Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Texas on My Mind

I was quiet on my blog for a few weeks.  Did you miss me?  Well, if you were a member of my family in Texas, you probably saw me, so you could care less about this little ol' blog of mine.

If you are someone who doesn't care to read recaps or see highlights from a family vacation, this isn't the post for you.  But, if you want to see my little slice of Texas, join me.

First, how about a little tune to get you in the mood:

Are you in a Texas state of mind? we go...

 We left Christmas afternoon (notice the discarded stocking on the floor).  My bags were packed and ready partially filled with Christmas presents.  I cleared those out when I got there to make room for shopping!  The flight from Sydney to DFW is the longest operating daily commercial flight.  (Qantas announced this on both flights, going there and coming back, so I'm guessing they're pretty proud of this accomplishment.)  We were in the air for 17 hours.  The timezone changes make it seem like we go back in time.  We left at 3:25pm Christmas Day and arrived at 1:45pm Christmas Day.  Woo hoo for crazy time travel!

Dad & Helen were waiting for us.  After hugs and introductions, we hit the road.  It's a three hour drive from the airport to their house.  A road trip in Texas calls for a stop at Buc-cee's.  Yes, Buc-cee's is a gas station and convenience store, but it is oh-so-much more than that.  If you can't find a road trip snack here, then you aren't a snacker.  Two Texas-sized drinks, two t-shirts, two tacos, beef jerky, bar-b-q sandwich, and homemade fudge were gathered and purchased.  I got in the car, took one bite of the chicken fajita taco, and knew I was indeed in Texas.  Mmmmmmmm........

We arrived at Dad's and Helen's in Elkins Lake (Huntsville, Texas).  My dad put out more Christmas lights and decorations that I've ever seen him do.  He claims that he's retired now, so he has a little more time for Christmas lights than before.  Fair enough. 

This Christmas Day was an extra special one for a number of reasons.  I haven't spent Christmas in Texas since 2006.  Plus, the 25th of December is my dad's birthday...and this year was his 70th birthday!  I know he's not overly excited to admit that, but my dad looks great, feels great, and I'm happy to have him another decade (and more!).  This was my first Christmas married to my guy, and the first time he got to meet (in person) my Texas folks.  So many things to be thankful for this year.

On the 26th, we celebrated Christmas.  Dad & Helen were pretty happy folks.  They had their immediate children, step-children, grand-children, and two close friends in attendance.  I think there were 21 of us in all.  There was a lot of love, food, hugs, gifts, and laughs. 

My teenage nieces and nephew doing what we do - take selfies, of course!  I love these kids so much and *maybe* shed a tear or two after saying goodbye to them.

I have this friend, and her name is Erin too.  We call her Erin2.  We were pretty much inseparable for a few years before I moved to Australia.  Since I saw her last, we both gained some husbands that neither of us knew.  So, we decided it would be a good idea to get all of us together.  We had Tex-Mex which made me very happy, and we had a lot of laughs and almost shed some tears.  I miss this girl, but it's good to know that she is in a happy place, and that whenever we get together, our friendship is strong.

Speaking of Tex-Mex.......when people ask me what I miss most about Texas, I always answer Tex-Mex (hey! friend and family are a given!).  I could eat chips, queso, tacos, nachos, fajitas, salsa, enchiladas, quesadillas, and the goodness called Chuy's creamy jalapeƱo sauce for the rest of my life and be a fat happy girl.  Add some margaritas with that food, and I'm even happier.

My dad has three sisters, and we try to get together every time I'm in Texas for a visit.  This year, we had most of the cousins there too (minus my brother and youngest cousin, Laura).  My Memaw would be very happy and proud.

The Day the Wall Came Down: A Monument to Freedom
We spent a day in College Station, Texas...home of Texas A&M University (my alma mater), my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids, and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library (no political fodder needed on my blog).  The library is fascinating with photos, handwritten letters, gifts from heads of state, pieces of the Berlin Wall (as seen in this sculpture), and more.  Regardless of supporting his politics or not, President 41 Bush has led an extremely full life from his family life, military service, Texas oil man, Congressman, ambassador to China, CIA Director, Vice President, President, and philanthropist.

The biggest reason that we were in College Station that day is that my oldest niece turned 18.  Yikes!  She picked a special place for a special dinner.  What did I eat you ask?  I had chicken fried filet mignon (only in Texas, and it was SO good y'all) with cream gravy, mashed potatoes, and green beans followed by the cutest little key lime pie cheesecake.  All bellies were full and many smiles were shared. 

After dinner, my dad, stepmom, brother, sister-in-law, hubby, and I went to a Texas A&M Men's basketball game.  In my college career, I spent many hours at Aggie basketball games while I was on the Texas Aggie Dance Team (whoop!).  It was fun to see how the atmosphere has progressed and cheer for my team.

The next day, we drove through the piney woods of East Texas to meet up with my mom.  We had Whataburger (which has to be mentioned because it is the greatest fast food chain ever), then headed to Tyler, Texas.  My cousin had a baby since I saw her last, so I had to go by and meet him.  Also, she got a "puppy" named Winnie.  She may be the sweetest dog ever to live with the sweetest brothers ever.

After our visit to Fat Dog's liquor store on New Year's Eve (yep, that was some good people watchin'), we were ready to have our own NYE celebration at Mom's and George's with my two aunts, uncle, cousin, her husband, and kiddos.  It was a good time had by all.  (Yes, I polished off my aunt's bottle of Crown Royal which is my favorite Canadian whiskey that you can't get in Sydney).  So, a really good time was had by me!

More birthday celebrations - this time for my mama.  Yep, Dad was born on Christmas Day, and Mom was born on New Year's Day.  We celebrated with a cookie cake from the Great American Cookie Company (of course).  We feasted on my Aunt Sarah's good ol' home-cooked Southern meal of fried chicken, chicken fried steak, cream gravy, mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese...and I think there was a salad.

Saturday night in Texas...what do we do?  My cousins, close friend who is pretty much family, and I took Neil to his first honky tonk.  There was country music, boot scootin', line dancin', Texas beer drinkin' (hello, Shiner Bock, I've missed you), and people watchin'.  *Some* (not me) of the group stayed up playing games until 4:30 in the morning and maybe was feeling it the next day.
Another mini road trip to us to visit my dear friend in Fort Worth.  Katy moved here a few years ago, and I looooovvvvve Fort Worth.  The ambience of big city plus working cowboys at the stock yards is a perfect blend of Texas culture.  We spent the day eating great food, hanging at saloons called Booger Red's and Filthy McNasty's, listening to a little live music, drinking Texas beer, and walking around the stock yards.  For anyone interested in visiting Texas, I highy recommend Fort Worth. 

We had dinner (yes, Tex-Mex again) with Katy and her guy.  I had margaritas as big as their heads and enjoyed every last drop.  Katy has visited me in Australia, and every time I go to Texas, I see her.  To know Katy is to love Katy, and I'm a lucky girl that she loves me too.

We spent a couple of more days with my sweet mother and George.  We ate a lot, we shopped, and we laughed.  That's what we do.

We met up with Dad and Helen again.  We went to see the H.E.A.R.T.S. Veterans Museum of Texas.  Helen had organized for Father's Day a brick to commemorate my dad's military service.  It was a nice museum to walk through, especially with my dad.

Our last day in Texas was spent relaxing and hanging with the folks.  They've got a pretty great place to relax.

Getting prepared for our flight to Sydney, I had a cocktail at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill.  I shed some tears, Neil offered comfort, and I re-grouped to get ready for the flight.  Maybe Neil should have followed my lead because he was a little wired before the 17 hour flight home. 

Seventeen hours later, and this is my view out of the airplane window.  Oh, Sydney, you do have a way with greeting a girl. 

Let's see...we ate A LOT - Sonic, Taco Bell, Whataburger, Chick-Fil-A, Mackenzie's BBQ, Chuy's, Guadalajara, Cantina Laredo, H3 Ranch, Texas Road House, Salt Grass Steak House, The Republic, Los Pericos, Chili's, Wing Stop.......and there were still so many places I wanted to take him.  We didn't even hit some of my favorite spots in Texas or see some of my favorite people, so you know what that means?  I need to go back soon :)


  1. Aaaah! It looks like you had such a great time and all of that food. I was so spoiled by Tex Mex when I lived in San Antonio as a kid and the times I've visited there really isn't anything like it. It's so hard to see everybody, but it looks like you got to see quite a few!

  2. aw what a fun time! so stupid question is tex mex a restaurant or is it just a style of food? cause we have a chuy's here :) i'm not a huge fan.. i know, i know. but glad you had such a good time - you were better than me, i definitely cried every single time i saw someone for the first time or said goodbye to anyone!

  3. 17 hours on a plane...I think I'd need drugs.

    I'm glad you packed so much into your visit home.

    There is nothing like tex-mex. Truly.


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