Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I went to Dallas and OMG, IT'S PATRICK DUFFY!!!

I spent the first seven days of February in Dallas, TX attending APPA's Leadership Academy at the Omni in downtown Dallas. I traveled to Dallas on Saturday, with classes taking place Sunday through Thursday, and another travel day on Friday. The class schedule includes two half-days to allow attendees the opportunity to a) enjoy a little bit of the weekend (1st half-day is Sunday) and b) explore a little bit of the host city (2nd half-day is Wednesday). 

Before I could set off on any grand Dallas adventures, I had to get there first! That involved two flights - one from State College to Philadelphia and a second from Philadelphia to Dallas. I spent the duration of both flights and my Philly layover reading "Labor Day" by Joyce Maynard. 

Check out the last paragraph of the page on the left. IRONY!

On Monday evening of my week in Dallas, I decided to treat myself to a nice, relaxing Wolfgang Puck dinner at Five Sixty in the Reunion Tower. If you're familiar with the Dallas skyline, it's the tower with the ball on top. The restaurant where I had dinner is in the ball; the restaurant revolves so patrons get a 360-degree view of the city.

Looking up from street level.

Yeah, buddy!

Ready to head up for dinner.

I wonder what Wolfgang has to offer?!?

Let's start with something to wet my whistle...let's open Pandora's Box!

Pandora's Box and lobster fried rice.

Pandora's Box and lobster & shrimp spring rolls.

We rotated past the Omni, so I had to snap a pic of my hotel.

Chocolate bread pudding.

I know some people hate even the IDEA of dining by themselves. Me? I love it! Especially an evening like the one I had at Five Sixty - just enjoying really good food, a spectacular beverage, a stunning view, and eavesdropping/people-watching. Dining at Reunion Tower was #1 of 2 items on my Dallas to-do list. So after Monday evening, #1 = check!

I returned to the hotel and decided to snap a picture of the ERAPPA display that I'd set-up for attendees to learn more about our region, our chapters, and our Annual Meeting in Atlantic City this fall

Tuesday evening, all 10 Penn Staters who made the trip to Dallas for either the Institute for Facilities Management or the Leadership Academy decided to go out to dinner for some Texas-sized steaks.

Clockwise L to R: Dan, Joe, Mark, Ron, Erik, Brooks, Tina, me, Corey, Rich.

On Wednesday - the second half day of the week - I rented a car and drove out to...


...maybe you should watch this first.

Yup. I went to Southfork!!! If I did nothing else while in Dallas, I was determined to get to Southfork. I grew up watching "Dallas" on Friday nights and I'm also a fan of the new incarnation currently airing on Monday nights at 9 PM on TNT. In fact, that Sunday I was in Dallas, I noticed that Brenda Strong tweeted about being in Dallas filming. I thought, "Whoa. What if they're AT Southfork when I go there Wednesday?!?" but really thought it was unlikely. 

Yeah. Not so much. Not only were they filming AT Southfork, but I got to see several of the actors up close. While they were filming, visitors were not permitted to interact with the actors. We were told that IF they took a break during filming that we might be able to visit with some of the cast. Unfortunately, they didn't break while we were touring the property. And we weren't permitted to take any pictures of them while they were filming. BUT! It's all in my head and the memories are AWESOME!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we toured the mansion (where they were filming), I had time to visit the museum.

RIP Larry Hagman

Lucy's wedding dress.

The Ewing Family grill.

Bobby's saddle.

Behind-the-scenes footage and photos.

Promotional poster for the reboot. Unfortunately, when I saw Josh Henderson (front left), he was wearing a shirt. Boo.

I probably stood here for five full minutes trying to figure out this tangled web of a family tree!

RIP Jock

Larry Hagman's hand and footprints.

Cast photos from the first iteration of the show...

...and from the reboot.

Finally, it was time to walk over to the mansion. I have to be honest. If the cast hadn't been there filming the show, I may have been slightly disappointed by the Southfork mansion. It's TINY inside. All of the exterior shots of Southfork are legit; they are filmed on the estate. But all of the interiors are shot on a sound stage which make the inside of the house appear much, MUCH bigger than the actual house would allow. Nonetheless, it was interesting to tour the inside of the house, which includes a room that was used as JR's Mexican motel room where he was murdered by Cliff Barnes. (Not really. Bum shot him because he knew he was dying of cancer and framed Cliff.)

While we were in the mansion, we saw Patrick Duffy (plays Bobby Ewing). He smiled and waved to us. Jesse Metcalfe (plays Christopher Ewing) walked through the living room and said hello. My goodness, he is gorgeous! Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing) filmed a scene in the living room while we were there. And Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos) walked through and said hello to us as well. She is stunning! I did see Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), but only from a distance. In hindsight, that's probably a good thing. He so stinkin' hot...too much of a hot thing might have resulted in a fit of giddiness!

Lucy's bedroom.

Young John Ross' bedroom.

And here's where JR bit it.
JR & Sue Ellen's bedroom.

JR & Sue Ellen's bathroom.

80s opulence at its best!
Geeking out at Southfork!!!

Sitting in the Ewing living room, under Jock's portrait.

John Ross' Corvette.

JR, Miss Ellie, and Jock's graves.

While photographing the tombstones, I "paparazzied" a picture of the mansion.
You can see some people and some equipment from the filming.

When I got back to my car, I walked around to check out some of the actors' trailers. 

The visitors' center/museum.

Southfork, y'all!

John and Jesse's trailer.

Brenda and Emma's trailer.
Mitch's trailer. (He waved to me from the Range Rover he was sitting in while filming an "arrival scene.")

After I'd sufficiently geeked out on the grounds of Southfork, I decided to return downtown before rush hour started. A few of us Penn Staters went out to dinner again, this time for Texas BBQ.

Brisket, pit turkey, and jalapeno sausage with mac & cheese and fried okra.

The APPA U programming wrapped up Thursday afternoon and the week concluded with a banquet dinner Thursday evening. Several of us headed down to the sports bar in the hotel for a nightcap or two before we said our goodbyes and retreated to our rooms to pack for our travel the next day.

There's still one thing that remains on my Dallas to-do list - see a Cowboys game! I could have toured their stadium while I was in town, but as much fun as that would be, I think seeing a game there would be the ultimate for a diehard Cowboys fan like me! I can tell you the date - Monday, September 9, 1991. My dad was watching Monday Night Football and Troy Aikman graced the TV screen. I said, "I shall root for HIS team henceforth and hereunto!" And I have! DEFEND THE STAR!!!

Happy Birthday, Baby Bean!

My baby niece turned 14 months old yesterday, so it's high time I get her first birthday blogged, eh?

Mallorie's birthday is January 24th. Since that was a Friday this year, my brother (Bill) and sister-in-law (Casie) planned Meejie's first birthday party for Saturday afternoon. They decided, however, that the immediate family should still celebrate Mallorie's birthday ON her birthday, so they invited Casie's parents, my parents, Chris, and me over for cake Friday evening.

It's the Birthday Girl!

Hanging with Uncle Chris

Casie's parents brought Mallorie's big birthday present to the house Friday night - her first car!

Woo-hoo, this is fun!

Texting and driving at such an early age! For shame!

Before long, it was time for cake! Bill and Casie bought Mallorie a Cookie Monster cupcake with brilliant blue icing. There's not much to say about the following pictures - they pretty much speak for themselves.

Casie shuttled Mallorie straight into the tub while I went on crumb patrol under the high chair and Bill spot-treated the carpet to remove the blue icing. Once we cleaned up, we checked in on the bathing birthday beauty. She managed to change the bath water to a bright blue - so much so that it look like someone had dropped a Ty-D-Bol tablet in the water. 

The next morning, Chris and I picked up Mallorie for a few hours so Bill and Casie could continue to prepare for the party later that afternoon. Our goal was to wear her out so she'd take a nice afternoon nap prior to the party. We set out for REI in Timonium to look at cycling gear. Unfortunately, we didn't realized REI opened at 10 AM (we arrived at 9:30), so we went to a nearby Burger King to kill time with a late breakfast. Chris and Mallorie shared Cinna-minis and hash rounds.

Isn't she adorable?!?

Not sure which one looks more ambivalent...bunch o' grumps!

Once at REI, our first stop was the bicycle department. Chris rang a few different bike bells for Mallorie and she seemed to like it, so I handed one to her to play with while we shopped. When we got separated from Chris, all he needed to do was listen and he could find us anywhere in the store.

Little Miss Thing and her bicycle bell.

Watching Uncle Chris try on cycling shoes.

Checking out the triathlon swimsuits.

Still too small for her own bicycle.
(I was talking to the REI salesperson.)

We stopped by my parents' house on our way home from REI so Mallorie could visit with her buddy Oscar.

First she visited with my parents' dog, Buggy.

She loves Buggy!

Observing Oscar from afar.

Getting checked out by her buddy.

Couldn't manage to get both of them to look at me at the same time.

We took Mallorie back about 12:30 so she could have lunch and her nap prior to her 4 PM party. 

The theme for Mallorie's party was "Winter ONE-derland" and Casie did a fantastic job with the decorations and themed-food.

Love the idea of a "melted snowman," i.e. water.

Hot chocolate bar, complete with Bailey's and peppermint schnapps.

Snow globe photos chronicling Mallorie's first year...

Party favors, including hot cocoa cones that I assembled for the adult guests.

M is for Mallorie, Meejie, and Monster!

I managed to find snowflake wrapping paper after Christmas that worked well for Mallorie's birthday presents, which included some clothes, some bath stuff, a book, and a water table.

Mallorie's birthday party outfit was adorable; she seemed to know she was the belle of the ball as she strutted through the party having folks fawning all over her.

Uncle Chris is a turd.

Mallorie got lots of great presents, including some really cute outfits and fun toys.

Pretty soon, it was time for Cake 2.0. 

She's one sweet little goddaughter...in this case, literally!!!

Mallorie with her godfather, Matt, and her Aunt Mimi.

Again, Mallorie was whisked right from the high chair up to the bath. While she was being de-frosting-ed, we enjoyed cake.

Uncle Chris got the "M" from Mallorie.

Edie gave us her best "CHEESE" while Callie and Lily enjoy their cake.

Piper plays peek-a-boo from behind the coffee table.

The birthday girl made a reappearance in her jammies and promptly found her Uncle Chris for some snuggles and giggles.

Aaaaand, just like that the party and the weekend were over. On Sunday morning, we left shortly after breakfast because of snow that was forecasted to arrive in State College Sunday afternoon. It was a great party weekend! 

I consider myself pretty fortunate that I was able to see Mallorie just about every 4-6 weeks during her first year. What's been amazing - aside from watching her grow (obviously) - has been to watch her get to the point where she recognized me and was happy to see me. When she smiles that "Hey, I know you!" smile each time I see her after a few weeks, it just melts my heart. 

The older she gets, it's that much more fun that we can have - dancing, reading books, shopping - the possibilities increase with each passing month. Being an aunt is the absolute best.

I love you, Baby Bean! Happy 1st Birthday!!!