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!

 

 

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, TRAVEL, WRITING

The Year I Tried Too Hard

Travel Here:  Sometimes Your Plans for Christmas Go Awry

I was asked to participate in a Women’s Program at church.  The pastor’s wife suggested I read a poem or a story that reminded everyone to keep their focus on the reason for the season.  I looked around for something in my library or on the web, but I kept thinking I’d lived the perfect example of getting off track.  So I wrote a poem based on a very funny Christmas Day, that wasn’t quite so funny while I was living through it.  I’ve shared it with the ladies at my church and am now sharing it with you.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Year the Hot Rolls Stole Christmas

T’was a few days til Christmas and I was all ready.
The dinner was ordered and the weather was steady.
I’m not a kitchen hero like my Mother and Aunt.
They’d have done it better, that much I will grant.

Gourmet turkey and fixings, pecan pie and more
Would be waiting for me at the grocery store.
I had made a good plan for a perfect dinner,
Had it gone as I’d planned, it would’ve been a winner.

We know what they say about those good intentions.
How many catastrophes have been their inventions?
My Waterloo started with an innocent request
And a very sweet lady who wouldn’t let it rest.

“Can I help with Jane’s dinner?” Eddie Jo asked my mom,
She meant it for good, of that I have not a qualm,
But it turned into a disaster before we were done
I can say that nothing about it was very much fun.

Eddie Jo’s baking prowess was realized far and wide
At a Baptist church known as Lakeside,
But Mom was the baker’s best friend by a mile,
So she was constantly delivered sweets with a smile.

The urge to say no was strong and most wise,
‘Cause Mom’s freezer was full of Eddie Jo’s cakes and pies,
But mother gave in so she could please her friend
And suddenly my peace was about to end.

“How about some hot yeast rolls?” my mother opined.
She had no desire to be mean, cruel or unkind
In her mind she saw formed rolls ready to bake.
She wanted it easy for her daughter’s sake.

‘That’s a wonderful idea,” Eddie Jo agreed with glee.
She wanted to do something thing for little old me,
But a pan full of rolls was not what she provided
A bowl of dough is on what she decided.

When I called my mom, as was my daily habit,
She told me of the rolls, quick as a rabbit.
In spite of my concerns, I did not a fit pitch,
Even though I realized this was a big glitch

“You’ll need to drop by on the day before,
Even though you’ve got errands and chores galore.
And though I know it’s inconvenient, tell her you’re glad.
Any other response will make her very sad.

So, I rearranged my life to pick up the baking sheet
Of yeast rolls to put into the oven and heat.
That’s what my mom told me that I could expect,
When I picked up the bowl, I thought, “What the heck?”

I heard her instructions wearing a terrified smile,
Feeling I’d been given an unnecessary trial.
I called my mom and was filled with terror
She thought I’d succeed without any error.

Twas the morning of Christmas when I pulled out the dough.
I had to form it into balls, which into rolls would grow.
I hate to sound like I’m being picky,
But that dough, let me tell you, was very sticky.

Then I tried to tame it with a little white flour.
I must have worked on it for at least an hour.
Finally, though I feared to wake Bill from his sleeping,
I had to rouse him, because my sanity was seeping.

I was covered in flour from my head to my toes,
With fingers stuck together and dough on my nose.
My husband thought I was trying to be funny.
He said, “Go away and leave me honey.”

That’s when the held back tears started to fall
And my emotional stability hit the bedroom wall.
It wasn’t a joke poor Bill quickly found out.
It was time to get up or he’d be a lout.

Now I must tell you Bill knew less than me
About making rolls, that was easy to see,
But he had to help me or a wife he’d lose.
Together we searched for sticky dough clues.

The pan of rolls certainly looked like a mess,
But now I was late and needed to dress.
I got other foods started and was filled with hope
That family members wouldn’t think me a dope.

The first to arrive was my beloved Aunt Edie.
I was running late and for her help was needy.
The catered food was not cooking with the promised ease.
She heard my despair and rolled up her sleeves.

Mom and Dad arrived with Susan and Larry,
But by then things in the kitchen were crazy and scary.
The decision was made to open presents first,
But my Dad was hungry and his attitude was the worst.

The delay seemed to fix everything but the turkey.
Aunt Edie decided my oven was quirky.
When it was finally time to eat the rest of food
My dad’s comments had become kind of rude.

The very last step was to bake Eddie Jo’s rolls of yeast,
So we started to cover the table with our feast.
I checked on the rolls every few minutes.
Once again my sanity was at its limits.

We said the prayers and each filled their plate,
As on those yeast rolls we continued to wait.
I went back to the oven and opened the door-
And then my chin fell on the floor.

The oven was cold inside, like it had never been heated!
I certainly felt as if my success had been cheated.
My voice rose with frustration, venom and anger.
Those hot rolls had been a big game changer.

My sweet Aunt Edie had been trying to help
When she turned off the oven, so I couldn’t yelp,
But my holiday dinner was turned upside down
And all of my hopes had become a sad frown.

Twas the day of Christmas and I had certainly failed.
This was not how the birth of Christ should be hailed.
It’s not about yeast rolls or turkey or dressing.
It’s God’s love that we should be confessing.

The problem hadn’t been Eddie Jo’s rolls at all.
It was my own attitude that caused me to fall.
Keep your eyes on the reason for the season this year.
His willing sacrifice gave us nothing to fear.

Gather your family and friends. Give to your favorite cause.
It’s even OK to invite Santa Claus,
But keep your heart tied to what matters most,
The Father , the Son and the Holy Ghost.

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Shopping, TRAVEL

Is Variety the Spice of Life?

TRAVEL HERE: AND THE WINNERS ARE…

We give up.  Perhaps the perfect meal kit service doesn’t exist, but we’ve identified some dogs.  He likes Hello Fresh for this and that, but if Home Chef is going to continue to delight me with dishes like Yorkshire Pudding, well I want it, too. Blue Apron, finally fell off the wagon for a variety of reasons. So for now, I’ll be juggling two services and hopefully I’ll figure out a system to insure that we don’t end up with two boxes of food for any particular week as I did a few weeks ago.  Perhaps someday down the road, one of the services will pull ahead of the others, but for now, I’ll just claim variety is the spice of life.

Why Not Blue Apron?

This journey began with several months of Blue Apron.  I’d done my research and read from several sources they were the best value – not the cheapest, but the one who provided the best product for the greatest value.  I loved it so much.  It wasn’t perfect, but it beat my own meal planning and food management, for a while.  Then Bill demanded a change of pace and did he ever get it!  He’s dizzy from the carousel of meal kit services.

As we sat down to discuss who would win the brass ring, I recounted all the reasons I used to love Blue Apron:

  • Interesting gourmet touches with every meal and lots of variety
  • Unique ingredients never available at the local grocery store
  • Usually the highest quality in meats, fish and vegetables – with some uneveness in the beef department and the occasional vegetable fail
  • Clever packaging that was fun to open and unload
  • Cute knick knack bags for their special ingredients
  • Great recipe cards with easy to follow instructions, helpful upscale photos of the cooking process and finally the best pictures of the plated meals
  • They’d made me feel like an accomplished chef

Even with all these pluses, I had to admit they couldn’t be THE meal kit service, because quite frankly, for the last few months, every time we used them all we had were problems and the food wasn’t as good as it used to be.  All the great recipe cards in the world can’t make up for food we don’t want to eat.

Why Hello Fresh?

Can you say Chicken Under a Zucchini Blanket?  Of all the meals we had from any service, this was Bill’s favorite meal – and I have to admit it was a winner.  Their other strengths were:

  • Not a single packaging or quality issue in six meals (something that no other besides Blue Apron can claim)
  • User friendly recipe cards that did the job (if not as well as Blue Apron)
  • Ingredients that were as least as good as what I would pick out for myself at the store
  • Good healthy food that Bill and I both enjoyed (but nothing in the least exotic)

I didn’t want them to be THE meal kit service because:

  • Unpacking my meal was just not as much fun
  • I don’t like the big brown bag per meal or their graphics
  • A little too main-stream-all-the-time for my palate
  • They said Parmesan Crusted Fish and it turned out to be tilapia
  • While the recipe cards did their job, they were less than excellent
    • less than pristine utensils used in cooking photos
    • a downgrade in overall ambiance
    • instructions were good, but not a s good as others
    • finished plate photos are not inspiring

Why Home Chef?

They had me at Yorkshire Pudding!  Not merely the fact that they offered Yorkshire Pudding, but because the dish was easy to make from scratch and it turned out perfect.  Their other two dishes for the week were quite tasty.  Here’s the other reasons they made the cut:

  • While not as adventurous as my friends at Blue Apron, Home Chef does get creative and almost exotic.
  • None of the ingredients were particularly unusual, but they came up with some unique dishes nonetheless
  • Great quality and no ooops yet
  • Clear plastic bags hold most of the ingredients together for each meal.  While this is not as exciting as obsessing over all the separate items in a Blue Apron Box, it beat the big brown grocery bags from Hello Fresh
  •   The recipe cards are great.  They actually offer a few items of information not provided by Blue Apron, but no points for plated dish inspiration.  They use the same distressed wood table for each shot and the same boring white plate.  (YAWN!)
  • I feel more like a chef with Home Chef than I do with Hello Fresh.

Some day they may actually pull ahead and be THE meal kit service, but till then, I’ll keep juggling.

And there you have it.  Wondering what I’ll come up with next week?  Come back and find out!

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Shopping, TRAVEL

Freshly Disappointed

TRAVEL HERE: BYE-BYE FRESHLY AND SUN BASKET

Well, I’m on the decision end of my journey.  I’ve tried these meal kit companies, in this order: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Sun Basket, Home Chef and Freshly.  Two are now out of the running for my on-going business.  Let me tell you why.

Bland, Blah, Boring!

I was skeptical of Freshly from the moment Bill suggested it.  I wanted to be out of the meal planning and food management business, but I like cooking.  Freshly seemed like a pretentious form of frozen food to me, but since he’s the one I’m trying to please, I gave it a shot.

Our first meal was Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Zucchini & Potato Cakes.  These are three of my favorite foods, so it should have been a shoo-in for delicious.  NOT!  Last night we had Chicken Provencal with Roasted Pepper Cauliflower Mash.  Lots of reasons we should have enjoyed it, but we didn’t.  Peppercorn Steak with Carrots and Green Beans is still in the refrigerator, but after choking down two disappointments we’ve already made up our mind.  We’re even going to forfeit the discount on the second week’s delivery.

If you read their packaging, they do warn you they go easy on the seasonings and suggest ways to spice up your meals.  Well thanks, but there is only so much ground pepper and lemon juice can do. If your pork, potatoes and zucchini all taste the same to begin with, just adding condiments is not going to fix them.  The items may then have more flavor, but they don’t taste like pork, potatoes and zucchini with pepper and lemon, they taste like mush you are trying to doctor up with pepper and lemon.  Freshly prepares the meals, flash freezes them and then they defrost on their way to you.  What’s more, that’s exactly what they taste like.

A Basket of Mistakes

Sun Basket’s meals were actually pretty good, but they were fired for cause – two causes, in fact.  First, I hate their recipe book.  It’s a waste of paper for one thing, for another it gets all yucky in the cooking process and finally, their book is bereft of helpful photos and clear instructions.  Instead they have chatty blogs and vague do-this-until-that suggestions.

My second beef with them was the unreliability of their produce and packing.  You may or may not get your seasoning packages.  Your cucumber might have been frozen and rendered useless.  Your lemon might have a big spot on it.  We had six meals and had a least six oops.  I don’t want a weekly $10 refund.  I just want all the ingredients to arrive and for them to be top quality.

Their packaging was of the brown paper bag sort, like Hello Fresh, but while it’s not my preferred method of receiving my stuff, it wasn’t the reason I abandoned them.  With the other two complaints, it was just one more thing I didn’t like.

So, that leaves Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Home Chef.  There are pros and cons to all of them.  So who wins the Meal Kit Challenge?  Come back next week and find out.

 

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Shopping, TRAVEL

Freshly Arrived

TRAVEL HERE: THE FINAL MEAL KIT CONTENDER

Here we are at Meal Kit Service #5 and for this particularly homemaker, the final contender.  Freshly’s box arrived pretty early on a Friday morning and I felt a deep sense of relief.  I’ll tell you why.

Juggling the Vendors

I didn’t exhaust the list of possible vendors, but I saw enough to feel as if I could make a reasonable decision.  If you’re the type who pursues bargains over and above everything I have an idea for you.  Pretty much every meal kit company will give you a bargain on your first week or two.  You could take all of them up on their offers and save lots of grocery money, but I’m warning you, as soon as the bargain week(s) are over, cancel the service.  Juggling them all until you pick the one(s) you want will make you feel like you’re chasing a three ring circus.  It’s a game of we’ll-send-it-unless-you-say-no and you have to say no on a week-by-week basis.  There’s no going to the site and clicking “hold.”

I’ll also say this.  If you’d like to try any of these, let me know.  By referring you to them, I can get discount on a week of food and after all this work, I think I deserve it!  In some cases, you’ll get a free box or a deeper discount, too.  It will also be nice to know that someone is benefiting from my ramblings.

Freshly’s Arrival

“Your food is here,” Bill called up the stairwell.  His office overlooks the front porch, so he’s always the first to know about deliveries.  When I opened the front door, the box was sitting there on it’s side.  Would it kill those delivery guys to set the box upright?  I know it’s a small thing, but it shows a level of pride that just doesn’t seem to be a part of today’s reality.  They could also lean over and ring the doorbell.  They have to know that a Freshly box contains food and if my husband didn’t see them, it would be nice to know food had been delivered – but I digress.

I like the Freshly box. It’s very simple as you can see from the photo, but there’s an elegance about simplicity I appreciate.  As I began to unpack, Bill strolled in to observe.  He’s almost as curious about packaging as I am.  Instead of throwing the insulation materials into the recycle bin, he’s actually recycling them in our attic.  He says we’ll end up with the best insulated house in the neighborhood! 

The items inside the insulating materials were pretty boring.  Six microwave meals in individual cardboard sleeves, printed with the name of the entree.  Blue Apron is still my favorite delivery.  Classy box, attractive packaging and a wonderful assortment of ingredients to marvel at as you unpack the box.

Since Freshly food is already pre-cooked and all you have to do is nuke it, there’s no recipe card to pore over.  I’ll confess, I don’t think this is going to work.  I’ve really enjoyed cooking with meal kits, so this pre-made stuff is probably not going to fly, but we’ll see.  Come back next week for the Freshly reveal.

 

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Shopping, TRAVEL

Dining with Home Chef

Jane Sadek Made Yorkshire Pudding

TRAVEL HERE: THE YORKSHIRE PUDDING MIRACLE

I lost my mom four years ago, but she is so much a part of my life, every day, that you might think she actually lives in my house.  She was my friend, my confidante and the biggest challenge of my life.  In her later years, when preparing holiday feasts had become too difficult for her, one of her favorite things to do in the whole world, was to gather the family for a holiday meal at Lawry’s.  This tradition was not a favorite with my husband, for several reasons.  This is just one of the many situations where I was caught between the two most important people in my life.  Sometimes I sided with Bill, but when it came to Lawry’s, Mom had an edge – Yorkshire Pudding! 

Home Chef Has Yorkshire Pudding?

So, here I am on my tour of meal kit companies and it’s Home Chef’s turn.  One of their choices was Sunday Supper English Roast Steak with Yorkshire Pudding.  I was amazed it was even an option and I doubted it would meet my expectations, but I couldn’t resist it.  Lawry’s isn’t the only place I’ve eaten Yorkshire Pudding, but they certainly did a good job with it.  I confess that as much as I love the dish, I never tried to make it.  I’d looked at recipes and I couldn’t imagine how those instructions could end up being the dish I loved so much.  So here was an excuse to give it a whirl.

Cook Within X 

A little bonus on the Home Chef Recipe Cards is a note to cook a dish within X days of delivery.  I’m food savvy enough to know it’s fish first, then chicken or pork and finally beef, but the little notes on the card remind me – otherwise I would have probably cut right to the Yorkshire Pudding, in spite of what I knew.

Within three days, we were supposed to consume the Parmesan Crusted Salmon, so I made it the first day and was not wowed.  The meal was fine and Bill was content with it, but not me.  I would have enjoyed a little less salad and a little more protein.  Edible, but marginal in my book.  Next up was Seared Chicken with Tzatziki Sauce and Harissa-Roasted Cauliflower and I loved it.  I can’t say it made it to the top of the list, but it was a lot more delicious, in my book, than the salmon. 

Time for Yorkshire Pudding

It was a Saturday night and I recruited Bill to help me with the meal.  He just does steak better than I do, on the stove or on the grill.  Besides, I had my hands full with the Yorkshire Pudding.  I was a little intimidated to see that Home Chef rated this as an “Expert” meal (another little addition to their cards I had not seen elsewhere), but I was determined to conquer it.

Making the Yorkshire Pudding was not as difficult as I thought it might be.  The card warned me of all the possible pitfalls, like not having the pan hot enough or opening the oven door.  I just did what they told me to and voila!  The meal looked so good I pulled out the good china!!

The meal tasted as delicious as it looked.  The beef was sirloin, not Lawry’s prime rib, but otherwise I could have fooled myself into thinking I was back at Thanksgiving dinner with my family.

So, cooking with Home Chef was a lot of fun.  Of the three meals, one was below par in my opinion, one was fine and the third – REMARKABLE!  Next on the list Freshly.  They actually prepare the meal to be micro-waved, so I doubt they will be my final choice, but Bill wanted to give them a try.  Come back next week and see how it went.

 

Architecture, ART, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Of Architectural Significance

Cover of the 2017 tour book

TRAVEL HERE: PRESERVATION DALLAS HONORS A DALLAS LEGEND

Preservation Dallas’ Fall Architectural Tour honored Frank Welch, an architect who passed away earlier in the year.  The day started at The Lamplighter School in North Dallas with a tour and a symposium – a tour because Welch had contributed to the design of the school and a symposium to tell us what we’d be seeing.  After I got over the shock of discovering a former First Lady sitting two rows in front of me at the symposium, my bestie and I made our way to the car.

Regional Modernism

Confession here, and it won’t be a surprise to my usual followers, I’m not all that big on modern anything and Mr. Welch was a master of “Regional Modernism” – think Austin hunting lodge without dead heads.  Give me a Gothic cathedral or Renaissance palace any day of the week, but I’m in the process of growing my preferences.  I have no desire to be one of those little old ladies with pursed lips, panning everything that’s happened in the world since my heydays.  So, while I would have preferred a day devoted to more traditional styles, I was prepared to find things I liked among Mr. Welsh’s houses.

And I did.  Mr. Welch created homes with simple elegant lines.  Nothing fussy.  Perhaps a little plain from the street for my personal taste, but not boring by any stretch of the imagination.  The roofs were either flat or metal. Exteriors were stone or stucco.  In most cases, the entry offered a surprise of some sort: a fanciful metal grill, a whimsical light fixture or even a unique water feature.

Inside form gracefully followed function.  Every home featured a plethora of storage – some homes had bookcases in every room, while cabinets formed most of the walls in others.  No clutter was allowed.  The stars of the show were the staircases, fireplaces and great swaths of counter top.

Perhaps my favorite thing about any Frank Welch house was the integration between interior and exterior spaces.  There was a constant harmonious conversation between the two.  In almost every room, doors provided access to the out of doors, whether that was to a courtyard, a generous screened-in porch or a lakeside lawn.

The Other Side of the Coin

There were also things I didn’t like.  I’m just not into blonde wood floors, white walls, plain doors and an absence of hardware.  I prefer paneled doors in frames, crown molding, fireplace mantles and base boards.  I prefer representational art.  I like gorgeous hardware dripping off of everything.  Most homes had joint offices and while I adore my husband, I don’t want to share office space with him.  I guess the real magic of Frank Welch was he could put things together that I’m not particularly fond of in ways that made for a home I could enjoy.

Even with style differences keeping some of the houses off my love list, each had touches that I had to love. Almost every house had a luxurious gym.  Skylights made even interior rooms bright.  The roof of one large garage was a garden.  While color was almost absent, texture played an important role.

At the end of the day, I loved it.  Preservation Dallas will have another one in the Spring.  You should go ahead and join so you won’t miss it.  And speaking of things you don’t want to miss, on Wednesday we’ll be leaving Heliopolis and heading to Giza.  Join us for the drive.  Then next Monday we’ll get back to the Meal Kit Comparisons.

Architecture, ART, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Touring Homes with Laura Bush

Lamplighter’s North Dallas Farm!

TRAVEL HERE: PRESERVATION DALLAS HOSTS FALL ARCHITECTURAL TOUR

OK, so I don’t actually know Laura Bush and I wasn’t in her entourage as she enjoyed the Preservation Dallas (PD) Fall Architectural Tour, but I did spend my day touring the same houses she did.  For much of that day we were actually in the same houses at the same time.  A few times I could have just wrapped my arm around her and said, “Isn’t this fun?”  To my bestie’s great delight, I didn’t, but honestly, I wanted to. 

Preservation Dallas is My New Thing

I only recently joined PD, but I am so glad I did.  Shortly after joining, I learned about their Fall Architectural Tour.  Deb and I thought it would be a great way to celebrate her birthday, so I bought Patron Tickets unaware that I’d just signed us up for one of the best weekends ever.

The Patron Party was lovely.  Held on the top floor of an architecturally-significant Turtle Creek home, we sipped wine and tasted canapes with an eclectic bunch of movers and shakers.  We made some new friends and I even ran into someone I’d known from the glory days of the DMA’s PM League.  (In case you didn’t know, I call them the glory days, because that’s how I met my husband.)  We were primed for a great day of touring homes designed by the architect Frank Welch.

The Lamplighter School

The day began at The Lamplighter School.  Dallas is full of amazing private schools, but since I’d never had kids, I haven’t spent much time thinking about them.  An optional tour of the school was offered before general registration and even though I had doubts it would be of any great interest, Deb and I rarely miss a thing.

The elementary school is charming.  The tour began in a light-filled library with three kid-sized fire-place nooks for curling up with good books.  The body of the school is a big open classroom with groups of teeny tiny chairs.  A hall lined with paint-daubed smocks leads to a large art classroom redolent with the smell of drying clay, crayons and tempra paint. OK, so this was a pretty cool school – but I hadn’t seen anything yet!

Their newest building is sort of a life lab.  It’s got hydroponic tomatoes from the Dallas Arboretum, science labs and other classrooms.  The central court is a cooking lab with kid-sized counters.  Nearby is the wood-working lab.  Yes, a wood-working lab for primary students.  Now I was really impressed, but the Lamplighter had only begun to strut its stuff.

The large playground begs little ones to come outside and climb all over the colorful play equipment.  Even us big ones had to admit 30 minutes swinging on the rope swing, digging in the sandbox and zipping down the slides would have been fun – but they were way too small for us.

The big surprise was a barn full of farm animals.  When is the last time you visited an elementary school with with’s own chickens, goats, pig and cow.  That’s what I thought!

The Symposium

After the tour we were delivered to the gym for a symposium about the featured architect, but first there was a continental breakfast buffet.  Deb and I connected with some friends who were also enjoying this event and then found seats behind a large gentleman in a navy blue topcoat and an earplug.  Yep, Deb and I were sitting right behind Mrs. Bush’s security detail, we just didn’t realize it yet.

I’ll just come out and say it.  The symposium was (shall we say) a little dry.  These were architects after all and they get paid for thinking on a higher plane than the rest of us.  Of course, at the time, I didn’t realize the nice lady in the tan sweater, who’s neatly bobbed hair bounced with every nod of her head, was our 43rd First Lady.  After I found out, I gave the speakers some grace.  I might have had a hard time putting together coherent sentences with an audience like that.

Unaware of the distraction on the first row, I struggled to pay attention and grasp the information being presented like a scavenger hunt on a long and winding dirt road.  I couldn’t even watch the slides being presented without losing the thread of the conversation.  Deb, on the other hand, blew off the panel completely, enjoyed the slides and speculated on the guy with the earpiece.

Time to Tour

Suddenly, just few feet away, a small petite lady with a familiar face was greeting old friends around her.  The guy in the earpiece moved out of the immediate crush and spoke into his wrist.  I was looking right at First Lady Laura Bush and she had a sweet smile for everyone.

I’m not the groupie sort.  Even when I go to hear one of my favorite people, I’m never one of the ones who crowd the celebrity after his/her presentation for a handshake or a word.  Sometimes I think it would be cool, but I also think it must be stressful to face a crowd like that and I don’t want to be a part of it.  I doubt if I would even attend a meet and greet.  It feels contrived.  In this particular situation, Mrs. Bush was not there in an official capacity, so there was no way I was going to interrupt her enjoyment of the day – but I kind of wanted to.

I think you’d enjoy hearing about the rest of the tour, but I’ve run out of words for today, so come back next week.

 

ART, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, TRAVEL, WRITING

Sean Hannity Visits First Baptist Dallas

TRAVEL HERE: A PEP RALLY FOR PATRIOTS

Sorry!  I have to interrupt this little discussion about meal kit services to talk about a couple of things I like better than food – God and America.  My Liberal friends aren’t required to read this.  It’s meant to be a group hug for my Conservative friends.  Sean Hannity visited First Baptist Dallas yesterday.  I had waffled back and forth between going and not going.  I don’t listen to him often enough to be qualified as a fan, but I have been listening to him for several years now.  At the last minute I decided to take the trek downtown.

The Pre-Service Experience  

I usually spend my Sundays at Rockwall Bible Church.  We have about 35-40 families in our membership – a far cry from First Baptist Dallas.  For this adventure I found FBD’s guest parking garage on their website and let Google Local give me driving directions.  Once I exited off 75, the number of cars headed my way was huge, but everybody was polite.  Even though I ended up in the wrong lane a couple of times, I was always allowed back into the herd with relative ease.  I just didn’t know if this was the usual Sunday morning crowd or whether there were this many other folks who wanted to come see Hannity.

Google Local got me right to the parking garage and I was directed up to the 7th floor of the garage to park.  I decided not to wait on an elevator and hit the stairs.  Along with other invigorating things about this event, I managed to get in a lot of walking.  I found out the church takes up six city blocks!

Once inside FBD, I found out Hannity devotees had turned out in droves and later a parking attendant told me they’d arranged for parking in three extra garages.  This wasn’t Sunday as usual.  The nice greeter who walked me across the foyer and got me going in the right direction assured me this was a much larger crowd than a usual Sunday.  She told me greeters usually escorted guests all the way to the sanctuary, but they changed protocol for this special event.  She seemed disappointed she wasn’t going to have the opportunity to do that and maybe she was.  Imagine how impressed I was when she saw me on my way out and remembered my name!  I was blown away because remembering names is definitely not my spiritual gift 😉

The journey to my pew was something of it’s own adventure.  This place is HUGE and it was wall-to-wall people.  The main floor was packed to capacity, so I had to go to the balcony, which was also filled by the start of the service.  The later morning service was supposed to be even more packed, so I don’t know where they put everyone.

Let Us Sing!

While I don’t usually worship at a mega-church, I’ve been in several.  Let me tell you, there are mega-churches and then there is First Baptist Dallas.  It was so overwhelming I couldn’t even sing the first couple of verses during the opening of the service.  Tears kept filling my eyes and I had a frog in my throat.

Instead of the cold, canned feeling I’ve gotten from visiting other mega-churches, FBD managed to transport me to another level.  I thought to myself, “This is a small picture of what it will be like to worship in heaven.  The choir will be in the millions instead of the hundreds, there won’t be walls and we won’t need the sound equipment, but it’s going to feel just the way this does.”

My imagination went down a rabbit trail thinking about heaven.  I imagined the angels in heaven singing a song I’d written the lyrics for.  With an eternity of worship to fill, they’ll have time for all of us to fulfill our hearts’ desires.  A change of songs brought me back to the present and soon Sean Hannity was on stage with Dr. Jeffers.  Hannity got two standing ovations before he ever said a word.  The audience was charged up.

A Simple Story of Faith and an Invitation.

The audience might have been charged up, but Hannity was just himself.  Dr. Jeffers asked him to share his personal testimony and Hannity told us his unremarkable story that made all the difference in his life.  I’m sure you can get a recording of it from FBD, but for such a celebrity to have such a humble vision of themselves was refreshing.

Dr. Jeffers’ follow-up question was about the movie Hannity had come to promote, Let There Be Light.  Again, humility.  There was a natural pride showing from being part of a good thing, but no superlatives.  He invited us to see it when it comes out on Friday and suggested bringing unbelievers to be a part of the experience.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that.  My admiration for him doubled and I will see the movie.

America at the Crossroads

Then Dr. Jeffers took over and presented a sermon on his new book America at the Crossroads.  The skeptics out there are thinking, “Aha, I bet they were selling copies in the lobby.”  You’d be wrong about that.  They were giving them away.

Many Liberals think Conservatives are against everything, but this was a celebration.  Dr. Jeffers is concerned about our nation, but his solutions are all about embracing life, family and faith.  The sanctuary was filled with hope and hope is one of my favorite things.  It was also about love.

Perhaps one of the most important things he said was that we don’t get to heaven in a groupThe only way to get there is one by one.  And we don’t win people to the Lord in crowds.  We reach them one at a time, one person to another.  That gave me hope.  I’m not a Sean Hannity.  I have an audience, but it is small – minuscule in the full scope of things.  I have fun sharing my travels and talking about food, but that’s not what I’m here for.  I’m here to share hope and if I do that from time to time, then I’m fulfilling my role in the big scheme of things.

On Wednesday we’ll be back in Egypt, doing a little belly dancing and Friday we’ll talk about staging for your home’s photo shoot.  So my visit to see Sean Hannity did not turn me into a flaming Conservative that can’t talk about anything but politics.  I’m still just me.

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Shopping, TRAVEL

Home Chef Arrives at My House

Welcome to Our House!

TRAVEL HERE: HOME CHEF STARTS OUT ON THE RIGHT FOOT

Well, here we are, trying out meal kit company number four.  A blogging friend told me to give it up and go to the grocery store, but obviously he’s got a better grocer than I’ve got out here in the boonies.  Hubby thought it was good advice, but I’m not giving up yet.

The Home Chef Vibes are Good

The proof might be in the pudding, but I have to admit, my scrutiny begins when my box of groceries arrives on the front porch.  Home Chef (HC)arrived before 11 AM.  That put it on par with Blue Apron (BA) and Sun Basket (SB).  I even liked the box.  Nothing fancy, just a logo and line drawings of fresh produce.  A box isn’t everything, but it’s something.  So far, my least favorite box is Hello Fresh (HF).  It seemed as if if were trying to hard to be happy and fresh.

Opening the HC box, I was glad to see someone had thought it through.  On top were recipe cards, my preferred format, just like with BA and HF.  SB’s recipe magazine was not my friend.  What’s more they provided a binder for the recipes and hole-punched the cards.  You’d think they already knew me.  Their packaging materials were customized and attractive.

Comparing the HC recipe cards to BA and HF, put HC somewhere in the middle.  BA has remained my favorite recipe card and one reason is their pictures of the finished plates.  Each photo is a mini-masterpiece with an attention to every item in the shot.  Without resorting to fine china, a unique place-setting is created for each meal.  I appreciate that.  These’s really nothing fancy in the photos, but someone with an imagination set them up and they use a variety of table accouterments.

HF has unique shots for each plate, but the settings don’t inspire me.  The only tables HF seems to have are distressed wood, which might be in vogue, but are a bit depressing to me.  When plates, cutlery and linens are in the shot, they aren’t to my taste, either.  Chances are the millennials out there might approve of the sleek minimalism, but it just looks boring to me – and careless.  The picture of my favorite HF meal featured a wrinkled napkin, but at least it had a napkin!  When HF has sandwiches they forego a plate altogether and set the sandwich right on the counter.  Maybe they’ll add a napkin or some white butcher paper – or maybe they won’t.

HC uses the same depressed wood table and plain white plate in every shot.  Talk about boring.  But they have other things on the recipe card that keeps them out of last place.  They have the nutrition information right on the card, rather than sending you a separate card with the weeks nutrition information all in the same place as HF does.  HC’s pans and utensils are a little more upscale than the HF choices.  If I can get past the same boring plate every day, I might end up enjoying the service.

Perfect Packaging

Move over BA, you have some competition.  The ingredients for each HC meal are packed together in their own clear bag, stamped with the name of the meal.  The clear bag gives you an exciting peek at what’s in store, unlike the brown paper bags of SB and HF.  I can already tell the ingredients provided do not have the quality and uniqueness of BA, but that uniqueness is what got me in trouble with my husband.  The crisp, clear packaging doesn’t put HC ahead of BA, but it puts them ahead of SB and HF.

So how was it to cook and eat their meals?  Come back next week and I’ll tell you.