Monday, March 27, 2017

Day Trip: Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

Last weekend, in keeping with our life goal to visit every drive-through animal park in America, we decided to head down to New Braunfels, which is near San Antonio and less than an hour from Austin, to visit the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. I sort of kid about this being our life goal, but sort of not. There was a place near us when we lived in Missouri called the Wild Animal Safari, and I'm 100% sure it was not legal. But it was also the greatest place on Earth. You could drive through and the animals were always hungry enough to run up to your car and stick their heads in. You could also purchase raw chicken at the front desk to stick on the end of a pole and feed to tigers, who would often fight over it. Like I said, probably not legal.


Anyway, thus began our fascination with wild animal parks, and here we are. The Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is much classier, larger, and probably more regulated than the Wild Animal Safari, which made for a fun day, but sadly not as many animal heads in the car. This was fine with Peter, who was mainly concerned with keeping any form of antlers away from the car, but Ali and I were trying to lure the animals as close as possible, naturally.

These deer totally DGAF that we were driving a few feet away holding some form of pellet food out to them. 
Looking slightly more interested...
Finally, some cow/deer hybrid thing made its way up to our car and Ali way overjoyed. 
Not entirely sure what these were, but they weren't too interested in us. Kind of the theme of the day. Part of our problem, I think, was that we visited the park on a Sunday during what we later figured out was spring break for most Texas schools. There was a legitimate traffic jam at one point, complete with a fender bender, so maybe the animals were a bit overfed on this particular day.
So pretty...whatever it is! Peter was especially concerned with this guy getting close to the car.
Ali was especially concerned with him walking away.
The classic giraffe exhibit.
Some more unidentified species hanging out. This places was HUGE and had some really pretty areas to drive through.

All in all, the day trip was totally worth it. The landscape was so pretty, and so were the animals, even though they weren't that concerned with us! There's some sort of cave attraction just next door to the wildlife ranch, so you know we'll be back to check it out.
Monday, March 13, 2017

Weekending: Franklin BBQ and SXSW

Hello, friends! I'm bringing you a few pictures from the last couple of weekends, including an epic trip to Franklin BBQ, and our first adventure at South by Southwest, which is currently in full swing in Austin.

The weather has been gross. We've gotten a lot of rain lately and it's been hideously humid at times. We've actually had plans to go to one of those drive-through animal parks for at least four Sundays in a row now, and it's been raining every single week, so we've been putting it off. A couple weeks ago, we decided to make use of the gloomy Sunday and finally try out the legendary Franklin Barbeque. This place is world-famous, at least that's what they say, and regularly has a two-plus hour wait, hence why we haven't tried it up until a couple weeks ago. We hoped the rain would keep the line short, but of course, that was wishful thinking. 

This was the line when we got there. Apparently, those at the front had been camped out since 6 am. Nope. No thank you. I'm not sure there's anything in the world I would camp out at 6 am for, to be honest. Other than maybe Taylor Swift. Maybe. 


 Our plate. It was pretty amazing, I must say.

Franklin is in a little run-down building in an up-and-coming part of town. Read: janky. We arrived around 10:30 am, and I'm pretty sure we sat down to eat around 12:45 pm. So, yes, it was a long wait. But we all had books downloaded on our phones, and they had foldable chairs to sit in so it wasn't so bad. Was it worth it? I'd say if you LOVE barbecue (Peter) and want to try out one of the most famous joints, then yes! If you're like me, and like barbecue but aren't that big on all the hype, then it's something that's fun to do once, but I'm not sure I need to go back. One of Ali's coworkers swears that it's overrated, and the 'real' BBQ is in east Texas. We might be making a pilgrimage out that way one of these days. Peter is pretty obsessed with barbecue and doesn't believe that anything better than Franklin's exists. I'll keep you posted.


Next up: a pilgrimage to Round Rock Donuts. I'm noticing that we make a lot of food pilgrimages. The big draw with this place is that it was featured on Man Vs. Food and sells a 'Texas-sized donut' which of course we ordered. It was amazing, and I'm sad to say that we finished it within two days. Did we each probably gain 10 pounds? Yes. Do we regret it? No.
 Here's another picture for scale.

Food pilgrimage #2 of last weekend was a trip to the new Sprinkles cupcake ATM at the Domain. The fact that this exists proves that there is a God. 


Speaking of food, because when am I not, Stitch Fix feeds us like queens. We get a catered lunch every Wednesday, and then catered snacks that are pretty much a full meal at least twice a week. I don't know that I've packed more than a handful of lunches from home since I've started working there because there is always so. much. food. The other day our lunch was salmon, roasted cauliflower, asparagus, and potato wedges. It was AMAZING. 

And that bring us to this weekend, which we kicked off at our local brewery, St. Elmo Brewing Co. This place has the CUTEST outdoor space, and some really good beer that I don't absolutely hate, which is saying something. It was pretty packed, but we found a table outside and played Uno for awhile. Ali LOVES games. She's one of the most intense gamers I know. Not like video games, but actual games. 


SXSW



On Sunday, we decided to venture out to South by Southwest to see what all the fuss was about. All week, more and more people were descending on the downtown area. On my walk to work on Friday, I felt like I was in some alternate universe filled with hipsters wearing lanyards dressed totally inappropriately for the weather. The last couple of days have actually been pretty chilly, but that hasn't stopped some of the hardcore festival goers from acting like it's summer. I was so fed up with these types roaming the streets and making my commute to work more miserable than usual, that on Friday evening, a lanyard-wearing hipster ran straight into me while staring down at his phone, followed almost immediately by a large cockroach running straight into my shoe. I decided I'd rather be bumped into by the roach. I kid, sort of.

Sunday was cold, so it did keep some of the crowds at bay. I think this is the 'interactive' portion of the festival (whatever that means), and later this week and weekend is primarily the music portion. We didn't purchase a pass, partly because they're upwards of $1,500 and partly because we're not cool enough. 

We did wander around and collect free food and drinks, though! Here we are at the maple syrup party at PF Changs, where they gave out maple-flavored cotton candy, free drinks, and free maple-glazed donuts and chicken wings. It was a definite win, especially because lots of these events are badge-only, meaning we couldn't get in and could only gaze at all the free stuff from afar (I'm looking at you, Twitter and Pinterest parties). 

We avoided downtown and focused mainly on Rainey Street, which had some really cool setups, like this 'awesome' word art.
There is an app called Gro, devoted to gardening, that sponsored one of the food truck parks. If you downloaded their app, they'd give you a token worth $5 to spend at one of the trucks. Ali and I combined our tokens and split this ridiculously amazing macaroni and cheese sandwich at the Burro grilled cheese truck.

We also got avocado bowls from a cool ATM-like machine at the Avocado Mexico stand (food ATMs must be a thing right now), but I was too busy eating to take any actual pictures. We will definitely pick another day or two to roam around. It's kind of like a State Fair for tech and music companies, and there's definitely fun to be had even without a badge. Also, you can RSVP to events as they become available and then stand in line and try to get in. To be honest, it's all a little bit confusing and under the radar. There's not a published list, at least that I've seen, that lays out where and when things are happening. I think that's intentional, but also a bit bewildering for those of us who really have no idea what this whole thing is about. 

Oh, and no celebrity sightings yet. On Friday, Ali and I met outside of our buildings to walk around for a few minutes, and there was a lot going on at the Paramount Theatre right next door to us. After returning back to work, a few of my coworkers came running in all excited that they had just seen Ryan Gosling arriving at the theatre. Ali and I missed him by a matter of minutes, apparently. We'll keep creeping, and you'll definitely see a picture if we catch a glimpse of anyone famous. 

I'm working from home all week, because of the traffic and general madness downtown, so I'll probably have some time to post again this week! 


Monday, February 13, 2017

Weekending: Watching/Reading/Eating

We have pretty much officially made it through winter without ever turning on the heat. We came close a few days in early December when we were a bit shocked (bummed?) to learn it actually does get cold in Texas. Occasionally. After a few days of 30-40 degrees, it never quite 'wintered' again, and we've now been experiencing 70s and 80s earlier than usual. In fact, we've used the air conditioning more than once this month already. Hey, I'm not complaining! Generally, we've had amazing weather this winter, with most days in the 60s, which is really hard to complain about.

I haven't really taken many pictures lately, partially because I spend most of my waking hours at work these days, and partially because my phone is forever running out of space and I haven't taken the time to clear out old apps and photos. So, I thought I'd keep it short and recap our weekend/the week in terms of what we're watching/reading/eating.

Watching


I'm obsessed with the Bachelor this season, as always. I actually don't really like Nick very much. He redeemed himself a bit on Bachelor in Paradise last season, but being the best on BIP is sort of like being the best inmate in jail. The bar is super low. So, he's blah, but I do love the drama. Last week when Jasmine went on that rant about choking him? Weird, to say the least. And then the Corinne drama. I actually am Team Corinne. Sure, she's ridiculous but the other girls are mean to her and I somehow find her likeable, especially when she naps through rose ceremonies. Oh, and Nick clearly likes her so that's worth something. If you didn't know, Corinne was in a 2Chainz video circa 2011 and it's absolutely worth watching on repeat.

Reading


This is actually the only picture I've taken in the past few days. I'm reading this book, which I like so far. Between all of our moves in the last few years, we did a lot of getting rid of stuff, but it's kind of shocking how quickly it accumulates when you have the space. I need to start purging stuff again!


Eating


We discovered an AMAZING brunch place on Saturday morning that I can't believe we didn't find earlier. Kerbey Lane Cafe is an Austin chain that's open 24/7 and has all-day breakfast and $2 mimosas. It's sort of like Perkins, but classier. It's pretty much heaven. Again, I somehow didn't take a picture but trust me when I say it's the greatest place and anyone who visits us is probably going to go.

That's all for now!








Monday, January 30, 2017

What We've Been Up To

Turns out having a full-time job greatly reduces the amount of free time you have to both blog about life and to do blog-worthy activities. But I'm back! Here's what we've been up to lately:

Last weekend, some of Ali's college friends came down to visit for a long weekend. We had so much fun and got to show them our favorite Austin spots and explore some new ones as well. They arrived late on Thursday evening, and we immediately took them to Torchy's Tacos and devoured a bunch of queso. I've started just ordering one taco so I'm not too full to finish the queso, because it's pretty much the greatest. Seriously, there's guac mixed into the middle of it. On Friday, the girls drove up to Waco to experience all things Fixer Upper while Peter and I worked. We had BBQ and then went out on Rainey Street on Friday night and discovered a cool bar made out of shipping containers, where we stayed pretty much the whole night. Peter drove us around the whole weekend, which basically makes him a saint. At one point he endured a car full of (post-multiple-bars) girls yelling Taco Bells orders at him, so that's what he had to deal with ;).

On Saturday, we explored South Congress and stopped for a drink at Perla's, an oyster bar with a really cute nautical theme. It was nice and sunny when we got there, and then randomly started pouring on us an hour or so later. Typical Autin. None of us minded, though, because sitting outside in January is a luxury for us Minnesotans, with or without some rain.
On Saturday night we ventured to The Broken Spoke, which is a famous tourist destination for traditional country dancing. Unfortunately, there was a special event going on that evening and the cover was $12, which seemed a bit steep to us. While we were standing in the entryway trying to scope out our next move, we started talking to a couple who was originally from a small town outside the area who told us about another dance hall down the road called Dance Across Texas. We decided to give it a try, and it ended up being the highlight of the weekend. There were tons of people who actually knew how to two-step and a few really amazing dancers who were so fun to watch. I asked some of my coworkers how/why everyone knew how to dance so well, and apparently line dancing is taught in Texas schools. Of course it is.

We fumbled our way through most of the dances, but it was so fun and Ali and I have declared it our new weekend hang out. If you want to have an authentic Texas experience in Austin, and potentially learn how to dance from a legit cowboy (Ali did!) I would definitely head here.
 We had to take all of the traditional Austin pictures, of course:

We had tons of fun having visitors, and I just want to throw out the fact that it's currently 77 degrees, so if anyone else needs to escape the winter up north...we have a large couch and an air mattress!

Other than that, I've been adjusting to work life and finally finished training last Friday. I have Sundays and Mondays off, so tomorrow is my first day 'in the wild'. Ali started a new job last week, and happens to work across the street from me! So we had lunch together a few days last week, which was fun. She is working at Nordstrom for a few more Saturdays, so she hasn't had too much time off lately, to say the least. Peter is in Rochester, New York this week for work, so I'm predicting at least a few large bug sightings and probably some appliance breakdowns ;). Just kidding. But really, these things always seem to happen when he's out of town.

I am off to run some errands and make lunch, but now that I'm settled into a routine at work, I plan to blog a bit more frequently, so stay tuned for more riveting tales from my life.
Monday, January 16, 2017

Long Weekend

We have been enjoying a long weekend over here since both Peter and I had today off of work for MLK day. Speaking of work, I started my new job last week and I'm really liking it so far! It's kind of weird to be back working full time after taking a couple years off, but thankfully the adjustment hasn't been too difficult thus far. 

For those who don't know, I'm working at Stitch Fix in the downtown Austin office. I'm one week into three weeks of initial training and am especially loving the laid back atmosphere of the office. There are snacks and drinks everywhere, multiple kitchens, and lots of couches and alternative work spaces for when the desk life becomes a bit too monotonous. I think I'm really going to enjoy it and I'm eager to dive in post-training and get into a routine. Finally! 

Oh, and this is the view of the Capitol from the terrace at my office building. Not too shabby...

We have continued to get out and explore everything Austin has to offer- especially the food/drink scene. There's a new office park/condo development/retail space going in down the street from us, and so far the only thing that's opened is the St. Elmo Brewing Company. We headed over last weekend to check it out and really liked it! There were games at every table and a cute little outdoor area under strings of lights, with a fire and a few chairs with blankets in the back. It was a bit too chilly to sit outside the night we were there, but we all agreed we wanted to head back when it warmed up a bit and hang out by the fire. 

Prior to checking out the new brewery, we ate pizza at another new restaurant in our neighborhood, Aviator Pizza, that just opened a few weeks ago. We've driven by this particular retail space a million times, since it's on our way to the grocery store and Target, and have kept tabs on what's taking up residence. There's a place called Super Donut that we've been essentially stalking but sadly there has been little to no progress since October, so we're kind of assuming the project ran out of money. Probably for the best anyway. A donut shop within walking distance sounds like trouble. Especially because I would drive there approximately 100% of the time.
The South Congress Cafe has also been on our radar since we moved here, so we finally had brunch there last weekend. We all really liked it, and the mid-morning mimosas didn't hurt either! 
We've done a pretty good job so far this year hitting some of our 'Austin bucket list' destinations and continued the trend on Friday night at TopGolf, a national chain that is best described as bowling, but golf. Plus food and drinks. If you live near one of these, I highly recommend it! It's something different than the usual bar or restaurant and isn't too expensive if you've got a group of five or six.

Peter was, of course, the best of our group, and the rest of us had fun but decided not to quit our day jobs ;). Our friend Esther came close to decapitating the guy in the bay next to ours. Whoops.


Speaking of cool business concepts...last night we decided to celebrate the long weekend by roasting marshmallows on our own personal flame at a cute little coffee shop downtown called Halcyon. A few different people have told us about their infamous S'mores dessert, so we (along with a billion other people) decided to give it a try. We waited for what seemed like forever for our tray to arrive, so finally Peter went up to the counter to figure out what was going on. Turns out, they forgot about us so they apologized and took the whole S'mores order off of our tab. Score!
Does anyone else like their marshmallows burned to a crisp, or is it just me?! 

And that about sums up last weekend and this weekend's activities. Wednesday is my birthday and Ali has several friends coming to visit starting on Thursday so I'm expecting an eventful week!
Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Recap

I thought it would be fun to take a look back on some of my favorite 2016 moments and memories, so here goes!

January


The beginning of 2016 was pretty much a steady stream of visitors, which we loved. In January, Ali and her best friend Jess came to Melbourne for a few days on their tour of Australia, and we had so much fun exploring the city. The highlight of their visit was our trip to Ballarat Wildlife Park, where Ali realized her lifelong goal of holding a wombat. We also toured the epic Great Ocean Road and attended the Australian Open. Peter spent the entire month of January working in Kansas City, so it was a bit of an experience living alone for a month!

 Ali holding Patrick, the biggest wombat in Australia
We had a picnic lunch at the Brighton Beach Boxes and ended up getting super sunburned despite the unseasonably cool summer weather! 
Jess, Ali, and me in front of the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

February


In February, Peter's parents came to Australia for three weeks. We did the usual day trips to the Great Ocean Road (we took a helicopter tour, our first ever, and it was so cool!) and Phillip Island, and also spent a weekend in Sydney. We had lots of fun with them showing off 'our' city.
 All of us at St. Kilda Beach
 Sydney Harbour Bridge
 Icebergs at Bondi Beach 
 Helicopter tour above the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
Feeding kangaroos at Phillip Island Wildlife Park

March


Our third round of visitors for the year (my dad, stepmom, sister, and her college roommate) came for a few weeks in March. We fed kangaroos and visited the Nobbies on Phillip Island, toured the Great Ocean Road, took in a footy game, and devoted lots of time to exploring the restaurant and bar scene in Melbourne. We discovered what would become one of our favorite Melbs restaurants (high praise!) during their stay: Meatmaiden. 
Feeding Kangaroos on Phillip Island
Touring the Great Ocean Road
 Footy game at the Melbourne Cricket Garden
 Shrine of Remembrance
Hannah, Kathryn, me, and Peter enjoying a drink at Ponyfish Island
 Meatmaiden



April


Our first month of the year without visits from family (and the first month without a Great Ocean Road trip for me!) was largely spent enjoying the fall weather in Melbourne and checking out some new restaurants. We did make one significant purchase- a new camera.
 Ice cream number 24023482 of the year
 A cute coffee shop in South Melbourne
Checking out a new burger place near our house

May


We took an absolutely epic trip to Japan. We hit Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Hakone. Peter and I both absolutely LOVED it. We are both dying to go back! 

 Admiring the deer in Nara Park
 Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto
 Bamboo Forest in Kyoto
 Peter in Osaka
Temple in Tokyo
Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo

June


Fresh off the heels of our trip to Japan, I flew home to Minnesota to be in one of my college roommates/best friend's wedding and meet my new baby niece. It was such a fun trip and I got to see tons of friends and family all in two short weeks. I think I spent half of June on an airplane, but it was worth it ;). 
 The wedding party
The girls getting ready
Meeting my adorable niece Hadley


July


In July, upon learning we would be returning to the States sooner than expected, we took an impromptu trip to Tasmania and wished we had more time to explore Australia's island state. Some highlights were Hobart and Wineglass Bay. We spent our last few weeks in Melbourne soaking up everything we love about the city, including a footy game, a trip to the Mornington Peninsula, and a tour of Main Ridge Dairy.
 Exploring Hobart's surroundings
 Hobart
 Wineglass Bay
Honeymoon Bay

August


In August, the biggest change of the year happened when we moved back to the States. It was a  bittersweet move (still is!) but overall we are just filled with gratitude that we were able to live in and explore the fabulous country of Australia for two years. We will look back on those years fondly for the rest of our lives and we are eternally grateful for all of the memories we made while living there, as well as the lifelong friendships we established. At the end of August, the day after arriving back in the States to be exact, we drove up to northern Minnesota to join my family for a weekend on Lake Vermilion.

 Packed into the car on our way to the airport, with help from Lauren and Matt
 Peter paddleboarding on Lake Vermilion
Annual family pontoon adventure, which nearly turned extremely eventful seconds after this photo was taken and we realized we were sinking the front of the boat. Whoops. 
Beautiful northern Minnesota sunset

September


We spent September in limbo, readjusting to life in the States and living out of our suitcases between our parents' houses. I made it to the Minnesota State Fair for the first time in years, and my mom, sister and I took a trip down to Austin to scout apartments and paid a visit to Magnolia Market in Waco. 
 Sweet Martha's Cookies at the Minnesota State Fair with Jess
Waco to see the Fixer Upper sights with my mom and Ali

October


In October we moved to Austin, gained a roommate, and took a trip to San Diego for Peter's grandpa's wedding all in the same week. It was a crazy month! 
 Our new apartment building
 San Diego sunset
The wedding

November


In November, we devoted much of our time and energy to exploring our new city, celebrated Thanksgiving in our new apartment, and even got to host my mom and stepdad as our first visitors! We fit in a day trip to San Antonio and enjoyed showing them around. 

The Alamo
Riverwalk

December


Last month, we finished off 2016 with an abundance of Christmas activities (Christmas lights at Mozart's Coffee Roasters, Christmas at the Silos, and Austin Trail of Lights to name a few), a Christmas Day hike, and a trip home to Minnesota to ring in the New Year. I also landed a job (I start next week!), and we settled into our life in Austin even more. 

 Christmas at the Silos
Our Christmas Tree


We had a fabulous year and are grateful for all of the adventures and experiences we were lucky enough to have in 2016. 

Wishing you all health, happiness, and adventure in the new year!

About


Welcome! I started Laura and Peter Down Under in July 2014 when my husband and I moved from the States to Melbourne, Australia for his job. I blog about expat life, our travels, food, and whatever else comes to mind. Follow along on our adventures Down Under!

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