One last visit to the Arboretum 

With our time in Texas rapidly nearing an end, this little wombat took one last wander; I wanted to see the 12 days of Christmas display at the Dallas arboretum, so we took a break from our packing and went for a quick visit.

ArboretumGazebos

I love visiting the arboretum – it has been the one place in Texas that I have visited the most. From now until January 3rd, the Arboretum has a fabulous, exquisite display: the 12 days of Christmas. Each of the 12 days are displayed in a giant gazebo, beautifully displayed and with Christmas carols playing.

Here is the poem and some pictures:

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree

ArboretumDay1Gazebo

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Arboretum_Day4_CallingBird

One of the four calling birds

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Arboretum_Day11_pipersOn the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 Drummers Drumming
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Merry Christmas to everyone!

And if you get the opportunity – go visit the arboretum in Dallas.

At the moment – the remnants of the pumpkin patch display is still about:

Aboretum_Us_PumpkinPatch

 

Pumpkins at the Arboretum – Autumn is here!

One thing I really love about America is how the arrival of each season is celebrated wholeheartedly.

Autumn has now arrived in the northern hemisphere, so there are plenty of decorations around celebrating Fall and Harvest; with many scarecrows, hay bales and pumpkins! All the stores and so many porches and balconies around town are displaying their Fall decorations. It is wonderful!

harvest-decorfall-home-decor-2

Fall_signToday I went to visit the Dallas Arboretum with a friend to take a look at their Fall Festival, which features a huge pumpkin patch – with more than 75,000 pumpkins, squash and gourds. It was amazing! I had such a wonderful time; I just had to share – Here are a few photos:

Fall_Texas_pumpkins

Fall_UglyPumpkinPatch

Fall_PumpkinBed

Fall_PumpkinPath

I have been to the Arboretum twice before (one of which was for the Springtime bloom event) and it has been great every time. A visit to the gardens is truly delightful and there is something to see at any time of the year. If you are ever in Dallas – go; you won’t regret it. It also has a fabulous Children’s Adventure Garden for the kiddies (and adults).

 

Derry to Donegal Town

We have seen and done so much in our first week in Ireland.

Yesterday (was, it only yesterday) before we departed Derry we walked the city’s walls.

Ireland_Derry_wall

This was really worth the effort and I’m glad we did this even though it had not been on my ‘must do’ list. Derry was a very pretty town and I really enjoyed it. Of course, I could have done with an extra night there, but that is always the way!

From Derry we drove to Letterkenny where there is a most beautiful cathedral – St. Eunan’s. This Neo-Gothic building is absolutely gorgeous with some excellent celtic stone work, lovely vibrant stained glass windows and a vaulted ceiling that is very grand. The cathedral also boasts a 65m steeple. I am so glad we stopped here!

inside St. Eunan's Cathedral

inside St. Eunan’s Cathedral

After our quick stop at Letterkenny we took the coastal route along the part of the “Wild Atlantic Way” road. Yet more spectacular scenery – we called in at Horn Head (and the pretty little town of Dunfanaghy) and drove through The Rosses (an area with more than 100 lakes).

driving through The Rosses

driving through The Rosses

This was a lot of driving through narrow, winding, country roads. I didn’t see as much as I would have liked since we didn’t leave Derry until midday; we spent quite a few hours in the car, not arriving at Lough Eske (Donegal) until just after 6pm.

Lough Eske Castle is very nice! This place was a ruin until 2006 when it was rescued and given a new life as a hotel.

 

Ireland_LoughEskeCastle

Today, we took a look around Donegal town and took a tour through the castle, which is pretty much in the middle of town. Although, not particularly old as far as Irish castles go, it was still interesting.

Ireland_DonegalCastle

After the visit to the castle, we drove some more of the Wild Atlantic Way – to Killybegs (a little town, with a big fishing port), and then on to Glencolmcille – the Glen of St Colmcille (had to visit here just because of it’s association with said saint – AKA St Columba), but this is one of the prettiest valley’s I’ve seen.

On our way back to Lough Eske Castle, we called in to visit Slieve League (one of the highest cliff faces in Europe) – it is very spectacular! However, it was quite a walk out to the cliffs (about a 6km round trip) – we didn’t realise that it was possible to drive right to the top as there was a carpark at the bottom and it was gated, so we assumed you had to walk (until we saw cars coming back down). Oh well, we got our exercise in for today!

Ireland_SlieveLeague

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 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?

Another First….TopGolf

Yesterday we tried our hand at TopGolf! What a great concept. You do not have to be a golfer to play and anyone – young or old – can have a go. The venue is well set up with a  relaxed atmosphere – you can play as much as you like with unlimited balls available, or you can sit back and be waited upon, enjoying a drink or two and a meal or snack. There is also an indoor bar and restaurant if you prefer.

We went to our “local” TopGolf in Allen (a northern outer suburb of Dallas, about 45 minutes away). There are 3 levels of covered playing bays, with each bay set up with lounges, table, golf clubs and a storage area for your own clubs if you choose to bring them and your own teeing off area. The ‘outfield’ is set out with dart-board like targets set into the ground. There are a variety of games you can play, but the main game centers around trying to hit the ball into the targets; the further you hit the microchipped ball and the closer to the center of the target, the more points you get. A computerised score board displayed on a television screen will keep track of everyone’s scores.

Keeping score

Keeping score

Andrew addressing the golf ball!

Andrew addressing the golf ball!

I am no golfer, yet I really enjoyed myself and this would be a great social event for a small group of friends (you can have up to 6 people in a bay). I think we will certainly go again! Maybe next time we can drag along some friends. 🙂

Pickleball anyone?

Today I finally got back to the gym after little more than a week of not feeling too good. I must admit, I did miss it and could feel myself sort-of ‘withering’; (I did lose 1-2kg’s though), but I feel much better after making the effort – a Pilate’s class today. I must also admit, I have been missing Pickleball! Up until the week before last, I was playing 45minutes of Pickleball each weekday morning. However, my faithful Pickleball companion is off enjoying Hawaii at the moment for 3 weeks on holidays (the hide of her, right?) and I haven’t been able to get to the gym the past week anyway, so I have missed out.

I’m guessing most of you probably haven’t heard of Pickleball. And I know that in Australia it is rare, and it certainly wasn’t in Newcastle last time I was there.

So, let me catch you up on Pickleball.

A Pickleball paddle

A Pickleball paddle

Pickleball is a relatively new sport and was invented in 1965. It’s lots of fun and it’s not hard to play. Pickleball is pretty much a cross between tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong. It can be played with 2 to 4 players, indoors or out, but we play on an indoor court at the local gym. The court is roughly 1/3 the size of a basketball court (badminton sized) and is marked in a similar pattern to a tennis court, with a tennis-like net across the middle. You play with a large plastic ball with holes in it (a bit like an over-sized practice golf ball) and a paddle that is shaped a bit like a tennis racket (but smaller and without the long neck). There are rules, but when we play, we don’t play according to them; we just like to have a hit and are in it for the fun and exercise (as evidenced by the short video clip below). But we do work up a sweat when we play!

The above clip shows Carla and Becky ‘playing’ Pickleball. (The court is marked by the yellow tape – which is overlaid over the basketball court).

There are those who are very serious about the sport: there are many organisations, and tournaments are held throughout the country; just recently there was a competition held locally.

Next week I hope to get a few hits in before Becky gets back the week after next and we can resume regular playing again!

Who knows – I may have to introduce Newcastle to this fun sport when I return! 🙂

Public Transport? Not here!

So, I have been stuck at home for a couple of days without the car (we only have the one and Andrew needed it this week). This got me thinking about public transport and how different it is here to what I have seen in other parts of the country and to what I am used to in Australia.

The Texoma area is seriously lacking in any form of public transport! There are no Taxi’s in Sherman; nor is there a regular public bus service (aside from the school buses) and no passenger trains at all. This is very different to say, New York, where those iconic yellow taxis outnumber regular cars and where just about everyone rides the subway. But, let’s not forget that this is not a big city and it is not that close to one either. Dallas (an hour away) does have buses and a light rail service, but it services essentially the main metroplex area.

I was used to a bus service where the closest stop was perhaps 200m from home and ran to a regular timetable, with designated stops and destinations (and a train station located a stones throw away). I was also fortunate enough to live within walking distance to just about everything I needed. Not so here. When we first arrived I thought I would be able to catch a bus if I ever had a need to, but the local bus service operates more like a shuttle service. You need to book a ride 24hrs beforehand, so you need to be organised and plan ahead (this is probably great for the elderly who need to get to doctors appointments, etc.). However, this still strikes me as a little odd, I thought a regular route with specified destinations and designated pickup spots and times would work well, but it seems not.

You might think the alternative would be to walk or ride a bike – but this really would be taking your life into your own hands! The road we live on is a 2 lane 55mph (~90kph) speed limit road with no curb and guttering and in places, no shoulder, just a guard rail. So, I am not keen on taking on the traffic that at times seems to fly by.

It is very rarely that you see someone riding a bike or walking along roadways here. In fact, most people rely on their cars and drive here – even the shortest of distances; where I would normally walk, you would hop in the car and drive. So perhaps the demand is just not there for a regular bus service or a taxi service.

It is interesting how towns and cities develop and I guess that includes their transport needs and systems as well.

Water, water everywhere!

Today we have seen a lot of rain again, with lots of lightening and thunder (enough to cause the floor to shake). The picture below was taken from our balcony; you can see we have a waterfall and dam forming and the drain is creating a mini whirlpool.

Our new water-feature outlook!

Our water-feature outlook!

We have also seen history made again this past week; Texoma Dam (for the very first time) has breached the spillway twice in the same year (within 4 weeks even) when it went over again last Friday. And it looks like it may just break another record yet, with the water level at Lake Texoma Dam possibly peaking on Monday.

There has already been so much flooding around our local area, destroying houses and roads, and it seems it just not ready to let up yet. Here’s a link to a YouTube clip of the local marina on Lake Texoma under water and a story by a local news station on the Spillway record.