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.

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.