Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Day at Hamilton Pool Preserve

We had a quiet Christmas over here, complete with 80-degree weather and a hike at Hamilton Pool Preserve. After opening our gifts, we ate some cinnamon rolls and then drove the 20 miles or so west of Austin to the much-talked-about natural pool in the middle of basically nowhere. We passed the most amazing ranches on the way out there, and I love that just 20 miles outside the city you feel like you're hundreds of miles from civilization. 

The hike to the pool is less than a mile, down some rocky steps and then along a crystal clear turquoise river. Despite the fact that most of my pictures manage to cut out any trace of tourists, it was pretty packed. We waited about 15 minutes to get into the parking lot...turns out 80 degrees on Christmas drives a bunch of families out of the house to one of the only open attractions! 

The pool and rocks are beautiful and I love that you can walk all the way around and under the waterfall. You can sometimes swim in the pool, but it's been closed for awhile because of bacteria levels. I'm not too keen on swimming in public pools that lack massive amounts of chlorine, so I don't know if I'd get in even if it were open.

On our way back to the car, we took a path along the river and actually saw some fall-like colors which is somewhat rare here! It didn't feel a whole lot like Christmas given the temperature and lack of snow, but I'll take being able to be outside all afternoon over freezing to death ;).

We headed home and Peter made a delicious roast for dinner and we played a few rounds of Phase 10. We are heading to Minnesota tomorrow to belatedly celebrate Christmas with family and ring in the new year.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Favorite Christmas Cookies

In honor of Christmas today, I thought I'd post a couple of my favorite Christmas cookie/treat recipes in case anyone needs some last-minute inspiration :). We opened presents this morning and are heading outside this afternoon because it's 80 degrees here in Austin!

Hope everyone is enjoying the day with family and friends! Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies via

We made these yesterday and they are sooooooo good. I had seven for breakfast and I don't regret it. 

Peppermint Bark via

This is my favorite Christmas treat ever. Sometimes I add peppermint extract to the white chocolate if I remember, and I usually just blend a few candy canes in my magic bullet for the topping. The key is to buy high-quality chocolate (I usually use Ghiradelli) and not overheat it when melting or it will get chunky. I read somewhere to also make sure the chocolate has cocoa butter as an ingredient. This one sometimes takes a few tries to perfect, but even if you mess up a bit, it still tastes amazing!

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies via

Ali introduced us to these this year and they are amazing, especially if you love Andes Mints like we do. The best part about these is they freeze really well, and the mints solidify on top after they cool which makes them easy to store. 

Classic Spritz Cookies via Betty Crocker

I could eat these all day, every day. I made them last week, but we don't have a fancy spritz machine, so they were just circular cookies. They were good, but they didn't look as pretty as the ones Peter's mom sent us! 

And a few more from around the Internet that I haven't made before, but look really good :) 

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies from Foodie Crush

Ginger Cookies from All Recipes

Mini Cinnamon Roll Cookies from Taste of Home

Chocolate Coconut Cookies from Cravings of a Lunatic

Friday, December 23, 2016

Life Lately

Time for a random collection of things we've been up to since I last posted!

Austin Trail of Lights

We've had a lot of Christmas fun this year, including driving around looking at lights, Christmas at the Silos, and most recently, the Austin Trail of Lights at Zilker Park. We kept hearing about this Austin holiday staple everywhere, so we decided to check it out one night last week. The first time we tried to go, the line was way too long and we didn't realize that really the only way to park within ten miles of the thing was to pre-purchase a parking pass. I think we underestimated the extent of the commotion surrounding the Trail of Lights! So we went home, purchased a parking pass for the next evening, and went then instead. It was super fun. Basically, you walk a mile or so through a bunch of light displays sponsored by various organizations and businesses around the city. There was an area to take pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, food trucks, a mini carnival and tons of other holiday-themed activities.

Got a hand-roasted s'more at one of the food trucks...first one I've had in years!
 A tunnel of lights:
 One of the cute little displays, sponsored by CLIF.
 The most important food truck ever.
The Austin Fire Department strung lights on one of their trucks and posed for pictures, which attracted what seemed like thousands of little kids.

H-E-B is the largest grocery chain here and they had a really cool little display where kids could take pictures with Santa and then were given a free book. We (especially Ali) love to read, so this was one of our favorite displays.
We attempted a selfie under one of the light canopies, but it wasn't too successful. I mostly just like the fact that we got two other people taking selfies in our photo. Also, why does the person taking the picture (me, in this case) always look weirdly disproportionate and awkward???

It was definitely worth the $15 parking fee (entrance to the actual trail was free) and we Minnesotans appreciated the ability to walk through a light display in mid-December without freezing to death in the process!

New Restaurants in Austin 

We've tried a few new restaurants in the past few weeks:

Bribery Bakery

The cutest little place in the world that serves dessert and drinks. So basically, heaven.

Someone asked me on Instagram what camera I used to take this photo and I was pretty flattered. The answer is my phone! If I were President, I would make a law requiring a sprinkles shaker on every table. #2020.

Rudy's Country Store and BBQ

This is a staple...somewhat touristy but definitely worthy of a visit. My favorite part is the generous samples they offer at the counter before you order.
Please note two things here: 1) "the worst Bar-B-Q in Texas" sign on the wall and 2) the glass box hanging above the line that says "in case of slow moving line break glass" and houses a cattle prod. I laughed a bit too hard at that one.
 My portion, before the pulled pork was delivered. Everything we had was really good, which is pretty much always the case when you order barbeque.

Piranha Killer Sushi

To celebrate me finally coming out of retirement (more about that at a later date) we splurged a bit on a fabulous sushi feast at Piranha Killer Sushi downtown.
 So. Good.

Spun Ice Cream

Organic/locally sourced/hipster ice cream shops are really big in Austin at the moment, so we went to check out Spun Ice Cream on the east side the other night. It was one of those places that use liquid nitrogen to make the ice cream, so it was quite the show. They also had a blackboard posted that listed the local farms from which they sourced their ingredients and even pictures of the cows on those farms which was cool to see. I'm all for supporting local farmers!

Courtney/Leighton's Sip and See

Some of you may know (or at least internet-know) Courtney over at Alkeks Abroad. They are in Houston for the holidays, and Courtney's friends hosted a little sip and see party last weekend so those who haven't already could meet baby Leighton. I drove down (and brought Ali for some company and another driver since it's a little over two hours from Austin) on Sunday and had the best time seeing Courtney, meeting some of her friends and family, and of course getting to meet sweet baby Leighton! Let me just say that she is one of the cutest babies the world has ever seen...not exaggerating. She fell asleep on me approximately 2 seconds after this picture was taken. 

That's all for now...expect a few Christmas posts coming your way in the next couple days! 
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas at the Silos

I feel like we've been doing more Chrismas-themed events this year than ever before, and in keeping with this trend, we ventured the 90-ish miles up to Waco last weekend to hang out at Magnolia Market for their Christmas at the Silos event. It was decorated all cute and there was even a Santa in the garden who was unfortunately on a break while we were there, because I probably would have insisted on a picture. 

Ali and me at the entrance. 
 Such a cute and festive sign!
It was actually pretty empty in the afternoon while we were there because the grounds closed at four and then the main event, a concert, took place at night. We didn't purchase tickets, partly because we didn't know who the guy was, and partly because, despite what it may look like in the photos, it was FREEZING (ironically, the last time we were at the silos we just about melted). I didn't bring gloves, which was a huge mistake because I could barely feel my fingers. I saw some pictures of the concert on Instagram and it looked like there was a huge crowd for the night event, but it definitely looked cold!

We didn't actually see Chip and Joanna, which was slightly disappointing, but we did see the couple from the most recent episode, with the cute kids' rooms. So that's basically a celebrity sighting, right? Ali wanted to approach him, but then we couldn't think of a good introductory line..."hey, you're that guy from that episode" just didn't seem to cut it, so we just awkwardly stared at him from afar.
I got a grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch which helped to warm up a bit. This is the cutest food truck ever and I sort of want to franchise one of these.
This guy below in the shorts is insane. It was approximately 40 degrees, which is definitely not shorts weather.
If you ever find yourself at the silos, don't forget to check out the cute garden center in the back. I hadn't ever been in it before, but there were so many cute gardening accessories and gifts in there!

 I loved this adorable green truck!

After looking through all the goodies in the shop and grabbing some coffee, we hit the food trucks again for dessert. There's a bakery on site, but the line for that was out the door, so we decided to go for the line-less option.

On our way out I spotted this adorable little guy playing frisbee in his cowboy boots and hat. Creepy that I took a picture? Maybe, but he was the cutest kid ever.
Speaking of creepy pictures, we may or may not have located Chip and Joanna's farm and done a drive by. I think there used to be a big arch over the driveaway that said 'Magnolia Farms' but people like us probably started to find it and take annoying photos on the side of the road. Needless to say, we didn't see them, but there were lots of cars in their driveway and they made an appearance the following day at the silos, so let's just assume they were there when this picture was taken ;).

Tonight we're going to the Austin Trail of Lights, which is the biggest Christmas event in the city. We tried to go last night, but were basically turned away because we hadn't pre-purchased a parking pass. What?? So, we went home and bought a parking pass for tonight and will try again!


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!



Search This Blog

Popular Posts



Powered by Blogger.



Email *

Message *