Monthly Archives: January 2011

My Own Private Florida

It’s 80 degrees and sunny; my iced tea is all tea, no ice because the ice melted. I’m wearing shorts, a sleeveless shirt and sunglasses; I may get sunburned on my entire left side today if this keeps up. Really!

Where am I? In a tiny room tacked onto the back of our home here in Northern New Jersey; the room has four large windows: two face South and two face East. I’ve been sitting here at the table working for hours and I’m sweating. No kidding. Sweating!

By now I know I need sunshine to stay even-keeled and happy, and the Northern N.J. weather this winter has been anything but sunny; we’ve had inch after inch of snow, gray days and hours of shoveling.  More snow and ice are scheduled to arrive in the next day or two.

Yesterday, sun was streaming through two large South-facing windows in the tiny room at the back of our house. I walked into the “plant room,” squinted in the bright sunlight, and immediately felt degrees warmer and happier.  As I stood there, I remembered how ten years ago this tiny room was “the breakfast room.” It contained a table and 4 chairs and not much else. It was lovely and functional.

Nothing like two on-the-ball office assistants to keep me company.

A few winters ago, I replaced the table and four chairs with a petite chaise lounge, little side tables and plants, lots of plants. It became “the sunroom.” I spent some lovely sunny winter afternoons sitting in the chaise lounge with a Siamese cat or two for company.

Perhaps the tiny room could serve two purposes this winter, a place to work and a place to think, both tasks done while bathing in sunlight, lovely sunlight. Since I hurt my back shoveling out from the last snowstorm, I enlisted the help of my (reluctant) daughter Tory and my (patient) husband Mike to make an “office” in the sunny space. Mike and Tory carried the old oak plant table out of the tiny room and stored it on our third floor. I relocated some healthy plants to the butler’s pantry and tossed a few unhealthy specimens. Mike and Tory then dismantled a table stored on the third floor and carried the heavy iron base (Mike) and tabletop (Tory) downstairs to the tiny room. Mike reattached the table top to its base while Tory, just a tad grouchy from having carried the tabletop down the two long flights of stairs, returned to the third floor and brought down two iron chairs for me. I rearranged the chaise, table, two chairs, cat climbing pole and two plant stands in the tiny space. With our wireless Internet and printing capabilities I think I’m set!

What do you think?

This room is a bright sunny "office" during the winter months!


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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Cats, Home Decor, Home Office, New Jersey, Siamese Cats

Hanging with the Regulars at the Bar & Grill

Last night my husband Mike and I wanted to do something besides shovel snow so we went to a bar and grill in Montclair, NJ that makes one of the best burgers you’ll ever taste. When we walk in the door awe usually see someone we know and we see the “regulars.” The “regulars” are distinctive either in looks or attitude or fortitude (you notice them by virtue of the sheer amount of alcohol they consume without falling off their bar stools).

Last night Mike and I saw a couple I call Dick and Jane; they are  regulars we’ve seen absolutely every time we’ve gone to this bar and grill. Atypical this evening, though, Dick and Jane arrived after Mike and I. Happily ensconced on bar stools sipping our drinks, I saw Dick and Jane first. I nudged Mike and he, good husband that he is, obediently glanced over his should toward the door. Dick and Jane, looking as somber as usual, glanced around the large oval bar for two vacant barstools. Only thing was that Mike and I had copped the last two open bar stools. Interested, I watched what Dick and Jane would do: Would they take a seat at one of the very few open tables? Would they stand bellies to the bar? Would they leave? I was curious.

Not my drink of choice.

Dick and Jane settled for the one available bar stool; it was hiding in a far corner and Jane dragged it over to the bar. Dick sat and Jane stood. She’s lanky and he’s a bit shorter. I wondered if he had back problems. The bartender brought them their usual drinks: beer for Dick and White Zinfandel for Jane.

Dick and Jane are loyal barn coat wearers.

Dick and Jane qualify as regulars for another reason: They are distinctively dressed. They always wear matching barn coats, those button-down-the-front army green-colored, hip-length jackets with the brown corduroy collars In addition, they wear matching expressions; they look serious to the point of severe. Unlike Mike and me, I’ve never seen them talking or even looking at each other. They sit at the bar, drinks in hand, and gaze off into space, neither looking to the left or right. After a couple of drinks, they leave. If they weren’t wearing matching coats and expressions and sitting next to each other you’d think they were two random people who had stopped in for a quick drink.

During a lull in our conversation some time later, Mike nudged me to take a look over at Dick and Jane. She was talking to Dick and he was listening. She was gesturing and Dick was watching her. Whoa! Talk about a sea change in behavior! This was one set of regulars who deviated from their norm. On the other hand, the couple to my right, definitely regulars, continued with their norm: first they took a shot and then they drank a beer. Okay, so some things don’t change.

Pabst on tap!


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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, bar food, New Jersey

Another Snowstorm: The Official One

In case you were wondering, Sunny the VW Bug is sulking in our driveway; she's back from her latest spa treatment.

Yesterday afternoon Northern New Jersey received a lot of unofficial snow. Last night we received a crapload of snow. I mean it. The official snowstorm arrived, on schedule, and dumped a crapload (I think the word is evocative) of heavy white stuff on top of all the heavy gray stuff we already have. It’s official: We’ve run out of room to put the snow we keep shoveling off our driveway and walkways. What do people in, say, Buffalo, N.Y. do with all the snow they receive every year? Never mind. . .I don’t really care what they do. I’m grouchy.

My husband Mike got up extra early this morning and used our petite snow blower to clear the driveway of snow. Honestly? I don’t know how he did it. Our snow blower balks if it has to chew and swallow and spit out more than 6” of snowfall. And it isn’t a self-propelled model either, which means that I usually fall when I use it since I have to push it so hard up our driveway hill that my feet slip out from under me and I fall face first in the driveway. It’s ugly. Trust me on this one.

Our non-self-propelled, 6" or less snowfall snowblower.

When I went out to shovel and clear the front porch, my lovely car and the rest of our sidewalks, I saw we had well over the predicted 12” of snow. Two-and-a-half hours later I shoveled my last shovelful of snow. Part of the time I used the petit snow blower. That would be the part of the time when I hurt my back, resulting in the shooting pain that’s going down my left leg.


The birds picketed until I cleared a path to their feeder!

Snow blower 1; Me 0.

But that isn’t the worst of it. The worst of it is that we have walls of snow about 5’ high lining our driveway so when we back out we have zero visibility all the way down the driveway to the street. And the town plows didn’t clear the full width of our wide street so the opening at the end of our driveway is like a funnel with no room to maneuver. We have to back straight out across both lanes of traffic to escape our driveway. It’s high anxiety time. And you? Did you get a crapload of snow dumped on your neighborhood? Make me feel better. Tell me your shoveling woes so I can focus on you instead of me.

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Audi A5, Snow and Snowstorms, VW Bug, Whining

Shoveling Snow: A Novel Sport in These Parts

It’s snowing here in Northern New Jersey, but that’s old news.

What’s new with you?



Okay. You’re going to have to listen to me rant! Or else you can leave quietly. Immediately.

The snow, the unexpected snow, started around here at 7:30 a.m. today. It flew thick and fast for hours. Mind you, the weatherman kept telling me that this is not the snow he’s been talking about; this was unexpected snowfall. So, okay, the unexpected snowfall lasted for hours.

Our snow blower works just fine as long as the snow isn't more than 6" deep!

At about noon, I fired up our little snow blower and tossed all the snow on our driveway and sidewalks onto the ever-growing piles on our lawn. I shoveled out the bottom of the driveway too. That’s the part that gets ugly sometimes, particularly when I get splashed with the crappy snow/slush mix that the cars speeding by catch me with. Ah yes, I’ve mentioned that in a previous blog post.

I retired to the house, made a cup of hot tea and called my girlfriend Pat; she lives in Colonia, NJ, south on the Garden State Parkway about 30 minutes; she had been outside shoveling just like me. But unlike me, she had hand surgery in December and recently had the awesome pins removed from her hand; she’s in physical therapy three times a week to get her mobility back in said hand. So, yes, my Amazonian girlfriend was shoveling snow one-handed today. When I asked, she mentioned in her typical low-key way that it was no big deal since she used a snow pusher, and when she got the piled-up-with-snow pusher to the edge of her driveway she just used her foot to launch the pusher/shovel loaded with snow into the air so the snow would just fly off the pusher/shovel. Easy peasy.

God, I love Pat. And have I told you that I always, always want her on my side in a fight? Trust me when I tell you that you do too. The woman is as tough as nails and then some.

After talking with Pat and realizing that I was a whiny so and so, I looked out the window. More snow, a lot more snow had accumulated. Stiffening my resolve (which was now about as stiff as my shoulders and thigh muscles) I went back outside to hand shovel the driveway and sidewalks of an inch or so more of fresh snow. Then I drove to our local high school and picked up my daughter Tory. All her activities for the evening were cancelled so she’s sleeping on the couch while I talk to you. Fun stuff, huh?

No more blue tape on Sunny's window. Nope. And it only cost a small fortune to fix that window. Yup.

And Sunny, Tory’s beloved VW Bug? My husband Mike picked her up from her most recent spa experience and drove her home. The little darling is not much fun in the snow; she fishtails. And slides. And generally behaves like a recalcitrant toddler. <sigh>

I’m off to bed now because tomorrow. . .wait for it. . .I will be shoveling snow! The anticipated snow!


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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, best friends, New Jersey, Snow and Snowstorms, VW Bug

The Repair Saga Continues: Sunny the VW Bug

Sunny, the money pit.

My daughter Tory’s beloved VW Bug Sunny is at her favorite mechanic to get her driver’s side window repaired. You may remember that Sunny’s power window cable broke when I was at our bank’s drive-through window a few weeks ago. I heard was a horrific grinding noise and quickly got the window up all but about 1”. We’ve been using bright blue painter’s tape to seal the 1” gap prior to every snowstorm to prevent snowdrifts from gathering on her front seat.

Painter's tape, a low-tech solution to preventing snow inside Sunny the VW Beetle.

On Saturday, Sunny’s best friend the mechanic said she needs a new window regulator. Total Cost: $300. Plus Tax.

Yesterday, Sunny’s boyfriend the mechanic called  and said that when he dismantled the window unit he saw shredded teeth on Sunny’s window motor; the motor needs to be replaced too. Total Cost: $650. Plus Tax.

Today, Sunny’s secret lover the mechanic called and said that he just found out the new regulator is a “superceded” one (fancy word for updated to better do its job) so that the matching motor it needs is a “superceded” motor. Bottom line: The whole shebang just got more expensive, $80 more expensive in this case. Total Cost: $730. Plus Tax.

We can pay Sunny’s latest spa bill and pick her up late tomorrow, just in time for the weather rolling in to our area.

More Snow on the Way

This afternoon, the News Radio 88 newscaster mentioned that at the rate we’re going and with no letup in sight for the next two weeks (how does he know that anyway?!) Northern New Jersey’s snowfall for the 2010-2011 season could be one of the top ten EVER! How Exciting!! Not.

This news does not make me happy, nor does his prediction that we’re getting snow again tomorrow: Maybe by 9 a.m., but definitely by noon, he said. And it’s supposed to snow all the rest of the live-long day, except when it’s raining.

Tonight our local food stores had their typical run on bread and milk, and tomorrow after everyone has slip slid home from school and work, local folks will be drinking chocolate milk and eating buttered toast. Meanwhile, I will be. . .

Are You Ready? . . .

Shoveling snow. . .

and daydreaming. . .

I daydream about peeling Sunny's VIN number off and abandoning her in a handy snowdrift.

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Bread and Milk, New Jersey, Snow and Snowstorms, VW Bug

Football Rumble: New York Jets versus Pittsburgh Steelers

Gold and Black Rules!

Update: The Steelers Won! Gang Green Was Stopped by the Steel Curtain.

Next stop? Super Bowl!!

In a mere few minutes my brother-in-law Michael and I go head to head: His NY Jets versus my Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ve admired the Steelers team for years, decades even, but I never actually called them my team. When asked, I’ve said the New York Giants are my team since I watch those games with my rabid-fan-husband Mike. Recently, though, I declared myself a Terrible Towel Trainee. I’m from western PA and those fans, those crazed towel twirling fans, are my cousins, aunts, and uncles; they are my people, for better or for worse.

We're gonna be swinging the towel, just swinging the towel!

I love the rag tag-edness of the Steelers of old, the current dudes with long hair and fast legs, the wacky quarterback, the cerebral, let-nothing-show head coach. Tonight, I want my Steelers to roll over Gang Green. I want them them to be Super Bowl bound. I want to be able to rub it in to my brother-in-law that black and gold trumped green!

Pittsburgh Steeler + Super Bowl = Awesome!

Let the game begin!


Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Family, Football

Another Snowy Day; Bad Roads and Silly Drivers

Conditions were not great for traversing the hilly street in front of our house.

We live on a busy through street in our town. When it snows the road is usually plowed pretty well and traffic flows. Not this morning though. For some reason, the 6 inches of new snow was poorly plowed and huge snow ruts were the order of the day during the morning commute. As I shoveled out the end of our driveway I watched vehicles try to navigate their way up and over the small hill near our driveway. Some people were more successful than others.

Poor driving conditions on our little hill today.

The drivers who maintained a steady speed crested the small hill without incident.  Other drivers who inexplicably stopped halfway up almost without exception ended up with spinning wheels, revving engines and sliding backwards sideways down the hill as cars behind them tooted anxiously.

The SUVs, which were mostly driven by bullies if today’s behavior was any indication, tooted impatiently if the car in front of them started to slow down or slide; the SUVs, without exception, passed the hapless sliding car by swerving into oncoming traffic.

Most roads in town were still snow covered and difficult to navigate.

I drove my daughter Tory to school. We waited until most of the traffic logjams in front of our house had cleared, then I backed down our driveway and into the street. My Audi A5 performed like a champ in the rutted snow, but even more important, I chose to drive down the street – that would be down the small hill – instead of taking our usual, shorter route up the street. As we rolled along Tory called out the names of the high school students in the cars we were passing that were headed up the hill. We didn’t stick around to see if they successfully crested the hill.

Less-than-optimum conditions today.

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Audi A5, Snow and Snowstorms, weather