Traveling the Back Roads of Texas

Hill CountryTo track down the wildflowers, heading west from Houston on I-10 is a good place to start.  Now there’s not a whole lot to see between Houston and San Antonio unless you get off the freeway and explore those back roads that give you a glimpse of what most of Texas really is.

small town TexasMuch of small town Texas has fewer than 5,000 folks, and some of those towns, especially what used to be the business area, have seen their better days.  

small Texas townNo matter how shabby a place appears, there always seems to be a sweet church rising to meet the blue Texas sky.

small town TexasIMG_4306IMG_4305
IMG_4299Here and there are some surprisingly cute places like this one serving a delicious lunch

IMG_4307and having a garden shop and nursery chock full of tempting things.

pickups/bar b queBar-B-Que is a favorite food in these small towns and if that’s what you have a hankering for, you’ll be in luck.  Don’t worry if you don’t have a pickup, you’re still welcome

Texas country facesTexas country facesTexas country facesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand can have a bite of lunch with the good ole boys!

bluebonnetsThere was a time when all the wide open spaces were cattle ranches,

Texasbut these days there’s no telling what kind of four legged critter is being raised.

Hill CountryYessir, I like exploring these back roads and sometimes Pa and I find us a porch and just sit and rock and take it all in!

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Texas In Bloom

Office View HoustonLiving in Houston, a fast paced, sprawling, big city, it’s easy to forget about other parts of Texas that really characterize what this state is all about.  

wildflowersThis time of year is especially good for doing a little exploring. It takes about an hour to get away from city sights and sounds and start noticing fields of bluebonnets, Indian paints and other wildflowers blooming along the road.  

bluebonnetsWe Texans can thank Lady Bird Johnson for thinking that Texas highways would be a lot prettier seeded with wildflowers.  How right she was!

wildflowersLovely though the highways are, it’s not until you get on the back roads that it’s possible to stop and enjoy the magic.

wildflowersSeeing a fluttery butterfly feeding

wildflowersor a tiny bug using a petal as a bed are such simple pleasures.

wildflowersThere is surprise to find startling colors peeking among thorny cacti

wildflowersor here and there a solitary bloom reaching for the sun.

wildflowersMy favorite field of blooms? Right here, wild and untamed.

Taking time away from the city opens my eyes to a new sights that bring smiles.  Won’t you come with me again to do a little more exploring?

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Reentry….

TexasNo sooner do you get into Texas than you begin to notice changes that define its character.

TexasThere are lots of wide open spaces with cattle grazing and maybe an oil well or two pumping away.

TexasChemical plants and refineries are not unusual sights,

Texas/pickupand pickups are more common than cars.

Texas/HoustonAs you get closer to Houston, billboards and strip centers line the highway, not a pretty sight as an entrance to the nation’s fourth largest city.

HoustonFreeways widen to 4-6 lanes in an effort to keep traffic moving

Houstonand spaghetti bowls head off in every direction.

HoustonNo matter how wide the freeways or how many there are, traffic can come to a complete stop at any time of day.  A Maine friend thinks 4 or 5 cars stopped in traffic is gridlock.  Wonder what he’d say about this!

HoustonSpying the city skyline in the distance, I am awed by its transformation in recent years.  Little of the old is there, but that is characteristic of Houston which has demolished so much of its history to create a new story and reflect its can do attitude.

HoustonCranes are everywhere, and new construction is proof of Houston’s booming economy.  This kind of activity is not what one sees much of in Maine which is both a positive and a negative.

Houston’s bigness makes me a little panicky.  All the traffic, all the activity are things that take some getting used to after several months in a much more tranquil environment.  Also, I have to start thinking differently about what is beautiful.  It won’t be the harbor or magical islands or evening sunsets. 

HoustonAs all of these thoughts race through my head, we turn the corner and up ahead I see our house and am calmed.  It is close to all the things that Houston has to offer, but the uniqueness of this area is that it seems far removed from the city’s bustle.   This, too, is a place I’m lucky to call home, and after 14 states, 2280 miles and 34 hours in the car I’m glad to be here.

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On the Road

From Houston to Rockport, Maine, are 12 states plus Washington, D.C. and a lot of hours in the car.  There’s probably a more efficient way to do the drive, but we had places to go and people to see which made the trip quite an adventure.

With my trusty camera at my side, I thought to pay attention to all that was outside my window and make some attempt to capture a scene that reflected the essence of place.  As the resulting photos show, the U.S. is a country of varying and interesting sights.

TexasIn Texas, early morning sun rises over refineries where work never stops.

bridgeThe Atchafalaya Bridge spans miles of Louisiana’s cypress swamps and reminds me of the time I ran out of gas on this bridge.  That’s another story!

MississippiHere and there in Mississippi are grand old mansions, symbols of another time.

tobacco barnIn Tennesee, tobacco barns are common sights in the countryside,

Smoky Mountainsand the Smoky Mountains live up to their name.

waterfallNorth Carolina is home to curving roads and rocky cliffs with tumbling waterfalls.

horsesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHorses graze alongside Virginia highways,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand the Blue Ridge Mountains are a  lovely backdrop to city scenes.

Washington DCPassing through Washington, D.C., it is impossible not to be awed by the beauty of this U.S. capitol city where the Washington Monument soars above all else.

New JerseySurprisiingly, silos and newly mown hay line New Jersey highways,

New York Cityand a little further north, standing tall, is the imposing New York City skyline.   I would have loved to stop there for a day or two, but the hubby wasn’t keen on driving in the city.  Can’t say that I blame him.

covered bridgeMoving through New England, there are covered bridges

Linda_  030and tranquil scenes reflecting a slower pace.

highway sign/MaineAh, what a relief to see that we are closing in on Maine.

MaineFinally, the most welcome sign

Maineand the sights that are so familiar.

Rockport HarborCrossing the bridge over Rockport Harbor, my heart sings……HOME!

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Leaving the City Behind

HoustonCome April, Houston folks leave snarled traffic, city crowds and tall buildings behind for a few hours and head to the country.  

bluebonnetsBelieve it or not, it doesn’t take much more than an hour to find those country roads that wind through wide open spaces.

bluebonnetsYou’ve heard of cows in the meadow?  Well, there are plenty of them, and these days they just might be resting in  fields where bluebonnets and Indian paints are profuse

flowers/poppyand bright red poppies lift their faces to the sun

flowers/cactusalongside cacti showing their colors.

animals/sheepHere and there sheep graze,

animals/pigs pigs play in the mud

cowboyand a friendly cowboy stops to chew the fat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it’s time to sit a spell, it’s not hard to find a welcoming porch where you can breathe the air and leave thoughts of big city life behind.

Think I’ll fit right in with that sassy pink cowgirl hat?

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You Know You Are in Texas

Texas bluebonnets
Bluebonnets and Indian paints abound

You know you are in Texas when you leave the city and see fields alive with bluebonnets and Indian paints which add brilliant color to the surrounding landscape.

Texas countryCountry is little more than an hour from Houston, but with its collection of small towns, ranches and farms it seems light years away.  Hay bales,

Texas country ramshackle outbuildings

Texas country animals and livestock of all kinds grazing in pastures tell you you have left the city behind.

belted gallowaysYou might even be surprised to see a herd of belted galloways, a breed common in the area of Maine that is my part-time home but fairly new in Texas.

Texas countryLong fences define the boundaries for large ranches

Lone Star beerand here and there on a country road is a roadhouse where you’ll want to be sure and order a Lone Star, the national beer of Texas.

Texas country facesTexas country facesTexas country facesFirst thing you hear when you walk in is, “You ain’t from around here are you?”  Once that’s out of the way, the locals are right happy to engage in friendly conversation.  Heck, they might even share a Lone Star with you on a weekend night!

And if you want to leave your husband there while you go antiquing, why that’s OK, too.

Texas countryYep, you gotta love Texas.  It’s a place unto itself!

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Antiquing….again!

Spring and fall, the Round Top Antique Festival is a big deal, Texas’s equivalent to Brimfield in Massachusetts.  It covers acres in multiple locations, and it’s impossible to see everything in one day or even three.  I don’t need a thing, but I can’t resist going for a few hours to take photos and see what’s there. Here are some things that caught my eye this time around and made me think of many of you.

antiques

Can’t you imagine this guy lounging on the porch, maybe staying for dinner?

antiquesAnd how about these wonderful doll head molds?  Clustered on a wall, they would be a striking piece of art.

antique potting benchFor those of you who have a potting shed, this is a most perfect potting bench.  If only it would have fit into my trunk…….

antique gratersTalk about repurposed, check out these old graters converted into overhead lights for a kitchen island or work bench.

antiquesStems from broken wine glasses are converted into ring holders.  Where do folks come up with such great ideas?

antiquesIf the French country look is your style, this table is a real winner

antiquesand surely there’s something here would fit right in.  Me, I love the display rack.

artThis painting stole my heart.  I love its simple  folk art style, bright colors

artand collage elements.  It is a contemporary piece, and I’m still thinking about it or maybe having the artist create a smaller piece for me.  Good idea?

antique dishesHow could I pass by this table set with such beautiful dishes and glassware without thinking of all my tablescaping friends?  Every one of you would do something wonderful with these.

antique seltzer bottleAs hard as I tried to leave it all behind, I could’t help but bring home a couple of things.  I’m crazy about seltzer bottles and this 19th century French version was irresistible.    Have you ever seen one like it?  I know both of my daughters will like this, one because it fits her decor and one who, like me, will see it as an art statement.

tini glassesGlasses I don’t need, but when I saw these I heard the hubby saying, “How about a tiny tini?” and these are perfect for that.  They were all chipped, in fact the vendor wrote them up as “glasses, chipped but pretty”, but a couple of hours this morning with my handy glass file and they are in pretty good shape.

See anything here you like?

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As the name suggests, the Antique Rose Emporium specializes in roses which have such descriptions as vigorous climbers, mannerly climbers, creepers, small and large bush.  There is a rose for everybody, and folks leave with them by the wagonload.

Though I have a few knockout roses in my yard, I mostly like roses in other people’s garden so my favorite place to browse was the herb and vegetable area.

I bought lots of gorizia rosemary as it is supposed to be good for your memory.

Stevia,according to the tag, is a sugar substitute for tea and coffee.  The leaf sure tastes sweet, but could somebody tell me whether it’s supposed to be used as is or dried?

Sage and parsley will come in handy for Thanksgiving cooking, and I’m hoping some of the five different lettuces I bought will be ready for a little harvesting.

Though we haven’t touched on all there is in the way of plants, let’s move on to the gift shops where there’re many tempting garden accessories.  As I browsed, I couldn’t help but think of so many of you who would have found something to like.

I collect birdhouses, so there’s no way I could pass by this display.

The birdhouses are made by this gentleman who is a retired Methodist minister with a very generous heart.    In recent years, he has given over $100,000 to various causes, and all the money has come from the sale of his birdhouses.  Knowing that, how could I not buy one!

As you might expect, wandering and wondering builds an appetite, and this day visitors were treated to cuisine from  Chef Tai’s Mobile Bistro, America’s favorite food truck according to  the Food Network.

Food preparation is done right here

Gourmet Rice Bowl prepared Korean style

and what comes out of that very small space is delicious.

I hope you have enjoyed this visit to the Antique Rose Emporium.  If you are ever in the area of Independence, Texas, be sure and stop, but if you can’t make it and love roses, you can order online.

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Holiday Dreams

More than 10 people for dinner here and there’s no place for everybody to sit.  Most of the time that’s OK, but when holidays come around, I find myself thinking how nice it would be to have a place for nothing but entertaining, a little house that would be perfect for 30, 40 or 60 people.  

If I had such a place, it would be a lot like this, a cottage in a beautiful setting with spaces inside and out for people to mix and mingle.  

It would have windows all around so no one would miss the stunning views.

It would have long tables and benches so no one would be left standing when it came time to eat.

For July 4th, there would be  arrangements of red, white and blue flowers mixed among mosaic containers in the same patriotic colors and, yes, there would be matching tableware at every place.  Now, that would be a departure for me!

To capture a bit of Texas and Maine, there would be bar-b-que and lobster

and just in case there are guests who are new to the art of eating lobster, they’ll not be left in the dark.

At party’s end, hopefully, someone will come along and clean up.  Well, a girl can dream can’t she?

 No matter where or how you celebrate your holiday, I hope it’s one you enjoy with friends and family and that you will take a moment to give thanks for the freedom we enjoy in this country we call home.

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The Blues

In Texas, it’s bluebonnets.

In Maine, it’s lupines.

Each is the state flower of the state.

Bluebonnets bloom in mid spring, lupines in early summer, and both are from the same family of perennials with these differences:

Lupines are not long-lived perennials, but their extravagant beauty makes them well worth including in the garden. Most lupines do not like heat and so will not grow well in hardiness zones above 5, with one exception – The Texas BlueBonnet. The Texas BlueBonnet is native to Texas and will grow in the Texas heat and so can be grown in other parts of the United States with hot weather. 

No matter when they bloom, they add their own particular beauty and transform the landscape.  When they are in season, it’s impossible to take too many photos.

Tell me, do either of these lovelies bloom in your area?

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