I haven’t forgotten the rest of the trip…

… it’s just been utterly mad at work this week! Weekend job, definitely… even if it’s just to get the photos up :)

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Southern Belle Road Trip – more photo highlights of Texas

In the Billy Bobs hall of fame with Alan Jackson’s handprints (I realise if you don’t like country music, much of my mad excitement will pass you by)

IMG_7291The Coors sign Mum’s letting Dad have in the bar, I mean study, in their new house (we have one Coors sign already, but it’s not a proper bar without at least two. And this one’s Texas-shaped).




Two of Jack’s guns. I was astounded at how small and delicate the second one was. Neither of these were loaded, and it is illegal to carry your gun openly in Texas, it must be hidden, even if only by a newspaper over it on your passenger seat. I’m still not pro gun carrying, partly because of my time working in a public library (in that if some of our customers were allowed to carry guns, it would be untenable to stay working there without carrying one yourself, which is not a position I would want to be forced into), but it was interesting to hear about and see them.

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A #fromwhereistand photo, in my utterly wonderful new boots


Dad and Gary at the White Elephant Saloon, and Mum with the coldest beer in Texas (that strange white stuff is icy beer that’s risen out of the glass as the temperature adjusts)

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One of my favourite signs, and some boot art I REALLY want for my wall at home

 DSCF0135 DSCF0138 At the HAI conference, Bell employees marching the hallways before the unveiling of the 525 Relentless, and the Dallas skyline enveloped in mistDSCF0155


A drive through cash machine – the mind boggles


Shopping in the stockyards – beautiful vintage boots, and look, I even found a model horse!



Me being an idiot in Cabela’s with a fish cushion, the central display of the store and an inquisitive zebra:


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Dinner on Wednesday evening – Ellen, me and Bev looking at rally photos; Walter, Bob and Dad, and all seven of us (R-L: Bob, Ellen, me, Dad, Mum, Bev, Walter – it proved impossible to get a picture where at least one person wasn’t talking or blinking!) I believe we also declided at some point in the evening, fuelled by cocktails, that if I ever get married, I’m going to do it in a dress similar (but a different colour) to the one I’m wearing in these photos, with cowgirl boots. Excellent :)

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The Euless Yacht Club

Deliberately excluded from previous posts so I could give it its own, the EYC is somewhat of an institution – it’s a bar in Euless, near Fort Worth, and it’s wonderful – understated, full of friendly people and they serve proper Coors beer. You can only get Coors light in the vast majority of everywhere else, and according to Dad, Coors is much better than the light version. I don’t drink beer so couldn’t tell you! It’s a bit legendary to me, in an always-been-talked-about but I’ve always been too young to go kind of a way.

So here’s a proper Coors bottle. Complete with Daisy Duck (see what I did there? She’ll have her own post at some stage too. Maybe even a category of her own…)


A Texas-sized beer cooler. On a trailer. With Rusty’s name on the side, so Daisy insisted on having a picture (I cannot believe I didn’t take a duck rallying with me. Epic, epic fail).

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Dad and Ronnie Mac, an old and wonderful friend on the deck


Me with Ronnie’s barbecue – now I have to go back just to taste some. Dad was an honorary judge one year (this is a big deal in Texas, and he’s an Englishman so it was an even bigger deal!) and I feel I should continue the tradition! Plus Ronnie wins a lot of barbecue competitions and I’d hate to miss out on tasty food :)SNV36662

They have a bar cat called Wilbur. Who is a beautiful cat and who brought us a lizard. We rescued him and put him on a tree – he was perfectly ok, just a bit startled.

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And this is the outside of the EYC as we left for the last time. It’s not in the slightest bit posh, but it’s genuine, friendly and a lovely place to while away an afternoon. Kind of like your favourite pub back home!



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Last day in Texas (Southern Belle Road Trip)

The conference was fab as ever, it’s huge and a tad overwhelming (especially as this time I was working for some of it – not wandering around picking up the best freebies from the stalls!) and on Monday I went to a lecture on Dad’s behalf, as he’s brilliant but not yet able to be in two places at once. Walking in was entertaining, it was a technical update on an Agusta Westland heli engine, and I was the youngest by at least 25 years, plus the only female in the room. Fortunately they send out slides by email afterwards, so I didn’t have to pretend I actually knew what was going on. Phew. An experience though…

I’ve covered mine & Mum’s shopping at the mall in a previous post, although I will just say again how proud I was that I got us there and back again without Dad and didn’t kill us or get us hopelessly lost :D

So Wednesday, our last day in Texas. We’d left it as a sort of spare day, so that if we needed or wanted to do anything we could without having any prior commitments. This was a precious rarity!

We decided to go and see Cabela’s, which is a hunting, fishing and camping shop – man heaven! It also has a zoo of stuffed animals, which although I’m not usually one for heads of moose or whatever stuck to the walls, was strangely fascinating. God alone knows where they got their elephant from! I almost turned left onto the wrong side of the road – there was just one car coming the other way, and he was in the middle, so on autopilot I headed straight towards him, oops. He looked very surprised! To my parents’ very great credit, they didn’t have hysterics, just suggested rather sharply I should perhaps try driving on the correct side of the road – lol! Actually that ended up being my only major cock-up for the entire trip, and I’m amazed I didn’t do anything similar on the rally. (maybe I did, and have blocked it out of my memory?! But I don’t think I did…)

Then back to the hotel to meet Jack, an old friend of Dad’s who’s happily retired, wonderfully Texan and took us to lunch at Jason’s Deli before showing us the handguns he keeps in his car. I learned more from that lunch than I’ve previously ever known about guns in my life, which I touch on briefly over at Project Pin Up. It was fantastic to meet Jack, he’s someone I’ve heard lots about my entire life but never actually met. And the sun came out, and it was warm and lovely! (Cue another conversation about how my parents should retire to Texas, hehe).

Dinner in the evening was planned for 7pm, and we had the rare (possibly never before, in fact) occurrence of six friends all together, plus me, and they felt like my friends by the end of the evening! Bob and Ellen, Walter and Bev and Mum & Dad, all in one place. Amazing. Walter & Bev I’d likewise heard lots about but never met, so it was wonderful to get to know them – Walter is originally from Germany and both he and Bev have travelled extensively, including to Romania, so we had a lovely chat :) And I very much hope we’ll stay in touch!

It was bittersweet, because this dinner had been planned all along to mark our last evening in Texas, but it was so fantastic to see everyone that I didn’t notice I was sad until right at the end of the evening.

Texas has been, as before, amazing. I keep saying I could live here – it’s not the idle chat of someone enjoying their holiday, when I walk through the stockyards I feel like I’ve come home, although I’ve only previously been there once. I love England and it will always be truly home, but I think Texas could certainly be home for a while, should I ever get a chance to work there in the future. (or, you know, take myself and my own business out there one day… it’s not completely impossible).

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Southern Belle Road Trip – 11 February 2012

This morning we woke up and I drove to Bob & Ellen’s for breakfast – managed to negotiate driving on the other side of the road, a left hand drive car, mandatory STOP signs and the Texans’ peculiar rule that you can turn right on a red traffic light if nothing’s coming the other way. It was inexpressibly strange to drive through a red light legally.

Dad, Bob and Bub (yes, our American friends’ names are often similar and sometimes confusing, as they all work in aviation) drank beer and put the world to rights, while Ellen took Mum & I shopping – it was fab, but I’d forgotten how different the shopping experience is in the States. Everything is so big, and far apart, and sometimes you need your car just to get from one shop to the next – it’s mad! We visited lots of places and saw lots of things, and bought a few bits – not loads, but my favourite purchase of the day was a gorgeous sparkly brooch and a ruffled skirt (which I’m coincidentally wearing as I write this post, back home at the weekend). Unfortunately (actually probably fortunately, for both my bank balance and my overstuffed shoe storage boxes) I am a very weird size in American shoes – in western boots I’m a 9 or 9.5, in shoes I don’t seem to fit into any sizes properly.

It was lovely to see everything though, and just to see the variety – I love shopping anyway, so it’s never a hardship to see new shops! We discovered an utterly lovely shop called Ruby Ellen’s, which I’ll do a picture post for. I bought some beautiful things there, but can’t post them because one of them is a birthday present for someone who I know sometimes reads this blog!

Completely gorgeous to see Bob & Ellen as well, it’s been 14 years since I saw them last, on my very first trip to Texas (and to the USA), when I was still a geeky 12 year old. They’re now grandparents, which is terrifying because their children were still children, if older than me, when I was last there. But so good to catch up and see them.

We’d been invited to the Bell Helicopter reception (background info for anyone who doesn’t know, which is probably most of you – Dad has worked closely with Bell for donkeys’ years, and in the company he worked for before starting his own business, he used to train at their HQ in Fort Worth every summer, and a couple of times spent three months at a time there. Consequently we have friends here, and Dad knows the roads and the city very well) so we decided to go to that instead of the main HAI reception – we’d know more people and they’re usually lovely.

The invitation instructed us to go to the Dallas Cowboys stadium (there are four stadiums. Stadia? Anyway. in Dallas, so getting there was quite exciting. It foxed the satnav.) and dress code was ‘jeans and boots. Fortunately, we went boots shopping yesterday, and I’d bought a new denim skirt in the UK, knowing that a) I don’t wear trousers and b) American sizes and me don’t get on well.

We arrived, expecting to be shown to one of their function rooms, and instead found ourselves escorted onto the pitch, through the big white star that the footballers come through, and as we came through our image was shown on the big (HUGE!!) screens above our head. Amazing!

They’d laid on a cocktail bar in the centre of the pitch, had lots of hot buffets with chefs around the edge, had brought in two helicopters and had a stage. They threatened some line dancing at one point, although I managed to escape having to give a demonstration (again for anyone who didn’t know, I used to line dance competitively and competed and placed at Worlds in Nashville in 2000. It was glorious, but a long time ago!). One end of the pitch was devoted to photo opportunities, and the other to games – kicking a football over the goalposts (under? around? I really am woefully ignorant of the vagaries of the game).

It was a lovely evening – you could do a self guided tour of the stadium if you wished, although as I was breaking in new boots I declined this… but it was beautifully put together and a chance in a million – not something I think I’ll ever get to do again!

So although I don’t follow American football, it was incredible to be there, and definitely a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.


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Southern Belle Road Trip – a note

I’m in the process of writing up the trip in chronological order, but due to various things (time constraints, I’m dozy and forgot to pick up Mum’s photos, misbehaving internet) the posts will be much as they were on the trip – wordy ones followed by photographic highlights. So feel free to skip the words and just look at the photos, or vice versa. The full trip will emerge over the next week or so, if everything goes to plan!

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Jetlag, giggles and the Happiness Project (no, not another one of mine!)

Today’s been a good day, despite being the first day back at work after my trip! I am knackered but still alive, just… heading for bed the moment I’ve finished this post! Unrelated images from the trip throughout – I have 5GB of the things so will be spreading them through many posts :)

IMG_7550 Nashville skyline at night from the General Jackson paddle boat.

It was fab to see everyone at work – not so great to be actually working, but holiday is always going to be more fun than work I guess :) Was a really nice day, although it took me most of the morning to catch up and get back into the swing of things. I’m sure the usual madness will kick in soon, it’s permanently busy, but I have a much better sense of perspective for the break, so hopefully it won’t be so stressful for the rest of this year!

SNV36457 Me on the world’s biggest spur in Fort Worth’s stock yards. Working the pin up cowgirl look with the boots and the red lipstick.

Have been really good from a healthful (is that even a word?) slant too – cereal on the train, no snacks or caffeine till after 12, then I cracked and had a kitkat. With hot squash, because I’m so super-sophisticated.

Have also managed (accidentally) to avoid carbs all day, this is not something I usually do but I think the lack of veg on holiday has kicked in, I’ve eaten almost my own body weight in peas this evening, lol!


Oh man, I might have been healthy today but I’d kill for this cake again!

Things that are making me happy today (cos it’s Thursday, after all) –

  • Reading a fab book I bought for the plane called the Happiness Project, which so far I can highly recommend
  • Giggling with the girls at work
  • Western boots (and Mum’s utterly genius suggestion that I buy more online when I want to add to my collection, now I know my size in a couple of brands I like)
  • Getting to grips with my new phone (still sad about the old one, but the more I use this one the more ok it is)
  • Discovering that Ocado will deliver a full shop tomorrow evening (uh oh, I’m in danger of being old and/or boring – but this saves me so much hassle it’s unreal!)
  • Val & Matt telling me they’re coming to the zoo on Saturday so I can see them after, squeee
  • My new sense of calm and relaxation – let’s hope it lasts]
  • American Milky Ways (like our Mars Bars, but less intensely sweet)
  • Realising I have 12 potentially workable business ideas. (Really should narrow that list down soon and stop planning them all simultaneously, but they do make me happy even if at least two are financially impossible without a windfall of several million)
  • Making healthy choices about what I eat and drink – I think this is the first time in my life I’ve done this without a sense of loss/resentment
  • Watching St Trinians & St Trinians 2 in succession yesterday while recovering from the flight
  • Driving abroad and driving at home – abroad was fun, I still love Poppy the most
  • Plans to start and finish the R2R collage this weekend – and send the bloody photos to the other teams, it’s been a ridiculously long time now
  • Sketches for new jewellery, I’ve been muchly inspired by the trip and the things I’ve been seeing and reading
  • Last but definitely not least, how loved I am – without sounding completely sappy, I am firmly resolved never to forget how lucky I am to have so many people in my life who I love and who love me too – friends are a very precious thing :)

This is probably incoherent and rambling (what do you mean all my posts are rambling?!) but I’m now so sleepy I can’t focus on the screen, so I am off to bed… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.


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Real life bites…

Hmm. I’m back on a train heading for London and work… Where did two weeks disappear to?

On the plus side I had a wonderful trip, I’m feeling more like myself and much more ready to tackle the madness of work, and have a litany of sketches and notes for things to make – a change of scenery can be wonderfully inspiring!

Blog posts and photos for the latter half of my trip will be coming over the next few days – I have hurriedly scribbled notes in my trusty Moleskine, but we were so busy I didn’t get much chance to blog after we left Texas.

I hope you’re all well and happy, and the last two days of the working week pass speedily!

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Too mobile to blog…

We’re on the road again this morning, having spent last night in Memphis at BB Kings (squee!) and heading over to Stax before we leave for Nashville.

Been too busy to blog much and I’m doing lots of driving, but i will update with pics on Sunday, we’re in Nashville for two days so a bit more time to do things :)

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Busy but lovely couple of days (Southern Belle Road Trip day 5-7)

Morning world! Have been busy but in a good way the last few days, with the HAI conference (we all did Sunday and Monday, Dad did Tuesday as well) where I somehow found myself at a technical briefing for an Agusta engine. Was only female and only person under 45 in the room, got some very odd looks!

Also did a Walmart trip for essentials like another card reader, and dinner at Pappadeaux where i had the most gorgeous tilapia, followed by the biggest slice of chocolate cake I’ve ever seen. And I’m a chocolate cake expert :p

Yesterday we dropped Dad at the train station and headed for the mall. Despite me doing lots of driving, neither parent has yet had a heart attack.

Found a Michael’s and spent ages drooling over all the gorgeous craft stuff, and then TJ Maxx as it is over here, then the mall proper. Which is so enormous you practically have to drive round it, and all the security guys use Segways to get around.

I mainly wanted to do Sephora and Macys, which we did, and i have a few beauty goodies to blog later on :) And a rubber duck in a cowboy hat, because I failed to bring one with me. (failed to take one on R2R too, come to that – I’m slacking).

Picked up Dad and went to the stock yards for antique shopping, dinner and business discussions, then home for drinks and bed!

Today we’re heading for Cabelas, which is a hunting, fishing and camping store with a zoo of stuffed animals, then lunch somewhere in Fort Worth with a friend of Dad’s and dinner out this evening with all our Texan friends :)

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