I have mentioned ‘serial killer’ twice in this post but not encountered any.

First things first. We FINALLY sent off our visa application!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Visa Application Send Off
Me outside the post office. I am squinting because it was mega sunny, not because I was angry.

I know that is a lot of exclamation marks (James tells me I am free and easy with them at the best of times) but it is definitely warranted. It has taken us 4 weeks since arriving to sort out what we needed and then collate all the relevant information. For a good few months even before we got here I was researching and pulling stuff together too. Honestly it felt never ending and I can’t quite believe it is now out of our hands. We decided to pay the hefty fee for ‘Premium Processing’ which means we should get a response within 15 days. That response will either be a flat no, a request for further information or a yes. We’re trying not to feel too anxious about it but I think it will feel like a long wait. For the rest of our time here we will be researching relevant stores and making contacts / introducing the Santorus collection to people. Basically seeing what kind of interest and response we can get!

Anyway, other stuff we have been up to over the past week has been a bit more interesting so enough about that.

We have signed up to meetup.com which sounds like a dating site but isn’t as that would be weird. It is kind of a networking site – groups of people getting together to do different things in the city. You pick what kind of stuff you like to do and then you can see people that are arranging get togethers or meet ups nearby. Undeterred by the idea this could potentially be used by sociable serial killers, James found an event called ‘5k Beer Run’ which I guess spoke to him on many levels.

IMG_20170621_183738_688 I went along for ‘moral support’ – I am all for exercising but there is no way I am ready to do a 5k run in 35ºC heat. Anyway we arrived at the bar where it started and there were about 80 eager beavers all out ready to get their sweat on. Nutters. We strolled up to the outdoor bar and were told you pre-order your beer before the start so that it is ready to hand over as soon as you get back. Genius! James enjoyed himself anyway, it was pretty run through the park and around the lake. I am working my way up to joining him on one in the future – just need to feel a bit more confident that I won’t collapse from heat stroke after 5mins before I give it a go.

On Thursday evening last week we went bat watching!! Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. Bet you didn’t know that, eh!? Around 1.5 MILLION(!) of them live under the Congress Avenue bridge, and every evening during ‘bat season’ they emerge east on their nightly hunt for food, flying around for about an hour creating a dancing cloud of battyness across the (almost dark) sky . No one knows the exact time the bats emerge so we got there about 45mins before sunset and picked a spot on the bridge. We could hear them squeaking and shuffling underneath for a while as we waited, not really sure what was going to happen, half expecting Bruce Wayne to sidle up next to me and start a conversation.

IMG_20170629_144331_003
View from Congress Bridge over Ladybird Lake (which is actually the Colorado River). 1.5 million bats beneath us. Yeah.
IMG_20170629_144235_473
This area became rammed with people, also bat watching.
IMG_20170622_200736_534
More people, waiting for bats.
IMG_20170622_214256_606
James standing next to people, looking at bats.

Sure enough as soon as the sun went down they emerged in their THOUSANDS and at what seemed like a million miles an hour. Sadly a blizzard of bats in the dark doesn’t make for particularly good photos or video so I have no actual proof but it was amazing, trust me.  Below is a photo I found in google which kind of gives an idea of what it looked like…

bats

It is fascinating how every single night the bridge and river bank below is heaving with people waiting to see this. A few kids around who were snap chatting the whole time were apparently quite unimpressed with the overall display but I really have no idea what they were expecting. I thought it was cool.

Last weekend we did some typical Austin-y things. We went to a place called Eastside Tavern, it had a rooftop terrace so we sat up there and ate burgers and drank margaritas. In my case a single margarita because the one I had was huge and pretty much hit my alcohol limit for the entire weekend! I have always been a cheap date.

IMG_20170624_094615_964

During this month there is a festival on called ACL Live which is essentially a celebration of live music across the city with various events going on. We went to a venue called 3ten downtown which was free and listened to a local band called The Belle Sounds who had a bit of a Country-Fleetwood-Mac vibe. They sang a song which was inspired by Dexter the serial killer which I thought was fun.

On Sunday we attempted to go for brunch and learned a valuable lesson. Don’t. On a Sunday apparently you should expect to wait at least an hour to get in anywhere that serves breakfast. So what else could we do except go for breakfast tacos? WE HAD NO CHOICE!! Then we headed out to The Domain which is about 20mins north from us – it is a huge outdoor mall complex and we just mooched around a bit.

IMG_20170625_144858_020
So many cool walls for Instagram photos. James loves posing for them. Not.

On Monday we drove to Dallas for the day, as the Total Home & Gift Market was on and it was worth visiting for some work research. It is about 3 hours to get there so we hired a car as James didn’t fancy putting ours under too much pressure(!) Also our car radio doesn’t work so he was probably more worried about me singing all the way there.

IMG_20170629_144137_705
Dallas in the distance…
IMG_20170630_091045_479
Inside the Trade Centre – 15 floors!

So the usual roundup…

Achievements:
• Completed and posted our visa application. Woo!!!
• Visited our first US trade show
• Booked our Austin City Limits tickets (the ‘Glastonbury’ of Texas)
• Saw bats but can’t prove it

Concerns:
• It is getting WARM
• We are halfway through our 3 months already
• James’ football team have lost their last 3 games
• Visa application getting denied!

Until next time folks! J&T x

IMG_20170626_193214_603

Advertisements

Blues on the Green and a cockroach in my face.

We have now been here over a month. Where did that time go?!

Sorry things have been a bit quiet of late. We have been inside a lot, ploughing through mountains of visa paperwork, documents and endless links on the USCIS website that are ridiculously confusing. Or maybe it isn’t that confusing, but too much for my tiny brain to handle!

We have finished decorating the apartment! When I say ‘finished’ I don’t mean actually but we have done as much as we are going to do for now, until we know the status with the visa application. We have completed the Santorus displays which were our priority anyway….

Santorus Interiors
Santorus display bedroom – we made the headboard ourselves. I went through 3 staple guns.
IMG_20170614_143255_192
Santorus workspace / office area
IMG_20170614_104051_725
Our bedroom – another headboard triumph!

 

We’ve become the masters of bargain hunting, DIY and furniture upscaling. I also never want to step foot inside Home Depot again.

In between ‘work’ stuff we have got into the habit of a mid-week ‘treat’, basically to get out of the apartment and also to try and experience as much of Austin as we can. Last week we went to an outdoor concert called ‘Blues on the Green’ which happens once a month for several months during the spring/summer.

We were told it was one of the most ‘Austin’ things we could do, so we made sure we did. It is essentially a free outdoor concert in Zilker Park, Austin’s largest and prettiest park next to the Colorado River. Due to hardly having any stuff, putting together bits for a ‘picnic’ dinner in 35ºC / 95ºF was interesting – our cool bag had more ice packs in it than food. We ended up eating at a really cool restaurant called ‘Shady Grove’ anyway which is next to the park – the frozen margs lured us (well, me) in.

IMG_20170615_080843_798

The music started at 8pm so we rocked up around 7pm and man it was hot. Plus the only blanket we had was a fluffy one (that we had bought for cheap on our first night sleeping on the floor), so James was mortally embarrassed because we didn’t have cool trendy ones like everyone else there. No need to worry though, once we sat down the people on the blanket next to us lit up an enormous communal blunt so I don’t think they cared!

It was a really nice evening, basically kind of a family-festival vibe, less about the music but more about being a giant social gathering of locals. Unfortunately I didn’t take many pics because I was playing on Instagram stories (which disappear) and I forgot. Also it is possible the passive weed smoking left me less than sharp.

IMG_20170614_191452_923
Here is a picture of the sky that eve. The clouds look really close don’t they? Maybe the weed got to me a bit…

As for other mid-week ‘treats’… we had to go back to Torchy’s! Honestly it is amazing and anyone that comes to visit will be forced to go at least once, even if you don’t like tacos. Sorry you just have to. Also Lucy’s Fried Chicken is another local we are developing a fondness for, in the week they do ‘all day happy hour’ which means $1 beers. We are practically making money by going there!

IMG_20170607_205904_458

A couple of other places where we have stuffed our faces (let’s be honest, Austin is pretty much all about the food):

Gourdough’s is a pub-style restaurant which serves donuts exclusively. In case you were wondering the donuts aren’t sweet glazed ones – we went there for brunch – but of course I was full and couldn’t finish so I want to go back as I think the dessert ones need to be tried! I had one filled with egg and sausage. James had his with fried chicken and maple syrup. It sounds gross, and it kind of is but it is also amazing! There is a trailer about 4mins drive from us. Just saying.

 

We also went to a place called Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza.  It is essentially a ranch in the middle of nowhere about 20mins west from downtown. You sit under an open-sided massive wooden roof on picnic-style tables, a really nice chilled place to hang out. By chilled I mean insanely hot but the fans and water spray helped a lot. Unfortunately no pics of this but I am sure we will be going back. No one smoking weed here though so I have no excuse other than I forgot!

On the drive back we passed a field that had 3 camels in it. Seriously. I have googled and cannot find any explanation as to how or why. It is bugging me.

 

This weekend just gone we decided to go on a hike. Of course this was the day it hit over 100ºF for the first time this year, so we ended up waiting until around 6pm to try and make it slightly less insane. There are so many trails to pick, we went to Turkey Creek Trail which again is about 20mins outside the centre. I started sweating as soon as we got out of the car so you can imagine the state of us by the end. We had our first proper experience of Texan ‘critters’ – a massive cockroach flew in my face and scared the pants off me while I was trying to climb down a steep hill and I fell over. At that point we were also lost (we ended up walking 3 miles on a 2 mile trail). Fun times. There were also birds (I am hoping they were birds) making calls which sounded like rattle snakes which FREAKED ME OUT. I have since learned that there are in fact snakes, scorpions, tarantulas and black widows about so that will be interesting for next time!!!

IMG_20170618_161725_875
James casually strolling looking cool as a cucumber
IMG_20170618_002517_878
You don’t get to see a picture of my red sweaty mug (lucky for you) but I thought my trainers looked cool against the ground so here you go

 

Achievements
• Apartment decorated, pictures taken and visa paperwork (mostly) collated
• Exercising outside / in the heat. Brutal.
• Experienced Blues on the Green – we are officially ‘in’ Austin
• Went to Anthropologie and managed to keep the bill under three figures

Concerns:
• I need tacos
• I love nachos
• My wisdom tooth. Please don’t make me have to pay for a dentist out here already.
• How does Whole Foods manage to keep taking all our money?

That’s about it for now folks. Off to do some exercise before cooking dinner. I am already starting to feel my next Torchy’s craving!

P.S. I almost forgot… we finally made it to the pool!!!

IMG_20170619_115348_181

 

 

 

Making Progress…

Howdy! Thanks to all who read the first post – so nice to know people are following our journey, and thanks for your lovely messages. Don’t forget you can sign up via email for updates, and also follow us on Instagram (adventures.in.austin).

I think it might be useful to explain our situation in terms of getting a visa, as we currently don’t have one yet! I am applying for the L1 visa, to set up a new office. In order to apply for this visa you need have some sort of office/work premises secured already, although logic says you need to be in the US to set this up in the first place. Confused? Me too.

So, we are currently here on an ESTA which allows us to be in the US for up to 90 days without a visa. We are using this time to set up the office / show space for our design collections and also get things up and running in terms of ground work, contacts, etc. You have to submit photos of the premises along with the visa application, so once we have finished decorating the show space (hopefully by next week) we can send the paperwork off! Then we wait for 30-90 days to hear a response. Hopefully nearer to 30 days than 90 but when do these things ever go to plan?

 

 

We spent most of last week continuing to sort bits for the apartment. We now have a bed to sleep on – we thought it would be fun to get a King size, which by US standards is actually 6ft wide and feels slightly unnecessary but hey, big is better in Texas!

So fed up of sitting on the floor…

We have been waiting in all day for a sofa. This will be the 3rd day we have waited and I am starting to wonder if it is ever arriving at all. Delivery for everything in the US is slooooooow and expensive! When you select ‘Express delivery’ it takes 3 days! EDIT: The sofa arrived shortly after writing this. Delivery here is very odd – furniture gets left outside the door but the delivery guys must go to some sort of ninja academy as they don’t knock or do anything to let you know they have left a package. So you have to expectantly open your front door every half an hour like a chump to see if anything has arrived. Of course whenever you do that, there happens to be some unsuspecting person walking past, minding their own business, which results in a really awkward moment of shifty eye contact and head-nod before you close the door again and they are left wondering why you just opened your door to nod at them, then disappear.

We have carried out some major ‘upscaling’ to some Ikea cabinets which I think have turned out looking rather impressive (yes, I am working on my modesty).

Everything out here is built for convenience. No one walks anywhere because firstly, it is too hot and secondly, because you can park literally right in front of wherever you need to go.

We were looking for an ATM the other day, and someone told us there was one “in the parking lot”. Hmm. Weird place for an ATM? Not here! Anyway we did a couple of donuts round the parking lot and found it, hopped out and started punching in the pin, etc. Cue weird looks from other people in the car park. Clearly we were doing something wrong but no idea what it was. Then I saw the sign… “Drive Thru ATM”. Duhhh we are supposed to stay in the car. I am glad there weren’t that many people around because we must have looked so stupid. Imagine pulling up to a Drive-Thru McDonald’s and then getting out of the car to speak to the person at the window. Yeah. Embarrassing.

We STILL haven’t had a chance to go in the pool yet – ridiculous! This is partly because we have been pretty busy and also partly because it has been storming almost every other day. Austin has most of it’s yearly rainfall in May and June, and it isn’t messing about! That said, we were sitting out on our balcony (is it called a balcony if you are on the ground floor? – answers on a postcard) on a phonecall yesterday and after 10mins I was getting burnt and melting.

IMG_20170603_122309_325
Morning Coffee & Cornbread

An update on James’ US soccer career: He is now a signed up member of ‘Nafta FC’ who play in the ‘Team Cowboy’ league. Last week they beat ‘Mike’s Arsenal’ 4-0 and this week they are set to play a team called ‘Man Chest Hair’. I know it sounds like I made all that up but I didn’t. I am going to watch them play tomorrow so I can get some photographic evidence of his on-the-pitch action.

We have managed to resist Torchy’s (Tacos) for a whole week which I am rather proud of. We are trying to limit ourselves to going out on the weekends only – to save both dollars and pounds (currency and weight!) So after a successful week of healthy dinners we were ready for the weekend!

CANE ROSSO – this is a renowned pizza place so we thought we would try it out. The waiter took great pride in telling us how authentically Italian the pizzas were and then James told him my dad is Italian and took the wind out of his sails. He told us their most popular pizza was called ‘The Honey B**t**d’ which I ordered. When it was brought out it was announced as ‘The Honey B**ch’ which I thought was odd. I guess they change the name according to the gender of the person eating it? That doesn’t seem very PC, even for Austin! Then it become apparent it was actually a different pizza and they had brought out the wrong one. I was relived slightly to know the waiter wasn’t insulting me and to be honest I couldn’t remember what was supposed to be on it anyway. I am not sure you could justify them as being ‘authentically Italian’ but they were nice enough! Of Course they were huge and we couldn’t finish so we got leftovers to go and then left the box behind, waaaaaa.

OASIS – I kept finding this on every “Top 10 things to do in Austin’ list so on Saturday eve we decided to go for a drive (about 30mins) to check it out. It is a small group of big restaurants, bars and a couple of little shops all built into the side of a massive cliff overlooking Lake Travis. It is a big tourist attraction for the area, and lots of people have special occasion dinners here. It is very impressive! All the table and chairs are arranged on various levels on top of each other, some on platforms overhanging the water.

IMG_20170603_233714_405
A view of The Oasis from above
IMG_20170603_192356_643
Cliffside view. High!
IMG_20170603_233633_711
Oasis Texas Brewing Company

Sadly the weather wasn’t great when we were there (storm was a-brewin’) but we definitely want to go back. The sunset from there is supposed to be stunning, when you can see it!

THE SALT LICK – Wow. We met up with a family here that James had exchanged a few messages with (via Spurs – he was a guy from the UK who had moved out to the US over 10 years ago but been living in Austin for the past 2 and been giving us a bit of advice). They suggested meeting up here, The Salt Lick is a bit of an Austin institution and as soon as we pulled up we realised we weren’t in just any old BBQ joint. It was only midday and nearly every person leaving had a takeaway box in their hands. Nearly every man arriving was hauling a massive cooler full of beers. The air smelt a-ma-zing. What goes on in this magical place? Then we saw this…

IMG_20170604_153243_609
“The pit” – a glorious shrine of meat
IMG_20170604_154032_450
Inside

The place was huge – positioned in the middle of nowhere on the borders of Hill Country, nestled by a vineyard. In addition to the inside seating area (big ‘family-style’ tables) there were loads of outside eating areas too. It is the kind of place families come on a Sunday and basically hang out all day with their cooler of drinks and endless refillable plates. The meat was goooood. The people we were having lunch with found it bizarre that James was eating ribs with a knife and fork rather than his fingers. As usual, James and I couldn’t finish our plates and had to take some home – except we actually remembered the box this time!

So, a roundup:

Achievements:
• We now have a bed, tv, dining table & chairs, sofa – no more sitting on the floor!
• Accomplished some DIY and furniture upscaling
• Successfully managed to avoid tacos for a week
• Managed to get into some regular exercise. A lot of sweat.

Concerns:
• Drinking way too much coffee. Possibly addicted.
• Will we ever get into the pool?

New Favourite Store:
Hobby Lobby. Kind of like a combination of Hobby Craft and Homesense but the size of Costco. Amazing!!!

Just realised there are no pictures of us this time so here is one of James with a totem pole in a reclaimed furniture place that he wouldn’t let me get. Booo!! 😦

IMG_20170526_232056_786

Until next time! T&J x