Thursday, August 29, 2013


My mom used to say I had "candy radar." She was right, of course, I do, but I can't take credit for it. I was born this way, it's my unique superpower. No other superhero can claim it--and I'm not sure they'd want to. No matter where I am, no matter what else is going on, I can always sense the presence of candy. I'm not kidding. Even if I was in a burning building, and a fireman threw me over his shoulder to carry me to safety, I'd be wailing: "Who's going back for the jar of jelly beans?" 

It's not like I go looking for candy, you know. Well okay, I do, but most of the time it just appears in my line of vision, with no effort on my part. But, before you recommend a twelve step program for my sugar addiction, you need to hang on a sec. I said I had candy radar--I never said I ate all the candy I came across. Think of me more as a divining rod, a candy psychic as it were. I'm a Tootsie Pop cop, a Baby Ruth sleuth and a gumdrop gumshoe all rolled into one, ha ha.

That doesn't mean I don't eat candy. Au contraire! There's nothing like the burn of an Atomic Fireball rolling around your mouth, or the mouth-puckering sourness of a Lemonhead on the tip of your tongue. And nothing compares to the perfect piece of dark chocolate, melting like butter in your mouth and sending happy thoughts to your brain. Of course, I have gone overboard once or twice. I'm not proud of this, but I once ate a half pound of Jelly Bellies while working at the register in my college book store (you can't really call it an "impulse buy" if you've been eyeing it for three hours). But those days are over. My teeth and my waistline now insist on moderation. 

Also, I need to set a good example for my kids. My oldest son doesn't care much for candy, but the younger one is another story. If I buy a pack a Sweet Tarts and stash it in my glove compartment, Josh will find it (and eat some). But it wasn't until the day that I took him to my office and he went straight for the dark office in the corner, opened the desk drawer and found a large bag of candy that had been placed there only hours before, that I knew. He had candy radar, too. 

Perhaps one day the world will need people like us for some higher purpose. After all, they can train pigs to sniff out truffles and they're even training dogs to sniff out cancer, surely, they can use people who sniff out candy. I only hope they use our superpower for good and not evil!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


It all started with a loud sneeze. One minute I was chatting on the phone, and the next I was down on all fours, chanting “ow ow ow OW!”  I had never thrown my back out before and I wondered if I would ever get off the floor. From this new perspective, I realized that I could now “keep my ear to the ground” and my “nose to the grindstone” with no effort at all.  Eventually, the spasm subsided and I crawled to the bathtub to take a hot bath.  A few days later, a physical therapist recommended back exercises for me.  Her favorite was “wall-sitting.”  Wall-sitting is simply standing with your back to the wall and then bending your knees until you resemble a human chair. Then you stay that way as long as you can.  She also recommended a half hour of Pilates. I vowed to wake up early every day to fit all of that in.
The next week I went to the dentist for a check-up. He told me that, at my age, I should brush twice daily, floss, use a Water Pik (like a pressure cleaner for your teeth) at night and then stimulate my gums with a rubber-tip between each tooth, front and back. I vowed to stay awake a half hour later every night so I could fit all of that in.

The next week I went for my annual check-up. My doctor told me that, at my age, I should be doing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week and also working out with weights to keep up my bone density. He added that if I wanted to remain flexible, I should start doing Yoga. I decided to give up my lunch hour and also wake up an hour earlier on the weekends so I could fit all of that in.

The next week, I went to the dermatologist for a check-up. She told me that, at my age, I should stay out of the sun at all costs and slather myself with sunscreen any time I saw the light of day. So, I bought a case of sunscreen and vowed to spend an extra fifteen minutes getting ready every morning so I could fit that in as well.

After a month of my new routine, I was so sleep-deprived that I started combining things so I could stay in bed longer. I became the “Queen of Efficiency.” I flossed my teeth while I practiced being a human chair; I rubbed sunscreen on while I jogged in place and I stimulated my gums with a rubber pick while holding a Yoga pose of a tree. Instead of lifting weights, I juggled the cans of beans as I was making dinner and carried the dog out of the kitchen. Finally, after I started doing deep knee bends while I brushed my teeth, I found I didn’t have to wake up early anymore. This getting older stuff is totally manageable; I don’t know why everyone complains about it. Excuse me, I feel a sneeze coming on…

Sunday, August 25, 2013


I’m not talking about you, of course, but pet owners can be so annoying. Oh, I know what you’re thinking-that I just don’t understand and that, clearly, I have never experienced the joy of pet ownership. To that I say you may have a point. But, seriously, why the need for a bumper sticker that proclaims:  “I love my Labrador Retriever”?  Are you hoping that fellow Labrador enthusiasts will feel a kinship towards you and avoid rear-ending your car?  Or, are you hoping they will pull up next to you at a traffic light to chat about Labs?  I don’t get it…And I also don’t understand people who plaster pictures of their pets all over their office (or cubicles) at work.  They have dozens more pictures than I have of my kids (does that make me a bad mother? do they enjoy making me feel inferior?)  And they always want to tell you stories, lots of stories about how brilliant, charming and adorable their pet is and why their pet should perform on the Letterman show.

Well, I need to set the record straight: I have indeed owned pets and have even lived with other people’s pets. In fact, my favorite roommate in college also happened to own my least favorite cat in the world. This cat hissed and nipped at me any time I encroached on his territory, which apparently was the entire apartment with the exception of my room.  I tried to win him over, but he was unimpressed. The most amazing thing was how oblivious my roommate was to her cat’s open hostility.  She explained that he liked me-he was just being “standoffish.”     

When I was a kid, my father brought home a Basset Hound and named him Boris. He was kind of cute, in a droopy sort of way, (the dog, not my father) but, if Boris liked us, he kept it to himself.  He also had one particularly unendearing quality, he smelled terrible! And no amount of bathing could change that. Naturally, my mother didn’t want him in the house, except at night when he slept in the utility room-with the door tightly closed. Undaunted, my father bought Boris a dog house. If Donald Trump decided to keep an outside dog, he would buy this exact dog house. It had all of the amenities, including indoor/outdoor carpet and a fan, and it was huge!  Our tree house wasn’t half as nice, not that I harbor any resentment. Well, not anymore. My Dad was so proud of that dog house that he actually took people outside to take a tour.

One day, it was pouring like it would never stop. My dad looked out the window and then slammed his coffee cup down. “Unbelievable! Boris is standing out in the rain! Why doesn’t he go in his dog house?” My dad marched outside and, while we watched through the window, he tried to show Boris how to go into the doghouse by crawling on all fours and going into it himself. Boris just stood there as the rain pelted him from every direction. Frustrated, my dad proceeded to half-carry, half-shove the recalcitrant hound into his palatial home. But, as soon as Boris was inside, he turned around and walked out again. After spending an hour in the rain trying to keep the dog from getting wet, my Dad came in the house, exhausted and soaked to the bone, muttering, “What a stupid dog…”

Soon after that, we had to give Boris away due to his other bad habit, which we didn’t even know he had.  One after another, our neighbors began calling to complain. It turned out that when we weren’t home, Boris howled non-stop. He was so loud, he was scaring their children.  They couldn’t hear their TV sets even with the windows closed. So it was “Bye bye Boris,” we hardly knew you.

And don’t think my experience with pet ownership ended there.  No Sir, it did not. When our boys were young, they convinced us that we needed a dog. Foolishly, we decided to rescue a dog from Animal Control, not realizing that our chance of finding a normal dog there was practically zero. As it turned out, cute little Sunny was in a class by himself- a little Cock-a-Poo with a big problem. It wasn’t a problem for him, it didn’t faze him a bit, but when Sunny received anything more than a passing glance, he became so excited that he wet the floor. Sadly, we could only be friendly to Sunny when we were outside; inside, we had to maintain a cool cordiality from a safe distance.

We were prepared to live with Sunny’s strange quirk if it hadn’t been for his other issues.  First, he started snapping at non-existent flies; then he started licking his left front paw incessantly for no apparent reason (although I’m sure he had an excellent reason for snapping at imaginary flies). The vet prescribed Prozac for his OCD (yes, dogs can have OCD), but it didn’t help. Soon after that, Sunny started jumping up on the table and peeing on the mail (on purpose!) and he had to go.

Several peaceful, pet-free years passed and our memories faded to the point that when our youngest son begged for a dog for his birthday, we capitulated. Somehow, we ended up with not one but two dogs, sisters named Abby and Phoebe. Vivid memories of Sunny suddenly returned and we waited for the nightmare to begin again but now times two! We waited and waited and…nothing happened. Well, something happened. We discovered that we had two perfectly house-trained dogs who were sweet and good-natured and only barked at the mailman. Soon, we learned how brilliant, charming and adorable they could be and so clever that they were sure to be on the David Letterman show one day. I just happen to have some pictures, would you like to see them?

Saturday, August 24, 2013


It's nothing personal, but I'm not fond of frogs. I think they're kind of ugly, although I try not to judge. For all I know, they think the same about me. Not that it matters, since we usually don't come into contact--what with me enjoying the comfort of my couch and them enjoying the comfort of wherever they watch "Dr. Who." But all that changed yesterday...

First, I should explain that I love to swim, and by "swim" I mean splash around in my pool. Actually, I do much more than that but, if you saw me, you'd think I was just splashing around. Here's how it goes. Before I get in the pool, there is a crazy chatterbox in my head pitching fastballs into my brain, something like this:

How did it get to be so late? What can I make for dinner? Are there leftovers? I need to order meds for the dog. Got to remember to buy stamps, milk, and… what was the third thing? I can't believe I forgot the third thing! I am so losing it…

But, as soon as I wade into the pool, Ms. Chatterbox forgets all that and says, "Ahhh, this is nice!" And, if I'm lucky, I won't hear from her for the rest of the day. I then pick up the pool net and start circling the perimeter, scooping up leaves and bugs (I can't risk getting a bug in my mouth. I'm sure you understand) while immersing myself oh-so-gradually. Once the pool is bug-free, I completely submerge and practice for my pretend audition with "Cirque du Soleil," underwater edition. I proceed to roll and tumble, pirouette and twirl--I just couldn't be more graceful. Of course, I can't see myself, so that helps.

After practicing my routine, I try to see how long I can swim on the bottom of the pool while scuttling like a crab. I imagine I look just like the blue crabs that sometimes find their way into our pool. And sometimes I just free-float, swaying like a sea anemone, giving up control of my limbs. Control is overrated anyway. 

Yesterday was different though. As I was netting up the debris, I caught a glimpse of something moving. A tiny black frog, no bigger than a nickel, was trying to scale the slick tile wall of the pool and make his escape. I could see that it just wasn't happening for him. He was so cute and determined, I decided to help, offering him a lift on my index finger to ferry him out. But he had a different idea. Grasping my finger with all his puny strength, he decided he liked it there and no amount of coaxing could convince him otherwise. I was touched. I couldn't help but smile as my little friend and I cleaned the pool together, basking in the afternoon sun. I lazily tried to remember anything I could about frogs and came up with one thing: they love to eat mosquitoes.  I thought about how my friend's mother had contracted West Nile Virus and our dog had contracted heart worms, even while taking preventative meds; both of those were mosquito-borne diseases. 

I suddenly realized that by saving my little frog's life, I could be saving a person's life! I was struck by how far-reaching one small act of kindness could be. 

"I know you're nervous," I said, gently nudging him, "but it's time for you to go. You have a big job. You have to save the world!" He finally understood how important he was and reluctantly hopped away.

I've changed my mind about frogs, of course, how could I not? But I still won't be inviting them to watch "Dr. Who" with me on my couch.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


If the opposite of “hoarder” is a person who despises clutter, knick-knacks, gee gaws and tchotchkes, then I am that person, with one notable exception. Although I worship Minimalism as a philosophy, and also as a house-cleaning technique, I admit I have a weakness: I love gadgets–specifically, kitchen gadgets. I can’t help it. While I can easily ignore the siren call of an infomercial (Seal in flavor! Juice it! Grill away fat!) and I’ve never purchased a Ginsu knife ( who wants to cut their sneakers in half?) I just can’t resist a cool gadget. Maybe it’s the way they solve problems I didn’t know I had, but my online dictionary got it right, a gadget really is an “ingenious device.”          
Let’s start low-tech with the apple slicer. Now, tell me this: who wouldn’t enjoy eating a crisp Fuji, Gala or Granny Smith apple cut into eight perfectly symmetrical slices? Nobody, that’s who. When Eve took a bite of her first apple, she had to be wondering, “Isn’t there an easier way to eat this thing?” She would have appreciated the apple slicer.

Of course, if you want to bake your apple, you should put away the slicer and take out your apple corer. Once that pesky core is gone, you can fill your apple with yummy deliciousness like honey, raisins & cinnamon, and then top it off with vanilla ice cream when it's baked. See what you’ve been missing? Luckily, both of these gadgets are inexpensive and fit neatly in your kitchen drawer.      
Things start to get tricky if you’re a garlic-lover, and honestly, who isn’t? The first gadget you’ll need is a garlic keeper so your garlic stays fresh as a daisy, er, just fresh. Next up, you’ll want to buy a garlic roaster because-- what’s the point of eating fresh-baked, crusty bread if there’s no roasted garlic to spread on it? You’ll need only a few more gadgets to complete your set: a garlic peeler, a garlic press, a garlic slicer, a garlic dicer and a magic soap bar made of stainless steel to take away the garlic smell. Personally, I enjoy the smell of garlic. I’d like to create a garlic perfume called “Delicioso.” A light spritz would make you smell like a world-class chef and, in the event of a culinary crisis, you could also spray it on your food. All of these gadgets are essential, but don’t worry, they won’t take up much space, only half of a kitchen drawer.     

Since you still have some room in the drawer, you should consider adding these beauties: a tomato stem remover, a corn stripper, a lemon zester, a grapefruit segmenter, an herb snipper with a stem stripper, an avocado slicer, a strawberry huller, a cherry pitter, an olive stuffer, a ravioli stamper, a calzone mold, and my absolute favorite, an egg-cuber, so you can make square hard-boiled eggs that won’t roll off your plate. Genius!       

Now that your drawer is full, let’s talk about the fun stuff. You can’t live without a Popsicle maker if you have kids--that’s a fact–and you just can’t beat the smell of fresh bread wafting from your automatic bread maker.  If you pour the ingredients in at night and set the timer, you’ll be dreaming you live in a bakery as you bake fresh bread in your sleep. If you’re health-conscious, then an electric yogurt-maker is perfect for you, and you can always beat the summer heat with your electric ice-cream maker. Think of the exotic flavors you could invent, like bourbon with cornflakes, or candied bacon--you can’t find those in the store! And how about those fancy Paninis you can make with your Panini Press? But we aren’t done yet! Just think how much you’ll enjoy the gentle gurgle of seltzer water flowing from your Sodastream and the Belgian waffles you made in your waffle iron, not to mention the fries you fried in your Fry Daddy, the coffee you ground with your coffee grinder, the noodles spiraling out of your pasta maker and the perfectly prepped lettuce leaves shooting out of your salad spinner. When you’re done with all that, you can bathe in your chocolate fountain. Isn't life good?         

You may be wondering where to put all of these amazing gadgets. It’s simple really, just get rid of your knick-knacks, gee gaws and tchotchkes, and any other useless clutter, like dishes, pots & pans, and all the food in your pantry, and you’ll have plenty of room for all this neat stuff. Enjoy! 
If you enjoyed this sample, then why not go crazy and buy the whole e-book? Available on Amazon for only $0.99(!) "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities."