I can’t believe I’m writing my TENTH year in review post! I usually don’t wait till the last day of the year to start and finish this doozy of a post, and I considered skipping this year. But ten consecutive years is too pretty of a streak to break! Besides, writing a yearly recap is a rewarding tradition. I’m always astonished how much can happen in just a year’s time.
2017 was my second year owning my photography business and I booked more than double the shoots I did in my first year! The growth this year has me motivated to keep leaning in. My challenge is to grow it from scratch in North Carolina, which is proving really difficult.
Which brings me to the new and big chapter in my life, North Carolina! Sugarface took a job at the University of North Carolina in August and I decided to move with him. I cherished our life together so much, I decided to take the biggest risk I’ve ever taken and leave my life in Texas. It was a bittersweet decision for me, as most of my loved ones are and all of my freelancing work were in Texas. It’s been hard and great at the same time. Hard because I had such a lovely and stable professional life, and it didn’t transition so smoothly into a new state with little connections! Great because I’ve really enjoyed meeting awesome new people, people I already love. I wouldn’t have met them had I not uprooted my life.
With the passing of each day, North Carolina feels more and more like home. It’s a funny thing, to miss a home and fall for another at the same time.
So here goes, my annual month-to-month review of the year!
In January, I met up with some Houston food Instagrammers and it was the start of a delicious friendship. Nevermind that I’m about ten years older than most of them and they call me Grandma Linda. I also tried indoor skydiving and ate a lot of matcha desserts. Oh, and I took on my first photography clients in Houston!
In February, I went on my first media press trip (representing Austin Food Magazine), and it was such a treat! It was a Mardi Gras trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana. I did some food coverage of Lake Charles on my food blog: Ember Grille Wine Bar at the L’Auberge Casino and Resort, and where to get crawfish!
February contained one of my big failures. I tried to eat two pounds of noodles, a half pound of meat, and two quarts of broth in an hour with Jane. We failed but with class and grace.
In March, Jane hosted a fun spa day for some of us lucky gals. I definitely recommend Lake Austin Spa and Resort for a luxurious spa day or weekend. I almost went to see one of my new heroes, Congressman John Lewis, speak at a screening of a documentary about his life’s work called Get in the Way. He couldn’t make the screening because he was busy serving us, fighting the healthcare bill. I still enjoyed the documentary (it reairs in February 2018 on PBS) and have been gifting his graphic novel series, March, one of my favorite books read this year. I ended the month with a fun girls’ weekend and staycation with Jane and our friend Chelsea in East Austin. It was fun to be tourists in our own town!
In April, I went to Houston to celebrate my dad’s birthday. My brother and I took our parents to the butterfly exhibit at the Natural Science Museum, a fun place to grab gorgeous photographs of beautiful butterflies. Sugarface and I went to North Carolina for his work. It rained the whole time there and we had dinner and brunch with our old coworker. (Did you know I used to work with Sugarface a few years before we started dating?)
May was full of photo shoots, client meetings, and eating a lot of tater tots. On the last day of May, Sugarface and I went to his last Fancy Dress Night, an annual event with his work. It made me feel a bit emotional since I partook in this event even before we started dating!
In June, I went to New Orleans for a long weekend with Sugarface. We met his new niece and I fawned over her through my camera lens. I really need to visit New Orleans more often and now we have his adorable niece to add to the reasons why we should visit more!
After sixteen years of living in Austin, I finally scratched off Fonda San Miguel’s brunch off my Austin bucket list. It’s as good as its reputation! I also published my tater tot guide to Austin.
I loved how active my life in Austin was. I had been in the food blogging circle in Austin since 2009 and Austin’s restaurant community really welcomes collaborations with influencers. My friend Shelby took one of my favorite photos of me at a blogger happy hour on the Westin’s rooftop pool. (Check out the rainbow in the background!) I planned my last blogger happy hour as the social chair of Austin Food Bloggers Alliance. I had served for over 2 years and had been a member since its inception, so I might have cried at the happy hour! For my birthday, I did a week’s worth of giveaways on Instagram, and my dear friends Michelle and Chris hosted a themed party I had been wanting to host. The theme was “A Merry Chipmas!” It was chip heaven and the party doubled as my going away party. Such a happy time with sweet people who were able to make it.
August was an emotional blur. I relished my last two weeks in Texas. Being in Austin for sixteen years meant I developed very deep roots and friendships. Consequently, every social interaction felt bittersweet. I visited Hamiliton Pool one more time, the first time in ten years!
On the 13th, we started our three-day road trip from Texas to our new home Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We spent a night with Sugarface’s family in Arkansas and a night in Nashville. The drive was NOT easy. During the second day of driving, both our cars were heavily infested by ants. We drove all day with ants crawling all over our cars. I was killing them with a lint roller as I was driving! In addition to the ants, there was a three-hour standstill on the freeway because of a car accident.
The first few days in Chapel Hill, I was a weepy mess. But luckily, I met my first friend on the second day here and he’s just the first of a handful of friends I’ve made here that have made my new home feel special.
Five days after driving from Texas to North Carolina, I got in the car for another ten hours to have a mini-reunion with a high school friend. We drove to South Carolina to see the total eclipse. It was an awe-inspiring experience to see a total eclipse. I already made loose plans with Sugarface for seven years from now to travel to either Arkansas or Texas for the next eclipse. Both states will be in the paths of totality!
In September, I spent a lot of time getting to know the area by visiting new-to-me coffeeshops with new friends.
Also in September, I celebrated six years with my rescue dog, Bob! You can hear me laugh-sing to Bob on his Instagram. Towards the end of the month, I went to an event in Raleigh in an effort to meet people and possibly make a friend. I ended up feeling very shy and going home without meeting anyone, but there’s a happy ending to this story.
Lastly, Sugarface and I went on our first double date in North Carolina! My penpal from my teenage years lives in the area so we met up with her and her husband and watched IT. Coincidentally, the first of fifty books I read in 2017 was IT. During the movie, I yelled out “OH SHIT” but I don’t remember doing that. We can’t wait to have more double dates with this couple in 2018!
Lucky me, less than two months after moving, I returned to Texas for the wedding of my dear friend Jennifer and her now husband, Wes. I took my friend Himanshu as my date and was sad I had to cut our time at the wedding short because the dress was so tight, I couldn’t breathe! I learned an obvious lesson that one should always try on old dresses before an out-of-town wedding.
In October, Sugarface’s parents were our first out-of-town visitors. I felt so much gratitude to be able to see both my parents and his parents in the same month! We did a lot of exploring together and loved Brewery Bhavana so much, we went twice in three days. Speaking of tasty eats, I ate a lot of sandwiches.
In November, I went on a nature walk and photographed my first experience of a real fall. This was my first Thanksgiving not spent with my family and friends in Texas ever. It was sad but what made it better were my recent trip in October and being invited to Thanksgiving dinner by the owners of Pie Hole. Neither Sugarface nor I had met the owners yet, so they literally took in a couple of strangers into their personal Thanksgiving. We were so touched by the invitation and happy to eat turkey with a loving family!
In December, I had a few photo shoot inquiries in Texas and managed to lump them together in one weekend to make it worth coming to Texas without having to hike up my usual rates! It ended up being a bit ambitious squeezing in both Austin and Houston in a three day weekend, but I’m still thankful I managed to see a few friends and my parents.
Sugarface’s parents came to visit us during Christmas break and we took a weekend trip to Asheville. It had a rocky start but we quickly turned it around and had a ton of fun together (no thanks to TurnKey Vacation Rentals). Highlights included delicious food and a Christmas trip to the Biltmore.
And here I am. This post took six hours to write today. I have a New Year’s Eve dinner date with one of my North Carolina darlings and then I plan to be home early enough to bring in the New Year with my main squeezes, Sugarface and the pups.
If you made it through this whole post, thank you so much for all the support. Be it by hiring me for photos or social media management, or engaging with my content, or sending me private words of encouragement, or recommending books and restaurants. Just thank you for every little thing. I appreciate it and am so grateful.
I wish you a Happy New Year filled with love and light!