ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE: A BIG WEEKEND

A Good Excuse for Fun!

So last weekend was my husband’s birthday. It was sort of a milestone for him and he decided to live large! In fact, he started looking forward to it a day early, when usually he does his best to ignore it. So, Thursday afternoon he pulled out one of the good bottles of wine and enjoyed smoking his hookah in our sunroom.

Friday Night Date

The celebration, which started on Thursday, kept going on Friday night. You have to know that Friday nights are pretty quiet around here, usually. We don’t like to fight the big crowds, but we researched several Dallas restaurants, trying to find something new. We finally gave it up and went to Fire and Fable, something in Rockwall I’d tried out for coffee the week before. I found out they had a bar and stayed open 10 to 10, so we gave it a shot.

Warning it’s a little confusing. They bill themselves as a bookshop bistro, but when you walk in, the first thing you see is a pastry counter. In truth, the ladies at the counter were a tad bit more interested in whatever they were doing than they were about seeing if we were taken care of. We told them we were going to the bar, but then decided maybe we’d prefer to eat, but having already talked to us, they weren’t going to give us their attention again.

So, we walked through the next bit, which is actually bookshopish and found ourselves in a line, but we weren’t sure what we were waiting for. Chatting up the group ahead of us, we found out they’d just been called to their table, and we were in the right place to put our name on the list. They were seated and after a bit of a wait, the hostess asked us what we wanted.

She put us on the list for a table, but then found us a place to sit in the bar. We ordered drinks and an appetizer. Then we sat back to enjoy the show. All the cool kids were there being cool, so it was quiet entertaining. The service was slow, but I can only imagine what kind of chaos going on back in the kitchen, because the place was jamming.

Our appetizer was fried artichoke hearts and I cannot heartily endorse them, but in spite of that, I think you should go check it out – just maybe not on a Friday evening. We managed to wrench our check from the waiter and get it paid. Then we escaped out the back door. The hostess texted us our table was ready, just about the time we got home.

Saturday Night Date

You know it’s a big weekend if we go out twice!! Bill joined my bestie and I on our Saturday afternoon adventure, which happened to be a movie. We saw A Man Called Otto with Tom Hanks. It was really heartwarming, but you have to sit through a lot of sadness to get to the good part. All three of us gave it a thumbs up!

But that’s not all. On a walk around The Harbor earlier in the week, I suggested to Bill the new Sear Steakhouse might be a good place to celebrate his birthday. He allowed that it might be, but he hadn’t worn his glasses and couldn’t see the menu posted outside the restaurant. He checked out their website once he got home, which didn’t have pricing and decided it would not be a good place to go.

Well, Deb decided to take him to 360° for a drink. 360° is the circular bar outside Sear Steakhouse – perfect for a sunset drink, since it overlooks Lake Ray Hubbard, but it worked fine for a drink (or two) in the dark, too. I must say we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and after a look at the menu (he had his glasses) we decided we could even afford to eat there!

Sunday Night Date

Nah! We didn’t go out again. After church, we both went to our offices to catch up on things which needed our attention. When dinner rolled around, however, Mr. Bill did cook up some falafel sandwiches and it was very good.

It was a really good weekend and we had a lot of fun. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you’ll come to visit again next week.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Stardust in Our Eyes

Travel There – Ellen’s Amazing Stardust Diner

So, Deb and I are a great pair for traveling. I need her input. I am Museum Girl. I can find wonderful museums and historic homes almost anyplace you put me, but I am restaurant and bar challenged. In part, because I have a pretty solitary existence here in my home office, while Deb goes into a brick-and-mortar office everyday and has an eclectic group of coworkers who point her to the good stuff.

I’m so glad someone pointed her to the Stardust Diner. Believe me, it’s not the sort of place I would have wandered in on my own. It’s a neon-covered corner building which appears to have seen better days. At times it has a line wandering down the street from it, but that didn’t encourage me either. You wonder if they’ve got a gambling den or something nefarious going on.

Well, Ellen’s Stardust Diner is where future Broadway stars make a living until they make it big, alongside the guy and gals in the chorus, who need to pay rent. The diner is stuffed with linoleum topped tables and vinyl booths. There is no theme and the walls are covered with faded photographs. The menu is your basic diner food.

What set Ellen’s apart is the attitude and a slim catwalk running through the center of the restaurant. Other restaurants and establishments in the area employ wannabe Broadway stars, but they treat them like regular employees, who are supposed to show up for work, even if they have an audition, and if you actually end up getting a part, they’ll fill your spot and you won’t be invited back.

You also won’t sing. At Ellen’s auditions and casting are the lifeblood of her employees, so your work schedule is set around your singing career. When you finish with a booking, be it a few day or a few years, Ellen will fit you back into the schedule. And you will sing.

All day, every day, from the crack of dawn until after the bars close, someone is on that catwalk belting their heart out. And these folks are good. Not the girl-back-home-who-sings-solos-in-church good, but Broadway good. One after another, male, female and otherwise, tall, short, gorgeous and ugly, people with amazing voices grab a mic and balance on the catwalk, while belting out some of the best music you will hear in the Big Apple.

When we passed by the Diner just after sunset there was a very discouraging line running down the side of the building and it was misting rain. So, we gave it a little while and came back later. There was still a line, but it wasn’t raining and the line was somewhat shorter. We had nowhere else to be, so we just waited it out. And you are going to wait, because no one wants to move too quickly at the Stardust. Don’t go when you’re starving, because after you wait in line, you’ll need to wait on your food.

Singing is the main attraction at the Stardust, but there’s nothing wrong with the food. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and a chocolate shake. Deb had the Ruby Rueben. Both meals were great. We thought about dessert, as an excuse to stay longer, but what with the Junior’s cheesecake earlier in the day and my chocolate shake, I couldn’t face it!

Time to head back to the hotel. You come back next week and join us on our visit to Lady Liberty. It’s one of those things you have to do and it is well worth the time and effort to do so.

Accommodations, Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Walking Tour of Broadway

Travel There – Just a Couple of Texas Girls in the Big City

As soon as we got our stuff stowed away we hit the streets of NYC. In just a few steps we figured out the Sheraton New York Times Square is the perfect place to stay. Don’t let them put you in the Four Points by Sheraton Times Square, that’s a whole ‘nother place and I am so glad a fought the battle to get where we wanted to be. We were right in the middle of everything without being in the insanity of Broadway itself.

Broadway, just a few blocks away, was insane and I am glad we had a buffer zone. They smoke pot everywhere in NYC, but on Broadway they smoke it a lot and they want to sell it to you. They also want to sell you fake designer bags. I could have done away with that whole vibe, but you just have to take New York City as it comes at you.

You also get mobs of people all the time. Later in the trip we’d be there on a weekend evening and we would really understand exactly how crazy it could get, but for our first day in the city, it was crazy enough.

We hadn’t scheduled anything specific for our day of arrival, because air travel is so unreliable these days. I didn’t want to have tickets riding on me getting there on time and we’re still stuck in the air somewhere. So the plan was to stroll Broadway and see what we could see…or eat.

Junior’s Cheesecake

Our first stop on our tour of Broadway was one of the best of the trip and we repeated it several times. I had read in my research that THE place to have authentic New York Cheesecake was Junior’s. I cannot speak to the authenticity, but oh my goodness, can I ever speak to how delicious it was. We both love cheesecake, but if possible we love Junior’s Cheesecake more than any other we’ve ever had. Deb liked it best topped with various fruits. I had mine plain, but there was nothing plain about it.

Our Key to the City

Broadway, Junior’s and a MetroCard. We were knocking it out of the park in the first few hours we were there. This was not Deb’s first NYC rodeo, so we decided we’d be brave and use the subway system. She had the app and I had the maps.

On our stroll down Broadway we dipped into the subway and purchased a MetroCard, loading it up with rides for the next week. We weren’t ready to use it, but we’d be getting up early the next morning to head to the Statue of Liberty, so we wanted to be ready!

The Biggest Department Store in the World

Confession, I am not a big fan of Macy’s. Well, to tell the truth, I’m not a big fan of department stores, with perhaps the exception of Neiman’s and Nordstrom’s – but I don’t even shop there. I just eat and browse. I am a bargain hunter, so most of my purchases actually occur at one of the stores at the outlet mall.

However, this is New York, the home of Macy’s, so I wanted to be able to say I shopped there. We’d timed our trip to attend a christening, so I planned on buying my gift at the famous store. It is big, ridiculously big, but just like the closest one at Firewheel Town Center, they are short-handed and you are going to have to help yourself.

We found the baby department and I found a darling pink cotton knit sweater with matching socks in the Ralph Lauren section. They were embroidered with the familiar logo in baby blue. They do not, however, have gift wrapping, so I ended up buying a gift bag and card a few stories up in the stationary department.

Deb and I went all the way to the top and rode all the way down on the escalators. Towards the top, they still had the old original wooden escalators. That was something to write home about.

Back Up Broadway

Our goal was Greeley Square and we made it. We tucked over to the Empire State Building just to say I’d been there. We saw Herald Square, Times Square and Duffy Square. We were ticking off the sites!

The evening had set in, but we were still full of cheesecake and the line at the Stardust Cafe was intimidating. So, we went back to the Sheraton, found the bar and celebrated our first day in New York at Happy Hour.

Here’s a few photos from our day. Come back next week and we’ll visit the Stardust Cafe.

DFW Metroplex, Fashion, Photo Organization Coach, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Shopping, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

TRAVEL HERE: BLUE MESA, CHUCK, ALFREDO’S & FERAH’S

Polka Dot Dinner at Blue Mesa

Rolling it back to Thursday, I have to tell you about Polka Dot Powerhouse. If you need an international women’s group in your networking mix, here you go. Yes, you can connect with women all over the US, as well as the rest of the world. I joined to get to know some Rockwall women better, but the Networking Gods intervened and now, twice month I travel over to the Stonebridge Area to connect with some of the coolest women you can imagine. Second Thursday is at Blue Mesa Granite Park and fourth Monday to Kelly’s Craft Tavern Stonebriar. Let me know and I’ll get you in.

Getting to Granite Park for dinner is quite a commitment for me. I wake up so early that I’m powering down by about 7, but for my Dots, I crawl in the car around 5 PM and drive to the other side of the world for the 6:30 meeting. I can usually make it in an hour, but since I have to go over the dreaded I-30 bridge, I must add half an hour, just in case.

Totally worth it! I’ll leave it at that, but it’s not all business. These women are fun and business is not the focus, but the result. The theme is, build the relationships and the business will come, and they’re serious about it. I do a lot of networking and they ALL say you should build relationships, but nobody does it better than the Dots. So join me for a lunch or a dinner and find out what I mean.

Chuck

So, I don’t watch a lot of TV and when I do I usually hate it, but I love Chuck! Computer nerd working at the local big box electronics store inadvertently becomes a CIA asset when his brain is downloaded with a program called the Intersect. That’s the plotline, but it doesn’t begin to describe the fun you are about to have when you start watching it. There’s violence, but it’s obviously make-believe and they use tranq guns more often than live ammo. See, Chuck doesn’t believe in killing people. It’s sexy, but nothing you’d be afraid of your four year old watching. They do cuss, but it’s the light stuff for effect, not the shock treatment you get on most modern TV. So your four year old has already heard all of it.

Anyway, I won’t wear you down with more, but that was my Friday night, my Saturday night and the cliff hanger was so good, I watched an episode after church on Sunday. I have to slow down though. There’s only one season left and I have no idea what I am going to do without it. I don’t think there’s any other good clean fun designed for adults.

Alfredo’s

I wish it were not so, but the restaurant my car most frequently goes to is Alfredo’s in Forney. That’s where FANG (Forney Area Networking Group) meets every Tuesday. It’s the one networking meeting I try to make every week, because this is my gang. It’s really more like visiting family than it is going to a networking meeting, but over the years, I have gotten some darned good business from it.

It’s also where my friend Susan Bennett-White has her WWW (Wine, Women and Wealth) meeting. It’s a monthly financial seminar for women with great networking and the opportunity for spotlighting your business. I admit, I go for the networking. I am married to Mr. Finance, but the WWW tips are always good and I’ve racked up some good leads.

So, why in the world would I go there on a Saturday morning, right? Well, a lead I got at the November WWW suggested we meet there for breakfast and she’s so excited about Forever, I would have met her on the moon if she’d suggested it.

What a morning! First, I missed a turn on the way there and was forced to wander around the backroads between Heath and Forney – but I was only a few minutes late. Then my laptop totally failed me. For reasons unknown and totally unrelated to the Alfredo’s location, because not it won’t go online anywhere, now. Then she had her granddaughter with her, which in most cases would have been totally fine, but with no visual aids to assist me, I was going head to head with whatever the granddaughter was playing on her tablet, her complaint about the restroom being in use, her ginormous breakfast order and the side of sausage which was delivered later. Still, Forever won the day and I have a new client.

Finally, Ferah’s!

So, after a week with six networking meetings, five 1:1 meetings and a failing laptop, it was time to play. When I left Alfredo’s, I headed to meet my bestie at Ferah Tex-Med Kitchen. And no, that’s not a typo, Ferah’s fuses Mediterranean dishes with Texican favorites for something that will both surprise and delight you.

The first thing I ordered was a Sauvignon Blanc. Then we shared the Chef’s Sampler Platter with Falafel, Fried Goat Cheese, Crab Cake, Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates, Hummus and Pita Bread. How do you say delicious in TexMed? I’m not sure, but I am sure you’ll love it.

Instead of dessert, we chose shopping therapy. A little Ulta’s for some of life’s necessities, like a new mascara I didn’t really need, but the tube was so cute. Enough Chico’s to confirm we love their outlet store and DSW. I told myself I didn’t really need any shoes and I didn’t until I strolled through the clearance racks.

Now, if you love DSW, I don’t have to tell you about the clearance racks. I don’t even look at shoes which aren’t on clearance, but I have another filter. The shoes are tagged by colors indicating from 20-60% off. The percentage of the colors change week by week instead of having to re-tag them. Whatever colors are 50-60% off, those are the only ones I will seriously consider and they better be really good for me to even be interested.

I’m hard on shoes and my feet are getting more picky about what they will wear, so those off-brands you’ve never heard of, they don’t get much of a look either, but JLo’s and Jessica Simpson’s? I couldn’t name any of their tunes, but I love their shoes. JLo was really styling this time, as was Jessica and Adirenne Vittadini, she had a stunner, too.

I walked out with four pairs. Three of them were legit purchases based on things which fit right into my current wardrobe. This metallic orange number with the rhinestone aglets? No reason and no excuses. They just weren’t going to let me walk away without them. It won’t be long until they tell me what to wear them with, either.

So that’s the weekend. Sunday I went to church and then spent the rest of the day getting caught up with stuff, like this post. Keep coming back. Travel Talk and Memory Keeping 101 will keep coming at you, just like the Weekend Report!

ART, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, Photo Organization, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Scrapbooking, WRITING

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – NCFCA AT DBU, AT MY DESK & TAKING DOWN THE TREE

National Christian Forensics and Communications Association

Once upon a time, before there was a Spot On Images and we lived in Dallas, I used to attend Dallas Christian Writers Guild. Somehow that ended up taking me to Denton for a group of writers I can’t remember the name of. While I was never able to sell my novel, I did make some great friends. One of them, Rachel, invited me to judge at a speech tournament. By then, I’d figured out the market was focused on paranormal young adult fiction and wasn’t interested in a simple romance at a retirement center. I’d also moved to Wylie.

Rachel suggested I give judging a whirl. The tournament was going to be in Wylie at a church almost around the corner from our rental. She had no idea I’d been on the speech team at Bryan Adams High School. NCFCA, to which her children belonged, just needed community judges. She thought I’d be good at it, because she’d observed me critique the works of my fellow writers. I was flattered at the time and agreed to do it.

Now, I’ve got to admit. These kids blew me away. I’d belonged to the National Forensics League back in the late 60/early 70’s. My fondest memories of the time was a trip to a Houston tournament in Jimmy Johnson’s red Impala convertible. After our sponsor threatened our lives if we went to Galveston, we, of course, snuck out and went to Galveston. It was 10 minutes on the beach and we had to head back, but the exhilaration of the outing stays with me, even today.

The home-schooled members of NCFCA are dead serious about their craft, unlike us crazy public school kids, who just wanted a reason to get away from home. Don’t get me wrong, we had some really great people on the speech squad, who would walk away with all the trophies, but most of us were just there for a good time. NCFCA members are all there to compete!

Anyway, I loved the experience and have continued to volunteer every time I can. We moved to Rockwall and I discovered many of the families in the church participated in NCFCA, but that’s really not my primary motivator. I really just love the kids and love the experience of the speech tournaments. If you are the least bit intrigued by it, I think you should follow the link above and give it a try. They have a tournament over in Ft. Worth in March. I’d love to have someone to carpool with.

Last weekend they had a tournament at Dallas Baptist University and even though I was fighting with allergies, I went ahead and judged, because I love it so. I was not disappointed. It took the whole day. I judged four events and the commute was substantial, but I loved it.

Bill was not amused. I left the house at 8am and got home after 9:30 pm. The allergy symptoms I had been fighting were winning the battle and I was miserable, but my faith in the upcoming generation was renewed. I have hope things are going to be better in the world when these guys take over. Come with me in March and let’s help the next generation blossom!

Digital Photobook Project

If you read this blog at all, you know I’m all about scrapbooking and I have a business devoted to it, but I also offer digital solutions. I booked a new digital assignment which needed a quick turnaround, so I was afraid starting it from scratch would take too long. I decided to create the photobook from one of the gorgeous templates Forever has on their site, but that was totally new to me, because I usually create photobooks from scratch in Artisan. As if that weren’t challenging enough, I also decided to use the album planner in the Historian program.

I had assumed there was some sort of integration between the Historian album planner and the photobook templates on the Forever site. What is it they say? “Don’t never assume nothing.” Yes, I found the album planner to be a great tool, but it would have been an even better tool if I could have clicked a few buttons and automatically populated the template.

My other challenge had to do with saving the template in some format which would let me stop somewhere along the way. I knew there had to be a way, because few people can sit down and do a whole album in one sitting. After exhausting all the methods which made sense to me and losing a couple of starts, I had to call customer service for some help. I am happy to report in a few minutes I had talked to someone very knowledgeable who had all the answers I needed. The solution was easy, just not intuitive.

I finished the photobook and got it ready for my client to proof. However, I do have several integration innovations to suggest to Forever. The photobook templates are lovely, the Historian album planner is a great tool and Artisan is an amazing scrapbooking program. However, these three products need to be able to shake one another’s hand. Integration of their products is one of the big jobs at Forever, but Job One is always the security of the online storage. What might seem simple or apparent as a product feature isn’t going to happen until the Forever engineers are 100% certain it won’t compromise the storage. So while I might fuss a little bit, I’m happy Forever does things the way they do.

Taking Down the Tree

Client’s rush order out of the way, the Christmas tree standing in my living room was the next challenge. I usually go to church on Sunday mornings, but this week I was just too puny to do so. Yet, I was also feeling too good to sit on the sofa and vegetate, so I started the job. I gave it a good three hours and got about two thirds of the way through before I ran out of steam.

Then my bestie came over and we indulged in one of our favorite comfort foods, chicken pot pie! Later Bill dragged me to Olive Garden for dinner. He had a plan to maximize his monetary investment while feeding both of us. Good job Bill. We may be eating Olive Garden to go orders and leftovers all week, but you proved just how much food you could get for under $50!

The Christmas tree project was Job One for me on Monday. It’s time to get over the holidays and get back to real life. Come back next week for more adventures of Jane. Wednesday is Travel Talk and we’ll be talking about some Southwest challenges which happened long before the recent meltdown and Thursday we’re talking about what it costs to build a scrapbooking page. Looking forward to chatting with you!

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Bye Bye Vegas – We’re Happy to Go!

Travel There – Trial by Footsteps

Among Bill’s photos of our trip was this screenshot from his Fitbit. In spite of the Deuce and the Big Bus, we got in a lot of steps during our Vegas vacation. I was really surprised it was so many. It’s no wonder I was exhausted at the end of each day. I’m not accustomed to so much walking.

Now it was time to go. It was a busy morning for delivering photos, as most Fridays are in our business. Even though our flight was not until four, we needed to be out of the room by 11 and it was a close call.

We checked our luggage with the Bellman Desk and headed over to the Bellagio. Bill had visions of a lovely sit down breakfast, much as he does when he sleeps late on a cruise and the results were the same. All the sit-down breakfast venues were closed. We were left with a short order café called Quick Eats which featured American fare. Not exactly our dream come true. There was a lovely view onto a courtyard, but that’s about all there is to recommend it. Even the coffee was bad.

Still, we didn’t have much time to linger, because the company providing transfers wanted to deliver us to the airport hours and hours before our flight. We went to the bellman and retrieved our luggage, because we had to drag it over to that non-descript entrance at the back of the hotel where vans drop off and pick up their patrons. Paris, please note, this arrangement for arrivals and departures is not conducive to happy memories of a stay. You initial interaction with the hotel is less than warm and fuzzy, but it’s the departure that leaves the worst taste in your mouth, because you are stuck in this awkward place waiting for your transportation.

We did all the stuff you have to do to get on a plane these day, including all the stupidity Southwest includes as you board your plane. The most exciting thing about the whole thing was the Aunt Annie’s Pretzel I had for a snack.

Of course, we weren’t able to sit together, so it was a lonely flight. We arrived back in Dallas after 8:30 pm. Our bags arrived with no trouble, but then there’s that long walk to the long term parking. It was after 10 when we got home and I went straight to bed.

At that point I had no idea what my next trip would be and if you’d offered me another free trip to Las Vegas, I would have just laughed. I may have not known what my next trip would be, but if you come back next week, you’ll find out!

DFW Metroplex, Photo Organization, Photo Organization Coach, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Scrapbooking, Shopping

The Weekend Report

Travel Here – Holiday Parties and BBQ in Downtown Rockwall

Holiday Parties

White Elephant

Scooching back to Thursday, I had a spate of holiday events at the end of last week. Thursday morning was a monthly networking event in Turtle Creek . In truth, I didn’t see a single gift which made me want to take it home. The gift I took got oohs and aahhs and was one of the few which was traded, but I confess it was a re-gift. Well, not exactly a re-gift. I’d won the tea mug in a raffle and the last thing I need is another dish or mug. My cupboards runneth over. So, I saved it for something like the gift exchange.

I opened the Binge-Watching Survival Kit – a White Elephant gift on steroids. Inside are 2 face-cleansing towelettes, 2 dental floss, breath drops, emergency socks, 2 stain removing towelettes, 2 coasters, snack clip, 2 hand cleaning towelettes, 2 folding sporks, facial tissues and a sofa yoga guide. Do you actually think there is any difference at all in the face cleansing and hand cleaning towelettes? The only thing I found remotely entertaining was the “Decision Coin.” One side says “One More,” while the other says, “Go to Bed.”

For now, I’m holding on to it, in case another gift exchange rears it’s ugly head. I’ll probably break it up after the holidays, putting some of it in the car for emergencies and the clip chip in the kitchen, but that spork is going into the trash. The metal box will be great for stickers!

HOA Party

That evening our HOA held a Christmas party for the neighborhood. I knew they’d have the same old fajita buffet they usually do and the same old people, too. When we moved here, I’d hoped we’d have neighborly neighbors and at first it seemed we did. Then things went left. One thing led to another and let’s just say the no drama llama wouldn’t be comfortable on my street.

In spite of the drama we’ve been through, we do have the very best next door neighbors in the world, but I knew they were traveling, so I would have stayed home. Since Bill wanted to go, we went. We got our plates of food and the only people we did know had already filled up a table, so we sat down with strangers. I want you to know they were very nice, but their endeavors to get to know us were so intense we felt like we were suffering an interrogation. We shoveled down our fajitas and high-tailed it back home.

Wine Glass Exchange

One of our very favorite clients has an annual wine glass exchange during the holidays. I was invited for the first time previous to the pandemic and I was all out of kilter. I’d bought a beautiful bejeweled wine glass to exchange, but discovered raunchy was the name of the game. The glasses most frequently traded were those with the naughtiest sayings. Everyone, but me, had brought in food, even though the invitation said nothing about it. The invitation did say BYOB, but most of the bottles were hard liquor and they were sharing cocktails. I took home my bottle of prosecco and the only portion missing was what I drank.

The pandemic caused a two year hiatus, but this holiday it was back on. While raunchy is not my style, I did manage to find a glass with some sass. I took a plate of desserts and a bottle of champagne. It was good champagne, but even though I only had one glass, the champagne was gone within five minutes. The fudge on the dessert plate seemed be a hit. I felt much more in the groove.

When we gathered around the tree, I discovered I had been a trend-setter two years ago. This year be-dazzled glasses were the trend and my sassy glass went to the dead pool. The gift I opened was not a wine glass at all, but a water goblet. I had seen it earlier in the day, on clearance at Hobby Lobby. My gift exchange luck was holding at bad.

Saturday Afternoon Fun

Downtown Rockwall

I woke up Saturday and hit my scrapbooking table. I had lunch planned with my bestie after her dance lesson, but I’m working on a huge sorting project and all the holiday folderol had kept me away from it. By the time I met her downtown, I’d made some headway on the project.

When we moved to Heath back in 2015, Downtown Rockwall was pretty sad. There was some renovation going on, but there were more vacancies than businesses in the storefronts around the square. That’s all in the past now. As I stood on a corner waiting for bestie to show up, I was pleased by the hustle and bustle around me. There are no more vacancies. It makes parking a hassle, but it’s a good hassle to have.

Though we have several favorites in Downtown now, we opted for something new, Community BBQ and Grill. Their website says they won Best of 2020 from C&S Media, but since they are still in their soft opening, there’s something fishy there. The site also says they are “traditional, not typical,” and that I can vouch for. We had the ribs (if there are ribs, we always have ribs) and they were eat-with-a-fork good. That’s how much meat they had on them.

The fried okra was served piping hot and delicious. The rolls were good, too. I can’t vouch for the mac & cheese. Not sure what’s going on there. The mac was spiral pasta and the cheese was a runny sauce. However, Deb had the cole slaw and she said it was both fresh and delicious. Wine was free, because they don’t have a license yet. It was a nice Pinot Grigio.

Hunger sated, I had one more Christmas gift to buy, so we went down to Bella’s House on the Square. There are several stores I enjoy visiting on the Square, but I know Bella’s has Brighton and that’s what I wanted. I managed to only leave with the gift, but several other things would have loved to come home with me. Deb bought a Christmas ornament, but I don’t have anymore limbs on my tree and I think Bill would have a conniption if I came home with any holiday decor.

Scrapbook Delivery

I had one more to-do on my list, but it wasn’t downtown and I couldn’t take my bestie. The scrapbooking project I did for the pageant queen had been completed since the end of November, but we were having trouble getting our calendars to mesh. Finally, we had a time that worked for us both.

I love everything about my little cottage industry, from the moment I meet a potential client to the delivery of their project, as well as every photo, item of memorabilia and sticker in-between. This delivery was albums two and three for this particular client. I was eager for her to see them, so the waiting had been difficult.

The delivery of a traditional scrapbook is my favorite thing. Memory keeping is an important tradition and I’m glad it translates into our digital world, but for me, digitized photos or a printed photobooks just don’t have the emotional impact of a scrapbook. (Hubby disagrees, by the way. He’s all about video and photo books.) Most of my clients look through their album with tears in their eyes. Not all of them and my pageant queen is not a crier, but her absolute glee was apparent.

She also started hauling out my next jobs for her. She wants albums of her kids. The kicker is, someone somewhere along the way made albums of her kids for her, “but we like what you do,” she said. She also said, “Has Meagan called you yet? I’ve got another referral for you, too, and be ready, because everyone who sees what you do will want you to do the same thing for them.” From her mouth to the ear of God!

So, that was the weekend, Sunday was church, memory keeping and a walk around the neighborhood. Not terribly exciting perhaps, but a good time. Come back next week, for more Vegas, more memory keeping and another Weekend Report.

Accommodations, Architecture, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Friends Make Everything Better!

Travel There – Our Last Night in Vegas

We are so fortunate in our friends. I can’t even imagine life without the wonderful people who populate our days. The Busches are people we don’t see often enough, but they couldn’t be any dearer to us. When we found out Ludger would be arriving in Vegas, just as we were rounding out our visit, we immediately made plans to see him.

Ludger goes to Las Vegas on a fairly regular basis, but not for fun. He’s there to work and this trip was no different. But he does know where to stay. I didn’t think much about it when he said the Mandalay Bay would be his hotel, but when we got there and started looking around, we wished we’d thought to ask his opinion about where to stay!

From Paris to Myanmar

We left our tacky fake Paris, crossed the street to the Bellagio’s Renaissance splendor and rode the Deuce to the Mandalay Bay stop. Then I had no idea it was named after a Myanmar location, but the moment I entered the walled-in gardens, I knew I was someplace special.

In a place where almost everything is gaudy and much too far over the top, Mandalay Bay exudes understated elegance. If I ever go back, that’s where I’m staying. Even the casino is quieter and less hectic than the rest of the Strip.

Rhythms & Riffs

Our first stop was, of course, the M-Life desk. I had earned My Vegas Slots awards for both drinks and dinner. For drinks, Bill and I enjoyed the Rhythm & Riffs bar, where my first round was complimentary. That was when we started getting texts from Ludger that he’d be running late. Unfortunately, he missed the entire drinks portion of the evening, because sitting there in the lobby, enjoying a drink and watching the people go by was very pleasant.

Lupo by Wolfgang Puck

The time for our dinner reservation arrived and Ludger assured us he was on his way, so we went ahead and were seated at the restaurant. The understated, quiet part of the Mandalay Bay hotel did not enhance the dining experience. With a few lonely exceptions, we had not only the restaurant to ourselves, but that entire wing of the hotel, which should have been full of patrons for a variety of restaurants.

The total absence of patrons was a shame. I’d been eating and visiting all over the Strip for the last few days and nothing we’d seen or eaten compared to the experience we had a Lupo’s, but we were virtually all alone while enjoying it.

Thankfully, we had some of the best company we could have hoped for, sitting at our own table. We were able to relax and really chat about all the things happening in the Busche household – something we hadn’t been able to do when we saw him in Chicago in July. And we were able to do it while having a remarkable meal.

Bill tells me the price was remarkable to, in spite of one entree having been for free. I think Bill was most surprised by the cost of the bottled water. I confess, I had no idea that asking for bottle water rather than still water would break the bank.

Back to Paris

All good things come to an end. Ludger had early morning appointments, as well as work he still needed to do, so we had to say farewell and head back to our own accommodations.

Outside the Mandalay Bay the streets were empty. Had we disappeared between Ludger and our hotel, no one would have had a clue what happened. We were almost as glad to see the Deuce as we’d been during our Fremont Street Experience. The bus stopped at Paris and our Las Vegas adventure was almost over.

Come back next week and help us get to the airport. We’ll be Texas bound!

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Ticking Attractions Off Our List

Travel There – The Fall of Atlantis and Barbie

Navigating Like Pros

On our final full day in Vegas, we lingered in our room all morning. We’d been out late the night before and were still managing our business long distance, so there were photos to deliver, appointments to schedule, etc.

When we did venture out on the Strip, it was for lunch. We hopped the Deuce to The Mirage and used one of the My Vegas Slots awards for lunch – bogo sandwiches at SNACKS. I had loved the burger we shared with the free beer and this time I got a whole one to myself, but it was too early for beer!

Then we hopped back on the Deuce and stopped at the The Forum. This was the day The Fall of Atlantis was supposed to be presented. We got there in time to see the end of it, but it was enough to tell us it we hadn’t missed much.

What now? We’d pretty much hit all the free attractions, so I had suggestions for how to spend our money and our time. Thankfully, Bill chose to see exactly what I wanted him to choose.

Barbie, A Cultural Icon Exhibition

My Barbie Collection

I was four when Barbie was born, so she and I have basically grown up together. I loved her with a passion! I had numerous dolls – Pony-tail Barbie, Bouffant Barbie, Midge, Ken, Allan and Skipper – multiple cases of clothes, the house and the car. On Christmas morning I would wake up to a living room floor covered in her pink striped packages. My grandmother sewed clothes for her. I wanted it all!

Her trunks of clothes were my treasures. The outfits were hung on tiny little hangers, the shoes were stored in their compartment and I had every accessory that was ever given to me. I didn’t actually “play” Barbie. It was more like curating a collection. I would dream up an occasion and get all my dolls dressed to attend it.

My Barbie House was a portable cardboard version that folded up with a plastic handle, so the fun was getting it all set up and placing my dolls in various positions. Then I’d have Ken and Allan drive up in the car and join the fun. At that point, it was time to put it all away again.

So imagine my chagrin when Mom gave my collection to my little sister. I came home from college to discover one of my dolls in my sister’s room, butt-naked and her hair sticking out in every direction. It was obvious my sister had been carrying her by the hair, something I would never have allowed.

I freaked out and demanded to see the rest of it, but there wasn’t much. My entire collection of treasures was reduced to one small case and what clothes still existed were stuffed inside in a jumble. No shoes, no hats, no gloves. It’s about the most angry I would ever be at my mom and my sister.

I can only guess the value the collection would have today. The cardboard house alone would be considered museum quality. It was pristine when I packed it away. Now it doesn’t exist. Yes, I’m still angry.

The Exhibition

I’ll start by saying I loved the exhibit and am so glad we went, but I also have to tell you it’s not worth the $45 price of admission – not when you can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $30. The Barbie memorabilia presented wouldn’t even fill up one of the galleries there. They also didn’t have much to show you. Sure the photo op with the hanging chair and the Barbie car were cute, but I wasn’t there for the hashtag. I wanted to see my old friends.

I wanted to see every single character with all their various hairstyles. I wanted to see every single outfit – the wedding dress, the ball gown, the red velvet coat, the hats, the shoes, all of it. What they had instead was all the Barbie career dolls, which came a long time after my Barbies had been destroyed. They wanted to show Barbies of various skin tones and ethnicities, when all of mine had been white. They wanted to impress on me how righteous and woke they were from the beginning, but I knew that was just a lie. Little white girls like me, whose parents had expendable income, had been their target audience in the beginning and no amount of virtue signaling at this point could erase that.

In the end, we paid $45 each to experience some committee of millennials’ idea of Barbie’s social significance. What I wanted instead was the good stuff. The young attractive attendants were very nice, but they knew nothing about Barbie. I tried to strike up a conversation with them about my treasures and they didn’t even know there had been a cardboard Barbie house.

Bill rounded out our time at the Crystals shopping mall by finding another gallery where he could chat up the sales clerk. This time it was a photographer’s gallery. The art was gorgeous. The sales clerk was a bag of hot air. We headed back to the hotel, stopping by Walgreens for an ice cream and a Diet Dr Pepper.

Next up we join a friend for dinner at Mandalay Bay. Come back next week and get a bite at Lupo’s.

Accommodations, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

San Antonio Stopover

TRAVEL THERE – SAN ANTONIO , MY FAVORITE CITY TO VISIT

What? No Luminaries AGAIN!!

So, I love any excuse to go to San Antonio and I would probably have suggested going by there under any circumstances, but I particularly wanted to go this time, because I thought I could see the Luminaries on the River. It’s a tradition San Antonio has done for years, but I’ve yet to see it. I tried once before and brought on an ice storm. No luck this time, either.

This trip happened fast, as I explained at the beginning of this Weekend Report, of which this is the fourth installment. As we hurried up and made plans to go to Galveston, I checked the dates of the Fiesta de Luminaries and the Luminaries were on. What I didn’t realize was that it was only on weekends.

Bill was a little put out that we had driven all that way to see something that wasn’t even happening, but then he got over it and managed to have a good time in my favorite city. I was very disappointed, but I can’t stay disappointed for long when the RiverWalk is calling.

The Crockett Hotel

We found a great deal on Expedia for the Crockett Hotel. I was a little taken aback at the prices, but last minute travel can be a little hard on the pocketbook. My favorites were running $250 a night and up. This wasn’t that kind of stay, so $120ish for a “cozy queen room” sounded good.

We didn’t realize how “cozy” it would be, but it was tight, as you can see by this shot we took the next morning. However, it served our purposes and while small, it was well appointed, so no complaints.

The Alamo Lights

So, ready for some adventure, we headed out of the hotel and went right next door to the Alamo. The idea was just to get a look at the landmark, because looking down on it from our hotel room we saw a lot of lights in the trees. We were directed to the front façade and someone there asked us if we had tickets. We asked what was going on and they said, “Alamo Lights.” “How much?” “$5” We forked over $10 and roamed inside.

We’d happened upon a very pleasant little event, that goes through January 2nd. The huge old trees surrounding the Alamo are all lighted up and a few Alamo related scenes are set up with lighted figures. The trees are certainly the star of the show and the price was right. It was a nice way to start our evening in San Antonio.

The River Walk

If I’m on the San Antonio River Walk, I’m happy. We strolled from the Alamo through the Hyatt Regency onto the River Walk’s restaurant row, past La Villita and around the horseshoe. Bill was fascinated by the area, especially all the holiday lights in the trees. I would have loved for there to be Luminaries and one day I will catch them, but he was happy with what was there. The photographer/videographer in him came out and if we’re lucky I will include some of his shots in this post before it goes live.

Bill kept remarking on how crowded it was and I had to laugh to myself. It was a slow night for the River Walk. (Note to self – go see the Luminaries with someone besides Bill.) Still the very best restaurants had a long wait list, so we just went to an old favorite Casa Rosa. There was a time when it was the star of the river for me, but those days have faded. I’ve sat on the patio and been serenaded by mariachis. I’ve ridden the river in their dinner boat. I am an old Casa Rosa aficionado. It may not be what it used to be, but the margaritas and nachos were pretty darned good and there was plenty of people watching available.

After dinner we made our way up to street level and strolled back to the hotel. It had been a wonderful evening, but tomorrow was another day and we had a long way to drive.

The Chinese Tea Garden

The next morning I was up early and made my way to the lobby with the laptop, since the room was so small. I wanted Bill to get his beauty sleep, but not so much that I could lay in bed after 6 AM. I found a cozy corner near a plug and started pounding away.

He texted me when he woke up and I went back up to the room to entertain him while he had his coffee. We were headed to New Braunfels to have lunch with a friend, but Bill wanted to squeeze in one more sight-seeing jaunt. I told him if he moved things along we could probably go to the Chinese Tea Garden on the way out of town. We made it with no time to spare, but he got about a half an hour to enjoy it and he loved it.

Shana and the Huisache Grill

My friend Shana has been a part of my life since the late 90’s. We worked together, but it was more than that. Our hearts were knit together. We’re not the kind of friends who see each other often, but when we do see each other, we pick right up where we left off our last conversation. We also know that all we’d have to do is pick up the phone and the other person would be there, at the drop of a hat. We try to be there for each other’s important milestones, but we love it when we can just get together and laugh. My bestie has come to love her almost as much as I do. Connecting wonderful people is one of my favorite things.

So, while seeing the Luminaries on the River Walk was one reason to include San Antonio in our itinerary, the chance to also see Shana loomed large in my decision making. The Luminaries didn’t happen, but I did get to see Shana. She suggested we meet at the Huisache Grill for lunch. I’d been there with her before and I knew Bill would love it, so we planned to meet there at noon.

It was just a great visit. A lots of news to share about everything from family to embezzlement with lots of laughter thrown into the mix. It was a blessed time. I am so fortunate in my friends and thank God for them every day.

And Then Home

The drive to Heath from New Braunfels was brutal. We spent too much time inching along the highway – in San Marcos, in Austin and other places along the route. We were caught in rush hour traffic as we made the turn towards home and the last hour we crawled along I-20, finally taking some backroad across Forney to get to Heath. Why Forney? Because LBJ was a parking lot.

This has been a very long multi-day weekend report, but it was a very busy weekend. Come back Wednesday for more of Las Vegas and on Thursday we’ll get back to memory keeping. Thanks for dropping by!