... when you're constantly on the move, few things remain unchanged.

My fabulous New Years Eve dress

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

After posting yesterday about New Years Eve sparkle - I headed to the nail salon for a shimmering manicure and then to the shops in search of the perfect, glittery NYE dress.  I didn't really have anything specific in mind, only that it needed to have sleeves because of how cold it's going to be tonight.  (Of course I love the anthropologie dress I posted a pic of yesterday but even the sale price of $265 it's expensive straight after Xmas and a trip away).

My perfect dress evaded me store after store and I felt quite down by the time Will met me a little later, freaking out because I'd left everything until last minute.  Little did I know however that Will: my husband, best friend and knight in shining armor had a surprise waiting for me back at the house.  He didn't act or say anything suspicious on the way home but the surprise dress was hanging in full view the moment we stepped inside! It was my perfect dress!




A dress I've had for two years but worn only once: a dress that was sparkly and sleeved: a dress I'd forgotten all about! Will had fished it out of my wardrobe after my earlier despondent phone call and cemented once more his position as #1 in my life as a smile crossed my lips and I began to envision the accessories and shoes that will go with it! This sequined, classically cut Rachel Roy mini dress ticks all of my criteria for the perfect, sparkling NYE dress!

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you greet 2014 looking good, feeling great and surrounded by love so that the spirit of NYE brings you all that and more for the year to come!

This week's tip | Always sparkle on NYE

Monday, December 30, 2013

In most European countries, New Years Eve is the major celebration of the year. In some of them, it's the night that 'Santa' (known by many different names) comes to hand out presents, but mostly NYE overshadows every other religious or political holiday and is simply the biggest bash on everyone's calender!

Although my parents assimilated to Australian culture in many ways and let my brother and I believe that Santa came on December 24th like all the other kids; growing up in a Russian family meant that we were also taught to believe in the magic of NYE.  Part of the magic of the evening is that it erases the entire previous year, wiping the slate clean for all and giving everyone the chance to start over by learning from mistakes or gaining the courage to act differently.  The other part of the evening's magic comes to those who focus only on good things from the ending year.  Removing negativity is vital, for there's an old Russian saying: 'the way you greet the new year is the way you will live the entirety of it.'

Of course most Russians also take this saying literally and (they always do for social occasions anyway, but for NYE especially) make sure to adorn their very best attire.  To me this means a little more than 'normal dressy'... it means sparkle! I think all girls should sparkle at least twice in their lives: on their wedding day and on New Years Eve.  There's truly nothing more festive or uplifting than that glittery, shimmery dance of reflecting lights!

Radiating Triangles necklace,  $138 J Crew
Maddalena Dress $260 Anthropologie
Your Present nail laquer $7.99, China Glaze
Enchanting Glitter Gold Pumps $19.99, Sexy Dresses


Wrapping up festivities

It's all over after this week, the festive season I mean.  Once we reign in the New Year on Tuesday night, we're done with parties, family get-togethers and festivity until next November on Thanksgiving when the excitement builds again.  Some families get together and celebrate Easter, like mine in Australia, but there's no chance of us getting over there this time so aside from the sporadic yearly celebrations of St Patty's Day or the 4th July... my season of festivities is officially over after Tuesday.

We cram a lot into December, Will and I.  His birthday and our anniversary meander right in between all of the Christmas and NYE hype.  When you add certain family drama and personality clashes that are strewn in on top of it all, it becomes quite the headache.  This year, we thought we'd be happier if we were on our own, trying to make our festive season 'special' for ourselves.  Instead we found that drama, albeit tense and horrible, is part and parcel of belonging to a family.  Without said drama or the personality clashes, occasional drunken outbursts or temper tantrums of previous Christmas's, we were just alone in a peaceful desert - having a blast, but feeling somewhat hollow; just another trip away and not like Christmas at all.  

Jane Austen wrote that arrogance is an affliction of youth and if that's the case, we must be growing up.  The lessons we've learnt are that we can't change naught but ourselves and that family is the one constant in our lives that we can't do anything about.  The only thing worse than tantrums and tension is not having them around at all.

Merry Christmas from the Big Bend

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hoping that everyone is having a Christmas as wonderful as ours here at the Lajitas golf resort, Big Bend Texas.




Christmas Eve in the TX desert

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When thinking about Christmas in America, snow and cold weather come to mind - not warm paradise 25 degree (70 Fahrenheit) days or bright, desert skies.  Yet here we are and I feel so blessed to be able to spend the most magical time of the year in such a magical location.  We arrived last night (after driving all day) at this amazing golf resort in the town of Lajitas, Texas


which is in between the Big Bend State and National parks.  If I had to pick one word to describe it, that word would be WOW!

Everything around us is picturesque beauty fit for a movie set, in fact more than once I've told Will that's how I feel: like we're on the set of a movie because I've never been so completely surrounded by this much beauty in my life.  There's mountains on every horizon as far as the eye can see, vivid blue skies, rich red soil, rivers and creeks with sparkling blue water, cacti, wildlife and gemstones glistening in the sunlight.  Just breathtaking.




All four of us had a great time today in the pet friendly state park - hiking, talking to locals and fossiking for gemstones and fossils!  We didn't know before we came out here, but this is where most American dinosaurs were discovered and there are fossils EVERYWHERE! (As if this place couldn't get any better).  I recommend it all - the resort we're staying at, the live music at local bars, the Ghost Town, the hiking trails, scenic drives, horse riding and guided tours!

Even though it is Christmas Eve and our families are all together back in Atlanta or Australia, we don't regret this trip.  The locals and hotel staff are doing everything to make it as Christmassy as possible, with decorations everywhere and live carolers visiting at intervals during the day.  Now we're back in our room: Will and the pups asleep all around me and I'm sipping eggnog next to my Christmas candle and reflecting on a wonderful day that I had to share with you.

Tonight Santa comes and I can't wait to celebrate by eating a Christmas lunch with the rest of the hotel guests, open presents and then explore more of this magnificent landscape.  I hope you're all happy and resting well tonight for a fantastic Christmas tomorrow.  In the meantime, enjoy some eggnog and these pictures from my day, along with a new perspective of Christmas in another splendorous (albeit unconventional) corner of our world.

Everything behind that river in the distance is Mexico!
Yep, THAT river.
TX HWY 170


Since this place is so ancient, there are ruins everywhere!
And the Mexican-influenced architecture is very obvious. Breathtaking, really.
Found a sweet picnic spot overlooking the 'Balancing Rocks'
Enjoyed this Mexican chocolate immensly! Will definitely buy some to take home. YUM

The Closed Canyon
Big Bend State Park
The Closed Canyon,
Big Bend State Park
My cocktail, The Scorpion
very delicious!
recommended by the bar staff at the 'Starlight Theater' in the Ghost Town

This week's tip | finding hot tea in America

Monday, December 23, 2013

Americans don’t drink hot tea.  Iced tea is available EVERYWHERE – even McDonalds sells it like a soft drink – but ask for hot tea and you’ll be greeted with a puzzled expression or at best; a ‘Lipton’ tea (which in my opinion is horrible)!

I spent my first year in America bitching about all of this but then realized  that hot, boiled water was available almost everywhere that coffee is percolated so no when I travel, I carry my own tea bags!

After extensive market research (and many disappointments) I can now confidently recommend these 3 types of hot black tea:





Out of these three, the Bigalow is the cheapest and most readily found at any grocery store – but any of these taste amazing and are preferable to (piss water) Lipton!

the weekend

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Will and I are quite exhausted but very fulfilled after the action packed weekend we just had with his aunt and uncle.  Since it was their very time to Austin (and actually his aunt's first time in Texas), we were up early every day to give them the tourist experience; but we hadn't  seen each other in two months so we made plenty of down time to sit around and catch up in between,which meant going to sleep very late!  But all of us being exhausted is part and parcel of getting together.

One thing that we all agreed was the highlight, was our visit to the Oasis on Lake Travis - a massive complex in an incredible location: perched high on top of a hill overlooking Lake Travis in all its glory and featuring over four stories of bars/ restaurants and cafes.

http://oasis-austin.com/

Although Lake Travis is still quite empty and the weather was chilly and windy while we were there, our drinks, dessert and views outside on the patio completely made up for it.  If you're ever considering a visit to Austin: add this place to your itinerary - it is definitely worth a visit.  Will and I look forward to going back once the weather's warmer to check out its famous sunsets.

(Although it's worth paying it a visit now too; if only to check out the beautiful Christmas decorations).


packing Xmas into a suitcase for our vacation

Tomorrow we're setting off on our Christmas-desert getaway so after dropping Will's aunt and uncle at the airport, I got busy packing.  It took a little longer than usual because I wanted to ensure I packed the right items to keep our spirits bright and maintain a festive, Christmasy mood away from home, the tree and decorations.  Short of packing the tree itself, I decided the following items would do the trick:



1.Christmas scented candle
(this one is from Antropologie is in a tin container, 
has a lid and a not-so-girly-fragrance, so is perfect for travel)
2. Christmas blanket
3. 'Fresh Balsam' room spray
4. Xmas earrings
5. a Christmassy mug makes every drink more merry
6. seasonally scented hand sanitizers (from Bath&Body Works)
7. themed travel sized tissue pack
8. fuzzy socks 

Most important was the one thing that I didn't take a photo of: presents to open on Christmas day!

Thoughtful gifts

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I love buying gifts and I take plenty of time upon every gift-giving occasion to find something that the recipient will really like. It makes me happy to see their face light up - actually at that moment it's hard to tell who's happier, me or them!  My earnest belief is that no matter the size of the present: it's only valuable if it comes from the heart and one of my friends, Melissa, shares this in common with me... although she's like the Jedi master and I her Padwan in this arena.  She consistently gives some of the most imaginative and thoughtful presents I've ever received.

A few Christmas's ago, she gave me this:


Know what it is?  I didn't!  

This is a 'glove clip' - a vintage store find - belonging to an era long past when ladies were always neat, organized and had a need for them.  The front end grabs the gloves, holding them in place, while the chain on the back connects to a point in your hand bag so you never need to fish around in there looking for them!  


This incredibly unique gift (although monetarily worth much less than others I received that Christmas) remains one of my all time favourites because it showed me just how well she knows me and my adoration of all things relating to old fashioned ladies.

That's the thing about thoughtful presents: the intention and warmth behind them is what people feel the most. Even a designer handbag or Cartier watch are unwelcome when received with feelings of obligation or superiority.  I'd prefer a $5 glove clip any day!

Entertaining

It's been a little crazy here this week.  Will came back from Atlanta sick with the flu so I've been looking after him as well as getting the house ready for his Aunt and Uncle who are arriving tonight to visit us, and Austin, for the first time so I want everything to be perfect!

Like any attentive hostess, I like everything to be ready and available for when my guests arrive; that means the house needs to be immaculately clean, the fridge and mini bar need to be full, their bed needs to be neatly made with fresh, scented sheets and have folded bath towels at its base; and finally, I like to have the guest bathroom stocked with basic items in case they've forgotten something.

Now that Will's feeling better, the shopping's done, the pups are bathed and the house is in a state of sparkling anticipation; I'm sitting down for a cup of coffee and a minute to myself - taking a breather and updating my blog.  I feel so excited!  I love having people over and I'm thrilled that one by one our family is making the trip to Austin and to our little place - which is so perfect for entertaining!  I'm particularly glad it's this time of year: when Austin isn't anywhere near as cold as anywhere they might be coming from and the Christmas spirit is all around!

One of my favourite things about entertaining is playing tour guide of the city in which we live; combining the people I love to places I love makes me so happy!  In Atlanta I got to show lots of my family from Australia around and be there for their first experience of it.  There's nothing quite like their first impressions matching mine and that moment of triumphant victory inside me that knows I've brought them a moment of joy!

I'm looking forward to doing the same this weekend: starting tomorrow when we go on the famous 'duck tour' of the city and tomorrow night when we drive through a Christmas light show and tour Santa's historic village!  I'll do my best to stay in touch throughout it all.  Hope everyone else has a splendid weekend as well!  Happy Holidays xo

this week's tip | always take room spray

Monday, December 16, 2013

This may be a controversial topic but we're all human so let's be honest: travelling and toilet breaks are not ideal companions.  Being confined to close quartered situations like hotel rooms, planes, trains etc can be embarrassing when you need to... er... go.

This applies particularly to the female division: (who never have any movement down there and resent any implications to the contrary!)  we believe what happens in the loo should stay private! For this reason, whenever I travel, I always pack a small room spray.  It's both a courtesy to the person after you and a savior from the person before!   

This 'PooPourri' is my top preference spray when flying because it's not an aerosol and comfortably fits in any makeup bag or pocket for an inconspicuous trip to the bathroom:

http://www.poopourri.com/product-cat/women/#PooPourriOriginal

And these small aerosols from Bath&Body Works are perfect for all other kinds of travel:

http://www.bathandbodyworks.com/product/index.jsp?productId=22811236

PS: if you're like me and you like to change things up every season, both of the PooPourri and Bath&Body Works online stores have a huge variety of small, carry sized seasonal fragrances, eg:

http://www.bathandbodyworks.com/
product/index.jspproductId=23738506&cp=
12586994.12936200.4147329
http://www.poopourri.com/product-cat/holiday/





A surprise Christmas getaway!

The poor guy on the right lost his carrot nose somewhere along the line...
These adorable snowmen were a present from Will's grandma two Christmas's ago and make the perfect conclusion to my decorating for Christmas posts because I won't be adding anything more.  After talking it over, Will and I have decided to take off on a mini-break over Christmas for a change of scenery to somewhere neither of us have ever been... the desert!

I hope you've enjoyed reading (probably more like laughing :P) about my first full-fledged Christmas decorating attempt and that you'll join Will, Baxter, Dorothy and I on our very first family Christmas vacation!  As of next week the photos I post will look more like these:

http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/big-bend-national-park-us-tx-big.htm
http://www.parade.com/19152/viannguyen/15-stunning-national-parks-to-cross-off-your-travel-bucket-list/#bigbend_r-hensley

http://milesoftexas.com/news/?may-2010-memorial-day-weekend-big-bend-national-park-trip-report-10.html

Even though we will be away from friends and family, I'm super excited to be going on this trip!  I hope everyone else is having a wonderful holiday season too! xo

Food for thought | Cinnamon fairy bread

Sunday, December 15, 2013

In my new weekly segment I want to share my favourite foods with you as well as my taste adventures to improve my palate, as per my friend's advice.

To start with, I thought I'd blog about what I'm currently enjoying: a slice of cinnamon fairy bread.

Image From: http://ovenhaven.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/the-one-where-i-need-a-sugar-fix-recipe-cinnamon-toasties/

Traditional fairy bread is a simple Australian dessert snack made using ingredients most people have readily available in their kitchens.  All it takes is a slice of bread, some unsalted butter and sprinkles. You simply butter the bread and sprinkle the top of it.

Image from: http://www.mylot.com/image/1111883/fairy-bread-fairy-bread-bread-with-hundreds-and-thousands

Cinnamon fairy bread is perfect for a winter's day and is just as simple! Requiring a buttered slice of bread that's sprinkled with cinnamon sugar (a combination of sugar and ground cinnamon). 



Simple pleasures... Yum yum!

Cheap stocking holder solution, just in time for Xmas!

Ok, call me a tight ass but I do not want to spend $38 on a single stocking holder!  As much as I adore these ones from Anthropologie...


 ...there are four of us living in this house, so that would mean $152!!!  I can't even begin to justify spending that much on hooks that hardly anyone will notice and will only be on display for a month!  That being said, it took me a while to think up a solution to the stocking holder problem.  How on earth was I going to get our stockings upon the mantel?

I seriously looked everywhere but when the price was right, either I didn't like the design or I couldn't find four that matched.  The closest I got was finding some for $10 each at Target - but something stopped me buying them.  Anyway, just before time completely ran out - a slight stroke of genius hit me when I conveniently found some spare hooks and our problem was solved!

Cheap as chips and you can buy these anywhere! (Or here).




They're not decorative or hardly visible at all but - if you're on a time or budgetary crunch this Christmas - they're perfect: holding up to two pounds and removing easily! (Try spray painting them silver or gold for more dazzle).  Happy Holidays!

Keeping Austin weird | with roadside Christmas trees?


If you're driving around Austin right now, you'll notice the strange phenomenon that's occurring all over the place: Xmas trees are sprouting up over night and other trees, shrubs and hedges are being adorned with ornaments!  While many cities worldwide pay their councils for seasonal decorations - here, members of the general public are seeing pulling up on roadsides, whipping out their own decorations and getting to work!  Some are more elaborate than others but all of them heartfelt!













Surely this is one of the things that makes Austin weird but maybe I'm the weird one because I find the very fact that nobody steals them strange!  I truly think it's a testament to the types of people who live here.


 

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About unwavering me

Sharing my stories of migrating from Australia to the US | travel adventures | married life | furry kids | new experiences | lessons | and loving life despite always missing home. xo.

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spring in Austin TX

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