Vacation Like a Rich Person

If you want to escape it all for the weekend, to commune with nature in the wildest parts of America, I highly recommend anywhere besides the Poconos, which might have been nature at one point but is now just a lot of rich people pretending.

Still fun, though.

On the weekend my board gaming friends booked a “cabin” in the “woods,” although in this case “cabin” means “fancy wood-paneled home with Jacuzzi”, and “woods” means “some trees in a gated community surrounding a ski hill.” I had figured going into it that we were in danger of being hunted down by serial killers as we lay defenseless in our ramshackle cabin, but there was a security system and you couldn’t get through the gate if you looked like a murderer.

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It’s a cabin because it’s brown.

While there were technically woods surrounding us, all the houses were very closely packed in, lining the twisting roads like an otherworldly suburb. It was quite nice, actually- they had clearly put in an effort to preserve the trees when they built, and regular suburbs could benefit from the increased amounts of nature.

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All the other “cabins” were at least partially hidden by the trees, allowing you to pretend you weren’t within 200 yards of another vacationing family.

It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and we had hundreds of board games to get through. It was heaven.

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I came very prepared for St. Patrick’s Day.

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The hot tub was built into the enclosed porch, which was excellent because it allowed us to get very hot, step outside, roll around in the snow, and submerge ourselves again while icy.

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I may have taken a creepy picture of two of my friends talking in the early morning, but they were very cute, and I have no shame.

We spent most of our time in intense relaxation, being as we are all introverts who need a little space throughout the day. We would converge in the kitchen for meals, feast merrily for an hour, and then retreat to quiet corners and watch Planet Earth for a time before board games commenced again. It was lovely.

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And then, when it got too stuffy indoors, a group of us adults would swarm the nearby sledding hill and show the local kids just how slowly you could slide down a hill on a sled that was the 1971 Chevy C10 of racecars.

We returned to our normal lives reluctantly, but satisfied in the knowledge that we had made a lot of exceptionally lazy memories. We also learned that there’s no limit to how sick you can get in a minivan with six other people on a winding hilly road in the Poconos.

The Philadelphia Flower Show

Until last Sunday I knew very little about Holland, save for a vague idea that wooden clogs were involved somehow. Now, however, I can confirm that tulips, windmills, and bicycles are the other three things in the Netherlands. Sometimes bridges.

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Often all at once.

On Sunday I dragged James to the Philadelphia Flower Show on the basis that he had to, because I was his girlfriend and I said so. I find bullying and manipulation to be excellent cornerstones of a relationship. Plus I bought him lunch.

This year’s theme was Holland (last year’s: Ireland. So close), and as stated above, Holland has a lot of bicycles and windmills. It’s enough to make you wonder if each individual artist began to set up their displays and grew increasingly depressed as they realized that every other artist had been in possession of the same idea.

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“We’ll have windmills! And hanging flowers!”

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“We’ll have hanging flowers! And bicycles!”

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“We’ll have bycicles! And bridges!”

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“We’ll have bridges and hanging flowers and bicycles!”

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“WE WILL HAVE A BRIDGE MADE OF BICYCLES WITH HANGING BICYCLES. Also tulips.”

Don’t get me wrong, it was all lovely, at least those exhibits that I fought my way through the crowd to see. Sunday was opening day and the crowds were thick, resulting in many blurred photos as professional photographers used the heads of passerby to brace their heavy-duty cameras.

Getting through the crowds rapidly became exhausting, and I had bought all my windowsill plants for the day, so I was about to release James from this special guy Hell when I caught sight of the “Live Butterfly Exhibit.” With BUTTERFLIES! LIVE ONES!

So we stood in line to funnel into a netted room, where we were handing q-tips dipped in sugar water to try and tempt the exhausted butterflies to us, so we could carry them around like fairy wands.

But as it turns out, butterflies just take what they want.

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It took me five minutes to pry this one off of the netting, and only because I wanted my sugar q-tip back.

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Got you, you little punk.

Catching butterflies was hard work. James and I struggled to coax the fragile things onto us for what felt like ages, while small Disney princesses in training waltzed by with sleeves covered in the floaty things. If that’s not a sign that I’m old and no longer desirable by the fairies, I don’t know what is.

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Most of the butterflies went to the ceiling to rest. I couldn’t reach them. James could, but he was too busy remarking on how short I was.

I caught sight of a large blue butterfly and spent the remainder of my time in the enclosure trying to get it to love me. “Go on, have a sugar stick,” I whispered, shoving the q-tip at its feet until it latched on to avoid being pushed off the plant.

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It requires immense concentration, badgering a butterfly to accept you as its new owner.

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Success! The q-tip is gone for good, mind you.

Once my life goal of holding a blue butterfly for thirty seconds was accomplished, James and I packed up and headed out, and I faced the reality of my ever-shrinking windowsill space for my new plants.

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The little ones will need big pots soon. I have no space, but I need more.

Fortunately, there is a solution to dwindling windowsill space: Hanging plants.

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All the hanging plants.

Can We Have Spring Now?

On very rare occasions parents can be right about things. In this case, that thing is snow- or, more accurately, that snow is not nearly as fun when you’re an adult.

Now, four walls and a fragile personal space bubble is the most separation I have from my workplace, and my morning commute is mostly me forcing myself to get out of bed and walk the ten foot hall to the kitchen, so driving isn’t really an issue. (Disappointingly. If I lived far away I could claim the weather was too bad to drive in.) Rather, the very reason I’m here is to be at the house when the children can’t go to school, such as during a snow day, or one of the forty-three vaguely patriotic holidays the teachers have off.

I’m watching the snow fall right now.

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That, ladies and gentlemen, is an ornamental rich person fence. It keeps the poor people safe from the lawyers on the other side.

Fortunately, by the time it started snowing in earnest it was too late for the school to give them back, but Tuesday is gearing up to be another snow day, which means three to six stir-crazy boys frothing at the mouth to get outside, freeze to death for an hour, and then smuggle snow back inside and dump it all over the mud room, to be repeated in another hour.

All day long.

This wouldn’t be so bad if they were a little older, of course. After a certain age you can pitch them outside and keep an eye on them through the window, in the comfort of your well-heated home with a glass of warm milk. But with the mixture of ages, and their tendency to try and sacrifice the little ones to the snow gods, I need to be right out there with them the whole time.

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Fortunately, there’s always one that volunteers to shovel the driveway.

I combat this in the only way I know how: By stalling in the garage so that I don’t have to venture out into the frigid wind, which the children can’t feel because children are blissfully unaware of temperature extremes. It’s the same reason these children can play outside in the 90F, 90% humidity of a summer day.

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Here’s a good garage game: You take some cones, and you hide a container of bubble solution under one. And then, wait for it, here’s the good part- the child checks under them all until they find them! Now it’s their turn to hide and your turn to find it. Tip: It’s under the one they keep looking and giggling at.

As I was writing the entire power system flickered, which probably means the laundry has stopped and the kids will be coming home from school even earlier.

But good news, it’s Friday!

Good news for the nanny, at any rate. Possibly not so much for the parents.

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Convention Gardening

Thankfully, around March, things begin to happen again. People emerge from their centrally-heated homes and decide they should work off the winter weight by, say, holding a deceptively big flower and garden show. And the rest of us, starved for activities, come in droves.

James thought he might spend the weekend visiting with family in Florida, in order to be anywhere other than the cold musty north-east, so I had nothing better to do than to absently search Facebook for weekend events, until lo and behold, the 15th Annual New Jersey Flower & Garden Show!

Fascinating.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected it to be, but in my head I pictured the common Idaho farmer’s market/county fair. Something with a few booths, an abundance of individual roses the size of one’s face, and that weird-looking charcoal drawing that won “Best in Show” via nepotism.

It was a bit like that, only much, much bigger.

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Someone had taken a warehouse-like convention hall and moved eighteen or so gardens into it, complete with brick work, flower beds, full-sized trees, and even a few koi ponds. The whole area had a surreal and almost unsettling feel to it, because it did seem like you were outdoors until you hit a dividing path of cement foundation, or looked up at the black abyssal ceiling above you.

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But the rest of the time it was cozy. Just look at all these things I can’t afford and don’t have room for!

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How long did it take them to get all this dirt in here, and how tedious is it going to be to get it all out again? Will they scrap all the plants?

The event was sectioned into thirds: The garden display section, where landscaping companies vied for your affection by handing out cheap plastic pens; the art section, where people made art related to plants in some way; and the shopping section, with rows and rows of booths selling all the garden knickknacks you never knew you didn’t want.

I made myself go through the art section before I spent all my money on potted plants I would kill within the week.

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Why, look! It’s a… cool spiky thing, with flower bits!

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I would wear this in a heartbeat. Seriously, if anyone wants to gift this to me…

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I enjoy this piece because I find it to be a very good estimation of my life forty years from now, complete with me lurking creepily by the window, eyeballing the passerby.

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Koi!

The sales booths were just as bad as I expected. I started down the first row, tempted by things like fancy weed-whackers despite not having an actual lawn of my own, when I was sidetracked by an older lady in a jewelry booth.

“Hello dear,” she said kindly as she reeled me in with her industrial-strength fishing pole, “would you like to know your birth moon?”

“Yes. Absolutely,” I said, because I had never wanted to know anything so badly in my life.

So she took out a book the size of a few dictionaries glued together and skimmed through the dates, starting from 1900 and working her way up to 1995, December, the 19th of. “You were born under a waning crescent, or crescent descending!” she told me earnestly, already rifling through a few sorted bins and producing a necklace that matched. “It means trouble will follow you most of your life, but since it’s so close to the new moon it means there will always be hope for new chances and rebirth. That’ll be $19.99 plus tax.”

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Needless to say, I bought it. It might not look like much, but it glows in the dark and I will always be able to tell the story of the time I was suckered into buying my birth moon.

There were a number of wonderful booths at the show. I bought a lovely knitted shawl with two matching hats from one, and a little bonsai tree from another. I spent some time being vaguely uncomfortable in a booth of dead butterflies, despite the sign assuring the customers that the butterflies had been collected after they had died a natural death.

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I’d have bought one, but they were expensive and I can’t put nails in my walls.

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Towards the end, weighed down as I was by numerous bags of unnecessary purchases, I came across a booth full of succulents and air plants, some of which- and this is very important- had little caps on the top to make them look like floating jellyfish.

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I bought three.

It’s obviously very important to me that my room look like a jungle is gradually moving in, and I’m thankful to New Jersey’s Flower & Garden show for accelerating that process. It also made me realize that flower shows exist, which is why I’m going to the Philadelphia one in the coming weeks to buy even more air jellyfish.

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I’m running out of space on my windowsills, however.