Blood, Sweat, and Tears

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The Big Red Blood Drop stood on the corner of Main and Wheelock street, waving his short arms at passing cars. It was a jillion degrees, and the poor sap in that costume must have been close to needing his own healthcare from heatstroke. As I crossed the street, the Drop waved at me.  As someone who has donated blood many times before, I figured that it was once again time to roll back my sleeves. I waved back at the Drop, and entered the blood drive.

When I entered the all purpose room-turned-makeshift hospital, I was greeted by two women who were too young to donate blood themselves. They gave me a “Kiss Me, I Gave Blood” sticker and a questionnaire to complete before going under the needle. The questionnaire was ridiculous, as always. I felt like the most boring person on Earth for not having any “Yes” answers.

No, I haven’t vacationed on “Beach #3″ in Danger City, west of Reflux Island.
No, I haven’t had intimate relations with monkeys in Botswana.

No, I haven’t injected myself with cocaine or Diet Coke.
No, I haven’t traveled underseas for longer than three years.

After handing the questionnaire back, I waited. And I waited. And I waited. Then a man in need of a nose hair clipping asked me to join him for my personal history check-up. He asked me to confirm my questionnaire answers. He noted down a laundry list of countries I have traveled to in the past five years. Then finally, he took my vitals, and pricked my finger with a needle to test my iron count.

My drop of blood never dropped. I was iron-deficient. I was a blood drive failure.

I collected my belongings and plotted my escape. I quietly walked towards the exit, while an audience of do-gooders watched me from the wait room. They looked at me with knowing smiles. They probably assumed that I had spent a little too much time in Danger City.

I turned redder than my own failed blood.  As I passed the Drop on my way out, I put my head down and vowed to take iron supplements until the next drive.  I’ll make Iron Man look anemic next time around… ;)

Photocredit: http://www.dartmouth.edu

Customer Service

I rarely ever get manicures. (I have a hard time sitting still, nevermind sitting still while someone pampers me.)

But last Friday, I treated myself to a “Dutch Tulips” color on my short, garden-blistered nails. I went to a fairly non-descript nail salon, and expected a fairly straightforward mani.

My manicurist was pretty silent throughout the treatment. I could tell that her English was limited, and she seems more interested in her Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee than chatting with me. (This was A-OKAY with me since I actually enjoy a little quiet time during any sort of massage, pedicures, or manicures.) However, as she finished polishing my final pinkie, she looked up and smiled. “Have you been here before?”

“Twice last year,” I responded.

“Well, we appreciate your business.” Her comment was genuine, accompanied with a smile. “Thank you very much.”

Appreciation is appreciated. And lately, I’ve been paying a little more attention to businesses who pay attention to the customer. I don’t need a handwritten thank you, simply for buying a book. However, it’s nice to be recognized for where you spend your money.

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Photocredit: https://www.nailsalongreensboro.com

LIKEABLE CHARACTER= Willie Geist

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The book I hope to read soon is David McCullough’s “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.”

My most memorable English teacher was Abby Brown in 7th grade.  Mr. Brown was young and passionate. He once yelled at me for throwing a book to a friend because it disrespected the book. That, I must say, was a little over the top.

The most common grammar/spelling mistake I still make is putting the period or the comma outside that damned closed quotation. Still looks better to me on the outside, but what do I know?

If I could read an autobiography about anyone, it would be Jesus. We’ve heard everyone else’s version of the story. He definitely would debut high on the New York Times bestseller list — just after Bill O’Reilly.

The most beautiful word in the English language is “Chateaubriand.” Wait, that’s French. How about “effervescent”?

The ugliest word in the English language is “Buttafuoco.”

The most romantic love scene in the word would have to take place in Provence, maybe during a walk up Mont St. Victoire as it looked to Cezanne.

If someone wrote a book about my life, they would be surprised to learn that for the better part of the early 1990′s,  I tried to dress like a rapper. It didn’t work.

The book which I continue to re-read is “City Slickers” by William E. Geist. It’s a collection of my dad’s best columns during his time at The New York Times. Man, they’re good.

The book I tend to gift to loved ones is “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” It gets very awkward when it turns out the loved one is not pregnant — they’ve just put on a few pounds. Always ask a third party before giving that book. Lesson learned.

My favorite children’s book is “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus.” We’re big on the Mo Willems collection in our house.

My favorite library/bookstore in the whole world is Bookends in Ridgewood, New Jersey. It was my hometown store growing up, and a small bookseller that is thriving.

When I read, I love to snack on Twizzlers. Industrial-sized bags of them.

photocredit: NBC.com

Red Velvet Cake

Quick!  What does Red Velvet Cake actually taste like?

I don’t know either. It’s not exactly chocolatey, but It’s not vanilla-esque either.

Yet, red velvet cake has a following. Brides and fancy Southern folk go bananas for the stuff. I’ve mostly had red velvet cake at events where the hostesses want to fancy up the shindig. And it tastes fine. I don’t think it’s as good as a regular old chocolate cake, nor as savory as carrot.

My guess is that people only like red velvet cake just because cream cheese frosting tastes so darn good. The light layer of sweet, but tart, frosting on the cake is what makes it addictive. (Side note: frosting is like cleavage. A little is necessary. But a lot just ruins the taste in your mouth.) I think nine out of ten guests would eat garbage cake if it was covered in cream cheese frosting. And yet, the red velvet gets all the credit.

There are other trendy foods which people go nuts for:

1. Cucumber sandwiches: Tastes like water, expensive as gold.

2. Crab cakes: Fried mayonnaise with a dot of imitation crabmeat.

3. Mini Quesadillas: Grilled cheese’s fancier, yet less substantive stepdaughter.

4. Prosciutto-Wrapped Breadsticks: Pork products with a crunch.

I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy all of the foods above. I just think it’s funny that sometimes a plain ol’ grilled cheese sandwich and a slice of chocolate cake can taste better than foods we *think* we should love. But bring on the Red Velvet Cake. It’s flavoring is so…red velvety. ;)

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photocredit: instructables.com

Don’t Jersey Vermont

There are people in my town who proudly display bumper stickers reading “Don’t Jersey Vermont.”  While I could be offended because I, as a native New Jersey person, am technically “Jerseying Vermont,” I refuse to get angry. Here’s why:

1.  I’m honored that “Jersey” is a verb! I believe that Jersey is the only state-verb of the 50 states. Jealous, Texas? Peeved, Nebraska? Thought so! Sigh, New Jersey has always been a trendsetter.

2. The “Don’t Jersey Vermont” facebook group has fewer likes (388) than my Novel Nibble page (491). And both of us have fewer followers than the New Hampshire Telephone Museum (a whopping 659!)  Clearly, we’ve all got a long way to go before any of us can influence like the Biebs or Kar-cash-ians.

3. I’m going to create bumper stickers which read “Don’t Vermont Jersey.” Yep, I don’t want you bringing your organic farms and maple syrup and spotted cows and Cabot cheese to the Garden State. Keep ’em out. Jersey’s got their own tomatoes. #theBossdon’teatvermontcheddar

Yep, those “Don’t Jersey Vermont” bumper stickers don’t bother me at all.  As a Jersey-girl-turned-Vermont-resident, I know the value of both the Green Mountain and the Garden states. They have both been home to Phish’s Trey Anastasio.  They both grow darn good corn. And they are both filled with the occasional jerk who gives the state a bad rap.

Now, I just need one of those “Co-Exist” stickers with different state shapes for each letter. :)

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The cold side of the pillow

Who doesn’t stuff their face in their warm laundry when it comes out of the dryer?  I drape pants around my neck and wrap t-shirts around my head to feel the warmth during the cold months of winter. I think there is no better joy than being able to put your underwear on your head to keep warm during January freezes.

The only thing I love more than warm laundry is the cold side of a pillow. It’s bizarre that while I crave blankets in bed, all I really want is that chilly fabric against my skin.  I think we all would admit to loving a flip to the cold side.  Even on the coldest night of the coldest month in the coldest state, a cold pillow can’t be beat.

My ideal night of sleep would be on a cold pillow with a warm blanket, with the sound of peepers quietly echoing throughout my tiny little corner bedroom. My bladder would be empty, my wedding rings safely in my bureau, and my pajama pants perfectly aligned with my ankles (and not awkwardly wrapped sideways somewhere around my mid-calve.)

But in the real world, I lie in a bed with a chunky dog kicking me, my husband elbowing me, and my pajama bottoms hiked up around my knees in a way that makes me feel like I’m stuck in a spider web.  The comforter is cold and the pillow is warm.  My bladder is typically full around three am, and my dog’s internal clock wakes me before my alarm.

But in the middle of the night, when I wake to the howl of some sort of owl outside my window, I flip my pillow to the cold side, and all is well with the world.

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My pillow.

Flawed, and sorry

  • I’m sorry that I placed your dollar store present in a designer box to make it look more expensive.
  • I’m sorry that I wore bikini bottoms to work as underwear instead of doing my laundry.
  • I’m sorry that I displayed that picture in my bathroom where I personally look good, while everyone else looks awful.
  • I’m sorry that I took an extra free donut sample when the clerk turned his back.
  • I’m sorry that I actually don’t know what the heck you’re talking about, but I’m pretending like I do.
  • I’m sorry that I brought my own Swedish Fish to the movie theater.
  • I’m sorry that I left the package of marshmallows I no longer wanted in the milk/cheese aisle.
  • I’m sorry that I stopped at the drugstore to “sample” lipstick before my reunion, instead of just buying a tube.
  • I’m sorry for taking a few too many bites of the kids’ mac and cheese instead of eating the grown-up food.
  • I’m sorry for taking a dip in your town lake, even though I don’t have the correct club sticker.
  • I’m sorry that I have never contributed to a NPR pledge drive, but I listen to it religiously.
  • I’m sorry that I hide the fancy wine before you spend the night at my house.
  • I’m sorry that I was late to your party because I wanted to be.
  • I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

I’ll try harder.

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Let Freedom (NOT) Ring!

My house has no cell phone service.*  I say that statement without pity. I say it with pride.

My house has no cell phone service, baby!

People love my house, just for this reason. Sure, I have internet in my home, so if people really need to check their facebook status, they can. But without cell service, they have an excuse for peace and quiet.

Guests have told me that my little Vermont home feels like a retreat. At first, it might feel like rehab as they deal with cell detox. But after a day, they love it. They realize all of the other things that happen in the world, and not just on Instagram.

Also, not having cell phone service at one’s home is also an argument for keeping a simple phone. Below, is a picture of my actual phone. I have no internet service on my cell. No special emoticons. Not even a decent camera. But, I believe that if an alien landed on this planet, it would believe that my simple phone would be the more advanced technology. It’s little. It’s less complicated. And the screen is nearly unbreakable. (Trust me on this one.)

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Tonight, I’m having a fourth of July weekend kick-off celebratory BBQ. There will be music. There will be the hiss of sparklers.  There will be the pop of champagne bottles.

But our phones will be silent as we take the time to celebrate family and this great country.  Our forefathers would be darn proud.

*Technically, if you stand on your right foot while balancing on the end table in my upstairs guest room, you might be able to get a bar’s worth of service. But never two bars. Just enough to possibly receive or send a text message. (Basically, enough to send a late night textaroo to a significant other.)

Jennifer Garner’s Ears

I was sad to hear the news of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck’s divorce. I don’t know either of them. And, like millions of other Americans,  I could say that they “seem” like good people.  I bet those millions of people are right.

I don’t keep up on celebrity news often but I admit to pausing for a moment for this particular break-up.  Ben will survive. So will Jen. But frankly, she’s the one I’m more interested in.

There aren’t a lot of celebrities whom I would be comfortable babysitting my nephews. But Jennifer Garner strikes me as someone who is competent and interesting.  She’s certainly a beautiful woman, but gorgeous women in Hollywood are a nickel a dozen. Yet, Jennifer actually seems like someone I could spend more than five minutes with at a bookstore.  And she named her daughter Seraphina, which of course, ups her cool factor.

Other reasons to like her?  Her beauty is imperfectly perfect. She has a funny toe-issue. Her ears protrude. She’s not stick skinny.   Her teeth aren’t as white as her husband’s fakes. Frankly, she looks like someone that we all went to high school with.

And speaking of high school, she’s educated. She graduated from Denison, and then went to The National Theater Institute in Connecticut. It seems like she gained her fame the old fashioned way, through hard work and talent.

I’m sure she’s got quirks and interests and funny little sounds she makes when she sneezes. But the bottom line is that in terms of “media relate-ability,” she’s a star.

Yep, Jen will survive this divorce like thousands of other people. Yet, I wish her well.  She seems like someone who has got more going on than just her autograph.

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0136 -- Pictured: Actress Jennifer Garner on October 1, 2014 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

 Photocredit: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC

One man’s junk…

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I found this pig platter at the Norwich Dump, ahem, transfer station. (The term transfer station makes uppity Vermonters sound more proper.)

It was an interesting find, to say the least. (The “free to a good home” pile is typically chock full of glass vases and kiddie toys. I typically don’t even bother to look at that particular section of the dump because I’m usually focused on getting rid of my own junk.) I wasn’t sure why it had two rings near the snout and tail. It technically looked like a platter, but it also looked like something you could hang at the entrance of a farm. I wasn’t sure I would ever use it to serve cheese and crackers, and certainly not any pork products. Regardless, I needed to have it.

When I got home, I hung it proudly in my kitchen above the sink. I nailed it up, and then took a few steps backward, admiring my piggy as if it were the leglamp in a Christmas Story. It looked terrific, and it really added to the casual shabby chic decor (aka, random assortment of accessories, dish towels, planters, and Simon Pearce vases) in my kitchen.

Now, all of my houseguests ask me where I got the porker. I just muster a smile and casually say, “oh, around town somewhere.”  I’m fretful of the day when someone will enter my home and realize that it’s his/her old trash. But I’m hopeful the donor might get a kick out of his/her trash as the focal point of my home. (A few years ago, a friend wore another friend’s old prom dress to a spring party after finding it at a local hand-me-down charity.  Let’s just say that there were a lot of shared giggles.)

After all, one man’s swine… is another girl’s treasure.  And this little piggy finally came home.

Sequined tops and dipping sauces

I have a closet full of sequined tops. I have sequined tank tops, and three-quarter length sequined crewnecks, and full-length sequined dresses. And many of them have never been worn. They hang like shiny treasures in my closet, tags and all.

I know I shouldn’t buy more sequined clothing, yet I am still drawn to the shimmer. While I should be shopping for black work pants (to replace the horribly unflattering ones I wear every day), I skip the trouser section and head straight for the party dresses. Twenty minutes later, I’m convincing myself that I really need the black sleeveless sequined dress, just in case I’m invited to a New Year’s Eve wedding in the tropics. Thirty minutes later, I’m walking out of the store with a dress I don’t need while wearing pants which are hemmed with masking tape.

I should return the sequined dress but I don’t. Just owning it makes me feel like it is a possibility that I could be invited to a New Year’s Eve wedding in the tropics. So, I hang it in my closet to make me believe that my life is as fabulous as the dress. (Let’s be honest, the dress is only $39.99 worth of fabulous since I’m shopping at bargain stores in the first place, and my scale of fabulous can’t rival Savile Row.)

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Sequined dresses are just one of my obsessions. The other is a bit more embarrassing: dipping sauces.  I buy Duck Sauce. I buy Balsamic Dipping Oil. I buy Sweet Chili Sauce. I buy General Tso’s sauce, even though I have bottles of it in the cupboard at home.  (A few years ago, I went through a General Tso’s phase where I hoarded frozen vegetables and chicken breasts and ate homemade Chinese food six nights a week. My husband had to force an intervention. Now, I still buy the sauce but I don’t bother to buy the vegetables.)

It would be fine to buy these sauces if I actually used them. But they are a bit less glamorous out of the bottle. (Balsamic dipping oil is only as good as the bread you dip it in. And lately my kitchen is only stocked with Wonder Bread.) Yet, a few days later, I’m back at the dipping oils section of the grocery store debating between the pomegranate oil infusions of rosemary or lemon.

Lately, I’ve been trying to cut back on spending. But I still find myself gravitating towards the sequins and the sauces.  Deep down, I’ll always imagine myself as someone who lounges around in party dresses while dipping shrimp in pineapple-mango sauce.  But in reality, I’m just a girl in sweats who eats cereal in mugs.  But it’s hard to quit the dream.

photocredit: j.crew.com

Inside Pat Sajak’s Mind

A “J”?  Do you know that a “J” is the fourth least common letter in the English language?  Probably not since you picked a “X” in the last puzzle.

I can’t believe you can’t figure this out by now. Green Eggs and Ham? You’ve already got the Green and the Eggs? Have you ever read a Dr. Seuss book?  It seems appropriate for your reading level.

You’re going to let that smug little teacher lady win this whole darn thing because you picked a “J” for a puzzle which should have been solved three spins ago. She’ll use the prize money for a down payment on a condo somewhere near Laguna and she’ll fill the place with hundreds of little lighthouses decorations from Home Goods. Her poor sap of a husband, with his mustache and oversized slacks, will have to look at those darn lighthouses for the rest of his life, just because you picked the “J.”

And you?  You’ll be the laughing stock of your fire department back home since you don’t know Green Eggs and Ham. They won’t tell that to your face, of course, but you’ll be eating a whole lot of green eggs for the rest of your life.  You nincompoop.

“I’m sorry, Carl. No ‘J.’ Martha, it’s your spin.”

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photo: wheeloffortune.com

The Real Housewives of Vermont

The Real Housewives of Vermont*

Episode One: Poppy, the flower-child housewife from Bennington, flips out at Samantha, the Connecticut import, when Samantha hints that the GMO-free labeled tofu on Poppy’s kitchen table might actually be a big box store imposter with (sigh) GMOs.

Episode Two: Fern, a fourth generation cheese maker, is insulted when Violet, the witchy snob of Lake Champlain, calls Fern’s homemade Vermont cheddar a little less sharp than other varieties. How rude!

Episode Three: Violet flips a table in anger when her husband accuses her of cheating with the plow boy. Later that episode, we learn that Violet’s husband is actually the one cheating. With whom? The plow boy!

Episode Four: Cinnamon, the playgirl of Rutland (who actually wears lipstick, which infuriates and amazes the other Vermonters), gets a little too close to Poppy’s husband at the Tunbridge Fair. Poppy storms off in her Carhartts, while the other women give Cinnamon a piece of their mind.

Episode Five: The REUNION! Cinnamon pleads that she’s just misunderstood because she wears make-up. Poppy and Samantha agree to disagree about GMOs, childhood vaccines, and the origin of the word “pumpernickel.” Violet announces a separation from her husband and a new house with a heated (not plowed) driveway. Fern celebrates the end of the season with the announcement of a brand new cheese variety: Green Mountain Gouda. Andy Cohen toasts all the women with raw Vermont cow’s milk.

*If only this show existed. Andy Cohen, call me maybe.

carhartt women 2photocredit: Carhartt advertisement

You think you know your friends…then you address them.

You think you know your friends. And then you try to address them.

Last summer, I addressed 100 wedding invitations to my family and friends. Making the list was difficult. It was hard to whittle down family and friends to a group which would fit under a tent. But it was even more difficult addressing the envelopes. Believe it or not, I had no idea what my friends’ actual names were.

I have some friends I have known since elementary school. And as far as I am concerned, I’ll always refer to them by their childhood names. But childhood friends sometimes get married, move away, and reinvent themselves.

When it was time to address wedding invitations, I started writing their names as I remembered. I began with Ms. Heather Jones. Yet, as soon as the ink dried, I remembered that Heather has a husband, David Smith and probably went by Mrs. Heather Smith. Yet, she was still using Heather Jones Smith on facebook. Was Jones Smith her full last name? Or just Smith? It was all so confusing. I ripped up the two-dollar envelope and wrote “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” I wasn’t sure if it was correct, but I hoped that Heather would be forgiving.

It got worse. Did my bridesmaid prefer to be a Dr. after receiving her PHD in biochemistry? What about the friend who may or may not have hyphenated her maiden name with her new surname? What about the gay couple who might have taken one of their surnames, but not the other? What do I do with the recently divorced woman who just changed back to her maiden name on twitter, but not at the office?  What about the couple who created a hybrid of both of their names? I didn’t even know the correct name of the clergyman marrying us. (Father or Reverend?)

As I toiled with hyphens or no hyphens, Ms. or Mrs., Fr. or Rev., I realized that the only thing to do was to make my best guess. If Mrs. Jolie Pitt was offended because I called her Ms., I still hoped that she would still stick around for a piece of wedding cake. (I felt like it would be more offensive to call her and admit I had no idea what her name was.)

And as I pondered MY new married name, I thought about all of my options. I could be Mrs. Sabky. Or I could be Ms. Munsterer. I could combine surnames with my husband to be Sabsterer, or I could hyphenate to take up as much space as possible Munsterer-Sabky. Or I could be a Madonna-esque diva (like Adele and Twiggy), and simply use my first name, Rebecca.

I realized that people can call me anything they like, as long as they call me. After the exercise in addressing wedding envelopes, I was more sympathetic to all of our changing names. Call me a friend, and I’ll still come to eat your wedding cake.

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photocredit: onewed.com

Honest Advice for the Class of 2015

Touch your toes everyday, just because you can.
When it comes to cars or medicine, always get a second opinion.
Make your boss look good if you want that promotion.
Don’t cry over a break-up with a girlfriend/boyfriend who ever made you cry.
Read the newspaper, if only on Sundays.
Drink more water than anything else.
Chew with your mouth closed. Dine with your lap napkin open.
Give in to indulgences, but not enough to allow them to become routine.
Drop your spare change in charity cans near supermarket check-outs.
Handshake with a purpose. Hug with your heart.
When it’s important, pick up the phone. (Skip the text.)
Take care of your skin. Take care of your grandfather. Take care of your dog.
Politely merge in single file.
Be like a Norwegian and embrace friluftsliv.
Spend more money on dental care than make-up. (Lipstick can’t help a rotten smile.)
R.S.V.P. whether it’s YES or NO.
Own ONE major credit card. Pay it off on time.
Don’t let your second language be swear words.
Celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with more than a facebook post.
Take that diploma and run before they find out what really happened for the past four years.

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P.S. Congrats to the Class of 2015! Run the world, kiddos!

Prison Break

I, like my fellow Americans, have been fascinated and terrified with the recent Shawshank-style prison break from Dannemora. (I barely slept a wink last night after Governor Shumlin announced that they *might* have fled to Vermont campsites.)  I have many opinions and reactions to the actual prison break, which I will tell you in person someday over a drink, but clearly, we are all thinking one thing:

Where are they?

There is speculation that the prisoners have interest in seasonal cottages in upstate New York. And I can’t help thinking that they are somewhere in Iowa by now, wearing wigs, and calling each other Marge and Eleanor. Yet, I also have visions of the conclusion of Shawshank when Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins live their days on a (gorgeous) deserted island somewhere. I’m hoping that these prisoners do not get their deserted island (unlike the deserving Shawshank characters) but rather they are put back behind bars swiftly and justly.

But the whole scenario makes me wonder. Where I would go if I needed to reinvent myself?

The idea of reinventing oneself is always glorified in movies and television dramas. And yet, I can’t help but wonder what I would do if I were forced into witness protection for a non-criminal reason? Would I be able to move to that deserted island, never to be seen by family and friends again if that were my only option for peace? Could Rebecca Munsterer become Lillian Kruger and never speak a word of her past for the rest of her life?

I’m not sure. But as with life, sometimes we don’t know until we’re put up to the challenge.

Let’s pray that in the case of the Dannemora escape, the challenge is simply too difficult for these criminals.  I’m hoping that the authorities catch them VERY soon.

After all, Bruce Springsteen is the only person who was truly born to run.

 

Bread Pudding

I have this thing about bread pudding. Whenever it is on the menu, I have to treat myself. It doesn’t matter if I’m trying to cut back on desserts. It doesn’t matter if I’m trying to save a few pennies.  It doesn’t matter if I’m already stuffed from a pesto pasta dinner.

If bread pudding presents itself to me, I must accept.

Yet, I will not teach myself how to make bread pudding.  If bread pudding was available to me with just the stir of a spoon, it would lose its specialness. It’s important to leave the possibility of bread pudding to the powers that be, rather than making it accessible.

I love that my friends know that they can order me bread pudding if it appears on a dessert menu while I’m in the restroom. I love that my husband decided to have bread pudding instead of cake at our wedding.  I love that I have a habit of peeking in cafe windows, just in case I spy those magical two words on the “specials” chalkboard.

My friends have their own little things they can’t pass up.  Playing public pianos.  Putting dollars in “Zoltar” fortune teller machines.  Buying astronaut ice cream at museums.  It’s a comical (and telling) list of little personal quirks.  But it goes to show that we all have something we just can’t pass up.

What’s yours?

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Photo: foodnetwork.com

 

 

 

 

True Colors

Apparently, coloring books are a new trend in Saturday afternoon entertainment for adults.

And I say, sign me up. Some might think coloring for adults is a bit too new-age. Yet, I’m up for anything I can do while drinking a gin and tonic. Coloring is mindless, calming, and can be done while carrying on conversation at the same time. Pass the crayons.

When I was a teenager, I loved coloring with the kids whom I babysat. In fact, I bought a coloring book for myself, and would spend summer nights coloring on vacation while chatting with my friends on the phone. Coloring was simply something to pass the time when there was time to pass. And when you were a high schooler who wore jeans to the beach, collected faucet heads for fun,  and the only boy who called you was your cousin, you had time to pass.

Now, time is a little more precious with a million things to do, and another million which should have been done yesterday. Yet, there’s always time to unplug and debate whether the hummingbird should be periwinkle-blue or emerald-green. Big professional decisions melt away when you’re busy making little creative decisions.  And there’s something wonderful about a new box of crayons which will never lose it’s excitement.

So, if anyone wants a coloring date, let me know.  The only color I’ll make you choose in advance is if I should bring the red or the white.

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photocredit to Johanna Basford

Skullduggery Island

When you were young, there was probably a place that scared the bejeezus out of you. Of course, that would be the same place that your parents would use to threaten good behavior. For many of you, it was probably the dentist, or your sister’s dancing school, or horror of horrors: summer school.

In my case, the place of pure fear was Skullduggery Island.

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Not Skullduggery, but might as well be.

Skullduggery Island was a mini-golf course somewhere between Jacksonville, Florida and Miami Beach. We uncovered the monstrosity when my parents stopped at a gas station somewhere on the Florida Turnpike during a family vacation. I couldn’t tell you where it was, but I can tell you that I lived in fear of the entire Sunshine State. Forget the colorful golf balls and the water-features on the turf, Skullduggery was the stuff of nightmares.

The entrance to Skullduggery was a cave, covered in skulls and skeletons. It retrospect, I think it had a bit of a pirate theme, but as a tyke, I was so distracted by the plastic dead bodies, I didn’t notice any swashbuckling references. It looked like a CSI crime scene, covered with torsos with missing limbs and skanky looking corpses. As a six year old, I couldn’t unsee it. And my parents knew it.

They played right into my fear. “Want to play a round of golf?” my dad would ask jokingly every time we drove by the exit.

I would act like a typical, even-keeled kid. I quietly locked the door with my elbow,  stuck my nose back into the safety of my Archie comic book, and tried not to pee my pants with fear. “Not really,” I would mutter, trying to conceal my complete horror.

“Well, then, you should probably behave for the rest of the drive,” Dad would smirk at my mother. It was one of those disgusting moments that parents relish. (Like preschool graduations and first school dances.)

This went on for more years than I’ll admit publicly. Skullduggery Island closed long before I ever conquered my fear. I don’t think it attracted many mini-golfers, perhaps because, well, I don’t know… maybe it was too frightening for poor little scaredy cat children, and too cheesy for anybody with half-a-brain. (Not that I’m still bitter about the place thirty years later.)

But I behaved in that car for years because of my fear of psycho pirate skeletons who might kidnap me between putt-putts on green turf. And to this day, I still lock my door on the Florida Turnpike. Not because I’m still scared of psycho pirates. But rather, because there’s something scarier living in the Florida Everglades these days, and they also start with a “P.”

They call them pythons. Lock your car doors, kiddos. And hold in the pee until you reach Georgia.

photocredit: roxbeachweddings.com

The Tick Life

In coastal communities, they live The Salt Life. Pick-up trucks drive around with bumper stickers proclaiming their allegiance to the ocean.

Me? I live The Tick Life. But It’s not one I’ve chosen. It’s a life which has chosen me. My dog is covered in ticks. My lawn is covered in ticks. My friends are covered in ticks. My rocky-road ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles is covered in one black “sprinkle” which actually moves. (BLECH.) Sometimes I think there are more ticks in the woods than there are grains of sand.

And I have no compassion. As far as I’m concerned ticks are the most no-good, terrible, horrible, worst creatures on earth. (They even make mosquitos look like good company in comparison.) I use organic oils to kill them. I use non-organic chemicals. I use lavender and white socks and long leggings and snake oil and anything else that promises to keep these pests away. But no matter what, they creep in. (My poor Labrador had fifteen ticks in her armpits last week.)

Luckily, I haven’t had a bite yet, but perhaps it’s because I’m obsessed with checking myself. And I’m also obsessed with checking others. Brad Paisley might think “I Want To Check You For Ticks” is a romantic ballad, but if I’m looking at that dark mole on your neck for a second too long, it’s only because I’m making sure it doesn’t have legs. We compulsively shower and check each other’s scalps. We wear light colored clothing on hikes, and cover our long hair with baseball caps and scarfs. We flick dirt off each others’ ankles just to quadruple check that freckles are just freckles.

Who would have guessed that the scariest thing in the woods of New England is 1/10,000 the size of a black bear? Well, friends, it is. And it keeps me up at night. In future I hope the ticks will be gone, and we New Englanders can proudly say that we live the Maple Life or the Morel Life or the Mountain Life.

But for now, I think we’re all stuck with a life that consumes us. Especially when I feel something crawling on my leg under the sheets…

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SURPRISE! It’s… something from The Something Store?

Sometimes you just need a bit of a surprise. At least, I know I do.

So, when my brother-in-law told me about The Something Store, I knew it was right up my alley. (Yes, I know this sounds like a paid endorsement, but trust me kiddos, I ain’t making a dime for my time.)

The Something Store is so simple that it makes me mad that I didn’t think up the idea. You send the company $10 through their website, and they send you something. Anything. But you don’t know what it is until it arrives.

My brother-in-law had received a bright orange plastic belt. It looked like something you would either wear on spring break in Daytona or a hunting trip to Montana. But it was pretty fabulous. And it was certainly nothing that he ever would have purchased himself. His belt made for an interesting story, and I was intrigued.

So, I went online to see samples of other “somethings” they send. The send wine openers and masquerade masks, resistance bands and tea infusers, cheese knives and harmonicas, and even cameras and Kindles. (Clearly, you had to be a lucky duck to get the big-ticket items.) There was nothing I necessarily needed on their list of examples, however, there was nothing that I wouldn’t be pleased to receive. So, I signed up and sent my ten bucks. (I was psyched that shipping was included in the price.) I had a tinge of guilt for sending money just for something random, but at the same time, I knew that I could always donate whatever I received to charity.

Every time I checked my mailbox, there was anticipation for my surprise. Then, yesterday, my long-awaited package arrived.  I inspected it carefully. It was too small to be a Kindle. Yet, too large to be jewelry. I waited until I got home, and then opened it with the excitement of a five year old on Christmas morning.

Finally, it was time for the big reveal. It was a salt and pepper shaker set designed to look like spray paint cans.  I stood there for a moment, staring at the shakers. I wasn’t sure if I was excited or disappointed but I certainly was amused. I would never buy myself this gift, but the universe had sent it to me, and I would kindly accept. (Click here for a picture of the shakers.)

I’m not sure if I’ll order from The Something Store again this summer. I might wait until the quiet of winter when a surprise package might be a welcome addition to my snow-covered mailbox. But I’m certainly am an amused customer. This summer, if you come to my house, you can season your corn on the cob with my spray paint can salt and pepper shakers. And when you ask where I got them, I’ll have a story to tell.

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photocredit: globe-view.com

The Trendiness of Backyard Chickens

This morning, I ate an egg laid by Mrs. Darth Vader. It was a beautiful pastel green egg with a healthy orange yolk which rose as the egg crackled in my frying pan. The egg certainly didn’t look like it would be associated with a nefarious Star Wars character. And yet, there was comfort in knowing that my breakfast came from a hen so well treated that she even had a name, albeit a silly one.

I usually don’t know the name of the chicken who lays my eggs. Even though I typically buy cage-free eggs, the carton never shows pictures and names of the happy producers. And although it seems trendy to raise free-range chickens in Upper Valley yards these days, I don’t plan on raising hens anytime soon. When I was growing up, my parents kept a rooster and two hens in our backyard after rescuing them from a nearby abandoned property. We built a hen house and a fence, and properly researched raising poultry. Yet, the rooster nipped at my little sister’s heels and my mother couldn’t cook enough omelets to keep up with the eggs. One short year later, we handed the chickens over to a nearby farmer with more patience and thicker skin on his feet.

So, having a colleague gift me a dozen beautiful green eggs — yes, they come naturally, not just in the imagination of Dr. Seuss — from her backyard was a real treat. She gave me the carton as a token of appreciation for helping her transition to her new job. She could have brought me flowers or taken me to lunch, but the eggs were the far more exciting treat. As I marveled at the oval beauties, she explained that her family collects eggs daily from Mrs. Darth Vader as well as her other four cluckers: Caramel, Butterscotch, Owl Face and Ghirardelli. On the top of a carton was packaging which explained that the chickens are well guarded by Penny Lane, the family’s Labrador retriever. It felt completely typical for the Upper Valley.

After all, the Upper Valley is filled with hobby farmers whose backyards are utopias of purpose and playfulness. I have friends who are beekeepers, milkmen and maple syrup boilers. I have neighbors who raise piglets and others who forage for morel mushrooms. Sure, it’s great to meet a farmer at a local farmers market who will sell you milk from his local dairy cows. But it’s even better when your best friend milks her family cow (named Holy, as in holy cow) to provide you with fresh cream with your coffee.

I look forward to the summer months when my fridge is filled not only with vegetables, but also filled with love. Pete gives me sungold tomatoes. Wynne picks me homemade grapes. Bernard gives me leafy greens. And Ben gives me berries. None of them are farmers by trade, but they all enjoy sharing the bounty of the backyard.

Me? I’m not a huge contributor to the trade. But, in the late summer, I do have stamina for picking more black raspberries than I need. I boil and sugar them down to preserves, and hand out jars to anyone within arm’s reach. It gives me great joy to have a friend coo with excitement over homemade jam from my Upper Valley backyard. And as soon as berry season arrives, I plan on giving my colleague a jar of sweetness in exchange for more green eggs.

Yes, life is good when you know where your breakfast comes from. And it’s even better when you know the name of the chicken producing your egg. And when her name is Mrs. Darth Vader? Well, that’s something to cluck about.

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(As posted in the Valley News on May 31, 2015)

photocredit:grnow.com

Shrooms, Ramps, and Snakes… Oh My!

There’s something about foraging that I love. After being inspired by this VPR segment on discovering backyard edibles, I decided to go on a hunt for my own morels and garlicky ramps. So, yesterday I put on sweatpants, a baseball cap, and my husband’s mud boots and headed into the woods. (I was looking like a fashionista, as always.) I carried a hand shovel (just to make me look more like a woodsman) and covered myself in bug spray (just to make me smell more like a Boy Scout.) I was ready to gather anything remotely digestible.

When a friend called moments before I left the house, I told her that I could only talk for a moment because I was mushrooming. She was horrified. “You are OFFICIALLY a Vermonter,” she said with a sigh. “Call me when you get sick of the woods and want to go to TJMaxx.” I hung up the phone and trampled on to the Great Outdoors.

I didn’t tell my friend that this wasn’t my first mushrooming expedition. Two years prior, another friend pointed out a morel under a blossoming ash tree in my backyard. He taught me the art of poking around the ground of the “Big-Ash” trees in mid May. That spring, I had found three morels on my own, nestled under a cluster of ash trees near my backyard brook. It was beginner’s luck, and it was great fun.

Yet, it took days to work up the nerve to actually eat those morels.  (I compared my finds to internet morels for a full twenty-four hours before bringing them to a local forester for confirmation.) Finally, I threw them in a pan with butter, and sautéed the heck out of them. It was lot of work for three mouthfuls of fungi. But, they were delicious. (Then again, cardboard is delicious when it is soaked in golden-brown butter.)

So, I had visions of saute pans when I headed towards the same cluster of backyard ash trees yesterday. No luck.  So I went to another “Big-Ash” tree. Nothing. One hour and twenty minutes later, I had  thoroughly checked at least a dozen or more trees. There were no mushrooms in sight. And to add insult to injury, I couldn’t even find one lousy little ramp in the surrounding areas.

I did, however, find one plastic trash bag and a small garter snake which scared the heck out of me. (And I hate snakes more than I hate the Connecticut Turnpike… which is a lot.) It was my worst forage bounty ever. I returned home smelling like DEET and worried about ticks. I showered the hunt away… trying to forget my losing battle.

Next year, I’ll go ‘shrooming again. But it’s not fun foraging in the woods when your odds of finding a snake are better than finding an actual edible. Perhaps I should cover a larger territory, and bring a friend or two for fresh eyes on a camouflaged landscape.

Or perhaps, I should just stick to the farmer’s market.

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photocredit: mushroom-collecting.com

Puppy Love

I didn’t mean to fall in love with another man. But he entered my home, and took me (and my dog) by surprise. Since then, it’s been love.

Dr. Chris Pet Vet is a family-friendly Saturday morning television program on CBS. It follows the adventure of a veterinarian as he helps furry and fur-less friends recover from injuries and disease.  It’s a feel-good show, where all pets survive and thrive to the delight of their friendly owners.

But that’s not why I watch it.

I watch Dr. Chris Pet Vet because a better looking person has never walked the earth. Not only is Dr. Chris tall, blonde, tanned, and handsome, but he also has a jawline structured by the gods. His wavy hair accentuates his blue eyes. And, he’s Australian. AUSTRALIAN! “The cocker spaniel is healthy, mate!” There is not a person who is more dreamy. Did I mention that he saves puppies for a living?

My husband completely understands why both Mabel and I drool at the television. He can’t deny the perfection of an successful, young veterinarian who looks like a model and talks like Crocodile Dundee. Mabel, my black lab, wags her tail as Dr. Chris saves the dogs who bark through the television screen. (We both dream of bringing her to his office for a check-up, just so we both could see his megawatt smile in person.)

Dr. Chris, if you’re out there reading this… I have a lovely six year old Labrador Retriever who needs her annual Lyme vaccine. We’re ready when you are.

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photocredit: sidereel.com

Vermont Ain’t For Mild-Mannered People

Oh, Vermont ain’t for mild-mannered people.
We grow ’em tough and real wild.
While others grow strip malls and turnpikes,
Vermonters grow hippie flower childs.

Oh, Vermont ain’t for mild-mannered people.
Got it all from the snow to the rain,
Superb is our fall, but that’s just the start of it all.
Our Mud Season will make yours look lame.

Oh, Vermont ain’t for mild-mannered people.
There ain’t any sissies or wimps.
We syrup, we plow, we tip over our cows,
And we’ll shovel until we go limp.

So, don’t mess with Vermonter people.
We’ll stick you to a maple tree.
You may think we’re cute ’cause we live in the woods,
But there’s no place that we’d rather be.

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photocredit: theus50.com

Like a Little Prayer…

Prayer is not necessarily something I talk about over wine and lasagna dinners with friends. It’s not the sexiest topic of conversation. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

Perhaps this all started with my increased awareness of current events. Sometimes, the busyness of my own life keeps me from reading the newspaper. But lately, I’ve been back on a news binge. I watch morning news television while I pound out steps on a treadmill, and I giggle with John Oliver on Sunday nights. And the news is, as you know, depressing. Last week, while watching the coverage of missing people during the Houston floods, I literally was brought to tears in public at the gym. And tears bring hope. And for me, hope brings prayer.

I don’t care to whom/what you pray. I don’t care if you pray in church or a synagogue or a mosque or in the drive-thru of Popeye’s Chicken. I don’t even care if you don’t want to use the “p” word, but instead just want to call it an inward reflection of gratitude. I actually don’t even care if you pray at all.

But I do care about my own teeny prayers. I don’t talk of them often, but they are there when I need them.

My mother is a woman who talks about prayer. I think the lady prays all day long. She tells us that she says prayers for us regularly. And she regularly uses the phrase, “Say A Prayer.” Say a prayer that your pet has a healthy annual exam. Say a prayer that your father doesn’t choke on a Triscuit. Say a prayer that the rat snake in the front yard moves to Mississippi. Say a prayer for our veterans, children, zookeepers, cheese makers, nurses, pilots, farmers, machinists, and gin-makers. My mother prays as often as she breathes.

I, on the other hand, probably pray as often as I sneeze. (Not often, but when I do…they come in spurts.) They pop up in sad moments when I step over a turtle who has fallen victim to a Honda Accord. Or happy moments when I step off King Da Ka roller coaster in one piece. They happen in quiet moments when I’m in awe of the little Lady’s Slipper orchid growing in my backyard. Or in loud moments when lightning is crashing around my house and I’m grasping to a pillow in fear.

My prayers aren’t much to speak of. Just little admissions of joy and hope. Nothing biblical. Nothing with hands folded towards the sky. Just little somethings for the sake of a bigger something.

But they do make the day a little more meaningful. And they give me something to focus on when I step on a roller coaster or into a hospital. Prayer may not be the most exciting topic to discuss, but during the most exciting times of my life, it’s what I rely on.

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photo credit: themeparkreview.com

Tapas Schmapas

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To be shared with your party of five.

Tapas is the Spanish word for sucker. Or at least, that’s how tapas make me feel.

At first, I jumped on the tapas bandwagon. It was a novelty to think of communal dining in a day and age when everything is “gorge on the run.” I loved the idea of Spanish-influenced food courses over long periods of time with close friends. I appreciated the portion-control of smaller-sized items.

So, I went to dimly lit restaurants with yellow tablecloths and ordered large glasses of wine and small plates of food. Crostini with goat cheese and marinated red peppers. Chorizo-stuffed mushrooms. Ham and cheese croquettes.

However, there would be two small croquettes on the plate, and one and a half would go to the other three people at my table. I’d get a half-croquette, and I would leave the restaurant hungry.

My friends and I quickly learned to order more plates. Shrimp scampi, baked mussels, chicken skewers. By the time we had satiated our appetites, we would find the bill outrageously expensive and ourselves outlandishly “well-wined.” (Ordering extra glasses of wine was the only way to pass the time while waiting for other plates.) Eating enough to satisfy hunger seemed to cost a pretty penny with all of these tiny dishes.

If an alien landed on earth, he would wonder why tapas restaurants could charge more money for littler plates. It is a win-win for the restaurant industry: let people spend more money by ordering more expensive plates of smaller-portioned food. In any regular fine-dining restaurant, I can order a bowl of mussels for $10.99. At a tapas restaurant, I can order three mussels for $7.99. And I allow this to happen…because I’ve had four glasses of sangria.

I want to love tapas restaurants. I really do. And if you want me to meet you at your favorite tapas restaurant, I will be there with bells on.

Just know that I will have already eaten dinner. :)

Photocredit:bbcgoodfood.com

Diet Coke… A (Forbidden) Love Story

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I knew I was in trouble when I started looking for answers on the internet. If you Google “diet soda addiction” on the web, all sorts of articles and images pop up on the screen.  None of them are pretty. Whether or not you believe that diet soda will grow you a third head, I knew that drinking chemicals from a can was probably not good for me.

Yet, he had me at “popfizzzgulp….” This relationship started the year after I graduated from college. I fell in love with a fountain soda machine in town. The bubbles, the fizz, the sweetness was all a delight to my sense. And it was calorie free. Diet soda was the one I was looking for my entire life. DreamyCoke.

From that moment on, I was loyal. I averaged about 4-5 sodas per day. I always drank diet soda, although I had my preferences with the “type” of diet soda. I preferred cans to bottles. Diet root beer was a particular favorite. Diet ginger ale was my least favorite. But when push came to shove, I wasn’t picky. I would happily chug a warm diet ginger ale in a bottle if it was my only choice.

My affair carried over into my work life. I began my day with a 9:00am soda at staff meeting. While my office colleagues gulped down steaming hot lattes, I gripped tightly to my chilly can of carbonation. The bubbles and caffeine stimulated my morning senses. At noon, I drank another can of diet soda. I would walk around town, carrying the can as I strolled with friends. At around 3pm, I guzzled yet another. It was a way to refresh myself during the afternoon slump. Finally, in the serenity of my own home, I would gulp down one or two more sodas. I’d have one with dinner, and then one right before bedtime. While most people topped off their evening with a cocktail or a soothing cup of cocoa, I settlde into the night with a frosty glass of diet root beer.

For ten years, I drank about 30+ diet sodas per week. On the weekends at the grocery store, I found myself replenishing my cases of soda more frequently than my fresh produce. On the weekdays, I made an effort to frequent restaurants which didn’t charge for free refills of fountain soda. When friends scoffed at the amount of cans in my recycling bin, I just laughed them off.  “It’s not as bad as it looks.”

Something changed the night that my friends put me up to a challenge. They asked me to close my eyes and simply sniff random samples of soda. To their surprise, I could tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi simply by smelling them.  I tasted four different types of diet cola, and could identify them all. My secret talent in recognizing the nuances in soda flavor was a bit preposterous. I could barely tell the difference between a slice of cantaloupe and a slice of honeydew melon, but I could easily distinguish between Sprite and 7-Up. I knew something needed to change.

I decided to give up soda that following Monday cold turkey. I wanted to live a soda-free existence for at least a month. I thought it would be easy.

The first day was excruciating. I realized that I was less addicted to the liquid, but rather very much connected to the “habit.” I could barely survive the first day of my soda retreat simply because I missed the crackle of the aluminum can. I missed the idea of my soda. I missed the consistent love of my life.

When I arrived at my 9am morning meeting on Monday, my hand felt empty. After the meeting, I took a trip to the water cooler and made a pathetic cup of decaffeinated tea to bring to my 10am meeting. The sad cup of Earl Grey felt watery and lukewarm. I barely touched it.

At lunch, I left the office empty-handed. At 3pm, I sucked on a cough drop at my desk to try to keep my mind off of soda. At 8pm that evening, I had a big glass of orange juice instead of my beloved diet root beer. The orange juice tasted boring, so I added some vodka, just so I could enjoy a cocktail in my misery.

I survived the day, but I missed the fizz. I craved the social habit of drinking soda. I missed the bubbly carbonation tickling my nose while I took a sip. I missed filling up a soda cup at the fountain of my favorite pizzeria. I missed the swishing of ice cubes.

At the end of the day, I text messaged my long-distance boyfriend. I hadn’t seen him in three weeks. I wrote, “I miss you more than a fountain soda.” He returned my text noting, “That was the most romantic thing text you have ever sent.” Even my relationship was defined by my love of soda.

On day two, I decided to drink more water. I wasn’t happy, but I was full. On days three- five, I substituted my soda with smoothies. They weren’t half bad. On day six, I forgot that I was even avoiding soda. I didn’t even miss it.

One year later, I was still soda free. People congratulated me and asked if I felt better. The truth was that I felt pretty much the same.  I had replaced my soda habit with gallons of seltzer water which I still lugged from the grocery store. The seltzer cans filled my bin, my desk, and my car.  They were the new man in my life.  And sure, I was proud to have fewer chemicals in my system. But I missed soda a little bit.  My new seltzer man was lovely.  But just a tad bit boring.

A few weeks later, I had a diet soda. The world didn’t end, but I certainly felt a wee bit guilty.  I was at an amusement park with friends, and it was easier to drink a soda than try to find an alternative. (I’ll allow you to comment on society’s lack of healthy drink alternatives. Go ahead.)  A few days later, I had another soda. Then a few days later, another.  I never got back to the 4-5 sodas per day, but I did have about 4-5 per week.  The fizz had returned.  I was in control, but it felt darn good to have my bubble love back.

Which brings me to January 16, 2015. I had a can of diet Coke which was flat.  Really flat. It actually tasted terrible. I put down the can without finishing it.

The next day, I chose a seltzer over a can of diet root beer.  I went the whole day without soda without really thinking about it. Then, a week passed without a soda.  Then, a month.

I’ve been soda free since January 16th. I drink a lot of iced tea. I drink a lot of different things.  Gin and tonics. Grapefruit Juice. Cranberry cocktail. Pear smoothies. And they’re all pretty darn good. They’ve made me forget ol’ what’s his Coke.

Chances are that I will drink a diet soda again in my lifetime. I’m not sure it will ever be the love that gets completely away. But it’s nice to know that there are other drinks in the fridge. It’s easier to get over a past love when you have a icy cold pomegranate iced tea in hand.

Diet soda, I loved you. But it just didn’t work out. It’s not you, it’s me. And I love me more.

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Me and my ex. (Coke Factory, Atlanta.)

You parsimonious hag! (Formerly known as %$#&^*)

I am not a prude. However, I find swearing in print lazy. If you drop a hammer on your foot, sometimes an expletive will slip out. But in writing, when you have time to ponder the value and meaning of every little word, I find swearing absolutely unnecessary.

For example, instead of calling Justin Bieber a %*%^$, you can call him a dangerous brat.

Instead of calling Kim Kardashian a %&**, you can call her an inane waste.

Instead of calling your terrible Uncle Phil a %&*&$, you could call him an intolerable highbrow.

The worst thing someone ever called me was unreliable. I’ve been called lots of swear words (both to my face and behind my back) but unreliable stung the most. It was more thoughtful than a swear word. And thoughtfulness hurts.

So the next time your drop a hammer on your thumb, feel free to swear. But if you’re trying to tell off the person who just cut you in line, at least take a moment and consider more creative language.  %$#%&* is so unimaginative.  Arrogant schmuck is so much better.

Wink, wink

I’m a winker.

There’s nothing better than a good wink. A good wink from a guy on a first date who reaches for the same nacho chip as you. A good wink from a friend who walks down the aisle as a bridesmaid at your wedding. A good wink from your sister at Thanksgiving dinner after your father tells the same story for the twelfth time.

Winks have multiple meanings.  And yet, the second you get winked at, you know exactly what the other person is trying to say.  Perhaps…

1. I think you’re adorable and after we all make small talk with this group, I’m going to find you by the shrimp cocktail and engage you alone in conversation
2. We both know Shelby looks horrible in that dress, but if she loves it, we’ll keep our lips zipped.
3. We’re not going to the vegan restaurant in town, but let’s keep scaring Dad into believing we are.
4. I see you on the stage, dancing your pants off, and you should know that I fully support every wiggle.
5. I won’t charge you extra for real maple syrup since I think you’re cute, and I’ll let it slide.

A wink is better than a handshake, a hug, or even a kiss on the cheek. It’s incredibly intimate, but not at all physical. A wink happens in the second that nobody else is watching, which makes it all the more special. It’s the best of the best.

Winkin’ at cha…

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Up, Up, and Away

Currently, I am miles above the sky in the air.  And I’m a writing machine.

I do my best work on airplanes. Perhaps it is the lack of distractions. Perhaps it is the effect of alcohol and dehydration. Perhaps it is the inspiration of going somewhere besides my kitchen. Perhaps it is the egocentric belief that the person in the seat next to me is spying on my manuscript, so I better make it darn good.

In fact, the first piece I ever published was written in flight. On the way home from a ski trip in 2002, I scribbled an article about my father’s love of skiing in the corners of a Sky Mall magazine. When I got home, I typed it up, and submitted it to SKI. Ten days later, I received an email from the editor telling me that he would pay me $500 for the piece. It was beginner’s luck, and it was awesome.

Since that time, I’ve always made the most of my air-borne captivity by writing. The hum of the jet engine blocks out the loudness of other projects, and allows me to focus on a singular page. I’ve written whole chapters on single flights, accomplishing in hours what sometimes takes me days. And when I land, there’s an excitement of accomplishment which sustains me for the following jet-lagged week when I can’t even write my name on checks, never mind write a column.

Right now, I am on a seven hour daytime flight from London to Boston. The folks around me are watching movies or working on excel spreadsheets. There’s nothing on air that I want to watch. (I’ve seen The Imitation Game thrice already. Great movie, but there is nothing I could watch four times.) I could care less about excel spreadsheets. And I can’t sleep considering I don’t want to miss the beverage cart. (A transatlantic flight means a free cocktail! Bring on the cranberry and vodka!)

My battery on this computer will wear out before landing. So, I’m up against the clock, making most of the minutes to finger dance on the keyboard.  Hopefully I write something brilliant, something save-worthy, something publishable.

But if all else fails, at least my writing will pass the time.

Breaking news: Mabel is NOT a human.

I get it. My dog is not a person.

But if you spend time with me, you’ll know that I treat her like one.

Mabel has a voice. It’s a cross between Kristen Chenowith and Smurfette.

Mabel has a bed. And it’s called mine.

Mabel has a wardrobe. Pink collar for spring. Purple for fall. Hearts for valentine’s day.

Mabel has a favorite toy. Patriotic chicken, but NOT the one missing its beak.

Mabel has favorite word. “Triscuit.”

Mabel has a crush. She tinkles on Winston’s yard to let him know she’s around.

And Mabel has a personality. A BIG one. She’ll flash those stink eyes anytime you ignore her tennis ball in the yard.

Friends have told me that dogs are fairly insignificant once you have kids. And since I don’t have kids, it is hard to argue. But doggone it, I love my pooch. If she’s not family, then I don’t know who is.

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How to ALWAYS get a free Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkin

  1. Order something else. (You’re going to need something to wash down that munchkin, anyway.)
  2. While the clerk prepares your Latte/Frozen Hot Chocolate/Coolatta, gaze longingly at the donuts.
  3. Tilt your head and appear to “ponder” the flavors of munchkins. Jelly filled? Chocolate? Glazed? Decisions, decisions. 
  4. Look down and mutter to yourself (loudly enough for the clerk to hear), “Oh, I shouldn’t… I just shouldn’t.”
  5. When the clerk hands you your drink, smile and tell him, “Those munchkins look delicious.” (Turn on the charm here, folks! Eye on the prize! FREE MUNCHKIN!)
  6. Hand him a few dollars. Let him make change.
  7. Smile at the clerk as you take back your coins and say, “I could really go for one, but I wouldn’t want to trouble you for just one little munchkin.”

You can thank me later.

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photocredit: dunkindonuts.com

The Little Things

The world lost a good man last Monday. A really good man. And whenever I drink a gin and tonic, I will remember him.

Legacy sometimes is as much about the little things. It’s funny what reminds you of your loved ones. Random pennies on the ground remind me of my grandfather who had a habit of always looking for (and handing out) lucky pennies. Orange soda reminds me of my grandmother who would allow us to drink soda at her house as a treat. Mamba fruit chews remind me of a high school friend who we lost years too early.

Mr. S. always celebrated life with a smile and a cocktail.  He was a stylish man, and a kind man (which don’t always go hand in hand.) He raised a lovely family, and always clinked his glass with a smile to his beloved wife.  He was, in short, a class act.  And the man loved a gin and tonic. Every time I squeeze a lime into the cold cocktail, I’ll smile with a fondness for a life well lived.

Someday we, too, will be remembered by our loved ones. If we are lucky, they will remember our character, our kindness, and the shape of our smile. And chances are, they will remember something incredibly specific about our habits. That particular thing/habit/trademark will forever imprint on their lives.  Maybe it is our hatred for black licorice. Maybe it is our love for french braids. Maybe it is the way that we pronounce the word “Worcestershire” when ordering a steak.

Some of our signature habits might have been revealed to us. Maybe we have already trademarked our signature cocktail of orange juice and Malibu spiced rum. Maybe we know that our grandkids will always remember the way that we fold napkins to look like bunnies at the dinner table.  Maybe our husbands have told us that they will forever think of us when they smell lilac-scented soap.

Yet, others of us might be blind to our habits. Perhaps you don’t realize that people associate artichoke dip with you, because you don’t realize how often you order it.  Maybe you have no idea that other people will always remember you as the person who never wanted fruit in their spa water.  Maybe you don’t know that your grandkids will always think of you when they pass a beaver dam, and remember your affinity for the animals.

The bottom line is that whether or not you know what will remind others of you, the important thing is that you are remembered.

Cheers, Mr. S.  We’ll think of you often.

 

 

Unexpected Item in Bagging Area!

Last night, after eating Triscuits for dinner for the second night in a row, I decided to go on a grocery run. I closed the fridge, put on my “fancy” sweatpants, and left the house. After an hour of perusing the various types of shredded wheat cereals, I had a sufficient cart of edibles for the week.

As I pushed my cart towards the exit of the store, I was faced with the soccer mom’s conundrum. Do I take my fifteen items (give or take an item or two) to the Ten Items or Less checkout, or do I wait on the massive line for the regular check out?  As a seemingly law-abiding citizen (I won’t admit otherwise), I decided to not violate the Ten Items or Less code. Instead, I decided to attempt the greatest game in the history of the 21st century:  Check! Your! Self! Out!

For those of you new to this particular game show, the object is simple. Scan your items and place them in a shopping bag  without needing the assistance of a grocery clerk.  Sounds easy, right?  Wrong!  Check! Your! Self! Out! is a sly combination of Jeopardy and Press Your Luck. 

The contestant must first successfully locate and scan the UPC code on a particular item. Then, the item must be placed in a plastic grocery bag on a scale which is programmed to predetermine the weight of that project.  Once a bag is full, the contestant must remove the bag from the scale without aggravating the system.

I’ve been a contestant on this show for about five years now. But, I’ve yet to win. Yesterday, I once again gave it my best shot.

First, I picked items which were easy to scan.The box of cereal with the clear UPC code on the bottom. The bar of soap. The instant rice box. So far, so good. The items matched their predetermined weight on the scale. Once they were safely bagged, I used a careful maneuver to remove the first full bag from the scale and back into my shopping cart.  I had survived the first round of competition. Moving on!

The second round was a bit trickier. I successfully navigated the scanning of a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream pint. (I had previously made a rookie mistake in another game when I forgot to swipe the ice crystals from the UPC code.)  I also performed scanner gymnastics to correctly align the UPC code on corner of a carton of seltzer. (Who says sweatpants at the grocery store aren’t appropriate?)  And lastly, I was able to squash a tube of moisturizer just enough as to flatten the code for the scanner without popping open the cap.  With the finesse of a pickpocket, I swiped the second bag from the scale and to my cart. Success! It was a close call, but I had made it on to the final round.

The final round of Check! Your! Self! Out! is notoriously impossible. It is the dreaded produce checkout. To win the game, I needed to successfully weigh, identify, and bag my tomatoes. I started by placing the tomatoes on the scanner for the weigh-in. The machine informed me that I was purchasing 1.23 pounds of misunderstood fruits. (You, too, thought they were a vegetables, right?) Then, I was required to identify the variety of tomatoes. My options were bountiful. There were beefsteak tomatoes.Tomatoes from the vine. Roma tomatoes. I looked at my purchased tomatoes. They were red and round and generic. In fact, they resembled all of the tomatoes on the screen.

Other customers were now lined up behind me. The ticking of my Swatch watch added to the drama of not knowing the correct answer to the tomato question. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.   I considered using a lifeline and phoning a friend.  I considered asking the audience on line.  I even considered running back to the tomato display (à la the old 90’s game show Supermarket Sweep) to identify where I first picked up these buggers.  But as my Swatch tick-tocked, I knew I needed  be a big girl and make my best guess. I closed my eyes and chose beefsteak. To my delight, the scanner accepted my answer. I was home free.

But as we all know, no good game is over until it’s over. (Vanna doesn’t change out of her ballgown until the final puzzle is solved.)  As I leaned over to place the “beefsteak” tomatoes in their appropriate grocery bag, my wallet accidentally fell out of my pocket.  It landed with a thump in the plastic bag, and the weight of the wallet jammed the machine.

Unexpected item in bagging area!!!

The lights above the checkout flashed and the customers in line sighed with disappointment. They knew I would have to wait for a supermarket clerk to come reset the machine.

I looked down at the ground with disgust. I had lost yet another round of Check! Your! Self! Out!  There would be no prize but to get out of the supermarket alive.

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Photocredit: Andy Ward, Andyward.com/Michael O’Mara books .

 

Bye Bye Miss American Pie… C’Mon Sing It!

I’m not usually wooed by men whose names are displayed on wobbly chalkboards near the entrance to pubs. But, there is something fabulous about a good cover band singer after a few pints of tap beer.

Recently, a particularly memorable cover band singer caught my attention. It was a rainy day during a particularly rainy vacation.  When I walked in the brew pub with a friend, haddock and Guinness were the only things on my mind.  But there he was, warming up his guitar and drinking a bottle of beer from the stool behind a microphone.

He started strumming the opening chords of “Mustang Sally.” The motley crowd of après-work salesman and chatty singles turned their heads in his direction. In no time, he had the complete attention of the audience as they bobbed their heads along to the tune of “Ride, Sally, Ride.”  Frankly, he wasn’t bad. He even hit a few notes which were impressive.

After many rounds of applause, the CS announced that he was willing to take requests. A few women in the crowd went abuzz. The lady sitting next to me announced to her husband that she was going to request their wedding song. (She didn’t disclose her wedding song, but from the look of her beer-gutted husband, it was probably “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”) But another patron of the bar beat her to a request by yelling out “Margaritaville.” The CS smiled and started strumming.

“You know you want to make a request,” my friend urged me on. She knew my weaknesses.

The problem was that making a request is tricky business. I didn’t want to request a song that nobody knew, nor did I want to ask for something that he couldn’t play. I wanted to request something the crowd and more importantly, the CS, would enjoy. And I knew from previous experience that there were a few songs which were guaranteed hits with the cover band crowd:

  1. Songs that have the word “sweet” in their titles (i.e. Sweet Home Alabama, Sweet Caroline).
  2. Springsteen songs
  3. Songs about America (American Girl, American Pie, American Woman).

After a few minutes of deliberation, I decided to go with another slam-dunk request: “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel.

I took a deep breath and waited for the end of “Margaritaville.” I approached his makeshift stage, stuck a carefully folded dollar bill into his beer stein and flashed my most charming smile. In close proximity, Mr. CS was even more handsome than I imagined. For a second, I was under the spell of a rock star.

“Something you wanna hear?” he asked, flaunting a dimple in his right cheek.

I sheepishly made my request and scurried back to my seat like a shy schoolgirl. (My friend rolled her eyes at me.) The CBS started strumming my tune, and the crowd clapped with enthusiasm  My song was a hit (whew!), so I ordered another beer and bobbed my head along to the music.

Two sets, two pieces of greasy haddock, and one more beer later, the CS was at the end of his gig. His closing song was a dead-on version of “Southern Cross.” We all clapped with enthusiasm, as he tipped his head to the crowd. Then, he was gone. He didn’t even hang around for a free meal.The CS had officially left the building, guitar and all.

Upon my own departure, I noticed a chalkboard on the sidewalk near the entrance to the pub. I glared closely at the print carefully, but the rain had spread the scribble into long, while chalk smears, disguising the true identity of the CS.

I knew I would never hear him play again. But for one night, I had the best seat in the house, and had fallen under the spell of a (somewhat) rock star.

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Bruce also had to start somewhere, right?

Photo Credit: Matt Kent/Getty Images

The one word I hate to use

I’ll be truthful, I have never introduced myself in person as a blogger. I’ve introduced myself as both a writer and an author, but the negative connotation of the b-word always soured my mouth.

I understand why people hate bloggers. Blogging is arrogant. Super arrogant. Bloggers have one-sided conversations with themselves. They think that they have something important to say (even if they don’t), and you are the captive audience.

But to be fair, some blogs can make you a more productive human being.  (Hobby blogs, anyone?) And, since nobody is forcing you to read blogs, it’s your own fault if you read a crummy blog. (And don’t pretend like you don’t know a crummy blog at first glance.  Everyone knows that a blog written in Comic Sans is a crummy blog.) Personally, there are three types of blogs that I avoid:

  1. Blogs which use swear words liberally to sound cooler. (I’m no prude, but people who swear on paper are just wasting good adjectives.)
  2. Blogs which make me feel badly about my own life. (i.e. Here’s a photo of Sasha and I at a gluten-free pastry cafe in Gstaad right before Angelina Jolie joined us for a discussion about season three of House of Cards.)
  3. Fashion blogs (Have you seen me? #obviously)

Yet behind each of these blogs is someone who is putting time into his/her craft. As someone who has been writing a blog for a live audience for three years, I know how difficult it is to keep momentum. (How many blogs simply end on a random day in 2011?) It is difficult to do ANYTHING on a regular basis, never-mind doing something for a live audience with high expectations.

Having a successful blog is like owning a pet. You just can’t ignore your commitment. Even on the days when the “t” on your keyboard is stuck because of a melting Snickers bar. You still need to blog.

Plus, blogging is a very public act. (Private blogging is called diarying, folks. And unless you are Jack Nicholson, nobody wants to read your diary.) You will have an audience, whether it is two people or a million and two people. And some people will love you blog. And some people will hate your blog. And if you’re going to take the good, you have to take the bad. People will review your words. Your words. People will edit your mistakes and question your intentions and drag your name through the comment section of your very own website.  And the more personal the writing, the more bravery it requires to press the “publish” button.

For as many reasons that bloggers can be narcissistic crazies, the reality is that the majority of bloggers truly care about their craft. I care about this blog. So, for the sake of all of the other bloggers who are too embarrassed to use the “b” word at cocktail parties, I think I need to be honest about who I am.

My name is Becky Munsterer, and I am a blogger. Now, pass the cheese plate.

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photocredit:clipartpanda

Pizza Night Vermont

Year ago, I went on a date with a man who picked at his pizza. He used his fork and knife to take a few bites, and then he ripped bird-size pieces from the crust.

Needless to say, there was no second date.

I’m intolerant of people who can’t just eat a slice of pizza. Go ahead and order whatever pizza suits your dietary restrictions, but for gosh sake, eat it. Stuff that slice in your mouth like a letter in an envelope, and finish every crumb of the crust.  It’s PIZZA, after all, the most adaptable and delicious food on the planet.

Recently, I saw a commercial featuring Monica Seles for B.E.D. (Binge Eating Disorder). Now, I know B.E.D. is serious, and I know that Monica is doing good work. But the commercial warns about eating an entire pizza in one sitting. I don’t have B.E.D. but I can eat an entire pizza in commercial break of Seinfeld.

My love for pizza is in my DNA. Team pizza parties were the reason to play soccer as a kid. (I certainly wasn’t playing it for the exercise.)  Pizza Fridays were an excuse to actually eat school lunches. And who didn’t love the feeling of a warm pizza on your lap in the passenger seat of your mother’s car?

So, I was thrilled to find out about Pizza Night Vermont. Pizza Night Vermont is written by an old friend, and peppered with drool-worthy pictures. Truth be told, their recipe for good ol’ Margherita Pizza is my favorite, since I’m a red sauce, few toppings, and doughy goodness type of girl. But, let’s be honest, if you put any of their slices in front of me, they’ll be gone before I have time to order a complimentary cocktail. And if you don’t finish every bite on your plate, there won’t be a second date. (No pressure!)

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Photocredit: pizzanightvermont.com

Would you recognize your husband’s handwriting?

When I was little, I could recognize my friends’ salutations in my yearbook just by looking at their handwriting. Heather’s handwriting was incredibly feminine and loopy. Donna’s handwriting was textbook-esque and tiny. Christine’s handwriting was rigid at the corners, but curlier in the middle.

Now, I have close friends whose handwriting I’m sure I couldn’t recognize. I know their email addresses, but I have no idea how they write the word “Sincerely.”

I have to admit, I love handwriting. There is something intimate about recognizing the way your loved ones make their mark. Since handwriting doesn’t change throughout the years, knowing the way someone holds their pen is a stamp of a long-lasting friendship.

Plus, there is something artistic about handwriting. My friend Dana has incredibly slanted handwriting which  looks like it belongs in a calligraphy magazine. My dad’s handwriting is nearly illegible, but incredibly masculine and deliberate. My sister’s handwriting is similar to mine, except tidier on the page and without as many exclamations.

So, naturally, when I got married, it was important to me to recognize my husband’s handwriting.  Thankfully, he’s a letter writer, so I have bountiful evidence of his block letters (evenly spaced).  His handwriting is so… him.  Cool, calm, collected.

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I worry for the day that partners can’t recognize the tilt of a loved one’s signature. Perhaps we should all make sure to step away from the email now and again, just so our kids can learn our signatures.  (How else will they forge “sick day” letters to the principal?) :)

Just for fun, here are the coolest celebrity signatures (courtesy of Funsterz.com)

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Duck Boots

Let me be honest, I know NOTHING about fashion. People sometimes assume my blog is fashion/style, until they meet me in person. My designer of choice is Target, and my style is whatever is warm from the dryer.

But a few weeks ago, I realized that I’m an accidental fashionista. I was having a conversation with a co-ed undergraduate who loved my old brown L.L. Bean Duck Boots. (My boots have a chocolate brown color near the top of the foot, as opposed to most which are tan.)

“Where did you get them?”

“L.L. Bean.  I’ve had them for years!”

“Vintage!”

You can imagine my eye roll. But at the same time, I realized that for once in my life, I was on trend. My brown little duck boots had a little more pep in their step as I walked away.

Now, if someone could just admire my turtleneck, I’d be on the cover of Vogue. .

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Pass This Word

I’m going to hire a hacker. I’ve been locked out of my bank account since I’ve attempted too many passwords and I need some help.

I have sympathy for people whose identities have been stolen. But I can’t even steal my own identity these days. I have so many passwords that I can’t begin to remember them. One with a capital letter. One with a number. One with a special character. (What is a special character, anyway? Does anyone even know what ^ is called? How can it be special if nobody knows what it is called?) One with a letter between K and M, but not L, unless it is lowercase and followed by a prime number.

In the beginning, I had different versions of the same password theme: Beverly Hills 90210 characters. But things got complicated when “Dylan” and “Brenda” didn’t have at least eight characters. So, then I had “Brandon!” and “Brandon4ever” and “$BrAnDoN123$.” And that just seemed ridiculous, so I decided to give up on the 90’s television series and come up with more appropriate, serious passwords.

The problem is that appropriate, serious passwords are impossible to remember.

I do have a list of *some* of my passwords. I keep it on my bulletin board (which defeats the purpose of having passwords). Any custodian or candy-bowl-visiting colleague (the only people who visit my office) have full view of the password document. The only problem is that this list only contains passwords for things that you don’t care about. A photo account which only has pictures of my dog. (No credit card on file, thank you very much.) Logins for defunct writing websites which have already expired. The login password for my old computer which broke in half two years after college. So, as far as I’m concerned, if the custodians and colleagues want to take a peek, they can go for it.

One of these days, we’ll all be able to use our fingerprints to access our online accounts. Until then, we’re stuck with special symbols and capitalized vowels. So, if you have some time on your hands and you want to help me out, you could try to hack one of my photo sharing accounts. I know that I used the password Munster$21 for one of them. But I’ve lost the login.

If you can find the login, you can see the pictures I took of Stonehenge four years ago. Knock yourself out.

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Hey Pine-Sol Sister

Anyone who tells you that they don’t like cleaning out the kitchen pantry is lying.

I look forward to spring cleaning in a way that I look forward to Christmas. I love having an excuse to wear sweatpants and spend all day in my house. It’s an excuse to turn on Real Housewives of Everywhere and forage for quarters in my couch cushions. It’s terrific exercise both physically and financially as I stretch around my closets, figuring out which never-worn sweaters I can consign. It’s an inspiration as I flip through my spice rack and pledge to finally make the paprika-seasoned skirt steak.

Sure, certain cleaning tasks are more fun than others. I’m not big on scrubbing floors. And I certainly don’t like finding spiders in the corners of my laundry room. (I relocate all of them outside to a wood pile.) But give me a tub of Lysol wipes, and I’ll have a dance party wiping my bookcases clean. And there’s something calming about actually taking inventory of the clutter on my work desk. And my junk drawer? Don’t even get me started. I could spend all day reorganizing the tidbits in that “everything goes” drawer. It’s a surprise shopping spree, since I never know what I’ll find: chapstick, birthday candles, playing cards.

This morning, on my daily dog walk, a friend and I bonded over our secret love of purging a refrigerator. There’s hope in throwing out expired yellow mustard, and making room for a fancier Dijon blend. We love “shopping our closets” for spring, after we forget about the pink Capri pants we bought last August.  We love how a new duvet cover can make a bedroom feel like Pottery Barn. There’s just something incredibly productive about a good spring cleaning which wipes the slate clean for the promise of summer.

Plus, I can’t help but fall in love with my husband all over again when we open up the windows, crank up the radio, and rearrange furniture. As silly as it might sound, I’d rather spend a night ordering new carpet online than ordering lobster at a restaurant.  And, there is nothing hotter than a man holding a toilet wand. Trust me.

Yep, when it comes to spring cleaning, I’m a fan. And the best part is the final result. Bring on the Scrubbin’ Bubbles. It’s about to get seriously clean around here.

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Photo credit: goodhousekeeping.com

 

 

 

 

Now Boarding… Group F

If one more person stuffs their bag into the overhead compartment of 14C, even though they are sitting in 24B, I might lose it.

On a flight from Vegas to Boston on Virgin Atlantic on Sunday, a man seated eight rows behind me stuck his bag in the overhead compartment above my seat.  And the dead horse he must have been smuggling in that bag hung from the side of the bin into the aisle. Clearly, the flight attendant would not be able to shut the overhead compartment. But man in the back didn’t care. He was already three games of Candy Crush ahead on his Ipad.

There’s a special place in the afterlife for people who dump their luggage in compartments in the front of the plane.  There’s an even more special place for people who carry-on oversized luggage.

Flight attendants must have the patience of ripening pears to deal with these nincompoops. I have a hard time biting my tongue when all of the overhead compartments are full in rows 5-10 with luggage from folks in rows 20-25. Each plane should have a designated luggage compartment for each row, and when people try to pre-dump their luggage, they should lose bathroom privileges for the flight. I also think there should be a law that anyone bringing oversized luggage on a plane should be forced to carry it on their own laps.

Maybe I’m just a cranky traveler. But the overhead bin should hold my luggage over my head. Not your smuggled dead horse.

Virgin Atlantic, United, American, anyone?  If you’re listening, let’s make like pistachios and crack it down.

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Photocredit: USA TODAY

How to Saber Champagne

One of the best party tricks I have ever learned was how to saber a champagne bottle.

It’s so ridiculously easy. In fact, I’m thrilled that most people don’t know how to do it since it makes me look much more talented than I am.

Obviously, sabering the glass top off a bottle of bubbly makes little sense. Clean-up is frustrating, and you typically lose a few swallows of champagne in the process. But gosh darn it, it sure makes for a cool trick.

(Below is a picture of one of my first champagne sabers. Clearly, the first rule of sabering is to wear a one-shouldered glittered prom dress.)

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Here’s a YouTube link from Wine Folly which will help you become a saber expert.

Don’t Swedish My Meatballs

I know it is un-American to dislike a table full of crockpots. And I understand that people *think* they are appeasing the diverse tastes of their guests when they allow folks to bring their own food. But lately, potluck dinners have become a mix of Top Chef and Survivor, where nobody wins.

In my community, potluck dinner parties have quickly become the housewife/househusband Hunger Games. I used to LOVE potlucks as a kid when they were more of an affordable buffet meal and less of an adult cooking tournament. Today, a potluck is a dog-eat-dog competition, which not only requires impressive food, but impressive serving utensils. (Mangowood serving tongs shaped like tulips, anyone?)

Sure, potluck parties sometimes make sense. Potluck work events. Potluck post-season soccer picnics. Potluck family reunions. But, even in the most appropriate setting, potlucks become cutthroat. Who can make the better salad course (complete with at least two non-traditional toppings like cranberries and feta)?  Whose peanut butter and M&M brownies can actually appease the sugar-obsessed kids?  Who can spend the most on a pre-made gourmet, gluten-free, specialty store side dish?

Once the guests arrive, they plop their contributions on a table full of mismatched courses. Potato salad and fruit skewers. Wild rice and English muffin pizzas.  Bacon wrapped asparagus and cinnamon muffins. It’s impossible to know who baked what, which can be a problem when you are trying to avoid anything from ol’ Uncle Jim’s kitchen.  However, there are a few guarantees at a potluck:

Someone always brings the less popular artichoke dip.

Someone always brings plastic forks smuggled from the break room at work.

Someone always brings a bag of cheap chips and canned salsa.

Someone always brings a homemade cinnamon crumb cake with apple topping and a side of vanilla bean ice cream.  (Overachiever, eh?)

And someone always brings sweet and sour meatballs, which are fought over until guests realize they were made by Chuckie, the mechanic with less than manicured fingernails.

Sure, hostesses *think* that potlucks are fun.  But that’s because hostesses don’t have to do anything for a potluck except pour themselves martinis and taste-test food while their friends sweat over the competition.  It’s a brilliant move, really, as long as the guests take home their dirty dishes and mushy leftovers.

Yep, attending a potluck dinner is about as fun as attending a Blue Man Group show. They are both inevitable, frustrating, and make you wish you had spent your evening elsewhere.  But you’ll never beat ’em, so you might as well join ’em.

Pass the deviled eggs.

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photo from outcamping.org

 

 

 

If Ski Areas Had Honest Slogans

Sugarbush, VT:  “Waffle House North.”
Big Sky, MT: “Four Flights from Anywhere.”
Killington, Vermont: “Voted Boston’s Best Bar.”
Tahoe, CA: “There’s an App for That.”
Deer Valley, UT: “Lifestyles of the Rich and Slow.”
Jay Peak, VT: “We Lost a Bet, and Built a Waterpark for French-Canadians.”
Jackson, WY: “Beards Gone Wild.”
Stratton, VT: “The Best Lift Lines Money Can Buy.”
Snowshoe, WV: “Fingers Crossed for Snow.”
Okemo, VT: “More Corduroy Than J. Crew.”
Sugarloaf, ME: “You Can’t Get There From Here.”
Mad River Glen, VT: “Tele Shaming since 1948.”
Mount Bachelor, OR: “Bend Versus the Volcano.”
Hunter, NY: “Long Island Playground.”
Stowe, VT: “Ben and Jerry Can’t Afford Us.”
Aspen, CO: “What’s in your wallet? It won’t be for long.”
Vail, CO: “Ski and Be Seen.”
Whiteface, NY: “Just Try to Stay Warm.”
Alta, UT: “Snowboard Intolerant.”
Sun Valley, ID: “No Small Potatoes.”
Snowbird, UT: “Where ACLs go to Tear.”
Powder, UT: “Dude Tested, Mother Disapproved.”
Mountain Creek, NJ: “Mallrats Unleashed.”
Taos, NM: “Someone is always bigger and better than you in the backcountry.”

By the way, I love ALL of these mountains, so no hard feelings, please :)

Credit: wafflecabin.com

Photo Credit: wafflecabin

Seesters

I look a lot like my sister. And if you’ve ever been introduced to the two of us, you know that I’ll always tell you that “I’m the prettier one.” Because that’s the sort of person I am.

And if you’ve met us, you will also know the truth that my sister is the prettier one. Which makes it annoying to have a sister in the first place.

I have a lot of friends, but I only have one sister. And she makes me crazy, happy, insane, punch-drunk, peppy, jealous, emotional, competitive, tired, joyful, frustrated, silly, overwhelmed, and proud. If you have a sister, you know what I mean. Friends are for forever, but sisters are since birth ’til death and every day in between.

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Sisters never need to state their names on voicemail.

Sisters have photo evidence of your pre-brace face.

Sisters will tell you what they really of your boyfriend, “the walking beer keg.”

Sisters wear matching outfits through childhood…

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Sisters know which jeans best fit your body type.

Sisters kick you under the table at Thanksgiving when Dad tells that story for the umpteenth time.

Sisters know which 80’s song still makes you cry.

Sisters help you make bad decisions onstage…

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Sisters are both your biggest competition, and your biggest support.

Sisters help get you out of that little legal thing.

Sisters share your love for putting too much salt (or pepper or hot sauce or ketchup) on everything.

Sisters help you pick out undergarments…

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Sisters can’t stand the friend who doesn’t treat you like a sister.

Sisters know how you order your salad. (Dressing on the side, no feta.)

Sisters mispronounce the same words. (Perishables?)

Sisters get revenge on your wedding day…

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Sisters don’t care who pays for lunch.

Sisters call at 2am without having to apologize.

Sisters could guess your computer passwords, if need be.

Sisters insist that you hold their kids in pictures…

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Sisters won’t let you wear that in public.

Sisters attend both your Girl Scout Gold Award ceremony and your retirement dinner.

Sisters know how you got your nickname.

 Sisters share that one weird thing. Post-wine squinty left eye…

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And sisters know that they’re lucky to have a sister. 

Cheers to the Seesterhood!

Frostbitten and fabulous, darling!

I admit it.  I’ve been really loving my hat head this season.  All the girls are wearing this look.  I think it’s the new pixie cut.

And my biceps are the bomb.  Forget Cross Fit, folks.  Have you tried “Raking The Roof?”  It’s a blend of cardio, core, and shoulder toning exercise.  Follow it up with a solid hour of “Shoveling Places for Your Pet to Poop” and you’ll be bikini ready by June.

Yes, this winter has been the ultimate season for self-progress.  I’ve saved money due to cancelled flights.  I’ve perfected the long-johns-under-the-work-slacks look. And my skin?  Well, let’s just say that there hasn’t been a sunburn in six months.  SIX MONTHS, people!  And I haven’t needed makeup since fall, since I’m perpetually wearing the latest blush must-have: a hint of frostbite.

I know that winter has been great for many of you as well.  All those facebook pictures featuring the negative temps on your car’s temperature gauge.  I’ve watched with bated breath, hoping that you’ll hit -23!  And who could forget your Youtube clips of neighbors landing their third-story backflips on snowbanks?  Not me.  And even some of you are still wearing your lucky Patriots sweatshirts since you haven’t left your house since the Superbowl. The celebration continues!  Lucky you!

Plus, we have reached major milestones in communities up and down the eastern seaboard:

 Record Sales of Vicks Vapor Rub in Connecticut

School Cancellations Prompt Impressive “Call-of-Duty” Scores.

Maine Extends Pond Hockey Tournaments Through July

Nantucket Home Sales on the Rise, Credited to Plow Drivers’ Salary Bulge

Also in breaking news this winter?  Pantone retracts the color of the year. “Marsala” was recently overthrown by this year’s clear winner: “Whitish.”  In addition to being Meryl Streep’s haircolor in the blockbuster film The Devil Wears Prada,  Whitish originated on snowbanks on the New Jersey Turnpike. A mix of snow and gravel dust,  it’s not as white as its big sister, Polar, nor is it as gray as its dirty sister, Fog.  It’s somewhere in between, and it’s everywhere you look from Boston Common to Rockefeller Center.  (Pssst… I hear that Tom Ford’s 2015 spring break collection will feature “whitish” tankinis with faux fur-trimmed overlay. His inspiration? A Poughkeepsie January.)

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“Whitish”

As Lieutenant Dan famously said as he hung over the side of his shrimping boat in a hurricane, “You call this a storm?”   Well, tomorrow, I’m going to stand on my snowbanks as I hold my my fist to the sky and scream “You call this a winter?”

C’mon Mother Earth, I can still see out my window from the second floor. Try a little harder next time. It should be illegal to have this much fun.

The most beautiful celebrity… according to my husband

Last night, I had an Oprah “a-ha moment.”  There we were, watching the Academy Awards. Dozens of beautiful celebrities graced the screen. Reese Witherspoon. Julianne Moore. And the perfect Jennifer Aniston herself.

I was in awe of these beauties as I sat on my couch pushing fists of popcorn into my mouth.  I was wearing tight-ankled sweatpants. They were in floor-length gowns.  I wore my un-shampooed hair in a bun with a rubber band which was previously wrapped around the Doritos bag. They wore updos and chignons. I was flawed and in awe. They were flawless.

My husband however was less amused. Our banter was effortless but surprising.

“Look at her!”  “She looks like a turtle.”  “What about her? That skin!”  “Meh.”  “Oh my gosh, could she be more gorgeous?”  “Yep, she could.”

It amazes me how my definition beauty differs from my husband. I would trade places with Rachel McAdams in a heartbeat.  My husband could take her or leave her.  I gush over Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara.  Jamal doesn’t even know her name. In my next life, I’d like to be Jennifer Garner.  Jamal would rather hang out with her husband.

But there is one “celebrity” he does love. But she’s as far from the Academy Awards as you could imagine. My husband is in love with Rebecca Romney, the “rare books” expert on the reality television series, Pawn Stars.

Don’t get me wrong, I also think Rebecca is a pretty girl.  But she’s no Charlize Theron.  And she certainly doesn’t have a million dollar contract with Revlon, nor a Glamour Magazine cover.  Rebecca is, well, the pretty girl next store.  Or rather, the pretty girl next bookstore.

Yet, Jamal drools over Rebecca.  He loves the way she paws through an old book.  He loves the way that she inspects a book binding as if she were a CSI. He loves her blazers, her bobbed hair, and her funny little laugh.  To Jamal, Rebecca is the epitome of beauty.  As far as he’s concerned, Charlize can simply hold her books.

A funny thing happens when you learn the taste of your husband.  You realize that for all of these years, as you tried to have the perfect haircut and the flawless skin and perfect waist, all you needed to do was pick up a book.

Kudos, Rebecca.  For keeping beauty real.

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Photocredit: ABC news