Artwork

Thankful, 2016

The kids and I explored the trails at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano earlier this month when the weather cooled down for fall.

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It’s one of the nicest parks we’ve seen so far, but we caught it in the evening rush, so it was bustling with people out walking their dogs and unwinding after work. We even had to park in a shopping center up the street because the regular parking lot was full.

Arbor Hills has miles of woodsy trails and a pretty overlook with a nice view of the surrounding area.

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I am thankful to live in a place with so many beautiful spaces to explore.

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Luke’s robotic’s team took a respectable third place in a field of nine teams at a competition in Dallas.

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It was a fun experience. I am thankful that Luke and Elizabeth have so many opportunities here to develop their creativity and talents.

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Bass Hall hosted a free screening of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” to promote their stage production. Elizabeth had to work that day, but Luke and I went and had a great time. The Hall was decorated for the holidays and offered Christmas-themed gifts for sale. I was ridiculously excited to find an ornament-sized replica of the angels from the Grand Facade.

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After the show, Luke and I walked around a bit.

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I am thankful to live so close to two beautiful cities that enrich our lives in so many large and small ways.

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An unexpected car repair put my plan to buy a treeless saddle on hold and added a scary level of uncertainty to my holiday budget. Elizabeth responded to this by, quietly and with no fuss, doubling the amount of money she contributes to the household each week from her paychecks. She did this on her own initiative, without being asked – in fact, I assured her that she should not feel at all obligated to cover my debts –  for four weeks, until we knew that I would be able to pay the repair bill and still get the saddle. I am so thankful to have such a kind and gracious daughter. I am thankful for both of my children, they are the joy of my life.

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The first time I rode Mahogany in her new treeless saddle, I could feel the relief in her whole body. For that first test drive we stayed in the arena, just walking and trotting in big, easy loops while Mahogany gradually relaxed and her movements got freer and more confident. The saddle is supremely comfortable for both of us. We are still getting used to the new dynamic, and I may end up buying a different saddle pad to solve a few minor issues, but overall we both love this saddle and I wish I had bought one years ago. Yesterday we had a nice cruise out on the backroads, and Mahogany was so happy and responsive.

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I am thankful that this seems to be the answer to so many of the problems that we have been struggling with.

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Happy Thanksgiving to all!

 

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Artwork, environment, Family, Horses, kids, Life, Love, trail rides, trees, Weather | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Eventful Times

Social and political tensions are running high, even for an election year. More than once over the past year I have commented to Luke and Elizabeth that I am grateful to be living where I am. It’s hard to picture riots breaking out in the well-groomed streets of DFW.

The shootings in Dallas felt unreal. I followed the incident online as it unfolded, saw familiar buildings lit up with police lights, heard sniper fire rattle down familiar streets, saw a police officer die on live video, watched the death count rise to five. It felt like a sinister presence had invaded my adopted home.

Since then, I’ve noticed that most of the people I’ve interacted with seem to be making an effort to be extra friendly and kind. I work in customer service, so I come into contact with a lot of people every day, and this has been a definite trend since the shootings. I can’t think of a better response to such a horrible and hate-fueled tragedy. It has made me glad all over again to be living where I am.

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Elizabeth’s post-graduation plans are fairly straightforward: get a job, save up for a car and then relocate to the “left coast.” Texas is a bit too conservative for someone of her youth and temperament. She found a local job pretty quickly, and is now in the saving phase.

Luke left for his summer stint in Anza, and Elizabeth and I soon discovered that he was apparently the only one cooking meals anymore. With him gone we live like slovenly bachelors, scrounging up meals that require minimal preparation and letting the dishes pile up in the sink. It’s been eye-opening.

Elizabeth and I both had Monday off, the first time we’ve shared a day off since she started working. She wanted to check out an art supply place in Fort Worth, and I wanted to check out a Fort Worth deli that I’d heard serves a good pastrami sandwich, so we decided to make a day of it.

The pastrami on rye at Carshon’s Deli turned out to be everything I was hoping for. I will be going back for sure.

While we ate, I realized that Trinity Park lay directly between the deli and the art store, and that Elizabeth had never been there. So we made an impromptu addition to our itinerary and stopped at the park.

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My favorite part of the visit to the park was all of the couples and families and groups of friends we saw out playing Pokemon Go. I’ve never played it myself and probably won’t, just because there’s a limit to my spare time, but anything that gets people out spending time together in the fresh air and sunshine is a good thing in my book.

Speaking of sunshine, it was a hot day and we were catastrophically thirsty by the time we got back to the car. Elizabeth had brought a bottle of acai-pomegranate juice for hydration on our adventures, but we sucked that down in like ten seconds as soon as we got back to the car, and we were still as thirsty as before. We drove over to Asel Art supply, and by lucky coincidence there was a smoothie place a few shops down. I plunked down an impressive $16 for a bottle of orange juice and a green smoothie, and we headed over to the art supply place.

Picking out art supplies cannot be rushed. I found a stool near the register and got comfortable eavesdropping on the pleasant chatter of the two shopkeepers while Elizabeth spent like half an hour comparing the delicate fruity notes and woody undertones or whatever of various shades of colored pencils. When I finished my smoothie I was STILL thirsty, so I asked one of the shopkeepers if there was a drinking fountain or sink in the store where I could refill my cup. He said there wasn’t, but he went into a back room and got me a bottle of water. When I tried to pay for it, he laughed and said it wasn’t for sale. “I mean, it’s not like we’re going to refuse you water,” he said, as if this were a basic tenet of human courtesy. I absolutely love Texans.

Elizabeth finally made her selections and paid for them with her own paycheck money. We did a bit of grocery shopping in Hurst and then called it a day.

These are eventful times we live in, but there is no place I’d rather spend them. Texas suits me just fine.

 

 

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Artwork, environment, Family, food, kids, Life, Weather | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Spring Break, Part II

Luke, Elizabeth and I had planned out Tuesday’s itinerary long before Emma stepped off the plane. The rest of the week was left to the whims of fortune until Wednesday morning rolled around and we still had nothing planned for my Thursday off. I instructed the three of them to come up with a detailed flight plan by the time I got home from work that night. They did not disappoint.

So our first destination on Thursday morning was the Ripley’s Believe or Not Odditorium.

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The shiny silver dinosaurs outside the building are constructed entirely of chrome car bumpers. The blue dino and the adorable gorilla are made from random machine parts.

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Once inside, our first stop was Louis Tussaud’s Palace of Wax.

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Bear with me, I’m still getting the hang of my camera’s indoor settings. My last camera really struggled in low-light areas, so now I habitually overcompensate. Working on that.

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After the Palace of Wax, we braved the Enchanted Mirror Maze.

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I wouldn’t describe it as “enchanting” so much as “disorienting as fuck.”

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It was fun, but kind of short. We probably would have spent more time in there if we hadn’t used the classic “right turns only” method to prevent aimless wandering.

Next up was the Odditorium itself.

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The shadow wall is really cool. You stand against the wall, a bright light flashes and your silhouette is “saved” as a slowly-fading shadow. Unfortunately, I only got one good photo of this effect.

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After the first one I remembered to turn on my camera’s flash, and it turns out that the flash completely washes out the shadow effect, thusly:

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Bummer. But the Odditorium was full of awesome, bizarre stuff. For example, horses and cows get made into handbags all the time. But some enterprising artist decided to turn a bunch of handbags back into a horse-cow.

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Actually, “things made out of other things” describes like 80% of the Odditorium.

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Plus some cool movie props.

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We goofed around in the activity room for a while.

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The video wall was fun. We’re the four silhouettes on the left.

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Exit through the gift shop.

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By then we were pretty hungry, so we headed over to the Mellow Mushroom in Arlington. Their pizza is amazing, unlike my potato-quality iPad selfie:

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Took a better pic outside.

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On the way home we drove past River Legacy and impulsively decided to pull in.

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This is one of our favorite local parks. Entry sign photo to make it an official addition to the collection:

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River Legacy has some magnificent trails along the Trinity River, but after all of our adventuring none of us were really up for a hike. A frolic on the playground was totally doable, though.

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From there it was an easy walk next door to the Science Center.

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The warm sunshine felt like heaven to a heat-lover like me.

On Saturday morning, we begrudgingly fed Emma to the sky gods at Love Field Airport.

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It was so much fun having her out for Spring Break! Hopefully we’ll be able to do that again.

And now I need to sit down and read my camera’s user manual cover to cover, because the number of wasted shots I ended up deleting last week made me die a little inside. It’s time to learn how to use this thing.

Happy spring!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Artwork, environment, Family, food, Friends, Holidays, kids, Life, Love | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Grapevine and the Stockyards

The kids have been wanting to see the Fort Worth Stockyards, and this week I finally got the magical combination of a Saturday off and nice, non-rainy weather. In the spirit of “little experiences tucked in wherever we can fit them,” we decided to drive to Grapevine and travel by rail to the Stockyards. Grapevine has held a special place in our hearts ever since our first December in DFW, when we were searching for local holiday cheer and found it on Grapevine’s Main Street in sparkly abundance. This is one town that loves Christmas.

So we booked tickets for the Grapevine Vintage Railroad’s round trip to the Stockyards, and got there early enough on Saturday to do a little wandering.

Grapevine has just begun to deck its halls.

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We stopped at the Blacksmith Shop, and Luke had fun pumping the bellows while the smithy did his thing at the forge.

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Saw this guy crafting something out behind the glassworker’s shop.

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At 12:30 it was time to board the train. We pulled out of the station at 1pm, powered by a 1953 diesel locomotive named Vinny.

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The cars were looking festive.

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The scenery was nice, just turning to Fall. I saw a few parks and trails that I’m looking forward to exploring on foot.

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We arrived at the Stockyards Station at about 2:30.

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The kids wanted to try out the Cattlepen Maze, so that was our first stop.

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There was more going on in the Stockyards this time than the last time I was here (on a Tuesday). More people, more carriages, more attractions and performers.

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There was a mechanical bull this time, and of course the kids had to ride that.

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Took a detour though Saunders Park. What a pretty little place.

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We checked out the Station shops, bought some yummy fudge and explored the old livestock chutes, and then it was time for the cattle drive. Elizabeth staked out a spot up front on the curb…

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…while Luke and I found a comfy perch on a wall behind the crowd.

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My one complaint is that we didn’t have time to see everything at the Stockyards before the train came back and it was time to leave. An hour and a half isn’t long enough!

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Goodbye, Stockyards.

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It was getting dark when we pulled into Grapevine Station around 6pm.

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It was a fun trip. One of these days we’ll drive out to the Stockyards and explore the whole area at our leisure. And, of course, we’ll be heading back to Grapevine at least once more this year, after all the lights are up and the Singing Christmas Tree has begun its nightly performance. They say December is the darkest and brightest month, and that’s especially true in the Christmas Capitol of Texas.

Categories: Animals, Artwork, Christmas, Family, Holidays, Horses, kids, Life, Travel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Summertime Fun

The rain eventually stopped, and the Texas summer arrived in all its sweltering glory. Luke flew off to California for his four-week visit with his dad. We had all learned our lesson last year about not moping around during these apart times, so Elizabeth and I kept ourselves entertained in his absence.

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We discovered Founders’ Plaza, which is a really pleasant little park with a good view of DFW Airport and the adjacent UPS Hub. It’s a nice place to relax, watch planes land and listen to the piped-in live dialog from the airport’s radio control tower. We bring lunch or ice cream and make it a picnic.

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Then Luke came back, and Elizabeth went to California. Other than going to see Inside Out, I don’t remember Luke and I doing a whole lot while she was gone. We did get our first sight of Texas fireflies, while we were walking in a park at dusk near a lake. I didn’t have my camera with me though, just my iPad, and that doesn’t take great pics in low light. I did manage to get one halfway decent shot – can you see the firefly?

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I have been promising Luke for ages that I would take him to see the Dallas Heritage Village, so we finally made plans to go about a week after Elizabeth got back from California. Unfortunately, when we got there we found a locked gate and a sign saying that the Village was closed for maintenence and would reopen in September. Guess I should have taken a closer look at that website.

Anyway, there we were in Dallas, so we decided to check out the Botanical Gardens instead. That turned out to be a solid choice. The place is gorgeous, and during the month of August the ticket price is only a dollar per person, probably because it’s not the flashiest time of year and it’s like 150º outside. Some of the plants did seem to be struggling in the heat. But there is plently of shade, and lots of water.

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There is a LOT of water. Streams and fountains and waterfalls everywhere.

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This was my favorite:

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There’s lots of statuary too, and most of it seems to involve nudity or sensual themes.

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There’s just something about a garden that makes you want to run around naked, I guess.

After we left the Botanical Gardens, we investigated a little spot called Dragon Park that I’d seen mentioned on a website. It really is a tiny little place, but pretty and interesting.

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And Monday we took Luke to see Founders’ Plaza for the first time.

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And that’s about it for the summer fun. School starts back up in a couple of weeks. As for my job-related adventures…that’s probably a subject for its own post. Which I will write soon. Probably.

Categories: Animals, Artwork, Dragons, environment, Family, Horses, kids, Life, Love, trees, Weather | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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