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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.

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

Friends Make Everything Better!

Travel There – Our Last Night in Vegas

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

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

From Paris to Myanmar

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

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

Rhythms & Riffs

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

Lupo by Wolfgang Puck

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

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

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

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

Back to Paris

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

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

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

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

Ticking Attractions Off Our List

Travel There – The Fall of Atlantis and Barbie

Navigating Like Pros

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

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

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

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

Barbie, A Cultural Icon Exhibition

My Barbie Collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Exhibition

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Antonio Stopover

TRAVEL THERE – SAN ANTONIO , MY FAVORITE CITY TO VISIT

What? No Luminaries AGAIN!!

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

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

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

The Crockett Hotel

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

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

The Alamo Lights

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

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

The River Walk

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

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

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

The Chinese Tea Garden

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

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

Shana and the Huisache Grill

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

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

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

And Then Home

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

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

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.

Accommodations, Decorative Arts, Photography, Real Estate Photography, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Footsteps in the Sand Galveston

TRAVEL THERE – EARNING OUR STAY

Dark Thirty and Fog

Welcome back to the second part of The Weekend Report for the First Weekend in December. Let me remind you, we left Dallas behind schedule and made our way to Galveston to shoot a rental property for a good friend. We’d hoped to arrive in time to get some shots done that evening, but even if we’d left on time, the weather was not our friend. Galveston had been cloudy and foggy all day.

With nothing to shoot, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some wine. No need to waste the evening, right? At the Sea Wall, the GPS told us we still had some driving to do. Our adventures on the island had all been on the East End, where the hotels and cruise terminal dominate. Stephanie’s house, Footprints in the Sand Galveston, was at the West End, so off we drove with the city lights behind us.

The West End is a very different experience than the hustle and bustle of the island’s city. It was pitch black out there, with a few brightly lit exceptions, and it was quiet, very quiet. When we arrived, the rental company, Ryerson Vacation Rentals, had turned on the lights and unlocked the door for us, so our first peek at the house was merry and bright.

If you know Galveston, then you are familiar with its popular architectural style. Almost all the beach houses are on stilts, perhaps a garage downstairs, but never much else, because when a hurricane or tropical storm blows in you want your house to be there when it is done. So we parked under the house and made our way up the stairs.

Knock Us Over With a Feather

Now, we know, anything Stephanie gets involved with is going to be top notch and she has immaculate taste, but we were still blown away when we walked into the house. We looked at one another in glee at the prospect at staying at this beautiful place for a couple of days.

The first thing we did, even before bringing in our luggage, was explore every corner of the house to figure out which was the master bedroom. Each room was better than the next, but we hadn’t seen what we thought was the primary suite. We went back to the gorgeous living room and there was a spiral staircase leading to another floor. We climbed up there and it was like discovering heaven. A huge bedroom with its own private balcony and a spa-style bathroom. WOW.

We hustled back down the stairs and brought up our luggage. We wanted to start having fun as soon as we possible could. After stowing away our stuff, we poured ourselves some wine and hit the huge wraparound porch. It was too dark to see the beach, but we could hear it loud and clear – and we could smell the delightful scent of the sea.

Now, we were a bit of a surprise to the rental company. They’d just taken the property over from another company and had overseen some renovation. We were the first guests for them and they hadn’t even known we were coming until that morning, which was a Sunday, so the fact the house was ready at all was a miracle. However, they hadn’t had the chance to inspect everything before we arrived. We became the inspectors and discovered two things right off – there was no propane for the firepit and something was wrong with the hot tub. We called the next morning and had workmen there in minutes. Personally, I was impressed.

A Day of Shooting

So, it really doesn’t matter when I go to bed, I’m going to wake up between 5 and 6, even at the beach. So, very early I crept down the spiral staircase and fired up my computer. When Bill joined me, we didn’t have much time for enjoying where we were. It was time to go to work. I staged the areas we’d been in, while Bill started shooting.

First up, he took the standard interior and exterior shots for a short term rental – which is a lot more than it would be for a sale property. Renters are looking for different things than buyers. Once those shots were finished, it was time for the video. We took a lunch break with my cousin, who lives in the area. When we came back, Bill did the drone work.

Then Bill was exhausted. That’s a lot of shooting and he needed to take the twilight shots at sunset. With about an hour to kill, he needed a nap. I’m not good at napping. If I lay down, I’m going to sleep for eight hours or wish I would have. So, I went for a stroll on the beach.

At five, very good friends of ours, who make Galveston their home, arrived. Bill showed them around the house and served up some wine. Then he went outside to take twilight shots, while I caught our friends up on what we’d been up to.

We were almost through. The property management company was bringing by a few decorative items the next morning and we were going to reshoot the fireplace, but otherwise, we were able to take off our work hats and start enjoying the property. Whew!!

So, I’ll tell you more about the fun stuff tomorrow. This is a very long Weekend Report, but it wasn’t our usual weekend!

Architecture, Decorative Arts, DFW Metroplex, Photo Organization, Photo Organization Coach, Photography, Real Estate Photography, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – TRAVEL THERE: WORK & PLAY OUR WAY

Busy Business Saturday

We woke up with a to do list. Shoot a home in McKinney, pick up photos for a memory keeping project and then go home and pack. Two out of three ain’t bad – am I right?

The shoot went well. It was an amazing house and we were doing everything standard real estate photography for the MLS, drone work and videography. It took a long time, but it went smoothly.

There was a little time to kill between the shoot and the pick up, but no place to kill it. The locations were just around the corner from one another, but nary a Starbucks or a McDonald’s in sight. We were both a bit peckish since it was past our lunchtime, but we were forced to go from one place to the other without so much as a tater tot.

It was a quick handoff. Once the boxes of photos and memorabilia were safely stowed away, we started looking for food. We’d about decided we’d just go home and eat our leftovers when a Sonic came into sight. We pull into a stall, only to be told nothing was working. The food gods were not on our side.

The leftovers were back in play, until a Jason’s came into view. A Rueben for Bill and a Light Loaded Potato for me. Time to head home to pack.

A Hitch in our Get Along

So, it’s a little before 4. I’m driving us home and I take our exit off the George. As I go up the ramp to take the split for I-30 E, I realize there is something very, very wrong. The ramp is backed up to the split and the eastbound traffic is backed up as far as the eye can see in both directions. Welcome to the Rockwall Bridge!

Two hours later we’re being directed off the bridge at the DalRock exit to join the rest of the traffic trying to sort itself out. As we made our way across the 66 bridge, Bill decided Wayz would find us a shortcut. I am not a fan of Wayz. I have my little ruts I drive in and I like them, but I’m too tired to argue when he tells me to turn on Lakeshore. We made a few more turns and suddenly I am faced with the prospect of turning onto 205 without a light. I put ‘er in park and told Bill it was his turn.

It’s 6:30 now. I have a load of texts to answer and photos to send to the editor, but I’m not even home yet. How exactly am I supposed to pack for our trip? The short answer is that I wasn’t.

The hitch in our get along stayed with us through the next morning. My phone was blowing up. A lot had to do with our accommodations in Galveston, but there were also new appointments to book, which is not usually the case on a Sunday morning. It’s a bit difficult to pack when your phone is going off every 3 minutes.

Long story short, it was noon before we got away from the house. We were hoping to get away earlier, because Bill wanted to get some of the shots out of the way for the rental property we’d be shooting. Some of the interiors for instance, where we’d be spending our time or perhaps the twilight shots. But of course, that’s not how it turned out.

Going to Galveston

This trip had its inception at a Polka Dot meeting back in the summer. A friend with a short term rental in Galveston was making some changes to her property and wished Bill would shoot it, because no one down there had his eye. I told her if she’d put us up at her place, we’d be happy to shoot it for her. She said it would probably be September and that was cool.

September passed and so did October. By November it had fallen off our radar completely. So, when she texted me on November 29th letting me know the property was ready, we were taken by surprise. While December is traditionally a slow month for real estate photography, there is a lot on our calendar for the holiday. Also, we needed good weather, for a good shoot – especially since drone work was involved.

We checked the weather and our social calendar to discover December 4-6 would be the optimal dates for those two entities to cooperate. So we booked it. We just didn’t know they were going to close the Bridge down on December 3rd.

My weekend reports are usually a one day read, but I’m just getting started. Come back tomorrow and we’ll go to Galveston!

TRAVEL

Holiday Magic in Vegas

Travel There – Bellagio’s Conservatory & The Fremont Street Experience

This is Paul & Kathi. Kathi and I go way back to my days at Stephen F. Austin. She was a sorority sister with my roommate and then the three of us had an apartment in Dallas. I’d tell you more, but we’re sworn to secrecy. Now you’d expect a good friend like that or at least your husband to tell you about the lipstick running down your chin, but no, they just let me have a picture taken looking like this. This is the edited version!!

The Conservatory and Botanical Garden

Horrible as I looked, the scenery around us was stunning. So stunning that somehow we got home without a single picture of it. Sorry about that. Just imagine glitter and lights and trees and snow and more poinsettias of every color than would be reasonable and you’ll have the picture.

We did a little catching up as strolled among the holiday decorations, but between the extraordinary show we’d just seen and the fantastic display in the Conservatory, my chit chat skills were somewhat hampered. We worked in a few more hugs and then parted ways.

Back on the Deuce

I would have happily crossed the street and crawled into bed once again, but Bill was raring to go. He’d already entertained himself for two evenings while I slept off the dredges of my bad cold. It was time to suck it up and see Vegas at night.

The Bellagio fountain obliged us with another show and then we hopped on the Deuce and headed north to the Fremont Street Experience. The further north we got the more lonely the bus became and the darker it got outside. This adventure was getting downright spooky.

The bus driver assured us we were close to the attraction and so we got off the bus on a darkened corner where one might expect to be accosted by a vampire. We focused on the light about half a block away and followed the cacophonous noise to a huge cave-like edifice.

The Fremont Street Experience

I can’t speak to what the Experience might have been like in the pre-Covid world, but during our visit it was more like a nightmare. This band was performing its heart out, but that didn’t stop other performers from doing their thing. The edge of the stage was surrounded by scantily clad women and their grungy escorts. The rest of the Experience was almost empty. For Covid purposes, I suppose, I series of 6 foot circles had been painted on the floor of the area, where other performers did their thing and some distinctly odd people were hawking odd wares, that I suppose were supposed to be souvenirs.

The canopy above it all is the main attraction, but of course, we failed to get a picture of it, too. If you’ve attended one of those “Immersive” art shows where they project Van Gogh, Kahlo, Monet or Tut onto the walls and ceiling of a building, you’ll have an idea of what it’s like, but the immersion stuff is only on the ceiling here. I confess, it’s not my medium, so I’m not the right person to ask. Lots of people have been blown away by it. I can’t say the same for Bill and I. Perhaps we hadn’t had enough to drink.

The Real Experience

I recently watched the old Elvis movie, Viva Las Vegas. In those days, Fremont Street was Las Vegas. The flashing lights featured in the film clustered around this area, but those days are long gone. No one inside the Fremont Street Experience could tell us where we should catch the next Deuce and outside there was NO ONE!

Stumbling around in the near dark I pointed us toward what I hoped was the Bonneville Transit Center, but before we got there, we happened upon what I now believe was the stop for the Center of Brain Health. We knew it was a bus stop, because there was a sign and one of those little shelters, but it was way to dark to wait in it. We placed ourselves in the brightest spot we could find near the Deuce sign and waited.

As we waited we began to distrust ourselves and wondered if the Deuce would indeed be coming by at this hour. It was supposed to be a 24 hour service, but perhaps Covid had effected their operation. Eventually, someone else showed up to wait with us, which was in some ways reassuring, but I couldn’t help but think he was a potential mugger.

I’ve rarely been happier to see anything than I was that bus. Our new not-friend climbed aboard and we joined him. A few more riders joined us once we hit the Strip – but not many. Sin City seemed almost shut down. We hopped off in front of the Bellagio and crossed the street to Paris. It was time to put me to bed.

Come back next week and find out what we did with our final full day in Vegas. Strangely enough we had another friend arriving in town. We had a better social life in Vegas than we do back home!

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.

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

Big Night at the Bellagio

There’s nothing quite like the Bellagio. She stands back from the hustle and bustle of the Strip, protected by the waving arms of her fountains. When you step into her looby, which by the way, is free of gaming tables, the Chihullys on the ceiling let you know you’ve enter the Queen of the Strip.

We were in a bit of a hurry, not only to make it in time for the Cirque du Soleil show, but we had friends who’d arrived in Las Vegas for a trip of their own and had tickets to O at the same time we did. We made our way to the theater and by luck ran right into them. The show was starting in minutes and Kathi needed to potty, so we hugged and promised to meet up after the show.

Café Gelato

This should have been a signal to slow down, right. We were at the theater and the doors were open. We should go claim our seats, right? Au contrare!! I had earned a bogo award from My Vegas Slots for Cafe Gelato. That’s one award Bill wasn’t going to go unredeemed!

So we hustled off down the cavernous halls of the Bellagio to find Café Gelato. It was a beautiful place in the style of an old fashioned ice cream shop. They weren’t overrun with patrons, but it wasn’t exactly empty, either. I stood on one foot and then the other, wishing the dipper lady would dip a little faster. Our turn came and she dipped us servings of stracciatella. I’m not big on gelato, so Bill laid claim to both servings. I did have a few bites and they were wondrous.

It was past time to hoof it back to the theater. We zoomed into our seats and finished up our gelatos. The Main Event was about to begin.

O by Cirque du Soleil

If you’ve never gone to a Cirque du Soleil show, then you are missing out on a treat. They do not begin with the curtain going up. Instead you notice strange creatures wandering throughout the auditorium. Some interact with the audience. Others act out little vignettes with fellow cast members.

Eventually work their way to the stage where more of the cast file out across the apron. Suddenly, you realize the lights have gone all the way down and you realize the show actually began when the first cast member appeared in the audience.

Once, during a show in Dallas, Bill was drawn out of audience onto the stage and coerced to ride a bike during the warm up, but this time we strategically chose to sit somewhere out of the limelight. We also knew better than to sit down front where we’d get wet.

There is usually a strange sort of plot that loosely weaves the activity together, but don’t expect to understand exactly what it is, because nary a word is spoken and odd things will occur on the stage. You’ll understand who the main character is, but you’ll also understand they are confused as you are.

If all that sounds a bit weird, don’t worry. You’ll spend the entire show so mesmerized by the acrobatic and aquatic antics of the strangely costumed players on the fantastical stage sets, that the plot doesn’t really matter. The earliest Cirque shows did not have water. They kept their audience agog with acrobatics and costuming. With O, they added the water element and it was so well received they’ve figured out ways to include it in shows, even when they don’t have access to the amazing stage at the Bellagio.

There’s no way to fully explain the drama added by the water element. One moment the stage is just that, a traditional stage with oddly costumed characters cavorting on it. Then in the blink of an eye, characters are diving into the water from great heights or the stage itself will tilt up and somehow the characters are fighting a battle all atilt. I’m always exhausted when it’s all over, but that never keeps us from enjoying the show, wherever we happen to go to it.

Our big night at the Bellagio wasn’t over with the curtain call. Come back next week for more fun at the amazing resort.