A Very Martha Halloween

Oh Martha, you crack me up. It’s not that I don’t admire your creativity, your multimillion (billion?) dollar media empire or your ubiquitous line of Martha Stewart home products, but still, you crack me up.

For decades, you have taken DIY to a whole new level, especially when it comes to celebrating holidays. Christmas? Plan ahead and plant some evergreen seedlings on your vast Connecticut property and nurture them into perfect 12 foot Christmas tree specimens suitable for display in any palatial home.

Easter? Gather fresh eggs from the chickens you raise in your backyard chicken coop, extract dyes in various colors from indigenous plants that grow on your property, and create unique one-of-a-kind masterpiece orbs that rival the renowned Faberge eggs.

Now, of course, Halloween is nearly upon us and Martha has once again fired up her creativity to come up with some very special ideas, which she kindly demonstrated for us on a recent Today Show. It starts with little orange treat bags, stamped with bats, spiders or other Halloweenish images, and stuffed with the candy of your choice. (Personally, I was shocked that Martha used store bought candy and neglected to show us how to make Milky Way bars at home. Appalling.) Next, use thumb tacks to attach the filled bags to something round, which I’m guessing was a Styrofoam ball or perhaps a real pumpkin, but I missed that part. The little trick-or-treaters can come up onto your porch and yank a bag off the pumpkin.

Okay, cute idea, but Martha had special treats for the parents of the trick-or-treaters too because they get tired of schlepping around the neighborhood in the dark with a flashlight and deserve a little mid-trick-or-treat pick-me-up. That’s why Martha was making them martinis, special Halloween martinis, because on Halloween it would be wrong to just stick an olive in the martini, right?

Special Halloween martinis come with a creepy eyeball instead of a boring olive. And, since I KNOW you want to make your own Halloween martinis, here’s how to make the creepy eyeballs, courtesy of Martha. Take a radish and peel off most of the red skin, but leave a few streaks of red so it looks like a veiny bloodshot eyeball. Hollow out an indention in one end and stick an olive (with pimento) in it. Voila, instant creepy eyeball!

I suppose some parents bring their own beverages along for the candy pilgrimage, but never have I lived in a neighborhood where trick or treating included a progressive neighborhood happy hour. Then again, few of us have the privilege of living down the block from Martha.

However your neighborhood celebrates Halloween, please remember that mixing alcohol and large quantities of chocolate can be dangerous. Please trick or treat responsibly.


The Creep Factor

It may not be fancy, but it’s a great family car.

When it comes to cars, I’m as boring as it gets. I just want a car that I’m comfortable driving, that’s reliable and safe. I dutifully take it in for scheduled maintenance and otherwise pay very little attention to it.

I prefer to take it to the dealership for service because I know the folks there have to answer to a higher power if customers are unhappy with the service, but also because the waiting area and the restroom are clean, unlike some of the quickie oil change places that rate highly on the ick scale of hygiene. Plus, there are usually relatively current magazines lying on the table, even if one of them is entitled Gardens & Guns (I did not make that up) and most of the others are golf-related.

Still, you can never tell who else will wander in to have his or her car serviced, no matter where you go.  This morning, as I sat in the dealership’s service department waiting area, along with a decidedly geriatric crowd, watching an episode of Leave it to Beaver (because no one can figure out how to work the remote for the satellite TV), an old geezer guy came in – red face, rheumy eyes, tufts of hair bulging out of his ears. He said good morning to a guy sitting to the right, then looked at me, gestured to the chair beside me and said, “Good morning, beautiful. Mind if I sit here? I promise not to molest you.”


He took a seat and offered me a section of his newspaper. I declined. He turned to the obituaries and remarked that the oldest dead person listed was 103.

OMG, what is taking them so long to change the oil in my car? I’ve already watched a full episode of Leave it to Beaver and two thirds of an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Must escape…

As luck would have it, geezer guy couldn’t sit still for very long and left to wander around the dealership, no doubt spreading creepiness along the way. He may be a harmless old guy who thinks he’s amusing, but my instincts tell me he’s probably on some sex offender registry somewhere. Ick.

Living Proof that Money Does Not Buy Happiness

I’m embarrassed, no – make that ashamed, to admit that I’ve gotten hooked on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. First, let me say I grew up in New Jersey and knew of no housewives that resembled this collection of over-the-top women in any way, shape or form. The housewives I knew dressed in wrap-around denim skirts, schlepped to carpool and the A&P in aging station wagons, considered themselves presentable if they swiped on a little lipstick, and were generally nice to everyone, including the people they didn’t particularly like.

Apparently, things have changed since I left the Garden State several decades ago. If this show is any indication of reality, today’s Housewives of New Jersey are all about excess. They live in excessively large and ostentatious McMansions; drive enormous SUVs; dress in excessively skimpy cocktail party attire at all times, whether they’re headed to a family cookout or to the dentist for a root canal; and spackle on so much make-up they could easily pass for hookers or Las Vegas showgirls.

Not surprisingly, their behavior is excessive. They fight vehemently with one another over the smallest of perceived slights and spew venomous insults and accusations. They spend an inordinate amount of time in the company of friends and family whom they do not appear to like in the least, sharing meals, large amounts of wine, and nasty nasty conflicts.  They chastise each other for getting involved in things that are none of their business, notwithstanding the fact that they choose to display their business on TV for all the world to see. Occasionally, the arguments get a little physical, but as I watch, I’m more concerned that someone is going to scream herself into a heart attack or stroke.

I think it’s fair to say that as a group, these women (and their spouses and sometimes their kids) are the most dysfunctional, selfish, self-involved, insecure, hyper-critical and unhappy people in the lovely Garden State.

So, if ever you feel a little sorry for yourself because your finances are not what you wish they were, if ever you think “why didn’t my husband buy me an $80,000 Jaguar for our anniversary, like Caroline’s husband did?,” take a deep breath and be grateful for what you DON’T have!

(Hey, anyone know of a good Real Housewives detox program?)

Sunday Specials

Companies are in business to make money and that often means creating products that solve common problems. I’m cool with that.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help noticing certain themes while flipping through the pile of coupon inserts in the Sunday paper, themes I’m not so cool with.

Theme #1: We have bladder control issues. On one page, Kirstie Allie is pushing Poise light bladder leakage pads. Take it from the Poise Fairy, period pads are for your period. Flip the page and there’s actress Lisa Rinna looking sexy in a curve-hugging black dress despite the fact that she’s wearing Depends adult diapers underneath (no word on whether or not she shimmied her diapered self into a pair of Spanx before putting on the dress).

Theme #2: We have a multitude of health problems. Heartburn? Save $3 on Pepcid! Allergies? Save $4 on Zyrtec! Itchy red eyes? Save $2 on Visine! Painful gas? Save $1 on Gas-X! Painful Feet? Save 50% on Therapeutic Cozy Toes – good for bunions hammer toes, toe cramps, plantar fasciitis and more! Arthritis pain? Save $2 while you put your pain to sleep with Pain Bust RII!

Theme #3: We must never ever succumb to reality by looking our age. Color your hair for 8 weeks of luminous shine and fade-defiance; slather on Age Perfect Hydra-Nutrition for firmer, more supple and resilient skin; don’t forget Revitalift Anti-Wrinkle + Firming with stimuplex technology, followed by Visible Lift foundation and concealer for 5, yes 5, anti-aging benefits. But wait! How about saving $5 on DermaSilk 5 Minute Face Lift which exhorts us all to STOP LOOKING YOUR AGE (undoubtedly a deadly sin that will send you straight to hell)?

Theme #4: We exist on a diet of total crap. Want to save money at the grocery store this week? Clip coupons for Chips Ahoy cookies, Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars (don’t assume “nutri” equates to nutritious), ice cream, Ball Park franks (you don’t want to know what’s in hot dogs – trust me on this), candy, frozen Chinese food, and Grande tortilla chips.

Admittedly I ripped out a few coupons (I’m too lazy to cut them out neatly with a scissors and usually forget to bring them to the store) – I color my hair, pop antihistamines during pollen season, and sometimes eat stuff for reasons that have nothing to do with nutrition. Still, I refuse to believe I’m as pathetic as the coupon inserts suggest.

Here’s an idea. Instead of saving a little bit of money by using those coupons when buying those products, let’s save a lot of money by not buying the products at all! Who’s with me?

Weird Encounters with Strangers

The other day I was sitting in the lobby area of our local Department of Social Services, waiting to attend a meeting about one of the foster children I work with.  A slightly disheveled older guy walks in and sits down a couple of chairs away. We’re the only ones in the room.

A few minutes pass and the guy says, “I wonder if things will change as much in the next 42 years as they have in the last 42 years. That’s when daddy died.”

I have no response, so I nod just the tiniest bit out of courtesy.

He continues, “42 years ago, when daddy died, there weren’t all these Mexicans around here. Not that they’re bad. In fact, there’s a Mexican family next door and they’re as sweet as can be. And there was one black girl back when I was in school.”

Oh crap, here comes a diatribe from a bigot who thinks he’s a nice guy. I squirm and stay silent.

“And 9/11, who could’ve imagined 9/11?”

Please, please don’t start in on all Muslims are terrorists…

He must sense my discomfort because he changes topics and says, “You know, my daughter, she died in 2010, gosh I miss her, she used to think I couldn’t hear her when she’d apologize to people for me talking to them. I never met a stranger…”

Okay, so that topic is not much of an improvement. Of course, I feel badly that this guy’s daughter passed away and that he has apparently spent the last 42 years mourning for his father, but this is not the way to make small talk with strangers.  I ponder how to offer my condolences without inviting further information, when the DSS receptionist pops her head out of the window and tells me to go on in to the meeting. With great relief, I scurry off.

If nothing else, let’s try to extract some lessons from this uncomfortable encounter. Here are some guidelines about making small talk with strangers:

  • Talking about your dearly departed loved ones is not the best ice breaker.
  • Just because someone appears to share your skin color does not mean they share your attitudes about people of different skin colors.
  • Most importantly, sometimes it’s best for strangers to remain strangers.

An All American Casting Call

I read that in a recent interview, when Newt Gingrich was asked what actor he’d like to have portray him in a movie about his life, he jokingly replied, “Brad Pitt.”  Well, that started me thinking about who I’d cast as the main characters in the movie Road to the GOP Presidential Nomination, which I sincerely hope will be a musical.

A little disclaimer: my picks are based solely on physical resemblance. Any other similarities, real or imagined, are entirely coincidental.



The Original Ken Doll as Mitt Romney.











The Pillsbury Dough Boy as Newt Gingrich.








Greg Brady as Rick Santorum (just picture him wearing a sweater vest).









My Favorite Martian as Ron Paul.







I smell an Oscar …

Cheaper than Therapy

Perhaps you occasionally read my posts and think, “OMG, I wish this woman would stop complaining about everything already!” What can I say? Complaining here is substantially less expensive and time consuming than therapy. Still, in the interest of achieving some small measure of karmic balance, I’d like to share some tidbits of good news with you.

On the local news front, here in our little corner of North Carolina, registration is now open for a new session of  Bee Keeping School and last month there was not one, but two rousing games of Donkey Basketball to raise money for local schools. In case you are unfamiliar with Donkey Basketball, it’s just what it sounds like.

On the national front, Pfizer is recalling about a million packs of birth control pills because of a mix-up between the pills that contain the contraceptive ingredients and inactive pills that don’t. The good news is that if you took the mixed up pills, it’s not harmful. Also, the anticipated uptick in births next fall will be good news for obstetricians, hospitals, and baby product manufacturers and retailers.

Mortgage rates are now ridiculously low. If you’re one of the 6 people out there who is gainfully employed, act now and lock in a great rate.

By far the best news of the day is the announcement that McDonald’s will no longer use slimy pink goo in its hamburger meat. The goo is some sort of pink paste made from scrap meat treated with ammonium hydroxide, which is also a common ingredient in fertilizer, household cleaning products and homemade explosives. No word on what will replace the goo – perhaps actual meat??  That would be good news for cattle ranchers and consumers, not so much for cows.

So, how did I do? Are you feeling uplifted and hopeful yet?

Education for the Real World

As a huge proponent of education, I’m always excited to stumble upon new educational opportunities. After all, college is not for everyone and learning should be a lifelong endeavor. And, in these tough economic times, educational opportunities that prepare one for a lucrative career are especially valuable.

Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I share with you this remarkable opportunity, the New York Reality TV School. I know there are those of you out there who long to be a Real Housewife, a controversial toddler beauty contestant mom, or a contestant on the Amazing Race, Project Runway or Cupcake Wars. Perhaps you simply want to have your life chronicled ad nauseum like the Kardashians or the Gosselins. Whatever reality TV dream floats your boat, the Reality TV School wants to make it a reality.

Students can choose from an intensive one day seminar, an extensive five week course, or one-on-one coaching that will allow them to “take their place as authentic, confident and vibrant real people, entertainers and personalities on any reality TV show.” Among the many important Reality TV skills students will learn to master are things like auditioning, Reality TV conflict, the “re-contextualizing of actual events,” and dealing with extreme personalities in close quarters.

Certainly, the curriculum provides a good foundation, but I’m hoping the school will expand and cover other critical topics, like:

  • How to create drama out of thin air
  • How to be offended by even the most benign comments
  • How to use alcohol to ramp up the action in any social situation
  • How to pretend that dressing like a hooker is classy
  • Cosmetic surgery primer – what to nip, what to skip
  • Intensive workshop on inserting the F word into virtually any sentence
  • Choosing your frenemies
  • Pathetic victim vs. outrageous bully – how to choose the right on-air persona

Finally, for those successful graduates who make it big in Reality TV, there should a graduate-level program to propel students from short-lived fame to long-lasting (i.e., beyond a single TV season) fame and fortune. Topics would include:

  • Parlaying your fame into your own line of clothing, perfume, jewelry and other “must have” stuff for a vast consumer population of Reality TV wannabees.
  • How to stage a lavish wedding that earns you big bucks
  • How to time your divorce so that it yields maximum controversy, aka publicity
  • Pros and cons of celebrity rehab programs
  • How to make those pesky criminal charges work for you, including a mug shot workshop taught by Nick Nolte and the LAPD

You know, even if this type of educational opportunity is not for you, we’ll all benefit from the professionalism of well-trained Reality TV stars.  Surely some philanthropist out there will see the value of this education and start a scholarship program. Education, it’s such a beautiful thing.

Drop the What?

The lovely state of  North Carolina, where we’ve made our home for the past 4 ½ years, is renowned for many things – beautiful beaches, the Blue Ridge Mountains, Research Triangle Park, world-class universities – but there’s still much I have to learn about it.

So, I’m thankful to PETA for bringing to light a New Year’s Eve tradition from one NC town that I had not heard about before. In a rural western NC town, where there is no Times  Square and therefore no fancy ball to drop to ring in the new year, the locals have another tradition. It seems they drop a live opossum in some sort of transparent container to mark the new year. PETA, of course, is incensed at this act of critter cruelty and is demanding that it be stopped.

Locals insist that they do not “drop” the opossum, rather, it is gently lowered to the ground and that no harm comes to it. Further, they point out that this is a non-alcoholic family friendly event – a good time for all.

Personally, I think the whole thing is a bit of a stretch. First, it seems a little much to call this cruelty, though I imagine the opossum finds the whole event supremely embarrassing and that it must endure quite a bit of teasing from the other opossums. “Duuude, you got dropped man! You shoulda seen the look on your face…” Really, is this any worse than when people dress up their dogs for Halloween or other holidays? (If you’re trying reindeer antlers on your dog right now, I’m talking to you.)

I find it an even bigger stretch to believe that this is a sober event. Surely, no sober individual sat around watching TV years ago as Dick Clark counted down to the big New Year’s Eve ball drop and said, “hey Earl, let’s go out back and get us an opossum to put in a box and drop it to the ground next year.” No, the whole idea has more than a subtle hint of moonshine to it, don’t you think?

As for me, I’m not planning to drop anything from anywhere on New Year’s Eve, except for my head onto my pillow at about 10:00 p.m. You?

Wanted: VP of Futility

In honor of my brother’s birthday tomorrow, I thought it was fitting to re-run a post that he inspired me to write last year.  I had only just launched The Big Sheep Blog, so unless you are one of the 7 people who were subscribed at the time, this should be new for you.



Recently I emailed my brother to wish him a happy birthday. His response: “‘Happy’ is such a complicated word, isn’t it?”  I suppose the word “happy” is straightforward enough, but as for the state of being happy, that’s another story. Our national obsession with being happy and our collective perception that some people exist in a perpetual state of happiness that has somehow eluded the rest of us, keeps tens of thousands of therapists booked months in advance (except for Fridays, when they are forbidden to schedule appointments).

What if we were all happy just about all the time?  Then what?  Is that really what matters?

Please join me in stepping off the hamster wheel to happiness. Honestly, aren’t there plenty of things that matter more, like feeling valued and appreciated; feeling that your existence contributes something positive to the world, however big or small that contribution may be; having a passion for something; easing someone else’s burden; and learning, always learning? If  we’re lucky, life will be punctuated with fleeting moments of joy – joy that cannot be engineered or orchestrated no matter how hard we try.

For those who disagree with my assessment of happiness, I hear that the Sisyphus Corporation is looking for VP of Futility (must be physically fit with 5+ years experience pushing heavy objects up steep hills).