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Explore Texas, the Lone Star State


We’re glad you’ve come to visit us online! Sofia and I had a blast in Texas. In your travel journal, we already told you about a bunch of our adventures, like meeting our new friend, Addison, our trip to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, and the Fort Worth Rodeo. Here online, we’re thrilled to tell you even more about our trip to the Lone Star State!

We had a lot of fun visiting places like Noodle and Rainbow (remember those wacky names from the Fun Texas Places page?) but decided to check out one of the bigger cities in Texas. Lubbock is known for its cotton farming and is a big business center in the area. We wanted to check out the Windmill Farm. When we arrived, the streets seemed pretty empty for being the middle of the day. While wandering through town, we met a boy named Jake. He was helping his family bring some things in from his front yard.

“Better get indoors,” he said. “A dust storm’s coming.”

“A dust storm?” we asked. “What’s that?”

Jake told us that during dry weather, sometimes cold wind sweeps down from the Rocky Mountains. The air stirs up dirt from the ground and creates dust storms. Storms like this are fairly common in Lubbock. “This storm’s pretty small,” Jake said. “But in 2011, there was a storm with a dust cloud thousands of feet high!”

Jake’s parents told Sofia and me that we could stay with the family during the storm. “Should blow over soon,” they said. From the window, we could see the Windmill Farm in the distance! We watched from the dining room as big clouds of dust wafted past, spinning through the windmills. We never knew storms like this could happen!

“Well,” Jake’s mom said, “Might as well use the time to start cooking!”

Turns out, that weekend the neighborhood was having a big family cookout. As the dust settled, we helped in the kitchen, making dishes like corn on the cob, fried chicken and special barbecue sauces. In Texas, food is one of the most popular reasons for neighbors to gather together. Families meet outdoors and share their favorite recipes. One of the most popular dishes at Texas cookouts is chili! In fact, families in Texas have contests called chili cook-offs to determine whose chili is the best.

Check out the Activity below to make your own chili recipe and learn more about chili cook-offs. We’re proud to say that Jake’s family’s chili won a ribbon in the cook-off. They got the award for spiciest chili!

After spending time with Jake in Lubbock, Sofia and I decided to head back to Austin. (That’s where we saw the bats flying from the Congress Avenue Bridge.) Addison had told us about a music festival and we just had to check it out with her.

Austin is known as an artistic town and is famous for its music. Addison met up with us once we arrived in town and we all hopped on the scooter and went to an outdoor concert.

Watching the sun set with friends, guitars strumming in the background, a warm breeze rippling past – Texas sure is a special place.

Scroll down to see our Favorites, Photos and an Activity to keep the Texas adventure going.

Your friends,

Sam and Sofia

Sam’s Favorites


City: Houston

I love Houston’s tall buildings and friendly people. A lot of fun sites and tasty restaurants!



Food: Quesadilla

Texas borders Mexico. Thanks to its location, the Lone Star State is the perfect place for quesadillas.


Steer Calf

Animal: Steer

The longhorn steer looks strong and menacing when it’s grown, but look at this steer calf. So cute and friendly!


Sofia’s Favorites

Chrysler Building

City: Austin

This city is an artist’s dream! Antique shops, music stores and theaters – what’s not to love?



Food: Grapefruit

The Texas state fruit is the grapefruit. The perfect afternoon snack for me and my sweet tooth!



Animal: Horse

Horses are such beautiful, smart animals. Addison taught us to ride and now I wish we had a horse along with our scooter.


Chili Recipe Builder

Chili cook-offs are a long-standing tradition in Texas. Cities and neighborhoods bring contestants together to enter their super-secret family recipes into competitions. Judges award prizes, such as Best Chili, Spiciest Chili, Most Flavorful Chili and so on. People gather from all around to taste the competing dishes for themselves.

Chili is a spicy stew made with beef, beans, chilies, tomatoes and more. Everyone’s recipe is a little bit different. Create your very own family recipe! Use our Chili Recipe Builder to find your family’s perfect combination of ingredients.

Chili Recipe Builder

Chili Recipe Builder


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Additional Vegetables*
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Beans**
  • 1 large can tomatoes
  • Spices, seasonings, etc.***
  • 1 1/2 cup beef broth
  • Toppings****


  1. Heat a large, thick-bottomed pot on the stove.
  2. Crumble beef (and other meat, if desired) into the pot and cook until browned. Drain excess grease. (You may have to do this in 2 batches, depending on the amount of meat you use. Skip this step for vegetarian chili.)
  3. Add onion, garlic and optional vegetables of choice.
  4. Add beans, tomatoes and your chosen spices and seasonings (see options below). Mix well and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat so the pot comes down to a simmer. Cook for 2 hours.
  7. Season with salt, to taste.
  8. Add your toppings of choice and serve!


*Additional Vegetable Options: Fresh chilies, bell peppers, carrots, shallots, celery.

**Beans - Many prefer black beans. Some prefer a variety of canned beans.

***Spice and Seasoning Options: chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, sugar, ground coriander, oregano leaves, unsweetened cocoa, hot sauce, hot pepper sauce, dried basil, tomato paste, worcester sauce.

****Topping Options: shredded cheese, chopped scallions, bacon bits, fritos, tortilla chips, sour cream, fresh beans, chives.

Note: Additional meats, such as sausage and/or bacon, can be added to the chili mixture.

Also Note: For a vegetarian version, simply exclude all meat products.