Thursday, December 15, 2011

Texas History: Sam Houston’s Statue

After completing our Passports to Texas History, we continued exploring some Historical sites along our route. As we drove and chatted about places we’d been, I realized that many of these trips had taken place before FRitW and MT were born. How in the world did time pass that quickly?! It was about time that the little guys got to experience some of these historical site too.

First one on the list? Sam Houston’s Statue. This statue is visible for several miles from Interstate 45, but when you approach him from the visitor’s center – this is what you see:

Walk a little farther though – and surprise!

In real life, Sam Houston was 6 foot, 6 inches – a rather tall man - and the creator of his statue, David Adickes, made sure his statue emphasized his stature! The statue is 67 feet tall and stands on a 10 foot base. It is not an easy task to get a photo that includes the entire stature (especially with only a cell phone for a camera – remember the chickens?)

If you want a better look at his face, you're in luck:


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Texas History Sidetrip: Blue Bell Creameries

Texas History didn’t stop with independence from Mexico, so this stop on our trip encompasses some more modern Texas history! Blue Bell Ice Cream  is a favorite in our home – it is simply the best ice cream we’ve tasted and it is made right here in Texas. The factory was opened in Brenham Texas in 1907 and remains open today. They have factories in a couple of other states now too.

Blue Bell Creameries uses ingredients from within about a 200 mile radius of their factory when available and bakes all of the cookies, cones, and  other baked goods used right in their own factory. The Blue Bell Ice Cream is handled only by their own employees from the beginning to the shelves of the grocery store. Besides the fact that it is so delicious – I love that the company uses local American products as often as possible. I’m even willing to pay the little bit more it costs to purchase their delicious ice cream – as long as it keeps jobs here in America and supports local farmers.

We had the tour to ourselves this trip and had another wonderful tour guide (we’ve had fabulous tour guides throughout this trip!). The tour takes you through windowed hallways overlooking production lines. We watched strawberries and bananas (washed and cut here in the factory) get added to Banana Split Ice Cream. We saw Ice Cream Sandwiches made and wrapped (cookies baked here in the factory and ice cream made as we watched!). We even saw employees assembling the large ice cream cartons for ice cream shop cases then filling them with 3 gallons of creamy ice cream! Our guide explained the daily (yes, I said daily) cleaning operation. They complete disassemble each and every production line and wash, sanitize and reassemble the lines every single day. The cleaning process takes longer than the production day!

Unfortunately, they do not allow any photography during the tour, so all you get is this:
Kirk had Banana Pudding, Maggie ate Chocolate Covered Cherries

FRitW had Krazy Kookie Dough, MT had Strawberry, and Mom (not pictured) had Spiced Pumpkin Pecan

Then end of the tour and the free, very generous dips of ice cream we enjoyed. What I’m not showing is how many free samples we tried before deciding on a flavor! Even after we finished our ice cream, our guide continued to encourage us to taste another flavor and another. She said she really enjoyed having our family as her tour!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Texas History Sidetrip: Barrington Living History Farm

While in the Washington on the Brazos State Park, we also visited the Barrington Living History Farm. The Barrington Living History Farm is a working farm representing a farm of the 1840’s. It consists of some original buildings from Anson Jones’ Barrington Farm. Anson Jones was the fourth and final president of the Republic of Texas. After his presidency he farmed near the Washington on the Brazos area. His farm was named after his family’s estate in Massachusetts. Jones farmed cotton and corn, and raised pigs, cattle, chickens, and ducks on his farm.  The farm supported him, his wife and four children, his sister, sister-in-law, and 5 slaves. During his time farming, he kept a journal. This has enabled interpreters to reenact his daily life for visitors to the farm.

 It is truly a living history farm in that the employees operate it as it would have been run in the mid 1800’s. Our guide was wonderful. She was dressed as an 1840’s woman would dress – she (modestly, of course) showed us her pantaloons and petticoats to prove it. It was windy and cool today so she was grateful for all the layers, but mentioned that this summer was pretty miserable. She and another guide had been seated in the dogtrot of the home while waiting for visitors, but once we arrived she accompanied us throughout the home and yard, explaining, demonstrating, and sharing stories. It was truly delightful!

Since it was Monday and a woman’s work on Monday would be laundry, they had washboard and buckets set up. We washed the scraps of fabric they had for that purpose and hung them on the line. Maggie and I laughed that we would have had good helpers from FRitW and MT if we were back in 1840. By the time we left, the lines were almost full of drying fabric scraps. Our guide apologized for the lack of soap to wash with. Since it is a living history farm, they actually make their own lye soap and with the burn bans in effect, they were unable to make soap and had run out. They don’t just dress up for a day or special events – this is their everyday life. Someone has to come to the farm everyday to let the chickens out or water the vegetables and feed the pigs.

Speaking of animals – we visited the chickens and fed them over the fence. The chickens they keep are varieties that would have been common in Texas in 1850. Their rooster is a funny looking fellow – he is a Crested Polish Rooster. The guide said that the lady of the house would have an elegant, fussy looking rooster – it was a source of pride. Most of these chickens are young and they are looking forward to seeing what the baby chicks will look like.

The farm butchers a couple of pigs each year and smokes the meat in their smokehouse – boy did those hams smell good! There is a kitchen garden and a large garden – all hand dug, watered, and maintained. Herbs are grown next to the kitchen, and large Lamb’s Ear plants were scattered here and there. The Lamb’s Ear leaves were a much nicer alternative to toilet paper than the oft used corn cob – ugh!

Inside the house, our guide spun some of the cotton grown here on the farm into yarn and showed us the corn husk mattresses. We saw where the children would have done their lessons and learned about the many chores the children were responsible for, like picking cotton, cleaning chamber pots, and fanning the cook to help her stay cool. Then we went back and let MT and FRitW do more laundry.

We did wander over the now bare cotton and corn fields and through the workshop/barn, but there were no attendants to tell us about them. We did not visit the slave cabins because there was a sheriff’s deputy guarding some prisoners at work in those buildings.

There were two pig pens made of wood and when we got close, we found a mother pig and her piglet in one and what must have been the daddy pig in the other. He was huge and those stick fences were not too strong looking, so we moved on rather quickly!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Passport to Texas History San Jacinto

We were almost to the final site necessary for our Passport to Texas History and it was pouring rain. Pouring! There was lightning and thunder, oh, and did I mention it was pouring rain? The weather was absolutely awful!

All day we had managed to stay just a few minutes ahead of the storms, but the wait to cross by ferry allowed those nasty storms to catch up with us. We left the ferry and pulled into the parking lot of The Monument Inn where we had planned to eat lunch. We ran through the rain and settled in the restaurant on the second floor of the building just in time to watch the storm unleash it’s fury right on top of us.  We were so grateful to be across the ferry, because when the rain lifted we could see it had crossed during the worst of the storm and was now on its way back across. Whooo! Wouldn’t that have been an interesting ride? The restaurant lost power twice as we ate and we were thankful for the light offered by the large windows overlooking the Houston Shipping Channel.

With a drizzly sky, but no thunder and lightning, we drove on to the San Jacinto Monument. Funny thing about that monument – you can not park anywhere near the doors. The building is designed so you have to walk up a series of steps to a platform, then another series of steps, then a platform. Then if you are me, you realize you parked on the wrong side of the monument and have to circle the building searching for the door. Naturally, the rain had begun to fall again.
This is what the monument looks like. (Photo from a previous trip)

We cheated at this point. Sorry, but it is true. We didn’t ride the elevator to the top (None of us were too keen on being caught at the top when the next storm descended – we’d already been through the electricity failing at the restaurant), we didn’t view the educational film, and we didn’t pay to enter the special exhibit area. We simply walked to the gift shop, got our Passports stamped, checked out the weapons and memorabilia in the main (free) part of the museum and headed back to the car.
The boardwalk over the bayou. (photo from previous trip)

This is a really neat site on a warm, dry, day. The views from the top are spectacular and there is a beautiful little wooden walkway into the bayou. During this trip we learned that the ferry we cross to reach San Jacinto – Lynchburg’s Ferry was used by the Texans in their desperate run for safety  known as  the Runaway Scrape  as well as by Santa Anna’s forces in preparation for the Battle at San Jacinto.
FRitW loved this reflection of the monument in the bayou. (photo from same previous trip!)

Sam Houston destroyed the ferry and the bridge that gave access to the San Jacinto area – leaving Santa Anna (and his own army) no opportunity for retreat or escape. San Jacinto was the battle that ended the fight for freedom. Santa Anna was captured and history was made! Oh, and our Passports were complete!!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Passport to Texas History, San Felipe de Austin

San Felipe de Austin is a small collection of buildings dedicated to the memory of Stephen F. Austin. Austin was an Impresario or land agent. The original contract for land in Texas was given to his father, Moses Austin. Moses traveled to Spanish owned Texas and received authority to bring legal settlers into Texas. As he traveled back to his home in Missouri, he was attacked and eventually died as a result of pneumonia that set in while he recovered from the attack.

 Stephen F. Austin obtained permission to take over his father’s contract, but between the time he set out and the time he arrived in Texas with 300 families (‘The Old 300”) Mexico had declared independence from Spain. This rendered his contract null and void, both because it was a Spanish contract and because it was in his father’s name. Austin headed to San Antonio and managed to get a new contract issued to him from the Mexican government. Thus began the legal settlement of Texas by American citizens.  

At the time, all of Texas and portions of what is today New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma were owned by Mexico. The southern portion (what is currently still Mexico) was well settled, but most Mexicans did not want to move north to settle in the Texas portion of Mexico. There were many reasons for this, but a huge drawback to settling in Texas was the threat of Indian attacks.

Posing in front of the statue. It was windy!
The missions in Texas, begun by Spanish priests, had converted and ‘civilized’ many of the local Indian tribes. But, these tribes were willing to be under the protection of the priests because they were being attacked by more violent tribes moving in to their hunting areas. The problem now was finding someone willing to brave the Indian attacks long enough to establish ownership of the land for Mexico. Mexico decided to open up settlement to non-Mexican citizens.
Josey General Store - now the Visitor's Center

We had never been to San Felipe de Austin and were pleasantly surprised. There isn’t a lot to do or see, but you could spend a pleasant hour on the grounds. The visitor’s center is an old general store – its history much more recent and completely unrelated to Stephen F. Austin. The attendant was friendly and knowledgeable and we enjoyed visiting with her while we waited for a rain shower to subside. She told a story about Austin and the building of a town using a Jacob’s ladder – it was really cute!
Replica of Stephen F. Austin's cabin

In addition to the General Store/Visitor’s Center, the park includes a statue of Mr. Austin, a replica of his cabin, and a well. The cabin was a traditional dogtrot cabin and one room had wooden toys to play with. FRitW and MT are getting pretty familiar with dogtrot cabins at this point – we saw a total of 4 on this trip.

Thunderstorms were headed our way and we had another stop to make today, so we said good-bye to San Felipe de Austin and headed toward Houston.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Gingerbread Train 2011

Several years ago I saw the cutest Gingerbread train in a Family Fun Magazine. In fact it was 5 years ago. I was sitting in the pediatrician’s newborn waiting room, a newborn little boy was dozing in my arms. We made that gingerbread train that year. It was fun and cute, but it seemed very time consuming and difficult. Looking back I realize that we made the train when MT was only 2 weeks old  - I was tired. Maybe that is why I didn’t try again until this year.

And this year – it only took a couple of hours (plus chill time) I couldn’t believe it was so quick and easy! Click here for the directions – you still have time to make this! FRitW and MT (obviously) don’t remember the first train, but they were able to help a lot this time. They had the job of frosting the graham cracker supports into stacks, attaching the skittle and red hot decorations and adding the wheels. Unfortunately, I had no camera during the process, but here is the finished result!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Passport toTexas History - Washington On The Brazos

Sunday evening, November 14th, our family is seated around the table enjoying supper. It is about 6:45 pm.. Talk turns to the trip we need to take to complete our Passports to Texas History. The Passports must be completed by December 31st to be eligible to receive the commemorative gift. Referring to the calendar hanging on the wall nearby, we discard one week, then another. How in the world will we find time to complete our passports???  “Why don’t we leave tonight?”

Kirk’s casual question, half in jest, began a flurry of preparation! At 7:20 pm we waved good-bye to Dad and headed out with a general plan in mind. (Believe it or not, we didn’t forget a thing!)

Monday morning we arrived early at the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park. This park encompasses three sites: Washington-on-the-Brazos, The Barrington Living History Farm, and The Star of the Republic Museum. I will report now, that my photos are limited, as I dropped my camera while feeding the chickens at the Barrington Farm.
Chickens – 1, Camera – 0

I’ll share about the farm and Museum in later posts, since the Passport to Texas History part of the park is Independence Hall in Washington-on-the-Brazos. I completely forgot to take photos of our tour. But you really don’t miss much by not seeing photos, because there isn’t much left at WashingtonOTB. At one time it was a bustling boom town because it is situated where the Brazos and Navasota Rivers converge. A man by the name of Andrew Robinson built a ferry here. Eventually a hotel was built, then a town grew at this site. When the railroad proposed to come through WashingtonOTB, they flatly refused to allow it. Who needed some newfangled, fly-by-night form of transportation when they had the never to be replaced Ferry – a trusted and reliable, never to go out of style form of crossing the river? Well as you can imagine, WashingtonOTB didn’t last much longer.
Gorgeous weather, a playground, and peanut butter and jelly - what's not to smile about?

By 1911, it had almost disappeared from history. School children in the area were learning about Texas Independence and learned that they lived near the exact spot where the Declaration of Texas Independence had been signed. They began to raise money and purchased a monument to mark the spot where it was believed Independence Hall had stood. Later a structure to replicate Independence Hall was built, based on sketches and written descriptions from the men who signed the Declaration.
We're Texans - I suppose this is a bit of Texas History now too. ~grin~

Independence Hall wasn’t actually a government building at the time, it was a gun shop. I don’t believe it had opened for business yet, but the owner offered it as a place for the men to meet. A ‘blue norther’ hit the area and temperatures plummeted, but the men remained at work until every matter had been handled. They lived in tents and shanties and met in a drafty open building to create a government for the new country – The Republic of Texas.
Lady or Little Girl? - Thank goodness you don't have to decide at 13.

The park has little to see in terms of historical buildings so most of the tour requires your imagination, but it is a beautiful walk. Our tour consisted of us and the tour guide. There were only about 4 other guests in the whole park. He walked us through the former town site, helping us visualize the town as it had been (right now it is merely a gravel path, trees, grass and a sign or two. Other than the replica Independence Hall, there is one structure and it is original - It is a well.

We were disappointed when we arrived at the river. Normally the river is clearly divided, with one side being muddy (the Brazos) and opaque and the other clear (Navasota)  as can be. Today, though it was windy and the channels were mixed together making it just one muddy river.

Unfortunately, I never thought to take a picture until the tour was over and we were at the playground eating lunch - so you’ll have to use your imagination just like we did!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Scrapbooking Supplies for Sale!

I have too much stuff! I know some of my readers are scrapbookers, so I thought I'd offer some of my ( and my SIL's) excess to you!
**edited to add photos and this note: These are Creative Memories Supplies. **
12 x 12 inch albums:
light blue in front, yellow, and rosey pink in back

Still sealed coversets (no pages included): Brown, Hot Pink, lt silvery blue (tanzanite maybe?), rosey pink, Yellow (Chamois maybe?) - $15 each plus shipping
Older style albums with pages: red (cranberry?), plum (both of these are open, but unused) $15 each plus shipping
I also have:
5 sealed packages of 12 x 12 white pages  - $8 plus shipping

6 sealed packages of 12 x 12 page protectors - $7 plus shipping
denim on left, dark blue on right

7 x 7 denim coverset (no pages) - $10 plus shipping
7 x 7 dark blue album with pages - $10 plus shipping

7 x 7 gold dust pages - $6 plus shipping
7 x 7 white pages - $6 plus shipping
2 sealed packages of 7 x 7 page protectors - $5 plus shipping

I accept paypal or will hold until a check clears.
I will combine shipping and consider offers!
I can provide additional photos upon request.
** edited again! - to purchase email me at (I reserve the right to refuse to sell to anyone.)**