Christmas in Texas: Part Two

When I left off we had just celebrated Christmas in Victoria with Trav’s family (our fourth city on the tour of Texas).

The next day a lot of us piled in the cars/trucks and headed out to their family ranch. We hadn’t been out there since last Christmas when Leighton was so tiny.

This time she was much more excited about seeing the cows and feeding them.

I can’t believe next year we will be showing another Alkek babe the ranch!

Travis ended up working out there most of the week, so Leighton and I did lots of relaxing with his mom which was just what we wanted. One day we went up to the Children’s Museum with my sister in law and her two kids.

The weather has been so much colder than our Texan bodies are used to, so it was nice to find some indoor activities for the kids.

That weekend we packed up and headed back to Houston to celebrate New Years with our friends. Unfortunately Leighton decided to end our two hour drive puking all over her car seat (she gets motion sickness), so that was fun.

We went to dinner with three other couples and then rung in 2018 at a local bar, while Leighton hung out with her grandparents.

We spent the rest of the week catching up with friends and spending time with Trav before he left Friday. One of my favorites was going to lunch with my group of teacher friends. Only half of us still work at that school, but we all keep up in a group text/snap chat group.

So many babies, plus two on the way and one not pictured. In case you are wondering, I didn’t realize I was matching Leighton until we were walking out of the door.

Leighton and I spent the last three weeks of our trip in Houston (Travis had to go back to work after a week). I’m pretty sure Leighton’s favorite part about staying at my parents house was hanging out with the dogs. I think it’s safe to say they were ready for her to go home by the end.

We had lots of playdates since most of my friends are also moms now. I can’t wait until they are older and can really play together.

We also had a blogger baby date with Ashley from the Wandering Weekenders. It was so fun to her tiny, precious twin girls. We spent a few hours chatting, chasing Leighton and feeding/rocking the babies. I can’t believe next year when we see them all three of the girls will be running around (and there will be another baby to rock).

Before we headed back to Australia, we took a quick trip to New Braunfels to see one of my best friends and her son. Last year when Leighton and I were there she was about to pop and we were anxiously waiting to see baby Reed would make an appearance during our visit.

Unfortunately we had to cut our trip a day short because of some crazy weather coming in. Since the road were going to be icy and pretty much all of Texas was going to shut down, I hit the road late Monday evening.

Since it was soooo cold and icy we spent our last week laying low and keeping warm. I also had a prenatal massage courtesy of my brother and his girlfriend (my Christmas present). It was amazing to be pampered and I could definitely get used to it.

Friday evening Leighton woke up with a cold just in time for our trip back across the world. Poor girl projectile vomited all over me within the first hour of our 15 hour flight. I wasn’t sure what to do but luckily I had spare clothes for both of us and we chunked the clothes we were wearing away. After we (and our seats) were cleaned up, she fell right asleep.

Enjoying a smoothie (her fave) on our layover in Auckland.

The rest of our journey was pretty painless and she was a really good traveler, earning compliments from lots of fellow passengers. Even though the journey wasn’t as bad as I thought, I still will not be attempting it solo with two kids next year.

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Christmas in Texas: Part 1

Hello from Houston!

We have been in Texas now a little over three weeks. In that time we have covered over 1,000 miles and visited family in four different cities. Travis is now back in Brisbane and Leighton and I will be joining him on the 19th.

Here’s a little recap of our trip so far…

The journey from Brisbane is a long one, three hours to Auckland and then 12 hours to Houston. Don’t less this picture fool you- this lasted a good ten minutes.

The real winner of the flight was putting pom poms in her old formula container. I got the idea from Emi (she used a blender bottle instead) and it seriously kept her still and quiet for sooo long.

Getting her to fall asleep on the long flight was not easy at all, and when she finally gave in she was in my lap so I got no sleep.

Of course we both fell back asleep right before landing.

We hung out in Houston for a couple days and saw quite a few friends before having our first Christmas celebration in Victoria.

This was also when we finally shared the news with Trav’s family, including his mom. Everyone was so surprised and excited!

From there we moved on to my dad’s hometown of Breckenridge (Texas not Colorado). We enjoyed the slow paced small town life for a few days and spent lots of time with my grandpa and his wife.

Leighton became especially fond of her Papa and stealing his cane. This is also when we got Leighton’s picture with Santa (at the same mall as last year).

We walked into downtown Breckenridge one afternoon to check out some local shops and had to get Leighton’s picture in front of this mural.

From Breckenridge we drove three hours to my other grandparents house in Midland. Our first day Travis and I went exploring and found George Bush’s childhood home, where we took a tour.

While we were there, we celebrated my cousin’s son’s first birthday. It has been so fun getting to watch these two grow up so close in age.

We have a group text with our parents and my grandma so we both send frequent pictures and videos of the kids, so I felt like I already knew Luke so well even though the last time I saw him was last year when he was a tiny preemie newborn.

And just for fun, here’s a picture of my cousin and I when we were toddlers.

Leighton enjoyed passing out gifts to everyone regardless of who they were intended for. She was really excited to get her own camelbak water bottle when we celebrated Christmas a day early.

After opening gifts and saying our farewells, we left the car with my mom and headed to the airport to go back to Victoria (by way of Houston). Leighton was over traveling at this point, and thought it was fun to lay down randomly in the airport. Also, we didn’t think to bring our passports and only had our Aussie driver’s licenses with us. Luckily they reluctantly let us fly after giving us additional security screenings.

We made it Victoria (after Leighton screamed the whole two hour drive) just in time for the annual Christmas Eve party we always attend at the neighbor’s house. Leighton made her own friends at the party.

Christmas morning was fun with all the kids and family at Trav’s mom’s house. Leighton got so many fun gifts and we were all very spoiled. The cutest thing was watching her and our niece run around in their matching santa outfits (they are only 3 weeks apart).

That evening we went to visit some friends and meet their babies. Leighton loved the tiny babies and wanted to help take care of them. Hopefully she will be as enthusiastic when she has her own baby at home.

I am going to stop here and finish recapping later, since I already have so many pictures. I hope everyone is having a great start to the new year!

Life Lately/Christmas 2016

Welp I have been a little MIA from blogging world, but for good reason- we have been gallivanting all over Texas the past two and a half weeks. I am back online this week with two posts, although I can’t promise how much more you are going to hear from me until I am back in Australia in February. We are busy soaking up all our family and friend time!

We flew into Houston on the 8th and immediately headed out to Trav’s hometown of Victoria for his sister’s wedding. Travis walked his sister down the aisle and I was a bridesmaid, so it was a special weekend for all of us. It was extra special since it was his family’s first time to meet Leighton.

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Christmas in Fiji

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As I am sure I have mentioned one million times already, this year we spent Christmas in Fiji. Being on this side of the world has it’s disadvantages (like 24 hour trips to get home) but it also has some pretty spectacular advantages (like a three hour plane ride to Fiji). We decided to take this opportunity and spend our holiday somewhere different this year.

I will write more on traveling to Fiji and logistical things later, today I just want to share our Christmas (week) with you. 🙂

We arrived in Fiji (after three plane delays) at 6pm Christmas Eve. We stayed in a hotel on the main island that first night and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset at dinner.

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The next morning we woke up early and took a three hour ferry ride to our next destination, Mantaray Island. Once we got off the ferry and onto the small boat to take us to the resort, we were greeted by this:

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The hotel staff wearing Santa hats and singing us a welcome song.

We had booked a beachside “Jungle Bure” and were pleasantly surprised that we had the last bure on the beach, complete with a hammock and shaded sun loungers. Further down the beach was the main area where everyone hangs out so we were lucky to have our own little (almost) private beach.

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I couldn’t get over the view from our patio.

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Before we went to our Christmas lunch I insisted that we exchange stockings, that was by far the most Christmasy moment of the trip.

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We had been secretly filling each other’s stockings throughout the past week and I was so proud of myself for not peeking once (Travis booby trapped my stocking so he would know if I did).

Our loot:

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 not pictured: red/green board shorts for Christmas day 🙂

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the piece of paper is a gift certificate for a photography class

The next five days consisted of the following…

hammock hanging

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happy hour sipping

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sunset watching

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pre-dinner picture taking

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beach strolling

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porch reading

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night tubing

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scuba diving

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coral reef snorkeling

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school of fish spotting

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backyard enjoying

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kayak exploring

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but most of our time was spent right here…

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Hope you enjoyed your Christmas wherever you were. 🙂

Summertime Christmas

Twas the Friday before Christmas…

I can not believe that Christmas is next week. I know I have said it one million billion times already, but it’s hard to get in the Christmas spirit in the middle of summer, it just does not feel right.

Either way, the calendar tells me it is December 19th so I guess I need to get with the program.

As I have been finishing up my Christmas shopping, I have enjoyed seeing how Brisbane celebrate their sunny Christmas. There have been parades, firework shows and Christmas carol shows going on around the city.

Yesterday afternoon we went to a Christmas market in South Bank. It was pretty disappointing though, it was the same (non-christmasy) vendors that are are always there but in a Christmas stall.

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I did find this humorous. While everyone at home is sipping on hot chocolate and warm gingerbread lattes, we will be drinking Christmas Iced Tea! They had Grinch Green among other holiday flavors.

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Speaking of Gingerbread Lattes… Starbucks here still capitalizes on their famous seasonal flavors- only in frozen form.

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Also, Santa wears board shorts here…

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For a humorous video depiction of Christmas in Oz, check this out. PS- thongs are flip flops 😉

So since I have been making an extra effort to get into the holiday spirit, here are some of my favorite ways to do so…

Christmas Movie Marathon

I’m on a mission to watch as many Christmas movies as I can this season. If I watch people bundled up in the snow long enough it might cool down the climate here a few degrees right?!?

We knocked out The Holiday, Home Alone and Christmas Vacation while we were with my family. Now that I am back home I only have access to movies on Netflix, which means cheesy ABC Family flicks- my personal favorite.

I have discovered my favorite new Christmas movie- The Mistletones. I seriously watched it twice in 24 hours. Why has no one told me about this before? Yes, it’s cheesy and has Tori Spelling in it BUT it is cute and fun and has Christmas songs in it so you will get over the fact that someone (Tori Spelling) said “she’s peppermint barking up the wrong tree.” Also, I just love Tia Mowry after growing up watching Sister, Sister.

Christmas Baking

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My friend, Emily Anne, and I spent the majority of Tuesday in the kitchen baking up some holiday treats. There was no calorie cutting or healthy substitutions going on here just a lot of sugar and chocolate- all in the name of the holiday spirit. We are going to be writing more about our bake-a-thon next week but it’s safe to say I might be in a sugar coma after consuming all of our treats (I just can’t stop, someone take them away!).

Christmas Shopping

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I typically prefer Christmas shopping of the online variety and that is how I did my first round this year for our family back home. Since we will be in Fiji (ohmygoodness it’s so close!!!) we are just going to be exchanging stockings on the beach Christmas morning. So I have actually had to venture out into the malls to look for goodies for Trav’s stocking (sidenote: he hasn’t even started on mine). I was surprised to see that the mall was not that crowded and there were tons of great sales! Also, I discovered my new favorite concept- A Christmas Giftorium.

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One of our large department stores, Meyer, has an entire floor dedicated to gift giving. They have tons of stations set up based on the gift recipient (ie. travel lover, glamour gram, dapper dad etc.) and have free personalization of some items that they do right there. Vistaprint even has a booth set up where you can create photo gifts, I am currently working on a t-shirt with my face on it for Travis’ stocking. Kids can visit with Santa at the Giftorium and adults can sample fancy teas and coffees- win, win. I think I might just move in.

Reflecting on Christmas Past

This is Travis and my fourth Christmas to spend together and I am loving looking back and seeing how things have changed over the years…

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Our first Christmas together in 2011. We had only been dating a little over 6 months and this was one of my first few visits to Victoria. Also, notable that my parents still lived in the United States at this time which made the commute to see both families much more convenient.

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Our first (and only) engaged Christmas. Travis proposed to me on the last day of school before Christmas break so that Christmas has been the most exciting one of all. We hopped on a plane the very next day to see my family in Midland then flew back to Houston Christmas Eve and drove straight to Victoria to celebrate with Trav’s family.

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I loved last Christmas. It was our first Christmas as a married couple in our very own grown up house that I got to decorate. We spent Christmas day in Victoria then we hopped on a plane the next day with my mother and sister-in-law and went to London to see my family. We had no idea at the time that we would be the expats in the family next Christmas…

I love looking back at these memories and wondering where we will be and what will be going on next year at this time. It also makes me realize how blessed (or #blessed) we are to have all that we do and more importantly to have such wonderful family to share life with.

That’s all for today, have a great last weekend before Christmas! Hopefully we will spend ours at the beach… 🙂

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Linking up with Gunters Abroad for Bring Your Own Post

Sights of Bruges

Today I am talking about our trip to Bruges, Brugge or whatever you want to call it (not really, I am sure they would prefer you stick to one of those two) a couple weeks ago.

After a couple of days in London with my parents and sister, all five of us piled in the car and headed to Belgium. Before this trip I did not know anything about Bruges, or Belgium in general. All I knew was that my parents said that it was a cute little town with christmas markets and an ice skating rink, and it was only 3.5 hours away from London. Sold. Spending the holiday season in 90 plus temperatures had me craving a winter chill to make me feel like it was actually Christmas.

Note: Bruges is such a beautiful city and everywhere you turn there is something photograph worthy. I wanted to share those sights in this post and share other tourist information (what to do, eat etc.) in a separate one.

So here you go, the sights and sounds of Bruges…

Ok, there aren’t any sounds but you can use your imagination.

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Burg Square

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Bruges has been around since the 9th century and the historic city centre (which is located within the city walls) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fun fact: Bruges received their official city charter on July 27, 1128 which is exactly 885 years before Travis and I got married. It’s like we were meant to visit.

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The most photographed spot in Bruges (according to the internet, so it must be true)

Most of the city’s medieval architecture is still in tact and walking around you literally feel like you are stepping back in time.

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Delicious chocolate shops on every corner.

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Adorable cafes on every corner, adorable husbands as well.

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The canal runs through the town and boat tours are available but the frigid weather detoured us from going.

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The Church of Our Lady in the background.

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Minnewater Park

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Béguinage, a monastery.

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“Stop staring at me Swan!” Name the movie.

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I got sick of smiling in front of things.

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This gentleman really wanted in the photograph.

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Cobblestone streets and cozy shops.

We were told Bruges has two seasons- busy and really busy. We were there during the week and the streets were pretty actually pretty quiet. It was nice to not have to wait in lines or for a table at dinner. By Thursday, everything was picking up for the weekend and there were noticeably more tourists.

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The center of town was the Market Square or “Markt.” This is where the ice skating rink and Christmas Market was set up. Everything else was located on streets that branched off. We were warned that many of the shops and restaurants off the “Markt” were overpriced tourist traps.

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Ice Skating Rink

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I hope you enjoyed the sights of Bruges 🙂 I will be posting a much more informative guide to Bruges next week.

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Friday Favorites and an Update or Two

Happy Friday 🙂

Before I share a few of my weeks favorites I figured I should provide a few little updates on our life (outside of recent travel updates etc.)

  • I got a job! Well kind of… I am officially a certified teacher in the state of Queensland and am registered to substitute (or relief) teach in Brisbane. Unfortunately today is the last day of the school year. They run on a calendar year schedule so they will start back up again at the end of January. Good news is that my friend, Emily Anne, has been subbing the past couple of months and was offered a full time teaching job on Monday. It is pretty crazy because she wasn’t even looking and actually already had six weeks of travel booked for the upcoming months, so she told them about me and recommended that I take her class for those six weeks. We went and met with the director at the school on Wednesday and they added me to their preferred sub list. Hopefully all will go well and I will already have a substantial number of jobs lined up for next year.  I’m really excited to help her get all set up and ready for her little 1st grade babies and we have already started on projects for teachers pay teachers. It does make me miss the classroom some but it’s nice to have the flexibility of relief teaching right now.
  • Travis is getting scuba certified this weekend! He’s following in his parents footsteps and becoming a diver, just in time for Fiji in two weeks. I was planning on getting certified with him but due to my previous ear problems (I have an artificial ear drum in my right ear) I had to get a dive medical before signing up for the course. When I saw the doctor she said it was too risky to my hearing (I also wasn’t able to pop my ears on demand) and said she wouldn’t clear me. She also said I shouldn’t do any sky diving or bungee jumping (I assured her those were not in my plans anyway) because of the pressure on my ears. I did tear up a little when I realized how serious the doctor was and then I made her put it in writing so that Travis wouldn’t think I was just chickening out. I am glad that I was able to go diving once when we were in the Great Barrier Reef (here) even though I couldn’t go very far down but also so thankful that I didn’t do any damage to my ear drums then.  It’s scary to have to be worrying about my hearing at 27 years old but now I know I need to be extra cautious (not that this scardy cat has ever been reckless).
  • I will be home for the holidays! Well kind of… We are celebrating Christmas in Fiji this year just the two of us because a) it’s close  b) who knows when we will get that opportunity again and  c) we had already planned to go back to Texas in January. Travis had a class for work that had been rescheduled from October in Texas the last week of January so his ticket/time away was taken care of through work, so I went ahead and booked my flights to go up a couple weeks earlier to see family. Well, once again his class got rescheduled, this time to March! Hopefully he will still be able to get away from work and get to Texas at some point in January too. Fingers crossed that it all works out!

I can’t think of anymore news I haven’t shared already, so here goes the typical Friday post…

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Nothing makes me happier than a calendar/planner and I have been in a slight panic as I have been making plans for 2015 without having a place to write them down (I refuse to use my phone, I’m stubborn like that). So I finally found one I liked that was simple and cute at the cutest Swedish stationary store, Kikki K. I can’t wait to fill it up!

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My sweet family (one hipster brother not photographed) are always my favorite but I am feeling especially grateful today after getting to spend the past week with them! Nothing makes me happier this time of year than bundling up on the couch with them and watching Christmas movies. I can’t wait to share our trip to Belgium with them on the blog next week.

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But seriously, how cute is this little guy?! He’s a “smoker” that I bought at a Christmas shop in Brugge, you put lit incense in the bottom of him and then it comes out of his pipe (and smells like Christmas). My Christmas decor is pretty sparse this year but he is definitely my favorite. My mom also gave us some Christmas lights that run on 240v while we were visiting. I was elegantly wrapping them around our banister when Travis said “You might want to come down and look at that before you do anymore work.” At this point I was halfway through the tedious chore of wrapping the whole long string through each tiny gap so I told him I didn’t care how ugly it was, I was going to finish. Probably in a really nice tone too. It definitely is not gorgeous, which is why I am not showing you a picture. But whatever. When I turn off all the lights in the room and crank the air conditioner down it kinda feels Christmas. And I am way too stubborn to take them down.

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My mom gave us this “a” last week when we were staying with them. She found it at one of the antique markets she frequents regularly. It used to hang on the sign of a pub in England a long time ago! She’s so good at finding hidden treasures that also have history behind them. One year for Christmas she gave me an antique teacher bell from a schoolhouse from the early 1900’s.

See you next week 🙂

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