A Letter to my Post-Grad Self

Hey, you.

It’s nearly been three months since you graduated college. That’s wild, right? You no longer have to carry your 15 pound backpack through the Texas heat, worrying about the sweat stains on the back of your Comfort Colors, two sizes too big, t-shirt. You won’t ever have to stress about turning in a copy of your case study online and to the Finance department head by 3pm on Thursday afternoon. Accidentally over-committing to campus orgs is a non-issue.

All of the time you spent at career expo or practicing your answers to interview questions, it’s all been worth your while. You’re the boss now. At least, you’re the champion of how you want to grow to become greater every day. Here and now is the place where you chose to start the rest of your life.

You’re excited, full of nerves fueled by the uncertainty of what’s to come. You’ve moved to a new city, a change of pace and environment from your college town. You’re to find a new pattern, straying from what you’d grown so familiar to during the previous four years. That uncertainty makes you wonder, but it also makes you desire more from what’s ahead of you. Your first official task will be carried out eloquently as your first few weeks on the job are performed delicately. For when you’re not sure where you are, keep an open mind to all that will surround you. And when the time presents itself, you will realize how quickly you’ve established your new normal.

But I know you miss college. How, for the past four years, your best friends have been within a few steps from your reach. Acquaintances who you grew a familiarity to. I know how you look back fondly on even the simplest of memories, a willful nostalgia coloring your recollection. Now more than ever, you appreciate the freedom you were given while in college. They say college will be the best four years of your life, so I understand. It’s easy to feel a longing for a time that was so experimental and formative of your person.

Though promise me this: that you won’t exhaust your now being preoccupied with the past. You made your experience as a student what it was because you lived in the present. Every memory that you can remember ensued because you were determined to make it the best it could be. One worth sharing with your friends at your 11 am lecture on Monday morning. By all means, I’m not saying to let go of that experience, or move on from all that formed you into who you are now. Rather, while you’re so focused on how much you miss your time in college, don’t undermine what life after graduation has to contribute to your person. Make every day an occasion and make it one that’s worthwhile. Hear me out. So that one day you’ll reminisce on the days when you were a twenty-something, you won’t have let them go, unspent.

If you liked this post, you may also like the year of the new normal.


About Me

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I’m a proud Longhorn of the graduating Class of 2017 at the University of Texas at Austin. My passions include traveling, writing, and being behind the camera. I started this blog my freshman year of university and hope to share with you what makes me, well, me.

 

 

 

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There’s nothing quite as sobering as moving to a new city and realizing that you don’t know anyone. And in that moment, you begin to question where you are, what you’re doing, and whether or not you even know yourself.

It’s a quarter till one in the morning and I’m walking back to my dorm from the Escargot, rubbing my hands along the sleeves of my sweater, trying to fight the brisk night air breeze that was biting at my skin. The pathway is dimly lit except for the lamp posts illuminating the cement road between buildings C and B, which would soon be blocked off for the start of a years worth of renovations. My phone buzzed in my hand, and I quickly looked down at the screen only to find a notification from Facebook.

So-and-so and 21 other friends will be attending Tacos and Tequila tonight in Austin. Let them know if you’re attending!

I clicked the home button and shoved my phone deep in my purse, picking up my pace as I noticed the darkness dissolve with every step I took. In the distance I heard male voices howl, whistling and slurring some words in French before being interrupted by the sharp shattering of a beer bottle. It was as if you could slice the air with a knife, the silence being the loudest noise around me.

Moments later I arrived at building B, running up the four flights of stairs to get to the third floor (oh yeah, in Europe the ground floor is level zero and I lived on the European third floor, which is equivalent to the American fourth floor). I knocked on my apartment door and was greeted by my parents. My dad began by quickly briefing me on all of the organizing he did in my room: where he installed my tea kettle, how he moved my bed to face alongside the window, and how he hid some emergency cash along the inner lining of my desk drawer.

My mom enthusiastically handed me a brown, glossy gift bag, which I reached in to and found two beautiful diamond earrings along with a certificate of authenticity, entirely in French. “This is your early birthday present, since we won’t be here to give it to you then,” she would say. I swallowed back my nervousness and indulged in the luxury of my present, paying no attention to the reality of the situation– that my parents were about to say goodbye to me as I moved to a new city, in a new country, in a different continent. Realizing the time, two hours past midnight, we exchanged kisses on the cheek and my dad prayed in a hush tone as he embraced me for one last time (a tradition of his every time I leave to travel).

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Game day in Austin, my new apartment, and my Dallas normal.

This was it. A rush of excitement reverberated through my bones, amplified by the hoots and howls which slipped through the cracks beneath the balcony door. While I was high on the adrenaline of being in a new country, a numbness sat idly in the back of my mind as I realized that I was on my own. That’s when the sobering silence began to seep in and I recognized the reality of the situation. I sat down on my bed and looked up at the moon through the large panel of windows along the wall. While I harbored a fear of losing myself in the commotion I felt relief knowing that that we all look up to the same moon. Swallowing my doubt, in that moment I knew that everything I would do was solely dependent on me. All that I was so certain of and with all other drivers aside, I’d control the reigns of my life and it would be up to me to make the most of all that would greet me in the new year.

All the sudden change and movement around me transformed into a state of constancy. My forever in the moment would soon deviate into a fond memory. As every day would pass, I would overwrite the uncertainty I’d face and discover my normal with the people I’d spend all of my hours with.

In the past year, my life turned into finding my new normal in a new city for an X-amount of time before having to move on to the next. The immediacy of every new setting sunk into my life, making that very moment in my life become my default, my new normal– square one. In France, waking up and walking down the street to Building T for class was my new normal. Waiting outside the Catacombs in the slicing, Paris night air for the 1:30 am shuttle from the city back to campus. In my home away from home I had found my new normal and in those fleeting moment, it felt as if nothing would ever change again.

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My 21st birthday in Paris.

A milestone of my life was turning 21 while I was living in France. At dinner at Paris’ Le Georges, to my surprise the waiters poured in to our private room with trays of sparkler shooters and velvety chocolate cake alongside a scoop of a ice cream and cannoli. As my friends sang happy birthday, I burst into tears and then to laughter. It only takes an instant to know something, and as my being trembled with emotion, I was overcome with the reality that I had found my new normal with the people I’d call my best friends.

As months passed, the excitement funneled into an anxiety obsessed over how the streets I’d walk and the people who I would talk to every day were only to exist in my life for a short amount of time before I’d have to move on to the next chapter. The honesty of being on my own rushed over me like a gradual intoxication. I thought my new normal was the definition of who I was, and when it came time to leave, I would have to leave behind who I became during that that part of my life.

It only took me 21 years and four months to realize that I was wrong.

Two thousand sixteen has been the year that I’ve lived mostly out of a suitcase and a carry-on. I’d start my year by leaving behind my second home, Austin, in hopes of finding myself eight thousand one hundred and ninety three kilometers away in the outskirts of Paris. Fast forward five months and traveling through 19% of Europe to when I arrived back in Houston, my hometown in Texas. Four days later, I’d make Uptown Dallas my new home and where I’d spend the entirety of my summer as an intern. After 9 months away, in the middle of August, I’d move to my new apartment in Austin.

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Wine on the Champ de Mars, Dallas skyline, and DKR Stadium at UT Austin.

I didn’t fully understand the concept of finding myself in my normal until this past summer. It’s a June, Saturday morning in Dallas and I lay in my bed, facing the large windows which overlooked Turtle Creek Boulevard, exposed to the beaming sunlight and white noise from outside. The silence rang in my ears as I wished so dearly to assimilate into my new city and clutched to the remnants of my old normal. Just a few days ago I was taking the RER into the city and drinking wine until the early hours of the morning. An hour passed of scrolling through my Instagram feed before I became cognizant of how my new normal wouldn’t come on its own. It would come when I dared to find myself in my new surroundings and in those individuals around me. I would look to spending time with others, not to mask a fear of being alone, but to discover pieces of myself through the relationships I’d form. Soon after, I quickly found my new normal in Dallas. I made the strongest friendships with some people I want by my side for the rest of my life. They made made me realize my worth, my purpose, and where I am in my life. As a young woman living outside of my comfort zone, I found that my perception of finding my “normal” was entirely skewed. I was so caught up in the momentary aspect of uncovering my normal that I overlooked how every experience and every exchange would form my person. The things you find in yourself stay with you even after you transition between your current routine of ordinary. You invent yourself in the different cities you travel to and the different people you meet. Your life should be spent finding yourself, and there’s never an end to who you are. It’s a puzzle. Everywhere you go and everyone you meet uncovers a sliver of who you are. The image of who you are in any given moment doesn’t prescribe all that you have yet to discover about yourself as you move on to the next part of your life. It stays with you and mends you in ways which may not be obvious in the present.

As my senior year begins at the best university in Texas, I reflect on the decisions I have to make that will contribute to forming my new normal picking a full time job, potentially moving to a new city, making new friends and leaving the shell of my comfort zone. Every time I leave for somewhere new, I find my routine in that new place and call it my normal. I’ve been using the word normal throughout the duration of my post, though this past year, my impression of normal has changed. There is no such thing as normal, it’s the extraordinary that we align ourselves with to challenge our journey. The excitement that comes along with our lives lies within finding yourself in the various opportunities around you and not confining yourself to your current idea of normal.

Confession: I’m 20 years old. I have Bieber Fever, again. And I’m not quite sure it went away to begin with.

On November 19, I took off of classes early and drove 150 miles to Houston, where I would be reunited with the Biebs. In honor of his forth studio album released on November 13, Justin Bieber returned to the Toyota Center to steal the hearts of every audience member with a raw, truthful, and exclusive evening with Justin Bieber. He shared the true meaning of Purpose and his faith that carried him through the darkest times, answered some questions from the audience, then gave the audience a private concert, even performing oldies such as Hold Tight and Boyfriend. The evening finished with a 45-minute dance film, a compilation of the short films he released for every one of his tracks on Purpose.

To say I became a bigger fan of Justin Bieber after this performance would be an understatement. You can’t deny that he has talent (oh, that falsetto) and his lyrics story-tell the experiences he’s been through in his 21 years of life. I could write about the evening forever, but I decided to take you there first hand. Come with me as I take you to experience Purpose: The Movement at An Evening With Justin Bieber.

Austin Fall 2015 Bucket List

“Ask me how many times I come to Texas, I say Austin.”
-Abel Tesfaye, the Weeknd


To my beloved readers… I have not forgotten you; I have just been elsewhere. Where? The UT student activity center, the business school atrium, Starbucks, my Finance class, office hours, an Ansolo concert, Dallas to visit a friend, the original Starbucks in Seattle, a couple of airports, a few interviews, Starbucks, and most recently, the Austin City Limits Music Festival. You could say that things went 0-100 real quick, which is why I hadn’t been able to write a new post for Green Tea, No Splenda.

Well, let’s cut to the chase. It’s no longer summer. It’s fall. The horrendous Texas heat isn’t that present anymore. I’m a summer girl, but let me tell you this– there’s something about the chilly (but not too cold) weather and the crisp, low-humidity nights that makes me fall for fall. Maybe it’s the scent of the Sweater Weather candles at Bath & Body Works, the spicy smell of Starbucks drinks, or the hoards of pumpkins outside of supermarkets. There’s something about that week before October that flips a switch in my brain and makes me want to dive head-first into fall-time activities.

It’s my third year at the best university in the world in one of the greatest cities on this planet, so I’ve created a checklist of some fall activities I plan on doing this season in Austin.for

  1. Go to Austin City Limits. – I can already mark this one off of my list. With headliners such as Drake, the Weeknd, and Disclosure, this ACL was one for the books. If you’ve never been to ACL, fear not because it happens every year in early October for two weekends. To experience the festival to it’s potential, invest in a 3-day pass, an over the shoulder CamelBak, and a good pair of sunglasses. This year I was lucky enough to spot Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) and Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester) of Supernatural and even snagged a picture with Jensen!

    ACL 2015
    Festival tip: wear something breathable that you’ll be comfortable in. While the temperature is cooling, you’re still going to get hot from all the body heat around you.
  2. Visit a pumpkin patch and pick my own pumpkin. – Austinites, you’re in luck because we’re near a couple of great pumpkin patches.Opt out of going to the grocery store and buying a pumpkin and go pick one from a pumpkin patch! My recommendations if you’re in Austin? Barton Hills Farm (open weekends through November 8), Sweet Berry Farms (open daily through November 7), and the Elgin Christmas Tree Farm Pumpkin Festival on October 10, 11, 17, and 18.
  3. Have a movie night with Hocus Pocus or Halloweentown and kettle corn. – This one doesn’t even require an explanation. Get a couple of friends together and make the popcorn. It’s not officially fall until you’ve indulged in these classics.

    Let’s be honest, who didn’t have a little crush on heartthrob Max Dennison?
  4. Bake pumpkin bread. – I recently went to Trader Joe’s and picked up their signature Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix. I like this one because it’s a fall favorite and it has just a subtle flavor of pumpkin with the zest of nutmeg and cinnamon. It’s seasonal—so be sure to grab it while it’s still in stock!
  5. Carve pumpkins in front of the UT Tower. – I did this my freshman year of college with one exception. It was pouring rain so we improvised and carved the massive pumpkins outside of the FAC. To avoid the mess, be prepared when you carve! Bring a carving knife, some extra plastic bags, gloves to scoop the innards of the pumpkin, and a Sharpie to draw out your design before you carve.
  6. Go to a haunted house. – I’m from Houston, so it’s second nature to go to Phobia Haunted Houses in October. While I haven’t been to a haunted house in Austin before, I plan on going to House of Torment this season. Blood and gore doesn’t scare me—it’s when things pop out and surprise me that all hell breaks loose.
  7. Tailgate and go to a UT football game. – This doesn’t even require a description. There’s nothing like the air around Darrell K Royal on game-day. From the hours before the game, through the entirety of the fourth quarter, win-or-lose, there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on about a Longhorn football game. If you’re a University of Texas at Austin student, alumni, or fan– you must go to a football game in your lifetime.

    Photo courtesy of Fox Sports.
    Photo courtesy of Fox Sports.
  8. Go to a drive-in theater and watch a scary movie. – I’m a sucker for classic TV series like Leave it to Beaver – where drive in-theaters were a commonality—so my senior year of high school, I went to a drive-in with some friends and had such a memorable experience. Drive in theaters make the perfect date spot too, so cozy up and drive to the Blue Starlite Drive In for Halloween classics like the Twilight Zone, Beetle Juice, Ghost Busters, Scream, and more.
  9. Navigate a corn maze. Barton Hills Farms not only has the perfect pumpkin patch, but they also have an intricate 5-acre corn maze! If you’re not wanting to go out to Bastrop, Sweet Berry Farms in Marble Falls also has a 4-acre corn maze in the shape of the state of Texas. What’s unique about this maze is that as you travel through the pathways, you’ll find signs representing various destinations in Texas.
  10. Go stargazing with a cozy blanket and some hot-drinks. – Year round, this is one of my favorite activities. Head over to South Lawn and watch the stars with some soft-tunes and hot tea. Want an experience away from the city lights? Head down to Eagle Eye Observatory or the McDonald Observatory for their weekend Star Party’s.

    Who wouldn’t want to stare at the stars with Leonardo DiCaprio? Just a thought.
  11. Roast s’mores. – I’m a college student who lives in an apartment, and for lack of an actual fire pit, making s’mores is limited to my stovetop. For those of you who can’t start your own fire, head over to Halcyon on W 4th Street for a lively, lounge atmosphere and a cute s’mores dessert.
  12. Volunteer at a food bank. – It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new season that we often forget what’s most important: giving back to the community. Something that lies at the core of my interests is volunteering, and what better way to show your community that you care than volunteering for a couple of hours at the local Austin food bank. If everyone in our community could sacrifice just a few hours out of their month to volunteer, so many more people in our community can feel the joy we feel in the new season. I’ll be heading to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas this month, and if you can’t make it out, you can still make a difference by donating online.
  13. Hike the Greenbelt. – I absolutely adore Austin for its various nature trails, and now that it’s fall, the leaves are changing colors and the pathways are changing in scenery. While you’re out feeling Austin through nature, check out the Pennybacker Bridge for a beautiful view (and incline) alongside the lake. Don’t make the mistake I made– be sure to go on the cliff on the right side of the bride (going northbound) for the awesome views.

    I made the incline twice wear booties (with heels!), so to make your climb easier, come prepared with tennis shoes.
    I made the incline twice wearing booties (with heels!), so to make your climb easier, come prepared with tennis shoes.
  14. Make homemade apple cider. – I’ve yet to try this one out, but I found this neat, easy to make recipe online that I’m going to give a try! Maybe I’ll even make a vlog out of it (remember when I taught you how to cut a pineapple?).

for (1) Makes 6-8 servings. Recipe courtesy of Food.com.
Ingredients: 8-10 apples. ½ cup of sugar (or skip this step and add Stevia at the end). 4 tablespoons of cinnamon. 4 tablespoons of allspice.
Directions: Cut the apples into quarters and pour them in a pot with boiling water (just enough to cover the top of the apples). Add sugar then wrap the cinnamon and allspice in a cloth and set it in the pot. Allow the cider to boil for one hour on high, leaving the pot uncovered. After the hour passes, put the stove on low and allow the cider to set and simmer for two hours, leaving the pot covered. When the two hours pass, turn off the heat and allow the cider to cool. By this time, you’ll notice your apples are soft and mushy. Remove the spice cloth from the water and mash your apples. Once the cider is cool, run the cider through a strainer to remove the apple-pulp. The cider will last for up to a week and a half if refrigerated properly. Enjoy!


I couldn’t let the fall season go by without a post of this nature, and I hope all of my readers get a chance to indulge in these fall bucket list activities! I’m so fortunate to live in one of the greatest cities on the planet and to have the city as my playground. Think I missed something? Let me know in the comments below.

10 Austin Things You Must Do This Spring

How incredible is it that every year the world starts again? Etching the previous years history in its core and growing a new beginning on the surface.

The frost begins to melt and streams ebb with life. It’s that time of year where you trade your pants for shorts, ditch the parka at home, and slip out of winter boots for more liberating sandals: Springtime. Where your skin was once cracked against the harsh winter months, it begins to soften as the skies do the same, losing their grey tint for a happier and more refreshing baby blue. Spring is my second favorite season, right after summer, as the world sheds its winter coat in exchange for brighter colors, warmer temperatures, and greener foliage.

Rather than being defined by a specific calendar date, the coming of spring can be recognized by the many biological indicators. The sweet scent of new earth, new soil that gives for greener grass and healthier flora. The barren trees sprout leaves of bright green and blossom with delicate flowers of different colors. Everything is different. It’s all brand new. Even the air smells different: it smells of clarity and renewal.

Persians celebrate Nowruz (“New day”), the Persian New Year, which always occurs on he first day of spring in harmony with the rebirth of nature all around us. Holi, the Festival of Colors, is celebrated in India and in countries with Hindu populations. Christians celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Jesus and the end of Lent. Passover, the eight-day holiday, reflects on the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. In all richness of cultures, human kind celebrates in unity the annual gift of revival that springtime brings to earth. Austin thrives in the Spring because of its never ending list of things to do and affinity for outdoor activities. This past December I presented you with the 7 Austin Things You Must Do This Winter. By popular request, I present to you not only seven, but 10 of the top springtime activities you must do to maximize every hour of the beautiful Austin spring season. Enjoy!

  1. Photos in the Bluebonnets – it’s hard to miss the Texas state flower during the Spring, as fields around Austin begin blossoming with the slightly lavender colored flower. Don’t miss a picturesque opportunity by forgetting to stop alongside MoPac or at a bluebonnet field for the perfect Kodak moment. My recommendation? Walk the trails at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and find yourself captivated by the sea of blue on a self guided tour at your own leisure.

    Bluebonnets along MoPac overlooking Downtown Austin. Photo courtesy of Jay Janner.
  2. Zipline over Lake Travis – you don’t need to travel to the Amazon to experience fast speeds overlooking beautiful wildlife. The weather’s clear which allows for the perfect conditions to take a leap and hang 250-2,800 feet across 1/2 mile of views of the breathtaking Austin hill country. Get a group of your closest friends and head out to Austin’s Lake Travis Zipline Adventures for an action packed day over the lake.
  3. Barton Springs Pool – you dreamt of it during the winter, but now it’s warming up and the best time (other than summer) to hang out in one of the “crown jewels” of Austin. Immerse yourself in one of Austin’s most loved attractions and take a dip in this spring fed, three acre long, man-made swimming pool. The pool stays between 68 and 78 degrees year round and is open from 5am to 10pm daily (except for Thursdays), making it the ideal getaway from the hustle and bustle of the quickly-growing city.

    Photo courtesy of Country Living Magazine.
    Photo courtesy of Country Living Magazine.
  4. Stargazing – since before I moved to Austin I’ve always wanted to go stargazing (bonus: while listening to Coldplay). Being from Houston, the city lights make it almost impossible to catch a glimpse of the beautiful constellations that blanket our skies every night. Whether it’s in your own backyard, in front of the Capitol, or on UT Austin’s very own South Lawn, pack a blanket, a late night picnic, and some speakers and lay out to breathe in the night air and the beautiful stars. Don’t miss out on the Austin Astronomical Society’s public Star Party on April 25th at the Eagle Eye Observatory just outside of Austin. (Note: someone go to this with me!)
  5. Pecan Street Festival (May 2 & May 3) – head out to the 6th Street Historic District, formerly recognized as Pecan Street, for one of the largest and longest running arts and music festivals that the nation has to offer. Presented by the Pecan Street Association, the annual two-day celebration attracts local and national artists, musical acts, quirky food vendors, all while supporting nonprofit groups and charities within Austin. I’ve never been myself, but I definitely plan on visiting the festival for a nice stroll and scout out some cool pieces made from Austin’s greatest artisans.
  6. Kayaking on the lake – one of my personal favorite Austin activities, head out to any Austin lake for a tranquil kayaking or paddle boarding experience. I’ve kayaked twice before on Lady Bird Lake and have yet to fall in the water, though I would recommend bringing extra plastic bags to safe-guard your iPhone when capturing photos of the beautiful views of the lake and Downtown Austin. My recommendation would be to visit Congress Avenue Kayaks or the Rowing Dock for the ultimate Austin kayaking experience.

    I took this photo while kayaking on Lady Bird Lake earlier this March. Downtown was setting up for SXSW but the lake still offered tranquility and allowed me a place to clear my mind.
    I took this photo while kayaking on Lady Bird Lake earlier this March. Downtown was setting up for SXSW but the lake still offered tranquility and allowed me a place to clear my mind.
  7. Drive-In Theater – located right in the middle of the city, channel your inner 1950s and reserve a spot at the Blue Starlite drive-in theater. An American favorite, drive-in theaters bring the comfort of a movie theater straight to the privacy and comfort of your car, complete with an outdoor movie screen and concessions stand. The Blue Starlite theater hosts many genres of films, including indie films and drive in classics. Whether it’s with your friends or for a date, don’t miss the Blue Starlite first annual Fantasy Fest film series which runs from April 1 – May 16!
  8. Farmers Market – support local Austin fruit and veggie farmers by heading out to one of the many farmers markets. Avoid the standardization of factory requirements and prepare your food with grass-fed, pasture-raised beef or chicken and organic produce. The Sustainable Food Center hosts a weekly, year round market on Saturdays from 9 am to 1pm at Republic Square Park off of 4th Street and Guadalupe. Or visit another Austin favorite, the Barton Creek Farmers Market which has two locations, off of MoPac/Loop 360 and on South Lamar.
  9. Eeyore’s Birthday Party (April 25) – you know how they say Keep Austin Weird? Well, here’s just that– but for a good cause too! Every year since 1963, the Austin community gets together at Pease Park to raise funds for local nonprofit organizations. Expect to find live music, Austin food vendors, colorful dancers in colorful costumes, and large drum circles. The Austin tradition stems back to UT Austin students recreating A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh story in which Eeyore’s friends plan a magical surprise party for his birthday. The festival is now sponsored by the Friends of the Forest Foundation and distributes all funds raised to local Austin charities.
  10. Strawberry picking – if you’re up for a scenic drive to the Sweet Berry Farms, indulge yourself in the peace that comes with picking your own fresh strawberries. As the temperature warms up, strawberry season kicks off in early March alongside the blackberry and peach harvest in mid May. The farms are open Monday through Saturday, excluding Wednesdays.

Springtime in Austin is full of rebirth and renewal as everyone is ready to let go of the cold and yearning to spend any opportunity in the sun. Whether it’s hiking at the Greenbelt, spending time on the lake, or having a picnic on the Capitol lawn, Austinites know the value of the Spring’s cooling breezes and warmer temperatures that come before the Texas summer heat. Whatever you end up doing, be sure to spend it outdoors and with your best friends for the ultimate Austin springtime experience! I truly hope this list gave you some ideas for fun in the sun, and hey– maybe I’ll even see you outside! Golbou Shariatmadar (1)

7 Austin Things You Must Do This Winter

If I were to write Texas weather a letter, it would begin with:

As Katy Perry would say, “you’re hot and you’re cold,” you’re jeans then you’re shorts, umbrella or scarf? Boots or flip-flops?

Though it feels like a very confused motley of summer and autumn here in Austin, it’s my pleasure to inform you that it’s nearly wintertime! Recognized for its snow-white landscapes and frosty cold temperatures, winter is a time celebrated across all cultures and religions.

Persians celebrate Shabeh Yalda (“Yalda night”), the longest night of the year, an ancient Zoroastrian tradition celebrating the arrival of winter, renewal of the sun, and victory of light over darkness. Buddhists reflect on Bodhi, the day Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment, earning the name Buddha, meaning the “enlightened one.” For Christians, the winter brings cheer and patience, as they celebrate Advent, the time of waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus, leading to Christmas. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is observed for eight days across all nations, commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. African Americans celebrate the festival Kwanzaa, the celebration of life with the seven principles and symbols. In all richness of cultures, we find unity in celebrating the wintertime for all it symbolizes.

As for me, the wintertime marks the transition from light sweaters to layers engulfed by my North Face, the preference change from iced coffee to extra-hot Americano’s with steamed soy, and Mahogany Teakwood candles over my summer favorite, Palm Leaves. While I spend most of my winter back home in Houston, or traveling to destinations around the world, I love the few weeks of winter that I spend in Austin while I’m in school. Though as I’m caught up in preparation for finals, it’s easy to miss out on all the holiday spirit Austin has to offer. As a sophomore now, I’ve learned from my experiences and plan to maximize my winter holiday festivities, starting by making this list of some of the top winter-holiday things to do in Austin. Enjoy!

  1. Ice Skating at Whole Foods in Downtown (Nov 29 – Jan 11) – even if you’ve never ice skated before, all the fun of making memories with your friends will be worth the few times you slip and fall on the freezing cold ice! For just $5, you’re given music, the perfect backdrop for pictures, a magical view of Downtown Austin’s beautiful skyline, and even the option to buy a cup of hot cocoa. Unfortunately, I missed this opportunity last year, though this year I certainly plan on going!
    babmi-skating(P.S. I will gladly be the Thumper to your Bambi if we go ice skating)
  2. Santa’s Ranch (Nov 7 – January 3) – from the warmth of your car, get a group of friends together and drive through a winding country road decorated in Christmas lights and displays, complimented by homemade kettle corn or hot cocoa.
  3. Elgin Christmas Tree Farm (Nov 28 – Dec 23) – fields of Christmas trees make for the best holiday pictures, and what better way to bring the holiday spirit than the refreshing scent of evergreens in the open air. Plus, there’s even a little animal farm for visiting, hayrides, and a maze! (P.S. you can take the perfect holiday Instagram picture here! I know I will)
  4. 37th Street – much like the Heights in Houston, 37th St. is an Austin tradition. From all the research I’ve done, the reputation these lights have made beg the qualifier, “Keep Austin Weird.” Quirky lights in a quirky little-big city.
  5. Trail of Lights (Dec 7 – 21) – whether it be with a group of friends or a first date for a budding romance, the Trail of Lights in Zilker Park is one of my personal favorite traditions. The home of ACL,  Zilker provides the perfect wintery backdrop as you walk through the pathways of flickering lights, under the starry skies. My first time at the Trail of Lights was with a group of friends during my freshman year, after we finished studying for finals (for the night), we took the bus to the lights then walked all the way back to campus!

    Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 10.20.08 PM
    Photo courtesy of Jacob Bage.
  6. Capitol Christmas tree lighting (Dec 6) – just a short walk away from campus, the Capitol celebrates the holidays with their annual Christmas tree lighting. With live music, entertainment, and free food, Austin’s Congress Ave. turns into a holiday getaway with a noble cause. While you’re there, spread the holiday spirit and support the City of Austin by bringing by canned goods for donation to the Capitol Area Food Bank.
  7. Mozart’s Lights – it’s a fair statement to say that if you’re a student at UT, you’ve seen the Christmas lights at Mozart’s at least once in your four years here. Mozart’s is the perfect place to go with friends, order hot chocolate, coffee, or tea, and sit by the lake, admire the lights, and talk for hours. I absolutely love Mozart’s, and during the holidays, it packs a just a little extra charm.
    copyrighted image, Thomas McConnell
    Photo courtesy of Mozarts Coffee.

    Whichever holiday tradition you celebrate, be sure to check out some of the beautiful sights Austin has to offer. As you can see by this list, I really love Christmas lights and walking under the stars. And hey, if it’s not too cold, bring a blanket to a South lawn, pour some hot tea in a thermos, bring some speakers and stargaze with friends! I truly hope this list helped get you in the holiday spirit, just as it’s making me excited as I write it!

Edit: As I wrote this blog post in 2014, I’m so thankful that one year later, I’m able to share the winter spirit with thousands of people. Whether you’re a native Austinite, a visitor, or just a lover of all things winter, I hope that you find the holiday cheer in this beautiful city to be just as magnificent as I do. Thank you for sharing this article with friends and family, as you give me reason to continue to do what I love and to share it with the world. All suggestions are my personal opinion.