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F*ck Field Day

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Thousands of kids across the country are currently, or have just finished, participating in a “Field Day” of games and displays of athletic prowess. Every school has a different name for it. You know of which I speak.

I feel so sorry for them.

Like the odd duck that I am, I always dreaded Field Day.

I was a kid who rarely talked to anyone if it wasn’t necessary, something I would realize three decades later was generalized anxiety disorder. Even back when I was a tiny third grader, I got up the nerve to try and talk my gym teacher out of making me participate in Field Day.

It didn’t work.

She assured me she would put me into something easy. The 50 yard dash, she said. I had no idea how long that was, but any distance I have to run is too long.

It was a chilly morning, so I wore my grey hooded sweatshirt. I ran as fast as I could. I came in fourth. That might not sound bad, but there were only four kids in the race. Total.

They gave me a ribbon to remember my shame. (It is still in my house somewhere. I think my young son ran off with it.)

I just talked to my mom on the phone, in 2017, and she was apparently there in the stands. (I don’t remember that, but I don’t remember a lot of things.) She remembers that there were other mothers sitting in front of her who watched my performance and felt bad that I was so far behind the other kids.

Great boost of confidence there, mother. I know I am forty-one years old now, but that doesn’t really help the old self-esteem any.

I guess this is where LOVE YOURSELF would come in handy.

If I remember right, I didn’t even know that the 50 yard dash was an event you ran. It could have been a long jump for all I knew. I probably had to wait for the other kids to start before I even knew where the finish line was. (It is a good story. I think I will stick to it.)

Someone took a picture of the racers standing behind big signs that showed where each of us placed. They took the picture from my end. The losing end.

They put that picture of me behind the giant four, with my sweatshirt hanging off one shoulder, my hair escaping my ponytail, and looking winded, in the glass display case in the main hallway at school the next year.

And the year after.

And so on.

I was a week from graduating high school, happened to be walking through the elementary building, and there I was, in that picture, STILL BEHIND THE DAMN FOUR!

I believe to this day they are probably still putting up the same picture of me from June 1985. Boy, I bet my clothes look really dated now.

I Googled “Field Day 1983” and half expected my picture to pop up. So far, it hasn’t.

Even more amazing, that is the ONLY YEAR I ever participated in Field Day. Maybe that is why they thought it was momentous enough to display year after year.

At my school, when I was there, only third, fourth, and fifth graders competed in Field Day. It was the 80s. All the kids drank Kool-Aid and Sunny Delight and watched copious amounts of television. There wasn’t a drive for everyone to exercise. Society was busy telling us to Say No to drugs.

I didn’t avoid Field Day in fourth grade on purpose. I had the pox. (Chicken, not small.) I missed the last two weeks of school. I had a grumpy teacher all that year who seemed very tired and done with teaching. What kind of reward did I get for putting up with her all year? I had to miss her retirement party 😦  Although cupcakes and treats were left inside my desk for when I returned. (Eesh, talk about unsafe food storage conditions!)

The next year I did avoid Field day on purpose. My mom took me to the lake. She is a good mom. I thought she was just being kind to her woefully unathletic daughter for all these years. (It is genetic, after all.) But now that she told me that story about the mothers in the stands, maybe SHE just didn’t want to have to feel bad for me again.

And if the goal for the day is exercise, then the school should be satisfied. I am sure I got way more exercise at the lake than I ever would have running a race for two minutes and feeling anxious the rest of the day.

Middle school had many, many (too many to mention) hells of its own, such as showering after gym class and dissecting frogs and all those pubescent hormones trapped inside a building with gray concrete walls and no windows all day, every day. But at least I got to leave the hell that was Field Day back at the elementary.

Remember, if you see me running fast, then either there is an escaped dog in front of me or a zombie behind me.

Dog chasing was once a regular hobby of mine. Not by choice, mind you.

From the broken mind of Jennifer Friess, the joining of hearts & souls…
NOW AVAILABLE! Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom

What I Learned This Week – 10/2/16

This week I learned that Lena’s Italian Restaurant in Blissfield, Michigan still has the best pizza I have ever eaten.

I was told by my asbestos friend, whose opinion on pizza I highly respect, that Pizza Junction in Huntington, Indiana was the best pizza ever. (She is the one who introduced me to Lena’s, afterall*.) She knew of it because she had attended Huntington College back in the day.

She has mentioned several times that Pizza Junction was the best pizza ever. I really wanted to test that theory, but I knew I would never go all that way without her. And when she made the pilgrimage, it was always a family affair.

I looked up Pizza Junction on Facebook, only to discover that it is named that because it located in an old train depot that still has railroad tracks next to it that used to be part of the Wabash line. There were even videos of a classic steam engine roaring by at high speed. Now, if you have stopped by this page very much at all, you will realize that my family is a little crazy about trains. Last year I redid my son’s room to look like a train station. M flipped when he saw the Pizza Junction videos.

My asbestos friend’s husband was out of town. So I snuck into her car and put in a cassette tape with hidden subliminal messages for her to take me to Pizza Junction.

What, you don’t believe me? She totally has a cassette player in her car.

Actually, I just sent her a suggestive text or two about how lovely it would be to go. So when the opportunity presented itself to us the very next day to accompany my asbestos friend and her brood to Indiana, we took her up on it.

The road trip was awesome, even being squeezed six into a car. We saw two Norfolk Southern trains go by as we ate in the station, and they were flying. The bruschetta was excellent. The pizza was great, but not quite as good as Lena’s, in my humble opinion. We explored a place called the Sunken Gardens, photos from which you will see below.

Sidenote: Last weekend a memorial was erected in our local cemetery to honor the long-ignored Italian immigrant victims of the 1901 Wabash crash just north of Seneca in Lenawee County, MI. Then my family went about figuring out about where the crash might have occurred. That track is now run by  Norfolk Southern.

Some people were very happy to arrive at Sunken Gardens

Some people were very happy to arrive at Sunken Gardens

I could have stayed her for a very long time...until it started to get cold.

I could have stayed here for a very long time…until it started to get cold.

FYI: The journey of 252 miles starts by back tracking to home.

FYI: The journey of 252 miles starts by back tracking to home.

If we could have traveled by train, we may have gotten to Pizza Junction quicker.

And consuming orange juice is like drinking sunshine.

*Expressing “afterall” as one word is a conscious, stylistic decision made by the blogger.


Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

DIY Thomas & Friends Buffer

The other day my son was begging for a buffer to put at the end of his track, so that the trains would not roll off.

My first thought was that SOMEONE must sell such a thing, but that by the time you added the cost together with the shipping, the price would be pretty cost-prohibitive. If you decide that you want to go this route, you can visit, which is an awesome website with almost anything you can imagine for Thomas-type trains. Here is their link to order buffers:

I once ordered unpainted Thomas wooden railroad cars from them and had kids decorate them as party favors at my son’s birthday.

The car I designed (that the dog promptly ate).

The car I designed (that the dog promptly ate).

I chose the cheap, crafty route and fashioned a buffer out of a spare piece of track that we already had and some popcicle sticks.  I also used an exacto knife to saw through the wood, and an engine to make sure the dimensions seemed appropriate.

Supplies I used to make a Thomas buffer

Supplies I used to make a Thomas buffer

I glued it all together with some wood glue and allowed to dry away from tiny, excited hands. I added two dots of red paint (any old paint you have laying around) to signify reflectors. Here are pictures of the finished product.

Finished buffer

Finished buffer

Close-up of finished buffer

Close-up of finished buffer

My son was so excited that he wanted to show the completed buffer to everyone. He even told me, “Mommy, you are the best mommy.” I don’t get that everyday. I actually get that never!

I will admit that this design may be best suited to use on a train table environment. My son plays trains on the floor, and the buffer tends to not handle being stepped on by humans or dogs very well. But, we just glue it back together again. You might also think about trying a more triangular design, which might have more stability.

The few minutes of crafting I did were worth this very happy boy.

Happy boy

Happy boy

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Candy Bar Diet

NOTE: My original idea. All rights reserved.

If you steal my idea and make millions from it, I will sue your ass. And that will probably be easier than if I just tried to make millions off my idea myself.

A few years ago, I created a Candy Bar Diet. I think it is a brilliant idea. Most people don’t understand it.

The core of the diet is to track the calories you eat in a day using the magnetic, dry-erase Handy Dandy Candy Board, featured in the back of the book that explains the diet. The Handy Dandy Candy Board uses adorable candy bar magnets to track the calories you eat in a day. I created a mock up that I used myself. It was much more fun than keeping a food diary.

The following are the excerpts from the book and pictures of the mock-up.

Handy Dandy Candy Board – Daily calorie tracker and goal  © not-quite-a-diet 2010


Candy Bar Calorie Counter

It’s “not-quite-a-diet”

How It Works

Candy bars (the normal sized ones here, no cheating with King-sized) are generally average out to be 230 calories. No matter what you eat in a day, you know you are always thinking: Can I still squeak in a candy bar?  Of course you can!  Especially if you think of all your calorie counting in terms of candy bars!

Start off with the maximum number of calories you want to collect in your flabby body in a day.  Let’s say 1600 calories.  Divide that by the average calories in a candy bar: 230 calories.  That would mean you could eat calories equal to 7 candy bars in a day.  And now with the dry erase, magnetic Handy Dandy Candy Board, it is easy to track to your daily goal.


That 20oz of Coke you just drank with 240 calories?  That equals a candy bar.  The honey bun you ate for breakfast at 460 calories—sorry, that’s 2 candy bars.  Ate out for lunch & don’t know the calories?  Be honest with yourself & give it your best guess.  A cheddar bacon cheeseburger would probably be at least 3 candy bars.  No complicated math. No tracking every tiny Pez candy.  Feel free to round, but be honest with yourself.  If you cheat, it will only harm yourself.  I don’t care how much you eat in a day.  I just want you to appreciate my adorable candy bar magnets, which I was inspired to create while squandering my life & my creativity in a cubicle.

Your Tools

Decide on your calorie/candy bar daily goal.  Write it on the dry erase, magnetic Handy Dandy Candy Board .  Place a candy bar magnet on the board every time you consume 230 calories in your day.  The magnets are kept in a convenient storage pocket until you need them.  Where do those calories come from?  That is entirely up to you!

There is also a handy journal included to track your progress, if you are into that sort of thing.  There is a Calories-to-Candy Bar Conversion Chart.  Once the day is done, clear your candy slate & start over again!  Conveniently sized to travel with you throughout the day as you rack up the candy bars, er, the calories:)

Why Count in Candy Bars?

This just happens to be how my brain works!  And I AM guilty of eating multiple candy bars in a day.  Whenever I tried to keep a journal of what I ate, I never made it through one day.  I never made it through more than ONE MEAL!  It was boring & tedious.  But I realized that I was finding myself saying “well, these 2 toaster pastries equal 2 candy bars…maybe I should just eat the candy instead?!”

If you tried a strict dieting plan & became discouraged, this might be a good place to start over.  By making it easier to track what you are eating, you are more likely to actually keep it up!  Try the calorie counter with sweet indulgences figured right in!

Sometimes just keeping track of what you eat can encourage you to eat less.  If your board is filling up, and it’s a choice between cheesecake or dinner, you might just choose dinner.  If it’s a Friday night after a long week of work, you might choose cheesecake. But you will be educated & know that by eating both, you could be packing on the pounds.

The Facts

Typically a person needs 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day.  To maintain your weight, you would want to eat around 2,000 calories (9 magnetic candy bars worth a day), depending on how active you are.  If you want to lose weight, you would want to eat less.

Your best bet for an accurate calorie count is on the “Nutrition Facts” label on your food packaging, or in some cases on the company’s website.  MAKE SURE you read the Serving Size, and be sure to multiply your servings by the Calories per Serving.  Once you have that number, it is easy to use the Calories-to-Candy Bar Conversion Chart to add the appropriate candy bar magnets to your candy bar board.

And FYI…Eating 9 candy bars in a day is not recommended & will definitely result in a tremendous stomach ache.

Also, more than just calories go into making you fat, such as, well, FAT.  This is a highly simplified system, therefore we only track calories.  Consider yourself warned!

©  not-quite-a-diet 2010

Calories-to-Candy Bar Conversion Chart

© not-quite-a-diet 2010

Candy Bar Log

© not-quite-a-diet 2010

Storage pocket for Handy Dandy Candy Board candy bar magnets. © not-quite-a-diet 2010

That is the Candy Bar Diet. Do you think it would work for you?

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