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

Finally decorating for Christmas

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving is over so now everyone's focus is on Christmas.  Not letting sad thoughts of a lonely Christmas away from Atlanta, Will's family, tradition and merriment creep in; I'm focusing on decorating our little home which, as previously mentioned, I've never done before and bring some festive cheer our way.

My Christmas vision consists of tartan, burlap, mercury gold & silver accents, live fir smelling up the house, personalized stockings for each of us, deer and stags - which I've come to adore since moving here and seeing white-tailed deer all around our street and neighbourhood. Yesterday was Black Friday so I figured taking advantage of the sales was the perfect place to start on my vision. While everyone else seemed to be running around like chickens with no heads, looking for random deals on anything and everything, I set out with list securely in hand and braved the crowds starting with the craft stores to find the first item on my list, a wreath:



A wreath is my favourite decoration for sure.  I'm beyond excited to finally hang one but never realized how expensive they are, so keeping all other decorating plans in the back of my mind, I set myself a $50 budget to find one yesterday. I quickly got overwhelmed at all the options and decided to get creative, buying a very simple green pine wreath with nothing but a gold berry accent on it.  It cost me $14 and I happily walked toward the cash register grabbing a tartan ribbon for $3 and a packet of plastic baubles for $6 on the way.  This made my wreath cost $23 all together and took no time this morning to afix the ribbon and baubles with green wire that I already had.  All that was left to do was step back and admire my handy work.

After the craft store I proceeded to several department stores, determined to find matching stockings for the four of us, but was not so lucky.  (I did get a gorgeous head band from Macy's but otherwise, I stayed on track and was so, so good! :)  Anyone who knows me knows there was no way I was missing a sale at anthropologie so that's where I headed next. Although I didn't like their stocking selections this year, I did get these mercury glass initials for when I eventually do find our stockings (Baxter's initial is in the mail since they ran out in store).



Then on our way home and completely by accident, Will and I ducked into Wallgreens where lo and behold, we found our perfect balcony decorations! We instantly liked these over sized ornaments because although they have the expensive appearance of mercury glass, they're actually made from shatterproof plastic and only cost $3.99 each!



For now I'm done with the front.  Next week I plan to move it inside where I want to decorate the mantel and fireplace. Stay tuned!

Austin's oldest hotel

Thursday, November 28, 2013


The Driskill Hotel is an amazing place.  Notwithstanding its incredible history that today makes it one of Austin's most haunted buildings or the enormous list of high profile celebrities and politicians have that have spent nights under its roof: the building itself is simply spectacular.  It's grand to the tiniest detail as if every brick was laid with pride and caution.

I'm sitting inside the upstairs bar right now: scribbling on a napkin beneath the dull, yellowish glow of the lights, sipping on the signature cocktail - called the 'Batini' and taking it all in.  The engraved ceiling tiles, oversized leather sofas, cowhide backed bar stools, large fireplace with longhorn wall mount above its mantel all contribute to the atmosphere in here which is distinctly cozy and masculine, reminiscent of the country grandeur of a wealthy ranch.  The chair I'm sitting in is a comfortable but heavy dark green leather arm chair just like the others that stand around the wooden tables and to my left is a stage upon which stands a man and his guitar; singing classic American songs.



It's Thanksgiving night and I'm with Will, his father and youngest brother.  We're here after a nice dinner at the Hilton hotel and they are all transfixed at the football game on the TV above my head.  I know so little about football that I don't even know who's playing but in any case I'm too taken in by this place and all the glamorous things that have taken place here.  Maybe it's that sense of awe or maybe it's the spirit of Thanksgiving all around me but I'm feeling especially grateful for my life and this moment.  With three amazing people and without a care in the world.  We are truly blessed.

Earlier at the Hilton

Giving thanks on Thanksgiving



In keeping with Thanksgiving tradition, I want to take a moment to mention some things that I am thankful for:

- Will/ love/ happiness/ our life
- our amazing puppies
- family: accepting, encouraging, supporting and always good for a laugh (ey, Vasso?)
- good friends and laughter
- my life
- my health
- my freedom
- cold weather and changing seasons
- scented candles
- good wine
- creative expression
- literature
- (I hate saying this, but:) a good sitcom
- flowers, herbs and gardening
- nail polish
- anthropologie (not meaning to sound materialistic today, but let's be honest!!)
- which brings me to: my best friends and their unwavering honesty
- the beach
- all of the creative muses in my life that have shaped me in some way (Christopher Nolan, JK Rowling and way more authors as well as Mary J Blige and her uplifting, inspiring music)
- travel
- inspiring people that are true to themselves and really good at what they do

Atlanta's most amazing cafe

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

There's a cafe in Midtown Atlanta called Cafe Intermezzo which is constantly voted in the top 5 cafes of the city.  It gets my vote for number one because everything there is delicious and because stepping inside it feels like entering a portal that transports you directly to Southern Europe.  Everything there is authentically European from the meals, the music, artwork, furniture, actual printed menu, elaborately upholstered chairs to the tiny tables on top of which sit single flower vases and bowls with sugar cubes.  

I adore this cafe and used to love taking along my notebook, sitting at the antiquated bar and ordering a latte with 'schlag,' a slice of cake from their enormous selection and writing.  I also took every visitor of mine along to this cafe! ;)



My dad enjoying the cherry pie
My friend Melissa and I, patiently waiting for our chocolate cake
More coffee please!!



My new favorite item of furniture

Monday, November 25, 2013

On Friday night our coffee table finally broke.  I say 'finally' because Will and I bought it from IKEA when we moved into our first Atlanta apartment three years ago for $20 and – although it’s been a great little table – it’s had a rough life: taking its final beating during the moving process.  That’s why after arranging our new living room and placing it in the center, we kept watching it tentatively wondering how much longer it would last.  We were hoping it would see us through past the Christmas season but sadly, after an unfortunately angled doggy-collision, one of its legs snapped in half and it went down like a ton of bricks!

Our old coffee table in our old apartment 
We tried to see if we could live without one but by mid-morning on Saturday we'd already found that we couldn't!  So we talked it over (ruled out Will's idea to replace it with an exact replica from IKEA) and decided the time had come for us to invest in something more permanent than a chip-board coffee table.  We looked online at different styles and agreed on the trunk styles that are big enough to be used as coffee tables and are practical for extra storage to boot!

Keen to spend as little as possible, we hit several antique stores in East Austin’s smaller towns – Marble Falls and Burnet – but without any luck came back to town weary, freezing and desperate, calling it a day.  Yesterday we got up early and determined, braving the cold on our mission once more.  Four hours, seven stores and two coffees later, we found our perfect, wonderful, amazing new trunk table at World Market






It couldn’t be more compatible with our living room and fits the couch cushions (that Will likes to throw on the floor when he stretches out) easily inside!  I seriously think this trunk is my new favourite thing inside our house! 

this week's tip | fight fatigue


Everyone knows that lavender has calming properties that assist in sleep and relaxation, so I won't go on about its wonderful smell or soothing nature.  What I wanted to say is less known and something that I came across quite accidentally: lavender ironically also relives fatigue!!


The same calming properties that can sedate you, also soothe tired eyes and fight fatigue (as long as you don't apply the preparation for too long)! It's so simple! 


Here's what you need:

- fresh, dried lavender satchels
OR// if you can't get your hands on any try this:
- several drops of lavender essential oil on a handkerchief/ tissue

Here's what I do:

I just apply my lavender satchels to my eyes and deeply inhale for about a minute.    

Whenever I'm feeling fatigued - whether I've been staring at a computer screen for ages, on an aeroplane for hours or just getting out of bed after a restless night - this is the perfect natural pick-me-up!




November in Austin (revised)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

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Ok, so I want to say 'what gives?' about how the rest of my week has turned out.  On Thursday I blogged about how hot it's been, on Friday it rained and dropped a few degrees, on Saturday it turned freezing (I mean literally freezing: 0°C!!! or 32°F) and there was a severe weather condition warning advising everyone to stay inside; then today has been just as freezing with a 60% chance of snow!!

I became a little spooked when I heard over the radio that this is the coldest Austin has been since January 2011! - I even nervously joked about how mother nature read my blog and took offense to my claims - until I spoke to several locals who assured me that this is completely normal in Austin and quite the way it always works: one day it's hot, the next it could be raining/ snowing/ or hot again. 

So now I know: the weather in Austin is just one of the things that keeps it weird.  For those who don't know: Austin's slogan is Keep Austin Weird an ode to the hippies, farmers, musicians and liberals who at one point made up the majority of its population.  Now it's just a cover for any crazy behavior you may wish to exhibit on any given day - allowing you to get away with it as long as you say 'I'm just doing my part to keep Austin weird!'  



Rainy recollections of New Orleans

Friday, November 22, 2013


It's overcast and muggy today but not so humid that being outside is unbearable: a perfect rainy day.  Last time I was part of a rainy day so perfect, I was in New Orleans in the summertime - ironically enough with my parents!

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I know that generally New Orleans (at night) is the crazy, hectic, loud party capital of America and not somewhere you'd go with your parents - but if you've ever had a chance to wander the streets in the day time when it's overcast with thunder rumbling above you and rain threatening to pour down at any second; you will find the French influenced city as romantic and classy as (I'd imagine) Paris itself.


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The St Louis Cathedral is kind of the signature postcard building of New Orleans.  It's so breathtakingly beautiful and elaborately constructed that it's totally baffling to imagine it could have been built so long ago!  The inside is even more incredible:


When you walk out of the Cathedral, these gates are the first thing you see; they mark the entrance to Lafayette Square:


As we walked away from the square and into the French Quarter, we found a definite perk to walking around in 'bad' weather - the streets were virtually deserted which is so rare for summertime in New Orleans.  We really felt like we had the place to ourselves and like all the shops, restaurants, galleries and jazz bars (yes, some of them are open in the day time) were open just for us!

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Even when empty, there are so many distractions on these streets!  Between shop windows, elaborate architecture, street performers and enticing cafes which smell strongly of European coffee: you forget to look up.  Once you do, a whole new world opens up to you as you realize people live up there!  All along the hectic streets with insane nightlife are these second and third level apartments (the ground level is typically a shop/ bar) inside of which the residents have must somehow found a way to live normal lives entailing jobs, schedules and not being tired or hung over every day!  (Quite a feat in America's party capital).
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A city this old obviously has a very rich history.  Although I won't bore you with all the wonderful, historical things we did - this private garden does deserve a mention.  These were quite popular at a time and I find the very thought of them amazing!
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My favourite thing about New Orleans is the fact that everything is historically registered and therefore can't be altered.  This means that the original buildings still stand and are used today, exactly as they always were, maintaining the authenticity and integrity of a city who's stories are as rich as the architecture.

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My second favourite thing are the beignets at Cafe Du Monde!  (Terrible coffee and service though definitely leaves a lasting impression and quite a hilarious memory!)

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November in Austin, TX

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I feel like I've been taken back in time or maybe time has just frozen.  The scenery in Austin right now is just what it was in Atlanta two months ago but by then, the city was already colder than Austin is now.  One of the things I adored about Atlanta was that it distinctly had four seasons - each vastly different and wonderful in its own way.

Here, it's the middle of November and I'm hot.  Perhaps I've been taken further back in time - maybe as far as three years ago when I was living in Australia since now we're exactly one week from Thanksgiving (which I have come to associate with cold, murky weather) and I'm wearing a singlet and denim shorts, outside in the sunlight replanting a chrysanthemum that's still sprouting new buds!


I can just picture Atlanta: everyone's in a hurry out on the streets, craving the warmth of buildings.  They're wrapped head to toe in boots and scarves; maybe the gloves have even come out already.  I can also imagine Manhattan: pedestrians braving the furious wind in fur coats, anxiously awaiting the first snowfall that will cover the city in a layer of shimmering, white, clean beauty and turn it into a real-life snow globe.  Thanksgiving celebrations in both cities involving snug blankets beside fireplaces, cider, cable-knit sweaters and pies of every variety.    


Am I even in America anymore?  Here in Austin the leaves are only now changing color with some sporadic trees reluctantly dropping their leaves while others are ignoring their seasonal obligations entirely.  The murkiness of autumn is just starting to creep up our street and linger outside of our windows - and that's only happened twice, on overcast days.  I feel so turned around and confused, looking at my calender and very consciously repeating to myself that I'm in Austin and it's November, hoping it will sink in soon.


I am looking forward to next week - even if it feels more like Easter than Thanksgiving.  We are having Will's little brother and dad stay with us which is always fun and after all; family is all you really need on Thanksgiving and a welcome trade-off in lieu of my beloved red, orange and yellow backdrop and blistering cold.

who cut the cheese?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

For as long as I've known Will, he's been saying that the height of success is to receive a wheel of cheese because this gift can only mean two things: 1) you've made it in life and people know there's no other earthly item you doesn't already possess or need OR 2) you've surrounded yourself with well-to-do people that give these types of gifts. 

While we've had this conversation many, many times; the after affects have never been discussed, namely what happens after you receive an enormous wheel of cheese?  That's why when he found out our local grocery store was having a 'cheese cutting' ceremony at 2pm yesterday, Will took it as a sign from the universe, arranged his lunch break accordingly and dragged me along to learn how to cut and properly store large amounts of cheese.  The whole five minute drive to the store, he was giddily making fifth grade jokes about cutting the cheese - if you know what I mean.




I normally frown upon Will's hair brained schemes and talk him out of them but as I saw no negative repercussions to this one - other than loosing some time out of my day and a few fake laughs at the fifth grade jokes - I went along and with considerable embarrassment stood in the crowd (which consisted of employees out of the deli section and a few day time pension shoppers).


As I looked around, I realized that the only two people actually excited about being there were my husband and the man cutting the cheese.  Everyone else was red faced and cross armed - hoping that no one they knew from the outside world walked by to witness this mandatory work event.  Then the funniest thing happened - the cheese cutter who was giving an excited cheese history lesson and presenting like this was his shot at an Olympic title, snapped the cheese cutting wire and became distraught about his demonstration not going to plan.  His utter depression actually eased the tension in the crowd, as people smiled and several uncrossed their arms.  During this whole time, Will had been grinning and taking photos for future reference.  



This might be the dorkiest thing we've ever done - cheese cutting at HEB
Once the cheese was cut with a regular knife (anticipation palpable) we were given our first taste of a 200LB Swiss cheese wheel.  The first bite went down well but then bitter disappointment set in as I realized I still don't like cheese.  Will was disappointed too since he'd arrived here expecting to leave with at least a quarter of the wheel but the taste of it didn't justify the expense.  I'm not sure why he was expecting a wheel of cheese to taste different to regular cheese...



On the drive home (that I was expecting to be filled with Will's disappointment and abandonment of the with the cheese-wheel/ success theory)  he informed me that he thinks we don't know enough about cheese and should therefore take a cheese tasting course, or perhaps enroll in a season of classes.  I starred out the window in shock - afraid that I might have supported the wrong hair brained scheme after all.

the weekend

Monday, November 18, 2013

Back to the office today after a wonderful, warm weekend here in Austin involving some much needed yard work, a date night dinner  (complete with live piano and cello playing) with the hubs, a trip to the Barton Creek Farmer's Market, a walk around downtown and a visit to Lake Travis.


View of Austins skyline through the rose garden on the pedestrian bridge


Phew, it seems like a lot when I write it down!  Though all of it was all fun (yes I do enjoy yard work!), seeing Lake Travis was my highlight.  It's in a breathtaking location with an equally beautiful journey getting there!  I actually found it very unusual driving up narrow winding mountain roads with houses resembling castles on either side, each one more grand than the one before it. Then slowly descending to the level of the lake where it opens up before you and you have a clear view of each mansion perched majestically upon the cliffs.  I'd recommend it to anyone!



Though right now the water level in the lake is very low - due to a drought that has impacted Austin with varying degrees of severity over the past three years - Lake Travis hasn't lost any of its charm:



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Lake Travis

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 Where we are standing and where these beautiful flowers are growing in the photos above would all typically be underwater...that's how severe the drought has been.  While we had a blast exploring what would have been the lakes bottom at one point, it was sobering to know that more than half of this great lake's water body has dried up, taking with it the life source of every one of the off-shooting creeks - now sadly nothing more than shriveled up beds.

I love that the city of Austin has commemorated the victims and hardship caused by this dreadful drought by erecting this 'ghost' cedar elm tree - an actual casualty of the drought - in the middle of it's central lake:

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Apparently it's symbolically suspended above the lake - its roots out of the water's reach.  It's so eerie yet also poetic.

Sleep doesn't come

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I haven't slept very well lately. Night after night I keep tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable under the bed sheets or switch off my brain.  I'm not thinking of anything in particular, I'm just restless.  To be completely honest, I think that for the first time in years... I'm feeling frightened.  I don't know where this could have come from: I thought it had do to with Will's absence but now that he's home and I'm still scared, I really can't explain.

He goes to sleep before me while I remain on the couch, watching something on TV or reading, with as many lights on as possible, in an effort to preoccupy my mind and keep scary thoughts at bay in the fringes of darkness.  When my eyes start to close and my neck droops, I admit defeat and prepare for bedtime.  I stand and look all around me, surveying the perimeter of the room - front door locked? Check.  Windows shut? Check. Then I make my way down the hall and peer into the office: back door locked? Check.  I don't dare go up to any of them - I prefer to stay safe and close to the inside of the house and to Will, just in case.  Even as I process this thought, I am aware of its frivolity - since I have a very protective poodle at my ankles who would surely not be this relaxed or leading the way drowsily to sleep before me if something in the slightest was amiss.

What am I afraid of?  I wonder as I switch off the hallway light and jet for the bedroom as quick as I can, as if the darkness will somehow scold me if it grazes me in the slightest.  What imaginary creatures are waiting to envelop me in its cover?  I question as I make my way for the bathroom, turn on the light and follow the nightly ritual of prepping for bed.  I hear Will, or maybe one of the dogs, stifle a snore. Why am I the only one in this house that's worried?

Once my teeth are brushed, my skin is clean and moisturized, I take my time putting on my pj's, since after this - the light gets turned off. My heart starts to pound like mad in my chest as I extend my hand to the switch on the bathroom wall.  I hold my breath, preparing to run for the bed and straight into Will's arms.  I flick it but it doesn't go dark!  To my relief, the lamp on my nightstand still glows with a warm yellow light; I am safe.

I inhale deeply and make my way to my side of the bed; Dorothy is snug in her pen, twitching peacefully in her dream state and Baxter is already at the foot of the bed, flat on his back with legs spread in the air, not bothered my anything at all.  I smile as I look upon this scene of tranquility and my courage rises when my gaze stops on Will's face: mouth open, eyelids quivering.

I lay down and pull the blanket around me, reach for the lamp but stop short.  I'm wide awake again, I'll just leave it on until I feel sleepy I think and reach for my phone instead.  I play a few games until once more my eyelids feel heavy.  I reach for the lamp once more and this time I do switch it off but I'm electrocuted with fear as the monesters immediately descend on me!  They quickly creep out of the ceiling, down the walls, out from under the bed, in through the windows... all towards me.  I gasp and turn the lamp back on, damning myself over and over for even allowing these thoughts this far.

I decide to try to sleep with the lamp on but it's no good.  As soon as my eyes close - the monsters are back.  I nudge Will, tell him I'm scared.  He grumbles about the light hurting his eyes and tells me to turn it off, I repeat that I'm scared and he opens his eyes beneath furrowed eyebrows, extends his arms and tells me to come here.  We snuggle for a minute and I begin to relax.  I am safe.  We are all safe.  Will's here.  Baxter hasn't budged.  All is well in my world.  I try to force pleasant thoughts into my head and hope they will carry on into a dream - then Will reaches past me and turns off the light.  My eyes jump open and the monsters are back - creeping, creeping.

I gently unwrap myself from his arms, trying not to wake him and run for the hallway where the light is thrown instantly on.   I turn Dawson's Creek on Netflix and lay down on the couch, wrapping myself in the fleece blanket instead.  Baxter comes trudging reluctantly down the hall then with much annoyance and a deep, loud sigh leaps onto the couch beside me; no doubt hoping this is the end of my shifting so he can settle for the night and sleep through the rest of the night unbothered.  He's been hoping this for the past three nights.

Memories on display

Thursday, November 14, 2013

If you're anything like me, you love to come home from any trip with a little token.  Some are premeditated and time consuming - like the stamp, coin or postcard collections Will and I have started - while others are random objects that happen to take our fancy; such as these: a native animal wood carving and ostrich egg, hollowed out for a tea candle - each picked up by Will on separate visits to South Africa.


Other perks of being 'world travelers' is that we have friends and family all over the place who sometimes give us awesome and traditional gifts from their countries. I always prefer to decorate with unique items like these rather than store bought ones since any time a memory can be jogged or a smile brought to our lips, I feel like I’ve accomplished a small victory. 

The problem at our house these days, is that we've been to so many places and have accumulated so many 'tokens' - many of them are forgotten about or outright neglected.  While our larger items stand proudly displayed throughout the house, small items - that are no less important - are put away; being too cluttery or too tiny to be noticed standing alone on a shelf.  As I was dusting the bookcase earlier today and lamenting this very fact, it hit me in a stoke of sheer genius: why not stick 'em in a jar!


Mason Jars are a total decorating fad right now and I’m definitely on the band wagon!  I seriously use them in every room of my house, for practical and ornate purposes.  In the kitchen they hold spices/ flours/ doggy's treats; in the bathroom, bath salts/ bombs and now in the living room they are my favourite display cases for the various small trinkets Will and I have accumulated from around the world.  As with my date jar, I added a string of twine, an office label and now these plain old, cheap as mason jars have a unique, antiquated… almost museum-like appearance.



Now our beautiful seashell collection from the shores of Australia stands beside the tiny Peter’s pine cones that fascinated me so much when I first arrived in Atlanta.  Both clearly visible to the naked eye of our guests, as well as our own mind’s eyes, as Will and I vividly remember the fun we had with these collections every time we look at them! 



Christmas on opposite sides of the world

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One of my all-time favourite things about America is the Christmas season.  Comparing to Australia, every holiday in the U.S is on steroids since Americans’ love to decorate everything from their cars and bathrooms to their mailboxes and laptop wallpapers.  Of course the splendid decorations and vivid colour pops every autumn are amazing as well but, to me, there’s something simply magical about Christmas!

You step outside your door and stiffen as the cold envelops you instantly.  You inhale a breath so sharp that it winds you temporarily, before you realize the smell out here is of crisp dew mingled with the warm and comforting smell of burning wood.  That makes you smile as you momentarily envision the cozy fireplaces responsible for it, inside the happy living rooms of neighbouring houses so cute, any one of them could be a postcard if you thought to take a picture and sign the back.  You walk down the street, warmer with every step; admiring passing fairy lights, nativity scenes, snowmen, reindeer, Santas, angles and various other decorative, glowing shapes on the lawns or roofs of the postcard-houses.  

Then you turn down a main street with shops and pause to catch your breath which has escaped you due to the overwhelming beauty of the scene before you!  The shops, lanterns, benches... everything in sight adorns garlands or lights,wreaths or mistletoe.  You feel lucky to be here, in this moment and on this street that’s so beautiful: you could be on the set of a movie!  But that's just any suburb in any city here in the U.S.A.  

When you’re here it’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that in Australia it’s currently hot and summertime; everyone is on the beach.  Maybe it's because of the different architectural styles, snow stereotype or the Christmas movies we grew up watching but somehow it always feels more festive in a coat, gloves and boots – not a half-naked, surfing Santa in sight! 

Here are two collages I made to show how I spent my Christmas season last year.  I got a taste of Christmas on opposite sides of the world!  It started in sunny QLD, Australia:


And ended in Atlanta, GA USA:


 

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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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