Bucket list item – Avery Island, LA – home of Tabasco®

IMG_1643Recently, I finally was able to visit Avery Island, LA – the veritable home of Tabasco®.  I had an opportunity over 20 years ago to visit Avery Island, LA and squandered it.  I was determined to get here one day, but wasn’t sure if I would ever have the opportunity.  We visit my in laws usually around Thanksgiving and Christmas while they are in Florida for the winter.  I had thought about taking a day trip over and back but  could not work out the details.  Finally, we knew we were coming for Spring Break (which is unusually early this year – this week) and I delicately approached the subject with my family one night at the dinner table.  Reactions were mixed and there was not much enthusiasm from either my wife or my four year old daughter (neither of which eat Tabasco®), my son wasn’t overly excited either, but he liked the idea of going somewhere new.

We arrived at Avery Island at noon and figured that we would eat lunch at 1868 – a restaurant serving many items with Tabasco® in them.  They did have some items for those who do not eat Tabasco®.  I enjoyed the Avery Island Red Beans & Rice.  My son enjoyed a Chili Dog – which he said was spicy.  Each table had a wooden box caddy of at least 10 different sauces.  After our lunch we decided that it was time for the tour.  I heard that the tour had improved recently along with a new museum.  If we had more time we would have also gone to Jungle Gardens and Bird City.

The tour is self-guided and has nine different stops:  You start at the Museum which is relatively new and has several exhibits surrounding the history of the island itself and the McIlhenny family.  There are also several short videos that can be viewed at your leisure while in the museum.  After the museum, the next two stops are the Greenhouse and the Barrel Aging warehouse.   The Greenhouse shows how the peppers start from seeds and then into plants.  The Barrel Warehouse is where the mash is stored in white oak barrels where it is aged for three years.  Each barrel is filled with the red pepper mash and then sealed and then it is covered with Avery Island salt to keep out the impurities while the fermentation process takes place over three years.  Each barrel is labeled and dated.


After leaving the barrel warehouse, we walked down the same path back towards the factory where a majority of the processes take place.  Stop #4 was the blending operation where the mash is loaded into large vats after the fermentation process is completed and the mash is mixed with salt and vinegar and it is mixed for up to three weeks.    Stop #5 is the Avery Island experience which gives more history and detail about the island itself.  Step #6 is the Salt Mine experience.  Step #7 is the Bottling line – they only bottle sauce Monday – Thursday.  I enjoyed seeing the line operation, even though it was not operational when we were there.


Step #8 is the Food, Flavors and Tabasco® today exhibit where they have a room with several inflatable bottles of the various sauce flavors.  The walls are lined with various exhibits from art to recipes.  There are also some display cases that show the various products that Tabasco is part of (co-branding)

Did you know that Queen Elizabeth uses Tabasco?  There is a royal warrant that was issued to the company back in 2009 and it hangs on the outside of the factory building.  A royal warrant is a big deal.  Not many US based companies can say that they supply goods to the Queen of England!


The final stop that we made was to the Country Store.  This is where you can purchase just about any item with either the Tabasco® logo on it or the actual products themselves.  I bought several things, some sauces, a t shirt and a few other things.  I had set a budget and surprisingly enough I went over by $15 only.  Thankfully, I am able to purchase items online if needed since I wasn’t able to buy everything that I wanted.

This was definitely a great experience for me since I am an avid user of Tabasco® as well as a great fan.  I would love to come back and learn more about the history of the company and Avery Island itself.  This would also be a company that I would love to work for if it were possible to do so without relocating to Avery Island (I think I would have a hard time convincing the family to make that kind of move).

I would urge anyone who is a fan of Tabasco® to find a way in their lifetime to make a pilgrimage to Avery Island and take the tour, enjoy the 1868 restaurant and make some purchases in the Country Store.  You will not be disappointed.  I know that I greatly enjoyed my brief trip to Avery Island, LA.  I hope that I am able to make another trip back sooner rather than later.  Thanks also to my family who indulged me and tolerated this little detour even though they are not Tabasco® consumers like I am.

Defending the world against bland food.


Book Review – The Professor’s Puzzle

The Professors Puzzle - Cover shot for review

The Professors Puzzle 

I recently was made aware of a new book that piqued my interest and wanted to write a review of it.

The Professor’s Puzzle is by Michael S. Lawson and it is a new book to the Christian education field.  Even though I have expressed a call to pastoral ministry, educational ministry has also been an interest of mine since I have attended and graduated from Bible college and seminary.

When I first picked up this book and started reading, I wondered if I was going to get lost in a sea of educational philosophy, terminology, or concepts that I did not understand.  I appreciated the author’s labor in explaining each chapter in brief in the preface.  Most book prefaces are quite brief and not very helpful.  This preface is one of the best that I have ever read because it painstakingly explains each chapter without giving away the entire chapter content.  This is helpful so as the reader, you know which direction the author is going.  The author does start out the book with a chapter on A Philosophy of Christian Academic Education.  He starts out by addressing the disparity between Greek philosophers and the Bible.  Many times Christians are too quick to immediately dismiss the Greek philosophers, but I believe as the author does that we can learn something from them in relation to our faith.  The author outlines this stellar answer on page 3.  This is the first time I have seen an evangelical scholar really take the time to address the issue and relationship between Greek philosophers and Christian education.  I knew after reading his answer that this was going to be a great book.  Also in the first chapter he asks a legitimate question that all professors and institutions should be asking of every course offering – “How do students move from mere cognition about him to an intimate relationship with him?  What role does/should a school have in this process?

The author does discuss many facets of education in the early chapters.  He talks about an integrated curriculum, motivation, how to write a syllabus, managing the classroom, using a variety of teaching methods, etc.  These are great things to know about and to learn from a Christian perspective.  I think where this book excels are the last two chapters where the author gets away from the philosophies and methods and talks about something that is probably not discussed often in many institutions of higher learning and that is how professors related to students.  Too many times professors seem themselves as the purveyors of truth and that they are “above” or “over” the student.  The author makes a great observation regarding the relationship between teacher and student:

The relationship with students is under the absolute control of the teacher… The student’s perception of you, as a Christian teacher, is the platform from which you minister.  Your behavior inside the classroom sets up the opportunity to minister outside the classroom.

In furthering the relationship between teacher and student, the author talks about providing the students “a get to you know form”  Also on pg. 228-229 he lists several different ways to show a personal interest in students.  Many of us can probably think of professors that we have had at the college and seminary level who were good at this.

Towards the end of the book the author talks about issues like funding, enrollment, faculty credentials, tenure.  I love the quote about budgets that should be on the wall of every administrator in every institution of higher learning.

In reality a budget is only a hopeful forecast of what might happen, assuming a stable income stream and no unexpected expenses.

One factor that I am glad that the author discussed in the book, which is usually the “elephant in the room” in some cases.  He talks quite frankly about the hiring practices in most higher educational institutions.  I am glad that he addressed this quotation, but never really went beyond how to escape the phenomena that we call “politics”.  I expect politics to be at play in the worldly institutions but find it shameful that they exist within Christian institutions.

While good grades and grasp of content do matter, other factors often play a larger role in getting a teaching job. Auburn University published a study of junior faculty among theological schools.  They reported that an applicant’s ‘being known in some way’ contributed greatly to their hiring.  When schools looks to fill positions, senior faculty expressed concern about the new hire ‘fitting in’.  Relationships and perceived attitudes greatly affected hiring practices.  In their words, “connections count”.

I found myself reflecting back a lot of my educational experiences in both college and seminary as I read this book.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to current professors, students, and those especially who are considering a career in the academy especially those who will be teaching and training future servants of Christ.

It would be a great honor to be able to meet the author personally and have a discussion about this book.  Living in the DFW area might make that a possibility.

Disclosure:  I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. I was not required to publish a positive review.

My day at Founders Classical Academy – Flower Mound, TX

Recently, I had the opportunity to observe my son’s 4th grade class for a day.  These are my observations and I was not prompted to write anything, but felt it might be a help to parents who might be considering a classical education for their children.

We arrived at school around 7:30 am after my wife and daughter dropped us at the front door.  For me, I had a bottle of water, a pen and notepad, and no cell phone (the school asked me not to use it while on campus, so I decided to leave it at home).  After being checked in and getting my visitors badge, we went upstairs to my son’s classroom.  There was a chair in the back right corner of the room waiting for me.  I sat down and observed the students getting ready for their day, unpacking their backpacks and putting things away.  There are no school bells like I was used to hearing in school, but rather precise time management.  The school day started at 7:40 promptly.  The students stood to their feet and their teacher led in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag.  Then the students said the pledge to the Texas flag.  No offense Texans, but this is the only state that I have ever lived in (California, Nevada, Florida, Minnesota) where they say a pledge to the state flag.  A bit different, nothing inherently wrong with it, just just different.  Then after the flag pledge were finished, the students also recite a school pledge.  Founders Classical Pledge

After the pledges were complete, the students had a moment of silence and then the day began with reading of Treasure Island aloud by various students with the teacher asking them about what was taking place in the story.  Once they reached the end of the chapter, they put their books away and then had a spelling test.  The students not only have to spell the words correctly, they have to divide the word into the correct syllable divisions.  The words on the test that day were: consider, consideration, colony, colonies, colonial, colonize, sure, assure, raise, retire, divide, occupy, probably, probable, foreign, expense, respond, response, responsible, scissors.    These were good spelling words and probably represented a fair challenge for the students.

After the spelling test, we launched into grammar.  The students were learning about phrases and clauses.  The students were also reminded before they diagram a sentence to make sure that they analyze the sentence completely by identifying all of the parts of speech, phrases in the sentence.  This was a gem, so I wrote it down, to remind my son later on when he struggles with grammar.  Did you also know that an intransitive verb has no verbal object?  I knew that but it has been a number of years since I have studied English intransitive verbs.  About 8:45 the students were instructed to pack up their things and get ready for recess.

The first recess was inside, downstairs in the cafeteria, the kids had time to use the restroom, eat a snack if they chose, and then run off some energy on the carpeted area.  Most of them were involved in a tag-like game called frozen.  I didn’t quite understand the game, but enjoyed observing as my son and others ran around and away from who ever was it.  They were enjoying themselves and then as quickly as recess started it ended and it was back upstairs for more instruction.

Math is different here at Founders because students are grouped by ability rather than their current grade level.  For math, my son goes across the hall to the 5th grade class.  The students change classes orderly and timely.  Math starts promptly at 10:00 am.  The teacher goes around and checks their homework ensuring that they have completed the required pages.  They go over the previous night’s homework with each student having a turn to answer a question.  The teacher has a unique teaching style by always roaming around the room and ensuring that the students are engaged and not talking or distracting others.  The other thing that keeps them on their toes, is that they do not know when the teacher will call on them to answer a question, he was changing up the order so students needed to be ready.  They were going over decimals and place value and converting decimals to fractions.  One of the other gems that I took away was something the math teacher said and of course, I wrote it down.  He said, “Before attempting to solve any math problem, first identify what it is that they are looking for”  Another gem that I can use when my son is stuck on a math problem.  After they finished going over the homework assignment, the teacher had the students come and pick up a small whiteboard and a dry erase marker.  They then did some drills with decimals and rounding.  The students really loved this and they were learning while having a little fun and using the whiteboards.  Once that was completed, they went over what the homework would be for Monday and he also reminded them that they would have a quiz over decimals and converting decimals to fractions and vice versa.  The period ended promptly at 10:50.  The students went back to their respective classrooms and it was time to head to specials.  Today would be Music and Art.

Music was from 10:55 to 11:30.  Today the students had two tests, one test was a written test and then they had a sight singing test over Do, Re, Mi, etc.  I am not much of musician and do not read music, but I enjoyed hearing the students take their oral test and then when that was completed, they all sang together as a class up and down the Do, Re,Mi scale and did the accompanying hand signals.  Class ended at 11:30 and they lined up to go next door to Art.

Art was from 11:30 to 12:05.  Today the students were making Chinese lanterns to coincide with their conclusion of studying Chinese History.  The teacher gave them instructions and then they were off constructing their Chinese lanterns.  When they were done, they hung their lanterns up and then it was back upstairs to the classroom for some more instruction prior to lunch.

From 12:10-12:25 – the students were working a worksheet while others were reciting their weekly poem.

At 12:25 they got ready for lunch.  I enjoyed lunch with my son (we don’t get to eat lunch together during the week because he is at school and I am at work)  I enjoyed sitting with him and few of his friends.  When I finished lunch, I went up to see the Assistant Headmaster and we chatted for a few minutes about various things including my observations of what I had seen thus far during the day.  We concluded our chat and the students were on their way back from recess.

From 1:30 to 1:45 – more poetry recitations and working on the worksheet that was given to them earlier.  I can’t remember the poem except that it was written by William Makepeace Thackeray.  Shame on me, I heard it over 25 times that day.

At 1:45 the students had a History quiz and they did that until 2:30

At 2:30 until 3:20 was their Science period.  They were learning about the nervous system.  Did you know that a human brain weighs about 3 lbs?  I might have learned that at some point in my educational career, but it was good to be reminded again.  They also learned about voluntary and involuntary actions.

The school day ends around 3:25-3:30.  The students packed up their things and then went downstairs to the cafeteria to wait for their parents, while other students went to tutoring and others went to after-school care.

Overall, it was a full-day and a great experience.  I think every parent should go and observe one day in their child’s classroom, so you as a parent know what is going on.  I am glad that I went and did this.  It gave me a greater appreciation for the superior education that my son is receiving.  It also gave me some insights as a parent how to help him in various subjects.  It gave me a greater appreciation for all of the teachers who diligently prepare to teach their students each and every school day.  I probably did not do a thorough job in recording all of my observations, but wanted to write about this not only for a personal record, but to maybe help parents who may be undecided regarding the possibility of having their child attend a classical school.

Personally, I would prefer a Christian school for my children, but here in Texas, private school education is not possible with our income because it is so cost-prohibitive.  I am glad that my son is here at Founders Classical Academy in Flower Mound and look forward to having my daughter start Kindergarten here in the Fall.  For a new school, they have a very involved Parent-Teacher Organization and there is a Facebook group for the parents of students which has been very helpful in getting missed homework assignments and other information regarding various events, activities, fundraisers, etc.  What did we do before Facebook. We have been the beneficiaries of help when it comes to missing homework pages or assignments and we have always tried to help whenever possible knowing that there would be a day that we would need help ourselves.  Also my son has made some great friends and we have gotten together with his friend and his family and had a great time.

I also had the opportunity before I went for my day of observation to watch a video by Dr. Terrence Moore entitled A Walk Through the School.  I highly recommend that you watch this video, it does a better job than my feeble writing attempt above.

I purposely did not name any teachers or students for privacy reasons.  The school did not ask me to write this review.  Comments and questions are always welcome and encouraged.

Yes, I did survive an entire day without my cellphone and it wasn’t so bad…



2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Journaling more than blogging

It has been a while since I posted anything here – April 2015 to be exact.  The reason is that I have been journaling more each day using the Day One app both on my computer and on my iPhone (I can dictate my entries)  As a result, I have not blogged as much.  Right now I am trying to figure out a way where I can still keep up my journaling habit/discipline and also blog as well.  Many of the things I have journaled are private and I cannot publish them here.

I am thankful to those of you who still read some of the past articles that I have published.  I am thankful for those who have taken the time to comment and engage in a civil dialogue.

Trying to negotiate the balance between journaling and blogging…. and hoping its not a tightrope walk because I do not do well with heights


Wow… things got really busy around here

I posted what I thought was just an expression of some of my thoughts and never expected it to turn into a decent full-fledged conversation!  The previous post on Doing what you are trained for – set a record in one day hits.  I did not know it at the time, but someone had posted a link to it at SharperIron.org and then things took off.  It has been a good exchange here.  Thankful for those who read and had helpful comments.  I looked at the thread over at Sharper Iron and it was just as one could expect.  There were a few that accused me of whining (not surprised) but those who accused me of that, never came over here to join the conversation.  I won’t go to Sharper Iron to interact because I left there years ago after a dispute with the Forum owner after I made a comment that named some names in a longstanding controversy.  I guess he didn’t like it.

It is good to talk about things.  If ideas stay bottled up in one’s head, then you never know what they might become… Civil discussion is good and we need more of it.

Doing what you trained for

The title may be grammatically incorrect, but I want to make a point with what I am writing.

I was thinking about something while I was walking home from the train station yesterday.  I was thinking about a friend who recently completed his first year of full-time teaching and recently signed a contract to teach next school year.  In reading his Twitter feed and Facebook posts, he really enjoys his job.  I went back and thought about what I knew about this individual and his path to his eventual teaching career.  He had a desire to teach (not sure how far back this goes) but he graduated high school and went off to college to train to be an elementary school teacher.  During his last year of school he had to put into practice what he learned in the classroom by student teaching.  This individual, as part of his student teaching taught my son in the 2nd grade.  My son enjoyed his lessons, especially the science ones.  We were just talking about some of them the other day and my son really enjoyed his lesson on the water cycle and that was well over a year ago, but he still remembers it very well.  What this showed was not only this individual was well-trained, he had a passion for what he was doing, but he also was doing what he believed God has called him to do and he was given an opportunity to do it!

Contrast this with those who train for pastoral ministry.  Same process.  There is the call of God on an individual’s life, they make that call public and then it is off to Bible college and then seminary.  Sometimes an individual will be required to complete an internship within the context of a local church which might be the equivalent of student teaching but not quite because most pastoral internships never really let the intern do everything, it is like the pastor is afraid that the intern will mess up and ruin his ministry.  Mark Dever once talked about letting the new pastor mess up and make mistakes, he related to his own experience at Capitol Hill Baptist Church when he first came that he indeed made a few mistakes and the people were patient with him.  Student teachers do not teach their first day or week, but they get one subject at a time, do a lot of observing and then towards the end of their time, they will teach for entire days with the supervising teacher observing and providing feedback along the way.

I was wondering how many people are out there that went to Bible college and seminary and invested large sums of money for their education some in excess of $50k and they are not in pastoral ministry?  There are some who have disqualified themselves due to moral issues, etc.  There are some who after completing their training may have decided that pastoral ministry is not for them.  What about those people who have a passion and a desire (1 Timothy 3:1) to serve the Lord only to find themselves working in a job or career that they had no intentions of working in except to pay the bills while they were training.  Their heart is not in it and their desires are elsewhere, but a cloak of silence has enveloped their life with regard to ministry.  No direction from a mentor or encouragement from a local church, just silence.  The secular job market really has no use for theological degrees.  Most jobs nowadays are requiring specialized training and specialized degrees. Experience alone will not get you a job now.  You wouldn’t want a airline pilot performing brain surgery on you?  Then why is it okay for pastors to work other areas that they are not necessarily trained for?

I remember reading several articles regarding people with Phd’s wanting to teach in their fields but there were not enough openings in the academic world so some of these PhD’s were janitors, waiters, etc.  and not able to ply their trades either.  That was a few years back and I trust that things have improved somewhat so those people could find work.

I would love to hear from you if you have a desire for pastoral ministry and have finished your college and seminary training but find yourself working in a field that you did not train for.  Please comment below and maybe this can be a catalyst to help and encourage others to be able to find a ministry opportunity since other venues have been notoriously silent.  Where are the people who will speak truth into the lives of others?

Is there anything wrong with doing what you trained for and invested your life in?