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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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Bye Bye Vegas – We’re Happy to Go!

Travel There – Trial by Footsteps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Friends Make Everything Better!

Travel There – Our Last Night in Vegas

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

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

From Paris to Myanmar

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

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

Rhythms & Riffs

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

Lupo by Wolfgang Puck

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

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

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

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

Back to Paris

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

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

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

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

San Antonio Stopover

TRAVEL THERE – SAN ANTONIO , MY FAVORITE CITY TO VISIT

What? No Luminaries AGAIN!!

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

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

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

The Crockett Hotel

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

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

The Alamo Lights

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

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

The River Walk

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

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

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

The Chinese Tea Garden

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

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

Shana and the Huisache Grill

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

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

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

And Then Home

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

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

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Photography, Real Estate Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Gallivanting in Galveston

TRAVEL THERE – MEMORIES OF A BEACH HOUSE

Magical Memories

Were I to try and list all the marvelous things we enjoyed while we were staying in our friend Stephanie’s beach house, Footprints in the Sand Galveston, I’d be writing this Weekend Report for a long time, so I’ll try to stick to the highlights.

The house itself is the star of the show. What a beautiful, relaxing beach house it is. Because of our late arrival and the heavy fog, we were insulated from what a special place it was until the morning came around. I was up first, enjoying the quiet hours of the morning and for a while, it appeared we’d be socked in with fog again. I devoted some of my prayer time to chatting with God about that and he delivered a spectacular day for shooting. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the roar of the surf and my beautiful surroundings.

Lunch at The Sand Bar

By lunchtime, Galveston was really putting on a show. The weather could not have been more perfect. Gene Alton is my cool cousin. With his first hand knowledge of the area, we depend on him to recommend places to eat. His suggestion to go to the West End Marina for a bite was great!

The marina is extensive and there are several venues to enjoy, but on a Monday afternoon, the only one serving lunch was The Sandbar Grille. We found a seat on the patio and fell in love. Bill in particular enjoyed the scenery. He is fascinated by boats and loves the water. So he was in heaven.

Gene Alton and I caught up on family news and what each of us had been up to. Meanwhile, The Sand Bar was delivering up great drinks and an even better lunch. The margaritas were stellar and when the food arrived, it got very quiet. We were hungry and the food was good. A friend let us know we should have tried the Shrimp Kisses, but the news came too late.

Gene Alton’s shrimp poor boy looked great and I can tell you it was delicious, especially the sauce, because he gave up a few shrimp to me. Bill had the fried shrimp and nary a shrimp was left behind. I had the fish and chips, which were good, but surprising. There are no chips. There’s a big bowl of rice and beans, but no chips!

A Walk on the Beach

After lunch Bill had more shooting to do and then he took a nap, but I went to the beach. Beachcombing was one of my mom’s favorite things to do in the world, most likely because it was a way to do nothing at all and not feel guilty.

I felt her there with me as I strolled along the beach. I took pictures of the things she might find interesting as we walked along. Take a look at what the Gulf of Mexico offered up for the day.

Dinner with Friends at Waterman’s

Okay, after shooting photos all day long, we were total photography drop outs at dinner. Our good friends, Linda and Clay left their Penthouse on the beach in Galveston proper and drove to the West End to see us and the spectacular house.

We went to Waterman’s, which is beautiful and serves amazing food, but I can’t show you, because we didn’t take any pictures. Our server was so sweet, but I think she fibbed a little. She brought the wine to the table to serve and began to open the bottle, but she never cut the foil! It was a petite drama as she struggled to open the wine, disappeared for a while and came back to struggle again – and once again, she didn’t cut off the foil. I wrote it off to “new waitress” and wasn’t worried about it. Then she informed us she had opened “thousands of bottles of wine and never had such a hard time.” I’m not sure where she was working before, that they only had screw top wines, but I swear I think it was her first pour from a corked bottle.

The food was great, though. Bill and I shared a seafood pasta dish and I ate entirely too many of their hot rolls. The company was better than the food, but we were exhausted after a long day of shooting. We went back to the beach house and were soon in bed.

A Morning at the Beach

Some of my favorite hours at the beach were solitary. I really enjoyed the quiet time. The second morning there was our own, except for a quick delivery by the rental company and a few shots of the decor items they delivered. Some items had gotten broken in the renovation and they wanted us to be able to shoot the replacements before we left.

Here I am, beach hair and all, checking out the beach with Bill. Too soon, we were loading up the car and heading to a new destination. I had managed to squeeze a night in San Antonio out of this trip.

That’s right, we loaded up the car and headed to San Antonio via the backroads, since we were on the west end of the island. A few hours later we checked into our hotel and went right to the Riverwalk. So come back again tomorrow and maybe, just maybe, I’ll wrap up this weekend report.

DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Shopping

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.

DFW Metroplex, Photo Organization, Photo Organization Coach, Photography, Real Estate Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Scrapbooking

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – THIRD WEEKEND IN NOVEMBER & AUTUMN IS DEFINATELY HERE

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration yesterday. While last weekend was fairly busy, there’s not a lot that will be interesting to you. However, we did try out a new restaurant on Thursday and on Friday I did have one thing worth mentioning.

Finally Four Winds

So, shortly after we moved to the Rockwall area, we started hearing about a steak restaurant called Four Winds in Wills Point. We also heard that to get a reservation there, you needed to book a month in advance and you’d still be lucky to get in. We’re fairly spontaneous about our dining out and steak is something we usually cook at home, so even though folks raved about the food, we had not made any serious attempt to go.

Still, we kept hearing about it, so we’d begun to look for a reason to make a reservation and go. That’s when one of those people who want to sell you annuities sent us an invitation for a free meal at Four Winds in exchange for listening to her presentation.

I’m warning all of you people who offer up time shares, vacation clubs and financial plans, Bill and I are very good at ‘no thank you’. We actually consider the presentations a sort of entertainment and feel no compunction at leaving without setting an appointment or buying any thing at all. Remember, you contacted us. We didn’t come looking for you.

A free dinner at one of the most popular restaurants in the area? That’s a no brainer. I won’t waste your time with the annuity bit, but I will tell you Four Winds made listening to the spiel worthwhile. Both of our steaks were noteworthy and the side dishes were good too. I’m sure we’ll find a reason to go back and we won’t even mind paying for it ourselves!

Wine, Women & Wealth

One of my dear friends, Susan Bennett-White is a financial consultant. She handles all kinds of things from a program to save you money on the things you buy every day, to being able to help you get your finances in order to buy that house you want or even what kind of life insurance you need. Once a month she has a program directed at educating women, which as a group are generally underserved in the financial arena. It’s called Wine, Women & Wealth.

Besides being a good educational vehicle for women concerning their personal finances, it’s also a great networking event – that’s why I’m there. The meal is free, the event is fun and while it’s obvious Susan would love to have your business, there is never any pressure to buy, from Susan or from the various businesses – one of which is spotlighted each month. Just so happens this month, my memory keeping business was the spotlight.

So, in the photo above you see me, begging people to turn their mess over to me and let me turn it into memories they can share with pride. We’re at Alfredo’s Steakhouse in Forney, TX. Since I go there once a week for FANG, Forney Area Networking Group (Networking you can sink your teeth into) once a week and then once a month for Wine, Women and Wealth, it just might be the restaurant I go to most frequently, but even though it’s a steak house, all I ever get is breakfast, a salad or a sandwich.

I’d love to connect you with Susan and her monthly free lunch and networking event, so just let me know if you’d like to be invited next month.

Wedding Bells and Sunday School

The only other place I went this past weekend was church and I went twice. One of the sweetest girls in my church married the love of her life there on Saturday. It was a very tender event. Then, of course, on Sunday morning I got up and went to church. I happened to be the greeter, which meant I froze my patookus off, there in the breezeway of Rockwall Bible Church.

Otherwise, I took care of a few real estate photography clients, designed and ordered my company Christmas cards, finished a digital photobook and ordered it, started another one and tried to deliver a pair of scrapbooks I had finished, but my client got caught up at the mall. Not very exciting, huh?

I actually was away from the house for less than half an hour, because my client caught me before I got too far, but when I got home all hell had broken loose. My husband had decided to build a few shelves in the attic, for which I am sincerely grateful, but many of my “treasures” (translated that means “free tote bags” were in danger, because he wanted to “organize” (translated that means “dispose of”) them.

And really, that’s it! Next up, learn about Las Vegas’ High Roller Ferris Wheel and then on Thursday, we’ll be talking about the digital side of my memory keeping business.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Gardens, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – SECOND WEEKEND IN NOVEMBER

Quiet Saturday Ends with a Great Meal

Last weekend I was finishing up a custom scrapbook for a client, so I was in hog heaven. I happily worked through the day in my studio, content with the knowledge I had a great evening planned. We were continuing the birthday celebration for my bestie with dinner at Lavendou.

Lavendou Bistro Provincial is one of my very favorite local restaurants, along with Javier’s, Brio and Bazille. Add in Joe T. Garcia’s over in Fort Worth and I really would never need another restaurant. That’s why Deb and I are so happy, waiting for our table on Saturday night. We were in for a treat.

I used to live just blocks away from Lavendou, so it was my go-to restaurant for lunch-time meet-ups. Once we moved to Heath, getting to Lavendou for lunch was a bit of a stretch and I miss it more than I can say.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when Deb said she wanted her birthday meal at my old favorite. Now, I have to tell you. I do not usually go to Lavendou for dinner, because it can get a little pricey, not a pricey as Dallas can get for a nice meal out, but pricier than we usually spend. However, it was a special occasion and the meal was outstanding.

Well, the only one who ate a meal was Bill. He actually ordered up a seafood entrée and ate every bite, which is unusual for him. He usually eats about half of his food and takes the rest home for another meal. This evening there was nary a crumb or a drop of sauce left on the plate.

Meals at Lavendou start out with warm, fresh baguette slices. Bill’s not much of one for bread either. He likes it and may use it to sop up the sauce, but he doesn’t just sit around and spread butter or oil on it. At Lavendou he gives Deb and I a run for our slices, because the sour dough bread is just that good.

Deb and I moved from bread to soup. She had French Onion, which she loved, but I had Lobster Bisque, which is an occasion all by itself. I could wax eloquent on it’s attributes, but I’ll just say you should have it when you go – and you are going to go aren’t you?

From there we moved on to escargot. Oh my goodness! How delicious!! Tender tasty meat bits smothered in garlic butter and yet another excuse to eat more bread slices. We were in heaven.

We also had just barely enough room left for dessert. Yes, we skipped right over the entrée. Now, Lavendou has a variety of delicious desserts, but when I’m there for dinner, there’s only one I care about and that’s the chocolate soufflé. You have to go in knowing you want it, because it has to be ordered with your meal, but just do it!

An absolutely perfect meal with my two favorite people in the world. You can’t ask for more than that. We did make one stop on the way home. Another thing we loved about living in Far North Dallas was Central Market. Whenever we’re over that way, Bill has to stop. He might also get a slice of Carrot Cake, a Crème Brulee or some sushi, but he’s there for the freshly made gelato. We always get a large box with at least three flavors. I say we, but I don’t eat much in the way of ice cream or gelato, so it’s all about Bill. Me, I hang out in the floral department. It’s spectacular. I don’t buy. I just look. I did buy some chicken salad from their chef’s selection, but that’s because I was feeling all kinds of luxurious.

A Sunday in Fort Worth Garden

As if I hadn’t already had an absolutely perfect weekend, Sunday was also special. I woke up early and put the finishing touches on the album I was working on. I had coffee with Bill (he has the coffee, while I drink my beloved Diet Dr Pepper) and then went to church. After church we ate our Central Market chicken salad and headed to Fort Worth.

Any day I spend with my husband can be quite special, but my very favorites are the ones he actually plans himself. While I was away at church, he researched ways to spend the afternoon and decided on a trip to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden where they were having a Fall Festival. He confessed he had checked the Dallas Arboretum first, where we have maintained a membership for years, but during the pandemic they started requiring us to schedule our visits. That’s a hassle! So we let our membership lag and since they are still requiring us to schedule our visits, we rarely go. Covid has yet another permanent impact on my life. Maybe some day they will wise up and we can go back to our casual drop-bys.

I’ve been making treks to Fort Worth for a long time and I remember when their botanic garden was both small and free, unless you visited the Japanese Garden. That was a long time ago. Now, there’s a Garden Center, a Conservatory, all the old gardens and some new gardens. Seniors pay $10 to enter, but then the Japanese Garden is included so, it was a very inexpensive way to spend a great afternoon. Since there was also a festival, then we were really doing good.

Rather than wear you out with more words I’ll just show you some pictures. The Japanese Festival was only one weekend, but they have another in the spring when the cherry blossoms are opening. They are also just about to start their holiday show, Lightscape and I think it’s going to be wonderful – so go!!

So – go to Lavendou and visit the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. We topped off our day with some Dickie’s ribs and okra. We had a bit of an adventure getting there which I’ll just skip over. The dangers of depending on Google and your GPS, but life was made for adventures, so stay tuned for more of them – here and there!