Goodbye Texas

It’s time to say goodbye to Texas! And, yes, there will be (& has been) tears. 😥 sads

 

Almost 2 years ago now, my husband was made an offer to work in the USA for 12 months. What an opportunity – we could live in Texas, experience a new culture, do something different for a while and maybe have the odd adventure or two! We have now lived in Texas for 19 months and it has prematurely and abruptly come to an end.

Although this is a very sad turn of events – I think I recognised myself passing through most of the acknowledged stages of grief with anger and depression featuring strongly – I have now moved into acceptance and am trying to move past my sadness and bitterness and appreciate all the wonderful experiences I have had whilst here in the US; things I would not have done otherwise.

It wasn’t easy at the start, but I managed to make a life here and I have meet some amazing people; some will be friends for life!

Living in the North Texas town of Sherman, we have tried to experience as much of Texas (and Texoma) as we could, and also explore further afield when we could. There have been so many wonderful experiences. I was going to list our experiences here – but I now realise that we have done so much, it’s way too much to mention it all.

We have had opportunity to visit quite a few of the local sights and have enjoyed the uniquely Texan experiences of shooting rifles and pistols both at a gun range and on a ranch.

Cate_shooting

Other places we have visited in Texas are Fort Worth (where we saw the longhorn drive),

Cattle drive at Fort Worth Stock Yards

Cattle drive at Fort Worth Stock Yards

Texarkana, San Antonio – the Alamo and it’s wonderful riverwalk,

Riverwalk-view_from-bridgeWichita Falls, and the Texas hill country town of Fredericksburg. I also managed to get to visit Houston.

With Dallas being so close we managed to see most of the major touristy sites. We visited Dealey Plaza and the Book Repository, took a look at Old Red museum, checked out the DMA, enjoyed a visit to the Dallas Aquarium, took in the view from the top of Reunion Tower and enjoyed several visits to the Arboretum (one of my favourite places).

 

arboretum

There is so much to do in Dallas – make sure you visit some time!

We also enjoyed the very unique experience of visiting the Texas State Fair.

BigTex

In addition we also caught a couple of Baseball games at Arlington.

Cate_baseball

Besides Texas though, I have had the privilege of visiting another 13 states! Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa and New York.

Some highlights:

View from the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

View from the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Statue of Liberty, NY

Statue of Liberty, NY

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennesee

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennesee

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge – New Mexico

I had no desire to visit the USA before coming here ,but I have a new appreciation of America and it’s people. Texas in particular will always have a place in my heart.  💕💕

I hope I can come back one day!

 

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.

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.

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?

A lesson in Chickasaw

A trip to the Chickasaw Cultural Center: A lesson in Native American History

I have been wanting to take a trip to the Chickasaw Cultural Center for a long time now and this past weekend we finally made the trip.

Chickasaw Warrior statue

Chickasaw Warrior statue

The Chickasaws are one of the Five Civilised Tribes, (which refers to the five Native American nations – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee), and Seminole), they have their own constitution and are federally recognised as a Native American Nation – the Chickasaw Nation. The Chickasaw’s traditional lands were originally in the south-eastern states of America – principally Alabama, Tennessee & Mississippi before they were forced to relocate in the 1830’s. The US government wanted to acquire all the lands east of the Mississippi and therefore forced the re-location of thousands of Native Americans to “Indian Territory” (Oklahoma).

The Chickasaw Cultural Center is located in Sulphur in Oklahoma, about an hour & 40-minute drive for us from home.

Cloak made from turkey feathers

Cloak made from turkey feathers

The Center is located within a 109-acre property. The Cultural Center is made up of a collection of buildings set in beautifully landscaped grounds and is dedicated to the history and culture of the Chickasaw people. There is an exhibit center/museum with plenty of information and some interactive displays, a research center & library where individuals may trace their genealogy and study the Chickasaw history, culture and traditions, a 350-seat theatre, a replica of a traditional Chickasaw village and even a café (we had lunch here and the food was great). There are several water features throughout the grounds, an outdoor amphitheatre and a sky terrace where you can observe the traditional village from above. I have to say that this is a world-class facility. The buildings and amenities are brilliant. My only complaint would be that there were a lot of exhibits that were obviously replicas; there didn’t appear to be very many genuine artefacts on display. However, what was there was good.

The Chickasaw Village

The Chickasaw Village – viewed from the Sky Terrace

It is free to look around the grounds, the village, the theatre and the library – the only thing that requires a fee is admission to the exhibit center which house a “museum” that offers a walk through Chickasaw history and culture with displays of and any special exhibits, but at $6 per adult, I think it is good value for money and worth the effort. All-in-all it was an interesting trip and I learnt something new – always good!

The Center is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday midday to 5pm all year round (except major holidays)

Road trip anyone?

There is nothing like a road trip to revive the soul! ❤

Welcome to New Mexico

Welcome to New Mexico

After returning from my 6 weeks in Australia, I had been feeling a bit down in the dumps, a bit flat, that sort-of, I-can’t-be-bothered feeling. So I needed something interesting to do to get me going again. A road trip to New Mexico was just the tonic!

A road trip is defined (by MacMillan dictionary) as a “long trip in a car”! And according to Wikipedia, “in the United States, a road trip typically implies leaving the state… However, in larger states (e.g. Texas), travel within the state may also be considered a road trip”. So, we have done quite a few now (Memphis, San Antonio, Arkansas, to name a few). Did you know that the first road trip by car occurred in 1888 in Germany when the wife of Karl Benz (inventor of the first patented motor car) took her 2 teenage sons for a drive (top speed of 10mph), without the knowledge of her husband, from Mannheim to Pforheim in Germany – a total distance of 66mi (106km) on the pretence of visiting her mother, but generating publicity for her husbands car which previously only been used for short test drives?

I was keen to visit the city of Santa Fe (capital of the state of New Mexico) as I had seen a feature on TV about it and I thought it looked good; it also has some interesting history (founded in 1610, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US).

3 of the 10 buried Cadillacs at Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Tx

3 of the 10 buried Cadillacs at Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Tx

It’s a long way to Santa Fe, NM from Sherman, TX so we decided to break up our 9 hours of travel time by leaving Thursday night, driving the first 5 hours to Amarillo (made famous, I believe, by Neil Sedaka and his song about “sweet Marie” waiting there for him (I couldn’t get the song out of my head)! I can’t really say too much about Amarillo as we didn’t spend too much time there, but it does have an interesting display of 10 Cadillacs buried in the ground at Cadillac Ranch.

On then to Santa Fe via Albuquerque (another 5 hours of driving – 4 to Albuquerque and then another hour to Santa Fe). We stopped in Albuquerque at a little, local (very popular) restaurant La Salita that offered traditional New Mexican fare. We can attest, the meal was great (no photos, it was too good and we busily ate it all up ☺) and the complimentary dessert, Sopaipilla – a type of fried pastry/bread that looks like a puffed pillow and is hollow inside, was delicious served with honey and cinnamon!

In Santa Fe we stayed 3 nights (in 2 different hotels – I couldn’t decide, so I split the stay between the Hilton Historic Plaza (2) and the Hotel St Francis (1), both historical hotels – I was a bit disappointed, but that’s another story). We spent a day and a half in Santa Fe and we took a day trip up to Taos, taking in the historic chapel El Santuario de Chimayo on the way and also took a drive out to the Rio Grande Canyon bridge.

El Santurio de Chimayo

El Santurio de Chimayo

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Horse head sculpture on Canyon Rd

Horse head sculpture on Canyon Rd

In Santa Fe, the main area of downtown surrounds the historic Plaza and is very pretty. The city radiates from the central plaza and is very much a center for art – if you like art galleries, there are dozens to choose from – you could spend days just looking at the various types of galleries (particularly along Canyon Road).

A typical Adobe Santa Fe style building

A typical Santa Fe adobe style building

Santa Fe has a very distinctive look (Santa Fe Style) – all the buildings exhibit the old adobe style on the exterior and all in earth tones. For those who don’t know (I didn’t), adobe is a clay building material, typically sun-dried mud bricks.

There is plenty of history to see – the oldest church in the US, the oldest house in the US and lots of other interesting buildings. There is plenty of shopping (for all those New Mexican souvenirs – blankets, jewellery, pottery, etc.), the farmers markets on a Saturday and there are plenty of dining options available also. We chose to sit outside on a 2nd floor balcony at Thunderbird Bar & Grill and enjoy the view and atmosphere of Santa Fe, watching life go by.

I will do a newsletter with more details about our trip into New Mexico soon, but I just wanted to share a few details of our road trip for now.

Any one want to offer a comment on a road trip they have done, or has anyone else been to Santa Fe? I would love to hear about your experiences; share your thoughts below in the comment section.

A look at 19th Century Grayson County

On Saturday 4th April we paid a visit to the Grayson County Frontier Village, which is located by Loy Lake, off Hwy 75 (exit 67) in Denison. The village is a collection of 27 exhibits from around the local area that have been rescued and relocated to the site. It is great that local historical buildings and artefacts are actively being preserved for the future. The entry fee is only $3 per adult, with the proceeds going to the preservation of old Grayson County homes. There is also a museum and research center on site.

Having paid your admission fee, you are provided with a “Tour Guide” booklet which has a map and description of each of the exhibits, and a key that enables restricted access to 5 of the buildings within the grounds; you can open the front door and look into the roped off rooms that are displayed with artefacts of the time period.

Inside the Lankford House

Inside the Lankford House

The remaining buildings you can walk around and look though the windows and doors.

Church and Evans Carpenter Cabin

Church and Evans Carpenter Cabin

The Village is made up of 10 historic homes (all originally constructed between 1838 and 1866), and a collection of other buildings (some of which are replicas) that include a church, courthouse, country store, school, barbers & dentist shops, a saddle shop, newspaper office and a smokehouse.

Two of the more interesting buildings were:

  1. Bullock Bass House

    Bullock Bass House

    The Bullock/Bass house: Originally built in 1850 by Randolph Bullock and later sold to Col. T.C. Bass whose daughter Nettie was born in the house, lived there for 97 years and died in the same house. “The Nettie Bass House probably is the most historic in the county. It was the first house in the county to have glass windows. People came from miles around to see them in the early days with many traveling all day to get to Sherman, camping out at night the returning home another day”.*

    Bradley Bodkin Cabin

    Bradley Bodkin Cabin

  2. The Bradley/Bodkin Cabin: originally built in 1842 by Thomas Bradley who married twice and brought up 14 children in this 1 room cabin!

There is also a collection of farm implements, a blacksmiths shop and a couple of different types of wagons on display, including a jail wagon (essentially a steel cage on wheels) that was used to house up to 30 County Jail inmates overnight who were out working on the roads.

The Jail Wagon (originally had a wooden floor 1/2 way up the sides)

The Jail Wagon

I am glad we went, the village provides an insight into life in the area during the mid-late 1800’s and is worth a look.

If you are in Grayson County on April 25th, 2015 the Grayson County Frontier Village will be hosting a “Village Frontier Day” where you can step back in time and enjoy experiences of the 1800’s as well as craft demonstrations, music, and vendors to entertain you. Entry is $5 per adult; kids 7-12 are only $1.

 

Grayson County Frontier Village