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I Bet My Lunch is Better than Yours

I have a confession to make.

It’s not like this confession or this confession, where my mistakes were embarrassing but innocent, yet they were just that – mistakes.

No, this is something different entirely.

This is something that could be considered a flaw of character.

I know.

I didn’t think I had any of those, either.

Well maybe this isn’t so much a character flaw, as it is a taste flaw.

I can’t believe I’m about to admit this on this blog.  My foodie friends read this blog.

But those of you who know me – like know me, know me – are already aware of this fun little fact.

One of my absolute, all-time, mouth-is-watering-right-now-just-thinking-about it foods is…

A hot dog.

Correction – a good hot dog.

But I’ll eat the bad ones, too.

Justin and I decided to go out to dinner last night because our heater is broken, it’s unseasonably cold, and refusing to conform to what most people would do in our situation, which is call someone to fix it and eat Ramen noodles in an attempt to save as much money as possible for something that could potentially do catastrophic damage to our already-dwindling savings account (more on that later), we decided to pretend that the problem didn’t exist and go try a restaurant we’ve been wanting to try for quite some time.

*This problem is much more difficult to ignore today, while I’m sitting here typing with the very real fear that the tip of my nose is going to freeze off, which, if you’ve seen my schnoz, wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to my face aesthetically speaking, but I’m pretty positive it wouldn’t feel all too pleasant.

The restaurant is called The Steele Pig, and is located a mere 25 minutes from our house, which is remarkably close for an actual chef-owned restaurant ’round these parts.  We didn’t even know it existed until a couple of months ago.  It’s incredibly understated, hard to see from the street, minimally decorated, doesn’t have an overabundance of tables, and none of that matters because holy crap, it’s a real restaurant less than an hour away from our house!

Now, I’m not a “foodie blogger.”  Unlike my friends Steven and Matty, I can’t wax poetic about chef credentials and food names I can’t properly announce and why certain reds are better served in a tulip glass because the liquid will hit my not-so-refined palette in just the right place and are you still talking because I’m seriously trying to eat over here.

So I’m not even going to try.

All I can tell you is that while there are some things on the menu that sounded absolutely delicious (crawfish cakes or a fried green tomato BLT, anyone?), I knew my choice had been made for me when our server told us about their $12 hot dog they had on special that night.

That’s right – $12 for a hot dog.

I knew it had to be good.

I waited anxiously with my tasty $5 mojito, and we downed some fried pork wontons that were gone before I could snap a photo.

*All of these photos were taken with my crappy camera phone, by the way.  My apologies.  I tried to be discrete because I know Justin loves being seen with the girl taking pictures of her food.  I only wished I had my giant DSLR to take better photos…

But then – then – came this:

A giant, delicious, 100% beef (I think) dog on an egg bun topped with incredibly tender pulled pork and homemade coleslaw with my choice of either a traditional red barbecue sauce or a North Carolina vinegar-based sauce.

Oh. My. God.

I had to eat this with a fork.

It was also served with homemade applesauce and incredible herb and garlic fries.


In fact, I think I’m going to go devour the other half right now before I go in search of a warm place (maybe a bookstore?) to spend the afternoon.

Let’s hope the heater fixer guy has good – and not expensive – news, shall we?

The Steele Pig on Urbanspoon

Somewhere in Middle America…

Well, I’m here.  I’ve been here for a while now.




Omaha, Nebraska.

You know… Omaha Steaks.  The Cornhuskers.  Wait, they’re in Lincoln.  But Omaha has the College World Series.  And umm… Omaha Steaks.

My family moved here when I was in seventh grade, but we (my mother, father and sister), have each since scattered to stake claims in other states across this vast country.  My mom is currently conquering the arid, rugged, natural beauty of the west; my dad is likely freezing his nuts off in the frigid north; my sister’s getting sun-drunk on the sandy surface of our southernmost beaches; and I’ve been hugging tight to the east coast for quite some time now.

Justin’s family, on the other hand, is still here.  His parents were born here (or thereabouts), and many of his siblings will likely stay here and raise their own kids here and their kids will probably grow up to raise their own kids here as well.

It’s that kind of place.

It eats families like mine alive, but the strong ones – the ones with a backbone and the will to survive – tend to thrive in a place like this.

You know what I forgot until I came back?  Everybody here is all cornfed and happy.  They’re polite.  Seriously.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a rude Nebraskan.  And Omaha is positively exploding with culture.  It may take a while for the trends to get here, but once they do, the citizens are not deprived.  Even the vast suburban expanses are peppered with strip malls and commercial developments offering every convenience imaginable, from sushi and pad Thai to acupuncture and pedicures.  You can usually find what you crave within a fifteen minute drive.

The homes are huge.

It’s truly the epitome of the typical American Dream.

I’ll let you decide whether that’s a good or a bad thing.

But I will tell you that for me, just for today, it was a good thing.  Because I had a craving.  A craving that could only be filled by a restaurant franchise found here in Nebraska, with maybe one or two that have wandered into a couple of the surrounding states.

Yes, it’s fast-food.  But I’m still in full-on Christmas Vacation binge mode and you can’t make me feel guilty.  I won’t let you.

And this, my friends, was pure indulgence.

Picture, if you will, a fluffy pastry pocket.  Warm, doughy, and baked to perfection.  The pastry pocket is stuffed with a variety of ground beef, cheeses, and any other ingredient they have available whose taste you wish to explore.  Today for me, it was a lovely mushroom and swiss combination.

And the fries?  Crinkled perfection.


This is a Runza sandwich.  (For some reason mine was split down the side instead of the traditional pocket.  If any native Omaha-ans are reading this, could you please explain this phenomenon?  Is this a new thing they’re doing, or is it some freakish accident unwittingly prescribed to my sandwich by a knife-wielding Runza kitchen newbie?)

If you ever find yourself inexplicably wandering around this flat state I once called home, you simply must go find yourself a Runza restaurant and buy a Runza sandwich.

Then you must eat it.

But now that the Runza is safely (I hope) making its way through my digestive tract, I’m discovering there’s not much else here for me.  To Justin, this is still home – the place that fills him with feelings of nostalgia and warmth and recognition every time he returns.  His parents still live in the home in which he grew up.  The familiar smells of his dad’s cooking are still found in the same kitchen; the lighthearted sound of his mom’s laugh is still found in the same halls.

If this is something you have, then you know what I’m talking about.  If this is something you don’t have, then you really know what I’m talking about.  Missing something you can’t get back is a bit harder than missing something you can.  And it’s a hell of a lot harder than missing something you never had.

I lose a little interest here every time I come.  I never drive past my old house.  I don’t visit the same bars or restaurants.  I don’t see anyone from high school.  My phone doesn’t ring anymore when I’m in town.

Is that strange?  Or is that healthy moving on?

I don’t know how I feel about it anymore.

I don’t feel about it anymore.

In their song so aptly called Omaha, I think the Counting Crows said it best about this place that to me, once felt like the center of the universe – a thriving fairground with bright lights and brand new roller coasters and the best funnel cakes in three states but has since, only in my mind, turned to a state of dilapidated neglect and disrepair:

I think you better turn your ticket in
And get your money back at the door.

Casinos and Oreos and Gators – Oh My!

Merry Christmas Eve!

I’m supposed to be getting ready for holiday festivities and travel.  I’m supposed to be doing laundry so I actually have clean garments to sport in front of family and friends who aren’t accustomed to the grime-encrusted Katie I learned to be comfortable with while living in Costa Rica.  I’m supposed to be cleaning my house because I have this freakish NEED to come home to a clean house after I leave for a bit so I’m less tempted to just dump my crap all over the floor.  (And if someone were to break in while I’m gone, it would be so embarrassing for him to see what slobs we are.  Not that we have anything worth stealing.  Unless you like framed personal photos and broken electronics.)

So what am I doing instead?  Why, perusing Facebook, my favorite blogs, and writing this post, of course.  While sitting in front of the fire.  It’s too cold to work!


I miss Costa Rica.


I miss Florida.

Wine – I mean Whine.

Aside from the first rainy day, the weather was perfect in south Florida.  It was so nice to get out of the house and do some of my favorite things – things having anything to do with socializing with strangers I don’t need to impress, relaxing with an excellent draft while listing to live music (by the way, I definitely found a local Miami band whose sound I really enjoyed – Gluttonous Feast), tasting new kinds of food, and finding new appreciation for nature and the beauty that’s always surrounding us.

Oh, and I got to see Christmas with palm trees.

This is Gluttonous Feast.  Kinda jazzy, chill… pretty much perfect for my mood that night.

Gluttonous Feast

Took this photo with my phone.

We also hit the Hard Rock Casino.  My sister was so excited when she stuck $1 into a machine and $20 came out.  I was less thrilled when I stuck $5 in a machine and $0 came out.

But that didn’t stop me from playing the giant guitar.

I wasn’t as good as Gluttonous Feast.

But I think my favorite part of the entire trip was our visit to the Everglades National Park.

There were lots of turtles…

Everglades Turtle

And some really groovy birds…

And gators.

Oh yes, there were gators.

Grinning, sunbathing, apparently Florida sun-drunk gators who – thank God – were only too happy to pose for pictures without biting my face off.

Did I ever tell you that I used to catch alligators as part of my job when I worked for the Air Force in Georgia?  No?  Well I did.  But I’ll admit I felt a little less comfortable this time without any equipment or the people who did all the actual gator-catching work along with me (Hey guys, I know you read this sometimes!).

We couldn’t have asked for better weather to enjoy the trails and explore the park…

And pose for silly photo-ops.

Even though it was a little cool outside, we still made sure we hit the beach.

The beach had crack.

And we tested our athleticism by going kayaking.

We may or may not have knocked over a directional sign and gotten lost.

The park guide may or may not have had to get on his boat to come find us.

We may or may not have been covered in river muck.

But in the end, we emerged triumphant.

And only a little sore.

Before I left Florida, my sister took me to a bar and forced me to eat fried Oreos.

That’s right – Oreos battered and deep-fried and served with ice cream and a rich chocolate drizzle.  You know, because they weren’t rich enough.

Blurry picture taken with  my phone.

They were so gross.

But so good.

Much like I probably would have tasted to this gator.


HGTV Lies!

This post is about painting.  And Florida.  But not about painting in Florida, because that would be silly.

I’m leaving tomorrow for some much-needed sister love in Miami.  As evidenced by the pasty, translucent skin of my underarm in the above photo, my sister isn’t the only one I’m craving to see.  Oh Sun, how I’ve missed you!  My Costa Rica tan lines are but a faint shadow of their former selves.  I look outside my window and everything is gray.  I need your vibrancy and colors back in my life.

But more on that in a minute.

First, I must dispel a vicious lie – a lie that’s been portrayed to innocent HGTV viewers over, and over and over again.  Even if you don’t watch HGTV, it’s likely you’re still a victim of this heinous untruth, because it’s often unwittingly spread by various self-proclaimed home improvement experts (aka. people who watch HGTV on a regular basis) to their unsuspecting friends and family.

And here it is, the thing you’re likely to hear at least once during any given hour of HGTV viewing:

Painting a room in your home is one of the EASIEST and LEAST EXPENSIVE things you can do to improve its aesthetic and value.  Oh, and don’t worry if you paint the room and hate the color, because guess what?  You can always paint it AGAIN!  Yippee!!

I just have one thing to say:  Clearly, anyone who can speak these words with any type of honest conviction has never painted an entire room by him/herself.

Okay, I have more than one thing to say, so I’m just gonna say it.  Painting takes work, my friends.  It takes foresight, furniture removal, special tools, patience, and often a certain type of meticulous skill for which most people are unprepared because they’re continuously lied to about just how easy it is!

And inexpensive?  Not really.  You need to invest in decent brushes that won’t expel bristles into your paint, paint that properly cooperates with your walls, painter’s tape (if you don’t trust yourself to cleanly cut-in without getting paint on your trim), drop cloths (if you don’t trust yourself not to spill), a roller tray, and rollers.  Depending on the size of your room, all of this can add up.

And unless you have a painting buddy, it takes a bit of time and can be difficult to stay motivated.

Quick note about the above photo:  Clearly, I have no concern about using a drop cloth because that carpet needs to be replaced anyway.  And that weird beige thing my dog is sitting on?  That’s the wingless, legless, headless remains of a rubber chicken.  And the purple bits scattered around the floor?  Let’s just say the rubber duck fared even worse than the chicken.

Have I thoroughly discouraged you from painting yet?  Okay, I’m sorry.  That wasn’t my intention.  If it’s any consolation, I’ve painted most of the rooms in our house (Justin does the ceilings – lucky guy).  It’s totally doable.  I’m just tired of seeing people go into the project with unrealistic expectations.

When I get back from Miami, I’ll write up a nice little post about some of the painting tricks I’ve learned over the past few years.  When you know what you’re doing, the task isn’t terribly daunting.  And with the proper skill, you can save a bit of money on supplies.  BUT, if you’re anything like me, you still wouldn’t exactly call it fun.

What would I call fun?  Visiting my little sister in Miami!

It’s been over a year since I visited Kelly, and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this trip.

Last time I rode a boat.

And looked at Christmas lights.

And almost got in a fight with a feisty Latina.  I don’t care how old you are – cutting in line is simply not cool.  But that’s a story for another time.

Who knows what Miami has in store for me this year?  All I know is there will be drinks.  There will be music.  And there will be CAKE, because my baby sister is turning 24!

Catch ya on the flip-side.

When You Wish Upon a Tree

Yesterday I lost everything.  Well not everything, everything.  I still have my health, my family and friends, and all of my material possessions.  Except one.  My external hard drive.  Actually, I still have the hard drive – or rather, the piece of plastic shell with an attached USB cord that you would look at and say, “Yep, that’s a hard drive.”  Except it’s  not.  Because yesterday it decided to eat my life.

It had things on there – important things, at least to me, that I will never be able to replace.  Photos from my trip to Costa Rica and paragraphs I added to my 9-page novel in bouts of drunken inspiration.  Those kinds of things.

Before you say anything, I realize the perils of using a backup system as my primary means of storage.  Now, more than ever.  So that’s fine.  Blame me.  But do we ever get to question – just every once in a while – why a $100 piece of electronic equipment can’t even last AN ENTIRE F*CKING YEAR WITHOUT GOING TO SHIT?!??!??!?$!*#&(!*!*&@^!(@&*~)

I’m just wondering.

But I’m actually not as upset as I feel like I should be.  I’m freakishly numb about the whole thing.  Maybe it’s because I’m still holding out hope that the  information can be saved.  Maybe Justin’s stick-it-in-the-freezer trick will work on the 8th try or my mom’s super computer-savvy boyfriend can figure it out.  If not, I can just defrost it and boil it up for dinner tonight – the makings of my soul served up on my favorite white platter from Bed, Bath and Beyond.  It’s low-cal, too.

In reality, there are many worse things that could happen.  And punching my fist through a wall – which is what I’d like to do but its such a guy thing to do and I kind of like my knuckles anyway – just isn’t going to fix it.  I was reminded of this when I wandered into a sculpture garden off to the side of the pedestrian mall in front of the capitol building in D.C. last Tuesday.

It mostly had strange statues…

Hirshhorn Museum Statue

And one I wouldn’t mind being for a day…

(I only still have these pictures, by the way, because I’m about as neglectful at deleting things off my memory card as I am about backing up my hard drive.  Maybe if I’d spent as much money on memory cards as I did on the hard drive, I’d still have my Costa Rica pictures.)

But the garden also had a tree.  A wish tree.  (I’m willing to overlook the fact that this tree is an art installation by Yoko Ono, the woman who could arguably be blamed for the breakup of the Beatles.  Because the tree is cool.)

Theoretically, spectators are supposed to whisper their wishes to the tree.  The sign didn’t say whether the wishes were supposed to come true – it just said to whisper them.  Apparently some people didn’t feel that was enough, so they scribbled their wishes on pieces of scrap paper and stuck them on the branches of the tree.

Some wishes were straightforward, general pleas for survival.

National Wish Tree

Some were a little more specific, a little less necessary for survival.

Some were simply a sign of the times.

And others were hauntingly cryptic.

But the point is, not one of the scraps, as far as I could tell, asked for a magically repaired hard drive.  I suppose it is a little shallow.  And definitely not worth the paper.

But if I were there right now, I still might whisper a little wish to the tree.  Nothing as ridiculous as asking it to magically repair my hard drive, of course:

Dear wish tree,

Please help me rewind time and have the sense to back up all of my data like everyone always said I should before my hard drive inevitably crashes, effectively destroying months of hard work and memories.  Thank you.

National Wish Tree, Yoko Ono

Sounds reasonable, no?

The Bigger, the Better. Right?

Several days ago we packed up the in-laws and my cold germs and struck out on the road for our nation’s capital.  Not one of us had ever been, and considering Justin and I live a ridiculously-close 6 hour drive from D.C., we decided that now, while the air is brisk-not-cold and the leaves are golden-not-gone and the sky is blue-not-gray, would be the perfect time to lay eyes on the sites that until recently I’d only recognized from high school history books, the occasional news story, and rerun episodes of the Simpsons.

We took a night tour of many, many of the landmarks for which D.C. is known.  Here are my gut reactions to a just few of our Capitol’s most famous monuments:

Abraham Lincoln – Cold, intimidating, foreboding.  This is the guy who was supposed to be the chummy, honest Abe?  I realize that many people – especially Americans – especially male Americans – equate size with grandeur, but really.  This nod to our nation’s 16th president strikes me as almost… overcompensating.  You know, like the 52-year-old man with a comb-over driving the cherry red T-bird through rush hour traffic.  I mean, he abolished slavery, for crying out loud.  He doesn’t need a T-bird to prove his accomplishments.  It just seems to me that the Abe I knew – the one I learned about in elementary school – would’ve wanted to be more… I don’t know… approachable?

Lincoln Memorial

Taken with my phone’s camera.  Sorry.

Lincoln Memorial

Taken with my phone’s camera.  Sorry.

World War II – Beautiful, peaceful, symbolic.  Fifty-six pillars stand in 2 semi-circles surrounding a large fountain.  It represents the 16 million people who served in the military during the war, as well as the 400,000 lives lost.  I’d like to have lunch there.  You just have to see it.

WWII Memorial

Taken with my phone’s camera.  Sorry.

FDR – Touching, quiet, understated.  This was my favorite memorial.  It’s like walking through a timeline strewn with his quotes and different symbology and statues representing the tough times through which he led our country.  It was a truly moving display, and I’d like to see it again in the daylight.

Taken with my phone’s camera.  Sorry.

FDR Memorial

Taken with my phone’s camera.  Sorry.

Washington Monument – Phallic.  Need I say more?

Washington Monument

If you’ve never been to D.C., I highly recommend a visit.  It helped me appreciate some of the things I learned in my history classes so long ago.  I just have 2 pieces of advice if you do decide to go:

1.  Don’t visit the Holocaust museum first thing in the morning.  It will definitely bring you down.

2.  Do ride the Metro – it’s public transportation at its finest, and the best way to study the locals in their natural element.

D.C. Metro

Taken with my phone’s camera.  Sorry.

Taken with my phone’s camera.  Sorry.


Meant to Be – Like Cheese Under a Mattress

When I was little, I used to ask my mom to drive really, really fast down this hill with a dip at the bottom on our way to daycare.  I got such a thrill from that tiny uprising in my stomach – that flutter that happens when your body is thrown off-kilter from gravity.

Why don’t we get the same happy rush when the same thing happens with our emotions?

Today was a helluva day.  You see, the airline on which Erin and I booked our tickets to Costa Rica is having some financial troubles, so they decided to cut back on their flights.  They decided to cut back on our flight just over a week ago.  The online booking agency through which we booked our flight *cough*CheapTickets*cough* did not notify us of this fun fact until a couple of days ago.

It was not until today that we were able to negotiate an itinerary change and get ourselves on another flight.  Because as much fun as it would be to get stuck in Cancun with unlimited funds, our funds are not, to say the least, unlimited.

Just a minute ago I received another call telling me the new flight has been canceled.  That fluttery, uprising thing happened with my emotions.  The guy from Cheap Tickets might have heard me cry.

In 2004 it took me over 27 straight hours to get from Valdosta, Georgia to Strasbourg, France.  I traveled by car, plane, subway, another subway, train, and another car to get there.

So it’s really no surprise to me that this happened.

The thing is, cliché as it sounds, I’ve learned to try to make the trip itself part of the fun.  I know it can be a pain in the ass to get somewhere – especially when I really, really, really want to just be there.  So I have to do what I can to enjoy the ride.

Even if what I really want to do is punch someone in the face.

After all, 27 hours is 27 hours.  That’s more than a full day of my life that I can never get back.

It took me a month to get from Omaha, Nebraska to Omaha, Nebraska (by way of Washington, California, Arizona, and Colorado, to name a few).  I traveled by Tracker.

When people ask what we’ll be doing during our free time in Costa Rica (if we ever get there), they seem surprised when I tell them we don’t know.  But it’s like the Gin Blossoms said, “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.

The same holds true, I believe, for a trip.  Too much planning can only lead to disappointment and missed opportunities.  We won’t be lethargic in our off-time – but we’ll always be open to something we didn’t plan – especially because we didn’t plan anything.

For the Tracker’s Wild Western Extravaganza road trip, I didn’t even know I’d be traveling with anyone until a couple of days prior.  I had just given notice to one of the restaurants that employed me, and a fellow server thought my trip sounded fun and asked to come along.

We had never really hung out, but Lizeth was a 5 foot-nothing feisty Latina who shared my freestyle travel philosophy.  She ended up coming with me all the way to San Francisco before flying home (she actually had to go back to work – sucka!), and it ended up being much more fun than if I’d gone alone.

At our own leisurely pace, we were able to explore Seattle’s colorful, energy-packed Pike Place fish market…

Pike Place market

…get a free bottle of whisky from a sketchy motel employee…

…hug a soldier…

..and even stumble across Seattle’s famous wall of gum one night when we became completely and utterly lost.  We didn’t know it was famous.  We just thought it was a gross (but cool) wall of gum.

It turned out getting lost on those downtown streets was a great way to learn our way around the city.

If we had been on an itinerary, we might not have climbed the Astoria Column and ruined our ability to walk without a limp for the next 2 days.  (Lesson learned?  Calves do not like spiral staircases.)

Astoria Column

Nor would we have stopped for a tour of the cheese factory in Tillamook, Oregon, land of, “Cheese, trees and ocean breeze!”  If we hadn’t stopped, I wouldn’t have been able to leave my souvenir brick of spoiling cheese under the mattress of that hotel in San Francisco.  (That’s another story for another time, but trust me – they deserved it.)

Tillamook Cheese Factory

Sure, you miss a couple of things when you don’t plan.  We’d hoped to catch the famous sandcastle contest in Cannon Beach, but instead all Lizeth caught was soaking wet pants when we had to wade across the bay to get into town.  All I caught was a kite to the back of the head.  No joke.

The sandcastles had already washed away with the tide.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

And without a GPS, the excitement of seeing the unmistakable bright orange peaks of the Golden Gate Bridge rising behind a hillside caused us to stick our heads out the windows like a couple of terriers attempting to taste the wind.

First glimpse of the Golden Gate

And even though we didn’t plan, we were still able to hit many of the major tourist attractions.

We drove through the giant Redwood tree:

Redwood Drive Through

We embraced the culture of Fremont:

And we soaked in the famous San Francisco architecture:

San Francisco Architecture

It’s comforting to know that as long as I have my mind, I’ll never forget the barefoot, guitar-playing hippie who offered us pot not 3 minutes into our lunch stop in Arcata, California.  Or getting lost on the BART and ending up in The Castro (where the look-but-can’t-touch eye candy was excruciatingly palpable).  Or seeing Kurt Cobain’s old house in Seattle.

And after Lizeth flew home, I drove down the 101 to L.A. and absorbed the art and energy of Venice Beach.  I crashed on a friend’s couch in Phoenix and climbed Camelback Mountain.  (Okay, I only made it halfway – but it was Phoenix in July!  I don’t care of it’s a “dry heat” – 111-degrees F is HOT.)  I changed into shorts on the side of the road in the middle of the deserted desert when my a/c decided it’d had enough.  I got food poisoning in Albuquerque and had to sleep it off in my car at noon with the windows cracked.  I witnessed a red-hot sunset behind the Rockies, a lightning-riddled rainstorm between myself and the sun causing the colors to blur like a saturated watercolor painting.  Fireworks welcomed me into Colorado Springs later that evening, and I watched more from the deck of my great-aunt and uncle’s home, cocktail in hand, overlooking the Garden of the Gods and the rest of the city far, far below.

These things – these things that happened by chance will always resonate because I remember them the way they were – not the way they should have been.  And that’s why it’s okay that we still don’t have a flight.  We will.  When we do.

I’m not completely zen.  If I could leave a brick of stinky cheese under the airline’s mattress, I would.  But I can’t.

So, my friends, that is why I don’t plan.  I happen to like being a terrier with my head out the window.

Redemption Is Tasty Like Cupcakes

So I know the Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run is so last week’s news and right now you guys are probably rolling your eyes, wondering how much longer I plan to trot out that little anecdote every chance I get. 

Well, I’m here to tell you:  Not only am I trotting it out one more time, but I’m saddling it up and riding it off into the sunset, pardner.

‘Cause Chuckles just e-mailed me this:

That’s right, folks — the missing money shot has surfaced! 

Wait, there are more photos!  And despite the fact that they capture my stomach in all its pale translucent, deep-sea jellyfish-like glory, I must say I’m damn proud to show ’em off…

Seriously.  Wasn’t kidding about the mud in the mouth-hole.

Ha-HA!  I said.  That race was laughably easy for my superior skills!

My sneaky husband is being extremely coy about how he procured these shots but, judging by their low resolution, I’m going to go ahead and assume it was by nefarious, illegitimate means.  He does that sometimes, the lil’ scamp.

Nevertheless, I am finally able to prove to you all (and myself) that I ran it! 

My conscience is clear. 

My sins have been absolved. 

I have attained sweet, sweet redemption.

And now that I have closure, I am  ready to move on with my life and find other interesting topics to post about.  


Everyone Likes to Get Down & Dirty

So I mentioned yesterday that I ran my first 10K race in Philadelphia’s first annual Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run this past weekend.

However, in all the post-race chaos, I failed to snap a photo of Chuckles and me in all our dirty glory.  I wish I had the excuse of being on hardcore hallucinogenics at the time, but I don’t.  I just totally didn’t even think about it. 

I am, in the words of Napoleon Dynamite, a frickin’ idiot.

Anyway, despite being a total flake, I still pulled it together enough to take some candid photos of my fellow runners braving the mud pit.

And, man, do I love these people.

Everyone seemed to have a different strategy when it came to the mud pit. 

Some tackled the challenge head-on.


Some tried a more delicate approach. 

And some came prepared for whatever happened. 

Goggles.  Genius. 

Then there were those who got by with a little help from their friends.

While some required other forms of, uh, gentle encouragement? 

“You’re a very nice person!” this drill instructor was yelling.  “You’re also a snazzy dresser and I admire your haircut!”

 Basically, the moral of the story was this:  You either embraced gettin’ down & dirty. 

Or you didn’t.

But, it didn’t really matter.  Because, either way, you got down & dirty.   




After all, this wasn’t the “Merrell Clean & Sanitary Mud Run”.

This man had no sympathy for anyone, by the way.

And we all made it to the Finish line with smiles on our faces and mud in our teeth.

And the crowd goes WILD!

And, in the end, it was well worth the dirty running shoes. 

Or maybe not. 

But, hey, at least we got free burgers afterward.

And that’s all I need to call it a good day. 

Long live the Down & Dirty!

I Like to Get Down & Dirty

So let’s ignore for a moment the fact I promised you guys a somewhat useful (and some might even say compelling and delightful?) series of posts reviewing the various infomercial products I have tried–

Seriously, why do you guys always feel the need to bring up old stuff?

–but I did something really dirty with my husband this weekend and just had to share.

I have to say, I was a little nervous at first since I’d never done anything like it before but was surprised by how quickly I got into it.

And it was in public.

It even involved other people.

Lots of dirty, sweaty, half-naked people.

And some children, too.

Wait, this post is taking a really weird turn so I should probably just tell you now we did the Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run before the authorities show up to confiscate my computer as evidence.

To those unfamiliar with the Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run, it’s a national series of 5K and 10K races sponsored by Merrell Footwear & Apparel featuring off-road courses with military-style obstacles and LOTS of opportunities to get mud in your mouth. 

You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Which, it just so happens, Chuckles and I are.

The Mud Run is held each year in New York, NY; Sacramento, CA; Los Angeles, CA; and, for the first time ever, Philadelphia, PA.  The goal is raise money to support our troops through Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit that sends morale-boosting care packages to front-line American service members deployed overseas. 

Since they began in 2004, Operation Gratitude has shipped nearly 560,000 care packages.  As a former deployed service member and the spouse of one, Chuckles and I couldn’t think of a better reason to get ‘down n’ dirty’.

So, early Saturday afternoon, we loaded up the truck and drove the three hours up to Philly to prepare ourselves to join 1,510 other 10K racers (a whopping 4,500 runners in total) participating in the sold-out event early the next morning.

After a relatively uneventful drive…

Welcome to Delaware.  Period.  It’s almost like even the sign understands the irony.

…we arrived just in time to pick up our race packets before registration closed and get settled in at the Philadelphia Hilton.

Now, normally we are not ‘Hilton folk’, but they had a special group rate deal and the hotel is less than a mile away from Fairmount Park, where the race was taking place. 

Still, waiting for the elevator in the lobby with the fancy chandelier and baby grand piano while holding plastic grocery bags that served as our luggage, I felt like I’d be a little more at home sleeping in the shrubs outside the Hilton than in one of the actual rooms.  And the fact that there were all sorts of classy people in fancy evening attire milling around waiting for a wedding to start in the Hilton’s reception hall didn’t help me feel any less like a hillbilly.

We retreated to our room where I immediately tore into my registration goody bag like a wild, angry raccoon in a burlap sack.  Cause I’m a sucker for free stuff.

Chuckles, however, went about it with a little more restraint.

All in all, we got some pretty decent loot…

…Paul Mitchell samples (no, those aren’t condoms), a few bottled drinks, an awesome moisture-wicking T-shirt, and a handkerchief-sock hybrid thingy I had a little trouble figuring out.

Fortunately, Chuckles was on hand to show me how the hankersock’s supposed to be worn.

Thank God, cause otherwise I might’ve gone out in public looking foolish or something.

Then, of course, I had to check out the other free loot we get…

Crabtree & Evelyn products at the Hilton?  It’s like I’ve died and gone to a small, single-serving Heaven.

After doing a full room sweep in search of any other fancy amenities the Hilton offers…

Hey Katie?  You’ll never guess where I’m calling you from…

…we were ready to go out and experience all Philly has to offer!  See the sights!  Embrace the culture! 

Or not. 

You’re not tired, are you?

I did manage to drag Chuckles out of bed long enough to make him drive me two miles into Manayunk for an early dinner. 

Manayunk is a quaint strip of cute shops, good restaurants and laidback bars.  It reminds me a lot of Frederick.

After carb-loading on tasty cuisine at Munk & Nunn, we headed back to the hotel and watched T.V. til we passed out at 9 p.m.  ROCK STAR!

4:45 a.m. the next morning came way too early.  So early that I didn’t even consider breaking out my camera.  So, instead, I’ll paint you a picture with words. 

So, the night before, we’d decided that our plan would be to wake up super early and drive over to the park so that we could find a good parking space and go back to sleep for another hour or two before the traffic started at 6:15 a.m.  Smart, eh? 

That is not, however, how ‘the plan’ ended up going down. 

What did happen was we drove to the park only to find the entrance gates closed, where we then proceeded to bicker while driving around aimlessly for 20 minutes looking for an open entrance before finally pulling into a grassy field just as the crowd started arriving. 

So we never did get to go back to sleep. 

No matter, we pounded a few energy drinks and followed the equally bleary-eyed mob across the field to the Start line.

As everyone began gathering together in the pre-dawn light, the excitement started building and the adrenaline started pumping.

Despite the day’s rising temperatures and humidity, it was hard not to be happy in such a festive, upbeat atmosphere.  Chuckles and I even made up.

Right, snookums?

And you know what?  As we stretched and hydrated and pinned our numbers, I even started to feel like a real, honest to God runner.

It just so happens 482 is my lucky number.  What a coincidence!

 Now, here’s where this post gets a little light on photos.  I had to check my bag (and camera) because I didn’t want to subject it to the heat and water and mud and all the other horrible, unspeakable things I’d be subjecting my body too.

Suffice it to say, we sat through a race pre-brief telling us to behave ourselves like good boys and girls, filed into roped-off sections for a staggered start, and then gradually shuffled toward the Start line until it was our turn for the cannon to go off.

And then we ran.

And it felt good

The course took us up and down hills, along roads, through snaking woods trails, across a stream, down rocky embankments, and through a variety of obstacles, including a haybale scramble, cargo net climb, low-crawl under netting, rope scale, etc.

Chuckles and I got separated about halfway through the course but I encountered plenty of friendly fellow runners who were down with trading a quick joke or word of encouragement during our 30-second friendship.

To me, the end came all too soon, and before I knew it, I rounded the corner after finishing the last obstacle and came face-to-face with a roaring crowd.

Ah, the Finish line is in sight!

But wait, what’s that just before it?

Oh, it’s a HUGE mud pit. 

That I have to crawl through.

On my stomach.

If I’d somehow managed to stay relatively clean for the majority of the race, this is where all of that ended.

After climbing under the camo netting, I gracefully hurtled face first into the mud pool.


Like this guy, except less graceful.  And less bald. 

From there, I awkwardly crab-crawled through approximately 15 more yards of muddy terrain before sliding down the last embankment on my stomach like a harpooned seal.

Then, with the sound of the crowd cheering in my ears, I stumbled across the Finish line, grinning stupidly and raising my arms in a V for victory. 

And then I spit a gigantic wad of mud out of my mouth.  The end.

Chuckles wasn’t far behind and I got to watch him slither across that mud pit with the agility and grace of a man who did this for a living for many years.  I’d never been more proud of my boy.

Here’s where I have to admit I totally pulled a Katie.  After the race, we were so high on adrenaline and so disgusted with ourselves (seriously, I had mud up my nose) that we ran off to the showers without even thinking about stopping by Bag Check to pick up my camera and get a picture of us in all our filthy glory. 

Sorry, guys, but there’s no ‘money shot’.  I know, we’re totally ashamed of ourselves, too.

But the good news is there were professional-looking photographers there at the Finish line taking pictures so hopefully some photo of us will surface on the Interwebs over the coming days.  Unless those photographers were just taking pictures of strangers for their own private collection.  Which is just kind of creepy.

Anyhoo, I’ll be sure to keep a lookout and post any ‘After’ pics I find. 

In the meantime, I did muster enough common sense to grab my camera and start taking pictures of the other runners.  And, man, were they a riot. 

But I won’t post those pictures until later because:

1. I took, like, a thousand photos and need to wade through them all to find the top blog-worthy contenders.

2. This post is already ridiculously long.  In fact, you guys have probably stopped reading by this point and now are just skimming for any key words that might grab your interest.  In which case, BOOBS, PORN, HOT NASTY MONKEY SEX.  (Paying attention again?  Good.)

3.  This morning I’ve been busted writing this post by almost every single one of my coworkers.  How I suffer their steely-eyed judgment for you all.

So anyway, expect more pics up soon (but not like the infomercial series — I’ll actually follow through on this project.)

Oh, but before I go… the best part about this little story?

I ranked 13th in my age group!

Here’s mud in your eye, other runners!