this was the place for them to start House of ZZ.
Morgan initially joined the corporate world after finishing college at UT. Over time, she knew that she wanted to leave her corporate job for something more, but wasn’t sure what the future held for her. It was her love of water that eventually inspired her to look into starting a swimwear brand. She had no design experience at the time, but wasn’t going to let that stop her. Morgan loves the power a good outfit – or bikini – has on a person and wanted to share that feeling with the world.
A Focus On Sustainability and Fair Trade
While a love of water was a big part of the business idea, the other reason that Morgan and Michael decided to dive into House of ZZ was the sustainability aspect that they could incorporate. Their initial research on manufacturers and fabric suppliers opened up a whole new world to them. They learned about the (non-)sustainability practices being used in the fashion industry. So instead of using nylon and contributing to all the pre and post-consumer materials that find their way into the ocean and landfills, House of ZZ is using recycled materials to create their bikinis. Their fabrics are derived from industrial plastics, unused fabric scraps, fishing nets, and more – which also results in a stronger, higher quality material.
But Morgan and Michael didn’t want to just focus on sustainable products. They planned to work with an overseas manufacturer and wanted to ensure that they found an ethical facility that cared about the employees who worked for them. After doing the research, they made the trip overseas to visit the facility they’d chosen. They learned that not only was this facility the right choice, but it was also more transparent than the U.S. companies they had considered. The bonus perk about the facility they had chosen? Their manufacturers donate a percentage of profits back to ocean conservation initiatives.
“All of this comes with a price, of course, but I’m not doing this because it’s easy. It’s hard, more time intensive, and significantly more expensive,” Morgan said. “But I don’t care. Making a quick buck isn’t the point. Doing something bigger than ourselves is.”
Now that’s a brand message that we can all stand behind.
Behind the Design
House of ZZ draws its inspirations from a multitude of things: places that Morgan and Michael have traveled, swimwear and models from the 80s and 90s, and current trends from influencers. But whether they are worn on a casual day out or a fun vacation to the beach, all House of ZZ pieces are made with one intention in mind: to make the wearer feel good about themselves.
As Morgan explains, none of the suits are worn to cover up bumps or curves or what people misdefine as “flaws.” The female body is like a piece of art. Morgan loves to show it off and complement and accentuate every square inch. All bodies are beautiful and she wants her customers to feel that way when they wear her swimwear.
The 2020 collection includes both bikinis and one pieces. They feature colors like black, white, bronze, and Maya blue as well as a cute floral print called Orange Blossom.
Tackling Challenges Together
Launching is an adventure within itself, but to do so during a pandemic is a whole new battle. Morgan and Michael have been able to face these challenges together while providing support to one another. This means that arguments over bikinis might happen in the kitchen every now and then. But it also means that they have each other’s backs when talking strategy and operations. The Rizzutis understand that they cannot ignore any business-related problems. They are open about providing feedback to each other and accepting constructive criticism.
One of the big challenges that they’ve had to face is learning to take advice from others with a grain of salt. As any new business owner will find out, there will be many people that decide to share their ideas of how you should operate or what you should do with your business. The Rizzutis learned over time that following the advice of others – no matter how experienced they were – can sometimes lead to wasted time and money spent on something that just doesn’t work for your business.
“Soak it all up like a sponge,” Morgan shared with me, “but take it with a grain of salt. Trust your gut – always. Most of the time, it’s probably right.”
From providing an engineer a ton of bikini knowledge to giving a corporate employee the satisfaction of starting her own business based on her passion, the House of ZZ has been quite an adventure for the Rizzutis. I, for one, can’t wait to see what comes next.
Learn more about House of ZZ and shop their bikinis on their website.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite water activity in Austin?
If you are into local restaurants, wineries, and farmer’s markets at all, you’ve likely sampled or bought Con’ Olio’s Ultra Premium olive oil or balsamic vinegar. They are offering their popular Olive Oil + Balsamic Vinegar class online.
That’s right, now we can experience this virtual burst of knowledge and flavor comfortably in our own homes. Con’ Olio is one of those places in town with a reputation that precedes it. I’ve long heard great things about their Olive Oil + Balsamic Vinegar 101 classes from foodie friends.
This Austin business has been on my radar for some time now, ever since I met owner Tabatha Conarko at a wine tasting and class at the outstanding El Gaucho Winery. I am so looking forward to this!
Disclosure: Con’ Olio invited me to join in a Olive Oil + Balsamic Vinegar 101 class. Look for social media coverage on Oct. 22, when I actually participate.
What to Expect
Con’ Olio’s classes are about so much more than olive oil and balsamic vinegar, although those ingredients are the core components of the class. The classes include an educational aspect and pairings with complementary flavors. I’m really looking forward to trying out their new classes, scheduled once weekly through mid-November.
Current dates for the Con’ Olio Virtual Class: Olive Oil + Balsamic 101 are October 22 and 27, and November 5 and 12. The classes are $40 per person, plus tax.
All About Upcoming Con’ Olio’s Virtual Classes
Here is the lowdown from the class description and press release.
Conarko will lead the class, guiding attendees through a variety of flavors: intense and robust, mild and buttery Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOOs), and light and dark balsamic vinegars. She’ll go over when and how to use each one. In the Con’ Olio class, Conarko will also pair these EVOOs and balsamics with lots of tasty goodies, like Antonelli’s cheese and prosciutto, apples, caprese salad, artisan bread, and Amy’s Ice Creams.
In the class, Conarko will go over the myths and truths of the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits. She’ll also talk about how the fine Con’ Olio EVOOs and balsamic vinegars are produced and will teach participants how to detect the freshest olive oil and when they have gone bad or are low quality.
Guests will be asked to pick up their plates via contactless curbside pickup at the Con’ Olio Arboretum location, from 1-4pm the day of the class. That same day, participants will receive an email with a Zoom link to the class. Classes should run about 45 minutes, with a 10-15 minute Q&A at the end.
Loving This Trend
I’m getting excited to see how many long-established Austin eateries are finding their online groove with these classes. Like many of you, I’m still staying home more often than not and avoiding crowds in an effort to socially distance myself safely for as long as necessary.
These virtual classes, cooking kits, and tastings help bring people together. Even while we are physically apart, the need for human connection is real. We also want to support our local businesses and enjoy the excellent food and drinks these Austin eateries have to offer.
I’m grateful to Con’ Olio for adding this fun – and tasty – class to the growing number of ways to virtually experience Austin’s best at home. If you sign up, let me know what you think!
10000 Research Blvd, #130 – Con’ Olio Virtual Classes
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your favorite Austin local online class or tasting you’ve tried in 2020?
No more boring dinners! If you have run through your repertoire of go-to recipes, and can’t stand the thought of looking at that sourdough starter mess again, El Alma is here to help!
Now you can sign up for an absolutely genius El Alma At Home monthly membership program. They have considered a wide range of budgets and perks, so that everyone can join if they’d like. El Alma At Home membership tiers start at $5 and go up to the VIP membership at $75.[Read more…]
Want to channel your inner Argentinian? Buenos Aires Café is here to make it easy! Besides dancing the tango and tossing back some Malbec, the make-at-home empanada kit from Buenos Aires Café is a fun way to show off your South American style.
Their take-home Amaro tastings and date night kits from their Milonga Room speakeasy are also excellent ways to do so for drinkers with a sophisticated or adventurous palate. Another way to celebrate Argentinian flair is to enjoy an upcoming cooking class with Chef Reina Morris and Paola Guerrero-Smith. Or you can try a date night with Guerrero-Smith and her husband.[Read more…]
If you are looking for incredible food, local wine & craft beer, and great ambience, look no further than Los Olivos Market in the heart of Buda, TX. From their menu to their retail shop, they offer a unique experience for each person that walks through their door.
I visited with my wife and our 2-year-old son. We all sincerely enjoyed our time and were amazed by the wonderful food and friendly people.[Read more…]
Breaking Texas whiskey news! Our friends at Milam & Greene have just launched their super limited, grain-to-glass, Distillery Edition Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Three years in the making, it’s a show stopper, a true culmination of years of brewing, distilling, and blending. Starting August 22, 2020, you can secure your reservation for a bottle on their website for pickup at their Blanco Distillery.[Read more…]
Back when I did my first “6 Singles” article, COVID-19 was still a newbie we all hoped would be gone in a week or four. Nearly six month later, it’s time for another batch of wonderful music to be thrust into the spotlight. Sequestration may have crippled the live music scene, but Austin artists continue to churn out quality art at an inspiring rate. Check out these seven new singles and fall in love.[Read more…]
Whenever people talk about summer in Austin, water activities are always recommended. Dipping in Barton Springs, a trip to Hamilton Pool, floating the river. All fantastic ways to beat three straight months of 100-degree heat.
But what if you don’t even want to be outside? Regardless of your water activity of choice, the blazing sun can turn the coolest of pools into bath water, and fry skin to a crisp. And forget it if you have little ones. Spending any amount of time in broiling temperatures can be downright dangerous. What’s a parent to do?
Cedar Park’s micro indoor water park may be the perfect solution. Allow me to introduce you to Splash Shack, a family-focused waterscape and play area, designed with big and little kids in mind. All without reliance on greasy sunscreen or suffering through triple-digit temps.
And, more good news: Splash Shack is open year-round. So when the heat has passed and it’s actually a bit cool to swim outside, you can find swimming fun right here, every month of the year.[Read more…]
The pulse of Austin may have slowed, but its spirit lives on in the resilience of its people. Ways to engage in culture have moved primarily to Internet spaces, from art-viewing to live-streaming music. While we are more connected online than ever before, occasional breaks from the screen to exercise are helpful for maintaining mental and physical health. (I know some exercise classes are held online and–in this case–I’ll count that as a break from screen time.)
Everyone is encouraged to stay home during Austin’s current mandate, and there are many exercises you can do indoors. However, our order does not prohibit outdoor exercise, and fresh air during a time of stress can do a body good.
Here are a few simple ways you can get moving through outdoor exercise, and places you can go to do it.[Read more…]