Monday, 19 November 2012

Raindrops on roses

Did you know the Rose Capital of the World is a smallish city in Texas?  Nope, us neither.  Until we took a trip to Tyler, that is.
 

We were one weekend shy of the annual rose festival, which meant we got all the roses with none of the crowds.  In the early morning sunshine, the Rose Gardens unfolded quietly and beautifully before us.  Paths curled around small splashing fountains and stretched luxuriously through lines of scented petals.  There were roses of every size and colour, from delicate lilac to candy-striped pink and white, and plenty of other plants as well.







 

From nature to science: we spent the afternoon at the Discovery Science Center, equally marvellous in its own way.  No sweeps of plate glass and polished steel, no 3D interactive computer displays here.  The building was unassuming brick and most of the exhibits looked like they had been put together on a shoe-string - a pile of bolts and washers there, a line of golf balls and a stack of dominoes - and yet it had all been done with so much thought and imagination.  We rolled balls down slopes, explored a cave and dug for fossils in a heap of shredded tyres, presented a cooking show, and went shopping in a mini grocery store.
 




 


Reluctantly we dragged ourselves and Toby away when they closed at 5, and consoled ourselves with a sweet treat at Andy's Frozen Custard.


 Tyler town square is pretty typical of its kind, although with fountains and roses in the centre instead of a turreted courthouse.  We can recommend the Mexican food at Don Juan's on the Square, and the decor will certainly wake you up!



On our final day we returned to nature with a visit to Tyler State Park.  The day didn't start well, as we tried to drag a hungry cranky kid in a pushchair over a steep bumpy path, but peace was restored with a picnic and a playground.  Then we had the inspired idea of renting a pedal boat.  At first we weren't at all sure whether Toby would a) wear a life jacket and b) stay in the boat, but he proved amazingly amenable to both.  We had a very pleasant pedal round the lake.






And we finished the trip with a stop at Fuzzy's Taco Shop.  Fork fight!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Making a mess

My friend Ellie writes a blog which I now shamelessly crib ideas from, when I am stuck for something new to do with Toby.  Some time ago she wrote about a substance with the poetic moniker of cloud dough.  It sounded simple to make and fun to play with, so I tucked it away in the back of my mind.

The recipe is childishly simple: 8 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of vegetable oil, and mix.  It comes out kind of sandy, although softer and more powdery.

Now, Ellie has two gorgeous girls.  Her blog entries were full of photos of them adding pretty objects and creating cute little landscapes.  I, on the other hand, have a full-on hands-on get-stuck-in-as-far-as-possible boy.  This is what happens when you let him loose on a scatterable substance.

We make it and it all starts well.  Notice I have prepared for mess with a large tarpaulin and lack of shorts.

A few minutes in, and the mess is spreading up the T-shirt.  It's still mostly in the tray though.

 From that point on the spreading becomes faster and faster...

 Oh what the heck, why not just sit in it?

So much for keeping it off the floor!

The next time I got the cloud dough out, I dispensed with Toby's clothes altogether, which unfortunately means most of the photos are censored.  He was much more interested in pouring and filling all the bowls and cups that time, but it still somehow got everywhere.



Should you wish to try this for yourself, I offer the following recommendations:
  • Only get it out when you were going to mop the floor anyway.  Not, in any circumstances, when you have just cleaned the house.
  • If at all possible, get the kid safely in the bathtub and clear the worst away while he is in there.  Otherwise your lovely clean kid hops out of the bath and dives straight in again.  Or else he tracks it all round the house while you are cleaning up, if you don't put him in the bath first.
  • However tempting it may seem, do not hoover large quantities of this stuff.  Unless, of course, you like dismantling vacuum cleaners.  It sticks to their innards something chronic.  Small amounts are OK, and the easiest method when your kid has just run across the carpet and jumped on the sofa before being bathed (see above).
  • Store on the highest, most child-proof shelf you possess.
  • Try and have fun!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Grapevine Botanic Garden

For some reason our photos this year wound up being dumped in one large folder, imaginatively entitled 2012.  Nine months into the year, I finally have been getting around to categorising them, and thereby discovering a few blog posts I should have written.  This is one.


Grapevine Botanic Gardens is not on the scale of its Fort Worth or Dallas counterparts, being more of a glorified park, but a very pretty one nonetheless.  We first went there on a sunny Saturday earlier this year, after driving past the signpost many times, and it was packed with people taking bridal photos and picnicking on the grass.  We've been a few times since then, and every time Toby heads straight for the fountain with the handy toddler-height overflow.




Once we manage to detach him from that, the next stop is usually the pretty little pond system with footbridges, splashy waterfalls, and huge spotty fish.  On our latest visit we noticed a little snake nestled comfortably under a rock, too.





That was the time there were lizards everywhere, as well.  Green ones, brown ones, puffy-throated ones...  We watched with fascination as a male ever-so-slowly stalked a female through the branches of a plant.  Usually when we see a lizard it's, "oh look, there's a ..." rustle rustle rustle as it disappears into some leaves.  I had never seen one move so deliberately.







One of my favourite parts is this plant wall, with windowboxes forming a cascade of vegetation.  It looks like an ideal thing to jazz up a bare garden wall.  They also have a vertical arrangement which creates a very compact herb garden.  I'd love to try it one day!




Just over the road is Nash Farm, a modest plot of land containing a 19th century farmhouse and assorted farming paraphernalia.  Recently it hosted an Italian car show, where Lamborghinis lazed under the live oaks and Alfa Romeos rested next to rusty tractors.  Graham ogled the sports cars and dreamed about selling the house to buy a Ferrari, while Toby and I hung out on the porch and sipped lemonade in the sunshine. Everyone was happy!







Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Family Fun

One evening this summer, our church hosted a family fun night.  It was just starting to get into the hundred-degree temperatures by then, so we enjoyed hamburgers and hot dogs inside the air-conditioned church hall, and then ventured out to see what kind of family fun was on offer.

Toby made a beeline for the messiest stuff around - sidewalk paints made from shaving foam mixed with liquid watercolour.
Look at all these pretty colours!

Let's see how many I can mix up.

Don't eat it, Toby!

Fun for adults, too.

Busy painting.
Fortunately there were some water slides available as well!  He was a bit small for the proper slide, but enjoyed the horizontal one.





We liked the shaving foam idea so much we tried it again at home.  I couldn't find the liquid watercolours, but we had some washable paint which worked OK.  It definitely falls into the category of, "is it really worth the clean-up" activities, though.




I think it's worth it!