This morning I drove the ten minutes to Towne Lake Park, where I walked on the wooded Wilson Creek Trail and then followed Wilson Creek from the "lake" side. In the woods, I saw Carolina chickadees. Near the creek, I saw cardinals, a downy woodpecker, an eastern bluebird, and an eastern kingbird. I like that the eastern kingbird is a flycatcher who looks like a somewhat natty undertaker's assistant, while a western kingbird is a hard-working yellow-breasted territorial wonder who looks like a dapper young bird in a hurry.
I drove to downtown McKinney, which is the decent-sized town just north of us. McKinney has an old-time square. I went to the store that sells Texas salsas to get a few Texas gifts to give to friends passing through today. I got two varieties of Texas hot sauce, a jar of jalapeno jam from the hill country, and a nice mix used to create a real chili. I had previously gotten a great book by a local author (one of those new-but-remaindered deals) on how to make our Tex/Mex cuisine. Tex/Mex is often done so poorly outside of Texas (and misunderstood by the other border states, each of which has its own border cuisine). I was delighted to find a book on how to authentically "do it right". I am a big fan of Tex/Mex food, when it is done "right".
Then I went to the Staples business supply store to pick up some boxes. I asked the attendant to help me find the box size I needed (sum of dimensions no more than 62 inches, to meet an airline requirement). I find I am more willing to ask for help as I age, and also as I appreciate the possible efficiency of asking for help. On the other hand, I rarely ask for opinions about products, because I usually can do my own research and because I find that everyone has an opinion.
I drove to DFW Airport to pick up laruth and her husband A. They were flying back through Dallas on their way home to Australia after an extended trip to Las Vegas, San Diego and New York. Their plane arrived in good time at 2:15 p.m. We drove to my house [my wife is out of town visting her sister in Kansas]. During their stay, they shipped a few things of reasonably modest value [but overpriced in their home town, in the odd way things sometimes are] to my office, so that they could take them home on the plane and not incur the very high cost of shipping to Australia. Although in past years, our dollar used to be stronger than the Australian dollar, the balance of currency power is headed in the other way now. I suspect the net effect is how it used to be for my wife and I when the Canadian dollar was worth only 70 US cents.
The things they had shipped were not heavy but did come in large boxes. Even in this slightly more enlightened era, packaging still features too much volume. I was impressed with how they re-sorted things in very short order, taking this plastic Lego item out of that box, and this gadget out of this box, to cut down their packages into a very manageable box or two. Meanwhile, our dog Beatrice was delighted to see them again. It's funny how dogs meet someone once, and then pronounce them "old friend". Our dog Ted, by contrast, slept through most of their visit, though she did rouse to come and say hi. Ted will be 17 in November, if all goes well. I remember an earlier era in which Ted would have been leaping about for attention. I am grateful, though, that we have a 16 year old dog who enjoys living.
laruth and A. brought us the coolest gifts. Because we went fossil viewing in Eisenhower state park, they brought me fossils they had gotten during their trip. They brought some cool biscuits [cookies]. They brought a wonderful sketch of Bea and Ted from an artist at Comic Con in San Diego. We'll frame that, as it's a complete keeper. A. left a good bit of the premium vodka we sampled during their last trip. There were more things, all grand, but I am not going to pause to do a further inventory. The many things they brought were thoughtfully chosen, and gratefully received.
Qantas had canceled the Dallas to Australia flight, due to something about headwinds. Fortunately, they had been rebooked on a flight to LA and a midnight flight from LA to Australia. This meant we had a bit less time than originally planned, but it worked out very well. We ditched any thought of tourism--it was 100+ degrees [38 degrees] Fahrenheit anyway. We set out for dinner instead.
They had mentioned wanting to try a place with real Texas chili. Chili is available in many places, but a really fine chili is not as common as it ought to be. We are a bit north of the prime chili locales. Restaurant chili is often below the finest. I can make a good if not top notch chili myself, as chili is one thing that can be done in the crock pot which is my favored way to cook. Still, a restaurant seemed to me to be the right thing. I decided to do some internet searching for a chili choice at a restaurant.
I was pleased to find that Tolbert's, a Dallas institution known for its chili, has re-opened in Grapevine, which is a traditional Texas small town near the DFW Airport. We drove there and found ourselves in an uncrowded and comfortable restaurant. A. ordered the "five alarm" frito pie, that familiar concoction of chili, cheese and frito chips. laruth ordered a chicken fried steak sandwich, and they ordered onion rings and a curious dish of stuffed jalapeno peppers which were then deep fried. I went with a grilled salmon entree, but thanks to my companions' kindness, I could graze a bit on their Texas fare. laruth had ordered the sandwich in hope of getting a smaller steak, but her chicken-fried steak was truly Texas-sized. Both the chili and the steak was really grand. The chili was perhaps 4 alarm rather than 5, but tasted great while the steak was incredibly tangy. I took off the breading on a slice so that I could sample it. I enjoyed speaking with them, as it's always fun to compare notes on how it is to live in different places. They each had a lot of good insights.
After dinner, we tried to browse the neighboring shops, but most were closed (other than restaurants and dessert places. We resisted the cupcakes nobly). We finally declared the heat the reigning champion and drove to the airport. I enjoyed seeing the two of them, and hope their trip home is smooth.
Tonight I will watch a bit of "The Iron Giant", which I rented for 2 dollars on youtube some time back, but have not watched. Then I'll settle in with a book, and for a nice rest.