30 March 2011

Monster Truck Jam!

There are a few things you don't get a chance to do when living in Europe....but now we live in Texas.

When our friend Kyle suggested we all go to the Monster Truck Show, we said he must certainly be joking.

He was not......and we went....and it was freakin awesome!

We had a blast! It was loud...and there were giant trucks jumping over stuff!

I can't believe how much we enjoyed it...I guess when you are sitting with 25,000 other people you can pretty much enjoy anything...but Monster Trucks are cool.

above, the crowd favorite "Gravedigger"

We all picked our favorites. Kelly's was "El Toro Loco" because he had horns on his truck.

After a few rounds of 1 on 1 races around a course, they got into the freestyle competition which was the real fun. Every time someone rolled their truck or flipped over the place went NUTS!

It was a great evening indeed.

below, Kelly and Kyle

Yeeeeeeee Hawwwwwwww  !

27 March 2011

Ngorongoro Crater

The crater from above, just after sunrise, before the sun has burned off the mist.

We drive down into the crater, seeing it stretch away, filling the distance.  It's early, still cold enough for sweatshirts and the day holds promise......what will we see?

These guys showed up in the first thirty minutes.  Good start.

 The crater has the world's densest population of lions.  Lucky us!

Casually sauntering along.

Walked right up to and around our trucks as if we weren't even there.  

I could have leaned out and touched her.  She could have jumped up and bit me.

There was one female and two young males.

You can see his mane just starting to grow.

They were magnificent.  I could have watched them all day.  But they moved on and thus, so did we.

Later we saw this fully grown mating pair in the distance.  Our guide told us a mating pair will remove themselves from the pride for up to a week and have sex about every twenty minutes.  That's dedication.

Other Ngorongoro Crater sightings couldn't quite live up to our first one.  But they still gave a thrill.

Our first hyena.

This triumvirate of zebras.

An abundance of  vegetarians...

...loitering at the watering hole

We saw plenty more that day but rather than tell you about it now, 
I'm going to go look at more lion photos.


(As mentioned on previous posts, please assume for all Africa related content that if my personal photos didn't cut the mustard I may have borrowed a picture or two from one of my fellow travelers' Facebook albums.  Anyone seeking further clarification on this policy should consult with Management.)

Houston: The Land of Highways

They are everywhere.

Overpasses, underpasses, exit ramps and elevated roadways.

And they are multiplying like gremlins fed after midnight and sprinkled with water.

We call the big entrance ramps SWOOPS and nervously chuckle 
"Aaaahhh earthquake!"  each time we are driving on, under or around one.

The good ol' fashioned clover leaf is a thing of the past.  Outdated and obsolete when every 
household has multiple vehicles and the city is growing faster than a time-lapsed chia pet commercial.

Here we are Texas-sized and each highway has six lanes minimum.  And you know what?
  We still get stuck in traffic.


24 March 2011

Scenes from a 10 Day Road Trip

China, Texas
population 1,112

All six buildings of the Mobile, Alabama skyline

Battleship Park, Alabama

How you know you've reached Florida.

A friend's little piece of heaven. Vero Beach, Florida

Motor Home shopping for shits n giggles.  Middle-of-Nowhere, Florida.

Hindu Temple, Tampa.

A legendary St Paddy's Day meal.

A Louisiana traffic jam.

A pretty vista.  Mississippi?

A cool white-tiled tunnel soothes the eyes after all the bright sunshine.

Heading home, just like us.


04 March 2011

The Little Five

When talking about African safaris, you can't swing a cat without hitting a reference to The Big Five.  Lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and cape buffalo; they are the superstars of game driving.  Originally dubbed The Big Five by game hunters, these days they are the first boxes most safari viewers want to tic, the main photos they want to click.  We saw them all, several times, and they were glorious.  But I'd like to take a moment here to talk about what my fellow travelers and I dubbed The Little Five.

Mongooses (Mongeese?)

Somewhat more common, though no less exotic.


Perhaps not glorious, but certainly entertaining.


Seeing them more frequently gave us a chance to get bored with them, observe and learn more about their behaviors and then fall back in love with them all over again.  For instance did you know that warthogs are so silly and unfocused that when frightened and running for their lives, they'll tear ass for a minute or two, forget what they are running from, stop abruptly, not look back to see if the forgotten danger still exists, and just start eating.  What a collection of loveable galoots.  Plus they have awesome mullets (you should click on above photo to appreciate the full hair-band glory.)


We made some other Five lists.  The Sexy Five, The Tasty Five and The Deadly Five to name a few.  The dik-dik made an appearance on The Tasty Five as well as The Little Five.  They are so teeny tiny they must be tender and tasty too.

Guinea Fowl

But it was the guinea fowl that really captured my imagination. They are comical. Ridiculous even. Not particularly smart, nor very good looking, they are found in almost every country I visited, running around squawking. When you are driving through a game park and a flock of them are in your truck's way, they bellyache and jump and generally act like Chicken Little when the sky is falling.  Yet in all their panic they don't get very far. They are terrible at running away. In fact, they are even worse than the warthog.  The whole group will move on a few yards only to squawk and panic again when they, to their surprise, find the truck right behind them once more.

So their silliness is what first got me but it was the stylized versions of the guinea fowl that you see in every craft market in Africa that really gave them a special little corner of my heart.

Here's a metal sculpture found at one of my favorite campsites.

And a delightful little hen carved in wood that I brought home with me from Africa to remind me that it's not always the superstars that hold the most entertainment, sometimes it's The Little Things.


02 March 2011

Necessity is the mother of all acquisition?

*editor's note:  Foul language may be found below.  You have been warned

An official address change with the United States Postal Service warrants a deluge of flyers, coupons and special one-time-only-move-in offers in your mailbox.  I don't see how the USPS is going broke - they should be raking it in with all the selling of personal info they've got going on.  Stamps schmamps - they've got the mailing list industry nailed down.

Today's bundle of useless mail included a coupon from Bed, Bath & Beyond for 20% off my entire purchase. Whoa!  Hold on there B,B & B!  You don't want to be giving away the whole store in one go like that.  With these kind of discounts you'll be finding yourself in the chapter 11 line right next to the Post Office.

Oh, wait. I forgot.  Bed, Bath & Beyond is ridiculously overpriced.

Moving on.

Let us then change focus from bogus bargains to Bed, Bath & Beyond's handy NECESSITY CHECKLIST which they thoughtfully included along with the coupon.  Their suggestion is that I get all I need in one shopping trip, taking advantage of their generous coupon at the same time, thereby outfitting my home AND saving money (though possibly bankrupting myself) in one fell swoop.  How thoughtful.

But let's review their version of necessity, shall we?  If you need to get a beverage or use the bathroom, now might be a good time, because this list is LARGE.  Go ahead, I'll wait.............


Since the NECESSITY LIST took up an entire 9x11 page, I will alter B,B & B's format a bit, in the interest of saving space (Why? This is the internet!  Isn't space infinite?  I dunno, I am the daughter of depression era parents and saving is always good.  Even if it is the saving of virtual space in a limitless cloud of ether that exists only in theory and possibly on a quadrillion microchips across the world if my limited understanding of this weirdo alien technology known as the world wide web is accurate.)

My comments will be in bold, but I think that will become obvious quite quickly; an ad exec for the home furnishings industry I will never be. On to the list:

-drapery panels
-drapery rods & finials
-roman shades
-wood blinds

REALLY!?!  I am in an apartment so the windows are already covered with basic blinds.  But even in a house the only real necessity would be cheap sheets tacked across windows to keep out the sunlight and the gaze of your Nosey Nelly neighbor.  The rest is just luxury.  We don't NEED six layers of window treatments do we?

-carbon monoxide detector (Wha?!?!?)
-shelving units
-drawer organizers
-garment bags
-garment racks
-shoe racks
-smoke detector
-storage boxes

Don't the drawers themselves actually function as organizers? Like socks in this one, undies in the other?  And garment bags?! What kind of wardrobe do they think I have?  I keep all my gowns in cold storage downtown.  Duh!   And Garment racks? Wait - I thought closets had that covered.  You have a closet, you put stuff in it. What do you need the racks for?

-air purifier
-broom & dustpan
-iron (Don't burden yourself, Downey Wrinkle Release and a dryer will suffice.)
-ironing board (See comment above.)
-ironing board cover (ibid, or whatever.)
-laundry basket
-step stool (As a short person I am in full agreement.)
-trash cans
-utility shelf set (I don't even know what this means.)
-vacuums  (We need more than one vacuum? C'mon!!!!)

-air mattress (necessity only if you do not have a bed.  If you do not have a bed - Bed, Bath & Beyond is probably not interested in having you as a customer.)
-bed ensembles
-duvet covers
-fitted sheets
-flat sheets
-pillow shams  (Shams are NEVER a necessity and often a nuisance.  Am I supposed to sleep on them? Or remove them before going to sleep only to put them on again in the morning?  I never had a handle on the shams sham.)
-pillow cases

Correct me if I am wrong but don't items three through eight actually fall under the umbrella of item two? Bed Ensembles.  And hello? The word ensembles?  Feck off you pretentious farts.  I don't even have ensembles that I wear, I'm lucky if my socks match.  My furniture certainly does not get an ensemble.

PILLOWS & PADS (Really?  This is a separate entry from bedding?  Really?)
-bed pillows
-featherbed (This SCREAMS luxury, not necessity.  But maybe that's just me.)
-mattress pad

-bath towels
-bath sheets (Aren't these just glorified bath towels?)
-hand towels (Do we really need three towel entries?)
-shower curtain
-shower curtain rings
-shower curtain liner  (It really is a crime these three things are not packaged and sold together.)
-tub mats
-shower head (You should probably go to the Home Depot for this.)
-soap dish
-bath rugs
-shower organizer (Pray tell, exactly what organizing must one do IN THE SHOWER?  Can't one just clean oneself and call it mission accomplished?)
-space saver (I am calling bullshit on this generic list item that could mean a hundred different things at B,B & B.  In fact, since you aren't sure which whizzbang they mean, you should probably buy one of each.)
-bath hardware
-toothbrush holder
-tissue holder (OR you could be satisfied with the box the tissues ALREADY COME IN!!!)
-wastebasket (Not to be confused with the trashcans entry under CLEANING.)

-bedside lamp
-desk lamp (What if you don't have a desk?)
-floor lamp
-floral arrangements (This on a NECESSITY LIST?)
-folding chairs
-folding tables  (Folding table & chairs are necessities only if you are hosting a baby shower, or my family for Thanksgiving.  Otherwise, go get a kitchen table - you'll be fine.)
-framed art  (Necessity my foot!)
-kitchen cart (I have been rendered speechless.  A kitchen cart makes the MUST HAVE list?)
-wall shelves
-media storage  (Bah! Shoe boxes work fine.)
-snack tables (Different than a folding table how?)
-table lamp  (Again with the lamps?)

My take on this portion of the NECESSITY LIST is that Bed, Bath & Beyond simply listed every piece of furniture they sell.  Just count yourself lucky they don't have chaise lounges, retiring chairs, fainting benches or chifforobes.)

DINNERWARE  (Never fear, we are more than halfway through.  But you better go grab another shopping cart.)
-coffee mugs
-dinner plates
-pasta set
-salad bowl
-serving bowls
-serving platters
-soup/cereal bowls
-hostess set

Ok, there is not much I can say about this portion.  This stuff really does come in handy.  But what exactly is a pasta set?  And a hostess set?  If I don't know what something is do I really need it?  And if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it do they still need a snack table?

-cookware sets
-fry pan
-grill pan
-roasting pan
-pot rack (Notice how they include things to hold the things you are buying from their NECESSITY LIST on the NECESSITY LIST?)
-tea kettle

At first glance I thought I spotted an unforgivable omission.  What about a sauce pot?  I can make my pasta in the stockpot but where will I heat my Ragu?  Then I realized that item #1 should include a sauce pot.  Actually, item #1 should include items 3,4 & 6 as well, thereby rendering their inclusion on this list redundant.

CUTLERY (Not to be confused with dinnerware or cookware.)
-knife block set
-steak knives (Often included in a knife block set, n'est-ce pas?)

-hand mixer
-stand mixer
-toaster oven  (Both a toaster and a toaster oven?  Really Bed, Bath & Beyond?  I think you're just trying to squeeze an extra thirty bucks outta us poor suckers.  "But Honey, they say we NEED both!")

Overall reaction to this section?  All nice to have but I own two of the above seven and I make out ok.

I can't even touch this one.  I am getting weary of B,B & B's hard sell.  Trust me when I tell you this portion of the NECESSITY LIST includes damn near everything else Bed, Bath & Beyond sells that has not already been included on the list.

-basic drinkware
-wine rack  (I tried a wine rack once.  Couldn't keep the wine around long enough to justify a rack to hold it.  I'm betting many of you are in the same boat.  Skip the wine rack.  Top o' the fridge works fine.)
-wine glasses
-beer mugs

My version of the GLASSWARE list would read as follows:

-dish cloths
-kitchen rug
-kitchen towels
-over mitts
-pot holders

I'll let you in on a little trade secret, pot holders can and will double as oven mitts for no extra pay.

-napkin rings  (I CALL BULLSHIT!! I am calling it loud and hard.  I am calling it from the rooftops, the mountain peaks and standing on top of your chifforobe.  Napkin rings are as much of a nuisance as pillow shams.)
-placemats  (See above.)

And that concludes the list of what Bed, Bath & Beyond considers to be necessities in your home.  I don't mean to offend anybody with my anti-consumerism rant.  I appreciate a beautifully appointed home as much as the next gal.  Maybe even more so.  The truth is I used to have all of the above, AND MORE!  Now I am just bitter and angry that I have to go about acquiring it all again to achieve my slice of American Dream Pie.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go add a pie-server to my Bed, Bath & Beyond shopping list.