Love

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.

**  **  **  **  **

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

The Perot Museum

I got a rare Saturday off last week. Elizabeth already had plans to go to Six Flags with a friend that day, so I asked Luke if there was anything he would like to do. He immediately suggested the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, which has been on his to-do list pretty much since we first moved here.

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The museum is architecturally striking.

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Its visible components are mainly glass and unpainted concrete inside and out, which sounds like it should be ugly but is surprisingly attractive. It gave me the sense of being at an archeological site in progress, which may have been what they were going for.

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The best way to experience the Perot is to start at the fourth floor and work your way down. There are stairs and elevators, but a glass-walled escalator near the museum entrance will take you directly to the top and provide some nice views on the way up.

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Obligatory logo shot:

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A window near a fourth-floor bench offers this view:

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The fourth floor features exhibits focusing on the beginning of the universe, the basics of physics and prehistoric fossil records. And also this guy:

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Lots of hands-on exhibits throughout the museum.

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This one is fun. You control red, green and blue RGB outputs to change the color of the big column. It all looks white in the photos, but in person there were actual colors. Luke and I were trying hard to make the column turn brown, but we never succeeded. Orange was as close as we got.

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Dinosaur bones! Love this hall. There are two levels here, so you can get a good look at the larger/higher skeletons.

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The turtle skeleton is very cool.

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This might be the most metal-looking skull I have ever seen:

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T Rex!

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Obligatory selfie with the T Rex

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We had bought our museum tickets in advance, including special tickets for a 3D film about America’s national park system. When we finished up on the fourth floor, it was time to head back down to the first floor for the movie. That was 45 minutes well spent; the film was awesome. It reinspired my resolution to visit at least half of the national parks at some point.

After the movie, we got a surprisingly tasty lunch at the museum cafe, and then we picked up the exhibits where we had left off.

The third floor houses, among other things, the energy exhibits. The energy hall sings the praises of fracking with a bizarre level of enthusiasm.

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There’s even a flight-simulator-type ride that “shrinks” you and takes you underground into the fracking process. I suppose the message is supposed to be “fracking is fun!” but I got off the ride even more horrified by the entire concept than when I got on. I’m probably not the target audience, though.

On the second floor, we found some more modern fauna…

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…including these “slices” of humans captured by MRI technology.

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The second floor also houses the “engineering and innovation” hall, which was far and away Luke’s favorite.

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On the basement level there is a children’s museum with an adorable walkable model of Dallas.

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The Perot is a pretty awesome museum, I’m glad Luke finally talked me into taking him. It’s a nice way to escape the Texas summer heat, too.

As a side note, there is another “branch” of the Perot Museum in Fair Park, but it is currently closed for refurbishment. It’s on our list, though.

Categories: Animals, Family, food, kids, Life, Love | Tags: | Leave a comment

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

Spring Break, Part I

My blog hibernates during DFW winters. There’s not much here that inspires me to reach for my camera during the bleak gray months, although I did get a few nice shots this year at the place where I board Mahogany.

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I’ve been less and less satisfied with the performance of my aging camera, so I finally picked up a new one earlier this month. The dreary winter landscapes didn’t offer much worth aiming it at until Elizabeth’s bff flew out from California to spend spring break with us. She arrived on a Saturday night and left a week later on a Saturday morning: a week of gorgeous spring weather bookended by chilly drizzles. I had Tuesday and Thursday off work that week, so we crammed all of the sightseeing we could manage into those two days.

Our Tuesday morning began at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. I’m still getting the hang of my new camera; my old one excelled at outdoor shots and struggled in indoor settings, while the new one seems to do just the opposite. I do love the way the new one captures the luminous quality of sunlight.

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The weather couldn’t have been nicer. Mid-80s and sunny, with a light breeze that smelled like spring.

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Love the giant Texas bluebonnet.

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Of course the Japanese Garden was the highlight of the day.

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Hopeful koi are hopeful.

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After the Botanic Gardens, we headed downtown to the Water Gardens.

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And from there we went to the Stockyards.

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Don’t tease the mechanical horses!

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Saunders Park is still my favorite little hidden gem of the area.

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All in all, a fun day!

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Next: Thursday in Arlington.

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Birthdays, environment, Family, food, Friends, Horses, kids, Life, Love, trail rides, trees, Uncategorized, Weather, Wildlife, Winter | 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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