Saturday, April 30, 2011

Super-Awesome Friends in Austin

We did lots of fun stuff in Austin, but spending time with our friends was definitely the highlight of our visit.

Wish we could all get together for coffee together every day!

D and H, your lovely Easter brunch was superb! You are truly the migas and French toast champions of the world!

And thanks for pointing us towards Terra Toys. We found some Texas-style Easter basket buddies and other neat stuff there!

We enjoyed our "unorthodox" egg hunt at Pinballz! The guys played their old favorite, Galaga, while the gals burned up the Skeeball lanes.

Lunched at Kerby Lane and had fantastic buttermilk pie at Cutie Pies. (I know, that's actually a pecan pie. The buttermilk was gone before I could get my camera out.)

And we got to hang out with this sweetie pie! You're such a good girl, Daisy!

We saw a few bats under the Congress Street Bridge (but not a million, to my relief!)

Oh, yeah...we saw these guys. Maybe you've heard of them...

You had to be amazingly cool to get into this concert...which is why our amazingly-cool friend had to get us in.

It was great to be deep in the heart of Texas, but even better to be with our big-hearted Texas friends! Thanks for everything, y'all! We miss you already!

Friday, April 29, 2011


You can't go to Austin without visiting The Texas State Capitol building! Isn't it pretty?

It's taller than the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (You know Texans, they won't be outdone by anyone!)

It was so crowded on the day we visited, I gave up trying to take pictures of the rooms. I focused on details instead. There are lots of Texas stars everywhere!

The chandeliers in the Senate Chamber were some of the first electric light fixtures in the U.S. The light bulbs spell "TEXAS."

Even the chairs in the Senate Chamber have stars!

I can see why this bride chose the Capitol for her portraits--it's a beautiful setting.

This gorgeous old live oak is in the park outside the Capitol. We saw lots of amazing trees in Houston and Austin.

It's already hot here in TX, but it's nice to see lots of green trees and flowers blooming. We hear that spring has finally sprung back home, too.

Hope y'all are having fun in your neck-o-the-woods!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Blank canvases

Busy hands

Pastel colors

Beautiful butterfly

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Star is Born

Texas, our Texas! All hail the mighty state!

Texas, our Texas! So wonderful, so great!

Boldest and grandest! Withstanding every test!

O empire wide and glorious, you stand supremely blest!

Do Texas school kids still start the day with that song? I'm guessing probably not, but it was the second thing we did every day, right after the Pledge of Allegiance.

I'm pretty sure every Texas student within driving distance still visits the San Jacinto Monument at least once. I remember being really impressed back then, and it's still impressive today.

It stands over 567 feet high. The star on top weighs 220 tons!

I liked running my fingers over this beautiful Texas limestone when I was a kid. Is there any doubt that Texas was once covered in water?

The interior is cool and echo-y. There are dioramas of early life in old Tejas.

The wonderful Charles Shaw paintings were new to me. This one depicts Sam Houston's men destroying a bridge over the Brazos, so Santa Ana's reinforcements couldn't cross.

Stephen Fuller Austin

Here is Stephen F. Austin, who actually changed his first name to Estevan and learned fluent Spanish. (Wonder what the modern English-only movement thinks of that?)

And Sam Houston, who is known for his wise and measured leadership. His men wanted to attack too soon, but he chose his moment well.

The Mexican soldiers were resting, their backs to the water. And when Houston's men attacked, the afternoon sun was in the their opponents' eyes.

Some say that Houston should have dealt with Santa Ana in a different way. After all, here is the man who massacred Fannin's army...

But Houston kept his eye on loftier goals, and didn't get distracted by revenge.

As we left the monument and looked at the peaceful fields around us, I tried to envision the men camped in the trees next to the Brazos. The Mexican soldiers, exhausted after an all-night journey. And the ragtag band of settlers, nervously waiting to attack or be attacked.

God bless you, Texas, and keep you brave and strong!
That you may grow in power and worth
Throughout the ages long!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cheesy Space

Dad and I have such wonderful memories of visiting the Johnson Space Center as kids, so we couldn't wait to take our kids there.

However. It is not the same. And our first impression was Not Good.

The first things we saw were this...

...and this.

Noooooo! The Space Center has been Chuck E. Cheesified!

The entrance to Space Center Houston looks like any suburban movie theater. Inside, it feels kind of like a Dave and Buster's.

The noise and glare were truly unsettling. It was like being inside a pinball machine. There were are few, meager attempts at science exhibits scattered around the room, but no one was looking at them. Most of the kids we saw were playing in the ball pit or chasing each other around and screaming.

I felt like screaming, too.

Then we found out that the Space Center we knew as kids, the real Space Center, still exists, but it's only accessible by tram now.

So we stood in a loooong line, had our bags searched, walked through a metal detector, and got on the tram. (Weeeell, helloooo, theeeeere, folks! How's everybody doin' today? My name is Jonah and I'll be taking you on your exciting tour...)

Thankfully, we were allowed to get off the tram and go in the building where the International Space Station and shuttle mock-ups are housed. You can look through a giant window into the entire warehouse and watch people working down there. To our relief, this part was awesome!

These are exact replicas of Space Station "rooms." Real live astronauts use these pods for training.

I thought the banners of all the different space programs were cool.

Here is the training shuttle. Someone was in it while we were touring, but they never came out so we don't know who it was. You can see space suits on a rack in the center of the photo--they weigh over 200 pounds!

The shuttle's cargo bay can hold a school bus! (Mrs. Frizzle, maybe?)

We liked the patches from the various shuttle missions--they reminded us of Scout badges.

Check out those engines!

There were DO NOT TOUCH signs on most of the equipment. It kind of struck me as funny: can astronauts not be trusted with this stuff? :)

Dude is totally into robotics these days, and he thought this one was really cool.

These look fun, too.

We were surprised by how, um, classic, these computers were.

And I don't know why, but this totally cracked me up. I'm pretty sure this is the same phone that was on my Dad's desk in 1982.

After we left this building, we boarded the tram and toured the rest of the NASA campus. The only other building you can enter houses the Saturn V. I'm pretty sure this rocket was outside back when Dad and I were kids, so I'm glad it has its own gigantic garage now.

It is impossible to take a picture of something so massive. Here is one end...

...some middle...

...and the other end.

After we had been walking around the rocket for a while, Super came up to me and said, totally wide-eyed: "Mom! I am standing under a rocket!"

Back at the arcade, I mean, main building, we watched a great movie about America's space program, saw some interesting artifacts from various missions, and went inside a "shuttle."

Only a hard-core history buff like Dad could get so excited about the podium where Kennedy announced the space program.

The kids got to touch a real moon rock!

And they brought the shuttle in for a safe landing.

In spite of our initial disappointment, we all had a good time and learned something about space. Dude's favorite part was seeing the Saturn V. Super loved going inside the shuttle replica. In other words, they loved the real science, not the loud, flashing neon playground in the main building.

I have to agree. In my opinion, that place doesn't do the space program justice. I'm all for getting kids jazzed up about science, and I know today's kids are used to flashing lights and loud noises.

But that's exactly why Space Center Houston shouldn't have flashing lights and loud noises. If you want to make an impression on modern kids, don't give them the same old junk that they get every day.

Exploring the universe shouldn't feel just like visiting a McDonald's playplace.

Space is special. It's mysterious. It's awe-inspiring.

Only a handful of humans have actually been there.

I just hate to think that generations of kids will come to Space Center Houston and remember this:

...instead of this.