Travel Newsletter Links

Under the heading of Travel Newsletters there are links to pages that contain  “newsletters” (in pdf format); these document some of our travels within the USA before I started this blog. It has come to my attention that since we swapped servers the links to the pdf travel newsletters were not working. I have now fixed these and all are working as they should – apologies if you tried to use them and they did not work!

The newsletters include Oklahoma City, Tulsa, San Antonio, Seattle, Las Vegas, Arizona, Arkansas , New York, Memphis , Fort Worth and Dallas if you are interested.

Another Fair Visit

Yesterday we decided to take a look at the North Texas Fair and Rodeo (held in Denton, just north of Fort Worth) – this was pretty much a last minute decision made Friday night – we thought it sounded like it might be a good idea and it would offer us another new experience – in particular a rodeo! I thought we could go early in the day – check out some events, take a look around and see a rodeo demonstration then come home in the afternoon. Needless to say, it didn’t work out that way. What would have been a good idea, would have been to do some research first!

North Texas Fair & Rodeo Welcome signWe turned up at the gates around 10:30am, only to find they were closed – further investigation revealed they didn’t open until 1pm; so we had a couple of hours to kill. We got back to the fair just after 1pm and once through the gates, it didn’t take long to realise that this was quite different, and was relatively small in comparison, to any fair we had been to so far.

There were a lot of cattle on show – with an entire shed dedicated to housing and showing these beasts. I won’t say it wasn’t interesting though! There were some very fine examples of these animals on show.Fine examples of cattle on show!

There was the usual assortment of rides, sideshow alley amusements and food vendors; I tried some old fashioned soda:Wild Bills Old Fashioned Soda

Carnival RidesThere was only one exhibition hall with displays and the usual fair vendors. Two stages were set up for musical performances, however, these didn’t start until later in the afternoon. So we missed out on the country music (Andrew wasn’t sorry about that)!

There were some old tractors on display:

Circa 1940's Farmall Tractor (note the 2 seats)

Circa 1940’s Farmall Tractor (note the 2 seats)

and there was some entertainments for the kids – we watched the “Kids Tractor Pull” – which was entertaining; there were a couple of “shows” to check out, including a Western gun fight and the Birds of Prey exhibit (which I think was the best thing we saw). All the birds have been rescued and given a new life. This guy stole the show:DFR_BaldEagle&Flag

I also have to share these two photos – these birds were fantastic!

DFR_BarnOwl

Barn Owl

DFR_EagleOwl

An eagle owl

Apparently there was also a photography exhibit which I would like to have seen – but I must have missed this. Overall, I feel there was a bit of lack of information (and direction), particularly for the out-of-town visitor; if you were a local I am sure you would have been prepared and knew what to expect.

So, what about the Rodeo – the whole reason we drove more than an hour from home to see?

The Rodeo Arena

The Rodeo Arena

Well, the Rodeo wasn’t on until 7:30pm! As we weren’t prepared for this, and after spending 4 hours walking around in the hot Texas sun getting sunburnt and very sweaty – we didn’t hang around for it, unfortunately. Hopefully we will get to see one soon!

Has anyone been to a rodeo? I would love to hear about your experience.

Please don’t forget to like and share if you enjoyed this post – I appreciate it greatly 🙂

Decisions and Road kill!

The following quote caught my attention for 2 reasons:

  1. It certainly pertains to me – at times my decision making skills frustrate even me!, and
  2. It made me think of the American critters that often end up as road kill (squirrels being one of them).

decisions

Have you ever seen a squirrel cross the street? squirrel

I have – whilst driving the car – and I am sorry to admit, it did not end well for the squirrel. I had slowed down as I could see the squirrel on the side of the road, and after dallying for some time, he made it to the middle of the road (by this stage, I thought I could move on), however, he suddenly changed his mind and darted back to where he started – he didn’t make it!

So, not being able to make a decision and stick to it can result in dire consequences! This is something I need to keep in mind (although most of my decisions are not a matter of life and death). I know that my indecisiveness comes from a fear of failure; but really, most people probably don’t really care what decision I make – so just make a decision and move forward. Hopefully I am learning and getting better at it – but that is my problem and I digress.

What led me to write this blog post was the thought of squirrels and other little American critters I have encountered whilst here – particularly the ones that are not in Australia. For example (besides the squirrels), I have seen skunks, armadillos, badgers and racoons; most often it is as roadkill however! There are also plenty of turtles that end up squished on the road at certain times of the year around where we live.

Armadillos generally come out around dusk, have very poor eyesight and don’t move quickly enough to avoid a car, so often end up squashed on the road. I have only seen 1 live armadillo since being here. Skunks too are often encountered roadside and your olfactory system will alert you of their presence well before your eyesight will! Have you encountered the rather unique odour of a skunk? It is definitely a smell that assaults you and one you cannot mistake!

I don’t think most Americans realise that in Australia we do not have skunks, squirrels, armadillos or racoons. We do, however, have our own unique variety of critters that end up as roadkill; foxes, Tasmanian Devils (in Tassie), possums, wombats and kangaroos (which can do quite a bit of damage to your car if you hit one) – and yes, I have personal experience with that one also! At least, for the most part, American wildlife (here in Texas anyway) won’t require a panel beater for your car (although I am sure hitting a deer, elk or similar would not end well for the car either).

Please share your experiences and comment below – I would love to hear about it! 🙂

And don’t forget to like and share if you enjoyed this post.

A day in Des Moines!

Yesterday morning, in Des Moines, Becky and I decided a visit to the State Capitol building was in order; it proved to be a wonderful idea. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the sights of this grand old building, belatedly joining a guided tour, which was great.Iowa - State Capitol building

Completed in 1886, the outside of the Capitol building is spectacular – with wonderful Renaissance style architecture. The most striking feature being the golden dome crowning the building. And, yes, it is real gold. The 23-carat gold leaf covering the dome is the thickness of a human hair and costs more than $400,000 every 20 or so years to replace (predominately labour costs).

Decorative door hinge

A decorative door hinge

Inside the building is just as spectacular, if not more so. There is a lot to see in this building – great art works – paintings, mosaics, sculptures and other points of interest. Even the floor tiles, marble wall trims, brass door hinges and air vents are works of art.

Some of the lovely floor tiles at the Capitol building

Some of the lovely floor tiles at the Capitol building

It is marvellous to stand underneath the rotunda and look straight up at the inside of the dome!

I took this photo actually lying on the floor underneath the dome!

I took this photo actually lying on the floor underneath the dome!

You are also able to access the upper level of the dome with a tour guide – it’s a great view from up there!

The marble and granite grand staircase leads visitors to the second floor where you can view the Iowa House of Representatives and the Iowa Senate (exhibiting original paintwork and the original chandeliers).

The Senate

The Senate

However my favourite feature was the library (all law books) – I could have spent hours there just absorbing the atmosphere!

Oh, The Library!

Oh, The Library!

After our tour we had a lovely lunch at the Scenic Route Bakery located in the very pretty (and fashionable) historic area of the East Village.

Becky then had to go and work – so I went for a look at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Now these gardens are not huge (about 1 to 1.5hrs will see you cover it), but the water gardens were very nice. It was also a great place to practice some photography!

Pretty Gardens!

Pretty Gardens!

Water Lilies at the Gardnes

Water Lilies at the Gardens

Pretty Flowers!

Pretty Flowers!

Water Gardens

Water Gardens

Des Moines was a great place to visit (even if only for a couple of days) and if you get a chance to go to the Iowa State Fair – don’t miss it! 🙂

Please like and share if you enjoyed this blog – thank you!

Des Moines and Iowa

So, I just got back from some time spent in Des Moines – capital of Iowa and thought I might share some of my experiences and tell you all about Des Moines! It’s a nice city, by the way and what I immediately noticed about Iowa was – there are lots of corn fields Corn field– and it is much greener than Texas.

My friend Becky Goldsmith (quilter extraordinaire) had a working gig in Des Moines doing some teaching, a book signing and attending a quilters guild meeting for a few days and she let me tag along with her. When she wasn’t working we shared some sightseeing, and when she was – I did some exploring on my own.

Together we went to the Iowa State Fair on Saturday afternoon – and had a great time.

Crowds at the State Fair

Crowds at the State Fair

On Sunday afternoon, whilst Becky was teaching, I explored Des Moines city. I looked around the Capitol building (being a Sunday it wasn’t opened – so just looked from the outside), looked at a few of the other monuments

Shattering Silence Sculpture

Shattering Silence Sculpture

and drove around exploring downtown and the river area. I was grateful to see and experience another American city.

One of the main streets in downtown Des Moines

One of the main streets in downtown Des Moines

One of the many bridges crossing the river

One of the many bridges crossing the river

Some great art work on the side of a building

Some great art work on the side of a building

A delightful garden in the middle of the city

A delightful garden in the middle of the city

Monday saw us both touring the Capitol building and then later in the afternoon, I explored the Des Moines Botanical Gardens on my own. See my next post for more on this!

About Des Moines

  • Des Moines is the capital city of the state of Iowa in the US.
  • It is the county seat of Polk County
  • Named after the Des Moines River (which is probably an adaption of the French Riviere des Moines, meaning “River of the Monks”
  • The metro area of Des Moines has a population of around 271,000.

and Iowa:

  • It is known as “the Hawkeye State”
  • It became the 29th state of the Union in December 1846.
  • Motto: “Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain”
  • Bird: the Eastern Goldfinch
  • Tree: Oak
  • Flower: Wild Rose
  • Rock: Geodes
  • Some noteworthy products of Iowa: Actors John Wayne, Elijah Wood and Ashton Kutcher, TV host Johnny Carson, musician Glenn Miller, singer Andy Williams, president Herbert Hoover and the American Pickers (Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz).

Anyway – Go and see Iowa and Des Moines if ever you get the chance! 🙂

 

A visit to Iowa State Fair!

So, I am in Des Moines for a few days accompanying a friend on a business trip. As we had Saturday afternoon free, we decided to take in the Iowa State Fair – it was huge! The grounds were lovely – plenty of trees.

Iowa State Fairgrounds

Iowa State Fairgrounds

We managed to get a car park not too far from the fairgrounds and was able to hitch a ride on one of the golf carts zipping around ferrying people between the car-parks and the fairgrounds (it was very welcome since the day was hot).

On the way we passed camping grounds where people park their huge RV’s and camp for the duration of the fair – there were hundreds of them and apparently these sites are passed down through families and there are lengthy waiting lists to get a site.

So many RV's

Camp grounds at the fairgrounds

We wandered around the grounds, taking in the atmosphere, checking out some of the displays and took a look at some of the exhibits within the expo buildings.

Quilt - USA states

Quilt – USA states

We saw some wood sculpting using a chain saw,

Wood sculpting with a chain saw

A wood bunny

some old tractors,

A rare 1938 tractor

A rare 1938 tractor

a butter cow (yep, a cow carved from butter) and some great sand sculpting.

Sand Sculture

Sand Sculpture

Along the way I was amazed at all of the food vendors – there were so many! Becky was thrilled to find a gluten-free corn dog and had to indulge (she convinced me to have one too – I have to admit, they don’t do it for me though).

Corn Dog at Iowa state fair

A Gluten Free Corn Dog

The Iowa State Fair is also a bit of a magnet for the Presidential candidates – both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton were there, however, we didn’t see either of them (but I did see Donald’s plane at the airport)!

The fair was quite an eye-opener and quite different to its cousin – The Texas State Fair in Dallas. There was a greater focus on agriculture here in Iowa and seemed to be more like a country fair that I would have expected.

Get along to the Iowa State Fair if ever you get the chance!

The Iowa State Fair is held in Des Moines and is known as “America’s classic state fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs. The fair is held in park-like grounds covering 450 acres and has been in the same place since 1886. Adjoining the fair grounds is 160 acres of Campgrounds – both areas are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the buildings pre-date World War I; and are good examples of American exposition-style architecture.

Experiencing some classic culture

This past Tuesday, I experienced a wonderful day of culture!

I was invited by a friend to tag along on a day out with a friend (and a friend of hers) who were going to take in some of exhibitions at a couple of museums in Fort Worth. I saw things that I would not have experienced in Australia, and have to admit, I had a lovely day!

We drove down to Fort Worth, which is almost a 2 hour drive from where I live in Sherman (so, about the equivalent of driving from Newcastle to Sydney). We took in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and then the Kimbell Art Museum, where we also enjoyed a delicious, light lunch.

I have experienced quite a few museums and art galleries during my travels, but I must admit, the art I took in on Tuesday was noteworthy; I saw quite a few paintings from artists that I have only seen once before (at a special exhibit in Canberra), or not at all.

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is not an overly large museum and we were there primarily to see the special exhibits – Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art and Audubon’s Beasts. The Amon Carter museum opened in January 1961 and was established by Amon G. Carter Sr. (1879–1955) to house his collection of paintings and sculptures by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. The museum contains only American art and artists (to the best of my knowledge) and “aims to collect, preserve, and exhibit the finest examples of American art; and to serve an educational role through exhibitions, publications, and programs devoted to the study of American art”.

The exhibit of Audubon’s beasts was a collection of maybe 20-24 (I can’t quite remember how many there were) of hand-painted prints of some of North America’s four-legged creatures; these were extremely detailed and wonderful to see. John James Audubon (1785–1851) was a famed scientist and painter, best known for his work depicting the birdlife in America in The Birds of America, a book of 435 images – portraits of every bird then known in the United States.

The Indigenous Beauty exhibit was fabulous too – there were plenty of native American Indian art and craft works, with some excellent examples of textiles, pottery, basket weaving and beadwork. It was very impressive and I am glad to have seen it – if you get the chance – go see it!

Again, the Kimbell Art Museum is not large, but it does have some quality works, all housed in a fabulous, modern, noteworthy building. The museum is especially noted for the wash of silvery natural light that enters the building through its vaulted gallery ceilings.

The reason we went to the Kimbell was to see the special exhibit: Botticelli to Braque – Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland. There was some very fine art in that display by famed artists such as Titian, Pissarro, Degas, Botticelli as well as Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne and Rembrandt. However, before we got to this exhibit, I was very excited to have witnessed works by some of the great masters that exist as part of the Kimbell’s permanent collection where I saw works by Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet and Cezanne . Like I mentioned, I saw paintings that you just don’t get to see the likes of in Australia, unless they are part of a special, travelling exhibit. These paintings were part of the museums regular, permanent collection – available to view in downtown Fort Worth, Texas!

If ever you find yourself in Fort Worth, Texas, I can recommend a visit to these two museums!

If you made it this far – sorry for the long post and the absence of pictures, but I did think it was worth writing about! 🙂

A visit to a Wildlife Refuge

HNWR_VCsign_01This past weekend we took in a visit to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge (HNWR). This is a local wildlife refuge that sits on an arm of Lake Texoma; we have been meaning to visit for some time. HNWR is usually open all year-round, however, due to our recent heavy, recording breaking rains which led to Denison Dam breaching it’s spillway twice, the park has been close for months due to flooding. It re-opened in a limited capacity on Saturday – all of the driving and walking trails are still closed as they are all still underwater, but at least we got to have a little look around the visitors center.

A road through HNWR cut by flood waters

A road through HNWR cut by flood waters

A newly emerged Monarch Butterfly

A newly emerged Monarch Butterfly

HNWR was established in 1946 and covers over 11,000 acres; it consists of farm fields, wetlands, prairie and forested areas, each having their own unique habitat for wildlife. The Refuge is primarily a haven for migratory birds (waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, songbirds and raptors), but also is home to other native wildlife including white-tailed deer, bobcats, river otters, badgers and gray fox. There are also more than 400 species of fish in the waters of HNWR. Fishing and hunting are allowed within the Refuge, but you can also enjoy butterfly and bird watching, hiking, picnicking and there are plenty of opportunities for some great photography.

While we were there I saw my first hummingbird in the wild – they are smaller than I thought they would be and I managed to get a couple of photos, which was great for me.

A Hummingbird (and grasshopper)

This year I have been doing an on-line 52-week photo challenge photography course and the challenge last week was to capture a silhouette. What do you think of my hummingbird silhouette (notice also the grasshopper on the tree branch)? I was pretty happy with it, so I thought I would share. If you are interested you can see some of my other challenge photos here.

If anyone is interested in photography – I can recommend the on-line course I am doing; it is very reasonably priced and I have learnt quite a lot; not just about taking photos, but how to edit them as well. It is run by Ricky Tims and you can find more information here.

A bird of prey?

A bird of prey?

Yet another first – a visit to IKEA

Just following on from the shopping theme of my previous blog: another first for us today – it was the first time we have visited IKEA – ever (anywhere, USA or Australia). We went down to Frisco again today just to take a look at this store and see what all the fuss is about!

The kitchen sink!

The kitchen sink!

This store has EVERYTHING you could possibly need for your home. I didn’t realise that IKEA could provide pretty much anything for, not just decorating your home, but furnishing it (the bed – including sheets and pillows, the curtains, floor rugs, etc.), renovating it (from wardrobes to full kitchens, including the kitchen sink, oven, refrigerator and dishwasher) and to providing you with finishing touches such as indoor plants as well. This truly is a one-stop-shop for your home – there were plenty of people here – it was amazing!  We snaked our way around 2 floors of temptation, ideas and inspiration – you could spend hours here (and I’m sure many do)! And if you get hungry whilst working your way through the store there is a restaurant where you can refuel and rest before you continue on.

Ideas and inspiration

Ideas and inspiration

Laundry ideas

Laundry ideas

It’s just as well I couldn’t really buy anything (all the electrical appliances just won’t work in Australia and I really have no where to put furniture items, etc.) or I would probably have spent some money today. But it is a great place for ideas – I took plenty of photos for future reference for when we renovate or if I ever get to build my dream house!

I am pleased to say that, although tempted, I did not part with any money at IKEA today!  🙂

Shopping! A tale of 2 very different shopping malls…

There are some great sales happening here at the moment! If you are a bargain hunter – now is the time to be shopping in the US. Read to the end to see my bargain buy!

This past week I went shopping to 2 very different shopping malls and I thought it was worth a blog post. On Thursday I took a drive down to Frisco (almost an hour away) to Stonebriar shopping mall. On Friday I went to a local mall 10 minutes away – the contrast between the two couldn’t be more different.

Stonebriar Center is classified as a mid-range shopping mall (I would equate it to a Westfield shopping centre in Australia) and hosts 6 major anchor stores (including Macy’s), a 24-screen movie theatre, a couple of restaurants (including the Cheesecake factory) as well as the other food court regulars and smaller retailers; in all 165 tenants. It’s a great shopping venue! I went to Stonebriar because I was after something particular that I knew the local stores wouldn’t have and only a larger retailer might carry.

The Carousel at Stonebriar

The Carousel at Stonebriar

I like Stonebriar; it’s light and fresh, has lots of stores that I could spend days looking through and it even has a merry-go-round to entertain the kids (as opposed to the ice-skating rink that Dallas Galleria has). It is probably just as well that it takes nearly an hour to get there or I would go more often and spend too much money!

 

On the other side of the coin is the local Midway Mall (so named because it is midway between Sherman and Denison). Midway Mall is a very sad place to shop – there are not many retailers and the décor has been left to deteriorate. I am sure it once was a great mall, and I really don’t understand its decline. Midway Mall is undercover and on one level, with plenty of parking and even has a movie theatre. There are more than 90 leasable holdings for retailers, yet I would guess less than 1/4 are occupied. There are never many people at Midway Mall and I would assume most people go there for one of the 3 main anchor stores; that was my reason for visiting – Dillards (for Aussie readers – think DJ’s).

An empty Midway Mall

An empty Midway Mall

Very few retailers at Midway Mall

Very few retailers at Midway Mall

This could be a great mall again; I would prefer shopping here – undercover in air-conditioned comfort with all the retailers in one spot, where I could easily browse the shops, stop for a snack, lunch or a coffee, etc. rather than going to the strip mall – Sherman Town Center (which led to the decline of Midway Mall) where the shops are spread over an enormous area (it measures ~1.3km in length), are all out-doors and I have to drive from one end to the other. It’s not any easy place to shop and I am less likely to hang around to browse or stop and have a coffee or bite to eat.

Anyway variety is the spice of life (even when it comes to shopping), so I appreciate what I have as well as what I can look forward to. I do hope that Midway Mall makes a recovery though!

P.S. Among my bargain purchases this week was a lovely Fossil leather wallet for $25! (It cost a bit more because it had a fancy pattern – the plain one was only $16!) 🙂

My new wallet!

My new wallet!