ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

A Member of the Press

Jane Sadek goes to the Dallas Art Fair
A Gallery at the Dallas Art Fair

TRAVEL HERE: A BLOGGER IN MEDIA HEAVEN

While the rest of the world gets rich and famous with social media, I blog on in anonymity – at least for the most part.  I’m famous among my real life friends and on Facebook among my followers, but beyond that it does me little good.  However, anyone driven to write, the way I am, needs a place to express themselves, so I blog on.  However, from time to time my blogging does get me a few perks.  That happened last week.

Dallas Art Fair

If you’ve been paying attention, then you know this is my third post about 2019’s Dallas Art Fair.  If not, some details about the main event are here and I also attended an introductory event I described on Monday. Last Thursday morning I reported to the FIG (Fashion Industry Gallery) for the Opening Press Conference. There among other media types, I perused the event’s art offerings and listened to a series of speeches by the designated dignitaries.

One of my favorite parts of the day was wandering around the space with a tag identifying me as “MEDIA.”  My thoughts about the media are not always congratulatory, but it’s nice when a lowly blogger like me can be of service.

Getting There

It meant skipping an MLS meeting, but I felt that was a small price to pay to attend the event as media.  Deciding what to wear was a bit of a challenge.  I’d been disappointed in my fellow females’ fashion choices the evening before, but encouraged by the men’s sartorial offerings, I pulled out a recent purchase, a long blouse from one of my favorite designers, to pair with leggings and some lacy wedge sandals.

My next challenge was making my way from my almost-rural home in Heath through the morning traffic to Downtown Dallas.  That went better than I anticipated, but my hope of parking in the DMA parking lot was dashed.  They don’t allow public parking until 10.  I parked in the First Baptist lot, so all I had to do was cross the street to The Fashion Industry Gallery at 1807 Ross Avenue.

I was not completely ignorant of the FIG’s existence and I knew it was in close proximity to the DMA, I just had no idea it was right there, nestled between the DMA and the Fairmont.  The most prominent feature on the building where I crossed the street was a restaurant.  My first guess at a possible entry was a false lead, but I saw someone who looked like they knew where they were going, so I followed.  Voila, I had arrived.

I have a sneaky feeling that anyone with chutzpah and a knowledge of the event could have gotten a media pass.  I saw them selling tickets at one kiosk, so I went up to the next one, where the lady asked, “Media?”  I said, “Jane Sadek, local blogger.”  She handed me my anonymous media pass, but it was the key to a weekend of art, so I was glad to get it –  in spite of the casual offering underlining I was certainly no VIP.

Dallas Art Fair
Shoe Art at Dallas Art Fair

Inside the Galleries

Then came the pay off for missing the meeting, fighting the traffic and searching out a parking spot – I was in. I had about a half hour before the press conference would begin, so I wandered through the galleries.  I’m never sure what to expect from Contemporary Art, but I was happy to discover most of what was exhibited was at least interesting.  I found a little of everything, from robots to hand woven rugs.  I also found craftsmanship.  These weren’t just ideas thrown together for their shock factor.  These were works of love, executed with skill and attention to detail.  To me, that’s art.

Satisfied the exhibit was worth part of my weekend, I planned to return with fellow art lovers in tow.  It was time to make my way to the press conference – which, by the way, was 10 minutes late.  Someone had overlooked tagging the first piece of art in the gallery which would provide the backdrop behind the podium.

Shoes at Dallas Art Fair
More shoe art!

As I surveyed the room I realized the female sector of the population had resumed their domination of the fashion scene, in contrast to the previous evening’s disappointing turn out.  Now, the guys were back to boring and the women were strutting their stuff.  I giggled a bit to myself over the “Dallas in Spring” vibe.  One woman in a fringed-wool, hounds-tooth micro-miniskirt, paired with turtleneck sweater, teetered over high rise booties.  She chatted up a friend in a frilly sundresses over suede boots.  A pair of Asian women, speaking a language I didn’t recognize, wore voluminous layers I couldn’t quite identify above comfortable walking shoes.  Then the denim skirt with the shell anklet over Adidas joined them.  I couldn’t resit taking a few pictures to respond to the rod iron shoes I’d seen in a gallery on the floor above.

A series of dignitaries made speeches at the podium, that’s when I learned I’d seen something cooler than I even realized the evening before. The whole thing is dedicated to the idea of pop-ups and a permanent home for the Dallas Art Fair.  With that kind of synergy, I bet it will be a very interesting spot, so put River Bend on you list of things to check out.

On the evening before, I’d wondered about the significance of choosing 214 as the name of a gallery.  It certainly wasn’t the suite number.  Like the characters in The Purloined Letter, I’d overlooked the obvious – it’s the Dallas area code.  Apparently in international art circles it is a familiar number, one to be proud of.  That cheered me.

Then I was momentarily taken back to my previous disappointment with idea-over-craft art.  As they announced the pieces which the DMA would purchase from the Fair, among the others was an odd, idea-driven installation which I’d seen at 214.  To me it looked like a room which was being set up for a presentation of some kind, but the workers weren’t finished.  Instead various tripods filled the space and the walls had random video showing on the screens.   I peered through the glass plates attached to the tripods, but nothing was gorgeous.

I shook off my disappointment and congratulated the artist in my head for capturing the curator’s attention.  Everyone doesn’t have to like something for it to be art.  Thankfully, the DMA had purse-strings long enough to wrap around other pieces and many of them were enchanting, even to me.

So, I hope you made it to the event.  Thanks to the Dallas Art Fair for expanding my horizons and giving me the opportunity to share the Fair with my friends.

Architecture, ART, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Music, Performing Arts, Real Estate Photographry, Shopping, TRAVEL

Rewind to River Bend

River Bend in the Dallas Design district
The new River Bend development in the Dallas Design District. Image from Cultural Counsel

TRAVEL HERE: NEW DESIGN DISTRICT DESTINATION

So, on Friday, I begged you to go to the Dallas Art Fair.  I hope you did.  It certainly loomed large in our weekend.  However, the Fair’s Opening Press Conference was actually Chapter Two. Chapter One played out on Wednesday evening.  Come along and I’ll tell you all about it.

Out of the Loop

The Dallas Art Fair just had its 11th event and somehow I was completely out of the loop for the first 10. I’ve been busy, but I thought I was paying better attention than that.

However, I love me some Dallas and I take the drive over the I-30 Bridge quite frequently, usually headed down to the Dallas Arts District.  My membership in the Dallas Museum of Art has never wavered.  I keep my eye out for Nasher events.  So, I’m not sure how I became so disconnected with an event like the Dallas Art Fair.

Back in the Loop

While I may not be as plugged in as I used to be, as a regional blogger, some organizations do keep me in the loop.  The DMA, the Perot, Preservation Dallas and the Arboretum all have me on speed dial, figuratively speaking.  So, when I got an email from the Cultural Counsel inviting me to an artsy thing in the Design District, it wasn’t exactly a surprise.  I checked my calendar and then invited the hubby along.

Happy on All Counts

As principals  of a real estate photography company, we are always interested in new construction and new developments.  We arrived at River Bend eager to find out exactly what was going on in this new addition to the Dallas Design District.  At first glance it was comparable to other business/retail spaces all over the Metroplex.  The invitation had mentioned “Late Night Gallery Openings, Clare Woods Book Signing, and SOLUNA Performance.”  Galleries we understood, but the rest had to be discovered.

The invitation had not mentioned comestibles at all, but a happy Art Fair associate greeted us and pointed us towards the serving lines.  Gladly the choices were not limited to cheese cubes and bad chardonnay.  Bill tried a local brewery offering from a series of kegs (I’m dieting again, so I was going to wait for the promised mineral water) and then we headed to the buffet line.  Caterers were whipping out chicken and pork street tacos, shrimp tostadas and corn-on-the-cob.  I loved it all, but that probably had a lot to do with the avocado crema.  Bill wasn’t as crazy about the entrees.  He doesn’t do avocado and I’m guessing the other offerings were a poor substitute, but he loved the corn.  I’d recommend the caterers, but I never found out who they were.

Next stop was a door with a large sign advertising Soluna, the musical portion of Dallas’s Art Month, sponsored by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  I was there to get a bottle of Topo Chico Mineral Water.  The space was devoted to the evening’s audio entertainment, an “Icelandic musician” with “signature trolls”.  The music wafted out of the performance space and I could tell it was a little out there for me.  Bill ducked his head in and his main complaint was the overuse of volume.

Continuing down the way we visited a couple of gallery spaces. One only had a few pieces and the other seemed more actively devoted to the consumption of Modelo than the presentation of art.  It was time to head back in the other direction and see what we could find.

On our way back to the center of things, we focused on the ceramic murals of the exterior walls.  A book signing by the murals’ artist was part of the evening’s offerings.  Bill wasn’t fond of the mosaics, but I was more pleasantly effected by the thematic river vistas.  Returning past the trolls, we happened upon some more gallery space and these spaces seemed to be more serious about the art portion of the event.

Our final stop was the 214 space, which serves as a gallery and as the offices for the Dallas Art Fair.  Well-fed and having consumed as much as we could understand concerning the art offerings, we headed home.  The next morning, I’d learn more about what I’d been looking at.

A Few Observations

I would be the first to admit that my taste in art leans toward the figurative and peters out some time shortly after the Impressionists. I find many things to like about contemporary artists who continue the figurative and classical traditions in art, however I have not given up completely on the non-figurative and alternate genres.  I’m still trying, even if I don’t find myself enchanted. So, I’m not a good person to critique the art we saw that evening.

The people watching was spectacular.  I was happy to observe jeans and yoga pants were not the dominating fashion statement.  In fact, the gentlemen, rather than the ladies, were setting the bar.  Socks were so last century for these guys and  all the pants were tight and short.

Winning the award for tightest and shortest were those who wore cuffed pedal pushers. I have no idea of the proper name for these short trousers.  We ladies used to call them capri pants, back in the day.  But trend-setting short pants weren’t all I noticed. The top halves of these guys were also trendy.  Those with longer pants had a sort of khaki/safari vibe to them.  My favorite item on the men was a white straw trilby with a florescent orange band.

The women just did not measure up. They seemed more interested in volume than style, like a pair of harem pants in a loud plaid.  Other versions of comfort were apparent.  The crispest female fashion icon was a sweet young thing in black leather short shorts.  Her long legs were shod in high-heeled platforms with an interesting collection of straps.  Her other clothing and accessories were black and gold.  Her hair was a slick black bob.  Kudos to her for appearing to care whether anyone looked at her or not.  The rest of the women certainly didn’t indicate whether they cared one way or the other.

Wednesday, we’ll head back to Cancun, then Friday I’ll chat about the press conference.  Come back to visit!

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Real Estate Photographry, TRAVEL, WRITING

In the Biz

TRAVEL HERE: PHOTOGRAPHY AS LIVELIHOOD

I would apologize for failing to post last week, except that it is kind of part of the story.  See, I’ve gotten to the part of our photography story where I tell you how Bill and I morphed into Spot On Images.  These first two months of 2019 have been so busy for us professionally, that some of my personal pursuits fell to the wayside, including the Travel Talk blog.  Today, I’m catching up.

How There Came to be a Spot On Images

Like a tree with deep roots, Spot On Images grew out of fertile ground.  When someone asks how Spot On Images got started, I’m tempted to ask which version they want to hear!  Actually there is only one version, but it has several chapters.

Spot On Images grew out of our real estate experiences in California.  Back then, some brokerages still hadn’t embraced the online version of the MLS.  They still had hard copy MLS books in their offices, but they were the dinosaurs.  Some agents still didn’t know how to input their own listings, but I got it immediately.  At first, we hired professional photographers to shoot our properties, but soon we figured out we had a secret weapon on our team.  Bill could take better pictures than the pros.  Combining his pictures with my prose was a winning ticket.  While many agents settled for a single exterior shot and descriptions that read something like this: 3/2/2 in Grover Beach, partial ocean view, near elementary school; Bill and I were filling every empty slot in the photo carousel (About 11 pictures back then – It’s more like 35 now.) and writing mini-novels as descriptions – and it was working.

The only problem was, neither of us really liked selling real estate.  I was making a killing at it before the bubble, but it didn’t feel as if I was doing what I was made to do.  Long story short, Bill went to Iraq to be an interpreter for the Army and I moved back to Dallas to be near my parents, who were facing health challenges.  In Dallas, I went back to school and the career thing was put on the back burner.  Spot On Images wasn’t even a possibility we had entertained at that point, but whenever we inventoried our skill sets, to see what we might turn into a business, the same things kept coming up:  real estate, marketing, photography, writing, business consulting and the internet. We just couldn’t figure out how that was a business.

Spot On Images also grew out of Bill’s love for photography and real estate.  While somewhat related to the story above, this story begins when Bill was in his twenties and took an interest in photography.  He took lessons, joined photography clubs, read magazines, bought equipment and all that other stuff photobuffs do.  Though he pursued other things professionally, taking photos, learning about taking photos, taking video, learning about taking video and buying equipment was one of his primary preoccupations, along with real estate and making money.

Fast forward to a few years ago.  A friend of ours in the real estate photography business decides to move closer to family for health reasons.  Bill offers to buy the friend’s business, but instead the friend chooses to supplement Bill’s already impressive photography skills with some specific training in the real estate photography business, for free.  Bill buys new photography equipment better suited to real estate and spends several months developing his particular style of real estate photography.  He also buys a drone and gets his commercial drone pilot license.  Along the way, he convinces Jane to quit doing marketing, social media and blogging for someone else and put it to work for the family business.

A Synthesis of Versions.

Of course, neither of those versions cancels out the possibility of the other and there is still another version, which might also have some truth to it.  A neighbor claims Bill was in a conversation where her husband was trying to convince another guy to start a real estate photography business.  Bill says he doesn’t remember being in that conversation, but who knows, maybe he just forgot and it influenced him to offer to buy our friend’s business.

Whatever the case, when Spot On Images started, it was mostly Bill’s thing.  I helped with the website and did some cold-calling for him, but I had other fish to fry.  Then suddenly he got so busy that he needed me to start processing the photos for him and I supplemented our cold calling by attending MLS meetings.  I kept taking on Spot On Images responsibilities and one day I woke up and realized I was working full-time for Spot On Images.  I put in more hours than our photographer does.  How did that happen?

Now Spot On Images is an us thing.  Bill does his things and I do my things.  We’ve got great synergy and amazing clients which make work seem more like fun.  And our skill sets, real estate, marketing, photography, writing, business consulting and the internet – well somehow all of those things play an important role in the work we do for our clients on both the photography side and the marketing side.

So that’s how I got from taking photos with an Instamatic camera and putting the snapshots into adhesive photo albums to being co-owner of a photography and marketing business.  The roads I take never seem to be straight ones, but I seem to like where I end up.  More and more of my work seems to be on social media and it’s a demanding medium, eating up posts almost as fast as I can create them.  So, as has happened in other seasons, I may be a little unreliable over here on my personal travel blog.  For at least for a little while, you can continue to enjoy my trip to Cancun and Chichen Itza, because I have Wednesday posts written through May for that adventure.  And as usual, things will settle down and I’ll find a way to keep the blog going.  so don’t you go anywhere.  Travel talk will continue!

 

ART, DFW Metroplex, Photography, TRAVEL

Let the Scrapbooking Begin

TRAVEL HERE:  FROM ADHESIVE PHOTO ALBUMS TO COMPULSIVE SCRAPBOOKING

In many cultures throughout history, women entered into the contract of marriage with a dowry.  Bill wasn’t quite that lucky.  All he got when we married was a stack of photo albums, clothes to clutter his closet and a bunch of other things which didn’t exactly improve his net worth.  He convinced me to get rid of some of my property in a garage sale.  It didn’t do much for his bottom line, but he did regain a little of his space.  One thing he couldn’t convince me to get rid of was my photo albums.

Can You Say Tacky?

I’ll admit it.  My collection of mismatched photo albums was down right ugly.  Some had their spiral rings showing.  Others had hideous covers.  And yes, most of the photos were mediocre at best, but they held my memories, so they weren’t going anywhere.

Then a couple of things sort of happened at once.  I met a girl at work who was a Creative Memories Consultant and I signed up for a scrapbooking class at church.  I found out that while I’d been smart to collect memorabilia and include it with photos in my albums, I learned I’d been doing pretty much everything else wrong.  I don’t recall who sold me my first album and stickers, but that day, a scrapbooking legend was born – and she was me!

After My First Album

What had inspired me to sign up for the scrapbooking class was a cruise I was about to take.  With one CM Consultant teaching me to scrapbook at church and another one giving me delicious catalogs at work, my days of sticking photos into adhesive albums were over.  I completed the first album in no time flat and then the girl at work invited me to bag up all my loose photos and let her help me sort them.

OK, I sort of get into organizing.  I’m not crazy about cleaning, but I will organize a messy desk drawer at the drop of a hat.  I actually stand in stores and neaten their displays.  I will be in the line at Fry’s and suddenly I’m sorting out their candy display and putting things back into a semblance of order.  Clothing is a particular favorite of mine – sleeve length, color, neckline, solid or pattern.  One minute I’m shopping for a blouse and in a few moments I organizing the rounder.   Drives my poor husband crazy.

The minute organizing was tied to scrapbooking the hook was set.  Not only were Creative Memory albums more attractive than the other albums, they preserved the pictures and memorabilia put into them and, most important for me, they were a great way to organize my pictures.  If I was scrapbooking along and discovered a cache of pictures that belonged in an album I had already finished, no problem, I could add pages into the completed album wherever I wanted to.  I could also keep on adding pictures to an album long after one of those adhesive albums would have been filled.  My first album is about an inch and a half wide.  The last one I finished was more like five and a half.

I made my first CM scrapbook in 1998.  Twenty years later, I’m still scrapping.  From my office chair I can count over 40 albums in my bookshelf  That doesn’t include all those I have done and given to other people or those in a closet I will not name.  Those 40 some odd are just my favorites!

But it’s time to go for today, so let’s pick up here next week!

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

It’s Time to Go

TRAVEL THERE: HEADING HOME IS ALWAYS GOOD

Just a few hours and Egypt will be in our rear view mirror.

Final Moments

When we left Mokattum Mountain, Izzat dropped us off in Bill’s sister’s neighborhood.  Mona had made one of her feasts for us to enjoy when we dropped by to say farewell.  We had a sweet visit with her and then it was time to go.

Somewhere along the way on that final day, I managed to leave my hat behind.  Perhaps it was in the Uber vehicle we took to get back to the Fairmont.  I sincerely regret that, because it had been a loyal servant on the Danube cruise and on this trip.  I’ve missed having it for several trips since.  I also donated my prescription sunglasses to the country earlier in the trip.

I’ve already shared the frustration of our last night at the Fairmont, so no need to revisit that.  Izzat was there the next morning to take us to the airport.  I felt like I was saying good-bye to an old friend.

At the airport, some of the towel-clad pilgrims we’d seen on our arrival were also departing Egypt.  I’m not sure what the trip was supposed to imbue them with, but love and respect for their wives doesn’t seem to be one of results.  I watched a man and a boy in their white terrycloth outfits stand to the side with their arms folded as their mother/wife pulled huge suitcases, too large for her to handle, from the security table to a cart and then struggle again to get the cart going in the right direction.

I would have sent Bill to help her, but he was already on a mission of his own.  A group of giggling ladies in pilgrim caftans and hajibs needed his help with the elevator.  They’d never been on as escalator or an elevator.  They were terrified of the escalator, but baffled with the controls of the elevator.  I was proud of him for helping them, but wished he could have embarrassed the towel-clad men by assisting the floundering woman.  The pair had looked so smug.

Traveling Companions

Miriam and Bassem were taking the same flight as we did to the States.  Bassem wanted back-up in case Mariam had any trouble in Customs.  We breezed through the London airport with no trouble at all.  At DFW, US Passport Control did bring Mariam in for a short interview, but it was very cursory.  Then they grabbed a rental car, because no one sedan was going to hold all the luggage for four people, especially when one of them was moving here.

And then we were home.  My bestie had kept my cat for me, so we were eager to go claim her.  Mariam and Bassem stayed with us a few days, because Bassem had only bought tickets back to Dallas, not on to LA.  Too soon they’d made arrangements to go home and we were all alone – just us and the cat.

It was quiet and a bit lonely after so many days around our dear family members.  It was a little boring too, after three weeks of activity.  It had been a great trip and like all good trips it had changed me.  I had stronger ties with my nieces and nephews and their children.  I’d overcome my fears and traveled to places the US State Department said I should stay away from.  I’d been in one of the poorest neighborhoods I’d ever visited and discovered that its inhabitants were more joyful and thankful than my affluent neighbors in my golf course community. We will probably never travel to Egypt again, but that’s OK, because now Egypt is in my heart.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

I Interrupt This Blog to Freak Out Over My Glasses

The sunglasses I left behind

TRAVEL HERE: YA GOTTA SEE IT TO ENJOY IT

My life is pretty busy.  Last year, before I went to Egypt, I really meant to get my eyes checked and update my lenses.  My sunglasses were so scratched up I could barely see out of them, but one thing led to another and I ended up with my beat up sunglasses on vacation.  That turned into a blessing, because I lost the sunglasses going through security in Sharm el Sheikh, but that was only the beginning of the saga.

Juggling My Glasses

While the part of me that is reasonable and practical was sad to lose my sunglasses, there was also a part that did a little happy dance.  The loss was unfortunate, because the frames were fairly new.  I’d worn my previous pair of prescription sunglasses for a long time with complete satisfaction.  I bought them in 2006 and just kept replacing the lenses, until I realized I had actually worn off all the decoration.

In 2015 I had my eyes checked and there was a new development.  Glasses and sunglasses weren’t enough.  I also needed computer glasses.  So, my regular glasses, a pair of wire frames I’d been dissatisfied with for a long time became my computer glasses and I bought new frames for my regular glasses and my sunglasses.

My new regular frames were great.  They were red Calvin Kleins and I felt snazzy in them.  The sunglasses were a fail.  They looked marvelous, but they just wouldn’t stay on.  The arms weren’t curved enough behind my ears, so they fell off all the time.  Hence the many scratches.  They’d bounced off every surface from the bottom of a dumpster to pavement.  So losing them gave me the opportunity to buy some new frames that would actually stay on my face.

My beloved Brightons!

Time to Upgrade

I really shopped around for sunglasses, because I have very sun-sensitive eyes.  I probably wear my sunglasses more than I wear the other two.  I wanted to find a pair I would love as much as I did the ones I’d purchased in 2006.  Then I found out Brighton sunglasses are prescription ready.  They are my favorite sunglasses in the world, but I hadn’t been able to wear them since 2006, when I had to start wearing prescription sunglasses.

Let me tell you something, optometry shops want you to buy frames.  They must mark them up about a 1000%.  All this second pair free stuff is a dead give away.  I didn’t realize how serious they were about this until I tried to get my new prescription filled at Costco.  Even though they charge you hundreds for your lenses, its the frames they care about.

The clerk did everything she could to discourage me from using my old frames.  I had to sign a waiver  releasing Costco from responsibility should the frames break and even then she couldn’t guarantee that wherever it was they sent them would fill the prescription.  I’d just have to do without my glasses for 10 days.

To add insult to injury, they wouldn’t fill my sunglasses prescription at all.  The frames had stones in them. Puh-leez!  Tough luck for me.  I walked in with three pairs of glasses to update, but only left behind one pair, because they wouldn’t do my sunglasses and having to wait 10 days while they sent them off meant I’d have to use my computer glasses for every day.  I wanted to just tell them no thanks, but Costco was the vendor my husband had approved and I was trying to cooperate.

Then I went to find someone who would fill a prescription in a pair of glasses with stones in them.  I don’t want to talk about how much it cost.  I am still traumatized!

The Agony Continues

Eventually I had new lenses in all my glasses and for a short while I was a happy camper, but it didn’t last long.  My beloved red Calvin Kleins fell apart.  I’d just spent a fortune getting all those prescriptions filled and I loved my red glasses, so first I went back to the people at NorthPark, where I’d bought the glasses originally, hoping they could repair them.  Too bad, so sad – they sent me to a jewelry repair place.  The jewelry repair place referred me on to a place in Richardson where they repaired glasses.  I don’t want to talk about how much it cost, but I was desperate.

I felt the same way when the darned things broke again.  So I went back to NorthPark place one more time, hoping that by some sort of magic I could special order a replacement pair – something I hadn’t asked about when I’d gone in hoping they could repair the glasses.  Finally, the glasses elves smiled on me.  I couldn’t get the red glasses, but they still had the same frames in black!  Yes, I had to pay for them, but they did give me a discount after I wailed to high heaven about their “second pair free” promotion.  It just seemed wrong that I’d been through such a painful series of glasses related issues and now they were going to charge me full price to replace the frames I’d originally bought from them.  As I wailed, I never admitted how glad I was that I was not going to have to start from scratch and get new lenses also.

What Now ?

So, I went on for several months more, juggling three pairs of glasses and wishing for the days when I could see without them.  I make do with the computer glasses around the house and keep the other glasses in my purse for use when I am away from home, but it still seems like I am continually looking for one pair or the other.

One day in December I was out running errands when I realized I had my computer glasses on my head.  I walked back to the car and put them there so I wouldn’t lose them – but of course, I did.  Back at home, after I’d changed my clothes I realized my glasses weren’t in the dish in my bathroom where I usually keep them.  So I went back to the car, but they weren’t there.  So I checked the pocket of the jacket I’d worn, but they weren’t there.  I scoured the entire downstairs over and over, thinking I might have set them down somewhere along the way without realizing it.  I checked my purse, the pocket of my jeans, anywhere I could think of that had even the remotest possibility of hiding the glasses.  In the days to come, I would tear up the whole house and go back to every location I visited while running errands.  The glasses had disappeared off the face of the earth.

Weeks later, for some forgotten reason, I wanted the old blow-dryer I used to use, which I keep shoved in a hidden corner of my closet.  Bill uses it sometimes to help build a fire on the grill, but that wasn’t the reason I went digging for it this particular time.  Whatever the reason, I found my computer glasses on the closet floor.  Of course, they were shoved so far back that I had missed them the other  3000 times I’d looked for them.

You may wonder why I’ve taken so much time to tell you of all my recent woes with my glasses, but I had to tell you or the next chapter in my travel tale would not have made any sense.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about our embarkation on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Teach Google to Help You Travel

Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas

TRAVEL TALK: GET OUT THERE!

This afternoon I’ll be boarding Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas for a short cruise in the Gulf.  We dreamed up this idea one recent Sunday evening to celebrate Bill’s birthday and by Tuesday afternoon our cruise was booked.  I would have had it booked the next day, but Bill needed a day to cogitate.  Three weeks later, we’ll be on board.

CTC – Tell Sandra I sent you

How’d You Do That?

Moments after booking our cruise, I shared my glee on Facebook.  That Sunday a friend asked me how I had done it, because she figures that’s the only way she’ll ever convince her husband to go – a last minute decision.  I was a little surprised at the question.  I am so travel-focused I thought nothing of booking a cruise on short notice.  I Googled around Sunday night, had a list of the best bargains ready for Bill Monday morning and called my travel agent Tuesday morning.

Let’s start with the travel agent.  Use one!  Mine is Sandra Rubio at CTC and I highly recommend her, but wherever you are, find one and use them.  I like to do my own preliminary research, but when it comes to booking, I trust Sandra.

See, I have booked online.  It takes forever.  I’ve booked on the phone.  It takes even longer.  What’s worse, you cannot trust anything they tell you.  They don’t know.  They’ve never been there.  They may never have been out of their small town in Minnesota, but they are advising you on how to book your cruise.  You’ll have this one-time transaction with them and you could never find them again if your life depended on it.  Yet you are willing to trust them with at least $1000 of your money and more importantly your vacation!

Any deal you see online, your travel agent can get for you for the exact same price and you don’t pay them a penny in commission.  It’s their job and the cruise lines are so happy for them to do it, they gladly pay them for it.  So please, once you have an idea of your budget and where you want to go – call your travel agent!

What Not to Do!

Amazed that my friend needed coaching on booking a cruise, I asked a few pertinent questions, trying to find out what her issues were.  There were two.  She was using her phone to click Facebook advertisements.  Don’t do that!  Google what you want and do it on a computer – either a desktop or laptop.

My friend said, “When I click on the link, what I get has nothing to do with the ad.  It’s called click bait.  Just don’t.

The other issue is space.  There is only so much you can see on your phone – even if the site is optimized for it.  On a cruise site, whether it is an actual cruise company, your local travel agency or a travel consolidator, there are all kinds of tabs, buttons, searches.  You can look for places, ports, dates, ships – all kinds of stuff, but if you are looking at your phone, its like kissing through a screen door.  You can’t fall in love that way.

Go Googling

Just for fun, I googled “I want to cruise” as I wrote this post.  The first three listings were ads.  Ignore those.  They are actually marked as ads on the results page, but you have no idea how many people I discover who are amazed at this.  They’ve been looking at it for years and never saw it.

The next four results were for a site called “iwantacruise.com.”  Ignore those, too.  Somebody paid big bucks to get that url, but that doesn’t mean they know anything about cruising.  Suspect all sites that mirror your query.  In addition, I usually ignore everything from Yelp, Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon, Thumbtack, Expedia and such until I know more.  All these types of sources let companies pay to get noticed.  It might as well be a straight out ad.  Yes, there are reviews from consumers, but until you know more, you aren’t ready for reviews.

Below that is where the good stuff is – the actual cruise lines and Cruise Critic (which is a great resource).  Because it was a non-specific query, I then got a You Tube video.  A few responses later I found Carnival Cruise Line and found out they have a pretty good website crew, because they dominated the next 10-20 listings.  That still doesn’t tell you whether Carnival is going where you want to go or even if they are a good cruise line, only that they invest money in SEO (search engine optimization) specialists.

In the search above, the first cruise line I got was Royal Caribbean.  You want to know why?  It has to do with what I’ve been looking at recently.  I’ve been all over the internet looking for information for my cruise.  I’ve researched shore excursions, looked for reviews of the on board dining, maps of the ship and the price of beverages.  I’ve been in and out of the Royal Caribbean ‘My Cruises” site, booking my cruise extras.  I’ve got emails in my Gmail from my travel agent about my cruise and an email from Royal Caribbean about my Crown & Anchor membership.  In case you hadn’t realized it yet, Google is nosy.  It makes itself aware of what I am doing on the internet – whether it’s online searches, emails or even social media.  When I asked about a cruise, it assumed I wanted to know about the cruise I was about to board.  A little creepy, but true.

So, to find out what you want to know on the internet, you first have to know what you’re looking at.  What’s clickbait?  What’s an ad?  What’s real?  I live and breathe this stuff, but Google is gambling that we don’t.  If you’re going to use Google as your resource, invest the time in getting to know it.

Long-Tailed Keyword Phrases

This day and time, the more specific your query is, the more likely you will get the information you want.  These types of queries are called long-tailed keyword phrases.  You may not care what they are called, but they are your friend.  When I came home on that recent Sunday night, I didn’t google cruises.  I googled “3 day cruises from Galveston,” because I knew that’s the port I wanted to depart from and because I wanted the shortest cruise I could find.  I also googled a couple of other things like “cheap Galveston cruises.” I usually try several queries to see which gives me the best responses. Then I start shopping, but I’ve already gone on too long about this for one post.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you more.

ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

A Museum Sort of Afternoon

TRAVEL HERE: BRIGHTENING AN OTHERWISE DREARY SUNDAY

So I was just about done with my local art museum.  Lately, every time we showed up for an exhibition, we’d look at each other and ask, “Really?”  I had already tossed the most recent renewal of membership letter into the trash, but a still small voice asked, “Do you know what special exhibitions are coming?”  I didn’t, but I assumed they’d be more of the same stuff which had been disenchanting us for a couple of years.  I was wrong.  Berte Morisot is coming!  Berthe’s exhibition won’t be here at least a year, but I couldn’t abandon the museum when they were organizing a fairly incredible exhibition.  Besides, some of the smaller productions on exhibit right now seemed of interest.  So, I renewed my membership and decided to go to the museum as soon as we could.

 All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins…or Not

Arriving at the Dallas Museum of Art on a recent dreary Sunday, I dropped by the information desk to confirm the location of the exhibits I wanted to see.  We only had two hours before closing  – plenty of time to view my wish list, but not if we wandered aimlessly.  What I did not plan on viewing was an installation created in 2016 titled All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins.  I mean that’s the same vintage as the cheap wine in the grocery store.  Galleries are where you go to see the latest in art.  I think museums should focus on more proven vintages that have been laid down for awhile.  Obviously, there are plenty with another opinion.  All the general public tickets had been sold for the day and only my membership would get us a timed appointment for that particular afternoon.

Taking the bait I bellied up to the membership desk to claim my free, timed viewing ticket.  We had half an hour until our slot so we strolled up the concourse.  We’d seen Truth: 24 Fames Per Second and didn’t need a repeat showing.  We’d also been to the latest installation in the Keir Collection several times since April.  We stuck our head in the gift shop and dropped by the small Focus Gallery exhibiting Hopi Visions.  Interesting, but not among our favorite genres, so after a few minutes we were back on the concourse.

My husband likes to touch things, so he detoured into the Center for Creative Connections.  Tagged C3, this is the area where kids of all ages can make art rather than just look at it.  We looked over the shoulder of a few budding artists, handled a few touchable objects and then returned to the concourse.  We were still a few minutes away from our designated ticket time, so we checked out the Barrel Vault.  This area is ground zero for Contemporary and Modern Art, so we don’t usually spend much time here – you know my vintage issues.  However, one of the side galleries had just what I was looking for, Edward Steichen:  In Exultation of Flowers.

Photograph from DMA.com

In Exultation of Flowers

Love a good story?  Back in the Twentieth Century an artist started painting a mural commissioned by some wealthy New Yorkers.  These members of Art’s Inner Circle knew all the best people and had their artist friend paint these friends of theirs lolly-gagging among flowers.  What’s not to love?  One wants to imagine them and their friends draped across art deco furnishing sipping cocktails and discussing the pros and cons of the completed murals – especially the one featuring Isadora Duncan in the nude.  But that’s not what happened.  By the time the murals were complete, the art patrons were in a bit of a financial bind and had to sell the apartment the murals had been painted for.  The murals were never installed and it’s been over 100 years since they were displayed together.

Enter the DMA, famous among art people today for their restoration and conservation abilities.  The DMA was commissioned to work their magic on Mr. Steichen’s murals and as part of the deal, the DMA would display the finished project.  Museum Girl loved this exhibit.  In truth, the gallery was a little small for the seven monumental murals, but they were delightful to behold, so all was forgiven.

The Psychedelic Portion of our Afternoon

My watch said it was time to view the pumpkins, so we headed to a nearby gallery.  Joining the line outside the large white box containing the installation, we listened to the instructions announced by a docent.  We’d have to put our stuff into the cubbies provided.  We’d be allowed inside the installation for 45 seconds, during which time we could take pictures, but we could not trade places with one another once the door was closed, because there was a falling hazard.  Hubby was whispering derisive comments into my ear, predicting how much we were going to hate this.

He was wrong and he was the first to admit it.  The charming time keeper engaged Bill in conversation as we waited our turn and she made all the difference.  Bill stepped in, oooh and aaaahed for 45 seconds and then we erupted into the rest of the museum.  Later he admitted it was his favorite item of the day.  I still prefer the murals, but the installation is worth at least 45 seconds of your life.

Other Things

On Level Two we found Paris at the Turn of the Century.  Featuring a few tidbits from the Posters of Paris exhibition of a few years ago, these small beauties are displayed in a tiny darkened gallery and did not evoke the joie de vivre of the full blown exhibit.  On Level Three was Art and Trade Along the Silk Road.  I’d forgotten that we’d seen it before.  It’s lovely, but we weren’t covering new ground.  From there we went on to the Reves Collection which continues to be one of our favorite things at the DMA, no matter how many times we see it.

From the DMA we wandered to East Dallas to try out Smokey Rose.  Great ribs, great atmosphere and we can’t wait until the weather is better to try out the patio, but the brisket and mac-and-cheese were less than amazing.

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Shopping, TRAVEL

So Maybe I Am a Little Neurotic

TRAVEL HERE: HOW HAPPY CAN $4 MAKE ME?

I once thought being a procrastinator proved I wasn’t obsessive/compulsive, but then I found procrastination is one of the first noticeable symptoms of the malady.  My friends politely speak of my perfectionism and I try to be normal, but it’s hard.  Recently $4 saved me from myself.

A Change of Seasons

When it came time to change my closet to my fall wardrobe, there was an issue.  I had enough hangers for all my clothes, but for some reason I suddenly didn’t have all the “right” hangers.  See, different kinds of clothes need different kinds of hangers and for some reason my clothes weren’t distributing themselves appropriately on the hangers I had.    I fussed over the problem with elaborate mathematical equations for a while, but finally convinced myself to quit being neurotic and instead be thankful I have clothes, because there are those who don’t.

A History of My Hangers

This hanger issue isn’t a problem I’ve always dealt with.  There was a day when I only had two kinds of hangers – the wire hangers from the dry cleaner and those nice clear plastic ones you get with the clothes you buy.  I didn’t think about hangers at all in in those days, but I did use my “good” hangers for my best clothes and everything else was on a wire hanger.

However, I did notice all the clothes in my mom’s closet were on those nice hangers from the store.  Of course, she worked in retail from the 60’s to the 90’s.  She made sure everything she bought home was on a nice hanger and with wardrobe attrition, eventually everything migrated to the good ones.  In fact, in my career girl days, probably the only reason I had those nice hangers was because of Mom’s generosity.  She gave me clothes for pretty much every occasion and even for no occasion at all, when she found something she wanted me to have and there was no occasion in sight.  Yeah, she was pretty amazing.  While I appreciated Mom’s closet, I guess I wasn’t neurotic yet, because I didn’t covet her closeting habits.

Then I went into real estate and we custom built a house.  You might wonder why selling real estate and building a house had any effect on which hangers I used.  Well, my days in real estate gave me some discretionary funds I hadn’t had access to before and when we moved into the custom house, one of the perks was a dream closet – complete with a dressing table.  One thing led to another and I suddenly had very specific hangers for all my clothes.  My evening clothes went on padded hangers.  Dresses, jackets and blouses went on those clear plastic hangers.  I had specialized multi-tier hangers for skirts and pants.  Everything else went on those white plastic hangers you can buy in bulk.  You cannot imagine the joy this brought me.  I would stand in my closet and derive pleasure from the mere sight of my clothes hanging on their appropriate hangers.  By then, Mom had retired and my closet was actually better than hers!

Maintaining My Obsession

There have been five houses since that customized closet and while none of those closets were quite so grand, I have maintained my penchant for hangers.  I’ve even expanded my collection.  I found heartier versions of the white plastic hangers that work great with jeans and outerwear.  I discovered specialized hangers for tank tops and camisoles.  Did you know they have hangers for boots, too?  To my dismay they “improved” the white plastic hangers, so I now have about four varieties of the white hangers in my closet, but I’ve had learned to ignore that hiccup.

Then suddenly my hangers were all wrong and no amount of switching could right the problem.  The bottom line was that I needed more white plastic hangers, but back in October I told myself I could do without them.  I’d just get by with a few variations on the theme.  Every time a hanger would break, the situation got a little worse.  Then I bought a few items from stores that thought tossing my purchases in a bag was enough. (You’ll be glad to know I didn’t lay down in the floor and have a fit.)  Soon it seemed as if some elf tribe was entering my closet each evening as I slept and trading out good hangers for bad, because it seemed as if the situation was worsening daily.  Every day more and more wire hangers were finding their way into my garments!

Mission Drift

So, what does all that have to do with $4 solving my obsession/compulsion issues.  Well, I was in Target to find a couple of items they’d been out of at Ulta.  Since I was there, I looked into several other items on my list, one of which  took me right by the storage department (though I can’t tell you exactly what item that was.)  There, I discovered a HUGE package of white plastic hangers was $1.99.  I’d been gritting my teeth for months over those “inappropriate” hangers and for less than 200 pennies I could just fix my closet.  I bought two packages!  My clothes are all hanging on the appropriate hangers now and unless those elves I talked about return, I’m set for a couple of years – and all for less than $4.

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Shopping, TRAVEL

Back to My Life

Santa and some of his holiday elves!

TRAVEL HERE: THE LOST CHRISTMAS

This year I missed Christmas.  It wasn’t a planned omission, the way it was when we lived in Wylie.  That year we were camping out in a rent house and my husband encouraged me to keep Christmas in its boxes, because our house was going to be done any minute.  (We didn’t move until April, but I liked his optimism.)  No, Christmas made it out of the boxes and I had Christmas Cards on hand.  It was me that didn’t make it to Christmas.

My Ruth-less Christmases

Mom enjoying a holiday mess

Ruth was my mom and she was Christmas Central.  I lost her in 2013 and since then the holiday has just not been the same.  My family calls me the Queen of Christmas, because in Mom’s final years, it was my duty to provide her with a happy holiday, but I always missed the high mark she set.  (Maybe you saw my poem about that in December.)  In my first Ruth-less Christmas season, I pulled out my decorations and tried to carry on, but about the only sizzle the season had was a little trip Bill and I took to South Texas.

The next year we were in the rent house and perhaps it was her absence, as much as the rather depressing view of the rent house, that persuaded me to leave Christmas in the box.  Our first Christmas in Heath I pulled out all my treasures and decorated with a frenzy, but someone else dear to me was not doing well.  My sweet little Shih Tzu, Precious, was failing.  She waited politely waited until the hubbub was over to slip away, but to me that Christmas is memorable mainly because that white piece of fluff was was slowly fading away.

When 2016’s holiday rolled around I got out all the decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving and was determined to have a good time.  We hosted a couple of holiday parties and I even got Christmas cards out after Bill chastised me for trying to omit them from my holiday calendar.  However, as illustrated below, I have not been thriving at Christmas.

This year I just wasn’t in the mood.  I have no excuses, but the thrill was gone.  Ruth would have been so disappointed.  I didn’t drag out my decorations until the first weekend in December, even though many of my neighbors had been shining professionally-installed lights since before Thanksgiving.  The holiday parties began and we enjoyed a few, but I wasn’t feeling it.

Shopping at the Christmas Market

My Holiday Buddy

While my mom is gone, there is someone who is trying to bring back my delight with the season, my bestie Deborah.  She started early this year.  In mid-November she suggested we go to the Chi Omega Christmas Market at Fair Park.  To pump up my enthusiasm, she invited along a true Christmas elf, Allyson, who had already put a cookie-baking event in the works.  They bounced around the crowded Christmas explosion from one booth to the next, buying up Christmas gifts and reveling in the season.  I had a good time, but I only have a few folks to buy for and no need for Christmas decor, so my favorite part of the day was Tex-Mex at Trinity Groves.

Next up after the spattering of holiday parties was The Cookie Extravaganza.  We had an official meeting to choose recipes and plan our day of baking.  Allyson bought us all aprons and had them monogrammed.  I was more excited about this Christmas event than I had been anything else for years.  See, Ruth loved to cook and at the holidays she fabricated all kinds of treats – divinity topped with walnuts, pecans and maraschino cherries.  In Temple, my beloved Aunt Edie would create date bars, rum balls and even homemade fruit cakes.  But the highlight of Christmas baking was the day set aside for baking cookies.  Deborah and Allyson were bringing back the joy.

Ready to roll out cookies!

The Cookie Extravaganza

I hit the streets bright and early that cookie-baking day and my car was loaded down with ingredients which they’d assigned for me to purchase.  My apron was strapped on when I arrived, we took a picture and then we all went to work – and I do mean work.  We baked five dozen each of ten different recipes.  Exhausted and coming down with something, our hostess, Allyson’s mom, disappeared before we’d even gotten our cookies all divided up.  At the end of the evening, Deb & I hustled around trying to leave the home in reasonable order and Allyson assured us things were fine.

On the way home, I didn’t feel fine.  It was only natural for me to feel exhausted at the end of a day of hard labor, but it was more than that.  I crept into my home with my haul of cookies and put them away in airtight containers.  Then I fell on the sofa in relief.  My throat was scratchy.  I felt a little trembly.  Something was off.

Cookies from the Baking Day

For the balance of the season I played tag with a cold.  My sinuses were blocked, my throat was sore and I just could not quit coughing – no fever though.   Some days I’d get up and have an almost normal day.  I made a few holiday events, but missed even more.  If I don’t make it to church on a Christmas Eve Sunday, you know something is wrong.  I was home alone on Christmas Day.  On New Years Eve I sat at the breakfast table and completed a jigsaw puzzle (whoopee!).

Though I managed to scrape up a few crumbs, for the most part, this Christmas holiday was lost to me.  So, on New Year’s Day, as the TV provided coverage of the Rose Bowl Parade, I started putting away the decorations.  Even that endeavor was hampered by my health.  What I used to do in one day took me three!  But I’m back to my life and even though I’m posting this a few hours late – I’m back to blogging, too.  I hope this will be a great year for you and that you’ll come back on Wednesday.  We’ll be in Sharm el Sheik!