It's no secret that Ronak and I have been missing and craving Bojangles, since we moved to Texas.

As soon as our plane landed on North Carolina soil, we successfully located a Bojangles restaurant and indulged in our favorite sweet tea and Cajun fries. We were not disappointed. Nor would that be our last trip to Bojangles over the course of our week-long stay in North Carolina.

But the magical, finger-licking time of our visit last summer had to end eventually, and we returned to Texas and its lack of Cajun fries. And our cravings grew again.

Austin Chronicle readers recently voted for their favorite restaurants - including where to get the best tasting fries. Ronak and I laughed when we saw Hyde Park had won again. We had eaten there shortly after our arrival in Austin, and we were disappointed that these were considered the "best fries in Austin."

I checked the Bojangles website for locations, hoping a franchise was somewhere within a day's drive. Sadly, the restaurant in Tennessee appeared to be the closest, followed by the one in Alabama. That's what I thought at first glance anyway. But actually, the closest location is in another country - across the border in Mexico!

So, just 4 hours to the Mexican border, then a couple more and we could have our favorite Bojangles food in hand - maybe. Restaurant menus tend to vary from country to country, and that's a long way to drive to find out that Cajun fries have been replaced by spicy tortilla chips.

Disappointed, I looked again for a local alternative, and I discovered a fast food restaurant called Popeyes. It didn't look like a Bojangles, the menu was different than Bojangles, but they did boast a side item called Cajun fries. Dared we hope?

We did. We dared, we hoped. We drove, we ordered, we tried the lukewarm, greasy fries. We resolved never to return.

And we daydreamed again of our next trip to North Carolina, where we would indulge in Bojangles fries until there was a shortage on Cajun seasoning across the state. (We have to have our "extra seasoning.")

The following quotations are from memory. Weather reporters names may have been changed to protect their exhaustion-induced silliness and my lack of remembering. But I can definitely assure you that I have captured the essence of last night's continuous severe storm coverage.

  1. If you are in the path of the circular rotation, you should get away from any windows. Then you'll be in good shape. (pause) Well, better shape.
  2. We are seeing possible circular rotation. This doesn't mean that a tornado has touched down or will. Although we have had some unconfirmed reports of funnel clouds. But if a tornado does form and touch down, you will have very little time to seek shelter. The best place to seek shelter is in a central room without windows. Closets. Bathrooms are often the best places to go.
  3. Can we get any reports of what is happening out there? Amateur radio operators? Anyone out there? (Dude, didn't you just tell us to seek cover? Now, you want us chasing the storm and sending you video footage from our cell phones?)
  4. Bob, are you there? Hello? We'll try to get back to him later... Bob, you are now located in an area under a blue diamond on our radar map. The blue diamond signifies hail. Are you seeing any hail? No? Still no hail?
  5. (with great admiration) This storm has amazing stamina and power. It's well-organized. It's quite a storm. (Dude, who are you rooting for here? The viewers or the storm? Show a little hope and give some encouragement to us underdogs.)
  6. Cedar Park, you are now out from under the storm. But don't forget that there are two more severe storms approaching from the west. Please stay with our continuous coverage.
  7. We want to reassure you that Boston Legal will be rebroadcast in its entirety tomorrow night at 10:00 pm. (I guess Supernanny doesn't rate showing again. I mean, they showed the first 10 minutes. We know how it'll end: happy family, good kids.)
  8. We will now return you to Nightline, already in progress. But we will interrupt with weather updates as necessary.
  9. We are interrupting for an update, but I promise this one will only be 60 seconds. Promise.
  10. If you've been watching our continuous coverage, you have probably earned a degree in Meteorology by now.

If only we had recorded the special report, so we could show screenshots of the blue diamonds (hail), red circles with arrows (possible tornadoes), white dashes (lightning strikes), and colorful storm bands in red, pink, and green. Oh, and the impressive drawings on the map: areas circled and x-ed out and all those fun arrows.

And the cool viewer photos of hail the size of baseballs and golf balls and quarters and other forms of large currency (which Ronak suspected was being created in the back room of the weather room to keep coverage interesting and competitive. "I'm working on the volleyball-sized hail now, Bob.").

Maybe next time.

An average couple (names in credits will be husband #1 and wife #1) sit before their iMac (product placement) watching reruns of The Daily Show (Jon Stewart appears as himself).

The wife is listening to the fake news show, but her eyes aren't on the computer monitor. We pan right to see a television, sound muted, multicolored radar map on the screen and words scrolling: Severe thunderstorm warning for the following counties... Tornado warning for the following counties ... until 8:30 pm. Flood watch...)

Wife appears nervous. She pauses The Daily Show and points to the TV. Husband unmutes the television special weather report.

Wife: Is the tornado warning in our county? Doesn't that mean we should be seeking cover now?

Thunder begins rumbling in the distance.

Wife: How far away is the storm? Can it really get here in the next 15 minutes?

Wife pulls up Google Maps (product placement) and checks distances.

Husband: (shakes his head.) It seems too far away.

TV Weatherman #1: The severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings have been extended by the National Weather Service. As you can see by the map...

Closeup of radar map. Arrows point from the red and pink storm and the tornado icon to Cedar Park.

Wife: It's coming right at us.

Husband: But it's still a ways away.

They look at each other. Husband mutes the TV. Wife unpauses The Daily Show, but her eyes remain on the television screen.

They laugh nervously at the dialogs. Close-up on the radar screen as weatherman #1 draws an X over Lago Vista. Wife's eyes open wide.

Thunder rumbles a bit louder in the distance.

Close up on the computer screen of a bit with Jon Stewart and Justice Scalia. The couple laugh nervously. The camera shifts to the television. The pink and red storm is obliterating the words Cedar Park.

Wife rises from her chair, eyes fearful, looks at her husband who is also getting up. Sound of multiple hailstones hitting all the windows of the house at once.

Wife: Are all the blinds closed?

Husband nods.

Wife: My plants... but I don't want you going outside in this. I'm going to close the doors to all the rooms.

Husband: Are you okay?

Wife: We need to get downstairs.

Husband: I hope the dogs aren't out in the yard.

Wife begins closing doors. Husband looks out window at neighbor's yard where a woman is running frantically in the wind.

Husband: Oh no.

Hail beating on windows continues. Thunder is louder.

Wife: What is that sound? Just thunder, right?

Husband: Let's get downstairs.

Wife grabs remote to turn off TV.

Husband: Let's leave it on.

Wife drops the remote. Both hurry downstairs.

Husband: I guess it doesn't matter what room we are in. The hail is pounding on every window.

Wife: Because of the wind. But we need to be near the closet under the stairs in case there is a tornado.

She turns on the radio downstairs. Husband turns on the porch light and peaks out the blinds.

Husband: My first hail.

Wife: Really? You never saw hail in Raleigh? (peeks out the blinds too) This hail isn't that big. They were saying 1-2 inches, but the hail was this big in Raleigh.

Husband: Really? (He opens the front door to grab a hailstone. A few bounce into the house.)

Wife: (grabs the hail bits off the floor) Yes. Remember, I was at that drugstore in Cameron Village, and the hail was beating so hard in front of the store that the automatic doors wouldn't shut, and all the hail was bouncing in.

Husband opens door to toss out hail pieces. More hail bounces into house. Wife bends down and grabs them and tosses those out too.

Husband: I hope my car will be okay. (closes door)

Wife: It'll be fine as long as the hail stays this size. That car has been parked out in this kind of hail before.

Husband and wife move into the kitchen. There is a large spider on the floor (larger than the hail pieces).

Husband: That's too big to stay in here.

Wife: It doesn't want to be outside in this storm either. (looks down at her bare feet) Get a shoe.

Husband: No, I don't want to kill it, just put it outside.

Comedic bit where husband captures the spider under a plastic cup several times, slides a piece of paper underneath, then the spider escapes as he tries to lift the cup and paper, and the husband jumps back. Finally husband gets the spider, cup, and paper outside on the patio, only for the spider to run back into the house faster than the husband. Husband decides the spider can stay inside, under the cup, until the storm passes. Wife takes over. Slides the cup, paper, and spider right up to the door. Husband sets everything outside. Wife slides the cup away from the house, lifts the cup, spider scurries away, and wife runs back into the house. They both laugh.

Meanwhile thunder and lightning and hail continue outside. Then there is a low, loud noise like a train approaching.

Wife: What's that? Sounds like a train.

Husband nods. The noise grows louder. Both fearfully turn to run into the closet and hide under the stairs.

Then, a train whistle blows, and the couple stop in mid-flight. They embrace.

Wife: They should blow that whistle their entire way down the track or there are going to be a lot of people hiding in closets and bathrooms.

They continue to hold each other tightly.

If this were really a movie, this would be the perfect time for a real tornado to descend on the house and tear off the roof - or for a tree to come through a window - or for a transformer to explode - or maybe even for the real train to be derailed from the tracks and plow through the kitchen.

But luckily none of those things happened, and Wife #1 and Husband #1 were able to return to watching The Daily Show and playing Scrabulous on Facebook (product placement) and listening to the continuous weather reporting on KVUE (more advertising) as another pink and red storm approached, following an arrow drawn straight to Cedar Park.

The flames on our gas stove were out of control. The Use & Care Guide warned us that flames should not lick the sides of pots and pans, but even when the burner was set to medium, this was a problem. On low, a setting to keep items warm, our food boiled and burned. Recipes that required two cups of water were changed to three, and we still had to add more water as the pan went dry again and again.

We knew something was wrong. My mother and the Care Guide said we should have the flames adjusted. The booklet insisted a professional technician perform the job.

The stove was under warranty, so we put in a work order for the builder to fix our flame problem.

Bruce called me promptly to tell me that they don't handle flame adjustment. If I gave him the stove's model and serial number, he could set up an appointment with the local Whirlpool repair shop: A & E Factory Services.

They were supposed to arrive last Friday, but I rescheduled since I had a doctor's appointment that morning (which was a good thing considering how long we ended up waiting there).

A & E called me on Wednesday to see if our stove had "been converted." I told the guy on the phone that I had no idea what that meant. He asked if an "Orifice Conversion Kit" had been installed. I informed him that the stove came with the house and I knew nothing about it. He explained that it converts a stove to use natural gas, and he said he would send one to us by UPS. We just had to put it aside for the repairman to use when he came.

I kept a look out for the package, but it didn't come the next day. Then late that evening, our doorbell rang. UPS had delivered our conversion kit to the wrong house for an unexplained reason, since the house numbers shouldn't have been that easily confused.

Since the package was overnighted, the neighbor thought it must be important and didn't want to just leave it on our porch. So, Ronak not only learned the name of someone from the neighborhood, he met a nice, conscientious person, who lives diagonally across the road from us. Thank you for your ineptness, UPS.

I received a call from A & E Monday afternoon. The technician was just down the road and would arrive in a few minutes - which he did.

He didn't understand why the conversion kit had been sent. He said it was for propane. He also told me that he has to adjust a lot of stoves in the area - for D.R. Horton and Centex Homes. So, we weren't alone in our boiled over rice, dry soups, and burnt sandwiches.

To adjust the flames, the technician did the following:

  1. Turned the burner flame to low.
  2. Pulled off the knob.
  3. Stuck a tool into the hole the knob had been in. (I asked about the tool and found out it was a simple flat-head screwdriver with a long, narrow shaft.)
  4. Turned the screwdriver to the right to lower the flame height, left to make the flame higher.
  5. Replaced the knob.
  6. Turned the knob back and forth to check the height of the flame on low, medium, and high.
  7. Then, after adjusting all the burner flames, he turned all the burners on high at the same time to make sure they were still strong enough when using all burners at once.

And that was it.

So, now we know how to adjust the flames ourselves if we need to. And luckily the task won't require a fancy tool for the job. And we met a nice neighbor, and we can cook without burning all the moisture out of our food. Very successful overall!

Don't you think there should be a waste pickup discount for recyclers?

I watched the trash collectors last Friday, wheeling overfilled trash cans to their truck and hefting the contents in. Then they got to our house, began pushing the can, stopped puzzled, opened the can, and carried the small kitchen-sized bag to the truck.

Why don't we have as much trash as our neighbors? Their cans are filled with cardboard boxes and bottles and cans and plastic bags - all the things we recycle (sometimes driving across town to do so).

So, shouldn't we get a discount? Visiting our house is less time-, energy-, and space-intensive. We save the trash collection agency money, so shouldn't we get to share the benefits?

Sure, we get a good feeling about recycling. We're not filling up landfills. We're saving the planet. But it feels like we aren't really getting our money's worth from trash pickup.

But if they won't give us a discount, how can we get our money's worth? Throw more things out? Stop recycling? Fill our garbage can with random stuff we find around the house?

None of those options feel like a real payoff, so I guess we'll just keep recycling and throwing out our small bag of trash each week - and maybe someday we'll be rewarded by our efforts. Maybe our example will encourage our neighbors to start recycling too.

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In 2007, we moved to Austin, and this blog chronicled our adaptation to Texas life: festivals, wildflowers, and bats - oh my! Then we had a baby, and that changed everything, so now, we blog about where to buy organic food, what parks are fun for babies, which exterminator is taking care of our scorpion problem. (You know, the usual parental concerns.)


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