Texan in Norwich


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It’s the RODEO, y’all!

Since James and I met, he’s been subjected to a lot of stereotypical Texan things. Nearly all of them really. He owns a cowboy hat, been on a working ranch, eaten a ton of TexMex, driven across the whole state to a West Texas ghost town (scene of our yearly family reunions), got married in the Hill Country, and even had the reception in a barn! He owns about 3 “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper stickers, and 2 “Don’t Mess with Texas Women” bumper stickers. There’s a Texas flag pillow on our couch, a “Welcome Y’all” sign in our hallway, and a thrown horseshoe over our front door. He has tamales for Christmas, drinks from a Texan mug at work, and understands all my family’s slang. But he’s never been to the Alamo, and, before our most recent trip to Texas, a rodeo.

My grandma had the idea that we should take James to the rodeo. I hadn’t been to one since I was small, when I had a cousin who rode bulls, so I didn’t really remember what it was like and agreed that it would be a fun experience for us all. So on a Saturday night we went to Chuy’s in Fort Worth (delicious Mexican food), then popped over to the rodeo!

Chuy's Fort Worth

Now before we even get to the rodeo, let’s talk about Chuy’s. It was a magical experience. The day before we went, I had been given by my doctor a bottle of what I like to call “Magic Pills.” This pill stops, to some extent, my body’s reaction to certain allergies. Similar to how benedryl stops seasonal allergies, when I take this pill it stops my body from creating histimine to combat certain foods it thinks I shouldn’t have. This pill doesn’t help me get over my allergies, and to some extent might be a bit counter-productive in my quest to eventually completely eliminate them, but it does let me cheat every once and a while without the consequences. So at Chuy’s, I REALLY cheated. I ate whatever I wanted. Chips, salsa, creamy jalapeno dip, a strawberry margarita, cheese enchiladas with hatch chili sauce. It was absolutely glorious. Then, feeling oh so stuffed but not at all ill, we made our way to the rodeo.

Cowtown Coliseum

It turned out to be the finals at the Cowtown Coliseum in the Fort Worth Stockyards, where all the competitors from the past year were trying to win all sorts of cash and prizes. Rodeos give away some great prizes. I have a cousin who won a scholarship, a truck, a horse, and a bunch of saddles from barrel riding in high school. What was at stake though wasn’t really evident in the excitement levels. It was a pretty slow affair. The whole thing was a little boring, if I’m being honest. There were about 5min of set up for about 10 seconds of action, sometimes less, then another 5min for the next competitor to get in place. We saw bull riding (which was scary), calf roping (which made me feel bad for the calves), broncos, and barrel racing.

Cowtown Coliseum

We were there for about three hours, and there was still so many people waiting to compete. I wouldn’t be surprised it if went on until about 3am.

Barrel Racing

Without a doubt my favorite part of the show was the one I wasn’t expecting. Twice while we were there, they called children (first 5-8 year olds, then under 5s) into the arena to chase a calf then a sheep and try to grab a ribbon taped to it. It was hilarious. The first time, with the older kids chasing the calf, was funny because the calf was bigger than the kids and just kept knocking them down and running them over. The second time, with the younger kids, was amazing because some of the kids weren’t concerned with the sheep, and just liked playing in the dirt. It was really good fun.

Calf chasing

Although the actual rodeo was a bit boring, it was a really fun evening. My parents, my grandma, James and I all had a good time, and now James can add “going to the rodeo” to the list of Texan things he’s experienced!


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A (White) Texas Christmas

I’m back in Norwich now playing catch-up now on the Christmas posts… I’m not very good at this, am I?!

On Christmas Eve, my extended family, who all live nearby, came over to have dinner and exchange presents. We do secret santa for the adults, and I had drawn my Uncle Rick. I knitted him an awesome scarf, if I do say so myself. Here he is with it and his silly son, Payson.

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I received an amazingly warm coat from my grandma, which has come in really handy in all this snow!

On Christmas Day, we had (gluten free and vegan) pancakes for breakfast, then my sister came over and we exchanged gifts. I am now the proud owner of not one, but TWO animal sweaters (a fox and a panda, thank you very much). We had tamales for lunch, which is a sort of Mexican/Texan and family tradition. Then for only the second time in my life, we had a white Christmas!

Cleo in the snow

Our dog, Cleo, just as it started snowing.

Snow in Grapevine

Christmas Eve is always the party day in my family, so Christmas Day is very relaxed and lazy. We played some board games, watched some movies, and enjoyed being inside during the cozy Christmas snow.

A few days after Christmas, my friends from high school came over and we had our annual Christmas White Elephant Exchange. I know people call this game different things, but this is where everyone brings a cheap/gag/regifted gift and we take turns opening them and stealing them from each other. This year I ended up with Anne Heche’s biography and James got a box of magic tricks. Last year I got some Justin Bieber magnets and a thing you put in your toaster to burn the Virgin Mary into your toast, so this year was an improvement! We’ve been doing this since 2007, our first Christmas in college.

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The week of Christmas, as you can see, is pretty much the same every year. Pre-Christmas outing with my family, Christmas Eve with my extended family, Christmas Day eating tamales and relaxing with my immediate family, and then a White Elephant Exchange with my high school friends. There’s something very comforting about coming home every year for Christmas and knowing all these events are waiting for me. It’s probably my favorite week of the year.


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Grapevine Main Street and Texas Tenors

Every Christmas when I come home, we have a Christmas outing with my parents, sister, and James. Until this year, we’ve gone to ICE, which is basically a huge warehouse with holiday themed ice sculptures. It was pretty neat for a few years, but last year no one really enjoyed it. Once the novelty wears off, it’s just a really cold, sparkly room. So this year, we decided to go see the Texas Tenors at an historic theater on the Main Street of our town. No one really knew what it was or who they were, but it sounded musical and Texan-y, so why not. Also Main Street Grapevine is really lovely this time of year. We arrived early to walk around in the lights and explore the little Christmasy shops.

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After wandering around for a while, we went into the Palace for the show.

Palace Theater

Boy, were we in for it. The Texas Tenors, we learned, were three hat wearing Texas singers who had come 4th on America’s Got Talent a few years ago. They told us about being on America’s Got Talent a few times, but just in case we didn’t understand words, they brought a screen down in the middle of the concert so we could see clips from when they were on the TV show. They weren’t big on subtlety.

During the show, in addition to the America’s Got Talent video, the following things happened: an obscene amount of winking, about 6 costume changes, the audience stood for the singing of Proud to Be an American, a guitar played while one of them read from the Bible, not one but TWO plugs for two unrelated charities, picking older women out of the audience to fawn over them, and a lot of rehearsed fakey banter. It was obnoxious, sanctimonious, and phony, but this also made it hilarious and fun. My family had a great time, but probably not in the way the “tenors” intended.

At Texas Tenors

Now, don’t get me wrong. Most of the things they did aren’t actually bad. Reading from the Bible, supporting charities, being patriotic, all fine and good things. But it’s absolutely offensive when it’s done specifically to manipulate and elicit an emotional response fromĀ  your audience. The whole thing was shameless and exemplified one of my least favorite aspects of American culture. The music was actually really good, so if they had just stopped talking and sang, I would have no complaints!

Also, if you’re going to have a cowboy hat, you’d better wear it, not hold it over your heart for 90min. And real Texas men don’t wear sparkly vests.

I think we’re gonna have to come up with a new family outing next Christmas.


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Back in Texas

Well, here we are! Texas! The weather when we arrived was beautiful (70F / 20C) and sunny. It was like transporting into another season.

Grapevine Lake

The first thing we did when we got here was throw our coats, hats, gloves, and scarves in the closet not to be used for about 2 weeks! We did need them eventually, but really enjoyed a little warm break.

For the past three Christmases, my mom, sister, grandma, and I have all tried to get together for a Christmas baking day. We’ve never actually done it. The first year I couldn’t come, the 2nd year it was just me and my mom, and this year we thought my grandma wouldn’t make it. She ended up being able to drop by for a little bit with my 8 year old cousin, and we had a really nice (and messy) time. We make lots of sweet treats and pack them up to give as gifts to friends and coworkers.

Sister and I baking

Sister and I baking

P1020422My grandma and cousin, Payson on baking day! Also a little cameo from our dog, Cleo, and my sister peeking in the background.

Christmas BuckeyesThese were the big hit of baking day. The recipe is here, and they are gluten free and vegan (I left out the bacon in the recipe). These were SO good! I’m making some more for a party tonight.

I have to say, baking day was a big success this year. We had a few people who received boxes ask for more, and then for the recipes. And it was a lot of fun being silly with the ladies in the family (and James), and making a huge mess of the kitchen.


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Christmas, part III

By the time this is posted, James and I will be getting ready to head off to Texas! We’re very much looking forward to some warm weather and sunshine, seeing my family, and playing with out dog and cat! I’ll be posting some blogs about Christmas in Texas later, but for now, here’s the last of our Norwich Christmas.

Even though it’s been very cold and grey here, walking around town feels a bit special with all the lights and Christmasy storefronts. We’ve been doing a bit of Christmas shopping, in addition to all the Christmas knitting I’ve been doing. We’ve also been to a few Christmas markets, and have been drinking lots of hot drinks around town.

The Iron House

The Iron House, home of the best soy hot chocolate

The Royal Arcade

The Royal Arcade

Jarrolds

Jarrolds

The weekend before last, James and I made our way across town to the Dragon Hall Medieval Christmas Market. We’d never been to Dragon Hall before, so it was a good opportunity to see it and do some Christmas shopping at the same time! It was a very impressive building, built around 1430 as a trading hub. The market was a fun mix of slightly sinister medieval gifts (daggers for Christmas, anyone?) and sweet homemade decorations and gifts. Many of the sellers were dressed up in medieval costumes, so that was also fun.

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The unassuming outside of Dragon Hall

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Part of the market from the courtyard

Dragon Hall

Upstairs

Gingerbread Man

The only thing we ended up buying…

James and I also went to the Christmas Clutter City Market, and this nice one at the Forum, complete with school band.

Forum

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Well, that’s it from England! See you in Texas!


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Christmas, part II

One of the biggest regrets I had from UEA two years ago was not getting to take part in any of the Christmas events in Norwich. I saw advertisements for the Christmas Lights Switch-On and knew I wouldn’t make it standing in the cold in the evening, however much I wanted to. This year I was determined to go. With promises of fireworks, carolers, night markets, and entertainers, how could it not be a fun? It was all very sweet and silly, and I loved it. Norwich is beautiful at Christmas time.

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Carols at City Hall

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Lifesize Snowglobe!

Night market

Night Market– everything smelled soooo good

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When the lights came on!

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Fireworks!

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Fireworks from the top of Jarrolds

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Lights on at the Market

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Jarrolds looking beautiful


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Christmas in Norwich, part I

It’s Christmas time! And I love Christmas time. James and I put our mini tree up and flat decorations about a month ago because tomorrow we’re leaving for Texas! We wanted to be sure to eek out as much Christmas from Norwich as we could before we left for the entirely different Christmas experience that awaits us. I think we did a pretty good job.

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Here’s some of our flat decorations!

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And my favorites, the snowmen:

Snowmen!

More Christmas posts are on their way!

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