Tag Archives: Austin

Holiday Cards 2020

Holiday Cards 2020

As I finished up my master’s degree in December of 2019, I made a promise to myself. 2020 was going to be the year of new experiences! My family had just moved to Austin, and between work and finishing up my graduate thesis, exploring our new home was something that felt impossible. Ironically, it seems doing anything in 2020 is impossible. This year has been ridiculously difficult. COVID-19 has essentially flipped the world on its head and left us all in a passive state of constant anxiety. I’d spent the majority of my time working from home this year — feeling positively stir-crazy. Fortunately, it allowed me to get creative in my personal life. When I wasn’t working on home projects, I dreamt up an elaborate holiday photo.

My family moved into a new apartment this summer, and we truly love it. We’re surrounded by lush greenery, nature, and wildlife. It’s beautiful and something I wanted to try and incorporate into our holiday card this year. Because we’re social distancing and trying to slow the spread of the virus, we couldn’t actually go anywhere to take our photo. We had to do the entire shoot from home (or at least within our apartment complex).

One rainy morning in October, the idea for our holiday photo popped into my head. I envisioned an outdoor study with three professors wearing glasses and smoking pipes. It seemed unique while being entirely ridiculous, and that reason alone sold the idea to me. Setting the scene would be laborious in that we’d have to build a backdrop and carry the furniture to our location, but my concerns were quelled remembering it’d all be within walking distance of our front door.

We decided to take the photo on Thanksgiving morning. Everyone would be home from work, and I’d have the weekend to edit the photos and get everything together. The boys and I sat on the floor that morning breaking down cardboard boxes from our Christmas shopping and duct-taping them all together. It looked like we were building a cardboard raft in our living room. We then wrapped it in wrapping paper Austin had brought home from IKEA, and the three of us carried it to a grassy area near our apartment dog park. We carried over the blue armchair in my office and a few plants from our porch and began to set the scene to the tune of barking puppies. It was windy, our backdrop fell several times, and I absolutely stepped in doggie doo. As glamourous as our struggle sounds, the photos came out beautifully. Our matching sweaters and pashmina scarves coordinated perfectly with the backdrop.

Photo setup

After some color correcting and light photo editing, I started to work with the card’s typography and layout. I decided to do a postcard layout this year because we were all feeling a little overwhelmed, and we still needed to print and send the cards out on time to our loved ones. Simplifying the design ended up working in our favor because it allowed the typography on the front to shine, while also making it easier for our relatives to hang our photo on the fridge.

2020 felt like an impossible year, but we made it through it. I’m proud that we were able to spread some holiday joy to our friends and family this year, despite the hardships that come along with the pandemic. Putting these cards together annually means so much to me, and accomplishing it this year in particular, makes things feel just a little more normal.

Holiday Cards 2019

Holiday Cards 2019

This was my little family’s first Christmas in Texas, and we were so excited. By this point, we’d all settled into a sense of stability. We each had jobs, our lives had worked their way into a routine, and we were exploring our new home inch by inch every weekend. Every year, I try to find a way to make our holiday cards seem special. In Philadelphia, we used to run out during the first snow of the season in matching outfits and take a group photo. That kind of turned into a ritual for us the last few winters; however, we moved to Austin to specifically escape the snow. I had to come up with something a little different this year.

In October, during my daily commute, I would think about the holiday card on and off. I wanted to acknowledge our major life transition to a new city and somehow also tie in the irony that we left the snow behind us. Out of nowhere, it came to me one morning. I rushed into work and took as many notes as I could so I’d remember it later. We needed to put Christmas lights on a prickly pear cactus and throw fake snow that we ‘brought with us from Philly’. I was immediately excited, and Jon and Austin were immediately exhausted. We had to find all of the props, buy A LOT of fake snow from Michael’s Crafts, and find prickly pear cactuses that were accessible, looked photogenic, and we could spend some time with.

Finding the cactus was weirdly the hardest part. We went driving down a road here in Austin and we just kept heading west. We had to find them somewhere, right? A lot of them were on private property, or were fenced off on busy roadways. Naturally, we ended up at an abandoned Sonic. Honestly, it was perfect. We weren’t in anyone’s way, we could connect our lights to the car at the perfect distance, and we didn’t have to walk out of our way. An abandoned Sonic Drive-In was the best case scenario for us.

We strung the cacti with colorful Christmas lights and posed with our presents. Our roommate, Jon, stood on top of a wooden crate with a box filled with ‘snow’ labeled “Philly Winter 2018,” and anxiously awaited my countdown. With the camera set to burst shutter, we had to get one good shot of Jon throwing the snow in the air. We had three bags of snow, yielding three total tries. He nailed it on the last attempt. The photos turned out super cute and I was excited to share this new set of cards with our families!

The holidays are always a little labor-intensive for us. I have to schlep the boys out for an over-elaborate photo, and then we spend the next three days held up in our walk-in closet fighting with the Epson printer in an attempt to make each of our loved ones a card. Getting them out in time takes some sort of magic, in itself. The process is hard, but hearing from our relatives that they look forward to it and that they love them year after year makes it worth it.

Moving to Austin, TX

I remember exactly what I was doing when I decided to move across the country…again. I woke up at 6:20 am on March 20th: the first day of spring. I was so excited because the winter, this year, was particularly cold. I got cleaned up, kissed my cat, grabbed my coffee and purse, and left for another day of work at URBN. I made it one step out of our front door and fell into 8 inches of packed in snow. It was spring, and I couldn’t go anywhere because the sky opened up and buried the city in snow. After five years of this, I decided I had enough. I walked back inside to immediately start complaining to my boyfriend. “Austin, why are we still here? I’m practically done with school and it’s FREEZING! We’re from Las Vegas. What are we thinking?!” Neither one of us were fans of Philadelphia’s frigidity, and growing up, we thought 6oº F was chilly.

That morning, we put our heads together and got to Googling. We needed a new home that was warm, had plenty of greenery, a bustling creative industry, decent property prices for our future…the list went on. Austin, TX fit all of the items on our wishlist.  We seemed satisfied and scared. Moving across the country for school was really hard in 2014. We left our family, friends, and most of our belongings behind. Was this really something we wanted to do again? Our roommate, Jon, burst through the front door. He was soaked from the snow. His car got stuck as he was driving to school and he looked miserable. After cluing him in on our plan, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation. We were ALL moving. It was going to be arduous and painful at first, but we couldn’t survive another snowy winter.

For months we pinched pennies and made a cohesive plan. We were all applying for work constantly, and I switched the rest of my schooling online to finish my master’s degree on-the-go. In July, we were packed up and the boys took off in the U-Haul. I stayed behind with the cat to finish some accounting and marketing homework. She and I would be flying into the city in a couple of days to meet up with our little family.

Leaving Philadelphia felt weird. There was so much I didn’t like, but there were some things I’d severely miss. Autumn was always beautiful, and driving next to the Schuylkill River on Martin Luther King Blvd. always felt so peaceful. I’d sit with my kitty in the yard and write essays while she chased birds and squierrls. This was the first real home Austin and I built together. Leaving was bittersweet, but I was amped for our new adventure.

After my kitty and I got off the plane, Jon picked us up at the airport. Looking out the window, this new city immediately felt like home. It was as though the best parts of Philadelphia combined with my childhood home. It was nearly 100º F and I was beaming from ear to ear. Adjusting won’t be easy — there’s a lot left that we have to do. We have to find work, explore, find a staple Chinese food restaurant… We have each other though, and we’ll make this place our new home. If anything, we won’t be shoveling snow any time soon. That, I can promise.