December In Austin

We have not been able to find a real good pizza in Austin, even the usual brands we know from England such as Pizza Hut, Dominoes, Papa Johns etc just do not taste the same, I'm guessing its down to slightly different ingredients and definitely too much oil...then one evening when we were dining in our favourite local Italian (who do not sell pizza!) the waiter recommended a place to us thats quite a drive away but he promised had the best pizza in town, and last week we decided to give it a try Pieous Pizza

So this is where I saw on the menu brussel sprout pizza, now I am sure most of my UK/European readers will be thinking I have gone crazy but firstly I have to explain about the way brussel sprouts are cooked here in Austin have a read of this Best Brussels Sprouts In Austin. This pizza was definitely unique and definitely the best tasting to date!

Now the birthdays are out of the way its on to Christmas and of course before anything else is hunting down the perfect tree, we didn't go as tall this time as we have downsized our house since last Christmas but still there were plenty to choose from. Predictably the children fell out because one wanted one tree and the other wanted another identical tree which of course looked completely different in the eyes of a 6 year old...

A tradition in Austin from about mid November onwards are the trees begin getting decorated along our nearest highway some even with flashing lights! It looks very pretty and so unique, here is how it all started...Decorating Trees on the Highway

My parents arrived in December for their annual visit I had plenty planned for them of course, walking the dog, loading the dishwasher haha just kidding! We took them to see the Nutcracker, then one evening we watched our girls in their Peter Pan production downtown after four months of practice, they were both astounding as were all the children in the play such an amazing show for young children.

Dad had not been out on a boat in Austin so one night some friends of ours took us out on their boat to see the Christmas lights up and down the lake, it was pretty cold that night but nevertheless always fun on the boat.

On Saturday we drove to a town called Fredericksburg which is marketed as 'German Heritage, Texan Hospitality' it took about 1hr 45min to drive there with just one pit stop. The drive was very pretty, through lots of rural Texas countryside and vineyards. On arrival in Fredericksburg we headed to the Main Street, parked up and took a good hour or so browsing the array of obscure shops selling what appeared to be almost everything and anything.

Crossing a creek driving to Fredericksburg



 One evening we were keen to take my parents to Zilker Park downtown to walk the Austin Trail of Lights, we all went last year and loved it. Mum and dad were enthralled and said they had never seen anything like it, this is certainly a thing I love about being an expat showing visitors from home the sights, sounds and culture of this new world of ours...

Well thats all for now people, my next post will be after Christmas day and hopefully before New Year's eve but can't promise anything ;)

Happy Christmas to you all and no doubt I will be needing one of these come January...


Thanksgiving, Two Birthdays and UK Food

I can not believe its been over two weeks again, since I last published a post...I aimed to start publishing posts every 10 days then once a week but I'm not quite there yet #focus!

Thanksgiving has now been and gone over here in America, for those of you who are not quite sure why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving I came across this article which gives an easy reading overview: Why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving...

For us Brits the week goes on as normal except the children have 3 days off school and my husband had a few days off work, we were invited to a neighbour's house who have two girls the same age as ours which worked great. We enjoyed champagne, a lovely turkey dinner with trimmings plus a choice of pumpkin pie and apple pie AND ice cream for dessert.

Regular readers may remember we had a puppy join our family this year named Winston. Well lovely, slightly stinky Winston turned 1 years old at the end of November.

First day in his new home

This week we celebrated our eldest daughters birthday and as its at the beginning of December we always wait for the birthday party to be over before we start on decorating the house for Christmas and searching for the perfect tree.

We were excited this year when we found advent calendars and christmas crackers in our local chemist, last year we drove for 30 minutes to a shop called World Market to get our traditional Christmas extras.

I am also a member of various 'Brits in Texas' Facebook groups and I have started seeing lots of posts from other Brit expats when they have found UK products in their local stores, very helpful with Christmas coming. I almost tripped over my own feet rushing to get the last box of these from my local supermarket this week!

Next week my parents are arriving from England for two weeks, we have lots of Christmasy things planned for them of course and we'll enjoy the free babysitting for a while yay!


Up Close With Snoop, VIP F1 and GLM

RIP People of Paris.

Regular readers may remember my cliffhanger from my previous post so I can now tell you all about my recent weekend activities which included seeing Snoop Dogg LIVE finally after all these years plus watching Lewis Hamilton win the American Grande Prix.

My husband, our friends and I were very excited to get tickets for Snoop Dogg, but the usual reality at concerts and festivals is you are usually too far away to actually see the artist clearly but nevertheless you enjoy the music and the atmosphere.

Well this time only standing tickets were left, all seated tickets were already sold but once we got inside the venue The Moody Theatre it was clear that getting near the front row may actually be a possibility...and we did it, a few 'excuse me would you mind if I could get past you please' in a British accent soon meant we were at the front, blooming brilliant!!

I am not a music reviewer but I would highly recommend taking a look at this link I found which gives a great overview of the evening: http://www.texasrockreport.com/snoop-dogg-curates-a-classic-night-in-austin-texas-review/

Then on Sunday we head off to the Circuit of the Americas, now I have to admit I wasn't initially overexcited at going to this event but I thought well free VIP tickets why not. So we arrive and the weather had been terrible the day before making parking an almost catastrophe, lots of mud, people parking all over the place, the staff agitated and stuffy.

Anyway we are in, walk about 20 minutes in our wellies of course and find our quarters. Free food, alcohol, undercover seating all is looking up! Chat to my husbands work colleagues then head outside on the balcony and find some seats. 

All very casual, lovely and calm then the cars come out, the atmosphere changed immediately the air filled with anticipation, excitement and strangers are striking up conversations with each other. I wish I could describe the sound of the cars going by but I'm not sure words would do it justice. Maybe my video clip will give you an idea..

The following weekend was Halloween, our street organised a block party with a DJ, food and drink, art & crafts, BBQ, dancing competition and then after a few hours of mingling and kids playing it was time for the highlight of the night...trick or treating. 

All the kids piled into a neighbours truck and off they went going door to door for hours, fortunately the girls school does a 'donate your halloween candy' scheme to give to a charity so even after syphening off piles of candy to the school the girls still had enough to last at least a week...

This week I was excited to be published in the Global Living Magazine again, the article is entitled 'Returning Home After One Year Abroad' if you would like to read my article visit my FB page or email me at expataustinmum@hotmail.com. To purchase a digital copy of the magazine, download the app Global Living Magazine or visit Magcloud to purchase a printed copy.

Also whilst surfing the web recently I came across this article entitled '5 Expat Blogs to give you Itchy Feet' and was very pleasantly surprised to find my blog had been chosen as one of the 5 by rovingjay.com.

On a humourous final note I won't say where this happened but last week I was asked "So is your daughter a US citizen? because it says here she was born in England".  Me: (rather bemused and a little shocked) "Erm no that makes her a UK citizen!". On a positive note as least it eradicated the awkwardness of being asked where in Australia were we from?


A Day In The Life Of...

After six months of summer weather, the temperatures are slowly dropping finally...I now believe you can have too much of a good thing! I am getting so bored of summer clothes and I am finding myself looking longingly at the new autumn fashions arriving in the shops and online, in the mornings I can now wear a cardigan or jumper but by the afternoons its back to shorts and dresses.

Those of you who know me or read my post last year about our first Halloween in America may remember I am not the worlds biggest fan of over the top Halloween decorations, they just mildly freak me out! 

So here we are again and from exactly 1st October pumpkins started appearing on doorsteps, this progressed to fake snarling black cats and rats on mail boxes, to white life size 'ghosts' and skeletons hanging from trees and foot wide fake spiders climbing houses. My eldest daughter took the pictures whilst we did a drive by up our street...

Even our dog barks and growls at this house!
My husband and I love a good Indian curry so us having trouble finding a good curry house in Austin caused us much distress for months! At the weekend we went to in my opinion, the best Indian restaurant in Austin called G'Raj Mahal, each dish is made to order including choosing how spicy you would like your food. Shame we are currently out of their delivery zone...

This morning I had a shock as I opened the front door because on the front lawn was an armadillo. I had only seen them dead on the road after getting squashed by cars so I wrongly assumed they were as slow as hedgehogs, turns out they are quite quick on their feet so my photo is not quite as clear as I was hoping...maybe they freeze in the car headlights. The girls were delighted to watch it scurry across the garden!

This weekend will be exciting to me for two reasons, firstly we are going to see a world famous American rapper live in concert and also we'll be watching a world famous race, I'll update you all next time...


Blogathon ATX

Last Saturday I attended my very first blogging conference in Austin, I wasn't quite sure what to expect but I loved it and was sad I had to leave early.

#BlogathonATX is an annual day-long event facilitating blogging, collaboration, tech support and roundtable discussions led by some of the brightest blogging experts and social media enthusiasts in Austin and beyond. Source: Blogathonatx.com

The day started with a humorous panel comprising of four female bloggers discussing 'Social Media You Can See' focusing specifically on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

All of these ladies had a wealth of social media knowledge and experience, I still consider myself an amateur blogger but with an enterprising passion to grow my blog I just need to learn how...

Lunch was sponsored by Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew http://www.stilesswitchbbq.com of course. Well we are in Austin Texas it was never going to be cucumber sandwiches and sausage rolls!

Next up on the panel were people who had found success by connecting with their readers and discussed 'Know Your Reader/Define Your Voice'.

The panels I missed were 'Blogging For Real' and 'Getting What You Want from Your Blog'. Such a shame but I will most definitely be back next year.

On a final note I recently went to one of my favourite Italian restaurant's downtown Austin called Vespaio I am not a massive fan of taking pictures of my food in restaurants, however this particular evening I just had to do it. On the menu was 'Colossal Scrimp' I thought they must mean king prawns but as it turns out colossal scrimp is exactly what they meant! I had literally never seen anything like it before it was HUGE but very tasty and I would throughly recommend it.


Home for Summer Part 2

Entering week two of our trip home to England my husband has arrived and as we are now a group of four, accommodation with family is getting tight so we move into a hotel in town, even though we miss the home comforts of staying with family it provided us with the convenience of being able to walk into town for shopping, restaurants, meeting friends etc.

Chichester Cathedral built between 1091 and 1108

East Street Chichester City Centre

Chichester Cross: According to its inscription was built between 1477 to 1503
Our week consisted of many more family get togethers and dinners with friends plus a shopping trip of items to take back to America including English chocolate and candy, sorry sweets, clothes from my favourite store and new rucksacks from a famous British brand for the children to take back to school.

For our third week we dropped our hire car off at London Gatwick airport and flew to the Greek island of Rhodes with some great friends of ours they were renewing their wedding vows after ten years of marriage. Congratulations!

Our hotel in Rhodes: The Princess Andriana Resort & Spa

We wined and dined, sunbathed, swam, snorkeled, jet skied and laughed non stop for a week. Again always sad to say goodbye to our friends when we arrived back in London but this year there were no tears just lots of 'lets do this again next year'......plus myself and the 'bride' took advantage of the 'buy one get one free' wine offer onboard the flight and were two sheets to the wind by the time we got off the plane, a fun ending to a great holiday!

For our final night in England we got a taxi to my brother-in-law's house, the girls got to hang out with their cousins and the adults enjoyed our last decent curry for a while.

The next day we were flying back to Austin and we had one last surprise for the girls, we arranged for some Austin friends who were also flying back from Europe to catch the same plane as us. All the children were over the moon with excitement to see each other and we didn't hear hardly a peep out of them for the whole flight.

We had two days before the girls started back at school and they have now been back for four weeks, plus since arriving back in Austin we have celebrated my birthday and our youngest birthday.


Home for Summer Part 1

Before I begin on our adventures of going home to England I wanted to post these adorable pictures of Winston back in July swimming in the creek at Twin Falls Barton Creek Greenbelt. This was his first proper opportunity to swim unaided, he needed a gentle shove but when he got going he didn't want to stop!

So the time has come again for me and the girls to board our direct flight to London, this time there were no questions or anxiety from me and them about where to go in the airport or what to do or expect. I had minimal sleep on the flight but at least I got to watch a film of my choice in relatively peaceful circumstances whilst drinking some wine...what more could mum of two want on a long haul flight!

After just 24hrs rest my first social event was a hen do (bachelorette party to my American friends) at Goodwood Horse Racing almost all of the ladies here I have known for a very long time and hadn't seen for a whole year, lots of hugs and kisses later we concentrate on getting changed, hair and make up complete and on with some silly games and champagne drinking, I'm sure you can imagine this is one of the only pictures I could safely put online for public viewing!

On my list of things to do was a visit to the passport office in London, the rules are only one person per appointment so I took a train by myself and arrived at London Victoria station with plenty of time to take some pictures and soak up the sights. I guess being away from not just the city but your home country makes you look at it all through new possibly some might say rose-tinted glasses. 

I most definitely enjoyed listening to the British accent everywhere and knowing the value of things I was buying, I would liken it to putting on a comfy pair of old slippers, you may not have realised the joy they bought you at the time but coming back there is a lot to be said for familiarity when you have been away for a while.

Unusual advice for a British train station!

One of my oldest friends is a girl I went to school with called Emma, her children are similar age to mine and even though we live, well used to live an hour apart we always make the effort to get together every summer even before I moved across the pond. 

This summer we met at Birdworld, a place I actually remember going to when I was a child...I was mildly concerned most of the things to do here are outside but I put my trust in the English summer weather and we made it to almost the end of the day before it started raining!

Punch and Judy show at Birdworld

This year it was my mum's 70th birthday, to celebrate she wanted the family to spend a weekend in the village she grew up in called Matlock Bath located in the midlands of England, we found the house mum grew up in, the school she went to and various other haunts from mums childhood. We stayed in a B&B (AKA Bed and Breakfast) called Sheriff Lodge that my mum used to also stay in with my older siblings when she visited Matlock Bath after she moved to the south of England.

We arrived Friday evening and after checking in and dropping off our luggage we made our way up a very steep hill to a local pub for dinner, it even had a beer garden and kids play area.....these things other Brits take for granted, to the girls and I we were in English heaven plus no one was sweating even though we were sat outside in the middle of summer!

Saturday arrived and after a hearty full English breakfast we adhere to my older sisters itinerary and begin the day, many hours and many miles of walking later we really feel we have made the most of Matlock Bath with plenty of memories for everyone to take home with and reminisce for years to come.

Check out the freaky looking rabbit in the window...

Keep an eye out for my next post Home for Summer Part 2 coming soon, when I get a chance to write it undisturbed!