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Get lost with your family in Lost Pines, Texas

 

It’s the middle of the night when I make my list in my head of what I packed and what I need to pack for our spring break road trip. That never ending list that mothers do to make sure their children are protected, safe and entertained…cough syrup (check), sunscreen (check), Cars DVD (check).

On a sunny Sunday our family of four hit the road to the Texas Hill Country. I felt in control driving down I-35 with the navigation programmed; it was going to be an easy trip. For weeks my children had been saying they were so excited for our vacation in Austin.

It was fairly easy. The navigation had us turn one road too soon and just when everyone had to go to the bathroom, we seemed to be lost. A quick phone call to the Lost Pines resort got us back on track and we started to wind down the road with that Mighty Python feeling that we keep on driving and we’re not really going anywhere.

As we entered the resort, we became one with the lost pines down an extremely long driveway. It felt like we were far, far away from civilization. Once arriving at the beautiful resort, you don’t really want to get back in the car until it’s time to go home.
We ventured out to Austin only once to go on a sunset bat cruise which was well worth the effort. Capital Cruises is the ultimate Austin experience because not only do you get to see one and a half million Mexican free-tail bats fly under Congress Avenue (their home from March through October) but you also get to see a traffic free look at Austin’s attractive cityscape.
Some travelers like to return to places they already know. I certainly do. We had stayed at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio last year. We knew another Hyatt Resort was going to be a hit. We met many people who were on repeat visits. It’s obvious why they wanted to come back; this is simply the kind of place that is almost magically bound to make those lasting family memories.

There were more activities than we knew what to do with. Upon checking in we were given an activity calendar of all the things we could experience: tennis, golf, horseback riding, kayaking, trap shooting, s’mores by the campfire, nature hikes, zipline, biking, archery, wagon rides, face painting, balloon making…My children’s favorite was the Crooked River water park because “a river runs through it!” This water park has a sandy beach, waterfalls, a lazy river, and waterslides.
My favorite part was enjoying being outside and admiring the old pecan trees and bluebonnets. Every time we saw a big bluebonnet patch my daughter would say, “Mommy look, bluebonnets! Don’t pick them!” I bet I heard her say that twenty times!

When I was researching where to stay in the Texas Hill Country, I found many places said that they were not child friendly. I knew the Lost Pines Resort was the place to stay when I read that Travel and Leisure Magazine ranked them #23 for World’s Top Family Hotels. Also, Conde Nast Traveler magazine highly rates and recommends the spa (another one of my favorites). It’s one of those places that keeps everybody happy.

We found a very laid back vibe with a Native American/Texan farmhouse style. It’s easy to feel comfortable enjoying the outdoors when you can relax in luxury. Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort is a 405-acre resort 20 miles from downtown Austin with more than 490 rooms that have patios or balconies.

Our room looked out over the beautiful Butterfly Garden. My daughter and I were lounging in the hammock when I looked over my shoulder to check on my son who was playing leap frog on the rocks by the lily pond when I turned and saw that he had just accidently jumped into the lily pond. An all boy picture, he was covered with green goo. Thankfully, our room was also right by a laundry facility! Something not on my check list…extra shoes!
Breakfast at the Firewheel Café was the perfect way to start the day and Texas style BBQ was the best way to end it. We enjoyed live Willie Nelson style music by the band Campcookie. The kids got up on stage with stick horses and cowboy hats to sing, Deep in the Heart of Texas (which I’m proud to say that my daughter knows all the words to thanks to her wonderful kindergarten teacher).

We left Lost Pines when the bluebonnets were blazing. All our cowboy activities seemed to add a little country swagger to our step. I’m proud to be raising little Texans. They look right at home on a pony, eating BBQ, wearing cowboy hats, singing campfire songs…

Like many of the families we saw who were repeat guests, I said to my husband…let’s come back next year!



Blue Bell the best ice cream in the country

When I was little and my family would sit around the table at dinner time, my dad would have us all engaged in a competition for ice cream dessert. Although everyone always got ice cream, we competed fiercely for Dad’s approving nod as to which of us came closest to matching the pitch, tone and rhythm of the Blue Bell ice cream commercial. You know, the classic one that goes…Blue Bell, the best ice cream in the country. We usually all had to take several runs at it before we could enjoy our Blue Bell ice cream.
My dad is a really good singer and no one could ever quite match his tone but it was fun to try and even more fun to anticipate eating our ice cream. In the end, like most of the games we played, my parents found a way to make winners of all of us.
Driving home from our Spring Break in Lost Pines (near Austin) my husband and I took our two small children on a little detour to go to Brenham to tour the Blue Bell Ice Cream Factory. I love educational family field trips and this was one that everyone was very happy about!
Exploring my home state is forever an adventure. Texas is so big that there is always a hidden jewel somewhere. The Blue Bell Ice Cream factory in Brenham is one of those precious jewels. On the way to Brenham I was singing…
You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream! and Ice ice baby, Vanilla ice ice baby…
 
 
The ice cream making process at Blue Bell is satisfying to watch like lawn mowing, a car wash, or shoe polishing. It is mesmerizing to watch the cartons spin and see the ice cream so carefully poured in.
When we were there on a Wednesday afternoon, the little creamery was making three flavors: Banana Split, Homemade Vanilla, and Strawberry. We also watched them make ice cream sandwiches that day.
Our tour guide, Abby, told us many interesting facts. She asked us if we knew which color rim of ice cream cost more- the brown or the gold. Of course, we all would assume gold, but it’s the brown because the ice cream with a brown rim has more nuts, fruit, or fluff inside. She also asked us if we ever have a hard time taking off the lid, which everyone on the tour said yes too. Abby said it was because they flip the cartons upside-down and that causes an airtight seal.
Abby said there was a woman who wrote a letter to Blue Bell to ask them to make her favorite ice cream that they stopped making and because of the letter, they brought it back. This reminds me of my husband’s favorite flavor, Carmel Sunday Crunch! He was obsessed with it and would buy multiple cartons at a time. It was a staple in our freezer. When he found out that Blue Bell brings flavors back, this made him very happy!  
When Abby told us that they disassemble all the pipes and machines every day to clean them, my jaw dropped. She said it takes about four hours to clean. The Blue Bell employees’ have that down-home dedication that that starts with personal pride, results in company pride, and culminates in community pride. You can see it all over the small town of Brenham.
One of the most respected companies in the region and the country, Blue Bell started out making butter in 1907 because its original business was purchasing excess cream from dairy farmers. Later, as they branched out by making ice cream; delivery boys would hitch up a horse and buggy and rush the ice cream to nearby families where they ate quickly, before it melted. In 1930, the company changed its name to Blue Bell Creameries (named after the Texas Bluebell wildflower that blooms during the hot summer months).
Blue Bell is the third best selling ice cream (behind Dreyer’s and Breyers) even though it’s sold in only twenty states. They employ more than 2000 employees’ at all three plants:
  1. Brenham, Texas
  2. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
  3. Sylacauga, Alabama

The very best part of the tour was ending at the ice cream parlor to get our own serving of Blue Bell. Picking between twenty flavors, both my children couldn’t wait to try Cotton Candy (a blue and pink candy cloud that tastes just like cotton candy). My husband and I enjoyed the new Rocky Mountain Road (like Rocky Road on steroids)! It’s a rich, dark chocolate ice cream combined with dark chocolate-coated peanuts, milk chocolate-coated pecans, white chocolate-coated almonds, and roasted walnuts, all surrounded by a flavorful marshmallow sauce swirl…one taste and you’re hooked!
I read Judy Blume’s Superfudge every year to my second graders and always laugh when three-year old Fudge Hatcher suggests Baskin Robbins makes “worm ice cream” for an ice cream flavor contest suggestion. Blue Bell does have contests where future ice cream mixologists can enter their own flavor and hope it wins. What suggestion would you give to Blue Bell?
March Rotational Flavors:
Butter Crunch
Cake and Ice Cream
Caramel Turtle Fudge
Cherry Cheesecake
Chocolate Chip
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Chocolate Mud Pie
Coconut Fudge
Dessert Trio
Mocha Almond Fudge
Rocky Mountain Road
Strawberry Banana Pound Cake
Tin Roof