Smorgasbord Letters from America – Christmas 1985 – Houston, Texas – Sally Cronin

Time to get back to the Letters from America series.

I left off in October having shared my parents visit to us for three weeks. That took us in chronological terms to the end of November. I now pick the story up again in mid-December and my first letter home after their trip.

16th December 1985

Dear M & D.

I hope that your photos arrive safely and that this gets to you before Christmas. We will be thinking of you, especially at all the parties that are looming up on the horizon. Every time we see one of the gang, they all ask after you and are missing you. See what an impression you have made.

We have been very busy since you left, Sutherland has been over most days as Walter is working more shifts in the run up to Christmas. He sleeps a great deal and feels right at home. I do find him in some odd positions at times, but when awake he is great company.

We have also been entertaining some of David’s work colleagues over from England who were staying in a hotel for the last two weeks and were looking forward to some home cooking.

I have been to see Gone With the Wind at a classic cinema with some of the guys and really enjoyed. I know I have watched before many years ago but it was amazing to see again on the big screen.

This was followed up this Saturday by a trip downtown with Walter to a Mexican Bar and Grill where we drank flaming Mexican flags ( I am sure that Mexicans who live here must think that pretty insulting), which you are meant to down in one, after blowing the flames out! Oops.. Hot Lips! On Sunday, nursing slightly sore heads, we took a trip to San Jacinto to the battleground where General Houston defeated Santa Anna’s Mexican army. And then onto the  USS Texas, a 1914 battleship which is open to the public. We toured the ship from top to bottom and I don’t think I would have wanted to be at sea in her, particularly in rough weather.

We have put the Christmas tree up and presents have started to appear under it.  I also managed to buy some bunches of mistletoe by the roadside to complement the rest of the decorations and it is beginning to feel like Christmas.

It looks like we will be one of the few couples left in the complex until New Year’s Eve as most of our friends have homes out of state and will be heading off on the 22nd onwards. They don’t celebrate Boxing Day here, but most of them are taking holiday to extend their trips. Especially those heading for the northern states where snow has been falling for some weeks and travel is unpredictable. We have had our last Christmas party as a group and went off to our usual haunt of Pappasito’s. We are such a large group now that they corral us at the back of the restaurant now, no doubt to keep the noise down for the rest of the diners. We do have such fun though and as always the meal was amazing.

Sutherland will be spending time with us over Christmas which is nice as I do like having a pet around the place, even if it is only temporary. Wishing you and Diana, Robert, Sonia, David, Emma and Jeremy a very Happy Christmas and sending lots of love. We shall miss not being with you all but will call you on the day at 12 noon when everyone has arrived for lunch.

Sally and David.XXX

©sallycronin 2018

The other letters from America are in the directory:

Thank you for dropping in and another letter in the New Year….Thanks Sally


Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985 – 1987 – My parents arrive – Part One – Stetsons, Yellow Roses, Pappasito’s and Chi Chis

It is now early November 1985 and we had not seen my parents since Christmas when they stayed with us in our home in Tring, Hertfordshire. Those of you who have been following my weekly letters home to them, will know that we had been planning for their trip for months, and on Thursday 7th November they landed in Houston.

I was waiting for them as planned as they came out of immigration and customs, and there was quite a bit of kissing and hugging before I gave them their welcoming gifts. For my mother a bunch of yellow roses, which whilst not the state flower of Texas (The Bluebonnet) have historical significance in this part of the world. The real story behind the song The Yellow Rose of Texas is a fascinating tale of subterfuge and the exploitation of a powerful man’s weaknesses. There have been many efforts to debunk the story that circulated about the part a certain Miss West played in the defeat of Santa Ana. However, I prefer the romantic and daring version to the ‘historical’ account. The first words out of my mother’s mouth when receiving the bouquet, was to announce that she was now officially a Yellow Rose of Texas. This resulted in a little history lesson in the car back to our apartment, about the inadvisability of announcing that to any Texans that she might meet.

To my father, who had been bald as long as I could remember, I presented a straw stetson to protect his pate from the still hot Texan sunshine and he wore it everywhere. It returned to the UK at the end of his holiday and over the years, at any sign of sunshine he would wear his stetson. He was a life-long Western film lover and was one of the reasons I bought that style of hat instead of a baseball cap. Just one of the cowboy themed surprises for their visit.

Here is a picture of them both by the swimming pool, and if you look at my mother, you will see that she had liberated by own red straw stetson that I am wearing in the header photo.. Somehow I managed to hang on to that when she returned home.

I was well aware of how tiring that transatlantic flight could be, combined with the usual stress of travel. However, both my parents were used to long haul flights and sea journeys, as we had lived abroad all through my childhood in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) Malta and South Africa.  I also knew that both of them enjoyed a party, and after a day to recover, on the Friday night we invited some of our friends over to meet them.

Over the next couple of days we stayed close to home with with lunches out, including to our favourite Mexican Cantina; Pappasito’s on I-45 about ten minutes from the house. We were regulars there by this time and were able to point my parents in the direction of the tastiest dishes on the menu.

Whilst we certainly enjoyed indulging in shared appetizers when we visited the cantina with our friends, we were not sure how my parents would find their first experience of Mexican cuisine. We need not have worried as both tucked in and declared the Quesadillas and the Fajitas to be fabulous. In fact my father took home a cookery book with him so that he could recreate the dishes for friends.

The Margaritas were not so popular, but my father who was not much of a drinker, discovered the joys of American beer whilst my mother settled for some white wine. We experimented with cocktails for them both over the next week or so, discovering my father’s achilles heel…Chi Chis…made with vodka, coconut cream and pineapple juice, which played straight to his sweet tooth. After David had mixed a batch and given my father a glass, he emptied quite quickly and eagerly accepted a second. David told him that it had vodka in it, but my father shrugged that off and consumed enthusiastically. It was the first time I can remember my father being slightly tiddly, and for the rest of his visit he would enjoy at least one chi chi before dinner or ordered when we were out. It was lovely to see his face as he took that first sip through the straw as the sweetness hit his taste buds, and it is one of those memories you cherish.

I inherited the shopping gene from my mother, and whilst my father relaxed with a book and David was at work, I would pop out for a couple of hours with her to one of the big malls. Thankfully my father had the good sense to leave some luggage space for the expected purchases, and my mother went home with a several skirts, tops and dresses and pairs of shoes, none of which she really needed!. To be fair they came from the discount mall where you could buy top of the range fashion at a fraction of the price.

Our friends were very kind and invited us out to lunch that first week, or over for drinks in the evening. By the end of the first week my mother and father felt quite at home and ready for more ambitious adventures.

David was going to take the second week of their visit off from work so that we could go further afield. We also planned to have everyone over for our wedding anniversary party on the Friday night 15th November, before heading out to San Antonio for a two day visit on the Sunday. Apart from wanting to show my parents this lovely city, it was an opportunity to give my father a chance to fulfill one of his boyhood dreams, to visit The Alamo.

Little did we know that events on the night of the party would nearly scupper that plan!

I hope you have enjoyed this first part of Mollie and Eric in Houston… and will tune in again next week. Thanks Sally

You can find the other posts in this series here:

Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985-1987 – Hanna Barbara Land, BBQ and Lilo races

It is now July 1985, and the weather in Houston is very hot and muggy. The pool became the centre of entertainment in the evenings and the weekends as everyone stripped off and cooled down.

July 16th 1985.

Dear M & D,

Just back from the airport, David is off to Dallas and then Kansas, putting together another order, and won’t be back until Thursday.

Despite the fact that lovely Vicki has now left, I am still very busy, playing tennis, swimming and aerobics. The little girl that I have been looking after will be over later this morning and we are reading Black Beauty at the moment. I am enjoying sharing the story as it is a lot of years since I have last enjoyed.  It has been fun looking after her and tomorrow I am taking her and two others to Hanna Barbara Land, which is like a mini Disneyland. Three toddlers… will I survive?

I got your last letter yesterday and was pleased to hear that the flower festival went well. You will need a rest when you to visit Mollie. I have checked on the weather for November and it is a bit mixed. Temperatures around 70 mostly with some cooler rainy days, but people say it is usually lovely. You will be pleased to miss the 95 degrees and the 95% humidity would be unbearable without air conditioning. I am learning to live with it but when you walk outside the apartment or out of a shopping mall, you are soaking in sweat by the time you reach your car. Not a good look…..

Just to let you know in advance that when you fly over you will need to fill out an immigration form before you land with passport details and home address etc. You will also have to put us down as being financially responsible for you during your visit (you have waited a lifetime for me to say that haven’t you!). I am enclosing David’s business card so you can use those details and also a dollar bill in case I forget. You will need that for the luggage cart to take you through to customs where they take your luggage off you, and send it down to baggage reclaim for you to collect.

I am enclosing a lock of hair to show you the effect of sun and chlorine. It gets blonder by the day and is now quite long again, by the time you get here it will be the same length as when we got married.. If I have not had it all chopped off because of the heat and swimming every day!. The weight continues to come off although I have a medical condition called ‘lack of self will’ specifically when it comes to chocolate milkshakes with lashings of vanilla ice-cream. I am working on it.

As I have not much to report, I will finish this letter after the weekend.

July 20th….

We went off to Hanna Barbara Land as planned and there were thousands of screaming children and stressed looking mothers. Every one was hyped up on sugar and my three charges dived straight into the mayhem and had a great day. When Hailey’s father arrived to pick her up I was ready for a gin and tonic or two! I don’t get paid as I am not allowed to work here but it helps keep me occupied. But her father kindly brings us a bottle of spirits or wine from time to time…

Tennis is great fun and I am getting my form back. Debby still beats me but I am working on it. We play at 8am. before the heat builds up and the storm clouds gather in the afternoon. Then back to the complex and an hour’s swimming to set me up for the day. David has bought a racket too and we are going to play when he is here. He is either in the office or on a plane, and apart from a daily swim he feels he needs more exercise.

One of the weekend activities is lilo racing in the pool.. sometimes as a solo or if you are really good friends as a double act. Debby and I are really quite good at it. It gets a little rowdy and people do not play by the rules so getting to the end of the pool is quite an achievement especially if the lilo sinks due to the number of boarders. You can end up with more than when you started.

Vicki and Kelly kindly left us their Barbecue kit, and David has been practicing on our friends. It is a little smokey but does the job and it reminds me of the days when we would go up to Ceres and have a braai with those delicious boerewors sausages. Happy memories. We keep on our balcony but it is light enough to carry downstairs into the central area where we can sit around the tables with friends and enjoy the food and company. Everyone brings something, a salad, wine, beer or dessert so nobody has to bear the cost of everything.

We decided that as we are going to be here for at least another six months, that rather than spend 100 dollars a month renting that we would buy our own furniture from a second hand store. We are pretty sure that we will be here until the end of 1986 at least and we could save 1000 dollars.  I went over yesterday and bought two matching settees, a six seater dining room set, a king-sized bed, two singles and a computer table for David to put in the spare bedroom rather than the dining room table. We have to move the machine every time we have someone over for supper so it makes sense.

Anyway, this should keep you busy until the next letter when I will be reporting on the Hawaiian Lua this weekend..

love from us both  Sally and David.

©Sally Cronin 2018

Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985 – 1987 – A new baby arrives and I meet Debbie around the pool.

We lived in Houston Texas from January 1985 to January 1986 and most weeks I wrote home to my parents about our adventures. We traveled extensively during those two years including to Hawaii as we want to make the most of our time there. It is now early July and something I had been in training for was about to get to the finish line. My friend Vicki was having a baby and with her husband Kelly out of town in Louisiana most of the week, I have been going to her Lamaze classes with her and was to be her birth partner if Kelly could not get back in time.

Where I have found photographs from around that time, I have included.

2nd July 1985

Dear M & D,

That was the week that was! Early Sunday morning, I got the long awaited call and it was off to the hospital with Vicki and Kelly. Thankfully he was home for the weekend, and it was really lovely of them to think to include me in my role as assistant coach. It was a very long day, particularly obviously for Vicki! Her mum has been here for the last couple of weeks, and we would take turns being with Vicki all through the day in the labour room and finally at 7pm she went into the final stages. At 7.34pm. Megan Elizabeth was born and was a whopping 8lb 10oz… considering that Vicki is only 5ft 2inches, that was some achievement.

It was certainly an experience at the hospital. Here the whole family comes along and sit in the waiting room, it was absolute mayhem but great fun. There were five deliveries before Megan was born, so there were about 20 people in various stages of nail-biting, chain smoking, hand-wringing and jubilation. Having been and out to the labour suite every couple of hours or so to spell Kelly and Vicki’s mum, I was a nervous wreck!

Kelly stayed to cut the chord and Vicki’s mum and I left them together, waiting in nursery admissions until Megan was brought through 15 minutes later. She is beautiful and it was a real privilege to be invited to be there at her birth. Vicki is obviously sore and tired but we shall be bringing them home tomorrow.

They are going to leave for Shreveport later in the month now that the baby is here and I shall miss Vicki very much. She was my first friend in America and I hope that we don’t lose touch. She has been so kind and when David has been away, she and Kelly have always made sure I was okay and invited me out with them to dinner or the movies. Two lovely people.

Vicki and Megan Elizabeth back home.

David was busily putting together quotes on Sunday and was probably happy for the peace and quiet!  He went to Kansas yesterday morning and back that evening. Thankfully he can catch up on his sleep as he is off on Thursday which is our first July 4th celebrations. I will tell you all about them when I write next time.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have met some other girls at the complex. Susan who is German and whose husband has a similar job to David and travels most weeks, and Debbie, who is a high school teacher. She used to be a tennis coach, so we are going to start playing soon which is great. I think we will get on very well. She has the same sense of humour and enjoys wine too!

Debbie and I who would become best friends over the next 18 months.

The goings on in the apartments have got very steamy, and poolside gossip is rife! If only the victims of our discussions knew that every move was being noted they would be scared to death, especially the married ones! David calls us the ‘coven’, but it makes life a lot more interesting than some of the soaps that they have on television. I tend to listen more than contribute, as I am behind in the scandal.. but that really does not excuse me does it!

By now you will have received my letter telling you that there is a possibility that we might come home in January. We won’t know until September but we do hope to be here at least another year. There is so much to see and we might not come back again. What we have seen is amazing. Geographically it is very diverse with deserts and mountains to lush forests and plains. The cities are pretty astounding too, with skyscrapers that take your breath away. We might have buildings that are several hundred years old in England, but architecturally, these buildings reach up to the sky in glass and steel.

Texas is very flat around the Houston area but this is a huge state,  we have done some exploring ahead of your visit and we are going to take you to San Antonio which has a river and is much greener. Also it is a must visit for you Eric… we are going to take you to the Alamo…. I hope that will be a highlight for you.

Anyway… nearer the time we will let you have an agenda of things we have planned. Bring your appetites, portions are very generous here.

love to you both.. Sally and David.

You will find the other Letters from America:

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will join me next week for another of our American adventures.  Thanks Sally


Letters from America – 1985 – 1987 – Texas weather, Suntans and Trivia Pursuit

We had returned from our trip to Las Vegas and Los Angeles and were taking things easier in June…

My parents were also doing some gadding about whilst we were in the States.. including a trip to Paris with my sister and her husband. Here they are at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

4th June 1985

Dearest M &D,

Lovely talking to your on Sunday, glad all is well and that your trip was so much fun Mollie. We spent a quiet weekend after our adventures away and we had a few friends over on Sunday night for supper and to play Trivia Pursuit.  It is not a game that we would have played in the UK but it is great fun to play, if a little competitive. We bought it a couple of weeks ago after we played it at a friend’s apartment and we will show you how to play it when you come over.

As you both enjoy crosswords it should be right up your alley. It has big board divided into 6 segments so looks like a giant pie. Each segment has a pie shape of a different colour representing one of the categories. Science and Nature, Geography, History, Entertainment, Art and Literature and Sports and Leisure. You then throw the dice and move around and over the board depending on how many you throw. If you land on a piece of pie you have to answer a question related to that category.. If you answer correctly you get a small piece of plastic pie of the corresponding colour. If you land on a square on your way to that main segment you have to answer a question identified by the colour of the square to continue.

When you have filled your pie with all the six different pieces you win!  There are a few other wrinkles but the real problem is the categories as they are nearly all North American in context. Not so bad for Geography, Science and Nature and Art and Literature, but for us Brits the real problems lie in the Sports and Leisure, History and Entertainment. Fine if it is a film question but it is usually about television shows and their stars. We have a basic knowledge of American History, but not the nitty gritty, and don’t get me started on Sports and Leisure as I know diddly squat about baseball, basketball, American football and bowling!

Thankfully there are sufficient British related questions to help us get to the winning post, but unfortunately quite a bit behind our friends, who wait patiently whilst we circle the board a few times trying to get that elusive last piece of pie. I do find that margaritas… (with tequila) do help the mind delve deep into the recesses to unearth long forgotten bits of trivia or come up with inspired guesses. Just something for you to look forward to when you come out later this year.. the Trivia Pursuit.. not the tequila.. unless you would like to try!

David is home this week but away from Monday next week. He is dashing through three states for business meetings and by the time he is finished he will have visited most.

The weather has been hot (95-98 degrees) for the past few days with no sign of rain. There have been some terrible tornadoes in the north, but we have been very lucky here. There has been the occasional hurricane warning with storm systems sweeping up the gulf, but nothing so far. Now we are into June there is a lot more activity by the pool and we are meeting more people. I am still about the only one out there during the day, and although I wear quite a bit of sun cream and a hat, I still get people shouting from the balconies ‘Mad dogs and English Women, go out in the mid-day sun’.  However, I do enjoy my healthy tan again since it is nearly 25 years since we enjoyed so much sunshine in Cape Town. You will notice that I have grown my hair longer… and it is getting gingerised by the Texas sun….

I am glad that you have your visas and anytime between September to end of November and February to May are good months for weather, avoiding the high temperatures and heat or the sharp cold spells. I am starting a scrapbook of all our postcards and photos taken since we arrived, which should keep me out of mischief and provide you with a pictorial guide to our stay. I hope you will hang on to these letters too just in case I forget anything.

We are not planning another trip until July and we are thinking of either going to the Caribbean or Hawaii (post ain’t we). We will never be close enough to either destination in the future to visit and you can get some very good deals, especially using David’s air miles that he has accumulated with all his flights. You can put them towards flights and also certain hotel chains such as Marriott. I am angling for Hawaii as I would love to bump into Magnum P.I. but don’t tell David!

Our love to everyone and swat up on baseball, basketball and American football in the next few months so you can impress our friends at Trivia Pursuit.

love Sally and David.

©Sally Cronin Images 2018

You will find the other Letters from America:

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will join me next week for another of our American adventures.  Thanks Sally


Smorgasbord Letters From America – 1985 -1987 – Lamaze classes, Pink Cadillacs and Funeral Plots

Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987. This week some of the people I met by the pool which led me to become an assistant coach for a very important event.. and some interesting auction items for Mother’s Day.

You can find previous posts in this directory:

May 16th 1985

Dear M & D,

The deal that David was working on has gone through and it looks like news of it will be on the TV and in the press in the UK. He is obviously delighted and it marks the end of a very busy four months travelling and negotiating. He is now setting up new deals and headed off last Thursday on one of his lightening tours to Cincinnati, Washington and Charlotte.

In his absence, Vicki, who I have mentioned before keeps me company, as her husband is away Monday to Friday working on an oil rig in Louisiana. She is now eight months pregnant, and with her husband away I have been elected assistant coach for her Lamaze classes. If her husband cannot get back in time for the birth, l have promised to go into the delivery with her. This week we got into episiotomies, epidurals and caesareans. I am not entirely sure about the classes… the breathing exercises are good but Vicki came home absolutely petrified.. Some of the husbands were looking positively queasy and perhaps they should dole out a tequila shot for them before they start. I think attending these classes would be an effective deterrent to teenagers becoming pregnant… to be honest it would make me thing twice!

Lying around the pool as I do, has provided me with some interesting characters for future stories. Everyone is very friendly and relaxed and will pop over and pull up a sun lounger. I do get interrogated about everything from my accent, to what we eat and watch on television. I don’t mind at all as I get to be nosy back! I also get to find out the best places to eat, shop, get your hair done and something called a mani pedi… I was a little wary about what that might entail and was relieved to find out it was a nail salon!

Occasionally the complex management will host a pool party and there is a Hawaiian themed one coming up in a couple of weeks time. Must find David an appropriately colourful shirt for the occasion and a great excuse for a new swimsuit. Time to hit the discount mall.

Thank you for the pictures you took on your trip to Windsor. I did feel a bit homesick seeing all the greenery but then remembered it came courtesy of a lot of rain. It is a pity that when you come in November that we won’t have time to take you to the West Coast and the vineyards further in as it is much wetter over there and consequently more colourful.

I have been asked to sponsor a Mary Kay cosmetic party by their rep in the complex. They are the company that give pink Cadillacs to their successful agents. I saw one at the airport when I dropped David off at the airport and to be honest… I would never look a gift horse in the mouth.. but it is a very bright pink and not sure David would want to be seen being driven around in one.  However, I do like their products and as hostess I get a gift box which is great. It looks like there will be 12 attending including Vicki and with plenty of wine and food I am sure we will have a great time.

I am so pleased to be back down to a size 16, especially as here that is a size 14. That is another good reason to live here. David has promised me $5 a pound lost and I have decided to cash in next week when we are going to Las Vegas for a three day exhibition. We are staying at The Hilton and have an extra day so we can go out to the Hoover Dam. Whilst David is at the exhibition I will do my best to win our fortune… but I am not holding my breath as I have been told the House never loses.

Happy Mother’s Day next week and I hope my card arrives in time. It is tomorrow here, and the television has been airing adverts all week for cards and gifts. On the subject of gifts, the public broadcasting channel has an annual auction and companies, hotels, etc, donate products and holidays etc and bids are invited over seven days. One of the items donated was described as an ideal gift for aging parents or Mother’s Day. It was a double plot at the Forest Lawn’s Cemetary (or Garden of Rest over here). Apparently wonderful views, quiet secluded spot and a snip at $1200.

On that cheerful note adios until next week..

love from us both Sally and David.

©sallycronin images 2018

Thank you very much for dropping in and I hope you continue to enjoy our adventure in Texas and trips we made around America during our time there. Your memories of New Orleans would be great to hear about. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985 -1987 – Poolside chats, Spaghetti Bolognese and Irish Jokes

Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987. In retrospect I have managed to find some of our photographs taken during the two years that I would have shared with my parents later. They came out for a month in the November of 1985 which was wonderful.

You can find previous posts in this directory:

27th March 1985

Dear M & D

A cloudy day so an ideal time to get my letters written. It has been very hot this week and my tan is progressing very nicely. I spend quite a bit of time with my friend Vicki and here is a photo that David took at the pool a few weeks ago when her mother was over for a visit. I will send more now that we have found a place to have the films developed.

Sitting by the pool has also given me the opportunity to chat to some other girls who don’t work for one reason or another or are on shifts. We have a great time finding out about our respective countries. The one thing you will notice here is that there are very few films or television dramas about England. This is clearly why the general impression about England is about the Queen… London and the weather. Those I speak to think that England is in the grip of an ice-age with rain daily and I suppose that we English do tend to give that impression. The Brits here that I have met talk incessantly about the weather including the rain at home. So entirely our fault for creating that misconception. After all it only rains every other day!

I was slightly surprised, when one girl of about 17 that I met, asked me if we have universities in England. It just goes to show that what presence we do have in America is limited and not very impressive. Perhaps rock stars and others in the entertainment industry that are visible in the media here are only showing one side of our talents!

David has been to St. Louis this week and as he had a couple of hours to kill, he went up into the Gateway Arch which is a monument to all the settlers that headed west in search of a new life on the Oregon Trail. (Just think Daddy if they hadn’t done that you would not have all your favourite John Wayne movies). The arch is made of stainless steel and at its highest point is 630 feet and has a tram running inside. There are observation windows at the top which gave David a magnificent view right up the Mississippi river.

Unfortunately he had a long flight back with lots of delays, and I eventually picked him up at 10pm last night, three hours late.

I had a minor accident on Saturday. We had just come out of a bookshop, and clasping my purchases to my bosom, I made for the car. I was wearing an open pair of mules with a 1″ heel as I have not got around to buying any proper sandals yet. I am embarrassed to say that I fell off them, landing in a crumpled heap at David’s feet, in front of a very busy restaurant, with my skirt flying up over my head. Thank goodness I was wearing fancy underwear. They must have thought I was drunk and David sort of hauled me up and virtually carried me to the car and deposited me in the passenger seat. Turns out I have pulled a ligament and twisted my ankle.

This meant we had a static weekend but I am now able to walk short distances and I am thankful for this almost automated apartment… no standing around doing washing up etc. Luckily it is my left foot which means I can still drive and hobble around the supermarket.

As a result of the injury I have been watching more television and I mainly stay on the movie channels as there are no adverts. Most of the others interrupt the programme every 10 minutes. I watched the Oscar awards the other night and because it was prime time viewing they had long advert breaks every 6 or 7 minutes. It took three days to watch it!

David is going overnight to Dallas tomorrow. I am giving it a miss this time as we want to save for Easter weekend when he has four days off. We thought we would go to New Orleans which is only 400 miles away and we both want to experience the Jazz first hand. I am also going to join him in San Diego in April and perhaps a Florida trip. So important that we see as much as we can of this amazing country.

Before I forget… Daddie’s Spaghetti Bolognese is going down very well.. We have had a few neighbours over for dinner in the last few weeks, and I was asked which brand of sauce I bought.. They were very impressed when I told them that I made my own to a secret family recipe. As you know David has a massive library of Irish jokes which also go down very well. Bearing in mind the misconceptions about English weather I am making a determined effort never to mention it.. it is very hard!

And our permanent driving licenses have arrived.. hysterical. It is the size of a credit card with our photos and address on the front. They are an essential form of identification here and you cannot cash or sign a cheque for goods unless you have one. I mentioned at the time of the test that I was dreading what the photo looked like as I had been traumatised by Officer Rodriquez… I was justified as I look like an escaped lunatic. One consolation is that David’s is even worse and he had a great big black smudge across his face…

Anyway, will write again and tell you all about our New Orleans trip after Easter.

love from us both.. S &D XX

©sallycronin 2018

Thank you very much for dropping in and I hope you continue to enjoy our adventure in Texas and trips we made around America during our time there. Next week my article that I wrote about out trip to New Orleans.


Smorgasbord – Letters from America 1985-1987 – First swims, Alabama-Coushatta Reservation and adventures with the ice-maker by Sally Cronin

Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987. In retrospect I have managed to find some of our photographs taken during the two years that I would have shared with my parents later. They came out for a month in the November of 1985 which was wonderful.

You can find previous posts in this directory:

First swims, Alabama-Coushatta Reservation and adventures with the ice-maker

Hi M & D.

Just received your letter, the first one to the new apartment, and it only took six days which is great. Sorry to hear about Norah and her collapse, as you say, thank goodness she wasn’t driving at the time. Perhaps she will give up the car now as it could have been very dangerous for others too.

My weight has dropped enough for me to venture forth into the pool. Although only the second week in March the water was about 24 degrees and lovely. We went in on Sunday and I have just had another swim. I plan on making it my daily routine for an hour and am really looking forward to it. The air temperature is very hot (for those of us from rainy England) and I have to remember to put sun screen on my back when swimming for an hour so that I don’t burn. But I am going brown which is wonderful. One of our new friends said that most people don’t swim until the evening because of the sun, something about mad dogs and Englishwomen go out in the midday sun!!

David is in San Francisco this week. He has some initial meetings set up and if anything comes of them, I will go next time. Last week we had another trip to Dallas and stayed at the Hilton (it was only two dollars more than the Holiday Inn so hang the expense!). We had dinner with a Scot and his wife who work for another part of the company, and it was very enjoyable. I must say that after the hire car, David’s new one is a joy to drive and I could seriously get used to automatic and cruise control. Especially with miles of highway ahead of you.

On Saturday we had a great treat. We visited the Alabama – Coshatta Reservation. They are woods indians rather than plain’s indians so no horses. It was a lot of fun. You pay six dollars and there are three tours, two by bus (open and flung together) and one my miniature steam train all through the reservation. On your ticket you also get a tour of their craft village and a war dance exhibition which was very exciting. We had lunch in the cafe, burger and buffalo chips! I always thought that referred to buffalo dung… but these were particularly delicious. I treated myself to a pair of silver and turquoise earrings which were very inexpensive.

We chatted to some of the guides and they were so welcoming. It is admirable that they are keeping their culture alive and are making a living from tourists. We found out that there are two tribes who are descended from the Creek Indians and originated in Alabama before being forced off their land in the 1830s. They migrated into Texas when it was Spanish and in after the war with Mexico, we found out that Sam Houston protected them. They traded with the white settlers to the area and they have lived on the reservation since then.

David arrives home Thursday and I am picking him up at the airport. By the time you arrive in November I will be able to find my way there blindfolded. We have at least four different routes dependent on time of day and traffic, and we can make it in twenty minutes.

I am glad your weather is improving too, won’t be long now before you are out on the roof garden with your tubs. I could do with some of those on our balcony, but not knowing if we might move in the next few months to Washington, I have contented myself with buying some indoor plants. At the end of our balcony is the utility area where the washer and dryer live. Washday is a pleasure, just pop it in and when dry it’s almost unnecessary to iron it.

I must admit after my initial wariness about the dishwasher (I was used to having ‘hands that do dishes can feel soft as your face with mild green fairy liquid!), I am now a fan. I use all the plates and cutlery, load them up and hey presto! They are certainly a labour saving nation, but who am I to complain if I can go and sit by the pool rather than wash dishes by hand. All kitchens in the apartments are equipped with an enormous fridge/freezer with automatic ice maker. It takes a while to get used to the bang as it releases the ice, and the first few days we didn’t know how to switch it off. Ice cubes coming out of our ears.

Anyway that’s it for this week. All our love as always… look after yourselves. Sally and David.

©sallycronin 2018

Thank you very much for dropping in and I hope you continue to enjoy our adventure in Texas and trips we made around America during our time there.

Smorgasbord – Letters from America 1985 – 1987 – Homesickness, First Dinner Party, Huntsville State Park

Last week my letter home to my parents shared our new car, our new permanent address and trips to Galverston and Houston Zoo.

You can find previous posts in this directory:

Dear M & D

At last it is a beautiful day and I can take full advantage of the sunshine on our balcony. It is 8.30 in the morning and with a bit of luck, I should get 2 hours of sun before it moves behind the block.

Our first dinner with our neighbours went very well on Saturday night. Vicki is having a baby and her husband Kelly is a former rodeo rider. They are a really nice couple and Vicki and I met down by the pool where we both ended up sitting the only table under and umbrella. They may not be here for long, as Kelly now works for an oil company, and may be going to Shreveport but I hope it won’t be for a while. Their baby is due in a month or so.

I am loving it here but I do feel a little homesick. Things are very different and although we have lived in so many countries as a family, it is more daunting without that support. David is great of course but is away for at least two to three days during the week, and so I do feel nervous about going out in the car and finding my way around. Having lost my hire car for three hours that first week, when I could not remember which entrance of Greenspoint Mall I had used, I have been making double sure to park close to an entrance and write down which store I am entering into.

After our Driving Test experience, I am paranoid about being tailed by the Highway Patrol police on their motor bikes. They look very intimidating, not like our police at home who don’t carry guns. Anyway, I have made myself go out at least every two to three days to the supermarket of the discount fashion mall.. Only looking there of course!! Mollie you would love all the jackets and their prices… Father look away!

Yesterday being Sunday we had a lie-in and then headed off to Huntsville State Park about 30 miles away. It reminded me of Tokai Forest and Ceres in South Africa where we went for weekends. Here they have wood built shelters that you can stay in overnight, with a BBQ built with bricks outside. It is right on the lake so there are water sports and swimming.

We followed the hiking trail through the forest for a while, but we have yet to get some proper lightweight walking boots. To be honest I would be happier being encased in leather boots (make that from top to toe). The trouble is that last week at Houston Zoo, we saw all the venomous snakes of the region on display. Apparently, they usually get out of your way when they hear you coming. Having met quite a number of ‘snakes in the grass’ in my time, I have a sneaking suspicion that I attract them.

My diet continues with the threat of swimming and baring all in a swimsuit on the horizon. Although the portions in the restaurants are enormous and so tempting, there is a much wider selection of fresh fruits and vegetables here in the supermarkets than at home.

There are also a large number of prepared dishes called TV dinners that we do not have in the UK. Aisles of them along with sauces and 10 different types of mayonnaise with packets of flavourings to use with (ground beef) mince beef, which seems to be very popular. It would be so easy to fall into bad habits. However, although I am walking in the malls (there are no pavements between here and the shops so you have to drive) I am not getting enough exercise. Which is why I am looking forward to going swimming soon. I am sticking to a big salad at lunchtime… with only homemade balsamic and olive oil dressing, and then we eat chicken or fish with vegetables most nights.

We have found a restaurant however, that might undo all my hard work. Pappasitos down the I-45 Freeway where we have been introduced to fajitas and margeritas amongst other delicious Mexican foods.. It is tempting to be in there every weekend but we have bought the teguila and makings for the cocktail and only visit every couple of weeks. I am also experimenting with a special rub for steak and you can buy tasty fajitas in the supermarket. Will practice before you come for your holiday with us later in the year.

We are planning a trip to Corpus Christi for next weekend whilst the hotel rates are still good. 150 miles of beaches to explore. I will tell you all about that next time.

Well that’s about it for now. I hope you are both keeping fit and well, spring should be around the corner for you too soon. Will write again in a week or sooner if anything exciting happens.

All our love as always. Sally and David.

©Sally Cronin 2018

I hope you have enjoyed my trip down memory lane…….I would love your feedback as always. Thanks Sally

New Series – Smorgasbord – Letters from America 1985-1987 – Sally Cronin

In 1984, having moved to Tring in Hertfordshire only six months earlier, David was made redundant. He had moved to a new division of his company and it simply did not take off. However, his former boss rang a couple of days later and suggested a change of role. David was an engineer and had never really considered sales as an option. But his boss offered him the position of VP of sales for the company in the USA, initially based in Houston. This was December and Christmas around the corner. It also meant putting the house on the market and moving to the US in early February.

Of course we jumped at the opportunity.

Over the next two years we travelled thousands of miles across America to cram in as much adventure as possible. In those days there were no emails and phone calls were expensive, so I wrote to my parents every week.

After my father died in 1996 we found a folder with my name on it. He had kept every letter I wrote to them and he thought that one day I might like to publish a book. I probably won’t do that but I thought that I would share those letters with you on the blog.

I will also be sharing some of the articles that I wrote about specific events or trips that stood out for us both.

I hope you enjoy the trip back in time as much as I am typing them up from my handwritten scrawl.

My parents at the time.. top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on a weekend trip

Hi M & D

Safely arrived and just about over our jet lag. The flight was very cramped, apparently due to SNOW in Houston, Friday’s flight had been cancelled, so it was booked solid. It was a DC10 and really too small for an 11 hour flight. However, we landed at about 6 p.m. local time and thankfully allowed through immigration. (I couldn’t have faced deportation and the return flight!)

We picked up our hire car and proceeded to get lost. I was driving, my first time on the wrong side of the road, in an automatic, in the dark! Nobody told us that Green’s Road where the Marriott is situated is 26 miles long…. or felt like it. An hour later and with short fuses we arrived here at the hotel. By now it was 2 a.m. our time so we were pretty shattered. We broke open the duty free and dressed for dinner. They certainly believe in big portions. David ended up with half a barbecued cow on his plate!!. We got to bed about 11p.m (5a.m. body time) and slept through until 8 a.m.

Sunday someone from the Houston office rang and asked us to dinner which was very pleasant. They eat early here, around 6pm. so it was still light out thankfully and we found the place without too much trouble. What was quite interesting was seeing some of the pick-up trucks on the road with rifles on racks at the back of the cab. Obviously not a good idea to carve anyone up in Texas!

David had to go into the office Monday and as we only have two weeks at the Marriott I had to find us a temporary apartment. This meant driving on my own for the first time and you need eyes in the back of your head….. There are some pretty fancy moves going on and some of those trucks are big and intimidating. The office had given me a short list of apartment/hotels to rent on a monthly basis, which suits us whilst we look for a more permanent place. The one I decided on has everything included in the rent (it would need to be at 800 dollars a month!). There is one bedroom, dining area, large living room and a bathroom. Maid service is included twice a week (this is the life) and a large swimming pool (ice covered at the moment).

The price is a little over what the company have allowed for but when they do their sums, they will see that keeping us in the hotel would cost 4,500 dollars a month!!.

We move in on Saturday and at least we will have our privacy again. It is surrounded by a security fence and you have to use a credit card to in and out.

We had our first dinner out on our own on Monday night. We went to a place called TGI Fridays.. (Thank God It’s Friday) I think. We met Jesus… really… our waiter was called Jesus but you pronounce it Heysus. Having already experienced a cow on a plate, we opted for their appetizers (starters) and shared them. Delicious and the service was a lot more attentive than you would get at home! I also had my first margarita … tequila and lime and absolutely amazing.

David is already booked on business trips which means I now know the route back and forth to the airport. He is away today until Friday in Kansas and Virginia and then next week in Los Angeles Monday and Tuesday. We are both going to Dallas as we can drive up and then to New Orleans for my birthday.

My first impressions of Houston are very favourable. It is very flat and spread out and because no-one walks anywhere, there are hardly any sidewalks. There is little public transport at all and as we are 30 miles from the actual centre of Houston is can be a bit restricting. They have great big shopping malls every mile or so and thankfully there is one around the corner from the hotel that I can walk to. Everything seems very expensive, especially to eat out and we will both be glad to get back to home cooking again next week.
Things here are very different and we have had some surprises. On our first morning we went to the supermarket to buy some essentials and there were horses tied up outside and cowboys in the full gear including holsters inside, stocking up on beer and chips (crisps) We thought we had walked into the set of a Western… we asked one of the staff if this was normal and he told us it was Rodeo Week… some things to get used to.

However, I am sure that once we get over the strangeness of everything we will be more relaxed. Always difficult to know how to act in a new environment but at least I have had lots of practice with all the travelling we did when I was growing up.

We know that our time here is limited and we want to experience as much as possible in the next two years. The people that we had dinner with the second day are British and we got the impression that in the six years that they have been here they have not seemed to integrate very much. The recommendation was to find a complex where there are other English families but to be honest, we both feel if we are to enjoy the real flavour of Texas and the USA, we should find somewhere we can join in more.

The weather is very cold and unseasonal, to us it’s just like home and probably easier than arriving into the very high temperatures they have from April onwards. Thank goodness I bought my thick winter coat at the last minute.

Well I think that covers most things. I have saved my letter writing until David was away so that I had plenty to do. Hotels however luxurious are pretty boring when you are on your own and I only go out in daylight. There are some quite good films on the television so I will be square-eyed when David gets back. I think he is pleased that at least I don’t moan about being left on my own. He has so much to do initially, that he has enough on his plate.

Hopefully before you come out for your visit next year we will be settled, although there is a possibility that we might be moved to Washington. At least that will mean a shorter flight for you and more moderate weather in the summer.

Stay well and will write again next week and all our love.


I hope you will tune in again next week for our trip to Dallas and more adventures. Thanks Sally