One of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday season is how aromatic everything is. Thanksgiving starts off with cold birds and raw vegetables and progresses into a perfect combination of sweet and savory scents that waft through the air and tickle your taste buds. Outside there is a different type of aromatic experience. The faint scent of burning wood mixes with dry autumn leaves and the hint of caramel from passersby holiday coffees. As Christmas comes into focus the perfectly pungent aroma of balsam mixes with the ever present undertones of cinnamon and sugary tastes of cookies and frosting.

Not that I am under the delusion that every moment will be a splendid aromatic experience. Some days work smells like sweet baby skin and clean onsies and some days it smells like dirty diapers and bibs with spit-up. Saturday I washed the dogs and Chris made dinner. When he brought in the dishes from the grill I burned my arm on the hot grill plate. So that evening the aromatic essence was of wet dog and charred flesh.

Luckily these negative scents never linger quite as long! Sunday we filled our home with friends to celebrate the holiday season. Along with the laughter and friendship came the wonderful aromas. The house exploded with cookies and breads, meatballs and chex-mix, mulled wine and honey ham. The boys lit a fire in our big copper fire bowl and the smoke drifted through the air as the cold air lulled us to relaxation.

As I tucked into bed last night the sweet scents of smoke and meat lingered in my curls and rocked me into a peaceful sleep.
What favorite memories of your are tied to wonderful aromatic experiences?



This is the time of year when I usually start looking for Hearty things. Growing up in Pennsylvania and Colorado this was the time of year when the skies clouded over, the wind blew hard and the snow fell freely.

Naturally I find myself craving those Hearty things. Soups that coat your insides and radiate heat from deep in your belly. Sweaters that envelope you in soft and cozy comfort. Mittens that shield your delicate phalanges from the icy steering wheel. Bear hugs from loved ones that recharge your soul. Late evenings of cuddling on the couch with your toes tucked under your husbands legs for warmth.

So as the days here in Yuma get "colder", dropping so low as to reach the 40's at night, that old familiar craving for all things Hearty comes creeping in. Since I cannot bring myself to stand over a soup pot as the 70 degree sunshine streams in my kitchen windows I will tell you, instead, about a Hearty day I had recently.

Being married to a Marine comes with certain negative aspects....long hours, deployments, really stinky laundry... But it also has a much longer list of positives, one of which is called
Jane Wayne Day.
This is essentially take-your-wife-to-work-day on steroids. Since one
of the negatives aspects of Marine Corps life had popped up that week (Chris was sent to San Diego all week for training) I went to Jane Wayne Day all by my lonesome.

First we divided off into smaller groups of wives and headed out to different stations. My group's first station was MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program). In a pit of ground up tire pieces they taught us some different self-defense maneuvers which we got to practice on each other. Next it was on to the Obstacle Course. I have heard about this course ever since Chris decided to join the Marines. They make the Marines run it a lot and they have to complete it in a certain time frame. I was feeling a tad nervous looking at all the objects that I was supposed to hurtle myself over and I was wishing I had my cheering section (Chris) with me instead of having to go at it all alone. Of course they had Marines stationed along the course helping us with each stop but there is nothing quite the same as having your husband as the one making sure you don't fall on your butt. In the end I made it up, over and around every obstacle save the rope climb at the end (my shoulder injury would not allow for it). I was very proud!

Next they gave us a taste of part of the CFT (Combat Fitness Test). We sprinted, low crawled, baby crawled, dragged a "casualty", fireman carried the "casualty", carried ammo cans, and threw a fake grenade into a target zone. It was exhausting and I didn't even get to the end before it was time to rotate stations.

Next, video gamers prepare yourselves, we went to the virtual shooting range. We learned how to load a pistol and an M-16 and got to practice shooting them at the large wall of screen. They were hooked up the computers so they recorded our shots without any bullets being fired. It was ok but the Marines there gave horrible explanations (Chris is pro at explaining things) and I was ready for the real thing.

Luckily, after a quick lunch we got on a bus and headed out to the real shooting range! My group shot the pistol first. It was only the second time in my life I have fired a weapon and I LOVED it. We got to shoot 12 rounds and I managed to get 10 on the target, impressing myself with 2 in the head and 4 in the chest. Yea, I dare you to come after me! Next was the M-16 which I had fired at TBS family day in May. This was more fun because there was something more than an open field to shoot into. I did ok but the dang thing weighs a ton! Lastly we were treated to the shotgun. Wowza, that thing has some power behind it! I got to load and fire 10 rounds and it was a blast (literally). I could have spent all day there but alas bullets do not grow on trees....

We headed back to base and took a seat in the Nite Lab were we learned how Night Vision Goggles operate. Then we went into their dark room and got to try them out. It is amazing how much you can see with the smallest amount of light! They showed us different chemicals that are visable to the NVG's but not the naked eye and we also got to see how an Infared Camera works. We had a quiz at the end and I won a chem light stick for explaining the difference between how NVG's (night vision goggles ) and FLIR (forward looking infared) operate.

Lastly, I got to fly in the flight simulator. It is a trippy experience and made me a little dizzy, you sit in the pilots seat and are surrounded by video screens that simulate the area and react to your controls. It was cool to use the same controls they use when actually flying and the Marine helping me even showed me how to do a loop-di-loop (technical term...).

After all this I headed home confidant that even though my husband was unable to witness my amazingness (another technical term) I had done well! It was a Hearty day to be sure.

As you head off into your Turkey induced coma this week please add the men and women of our armed forces to your list of things to be thankful for. It is because of their Hearty nature and resilient attitude that we can enjoy our feast in peace.



The past week has seen a lot of Nutty events. This is not hard to understand since I am pretty Nutty and Chris loves to laugh at my silly antics.

Tuesday Koda graduated from puppy class. We have been taking classes for eight weeks and they have really helped us get her under control. In order to graduate she had to do specific tasks at different cones and she only got one treat at the very end. She stopped halfway through for a good scratch but otherwise she passed with flying colors. Following are the Nutty photos we took after graduation!
Yup. Nutty.

Wednesday was a day off because it was Veteran's Day. We got up at 7 and headed over to the DiFelice's to pick them up for a hike. Here in Yuma there is one hiking trail..a few less than we are used to being as all four of us are from Colorado. It is called Telegraph Pass and it is a couple mile hike to a "mountain" top that is home to many antenna. As Bekah noted, "In Yuma you can't escape technology even on a hike!". It started out very easily but when you start climbing the "mountain" it was pretty much straight uphill...this state hasn't mastered the switchback trail yet. Mike and Bekah are pro hikers so they made it to the top super fast. I took a little longer since I basically couldn't breathe and am not a pro hiker! Chris stayed back with me and was, as always, my cheering section. Well, I did make it to the top and it was nice to accomplish it. Here are some photos of the Wood's (Me, Chris, Loki and Koda) and the DiFelice's (Bekah, Mike and Bailey)
(Insert Lion King Music Here)

We are so lucky to have Mike and Bekah in our lives because on top of being amazing friends they bring a little bit of Colorado to Yuma. (And they too are a little Nutty)

Lastly, I wanted to give you a peak into my job, which I love but can be a bit....well, yes....Nutty. For the past 4 months I have been nanny to twin girls. Their names are Taylor and Mckenna and they are freakin' adorable. I get to their house every weekday at 6:15 in the morning and leave around 4 each afternoon. They are almost 9 months old so our days consist of eating, playing, bouncing in the exersaucers, crawling as far as they can, going for walks in the stroller, crying at the top of their lungs because teething hurts and naps. It is so much fun watching them explore and grow. Soon they will be walking and talking and not babies at all!
Taylor Ann

Mckenna Joann

Hope you let your days have a little bit of Nutty in them. It is so much more fun that way!



While many of our loved ones watched snow melt or rain fall this past week we here in Yuma were lucky enough to enjoy a crisp fall(ish) weekend.

Heading into this holiday weekend Chris and I had big plans. We had assembled our Halloween costumes and planned on going to a party on Friday night and Saturday night. As we settled into our Friday evening, dinner eaten, dogs playing happily, TV lulling us into comfortable relaxation on the couch, it became apparent that neither of us wanted to leave the house. So we didn't, we stayed right there and deepened our butt prints on the couch!

Saturday greeted us in a lovely manner, at 9am, which is equivalent to sleeping until noon in our house. We made a delicious lazy breakfast of egg-in-a-hole and sipped on steamy cups of hazelnut coffee (my idea of a treat is flavored coffee on the weekend...plain old breakfast blend Monday thru Friday). The dogs spent time outside, alternating between frolicking in the crisp morning air and napping on the sun baked concrete.

Midday we roused ourselves and headed out to see a movie at the local multiplex. Being the economically aware pair that we are we stopped at Target stock up on snacks that would be smuggled into the theater in my bulging purse. Early movies are the best because you get your pick of seats and can talk through the previews. We were seeing Zombieland in honor of Halloween. 90 minutes later we exited into the bright sunshine after enjoying a comedy about killing zombies, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am very picky about my horror movies!

Next stop ....Kohl's! Chris and I usually go clothing shopping a couple times a year (I, of course, add my own trips in between) and get new seasonal clothing. It is a lot of fun and we always have a good time picking out stuff for each other. Knowing that we didn't need winter clothing we shopped for Crisp fall weather clothing. We both left with several new items and since we "shopped Kohl's" our total savings was over 50%! Awesome!

We headed home and we were almost immediately sucked in by our oh so comfy couch... Can you see where this is going? Yes, we stayed on that couch all night and played hooky from yet another party. We watched food network instead...yummy yummy!

Sunday was another beautiful Crisp fall day complete with sunshine and wispy clouds! I took Chris out to breakfast (love having my own paycheck now!) and we had a Fort Collins flash back as we sat on the patio of the bakery to eat with our puppies leashed to the table. We continued our flash back day at the brand new Yuma dog park. Honestly these should be mandatory in every town. We were spoiled rotten in Fort Collins with several dog parks within a 10 minute drive of us. In Virginia we were starved for dog parks....the Internet told me the nearest one was 90 minutes away! The park here isn't the biggest we have seen but it is awesome to have one. We love watching Loki run full speed (he gallops like a horse) and Koda (who never leaves her big brother's side) running as fast as she can only to wipe out because she can't stop herself very well.

Sunday afternoon Chris left for some training in San Diego and I bought myself a new toy. Yes, I am now the proud owner of a Bissell HeatPro 2X carpet cleaner! The carpet in our dinning/living room is now cleaner than when we moved into the house! Hooray!

And that, my dearest friends, is how to have yourself a relaxing Crisp fall weekend! Hope all of yours were just as splendid.



There are a lot of things in life that I consider scrumptious, these things to me are always needed in large amounts and you never get tired of them.

Topping my list of these things are a few of the following items
(see also...these are a few of my favorite things...)

If you know me at all this comes as no surprise. Rarely does a day go by that I don't enjoy some. I like it buttered and salted, or oiled with Old Bay Seasoning on it or occasionally caramelized. I am not really a kettle corn girl but it will do in a pinch. I love the sound of it popping, the different shapes it creates, the way it melts in your mouth and how topping get stuck in the crevices. And no, I don't mind the kernels in my teeth...that's what dental floss is for!

Really Soft Fabrics
As my Grandma always says, I shop with my hands first and my eyes next. If it doesn't feel good I don't care how amazingly fashionably it is I am NOT wearing it. I like soft, cozy things and this doesn't include wool.... Blankets, sweaters, shirts, scraps of fabric for projects...it has to be pleasing to my skin or it goes in the scrap pile. Such is life.

Dog Kisses
on my Toes
I do not like to have my face licked but I think that having your toes cleaned by a dog that thinks you hung the moon is pretty special. I mean really, how many people in your life think that licking your feet is the best way to show affection? Loki loves to lick my toes and I love to let him. Actually Loki loves to lick any part of you and Chris maintains that it is his way of "petting us back". Too cute.

you can't put down
I love to read. I always have and I always will. I will read just about anything but the true joy comes in when I find a book I just can't put down. There have been a lot of them in my life. The books that got me in trouble for reading during class or under the covers late into the night, the books that help pass hours of travel and the books that fueled my imagination for years to come. There have been thousands. Yes, I am a book whore (Sorry Mom). So many in fact that on more than one occasion I have gotten a few pages into a book only to realize I have read it before. Some have been read and re-read, my personal copies worn around the edges and dog- eared to death. Watership Down. Jane Eyre. The Golden Compass. Anything Jodi Picoult. I love finding new favorites to add to the list.

Which brings me to the reason for writing this post about things I find Scrumptious.

A little while ago my book loving sister recommended a book titled Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Well, I trust her opinion a lot and so I suggested it for my book club out here in Yuma. I knew it would be a quick read from my sister's glowing review so I put off buying it until this week so that I wouldn't have to wait too long for book club next week to discuss it. What I didn't know was I would only need one day to consume this book. And I do mean consume. I started at 6:30 in the morning on Wednesday and was done by 5 pm (taking breaks to feed, change and play with the twins of course!). When Chris walked in the door he didn't know what hit him. I immediately told him he MUST read this book and that he needed to hurry up and eat dinner so we could go buy the next book in the series. I spent Thursday reading Catching Fire, the second book in what will eventually be a trilogy. Now begins the torturous wait for that third book to be released.

So, to pass the time I am doing a little PR for Suzanne Collins. You MUST read these books. They are young adult fiction so it doesn't take long to read the 370ish pages in each book. You will be sucked in quickly to this tale of a civilization that exists where North America used to be. The plight of societies that must once a year send one girl and one boy to join the 22 others and fight to the death in a large arena. For me it was a somewhat futuristic view of something that is close to the gladiator games of ancient Rome but with hauntingly attainable attributes. We live in a society fractured by people's unwillingness to compromise, deadened to shock by reality television and driven to desperation by desire for physical perfection. When (and I say when not if on purpose) you read this book I hope you will see how easy it would be to make the jump from where we are to where this book lands. The characters are easy to love or hate and the landscape is easy to imagine.

I could go on for days about this but I won't because I know you have busy lives and need this precious time to run to the book store and get this book. Do it. I will wait here until you are ready to discuss it.

And yes, it is Scrumptious.



Razzles...first it's a candy, then it's a gum...

This seems like the appropriate candy to choose for a post about changes. Much like Razzles this blog started out as one thing and is about to change into something a little different. When I began writing it was solely because I wanted a place to let out the silly little snip-its that come into my mind at random intervals. However, as our life continues to change and become ever busier and crazier and more unpredictable it seems like a good idea to shift the focus of the posts. The plan is to write more about our day to day life in order to keep all of our loved ones, who are scattered with the wind, updated.

Since I (Jen) am the one who began the blog it seems likely that I will be the one who does the posting, but we will see if we can corral Chris into jotting down something every once and a while.

At the moment we are enjoying the changes taking place as fall creeps into Yuma. The temperature is no longer shooting into the triple digits and we are finally able to appreciate the perpetual sunshine. It is now walk weather, Barbecue weather, jeans weather and my favorite-sitting on the back patio and playing with the dogs weather! As I hear more and more about snow and ice in Colorado it is nice to open the garage door each day with no concern for shoveling. Our big black dogs are so relieved to be able to venture outside for more then 5 minutes at a time without needing to scurry back indoors to gulp water and pant heavily.

One part of fall that I do miss is the leaves. Watching them change color as they cling to the bare branches, floating slowly to the ground and creating a blanket of hues over the dead grass. Here we don't have many leaves but oh well, do you have cacti? Didn't think so!

As you enjoy your crisp fall day, perhaps sipping the requisite Pumpkin Spice Latte or Carmel Apple Cider, just know that we wish we could celebrate fall with all of you!


Dark Chocolate

I love dark chocolate. Sure, regular milk chocolate is still delicious but I would pick dark chocolate any day. And please don't even bother talking to me if you think white chocolate deserves to live, it isn't even made of the same part of the cocoa plant and if you ask me it tastes like wax! Dark chocolate is the thing for me and I crave it.
When I was living in Florence the grocery store I shopped at had an amazing dark chocolate bar, divided into 12 squares, each one full of dark chocolate ganache. Heavenly! I would buy one almost every week and my goal was to make it last until the weekend. Every night I would break off 3 squares and see how long I could make them last. My roommates teased me mercilessly for my freakish eating habits. However, this was the way I could satisfy both halves of my personality. The half that MUST have dark chocolate and the half that knows I can't eat a candy bar everyday or I will explode.
It it the same way with M&M's, a company who has finally had the good sense to start producing dark chocolate M&M's! I get my tiny little bowl full and then see how many commercial breaks they can survive. I have to eat them in patterns. One color at a time, or alternating colors. Usually I eat my least favorite M&M color (orange) first, then yellow, red, green and finally blue! If there are equal numbers of colors that is the best, but hey, I'm not particular or anything....
Also, I blame my M&M issues on my Mom (how Freudian of me) because she too loves them and eats them in small portions. Also, my Mom hides them. No, not like Easter eggs but like, "I don't want to share these". Sometimes in her house you open a random cupboard to find a bag of M&M's back behind the canned green beans or the Christmas china. It is hilarious and adorable.
So, if you ever eat out with me just know that I don't want the vanilla ice cream or the apple pie, I want to Death By Chocolate Cake and I will not be sharing.



When I see the mini-sized rainbow Chiclet packs at the store I am always reminded of how fortunate I am. This may seem like a strange trigger for thankfulness, so I will elaborate.

For many years of my childhood my Dad sang in the Philadelphia Boy's Choir and Men's Chorale (no my Dad wasn't a 15 year old soprano...he was in the Men's Chorale). This meant that once a week he drove into Philly for practice and then on the weekends he usually had a performance. During the busy singing season, such as Christmas time, there were usually a lot more performances at churches and parties.

Then in the summer they went on a "tour". Always to someplace exotic and exciting. My Dad went on tours to places like Australia, South Africa, Prague and The Czech Republic. He always brought us back something really neat, not just touristy stuff but something more lasting. We got ostrich eggs from Australia and hand painted dolls from Prague.

Then one summer my Dad's choir went on a tour to Cuba. This was no small undertaking considering the relationship the US has with Cuba. Many special allowances had to be made to take a group of this size to Cuba. They were told that on part of their tour they would play baseball with a group of poor children there. Each man or child was asked to bring two baseball gloves, one for himself and one for a child (of course they left both behind). Many of the men and boys in the choir decided it was a good idea to take candy also.

This is where my Mom, my sister K and I came into the planning. It was our goal to acquire as many packets of mini-sized rainbow Chiclets as we could find. The grocery store cashier must have thought we were off our rockers as he rang up about 80 packs of Chiclets (all they had on the shelves and in the stock room).

I was young when my Dad went on these tours so I only remember snip-its of his stories. I remember his friend got pick-pocketed twice, I remember they locked their Director in the airplane bathroom, I remember they sang on the famous bridge in Prague (St. Charles?) I remember that the mural in Soweto South Africa was a gorgeous painting of a loving black Jesus and I remember that the kids in Cuba thought Chiclets were the greatest thing on earth.

My family was always thankful for what we had and my parents were careful to remind us how lucky we were. Maybe that is why I don't remember having any "aha" moments about how fortunate I was as a child. I do know that hearing about the conditions in Cuba and how those children played baseball barefoot and reveled in 50 cents worth of Chiclets made me more aware of how lucky I was.

You do not see a lot of mini-sized rainbow Chiclet packs these days. Maybe it is because the other options have pushed them out or because, lets face it, they don't last too long. So when I see them, as I did earlier today, I ALWAYS think of buying them for the Cuban kids and that in turn makes me count my blessings. I lead a blessed life. My family is safe, educated, well fed and healthy. My husband and I are both employed and we have excellent health care. We live in a home that is too big for us and we enjoy little luxuries. I am blessed but sometimes I am also a complainer.

I am glad I have the Chiclets to remind me to count every blessing.


Andes Mints

My Grandpa loved Andes Mints.

I am not sure if this is a fact that I actually remember or one of those fake memories that you think you truly remember for yourselves but really you have carefully crafted a fantasy of remembering because everyone tells you it is so. I don't think I have ever eaten an Andes Mint in front of my mother without her telling me that they were Grandpa's favorites and so naturally I cannot remember a time when I didn't know this.

As a matter of fact I have many treasured memories surrounding my Grandpa that I am not sure really happened.

I know he was creative and brilliant when it came to engineering and that he invented many things for my Grandma. New sprinkler systems, gadgets to make life easier that kind of thing. So of course I see him tinkering in the yard, on the carport, in the Florida room of their home in Tampa. I am not sure if he tinkered when I was alive or not, but in my mind he is wearing a short sleeved button up shirt, yellow I think.

I know that he used to babysit me when I was very little. I know that when it was nap time he would lay down with me and that he would fall asleep and I would get into mischief. I have heard the story of my parents arriving home to find me with cookies that I had retrieved for myself by climbing on the kitchen counters while my Grandpa napped. I can see myself in my Grandparent's kitchen shimming up onto the counter and poking around to find something yummy. I have spent many summers in that house and I have never been shy about climbing on counters no matter where we are. However, I am not sure if that 3 year old curly headed brunette eating Maria cookies in the kitchen is a real thought or an imagination .

I know my Grandpa taught me to spit orange seeds. There is a large orange tree in my Grandma's backyard and I know how good the oranges are and I know how to spit the seeds pretty far. What I don't know is if the picture of him and me standing in the backyard spitting seeds is real or solely in my mind.

I know that my Grandpa was a patient man. I know that I am a picker, which amounts to me being unable to leave any raised object on my skin or those close to me alone. C can vouch for this fact because I frequently make him bleed when I pick off a scab or something from his skin, C is also a patient man. My Grandpa would have liked him. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard the tale about me sitting in Grandpa's lap and picking a mole off his arm (chest?) until he bled I would be a rich women. I can see myself sitting on his lap, this time his shirt is plaid, in the armchair that he always sat in, picking away. Is that a real remembrance? I will never know.

My Grandpa had Alzheimer's for over a decade before he passed away. In those years he slowly mentally left the family but in the solid memories that I have he is still there physically. He sat in his armchair watching TV during the day and he was wheeled to the table for meal times (the table was raised on bricks to accommodate his wheelchair = many stubbed Jen toes) he went with us to the beach in the summers when he could.

I have heard so many stories about what an amazing man my Grandpa was that I often feel cheated that I had so little coherent time with him that I must doubt my own memories.

However, I also love Andes Mints. I love the versatility of eating them. I can pop a whole one and let it melt, I can bite it into pieces like a little mouse, I can shave off slivers with my teeth and watch the striations of mint and chocolate reveal themselves.

And I know that I love Andes Mints because they were my Grandpa's favorite.



Everlasting Gobstoppers

High school. Camp week. No kissing allowed. Counselors must set a good example.That's unthinkable to both C and me. Young love requires constant lip to lip contact. Making 10 days 9 1/2 days too long.

A game?

Tiny, color changing jaw breakers, no bigger than a marble. Not much time to exchange a sweet kiss in passing. But the candy lasts a little longer in your mouth. Reminding you of that kiss.

Sitting side by side. Legs touching but hands clasped properly to ourselves. I am chewing on a gobstopper. I like knowing that he sees me eating this candy. I imagine that later we will kiss and he will have some candy to take away with him. I hope he is thinking the same. One glance confirms it.

Everyone wins.

Kissing is fun. Was then. Is now.

Everlasting Gobstoppers for our everlasting love.


Candy Cigarettes

My sister and I spent our formative years in West Chester, Pennsylvania. We were but a mere 45 minute drive from Independence Hall, Betsy Ross' House, the Liberty Bell, Franklin Science Institute, those famous art museum steps that Rocky ran up and delicious cheese steaks (I am a Pat's fan and you will not sway me you Geno's loving blasphemers). And while I harbor fond memories of taking every family member who ever visited on multiple city tours and yearly field trips to these fabled places I also have memories from another near-by area.
Amish Country.

We lived relatively close to Lancaster county, I am not sure how close because I was not old enough to drive and every car ride over 20 minutes seemed like 3 lifetimes. Maybe once or twice a year, usually during the summer, we would visit this area. The Amish do not have electricity or buttons or cars and they do not allow themselves to be photographed because they believes photos take a piece of their souls. Despite these things they do know how to cook, oh man can they cook. So as a result the Amish Farmer's Market was always my sister and my favorite destination.

The other markets were fun too, we would look at lovely quilts, wooden toys made by hand and beautifully layered and sculpted candles. So many options for spending hard earned allowance money! However, we never ever spent all our money before we got around to the food. I am sure the gourmet selection went on forever but as I was still young I will only touch on the things that stand out in my mind.

First- PICKLES. If you know me then you know that pickles fall second on my list of favorite foods (right below popcorn). The Amish markets were home to gigantic pickles in gigantic jars and I never failed to enjoy one. Yummy. In fact I am going to go get a pickle out of my fridge right now......


Second- Beef Jerky. I don't mean any old preservative laden, bought in bulk at Sam's club jerky either. I mean the "I was a cow a week ago" kind of jerky. I am a huge fan of salt (my mother will be happy to tell you the 80 ways my sodium intake is going to slowly kill me if you would like) and this is classic salty, meaty deliciousness. Way to go Amish people!

Third-Rock Candy. Pure sugar on a stick with delightful colors and flavors added, could it get any better? I think not. Also, cheap enough that buying rock candy did not entail begging Mom for some more money. As an added bonus the raw sugar will quickly render your tongue too raw for any additional food that day....

and Finally-Candy Cigarettes. Did anyone else reading this see a little movie called Mrs.Winterborne? (besides my sister). If so then you can imagine where this is going. If not I will tell you. In said movie a young unmarried pregnant women meets a couple on a train. The couple is also expecting a child and are on their way to the man's home to introduce his bride to the family. Rudely the unmarried woman asks to try on the married woman's ring (I would have said no but this lady said yes...go figure). At that exact moment the train crashes (talk about a downer) and the married couple is killed. BUT, since the unmarried lady is wearing the ring of the fellow the family thinks she is his wife and takes her in. She of course knows the truth but is enchanted by the lifestyles of the rich and famous and goes to great lengths to conceal her true self. In one memorable scene she is smoking a cigarette (which is forbidden in the fancy-schmancy house of her fake in-laws) when her false-mother-in-law walks in. The women deftly flips the cigarette into her mouth thus concealing it from the prying eyes of the houghty toughty women.

My sister and I were way impressed. No one in my family smokes but whatever.

We would sneak around and buy packs and packs of candy cigarettes at these markets (though I don't think we would have gotten in trouble for purchasing candy cigarettes) and then we would sit outside and practice our Mrs. Winterborne cigarette flip move. It is WAY harder than it looks by the way. We would also pretend to smoke them as people walked by. Though I am sure we were slightly less convincing then we thought we were (being that we were 9 and 7 years old and candy cigarettes do not emit any smoke.... but what's childhood without imagination?)

Over the years my sister and I have run into candy cigarettes and we always buy a pack just to see if we can still flip them into our mouths. I think actual cigarettes should be illegal but I could totally support a pack a day candy cigarette habit!


Tic Tacs

I have a secret.

It will be surprising to some people and not so much of one to others. Here goes....

I am an addict.

Now you may be thinking, "this mild mannered, slightly silly woman is an ADDICT? No way". You may doubt my claim but I am here to say that it is true and it impacts my life. I have a serious addiction to dark green tic tacs. I like the hard stuff, not your tamer gateway light green tic tacs that anyone could enjoy.

The problem with my addiction is that since not everyone finds the call of the spearmint irresistible the way I do these little beauties are increasingly hard to locate. I mean lets look at the facts. Most people can't handle the intense rush of minty goodness let alone the dark green stain left on your tongue. Most grocery stores and Targets carry orange and white tic tacs. What in the world do I need an ORANGE tic tac for? If I want an orange flavor I will buy gum, don't be foolish. The white or "freshmint" variety will sustain me in a rush of tic tac induced fervor but it only calms the beast. What I really want is dark green.

I have learned to search for my drug of choice whenever I am in a strange place where the selling of candy seems silly. When in college the only dark green tic tac dealer in town was my local Ace Hardware store. To think I originally thought they were only good for nails and wood and replacement filters for my fine particulate matter mask. Jackpot!

One spot that is always hit or miss is the gas station. It is like scratching off a lottery ticket to see if you won. I walk in, I look around for the candy isle, my eyes scan for the familiar rectangular plastic cases...orange...light green...white....damn. Recently when my car broke down in Alpine, CA my vigilant search was rewarded. Not only did this local Shell gas station carry dark green tic tacs but low and behold they had cinnamon too (refer to Atomic Fire Balls to understand my love of cinnamon candy). If I thought dark green was hard to find then the hopes of seeing cinnamon tic tacs again in my lifetime was simply an urban legend. I think my impulse to consume tic tacs is so great that is outweighed the misery of the car repair costs I was about to incur in Alpine.

I am no longer phased my the looks I receive as I approach a cash register with ten packs of tic tacs in hand. I never know when the next lucky strike will be so I have to stock up when they present themselves. I have also learned that with the advent of 53 different types and flavors of gums and about a million varieties of mints that tic tacs are considered by most to be out dated. On a recent car trip I generously (but not without wishing they would decline) offered my tic tac container forward to the other passengers in the vehicle. Thank goodness they declined my offer, but also asked inquisitively,"You still eat tic tacs?". YES, I do.

That leads into my other tic tac issue. Not only do I still eat tic tacs but I cannot stop myself. Once the seal is broken on that little plastic flip top the tic tacs inside have maybe 30 minutes to live. Once they hit my tongue it is all over. I eat one....I eat two....I can't help but pop one more...ok last one...well maybe one more, I will suck on this one instead of chewing it and that will make it last....on and on this goes until the sad sound of one lone tic tacs rings out from the plastic receptacle. Well, I might as well finish the pack, right? I have made myself feel a little ill on more than one occasion simply because I ingested one too many tic tacs in too short a time period. Pathetic, I know.

It is my burden to bear.

In conclusion I will say that step one is admitting you have a problem. Alright, I admit it and also admit I have no plans to get clean. Let me know if you find my next great dark green tic tac dealer.....


Beef Sticks

Ok, I know that the last two posts were candy related and so maybe you thought I was writing in some type of theme. Well, I am, but for the sake of this memory lets diverge from that path for a minute.

When I was in 8th grade my Dad got a new job. We picked up and moved from Philadelphia to Denver. Not an easy thing at 14, I assure you. New school, new house, new state=whole new set of complexes. We moved right at the end of the school year so I didn't have much of a chance to make new friends before summer break began. Things were looking grim and I was beginning to imagine a whole summer of reading Harry Potter with my younger sister. (disclaimer: I LOVE my sister but that summer was not the pinnacle of our relationship..as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder and as a 14year old I just wanted her to go away...so I could miss her of course, like I do all the time now).

Across the street from me was a house with 4 kids, two much older, one a little younger and one just the right age. We had a bit of a dance going on, neither of us being quite brave enough to cross the huge road of possible embarrassment and introduce ourselves. This went on for a few weeks until one night, as her and her brother sat on the fence out front, my Dad basically told me that if I didn't go out there introduce myself I had to stop pouting. Now as a teenage girl the possible end to my ability to complain was a serious situation. If it went well I would have something to do all summer, if it went badly I would have free range to whine and a whole new story to whine about. Jackpot. I took a quick look in the mirror to make sure I looked fun enough to hang out with but not like I was trying.

And that was that. Insta-friend. It was really easy with her and a close bond formed pretty much right away. We watched Dumb and Dumber almost every weekend and quoted it endlessly as we rode our bikes around the whole neighborhood. The two of us (her blond and me brunette) sat in the sun for hours with lemon juice in our hair trying to make hers invisible and mine slightly less brown. Later we tried dying our hair red with Kool-aid, which didn't work for either of us but smelled delicious. I think at one point our record was 14 sleepovers in a row and I think our parents thought we had mind melded into one person. We made other friends and we made some enemies too but that was easily laughed off if there were two of us. I went to school and she was home schooled and we escaped our day to day drudgery to hang out on the trampoline in her back yard.

We used to stay up absurdly late when we had sleep overs and usually around midnight we would get hungry and beg her older sister to drive us to the grocery store so that we could shop for snacks in our PJ's. Some of our favorite snacks included Nerds and Sweet Maui Onion potato chips, but ALWAYS beef sticks. They were essentially a better, cheaper version of a Slim Jim that came in packages of about 6. I think in one summer we must have eaten our combined weight in beef sticks. (Recently I looked for them and couldn't find them at the grocery store and I truly believe we may have been keeping them in business back then)

As high school progressed we were still close, but perhaps not as close. We both started dating and life got busier. Then her family moved to Virginia and we essentially lost all touch with each other. I would think about our friendship sometimes and wish I hadn't been so careless with it. Her family moved back to Colorado a few years later and we saw each other once. It was fun, but awkward. I wasn't the same person any more and I didn't put the energy into reconnecting that I wanted to.

Then, when I was living in Virginia (go figure) she and her husband and their baby moved in next door to my parents. Life is so random sometimes. I saw her while visiting them and we had a couple hours of catching up. She has a wonderful life, a beautiful son and a loving husband, but commented on how much she missed being my friend. I felt awful and had every intention of calling her once my husband and I completed our move to Arizona. Then I got busy unpacking, and painting the house, and making new friends and a million other inconsequential things and I didn't call.

Her father died two weeks ago.

He passed away in his sleep and her younger brother (20 years old now I think) was the one to find him. Her dad was the same age that my Dad is and I wept when I found out. I cried at the thought of her brother realizing his dad wasn't asleep, I cried because I let our friendship slip away and now I felt too removed to even call her and say sorry, I cried because I was afraid for my own Dad because he doesn't take great care of himself. I just cried.

I have a wonderful life. I have amazing friends, a loving family, the absolute best husband in the universe. I just wish I still had that friendship. And I wish I had a pack of beef sticks to share with her.

R.I.P Mr.T ( 1957-2009)


Atomic Fireballs

I love Atomic Fireballs. I am a huge cinnamon candy fan and I adore how these are too spicy to handle but quickly fade to a delightful treat. When I went to Germany as a teenager I consumed somewhere near 20 packs of Big Red cinnamon chewing gum and I think it forever damaged my taste buds. Sometimes life is like those fireballs, it is so unbearably spicy that I have to hold my breath and hope that something sweet will follow.

This weekend my adventure loving sister and I undertook a day trip to San Diego. The city on the bay is located about 2 1/2 hours from my lil' slice of the desert. So it was with images of white beaches and cool breezes that we set out at 6 am. We arrived with only slight stress as we navigated the unfamiliar highways and one way streets that led us to the Silver Strand State beach on Coronado. We paid our $8 to park and claimed our slice of beach. It was blissful, a few hours of reading, laying on the sand, sticking our toes in freezing water and a brief appearance by some friendly dolphins. Afterward we pulled off the sandy, sticky, change your clothes in the back of a car maneuver and headed off for a delicious lunch at a Mexican restaurant.
We left Coronado well rested and carried on our way to the sound of laughter as we passed the signs for the suicide prevention hot line that dotted the top of a large bridge from Coronado to San Diego.

We knew it would be a day trip so we planned very few activities but our next stop was the Gaslamp district which Google had recommended. After circling a 5 block area for 30 minutes searching for a spot to park we found a spot and felt that our determination had paid off. Normally we would not spend such a vast amount of time trying to park but we had see a Ghirdelli's ice cream shop and nothing keeps us girls from chocolate ice cream...NOTHING.
Full of decadent ice cream we decided that we had seen enough of this fine city for one day and we merrily set off in the direction of home. We were confident and excited that we would make it back in time to hang out with our Mom (who kindly dog sat while we cavorted around town) before she went to bed.When we stopped for gas and the liquid stink shot out of the car and spilled all down the side of my dress prompting laughter from the car behind me I really should have known the atomic part of this fireball day was about to hit. I had driven the whole way to San Diego so my sister kindly volunteered to take the first shift driving home. We cranked the volume on the stereo and prematurely congratulated ourselves on a road trip well done. We should have known better. As my sister glanced in her review mirror to complain about the car tailing her she noticed smoke. A lot of smoke. Smoke coming from our Jeep. Damn.
On the side of the exit ramp from the I-8 to Descanso, California (population 12)we were kindly informed by the park ranger that if we hadn't pulled over in such a timely manner our car would have burst into flames and set the whole surrounding grassy area on fire. We took a moment to imagine the headlines regarding the next California wildfire and thanked God we had pulled over quickly. We then waited, and waited, and took pictures of ourselves and the surrounding area as surely this was part of the trip worth fully documenting! An hour and a half after we saw the smoke we saw the tow truck driver. A ray of sunshine man who kindly regaled us with stories of plane crashes, serial killers and rapists as he drove us the 10 miles to Alpine, California. He left my car at the world's tiniest repair shop and dropped my sister and I at a surprisingly decent hotel. We found food and took long showers because, lets face it, the side of the road is not as clean as we would have liked!
The next morning we walked 30 minutes up hill in the hot sun to the repair shop to leave the keys and pray for the car to be fixed. My mom was driving her rental car from Yuma to Alpine to retrieve our sorry selves. We made it home that afternoon but my Jeep remains in Alpine and God only knows how I am going to get back there to retrieve it. The shop has kindly informed me that both the radiator and the transmission need to be replaced.Ouch. On the up side the dealership has agreed to pay for the transmission after the radiator is fixed.

I guess in this atomic fireball of a situation the only real sweet part is that I was with my sister who entertained me and kept me from imploding under the stress. Also, if there had only been me the tow truck diver would have scared the shit out of me instead of merely making me laugh...


Pop Rocks

When I met the love of my life, 7 years ago, it was like eating pop rocks. It was unexpected, surprising, exciting and sometimes (like the big one's that pop on your tongue too hard) it was painful.

Dating him was like learning something new about myself everyday, he challenged my beliefs and caused me to look at things from a whole new view point.

Even now I remember those early times, the anxious excitement of wanting him to call, the rush of nerves when the phone rang. The way holding hands took over my senses and caused me to miss the plot of several movies. I can picture cuddling on the couch and the uncertainty of where to rest my head or put my hands. I still feel the way my lips tingled and went numb after our first kiss. I recall the comfortable ease of later kisses stolen on the trampoline or in the car and I hear Marc Cohen playing in the background of those moments. I still feel the fierceness of defending my relationship to doubters and the steadfast knowledge that I was right for him and he for me. I hear the rain falling as we took a long walk in it or sat on the porch and discussed college plans. I ache at the memory of uncertainty, the unknowing that comes with separation and the relief that comes with reuniting. I can taste the first meal he made me and linger fondly on memories of the many meals we have eaten together. I can hear the first time he said, "I love you" and see the words of the poems he wrote me. My stomach flips at the thought of the nerves we shared as we moved into one apartment and the fear that consumed me when he joined the Marine Corps. I remember the exhaustion of laughing until we collapsed. I beam with the pride I feel for him when he succeeds and am driven by my want to make him proud. I taste the tears I cried when we fought and smell the flowers he brought me for no reason. I feel the warmth of so many hugs and the love we made. I can hear the words he said to me before he asked me to marry him and the ones we said to each other on our wedding day.

I know that this is the life for me because together we can take on the world and because he still makes me feel like there are pop rocks in my chest.