Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Perfect Picnic...

My Mom is 93 years old. I'm sure she'd hate me telling her age to the world, but she should be proud to have successfully reached that age.

Aging isn't for the weak and timid, and Mom's never been either of these!

She's one of the many reasons I'm so happy to be back in my home state of New Jersey. I try to see her at least once a week and preferably twice. The clock is ticking and I'm making the most of it.

The other day I had to take her to an emergency visit to her retina specialist. Although Mom is in good general health, her eyes are failing rather rapidly and this time she had a rupture in her right eye. She woke up seeing mostly brown, black, orange and red!

So, I left work early to take her to her appointment far out in western Jersey. I left earlier than I needed to because it was a beautiful day (and also because Mom was REALLY upset) and I thought, "I'm going to make this day nice for Mom. We'll have a picnic out in the countryside!"

I quickly made the plans in my head:

  • Pick up sandwiches at the great deli by my friend Patty's house out in Budd Lake, N.J.
  • Pack two beach chairs.
  • Pick up Mom's favorite beer. (Hey! We're Irish! We don't pack Snapple...)

The perfect picnic beverage....

As I drove, I pictured the scene - Mom and I by the lakeside... sipping our Yuengling's... and enjoying our time together...

I've said it before... my plans always give God a big chuckle...

I picked up Mom at her "Adult Community" and headed right out - very excited to make the day special (and take her mind off the doctor's visit!)

Half an hour later I was in the deli ordering our picnic meal. A lovely Asian couple owns the place. There goes my stereotype prejudice of delis either being Italian or Jewish in order to be good! (Note to self - work on being more open minded...)

Since the deli is right across the street from Budd Lake, I looked at it out the window and asked the owner, "Where can my mother and I picnic along the lake?"

"Oh," he replied. "Budd Lake is private! You need to pay to go in."


Only in Jersey...

Budd Lake - my perfect picnic plan...

"Plan B Mom," I said as I got in the car.  I actually DID have a "Plan B." I wasn't a Girl Scout for nothing!

I headed for a fishery I knew was just a couple of miles away. Mom and Dad had taken us there when we were kids. This would be even BETTER than stupid Budd Lake!

Thank God for GPS. The place was in the middle of NO-where! "How did Dad ever find this place without a GPS, Mom?" I complained. "Your father could find anything," she smugly replied.

So, driving down some teeny street and peering ahead at some wooded area I spotted a man on the corner. A man in an orange vest standing next to some kind of road equipment.

He came to the car, to my mother's window, and I asked how to get to the fishery.

"Oh, you gals aren't going to the fishery," he smiled and said. "We just started paving the road an hour and a half ago."


The road has been DIRT for about a hundred years and TODAY - our SPECIAL day - they decide to pave it?!!

I could hear God chuckling somewhere out there...

God's plan...

He saw my stricken face, winked and told me a "secret way" I could get to the fishery parking lot. We couldn't actually go in, it was closed for the construction, but we could "at least sit in the parking lot near it."

"We have to get to the doctor's soon, Karen!" Mom cried. (Yeah Mom... in three hours and the doctor is about a mile from the fishery...) She then added, "And I'm HOT!"

My old Volvo's air conditioning broke last year. We haven't gotten around to fixing it since this summer's been cool. Cool until TODAY, that is... (God is really wearing on my last nerve...)

Well, the construction guy's "secret way" through Centenary College didn't work because of a closed gate barring our way.

"I HAVE to get out of this car!" Mom yelled.

Aaargh! I pulled into a "Professor's Only" parking lot and parked under some trees on the far side. "This is it!" I yelled back. "I'll get the chairs."

A perfect picnic spot...

So, I set us up next to the car in a shaded spot on the asphalt. (We couldn't go on the lawn - too lumpy - and Mom can't see the lumps).

I shoved a turkey-on-whole wheat at her and sat down. Damn! The Yuengling's were sitting in her fridge back home...

Sipping on some warm bottled water I found on the floor of the Volvo, I finally collapsed in the folding chair and tried to enjoy the breeze and view of three pine trees near the curb.

"What's that noise?" I thought. Looking to Mom's right I could see roofers on one of the college's roofs. Great... I didn't say a thing. Mom can't hear well anyway...

Gazing through the pines I saw swarms of dust kicking up. The construction trucks were rumbling past us about 50 feet away!


"What's that smell?" I asked Mom through the dirt in my teeth.

"Tar," she replied.

"Well, it can't get any worse!" we laughed...

A few minutes later I glanced at her and said, "Mom, you have a fly on your arm."

"That's not a fly," she mumbled through a mouthful of turkey. "It's a bee."

Damn! It wasn't ONE bee. I saw at least three around her arm!

I HATE bees! I'm highly allergic!

One of my biggest phobias!

Picturing an emergency visit to the hospital, I jumped up and ran.

"Oh, God! I'm leaving my Mother stranded!" I ran back to her and started swatting them with my sandwich wrapper. They came after me and I ran again. "Oh, God! I'm a HORRIBLE daughter!" I ran back and swatted.

This went on a couple more times. I could hear the roofers laughing from afar...

Finally my Mom was standing, clutching her sandwich remains as bees swarmed it. "Throw the sandwich Mom!" I screamed. She just stood there looking at the soggy piece of bread. "Throw the sandwich!!!"

NEVER say these words to a Depression-era Baby...

Grudgingly... finally... she raised BOTH arms and tossed the remnant onto the curb. The bees went for it and I pushed her into the car. The VERY hot car.

"Let's get to the doctor's office," she said. "At least it'll be cool THERE."

"But, Mom the appointment isn't for at least another couple of hours," I cried.

And, that's where we ended up.

But, boy we've been laughing about that day ever since. Maybe God does have good plans...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Road of Life

My last post got me to thinking about "The Road of Life."

You know "The Road." We read about it in Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." We use terms like, "Well, that was a bump in the road," for when life gets a little tough. We talk about, "He's on Easy Street," or we take a trip "Down Memory Lane."

Life really is a Road Trip!

I just wasn't given a map though...

Some people are given maps at an early age. It directs them right from the hospital where they're born, onto a highway ramp, onto the interstate for a couple of miles (not far...) and directly to a certain destination. And there they stay. Their parents, grandparents, (and even further back), know this place well. They know all the people, the best restaurants, parking, local events... Heck, their ancestors even built a lot of the foundations and buildings!

That's some people. And, here's one of their maps:

I did have some sense of direction when I was young. I knew, like all my older sisters, that I was going to go to college. So, for my first 21 years, I focused on school. That was my goal, my destination, my path... my road.

But, after college? I was told, "You can do whatever you want!"

Here was my map:

(Drawn, by me, on the back of my Rutgers diploma
I received in Communications/Journalism...)

I didn't have a clue! All my friends from Rutgers already had their jobs lined up three months BEFORE we graduated. Me? I spent the entire summer after graduation in my friend Jeff's parents' "Rec Room" watching MTV...

(You remember "Rec Rooms"? They're now called "Family Rooms" ever since the 90's McMansions building craze.)

I did internships in college to get a feel for what I wanted to do. I worked in the research department of WNEW-TV (now FOX-TV). I didn't like the screaming, crying, and firing atmosphere going on in the news room. I actually had a news director SCREAM in my face - literally six inches from my nose - for several minutes until someone told him I was "just an intern." He then screamed, "THEN WHY THE HELL AM I TALKING TO HER!!!!" and stormed away.

Then, shortly after my lost summer, my friend from R.U., Alice, got me an interview at Woman's Day Magazine. (I worked with her at the Rutgers newspaper - The Daily Targum - as a cartoonist). So, I got my first paying job in their art department as the Art Director's assistant.

I paid all the art department's bills. I really didn't know what I was doing. When they told me on the interview I'd be "doing invoices" I said, "Ok." Then I went home and asked my mother what an "invoice" was...

But, I liked what the other people in the art department were doing - layout design! I didn't want to go back to college to get an art degree (especially since my parents wouldn't pay for it...) so I did what any normal 23 year old would do. I packed a suitcase, grabbed my Snoopy phone and moved to L.A.


I didn't know anyone. I didn't have a job. I'd been there ONCE for a week. But, I always had a dream of going there (I LOVED The Beach Boys and all the 60's surfer movies)...

I still miss Annette...

I landed a job hand-painting clothes in Venice Beach. I got paid PER piece. The first day I painted two shirts. The next day I did three or four. That's ONE DOLLAR a shirt. At the end of that week the store's accountant came back to where I was painting and told me, "Honey, you're going to starve." By the end of the first month I was painting about 50 a day!

But, the store's owner was a whacko (go figure... a whacko in L.A.!) and the job only lasted about seven months. By the end of the year I was broke. I sold my "vintage" orange VW Bug, packed up Snoopy and moved back to Jersey.

To La La Land and back. 

So, I was back in Jersey, living in my sister's spare bedroom in the basement and wondering, "Where am I?" And, more importantly, "Where am I going?"

There were so many roads to choose...

And I still didn't have a map.

Monday, July 28, 2014

To Blog, or Not To Blog

That really is the question I ask myself every day.

It really is.

I haven't "blogged" in a couple of weeks though.  Why?

It's not that I haven't had any thoughts lately. My head is FULL of thoughts.  Thoughts that need to come out.  That's why I write. It frees my mind. Makes room for more thoughts...

And, it's fun.

But, since the last blog I just felt... off. Every day I'd ask myself, "What should I write about?"

Work? Nah. My neighbors, cats, Mom?... I couldn't think of a topic I was really interested enough in to write even two words about.

But this morning I woke up and thought, "Gee, I'll write about blogging." I actually laid there in bed for ten or so minutes thinking about the topic. You see, writing does require SOME thought...

And then, I thought, "Well really, why HAVEN'T I blogged lately? I mean REALLY?" And I thought of my last blog.

It really got me down... really.

Why? It was a cute post about my pets. Oh yeah, my pets. My furry babies...

Barry and I don't have children. Oh, we planned on it. But, as "they" say, God smiles at your plans... He downright guffaws at mine!

We got our dog Murphy first. I researched the perfect dog to get for a family. One that's "kid friendly." In other words, a Lab. Murphy was so great, we got TWO Labs. Our Sam.

Sam and Murphy. Murphy and Sam... Like P&J or Lewis and Martin. A real team.

We even bought our first house specifically for kids... three bedrooms and two and a half baths (I HATED sharing a bathroom with my sisters when we were growing up). We picked the neighborhood (Fair Haven, N.J.) with the best school system. We built the picket fence to keep the dogs (and future children) safe (and to make the house look even cuter). We bought the Volvo wagon with tons of room to accommodate 170 pounds worth of fur and room for two cars seats to boot.

Prettiest house on the block...
I loved Fair Haven. I call it the perfect "Trick or Treat" neighborhood. Friendly people and small enough yards that you can really fill a bag up quick with candy in a short distance.

Fair... Fair Haven

And our dogs were the hit of the Fair Haven. Really were. We were "that house in the neighborhood" all the ten year olds wanted to play at (remember that house from your childhood?  There was always one and, for awhile, our's was it!) Our yard was full of laughter and activity as the kids would kick a soccer ball around with Murphy the "goal keeper." I bought pretzels and Tostitos and stocked the fridge with juice boxes. That lasted about a year or so... and then the kids moved on to other interests.

The yard got quiet again.

And life went on... with no children...

And, as fur babies do... Murphy and Sam were gone too. And the yard was really quiet.

And then Barry and I were gone from that sweet, quiet, house of dreams...  First up to Massachusetts (where I thought we'd live the rest of our days. I SWEAR I give God a hoot!) and now back to N.J.

And now I blog.

Oh, I do other things too... but, I do love writing.

I exercise my writing muscles... and now I realize, sometimes those muscles get sore... especially the ones around the heart.

You see... my writings ARE me. Even when I just "blahg, blahg, blahg..."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Life With Riley

What would life be like without our furry friends?

I really can't imagine... and I don't want to!

My husband and I have always had pets. Twenty four years of stepping over squeaky toys and collecting wet kisses. Right now we have two cats - Hannah and Calleigh the Calico. Love 'em!

But, boy do I miss our dogs...

Cats and dogs.  Dogs and cats.  People usually take a firm stand on their preference.

Me?  I love them all... But they're (ahem) two different animals.  It's hard to describe, but they have different "energies."  Dogs take up a whole room in frenetic, yet reassuring, ways. You can't ignore a dog because they're usually never farther than an arm away. They just want to be anywhere you are.

Laps are preferable...

Cats?  Oh, they can make their presence known in a room... but, only if they want to.  It's all about them.  Try calling a cat into a room or ask it to jump on your'll see what I mean.

Plus, you can't walk a cat.  Not happily at least.

So, I've been having a BLAST this past week taking care of a friend's black Lab - Riley - while she's away.  A BLACK LAB!  That's what we had... two of them.  Sam and Murphy. My fur babies...

I've been walking Riley on our streets... and down Memory Lanes too.  Riley is the spitting image of our boy Sam.  He's also not the brightest star in the sky.  Just like Sam!

Is it Riley?  Or has my Sammy come back!

My adoring Sam...

I forgot just how unbelievably wonderful it is to be pulled along on adventures.  (Literally pulled along - can I get just ONE dog that knows how to "heel"?!) Riley is showing me parts of town I didn't know existed. Actually, all the WET parts of town...

If water seeks its own level - Labs seek ANY level of water!

There's a creek just three blocks from our apartment.  Three blocks!  I've been here a year and never saw it. It took just four days to find it with Riley.

Here it is:
Who knew?

And here's my four-legged dowsing stick:

Where there's water...

(I swear it must have been a Lab that discovered the Mississippi...)

Another benefit of dog walking?  I've lost two more pounds in four days!  Yea!

There is someone who's not happy with this whole Riley situation though:

Calleigh the Sentinel...
Watching Riley and I come and go...

It's 9:00 p.m. now - almost "Riley time."  I'll let him out for a quick lap around the apartments, then I'll be up at 5:00 or 6:00 tomorrow morning for our two mile romp through the woods. I can smell the air already... it's been raining and muggy, so it'll be kind of musty.  The sun will just be rising and so it'll be cool, with just a hint of the heat of the day to come...

It's heaven.

And, speaking of heaven, we have four furry angels looking over us.  Sam, Murphy, Buddha (our Russia Blue) and Maggie (our beautiful Orange Tabby).

The inseparable Maggie & Buddha

Here's our Murphy on her last day at the beach. Boy, she loved the beach. We knew she was going, so we drove back down to New Jersey (from Massachusetts) to make her last day special. We took her to see her old dog sitter. We bought her pizza, bagels and steak. We drove to her favorite field where she played ball and frisbee...

And then we went to the beach.

It's almost like she's walking right into heaven. HER heaven... sand, sea gulls and, of course, water. She was a Lab after all...

Leaving paw prints in the sand and in my heart...

"Until one has loved an animal
a part of one's soul remains unawakened."

                                            Anatole France

Friday, July 11, 2014

Gettin' My "Groove Back"...

I'm wasting my life away.


I've dropped 30 POUNDS since this spring.  Yea!

Here I am in March -

"Who IS this?" what I'm thinking....

Aaaarghh!! I don't know how it happened.  I was a "stick" my whole life.  People were always saying, "You're TOO thin!"  I was the "tall drink of water", the one who would "fall through the slats of a chair", the one who women would tell me to "go home" when we were in our swimsuits by a pool...

One time I went to a small boutique to try on a swimsuit and the owners asked me to model their clothes in a fashion show.

I was THAT thin.

And, then several years ago I moved to Plymouth, Massachusetts.  I threw myself into the "country life. I wore clothes like Katherine Hepburn in "On Golden Pond" and "hauled in wood for the fireplace."

I was rugged!  (By New Jersey standards, that is...)

Here I am when I first moved up north -

Yup!  I could cut bread with those sharp cheekbones...

Well, I guess I started to eat like an outdoorsman... Except I really wasn't doing THAT much activity (other than leafing through L.L. Bean catalogues.)

So, I came back to New Jersey looking quite different than a lot of my friends remembered. (Friends and former co-workers from my NYC/Garment District days.  The days when I was hip, and artsy, and ... did I mention? ... THIN!)

My one friend asked me point-blank, "WHAT happened?"  I kind of struggled with an explanation until he finally blurted out, "Well, whatever you did, do the opposite!"  (Did I tell you he's a friend?) This is a guy though, who at 52 STILL aspires to be the next Calvin Klein underwear model - and looks good enough to actually not be delusional...

But, back to me...

I've dropped 30 POUNDS since this spring.  Yea!

Here I am the other day -

Looking happier!

So, what's the "secret"?   Listen (or read) closely... it's kind of complicated, so you better print this out.

  1. Eat more veggies and fruit.  
  2. Eat less carbs and sugar.  
  3. Eat smaller portions.  
  4. Drink more water. 
  5. Exercise.
Yeah, it's THAT diet. The simple one your mother told you about.  The one you ignored because you heard about the "cabbage juice diet", or the "eat ten pounds of steak for lunch diet", or the "_____________ diet" (feel free to fill in the blank with the one you've tried!)

To tell the truth, dieting (being healthier) IS that simple, and yet it took a weekend visit to a friend's house in March for the "light bulb" to go off.  This friend lost 100 POUNDS last year by eating this way!  (And, looks fabulous - "Hi Connie!")

It was an "AHA" weekend... and, luckily, it stuck with me.

I'm determined... and every week when I weigh myself I say, "I'm going the right way!"

Sure am!

Karen's gettin' her groove back...

Monday, July 7, 2014


I was just in the kitchen making my weekly batch of egg salad (Barry LOVES his egg salad). As I was peeling the eggs I started to think...


WHY is it that when I make egg salad, the egg shells come off easily?  YET, when I make my Amish Great-Grandmother's recipe of pickled beet eggs for a party, they end up looking like hot pink pieces of roadkill on a platter?

Yes - pickled beet eggs.  They're wonderful!  Here's a photo so you can appreciate them... (I'll put a recipe on the end of this blog because I know everyone will want it!)

Eggs are pretty in pink!
As you can see from the photo, the eggs have to be... well, egg-shaped.  Perfectly egg-shaped.

So, why is it that whenever I make stupid egg salad - where the eggs get all chopped up - the eggs are pristine and when I tell a friend I'll bring the pickled eggs for an appetizer, I CAN'T peel them without taking chunks off the side!  (You can tell it's not going to work the second you start to peel it. If you don't feel that slippery feel and it feels kind of sticky/rubbery - well, it's going to be a disaster.  My eggs tonight were NICE and slippery... right before I chopped them up.)

Honestly - the last time I made them for a party I used up a whole carton of eggs just to get about five semi-good ones. So, I sliced them in half, put the bad sides facing down and surrounded them with lots of beets and lettuce leaves.  People just looked at the wilted lettuce leaves soaking in beet juice and headed for the onion dip across the table.

My poor eggs...

Which got me to thinking about other "Why's?"

Like, why are the jobs you like most the ones that pay the least?  I have a GREAT part-time job right now.  My boss is mellow.  He appreciates me and listens to my ideas.  I have flexible hours.  But the pay?  Aaargh!!  (My other favorite job of all time, was the one I had at 17 at our local cinema. It paid minimum wage, but I got all the popcorn I could eat and FREE passes to the movies for me and my friends. That it's my all-time favorite job speaks volumes about my career...)

Aahh... to be an usher again... 

Or this one - there are TWO shows I like to watch every week.  TWO.  Modern Family and The Middle. My friends and I usually text or email each other, so my landline mostly collects dust and annoying sales calls.

BUT, darn it if almost EVERY Wednesday at around 8:00, right when The Middle starts and I'm just getting comfy on the sofa, I hear, "Ringgg... Ringggg!!"


Why?!  Why not ring on the other six nights when I sit flipping and cursing through our over-priced 700+ cable channels?

But it doesn't...

I have others. How about, you drive your car for two hours listening to bad music on the radio and JUST when you get to your destination one of your FAVORITE songs come on.  I don't know how many times I've sat in my driveway for an extra five minutes while my cats sit in the window wondering what's wrong with Mama.

Where's Mama?...

Or, you wait, and wait, and wait for the doctor when you have an appointment.  You know the "wink-wink" 10:00 a.m. appointment that you arrive at at exactly 10:00, only to sit in the waiting room surrounded by REALLY sick people and not wanting to even touch one of their dirty, old magazines. Then, after a half hour, the nurse calls you into the "inner room" where you wait another half-hour or so.  (Why not tell me to come at 11:00 a.m.... but, that's another story).

Anyway, it's inevitable.  I'll sit there in that stupid open-backed gown, shivering and bored. Then I'll think, "I'll call Barry real quick."

And THAT's when the doctor will come in.  Always.  Try it and see.  Except, maybe don't try it.  The doctor gets that pissed off look when he/she sees the phone.  You know - you're taking up THEIR time...

I just looked up at the calendar (boy, this summer is going by fast) and remembered this last one. It's the invitation that comes for that same day you already have something going on.  You look at the rest of your calendar and it's glowing white with empty squares.


How is it I sit around most of the time, yet I'm the most popular person about seven days out of the year.  "Oh, no. I'm sorry I can't go," (Cheryl, Patty, Kathy, etc.) "No, I'm busy THAT day."

365 days in a year and all events I could go to are crammed into seven.  It's not fair.  If my friends and relative would just plan it better, I'd finally look like I'm popular!

Oh, well...  Why ask why?

Here's the recipe I promised (it's not my Great-Grandmother's... you have to be related). Actually... I just open a jar of "Aunt Nellie's" pickled beets and pour them over the eggs. Easy peasy!  I'm actually from the Mennonites.  We're rebels...

Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Beets and Eggs
8 eggs
2 (15 ounce) cans whole pickled beets,
juice reserved
1 onion, chopped
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground black pepper

1.Place eggs in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let eggs sit in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool, and peel.
2.Place beets, onion, and peeled eggs in a non-reactive glass or plastic container. Set aside.
3.In a medium-size, non-reactive saucepan, combine sugar, 1 cup reserved beet juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 5 minutes.
4.Pour hot liquid over beets and eggs. Cover, and refrigerate 48 hours before using.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Perfect Fourth...

Boy, who was I kidding today?

I'm writing this at 11:00 p.m. on the Fourth of July.  The day started with rain, so this morning our town of Summit, N.J. posted online that the fireworks would be held tomorrow night instead.

"I don't care," I said to myself.  "Barry's working tonight anyway.  Plus, I've seen fireworks plenty of times already."

So, I cooked some burgers on the stove for our lunch this afternoon, instead of grilling, because of the rain.  Then at 3:00 I kissed my husband goodbye as he went out the door, and noticed the rain had stopped and the sun was actually coming out.

I wondered if there'd be fireworks after all...

After I went back inside I forgot about the Fourth again.  I did some housework and listened to the kids next door laughing (and bickering) as they played softball out front. But, gradually I started to notice that smell - that wonderful smell - of grills going and I heard some music playing.

Oh, yeah.  It IS the Fourth...

But, hey... who cares?  Right?

So, a few hours ago I settled in and turned on the TV to watch "Shark Tank." As I flipped around the channels during commercial, I saw the Grucci fireworks in NYC were going to be on at 9 p.m.

"Fine," I thought. "Shark Tank ends then."  But, with just a few minutes left in the show, and as I started to pick up the flicker - something happened.  I heard HUGE muffled booms coming from outside! The only sound like that could be...

Our town's FIREWORKS!!!

I RAN up the stairs hoping against hope... and yes!!  I had a small view of the fireworks from my bedroom window!

A room with a view...


What IS it about fireworks?  I leaned on the windowsill, next to our cat Calleigh, smiling from ear to ear.  Everything suddenly seemed more beautiful.

Really.  It all did.

I noticed the trees swaying gently from a cool wind in the night air.  I watched fireflies blinking below. I just felt... well, I felt the same way I do every Fourth of July - like a ten year-old kid.

I took it all in - the trees, the fireflies and the color and light bursting over the treetops.  My cheeks began to hurt from my grin.  Then, as always, the finale arrived. You can always tell the finale, even through an upstairs window a mile away.  BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Poor Calleigh jumped from the window.

Scaredy cat.

It was only about 9:20 now, so I went back to the downstairs TV to watch the Grucci's fireworks. (Love the Grucci's.  They used to do the fireworks 'down the shore' in the town next to where we lived. Thought they were from Jersey... but, I just looked it up and they're Long Islanders.  Well, no one's perfect.)

I could still hear sounds of our neighboring towns' fireworks, so I muted the sound of the country bands playing on NBC.  Who needs music playing?  I LOVE the throaty booms that only come from real fireworks!

On our TV.  Hurray for High Def!

All-in-all... it ended up being a pretty perfect night.

Note to my adult self... NEVER, ever again say, or pretend, that fireworks don't matter. My inner ten year-old disagrees.

Fireworks will ALWAYS matter.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

These Times They Are A Changing...

I've written about how hard it is to find a job nowadays.  Just the other day my personnel service sent me on an interview for a TWO WEEK assignment for data-entry work and making phone calls.  No, not a two YEAR job... two weeks.


I decided I have time on my hands to do more than blog and be annoyed by these silly interviews. I've been volunteering since I was 17 years old for various non-profits like The ARC (special needs), PERG (environmental), EIES (radio for the blind), etc.  So, I drove out to a local historic park and filled out an application to do some volunteer work in tourism, like I did up in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

They emailed me later and asked if I'd ever had a BACKGROUND CHECK!  A background check to do volunteer work...


This was my reply:

Dear Ms. _______,

I've been shaken by this email regarding a background check for volunteering in ______ County.  I'm writing this response because even though I don't think this will make a difference, I feel a need to write.

No, I'm 52 years old and I haven't had a background investigation.  Ever.

I probably would like one for my Grandfather though.  He served in the 28th Regiment in both Mexico and in WWI.  He was mustard gassed in Belgium and suffered from lung disease until he died in 1951. My Grandmother never received government benefits because the records for the 28th, between WWI and WWII burned.  He loved our country though.  So much so that he founded the Philadelphia chapter of the VFW.

My Grandfather was a Doughboy.

My father would have bristled at a background check though because he believed in freedom and privacy.  He believed, as I do, in the United States.  He didn't need a background check to serve honorably as a Marine in WWII at Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands.  I also don't think they checked the backgrounds of my ancestors who served during the Civil and Revolutionary

Storming the Beach at Guadacanal.

So, no I haven't recently had a background investigation.  I actually just looked online to see what it involves.  No, I have nothing to hide but I have a lot I'd like to protect - especially my freedom as a citizen of the United States.  I really do believe in what Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty, or give me death."  
really do.

I'm an American and I believe in our Civil Rights and the Constitution.  
I believe in our laws and that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
I believe in freedom.  

In 2011 and 2012 I was honored and thrilled to work at both Plymouth Massachusetts Visitor Centers and speak with people from all over the world about the Pilgrims and their importance in the founding of our country.  It is work I am very proud of and that's why I want to continue doing this in beautiful and historic _______ County.

I love New Jersey.  I love our rich history.  I brag about our State to everyone who doesn't live here, and even to those who do.  I understand times have changed but I really don't believe our citizens should have their civil rights compromised.  I actually believe most people are good and decent.  

I'd love to promote the legacy of Washington and his soldiers and the beauty and history of ______ County and our great State of New Jersey.  I'd like to talk to you and give you references.  

Thank you for listening and taking the time for this email.  I look forward to hearing from you.

I have to say I got a very kind response back, but they say I still need to have a background check for the job...

Guess I'll stick with blogging for awhile.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Penny for Your Thoughts...

Actually, you can have my thoughts for free!  There's a bargain...

Speaking of bargains, that's the kind of shopping I've been doing lately.  While I've never jetted to Rodeo Drive or have been chauffeured along Madison Avenue to buy the latest fashions, I have been a fan of Williams-Sonoma, Bloomies, and other Yuppie enclaves.

It's just that we're on a budget right now, which means - NO designer names.  Actually, how about NO names at all?

Welcome to my new world of food shopping at Aldi's and buying greeting cards at (eeek!!) the "Dollar Store"!  (Believe me, they don't carry Crane's...)

Thursday is food shopping day, so I went over and picked up Mother.  Man, she LOVES Aldi's (who do you think told me about that place?)  Hey, the woman raised five children, sent them ALL to college, AND managed to travel all over the world with my father.  (ALL over - find me a place they didn't visit...)  And now she lives in a beautiful retirement complex with all the amenities.  How did she do all this?

By watching her pennies!

Why didn't I learn this earlier?  How did I become addicted to high-end restaurants and over-priced speciality shops?  Not from my Scottish Mother...

My thrifty Mom

I have to admit, I'm beginning to embrace this new life style.  It's like a challenging game to see how much I can buy and not only stay in our budget, but go UNDER budget!  I don't mind that the stores I shop in now aren't very pretty.  I can't eat pretty...

There ARE some things you can't skimp on though.  Like Heinz ketchup and Smucker's orange marmalade.  No name ketchup is always a funky dark color... like it's old.  It's not the Heinz cheerful red.  And a store-brand marmalade?  Yuk... I won't even go there.

But, I happily pick up my "Rice Krishpees", my "Cheriooos", "Trishkuts" and blocks of cheddar cheese that are half what they cost at King's or Whole Foods.  (One year I bought ALL my side-dishes for Thanksgiving at Whole Foods and almost fainted at the register when I saw the price.  It probably would have been cheaper to bring all my guests to the fanciest restaurant in town!)

The fact is, we're saving money and it's not even hurting (well, a little...).  I really think this is a good lesson to learn, no matter what our earning bracket.  And the best thing about having to think before I spend?

I appreciate what I do have, a little bit more...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Marty and Me...

Wrote to Scorsese today - yeah, THAT Scorsese.

I wouldn't say we're close.  Actually, I had to look him up on the internet so I knew how to spell his name...

But, I had to write to him because I have a great idea for a movie!  (My mother wants me to write it... but, I'm busy with other things, like blogging...)

Anyway, I know looking for work (and blogging) is my full-time job right now, but I still seem to have some extra seconds to read random things on the internet.  In one of those random searches I discovered an historic figure that really intrigued me for many reasons.

His name is Archbishop John Hughes - AKA "Dagger John."  Here he is:

Oops... wrong one.  (Hey - he popped up when I Googled "Dagger John"!)  Anyway, HERE he is:

"Dagger John"

He doesn't really look that tough, but there's a reason he was called "Dagger John."  He made it his personal cause to fight against Protestant oppression against Catholics - even going so far as using some of his parishioners as armed guards at the original St. Patrick's in downtown NYC.

Old St. Patrick's on Mulberry St., NYC.
The armed men aimed their rifles over those very walls.

(Actually, I'm looking back at that photo of the other guy - John Matthew.  He looks kind of tough.  Maybe he can play Dagger John in the movie!)  Wow... I can write AND cast films.  Mother's right - I SHOULD be in "the business"!

Anyway, here's the info on what John Hughes did that I sent to Marty:
  • Protected his churches with Irish armed guards (see photo above...).
  • Helped quell the angry mobs during the 1863 Draft Riots.
  • Supported the Young Ireland Movement and raised funds for weapons.
  • Began the Catholic School System (and was such a pain to the Protestants, the state passed the Maclay Act of 1842 – the separation of church and state).
  • Founded Fordham University (initially called St. John’s).
  • Began the construction of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  He laid the cornerstone in 1858.
  • Was instrumental in the Irish becoming policemen, firemen and teachers!  (My great-uncle Matty was a fireman and my cousin Brian was a cop in Philly.  The Irish tradition continues...)
Amazing, isn't he?  Also amazing is I don't know ANYONE who's heard of him!  I mean, what does it take to "go down in history"?!!

So, there you have it, Marty!

I bet he'll let me call him "Marty."

All the info you need to put together a great flick.

I await your call...


My dear friend Kathy called the other day and asked me to design Julianne's (her daughter) 21st birthday invitations.

Sure!  Jules is like my own daughter... but, isn't she just 15?  No -  She CAN'T be 21!


Why does it feel like all my nieces, nephews and friends' kids were all just toddling around my backyard and now THEY'RE having kids that are toddling around the backyard!  I can still see Jules as a little five year-old girl rollerskating down her driveway - a long STEEP driveway.  So daring and unafraid... a real tomboy!  (Now the "tomboy" is a beautiful and chic stylist).

Come to think of it, her mother and I were about that age when we first met in kindergarten at St. Joe's. Of course Kathy and I haven't changed a bit since Julianne was born!  No, not at all...

Think I'll go grab a glass of wine...

I hope Jules likes her invite:

Spoke with another St. Joe's friend Patty the other day.  We're going to plan our 40th Reunion next year!!

Kathy's on the bottom far left and Patty and I are on the bottom - second and third from the right.  Love all the straight long hair (except for Liz (in the middle) - her mom made her have short hair - she HATED it!).

Patty and I spent the other night laughing for about an hour about St. Joe's.  She remembers running down the hall with Danny (a boy I had a crush on) and another classmate Susan (next to me on the left)... pretending to be the "Mod Squad"! (Google it).  I asked who was Linc?  (Danny and Sue are White.  Actually, look at the photo - we're ALL White and either Irish or Italian!  Not a very diverse group...)

I remember the nun in the photo - our principal.  She loved to grab you by the cheek and pull you down the hallway when you got in trouble.  It never happened to me (I was a good girl!) but I remember Tommy (smiling in the photo above Kathy) always had pink cheeks...

Boy... it feels like yesterday.

Sunrise... Sunset...

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Urban Garden

My husband and I are getting used to being back in New Jersey after living along the water in Plymouth, Massachusetts for the past several years.  It was pretty rural where we were living.  How rural?  Well, my closet, and dearest, neighbors were a flock (actually, a "rafter" - according to Google) of wild turkeys.

I miss those guys!

Now we're living in Summit.  It's a pretty town about 30 miles west of NYC, and we love it, but I feel a little like the country mouse around here, and it's strange living in an apartment after owning homes for the past 20 odd years.  Although this winter was WONDERFUL!  I just sat looking out the window as our Super shoveled the snow.  I just would run outside to bring him a cup of coffee... (Did I mention that was wonderful!)

One thing I do really miss though is having a veggie/herb garden.  But, before we moved, I ran around the property in Plymouth gathering up plants that were important to me, including my Dad's peppermint and rhubarb.

Notice I said my Dad, not my Mom.

My Mother's not a gardener.  When she and my Pennsylvania farm-boy father were first married and living in an apartment, my Dad tilled a small plot behind the building and planted a vegetable garden.  My Mother - a Newark girl - decided to help him weed while he was at work.  When he came home he ran in the apartment crying, "Elizabeth!  Someone ransacked my garden and pulled out ALL the vegetables."  My Mother said, "Oh, dear... what a shame!"  She never went near any of his gardens again!

I'm a chip off my Father's block (so to speak):

My Urban Garden

I may be exaggerating, a bit, about our apartment being very urban.  It's actually a lovely garden apartment.  This is the view from our front door:

So, cry me a river - right?!  I'm really not complaining... ok, just a little.  I just miss having a plot to call my own.

Wow!  Just saw my Super out the window and went out to tell him about my blog and how I miss my garden.  He told me I can have a little spot of land for a six-foot garden behind his tool shed next year!  Who said blogging was a waste of time (besides my Mother...)

I can taste those warm, sweet stawberries already.... yumm!...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Is this Clarice? Why, hello Clarice...

Let me introduce our Russian Blue - Hannah:

Sugar wouldn't melt in her mouth (I never quite understood that expression... but, you know what I mean).

Once upon a time, Hannah was enjoying her life with my husband and me as an "only-kitty." (We had another cat, Maggie, who died a couple of years ago under suspicious circumstances.  We're not sure about this, but all trails lead back to Hannah - the last to see her alive...)

Then one day this past December - at the height of snow and cold - I looked out our window and saw a little Calico grooming herself on a snowdrift.  After spotting her for a few days - (I knew she was a "her" because ALL Calicos are females) - I realized she didn't have a home so, of course, we took her in.

Here's Calleigh, the Calico:

The plot now thickens, as they say...

Hannah immediately HATED Calleigh and tried to kill her every chance she had!  (Again, I wish we did an autopsy on poor Maggie before we had her cremated...)

Every day for five months I vacuumed up tufts of grey, white, orange and black fur off the floors and furniture.  Fur was literally flying and I thought it would never end.  Why, just last month they attacked each other on our bed. Unfortunately I was STILL in the bed at the time...

Later that day, after washing our blood-soaked sheets, I decided to vent my anger in a constructive way. (Lucky for them I'm a graphic designer and have Photoshop on my computer.  Lucky for them I'm not a taxidermist by trade...)

Since I felt like I was in the movie, "The Silence of the Lambs"...

I created this:


But then a miracle happened last week!  We had to take the cats to the Vet to have their nails clipped (salons won't see them).  When the cats saw the dreaded "cat carriers", they huddled TOGETHER and stared at us in fear and anger.  And suddenly we saw a light bulb go off over their heads...

They realized it was THEM against US!

"But the face on the pillow, rosy in the firelight, is certainly that of Clarice Starling, and she sleeps deeply, sweetly... in the silence of the lambs."

Yes... it's them against us...