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Viewing Blog: Ducks In My Pool and other stories......, Most Recent at Top
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Why are stories important? How have they shaped our thinking and view of the world? Come follow my stories and see what we have in common. Ducks In My Pool, is about a family of ducks who chose our backyard as a safe place to build their nest. For over ten years ducklings have hatched and swam in our pool. I realized God gave me a metaphor through the ducks to show His love and safety as I trust in Him.
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1. Magnolia Market is a Delight of the Senses

 A trip to Magnolia Market reveals the joyful atmosphere of Chip and Joanna Gains amazing creativity. They united as one to provide products everyone can use in their home from the inspiration of their HTV Show, Fixer Upper.   I got addicted to the show as I visited my elderly mom. We stayed in bed as we watched a marathon of episodes.  Each one tells a story of family.  The show unites all generations of decorating enthusiasts.  Chip and Joanna picked the name from their courtship days. He picked white Magnolia blossoms as a symbol of love for Jo.


Giant white washed silos are the landmark of the market standing tall and Texas proud located in the heart of Waco. I was grateful my husband had business in Waco so I could tag along and visit the shop. The couple had a vision to transform a former cottonseed mill to a thriving market place.
The theme restoration seems to be the foundation of everything they do.  Magnolia Market was one of their biggest fixer upper jobs to date.  They literally started from scratch, removing trash to transform the buildings to a thriving market of fresh and simple products.  Chip and Joanna are both Baylor grads and got married in 2003.  Chip began buying and renovating homes as Joanna used her talent of design to marry their gifts of imagination to form their company, Magnolia Homes.  
As you walk into the front door you are greeted with hanging sprays of yellow tulips.  
Green shiny vases contain simple white flowers.
Fragrant candles stamped Magnolia are stacked with precision with a partner of white and yellow vintage vases filled with rosemary.  Jo wants to give respect for old objects.
Soap with fragrances of Mint and Rosemary fill the air with aromatic delights.  I bought the soaps to give to friends and family and everyone comments on the potent smell.  My 94 year old mom keeps it by her bedside to smell fresh mint.  They only sell for 6.00 dollars.  You can buy the products online for a wonderful treat in you bathroom.  

The store is full of cooking items to grind herbs from the garden.
Lip balm is sold in glass jars for 8.00 dollars.  It goes on moist and flavorful.  My lips have never felt so pampered. 
Words of encouragement seem to be very important to Chip and Joanna.   Sayings can be purchased for your home to bring joy and positive messages.  Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly is a favorite.
Soft ivory pillows hang in the air of Magnolia Market saying I'll be great for your sofa as you relax.  
A green painted chest holds candelabras for soft lighting.  Magnolia has branched out into furniture to go with the theme of hospitality.  I can just picture a lovely carrot cake or appetizers for a party placed on top.  
Magnolia has provided many jobs for locals who live in Waco.  I was greeted with a friendly Texas smile from a sweet girl who answered my questions.  She talked me into buying the scented candles and aromatic oils.  I have them in our bedroom for lovely scents.
Each area of the store has artistic displays revealing the creativity of Joanna Gains.  
Baskets of white flowers filled bins.  
Joanna's artistic talent was supported by her husband Chip during their first year of marriage.  She had a list of dreams she wanted to accomplish and he has supported her all the way.  It reminds me of my husband when he passes out Ducks In My Pool business cards to co passengers on a plane.  He tells them of my books I created for children.  

Demo Day is the highlight of the Fixer Upper Show because it is out with the old and in with the new.  The area of the store reveals tools, nails and other items for demo day.  
Its like a hardware store of useful parts.  
Magnolia Market is always filled with customers.  Many come from all over the United States and the world just to see Chip and Jo's products.  
Dogs are welcome to explore the market.  They are an important part of families.
A warehouse is attached to store products for high demand in every season.  
Words made of iron can be purchased to hang on your walls.
The theme of an active family life lays the foundation of Magnolia Market.
T Shirts are for sale along with ceramic mugs.  
Words of faith, family and gatherings are part of the lifestyle of the Magnolia Empire. Chip and Joanna Gaines will  launch a magazine in the fall of 2016.  Meredith's publishing house will feature topics that are similar to Magnolia Market.  They want to highlight food, decorating, entertaining ideas, and show real life homes, for the purpose of creating spaces loved ones will enjoy.  
Hospitality was shown as I purchased my carefully chosen items by friendly sales staff. I placed my little treasures all over our home and thought of the inspiration of Magnolia is the love of family.   
As time goes by I believe Fixer
Upper will continue to be popular because it's based on the lives of real people who want their home to be restored.
The parking lot is always full of people from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the love of this amazing couple.  

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4. Fourth of July

Fourth of July

Families unite together with blankets and chairs
Picnics prepared for a feast of hot dogs and brisket
Laughter, sparklers, children dressed in ruffled dresses of red white and blue
All saying we are here to be thankful
To celebrate the day our country became free


Coolers packed with ice cold drinks
Take a sip
A cool breeze flows across the crowd
White puffy clouds float across the sky
As the opening act

Pie eating contests
I ate the whole thing
Apple, Blueberry, and Peach pies with flaky crusts
The bell rang
Contest over
I won!!!

Tractors pull guests
Community Workers Serve their time
Each sitting side by side on bales of hay
United in freedom
Children sit close to mom or dad
Families have different stories
Of how they came to America
But the story is the same
They came to America for a better life


Night falls
Glowing sticks of light wave in the darkness
It's a pattern of movement
Of joyful freedom
Happy Independence Day

Music unites generations
With the backdrop of our American Flag
Joyful sounds spring forth from trombones
Guitars are plucked with chords of past songs
Freedom rings Freedom rings


Loud explosions of light
Happy 4th of July to you
God Bless America
Home of the free
Our founding fathers said
All men are created equal

Light reflects across the faces of Americans
Red White and Blue flags are raised in the air
Smoke fills the night sky
Curved lines are arranged like giant sparklers of hope
Hope of raising children with the same freedoms



The grand finale of fireworks pop and crackle
Each face with aspirations
Friends and families holding each other close
Couples holding hands
Children looking up to the lighted sky
God Bless America Land of the Free
Stand beside her.

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5. Memorial Day Remembering Those Who Served For Freedom

On this Memorial Day offer prayer for those who have sacrificed their lives for freedom in the United States.


 Freedom has been bought with a price.


 Our government was established with a balance of powers, the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary branch.  Under the separation of powers each branch is independent and cannot control another branch.  The 27 Amendments to our constitution is a living history of the struggle for freedom so all can have an equal voice.
Bill of Rights
Amendment 1 Freedoms, Petitions, Assembly
Amendment 2 Right to bear arms
Amendment 3 Quartering of soldiers
Amendment 4 Search and Arrest
Amendment 5 Rights in criminal cases
Amendment 6 Right to a fair trial
Amendment 7 Rights in civil cases
Amendment 8 Bail, finds, punishment
Amendment 9 Rights retained by the People
Amendment 10 States rights
Amendment 11 Lawsuits against states
Amendment 12 Presidential elections
Amendment 13 Abolition of slavery
Amendment 14 Civil Rights
Amendment 15 Black Suffrage
Amendment 16 income taxes
Amendment 17 Senatorial elections
Amendment 18 Prohibition of liquor
Amendment 19 Women's suffrage
Amendment 20 Terms of office
Amendment 21 Repeal of Prohibition
Amendment 22 Term Limits for the Presidency
Amendment 23 Washington D. C. suffrage
Amendment 24 Abolition of poll taxes
Amendment 25 Presidential succession
Amendment 26 18 year old suffrage
Amendment 27 Congressional pay raises

Let us remember our National Symbol
The Bald Eagle was adopted as the national bird to symbolize; majestic beauty, great strength, and long life.  The wingspan of a Bald Eagle is six to eight feet. It is the only eagle that is found exclusively on the North American continent.

  John F. Kennedy said,
"The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation.  The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolized the strength and freedom of America"


 Our nation endures because of the sacrifice of so many. At least 1.2 million people have died fighting for America during its wars dating back 241 years.  It started with the American Revolution from 1775 to 1783.



  Men and women decided it was worth giving their lives so the birth of our nation could represent equality.

Each one serving wanted future generations to have freedom.  The First Amendment says;

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,



 and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 Let us not take our freedoms for granted.  Many have sacrificed so our country can be free.  

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6. Mother's Day Blessings

Mother's Day Blessings come in many packages.  Not every Mother's Day is perfect, but it is a day to show love.  My mom is suffering with back pain and unable to get around like she did.  Her days in the home with nursing care come with little joys like eating in the dining area.

I surprised her this Mother's Day with pink roses, chocolates and a card that says how much she is appreciated.  She can still read every word, repeating the phrases over and over.  She put up the card with the  heart opening and said I can see through it.

My mom loves boxes so I found this special one that she can keep cards or chocolates inside.

She opened  the box to see words of encouragement.   Faith heals.  During difficult times God is near, holding your hand.
As she went back to her room she kept asking her roommate over and over, "Are you okay?  How are you feeling? " 
I thought that is my sweet mom who thought about others even though her back hurts and she is in pain.  She rolled her wheelchair close to her bed and repeated gently are you going to be alright?  Her roommate had been in the hospital and had just come back to the room.  Her eyes were closed as she was getting treatments.  

Sometimes her eyes would reveal the pain she was feeling but there is also a peace.  
Mother's Day Blessings come is small packages.  My sons gave me pink tulips.  The same color my mother loves.  I thought of her as I poured water in the vase.  She always mentions my two wonderful sons with love and adoration.  Mother's Day is a time to show love.

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7. Fort Worth Zoo Lions, Tigers, Antelope, Exotic Birds



The Fort Worth Zoo was voted best zoo by Family Life Magazine, LA Times, and USA Today.   It is home to 5,000 exotic and native animals.   When the zoo opened in 1909 the animals to see were one lion,
two bear cubs, an alligator
a coyote,

a peacock and a few rabbits.

The Herpetarium was completed in the summer of 1960 with one of the largest exhibits of reptiles and amphibians in the world.  The original Herpetarium closed in 2009 to be replaced by the Museum of Living Art in 2010.

Zookeepers are available to let you touch a snake.  The scales are scratchy to the touch.

World of Primates opened in 1992 with an indoor and outdoor exhibit of gorilla groups.

Watch the apes eat lettuce and other treats for primates.
Asian Falls opened in 1992 with an exotic exhibit of White Tigers.


White and Malayan tigers share a habitat of majestic waterfalls flowing.
White Tigers enjoy the sound of water splashing on rocks.
Raptor Canyon is an aviary that opened in 1993.  It is home to crowned eagles,
An Andean condor,

a milky eagle owl, harpy eagles, and bateleur eagles.

The cheetah exhibit opened in 1994 with exotic black spotted wild cats.
Flamingo Bay is home to the 70 peach colored birds who love to flock together.

Parrot Paradise was opened in 2004 to a free flight aviary.  Children have fun feeding the parakeets and cockatoos.  .
The rain forest habitat is home to bright colorful red, white and blue Macaws.  They have large beaks to crack open shells.

Animals from Australia hop with their friends.  Kangaroos carry their babies in their pouch.
 Kangaroos have large ears to help them listen for predators who might want to harm them.  My what large tails they have.


Black and white penguins have a thick fur to keep them warm.

Wild Pheasants roam the Texas Hill Country to  make the hillside colorful.  Their eyes can spot food to eat.

Angel Fish love to play chase in  aquariums for fish who love to swim in coral reefs all over the world.

Antelope love to play in the open grassy fields of green.

It takes alot of workers to help maintain a safe place for animals to be healthy.  Thank you zookeepers for providing such a wonderful zoo for all to enjoy.

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8. Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

C

Cesky Krumlov is an enchanted town located in the Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic.  The old Cesky Krumlov Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


  It's an amazing example of a quaint European medieval town whose architecture has remained safe for five centuries.  The castle is set high on the hill with a wall of protection.



Vitkovci began building the castle in 1240 by the Vltava River because it was an important trade route in Bohemia.



  Most of the architecture dates from the 14th to 17th centuries.  There is a combination of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.



The House of Rosenberg acquired the castle in 1302.  Gold was found in the 15th century so miners came to explore for their own treasures.  Emeror Rudolf II bought Krumlov in 1602 and passed it down to his son Julius dAustria.



 Power kept passing hands and Emperor Ferdinand II gave Krumlov to the House of Eggenberg which made the town the seat of Ducy of Krumlov.

The House of Schwarzenberg had a long relationship with the castle because it took control from 1719 to 1945.


  The core of the town is next to a curve in the river with the castle on the other side.  Germans and Czechs both lived in Cesky Krumlov in 1910.  But by the end of 1918 the Czechoslovak army gained power of the area.


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9. Berlin Travel Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall

A wall divided Berlin into two very different parts, east and west.  As tourists visit Berlin there is a memory of the separation throughout the city in the trail of a brick wall.  The construction began in 1961 to stop Eastern Bloc emigration because twenty percent of the East Berlin population fled to the west from 1949 to 1961.  Many were engineers, teachers, lawyers, and skilled workers.
Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the west as the best known crossing point during the cold war.  
Photographs are displayed to show the timeline,

The name Charlie came from the letter C in the Nato phonetic alphabet.  There was also a Checkpoint Alpha and Bravo.  The border crossing has been featured in films, and books for its location on Friedrichsstrasse, a historic street in the American occupied city center.  It was the only gateway for allied diplomats, military personnel and foreign tourists to pass in to the Berlin's Soviet sector.  

The United States, France and Britain stationed military police at Checkpoint Charlie to make sure their officials had easy access to the border.  The Allied guards spent most of their time monitoring diplomatic and military traffic.  A tiny shack and a few sandbags kept the operation simple on the western side to symbolize the wall was not permanent.  The East German side has cement barriers and guard towers to prevent people from illegally crossing.  
On October 22, 1961,Allan Lightner, a diplomat from the United States tried to cross to attend the opera in East Berlin.  The East Berlin Guards demanded to see his passport, but he refused on the grounds that only Soviet officials had the authoritiy to inspect his papers.  He finally got through with the help of U.S. soldiers and military jeeps.  This started a 16 hour stand off with M-48 tanks facing each other on both sides.  President John F. Kennedy contacted Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and convinced him to withdraw his tanks.
Occasionally Checkpoint Charlie was used for prisoner swaps.  A captured American U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers was traded for Rudolf Abel, a convicted spy for espionage.  
East Germany finally eased travel restrictions on November 9,1989.  The new policy was leaked out by a government official at a press conference.  That night street parties broke out around Berlin to celebrate freedom.  
Graffiting on the wall became popular for artists from all over the world.  

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10. Easter

Easter celebrates Jesus's resurrection from the grave.  Jesus is risen and has conquered death so we might have eternal life with him if we believe, cling to and rely upon him.



The Resurrection
The angel said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.  He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.  Come see the place where He was lying.  Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you. So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them, Greetings, he said.  They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me.   Mathew 28:5-10




Then Jesus came to them and said,  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Mathew 28; 18-20



For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish so the Son of Mary will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  Matthew 12:40




Don't be alarmed, he said.  You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen?  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  Mark 16;6


But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Acts 2;24
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Acts 1:8


Peter replied, Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2;38

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.  This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven and of which I Paul, have become a servant.  Colossians 1:23

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:29
Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness Romans 6:13

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11. Good Friday Falls on the Annunciation

Christians all over the world remember the day Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we might have eternal life if we believe in him.  He carried the cross after being scourged by Roman Soldiers with leather ropes attached with bone pieces cut from a lamb's pelvis.  The sharp edges penetrated Jesus's flesh.    His open wounds were bleeding as he took each step up the steep incline to the hill he would be crucified.  Good Friday falls on March 25, the traditional day of observing the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her she would become pregnant with Jesus.  Mary received the news with joy.  "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word," she told the angel.

Mary received the news with gladness in her heart as she became the mother of Jesus, our savior and Lord.  Thirty three years later she must see him die on the cross.  But she received joy again when she found out he had risen and his body was not in the tomb.  Jesus appeared to over 500 people to show his resurrection from the grave.  

When Good Friday falls on March 25 the Catholic Church pushes the Annunciation celebration to later in the year.  Many Christians throughout the ages have pondered the contrasts of joy and suffering.  When Jesus died on the cross for our sins the suffering makes way for great joy, the salvation of the world.   

After the Last Supper Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane at the Mount of Olives.  Jesus prayed,
"Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done," Luke 22:42.  Jesus prayed so intensely that " his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground." Luke 22:44.  Science tells us that people may emit a bloody sweat when in a very emotional state.  The sweat glands are hemorrhaging.  God the Father sent an angel to strengthen Him.  Luke 22:43.
Jesus decided to suffer on the cross because he loved each one of us.  He wanted us to have freedom if we believe in him.  But he knew the sacrifice he was making.  What Jesus bore for us was more than enough to cover every one of our sins.  He redeemed us from every curse of the Law. Galations 3:13.  By Jesus's stripes we are healed 1Peter 2:34.  It is finished.

On the way to the cross the soldiers made cruel jokes about Jesus.  They made him a crown out of pieces of sharp branches. Jesus had to carry his own wooden cross made of two heavy pieces of wood that the soldiers tied together.  As the soldiers fastened him to the cross with nails he prayed to God.
He said,"Father, forgive them."
When Jesus appeared to the disciples he said to them,
" Peace be with you."
When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  John 20;19-20
Paul says in I Corinthians 15; 3-7
"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, an that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.  After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles." 


  The overlap of Good Friday falling on the Annunciation  happened three times in the 20th century; 1910, 1921, and 1932.  It will happen twice in the 21st century 20015 and 2016.  Good Friday won't fall on March 25th until 2157.  
There is great suffering in the world but Jesus said in John 16;33
"I have told you these things so that in ME you may have peace. 
 In the world you will have tribulation.  But take courage;
I have overcome the world!"

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12. Prague's Top Ten Attractions

Prague's Top Ten Attractions will take you to a magical place founded by an ancient King Boyya in 1306 B.C.  By the 9th century A. D. the city was named Praha or Prague.  According to legends, Prague was founded in the 8th century by the Czech duchess and prophetess Libuse and her husband Premysl.  The Duchess had a vision of a rocky cliff, " I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars."   She ordered to build a wooden fort where Prague Castle sits today.  She thought the city would reach the world with it's splendor.   When you cross the Charles Bridge you can see the diversity of people who want to visit this special city.  Nearly 25 years ago Prague staged the Velvet Revolution of peaceful protests to bring down the communist regime.  The city of a thousand spires has become a tourist destination of Gothic Cathedrals and chic cafes.

1.  Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge is named after Charles the IV because he built the bridge in 1357, founded the University, and created the foundations of the city we see today.  He was the second Bohemian King from the House of Luxenbourg and the first King of Bohemia to become the Holy Roman Emperor.



The university is one of the oldest in the world.  He built the bridge to cross the Vltava River.  It has  30 statues of religious people and 16 glorious arches.  Until the ninetenth century it was the only bridge to cross the river.  The 1,700 ft. cobblestone bridge is full of vendors and tourists wanting to savor every moment of the historic bridge.  You can grab a sausage if you're hungry from the walking.
When you get to the end of the bridge there is a tower as an entry way to Old Town.

Through the gate you enter Old Town where the 2nd top attraction is.    
       2. Astronomical Clock

The clock was built in 1410 and is the oldest operational astronomical clock in the world.  

Every hour the clock windows open to allow the apostles to say hello to the world.  While this is happening figures representing the deadly sins of greed, death, vanity and pleasure also move and a cock crows.  To think that the townspeople in 1410 also saw the same figures makes it even more amazing.  The clock face has different dials representing the date and the month.  Look closely because it all lasts for twenty seconds.
3. Petrin Hill
One of the greenest spaces in Prague is on  Petrin Hill.  There are landscaped gardens and a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower.  A 17th Century wooden building is home to the Church of St. Michael.  It was relocated from a village.  A funicular railway from Ujezd will take you to the top of the 1,000 ft.  Pretrin Hill.

4. Prague Castle

The Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world on top of a big hill.  It's a lot easier to walk down it than go up.  So you might ride a bus, taxi, or tram.  The first thing I noticed was the guards protecting the castle.
It reminded me of Buckingham Palace.  They didn't move an inch and kept a stern face.  The Prague Castle is a large complex of buildings that includes, the St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George's Basilica, and the Golden Lane.

  The leaders of the Czech Republic conduct business in the buildings.  

5. St. Vitus Church
My favorite part was St. Vitus Church built by Charles IV in 1344.  But the church was not totally complete until 1929.  
The church was built in the Gothic style.  It has beautiful stain glass windows by Alfons Mucha.  Don't miss the tomb of St. John of Nepomuk which is a two metric ton vault that is held up by an army of silver angels.
Visit the fantastic museum shop and maybe grab a refreshment.  
Stroll down Golden Lane where servants and later alchemists lived throughout history.
6. Views of Prague
6. Top Attraction are the views from the top of the castle.  It was a cloudy day so my photos do not give it justice.  As you walk down the hill there will be many people selling paintings of Prague.  I suggest you buy one because they are inexpensive and make a wonderful souvenir.
7.  Old Town Square
The Square is located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge.

Old Town Square has the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Tyn which has been the main church since the 14th century.  The churches tower is 80 m high.  The astronomical clock is in the square which strikes every hour.  St. Nicholas Church has the baroque style adding to the square's beautiful sights to see. 

  We decided sit at a sidewalk cafe and watch the people pass by.  



We had the delicious Goulash, extra spicy.  Our entertainment was watching dance troupes, musicians and vendors wanting to make a sale.  Giant bubbles were dancing in the air to celebrate a glorious day.
  
8.  Dine on A River Boat down the River
Our first night we dined on a river boat down the river.  It was a magical way to be introduced to the architecture while having a great dinner.  There are many tour boats so it wasn't hard to get a ticket.  It might be nice to book ahead just to make sure.  
Going under the bridges to see the arches lit up at night was breathtaking.  Out boat had lights all around it with a see through ceiling so the views were great no matter where you sat.  
9. Take a Tour to discover the history.
We took a wonderful tour which helped us understand the rich history of Prague.  Our tour took us to the castle so we didn't have to walk the steep hill.  She was a fantastic guide who answered all of our questions.  We found the tour on Aviator under Trip Advisor.  There is also a free walking tour that is great.  
10. 
Memorial to the Victims of Communism
Under communist rule authorities arrested more than 200,000 Czechs and shot 327 as they tried to cross the border to freedom.  The memorial reveals the agony with six sculptures of a man in decay.  There are diaries of state sponsored terrorism told through words and photographs.  The Velvet Revolution ended the lack of freedom for the Czech people.  

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13. Dallas Aboretum

The Dallas Aboretum explodes with white blossoms from cherry trees each spring.  Mothers bring their strollers so their babies can enjoy the sun's rays and see radiate bursts of color.
Children, grandparents, newlyweds come to see the 66 acre botanical gardens located at 8617 Garland Road in East Dallas.  They stroll the winding paths to see white, yellow and buttercup tulips from the Netherlands.
Geophysicist Everette Lee DeGolyer and his wife Nell donated their home and gardens so generations can enjoy nature.  Ms. DeGolyer had a hobby of growing flowers and plants.  Her home is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  Since 1976 the Degolyer estate has formed the largest portion of the Dallas Arboretum. The 44 acre estate was known as Rancho Encinal.  Tours are available to see the 21,00 square foot Colonial Spanish Revival Style.

A trellis of Purple Wisteria adjoins her home with a beautiful patio. 
Wisteria drapes across the wooden structure for support.
Many photographers come to take a photo under the trellis for the perfect romantic shot.
Walk along the path to see the Woman's Garden with gardens and fountains. 
Fountains are a major part of Dallas Aboretum.  They are carefully displayed for the feeling of refreshment as the water gently falls over the ledge.

Plaques can be found for loved ones to be honored.  It takes a community to help the Arboretum grow and be maintained.
Alexa and Roberta Coke Camp estate increased the size of the grounds to sixty six acres.  
Many weddings have been held at the beautiful estate.  Brides must book ahead because it's very sought after.

Every season is beautiful at the Dallas Arboretum.  The sounds of water trickling down streams is everywhere.
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Squirrels love to jump from tree to tree.  In spring time they find the nuts they buried in the ground for a tasty lunch.
Red Japanese Maple Trees thrive in Texas soil.
Chinese Snowballs blooms with a blend of white and mint green.
The Arboretum Children's Garden educates young and old with displays of facts about living vegetables found on our dinner table.
There's a new flower around every corner to treat the senses.
Ponds add to the peaceful atmosphere of the Arboretum.
Water crashes over stone ledges lined with Wisteria.

Mallard Ducks enjoy the insects in the natural habitat.
Come sit a while and smell the Cherry Blossoms in the spring.




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14. Letting the Butterflies Go Free

Our Second Grade Class took a vote today and decided to let the Painted Butterflies go free.  We had watched them go from the larva stage to growing a pupa.


The butterflies attached themselves to the roof of the butterfly habitat.  
They had been in the pupa state for about a week. 



 We came back from the weekend today to see seven butterflies in the adult state.  But they were not free because they couldn't fly.  
The Painted Butterfly was beautiful under the netting.  But it wanted to be fee to sip nectar in the garden.
Our class took the butterflies outside and found the perfect place to let them free.  Neighbors behind our school loved to raise a garden and watch vegetables grow.  We all thought it was a safe place to let our butterflies go free.
One butterfly flew out of the netting quickly.  It saw the hole and escaped.  Another butterfly sat on the concrete and couldn't believe it was free.  We watched it sit for several minutes.  




All of a sudden we watched it decide to fly and go free to the blue sky.
The next butterfly was camouflaged in the green grass.  It was hiding on a brown leaf.   The class watched it just sit there and hide.  It was afraid to fly.  So I picked it up and held it to the air.  The butterfly felt free and decided to fly to the blue sky.  
Another butterfly was hiding in the netting.  It was afraid to venture outside.  So we took the netting completely off.  The butterfly then knew it was totally free and started flying to the bright blue Texas sky.  
We saw the butterflies fly to the flowers to sip nectar.  We saw the butterflies land on a nice green leaf.  We saw the butterflies flutter their wings to say I'm free. 



 I'm free to fly in the open air.

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15. Ten 20 Gallery Showcases Pop Art

Ten 20 Gallery opening night created a buzz in historic downtown Plano as a place for artists to show their creative works.




 The Gallery specializes in Pop Art, an art movement emerging in the 50's as mass culture imagery.  The place was filled with people excited to experience the creative expressions.



  Jorg's Cafe Vienna owner Jorg Fetcher,  and friend Jeff Bergus, owner of Lockhart Smokehouse collaborated as a team to create a unique experience. Ken Wesley of Supreme Dream Photography also helped to create the idea of showcasing local artists.  Jorg Fetcher used the opportunity to reveal some of his photography.  He used the use of lines and depth to draw you into the photograph.  .





 The gallery is located close to their restaurants so people can have a fun place to browse either before or after dinner.  Located at 1020 E. 15th St. in a red brick building perfect for the backdrop of Pop Art.   Johnny Cash, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly were one of the many entertainment icons represented.




 Pop Art uses images of popular culture through the use of irony. The movement started in Britain but is essentially an American Movement that spread to different parts of the world.  It was a reaction against Abstract Expressionism.  Jasper Johns was known as a bridge to Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.   Andy Warhol used Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's Soup Cans as a marriage of advertising and the consumer culture. He pioneered  compositions and techniques that emphasized repetition.  He started as a magazine illustrator to create paintings of mass culture and media stars, The Pop Art movement believed art may borrow from any source.  They embraced the WWII manufacturing and media boom to interpret the art of popular culture.  Pop Art represented the  globalization of pop music and youth culture personified by the Beatles.
Roy Lichtenstein's developed a Pop Art style based on mass communication through comic strips.  He used black outlines with bold colors.  His subject matter changed to exploration of modernist art styles of Cubism, Futurism, Art Decco, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.  Pop Art had a shock value that galleries embraced.  The use of line, shape, tone and color are compositional elements of Pop Art.
The art of contrast is shown in the paintings.

The position of line is important with the element of comparison to reveal cultural themes.  

Artist, Steve Uriegas was inspired by scriptures to paint an eagle in flight.  His technique was using angular strokes to create a meaningful painting of beauty and symbolism.

Sports figures reveal the culture of what people enjoy watching and idolize.  

Many artists were pleased because they sold artwork.  Visit Ten 20 Gallery to see what could fit in your home, or office.    Artists to view are:  Jorg Fercher, Jim Gaither, Toni Martin, Lailani Mekeell, Reyon Nurse, Kelly Steller Hrad, Holly Stipe, Steve Uriegas, Mark White, Douglas E. Winters III, and  Kiki Curry Winters, 

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16. Voting is A Responsibilitiy

Voting is an American responsibility.  I did vote today and I feel good about that.  I participated in early voting so the crowds would not be long.  Women did not always have the right to vote.  It was apart of the 19th amendment for women to exercise their power and freedom to vote.  The right was won in the year 1920 for the United States.  The date is different for other countries  but women are exercising their right to vote in lands all over the world.  It gives power to an individual voice.

This voting period in the United States is very important because it decides who runs for President, Judges in power, propositions and many other positions in the political arena.
So get out and exercise your freedom to vote.  It was bought with a precious price.

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17. Fort Worth Stockyards

Fort Worth Stockyards is where the west began.  The historical society has preserved the area so children and adults can learn about how the west was won and became more civilized.



  Fort Worth began life as a refuge against Comanche attacks.  It later became a rough and tumble town of the frontier.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were once part of the lawless group. An animal called a Longhorn Steer saved the day.  Cowboys began to take their rest in Fort Worth during the 1870's,  after a long cattle drive from south Texas on the famous Chisholm Trail.

Tourists can take their picture on a famous Longhorn.


The Historical Society has a museum so the public can see authentic documents of the past.  They are called primary sources because diaries are first hand accounts of what it was like in the wild west.  Visitors from all over the world has made Fort Worth their destination  to visit the Stockyards like a living museum.  
Characters dress up in vintage clothing to experience the feel of an era of cowboys and cowgirls with all of their duds.  They love to take a photo with you.  


Tourists can ride on a stage coach to see what it was like to travel in a bumpy wooden carriage. The horses might have to dodge a few pick up trucks.
T
The arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1876 brought eight lines connecting with Fort Worth to bring cattle to the northern markets.  This is when Fort Worth became known as Cow Town.
The Cow Town Maze is a great way to experience what it was like for one million cattle to go through the market place.  
There's also always time to bring home the perfect souvenir, Justin Boots and a Cowboy Hat.

It you want at great steak go to Cattleman's Steak House.  It's been in business since 1949.  They serve delicious bake potatoes loaded with everything on it.  Many of clients have brought their perspective business partners to Cattleman's for an impressive dinner.  The steaks are always cooked just the way you like it.


For the ladies there is a wide variety of western wear and turquoise jewelry to browse through.  A trip to Fort Worth Stockyards will be a delight in the senses for all ages.  





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18. Deep Ellum



Deep Ellum began in the late 1800's as a neighborhood on the east side of downtown Dallas.  The area has gone through changes that corresponds with the history of Dallas.




 The name "Deep Ellum," was originally called ,"Deep Elm" because its located by Elm Street and the pronunciation led to its current name.
 It was one of the first commercial districts for African-Americans and European immigrants.  Henry Ford selected Deep Ellum as the site for one of the first automobile plants in 1914.  It created many jobs so people built homes close to the plant.


It has one of the largest selection of commercial storefronts from the early 20th century.


Robert S. Munger built his first cotton gin factory in a series of brick warehouses along Elm Street and Trunk Avenue in Deep Ellum in 1888.  It became the largest manufacturer of cotton-processing equipment in the United States.
The industrial complex was converted to loft apartments in 1997 and the community keeps growing.
Adam Hats moved into the four story building in 1959 added to the growth of the community.

Now it is home to many wonderful places to eat.  Serious Pizza will provide hand tossed, yummy crust with your favorite toppings.
Savor the smells as you walk in the door.

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19. 120th Fort Worth Stock Show Traditions and Improvements

Fort Worth Stock show celebrates 120 years of tradition.  More than one million people will visit the rodeo and grounds.



You don't have to be a cowboy or cowgirl, you just have to appreciate western heritage.   People will enjoy a midway full of enticing food and shopping for custom cowboy boots.  They come in all colors and styles for a comfortable fit.  Grandbury High School 16 year old, Daniela Cortez won the grand prize for the cover of the stock show program with a painting of cowboy boots.  She is the first blue winner for 2016 Show.  She wants to become an art teacher to use her talent to help children. The idea came from her mother's love of western fashion. Many students enter the art contest of talented artwork.



The Stock Show creates a hundred million dollars to the  economic wealth for the city of Fort Worth. About 4000 FH and FAA High Schools participate in the events.



 The legendary stock show contains  31,160 entries from 44 different states.   Twelve hundred  professional atheletes will compete in rodeo events.





The show opened January 15th and will run for 23 days, closing February 6th.  So plan ahead to get your rodeo tickets.  The price go from $20 to $28 dollars and will give you admission to the grounds.



 Parking cost $10. Visitors can take a $5 dollar shuttle leaving from Billy Bob's.  If you want to see all the amazing animals grounds, tickets are only $10 for adults and $5 dollars for children.  If your little one is under 5, they are free.



A new arena is planned to open the fall of 2019 and will be ready for the 2020 stock show. It will be built to seat 12,000 ti 14,000 people.  Ed Bass is the Stock Show Chairman and led as a leader to plan for future stock shows.  The improvements will cost $450 million dollars.     Original barns were  built in 1948 so they needed some updates.



 Cattle Barn 2 renovations are a prototype for future improvements to Cattle Barns 1,3, and 4.  The Swine and Sheep Barns will be finished by 2020 this year.   The new lighting  and ventilation help improve on the health of the animals.  Individual circuits to every stall were added for a vast improvement.  This is helpful when you need electricity to shave your sheep for the show.  They want to look their best.



The city of Fort Worth  and facilitates will share the cost.  They work as partners to improve a one hundred and twenty year tradition of fun.  

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20. Eagle Fest in Emory, Texas

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21. Eagle Fest 2016

Rains Country Eagle Fest celebrated twenty one years of enjoying Texas wildlife.  The community opened Rains High School as a place for vendors, families, and wildlife photographers to enjoy a beautiful Texas winter's day.  The goal was to find eagles nestled in bare trees. A bus from the high school took us to Lake Fork. A comfortable barge was awaiting us.



 Our barge tour had a discussion to if we really saw an eagle.  I want to believe we did.  Birds naturally camouflage themselves to hide from predators.  Even if it wasn't an eagle it felt like a glimpse into the life of nature on a cold winter Texas day.
Our barge captain was a volunteer from the community.  He steered his boat into waters with tree stumps.


  Occasionally we heard a thump, thump as his under boat was dragging things beneath the water.
Photographer's eyes were collectively looking for eagles perched on a limb of a tree.   
"Oh look, right between the branches.  I see a bird with a touch of white."
  There was evidence of birds making nests in tall trees.  They enjoyed the Texas sun as it beamed down on all living things.  


The sun shined on fishermen catching Texas Bass.  They grow big in East Texas Waters.  It'll be nice for dinner, pan fried with a little butter. 




The sandy shoreline had layers of earth settling over time.  Colors of copper, and light tan mixed with rock and roots was soothing to the soul.



We spotted a nest in the top of a lone tree.  Was an eagle sleeping inside the nest?  
Waves of color swirled in the wake of the barge.  The sky and lake merged into a mass array of pale blues, deep greens, and purple hues.  
Docks built over the blue waters wanted to touch the glassy surface.
Paths of wood connected nature with humanity.
Long lenses stretched to capture the beauty of nature.  
Was it a hawk, eagle or other bird of prey?
As nature lovers sat on the bus to view photos taken. there was a spirit of calm to witness the beauty of winter in Texas.
Coming back to Rains High School there was a Birds of Prey Show by the Blackland Prairie Raptors explaining how wild birds survive in the area.  I recognized this owl who had come inside our living room to perch on top of our oil painting.  Screech Owls like to live in the same place over time and nest in large Red Oak Trees. 

Vendors were selling fur pellets and interesting things of nature.
I purchased lovely products from Life is Fragile.  It reminded me of the duck feather just flapping on my window pane for several days.  She shared her story of how God helped her overcome addiction.  I loved her message of hope and redemption.  
 Thank you Emory, Texas for giving us a glorious day of discovery.

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22. Birds of Prey Show at Eagle Fest in Emory, Texas

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23. Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo 2016

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24. Dallas Travel Adventure Show Cultural Dancing

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25. Travel Tips at the 2016 Dallas Travel Adventure Show

Travel Tips at the Dallas Travel Adventure Show were everywhere.  Over two hundred booths had experts about how to have the perfect vacation.  The booths were arranged by country so it was convenient to see the choices from that area of the world.  The minute I stepped into the showroom I could hear the stomping of feet.  I went to the stage where live dancers displayed a unison of graceful movement as they represented their culture through dance.  I thought what a great way to begin a travel show, I have something lovely to photograph.




 A travel show is a wonderful place to ask questions.  Since I like taking photographs I was interested in travel tips about photography.  Photo Enrichment  Travel Company gave a great tip.  He said get out early to take photographs when the locals are going to work, taking their kids to school and the lighting is great.  I checked out his website and the photographs are spectacular.







  A section about Africa caught my eye because Zulu Nyala provided an opportunity to stay at a wildlife conservation refuge to protect Rhinos and other animals.  What a great way to take some fantastic photographs of wild animals and help them at the same time.





 China Tour.com said you could take a twelve day tour with the added bonus of the Yangtze River Cruise for 1699 dollars.  However when I asked more questions it was not available in the summer when I have more time off.  Some of the adventures on the tour was to hike on the Great Wall, take a tour of a Pearl Factory, visit Summer Palace on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and view Tienanmen Square.   On the menu was Peking Duck for dinner.  I'd have to skip that meal because I love ducks.  Another Tour of China gave us a wonderful Travel Guide for free.




Rick Steves, our family hero gave a travel tip;   avoid crowds and don't travel in the summer.  I think he's right because some of our best vacations have been on spring break.  Venice was wonderful in March because it wasn't hot and little waiting in lines.   Rick said sit at a bench and discover the locals.  One of my favorite things to do in a country is just watch the people.  He also said to pack light.   All the husbands in the crowd looked at their wives with a glare.




 One of Rick's requirements for his tours is carry a small suitcase or backpack.  I'll have to work on that one.  I like to take a big bag so I can stuff souvenirs in it.  I't also reassuring to know I have enough clothes for two outfits a day.  One for day and one for evening attire when you go out to dinner.  I'm not sure how that could be possible in a small bag.  I guess you bring everything in black.  Even if I don't agree on the small bag advice Rick was a very enjoyable speaker who has a passion for history.  He said taking an art history class opened his eyes to culture in a new way.  His guide books are filled with fascinating stories that make the place you visit so much more interesting.  Rick Steves engages people because he is honest and wants everyone to have a terrific travel experience.




A highlight of the travel show was to see the cultural dancers move with joy.  I think a wonderful travel tip is to take the time to stop and listen when something amazing is happening even if it isn't on
your schedule.  You can feel it in your bones that what you are witnessing is full of energy and life.





Watching the dancers lift their dresses with the rhythm of the Spanish music reminded me of our trip to Spain last summer.  All of a sudden there was a band marching in the streets of Granada.  Sons were holding hands with their mothers as they got out of Mass.  A statue of Mary was raised to the sky as a sign of respect and adoration.  I cried it was so beautiful to watch the procession of people and life.




Enjoying great food is another travel tip people don't have a hard time following.  A live cooking show was demonstrating how to cook exotic Polynesian food.  In Spain a platter of assorted meats were cut from hanging hams.


You don't have to go to Egypt to ride a camel.  The travel show provided an opportunity to ride on the back of a camel.
I think trying new things is a very important travel tip.  Sometimes it takes courage to get on top of a live animal and there is a degree of trust the guide will keep you safe.  Watching other people do it first gives some reassurance you won't fall off.  
Watching the camel eat was enough of an adventure for me.  I enjoyed just seeing the exotic camel upclose. I think travel adventures should be something you feel comfortable with.  

Some people plan their entire vacations around great places to scuba dive and snorkle.



  At the Dallas Travel Show you had the opportunity to see what's it like to  breathe underwater.  It's an experience people will always remember.  Memories make life special.

Rock climbing in exotic places like Nepal is a delight to some.  Children enjoyed rock climbing at the Travel Show as they reached new heights.  Didn't Mary in the Sound of Music sing a song about climb every mountain.  
Traveling is a way to find your inspirations.  What makes you smile?  What makes you wonder?  Come to the Travel and Adventure Show in your area and discover your next tourist destination.

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