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Shopping Extravaganza

Another Lazy Afternoon at Watter’s Creek

TRAVEL HERE: WATTER’S CREEK AND THE ALLEN OUTLET MALL

Having safely escaped the Lavender Festival, Deb and I pursued a couple of our favorite pastimes, holiday or no holiday – dining and shopping.  Come along with us.

It Shouldn’t Have Been a Secret

I’d been keeping a secret from my bestie and didn’t even realize it.  Watter’s Creek is a favorite haunt of my husband’s.   The whole multi-purpose development is built around a charming open space.  A grassy hill slopes down to a creek.  Water fowl wander among gleeful children.  A sampling of beautiful people hang out on the patios of a handful of restaurants surrounding the park.  It’s a relaxing oasis from the hustle and bustle, with just enough hustle and bustle of its own to be entertaining.  Many a Sunday afternoon Bill and I make our way to Watter’s Creek for an early supper.  A quick perusal the pictures in my Facebook feed could verify that I’ve made several attempts to notify the world of this pleasant place to hang out.

There’s another reason I didn’t realize Deb was unaware of the charm of Watter’s Creek.  Countless times we’ve shopped the Allen Outlet Mall and then gone to Watter’s Creek and had lunch at Brio, usually on the patio.  I can’t begin to count the number of times Deb and I have lingered on that patio solving the world’s problems and venting over some of our more irritating challenges.  I could have sworn that at least one of those meals ended at DSW, checking out the clearance racks, but I guess not.

As we discussed where to have lunch, we tipped our hat to Brio, but Deb was in the mood for adventure.  When I told her there were other great restaurants in the same complex she gave me an accusing look.  I’d been holding out on her!  She thought the whole thing was an apartment complex with Brio and a Cheesecake Factory stuck next to the highway.  She navigated her car to Watter’s Creek and I directed her around the side of our usual hangout and into the main shopping area.  She immediately loved it.  We parked in one of the garages and headed to a restaurant I had mentioned.

As we strolled, I realized the restaurant ratio at Watter’s Creek was rising.  Bill and I had peeked in the window of the Village Burger Bar, but had never even seen Firewater Kitchen and Bar at the end of the row.  Deb and I turned a corner headed to what I thought was Savor, a tasting restaurant Bill and I had enjoyed on one of our visits – but Savor had become The Cellar.  It looked more barish than foodish, so I recommended we head around the corner to Bonnie Ruth’s Cafe.

A New Favorite is Found

At Bonnie Ruth we opted for the patio and almost immediately declared it our new favorite.  One of the reasons Deb and I are such fast friends is that we love the same things and one of the things we really love is al fresco dining.  If food is good inside a restaurant, it’s our opinion that it’s even better on the patio.  Hubby will join me al fresco – if the weather is perfect, the sun is at the right angle and he’s in the mood.  For Deb and I, there either has to be a snowstorm or pounding rain to deter us from choosing the patio.  Otherwise we’ll at least try to convince the hostess to let us sit out there.

I’m glad to finally have someone who loves Bonnie Ruth the way I do. I’ve tried to indoctrinate Bill, but he’s resisted me.  We’d visited the Frisco location several times and it just didn’t click with him.  I’ve suggested it several times at Watter’s Creek, but he’s always more interested in the restaurants that border on the park, so he can watch the beautiful people and the ducks.  So I sigh and follow him to another choice.

I even tried to get Mom to enjoy Bonnie Ruth’s back when we spent our Thursdays together.  As most of you know, she now spends all her days on a higher plane, but I still keep a catalog of restaurants to try out on her.  See, Mom loved to eat out, but had you been her chauffeur, as I was for many years, you wouldn’t think so.

Finding Restaurants for Ruth

Mom was perpetually on the look out for the perfect cafe.  It needed to have sandwiches, soups and salads – and there were extra points for quiche.  She didn’t want to stand in line to order.  They should have tablecloths and eschew serving food in paper or plastic.  Servers should be attentive and the price had to be right.  That’s a pretty tall order.

Most sandwich and soup places, like La Madeline, Panera and Corner Bakery, start with a line, have bare table tops and the service never adds up.  Then for some reason none of my other favorites, like Bonnie Ruth’s or Lavendou’s, passed her test.  Lunch time would roll around and I would start listing every spot I could think of, but she’d keep that I-don’t-think-so look on her face until I thought I’d expire from exasperation.  Then she’d happily settle for Cantina Laredo, Chili’s or some other place that didn’t match any of the criteria she’d spelled out for the perfect cafe.  She didn’t do al fresco at all.  I loved her, but not for the same reasons I love Deb!

The Yes Hook at Cabi’s

Back to Bonnie Ruth’s Patio

So there I sat on a lovely patio drinking a glass of wine with my bestie.  Heaven – short and simple.  The food was good.  I had a sandwich with poached pear and cheese on delicious bread.  Deb thought she was ordering a Chicken Pecan Salad sandwich, but she ended up with just the salad.  Both were delicious, but the poached pear number won the day.  I’d tell you the name of it, but it’s not on the menu on their website.  We topped it off with some insane chocolate cake drenched in praline sauce.  No calories there, right?

After dessert we hit a few stores.  One was DSW where I got four delightful pairs of shoes for about $60.  In case math is not your strong point, that’s an average of $15 each.  Bestie paid more than my total for one pair of shoes to work out in.  No wonder I don’t like to exercise.  Who wouldn’t rather have four pairs of shoes over one pair of sneakers!

Then we went on to our shopping mecca – Allen Outlet Mall.  Warning, there is all kinds of construction going on there, so your visit will be painful, but your pocketbook will be happy.  My two favorite stores are Cabi and White House/Black Market – and they didn’t disappoint this time either!  WH/BM offered up a pair of leather and suede jeans -originally $450 – that I got for $19.99.  There were a couple of pairs of leggings (suede fronts, stretch backs) that were originally $350 each – yep I got them for $19.99.  A pair of black capri’s and a black divided skirt wanted to come home with me for similar prices.  Cabi was having a 50% off sale that included clearance, so I dropped a few dimes there, too.  How can I resist buying size six trousers?

So, I went a little long today, but it was a fun day.  See you next week!

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Bouncing Around North Texas

Zennias at DABS

TRAVEL HERE: THE METROPLEX AND POINTS BEYOND

Memorial Day Weekend is the official beginning of summer and I kicked off my summer with a vengeance.  I abandoned my computer and headed into the streets for some fun.  Come along with me.

Why Not Start Early!

My little sister, Susan, was having a birthday on the Friday before Memorial Day.  There are five years between us and we are very different, so our lives don’t naturally intersect.  However, that’s no reason to miss out on an opportunity to celebrate.  My mother turned every event into a celebration and while Christmas got top billing, birthdays played an important supporting role throughout the year, with cameo appearances by every other event to which she could attach a gift or meal.

Mom loved the Dallas Arboretum, almost as much as she loved creating celebrations, so it was only natural for Susan and I to make a visit there for her birthday lunch.  It was a perfect picture of what draws us together and how different we are.  We both wanted to make the visit.  We both ordered the salad trio with a glass of Pinot Grigio and we shared a piece of chocolate cake.  However, while Susan was happy to sit inside and benefit from the a/c, I was longingly gazing out towards the patio, wishing I was out there.   I would have also loved to spend a couple of hours wandering the gardens, but walking in the heat was not high on Susan’s list, especially when she was limping from a recent tumble.  So we stopped in at the gift shop and headed towards other adventures.

Susan’s hard to fit, so I dare not buy her any clothes without her being there.  To to find her birthday present, I took her to the Galleria and checked out the petite departments at Belk’s and Talbot’s.  A new handbag, a pair of shorts and two tops later, she was a happy birthday girl.

Bestie at the Festie

Lavender Ridge Farms

My bestie usually has dance lessons on Saturdays, so I have to find other ways to entertain myself.  However, her dance teachers (Yes, she has two and a personal trainer.  She’s very serious about it.) were out of town, so we were able to plan a play date.  Some of her office buddies were going to a Lavender Festival in Gainesville and I was invited along.  We were on the road shortly after 8 and made it to the festival by 9:30.  Good thing, because there was already a crowd.

Quaint is the word I would use for this festival.  While it was the event’s ninth year and wildly popular, it was overly quaint for me.  I think I would have loved visiting on a Saturday afternoon sans the festival, but the festival sort of gummed up the works in a higgledy piggledy sort of way.

The event was enriched by antiques, artisans and wine tastings, but the various booths seemed to have been set up without any discernible pattern.  Regular readers know I’m a little on the OCD side (OK a lot) but trying to figure out an orderly way to visit all the booths was beyond my keen.   There was a lavender garden, but forget pictures of Provence with lavender in bloom.  Deb admitted the lavender plant in her yard had a more spectacular look to it than the whole Lavender Ridge garden.

There was a gift shop, but it was so overwhelmed by festival goers you had to wait in line to enter and once in you saw the store by waiting in the line that snaked around between the displays.  There was a cafe, also overwhelmed by patrons.  The only place we found that wasn’t overwhelmed was a small zoo, but I can’t tell you what animals they had, because there were no signs.

By 10:30 AM we were festivaled out and weren’t quite ready for wine tasting, which was supposed to be the next stop on the tour.  We opted for the Half-Off Sale at the Cabi Outlet in Allen.  That’s when the higgledy piggledy really kicked in.  Deb dropped me off at the potty stop on the way in, so I hadn’t seen the parking lot.  Random is the only way I can describe their parking system.  They could have doubled their capacity (and this is about to become important) if they’d just been a little more organized in the way they parked cars.  As we picked our way through the resulting maze of higgledy piggledy cars, I realized there was a huge petting farm with sheep, goats and chickens that we had missed completely, because it was on the other side of the parking lot from everything else.

I’m telling you, visit this place any time except their festival.  We made our way out of the property and headed back to Dallas. Two roads fed into the entrance and there were cars lined up as far as we could see in both directions.  I can’t tell you how far back one of the lines went, but we had to drive past the other on our return and it was at least two miles long and more cars were arriving.  I’m thinking some of those people sat in line for hours and who knows if they ever made it to the entrance.

Come back next week and have more fun with us girls.

 

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Happy at Heathrow

Lunch at Huxley’s

TRAVEL THERE: A DEFINITELY DELIGHTFUL LAYOVER

No matter how pleasant an Atlantic-crossing flight may be, I need a break when it’s over.  Hanging out in an airport may not be the most fun I can have, but it can be some fun – and this time it was.  It had been a while since I’d been to Heathrow and I have nothing but nice things to say about it.

Welcome to Heathrow

Our bags were checked through to Cairo, which was a blessing, but we had to change terminals.  That’s never fun.  At Heathrow that means you take a bus to the first terminal, follow the purple signs forever, take another bus to the other terminal and get delivered to a skillfully-organized dime-dropping opportunity.

After our brisk walk following the purple signs, I was ready for lunch.  We arrived in the departure lounge and were a bit overwhelmed.  This place is a shopper’s paradise and they have some pretty good food, too.  After checking out the possibilities at the terminal map, we made our way to a place that sounded sort of pub-ish.

My Post Fish & Chips Grin

Hungry at Huxley’s

One nice thing about Heathrow was their choice of restaurants.  You weren’t stuck with your usual food court choices.  I was craving authentic fish and chips, so we made our way to Huxley’s, described on the Heathrow website this way: 

“With its handsome dark-wood chequerboard floor and leather banquette seating, Huxleys could pass for a new-wave gastropub, but the menu has no such pretensions. Expect simple compilations of the best ingredients: slow cooked pork belly, old English pork sausages and 21 day aged steak. Thick-cut sandwiches, pie and mash, all-day breakfasts, beer battered fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding continue the British theme. “

I had to look no further than front and center on the menu to figure out what I wanted and Huxley’s did not disappoint.  The British Classic was everything my taste buds had been craving – and the minted peas?  Marvelous!  Bill had some sort of sandwich and a beer.  I wanted a beer, but I opted for a diet soda instead.  I was still trying to watch my weight at that point and I was busting the calorie budget with my beer-battered fish.

As we waited for our food to be served we observed what others were having and admired something called an Eton Mess as it was delivered to another table.  Fresh strawberries, crushed meringue, whipped cream and ice cream.  What was there not to like?  We toyed with the idea of finishing our meal with the same, but there was no room in the tummy after I inhaled all the gorgeous fish and chips.

Let’s Go Shopping

To me, the star of the shopping mall was Harrod’s.  Not only is it a British classic, the space it occupied was spectacular.  I saw at least six things that I wanted to come home with me before I even entered the shop.

Bill was attracted to the duty-free shopping.  That’s where he discovered that I had been right about the Jack Black Scotch.  We could have bought it for a great price at the airport and not had to sacrifice pounds in our luggage.

There was another little shop that represented another brand now associated with all things British.  I’m not a Hogwart fan, but I had to take this picture for Hannah Beth.  We were able to enjoy both floors of the Heathrow Terminal 5 shopping opportunity before they posted our gate on the departure monitors, but we managed to keep the credit cards in our pockets.

I caught up on my travel journal – it’s always quite detailed in the beginning, but by the end of the trip I’m not such a faithful diarist.  I wandered around a bit, trying to take advantage of this chance to stretch my legs.  I also made my pre-boarding potty stop.  That’s when I found this guy biding me farewell and  I couldn’t resist capturing him for you.

Our flight was called and we boarded.  Come back next week for our exciting arrival in Cairo!

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Birmingham Museum of Art

birmingham-museum-of-art02202017

Birmingham Museum of Art

TRAVEL THERE: THE JEWEL OF BIRMINGHAM

When the possibility of visiting Birmingham first came up, I checked out the city online.  The city seemed to be a foodie haven with a great art museum and a nice botanical garden, but comparing their hours to our flight schedule and the hours of the thing I can’t tell you about, I wasn’t going to have time to do anything about any of that.  So, I dutifully went about my business.  Still, something in my subconscious kept clanging.  I couldn’t exactly recall why, but I knew I really wanted to see the museum.

bma-postcard02202017Perhaps, Maybe, Possibly

One day at lunch, before we took off on the Birmingham adventure, I mentioned to Hannah Beth that I regretted we weren’t going to have time to do the touristy thing.  She assured me the museum was well worth seeing and mentioned a couple of possibilities we might have for seeing it.  I assured her I had checked for evening hours, so that wouldn’t work, but skipping the final session – that would do.

I just happen to be one of those people who believe God is personally involved in my life.  I also believe that if I’m willing to put Him first, He does everything he can to fulfill Psalms 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desire of your heart.”  In fact, He’s proved it to me too many time to deny it.

So, while we were keeping an ear to the ground to find out how significant the final session would be, God was arranging to keep things ahead of schedule so that we could get out in plenty of time to make it to the museum.  You may call that a coincidence.  I don’t believe in coincidences.

My Wedgewood-esque Fireplace

My Wedgewood-esque Fireplace

An Embarrassment of Wedgwood

If you’ve been hanging around this blog for very long, then you know the Decorative Arts Wing of any museum is my prime objective when I make a visit.  I love Decorative Arts better than anything else produced from the artistic mind.  I can spend an entire day in a Porcelain gallery – a passion I learned from my mother.

What’s more, Wedgwood,especially their Jasperware, (matte porcelain with relief decorations) is among my most favorite porcelains. Don’t believe me?  Take a gander at the photo of the fireplace my husband and I designed for our home.  You don’t have one of these unless you love Wedgwood.  It was inspired by two I’d seen in Mount Vernon.

Along with representative Wedgwood pieces gracing the mantle piece, there are various Wedgwood and Jasperware pieces spread throughout the house.  For good measure, my everyday china is Wedgwood.  Not Jasperware but Wedgwood.  So imagine my delight when I glanced over the map of the Birmingham Museum and saw three galleries designated by the word “Wedgwood”.

The Dwight and Lucille Beeson Wedgwood Collection

If you love Wedgwood the way I love Wedgwood, then go ahead and book the flight.  I’ve been in a lot of museums and so far, I’ve never seen one with so much Wedgwood.  I haven’t been to The Wedgwood Museum at Stokes-on-Trent yet, but that’s only because it didn’t exist decades ago when I visited the city.  I can assure you, this is the most Wedgwood you are going to see anywhere outside of Britain.

The galleries contain mostly Jasperware in a rainbow of hues, but they have samples of other forms of Wedgwood collected by the couple.  I swear I could have visited the museum every day for a week and been perfectly happy studying the exhibits in the three galleries.  Here are some samples.

 

That blue and yellow vase on the jade pedestal would be great in my yellow and blue French decor but the dark blue wine cooler with the white flowers must be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  I’d leave it in the museum for others to share.

Giving the Rest of the Art Its Due

Even if you don’t like Wedgwood, the Birmingham Museum of Art is still a good thing to see.  Porcelains from other places are prevalent throughout the museum, but there are also paintings and statues and other things to enjoy.  I did run through the balance of the galleries at a high speed and then rushed back to gander at the Wedgwood a little more.  However, I did get these two postcards to prove the museum has variety.

 

ww-book02202017Buying the Book

In this digital age, when you can find almost any piece of art you’d like to see by searching it online, art books might not seem a good investment to some people.  Maybe other people spend their time cruising museums online, but I’ll confess, I want to be there and see it in person.  Seeing it online is better than not seeing it at all, but it’s not even on the same continent as first hand observation.

By the same token, while I have broken my habit of buying a book in every museum I go to, sometimes I just have to take a catalog home.  This was one of those times.  In fact, I anticipated facing down the fury of my husband if the only thing available was some $160 hardback number.

I guess God was doing me another favor, because there was a reasonably priced soft cover edition of the catalog – only it had a large sticker designating it as the display copy.  I chatted up the clerk, who was a volunteer.  She looked in the stockroom – nothing.  She offered to have someone take a gander in the warehouse in the next day or so and call me if they had anymore.  I just stood there clasping the display edition as if my life depended on it.  “I’m leaving town this afternoon,” I all but wailed.  “Oh we can ship it to you,” she assured me.

I put off replying to her suggestion by telling her about my fireplace.  Then I mused as to what in the world I would do if there were no more of the books in the warehouse.  She decided to sell me the display copy at a discounted price.  BINGO!  I’m getting a whole lot better at this negotiating thing than I used to be.  I’d have paid full price just to have it, but I’m sure the fireplace story did the trick!

The flight home was not as trouble free as my flight to Birmingham.  The flight was delayed for hours and as a result I know more about the food vendors at the Birmingham airport than I should.  I’d been on a diet, which had been seriously threatened by the fast food offerings served to us at that thing I can’t tell you about, but what damage had not already been done got done.  So much for dieting.  And so much for Birmingham.  Come back next week and see what I’m up to.

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Filed under ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

San Marcos Premium Outlets

A Sampling of my Souvenirs

A Sampling of my Souvenirs

TRAVEL THERE: MY KIND OF SHOPPING AND MORE

I love shopping.  Actually, it would be more correct to say I love buying.  I’m perfectly capable of wandering through a bazaar or market in a faraway place, just to get a feel for the place, but for me, it’s a lot more fun if there’s buying involved.

My husband has finally cured me of that – at least when he’s around.  I used to come home from trips with a souvenir from every stop.  I collected trinket boxes and Christmas ornaments.  I loved to find handmade clothing and jewelry.  I gathered up souvenir booklets like some people collect baseball cards.  In the early years of our marriage, this practice created great discomfort for Bill.  He followed me around  with his eyes full of pain and flinched at every purchase.  I didn’t pay close enough attention, so he started helping me understand his point of view.

Collecting just doesn’t make any sense to him.  To Bill, all my gorgeous trinket boxes seemed like clutter.  He’s suggested I store most of them and only put out a few at a time.  What once held pride of place, on the fireplace mantle of my apartment, is now hidden away upstairs on a shelf in my office – along with all my framed family photos, my large collection of books and … well you get the picture.  I don’t have to allow much room for souvenirs in my return luggage, anymore.

From time to time, I’ll have a lapse of judgement.  We’ll be traveling and I’ll pick up an item with that look in my eye.  Bill goes into panic mode.  Trinket boxes and Christmas ornaments are strictly taboo.  If I’ve picked up an item for the house, Bill wants to know exactly where I plan to display it and of course, he really loves what’s there and doesn’t want to replace it.  Whatever it is, it won’t be coming home with me.  Clothing and jewelry?  Forget about it.  He asks what I’m going to throw away or donate to make space for the new item.  My only hope of making a purchase is when I find a gift for someone else.  It takes some of the fun out of it.

The Exceptions to the Rule

While he can’t see the value in that cute straw purse on the beach or an embroidered sweater in the Alps, Bill does understand I know my way around an outlet mall.  He fully endorses my outlet shopping.  Mind you, he rarely goes with me, but he also doesn’t need resuscitation when I come home with armloads of shopping bags.  See, he knows that cute straw purse on the beach has a mark-up somewhere in the range of 100%, but if I buy a top at an outlet mall, they’ve almost had to pay me to get me to carry it out.

I’m also allowed to buy shoes at DSW.  I never look at anything unless it’s on the clearance rack and even then, I’ll only look at things that are 50% or more off.  What I love is the yellow stickers, because that means they are marked down 80% or more.

San Marcos Premium Outlet

20170112_075950For some reason I cannot fathom, I never shopped at the San Marcos Premium Outlet – at least not in the last 20-30 years.  It seems as if long ago I might have gone with Mom and Aunt Edie, but I think the stores may have been on the other side of the road – and none of the stores I loved this time were there.

You know I love San Antonio and get there every time I can, but for some reason, we’d just drive right past this outlet mall or stop in Salado.  It pains me to think of all the bargains I’ve missed.

Deb and I started at Off 5th, the Saks outlet.  I’d been looking at white pique dresses all summer long, but could not tolerate spending $150-200 for one dress.  At Saks, I took several reasonably priced options to the dressing room and found one for about$20 that I loved.  (I didn’t even know I was headed to Egypt on my next trip.  Imagine how cute I will be, going out to dinner in Sharm!)  Then off to the shoe department.  Score!!  Ellen Tracy brown crocodile pumps with a leather stack heel for $16.99!   $16.99!!

20170112_080244After that auspicious beginning, my purchasing slowed down, but I did pick up a few items here and there.  Then we wandered in to Dream Land.  I pride myself on looking designer without paying designer prices, but I confess, there are designers I love and if money were no object, as my spouse if fond of saying, I’d load my closet up with them.  My new favorite is Carolina Herrera.  To my utter delight, she has an outlet store in San Marcos.  The prices are still a little out of my reach, but they are closer than the ones at Northpark.  Armani, Brahmin, Coach, Ferragamo – all these and more grace the sidewalks of the San Marcos outlet mall.

But let me tell you my favorite.  I love St. John.  I can pick out someone wearing it a mile away.  There’s a sleek elegance I aspire to that exudes from each St. John creation.  Their store is not exactly on the main drag, so we had to wander a bit to find it, but I adored the few moments I spent there.  No reason to spend any more, because nothing was in my price range.

At a final stop, we found a handbag for my bestie.  She’d been willing to pay $100 for something adequate at the Saks outlet, but we agreed to keep looking.  She got a Brahmin for about $120.  I was giddy.  She hoped I was spending her money wisely and now I think she agrees I did.

Then it was time to head back to join the women who had spend the day in Gruene, because we were headed out to dinner.  See you next week!

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A Lovely Afternoon in Passau

5p-oooTRAVEL THERE: GLADLY GUIDELESS IN GERMANY

After lunch Bill and I ventured into Passau on our own.  While we’d been frustrated by our guide’s demeanor during the morning, he had led us through a shopping area and shown us a nice riverside walkway.  Passau is no Vienna and we’d had lunch, so Bill was amenable to hoofing it around on our own.

 

A Marvelous Afternoon

While our morning tour had left a bad taste in our mouth, it had not besmirched the charming little town.  The first item on my agenda was to find some tokens for my friends.  A thorough search of the room did not turn up any of the darling gingerbread ornaments I bought in Cesky Krumlov, so I needed to get busy.  I wanted to get something for my Bible Study girls and then I had a couple of other friends for whom I wanted to buy something more substantial.

Ludwigstrasse

Ludwigstrasse

Passau has a significant pedestrian area with shops called Ludwigstrasse and nearby are a couple multistory of enclosed malls.  My patient husband wandered through all of these with me, hunting down the appropriate souvenirs – only I wasn’t finding much that I thought was appropriate.  Finally, we wandered into a knick-knack store and while most of the items were tacky bibelots   with the words “Passau, Germany” emblazoned on them, I found a shelf populated with charming ceramic cherubs molded into a variety of poses.  I’d found the trinkets I wanted for my Bible Study girls.

5p-ooo-3Strolling Along the River

I was still baffled about what to get for my best friend and my next door neighbor, who is truly the best next door neighbor in the world, but Mr. Bill was ready to roll.  We headed toward the river and were hugely rewarded.

The morning had been chilly in more ways than one.  Yes, our guide had been Mr. Rude, but the weather was overly crisp, also.  I’d layered up with a denim jacket and a wool cape, but had still been uncomfortable.  The afternoon weather was so glorious that we might have been in Dallas on one of its best days.

We discovered it was the first really warm day for Passau that spring and the whole town had turned out to enjoy the river.  Children tossed balls into the air.  Lovers ogled one another on shared blankets.  Giggly girls shared secrets strolling along the river.  Another girl sat on a stairway leading down to the river captivated by a book.  Beer drinking students toasted everyone that walked by.  It was like a movie set!

Once More to the Ludwigstrasse

Armed with a map the rude guide had provided, Bill and I maneuvered around the finger of land pointing to the confluence of the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube.  When we got back to the boat, Bill agreed to hit the Ludwigstrasse with me one more time.  I was in a tizzy.  I had to finish packing and dress for dinner soon, but I just didn’t want to head home without something for my friends.

As I bounced from storefront to storefront appalled at the pricing, Bill came to the rescue.  One of the clothing stores was having a bit of a sidewalk sale and Bill pointed it out.  I doubted anything would be affordable, even marked down, because all the prices I had seen were pretty steep.  Bill helped me figure out the exchange rate and the discount.  Suddenly, I was all smiles.  Not only had we found exactly what I’d love to get for Deb and Sherry, but I wasn’t going to break the bank!

It was a quiet night on board.  The evening happy hour was devoted to disembarking instructions.  Dinner was delicious, but sad.  We’d made wonderful friends and we didn’t know when we’d see them again.  Then there we had to be out early in the morning.  For all practical purposes, the cruise was over.

Come back next week and I’ll get you back to Dallas.  In the meantime, enjoy this video of our final stop.

 

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YouTube Videos Lie

TRAVEL HERE: HOME IMPROVEMENT INSANITY

I’m going to rant today.  I’ve whined before over the “improvements” companies insist on making to things I love – “improvements” that render my favorite things useless to me.  All it takes for a cosmetics company to discontinue a lipstick color is for me to like it, but that’s different from improving products past the point of being useful.  You know what I mean.

The Tension-less Shower Rod

I grew up with something called a tension shower rod.  The tension came from a spring.  You’d twist the rod until it was just a smidge bigger than your opening.  Then you’d squeeze it into place and forget about it – like for decades.  This was a true improvement over the old shower rods you attached with screws.  The improved rod worked without marring your wall and if it ever did come down, you weren’t left with a hole in the wall.  What’s more, if your spring ever did lose a little of its tension, you could just unscrew it a little bit and get another decade or so out of the rod.

Then the shower rod companies decided to “improve” their product.  I remember going to the store and buying a tension shower rod and coming home to put it up.  I ripped off the cellophane and started twisting it the way I always had, but something was wrong.  I dug the wrapping out of the trashcan and paid more attention to it.  A big blue star on the wrapper informed me the rod was “SPRINGLESS”.  And they thought that was good news???

For awhile, springless and springed tension shower rods were sold side-by-side, but only for awhile.  After our most recent move, there were no springed tension rods – at all.  I looked everywhere.  So, I came home with the new springless version and gave it to my husband, because I already knew there was no hope for me with the rod.  He watched a YouTube video and managed to install the rod, but after a couple of weeks our expensive custom shower curtain was down on the floor.  After a few rounds of that, we went out, bought the really old kind that screws into the wall.  It took some research, but we found one.  Months later, the shower curtain is still up there.  I’m thinking it will always be up there, but so will the holes we made.  So much for improvement.

Do-It-Yourself Mini-blinds

There was a time when people who wanted mini-blinds had to call a decorator.  I’m glad those days are over.  Now you can get mini-blinds at your big box home-improvement store, but the measuring might be a little tricky.  For our latest house we ordered “custom” blinds and since we have 30 some odd windows, measuring them was quite a challenge.  My husband did the installing and it wasn’t the easiest thing he’d ever done, but he did it without the egregious use of swear words.

So when we needed mini-blinds for one of our rent houses, we thought we knew what we were doing.  We showed up with our measurements, thinking we’d go in and make do with the “standard” sized blind that were trimmed to fit, but got a lesson in mini-blind packaging from our friendly big box sales employee.

Seems folks used to measure their window and then the store personnel would do some kind of mathematical equation to provide blinds with the perfect fit.  The mini-blind manufacturers have now decided to cut out the mathematical equation.  Now when you go to the big box store you just pick out the box with your window width on it and voila, you have mini-blinds that fit – at least theoretically.

We pointed out to the nice man at the store the blinds were at least a foot longer than we needed, but he assured us the length was adjustable.  Nice right?

The actual installation of the blinds was pretty straightforward.  In fact, hubby was able to negotiate the blinds into the window without reading the instructions or asking me anything.  Then we got to the adjusting the length part.  I dug out one of the instruction pages and read through it.  The instructions sounded like gobbledy goop to me.  There were four different types of string and you had to hold your tongue just right, but the instructions assumed we’d find it simple.

Simple isn’t exactly the word I would use, but there was one part that was virtually impossible.  At the bottom of the blind was a plastic plug which had to be removed so you could thread those four types of string through the hole it filled.  The instructions said to remove the plug with a screwdriver.  Bill gave it a shot, but his efforts destroyed the plugs.

Remembering the “helpful” YouTube video he’d watched to install the SPRINGLESS  tension rod, I whipped out my phone and googled “adjusting Levolor blinds length.”  (FYI, there are 6100 results to that inquiry.)  I clicked on the Levolor video and watched it while Bill wrestled with a mini-blind.

Liar, liar!  Pants on fire!  Since we’d already figured out those four types of string, I waited impatiently while the video got to the plastic plug part.  The video showed the bottom of the blind and then someone popped the plug out with no hassle at all.  I must have watched that part of the video three times, thinking I missed the part where they explained the removal process, but the truth of the matter was, they cheated.

The blinds are installed and we adjusted them, but let’s hope our tenant never gets around to inspecting the bottom of the blind.  Next time we’ll just leave a foot of extra slats laying up in the window.  So much for that improvement, too.

 

 

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