3/13

Top Five Home Tech Trends

The pace of technological advancements in industrialized societies is traveling at warp speed; and there is no slowing it down.  Almost anyone would like to make their lives easier, have access to quick solutions for everyday problems, and maybe even add a bit more excitement to a ho-hum day – tech wonders can do just that.  Here are five high-tech ‘toys’ that fit the bill. What was once futuristic fantasy, has become very tangible, useable, interactive realities. Be ready to be amazed!

The Nest Cam

As the world continues to change in a myriad of ways, many families are becoming increasingly concerned about their personal safety.  An optimally-safe home environment includes embedded security systems – meet Nest Cam!  The Nest Cam security system is a third-generation of Dropcam; and it boasts of some impressive, indoor features.

The Nest Cam…

  • can be set up at, virtually, any location for 24/7 live video
  • can shoot video in 1080p High Definition, day and night
  • offers two-way audio – the built-in microphones sense audible activity; and the outgoing speaker allows one to verbally respond
  • has extremely-clear night vision and provides even-illumination of an entire room
  • has powerful digital zoom with a 130-degree wide-angle view
  • integrates with other smart-home products

 

When the Nest Cam detects inside motion, homeowners receive a phone or email alert, accompanied with an instant photo of the activity.  The WiFi compatibility of the Nest Cam means homeowners can receive notifications, regardless of whether the homeowner is at work or on vacation!  The Nest Aware program allows access to cloud storage, and so much more!

The outdoor version of Nest Cam is designed with the same amenities as the indoor version; it is completely weather-proof, and has 8 infrared LED’s for intense illumination.  Through Nest Cam’s app, the indoor and outdoor versions allow one to view,  listen and speak, in real-time – amazing!

Hello, Alexa!

There’s a new person in town; and Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ is your digital personal-assistant, extraordinaire!  Alexa is speech-recognition technology programmed to respond to a, virtually, limitless array of voice commands.

This digital device can inform you of the weather conditions in space (in case you might ever want to know), play any genre of music from Pandora, Spotify and other music-streaming services, make your grocery list, remind you of upcoming business or personal events, and perform mathematical equations quicker than you can say ‘Albert Einstein’.

These examples represent only a small tip of a very massive iceberg regarding how Alexa can interact with your everyday world!

If you are interested in getting a quick synopsis of what is taking place worldwide, Alexa can provide instant information from news outlets including NPR, BBC, USA Today, Associated Press and many more.  For those who love trivia, Alexa provides a plethora of trivia games, quote generators and fact and data storehouses.

And how about Alexa’s ability to link apps and devices with specific actions?  Alexa will adjust your Nest thermostat to a higher temperature when you inform Alexa that you’re too cold; and Alexa has the ability to initiate the cycles for Whirlpool’s Smart-Care Washer and Dryer Combo – Oh, the things Alexa can do!

Flex-Washer and Flex-Dryer

Not many people get excited about doing laundry; but thanks to Samsung, there’s a better way to deal with mounds of clothing and get it done quicker – meet the Flex-Washer and Flex-Dryer.

This astounding new advancement has invaded the listless world of cleaning clothes with a two-in-one washer built as an integrated unit that offers a 1-cubit foot upper washer, along with a 5-cubic-foot washer, below.

Delicate clothing or baby items, for example, can be gently cleaned with the top washer while towels, jeans, heavy work clothes, etc. can be placed in the larger, lower washer.  Both washes can begin at the same time or independently of one another.

When it’s time for drying, the dryer is equally impressive.  It offers a 1-cubic foot, non-tumble drying rack, on top, that provides soft-flowing, filtered heat that can be programmed, and will not exceed 95 degrees.  Additionally, in the lower front-load compartment, a 7.5-cubic foot dryer will accommodate heavier items.

“Super-speed” is one option that can be selected where one can wash and rinse a full load in as little as 30 minutes – 45% faster than traditional wash cycles.

Also, the Flex-Washer does not require two water lines but uses an internal separator that sends the front-load water one direction and the top-load water in another.  This means water from simultaneous wash cycles will not mix.  Washing and drying are completely customizable with an integrated touch-screen panel offering a vast array of detailed choices.

Perhaps one of the coolest aspects of Samsung’s Flex-Washer and Flex-Dryer is the Samsung Smart-Home App for Android or iPhone which allows the user to start and stop cycles from a smart phone or other compatible device, regardless of one’s location.  The Samsung Flex Washer and Flex Dryer offers a whole new meaning for the words ‘easy’, ‘efficient’, and ‘convenient’!

Knocki

If the idea of turning ordinary areas of your home (a door, table, wall, etc) into remote-control surfaces sounds far-fetched, think again, and meet ‘Knocki’.  Knocki is a small, circular, flat device that looks like a sophisticated hockey puck.  All you do is attach Knocki to, virtually, any surface in your home and transform that surface into a tech-advanced tool.  The surface can be wood, metal, stone, granite or drywall.

Here’s how it works:  Knocki’s Non-acoustic sensors interact with a wide array of devices such as Nest thermostat, PHILIPS hue, LIFX, SmartThings, IFTTT, WeMo Coffeemaker, Google Calendar, and Spotify.  Knocki will detect deliberate knock or tap patterns the user creates – one can tap three times on the kitchen counter, for example, and Knocki will understand that pattern and initiate an alert from a misplaced phone.

An individual who is wheel-chair bound can tap a table with 2 quick knocks to turn on lights and a TV in a select room; or 3 slower taps might lock or unlock doors or regulate the thermostat – any regular environment can be transformed into a user interface. The interactions with Knocki are, quite literally, limited to one’s imagination!

BOND

When you see the name ‘BOND’ you might be thinking ‘James Bond’; but even James Bond couldn’t do what Olibra’s BOND can do; and that is to turn existing appliances into SMART appliances in mere seconds.  Through its mobile app, the BOND integrates RF or IR appliances with one press of an appliance’s remote – in other words, BOND ‘upgrades’ more traditional, remote-controlled devices.

The process is amazingly simple:  1) download the app 2) point your old remote at the BOND and wait for the light to turn blue 3) control up to 6 different appliances from your phone or any smart device.

As mentioned, BOND offers smart-home integration for radio-frequency remote-controlled appliances and handles infrared, as well.  BOND is, also, compatible with multiple home-automation platforms including NEST, SmartThings, Honeywell, DIRECTV, iDevices and more.  Via BOND, mobile control of appliances is possible with appliances that, previously, were not connectible without the use of pricey hardware.

Ceiling fans, garage doors, and power-shades, for example, can be integrated; and the user can customize functionality regarding speed settings and temperature controls.  Additionally, the BOND integrates with Amazon Echo, allowing one to use voice commands to control devices, including iOS and Android.

Innovative ideas, conceptual leaps and even paradigm shifts are what tech advances are built around; and ain’t it grand?

3/13

The Benefits of Owning an ‘Energy Star’ and ‘Environments for Living’ Home

If you are a proponent of significantly reducing energy consumption to tread more lightly on the environment as well as loving the idea of saving money on your utility bills, you will love Energy Star and the Environments for Living program.  These two entities allow homeowners a limited guarantee on energy utilized for heating and cooling; and offer some very tantalizing benefits.  Let’s take a quick peek:

 

Energy Star products are very thoughtfully-designed to fully satisfy very exacting energy-efficiency standards, as dictated by the EPA.  Homes that are Energy-Star Certified meet or surpass those EPA standards; and, according to the EPA, will be 15%-30% more energy-efficient than new homes that are not Energy-Star certified.  One example, out of many, would include Energy Star heating and cooling systems which are 45% more energy efficient than conventional systems.

 

The EPA utilizes third-party certification partnerships to verify the reliability of the testing of Energy Star products.  Whether it is ultra-efficient HVAC systems, metallic-coated windows, kitchen appliances/washers & dryers, electronics systems, or sustainable building products, they all work as a systematic team to utilize less energy, function more cost-effectively, and create fewer pollutants such as greenhouse gas emissions.  Energy-Star Certified homes have been given credit by the EPA for greatly contributing to the prevention of nearly two billion metric tons of greenhouse gases from entering our atmosphere, over the past two decades!

 

The Environments for Living program is builder-oriented in that it mandates that home-builders follow very strict construction guidelines in order to craft homes that are safer, healthier, optimally energy-efficient, more comfortable and more durable than traditionally-constructed homes.  In the end, homeowners become the true beneficiaries.  Components integrated into the Environments for Living program incorporate scientifically-researched techniques; and the seven key features of the Environments of Living program provide a synopsis of that detailed research:

 

  • Tight Construction – advanced framing techniques such as continuous air barrier and sealing of penetrations, safeguard against leaks and drafts.
  • Fresh Air Ventilation — controlled air-exchange rates minimize indoor contaminants, pollutants, dust and odors.
  • Improved Thermal Systems – advanced insulation techniques minimize voids and gaps; and higher thermal properties (R-value) increase energy performance.
  • Appropriately-sized HVAC Systems –  size-specific equipment works more efficiently, reduces energy-consumption, and minimizes humidity.
  • Pressure Balancing –  transfer grilles, jump ducts, and more, perfectly balance air pressure resulting in more-even temperatures and reduced potential for condensation build-up.
  • Internal Moisture Management –  various features and systems, dramatically, reduce moisture in a variety of ways.
  • Combustion Safety – combustion appliances are sealed or power-vented to avoid build-up of carbon monoxide, with CO detectors adding an extra measure of protection.

 

The intricate science involved with constructing highly-energy-efficient homes is a very strategic and complex discipline.  Materials, products and equipment are precisely designed to operate as interactive systems –  it’s all about noticeably-reduced energy bills, living more safely and more comfortably, and creating a reduced carbon footprint in our world.

2/26

Open-Floor Plans are Popular Among Home Buyers

Homes that utilize fewer walls are extremely appealing to home-buyers desiring to break away from traditional layouts that incorporate numerous walls, resulting in smaller rooms.  Compartmentalized spaces have given way to more connected living which translates into spacious, flowing open-floor plans.

With open-floor plans, certain rooms remain private, of course, such as bathrooms, bedrooms and dedicated home offices; but it’s the ‘great room’ in open-floor plans that incorporates the living room with the kitchen and dining area into a virtually, uninterrupted visual flow.  This openness generates a much more interactive living environment; and it’s what home buyers want, for a variety of reasons.

 

Optimized Social Interaction

You could say that open-floor plans are family-focused.  Due to the absence of unnecessary walls, family members become more connected.  If someone is preparing a meal in the kitchen, he or she can monitor younger children or communicate with other family members in the living room, all at the same time.  It’s all about generating greater cohesiveness on a more personal level.

When guests might arrive, open-floor plans offer the ideal setting for relaxed entertaining and informal gatherings – group interaction is enhanced since everyone is in the same general vicinity.  Unarguably, open-floor plans bring people together, by default!  Architect, Christopher Pattey, of the Becker Morgan Group in Dover, Delaware states, “Open-floor plans are one of the most popular requests among home-buyers.  It prompts togetherness and signals a more modern lifestyle.”

 

Living Larger

In smaller homes, especially, too many walls make rooms not only feel smaller, they are smaller!  Whether a home is smaller or larger, however, the elimination of confining walls is psychologically ‘freeing’ since the end result is an airy, spacious ambiance that is not only seen, but felt.

Imagine a kitchen with a fireplace close by in the open living room and great views from a big window that provides lots of natural light – all part of an open plan where having space includes more than just the kitchen and its cabinets.  It all boils down to having more space in one’s home to live in and enjoy!

 

Natural Lighting That Does More than Illuminate

It is a scientific fact that exposure to natural light has a positive and measurable impact on our moods and dispositions.  With open-floor plans, sunlight from the main living area can optimally infiltrate more areas of the home since there are no walls to encumber the flow of the light.  Home designs that encourage maximized natural light result in reduced stress, improved emotional health, increased productivity and a boosting of moods – this, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Most home-owners, however, are simply drawn to natural light as a means of illuminating the living space which, in itself, is a nice perk!  Natural light is associated with the appearance of more spaciousness and helps to create a more comfortable and aesthetically-pleasing dwelling – just one more benefit of open-floor plans!

2/20

Family-Friendly Summer Activities in Ft. Worth

The city of Fort Worth is known for its eclectic blend of entertainment options that cater to every age and every interest, for every season.  This robust city offers a recreational smorgasbord for its residents and tourists, alike, who enjoy the Kimbell Art Museum, the Fort Worth Stockyards, the Fort Worth Water Gardens, and a plethora of other entertainment venues.  Here are five extremely popular family-friendly activities you can enjoy with the kids and grand-kids once the cold gives way to the warmer, more-inviting weather.

The Main Street Arts Festival

The Main Street Arts Festival is held each year in Downtown Fort Worth, and takes up a whole mile of the city’s streets.  Fine art is showcased during four days in April where every type of art, imaginable, is on display.  As far as your eyes will be able to see – a whopping 9 continuous blocks – you will take in white tents that will dot the landscape and display everything from iron sculptures to paintings to wood and stone works of art.  Be ready to meet more than 200 artists who will be eager to share the secrets and methodologies behind their, respective, art creations.

The walk throughout the displays is an absolute delight, in itself; but there are other activities, as well, that add to the ambiance: live music and street performances will grab your attention, not to mention a vast selection of eating nooks that offer tacos, craw-fish, bratwurst, funnel cakes, ice-cream and so much more!

The wonderful thing is, admittance is free; and strategically-located water stations will offer complimentary H2O.  If you and your family choose to ‘bike it’ to the Main Street Arts Festival, Bicycles Inc. will park your bikes, without cost, at their Bike Valet which is centrally located at 4th and Houston Street.

 

Mayfest

As the name implies, Mayfest is a May activity that is held in Fort Worth’s Trinity Park where 33 acres are set aside to host four, fun-filled days with carnival rides, live music, a fun-run and an array of other kid-centered activities.  Arts and crafts are a big component of Mayfest; and more than 60 vendors will, proudly, display their one-of-kind wares – a perfect time to buy unique gifts for upcoming family celebrations.

Are you in the market for adopting a pet?  If so, Mayfest will be offering pet adoptions as part of the festivities where homeless cats and dogs will put their best paws forward in hopes of finding their ‘fur’ever homes.  Mark Mayfest on your calendar – your family will love it!

 

Scarborough Renaissance Festival

Ready to take a trip back in time? –  how about way back to the 16th Century!  The Fort Worth Scarborough Renaissance Festival depicts the reign of King Henry VIII where court jesters, knights, kings, and queens come alive to replicate a very different place and time in world history.  This extraordinary event is held in Waxahachie, Texas which is about 30 miles south of Fort Worth.  You and family members will be mesmerized by the 24 entertainment stages where full-combat jousting, a Birds of Prey exhibit, a human-chess match, the Mermaid Lagoon and so much more will grab your attention, from beginning to end.  Younger children will, especially, enjoy the parade, rides and child-centered games.

Lords and ladies in elaborate costumes and hairstyles will be part of the themed weekends from the first week of April into the month of May.  While there, take in the hundreds of shops that sell candles, soaps, jewelry, toys, and musical instruments reminiscent of merry ol’ England of more than 500 years ago.  Last, but not least, is the food – chocolate-dipped strawberries, cupcake cones, crab and cream cheese ravioli, salmon with goat-cheese crepes, and Jaegersnitzchel – pork cutlets breaded, fried and covered with a delicious, creamy gravy.  The Fort Worth Scarborough Renaissance Festival will fill your senses!

 

Fort Worth Zoo

It was in 1909 that the Fort Worth Zoo opened its modest doors to a very small collection of animals; and after 110 years of improvements, evolution and a lot of sweat and tears, the Fort Worth Zoo has gained recognition as among the top-five zoos in the US, by USA Travel Guide.  More than 7,000 species of animals receive plenty of TLC at the Fort Worth Zoo –  penguins, gorillas, cheetahs, parrots, jaguars, black rhinos and other fascinating animals will intrigue and inspire.

Almost 20 permanent exhibits and facilities have been opened during the past 25 years, in addition to picnic areas and restaurants that make it easy for a family to spend an entire day, enjoying all the activities.  Children can explore a simulated wild-life environment, gather fossils, enjoy a 14,000 square-foot play-pool, and become immersed in a 13,000 square-foot learning theater – the list goes on!  Aside from being ranked as one of the top-5 zoos in the country, Fort Worth Zoo is recognized as a top zoo in the nation by Family Life magazine, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.

 

Texas Speedway

Do you, your kids or grand-kids love motor-sports?  If so, the Texas Motor Speedway is right up your asphalt alley.  Fort Worth’s Texas Speedway beckons hundreds of thousands of fans every year; and this year should be no exception.  Two top-events are scheduled:  1)  the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Race Weekend beginning on April 5th to the 8th and 2) the Texas Indy 600 & Nascar Camping World Truck Race Weekend which will go from June 7th to 9th.  Whether it’s the heel-to-wheel racing at more than 215 mph, the LMC Truck C10 Nationals presented by Classic Trucks Magazine, or other events in-between, your senses will be excited and you will come back for more!  Be sure to give yourself additional time before the races begin in order to enjoy strolling through the display areas set up around the grounds.  And arriving hungry is never a problem since 24 concession stands offer every type of food your palate might crave:  hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, ice cream, funnel cakes, pies and a host of other yummies.

Tickets can be purchased, on-line or over the phone, through Ticketmaster; and they can be picked up at the speedway’s Main Ticket Office or at any staffed ticket booth.  If your family would like to purchase VIP passes to get into the pits, that can be arranged by calling the ticket office at 817-215-8500.  Fans can access the pits with a Weekend Pit Pass or a Pre-Race Pass; but passes are limited so make plans, early, to partake in these specialized events!

Here’s a fun bonus: meet the drivers and get drivers’ autographs!  Simply download the Texas Motor Speedway Mobile app to get a schedule of driver appearances and autograph sessions that will take place around the Metroplex!  So, grab some tickets as well as family and friends and mark a date – or two, or three – for the many exciting events at the Texas Motor Speedway!

Fort Worth serves as a major draw for fun-lovers who soon discover that this thriving city has something for everyone!

1/29

Places to Discover in North Texas

Did you know there are places in North Texas that offer a myriad of exciting fun spots, of which, many people are not aware?  From gargantuan flea market events, to dinosaur footprints, to a renowned Hollywood filming location, North Texas has some fun surprises; and here are five fun locales, near Dallas, you just might want to put on your ‘let’s-go-there’ list.

 

Celina, Texas

Celina is a hop and a skip from North Dallas – about 42 miles away from the Big D.  This charmer of a small town offers three delightfully fun experiences that you won’t want to miss:  1) the Texas Farmers’ Market 2) Lucy’s on the Square and 3) Eden Hill Vineyard & Winery.

To begin with, Celina’s Texas Farmers’ Market includes vendors from around the area who colorfully display and sell their home-grown fruits and vegetables – from tomatoes to corn to green onions to home-made jams –  the first Friday of each month is brimming with down-home fun where natural foods take center-stage.  This rural rendezvous runs from March into November.

Your next stop in Celina should include Lucy’s on the Square where you can savor home-cooked meals, just like Grandma used to make.  This cozy cafe offers an array of delicious options from meatloaf to home-made soups to pork chops to Mexican cuisine.  Oh, and fried catfish is a specialty, there!

Another wonderful option in Celina is the Eden Hill Vineyard and Winery, a home-owned business where award-winning wines are crafted, using only Texas-grown grapes.  Highly-acclaimed Eden Hill Vineyard and Winery has been nationally recognized for its distinguished wines.  Its Albarino-Viognier won a coveted gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

 

Parker, Texas

Parker is only about 26 miles northeast of the center of Dallas; and it is, here, where filming took place for the ever-so-popular TV series, Dallas, which debuted in 1978.  The Dallas series’ mansion and property, known as Southfork Ranch, offers tours, a snack bar, and a gift shop, and regularly accommodates special occasions including weddings, corporate picnics, and holiday gatherings.  There is plenty of room for even the largest get-together since 63,000 square feet of space will cater to any event.

Parker, Texas is famous for a burger stand that is located in a very unlikely spot:  in the middle of a pasture!  The burger bistro, known as the Kelly Family Farm Burger Stand, receives rave reviews from patrons who rank the burgers as ‘possibly the most delicious burgers in Texas‘ – perhaps, due to the beef coming from 100% grass-fed cattle.  Burger-craving customers can relax on the umbrella-topped picnic tables or pick up their call-in orders – either way, it’s a taste sensation your taste buds will not, soon, forget!

Parker, Texas has another attraction that could be considered just as unusual as the Kelly Farm Burger Stand location – a private ranch that serves as a llama farm known as ShangriLlama.  It is, here, where llamas live – much loved llamas.   These gentle creatures relish human interaction; and if you wish to do a little llama loving, grab a leash and go for a llama walk.  The llamas within the pack come with

names that include:  Barack O’Llama, Dalai Llama, and Drama Llama, to name only a few!  Before you leave ShanriLlama, grab a llama-inspired gift for the person who has everything:  llama pajamas – not made from real llamas!

 

Cedar Hill, Texas

Cedar Hill is located about 17 miles south of Dallas; and if a small-town feel is what you might be in the mood for, then visit Cedar Hill’s charming and historic Downtown square where shops and restaurants will take you back to a simpler time.

Cedar Hill State Park offers more than 1,800 wooded acres that beckon mountain-biking enthusiasts and hikers who are drawn to the 45 miles of trails, including concrete bike-ways that span 23 miles.  A stocked perch pond is tons of fun for those who love to fish; and bring you camera, too, since bobcats, foxes and armadillos can be frequently spotted.

Once the hunger pangs hit, be sure to visit the White Rhino Coffee House that is open till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and offers hot and cold drinks as well as mouth-watering pastries and sandwiches.  Signature lattes are a specialty at the White Rhino Coffee House in addition to a variety of soothing teas and other savory beverages.  Sit down, relax, and stay awhile at the White Rhino Coffee House where the coffee is hot and the hospitality is, always, warm and inviting.

 

Canton, Texas

Canton, less than 60 miles southeast of Dallas, is a very small town with less than 4,000 residents; but don’t let its small size fool you.  One weekend, per month, year round, Canton hosts a flea market extravaganza known as the ‘First Monday Trade Days’; and it is huge!  This mammoth flea market attracts thousands from all over who can’t get enough of all that is old, restored, re-purposed and/or unique.  The First Monday Trade Days dates back more than 100 years and continues as an electrified gathering where shoppers, vendors, collectors, artisans and antique dealers create a buzz of excitement.  To give an idea of how huge the First Monday Trade Days really is, imagine over 100 acres and 6,000 vendors!

 

Glen Rose, Texas

If you travel about 75 miles southwest of Dallas, you will find the community of Glen Rose, known for its Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Dinosaur Valley State Park, and historic Downtown district.

Dinosaur Valley State Park is a nature-lover’s paradise where one can discover dinosaur tracks in the bed of the Paluxy River, picnic, hike, bike, fish and swim.  If you are a horse owner, bring your beauty to Dinosaur Valley State Park where you can ride to your heart’s content throughout 100 acres of wooded, semi-rocky parkland.  If you love to camp, primitive campsites are available as well as 46 sites that are equipped with electricity and water.

Take time to visit the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center where, from the safety of your vehicle, you can feed exotic animals including giraffes and zebras as well as other animals seeking a morsel, or two.  Fossil Rim places third, nationally, in the USA TODAY 10-Best Readers’ Choice travel award contest for ‘Best Safari Parks’!

If your appetite is calling, don’t leave Glen Rose until you grab a delightful dinner at the Riverhouse Grill which, by the way, earned the 2012 Tripadvisor Award.  The restaurant is, actually, a renovated historic home where meals can be enjoyed on the patio, in the main dining area, or on upper level.  The casually-elegant ambiance makes patrons feel right at home where classic American dishes are served as well as beer and wine.  Whether your take time to enjoy lunch, dinner or Sunday Brunch, the Riverhouse Grill will beckon you to return to this quaint little corner, in the big state of Texas.

1/29

Ten Fun-Filled Places and Events to Check out in Fort Worth

Fort Worth is a vibrant city that has so much to offer for not only its residents, but for the millions of tourists that visit Fort Worth, each year.  Fort Worth provides an over-abundance of activities and events that cater to everyone of every age and inclination; and here are only ten of them.

 

The Stockyards National Historic District

Yee-haw!  Nothing says the ‘Old West’ like Fort Worth’s Stockyards National Historic District.  Known throughout all of Texas, this renowned location was a gathering place for cowboys, cattlemen, and outlaws during the untamed 1800’s.  Feel the flavor of the wild west as you step upon the original brick walkways that cowboys’ leather boots trod, and view historic buildings that, as they say, ‘if only walls could talk’.  Here, you can savor the food at rustic restaurants, purchase unique gifts from the array of shops, and belly up to the bar at the district’s quaint saloons.

 

On Friday and Saturday nights, the Fort Worth Cowtown Coliseum hosts the only year-round rodeo in the world.  The Stockyards Championship Rodeo presents bull riding, roping, barrel racing, bronc riding and more which fill the arena with the sites, sounds, and smells that excite the senses.

 

Rockin’ the River

Head over to the Panther Island Pavilion along the Trinity River and get into the summer mood with an incredibly popular event called Rockin’ the River.  Every Saturday, from the first week of July to the first week in August, fun-lovers, sun-lovers, and water-lovers congregate for tubing, paddling and kayaking.  On select days, live music adds to the party mood.  The Panther Island Pavilion is proud to be the only waterfront stage in Texas.  If you choose to simply enjoy the beach and soak up the sun, the Fort Worth skyline provides the perfect backdrop as you unwind and get away from it all.

 

Sundance Square

Get ready for some Downtown fun!  Spanning 35 blocks, Sundance Square offers all the entertainment, shopping and relaxation one could ask for in Fort Worth!  Forty buildings – those that are historical and  renovated, as well as exquisite skyscrapers – grace this lovely locale. Whether you are in the mood for delicious food, shopping, or becoming inspired, you will discover elegant restaurants, upscale retail shops, fascinating museums, art galleries, music clubs and so much more.  The Sundance Square is known for its beautiful Bass Performance Hall, graced by towering, limestone angels.  This famous opera house is among the top 10 opera houses in the entire world!

 

Log Cabin Village

If you want to to leave the hustle and bustle behind, immerse yourself in another era – how does pioneer life the of the mid-1800’s sound?  For youngsters and oldsters, alike, Log Cabin Village provides a journey into the past where 6 authentically-restored log cabins welcome you, complete with décor that was indicative of the time.  Additionally, a quaint schoolhouse, a water-powered gristmill, a blacksmith shop, and a simple herb garden generate an appreciation and better understanding of how Texas families lived more than 150 years ago.  The people who work at the Log Cabin Village, wear the style of clothing reflective of the time period during the mid to late 19th Century.  Tours and programs are, also, offered as well as a unique gift shop filled with penny whistles, yarn dolls, cookbooks, and village-made crafts.

 

Fort Worth Botanic Garden

The Fort Worth Botanic Garden displays nature, in all its glory; and is the oldest botanic garden in Texas.  Thousands of species of native and exotic plants thrive in the 109 acres in addition to more than 20 specialty gardens.  One magnificent garden, here, is the Fort Worth Japanese Garden that spans a full 7 acres.  Colorful Koi – a total of 1,200 of them–  relish the protection and solitude of the various ponds. This stroll garden offers winding paths through the landscapes and around the pond areas; and the beauty of Cherry trees, Japanese Maples, magnolias and lovely bridges soothe the soul.  Waterfalls, pavilions, a Zen Garden and the Lower Rose Garden, which was inspired by an ancient Italian villa, are part of this serene escape, as well.  The Fort Worth Botanic Gardens exude peace and beauty for all who enter this little paradise on Earth.

 

Fort Worth Water Gardens

The Fort Worth Water Gardens, like the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, qualifies as an oasis, in its own right.  More than 4 acres, located in downtown Fort Worth, provide three water-garden features –  aerating, quiet, and active.

 

The quiet pool is the perfect location for reflection and meditation, and is surrounded by cypress trees and towering walls.  The aerating pool has a multitude of illuminated spray fountains under a natural canopy of oak trees.  The active pool has a 38-foot drop that allows for the cascading water to flow onto terraces, into a bottom pool.  The Fort Worth Water Gardens has been dubbed, ‘a cooling oasis in the concrete jungle’.

 

Mayfest

Fort Worth’s Mayfest, at Trinity Park, is a family-focused event that is considered the ‘biggest party in Fort Worth’.  Something for everyone is promised, here:  all types of food, carnival rides, live music, performing arts, zip-lining, pony rides, face-painting, over 60 Art and Gift Market vendors and so much more.  Here, too, one can adopt a family member of the four-legged variety that would be longing for a forever home, thanks to the efforts of the Humane Society of North Texas.

 

Fort Worth Zoo

Over the past 100+ years, the Fort Worth Zoo has grown and evolved into a renowned conservation/education/entertainment hot spot for its host city.  More than 7,000 species of animals reside here in natural habitats:  penguins, gorillas, cheetahs, parrots, jaguars, black rhinos and other magnificent creatures.

More than 16 permanent exhibits and facilities have been opened, since 1992, in addition to picnic areas and restaurants.  Children can experience ‘Texas Wild!’, a hands-on exhibit that showcases the state’s wildlife.  Other children’s activities include the ever-popular petting zoo, the gathering of fossils, a 14,000 square foot play-pool and a 13,000 square-foot learning theater – the list goes on.   The Fort Worth Zoo is ranked among the top-5 zoos in the country, by USA Travel Guide.

 

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge

In the mood to get up close with the critters of the wild?  The Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge is a serene setting that encompasses more than 3,000 acres of forests, prairies and wetlands.  More than 20 miles of hiking trails of different lengths and different terrain wind through the refuge where walking, jogging and mountain biking are extremely popular.

 

Educational programs are offered for all ages; and children can enroll in classes to learn more about nature, play games, make crafts and enjoy outdoor exploring. Buffalo, alligators, deer, and an array of bird species are protected at the refuge.  For something a bit different, one has the option of joining with a naturalist and a small group to partake in an after-hours experience of watching wildlife emerge after the sun goes down.

 

Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival

During the first week of April you can relish one of the most-celebrated cuisine and beverage festivals you could find, anywhere – the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival!  Food of all types as well as craft beers, wines and spirits from all over the country come together in multiple locations in Fort Worth to excite the senses and provide 3 days of fun and merriment.  The most recognized chefs and restaurateurs from North Texas will prepare mouth-watering cuisine.  You can enjoy burgers, brews and blues at Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork; eggs Benedict or breakfast tacos and mimosas at the Pier 1 Imports Building; or pastry and drinks at the ‘Deserts after Dark’ event at Firestone & Robertson’s new Whiskey Ranch development.  A host of other venues will provide their own flavor and flair; but whichever venues you choose to visit, your taste buds will thank you!

 

Fort Worth is brimming with exciting locales that host a multitude of family-friendly events throughout the entire year!  This thriving city, truly, does have something for everyone!

1/24

Design Trends for 2018 – It’s All About Color, Comfort and Convenience

Each year, design trends can go through some fun and interesting changes; and 2018 is no exception.  Here is an eclectic combination of a few trends that just might trip your trigger.

 

Colorful Kitchens

Using color, creatively, is the name of the game for kitchen personalities for 2018.  Cabinets will move away, somewhat, from basic white and take on two-toned hues as well as weathered finishes.  But how about colored cabinets?  Brace yourself because kitchen cabinets painted in tones of blue, red and green will be more in vogue.  Kitchens with lighter colored cabinetry, however, will incorporate dark-painted islands to add a pop of color and pizzazz.

 

Kitchen sinks will take on a much more novel look, crafted from brass, concrete, stone, copper and quartz.  Faucets, too, will be playfully colorful, painted every color of the rainbow.  Kitchens will, definitely, move away from the more-traditional appearance as stoves and refrigerators become colorized, as well.  Cobalt blue will be a biggie for appliance colors in addition to reds and greens that will make a dramatic impact.  Darker kitchen cabinets or appliances will portray an undeniable sophistication and richness that will be offset by light-colored flooring, brass lighting and light-colored walls.

 

Shannon Zapala, co-founder of the glassware brand, GOVERRE, states:  “One of the popular kitchen trends for 2018 is using bold, unexpected colors that exude a feeling of luxury and elegance.”

 

Another kitchen trend for 2018 will integrate kitchen appliances with paneling, or appliances will be crafted as seamless built-ins. This clever design tactic will make it difficult to distinguish appliances from the cabinetry – very classy!

 

Combination Ovens

Kitchens equipped with steam ovens are coming on the 2018 scene in quick fashion.  Steam ovens cook food much faster and retain foods’ nutrients and flavors more than conventional ovens.  Some manufacturers are combining steam cooking with convection to offer ‘combination’ ovens where one can get the best of steam cooking as well as browning capabilities.  Saving time with steam ovens is quite extraordinary:  cooking a chicken in a traditional oven takes about two hours, but only 20 minutes in a steam oven.  Believe it or not, with a stream oven, a 14-pound turkey bakes up beautifully in only 90 minutes.

 

Multi-Functional Islands

Open layouts will continue to replace closed-up kitchen designs of the past.  This means bigger and better, longer and wider kitchen islands will be showcased for 2018.  More massive, multi-functional kitchen islands will offer enhanced storage solutions, built-in under-the-counter appliances such as wine-coolers and micro-wave drawers, dedicated seating, pet-feeding stations, and extended measurements that will make their way into living room spaces in homes with open-plan designs.

 

Vivid Violet and Passionate Purple

Shades of violet and purple will become very noticeable as a color-of-choice in multiple areas of the home, for 2018.  In fact, violets and purples are being dubbed, ‘the color of the year’.  Upholstered furniture in solid purple or violet hues as well as bedspreads in bold purple patterns with geometric designs or floral patterns will serve as eye-catching pieces.  Violet or purple accent walls, especially, in bathrooms and bedrooms, will add a zip of excitement; but will be toned down with furnishings, accent pieces, and/or throw rugs in soft beiges, gentle yellows, light blues and plumb hues.  Along with purples and violets and other jewel-tones, be prepared to see luxurious velvet fabrics for couches, chairs and loungers.  Velvet creates an ambiance of regal sophistication as well as coziness and warmth.

 

Light, Textured Wood Floors

Darker-colored wood floors will begin to take a back seat to lighter-colored palettes for 2018.  Light-hued woods, including natural tones and blond and whitewashed woods, do a magnificent job of brightening interior spaces; and they perform much better with hiding imperfections.  This is good news for active families, especially families with pets.

 

Gray wood flooring is on the rise for 2018 as well as gray wood tile that mimics wood – a popular bathroom choice.  Gray is the new beige; and flooring colors are really showcasing that.  Wood flooring that possess a ‘driftwood’ appearance is an organic feel that will rock in 2018.  This natural look will, definitely, replace yellow-toned oak shades and cherry tones.  Additionally for 2018, wider floor planks as well as mixed-width planks are coming on the scene, full steam, and will offer a less-uniform, more natural aesthetics.

1/24

How to Prepare Your Home for Freezing Temps

Winter time can be filled with delightful experiences such as sleigh rides, sipping hot toddies in front of a fire and building snowmen with the kids and grand-kids.  Winter time is, also, a time when one’s home should be completely ready for frigid weather.  North Texas can have its share of very cold days; and according the to the National Weather Service, the DFW metro area is capable of experiencing single digit temperatures, with an average of 23 days of out each winter when temps are below freezing.

 

Freezing temperatures translates into being proactive with preparing your home for whatever winter throws your way.  Planning ahead can save a homeowner, potentially, thousands of dollars in repair costs, with frozen pipes being only one example of what can happen if a home is unprepared.  When pipes freeze, it can lead to pipes that burst and cause major water damage.

 

Here are some suggestions that will ensure your home will be able to combat the cold, while keeping you and your family safe and warm.

 

The Gutters

Gutters are, often, overlooked in terms of keeping them cleared of sticks, leaves and other debris.  If debris is not removed during the fall, winter snow and sleet will turn that debris into a rotted mess that will, eventually, clog downspouts and trap water – especially once the spring rains, begin.  This can lead to water damage on the outside and the inside of one’s home as well as foundation problems if flooding occurs around the home’s parameter.

 

Once debris has been removed, it’s a good idea to invest in a handy and easy-to-use telescoping hose attachment designed for gutter cleaning.  If downspouts are clogged, you or a professional may need to use a plumber’s snake to loosen any debris accumulations that might be impacted.

 

The Chimney

If you home has as fireplace, you will want to determine if your chimney is safe to use throughout the winter.  Not only can deteriorated bricks be in need of replacement, but creosote may be present in the flue.  Creosote is a gooey, smelly byproduct of combustion; and even a fourth-inch of the flammable stuff in the flue can contribute to a major fire.  Bob Villa, home-renovating expert, states:  “Creosote build-up contributes to 25% of all house fires in the US, each year”.  Because of this, hiring a chimney-sweep to thoroughly inspect your fire place is prudent to ensure your cozy winter fire doesn’t turn into a much larger one.

 

The Roof

Inspecting your home’s roof is one of the most-basic measures you can take to prepare for the onslaught of winter.  If you have a pair of binoculars, you’re in luck since you can use them to inspect your shingles for signs of displacement, cracking and curling.  While you’re at it, get a close-up view of the metal flashing to make sure it is void of holes, cracks or tears since it is, here, where water can infiltrate.  If necessary, hire a professional to make any repairs to avoid moisture damage from sleet or snow.

 

The Hose Spigots

Winterizing your outside hose spigots will prevent the hose faucets from freezing.  You can add slip-on pipe fittings that come in various materials, shapes and sizes which are designed to block the cold air from reaching the faucet. Disconnect outdoor hoses and turn off the flow of water to outside faucets; and make sure all the water has been, thoroughly, drained.

 

The Ceiling Fans

It’s an easy thing to forget:  reversing the flow of ceiling fans.  Make sure your fans’ blades move in a clockwise direction during colder weather and turn the speed setting to ‘low’.  The slow, clockwise movement will cause the room’s air to move upward, and force warmer air, downward.  As a result, the furnace will operate less often, bringing utility bills downward, right along with the warmer air!

 

The Batteries

Fire alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors save lives; but they will save lives only if the batteries are working properly.  Carbon monoxide, in particular, is an especially concerning issue since it is colorless and odorless; and breathing it can be fatal.

Most of us keep our homes tightly sealed during the winter, which means CO2 detectors should be equipped with new batteries towards the end of each fall season – this applies to batteries in fire alarms, as well.  Take the extra step to test all the batteries, monthly, to make sure they are performing properly.

 

The Furnace Filter

Things that are ‘out of sight and out of mind’ are easy to forget; and furnace filters would qualify.  These simple items are worth their weight in gold and should be changed once every 3 months, or more often, if pets live in the home.  When filters become clogged, the performance ability of the furnace is strained as well as the internal workings.

 

Hire an HVAC pro to inspect all components of your furnace, make any repairs, and check for the presence of any hazardous gases.  The last thing you need is a furnace that conks out during a cold snap which could, then, cause your pipes to freeze.

 

The Leaks

Keeping cold air out and warm in is pretty basic, but if you have drafts around doors and windows that aren’t addressed before temperatures plummet, get ready to pay some hefty heating bills.  Temporary caulk or inexpensive plastic window insulation are very effective remedies to keep cold air, at bay.  Window insulation kits include plastic shrink film that is applied with double-stick tape and, then, heated with a hair dryer, creating the desired shrinkage.  Also, weather-sealing comes in strips of self-stick rubber that can be cut to fit any window dimensions.  Additionally, something as simple as installing a door sweep along the bottom of exterior doors will block out cold air.

 

Your Lawn and Shrubs

It isn’t only the home, itself, that should be winter-ready – your lawn and shrubs need some pre-winter TLC, as well.  Prune bushes and shrubs towards the end of the fall season since this allows perennials to utilize maximized oxygen levels to more-effectively combat the cold and grow more robustly during the spring.  Pruning, too early, however, can be detrimental to plants since it can contribute to various plant disease, so it’s a good idea to wait until plants’ leaves have withered or fallen.

 

Lawns, too, need a little extra attention before temps begin to really fall.  Grass should be watered until the ground freezes since some grasses require moisture and continue to grow until that time.  During autumn, lawns will greatly benefit from aeration which gently breaks up some of the top soil to allow air, water and fertilizer to optimally enrich the soil and help establish a stronger root system.  A fall fertilization permits grass to store carbohydrates which will serve as a source of much-needed energy once spring arrives.

 

Preparing your home and property for the cold is prudent, indeed.  When done right, your efforts will go a long way towards ensuring your home’s winter survival is a breeze.  When you take care of your home, it will take care of you!

12/21

Places in Fort Worth to Celebrate the Holiday

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is in full swing.  If feeling stressed is an unwelcome addition to your holiday mood, why not take advantage of one or more places in Fort Worth that will lift your holiday spirits and lessen the anxiety!

Here are five locations in Fort Worth you won’t want to miss!

 

Texas Speedway

 

Get ready to be amazed at the Texas Speedway’s Gift of Lights presentation.  The Texas Speedway is recognized as the largest speedway in the Lone Star State; and utilizing the sprawling landscape couldn’t be more perfect for the huge drive-through of lights you can savor, here.  The Gift of Lights is deemed the most colossal light display in all of Texas, and continues until December 30.

The message for this time of year is about giving; and that is exactly what the Texas Speedway plans to do.  A portion of all the proceeds from the Gift of Lights is being donated to six Speedway Children’s Charities including Ronald McDonald House, Toys for Tots, Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, and others.   So have some holiday fun and know that part of your money is going to a wonderful cause!

 

Fort Worth Modern Art Museum

 

The Fort Worth Modern Art Museum is a world-class museum that has gone to great lengths to present Modern Lights, until January 6.  For the first time in the history of the museum, the Modern is being lit up with a huge array of colored lights to commemorate the holiday season as well as celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the museum.

As an added bonus, the museum is offering nightly viewings and extended hours until 8 pm which will continue Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays throughout December.  The lights will glow in all their glory from 5 pm to midnight.  After being bedazzled by the light show, stop by the Cafe Modern for a holiday drink and a bite to eat!

 

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge

 

If you want to celebrate the holiday season in a unique fashion, go visit the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge where you can enjoy the Out-with-a-Bang Hike.  On December 31, from 1:00 to 2:30 pm, the event will herald in 2018, via, a naturalist who will guide you through a variety of simulated natural habitats to learn unusual and interesting facts about wildlife.  

The center’s Bison-Feeding Hayride is an especially interesting adventure that allows you and yours to  share in the joy of helping to feed the bison. This memorable experience takes place on January 1 from 10 am until 11:30.  You will learn interesting details about these remarkable beasts and how they serve a beneficial purpose at the refuge.

 

Crockett Row

 

Oh, what a delightful time you will have at Crockett Row’s Starlight Symphony!  This event will beckon you with its dynamic music-and-light show on December 31 at Crockett Row at West 7th.  From 6-9pm, you can take in your favorite holiday tunes; and if you return on Friday or Saturday evenings, you will find musical performances and free horse-drawn carriage rides!  Singers and musicians from the area will, also, perform on Crockett Square during the weekends.  This event will, truly, generate a feeling of ‘merry and bright’!  

 

Meacham Airport

 

Fort Worth’s Meacham International Airport has a holiday celebration that is, perhaps, the most unusual:  flights aboard a vintage WWII C-47 aircraft!  This unequaled opportunity goes by the name, The Greatest Generation Aircraft Christmas Light Flights, and continues until December 31. You, your family and friends can experience the flight of a lifetime during the 35-minute journey over the DFW terrain.   A single seat costs $99; and seats for 2 run $189.  If, however, you prefer a New-Year’s Eve flight, the trip will last 45 minutes and take-off is 15 minutes before the midnight hour. Tickets, at that time, will be $149, per seat.

The C-47 flew paratroopers and towing gliders into combat more than 70 years, ago; and most people might agree that this particular flight could be just as exciting as riding in Santa’s sleigh!

12/18

Fun Holiday Events In Dallas – 2017

When it comes to ways in which the 2017 holiday season can be celebrated, there are no shortages of options in Dallas, Texas!  If you are trying to decide how to especially-excite the kids or grand-kids this holiday, or if you want to impress out-of-town guests, take a peek at the following attractions that will generate absolute awe in youngsters and oldsters, alike!

 

Dallas Zoo Lights – Dallas Zoo

This year, some very excited people at the Dallas Zoo are offering a holiday event called ‘Dallas Zoo Lights’ which is making its grand debut!  Having begun on November 17, Dallas Zoo Lights will continue until January 2 with delightful holiday festivities from 5-9 pm, every Friday through Sunday.

One event of the Dallas Zoo Lights is quite unique:  the Dallas Zoo has the honor of being one of two zoos in the US that is showcasing spectacular 3-D light sculptures, imported from France.  In addition to that, light-wrapped trees, overhead light displays, and a variety of lighted vignettes will give zoo guests the feel of visiting an African watering hole, a North Pole candy land, and more!

In the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo, sound-reactive lights densely cover a tree and merrily respond to the caroling of passers-by; so sing your favorite Christmas songs with enthusiasm and watch the lights reciprocate!  Hot and cold winter drinks, treats, s’mores stations, crafts for the children, entertainment by local performers, and photo niches for capturing the memories, all, contribute towards creating an evening that will be long-remembered!

If you have a zoo membership, you can gain entrance to this wonderful event, at no charge.  Though this celebration will be closed December 24 and 25, it will resume on December 26 and continue until January 2.  Here’s your chance to see the Dallas Zoo in a ‘whole new light’!

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas – Dallas Children’s Theater

Children, from 2 to 92, love Charlie Brown; and until December 23, the Dallas Children’s Theater will be offering Peanuts’ fans the classic Charles Schulz creation:  A Charlie Brown Christmas.  This enchanting presentation reminds its audience of the real meaning of Christmas in a way that only the Peanuts’ gang can!

In addition to A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Dallas Children’s Theater will be hosting Kathy Burkes Theater of Puppetry Arts which will offer its spirited musical, Frosty and Friends.  Magnificent musical arrangements and performances by talented singers and dancers are guaranteed to bring joy and merriment to the hearts of those who still believe in the magic of this special time of year.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas – Dallas Arboretum

Though many flowers during the winter season may not be on display at the Dallas Arboretum, one holiday activity is taking place that makes up for that:  The Twelve Days of Christmas exhibit!  Fabulous displays offer eye-candy one will not find anywhere else.  Twelve gazebos, encased in glass, each display a different verse of the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ song.  The glass-covered gazebos give one a feeling of viewing a huge, see-through music box as the components within each gazebo dance to the verses of the song.

The ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ display will continue until January 7; though it is during the evening hours until December 30 that the Dallas Arboretum will exhibit a magnificent array of 500,000 colored lights, sure to put all visitors in awe!  A 30-foot tall tree adds a brilliant touch to this wondrous spectacle.

One more holiday display will be added to the mix, this year – at the DeGolyer House, the new ‘Nutcracker Suite’ exhibit is guaranteed to enthrall since more than 800 nutcracker figurines, from two private collections, are presented.   The ‘Nutcracker Suite’ will continue until January 7.

 

Holiday Wonder – Fair Park

From November 21 through January 7, Fair Park turns into ‘Holiday Wonder‘, a first-of-its-kind event!  The fairgrounds host a Christmas-themed wonderland where guests can savor music, illuminated Chinese lanterns, glowing/floating swans in the fair’s pond, a ‘snow-ball’ throw, a 2-story arctic slide, food, world-class acrobatics, a holiday market, and more.  Additionally, more than two million lights bring Christmas to life, at Fair Park!  Santa, too, is partaking in the fun and is scheduled to pay a visit until December 24.

 

Christmas Carriage Rides – Downtown Dallas

Horse-drawn carriages were a common mode of transportation in the early phase of American history; and experiencing that nostalgic charm in this fast-paced world is a treat, indeed!  Northstar Carriage makes these memorable experiences possible by providing horse-drawn carriage tours of downtown Dallas.  Cuddling under a warm blanket while sipping hot chocolate and listening to horses’ hooves against the pavement takes one back to a simpler, calmer time.

Carriage guests can wind through Thanksgiving Square, The Arts District, Pioneer/Victory Park or a host of other destinations, and can choose between historical tours, romantic rides, or a combination of both.

Dallas has no shortage of holiday entertainment options that will soothe the soul and warm the heart.  The magic of the season is truly felt when it is celebrated in Dallas, Texas!