Last weekend, I took a quick road trip with my Dad to Lubbock, Texas to visit a friend. On the way back, my Dad was patient enough to stop on the highway and make U-turns for me to take photos of the West Texas landscape. Dodging tumbleweeds and washing the red dirt off your car is usually the norm for a trip west, but an unusual amount of rain as brought desert plants into bloom and the red soil is hardly visible. I hope you enjoy this photo essay of the West Texas landscape.
Every year my parents have one request for their birthdays, that I give them a membership to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Not only do they love going to the Dallas Arboretum, but so do I. The gardens opened to the public in 1984 on the site of two former private residences overlooking White Rock Lake in Dallas. Both residences were built in the late 1930s with substantive grounds surrounding them. Both houses have unobstructed views of the lake. There is also an amazing view of Downtown Dallas right after the entrance to the left, just beyond the café. Many of the historic homes in Dallas are found in this neighborhood.
Throughout the year, the Dallas Arboretum puts on events. Starting in February, you have Dallas Blooms, which is when all the tulips start to come out. Then in March starts the Cool Thursdays concert series that continues through October. This year, the last concert is a Michael Jackson tribute featuring songs from his 80s hits, so you know there will be a great Thriller video reenactment! My favorite things start September when they have Pumpkin Patch. Here are a few of my pictures from a visit a few years ago. You have never seen so many pumpkins in one place.
Then in November, the gardens come alive with the 12 Days of Christmas. There are life-sized scenes of each day spread throughout the gardens. Most of them move and are set to music. They are probably best seen in the evening when they light up, and there are lights in the trees as well.
This year they had 500 nativity scenes inside the DeGolyer House! Everywhere you looked there were nativity scenes. In the library alone, there were 250 from one man’s collection. I am not sure if this is a new tradition or a one-time thing, but it is worth checking to see if it will be on this year. Some were large, and some were tiny. There was even one made out of car parts. There was also a Christmas tree in every room decorated in the colors of the rooms.
In addition to all their regular events, you occasionally get unique events happening. In 2012, there was a Chihuly Glass exhibition in the gardens. Most of these were so large; they were better shown in a garden than in a gallery or museum. There is also some impressive sculpture in the gardens permanently. So if you are planning a visit to Dallas, make sure you check out the Dallas Arboretum’s website to see what is happening. There will be something every week, if not every day!
Guide to Visiting: The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is open every day from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is (Updated November 2016) is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors (65+), $10 kids (3-12), 2 and under are free. Parking is $15 unless you pay online and then it is $8. The Children’s Adventure Garden is an additional $3. Be prepared to walk as the gardens span 66 acres and it has some hills. Wheelchairs are available on a first come, first-serve basis. Here is a link to a map of the gardens and driving directions.
The last place I lived in Texas was Fort Worth. It is about 35 miles west of Dallas. Not in a million years did I ever think I would end up living in Fort Worth after growing up outside of Dallas. Fort Worth was the place for cowboys, rodeo’s and Billy Bob’s. And definitely not a city girl who loved living in New York City for seven years. However, I got a job there and fell in love with Fort Worth. Recently, I went back for a conference, and it reminded me of all my favorite places there. I thought I would share them with you in case you are visiting or maybe to entice you to visit.
The food! Fort Worth has some amazing food venues. From holes in the walls to food trucks to fine dining, Fort Worth has it all. The sign pictured above is the sign above my favorite place for a great breakfast, the Montgomery Street Cafe. It serves country home style and cooking. I usually get egg, hashbrowns, bacon and biscuits and gravy. You can sit either at a table or the old-fashioned countertop. The waitresses are the most friendly people you will find anywhere. It is a small place, so you might have to wait outside for a few minutes while the tables open up and get cleaned, but it is worth the wait. Montgomery Street Cafe is also open for lunch and usually has a homemade dessert to finish it off with, but get there early because once they are out of dessert, it’s gone for the day!
If you are looking for Tex-mex/Mexican, then I suggest several places in town. First is El Asadero Mexican Steakhouse. Another small restaurant, but excellent food. I usually get the Enchiladas Suizas, but my friends who are fans of mole sauce say this is the place! Next, if you want to true Fort Worth experience, then head down the street to Joe T. Garcias. It is a bit of a tourist attraction but is worth going to sit outside in their beautiful garden. At lunch, they only serve enchilada’s and fajitas. The portion size of fajitas is enough for two very hungry people! Make sure to bring cash as they don’t take credit cards. There is an ATM inside, though. Next, is Salsa Limon for Mexican street tacos. They have two permanent locations, but they also have a food truck that moves around the city. Excellent street tacos and I recommend the Pastor or the Chorizo. Of course, there are many more Mexican places to eat in Fort Worth, and I encourage you to explore them all and see which ones strike your fancy.
Fort Worth also has a Food Truck Park! They have all kinds of trucks on a daily basis and is open for lunch. You can check their website for the truck schedule. Sometimes Salsa Limon is there as well. Since I haven’t lived there for almost two years, I am not familiar with their line up of trucks, but I have never been disappointed. Some nights they also have live music. Another great place for live music is Fred’s Texas Cafe. The one I like to go to is the original on Currie Street. It is mostly outdoor seating, but with a roof. The burgers are amazing, but the best thing is the Crispy Bacon Cheese Fries! They are to die for! Ask them to put blue cheese on them and you will be addicted, although suffering high cholesterol.
Beer is also an important part of your experience in Fort Worth. Fort Worth has their own brewery called Rahr. On Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons you can take a tour of the brewery for $10. With that comes a pint glass and three pints of beer! They also usually have food trucks out back, and you can spend the afternoon there eating and drinking. This is also another venue for live music in Fort Worth. My other favorite place for beer in Fort Worth is The Ginger Man. There is a Dallas location, but this is the one I know and love. I spent many an after work happy hour at this bar. They have an amazing selection of beer, and much of it is on tap. They also have many local breweries represented. The food is better than your average pub fair as well. When the weather isn’t too hot, I suggest sitting outside in the garden. Also another place for live local music! See a theme here? I like food, beer, and live music!
Not to be forgotten are the great cultural attractions in Fort Worth. Fort Worth has five museums within walking distance of each other in the cultural district. There are three art museums, the Amon Carter Museum, which features American Art with a heavy western slant, the Kimball Art Museum, which just underwent a major expansion and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Down the street is the National Cowgirl Museum and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. I used to work at the Science and History museum, and it is a great place for kids, and they have an Imax theater! Nestled in all of these is the Will Rogers Memorial Center, which is home to the Fort Worth Stock Show and rodeo that is held in February every year. The stock show has been going since 1896. You can go to the fairgrounds for rides, eat great BBQ and see animals auctioned off. Every day there is, at least, one rodeo show. However, get your tickets early as they sell out fast! In years past admission to the Stock Show also got you into the Science and History Museum, so plan accordingly.
Well, I could go on about Forth Worth forever, but will leave you to explore more on your own. Drop me a line if you have a specific question. I would be happy to offer some recommendations based your tastes including a vegan option and coffee shops!
The journey to Qatar has begun. While I haven’t actually left, the journey has definitely started. Preparing to move there has consumed my life for several weeks now. Once I received the job offer , I had to send the Qatar HR office a scan of my passport, a scan of my graduate diploma and, get this, a passport photo on a light blue background that was slightly smaller than the passport photo size required in the US for my visa. Sounds simple, right? Not in the least! No one takes a photo on a light blue background or in that size. Luckily, FedEx had a light blue wall and took my picture with my camera. I edited the photo to the correct size.
The next step was that I had to get fingerprinted, get a criminal background check and have it certified by the state of Texas. That didn’t sound so simple. First, I had to figure out how to get a background check at the state level. I filled out the wrong form and had to go twice and get fingerprinted twice. The background check arrived pretty quick. What got me was I had to get a document certified by the state of Texas on a document that was issued by the state! You can only get the verification at the Secretary of State in Austin. You can mail it, but it takes ten days to process. At that point, I wasn’t sure when I was going to be leaving and didn’t want to take the chance it would be delayed. I decided to take a vacation day and take a day trip to Austin. Thank goodness for Megabus! I was able to go down and back in one day. The real adventure began when I arrived at the office. They told me their system had been down all morning. They told me I could wait or leave it and they would mail it to me. My bus back to Dallas didn’t leave till 4:30, so waiting was an option. I went and had lunch. When I got back the system was still down for non-Hague convention countries, which included Qatar. Around 2:30 they got the system back up and I got my certification quickly!
My plane ticket is booked and today was my last day of work. The movers come next Saturday to put my stuff in storage at my parents house. Cross your fingers that I am able to fit everything I want to take in my suitcases!