Christmas American Style!

The lead up to Christmas was not quite as rambunctious as I was expecting, no nativity play at school, most establishments had minimal Christmas decoration and unexpectedly a few times when I said 'Merry Christmas' to someone they casually said 'we don't celebrate Christmas' I found this to be mildly awkward I guess this is why 'Happy Holidays!' is the more traditional term to say over here!

After numerous shopping trips, two school 'winter' parties, reassuring the children Father Christmas will still find them in Austin and my husbands family arriving Christmas Eve, our first Christmas Day in America had finally arrived! 

It started as a lovely warm day and after breakfast, opening presents and us all wearing Christmas jumpers we head out for a walk around the neighbourhood and local lake, this resulted in a few compliments from passing Americans on our matching attire! The afternoon was a typical Christmas day of late turkey lunch, drinking, catching up with absent family, TV watching and taking it in turns to play with the children until it was time for bed!

I will share with you one of my presents which I'm very excited about, I was lucky enough to get a new camera, a Panasonic lumix FZ70...this means nothing to me either but I love it! I'm going to attend a photography course in the New Year so soon you'll hopefully notice the quality of my photos improving on this blog!

As husband's family are here until New Year we have been out more than usual, a new location we visited was the city of San Antonio just over one hours drive from Austin and our first stop was a visit to The Alamo, it claims to be Texas' most visited historical landmark.

As we had the children with us who swiftly got bored we then went onto a bar named The Buckhorn Salon and Museum for a margarita, the array of animal heads on the walls was a tad nauseating but like rubberneckers passing a car accident you can't take your eyes off them...

Next on our list was the San Antonio River-walk, a beautiful river lined with restaurants, bars, hotels and other attractions, we had barely walked 2 minutes when we saw a place called the Mad Dog British Pub normally when we are on holiday we completely avoid British pubs but this one I couldn't fly through the door quick enough....I definitely miss the familiarity of England. 

My next post will be my first of 2015 so 
Happy New year to you all, have a good one!

Seychelles Mama


Trail Of Lights

Through December and with Christmas fast approaching we have been making the most of what Austin has to offer...one thing which sprung out at us as fun and different was the Trail of Lights.

"The Trail of Lights is the best place to ignite your imagination. Immerse yourself in over 2 million whimsical lights illuminating dozens of favorite characters and icons" http://austintrailoflights.org/

It's free to attend Mon-Thurs and $3 each Fri-Sat, we had been advised to purchase the zip fast passes to enter early before the crowds which was completely worth the money. The girls were enthralled at the sights we encountered plus there were over 30 food trucks serving hot dogs, donuts, hot chocolate, cider etc it reminded me of a smaller version of Winter Wonderland held at Hyde Park in London.

The Trail of Lights centerpiece is the famous Zilker tree...it still remains the tallest freestanding, man-made holiday tree. Plus children can visit Santa's workshop, 'Candy-land' and enjoy performances from some local bands.


December At Last!

Well December is finally here! For us this means our eldest daughters birthday to celebrate and Christmas to prepare for. In case you were wondering this is not our house, we have just the one inflatable Father Christmas out front!

This year our daughter chose our local gymnastics studio for her birthday party location and usually she requests the party theme to be Hello Kitty, One Direction, a Princess of some sort....well this year as it's her first birthday in America we came up with a new theme we hadn't used before....I had to order the partyware online from a UK site, ship it to my parents house in the UK then they shipped it over to us.....totally worth it though!

We always wait until after our eldest daughters birthday to get a Christmas tree and decorate the house, working on the theory she won't grow up remembering her birthday getting mixed up with the Christmas celebrations.

We drove a few miles down the road to choose a tree, of course over here there is always more choice on everything...and Christmas trees were no different! Is it just me or did you know there are multiple types of Christmas trees with different smells, pines, height etc we chose one which was bigger than we have ever had before (10ft) and just went mid-range on price. 

The staff help hubby strap it to the top of the car and we take a slow drive home, two of us then need to carry it into the house and of course we do not have nearly enough lights and decorations for all of it so another shopping trip is now required!

An unexpected unfortunate accident happened this week with our eldest daughter managing to fracture her wrist at school after falling off the monkey bars....we take her to a children's hospital emergency department and she gets seen and accessed immediately, pain killers as a mist up her nostrils, couple of X-Rays and a short wait later we have the results, luckily the fracture is not as big as they thought so she'll just need a splint and assessed again next week.

Out of curiosity I asked the staff how much this whole procedure would cost us if we didn't have health insurance.....minimum $7000!! It certainly gets you thinking about the NHS in a different light


Vegas & Thanksgiving

As soon as hubby and I decided to move to the USA we promised ourselves to make the most of the country.....so here we were all booked up and ready for a weekend in Las Vegas without the children! The flight was 3 hours long, we checked into our hotel and then headed out into town....we unfortunately went to a restaurant in a bleak part of town with a heavy rock band just setting up, so we ate up quick and went straight back to our hotel to test out the bars, gambling tables and to find our UK friends....

Our hotel http://www.mgmgrand.com was bigger than I could have imagined with the reception area as busy as the underground tube stations in London plus every person you pass looks completely different to the next person you pass!

The gambling tables were more serious than I anticipated and the staff were not as friendly as I was expecting, they ALL look at you sideways like they are expecting you to cheat or pull out a gun any second..not sure us slightly tipsy tired stumbling Brits were exactly prime targets to keep an eye on!

Saturday morning arrives and after an extortionately expensive breakfast ordered from room service we head out down the Strip - 4.2 miles of concentrated resort hotels and casinos south of the Vegas city limits - it feels like we have stepped into a real life computer game, there is so much colour and plastic as far as the eye can see Vegas is truly extraordinary!

We stopped at http://www.bellagio.com to watch the water show which was far more entertaining than I was expecting! Then a late lunch, plenty of cocktails, and people watching later it's time for a nap and we are ready to party round 2! We started at http://www.wynnlasvegas.com/Restaurants/FineDining/Mizumi where the food was amazing, then a party bus picked us up outside and took us down the Strip, stopping at the famous Vegas sign for pics - like true tourists - then dropping us outside a club where we spent the rest of the night....the flight home the next morning was not something we were looking forward to!

Thanksgiving has arrived! There are no houses decorated and no present giving but the children are off school, hubby is off work and we have been invited to a friends house to join them for their Thanksgiving dinner, we enjoyed some traditional dishes such as smoked turkey and sweet potatoes with marshmallows.....the day felt similar to our Christmas Day, shops were closed, everyone getting together cooking and drinking, kids playing outside and terrorising the dog!

The day after Thanksgiving is called 'Black Friday' shopping day, we had been advised by numerous Americans to stay off the roads and away from shopping malls as it is a jungle out there on this day....and watching the news I'm glad we did!


English V American

I've been thinking about doing a post recently about the experiences I have come across since moving to America involving vocabulary differences.....most people know of the usual ones such as Petrol garage/Gas station, Primary school/Elementary school, Playtime/Recess, Toilet/Restroom, Lift/Elevator and so on, so here is a list of some of my vocabulary challenged experiences so far......

I took my youngest into a hair salon to have her fringe trimmed and was mildly taken aback when the friendly lady said 'oh you mean you want her bangs cut' eeerrrr what??

We went out for dinner one night with a couple from New York, my hubby unfortunately still smokes so when one half of the other couple came back from the restroom they asked where had my hubby gone? I said 'he's just popped out for a fag'......in wide eyed hushed tones they said 'you can't say that over here'....turns out Americans in no way ever use the word fag to describe a cigarette!

I had heard numerous times in public toilets and in homes Americans say to their children 'do you need to use the potty' which is actually still a toilet....as it turns out adults 'do not need to use the potty' this is only said to children luckily I made this mistake in front of a friend who corrected me whilst laughing loudly of course!

I recently said to an American I was planning to wear hotpants to ACL - the Austin music festival - I could tell by her wide eyed smiling face I'd maybe said the wrong thing...please read below for the American definition of hot pants "a  female who can't control her sexual appetite- nympho" turns out over here they are just called short pants...one to remember that one!

That awkward moment when an American asks 
"Do British people love the American accent as much as we love yours?"


Halloween And A Driving Test

I will just briefly cover Halloween again as so many people have asked me about Halloween in America....well on the night our local HOA's - Home Owners Associations - organised another block party with pizza, drinks, face painter etc then after a few hours the trick or treating began quite a sight to see at least 50 kids running the streets across everyone's perfect lawns in all their different outfits, one difference here from the UK is that kids dress up in ANY outfit for Halloween whereas my two stuck with their traditional witches outfits........I wondered why there wasn't many 'Halloween-y' outfits to chose from in the local stores!

The day had finally arrived to do my driving test 19 years after the first one, for two weeks I studied online and completed my 'theory' test, then it was time to sign up for the practical. 

I have to say I was not looking forward to it one little bit, the week before and on the way to the test centre I was concentrating so much on the rules and regulations that were slightly different to the UK test, when I started driving out of the car park towards the road to start the test I suddenly realised in horror I was driving on the left hand side of the road, my tester said as long as I didn't do that on the roads I'll be fine I mumbled my apologies, blamed my nerves and still managed to pass the test that day phew!


Everyone's busy....

Another children's party we were invited to recently was to celebrate Diwali - an ancient Hindu festival - with our youngest daughters classmate and family. The kids had hours of fun running around playing, painting pictures and chasing the family dog while the adults enjoyed some traditional homemade Indian cuisine.

Our youngest child has been on two field trips this term, one to Crowes Nest Farm and second to our local grocery store HEB both trips she loved.

We are now very close to Halloween...and one day last week I came home to find our house had been boo-ed!


New Experiences!

I saw this downtown and thought it would make an interesting photo for my blog...

Halloween decorations are everywhere and they are freaking me out. I had no idea Americans would start decorating their houses a month BEFORE Halloween, theres huge 4ft wide spiders attached to fake webs on houses and bushes, 8ft skeletons with black cloaks hanging from trees blowing in the breeze, huge inflatable black witches cats everywhere, grave stones popping up in people's front gardens I'm not sure I'm going to cope too well with the Halloween parties that are coming up...🎃

ACL weekend is here and its our very first music festival, we start by taking the girls straight after school on Friday and after queuing for an age we are in, it's hot and we have no idea where to go. So we just went straight to the beer tent of course, wine, beer, water for the girls and we are off...

Next stop was on the grass a million yards back from one of the stages for Paolo Nutini.....cannot deal with crowds and two small children! The girls are now ready for dinner we thought the safest bet would be pizza...we then found another stage and pitched up far back again and settled on the grass for Sam Smith....the girls loved dancing along to the music and making friends with the children sat next to us!

Saturday comes and it's raining...heavily....some of the acts are cancelled but by the time we have dropped the girls off with a sitter, got some lunch and headed home to switch the flip flops for wellies the sun is out and our enthusiasm has been revitalised! 

We were excited to see Iggy Azalea, she knocked out some good tunes, we met up with some friends and get set up in a fairly good spot for Lana del ray, then my fav of the whole weekend.....Eminem....amazing set....still a massive entertaining star! 

I will share with you our Saturday evenings shenanigans....after ACL we realised we hadn't had dinner and it's about 10.30pm by this point, our friend rings one of our fav restaurants downtown but unfortunately they had already closed the kitchen....so using his British accent to the fullest he explained he is part of a band from the UK and only just finished his set at ACL so we would appreciate them keeping the kitchen open if possible.....and it only blinking worked! Good times!

There was no school this Monday as it was Columbus Day not all Americans celebrate this day as the anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing in America anyway another mum and I head to Sweet Berry Farm for the day, a mix of train rides, face painting, flower picking, pumpkin painting, goat feeding and so on....you get the idea perfect for children.


Autumn 2014

So it's definitely kids birthday party season and our girls are literally inundated with party invites, this is wonderful to feel like our children are welcomed and accepted by the local community. A new venue for us was a party at the Playland Skate Center a roller skating rink which truly felt like a blast from the past but great fun nevertheless.

I have decided after a month of the children being at school I am happy for them to go into school on the bus, thankfully the bus route, timings and driver are all the same as before the summer and the bus driver is a lovely lady who is very friendly to me but also tells me to 'hurry up' when I'm taking too much time giving the girls kisses goodbye!

After a recent discussion with a new American friend of mine I did some research and without a doubt I am now completely switching to organic foods here (except take-aways of course no ones perfect after all!). 
Shockingly America is still using a high quantity of ingredients in some foods which are BANNED in Europe and legally does NOT have to label whether their food products contain GM ingredients or not, an interesting read below...

Tonight we have our fourth set of visitors arriving from England this is always an exciting time for all concerned, they are looking to relax and enjoy themselves :)


New Term...New Season...

Our third set of visitors have flown home now, there will always be a pull on the heart strings as we watch them walk out of sight through customs however we hope they have an armful of stories and memories to take away with them and that they enjoy telling their tales to friends, colleagues and family over and over.

We are now three weeks into the new school term and all was going well until I realised I was the only parent left hanging around after assembly to give 'one last cuddle' unfortunately this then interrupts the walk to the classroom and so on so I decide to say goodbye at the door and leave of course this was never going to go down well and a scene is created with my kindergartener crying, me upset and all in front of the whole school not ideal really...

So Daddy comes to save the day, his swift firm approach of walk, cuddle and go proved completely effective and so far it is working for me too I'll keep you posted!

All in all we are now in a good routine of school, play dates, parties and after school activities and the outside temperature has dropped slightly from around 96-102f to the mid 80's around 28c, still very appealing weather we all absolutely love it 😎

With our very lovely and fun realtor we have started looking at other houses within the school boundary and 
we always enjoy viewing the different styles of houses and neighbourhoods. The rental lease is up soon and we have decided the house we are currently in is way too big for a family of four and the maintenance and upkeep is quite frankly a pain.

We have some more visitors arriving very soon, I begin my volunteering at the school next week and hubby and I are looking forward to going to our first ever music festival next month ACL Festival.


Almost Six Months In....

After returning to the UK for two weeks many people asked me how did I feel to be back in America? Well I am pleased to report I feel glad to be back in Austin for numerous reasons, we missed my husband, the weather, the lifestyle and we feel we have built some great foundations for us to live here very happily.

Our third set of visitors have arrived and its always such a buzz to see family after months of Skype calls. Even though we have our favourite haunts now we did some research and off we went one night to the Broken Spoke its self proclaimed the "last of the true Texas dance halls". We probably wouldn't return for the food alone however it opened in 1964 and claims to not have changed its interior ever since so well worth a visit to see the interior alone plus all the photos on the wall of its famous visitors through the years...

My first birthday in America is here and I enjoyed a day being spoilt, by evening the babysitter arrives and we head off downtown to our first stop La Condesa a modern Mexican restaurant which provided a fantastic menu mix of meats, rice, veg, salads, salsa and lots more, we finished off the night dancing to a mix of old and new tunes at the Hanger Bar.

After an interesting, fun and crazy 12 week summer holiday the girls are finally due to start back at school what a lovely shock to the system those 6am starts are for all concerned 😳😴 I'm driving the girls in for now I just can't quite build up the courage to let my new 5 year old kindergartener get on the school buses just yet...

We have also enjoyed our youngest daughters 5th birthday during the first week of school, it was an interesting morning opening presents, cards, breakfast, getting dressed, sun cream, packed lunches and all out the door for 7.30am. We did it though just, and there I was in assembly with my camera to capture my daughter stand up in front of over 700 pupils when her name was read out by the Principle to say Happy Birthday to her.

As her birthday was midweek I booked her party for the weekend and I was able to invite a mix of pre-school buddies and new school  class mates along to the Build A Bear Workshop at our local mall along with an extremely large cookie cake from the Great American Cookie Company

Our visitors had taken a week off from us and did a road trip to New Orleans and Orange Beach, they are now back and as this Monday was Labor day in America (basically a bank holiday to us Brits) we went for a drive to Krause Springs this is a camping and swimming site founded in 1955 in a place called Spicewood. It had slightly treacherous terrain as several natural springs feed the pools making the rocks mossy but deliciously cool water to swim in even though it was a very murky colour!

Austin is known as the 'Music Capital of the World' so on one midweek evening we found the Cedar Street Courtyard in downtown Austin for 15 years it has been pairing two of Austin's favourite indulgences nightly live music and sumptuous cocktails. We loved the humorous band's eclectic dress sense and outstanding, addictive live music mix...definitely a place to visit again.


Trip to The Homeland!

In Austin we are always on a quest to try new restaurants as much as we can and after bypassing this particular one numerous times due to it's continuing long queues we decide to go for it one Saturday so with both children in tow we joined the queue in the 95f heat under the fans releasing a fine mist of cool water and try the Hopdoddy Burger Bar. After getting inside the restaurant we then had another 45 minute wait before we get served and seated, great decor, atmosphere and exceptional food if you love gourmet burger and fries.

Next on our list was a magnificent suggestion by some new friends of ours to trial the Salty Sow I will tell you my meal choice this time as it was the tastiest dish I've had so far in Austin Slow cooked beef shoulder, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, glazed root vegetables and fried egg.

Well the time has finally arrived I am now alone with two children waiting to board our flight to England I sit us all directly in front of the gate entrance so there is zero chance of us missing the boarding. I was anxious about the whole airport and flight experience on my own with the children but it went so smoothly I wished I hadn't worried so much...story of my life!

For a few days it was disorientating being back, how come I never noticed how small the roads are before I then picked up my hire car and stalled it at the first traffic lights because I forgot I wasn't driving an automatic strangely it took a few days before I got back in the swing of driving on the left again.

It was great to wake up to hear seagulls and smell the sea air, plus a walk to the corner shop seemed a novelty too. Every day and most evenings we met up with someone different I wanted to squeeze in as many people as possible as we probably will not be back now until next summer it was amazing catching up with everyone even though through Facebook, Skype, email, whatsapp and the rest I already knew most of what everyone had been doing.

We are now back in Austin and have some exciting weeks ahead of us....we have the girls cousins and parents visiting for three weeks, BOTH girls starting back at school, a couple of birthdays to celebrate, Thanksgiving to experience and Christmas on the horizon.


Countdown to UK!

In no time at all the girls and I will be returning to England for a short trip, we will have been away almost five months by then I'm guessing after a few days it'll feel like we never left.

The girls have now started their first "summer camp" on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 9am-1.30pm I think the girls were ready to just hang out with some kids and have time to themselves I know I was ready! This particular summer camp was a casual mix of group games, art and craft, science, creative music and movement, splash and outdoor play, guest visitors etc

After a great first day at camp the girls were desperate for day two, unfortunately this was the day Barack Obama was in town and for obvious historical reasons no one knows in advance when this will happen the police just turn up and close the highway in all directions for anything up to two hours luckily we hadn't actually got to the highway before it closed.

My husband and I were asked if we would like to see John Legend live at the Cedar Park Center John played numerous new tunes and gave little snippets of his life story in between each song which was amusing and endearing at the same time and bless his cotton socks not the best dancer in the world! He finished off with 'ordinary people' and 'all of me' a completely amazingly, awe inspiring and enchanting show.