Friday, October 30, 2009

Adventures on a Tornado Tour - Part 3

Here is my report from the third day of the tornado tour I went on this Spring. Don't forget to record Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel thisSunday night!!

* * * * *

April 22, 2009

We left Dallas this morning around 9:30 and headed North to the Wichita Mountains and the Wildlife Refuge. It was really a cool part of the trip. We saw buffalo . . .

. . . one of the last remaining natural herds of Texas Longhorns . . .

. . . and TONS of prairie dogs.

He looks like he's picking his teeth with a toothpick. Funny - I didn't see any 'coons around there . . .

After we had had enough of the Wildlife Refuge, we headed back to Norman, Oklahoma to tour the National Weather Service. Not so exciting but I was glad to be able to go. They actually have "Dorothy" and "D.O.T. 3" from the movie Twister there so that was cool. We also got to see them release the weather balloon and I was surprised to see that it's actually a balloon. I'm not sure what I was expecting - after all, they gave me all the information I needed by calling it a "weather balloon" - but I was not expecting an actual white balloon.

I watched it rising and wondered if they get their balloons blown up at Kroger's like I do. But then I decided that they probably have their own helium tanks, what with all the grant money and all. And then I realized that I have the dumbest inner thoughts EVER.

Redneck continues to provide color for us on this tour. Here are my highlights from my 5 hours in the van with him today . . .

1. Two of the yanks asked what this bird was and I said it was a vulture. He turned back to me and said "They are NOT vultures, they are buzzards." I tried to diplomatically point out that it had the red head characteristic of a vulture. He turned around and said "Believe me, they are buzzards. There are no vultures out here." Very matter-of-fact and with an air of superiority that really IRRITATED me. (Breathe, Catherine. Breathe.) I just closed my eyes and had an imaginary conversation where I told him to shut his pie hole, grabbed a nearby vulture, and then slapped him repeatedly with the vulture's RED HEAD. But that's normal . . . right? Later that afternoon, we went to the visitor center and walked through this little exhibit about the many species that were located in the refuge and I heard Rick (my new friend from Massachusetts) calling me, saying "Catherine, you need to come here now! It's vindication!" I walked over to where they were and there was a big, stuffed VULTURE complete with the little write-up about how many are in the refuge. I had to refrain from gloating - and you know that was hard for me to do!!

2. He told me I was wrong about chiggers, too, and I refrained from reminding him who was right about the vultures. I have googled the chigger thing and am proud to report that I'm right about that one, too. Perhaps I will report it in the morning . . . :)

3. All my questions were answered when he volunteered: "I hated school, man. I went for 12 years and never made it past the ninth grade." And then quickly followed up with: "I got my GED, though. Freakin' parole board made me do that." WHAT THE HECK?? Background check, people. BACKGROUND CHECK!!!

So I haven't told you about any of the other folks on the trip, have I? Well, here goes . . .

Shane is the Redneck - need I give any other information on this one?? I'm seriously so mortified that he hails from Texas. Rick is from Massachusetts and is probably mid to late 40s, I'd guess. He's great - I've had lots of fun hanging out with him. Mike is from Connecticut and he's been awesome, too. I played golf with Rick and Mike yesterday and had lots of fun with them - they are both really sweet and great. Cara is the other girl and she's from Washington state. She and Rick and I walked over to a convenience store tonight and were joking around. She seems like a fun girl. Eric is from Denver and he's been great, too. He just seems pretty laid-back and ready to enjoy himself. I've really had fun with everyone on this trip. Well not so much with Shane - he doesn't really know what to do with me and I really don't know what to do with him so I just write about him so that you all have to suffer through it with me. You're welcome.

The grammar continues to be awesome. And by "awesome" I mean "making my ears bleed." "Simularity" seems to be a popular word choice and there have been LOTS more "supposably"s, “ain’t”s and “we was”es. I just close my eyes, mouth "Why God? Why?", and try to think of home . . .

We passed up two stores that were funny to me. One was called the "Curiousity Shoppe." You would think someone would have spell checked it or at least looked it up out of CURIOSITY. It actually hurts me - like actual physical pain. The other store was called the "Turquoise Trousseau - Eclectic Gifts for the Gypsy at Heart." How's THAT for a niche industry . . .

We ended the night with some good Texas BBQ (in Oklahoma) and the Yanks really liked it. Rick keeps asking me what he should order because he thinks I'm three for three now: tortillas, chicken fried steak, and now brisket. So I'm glad the brisket did not let him down. I ordered some beans and they put them in a styrofoam cup with a lid on it. When I took the lid off, the beans exploded all over me. It was an awesome moment to share with my new friends - there I am wiping beans off of my boobs while they look on. Awesome.

We are staying in Norman tonight because our hotel in Oklahoma City was kind of shady. So we are staying in a Quality Inn here in Norman and, let me tell ya folks, there ain't nothing "quality" about it. I'm sitting here on the bed typing this email and I'm pretty sure I'm getting bed bugs. In fact, this email would have been finished quite a while ago if I didn't have to keep stopping to itch my head, legs, and arms. I keep trying to ignore it but then I can swear that I feel something crawling all over me so I break down and scratch in a fairly neurotic fashion. I have a crazed look in my eye and raw spots on my legs, arms, and head. I'd give anything for a microscope right now. And a picture of what bed bugs look like.

We head to Omaha, Nebraska tomorrow to get set up for the storms up there on Friday. We probably won't see any tornadoes tomorrow but we should see some hail.

Hopefully our windshield will make it!!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

So many men, so little room on my DVR . . .

I started watching White Collar last week on the USA Network. It's a show that they have been promoting for FOREVER and it finally premiered last Friday. Have you heard of it? Here's the premise: Neal Caffrey is a talented con artist who's in prison and Peter Burke is the FBI agent who put him there. Burke works in the white collar crimes division and is trying to bust a counterfeiter who is eluding him. Neil suggests that he be released from prison into the custody of Burke to partner up and find this guy using Burke's skills as an agent and Caffrey's experience as a con artist. I really liked the first episode and am eagerly awaiting the second one this week. It's such a unique idea for a show so I love it. Plus, the two guys on the show are cute so I love THEM . . .

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, frankly, that's a big reason that I'm now hooked on the show. I know it's shallow but that's just how I am - I have a problem with developing crushes on guys on TV. I need serious help.

First, there was Kevin Von Erich. He was a wrestler on World Class Championship Wrestling and I LOVED him:

Look. I was 8. I watched starry-eyed each week as he beat up Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin while I ate my macaroni and cheese from my Dukes of Hazard TV tray. And he wrestled barefooted . . . how could I NOT have a crush?

But I must confess that my heart did not wholly belong to Kevin . . . he had to share it with Bo Duke.

Man - this picture is kind of rekindling the flame . . . To this day, if a man effortlessly enters his car through his window, I'm hopelessly in love with him. Throw in a good slide across the hood of the car and I'm making wedding plans. It's who I am, folks. Love me through it. Love me through it.

Next was Kirk Cameron, of course:

My room was plastered with Kirk Cameron posters and pictures. Each time my mom went grocery shopping, I tagged along and spent the whole trip in the magazine section looking at pictures of him in Bop, Big Bopper, or Tiger Beat. I loved him. I loved him for his smile, the trouble Mike Seaver always got into on Growing Pains, and I even loved him for his pleated pants. Hey, everyone wore them back then. Don't you judge him . . .

Now that I'm older, I'm more mature and don't fall in love with everyone on TV. Well, that's actually a bold-faced lie . . . I actually think it's gotten worse somehow. Plus, now I get crushes on the characters rather than the actual actors. For example, I don't really care anything about Kiefer Sutherland, per se, but I love love LOVE Jack Bauer from 24:

I want to marry him. Well, first I want to be kidnapped by terrorists so that he can kill, maim, and torture people to find me, and then rescue me just in time. But THEN I want to marry him. But that's normal . . . right?

Before you commit to assuring me that I'm normal, I should tell you about one crush you may not understand OR find normal: Dog the Bounty Hunter . . .

Look - there was a 24 hour Dog the Bounty Hunter marathon on one day and I was bedridden. It was the only thing on TV and, let me tell ya friends, when you see Dog for that many hours straight, you start to love the guy. I'm terrified of his wife, but I love him. Even his mullet. Don't judge me.

One of my biggest crushes and one of my FAVORITE men on TV is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs. If you watch a few Dirty Jobs marathons on the Discovery Channel, you'll love him, too. (Man, I have GOT to stop watching marathons . . .) He's handsome, smart, funny, quick-witted, and if he can slide across the hood of his car and then jump in it through the window, I'm calling the church. I love watching Dirty Jobs because he has such a GREAT sense of humor and such a sense of humility about him that you just can't help loving the guy. Plus, sometimes he takes his shirt off . . .

ANYWAY, I was watching Dirty Jobs one day and was horrified to see Mike have to do this job . . .

Hands down the most disgusting thing I've seen on TV. But, despite the fact that no amount of tooth brushing can make that right, I love Mike Rowe. And that's because my love is unconditional.

Well, unless Jack Bauer comes along . . .

Monday, October 26, 2009

So thankful . . .

I joined Twitter last weekend. I'm not really sure I get it, but I thought I'd give it a try . . . mainly because my friend Andy told me that all the cool people are doing it. Anyway, this is my understanding of Twitter: you find people you want to follow (friends, famous people, people whose restraining orders don't cover Twitter, etc.) and then you see their "tweets", or status updates. They'll tell you what they're up to, what they're thinking, and what they just had for breakfast. And that's all - just status updates.

So far I have a whopping seven followers. And one of them is a guy who thinks he's an alien. Awesome.

I decided to follow FoxNews on Twitter so I get constant news updates throughout the day. I got on the other day and saw a "tweet" from FoxNews that said "Islamic Militants Crack Down on Deceptive Bras." I, of course, immediately laughed (or should I say "tittered"??) at the title because I figured that "bras" was some sort of abbreviation or slang for merchants or advertisements or some other type of thing that typically gets busted for being deceptive. And I just thought it sounded funny because it sounded like they were talking about, well . . . you know . . . bras. As in brassieres.

Well, they were. Read the article for yourself:

A Somalian Islamic group reportedly has started whipping women in public for wearing bras that violate Islam, the Daily Mail reports.
Residents claim insurgent group Al Shabaab sent gunmen into the streets to round up women who appeared to have a firm bust. The women are inspected to see if their suspected firmness is natural or from a bra. Officials reportedly make the women shake their breasts after removing their bras.
"Al Shabaab forced us to wear their type of full veil and now they order us to shake our breasts," a resident, Halima, told Reuters, adding that her daughters had been whipped on Thursday.
The new bra rule adds to the long list of religious restrictions in Somalia, including a ban on movies, musical cell phone ring tones, dancing at weddings and playing soccer.

I have a confession: My bra is deceptive. I won't go into details because that would be inappropriate but suffice it to say that my straps should get some sort of national recognition and possibly have their own national holiday. Take my word for it.
So this latest tidbit is yet another item on the growing list of reasons I'm glad I'm not Muslim. Since reading this article, I've had nightmares of having to shake these puppies in the middle of the street. I wake up in a cold sweat, jump out of bed, and gather all my bras so that I can sleep with them like little (well, not THAT little . . .), extra-supportive security blankets. It's become a real problem.
I'm so thankful that Jesus loves me just the way I am.

Deceptive bra and all . . .

Friday, October 23, 2009

Adventures on a Tornado Tour - Part Two

As I told y'all last week, I went on a tornado-chasing tour this Spring with a team from the Discovery Channel show Storm Chasers. Since the new season of Storm Chasers started last week, I thought that I'd re-cap my adventures for you each Friday to remind you to DVR the show on Sundays and watch it along with me!

Ok, so here is my report from Day 2 of my trip:


April 21, 2009

Well, today was Day 2 of my tour and, since we didn't have any storms to chase, we started our day with a fairly in-depth lesson on weather and reading radars. I tried to pay attention but, despite my best efforts, my eyes glazed over about five minutes into the lesson. But I tried hard for those five minutes, I PROMISE. One of our tour guides, Matt, was teaching us terminology that we'll be hearing while we're chasing but I had a feeling that I would be more likely to hear terminology of the four-letter variety once the chasing began so I wasn't too worried about memorizing the new vocabulary. Matt told us that there's a good chance we'll have baseball size hail and that it will bust out the windshield. He said that the two people in the front will have to put their feet up on the windshield so that it won't fall in on them. Ummmmm . . . guess who WON'T be sitting in the front!!

We'll be chasing with Reed Timmer and Chris Chittick. Reed is the head meteorologist of the group and he is the guy the Discovery Channel followed on the last season of Storm Chasers. Chris is his friend who chases storms with him and handles the business components of their business. Last season, Reed and Chris drove a Tahoe but this season, they're driving the Storm Research Vehicle (SRV) or "the Dominator." Here's what it looks like . . .

The SRV is a new tornado intercept vehicle that can . . . well, intercept a tornado. Good name for it, right? The flaps on the bottom are on hydraulics and can lower to the ground so that wind can't get under the vehicle and lift it. It's basically an armor-covered Tahoe with all kinds of high-tech stuff inside. The van in the background is what I'll be in - notice no protective armor or hydraulic flaps . . .

Not only are Reed and Chris going to try to intercept a tornado (which means get inside one), they are also going to try to deploy their camera probe. (Yes, I just said "probe.") Here's a picture of it:

Hopefully, they'll get it right in the tornado's path and they'll get some footage!!

Anyway, back to my day . . .

Since we weren't going to chase, we headed down to Dallas to hang out. We went to some place called Speed Zone which is basically go-carts and arcades. I played putt putt with two of the guys who are on the trip with me and, I'm proud to say, I beat them by 4 strokes, thankyouverymuch! So it was a pretty low-key day but the northerners in our group got to come to Texas AND eat chicken fried steak so it was a successful day!!

Speaking of the Northerners and food . . . we had Mexican food in Oklahoma for lunch (no, it's not as good in Oklahoma as it is in Texas . . .) and the waiter brought out chips and tortillas with the salsa. I took a tortilla and started to butter it when the northerners in our group asked me what we were supposed to do with those. They said they were just waiting to see what everyone else did because they didn't know what they were for. Can you believe that?? What kind of life is a life without TORTILLAS?!?!? I said a silent prayer thanking the Lord that I was born in Texas. And that Lupe Tortilla's is within a 10 minute drive of my house in case of tortilla emergencies.

The redneck guy I told you about continues to be a fountain of . . . something. He is perhaps the most obnoxious person I've ever met. Our tour guide apparently called the hotel ahead of time to warn them about him, too!! It's crazy. Imagine the most obnoxious, drunk red neck you've ever seen in a movie and then multiply that by 10. Except this guy's not drunk. My ears were assaulted by him all day long and, at one point, I had to resist the temptation to claw my way out of one of the windows. I spent the entire day making notes of things that he said and did so that I could share them with you. I was trying to decide which story would best sum him up but I can't. So I'll let you . . .

1. At the Mexican restaurant we went to today, he would NOT let the waiter refill his tea. He was actually quite rude about it, holding his hand over his cup and saying very slowly "I don't want anymore" without looking at the guy. After we paid, our waiter said "I have just one more question for you all - does anyone want a drink for the road?" The redneck said "We've already paid, right?" and the waiter said yes. Then Redneck said "Then YES I want one for the road!" and proceeded to laugh like he just pulled a fast one on the guy. I guess he thought all along they didn't have free refills and that the waiter was just trying to run up his bill??

2. On our way out of the restaurant, he walks up to the hostess counter, looking around and says in his loud obnoxious way and with an exasperated tone, "You ain't got free mints or nothin????"
3. The restaurant we went to tonight had its bathrooms marked "Roosters" and "Hens". I made a joke about having to try to figure out which one was the men's room and which one was the women's and then he says loudly, again in his obnoxious way: "Don't you know that one has a COCKadoodledoo??" But I have to give credit where credit is due - that one was pretty good.

4. And my personal favorite . . . he actually said this sentence: "We used to use 'coon dicks for toothpicks." I'm sorry . . . WHAT????

Friends, I'm really not sure that I will be the same after this trip . . . :)

The rest of the tourists are great and I'm enjoying getting to know them. We met the two other guys who joined our group. One is from Connecticut and one is from Massachusets . . . aka "the northerners." Everyone seems to get along so far so that's good. It would be bad to be stuck in a car for six days with people you don't like. Or a Redneck . . .

If I were on a bad grammar chasing tour, this would have been an active trip so far. The Redneck is a never-ending fountain of grammar violations. I've lost track of the number of "supposably"s, "ain't go no"s, and "we was"es. He had a spectacular sentence I wish I could have photographed for you. It was something like "Was you there? We was there but they didn't have no . . ." I missed the rest of the sentence when I began convulsing . . .

So Day 2 was pretty uneventful except that I bonded with my fellow tourists and learned about the varied uses of 'coon dicks. You know - the usual.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings . . .


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A good deal of hummus . . .

On my last day in San Diego, I went to a Farmer's Market with my friend Kacey and her daughter, Maya. I've never been to a Farmer's Market because I usually don't want to get up that early to go buy fruit. I'm just being honest. But I really enjoyed my experience out there Sunday morning. I saw the most beautiful flowers, the most scrumptious-looking fruit, and the most interesting-looking lady:

A satin belly shirt, a satin skirt, an umbrella, and Crocs? It takes a confident woman to pull that off. But she was rockin' this look and rockin' to the band we were watching.

The negatives? First, several booths sold organic cheesecake and, as with the organic cupcakes I talked about yesterday, I have to object to that on principle. Second, aside from a few gay men, I think I was the only person wearing mascara there so I'm pretty sure I looked out of place. Third, I met the pushiest hummus salesman EVER.

"A hummus salesman?" you ask. Yes, I say. "A PUSHY hummus salesman?" you ask. Yes. Now I admit that I'm kind of a sucker and that salesmen in general can see me coming from a mile away. But I never thought I'd be preyed upon by a man pedaling flavored hummus. But, before I knew it, there I was in the middle of the Farmer's Market slowly going into debt one container of hummus at a time.

So how did it happen? Well, I'll tell you. I was walking through the market, looking into all the booths to see what they offered. I saw this handsome man approaching me and wondered if he was going to tell me that he's a fighter pilot and that he wants to marry me. Instead, he asked me if I wanted to taste his pumpkin hummus. I briefly wondered if this was a metaphor that should offend me but then I saw that he was in front of a hummus stand and it made sense. Then we had this conversation:

Hummus guy: You want to try my pumpkin hummus?
Me: Ummmm . . . sure!
HG: [walking me over to the table with all the hummus samples out] This is a pumpkin hummus [offering me a sample] - great for the holidays, no?
Me: Yeah, that is good.
HG: You like it?
Me: Mmmmm hmmmmm. It's good.
HG: [to the guy behind him, working behind their table] She'll have one of the Pumpkin hummus. Now do you like spicy things?
Me: [not quite sure what just happened] Ummm - yes . . .?
HG: I'm going to show you one of our most popular flavors. I give you good deal. Here - Spicy Pepper. Try it. You like it. The heat hit you at the end.
Me: Yeah, that is pretty good.
HG: See - I told you. You like it. [to the guy behind him . . .] She'll take a Spicy Pepper.
Me: Well, I -
HG: It's okay, it's okay. I give you good deal. Now you try the Spicy Chipotle. It's spicy and smoky.
The guy behind the table: You like it. It's popular flavor. I get it for you.
Me: [WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME??] Well, actually, I'm about to get on a plane to head back to Texas.
HG: Ah! Texas! I tell you something - someone just bought these to take them to Italy. It's okay - you put them in your suitcase. No problem. You do it. It's fine.
Me: Well -
HG: Now I'm gonna show you something. You try this. You love it. [gives me a sample of the Kalamata Olive hummus]
Me: Well, I don't care for olives . . .
HG: [looks at me as if I just spit in his hummus]
Kacey: I'll try it.
Me: [Nooooooooooooooooooo, Kacey!! Run!!!!]
HG: You two together? Ok, I give you good deal. You buy together and I give you good deal. No problem.

Anyway, before I knew it, there were like 8 tubs of hummus stacked up for me. I tried more hummus than I ever thought possible: Basil Pesto, Avocado and Cilantro, Roasted Garlic, Roasted Eggplant, Sun Dried Tomato & Basil - you name, I tried it. And almost bought it. But I finally had to put my foot down and . . . and . . . and only buy four. Because I'm a tough cookie. Then he tried to sell us pita bread, pita chips with parmesan cheese, pita chips with garlic and oil, plain pita chips, and baklava. I came THIS close to getting my suitcase from the car so that he could see how little room I had left. He kept assuring us that he was going to give us a good deal. In the end, we bought $35 dollars worth of hummus together and he gave us $3 off.

$3. That was his "good deal" that he kept promising.

So only I can go to a Farmer's Market on my way out of town and end up with four tubs of hummus to stuff in my suitcase. I opened up my suitcase and fashioned a protective casing out of a ziploc and two plastic bags. Since I frequently find that my shampoo has exploded at some point in the flight, I had every reason to believe that every item of clothing I had in my suitcase would be covered with hummus by the time I got back home. But, as it turns out, hummus travels pretty well and I didn't even have to wash it out of my clothes.

Oh, and did I mention that I don't really even LIKE hummus that much?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

San Diego through pictures . . .

I spent this weekend in lovely San Diego visiting my friends Andy and Kacey and their two adorable kiddos, Kien and Maya. Don't believe me that they're adorable? Here - judge for yourself . . .

Here's Kien with a SUPER loose tooth which he lost while I was there, thankyouverymuch:

And here's Maya after an unfortunate frozen strawberry lemonade accident:

Aside from seeing my friends, I was most excited about spending a few days in a city with Naval bases, Marine Corp bases, and Coast Guard Stations. And San Diego is the birthplace of Naval aviation. Ummmm . . . can you say JACKPOT?! Visions of uniforms and tight fades danced in my head. I was sure to come back to Texas with a Fighter Pilot on my arm - well, first stuffed in the overhead storage but THEN on my arm - and live happily ever after, showing him off and making him play sand volleyball while wearing mirrored aviator sunglasses. I hadn't worked out ALL the details but it was going to be GREAT. Unfortunately, that dream never materialized because, as Andy explained, we were not around the bases but, rather, in a predominately gay area of San Diego.

This is my life, people.

So we toured the city and I got to see so much. We went to La Jolla Cove and climbed all around the rock cliffs and took LOTS of pictures of the waves crashing. You may now admire my artistic abilities:

It wasn't until we were on our way back to sturdier ground and off of the cliffs, that we saw this sign:


We shopped around La Jolla and then went to pick up Andy and Kacey's kids at school. As we pulled up to the school, I saw this sign on a wide-open gate:

Is that sarcasm?

After we picked up the kiddos, we met Kacey and headed over to Balboa Park to walk around. Balboa Park is where the zoo and the museums are and it's a beautiful place to stroll. While we were there, Kacey spotted a "reverse skunk" hairdo on a fellow stroller. It was amazing and HAD to be photographed inconspicuously so that it wouldn't get frightened, jump off the man's head, and run away. Andy pretended to pose for me while I pretended to take a picture of him. But the real focus of the picture is the man on the left - the Reverse Skunk:

Awesome. I've never seen such perfectly coifed hair with such precise color separation. I hope that he tipped his colorist for her remarkable attention to detail. And that she was promptly fired for inflicting that upon the rest of us.

On Saturday, we had brunch at a place called Hash House A Go Go where we were served the most RIDICULOUS portions. Each piece of my french toast was roughly the size of a brick and there were three of them - three bricks served to me on a huge serving platter, not a plate. I just marveled at how big they were and immediately took a picture with my phone to text this breakfast phenomenon to everyone I know. Here's your copy:

After I sent out my picture text, I realized that, because I had made such a big deal about how humongous and unnatural the portion was, I couldn't then consume the entire contents of my plate. If I wanted to face everyone again, I'd have to go on and on about how I could barely make a dent in all that food and how I was so stuffed after one piece and blah, blah, blah. It's just another example of how my big mouth has gotten me into trouble and deprived me of french toast. Well, this is the first time it's deprived me of french toast but you get my point . . .

Andy ordered the biscuits and gravy and was served what looked like the scrapings from the plates of earlier customers:

But, like everything there, it was DELICIOUS. Especially if you ate it with your eyes closed. He took the leftovers home which I thought was ironic since it looked like he was eating leftovers in the first place.

Then they all took me to Coronado where we walked around the beach and tried to take more artistic photos:

But, as with all good trips, all too soon it was time to leave. I was sad to be leaving my friends, the beautiful scenery, and the gorgeous weather. It really was a great visit. But, you know, as much as I loved visiting California, I know I could never live there. Why? you ask. Because it goes against everything I stand for. Case in point:

When you take all that is good and right out of a cupcake and try to make it HEALTHY, you cross the line, California. And I cannot tolerate that.

So I plan to return again in the Spring to enjoy MORE beautiful weather and time with my friends.

And I plan to bring my own cupcakes . . .

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hello, my name is Maroon Yukon.

I went to San Diego this weekend (more on that in later posts) and came back this evening at around 8ish. My mom picked me up from the airport and we began to navigate our way out of the airport area and, as we were driving, she shared this little tidbit with me: "Well, Tammy and Erin were wondering if I would even be able to come get you tonight because they put me on new sleep medication." These are not words you want to hear from the person in the driver's seat of a large SUV in which you are a helpless passenger. She went on to explain that her doctor took her off of her Ambien and gave her a new pill to take to help her sleep, that she didn't do well on it, and was still recovering from the effects of it as late as 3:00 this afternoon. She assured me that she was feeling better and that her reaction times were good but, strangely, those assurances did nothing to assuage my fears so I double-checked my seat belt periodically throughout our trip.

My favorite part of our drive home came when we were back in The Woodlands area. There are big, electronic road signs along the freeway where they'll put traffic announcements and Amber alerts and tonight there was an Amber alert on it that read like this:

Kidnapped Child
Maroon Yukon
XRT 444 [or some license plate number . . .]

So as we were driving past this sign, we had this conversation:

Mom: I just hate seeing that sign.
Me: Yeah, that's really sad.
Mom: At first I thought the kid's name was Maroon Yukon. I didn't know that a Yukon was a car.
Me: What?
Mom: Yeah, I just thought her name was Maroon. But then when I realized it was a car, I didn't even TRY to look for her because I have no idea what a Yukon looks like. I mean, is it big or is it little??
Me: Mom - WHY do you tell me these things? You know I'll have to blog about this now. You give me no choice.
Mom: Well, I mean you can see how I could make that mistake.
Me: No . . . I CAN'T.
Mom: Well, there are so many, you know, foreign people so I just thought it was a foreign name.
Me: Uh huh . . .
Mom: But then I realized it was a car and I just gave up. I figured it was a big car because of the name Yukon. I mean, if it's as big as the whole Yukon, that would be a big car!
Me: Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

So just like that, all the things that I wanted to blog about from my trip took a back seat to my mom and her latest entertaining conversation.

But on a serious note: I kinda like the name "Maroon" for a girl . . .

Friday, October 16, 2009

Adventures on a Tornado Tour - Part One

Last Fall I watched a show called Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel and LOVED it. I mean, it's really right up my alley. My roommates know how excited I get about bad weather - if there's 24 hour coverage of any weather event, I sleep on my couch with FoxNews Channel on so that I can wake up periodically throughout the night and get the updates. Look - I never said I was normal. In fact, when Ike blew through last year and we were without power, I was MOST upset about the loss of my 24 hour coverage. The fridge, the A/C, the power - who cares? But taking my 24 hour coverage of the storm and its aftermath? That was just a cruel joke.

ANYWAY, there was one team on this Storm Chasers show (Reed, Joel, and Chris) that was really fun to watch because they really follow their guts and get some great shots of tornadoes. I was telling my roomie Melissa that if I had all the money in the world, I would just pay them to let me go along with them because I would feel safe with people who understand the storm and know what they're doing. My DVR cut off the very end of the last episode of the season so I went to the website to see the footage I had missed and I saw that they actually offered tornado tours . . . WHO KNEW?!!? AND, you don't have to have all the money in the world. I told my family about it and declared that I would go on one of the tours that Spring. Every time I would mention it, my mom would give me a look that said "Over my dead body" but then she did the most unexpected thing - she actually bought me the trip for Christmas. I was really surprised that she did that because I figured she would NOT want me to go on a trip that would potentially put me in harm's way! When I told her that, she said, "I DON'T support you going - I'm hoping your dad will come back to stop you!" :) Oh, momza . . .

So I went on the trip this past Spring (April 2009) and, while I was on my trip, the Discovery Channel was filming the team we were with for this upcoming season. Not our specific tour group, but the team of Reed, Chris, and Joel. And the new season starts this Sunday! So make sure you set your DVRs to record it at 8 pm on the Discovery Channel this Sunday, m'kaaaaaaaaaay?

Since I was along for at least PART of the ride this season, I thought I'd share my adventure with you each Friday while the show is airing. That way you can read about the tour on Friday and then watch the show on Sunday. It's a pretty good plan, don't you think?

So, without further ado, here is my report from my first day of my Tornado Tour . . .

* * * * *

April 20, 2009

I'm so excited about my tornado tour!!! I drove up to Oklahoma City today and am staying in the lovely Clarion Hotel . . . well, let's be honest . . . Motel here in the city and am thankful for the free WiFi and the IHOP next door!!

My road trip was uneventful but I learned a few things . . .

1. If you turn your radio down to talk to your best friend for an hour, when you turn the radio back up it will undoubtedly be picking up a Tejano station.
2. There are a lot of Tejano stations between here and Oklahoma City.
3. Tejano musicians love their trumpets.
4. There's a species of bug out there that is a distant relative of the yellow paint ball. It hits your windshield and then explodes into a vibrant yellow mess that does not respond to windshield washers.
5. If you drive up I-35, you'll see a place called "Oklahoma Horeshoeing School, South Campus." That means there's actually another campus out there, too.
6. There's a car dealership in Oklahoma called Knipplemier Chevrolet. Why???
7. A lot of Oklahomans buy their cars from Knipplemier Chevrolet.
8. If I bought my car from Knipplemier Chevrolet, I would change out the complimentary license plate frame IMMEDIATELY.

I met with the group I'll be touring with and they seem like an interesting group. And by "interesting" I mean there will doubtless be lots of stories to tell. :) Our tour guides are from one of the teams on The Discovery Channel's "Stormchasers" and they're really cool. They told us that they've been watching the weather models and that it looks like Friday - Sunday will be our stormchasing days. So that means that Tuesday through Thursday will be down days for us. Luckily, this tour company takes you to do other stuff on the down days so that you're not just sitting around the hotel - errrr motel - waiting for a storm to come along. So tomorrow we are probably going to go to the Wichita Mountains or some other attraction in Oklahoma.

It's kind of a bummer to have so many down days BUT the upside is that the weather this weekend promises to be good storm chasing weather. PLUS, we will most likely have to chase the storm up into Kansas, Nebraska, and maybe Iowa so that's cool!! I'll get to knock a few states off of my "states I haven't seen yet" list! :) Anyway, they said that the weather this season should be pretty good. And by "good" I mean bad . . . So that will be good!! Are you confused yet?? :)

And now for my fellow tourists . . . There are 6 of us on the tour but I have only met three of them so far. One of the guys is an obnoxious redneck - and I'm talking Larry the Cable Guy obnoxious but with no redeeming qualities. I'm sure he's gonna be a gold-mine of stories. The other guy seems really nice and like he'll be a lot of fun. There's one other girl on the trip and she seems nice, too. We had dinner tonight at Burger King and she rode with me to go find flip flops - can you believe I left home without my flip flops?? It's nice to have another girl on the trip with me so I'm looking forward to getting to know her better.

Ok, well I'm off to bed. Tomorrow we are meeting in the lobby at 9 to discuss where we will spend the day. I'll keep you posted!!!

Love you all!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Critic's Chair

I'm going to San Diego today so I SHOULD be packing and cleaning my room and just generally getting ready for my trip so, understandably, I've spent the evening searching for a new October blog background and editing my "About Me" section. Makes sense, right? Let me know what you think!

So today I went to Conroe for a deposition of a doctor in one of my cases. After we finished at the deposition, we decided to go grab lunch together at this place called Pie in the Sky Pie Company. We go there quite a bit when we're in Conroe. And, besides some fairly frequent spelling mistakes . . .

. . . and an occasional punctuation issue . . .

. . . it's a pretty good place to eat. Plus, they have sweet potato fries so that pretty much makes up for the spelling and punctuation. Well, not really. But it doesn't hurt.

So today I had to use the . . . ummmm . . . facilities and noticed something interesting when I was back there. I call it the Critic's Chair:

What the heck is it doing right in front of the toilet? What possible purpose can it serve? Even if you brought your kids into the bathroom with you, do you really want them right there watching you do your business?

Here's the view from the toilet . . .

Seriously? If someone were sitting there, how could you concentrate? Would they be judging you? It seems like the kind of chair a very judgmental person would sit in, doesn't it? Like with a notepad, bifocals on the nose, and a disapproving look. And I think I would be so uncomfortable that I would just start talking. Like nonstop. And I would no doubt feel compelled to make confessions like "I haven't been eating enough fiber lately." or "Well, that's the last time I'm gonna eat Mexican food. I can guarantee that!" Things of this nature. Frankly, the whole thing gave me indigestion and I couldn't even order a piece of "Pumkin" pie.

And that's just a travesty.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tooth Fairy for a Day

This weekend I had a slumber party with my nieces and my nephew. We made a blanket fort in the living room and all piled in to watch a movie and eat our chocolate chip cookies and Neapolitan ice cream. The kids had a blast and I finally got to break in my bottle of Resolve Carpet Cleaner so it was really a Win-Win situation for everyone involved.

But I must confess something to you here: I was too preoccupied to enjoy this slumber party. Why? Because my niece had lost her tooth and that meant that I was going to have Tooth Fairy duties. I mean, my sister had brought me the money and the letter from the Tooth Fairy and all I had to do was put it all under Savannah's pillow after she fell asleep but I was SWEATING it big time and just wanted to get it all over with. I wanted them to fall asleep so that I could do it and stop the profuse sweating in my armpits.

When it finally came time for bed, I made a pallet in my bedroom for the kiddos and they all picked their spots. I had them go potty before getting too comfortable and, since all I wanted was to get them to bed quickly so that they could get to sleep faster so that I could discharge my duties, it was the longest, poopingest potty time EVER. Of course.

Now, the kids are in the stage right now where they LOVE to talk about poop. For instance, a typical joke from Avery or Ben (and more often Ben and Avery together) right now is:

Ben/Avery: Catchy - Knock Knock!
Me: Who's there?
B/A: POOP!!!!
Me: [blank stare]
B/A: Catchy, you're supposed to say "Poop who?"
Me: Poop who?
B/A: POOP ON YOUR FACE!!! [and then they laugh hysterically and run off together]

So since they love poop right now, this particular potty time was especially exciting for them. First, Ben went into the potty downstairs and Avery stood outside the bathroom and yelled "Ben! Hurry up! I have five turds I need to get out!" I have no idea how she knew the number but she did. Then Emma went in to the potty in my room and a few minutes later, she yelled out "Caaaaaaaaaaaaaatchy - I'm gonna be a while." I said okay and then, just to make sure I understood: "You might want to send everyone to the potty downstairs because this is going to take me a loooooooooooooooooooong time." I said okay and then Savannah realized what was going on and ran out to excitedly tell everyone that Emma was "making a deuce!!"


Anyway, so after a potty time that will not soon be forgotten by my toilets, I finally got everyone to bed and then laid down in my bed to wait for them to fall asleep. I felt like I had just slammed back a Mountain Dew - my eyes were wide, my pulse was racing, and I couldn't stop twiddling my thumbs. Interestingly, it appeared that the kids had all just slammed back a Mountain Dew or two because they were NOT fading off as I had thought they would. In fact, at 1:15 - yes, that's AM - Ben and Avery were still talking and Ben was telling me that he couldn't get to sleep because his legs were still awake and he can NEVER get to sleep if his legs are awake. I had no idea how to respond to THAT one so I just assured him that his legs would fall asleep with the rest of him if he just tried to go to sleep.

Finally, around 1:45ish the kids fell asleep. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand so did I . . .

Around 3:30 I awoke with a start, thanks to my VERY full bladder. I tiptoed through my room, around four sleeping kids, went to the bathroom, and put on some more deodorant for the job that lay ahead. Then I came back to my bed, took a deep breath, and began "Operation Don't Wake Up The Kids And Ruin The Idea of The Tooth Fairy For All Of Them."

My mom recently made a Tooth Fairy pillow for each of the kids using some of my dad's work shirts. They are really precious. Each pillow has the buttons and the pocket from his shirt so that the kids can put their tooth inside my dad's pocket and then the Tooth Fairy can leave money and a note in there for the kids. Savannah had brought her pillow with her and, lucky for me, she had decided that she would leave the little tooth pillow at the foot of my bed rather than under her pillow so that the Tooth Fairy would know where it was. I said a silent prayer of thanks for that one - the idea of trying to get the tooth out from under her head without waking her up had REALLY stressed me out.

So I got the little bag that Erin had left with me that had the money and the note in it and a box for me to put the tooth in so that she could save it. She had told me that I would need to just fold the note in half to make it fit into the pocket on the pillow. No problem, right?

Have you ever tried to fold paper in a quiet room at 3:30 in the morning when you're trying not to wake anyone up?? You should try it sometime. It really gets the blood pumping.

So I sat on my bed, trying to fold the note while simultaneously planning my escape route if I were to hear anyone stirring. I finally finished and then came the equally difficult task of quietly placing - or in this case, shoving - the note into the pocket. I tried a couple of times and was appalled at the amount of noise it made. I figured I should treat it like a Band-Aid and just do it quickly. I took a deep breath, wiped my brow, stared at the pillow nervously as if I were trying to decide between cutting the red wire or the blue wire, and then did it. And I have to say I was pretty proud of myself. And I also realized that I could have had a cocktail party in my room and the kids would have slept right through it.

The next morning, Savannah was so excited to see that the Tooth Fairy had come so it was REALLY fun to have been a part of that. And I learned a couple of lessons that will help me if I ever get to play the Tooth Fairy for my own kids:

First: Fold the note beforehand.
Second: Kids can sleep through a bombing next door.
Third: You can never have too much deodorant on.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My mom the tailgater.

Well, I had trial last week on the case that had helped to improve my street cred a while back. And we won.

[Hold for applause . . .]

For some reason, we didn't have court on Tuesday so I took a little break and went to Conroe to see my niece Emma cheering at a volleyball game. The gym where the game was is about a 15 minute drive on the freeway from The Woodlands so I headed on up there. My mom, who also lives in The Woodlands, was already at the gym and, since it was a little hidden, she was on the phone with me giving me play-by-play directions to the game. She told me to park in a parking lot across from the gym because that's where she was parked, as well.

My mom recently got a new, Extra-Long Expedition and it's a great car. It has a DVD player, wireless headsets for the kids, a navigation system, satellite radio, and bluetooth so that her cell phone transmits through her car speakers. The bluetooth feature is particularly nice for her because it enables her to call us through her steering wheel so that she never has to take her hands off the wheel. Since she's a bit nervous when driving it, that's a nice feature. And why is she nervous, you ask? Because it is, well, extra long. She's used to driving a little Impala and the Expedition just feels like too much car for her so we most often see her driving her Impala while talking about how she needs to take her Expedition out to practice driving it. Except for the whole "driving it" part, she's done a pretty good job of learning her new car but she's had a few hiccups here and there. For instance, she recently took it on a road trip to Dallas and, while she was on the road, I got a few phone calls from her that she wasn't aware that she was making via bluetooth so I had several road noise voicemails. I could tell that one of the calls was intentional because I could hear the road noise and then could hear her exclaim, completely exasperated "WHAT THE HELL??" I must have listened to that voicemail 300 times, each time laughing like it was the first. I love it when her car perplexes her so I hope she doesn't figure it all out TOO quickly.

As I pulled in the parking lot next to the gym in Conroe where Emma was cheering, I saw my mom's Expedition. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaan how did I know it was hers?

Because the tailgate was wide open. And I mean WIDE open.

I called her to tell her and she came out from the gym to see for herself. I figured that she had accidentally hit the button on her remote as she was walking away from her car - you know, something normal like that. But this is my mom so WHY would I expect the explanation to be so ordinary and mundane? No, friends - with Nora, you should always expect something MUCH more entertaining than run-of-the-mill. Here is the exchange that followed in the parking lot . . .

Mom: Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaatherine? [pointing to the WIDE OPEN tailgate] Is that how it was when you got here?
Me: Yeah!
Mom: Well, it was like that the whole way here then!
Me: What?? On the HIGHWAY??
Mom: [Her eyebrows slightly knitted and yet with a look of "it's all becoming clear to me now."] Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees. People just kept honking at me and honking at me.
Me: Wha- . . . [laughing too hard to respond]
Mom: An 18 wheeler honked so loud I thought he was going to drive right up my butt.
Me: [bending over because my abs are hurting]
Mom: I just kept thinking "I should have test driven this car before I bought it because you can REALLY hear the road noise in this car."
Me: [throwing my head back, wiping tears from my face]
Mom: Now I know why all those people were honking at me. And why they didn't seem as loud once they passed me.
Me: [holding my sides, trying to draw breath, and pulling out my phone to call as many people as I can]
Mom: Well . . . that's really something . . .

Yes it is, Mom. Yes it is.

And so are YOU.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Until we meet again . . .

Hey, friends! I'm in trial this week so I won't be able to post again until next week. Since I'm not gonna be able to try to make you laugh on my own this week, I thought I'd share a couple of videos with you that made ME laugh this week . . . I meeeeeeeeeeeeeean, a couple of weeks ago when I wasn't getting ready for trial . . . :)

You've probably seen this one but it just never gets old for me:

Here's another one that cracked me up:

I researched it and found out that it's a comedy sketch from a Dutch comedian but it's still funny. His laughter is just so contagious . . . and I have DEFINITELY been there!

I'll be back next week. Until then, I hope you miss me LOTS!!!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Peepers creepers!

I was at Lupe Tortilla's tonight for my birthday dinner with my dear friend Tracy - I do love stretching out the birthday celebration as long as I possibly can. Anyway, toward the end of our evening, I excused myself from the table just long enough to run to the ladies' room. I walked into the restroom and saw a little boy crawling on the ground, peeking his head under one of the stalls, and then crawling all the way into that stall. I hoped that he actually knew the person in that stall but I wasn't sure. But I was faced with a more immediate problem: I had to go REEEEEEALLY bad and the only stall open was the one next to the crawling peeper. Should I wait? Should I risk it?

Mother nature won.

So I went into the open stall and played out the potential scenario in my head. No doubt he would peep his little head into my stall but which side would he attack me from? And what would I do? Would I kick him involuntarily and then claim self-defense? Would I step on his fingers to discourage further entry? Would I give him the evil eye and hope I scared him enough that he'd throw it in reverse and back the heck out? Probably not. I know myself well enough to know that I would say something loudly, in a SUPER cheery voice to get his mother's attention. Something like "Well, hi there! Where did you come from?! Are you looking for some toilet paper?! You know, in a few years you could get 10 to 20 for this!" Something to that effect.

Luckily, the little guy didn't peep in so I did all that worrying for nothing.

And now you've done all this reading for nothing . . .

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My week in pictures

As I've mentioned about a million times, I was in Corpus last week for a conference. I had kind of a weird internet situation (do NOT get me started on THAT) so I didn't get to blog each night to tell you about my trip. So I thought that I'd hit the highlights with you through some pictures . . .

We left Houston on Tuesday morning and headed down south with a bag of peanut M&Ms and two Oatmeal Creme Pies (thank you, Christina and Cara!). On our way down there, we stopped at the Buccee's in El Campo . . . to get Beaver Nuggets, of course! On our way in, we saw bags of recleaned deer corn:

Why is it re-cleaned? Why wasn't the first cleaning enough? Interestingly, the fact that they call it "re-cleaned" makes me doubt its cleanliness. It makes me wonder why the first cleaning wasn't enough and makes me worried that the second cleaning maybe didn't do the job, either. To make matters worse, it smelled like a dead animal. I rest my case.

At that same Buccee's, my lifelong search for my dreamy hunk o' love finally ended. I finally found one. A big one . . .

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND he's made of nougat. Does it get any better than that? I think not, my friends. I think not.

We got to Corpus and checked into our hotel. I went up to my room, which smelled like someone had been chain smoking in there with about 27 wet cats. Yes, 27. It was horrible. Luckily, they were able to move me to a different room that smelled MUCH better. The only problem was that it was a handicapped room so the shower nozzle hit me at shoulder level, the sink was so low I had to practically do the splits to see myself in the mirror, and the toilet was high. It was an experience getting ready in there each morning. And I had to re-adjust to my toilet height when I got back home. That was interesting.

The first night we were there, we ate at a restaurant called Catfish Charlie's. We had read about it in a little magazine that was in our hotel rooms and the write-up said "Catfish Charlie's motto is 'Come on and have some good food and meet some great people in a comfortable family atmosphere!'" That's the longest motto I've ever seen. In fact, it's not a motto at all - it's an invitation and I thought we should refuse to go on principle alone . . . I mean, if a restaurant doesn't know what a good motto is, can I trust them to fry up a hush puppy properly? But, after some discussion, we decided to eat there anyway because they deep fry everything and didn't spell Catfish with a K. I hate that.

The next day, we went to the Texas State Aquarium which was an interesting experience. I got to touch the back of a sting ray and thought that was really cool. Then the guide got on the microphone and said that we should make sure to wash our hands afterward and that she was going to tell us something about the sting ray that would make us understand why. I was at the antibacterial station before she finished that sentence. I don't think that sting ray cleanliness is a proper subject for a cliffhanger . . .

I saw a couple of signs at the aquarium that I thought were interesting.

First, the sign about the anaconda:

They were going for this authentic jungle look so they had these wooden handwritten signs everywhere. I don't object to that. But I mean, really . . . can we work on the handwriting? And the slope of the lines? And can we try to plan out our sentences so that we don't have to squeeze words in at the bottom?

But my favorite was this one:

What is an ocelot? This comparison is useless to me! I see from the use of the exclamation point that this is an impressive fact but what does it mean? Was there not a more commonly known animal that is roughly the same size as an ocelot? Maybe a deer? A cow? An elephant? Is the ocelot so uniquely sized that this is the only animal available to properly describe the boas abilities? I think that this aquarium sign writer was showing off . . .

As if that wasn't bad enough, we went to dinner the next night at a Mexican restaurant that made everyone sick. I noticed something interesting on the menu:

What is a Ladies "Specail"? I don't know. But I don't think I want mine on a menu . . .

So what did I learn from being in Corpus for a few days? I learned that Corpus needs me, friends. Catfish Charlie's needs help with mottos (how about "Catfish you have to "C" to believe"?), the aquarium needs someone to approve its signs, and Kiko's Mexican restaurant needs an editor.

Perhaps I should go and offer my services.

And I do NOT mean my specail . . .