COTA’s Winter Wonderland – Advent Calendar, Dec. 4, 2017

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Today we’re going to the brand new “Christmas show” at the Circuit Of The Americas in Austin. Circuit Of The Americas, or COTA, is primarily a Formula 1 circuit but is also hosting other events. Just a few weeks ago, they announced a brand new show: Winter Wonderland.

COTA's Winter Wonderland - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

COTA's Winter Wonderland - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

I decided to go despite the $16 ticket, mostly because I am rarely disappointed by Christmas shows. Well I was this time.

I was wondering whether to post about it or not, and I decided to do so because 1) it has been widely publicized, and I think it’s important that people know what they are paying for, and 2) there were a few nice things that I’m also sharing below.

One problem, I think, is that this is a huge venue, and it seems they tried to cover the whole circuit, which resulted in an impression of not so much to see, instead of keeping everything in one narrower area.

For example, making people walk around the circuit with decorations every 60 feet or so seemed a bit cheap. Here’s a panoramic picture of what I am talking about. Click on it to enlarge and then to zoom in. It’s not great quality – it was dark – but it will give you an idea of what I was talking about.

COTA's Winter Wonderland - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

There were other things to see, of course, such as trees covered with lights, and a big wheel (although quite small for Texas), but mostly, the singing Christmas trees were the most original and the camel rides (not included in the price of a ticket). Other attractions also required an extra.

COTA's Winter Wonderland - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

COTA's Winter Wonderland - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

I completely understand that this has a cost, and the tickets are paying for it, but it seems that the attractions would have been better if kept on a smaller area of the circuit. There’s an expression for that in French, whose English translation isn’t as good as the French one for this particular case: “Qui trop embrasse mal etreint” (Jack of all trades master of none).

Here are a few things I liked. And a video of the singing Christmas trees. Ok, I liked those :)

COTA's Winter Wonderland - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

COTA's Winter Wonderland - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

COTA's Winter Wonderland - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

COTA's Winter Wonderland - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

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Downtown Austin Tree Lighting – Advent Calendar, Dec. 3, 2017

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Today, we’re going downtown Austin for the annual Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll… and lighting of the tree in front of the gardens of the state Capitol.

Don’t miss the videos at the end to hear the Christmas songs, and to see the lighting of the tree!

Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Christmas in Austin and the Hill Country – Advent Calendar, Dec. 2, 2017

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Today I am sharing a simple photo taken in a store. It might appear weird, since these are basically Christmas decorations for sale, but I thought this was really beautifully presented.

This was taken in a Lowe’s in Austin.

Joy - Christmas Decorations | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

You can also follow my Facebook page and Instagram account to see more of Austin in December!

Christmas in Austin and the Hill Country – Advent Calendar, Dec. 1, 2017

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A few years ago, I created the first Advent Calendar for this blog when I was in New York City, sharing one Christmas-themed picture each day of the Advent. As I explained last year, in memory of the Advent calendars of my childhood, I wanted to do it again with Austin. There are plenty of events in and around Austin, and I would like to share a few with you.

Today, we’re starting with the Christmas tree in Zilker Park.

Zilker Park Christmas Tree 2017 - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

This year is the 51st anniversary of the Zilker park tree.

Zilker Park Christmas Tree 2017 - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Zilker Park Christmas Tree 2017 - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

According to the city of Austin’s website:

The Zilker Tree stands 155 feet tall and is composed of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored, 25-watt bulbs – totaling 3,309 lights. At the top of the tree, a double star measures 10 feet from point to point. The double star displays 150 frosted bulbs. This unique spiral pattern of lights was created by City of Austin electricians. At its circumference, the tree measures 380 feet. The diameter is 120 feet. The base of the tree is made up of 19 utility poles, each 14 feet tall, arranged in a circle around the Moonlight Tower. On December 10, 1967, the first tree was lighted by Mayor Pro Tem Mrs. Emma Long. In subsequent years this honor has been awarded to the young winner of a city-wide tree art contest.

Zilker Park Christmas Tree 2017 - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Zilker Park Christmas Tree 2017 Lighting Ceremony - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Zilker Park Christmas Tree 2017 - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Zilker Park Christmas Tree 2017 - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Zilker Park Christmas Tree 2017 & The Frost Bank Tower in the background - Austin, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The Latest Comeback

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Dear Readers,

I’m trying yet another comeback; hopefully this one will be successful ;)

In the past three years, things have been pretty crazy for me, good and bad crazy. The good things that happened the past three years are still here…

Frost Bank from Sixth Street - Austin | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

…but some of the bad things, which used to be good but had really turned sour, had to be let go.

Central Texas | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

I know this is quite cryptic, but this is all I’m ready to share here, at least for now. This is not what this blog is about. This blog is about sharing the great things about living in the United States and in Texas, so I’ll go back to that instead.

ATX Sign - Whole Foods, Austin | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Due to the circumstances described above, I did not have the heart to finish the Advent calendar I had started last year. I am starting a new one this year, and let me tell you, there are some amazing things to do this season in Austin and Central Texas. So hopefully some of you will still be here and interested in looking at what I want to share with you.

Christmas Tree at Sunset - Fredericksburg, TX | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Thank you all for your patience and for stopping by!

Just a Few More Links I Liked This Week

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As you can guess, it’s already pretty hot in Texas, and it’s not even August yet!

Bullock Texas State History Museum - Austin, Texas | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Bullock Texas State History Museum – Austin, TX

So let’s start with an article from the Whole Foods Market website, which gives you Ways to Stay Hydrated in the Summer Heat.

I had no idea that ravens were so smart.

Maybe Rockwell should have read this article: The Psychological Explanation for When You Feel Like You’re Being Watched.

Do you want to know how much your favorite artists make? There you go: Billboard’s Top 50 Money Makers of 2016.

Everyone loves cheat sheets, right? Here’s one on social media: The Indispensable Social Media Cheat Sheet [Infographic]

Finally, does anyone think like me that this is a terribly sad song? It actually brought to mind the end of La La Land (this might kind of be a spoiler… kind of)…

Have a great week everyone!

Pizzeria Sorellina in Spicewood, Texas

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I love trying new things, and, of course, that includes trying new food and restaurants.

Apis Restaurant & Apiary and Pizzeria Sorellina - Spicewood, TX | Books, Cucpcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Not too far from where we live, there is a very nice restaurant that opened a couple of years ago now (I think): Apis Restaurant & Apiary. We tried it a couple of times and enjoyed it very much… but this post is not about Apis. Not exactly at least.

More recently, Apis opened a second restaurant, a pizzeria, which was great news because we didn’t have any real one in the area.

Pizzeria Sorellina - Spicewood, TX | Books, Cucpcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Pizzeria Sorellina offers “Italian tradition in the Texas Hill Country,” to quote their website, and it does it very well.

Prices tend to be a little higher than for your regular pizza, but the quality is well worth it. You come in, you order at the counter, wait for your food, and either take it home or enjoy on site.

The first time we went there, I wondered why all their little “Come & Take It” flags on the tables were at the bottom of their mast. Then I read the little sign about how to get the staff to “come and take” your order for additional food. Very funny. And smart.

Pizzeria Sorellina - Spicewood, TX | Books, Cucpcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Our favorite pizza is the maitake mushroom – but they’re not currently serving it. Our second favorite is the n’duja sausage, which contains stracciatella – to the exquisite pleasure of our cats. Pizzas are baked to order with delicious and fresh ingredients and you can really taste the difference. They are also as crusty as can be.

Maitake Mushroom pizza, Pizzeria Sorellina - Spicewood, TX | Books, Cucpcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

N’duja Sausage pizza, Pizzeria Sorellina - Spicewood, TX | Books, Cucpcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

N’duja Sausage pizza, Pizzeria Sorellina - Spicewood, TX | Books, Cucpcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

If you find yourself in the Spicewood area, west of Bee Cave, near Lake Travis, I highly recommend that you try it.

Pizzeria Sorellina
23526 Hwy 71 West
Spicewood, TX 78669
(737) 222-6061

Random America: Pittsburgh, the Former Steel City

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I had the opportunity to go to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in June, to attend a conference. I had little time to visit but was pleasantly surprised by how nice the city was. I will dedicate a couple of posts to my visit in the near future. Stay tuned.

[Click on the picture to see a bigger version]

Pittsburgh's Skyline | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Part of the skyline of Pittsburgh, PA, seen from Mount Washington – June 2017

Just a Few More Links I Liked This Week

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The first time I saw a raccoon was without a doubt in the Japanese cartoon Candy – which tells you something about my age!

(This is the French version of the theme.)

Although raccoons have been introduced in Europe, it’s very rare to see them in France. In fact, I had never seen a real one before moving to the U.S. This little American carnivore with a mischievous look is easily recognizable thanks to its striped tail and the black eye “mask” that covers its eyes. As you know, this mask, its naughty attitude, and its habit of stealing food, notably from our pets, earned him the nickname “bandit.”

(Don’t miss the end of the video!)

Of course, when I moved to the U.S., I was eager to see a real one! I know they are not always loved here, because they can carry rabies, be aggressive, and they steal food! Still, I can see how many people still find them cute in some way (Like this story demonstrates).

When we lived in New York, we could often hear them during the night. But my first real “encounter” with a raccoon was in Texas, after I had left some cat food outside.

Raccoon visiting | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

This picture was taken just before the “little” guy ran away, a December night. The next morning, I surprised the raccoon its hand in the bowl of kibbles. First the raccoon didn’t move, hand still in bowl, as if thinking “if I don’t move, she won’t see me!” but then the raccoon left.

I’m telling you this story because one of my favorite links from the week is a raccoon story: A Raccoon Broke Into a Car to Give Birth.

Other links:

From two weeks ago: I really liked this blog post on how sometimes you have to trust yourself, you have to realize that it is all it takes to go through challenges and accomplish what you want to accomplish. Ready good read for a Sunday morning, I think!

Do you want to know your future? Here are 16 words that tell the future.

Here’s an article about the importance of eating a balanced diet vs. just the goal of losing weight.

How much do you think your favorite singers lip-sync? This article seems to suggest a LOT.

Finally, for those of you that just can’t stop learning, here are “43 free career-advancing courses you can take (and actually finish) this summer.”

That’s all I have for this week. Wishing everyone a lovely Sunday and a productive week!