Adventures in Texas

First of all, let’s get things straight: I hope you read that title with a bit of a Spanish accent, and chose to think to yourself “Tay-hoss” instead of “Texas,” because that’s where we were, folks: Tay-hoss.

We spent around a month there, staying with my Dad, and visiting often with my brother and sister-in-law, Eric and Anya.  I have not lived near my family since they moved away from Indiana over ten years ago, except for the couple of months that Mom was on hospice care at our home, so it was nice to spend so much uninterrupted time with them.  We Skyped quite a bit with my sister, Lauren, and her family, as well.

zoe skype

Baby Zoe, in action!

We also got to visit with our kitties via Skype, as Lauren, Nick and Zoe are taking excellent care of them.

Whiskers on Skype

Whiskers, talking to his Momma

 

Unfortunately, the trip got off to a rough start.  Eric’s grandmother, who had been ill, passed away at the end of the month.  We made travel arrangements for a quick weekend trip to Arizona to attend the services and support the rest of the family.  Not having much in the way of funeral-appropriate clothing, we went shopping – at an outlet mall – in a nice suburb.  Returning to the truck after a couple of hours, we discovered that it had been burglarized – radio stolen, dash broken, lots of Eric’s tools gone, etc., etc.  It was terrible.  Not only were our things gone, leaving us with a feeling of utter violation; but we had to spent days and days (interrupted only by the trip to Arizona and funeral) cataloging what we had lost, locating serial numbers for insurance, filling out detailed logs of everything stolen.  Anyway, we didn’t feel much like talking about this for a while, so it put a damper on our blogging ambitions for a bit.

On to better and brighter things:  Eric discovered a local Houston biking group, and attended some rides with them.  He even befriended a local named – you guessed it: Eric Newman!

Eric Newman and Eric Newman

Eric Newman and Eric Newman

Meanwhile, Dad was an excellent host.  He fed us well, was highly entertaining (all too true, if you know my Dad), and even took me along to his two-hour-long yoga class.  Whew!  While we did frequent his favorite restaurant, The Black Walnut Cafe, we also enjoyed lots of homemade meals together, which he seemed to appreciate.

Thanks to my sister-in-law, Anya, we had some excellent volunteering opportunities to benefit the Houston Food Bank.  The Food Bank does amazing things, feeding 137,000 people every week.  We participated in the Food Bank’s Telethon one day, and helped make and can peanut butter another day!  Eric is a big fan of peanut butter, so what better way to spend Valentine’s Day?

The peanut butter cannery is located on campus at a Mormon church in Houston; peanuts are purchased by the Food Bank, and the Mormon church donates machinery, materials and volunteers to process the rest.  You can read about it here.  Eric worked on the cooking end of things, adding the minimal ingredients to each batch of roasted peanuts.  The peanut butter we produced contains the maximal amount of peanuts (something like 98%), but just enough other ingredients to prevent oil separation, which enables it to be stored at room temperature once opened (important for many recipients of the PB).  I worked on the packaging end of things, placing lids on jars, doing a final lid tightening, and boxing up the finished product, alternately.  Our four-hour shift produced a record 6,256 jars – a new record!

While we’re on the topic of food, we may as well mention ice cream.  We toured the Blue Bell Ice Cream Factory in Brenham, Texas – the original home of Blue Bell!  It was pretty amazing to see everything that goes into the process, especially since Blue Bell makes their own cones and candy bits and cookies, but the best part was the free sample at the end.

Free Sample Number One

Free Sample Number One

Since we had never sent out Christmas cards last year, we opted to send a Valentine’s Day card instead (if you didn’t receive one, and want to be on our mailing list for next year, make sure we have your email address!).  Wanting to take a fun picture, Anya suggested the Adickes SculpturWorx Studio in Houston.  There is a car lot full of gigantic sculptures, including ten-foot-high heads of every U.S. President!

Picking George

Eric, picking the nose of George Washington

The Beatles!

The Beatles!

All in all, we had a great time in Houston, and we hope you have enjoyed sharing it with us!

We <3 Houston!

We ❤ Houston!

Next up: hill country in Central Texas!

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