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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.

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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!

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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.

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The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – THANKSGIVING WEEKEND

Pre-Holiday Hint

Every two weeks I have a wonderful blessing show up at my door. Lorene Marsh of Touch of Clean has been my housekeeper for several years now and I really don’t know what I’d do without her. She’s one of the most reliable, dependable people I have ever had the opportunity to work with. She has a lot of other things going on, from real estate move in/move out services to staging, but I can count on her to be at my door and do my house, like clockwork, and she does an amazing job. She’s so good, I’m tempted to keep her to myself, but that’s not fair to her, because she does such a good job and deserves to be lauded for it. If you decide to try her out, please let her know I sent you!

The Holiday

I became an orphan several years ago when my mom passed away. I’d lost Dad the year before and my precious Aunt Edie the year before that. Since I never had kids myself, I was at a loss for what I might do on holidays. Then I was invited to my nephew’s in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. Suddenly, I had family again and it wasn’t just a nice gesture to get me over a hump. They invited me back for Christmas and year after year include me in their family celebrations. Of course, we love it, because we get to see our nephew and his wife, with their 3 little boys, but their entire family has embraced us as theirs. We have come to cherish these people as if they were our real family, instead of just the people who adopted us, but when people ask me where I am going for Thanksgiving, they certainly look at me funny when I say, “My nephew’s in-laws.”

The Main Event

For me, this is the main event when it comes to Christmas. When holiday decorating comes around, the tree is the first thing to go up and the last thing to come down. It takes me all day long. If it looks overcrowded to you, that’s because the sum is greater than the parts. This isn’t just my tree. It’s also my mom’s tree and Aunt Edie’s tree. Three women, one tree.

Each item has a story, from the angel at the top to each hand-tied bow. Some decorations were hand-made when I was a kid, others were bought during travel or mark a special occasion. Many were bought on the post-Christmas shopping trips I’d take with Mom and Aunt Edie.

I don’t go out and shop the malls on Black Friday. I stay home and open box after box, reliving the memories of a lifetime of Christmases with the people I love. I even have ornaments given to me by that family I have Thanksgiving dinner with. I look at that tree and know I have been loved and that I still am, because each year people I love add to my collection.

Once the tree is up, then I can get to decorating the rest of the house and believe me, I have plenty of treasures passed down to me from Mom and Aunt Edie there, too, but there’s nothing like the time I spend decorating the tree and the joy I get from seeing all holiday long.

Taking Care of Bestie

My husband has two women who depend on him to get up their Christmas decorations. His first job is to drag my stuff out of the closet under the stairs and help me get my tree set up (which by the way was a real headache this year).

Then he must report to my bestie’s house and get up her lights. Her son helps get her tree up, but the lights are Bill’s job. This year the day was dreary and damp, but if we didn’t do it on Saturday, exactly when were we going to do it? We all have very busy lives.

Burgers with Bestie

As a thank you for the assist with the lights, we went to Wells Cattle Company, my favorite burger in Rockwall. There’s a lot of stiff competition for the title of best burger in Rockwall, but I sing the praises of the Wells Burger. No one has better meat than Wells and that’s the most important ingredient in any burger. Chatting with Lee Wells, the owner and proprietor, during this visit, he explained how they take one of their own whole cows – from the chuck to the prime rib – and grind the various cuts into the magical mixture that becomes their meat patty.

But there’s more to a Wells Burger than the delicious meat patty. Take for instance the size of their burgers. Recently, I had another local burger and when it was delivered, I couldn’t even wrap my mouth around it – and that is not a compliment. A burger is only good fresh, in my opinion, so those outsized burgers are a waste, and not as good as a Wells Burger. I never leave Wells hungry, but I also don’t leave behind a bunch of food or go home with a box of guilt.

As to fixin’s you can have as many or as few as you want. They have literally anything you might find anywhere else. I had my favorite, the Pimento Burger, Deb went for the Bleu Cheese and Bill had the simple Wells Burger with just the basics. All were scarfed up. While we were chatting with Lee, Bill voiced his opinion on the fries and we all got an education. Come to find out, what Bill likes are not actually fresh cut fries, like they have a Wells. To each their own, of course, but Lee told us the process he goes through (twice cooked) to get the fries thoroughly cooked. I personally like them.

I got lucky, because Saturday is Coconut Pie Day. I admit, my mom ‘s coconut pie is still my favorite, but Wells has a close second. For me it’s all in the meringue. I don’t like that thick, two inch mess some restaurants serve. I like it light, like my momma used to make. They also have good chocolate pie on other days. Everyone else opted for cobbler and Well’s does that well, also. I’m just not going to have anything else when good coconut pie is available.

What a great visit to my favorite burger joint. We were there a little late, so we missed the rush, which allowed us a really good visit with Lee. What a guy!!

Taking It Outside

With the tree up and Deb’s lighting taken care of, the next big job was getting up our outdoor decorations. I was very excited about this, because we have a totally new look from the wreath on the front door, shown at the top of the post to the lighted Nativity in the photo to the left.

Though we’ve lived here a number of years, for the most part I have made do with the decorations from our last house. We had a number of espaliered magnolia trees there, that we’d fill with outdoor ornaments. I moved those ornaments to our two front trees at this house.

My next door neighbor teased me that the two trees looked like Charlie Brown Christmas trees, but they were what I had. I’d had my eye out for a Nativity scene for a long time, but never could find exactly what I wanted, so instead of just buying another make-do kind of decoration, I just stuck with the Charlie Brown Christmas trees. I also had big red bows for all the lanterns and that look I liked a lot.

In the years since we’ve lived here, I had convinced Bill to get the lighted wreaths you see in all our windows. We went to an end of season sale a few years back and we’ve been very happy with them since. Obviously, they stayed. It’s a style I have loved all my life, but didn’t really have the house for it. Now I do. So when I upgraded my outside decor, I knew I’d keep them.

Last year, as I put up my exterior decorations, I knew they were on their last legs. The red bows had faded to orange and all the gold and silver balls I once put in my magnolias were fading and peeling. So, at the post-Christmas sales, I picked up a gorgeous new wreath and new bows. When I took down the old decorations, they went in the trash. Still, I couldn’t find a Nativity I liked. I don’t like the blow-up decorations at all. They just don’t match my house and while Hobby Lobby had a gorgeous half-life-sized set I loved, I don’t pay that kind of money for decorations.

I’d warned Bill about the state of our outdoor decorations. We live in a neighborhood where they really go for decorating. In fact, most homeowners pay for roofline lights to be installed every year, but I new that would never happen at our house. While he wasn’t ready to pony up for the roofline installations, he didn’t want to be Scrooge. So, on a recent visit to Home Depot, I noticed an attractive pre-lit Nativity set and pointed it out to Bill. In the basket it went, along with a couple of lighted deer.

And voila! Here we are. The lighted wreaths are the same ones we had, but everything else is brand new this year. What do you think?

Shutting Down the Weekend

So, I was supposed to deliver some albums Sunday evening, but my client had a sick kid she needed to take care of, so Bill and I decided to go to dinner. He was in the mood for BBQ, so I did a little research and told him about The Smokin’ Donut in Fate. Someone, somewhere had suggested it was great. I was a little concerned when I found out it was inside the Fate Gas & Grocery, but we were feeling adventurous. When we got there, he was distracted by some re-programming he was trying to do on the car, so I decided to run in and scope things out.

There was indeed a doughnut shop inside the Grocery Store, but I didn’t see (or smell) any BBQ. I asked if she indeed did have BBQ and she assured me she did, but I noticed they had exactly one table with someone sitting there devouring a doughnut. This scene was not conducive to Bill’s enjoyment, even if they happened to have the world’s best BBQ.

We redirected ourselves to the local Olive Garden to fill up on salad, soup, breadsticks and some pasta. We ended up with plenty to take home for Monday’s evening meal. It wasn’t BBQ, but it was good.

Come back next week! Wednesday will be our big night at the Bellagio and on Thursday, I’ll be talking about the costs associated with traditional albums.

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

Getting Into a Groove

Travel There – Caesar’s Forum and a Luxor Lunch

It’s hard to believe this guy is smiling at me. So far it’s been as if someone should have done more than give us a free trip to Vegas. They should have paid us for our time, trouble and trauma. Seriously! We’re starting our third day in Vegas and the most fun we’ve had so far was getting our id cards and tickets for public transportation.

We headed out to McDonald’s. I was dying for one of those famous breakfast buffets, but Bill just couldn’t face that much food so early in the morning. He was being very patient with this disaster of a vacation, so I wasn’t going to make him go anywhere he didn’t want to. We waited a bit for the Deuce, but decided to walk when it didn’t come immediately. It was too chilly just standing there.

Along the way we came to the Flamingo and decided to step inside and see the Wild Life Habitat. It was a pleasant little garden, but honestly, not worth a mention in the guidebooks. Then onto Mickey D’s. We were becoming regulars.

Fun at the Forum

I’ve got to be honest with you. Things had been so bad on this vacation I was regretting we’d won it. The day before, the Grand Canal Shops at the Venetian had not been very entertaining, so I felt a bit of trepidation about heading to the Forum, but what the heck else were we going to do with ourselves – gamble? We’d rather stand and throw our money in the Bellagio Fountain!

Though I can’t exactly tell you exactly why, we enjoyed the Forum a lot more than we did the Grand Canal. Perhaps it was because it was fairly quiet that morning and the Grand Canal was bustling. Maybe we like classic Roman architecture better than Renaissance Italian. Maybe I was finally feeling better. Maybe it was the softer lighting and higher ceilings of the Forum. I don’t know. We just had fun.

One of the things that really helped us enjoy the Forum was a marvelous curator at one of the art galleries. Bill asked her a few questions and suddenly he had a new best friend. We were there for a long, long time.

Then there was the big grandiose fountains in the Forum. The Venetian had fountains, too, but they more like waterfalls and the fountains in the Forum made you feel as if you actually were in one of those faraway places I love so much.

Of course, like all things since Covid, we were supposed to wear masks and the stores would only let in a certain amount of people at a time. So places like Versace and Louis Vuitton had a roped off area in front of the store with patrons waiting to get in. Without the ropes we might have strolled in, but we weren’t going to wait. No loss to them I guess, because I’ve been carrying the same old Coach bag for years now and will probably be buried with it!

The worst part of being there during Covid was that they’d changed the schedule for The Fall of Atlantis attraction – instead of hourly every day, it was only on certain days at certain times. Wednesday wasn’t one of them!

Buffet Lunch at Luxor

It was awful! That’s all you really need to know. Here’s a serving of beef brisket from the carving station. Yuck!!

So, I knew breakfast was your best bet and I also knew there were better choices than the Luxor. I shared my information with my traveling companion, but we had My Vegas Slots rewards at the Luxor and Bill was interested in seeing it.

Now I stayed at Luxor a number of years ago and it was a wonderful experience. I also enjoyed a couple of different buffets, one in the lobby and a bigger one downstairs – but that was pre-Covid.

The last buffet standing was the one downstairs and I had remembered it as a bright bustling place full of eager tourists, busy employees and delicious food. That was no longer the case. We were almost alone in the establishment. The employees were begrudgingly shoving food onto the buffet tables and the food was nothing to write home about, unless it was to complain.

I tried to make the best of it. We were going bogo – right? Only it really was awful and for Bill, the brisket was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He actually went and found a manager to complain to – who gave us a coupon for a free meal on our next visit. Are you kidding us? I think Bill had hoped for a refund, but we wouldn’t be coming back to this place EVER!!

It was time to take another Deuce bus to Paris and get ready for our really big evening! Jane and Bill are going to stay out late in Vegas. come back next week and stay up late with us.

Accommodations, Architecture, Attractions, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

The Aria & Lemongrass

Travel There – The Cool Kids

Given the opportunity to do this whole trip again, instead of suggesting we stay at Paris, I would have suggested one of the newer, cooler places, like Aria. Like Paris, it’s right in the middle of The Strip, but unlike Paris it has a hip, edgy feel. Had Paris had the romantic Montmartre vibe it had when visited before, I would have been happier, instead it had become a sort of warehouse for slot machines with little to no atmosphere whatsoever in the lobby or our room for that matter.

Aria, Vdara and other newer hotels were where the cool kids were staying, but I’ve got to tell you, even there, where Rolex watches and flashy diamonds were the moda, everybody was still so casual I wanted to scream. I get it if you don’t want to be required to wear haute couture gowns every time you walk out of the room, but I’d like it if you’d look like you were out of your room on purpose, instead of being caught out in your pajamas, lingerie or jeans you were about to give to Goodwill.

Even though Las Vegas ain’t what it used to be, I refused to succumb to the general atmosphere of uber-dressing-down. It was as if the worse you looked the more points you got. Keep your points. While I wore jeans during the day, at night I dressed up and I had more fun that way. I’ll be so glad when sloppy becomes so yesterday.

Going Through the M Life Motions

All we really had to do to get to Aria is cross the street. The signs took us through the Crystals Shopping Opportunity, which was OK with us, because we wanted to see everything. This was our first real encounter with a plethora of exclusive high end designer shops, but by the end of the trip, they didn’t feel quite so exclusive, because they are virtually everywhere you look in Vegas. However, the high end prices remained the same.

Once inside Aria we were as awestruck as the next guy. They have got some amazing architectural touches throughout the public areas. We walked around with our mouths opened as we searched around for the M Life desk. The Aria M-Life personnel were ever so much more accommodating than the surly bunch down at The Mirage. I was allowed to feel more like the smart traveler I thought I was, instead of being the cheapskate the other guys’ behavior suggested.

Lemongrass – The Hidden Restaurant

There used to be a comedy routine about “the booth in the back in the corner in the dark.” That might be a good way to describe Lemongrass, except it wasn’t dark. You had to wander around a bit to find it, but once you did, it was a very attractive space, perhaps a bit crowded, but otherwise quite nice. The waitresses were dressed in Asian-flavored uniforms, which matched their ethnicity. While the menu was big, it was somewhat limited in this American’s opinion.

Along with being required to make a reservation, you were instructed to inform them you were using an M-Life award. Then when you arrived, you were required to remind the hostess about your M-Life status. I really think they should just stamp something across your forehead. That might be less humiliating than some of the hurdles they throw up. Just think, some guy sits in an office somewhere and it’s his job to make using the My Vegas Slots award so inconvenient and humiliating that people won’t use them. Perhaps his title is Discourager in Chief.

I never know what to order in a Thai restaurant. People rave about Thai food and how spicy it is, but every time I go to one I end up with something resembling milk-toast. I did a little better this time, but in truth, it was more like Kung Pao chicken than the spicy dish I hoped for. I think Bill felt much the same way, but at least the bogo meals didn’t break the bank.

And Now for the Really Big Shew

For all my efforts to see and do everything, sometimes the best things are serendipitous. After our meal we wandered around the hotels in the area for a while longer and then headed back to our hotel. Suddenly, people were running across our path and weaving in between cars. The Bellagio Fountain show was just beginning and we got to enjoy every bit of it. We hadn’t planned it that way. It was just the way things worked out.

Except for our thwarted coffee break and the run in with the kiosk, we’d booked a pretty good first day in Vegas. We arranged for reduced fare transportation throughout our stay, gotten our M-Life cards and enjoyed My Vegas Slots awards for lunch, a drink and dinner. So far, so good.

Day two was not quite as successful. Come back next week and find out why.

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Shopping

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – FOURTH WEEKEND OF OCTOBER

Rodeo Goat at The Harbor

The plan was to meet my bestie for lunch after her dance lesson. When she called after the lesson, she was hungry for a burger and a beer. I named a couple of my favorite burgers in Rockwall and Rodeo Goat won the toss, because my favorite Rockwall burger joint, Well’s Cattle Co. doesn’t serve beer. They have amazing chocolate and coconut pies, which beat out a beer any day in my book, but it also doesn’t have the view Rodeo Goat does, so I couldn’t complain.

Before hubby left for a photo shoot that morning, he wondered where we were going for lunch, but we hadn’t planned that far in advance. So he called to let me know when he finished and tell me he was still interested in lunch with his two favorite girls. I told him his timing was perfect and to head to The Harbor.

Deborah got there before anyone and snagged a picnic table on the patio, overlooking Lake Ray Hubbard. I was next and suggested we start off with Cheese Fries. I told the guy there would be three of us and asked which size we should get. Apparently, there is just one size and it is gi-normous! We had enough for everyone on the patio – be warned.

Hubby showed up not long after the cheese fries arrived and even with all three of us working on them, we left a whole lot of them behind – in part, because we still wanted those burgers we came for. I shared a Bodacious Burger with Bill and Deb had the Blue Goat. The Bodacious Burger is sort of a delicious BBQ joint mess. Bill and I polished off it’s goodies, but left most of the bun behind. It was very good. Deb said the Blue Goat, with the Bleu Cheese was her favorite and would remain so. Bill and Deb washed their burgers down with beer, but Rodeo Goat has great margaritas, so I went that way.

Shopping Therapy

I am in the middle of creating a series of custom scrapbooks for a client who was a pageant girl and I needed some pageant-related stickers to jazz up my pages. Creative Memories, which is my go-to supplier, doesn’t have anything which is remotely pageant-related, so Deb and I hit the craft stores.

We first went to Jo-Ann’s, almost out of habit, because in the past we have bought truckloads of stickers and paper there. I am sad to say they are virtually out of the scrapbooking business. I lusted after the Cricut equipment a bit, but I am too cheap to buy it, so we headed to the next stop.

Hobby Lobby is definitely in the scrapbooking business, so it was next. They didn’t have pages of pageant-related stickers, either, but they had crown stickers and some teeny-bopper stuff that would do for Cinderella Girl and Junior Miss pageants. Of course, I didn’t stop there. Nobody can buy just one or two sticker packs!!

Then we went to Tuesday Morning, primarily because Deb just likes to go there, but they also have scrapbooking supplies, from time to time. I found a really cheap book of papers I decided I couldn’t live without. It had nothing to do with pageants, but some people do drugs – I do scrapbooking supplies.

A Quiet Sunday

I confess, I skipped church on Sunday. I needed to be at a family function at noon, so I would have only had time for Sunday School anyway. I decided to go easy on myself and play hooky for once, something I rarely do. The church did not fall down in my absence.

We went to a birthday lunch for our nephew. We have an odd sort of relationship with his in-laws – more like we are the parents, instead of the aunt and uncle. They are delightful people and we enjoy everyone on that side of the family, so while it may be weird to hang out at your nephew’s in-laws, it is a pleasure for us and we’ll be having Thanksgiving with them.

That evening Bill and I watched the new HBO movie, Moonfall. There is a star-studded cast which didn’t shine very brightly, except for John Bradley, playing a megastructurist (someone who believes aliens created and launched megastructures which are now planets, moons, etc.). He was the underdog no one believed, who ended up saving the world and he shone like the sun in the role. Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson did not. There was so much scientifically ridiculous about the movie that you just can’t take it seriously. The whole infrastructure of earth is being wiped away by mega-disasters caused by a moon out of orbit, but somehow their cellphones work – oh, and the moon’s gravitational pull which causing all that on earth somehow allows them to navigate into an opening on the surface of the moon. Un-huh, yeah.

And that, my friends, is that. Stay tuned. I’m continuing my Travel There series on Wednesdays and Memory-Keeping 101 on Thursdays!

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

The Weekend Report

Photo Snipped from The Republic website. Link below.

TRAVEL HERE – THE FIRST WEEKEND IN OCTOBER 2022

Happy Hour at My Place

We don’t entertain much. We’re busy people and when we’re not busy, we relax. It’s a shame in some ways. Our home just begs for a big party and I’ve inherited pretty much every serving dish and implement known to man, including 36 place settings of Gorham Chantilly sterling flatware. Salad scissors anyone?

However, the completion of the sunroom was a milestone, so we decided to have at least a few neighbors in. Since the sunroom is a small space, we decided to do it in phases, inviting a pair of couples in at a time – this end of the cul de sac one night and the other end the next night.

Invitations sent and accepted, I woke up Friday morning, did the necessary tasks for our business and then Bill and I went errand running. Bill went because he’s always afraid I will overbuy when we entertain, and sometimes I do. I had a list ready of what we needed and a set of priorities, as well as reasons for my priorities. I had to take that list, tear it up and throw it away. Bill rearranged everything in the exact opposite order I had planned and threw in a trip to Costco for our Covid boosters, which hadn’t been on my list at all. Only wives will understand.

Aldi and Costco

Aldi is not my go-to grocery store. Heck, out here in Heath, I don’t have a go-to grocery store. I remember fondly the days in Dallas when I could get to one of virtually everything within five minutes – Central Market, Whole Foods, whatever, but Market Street was MY grocery store.

When I go on a normal grocery run, I want to go to someplace that will have everything on my list. My mom spent her life chasing bargains and would visit several grocery stores in a week. That is not my life and that’s the reason I am not a regular at Aldi, because they will not be able to fill my whole list. However, I’ve learned, when I entertain, Aldi has more of what I want, in the quantities I need, for amazing prices.

So, we went to Aldi and found what we needed. Three different exotic deli meats, sliced thin, all in one package. Two cheeses. One of those boxes of fancy crackers with several varieties in it. Some hummus and Bill picked up some flatbread thing he wanted. He’s a bigger shopper at Aldi than I am. He loves their chocolates and their kettle chips, so we got those, too, not for the party, but we were there, right?

Along with our Covid shots, we picked up wines at Costco. My next door neighbor loves Aldi’s Winking Owl wines, but for wine, Costco is the go-to for us (when we don’t have time to get all the way to Trader Joe’s). I picked up Prosecco, which is what everyone ended up wanting and Bill chose a few other things for those who might not.

Bill drops me at home, so I could get things and myself ready for our guests. One of the things I needed to get ready was my nails, so I ran off to the salon for a new set. By the way, my go to is Signature Nails, next to Kroger, here on the south side of town. That’s when I got a text which threw my party plans in the air. I’m trying to resolve them via text with the hubby, who is determined to wait until I get home.

When I got home, we did resolve the issues, probably to no one’s satisfaction, but the show for Friday night went on and who knows when we’ll get around to the rest of the street. In spite of the storm in my teacup, Friday night went well. It was one of the first times we’d connected socially with our neighbors since the pandemic. It felt like we’d redeemed one more chip of our lives.

Working Weekend

So, Saturday was given over to work and making a trip to the discount fabric stores on Harry Hines. We’d borrowed a tasseled tieback from an upstairs room for out Friday night soiree, but needed to get one. If you’re decorating, I hope you know about the discount fabric stores. On Midway there’s Childress Fabrics and Cutting Corners. Over the years we’ve been successful at both, but for the sunroom, the drapery material came from Cutting Corners. However, we never buy any fabrics until we’ve been to the corner of Harry Hines and Perth. The names change, but the savings all along Perth Street stay the same. Need fabrics – go there.

Listing photos taken and tasseled tieback bought, it was time for a late lunch. We went to Republic Texas Tavern on Inwood Road near Forest. I’d been for a business meeting once and saw enough to think it was worth another visit. As we sat admiring the restaurant, my husband, (who I claim will try to tell God how to improve the streets of gold) asked, “Guess what I don’t like about this restaurant.” I confess, I rolled my eyes and asked what. “Nothing.” That’s high praise folks!

He had a beer and I had their version of a margarita, which is Texas Ranch Water. He loved his Pastrami Sandwich and I enjoyed their Truck Stop Burger. Every sip and bit was delightful. We’ll be finding reasons to go back, even though it is on the other side of town. You should go, too.

Casa Mama

So, after church, Bestie and I wanted to grab some lunch. It was a late lunch, because Deb sings in the choir and it meets Sunday afternoon. My criteria were Tex-Mex and a patio. Deb sort of leaves the choices up to me, because she says I make more exciting selections.

After cataloging the usual possibilities in my mind, I remembered there was a new restaurant downtown. Anything called Casa Mama was probably Tex-Mex and I knew they had a patio, so that’s where we went.

Deb loved it. She raved over the choices on the menu and thought the brisket enchiladas with spinach were delicious. I was a little more picky. The patio is right on the main road, which even on a quiet Sunday afternoon meant it felt like we were eating in the street. My cheese enchiladas were good, but not the ridiculously gooey mess I love at El Fenix or El Chico. (Yes, I like El Fenix and El Chio – that’s real Tex-Mex with lots of Dallas tradition on top.) The interior cheese on my Casa Mama enchilada was melted but not runny, gooey. Some people might consider this an improvement, but give me the goo.

Their margarita made up for any lack of gooey cheese and yes, I will be happy to go back. I will not sit on the patio and I will not have the cheese enchiladas, but I will go back and you should visit, too.

So, this is the Weekend Report. This one’s a little longer than most of them will be, because it was a busier weekend than most are. I have challenged myself to do this every week as a counterpoint to my Travel There series on Wednesdays, but I can’t promise I will always make it, nor which day I will post it, but keep an eye out! I have also challenged myself to start posting scrapbooking tidbits, but that’s not ready to roll out.

So, the next post I can promise is on Wednesday and we’ll be in Las Vegas!

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Grapevine Vintage Railroad

TRAVEL HERE: FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Desperate for some travel-like experiences in the Covid haze, I planned a series of holiday outings, but I’ll be the first to admit things didn’t go as planned. While there’s many a time the thermometer has hovered in the seventies over the holiday season, that was not the case this holiday. Instead, my poor husband suffered a series of weather-related indignities, just so he wouldn’t have to peel me off the wall. Our excursion on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad was just such an experience.

Covid vs. The Weather

During the pandemic, virtually everything you wanted to do, you needed to have reservations. While that seems like a reasonable request, as I mentioned when I talking about the Dallas Arboretum, it just doesn’t work very well in our lives. Bill needs to be in the mood and the weather needs to be nice. During December, Bill was not in the mood, at all, and the weather was pretty awful.

Bill suffers from SAD, a condition related to those people whose emotions can be effected by the lack of certain light rays from the sun. He has special lights in his office and he takes extra vitamins to combat it, but when the weather is lousy, so is his mood. In December the weather was lousy , but in spite of his mood, Bill tried to enjoy the events I scheduled, unlike the weather.

A Rainy and Cold Excursion

The morning of our Grapevine Vintage Railroad excursion was not a pretty one. It was cold and it was trying to rain. There was mostly just a miserable mist, but on occasion it would gather it’s wits about it and give us some actual rain. We drove to Grapevine in the mist, which turned into a pretty nasty rain, just about the time we needed to make a dash to get on the train.

Damp and wet, we turned our reservations in for some souvenir tickets. I’ve got to hand it to the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, their cars are very authentic and they’d done a marvelous job decorating them for the holidays. However, as we settled into our seats the Covid effect was immediate. Everyone had on their masks and those everyone’s were few and far between.

Part of the fun of something like a train excursion it the energy you get from the people around you only none of the people around us were actually close enough to us to share their energy. I know there was a pandemic going on, but this just felt sad in a way that our other attempts at our Staycation had not.

We tried to jolly one another along as the train made it’s way to Fort Worth. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see. The railway went through industrial areas and neighborhoods, but none of the neighborhoods were very scenic – just one leaning, washed-out privacy fence after another, behind houses desperately in need of maintenance. Preventative maintenance had been ignored about a decade ago. The railway made an attempt to entertain us with a faux train robbery, but with a mostly empty car the failure of it just rattled the windows.

Finally, the Fort Worth Stockyards

As we arrived, others were clamoring to get on, so the initial feel of it was that maybe we were on to something. Then we stepped outside. It was cold, really cold, and while it wasn’t raining or misting, there was enough humidity to make it feel even colder.

We made our way over to the Stock Exchange which was reportedly full of exhibits, museums, food and shops. NOT! And all the reported attractions which were missing from the Stock Exchange must have taken the rest of attractions in the area with them, because nothing was opened with the exception of a few stores and restaurants.

We spent some time in the Stockyards Hotel Lobby and that, at least, was interesting. They did have some historical photos which kept us occupied for awhile. Then we headed on our way along Exchange Avenue. Several of the stores were nothing but junk. Forty million things with Fort Worth Stockyards printed on them and nothing at all that we wanted.

Then, we found out that it was a good thing we didn’t want to be a Cowboy or Cowgirl, because we couldn’t afford it! As we made our way along Exchange Avenue the quality went up and there were no souvenir type slogans printed on things, but the price tags scared us to death. Cowboy boots in multiple thousands, pieces of clothing in the mid to high hundreds. Hats for custom blocking that were astronomical. And the jewelry? Tasteful, but exorbitant.

Getting a Bite at Booger’s

Our watches told us we had a some more time to kill before we could get back on the train and return to Grapevine. We decided to drown our sorrows in some food and drinks. The best option seemed to be Booger Red’s, a restaurant and bar attached to the Stockyards Hotel. We have no complaints, at all, concerning Booger’s. My Margarita was good, as were our quesadillas. The establishment has a Western feel to it and they’ve hung a number of amusing signs around for entertainment.

If you’ve heard of the Fort Worth Stockyards, then you’ve probably heard of Billy Bob’s. On a cold weekday during Covid, nothing was going on there. The other thing you might have heard of was the daily cattle drives. That did happen, but let me tell you, like a lot of small towns in Texas, if you blink you might miss it.

Then we were glad it was time to go. The train ride back was pretty much a repeat of the trip there. We got back to Grapevine and got off the train. We had a close eye on the weather, because the next morning we were supposed to head to Oklahoma and celebrate at a very special Bed and Breakfast Inn. Did we get to do it? Come back next week and find out.

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

Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village

TRAVEL THERE: ARTSY FARTSY MORNING

So, I admit I love shopping, but what I love best is buying bargain clothes and shoes.  My favorite price is $9.99.  It’s like a game with me to find gorgeous things that the stores want to give away at ridiculous prices.  There are only a few people I buy for when I am traveling and while I enjoy that, I don’t usually hang out in retail establishments.

Bill is a lot more likely to shop on vacation.  He loves consignment stores and will wander around a shopping mall just to see the architecture.  Since we’re not going to buy anything, I sort of see it as a waste of time, but I accommodate his desires.

When we are in Sedona that all changes.  We both love Tlaquepaque with a passion.  We can’t afford most of it, but we want all of it.  Come along with us.   

What’s Not to Love?

So, to begin with, Tlaquepaque is in Sedona.  We pretty much love everything in Sedona.  Even when we have a pizza and think the crust was way too thin, we enjoy it and look back on it fondly.  Maybe there is something to that whole vortex thing.

Next up, Tlaquepaque is visually appealing.  You do not have to enter a single store to enjoy it.  Wandering among the archways and courtyards, listening to the splashing fountains, smelling the delicious food cooking, people watching…it’s all good.  The architecture is part Spanish colonial, part southwest –  tile roofs, black rod iron ornamentation, brick walkways, desert foliage…all the stuff we like – all gorgeous.

But what’s more, the shopping in fun.  It is perfectly OK to wander around for hours, stopping into shops, some multiple times and not buy a single thing.  Maybe they’re lonely.  Maybe they’re just nice.  Whatever it is, everyone is thrilled to see you.  They greet you and chat you up.  They do not hover over you as if you are about to steal the whole store or try to sell you everything you linger at.  They want your opinion on the goods they are unpacking or will ask you if a particular wall is a good place to hang something.  They will let you try on every ring in the case without huffing or puffing and won’t be the merchandise monitor limiting you to one item at a time.  Here – try them both on, go show your husband, step out in the courtyard to see it in the light.

Some of the stores are also studios, so you can watch someone do whatever they do.  Or there’s a partially finished something that allows you to see how they arrive at finished products.  You smell clay and leather and paints.  You’re just as likely to smell magnolia blossom essential oil, patchouli perfume or burning incense.  

How It Went This Time

Bill made friend in one of the first shops we entered.  He didn’t so much love the merchandise as he discovered the proprietor goes to Egypt every year – so Bill being Egyptian, they had a lot to talk about.  So much so that I had time to discover the bargain of the day – a pair of blue topaz earrings set in silver – but it was that blue topaz that is visually interchangeable with aquamarines, which are my birthstone.  They were quite a bit more than my $9.99 price, but a steam nonetheless.  So much so, that Bill bought them for me!

Then we wandered – for hours.  We barely scratched the surface.  We strolled without any particular pattern.  We had a marvelous time enjoying all the things I just described to you above.  About halfway through, I found a cute shop with unique hand-blown wine stoppers – not cheap, but reasonable.  I’d found the gifts I wanted to buy.

The weather was a little gray and a little nippy, so it didn’t beg us to linger outside or take photos.  Sorry about that.  Bill did fall in love with these pieces in one of the galleries, but they didn’t come home with us.

We could have gone on for hours more, but we had a plane to catch.  El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano was wafting amazing aromas into the courtyards.  We followed our noses and had an amazing meal before heading out to the airport.

Home Again

The drive back to Phoenix was without incident.  We returned our rental car with ease and the shuttle bus delivered us to our terminal without a hassle.  The Southwest plane was on time and the flight was fine.  Our car was right where we left it and we got home with no trouble.  See we can go on a trip without a single hassle.

What’s next?  Right this minute I don’t know.  It’s July as I blog about this February trip and our lives are dominated by the pandemic.  I tried to plan another trip out west during December, but there are so many unknowns right now that I finally gave up.  Stay tuned, though.  You know I won’t be able to stay home!!