Welcome to the wilds! New Jersey for me was like crossing the border into Tijuana. Sure, the new lifestyle was crazy, but no one would ever admit to living there. When my husband’s job was relocated here in August 2010, we both were frightened. Now we’re learning about life, love, and marriage in this strange new culture. Feel free to tag along for the adventure.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Defending Our Christmas Tree

Since posting the picture of my Christmas tree, I have received numerous complaints regarding its size. I have heard from my stepsister that it is lame, my sister-in-law that it’s pathetic, my uncle-in-law asking if I want him to buy me a real tree this year, and numerous other criticisms from friends. Aren’t we all being just a tiny bit judgmental in the season when we’re all supposed to be loving and kind?

Has no one ever heard the story of Fred Kleinz and the Christmas Tree Competition? Just in case I have attached it below. It’s a bit new age, but the morals within the story have been told throughout the ages; and I hope after reading it you’ll all reevaluate your judgments on my Christmas Tree…

Fred Kleinz and the Christmas Tree Competition

There once lived a business mogul named Fred Kleinz. He was a wealthy man with car manufacturing plants spread throughout the continental US. Yet, he had no heirs to his corporate thrown. In his twenties, he thought nothing of it. In his thirties, he considered the reality in passing. In his forties, this knowledge creased his forehead with worry. But at fifty, it had become a disaster. He knew his death would mark the end of the legacy that he had constructed.

In his financial life, however, all was paved in gold. In fact, he was asked to host the president and his associates for a Christmas Party. This truly was an honor for him, and he devised a plan to ensure that the entire shindig would be a success. Since the president’s visit would be the pinnacle of his career, he would stop there and pass the keys to the business empire on to one lucky employee.

The word of Mr. Kleinz’s decision spread through his plants like electricity. Cover letters and resumes were sent to him more often than reports or Christmas cards. Enjoying the attention, Fred sifted through each plea for power discarding all those he deemed unworthy. Greedy workers were the first to be “canned,” but success also took wit, intuitiveness, intelligence, charisma, and dedication. Most applicants lacked one of these attributes or all five.

By December, the maids were in a frenzy over their December 25th preparations. The guest list reached six hundred, and the house was trimmed in various decorations for the season. Fred looked over the ballrooms, the kitchen and the dining rooms with approval.

“Shall we go and buy a few trees, Sir?” the housekeeper and butler asked.

“No…No,” said Mr. Klein stroking his bearded chin. “I know just the thing. We’re going to hold a Christmas Tree Competition.” He returned to his study where the applicants’ folders were kept: three men had reached the top of his pile. He quickly set about dialing each one and told them the same thing: in a week, he would need a Christmas tree. This tree was to be displayed for the president and it should reflect each man’s character and his intentions with the company.

Lars McCormick was the first of the potentials to arrive with his tree. As his name implied he was a gigantic, well-built man who had worked his way through Kleinz Motors, beginning on the assembly line when he was just nineteen. His tree was at least twelve feet high; the stand had to be secured to the ground and tiny tinsel ropes had to be attached to the wall to keep it from toppling over. He set about decorating it with expensive glass balls that reflected the thousands of white lights wrapped around the boughs. Lars even gloated that he had to take out a loan just to pay for the ornaments. When he was finished decorating it, the pine was magnificent: reminiscent of the Rockefeller Tree in New York City.

Lars leaned back approvingly, thumbs in his britches and with a big grin said, “Now that’s a presidential tree.” Everyone agreed.

Finian Toughton was the next potential to arrive. He was not as big and strong as Lars, but he was a mental giant, having worked in automation and technological enhancements the past twenty years. He wore his thick, round lens with pride.

The maids quickly herded him to the second ballroom where his tree was to be displayed. He nodded approvingly to the space saying, “This will do just nicely.” Then, he made fourteen trips from his pick-up truck to the room, carrying boxes of various shapes and sizes.

When he finished piecing together his ten foot tree, it was magnificent. Fiber optic branches flashed different colored lights. The ornaments were all special pieces that sang, moved, or flashed.

“Now that’s a presidential tree,” said Finian pushing his glasses up his nose in triumph. Everyone agreed.

Finally, there was Zeke Onagan. Zeke was neither large like Lars or an electronics genius like Finian, he was slow and calculated. He worked at Kleinz as an engineer, drawing sketches for the inside and out of all the vehicles. Unlike the other two, he was not distinguished by his ascension through the ranks at the plant or his capability to work with flat-screens and GPS devices. He was a quiet, honest employee whose suggestions were always valid and his designs always liked.

In the third ballroom, he hunched over as he evaluated the location for his tree.

“It cannot be too close to the fireplace,” he told the onlookers. “And it must be watered every day. The air in this room is very dry.”

“Of course, Sir,” replied the housekeeper. “We will water it just like Mr. McCormick’s tree in the first ballroom.”

“It will need a little more than ‘at,” Zeke answered. “’Cause mine’s livin.” As if in acknowledgment of his words, two well-built gentleman rolled a six foot tree into the room in an enormous, festive pot. The hand cart they used tilted it a little and a thin trail of dirt marked their steps. The housekeeper was appalled, but said nothing hurrying to clean up the mess.

Children’s voices followed the tree, impeding the housekeeper from cleaning. There were five of them pulling and carrying boxes of various sizes like elves. Their chatter was about their Christmas tree and how the president would see it. They were herded toward the tree by their mother, who warned them about breaking anything in the house.

The ballroom filled with the scent of popcorn and the sounds of caroling and Christmas cheer. Even the butler and housekeeper took part in the merriment. Soon, the popcorn garland had been wrapped around the tree just below strings of multi-colored lights. Interspersed throughout the boughs were ornaments, homemade and store bought. The only elegant or electronic pieces were shiny keepsakes with words like, “Our First Christmas” and “Baby’s First Christmas.”

Carefully Zeke climbed a ladder and set a star atop the Christmas tree. Delicately he plugged it in, and much to everyone's delight it shimmered.

“Now, that’s a presidential Christmas tree,” he said. The children clapped and cheered. The housekeeper and butler agreed, but only to their faces. They had seen the rest of the competition.

December 25th approached, but at the last possible moment, the president had to cancel. There was a global crisis of sorts. Fred, facing a crisis of his own, quickly penned new invitations:

Because the wise men had camels; not jet packs… 

We must postpone the party until January 14th
when our wise guest can arrive.

Fred Kleinz

P.S. Don’t forget that one lucky employee 
will be given my business that night. 

At first, Fred reconsidered the postscript, but ultimately decided that it was necessary to ensure that everyone would still attend. He feared the president’s reception would be too small otherwise. He was wrong; he was already the party gossip. However, his note when "leaked" to a reporter did create a press blizzard. By the time the party arrived, the guests practically walked a red carpet to enter the Kleinz Estate.

Inside, Lars, the first participant, stared disheartened at his tree. What once looked brilliant; now had wilted slightly and the glass bulbs drooped along the boughs. Finian, the second participant, grinned as his tree came to life in a cacophony of music, movement, and light. Zeke, too had a proud smile as the multi-colored lights brightened on his pine, and his children’s eyes lit up with wonder.

The house was alive with polite conversation and electric with possibility. The president arrived and applause resounded. Dinner was served, followed by dessert. Most scooped the pies and cakes into their mouths quickly as predictions over who Mr. Kleinz would choose resonated.

Then, "there arose such a clatter that everyone sprang from their seats to see what was a matter." In the first ballroom, dressed to the hilt, was a Santa Clause of sorts. Fred Kleinz grinned from behind the white beard and red suit as “Here Comes Santa Clause” played on the sound system. On the last note of the song, the guests cheered.

“Ho, ho, ho,” laughed Fred. “It’s time to see where my business will go, go, go.” Some of the more forgiving members of the crowd chuckled at his poor rhyme. Lars shuffled to the front, hoping Mr. Kleinz would overlook the wilting tree.

“What a magnificent tree?!” exclaimed Fred. “It is so big and decorated so beautifully. Surely, this tree could have won awards. His dreams for my company seem to be big and award-wining.”

“Thank you,” Lars mumbled through a smile that exposed every tooth in his mouth. He thought for sure his tree had just won.

“But,” Fred disciplined. “This tree looks like every other. It only looks to tradition; it does not look forward to what’s next. To be an entrepreneur, one must look to the future and have plans that weather through the changes.”

Lars slouched. His posture hunched like a tired lumberjack. His tree had lost.

In the second ballroom, all the onlookers crowded around the tree with Fred in his Santa suit. Finian inched toward the front with a triumphant readjustment of his glasses.

“What a brilliant tree?!” exclaimed Fred. “It is beautifully decorated with things that moves and lights that blink. Surely, Finian has progressive plans for my company?!”

Finian smiled leaning back to enjoy the lime light.

“But,” Fred disciplined. “This tree looks only to the future without a foundation in the past, and though it lasts through time…it will never change. You cannot run a business on gimmicks alone.”

Finian wilted and his glasses slid down to the tip of his nose. His tree had lost.

In the third ballroom, Zeke and his family crowded around their tree with hope.

“What a unique tree?!” exclaimed Fred as the guests hurried with their cameras. “And what strange decorations. It makes me hungry just looking at it.” The little kids laughed as Fred eyed the popcorn. For dramatic effect, he continued inspecting the tree and each ornament.

“This tree will grow and change with each season,” Fred admired. “It looks to tradition, but I see the lights and technology of the future. In any business, it’s important for all those involved to share and receive benefits. Just as this tree has been watered, it has given us back oxygen. Every decoration is unique, created by every member of this family. In business, success must be shared by all employees. But most of all…what every business needs-” Fred winked. “is love. And this tree has been created with both love and dedication.”

Fred turned to Zeke and handed him a small, wrapped box. Delicately, Zeke unwrapped it with his family’s eyes all staring at the tiny package. When at last the box was unveiled, a golden key lay wrapped in sparkling tissue paper.

“To a man who can grow such a tree,” Fred complimented. “I entrust the future of my business.”

The crowd applauded. Flashes twinkled throughout the room like the star atop the tree, and all was merry and bright.

As Fred reminds us all on Christmas, it is not the size of the tree, the ornaments, or the cost of our gifts that is important; but rather the love that we share in spending time together.


And so I say to you dear bloggers, Remember Fred Kleinz and know that January 14th when your chopped tree is on its way to the dump or fake tree is stuffed in a box, mine will still be brightly displayed in the window, growing another inch until next year…

Wishing you all a wonderful, safe holiday filled with love!

Friday, December 10, 2010


As I navigate adulthood, I have learned a valuable lesson: growing up does not necessarily entail discarding the dreams of my childhood. Granted, I no longer envision becoming a world traveling veterinarian / novelist, who also dabbles in professional singing, but I can focus on the one goal that has always taunted me: becoming a published writer. In all of my various endeavors: corporate offices, nonprofit affairs, and teaching; no job has enlivened my spirits quite like creating characters and telling their stories.

In July 2009, I finally gave into my desire to write; determining that no business could ever live up to the thrill and hope of publishing a novel. I endeavored to make my career (working with students) into my hobby and vice versa. I started with a writing regiment wherein I promised myself that I would write every day until I finished one manuscript. Within a year, I finished two. Then, came the prospect of editing, learning about literary agents and publishing, and eventually starting my very own blog.

Now here I am in December 2010, typing my thoughts to my awesome, albeit limited readership. Where have I been? Well, with the holidays comes a break from writing letters to publishing houses and literary agents, because no one is in the office. They all say there are two vacation months when querying is like throwing your letters in the garbage: August or 11/25 – 1/01. I appreciate the reprieve, it gives me time to focus on “getting my name out there” in short story competitions, conducting research (reading), and perfecting the first book of my series.

I love my first book. If a publishing house never picks it up…I mean…If it takes a while to get picked up, I don’t care; I enjoy reading the adventure. However, it has one tiny flaw that I hope to remedy this break. In order to understand it, I have a man-alogy for you.

When a guy first assesses a pretty girl at the bar, he starts with her head and works down; or at least that’s how I picture it. If I have a view that’s a bit too optimistic, and men start with the legs up or breasts only just bear with me.

So my novel is at the bar and the handsome guy across the room spies her. The start or her hair is brushed and styled, she’s got striking facial features that have been accented by just the right touch of make-up and she’s smiling. The first assessment is good, so the man’s eyes continue to wander.

His sight reaches her shoulders, because she’s wearing just a little off-the-shoulder dress that has a plunging neckline. Her shoulders are not too bony and not too full and the view of the cleavage isn’t bad either. The guy is thinking he’s found a perfect ten, and is about to walk over when he spies her middle. There’s this layer of flab or perhaps it’s just that time of the month and she’s bloated, but something is definitely off. Immediately, she’s degraded to maybe a six. In handsome guy standards, he might not even finish the appraisal.

For the sake of the analogy, he does finish his assessment, and is glad he does. Her butt is round, but not ostentatious. He can barely stop from staring down her legs, because she’s wearing tight stockings and when he reaches the end, she’s wearing stiletto boots that make him drool. Now, she’s an eight…

But do you see my problem? There’s a little fat, and any model knows that one tiny extra pound is reason for dismissal from the Agency; same deal with publishing. Thus, my novel has headed to plastic surgery for a little liposuction over the vacation. Fingers crossed she returns stage ready.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Since reaching adulthood, I have come to appreciate new holidays. Of course, the days off work around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are nothing to sneeze at, but just because you’re not at work doesn’t mean you’re not working. In fact, many people consider those vacations to be a bigger hassle than their actual, paying jobs. But that’s neither here nor there. Like the rest of the American populous, I too participate in the craziness. However, I survive it by partaking in a secret holiday all my own. And since the traveling, shopping, decorating, caroling, and baking are about to commence all over again, I thought I’d share this secret.

Every year whether or not I’m a good little girl, Corporate Multimedia Santa Clauses bring me a spectacular Blockbuster Movie Madness Event! “What’s that?” you say. Well, it’s only the best compilation of in-theater movie releases between the months of November and mid-January. It’s comparable only to Summer Movie Madness, but has a longer run and generally a larger selection.

In preparation for this extended celebration, I sit down at the end of October and create my movie wish list. This involves a computer with faster than dial-up internet, so that I can review every trailer in the November, December, and beginning of January line-up. It’s crucial. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a movie trailer junkie. I can watch them for hours with the same excitement and awe that I had after the initial watch.

Once the list is made, I evaluate my movie criteria and budget. If my wallet was thicker and time was no object, I would watch them all, but at $11 a show it’s unrealistic. So a general rule is actions and thrillers usually top romantic comedies, animated cartoons, and independents; because surround sound and movie magic can only be duplicated in the theater. Granted, if a girls’ night happens to appear, the romantic comedy re-makes the list.

For example, for this turkey season, there are two movies that are a must see and four I can’t wait to rent:

Definite See: Harry Potter – because it will be visually, aurally, and all around entertaining.

Possible See: Burlesque – Broadway-esque potential.

Already added to the Netflix, because I can’t wait to rent them: The King’s Speech, Love and Other Drugs, Morning Glory, and Tangled.

With these November additions, obligations transform into family fun, because there’s still a little me time scheduled in. It’s like an advent calendar where every few weeks there is a special surprise just to get me in the spirit.

If you’re interested in partaking in this unique, cinematic spectacle to keep you singing, “It’s the hap-happiest season of all” head to imdb.com. Then, click Now Playing under the Movies tab, and review each month to make your list. I warn you, it’s a bit addicting, so don’t forget to have your guidelines ready; or all that extra Christmas cash will disappear before you can say, Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Since this blog’s inception, I have tried to write on it at least once a week. It was not a regiment, but a goal. Well, that objective slipped away with Veteran’s Day. No, I did not get eaten by bears in the Wilds. I’ve been working. Three weeks ago, I began a part-time job. Before you go sneezing and sticking your nose in the air, it’s a good one! It pays pretty well, gives me potential for growth, is close to home, and I would do the job for free (but don’t tell my boss that)!

My steps toward it began in September. If you’ve been following the blog, it’s the Interviewee Turned Outlaw post. I didn’t get that secretary position, because I was “over-qualified.” However, my interviewer did give me the name of the dean of another department. I emailed my resume with fingers crossed and high hopes. Four weeks ago that email paid off. I got a call and the next day I had the interview, which was more like my boss trying to sell me on the job. I had no other offers, they honestly didn’t have to try and convince me of my place there, but nonetheless it was a nice ego-boost.

The funny thing about interviewing is the inevitable questions that conclude them. They always make me smirk, because to laugh-out-loud would give away how ridiculous I find them.

“What is your dream job?”

The first answer that always crosses my mind is “Ninja” or when I’m feeling particularly verbose, “a novelist who moonlights as a ninja protecting the world one mission at a time, but is still able to make dinner and doesn’t have to kill anyone.”

Please human resources, you said “dream;” but what you really meant was “quickly fabricate an answer that sounds good for this job.”

My other favorite is:

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Hello? If you would have asked me that eight months ago, I would have said, “Not living in New Jersey.” Guess where I am! Life evolves my friends, and trying to guess or predict its outcome wastes precious seconds. If you need proof, sit down and scribble what you expect in the next year. Then, file it away until November 15, 2011. My husband and I do this. We write our 1 Year and 5 Year goals every October. Let me tell you, in 365 days what seemed like a good idea before is often replaced and what seemed out-of-the-question suddenly becomes a possibility. Nothing in life is static! If it were, it would be far too boring.

So what is your "dream" job? I would love to hear it!

Until next time,
Joyz Jess

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Ghouls and Goblins are not nearly as entertaining as scantily clad cops and robbers. For Halloween this year, my husband and I dressed with the best of them for an evening out in a college town. My brother-in-law, who is in graduate school, was throwing a costume party just off campus. For a month, I tottered between wearing an adult or college costume. There is a crucial difference between the two. An adult costume dresses in character without substantial cleavage or ass hanging out. In fact, many times there is neither. On the other hand, the college costume is low cut, short, and usually paired with heel. Thus my dilemma: I am an adult, but I was going to a college party.

Originally, I decided to be a bad a** biker. I would dress in my mountain biking attire and wear a number of Henna tattoos. This seemed reasonable and cheap, but no one was enthusiastic about it.

My friends said things like, “You’re going to wear a helmet to a party?”

To which I replied, “No…hence the bad a** part of my title.”

By the Friday afternoon before the spooky event, I was still teetering with my mountain biking outfit washed and ready. I drove to the Halloween store for the fake tattoos…and they had none! I was in the middle of a costume Mecca, knowing if I didn’t find something I would be forced to wear a helmet to a party. You can’t have bad a** biker without tattoos. It’s just not right. So armed with a credit card, I wandered through the racks.

Then, I spied it: a black wig with the bold face lettering, “CLEOPATRA WIG ON SALE.” It called to me. For a good phase of my childhood, I collected books on Ancient Egypt, and loved Cleopatra. I figured I could convince my husband to be my Marc Antony, and it would be perfect.

$7 wig + $24 dress with gold streamers = awesome costume

I brought it home, donned the outfit, and much to my elated relief, the ties matched my golden heels perfectly. For a brief moment, I thought I had found a dream costume. I washed and styled the wig, and was ready to surprise my unsuspecting husband.

His reaction was not what I expected. His face suggested that I had jumped from behind a dark corner, dressed in a Scream mask and shouted, “Boo!”

“I don’t like it,” he told me after regaining his wits. My hubs can never be mistaken for a sugar coater. It’s not in his nature.

“The whole outfit?” I pouted. I really loved the dress with the heels.

“It’s the hair,” he admitted, and he was right. If I ever need to change my identity, it’s heavy bangs and black dye for me; I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.

Unfortunately though, I couldn’t be Cleopatra without black hair. I was left with a white dress that suddenly seemed sluttier without the wig. In desperation, I called my sister-in-law and detailed my problem.

“Well,” she answered, “I’m wearing my costume from sophomore year…”

I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Knowing my in-laws since high school, I knew exactly what she meant: fish net stockings, black stilettos, hand cuff bracelets, and a cop costume both low cut and short. She had chosen the college costume route, and so would I.

I arrived ready to party with my cop sister-in-law, my Donnie Darko brother-in-law, and other crazy paired couples like peanut butter and jelly, bees and honey,Waldo and Wenda, and waffle and eggs. I only incorporated one addition to my costume: shorts. I wasn’t about to pull a Marilyn Monroe. That and I figured I needed a few more points in the direction of an adult costume.

I stepped into the room and all eyes fell upon me before the bee exclaimed, “I love the costume! But who are you?”

Oh no, I thought. I had been worried about this possibility. I wore a hieroglyphic necklace and a dress more in line with the Greeks. My forehead glistened.

“It’s very Grecian,” Donnie Darko added with a nod, quoting our family joke.

“R-roman,” I stuttered still formulating, “Or maybe Greek...Goddess?” My nervous debate added the question. I was about to break into the explanation about Cleopatra gone brunette when my cop of a sister-in-law burst into the discussion, jungle juice in hand.

“You’re Epona’s Chosen?!” she delighted. We both broke into laughter.

“Who?” someone asked.

“A book,” we answered giggling. If you’re interested, it’s Divine by Mistake by P.C. Cast.

And I realized my husband and I had unintentionally gone as a dynamic pair. He was ClanFintan. In Epona’s realm that meant he was a centaur, but in ours, he was just one handsome tequila cowboy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It’s Official

Friday, my husband and I became residents of the garden state, complete with licenses, registration, and car titles. It’s comforting to know that no matter where you go in the United States, Motor Vehicle Administration Offices never change. You write, sign, and send an array of pointless documents, wait in endless lines, and are greeted by state representatives who care more about their breaks than service. Granted I will say in the wilds, I met one or two representatives who smiled and tried to aid in the daunting process. 

Today, however,  is a negative NJ moment, because I am dealing with its bureaucracy. I am not saying the employees are incompetent. I am merely stating that budget cuts have caused a state of ineptitude. My two major goals today were to schedule car inspections and contact NJ Department of Education.  Both of which sound simple, but through my very frustrating experiences are quite disheartening. 

There is only one state inspection station in the county wilds where I live. It’s about a thirty minute drive and you are required to make an appointment before driving there. However, the location’s phone number is neither listed on the website nor is it in the yellow pages. SO, I decided I would go the private inspection route. I called the first number on the list, and a gentleman answered admitting that inspections do not cost any money if you go directly to the state location. I appreciated his honesty and while he could give me the address, he also knew nothing of the elusive phone number. 

I have thus scribbled down the directions, plan to dress in heels, and drive down to the office with my most innocent, wide-eyed plea, “Could you please just inspect my vehicle now and I’ll schedule the second one with you for a later date?”

Some people master the art of seduction. That’s not me! In fact, my husband calls it the art of pathetic. It’s not the most revered talent in the world, but generally it gets me what I want. I have had employees and patrons offer to carry boxes, picture frames, etc. to my car. Deliveries usually bring, set-up, and check products before leaving. And most of the time, I can get the last dentist or doctor’s appointment without too much trouble. I never thought much of it; until my family pointed out that most people don’t get those things.

Unfortunately, my pathetic arts don’t work with bureaucracy. I am as frustrated and annoyed as the overworked, underpaid worker on the other end of the line. After waiting on hold for 40-45 minutes with the Department of Education, I have learned how to mask irritation, but not always get what I want. The reason for this is because the customer service representatives have no control over my license or certification. In fact, the cycle of calling, complaining, and waiting has continued since June. Today I jogged while on hold and the representative answered and suggested I fax another letter to my examiner who has to issue it.

I wish him no misfortune. I merely hope that the day there is something important that he needs, he is treated with the same respect that he has given me.  

Okay…enough complaining. I am attaching a few pictures below. Hopefully, you enjoy them. They are of the beautiful New Jersey Wilds in fall. It nearly makes the blood and bruises from mountain biking worth it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wedding Bells & Taco Cakes

Weddings are about making memories and remembering old ones. Out of love for the bride and groom, family and friends unite to share in the couple’s first moment as husband and wife.

Over the weekend, my hubs and I attended a friend's wedding. For one night, we danced, we laughed, and we remembered high school with the people who helped me survive it. It was great to share a new memory with so many old friends, while laughing over past antics.

The wedding itself was beautiful. It had the typical outline: church to reception. However, the couple added their own unique flare to the ceremony. The most memorable of these additions was a taco cake - proof that the groom has always been a “closet romantic.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

Every Pumpkin has Potential

Amidst the gnarly vines of the local pumpkin patch, we embarked on a mission to find the perfect pumpkin. Although all of these orange gourds begin as beautiful yellow flowers, no two develop the same. Some are long and thin. Others are short and fat. And while some have weights calculated in grams others grow to over 1800 pounds. Thus, our challenge to find the perfect pumpkin was a harrowing feat.

The hayride to the groves took us past a petting zoo of baby pigs, goats, and cows as well as a firing sling of the “untouchables.” Like a tiny vegetable graveyard, thousands of rotting pumpkins were smashed along the fields. A quick turn through the hills of colored leaves and we arrived at the pumpkin mother load. Thousands of beautifully grown pumpkins waited to be picked.

We stomped through the grounds, searching high and low…and before we knew it the five of us all picked different pumpkins. Like people, a pumpkin cannot be judged based on looks alone. Inside each pumpkin there is a Halloween soul waiting to be exposed. We needed to bring them home so each masterpiece could be revealed.

Luckily, the return hayride took us past corn fields, pony rides and carnival games, so that our frightened pumpkins did not see their fallen brethren in the pumpkin slaying fields. We paid for our bounty excited at their potential, and bought two more pumpkins for the rest of our team waiting at home. All in all we had eight pumpkins: one green one the size of a gumball, six average pumpkins between one and five pounds, and one monster pumpkin weighing in at 38 pounds.

When we arrived at home, the tables were covered in orange plastic sheets, the carving tools were distributed, and the snacks were devoured. Each individual bathed their dear pumpkin trying to find its potential.

Then, we hollowed out each pumpkin and began our work. My brother and sister-in-law found their pumpkins were free formed and set about drawing the face of their jack-o-lanterns. Our uncle had a mission selecting a scary pattern and sawing it into the face of his work of art. My stepfather-in-law was still emptying out the gargantuan father of all pumpkins and my mother-in-law was secretly pulling extra gourds from her Martha Stewart bag. My husband had disappeared.

We sawed with pumpkin carving tools, Henckel knives, drills, nails, toothpicks, and X-acto knives; until the pumpkins’ Halloween souls began to appear.

In no time at all, our uncle proclaimed, “Where are the candles?!”

While he had finished, my brother and sister-in-law were still perfecting. I was still sawing out the shape of a moon. My mother–in-law and stepfather-in-law were secretly slicing and dicing; using tooth picks. And my husband had just finished tracing a face onto his pumpkin.

Soon all of us had our pumpkins on the mantle. We oo’d and awe’d at each other’s art. My husband however, caught none of our discussion. He was still cutting. Then, as all of us discarded the pumpkins scraps, he was bathing his pumpkin. In everything, he is a perfectionist, and his work was rewarded. By the time his art joined the rest of ours, it was a spectacle.

There was no singular perfect pumpkin, they were all beautiful! We had the artistic simplicity of a skeleton and his cat, a black cat among tree branches, and a dragon in a full moon. We had the unique design of a barn owl with candle wick eyes. We had a vampire. We had a one eyed, one horned, one toothed, orange-people-eater that taught us even the smallest green pumpkin has potential (it’s the eye). AND if we had declared a winner, it would have been the fiery jack-o-lantern that looks fierce even without the blaze of a candle behind its eyes.

Do you have a favorite? 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Plantain vs. Banana: A Cautionary Tale

Once upon a time there lived a wife, who enthusiastically drove her red chariot to the market to buy some fruit for her husband’s lunches. He was tyrannical in his desire for the perfect made snacks, and the young wife, being eager to please, had memorized her list. She planned a vegetarian lasagna that would last the week and needed only the required fruits to complete the meal: one citrus and one banana for each day.

All had been packed into her cart as she swiveled around the display of apricots to arrive at the orange stand. She poured these treats into her basket and continued forward pleased by her bounty. Then, she arrived at the dreaded bananas.

Her husband, who garnered an eye for detail, had specific instructions regarding his bananas. There was to be no green on them. He liked them so ripe that they could have been made into banana nut bread the moment they were brought home. Yet, as she stood staring across the bundles, there was only green. All the yellow bananas had already been bought.

“Oh no,” she thought. “What shall I do?”

Then, as if her very merry, fairy godmother sat upon her shoulders, she saw the plantains.

“Yes,” she considered. “They are yellow with black spots and they are only slightly larger than the bananas.” In her defense, she had eaten plantains, and they were delicious fried or dipped in chocolate. She was not trying to poison or trick her dear husband. In fact, she thought he might be pleased.

So, after deep contemplation on the subject, she bought two plantains and a bundle of green bananas which she hoped would ripen by the end of the week.


On Wednesday morning, the nervous wife woke early to pack her husband’s lunch. She packed all the snacks that he desired and hid the monstrous plantain beneath his napkin. Then, she handed him his lunch pail, kissed his cheek, and sent him on his way.

Ten minutes after he arrived at work, she received this message:

“I'm still trying to calm down from not having a bowl for oatmeal and the excuse for a banana you sent. WTF was it? It got one bite before making it to the garbage can. ;-)”

To which she replied,

“The reason you're not in love with the banana is because it's a plantain - they were the only ripe ones. And as for the bowl I really just forgot. Major wife failure...sorry. I'm slapping my hands repeatedly and saying, ‘Bad Housewife!’”

And through this "failure," they had a good laugh and learned the valuable lesson that a plantain is not a banana. In fact, a banana is a fruit and a plantain is a vegetable. But let’s not get into that conundrum.

Instead, if you’d like to read more on the subject, check out:
Plantain vs. Banana

Sunday, October 10, 2010


During our recent trip back to Maryland, my husband and I watched an Animal Planet special on vermin. Rather, my hubby thought he would torment me with the show, because I hate rats. This is a fairly new development. I was not born with a dislike of the beady eyed creatures of the underworld, it was learned. When I lived in DC, I had two run-ins with the monsters in the supposedly prestigious neighborhoods of Northwest, and could never look at them the same.

Where I lived in DC was on Connecticut. Where I worked and attended graduate school was a straight two miles down Nebraska. I could drive or take public transportation, but generally I walked. It cleared my head and prepared me for the rest of the day. On one particular morning around 5:30 AM, I began the hike, because I intended to stop at the gym before work. With hazy contacts, I started towards Nebraska. I came to a light and turned right to cross the street. Down the quiet road ahead of me I saw movement. I squinted to paint a clearer picture of the animals in my path.

“Are they cats?” I thought.

“No,” I reasoned. While their bodies were big enough, their tails were too skinny. I reviewed my knowledge of wildlife from my rural upbringing and concluded they had to be opossums. It was not an unlikely probability. I had seen a fox on Connecticut once and a raccoon down the street on someone’s porch. An opossum seemed like the logical conclusion.

Curiosity overcame fear. I inched closer and closer; until the animals became clearer and clearer. And much to my frightened, repulsed disappointment, they were not opossums, but gigantic sewer rats. I kid you not; they were the size of cats. I have recounted my story to many, but only those who have lived in DC believe me. DC natives have surprisingly similar stories. Everyone else says, “They can’t get that big.”

Now, back to the television special…

The show drew my attention in disgusted horror, because it detailed studies on rats and how they could climb from the sewers into your house through the toilets. The narrator said, “Their natural born inclination leads them to search in the pipes…” Then, nature has endowed them with strong swimming legs, a rudder of a tail, and strong lungs. A rat can hold its breath for three minutes, swim for three days, and shrinks its body to the size of its head. Compound all that knowledge with the fact that halfway through the toilet’s tubing, there is a pocket of air where a rat can pause to catch his breath before making his final journey into your home.

I found a segment of the special in a different language just in case you want to watch the rat swim through PVC piping. I warn you, after watching it, you’ll never look at your toilet the same way again.

The story should have ended with the conclusion of the show. Like any horror flick, the monster should have been locked behind the glass and in my imagination. However, that was not the case…

When we returned home, my husband and I popped in our Netflix movie, Shutter Island (I do not recommend it) and opened a bottle of wine to relax after the long drive. Sometime near the middle, when Dicaprio’s character is inside the mental institution, a loud sound thuds above us. We both jump, startled. Then, we freeze trying to decipher whether the sound was from the movie or inside our house.

When the thumping continued and combined with claws scratching across the linoleum floor in our kitchen, we both had the same thought: cat caught in a bag again. When our cats were kittens, they loved plastic bags until…they got their heads caught in the handle. They tore through the house with the scary bag ghost flapping behind them so quickly, it took a combined effort to capture and free them again.

Now, though, it sounded like one of the cats was hanging himself. I sprinted up the stairs forgoing the light to save my endangered kitty. Only, when I reached the kitchen, he was sitting calmly on the floor. His tail waved back and forth. My husband flicked on the light behind me and our fat cat threw a gray and white mouse in the air and caught it again. It dropped to the floor, scurrying toward the oven. Dante halted the escape with one heavy paw on top of the critter. Then, he stared back at me.

I was petrified. My husband was petrified. Wide-eyed we gawked in disbelief. There was nothing else to do. Dante misinterpreted our reaction, thinking he had done something wrong, and lifted his paw. His prey fled underneath the oven and Beast dove after him.

“Well,” my husband suggested coming over to rub my shoulders and kiss my cheek. "Looks like it's time to open that next bottle of wine!”

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Only in New Jersey

Being a real housewife of New Jersey has its perks. One of them is that I run my errands during the week and miss the chaotic scramble of overworked, underpaid mothers who drive their carts like bumper cars.

On Tuesdays, just after morning rush hour, I hop in my car with my canvas bags and drive the requisite fifteen minutes to The Weis. It is a little grocery store with great deals on food! Compared to the city however, its selection is limited. And while my dollar goes farther, Harris Teeter unpacked and repacked my items at checkout. I miss that!

The grocery run is generally uneventful. After all in the wilds, there are only so many residents that cross my path. As I entered the Weiss this particular Tuesday, everything appeared normal. There were the Coupon Carriers parked in the middle of the aisles ticking on their calculators and ruffling slips of paper. There were a few mothers with kids bribed by treats. And there was me.

I rolled through the vegetables where an irate, middle-aged woman complained about the price of bagged lettuce. She followed me briefly through the fruits invested in a conversation that I had not acknowledged, regarding the price of apricots. Thank The Lord a store employee began unpacking coconuts by the oranges, because the apricot lady veered toward her, leaving me to my peaceful shopping.

Then, I continued forward, heading toward the Spanish goods. While my Spanish degree has come in handy on occasion, I have found it most useful when shopping. Food packaged in Spanish is on average 50 cents cheaper than its English counterpart. So, whenever I need canned vegetables, spices, or rice; I head toward the “International Aisle.”

Its position is at the base of the Meats Section, and I intended to buy a pound of ground chuck to make tacos. As I neared the packages, an approximately seventy-five-year-old woman was adjacent to the beef section in pork. I thought nothing of her or her cart; until I was hunting through the ground chuck searching for 93/7 beef.

I lifted a package of 86/14, which seemed to be the lowest fat content I could buy, and a cart struck my thigh. The woman in pork was continuously nudging me. I have never had this happen before and I wondered how to politely say, “Excuse me, that thing you’re running into…is me?”

I set the package of 86/14 beef back on the shelf, preparing to leave without a word. However, the woman’s arm shot past me, lifted my package of beef, threw it in her cart and swerved around me heading toward the pancakes!

I know what you’re thinking; I set the ground chuck back on the shelf. It was fair game. But isn’t there like a Five Second Courtesy Rule when shopping?

I shrugged off my encounter and continued through the store, believing that nothing else strange could happen on my excursion. I was wrong.

It was time to pay. I arrived at the front to see one checkout lane open besides self-checkout. Since I had a full cart and the line to the checkout employee was only one person deep, I decided to wait. I pulled into the checkout line only to discover that the meat stealer was ahead of me, and she had coupons! She glanced back once and only once through squinty eyes, and I squinted back.

I should have recognized that she was a bad omen and left the line for self-checkout, but I did not. Instead, I waited and waited while she pieced together a sizable discount. By the time I reached the conveyor belt, two more people were in line behind me. Both of them were NJ mothers.

“Can’t you open another line?” Yelled the first to the manager across the store.

“You’re sure lucky my kid isn’t screamin!” Called the second.

To put it lightly, grocery store animosity was on red alert.

The manager strolled toward them nonchalantly to carry on a conversation. From what I gathered, two people had called out that morning, and he was short staffed.

“Well, can’t you open a checkout line?” Asked the first mother.

“Can’t do that,” replied the manager.

“Is it below a manager’s position?” Inquired the second.

I huffed nervously and started loading my groceries onto the conveyor belt, trying to hurry through the motions before a WWE smackdown began in Aisle Four.

The manager, having had his fill of the mothers, walked to the cash register of the lone checkout employee and began a bitter discussion about the “unreliable kid,” who never shows up for work. This dialogue was so crucial that it pulled the check-out ladies full attention. She stopped mid-scan of my groceries.

I waited. I said nothing.

Behind me, the mothers chattered. I must mention here that I was not eavesdropping; not on purpose at least. The conversation was in stereotypical loud, jersey fashion. It was hilarious! It took all of my focus not to laugh out loud. I have inserted my favorite excerpt below.

“I like those pants,” said the first mother. They were bright pink sweatpants with lettering down the side. They matched the crocs that covered her feet.

“Oh yeah,” the second continued, “I got them at Kohl’s.”

“Virgin be…” The first sounded out before stopping with a surprised look. “Virgin bitch?” she whispered to avoid the young ears.

“No,” the second replied, “Virgin Beach.”

Now they were both staring at her pants. The second mother’s face went pale to crimson. “Oh my God,” she exclaimed, “I never…I never looked closely at them in the store.”

In case you’re wondering, the pants read, “Virgin Be-atch!”

When I heard that I had to turn completely around to hide the smirk that reached my eyes. At which point, the checkout employee began scanning my groceries again. I really wanted to end on that note. I wanted to walk out of the store and go home, but my escapade was not over.

The checkout employee was a super nice twenty-year-old, who slowed her scanning to tell me the woes of her life and job. She repeated over and over about the “unreliable guy” and all the hours that she worked.

I wanted to say, “I…just…want…to…buy…my…groceries. That’s it! Please…I need to leave the insanity of this.”

But what I said was, “Well, at least you’re making the mega-bucks right?”

To which she replied, “Yeah, I guess so…”

Moral of this Story: grocery store day has been moved to Wednesdays.

Results of the Timid Monster Challenge

Thanks to everyone who participated by blog comment and email! Unfortunately, while the guesses were great, no one picked Kamela. She currently resides on my reading shelf, counting her plastic spoon collection.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rock N’ Rollers

There are things like big hair and leggings that should have stayed in the 80’s where they belonged. However, Roller Derby is not one of them. In fact, if you have never been to a “jam,” I encourage you to take the plunge. What other sport can women dress slutty, wear make-up and jewelry, skate in a circle, and throw punches? Okay, they don’t really “throw" punches or elbows or any other appendage. It's against the rules. But it’s important to remember, rules are there because people break them.

My husband and I found ourselves both amazed and entertained for the entire one hour game. It started with a brief overview. The Skyland Rollers and the Derby Dames actually skated in a mock jam while the announcer explained the rules and scoring. I found this video on youtube, and while the music and effects are cheesy, it’s a great introduction.

Now, one of my favorite parts of the game was trying to read everyone’s derby names. There were all sorts: Madame Menace, Doom Hilda, Daisy Duke Nukem, etc. And I began to ponder, if I were a roller girl what my name would be. Mind you that as I mentioned previously I have the killer instincts of a sun flower…

So far my list includes:

Jessy Homecky
Jersey Justice

Any suggestions? Or have you considered what your derby name would be? If you’ve never been to a game, watch the clip below or rent Whip it and think about what really exemplifies your competitive nature…

And just in case I’ve inspired you to check out a game. Here’s a link to all girls’ roller derbies across the country!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Biking Bruises

This past weekend was jam-packed with adventures and I sat for maybe ten minute trying to solve the conundrum of which to share first. At last I determined to tell the one that left me bruised.

In August, my husband bought me a mountain bike with clips. For all of my readers who have no idea what “clips” mean, it’s a type of pedal where you buy shoes that Velcro to your feet and the shoes clip into the bike. You, supposedly, become a part of the bike when you wear them. But how do you become two-legged again? To unhook, you must turn your ankles outwards, away from the frame.

At first, unclipping is uncomfortable and unnatural. However, more importantly, you often forget when stopping that you need to unclip or you simply fall over. I remember the days when my husband first put the clips on his bike. I would stop. He would stop. He would fall to the ground. It was like watching a cartoon; everything in slow motion. I would howl in laughter. Over the past month, however, karma has nipped me with my own share of standing-still-falls. In the wilds of NJ, there are many hills and I have collided with pavement, grass, and dirt alike. Yet, I never received bruises from it.

I have practiced diligently over the past month, building quads and stamina by biking around our paved community every day. Our neighbors probably believe I am a lunatic, but there is method to my madness. My goal was that I wanted to be on the mountain trails by the time the leaves changed. There are benefits to living in the wilds, and that is one of them.

So on Tuesday, we packed up the bikes for our first afternoon ride. It was beautiful! The leaves had not really changed yet, but the sights were breathtaking. The trees were in shades of green and the trail (supplied to us by jorba.org) lead around a beautiful lake with thousands of lily pads and a bridge to look over them. As we left the site, the sun had started to set over the western mountains and it was a rewarding view. Plus, it was my first mountain-biking excursion and I did not crash once. I only got off my bike for one daunting obstacle.

On Saturday, we endeavored to repeat this adventure with a morning ride. We woke early, but were in no rush to reach the trails. We drove the requisite mile or so to the road, and before we began, our biking ended. My rear de-railer had been bent. Thus, we returned to the car for a little repair. After a half-hour of patience, we were back on the bikes pedaling along the gravel roads. However, after about three miles we came to three people and what can only be described as a pack of dogs. All were well trained, but I found it necessary to de-bike in order to not fall on the beasts. As I started pedaling again, I could not “clip-in” to my bike and soon discovered my clip had lost a screw. My husband furiously biked back the trail to search for it, and luckily we found it and reattached it.

Now, at this point, I thought perhaps we should turn back. We had not arrived at the technical stuff yet, and already we had two near disasters. But, did we stop? Oh no, we did not. We started up the first hill of rocky technicals and I wiped out with a shriek, landing in the underbrush. I have been perfecting my screaming fall, because the first time I wiped out standing still, it sounded like I was dying. I did not want the neighbors to rush outside every time I hit the pavement, or they might as well set up lawn chairs and have a barbecue to watch. Anyways, the real success of that collision was that my shriek sounded fairly nonchalant. Hooray!

I climbed back on the bike with a wary smile. I would not let the hill deter me! I would not decrease my effort. I would increase it! My thought was that fear would hold me back, so I would overcompensate with a better grind up the hill. I clipped into my bike and started hard core biking along the incline. I saw a tree trunk in my path. I watched my husband’s bike hop over it…

I shouted, “You can do it Jess!”

Reality retorted with a sinister laugh, “Oh…ho…ho, no you cannot!”

My handle bars twisted all the way around. I “got air” so to speak flying sideways. I landed palms, right hip, right shoulder, left thigh… into the stones and dirt. I stayed still for a long moment breathing and laughing. It hurt, but the adrenalin had not yet registered the real pain. At this point, we were at the halfway mark on the trail. So what could I possibly do other than walk it off, get back on, and try again.

I reduced the intensity for the rest of the ride and returned home, slightly worse than I left it. My palms still sizzled and my knee had already blackened. By Sunday Morning, I had six golf ball size bruises along my legs as proof of my actions. Call me crazy, but I was proud.

A little biking video for Monday Morning amusement:

P.S. Don't forget the Timid Monster Challenge...it ends October 1st!!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Laundry Antics

After the shopping trip to Tannersville, my husband and I had a serious discussion about how to keep clothes looking nice. After all, it’s unkind to give a shirt a forever home only to wear it thin within weeks, throw it in a pile of the unwanted and transform it into a rag; thereby stripping it of any dignity.

“In order to keep shirts nice,” I said, “anything that needs to be washed in a delicate cycle with cold or warm water goes in the right side of our hamper…where as hot water washes go in the left.”

“Okay,” he agreed.

The passage of one week…

Last night, I had crawled in bed, hunkering down for the cool New Jersey night. My husband was changing into his bedclothes and I heard him saying, “Left…right…left…right…left…right…” over and over again.

I, having forgot the hamper conversation, wondered what in the world had him so perplexed.

When at last he crawled into bed, I asked, “Honey, what were you talking about over there?”

“I couldn’t remember which side was which,” he replied.

“So what’d you pick?”

“The Floor.”

I nod my head to his engineering ways, he is one inventive man!

P.S. Don’t forget to try the challenge on the September 22 Post!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Timid Monster Challenge! (You could actually win something)

Over the weekend, my husband and I discovered a new, free publication that targets the counties of the Wilds of New Jersey including (but not limited to) such townships as White, Allamuchy, and Buttsville. Besides the joke that there is actually a township named Buttsville, we were also impressed by the number of comic stories that the paper included.

As we read each, I honed in on a quarter page ad that read, “Hackettstown Street Fair, Sunday!”

“Street Fair!” I shrieked.

My husband threw his head into his hands and mumbled, “We’re going…aren’t we?”

If there is one thing that I love, it’s fairs and street markets. Madrid has the Rostro, and I have never seen such a beautiful open air market in my life. Cusco has the Molino with black market goods and all types of Andean art. And while both are incredible in their own right, there is just something special about an American Fair. Call me ethnocentric, but there is nothing quite as fun as eating hot sausage sandwiches, French fries with vinegar, and funnel cake on a sunny day surrounded by unique venders, live music, and farm animals!

Impressively, Hackettstown had most of the required items on our scavenger hunt to make the outing perfect…excluding farm animals. However, I marked that off of our list, because there was a set of boxers, a great dane, and a few Chihuahuas which I considered to be two miniature ponies, a horse, and three bunnies.

Then, the powdered sugar on our adventure was the Roller Derby. Recently, we rented Whip It, an independent film about a girl who joins a roller derby team. It looked dangerous and fun, so when we saw the stand of women with the sign “Skyland Roller Girls,” we were drawn to it like moths to a flame. Apparently, in the wilds, women enjoying skating in a circle and shoving one another. I mean... it sounds better than cow tipping, right? After getting their brochure, we actually talked to one of the tough athletes, who suggested I come to a practice.

I answered without smirking, “Oh…I don’t know about that…I have the killer instincts of a sun flower.”

The roller chick and my husband could barely contain their laughter.

However, while you probably won’t be seeing me at a practice any time soon, my hubby and I are headed to the roller derby on Saturday and perhaps even the after party.

Now for the Challenge...

Beyond the awesome Skyland Rollers, we also stopped at every artist’s stand. Having had my brief rendezvous with the real world, I truly appreciate people who have found ways to make their passion their income. I am still trying to master that feat.

Anyways, one of these people is Trish Czech. She has combined writing and art into her collection of Timid Monsters…Her tag line being, “Because not all art should be serious.”

 I wanted to share, the hilarity of the monsters with all of you from Elwin who wants to be a spy but is afraid of becoming a pawn in a hostile power struggle over the last donut in the cupboard to Marek who memorizes songs backwards to become immune to subliminal messaging. After reading these stories associated and shamelessly taking pictures of them, I bought one.

Here’s the game… check out the website at www.timidmonsters.com. Post your guess for what timid monster you think that I brought home by October 1st, and the first person to guess it correctly will receive their very own timid monster.

Hint: No, she’s not The Purple People Eater, but she does have one eye.

And feel free to pass the challenge onto your friends!!!! While spreading farts is gross…spreading art isn't.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Cro$$ing$

If you live in the wilds of New Jersey, you may find yourself as I did without many clothes for the impending, harsh winter. Its only mid-September and already I was shivering in short sleeves and thin sweaters. I had to find warmth, and since it is no longer customary to kill, skin, tan, and sew a hide for fabric; I was forced into the modern woman’s version of the forest: outlet malls.

Like any good woods-woman knows, there is one rule when entering the material jungle. You never go in alone. More eyes equates to both better gathering and protection from threats like being lured to a hideous lime green sweater or poisoning your credit score by signing up for the credit card / 20% off deal that every vender spins. I knew the perfect guide for this outing: my mother. I called her and she called her mother…and soon we had a three generational pack ready to scavenge The Crossings at Tannersville. Grandmother, mother, and daughter were prepared. We fished for online coupons finding that the outlets had excellent ones to improve our bounty. We kissed our men goodbye, promising to return before sun down. And then we hit the trails with the rising sun.

Everyone has rules about catching the perfect deals. I have mine. First, class before trash. This little phrase is two-fold. It can save any woman from heartache both in the workplace and at the bars. Its most obvious meaning is that if you are down to your last pennies go for classy over trashy. We have all been there in the skimpy tank-top and skirt in the grocery store deli. It’s a bold move and a cold one. I guarantee that you will wear the classy outfit most often and will be much more comfortable in the average settings. However, this phrase also means that layering is key: find a skimpy trashy top and layer it with a classy one. People will see class before trash when you’re at work, but one less layer and you’re ready to go bar hopping . That’s called being flexible!

Second, there are certain stores that one must never set foot in. I know that sounds closed minded, but let me explain. There is a store called The Dress Barn. I ask you, “What shops in a barn?” Not a person…No, barns are inhabited by horses and cows. I am no cow. Thus, therein lies their marketing blunder. Yet, as I was walking past that store, I saw a cute, black, long-sleeve t-shirt. I was in love. I drooled staring at it. Despite my better judgment, I went to it. I lifted it from its hanger inspecting and perusing its shape and form. All around me, my pack enclosed. My mother being the fearless leader, made a raucous. Suddenly, from her lips she uttered a guttural, “Moooo!” Again, I repeat, never shop alone. She could not save me from acquiring it. I had to break the rule this once. However, it was worth it just for the memory and the laughter that ensued.

All in all the day proved successful. We ensnared so many deals, the trunk of my car was packed full. I returned home with twelve shirts for my husband, eight shirts for me, and a new pea coat. Then, my husband delighted in everything I had bought for him; except for one little teal shirt that I had to release back into the wild. It was a great day! One I must repeat for pants in the very near future.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bushkill Falls

Main Falls on Brochure

Over the weekend, my husband and I took a day-trip to Bushkill Falls. It involves driving an hour from the Wilds of New Jersey into the Wilds of PA. As we turned onto 209 north, we recognized that we had left civilization behind us as we saw billboards with the words, “Bushkill Falls 9 miles. Left at blinking light.” There were many flashing lights on 209 including those from construction, where entire lanes were blocked by two friendly PennDot workers who started and stopped traffic. It seemed an eternity, but at last we saw the actual blinking light (with a tiny sign directing us toward the falls) and turned left toward “the Niagara of Pennsylvania."

As we climbed and hiked across wooden paths that dropped in and out of gorges overlooking the Main Falls and the Bridal Falls; we laughed and enjoyed the scenic excursion. However, the drought had lessened the majesty of the water some: where usually gallons cascaded over the rocks, tiny streams had replaced them. I mention it not to suggest avoiding The Falls; rather as a precaution before driving there.

Main Falls in a Drought
We intend to go back as the leaves change or perhaps when more rain has drenched the Poconos to see it in all its splendor! Yet I would be remiss to say the day’s adventure was found in the rocky, rough terrain of the mountain or the steep stairs out of the largest ravine. No, as with most things in life, the journey was not where we expected it. It was on the drive home.

The Shawnee Indian Reservation Visitor Center has a mini-golf course. Most adults presumably those without children would ignore that sign. Not me. Not my husband. While the majority of my friends gush over lying on beaches and being pampered on their honeymoons, I discuss the mini-golf, mini-battle. Everyday for a week in the Canary Islands, we met on the greens in spirited competition that turned into rivalry: male versus female, husband versus wife. Only one of us could rise victorious. I claimed that initial trophy, and won a dinner out... but rematches have often given the manly victor his spoils.

Mentally preparing for another fierce campaign, our eyes roved along 209 south searching for the elusive battle field. We passed a  dingy van with two rugs draped over its gaping doors. These were high class floor covers: Betty Boop with a motorcycle and four connected portraits of the Disney princesses. A little sign in front of it read, “Rug Super Sale.” Like the yard sale incidence, I ignored the sign, but before I knew it my husband was doing a u-turn.

“They could have something we want,” He explained, “we really need a rug for our living room.”

“O-okay,” I stuttered as we entered the gravel lot with no cars other than our own.

“If we find something,” he continued, “You gotta help me bargain them down.”

“I can play the frightened, panicked wife; who doesn’t want to be here?” I suggested…and he laughed at me.

As we got out of the car, a man dressed in a stained gray outfit stepped out of the building directly behind the van.

“Lookin to buy a carpet?” He asked. “I’ve got more in the building,” he nodded toward the cement block that looked about as inviting as a serial killers lair, and what I heard was, “Come into this abandoned warehouse, won’t you? No one can hear you scream.”

My eyes shifted nervously back and forth as my husband leaned down and carefully lifted and separated individual carpets.

“You like this one?” He asked. I shook my head, no, in tiny head jerks afraid of attracting attention.

“This one?” His voice had a twinkle to it, and actually, I did like it.

“Mm…hmmm,” I answered another minuscule head movement. We pulled it out, and it truly was perfect for our living room. It brought in the bright colors that we needed to lighten the room.

I pointed to a fray at the end though; unwilling to vocalize that it was a little damaged.

My husband fearlessly inspected the other side and said, “It’s damaged.” Bringing a lighter the man burned and folded the frays back into the carpet, fixing a little stitch, and promising to cut twenty dollars off the price.

Then, my husband found a little cement like dust, and no embellishment included here, the guy actually said, “Did you take my knife?”

“Excuse me?!” I asked. 

“Did you take my knife?” He repeated louder and all I could think was ‘We’re gonna be mugged!'

You may be laughing, but I tell you… the caliber of this rug store left something to be desired.

“Okay,” my husband said at last, “we’ll take it! Is there an ATM around here?”

“Just next door in the gas station,” the man delighted already brimming from his sale.

“I’ll be right back,” My husband replied. There is the royal “we” in literature, and there is the royal “I” in marriage. “I” meant “we;” especially in this case. I trailed him matching my pace to his as we hurried toward the gas station.

While I waited for him to procure funds, I perused brochures. It’s a fun past time especially when you’re near strange and backward attractions. For example, if you visit Bushkill Falls you can also go to the World’s Largest General Store. For your enjoyment I scanned in a pieces of the brochure for you. Please note, not only does it have a creamery but a movie theater. It has not just a pet store, but a dog restaurant. And most importantly, dogs are permitted to urinate on the premises. Notice how the Clipart dog appears both on the front cover with his leg lifted as well as the centerfold, filling the fish bowel and surrounding area with his blue pee.
Front and Middle pieces of pamphlet 

Or if that doesn’t strike your fancy, you can go to the Pocono’s Snake and Animal Farm where you’re children can commune with nature and feed the wildlife.
*snake included by yours truly to demonstrate exactly how children can nurse mammals and reptiles!

 As soon as we make our return excursion to The Falls, I’ll be checking these places out!

And in the meantime, I have learned a valuable lesson:

“Even sketchy vans sometimes have good deals.” The rug is now in front of our fire place and looks great!

But, always remember if you intend to bargain shop in an abandoned warehouse:
  • Never go in alone
  • Know your exits
  • Ensure your knife is bigger than the merchant's 
  • And be practiced in the martial arts

Until next time!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Battle of The Band-Aid

In the townhome, my husband and I have discovered a new pleasure in life: not sharing a bathroom. For the first time, we have two. We originally conceived, however naively, to use only the master bath and leave the second for guests. Then, my husband discovered he liked both the lighting and the shower of the second bath better. He took it over… There was no mutiny. Gradually, I began to notice things like the tiny scissors and good tweezers disappear from one medicine cabinet and appear in another. Then, “the man tools” were displaced; until even the shampoos and conditioner that he uses were gone from my daily routine. He had deserted one bathroom for a brighter, larger pasture…and I was left with pure bliss.

Granted my bathroom is tiny, but I like to think of it as quaint. It’s cozy. Once the door is shut, I can reach all my cabinets, drawers, toilet and shower in one pirouette. To the right of my counter, I have a make-up basket and drawer. Underneath the sink, I have an entire double door home for my hair products, straightener, curling iron, curlers, and hair dryer. It’s glorious! And if by chance, I leave a light dusting of blush or powder on the counter there is no one screaming, “Eeck, there’s dirt all over the bathroom sink!”

In fact, my husband only visits this tiny paradise twice a day: to brush his teeth. He says it’s because we share the toothbrush base and he is being kind by leaving it in my bathroom. However, I know the truth. I have never seen a real rabid animal. I have only heard stories about foaming at the mouth, and my husband’s morning and night routine exemplifies that image. In one three minute session, the mirror, the counter and everything within a three foot radius of his mouth becomes covered in Crest.

I am not shaken by the minty fresh spackling across the wall…that’s why they make Windex and Clorox. However, something that has me shaking in my socks is the leftover band-aid. When he used to shower in my bathroom before he claimed another, he left his used band-aid at the base of my shower. I have not been frugal with my constant reminders that it needs to go with the rest of his “manly things” into his “manly den” at the end of the hall. However, he has not listened, and as the days pass I can only imagine the tiny microbial germs festering inside it.

Yet, I cannot bring myself to throw it out. After all, it is not his bathroom where it resides, but mine. I mean the United States would not let Canada leave their trash in Maine or Vermont. The Canadians might try, but there would be a battle, and the perpetrators would have to claim the stinking refuge that belongs to them. So in the American tradition, I shall not throw it away. Rather I am pitted against him, hunkering down in the trenches, preparing for The Battle of The Band-aid. He left it there thinking I would cave, but I have not. I will not. I raise my fist in competition and shout with the same resilience as John Paul Jones, “I have not yet begun to fight!!!!!!”

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Diet Disasters

We’ve all been there, trying to lose a pound or ten. We’ve all fought hard; only to get on the scale months later and see that we have actually gained five pounds rather than lost it. My friends, we are not alone in our struggle. The animal kingdom too has its difficulties with weight.

My husband and I adopted two rescue cats from the Humane Society in Northeast D.C. almost two years ago. Beast, the smaller of the two, has always been tiny, agile, and fluffy. He has the characteristic tuxedo with white gloves, and alluring green eyes. He’s just cute and everyone wants to pet him. He’s like the baby of the family. Dante, on the other hand, has always been lazy, hungry, and a little chubby. Since the day we brought him, he’s liked to eat. He’s an orange tabby cat with amber eyes, and no overly distinguishable characteristics. He’s kind of like the suburban teen who is into emo and lounges around complaining how life is unfair.

Six months ago during their routine visit to the animal hospital, the vet had said it was time Dante be put on a diet. He had gotten on the scale, and much to my surprise he was a 17 pound hunk of feline flesh. Beast weighed in at about 11 pounds, and was the perfect weight for his size. He purred as if to say, “I know…I’m perfect.” Dante’s ears, on the other hand, flattened against his head and he crawled back into the carrier refusing to come out again until we were home. Immediately, we switched him to a higher protein diet with less fillers, reduced portion sizes, constantly poked fun at his obesity calling him names like Tubba Lubba and Fatty McPatty to encourage him to eat less…and I thought we were making progress.

Then, this week I took Dante to a New Jersey veterinary clinic, because he had developed an ear infection. Off we went with one unhappy kitty stuffed into his carrier. As I met the cat doctor, I explained Dante’s history with food and his weight problem.

“He was 17 pounds in March,” I said proudly, “But we have been working to get him down to 14.”

“Put him on the scale and let’s see how much farther we have to go,” The vet replied.

I plopped the orange mass of cat on the scale, his fur flying everyone with his frustration at being at the hospital, and he weighed in at a total of 18.4 pounds! He had gained weight! 21% of his body weight should not exist on his bones! Kitty was headed on the unhealthy highway toward heart disease, and it was time to take extreme measures.

Brokenhearted, I packed the fatty back into his carrier, promising the vet by March he would lose some of that mass.

The vet, who judged us like we hadn’t actually been trying to reduce his size said in parting, “It’s important for his health, ‘cause he’s such a nice guy, we want to keep him around.”

That night we adopted a new regiment and reduced his portions further. I quickly discovered how hungry he got just before dinner. Feeding time is nine o’clock, and Dante follows me around the house from about eight o’clock throwing expressive tantrums in each room as if to be a constant reminder that food should be served. I have made this part of his exercise plan though. Now, for a good ten minutes before I actually put food in his bowl I walk around the house, and he trots with me. He runs in front of my legs as I walk away from the bowls, and gallops happily back when I walk toward it. I thought it was working well. However, yesterday he wised up to my game. He actually nipped me on the walk away, as if to say, “Knock it off, I’m hungry!”

I plan to get a scale and keep weighing him to stay on top of this unfortunate weight gain, but for now he's just one fat cat.
18.4 Pounds of Ferocious Feline Flesh

Friday, September 3, 2010

Outlaws Yesterday and Today a Daredevil

No, I am not the daredevil. The most thrilling thing I did yesterday was walk through my little community and hold my breath as three state cops passed me. I had just recently posted about being an outlaw, and got the feeling at the pit of my stomach like I had just been speeding on the highway...and they were about to pull me over. Then, I realized they would probably not need three state cops to apprehend me...after all I'm not a triple threat, or am I?

Anyways, today's daredevil hails from Pennsylvania, and is one of my most dedicated readers.. He sent this to me yesterday and I just had to post it for everyone to see! He actually jumped out of a plane! Watch the anguish in his face just before the jump; you can see the nerves. My heart actually stopped when he dove into the air. But this story has a happy ending, he did survive!!!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Interviewee Turned Outlaw

It all began this morning as I suited up for a date with a new potential boss. I donned my jacket and skirt suit, choosing a blazing pink camisole to really set off the gray. I carefully selected shimmering brown shoes to show off my French tipped toe nails. Then, I got my brief that coincidentally matched the shoes, hopped in my sporty little Mazda, and off I went on my first (what I thought to be) mundane interview.

I’ve always hated interviews, because let’s be honest they are completely judging you from behind their desk by what you’ve written and that heavy piece of paper known as your resume. I expected that of course, I have been in that seat. I once had someone submit a resume that still had [insert address here] in the top right corner…for a job with one requirement: Attention to Detail.

Alas, I was now the lowly interviewee going into the state of New Jersey for a grown-up job. As they had requested, I budgeted extra time, because I had to park in student parking and walk the length of the campus to reach their offices. Then, I added another thirty minutes to my travel time in case I hit traffic forgetting that in the Wilds there is none. Like a complete newbie, I arrived a whole hour early for my interview...

As I sat reading, I heard another potential leave the office, but refused the nagging need to glance up from my book to truly evaluate her. When the door closed, I folded my book shut and met the first of two potential bosses. Both were really nice. One of them liked me for the position, the other gave me the sneaking suspicion that she thought I was too qualified. When I say suspicion, though, I mean she gave me the name and number of another department head and told me to say she referred me with the soft caveat, “But I have an opening, and you’re definitely qualified…we’ll let you know in a week.”

Ah…job interviews you’re either over or under qualified and feel undervalued regardless... But that is not how I became an outlaw. No, oh, no. As I left the interview walking under the terraces back to the parking lot, I heard that annoying beeping that can only be produced from a fire alarm. Out of the dorms, students filed in belly shirts, shorts, sweats and t-shirts. I thought nothing of it. Anyone who has gone to college knows that feeling when some idiot could not ignore the overtly red lever any longer. He could not defy nature. He had to pull it. “Silly Monkey,” I thought. However, I should have evaluated this situation closer.

Avoiding the commotion at the east end of the lot, I headed west expecting to find a road. Instead, it took me into a tangled, unpaved maze of traffic rows. I pictured my recent interviewers watching out their windows at my turmoil. If I could solve the insane enigma, and escape; maybe they would give me the job. Round and round, I drove; until at last I found a campus maintenance man.

I rolled down my window and called with my sweetest, pathetic look, “Excuse me Sir, I’m not from around here. How do you get out of this darn parking lot?”

To which he replied that I had to return to where I had come from and to the right of the one-way entrance there was an exit.

“The one that the fire truck is blocking?” I answered.

“That’s the one!” He returned.

I rolled up my window after yelling a quick thank you. Then, I cursed my poor fortune for getting me trapped in this lot. Thus, I drove; until I made it back to the main cement pavement from whence I came. There was no way to avoid the fire trucks. I drove forward, hoping they had made space on the road for me to pass. To my left, the long winding entrance.To my right, the clogged exit with exactly one fire truck, one yellow truck, and one man in red overhauls blocking my escape.

I stared at him and he stared back. It was a grueling duel with our eyes. He squinted and I squinted back. He put his thumbs in his overhauls and leaned back pushing out his stomach and I revved my engine. Then, another car was behind me. I panicked and lost the battle pulling into a nearby parking spot to watch the events unfold. Meanwhile, I called my mother, who cackled fiendishly at the turn of events.

“Thanks Mom,” I said after a few minutes as the man in red overhauls was getting back into his truck, “I got to go. They’re moving and I’m outta here.”

I carefully backed out of my space and came to a full stop at the stop sign to watch him go. Only he never went anywhere. Suddenly, up the one way entrance three ambulances with flashing lights blared by and went along the dorm off-roading to some location unseen.

“Blasted!” I said aloud. I was not waiting any longer.

After checking to ensure no more vehicles had been called to the scene, I pulled my car up so the nose of it was almost to the man in the red overhauls.

I rolled down my window and said, “Excuse me Sir,” innocently batting my eyelashes, “Did you know this is the only exit?”

He huffed expressively and then pointed to the one way entrance. I bit my lower lip. Surely, a friendly fireman wouldn’t tell me to break the law…but he had, and I had no choice but to obey.

I revved the little four cylinder engine, pushed in the clutch and stepped on the gas. All the while, the song, “Breaking the law…breaking the law” played in my head. I swerved in and out through the winding corners testing the sports suspension of my vehicle and feeling truly like an Indian Outlaw as Tim McGraw put it. Then, I spun my little car onto to Grand Avenue, and away I went, hoping the police couldn’t track me down.

And that was how I became an outlaw…just call me Cell Mate number 57.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


The house at long last is unpacked. Everything still needs organized but the space is more than livable. We could survive months with the disorganization, although I plan to tackle it in the coming days. The cats too have adjusted. Every night as we fall asleep, we listen to their sporadic calls and tumbles; until they too join us in bed. Their favorite part of this place are the old window screens that allow bugs to sneak through them. They chase, catch and destroy the intruders with gusto.

Over the past two days, we have found many necessities: Walmart, Kohl’s, the grocery store, Lowe's, Home Depot, and Bottle King. We even tried a general store for sandwiches and the local coffee hot spot. Both of which were good. But the best thing NJ has to offer so far are the local vegetable markets. Their garden tomatoes and cucumbers are scrumptious! We have devoured them in earnest, and I am planning another trip to get more tomorrow.

Surprisingly, we have also ventured into yard sale territory. This was the first time that I had seen my husband in action. We stepped onto the gravel drive of the yard seller's domain and I could have sworn antennae popped out of my husband's head as he scanned for deals! I saw a lot of nothing. He saw bargains that we could not pass up. All in all we bought 8 cigar boxes for 10 cents a piece and one end table that needs polished. In my naive non-bargaining ways I agreed to pay $5 for this table and was scolded promptly for my ignorance, because as my husband put it, "Woman, we could have gotten it for 3 dollars that's two less dollars in our pocket!" I could only roll my eyes, laugh, and shake my head at his thrifty ways.

Other than that all is well. We had our first non-working visitor over today and enjoyed his company immensely. He is from Jersey and I promised to post something kind about the state. Although, over the past few days, I've come across nothing to incite anger or rage. In fact this pastoral lifestyle is peaceful. We have found fawns grazing on the lawn just outside our front door and have seen yellow finches and chickadees pecking at the seeds at our bird feeder. There's no busy traffic, and people swim, hike, bike, and jog around our community.

We have not met our neighbors. We have seen them in passing, eyed each other and nodded. Eventually, I imagine one of us will get the courage to actually verbalize a greeting. However, the simple acknowledgment that we exist is enough for now.

The only anxiety remains in whether or not my husband will like his new post. He is confident and unaffected by the change, but I harbor enough nervousness for the two of us. Both my fingers and toes are crossed that all goes well tomorrow as he meets his new colleagues.

And with that, I'm signing off...

Until next time,