2015 Oscars fashions...

I'm happy to report that I saw all eight best picture nominations. Unfortunately, I lost my annual picks pool. The toss up between Boyhood and Birdman threw me for a loop. I thought Michael Keaton was a shoo-in for best actor even though Eddie Redmayne deserved it. Birdman was actually my least favorite film of the season. I walked out of the theater wondering what the heck just happened. Although extremely intense, Whiplash was my fave.

Before I get started with my fashion roundup, let's talk about my new favorite subject -- underwear.  The New York Times reported Saturday that most A-listers on the red carpet would be sporting Commando "invisible underwear." I had never heard of this line, which is made of stretch fabric instead of elastic. Guess it works because I didn't notice any underwear snafus. No panty lines, no spillover.

As with the Golden Globes, nothing really wowed me. One thing's for sure: beads, beads and more beads, including pearls, littered the carpet. With this trend in mind, here are few standouts.

Fashion darling Lupita did not fail to impress. I thought she looked stunning in her white pearl - all 6,000 of them -- custom beaded gown with understated drop earring and rings.

{via e-online}

I was also impressed with Julianne Moore's Chanel beaded frock. Her hair, makeup and jewelry were spot on. Way to go Julianne.


In the red category, Dakota Johnson's gown was simple yet elegant just the way I like them. Too bad mom Melanie Griffith overdosed on Botox. She could hardly crack a smile.


And, Rosamund Pike made an impressive come back after her hideous Golden Globes flop.


Cate Blanchett is one class act. She stood out in the crowd, but her outfit did not survive closer inspection. I wanted to love her black velvet gown for it's simplicity and silhouette, but the unfinished trim arm holes and back cut out ruined it for me. Her hair looked unkempt too. So out of character. I did love her Tiffany turquoise-beaded statement necklace that popped against the black dress. Nice clutch to boot.


I could go on, but I'll stop here. Did anyone wow you?

Destination: Austin, TX

Finally made it to Austin. I've been dying to go there for many years. When the opportunity arose -- UCLA played in the Alamo Bowl -- I jumped on it. For those of you who don't already know, I hate watching football. Nevertheless, I endured countless hours tailgating and cheering on the Bruins. I actually got into the game, and was jumping for joy with my boys when they won.

Austin is known for many things. Among them: weird people, live music and bats. Forty-eight hours barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. We made the most of our time though. Here's what I would recommend for a family trip.

Where to stay: 
Instead of staying on the city's famous 6th street -- often compared to New Orleans' Bourbon Street -- we chose Hyatt Place downtown. Certainly not the Four Seasons, the hotel has a lot to offer families with kids: it's clean, has good service, free breakfast and an indoor pool. We all know how important a pool is when traveling with kids.

What to do:
The Texas Capitol is the largest state capitol and is widely regarded as one of the nation's most distinguished.  Open daily, you can take a self-guided or free guided tour. We caught one of the hourly guided tours -- a great way to learn about Texas history, the legislature and magnificent architectural details. Our very animated and knowledgeable docent made the tour all the more entertaining and informative. The capitol grounds are a lovely spot for active children to roam and burn some pent up energy.

{lots of room to run around}

It's all in the details…

 {the Texas Lone Star everywhere}

 {cool door knobs}

{door hinges too}

{spectacular rotunda}

While you're in the area, the main campus of the University of Texas is just four blocks North of the Capitol. The campus is compact and surprisingly walkable. There are some notable architectural details and views. From University Avenue you can see views of both the 307-foot-tall Tower, as well as the State Capitol. Because it was New Year's Day my husband and kids took the self-guided tour.

If your family is into US history, the LBJ Library and Museum located next to the UT campus is well worth a visit. You can explore the museum on your own or rent a hand-held multimedia tour device or download the museum app at the iTunes store. The museum offers several core exhibits and galleries with some special exhibits. We were lucky to catch the last day of an engaging exhibit about the 60's. Plan to spend a few hours there. It's one of the better presidential museums we've visited.

{welcome to the museum}

{LBJ in the sculpture garden. at 6'4" he tied Abe Lincoln as tallest president.}

Why is Cheryl Strayed's photo displayed at the museum? Thanks to LBJ, she was able to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, find herself and then go on to write her best selling novel Wild turned blockbuster movie.

The museum and library open daily from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm except for major holidays.

To take in the city's natural beauty (and burn off a few of the million calories we consumed) we rented bikes and rode the paths around Lady Bird Lake. The unpaved dirt paths are teeming with walkers, runners, bikers, baby strollers and loosely-leashed dogs, so be prepared to navigate cautiously.

{rent a bike and hop right on the trail at Barton Springs}

{enjoy the scenery}

Where to eat (my favorite part of the journey):
Everyone knows that Texas is known for it's BBQ, most notably brisket. The best of the best places are food trailers open just for lunch and takeaway. This means you must get in line early, wait for a long time, and pray that there's grub when you finally reach the window. Most days they sell out. Food critic's pick Franklin Barbecue posed too much of a risk for us based on what we heard from people who waited in line the day before in the rain only to be turned away when they sold out. We got lucky at our second choice La Barbecue a short walk from our hotel.

We arrived at the food truck park at 10:30 and got our food at noon. Not bad. There's plenty of room for the kids to run around, live music and free beer (Saturday and Sunday) from a tapped keg to drink on while you wait. Was it worth the wait? Let's see...

{it all starts in the smoke house. enjoy the aroma while you wait}

{some covered picnic tables & live music}

{get in line}

{bring your dog -- try to wait patiently like this guy}

Order a lot of food…

 {sliced brisket and Texas toast}

{my order: the "El Sancho Loco," buttermilk potato salad and chipotle slaw}

{a closer look -- yes, I ate the whole sandwich}

We also ordered some ribs and turkey. Everything was delish!

La Barbecue is open Tuesday - Sunday from 11:00 am - sold out.

If you have a hankering for a burger, head on over to Hopdoddy for the perfect union of burgers and beer. Not to mention signature cocktails and shakes. We arrived at the South Congress location right before noon and just before the line around the block started to form. Note: it was New Year's Day, which might have explained the huge crowd of hungover people (that would include me) craving fat and sugar. Once inside, you get in line to place your order. Grab a drink at the bar to enjoy and watch them bake made-from-scratch buns -- classic, whole wheat or gluten-free -- while you wait. Your food is delivered to a table after you pay for your order. Feeling a bit guilty about my holiday binging, I ordered the ahi tuna burger offset by an order of truffle fries, which were to die for. My tuna burger was good, but I should have gone for the beef. My husband ordered the "prime time," one of the best burgers in his life. My picky boys raved about their burgers too.

 {truffle fries}

{ahi tuna burger on whole wheat}

{cute servers}

I'm praying that Hopdoddy will open sometime in Atlanta. Until then, I'll be dreaming about the truffle fries.

Hopdoddy is open daily 11 am - 10:00 pm ('til 11:00 pm Friday and Saturday).

Mexican restaurants and taco trucks abound in Austin. We didn't have time to hit the taco trucks on our list, but had a nice dinner at Fonda San Miguel known for its Sunday brunch. It's a drive and has no kids menu. Those with picky eaters should skip it.

{entrance lit up at night}

No trip to Austin is complete (IMO) trip to Gourdough's donuts. Not for the faint of heart, these monstrous donuts are a cross between a donut and funnel cake. With very clever names to boot. So decadent and delicious. Unless you are really, really hungry or just ran a marathon, these donuts are for sharing. In fact you could split one four ways and still feel satisfied. Clearly our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We ordered four right after our BBQ feast. The kids stopped after a few bites. I felt sick for the rest of the day after eating my entire "miss shortcake" -- probably the only offering with fresh fruit. Thank goodness they ran out of their best seller -- the "mother clucker" topped with fried chicken strips and honey butter. Sounds gross, but the diners at our picnic table raved about it.

{welcome to Gourdough's}

 {"black out" -- brownie batter, fudge icing and chocolate-covered brownie bites}

 {"blue balls" -- covered with blueberry filling and icing}

 {the oh so healthy "miss shortcake" -- cream cheese icing topped with strawberries}

The donut truck is open daily at various times. Time it right or plan to wait in line. For a complete artery clogging dining experience, a full menu plus donuts are served at Gourdough's Public House.

I popped into Jo's coffee downtown several times. The coffee shop is known for hot coffee, good food and cold beer. Wine too. There are several Jo's locations. The Congress Street shop is located in the ultra hip Hotel San Jose parking lot. That's where I'll be staying sans children during my next visit.

 {Jo's downtown}

{order from a full menu of coffee, drinks, snacks, fresh pastries and desserts}

{like this pie}

No doubt, Austin is a great city. I can't wait to go back!

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