08 May 2011

Flat People Love Me or Luke and the Flat Man

Hey Luke!

Thanks for sending Flat Stanley for a visit with Auntie Laura and Auntie Maryanne.  

They brought him on the plane down from NY just before Easter weekend.  It was nice to get visitors here in Houston, Texas. I told Flat Stanley that Houston is the fourth largest city in America...

...and Texas is the second largest state in the country,
 there's a reason people say everything is bigger in Texas!

Uncle Chris and I live in a suburb of Houston called Kingwood.  It sits right on the edge of Lake Houston which you can see in the background of this photo.  
You can also see the new cowboy clothes Auntie Laura made for FS!

After Stanley saw my cowboy boots he insisted on a pair of his own!

The weather in Houston was much warmer and sunnier than it was in NY on Easter weekend, it's a lot like Florida weather here.  We brought Flat Stanley to the pool with us, he had a nice cool glass of limeade BEFORE putting on his sunscreen.

That ended up being a mistake. Look at poor Flat's sunburn!!

We decided to keep poor Flat out of the sun for a couple days after that, so we decided to tell him some more Texas facts.  We brought him out to eat BBQ, which is real popular here, where we gave him his Texas lesson.  Above you can see him with the Texas state flag outside the restaurant.  Texans are real proud of their flag  - you see it everywhere!    They call Texas the Lone Star State as a reminder that it used to be its own country. Did you know that?  From 1836 to 1845 Texas was not a part of America at all, but a country called The Republic of Texas.  Its first president was Sam Houston - and that's how my city got its name!  Sam Houston was a general before he became president  of Texas and he helped Texas gain independence from Mexico.  Before Texas was under Mexican control it had been under the rule of Spain and France at different times in its history.  Flat Stanley was fascinated by all of this, but mostly he just enjoyed the ribs :-)

Easter was a fun day to have our Flat friend around.  Auntie Laura got him his very own Easter basket and he came out to eat brunch with us and a couple friends.  It was a beautiful sunny day and Stanley's burn was gone so after brunch we ate sweets and played cards while we hung out at the pool.

The next day we checked out a couple of the places that make Houston unique.  One of those places is a silly bungalow called The Beer Can House.  A retired grandfather started flattening out his empty cans and using them to create designs, patterns, wind chimes and mobiles all over his house.  Flat Stanley thought it was an interesting way to recycle!  It was this grandfather's hobby for years and now...

...the place is a quirky little Houston landmark.  There are marbles embedded in the patio, making pretty patterns, and the siding of the house as well as the front porch "curtain" is all made of cans! It's neat to hear them twinkling when the wind blows.

After that strange and fun little place, Flat Stanley's three Aunties brought him to a seaside town called Kemah just outside Houston.  Do you like the beach clothes Auntie Laura made for Flat?

She was inspired by Auntie Maryanne's beach outfit!

Kemah sits on the Gulf of Mexico so it's a good place to keep watch for ships....

...and sea birds.  Just don't feed them!

Flat's favorite part of Kemah was the boardwalk amusement park.  
His Aunties let him ride on ALL the rides...

 ...as long as he was tall enough.

...his favorite was the old fashioned wooden roller coaster called The Bullet.  It was BIG!!

Luke, all us Aunties were so happy to have Flat Stanley with us during our visit.  Thanks again for sending him down.  We had so much fun with him!  And we think he had lots of fun too...

...but after four days I think he was starting to get a little homesick and was ready to get back to his home state of New York.  He did keep his Texas baseball hat and his cowboy boots on for the flight home though.

I love you Luke and I can't wait to see you again and hear about Flat Stanley's other adventures.

-Auntie Kelly

03 May 2011

Out Texasing the Texans

Enjoy where you're at.  The secret to a lifetime of happiness?  Can't say, really.  But a personal motto, at any rate.  And I do tend to land sunny-side-up.  So I'm in Texas for nearly four months now and I am doing anything Texan that comes my way and having a blast.  Since January I have...

Gone to the Monster Truck show and loved every second of it.  I thought we were just going on a lark.  I was fully prepared to enjoy it ironically, ya know?  Like watching the local yocals and feeling superior.  But you know what?  When the lights went down and the engines revved and I got an eyeful of El Toro Loco, Madusa and the legendary Gravedigger I went as nuts as any other redneck there.  The noxious exhaust fumes, the deafening noise, the sinus-clogging clouds of dirt, the roar of the crowd - all I can say is don't knock it till you try it.

I'm also eating TexMex every chance I get.  
Any eatery where the wait staff approaches with complimentary chips and salsa
 and the sing-song suggestion "How 'bout some margaritas for y'all today?" is alright in my book.

And when the sit-down and order option ain't a possibility, a tamale will do.  
You can find one of these on every other street corner.

We've made it over to Austin a couple times so far.  

Saw Junior Brown playing his self-made double-necked steel / slide guitar hybrid thingy.  Legend.

Made it to a couple other shows at Austin's Continental Club which is currently in the running to become my favorite place ever.   Their regular run-of-the-mill weekly roster reads like a Who's Who of the alt-country music scene.  I expect to be back as often as possible and was delighted to discover there's a Continental Club in Houston too.  Yeehaw!

Other Texas activities included...

...gawking at the Alamo in San Antonio....

...and shopping the jerky counter at a roadside rest stop.  But that ain't all...

I been to the Houston Livestock show where I saw firsthand the difference between a longhorn...

...and a brahman bull  (many thanks to Brett's mom for all answering all my city mouse questions.  The Livestock Show was an amazing experience that methinks will eventually get its very own blog post.)

As if a day at the Houston Livestock show wasn't enough Texas fun, it was followed by the rodeo.  The RODEO y'all!  The rodeo was followed by a Sugarland concert.  I don't mind telling you folks I was feeling country strong AND Texas proud that day.

But by far the highlight of my "When in Rome do as the Texans do" quest has been a day at Brett's family farm.  We tore it up on four wheelers, gorged on bbq, gathered 'round a mini bonfire and just generally had some good ol' Texas fun.  Jim, Sue, Mandy and Jolie were excellent hosts and it was amazing to get some time with old friends Brett, Monica, their little darlin' Brayden and some of Brett's old Texas buddies.

Brett's niece let me ride her horse.  I'm not sure if the photo does justice to my barely suppressed panic but all I can say is I'm not a natural.  While Jolie clearly is and has the boots to prove it.  
(I covet those pink cowboy boots.)

Show off.

Other ranch activities included feeding the cows treats by hand...

...and helping a lil' calf get her nutrition with Sue and Jolie.  But the real country fun started when a bunch of us headed out onto the property's makeshift gun range.  I'm not a firearm fan in general, but I felt like Annie Goshdarn Oakley.  Shooting with people who are safe and responsible gun owners, who know the ins and outs of their favorite toys and how enjoy sharing it with a pacifist city mouse like me was a treat I don't expect to experience very often.  Texas...what's not to love?

And I do not mind admitting that I felt like one bad-ass chick that day.  Shooting is fun!  Turns out I'm not half bad at it either.  I say again, yee haw.

Here's a pile o' guns on offer at The Farm.  It started with about four pistols but every time I turned around someone was bringing out something new to shoot. Chris was in heaven.

Above a selection of shells and bullets gathered from the range after we were through.  Don't mess with Texas, I'm just saying.  We will SHOOT YOUR ASS!

So it's looking like we'll be staying in Houston for a while and I suspect that the fun will not stop.  I'm hoping to add more Texan treats to my stable of adventures.  There's a place downtown called the Armadillo Palace that looks promising, so stay tuned cowboys.