Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Touring an Ice Cream Factory

The Brenham Creamery Company opened in 1907 and was solely known for making butter. A few years later, the company began making ice cream, and in 1930, the name was changed to Blue Bell Creameries, after the native Texas wildflower.

Since I'm in Texas now, I decided to tour Blue Bell's factory with my roommate Holly. Gretchen came along, too, and we spent an hour and a half driving to the small, small town of Brenham, Texas for the sole purpose of seeing ice cream being made. I had imagined a tour that was a non-creepy version of the chocolate tour in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory -- you know, with rivers of ice cream and flowers made from ice cream sandwiches.

Unfortunately, reality did not live up to my expectations. But I had fun, anyway. I wasn't allowed to take pictures of all the machines and tubes and freezers, but I did get some pictures of Holly and Gretchen and the charming town of Brenham.

The factory

Gretchen eating pistachio and almond ice cream after the tour. (Blue Bell's Pistachio and Almond is one of my favorite ice creams!)

Holly made me wear my tour hat for a picture, so I'm posting a real big one of her in her hat. :) Besides, I think she looks cute. :) She's been talking about the tour for weeks. You'd think she's a native Texan . . .

The truck behind us in the next picture is how ice cream companies used to deliver ice cream. It was state-of-the art in the early half of the century.

Here's just a part of Brenham's Main Street. I love old downtowns. Brenham is particularly well-maintained.

I was in the mood for antiques. I wanted to buy those two wooden and white chairs . . . And the little red one, too. (Family, I would've plastered a BYU sticker on it!) :)

I loved this old building! I wanted to take picture after picture of it! Turns out, it was built in 1873! So I ran my hands across some of the stones because it made me feel connected to the people who used to live there . . .

On our drive back to Austin, Gretchen and Holly spotted Memory Lane. So we took a drive down it. Of course. Of course!

In case you're wondering, this is what Memory Lane looks like. Also -- in case you're wondering -- it dead ends. :/

Thing I'm thankful for: warm, breezy days

Monday, February 21, 2011

In the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning, or Free Associations about Texas

I fell asleep at ten something tonight.
I woke up at 1:30.

Right now, someone in the apartment below me is vacuuming, (It just took me three tries to spell "vacuuming" right.) and because I am also a night owl, I appreciate the late-night productivity.

Today was a good day. I had four good conversations at church, including one with the second counselor of the bishopric, and went to choir practice. I had more good conversations with various members of my family and a few good friends from Atlanta. I enjoyed the scenery on my drive through Austin this morning, when I was on my way back from my parents' house.

I will tell you what I've told so many of my family today: I am not what I would describe as "happy" here in Texas. It's been a hard, hard change. It's been hard to get to know people and hard to let my personality out. School is more time-consuming than I ever imagined, and navigating Texas frontage roads is extremely frustrating.

But. Texas is my New York. If I can make it here, I'll make it anywhere. I needed a change from Atlanta. In Atlanta, I was comfortable; I loved my life and my friends there. I believe, though, that the purpose of this life is to grow, to be challenged, and to learn to make difficult decisions. How could I do that, if I was always comfortable? For the first time in my life, I want to explore. I want to see new places and try new things. I want to be so familiar with the different regions of the country, that I can say things like this to people: "When I lived in [insert state here], I thought the weather was horrible, but I loved eating at [insert restaurant name here]."

I don't know if Texas is the best place for me, but it is a better place for me than Atlanta had become. It changed my way of thinking dramatically, and I'll probably always remember it as a pivotal, life-changing place. (I'll start referring to my life in reference to this time; for example, "Before Texas, I thought . . ." Or "In 2 A.T., I graduated from school, and . . .")

So . . . I wouldn't say I'm "happy," but I'm content with the direction that my life is in. I'm glad I'm changing and progressing and learning a new perspective. I have yet to discover whether Texas is my Promised Land, but it is definitely at least somewhere along the way.

Thing I'm thankful for: cell phones and Skype and GPSs

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Study in Waiting for a Parking Space

Sometimes I read Barking Up the Wrong Tree, a blog about interesting studies and experiments. The author of the blog posts excerpts from academic journal articles or just summarizes the findings.

Here's one from today, about parking spaces:
Do people really take longer to leave a parking spot when they see you waiting for it?

Thing I'm thankful for: scheduled phone calls with friends!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shopping Baskets: A Study in Usability

Usability is a term that refers to how easy an object is to use or learn to use. The object can be an everyday thing, like a toothbrush, a chair, a shopping cart, or a measuring cup. It can be something complex, such as a computer or an airplane. It can also be a virtual space, such as a Web site, a smartphone application, or a search engine.

In school, I'm focusing on how to make the last group of objects usable, but right now, I want to take a break from homework and tell you about an everyday object I discovered recently that I found to be extremely usable.

That's right; it's just a shopping basket. BUT! Target has re-designed it to make their customers' shopping experience who knows how many times better! Instead of being square, it curves to the contours of your legs. The orientation of the handle is such that you don't have to hold the basket far away from you to keep it from hitting your knees. Lastly, the handle itself is thick, so that when you have heavy items in your basket, it doesn't cut into your hand.

I love noticing usable things.

Thanks, Target!

Thing I'm thankful for: Wednesday lunches

Monday, February 14, 2011

Real Men Wear Pink . . . and Three-Piece Suits

I'd like to see more of the following in the Everyman's fashion:
  1. Pink
  2. Three-piece suits
Both look great. Guys can get away with wearing something as inconspicuous as a pale pink necktie or as in-your-face as a bright pink t-shirt. See?

And the three-piece suit . . . What happened to it? It looks so impressive!

Anyway, take what I say or leave it. Just know that if you take it, people will think better of you.

Thing I'm thankful for: sugary Valentine's Day treats!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Girl Scout Cookies Reloaded, Part Deux

Perhaps this wasn't the most honest use of federal funds, but . . . Girl Scout cookies help me to stay sane. And sane people finish school.
(See Girl Scout Cookies Reloaded.)

Thing I'm thankful for: tender mercies


Wow -- Dell wasn't kidding about the powerful speakers on my new XPS 15 laptop. They are pretty cool. I just listened to MGMT's "Time to Pretend," and I had to turn it down a lot, since I now have neighbors below me.

Listening to that song reminded me of Brooke. And that got me thinking about the power of music on memory. Just yesterday, I wrote a letter of complaint to Austin radio stations. I should say, however, that yesterday happened to be the one day they treated me well. By now, Busy Nothing readers should have picked up on the fact that I have been having a hard time adjusting to my new life in Texas, so it's the "little" things that keep me going.

Yesterday, the little things came in the form of music that reminded me of people I love.

CDC Ashley: The Sweet Escape, Gwen Stefani
Brooks: More Than a Woman and How Deep is Your Love, The Bee Gees :)
Jamie: Just the Way You Are, Bruno Mars
Macy: Love Song, Sara Bareilles
North Point Ashley: Free Fallin,' Tom Petty
Rob: Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd
Cami: All of My Love, Led Zeppelin
Clay: Blackbird, The Beatles

Can you believe they played all of those songs? In the span of about an hour and a half! (Yes, all on one radio station. See? There's no rhyme or reason to these stations, and normally, there aren't this many good songs in a row . . .)

Anyway, yesterday was a good day.

Thing I'm thankful for: being home at 2:00 in the afternoon

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Open Letter to Austin Radio Stations

Dear Austin radio stations,

Most of what I heard before moving to Austin was that it's a great place for music. There are all kinds of popular local bands, and they come in all genres: bluegrass, country, rock, indie rock, singer/songwriter, etc. I heard that "when a band tours, they always stop in Austin." Music, music, music! And lakes and walking trails. And music. And UT. And music.

So imagine my surprise, radio stations, when you didn't deliver. If I was going to get lost in my car every day for the first couple of weeks of living here, at least I'd be able to listen to good music!

But I've only found four radio stations that are "just okay." It's more than a little disappointing.

I hope you improve over the next two years . . .


Thing I'm thankful for: programmers

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Girl Scout Cookies Reloaded

If you've ever lived in the Southeast, you know that not only do Girl Scout Cookies go by different names there, they also don't taste as good. They are markedly different in color and consistency, too. My family even conducted an informal taste test to prove it.

So a few years ago, I got to the bottom of this seeming phenomenon. Let me explain:

Two companies make Girl Scout Cookies. One is ABC Bakers in Richmond, Virginia, and one is Little Brownie Bakers in Louisville, Kentucky. Only three types of cookies are mandatory: Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwiches/Do-si-dos, and Shortbread/Trefoils. Other than those, I think each company is pretty much able to make what they want.

And it shows.

But, you ask, why is Sara bringing this up now?


I was feeling like a major dork today due to some social awkwardness. Thankfully, I had to go to my apartment leasing office to pick up a package, and there, on one of the front desks was a box of Girl Scout Cookies. I immediately looked at the company that produced the box and with profound excitement, saw that it was my Girl Scout Cookie baker of choice. Hallelujah! Let the heavens rejoice! Maybe Texas has some redeeming qualities after all . . .

Thing I'm thankful for: cold weather and sweaters