DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Thank You CTC!

TRAVEL THERE: FIVE DAYS IN PARADISE

Whew, we’re finally through with Egypt.  I was there for only a few weeks, but I blogged about it for months on end.  We recently also finished up a series on Mondays about our disastrous cruise on Royal Caribbean, so on Mondays I’m back to sharing tips on visiting Dallas, whether you live here or are planning to visit here.  On Wednesdays we are about to travel to the Dominican Republic.

Chasing Dreams

Next year is our 25th wedding anniversary and while I’m not quite ready to share our plans for that just yet, let me tell you what happened when I visited a travel show last January.  I thought all we’d be doing for this year’s vacation time was taking a cheapie cruise for Bill’s birthday and taking a road trip to Michigan to visit family, but I was looking ahead.

My travel sights were firmly set on, on next year’s plans.  My husband had nixxed my idea of having a vow renewal in our backyard and supplanted the backyard ceremony with a much bigger idea.  If folks have destination weddings, why couldn’t we have a destination vow renewal on board a cruise ship in the Mediterranean?

So when my friends at CTC announced their annual travel show, I circled the date on my calendar and called up my bestie, who is my travel show buddy.  I also suggested that hubby might want to join us for some of the seminars so he could be on the same page with me.  Everything was set for a travel-intensive day of cruise shopping!

Great Travel Show

I love travel shows, but my favorite is CTC’s, because Sandra Rubio, my travel agent, is always there.  She knows me.  She gets me.  She knows our budget.  She knows my husband and my bestie.  She knows my wish list and preferences.  Dreaming about travel is fun whether the dream is a road trip to Oklahoma or a safari in Kenya, but making my travel dreams come true means talking to Sandra.

Like most travel shows, CTC has table after table of travel vendors all touting their wares.  Some travel shows also have celebrity guests to address a wide variety of travel topics, but primarily try to convince you to watch their shows, visit their website, read their blog, follow their social sites and/or buy their books and travel accessories.  That’s not what CTC does.

Instead, CTC has travel professionals come in and participate in very information-rich panel discussions.  I love me some Samantha Brown, but she doesn’t get down in the dirt with me and discuss trends in cruise cabins or how an ocean-going cruise differs from a river cruise and how they both stack up to a resort vacation.

A Few Weeks Later

If you are a regular on my site, you may even remember the post I wrote about this year’s show.  We’d already booked Bill’s birthday cruise, so when Sandra left me a message a few weeks later, letting me know she had some good news, I was hoping for a cabin upgrade.  Little did I know the news was way better than that!

As we’d entered the travel show, we’d dutifully signed up for the drawing.  In past years, I’ve won golf caps, totebags and other travel chotskies.  Throughout the day they write the winning ticket numbers on a white board, so as I go back and forth between the seminars and the vendors tables I always take a peek at the board.  This year I hadn’t been very lucky.  No chotskies for me.

As we left the show, one of the travel agency employees encouraged us to check the board and we assured her we’d been doing that all day to no avail.  She handed me a nice Royal Caribbean backpack and I was happy as a clam.  Heck, I was already thrilled with the huge stack of cruise brochures I had scored at the vendor tables.  The backpack was mere lagniappe.

Sandra left her message one busy afternoon and while I was intrigued, I wasn’t intrigued enough to drop what I was doing and call.  She called me again early the next day.  I could tell she was excited about something, but I didn’t suspect a thing. In fact, I had taken her call, but I had about three other things on my desk that really had my attention.

Then she told me I had won a vacation!  And not just any vacation but a five day stay at our choice of Club Meds in the North American hemisphere.  I hope Sandra understands how sorry I am for breaking her eardrum when she gave me the news.  After verifying several times that I wasn’t dreaming, I jumped out of my desk chair and ran down the stairs, squealing the news to Bill.  There went the other eardrum.

Thanks CTC and Sandra Rubio.  I loved you guys anyway, but this trip sure made me happy!  come back next week and I’ll tell you all about it!

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

It’s Time to Go

TRAVEL THERE: HEADING HOME IS ALWAYS GOOD

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

Final Moments

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

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

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

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

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

Traveling Companions

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

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

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

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

A Museum Sort of Afternoon

TRAVEL HERE: BRIGHTENING AN OTHERWISE DREARY SUNDAY

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph from DMA.com

In Exultation of Flowers

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

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

The Psychedelic Portion of our Afternoon

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

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

Other Things

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

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

Shopping, TRAVEL

Happy Holidays

My house, ready for Christmas

TRAVEL HERE: CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

When I was a kid, my Christmas activities were tied to my school, my church and my family.  The other constant was driving around to see Christmas lights.  We moved back to Dallas in 1966 and hit the Christmas bonanza.  Highland Park, specifically Beverly Drive, was the most amazing Christmas array of outdoor decorations you can imagine.  Nowadays there are many neighborhoods vying for top dog status, which is probably a relief to the Beverly Drive residents.  What’s more, my hubby is just not to excited about crawling bumper- to-bumper through any neighborhood for any reason that does not involve profit.  The other big deal in my childhood days was the After Christmas Sales.

Post Christmas Shopping Frenzy

This Black Friday business is a recent phenomena.  The big shopping event used to be the day after Christmas.  Aunt Edie, Mom and I were enthusiastic about this annual event.  My sister Susan and Aunt Tommie would often join us, but they weren’t quite as pumped about rising early to fight the crowds.  For us the primary focus of the day was Christmas decorations.  Susan and I would stand in the long lines while the adults rushed about gathering the deals and parking them with us.  Sometimes I’d make treks out to the car to unload the purchases into the trunk and then hurry back in for the next retail foray.  Sometimes we would fill up the car at one mall, deliver our goodies to the house and head to another mall.  It was madness.

In those days, Mom and Aunt Edie used to trade off Christmas and Thanksgiving.  One year Mom would do Thanksgiving and Aunt Edie would do Christmas.  The next year Aunt Edie did Thanksgiving and Mom did Christmas.  One of the benefits of this was the variety it added to our post-Christmas Shopping Orgy.  In Dallas we hit all the big malls and shopped the department stores.  Aunt Edie lived in Temple – a much more boutique experience.  Aunt Edie’s shopping habits made her a known quantity in her small town and her arrival was always treated with elaborate gestures of welcome.  We’d visit florists, small shops, hardware stores and drug stores.  On occasion, we’d hit Salado rather than Temple.  What fun we had!

All this started when I still lived at home and eventually I did have my own place, but I still didn’t have a lot of discretionary income.  Collecting ornaments was something I did as a traveled, on a one-by-one basis, rather than stocking up at years end.  In defense of Mom and Aunt Edie, they used the sales to buy up on holiday gifts for the next year.  They both belonged to a wide variety of organizations which required them to participate in gift exchanges.  By December 27th of one year, they’d be stocked up for Christmas in the coming year.  Occasionally I noticed, however, that what one December was bought as a gift, might actually end up on our tree or coffee table.

Eventually, the day arrived that I could afford to join in the fun.  I was married with my own two-story house to decorate.  In a few years we moved out to California and built an even bigger house.  Mom and Aunt Edie would come out to visit and though they were no longer so interested in the holiday decor for themselves, they were more than happy to help me find things I couldn’t live without.

Thrice Blessed at Christmas

Now Mom and Aunt Edie are gone.  Aunt Edie didn’t have any kids and my sister didn’t catch the holiday decor bug, so I inherited two houses worth of Christmas.  While I did do some culling and selected only the creme de la creme from both collections, when I declare it’s time to start decorating, I’ve got a lot of Christmas to spread around.  It is a task of joy.  I’m a visual sort, so the very sight of these treasures unleashes so many memories.  I can recall the very day we bought them and from which store.  If they were Mom or Aunt Edie’s I can tell you where they used them around their house.  For the entire month of December, it’s as if they have come for a visit.  We reminisce about the Christmases of the past and enjoy the season together.

I don’t go to the after Christmas sales now.  Why would I?  Every nook and cranny already has it’s own bit of Christmas and there’s always plenty left over, just-in-case.  When we first moved into our house here in Heath, I did realize I suddenly had ten windows on the front of the house, something none of us had contended with before.  That first year I was Scrooge – until I could hit Hobby Lobby the day after Christmas.  In about 10 minutes I’d picked up 10 wreaths with big red bows and made it through the lines.  Bill went with me that day, but so did Mom and Aunt Edie – at least they were there in spirit.

 

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

Of Architectural Significance

Cover of the 2017 tour book

TRAVEL HERE: PRESERVATION DALLAS HONORS A DALLAS LEGEND

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

Regional Modernism

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

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

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

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

The Other Side of the Coin

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

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

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

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

Touring Homes with Laura Bush

Lamplighter’s North Dallas Farm!

TRAVEL HERE: PRESERVATION DALLAS HOSTS FALL ARCHITECTURAL TOUR

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

Preservation Dallas is My New Thing

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

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

The Lamplighter School

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

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

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

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

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

The Symposium

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

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

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

Time to Tour

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

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

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

 

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

Sean Hannity Visits First Baptist Dallas

TRAVEL HERE: A PEP RALLY FOR PATRIOTS

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

The Pre-Service Experience  

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

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

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

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

Let Us Sing!

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

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

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

A Simple Story of Faith and an Invitation.

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

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

America at the Crossroads

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

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

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

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

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

Hello, Hello Fresh

TRAVEL HERE: AND NOW FOR CONTESTANT NUMBER TWO

When your husband is not happy at the dinner table, it’s time to try out something different.  We both loved Blue Apron in the beginning, but as time went on, the level of satisfaction sank – especially for Mr. Bill.  Bill was tired of Blue Apron’s flavor of gourmet.  He wanted less adventure and more plain food.  I could feel his pain, but I didn’t want to go back to the days before delivered meal-kit came along.  So, a survey of the available services suggested Hello Fresh would solve my problems and give Bill a steady diet of good, but un-gourmet choices.

Choices and Ordering

When it came to the nuts and bolts of ordering meals, Hello Fresh seemed a lot like Blue Apron.  One new opportunity was the chance to upgrade one of your meals to a premium choice.  I just missed the lobster!  It had been available on the previous week.  I decided on my first order to stick with the regularly priced choices.

The selections were more like my mother used to make without the gourmet frills.  While that lowered the fun factor for me, a happy hubby was the goal, so I went with it.  We got an Italian Ciabatta Burger, Parmesan Crusted Fish and some Glazed Pork Chops.

Here Comes the Box

The box arrived as scheduled and from the outside it looked pretty much like the Blue Apron box, but with green as the primary color instead of blue.  When I opened the box, the story changed.

Inside the box were three huge grocery bags of food, each with a sticker announcing the meal they contained.  I’m not sure exactly what they thought I was supposed to do with that, because the sacks were too big for my frig.  It’s probably very convenient for them from a picking and packing standpoint, but I had to unpack the bags to get the items into the frig.  Blue Apron’s box came loaded with individually packaged items, not mystery grab bags.

As I unloaded the bags I sorted the ingredients into Ziplocks.  I discovered some of the items didn’t need refrigeration and some like the maple syrup would be better without it.  So each grocery bag of food was offloaded into one large Ziplock of refrigerated items and one small Ziplock of pantry items.  Points to Blue Apron!

Hello Fresh packaging wasn’t much fun either.  While unloading my Blue Apron box, there were elaborate packaging solutions, like individual cartons for eggs and plums, and I’m a sucker for great packaging.  There were other interesting items in Blue Apron, like unusual vegetables or breads or intriguing descriptions on labels, while there was nothing at all exciting in the Hello Fresh box.  The biggest thrill was some artwork on the bag of shredded mozzarella, but I do graphics and could have whipped it out myself in moments with a better vocabulary.  Points to Blue Apron.

The best part of unpacking Blue Apron was small brown bags of what they called “knick knacks.” It was like a present for every meal – spices, bottles of vinegar, sauces, crazy mushrooms, beautifully packaged rounds of butter and on and on and on.  I would load the small bags in the refrigerator and not open them until I cooked the meal.  Home-run for Blue Apron.  Nothing for Hello Fresh.

So, we hadn’t even started cooking yet and Blue Apron was way ahead.  Did Hello Fresh come from behind at mealtime?  Come back next week and find out!

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

Edith’s French Bistro

Edith's French Bistro, Dallas TX, Spot On Images
Beyond Tantlizing

TRAVEL HERE:  BON JOUR EDITH!

I’ve been holding out on you.  In our pre-occupation with kicking off Spot On Images, I haven’t been as faithful as I once was with sharing the delights Bill and I discover as we wander about the Metroplex.  In my defense, we haven’t been quite as adventurous in recent months, because we’ve been focused on kicking off our new venture.  We got a little lazy, returning frequently to old favorites and depending on those ubiquitous chain restaurants.  Recently, we ran into something that was so good I couldn’t keep it to myself.  

My Turn to Choose, As Usual

“Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know.  Where do you want to go?”

Sound familiar?  We say the same thing and more often than not we answer it geographically.  If we’re up north, we’ll go to Watter’s Creek.  If we’re sticking close to home we’ll go to the Rockwall Square.  If we’re in a more central location, like downtown Dallas, Mockingbird Station is a favorite.  Once at one of these areas we wander around a bit until something grabs us.

For this trip we went to Mockingbird Station.  An interesting rotation of restaurants cycles through and we’ve found several favorites there.  Unfortunately many of them have been short-lived flashes in the pan, but we keep trying, because we usually find something good.  It is our sincere hope that this new restaurant will beat the odds.  We love it and we’re sure if you try it, you will too.  So give it a spin and let us know what you think.

This time, when the usual question came up, I chose Edith’s French Bistro.  The name featured three words I love.  “Bistro” suggests an easy-going casual restaurant.  “French” is one of my favorite cuisines.  And Edith?  Well, those who know me well know it was the name of my favorite aunt, certainly a fortuitous omen.  Right on all counts.

Edith's French Bistro, Dallas TX, Spot On Images
Charming Decor

While we were in the mood for an adventure, we weren’t in the mood to break the bank.  Since French restaurants can often come with a high price tag, we tentatively wandered in the door and took a look around.  We immediately noticed the decor wasn’t all that Frenchy.  Tasteful and inviting most certainly, but in a contemporary, fresh sort of way, rather than white tablecloths and intimidating waiters.

Even as we breathed a sigh of relief, the pastry counter caught our eyes and lured us to gaze longingly at the treasures waiting there.  We were greeted by a handsome young fellow who seemed glad to see us.  We’d arrived much too late for lunch and quite early for dinner, so there weren’t many other patrons to distract him.  He told us of drink specials and raved about the food.  It all sounded good, but in truth, we quite liked him and he was the primary reason we stayed.  Well, that and the pastry counter.

Edith's French Bistro, Dallas TX, Spot On Images
Sleek and Modern Space

Tyler sat us in his section and we perused the menu.  Edith’s was hitting all the marks.  Inviting decor, pristine housekeeping, charming waitstaff and a great selection of food.  I liked that the menu wasn’t one of those exhaustive tomes with a million choices and nothing I really wanted.  Instead, there was a two-sided card.  I could have easily pointed at random and ended up with something I would have loved.

Bill opted for the French Dip Sandwich, but I needed some guidance.  As tempting as they sounded, I stayed away from the breakfast options which were available all day and the crepes.  Even though I was excited by the Frenchness of it all, I found myself lost between two not-so-French options.  They had something called a Ghost Burger which sounded heavenly.  Well, maybe heavenly isn’t the exact right word, because Tyler warned me it was spicy, but just thinking about the description makes me hungry all over again.

I landed on the Shrimp Mac & Cheese which Tyler assured me was his favorite dish.  For now, it’s my favorite dish also, but I intend to visit the restaurant frequently and challenge that opinion.  We quizzed Tyler about the restaurant, wanting to know how long it had been there and if there really was an Edith.  I am proud to announce there is an Edith.  She arrives very early every morning to make the magnificent pastries in the refrigerated case.  They not only look remarkable, they taste that way, too.  I know.  I had one of the eclairs and to my delight it was filled with chocolate.  I’m sure it would have been just as delicious filled with vanilla cream, but if you know me you can imagine how the chocolate thrilled me.

When the bill came we were reminded of the friendly prices.  Certainly visit during happy hour (before 7, I believe), because wine by the bottle is half price, but don’t be afraid to go at other times, because the prices are very affordable all the time.  In fact go frequently, because we need to keep this gem around.  As we grilled Tyler about the restaurant and its Edith, we discovered that her husband has a restaurant right across from her, but as much as I’d love to check it out, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to be that close to Edith’s and not eat there.

Come back here on Wednesday, because we’ll be visiting the bride’s home in Cairo on the day before the wedding – one of my favorite events during my entire visit to Egypt!   I wouldn’t want you to miss it.

(BTW – these delicious pictures were taken with a phone.  Imagine what they’d look like if Bill had his “good” camera with him.)

Real Estate Photographry, Rockwall, TRAVEL, WRITING

We’re Back in Real Estate

Brochure from our days in real estate

TRAVEL HERE: HOW SPOT ON IMAGES CAME TO BE

So last week I told you about our days as residential real estate agents in California, but I still haven’t told you how that led to us start Spot On Images.  Here’s the rest of the story.

When the Bubble Burst

We enjoyed the good old days in real estate, but they ended when the bubble burst.  I’ll share a secret with you, I was sort of glad to be out of it.  We made a lot of money, but I really didn’t like most of the tasks that went along with selling homes – with one exception, I loved creating those brochures and writing the descriptions for the MLS.

Bill loved real estate and he never understood why I didn’t.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he did most of his work behind the scenes and I was the one out there showing houses and writing contracts.  Bill loves it so much that even though our licences expired, he’s kept his fingers in it.  We have rent houses and we’ve sold our own homes.  While most folks can’t wait to hire an agent or they begrudgingly put the FSBO sign out in the yard, Bill is totally energized by the whole process.  He’s taking pictures, creating a website for the home and guiding me through every step of the process with alacrity.  OK, so I’ll go ahead and confess, I really do enjoy creating the brochures and writing the web content.

Real Estate is Back

So back to our real estate photographer friend who was leaving town.  He was entirely too nice to take our money, when we offered to buy his business.  Instead, he showed Bill the ropes and encouraged him to start his own business.  For almost all of our marriage, even when we were selling real estate, Bill’s primary occupation has been investing, so I assumed his interest in real estate photography was just a bit of nostalgia.  Boy, was I ever wrong!

While he’d never completely abandon his investing, he’s automated it to the point that he has time for his other passions.  When the real estate photography bug bit him, he started buying camera equipment of all sorts.  He spent his days getting a feel for his new toys and getting up to speed on all the latest technology.  There was no question of his expertise.  He’d started taking photography lessons in his twenties and it’s been one of his passions ever since.  Most of the great travel photography on this blog comes from him.  As far as his photographic abilities are concerned, he could have hung out his shingle the day he decided to do this, but that’s not how he does things.  He dots his i’s and crosses his t’s.

As he exercised his photography muscle he also started working on me.  He praised my marketing expertise and reminded me of all those people who said they bought my listings because of the words I had written.  In the guise of sharing with me what he’d been learning in his research for his new business, he pointed out how important the internet and social media were to the success of real estate agents.  He was being nice about it, but here’s the bottom line, I was about to be back in real estate, too.

So what did I think about getting back into a business I’d been happy to get out of.  Come back next week and find out!