French and Chinese

When my husband took me to Paris I went alone into a linen shop to try to buy us some washcloths while Bob went to a different shop. I could not make the men in there understand what I was shopping for. I had extremely limited French in my memory bank. Finally my husband joined me in the shop. He explained to them in his many years of French lessons what we needed. He has laughed every since at my pantomimes in that shop. When we checked into our accommodations, the desk clerk tried his best every morning to get me to greet him with Bonjour! or other phrases. From the time I exited the shop, I was French language numb (and dumb). Could not pull out a single expression I might have known. Using public transportation I realized I could not determine what they were advertising AT ALL. I just shut down.

Now I am learning the Chinese game Mahjong online. I saw women playing it in a Satellite Coffee shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When I recently got bored with Scrabble I decided to try it for free. Turns out it is a matching game.

The challenge in my mind comes in trying to name the tiles I am matching. My mother used to use La Choy chinese canned foods and we especially liked the fried noodles. So I call one tile green noodles!

Do you remember these?

Then there are red noodle piles with what I call Running man, North, South, East, and West. There are tiles like dominoes only marked with six logs, or dots or dashes. Even six logs bent in their stacks. The same with two, three, etc. One game has owls. The one on my iPad looks like peacocks or phoenix.

There is a banner with an arrow. An arrangement of circles with crank handle up or crank handle down. Season and flower symbols. I am probably not even close to their original meaning, but hey! a girl has to do what a girl has to do.

I have no idea how the women gathered in that coffee shop were playing it. The online version has the tiles in differing patterns and layers. Fun game! and the levels are challenging. Give it a try.

Perhaps I ought to write to that hotel manager/desk clerk and let him know my made up language for Chinese! Nawh, probably not!



Do you remember the old commercial jingle for margarine, “Everything’s better with Blue Bonnet on it!” We found that was true when we toured Texas. We had never seen blooming Bluebonnets. Before we left Ohio I was so excited when I found out we would arrive there in the perfect window of time to see them bloom! And that we did!

At this point we were uncertain what we were seeing.

I was familiar with Virginia Bluebells as seen below. The bluebells also grow in Ohio, but not Bluebonnets as far as I know. We were constantly mixing up the names.

So Bluebonnets are actually closer to purple in the overgrown yard above. But when we got closer they were seriously dark blue!

We drove 35 miles south from Dallas to a tiny place called Ennis, population about 18,500. Not much to Ennis but it is famous for a Kolache Depot Bakery shop in the gas station! Of course, we had to sample their wares! Tasty 🙂 We followed the Ennis Y’all app for a map of attractions. Some fields were easier to find than others. The long horn steer were the hardest to find. Here are Bluebonnets with Apache Paintbrush.

Don’t know of any place in Ohio where you can see wildflowers growing WITH cactus!

And leaving the best for last, here are two of my very talented husband’s photos of the steer and the bluebonnets!

Yeah baby! Those are some long horns!
Hanging right above my computer!

Dallas Museum of Art and City Street Corner

From Pioneer Plaza we drove over to the art museum. We are captured every time someone says Impressionists. Gotta go see what we might be missing. Not really impressed about that part of their collection, but did see a few things that I liked. There was a landscape that did an amazing job of capturing the light. Rather mesmerizing.

And there was this plaster sculpture photographed below. I am an Associate at an Episcopal Convent. Twice a year they offer us a silent retreat. I find it refreshing and invigorating to my spiritual life when I can actually get quiet and stay in that listening mode for a few hours. I had to send this image to them. I love it! It was designed originally for funerary purposes. But I loved it for a reminder to keep silence.

To me the silence at the Convent brings LIFE

When we stepped outside of the museum another figure caught my eye. It was so unusual and the background so noisy and complicated! We have had fun researching the work.

I sensed the man was in contemplation or meditation and with the crane, skyscrapers, stop light and traffic below that effort at contemplation would be, as are most efforts at contemplation, challenging. It is actually part of the Nasher Sculpture Center, across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art. The title is La Llarga Nit , which means the long night from the poem Ausias March to Vicent Adres Estelle .

The sculptor is Jaume Plensa. You Tube says “According to the artist, this work was inspired by Catalan poet Vicent Andrés Estellés, who wrote that it is the responsibility of the poet to watch out for the whole community. “

Another site says ” Throughout his career as a sculptor, Jaume Plensa (Barcelona, 1955) has drawn on spirituality, the body and collective memory as the primary sources which tie together his visual artwork. ” He has works all over the world and has done many versions of the sculpture we saw. Bob wants to see one of the ones that light up. I found the images below online.

So as I researched this blog I scrolled through some of the other works by James Plense. Something looked familiar about one of his other works. Voila! Here is a photo I snapped from the car as we were at a stoplight in Seattle, Washington.

It is called the Meeting of the Minds, Mirror and located outside the Allen Institute for Brain Science, 615 Westlake Avenue North. I had no idea at the time what the building was called or represented.

Even this blogger learns new things when she researches what she is trying to say and show!


Accustomed to seeing Angus cattle, as we drove towards Dallas, we now saw Brahman steer in some fields and even longhorns! We began the day going to the Pioneer Plaza to see the Cattle Drive statues. (Reminded me of the Land Run of 1889 sculptures by Paul Moore in Oklahoma.) This is the second most visited tourist site in Dallas. Each sculpture was created by Robert Summers of Glen Rose, Texas in 1992. They were cast at Eagle Bronze Foundry in Lander, Wyoming. There are 40 steer and 3 cowboys. There is a plan to add more cattle. The day we were there we actually saw 4 cowboys!

They say the steer were cast larger than life, but when we saw a live one it looked this large to me!

Somehow I only captured two of the cowboys. Go figure! Actually I discovered that we missed one that was off to one side, beyond a stone wall. First photo is from online and shows what we missed. The remainder are my photos.

I love how Robert Summers captured the movement of the horse!
Yes, you can actually walk among them 🙂

Now this is what we would call a “Stupidvisor.” Oh, I meant watching person. does not give a name to this man’s position. I wanted to call him the boss, watching the others work.

Was he resting, overseeing or just watching? Cattle drive positions do not include him. His equipment right down to his pistol were impressive.

And then we met cowboy #4! A young man who told us he used to herd cattle on horseback with his father in Mexico. Here is his photo as his girlfriend snapped his picture!

I was impressed that he could clamber up and down the statue without flinching.

And below, just beyond the park, what is said to be THE official horse of Texas!

Yeah, I know, out of focus!

You get the idea? Mobil, then Exxon Mobil Oil in Texas and beyond.

Odessa to Dallas April 13

When we woke in Odessa Texas we knew we had a long day of driving to reach Dallas by nightfall. We amused ourselves with the images we passed. The “oil grasshoppers” we saw were in many colors over the miles: white, beige, yellow, black, orange and black, blue and yellow, red and white.

In case you are unfamiliar with this breed of grasshopper!

There were many horses, also. We saw one group that was stunning with black manes and brown coats. There were five of these looking gorgeous under the trees on the edge of a green field , waiting for a dark, drippy rain cloud to pass over. We passed too quickly for me to get a photo.

We passed huge wind farms. They turbines looked like an invading alien army. The Stanton Wind Project contains 80 General Electric wind turbines with an estimated annual energy capability of 440 million kW hours.

In this area we also saw our first bluebonnets!

This for sale sign marked the house as overgrown. Look at the flowers out front though! We began seeing them in the highway median. At one point when the blue were mixing with the orange I made Bob stop so I could see what the orange flower was. Looking it up on line I learned the name. We wondered if Lady Bird Johnson had influence in getting these planted along the highways in her 1965 Highway Beautification Project?

There were also safety signs along the road with photos of a longhorn cow reading things like: “Text later …you herd me” and “I’ve got a beef with speeders.”

The Big Spring Refinery that “has the capacity of turning sweet and sour crude into highly refined products, from clean gasoline and petrochemical products to jet fuel and ultra-low-sulfur diesel – a cleaner, more-efficient fuel that offers an immediate answer to the concerns about greenhouse gas production and global warming.” Be that as it may, the place was eerily weird. flaming safety towers, acres of storage tanks, refinery plant after refining facility.

I saw one abandoned factory called the “Rogers Delinted Cottonseed Co.” Had never heard of that one. If I understand correctly, they processed cottonseed there using chemicals such as both sulfuric and hydrochloric acid, then neutralized the action of the acids with soda ash, lime or anhydrous ammonia. In 1984 the plant closed. In February, 2000 signs were posted warning of contamination and in 2002 the land received a hazard ranking system. In May, 2006 due to remediation actions the land was restricted for use of the property to commercial – industrial (non-residential). Yikes.

I would rather focus on the Bluebonnets!

Entering Texas

On our way to Las Cruces we saw large pecan groves and processing plants. I had no idea this area was a top producer! Just south of Las Cruces you are suddenly in the middle of the world’s largest family owned pecan orchard. The farm produces between 8 and 10 million pounds of nuts a year from over 180,000 trees, about 48 trees per acre. The Stahmanns own this. One son moved to Australia, made success with orchards, and they became the largest pecan producing family in the world!

We made our way towards the outskirts of El Paso. Ate at a local chain we had never heard of in Ohio, Don Carbon’s. They had such huge portions we ate leftovers for two days! I had chicken fajitas with rice and charro beans. The counter clerk could not explain the beans to me. Had never tried those beans so I took a chance. SPICY!!

It was my idea to see El Paso again. I did not remember passing through all those many years ago when we made our way from Fremont, California to Ohio. The next morning we visited the Keystone Heritage Center with desert botanical plants and a wetlands walkway. We so wished the plants had been identified better!


The portion of the “wall” we saw at the border was just as ugly as imagined. Rusty iron and so unwelcoming.

Not at all like the Statue of Liberty sentiment that I had grown up believing. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” taken from an 1883 sonnet by Emma Lazarus. I understand the need to welcome people legally. This wall looked to me as if we are no longer welcoming even the legal immigrants.

Actual border crossing area into Ciudad Juarez

When we got out of downtown and the road began to be elevated we could see the Rio Grande river and the many homes in Juarez. The many colors of the houses reminded me of Florida! As we left town we went through an immigration checkpoint.

Travel the rest of the day featured an area of scrubland where the main feature was the oil industry. Derricks, pumps, refineries, trucks and trains. We were glad to get to our hotel in Odessa. Our memory of driving Texas in 1971 was if we had a rope we could have fastened the steering wheel on the VW van to just drive along the straight boring road across the state. Pretty much the same now!

After Albuquerque

As we traveled towards Las Cruces on I-25 we exited onto US 380 a very strange area indeed. We stopped at an old rock shop. They did not have much that we wanted. This area is mostly desert. Along the road there were picnic shelters with a tiny roof for shade. I had to wonder who would go there for a picnic? Perhaps others who were traveling through like us? We went through an area called the Valley of Fires. Here you can see outcroppings of lava flows from an ancient volcano.

Photo by Robert Dutina

The site at states “Approximately 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak erupted covering 125 square miles of the Tularosa Basin with molten rock up to 160 feet thick.” Very strange to be driving through the desert and seeing thick lava along the roadside! Dan had shown us the same phenomena in another part of the state. I do not think I would ever “get used to” seeing that.

In the desert plants are kept alive with drip lines.

Along this road we went through Alamogordo, which to this day I have difficulty pronouncing! (I can do each vowel/syllable, but not sight pronunciation.) We HAD to stop at McGinns’s PistachioLand: Home of the World’s Largest Pistachio. Being a nut lover I had to get a bag or two! They also boast the largest pistachio in the world. Here is a 35 second video of that item!

Then on the White Sands area as we worked our way towards the National Monument.

Wikipedia states that White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) “is a United States Army military testing area of almost 3,200 sq mi (8,300 km2) in parts of five counties in southern New Mexico. The largest military installation in the United States, WSMR and the 600,000-acre McGregor Range Complex at Fort Bliss to the south (southeast Tularosa Basin and on Otero Mesa) are contiguous areas for military testing.” I had to imagine with North Korea acting up these guys are plenty busy!

The White Sands National Monument was on our places to see as we had passed through it briefly in 1971. The National Monument gift shop today sells sleds and wax for snowboards as climbing and sliding down the dunes is permitted and obviously encouraged. One of the information rangers told us that the day before they had closed the monument due to such high winds. We had experienced those in Albuquerque and we were so glad we had not left a day earlier! Even this day there was limited visibility. Part way into the park we were both tasting the sand (which is made from gypsum) and I remembered that we had masks in the car console. We both donned the face masks and felt somewhat better. We decided not to get out and hike or slide down the dunes.

Sand blowing in the distance.

To me this is another place of amazement, that the Lord not only created it, but lets us see it! The National Park website states: “WSNM protects the world’s largest geologically unique gypsum dunefield and the flora and fauna living within it.” They occasionally close the monument road due to missile site testing, high temperatures and/or high winds. And we got to see this wonder again. Miles of soft white sand. Dune after dune. We saw people straining to walk in the wind. The vegetation growing out of the gypsum amazed me and their shadows were lovely on the white background. Bob said as the sand on the road got deeper it was like driving on a snow packed road.

Bob’s photo of the sand covered roadway.

Obviously there were some large drifts. Just look at the picnic area sign!

For the most part we had blue skies and as you can see Bob got some lovely shots!

Bob’s photo of the sand blown texture on the dune.

All in one day! Another load of varying experiences 🙂