Last week I traveled to Center, in the piney woods and chicken farms of East Texas, to assist with drafting VERY IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS for use in connection with a jury trial.  I was a little anxious about the drive there, as the day before we had our second “ice day” in less than a week. Schools and government offices were closed due to the anticipated condition of the roadways (unfortunately most employers, including ours, did not think it was necessary to close their offices).  We were buried under a blanket of snow and ice:



Well, maybe not a blanket.  But hey, we did have to turn the heat on!  We Houstonians know we panicked and made a big deal out of nothing, but we’re just not prepared for icy roads here — no stockpiles of sand and salt waiting to be sprinkled on the roads, no snow plows, no snow tires.  Instead of investing in that equipment to store and use once a decade, we’d rather just shut the city down and laugh about it later.  So ha ha.  In fairness, there were patches of ice on bridges and overpasses and more than a few accidents.  Thankfully, the roads were clear the day I left.

Like I mentioned in connection with my business trip last summer, one of the perks of business travel is having a room to myself:



Can you spot what’s missing from the pictures?  Here’s a clue:

sleepy jasper

The sign in the lobby welcomed me to this small town (population 5,287):


As I was taking this photo, the hotel staff told me that when the crew of 16 and Pregnant was there filming two episodes, they regretted in hindsight not taking a photo of the sign.  I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that.  TWO episodes?

I joined the trial team for a few meals.  My favorite restaurant was Las Margaritas, a Mexican restaurant with a fountain in the middle of the dining area:



The menu had dishes with funny names “in honor of the Republic of Texas,” such as “Lil’ Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Fajitas,” “Fixin’ Margaritas Special,” and “Arncha Tacos”:


But back to the reason for my trip:

jury sign

The trial action took place at the Shelby County Courthouse:

IMG_3541 See the pine trees?


Shelby County Courthouse

I have to admit, I was disappointed when I saw the courthouse.  I was expecting one of the beautiful historic courthouses that are found in small towns all throughout Texas. Oh wait, they do have one, they just don’t use it:


The courtroom personnel were all friendly and helpful.  My favorite was Danny, who presided over the metal detector at the front door:


Although this sign outside the courtroom on the second floor makes me think the metal detector might not always work so well:weapon sign copy

I think the sign might be better hung on the first floor

Here’s where the jury sat:

jury chairs

It was really funny watching them all fight over who was going to sit in the stripey chair.  Just kidding — these jurors were serious as a heart attack, and it was reassuring to see how attentively they listened during trial, and how conscientiously they fulfilled their civic duty.

My role in the trial proceedings was to draft written objections to pretty much everything the other side did, within reason.  As you might guess, I will not be exchanging Christmas cards with these lawyers.  I did not appreciate them.  They referred to me as “she” and “her,” probably “she-devil” behind my back, and when documents needed to be revised, they’d point at me and say “she has a computer.”  They handed me papers with scribble on them that I was supposed to decipher, which really chapped my hide.  On the other hand, it’s comforting to know that there are still people out there who are less tech-savvy than myself, although like WWII veterans, there’s not many of them left.  Here’s our opponents poring over the objections I drafted to their proposed jury charge:

brain trust

I should add that I spent approximately 20 hours drafting those objections and our proposed jury charge.  As we presented each one to the judge, he would listen politely, and then say “denied,” or more correctly, “duh-nied,” with a drawl.  So we stood there for over an hour, stating our objections, while Judge D’Nide nixed each one in turn.  It might sound like my efforts were wasted, but they weren’t, because the point of the exercise was to preserve error, meaning that if we lost, we would be able to complain about a whole lot of things on appeal.

I loved listening to the closing arguments.  The jury listened to every word the lawyers had to say.  I thought my boss made a very convincing closing argument.  Apparently the other side did too, because when my boss made a very small and proper objection to something the other lawyer said in his closing argument, the other lawyer spun around, red-faced, and shouted “WHY DON’T YOU JUST SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN?”  (Note:  this is not a recommended trial strategy.)  Made me kinda homesick.

By the way, we won!

I was happy to return home in time for the holiday weekend (Chinese New Year and Super Bowl).  I made my favorite Texas Dip to bring to a Super Bowl party.  I got the recipe from a fellow nurse many moons ago, and it’s still one of my favorite party foods.  You start by mixing together a can of refried beans and bean dip (usually found in the chip aisle) and spreading it in a 9 x 13 dish (I got this one at my neighbor’s estate sale — thought it looked party-ish):

dish (2)


bean dip

Why do you have to use bean dip?  Can you just use refried beans?  Probably — but this is the recipe that was given to me and it’s delicious, so I am not inclined to tinker with it.

Next comes a layer of sour cream mixed with taco seasoning and mayonnaise:

sour cream


Use your favorite taco seasoning

Do I have to use mayonnaise?  Can’t I just use sour cream?  Why are you asking so many questions?

The next layer is mashed avocado with lime juice:


I actually cheated here and used store-made guacamole.  At the Kroger near me, there is a guacamole station, and the ladies that work there make the best guacamole, plus, they use up all the ripe avocados in the store.


Next comes a sprinkle of chopped tomatoes:


A blanket of shredded cheese:


And finally, some green onions and black olives, just to keep it interesting:


Voila — Texas Dip!  Grab a tortilla chip and dig in!


Recipe type: Appetizer
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 can bean dip
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 large avocados
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 large tomato, chopped,
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced, green parts only
  • ⅓ cup sliced black olives
  • Tortilla chips
  1. Layer the following in a 9x13 pan, in the following order:
--Refried beans mixed together with bean dip
--Sour cream, taco seasoning, and mayonnaise mixed together
--Avocados mashed, mixed with lime juice
--Chopped tomatoes
--Cheddar cheese
--Green onions
--Black olives
Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips.


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