Muff Cabbage – what it is and when to say it

South Park did a spoof episode on New Jersey. Being from New Jersey, here is the guide to all of those phrases used in the show, what they mean, when to use them, and when to smack your kids for using them, even though they heard it from you 2 minutes earlier.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret – Jersey has a huge identity crises.  We’re not sure if we’re East Philadelphia or Southern New York.  I’m from “East Philadelphia” – or South Jersey – so most of my slang comes from Philly.  Therefore, I eat hoagies and say wooder (water).  If you’re from Southern New York – or North Jersey – you probably eat subs and say woodah.

How many of my friends look like Snooki?  Yeah, I have a couple.  Do I know as many Jersey people who look like stereotypical Jersey people as you see on TV?  No.  Although I have spray tanned.  Once.

How many of my friends could be on Real Housewives of New Jersey?  Yeah, None.  Most of us are REAL housewives, meaning we’re lucky to find two clean articles of clothing in the house that belong to us, and those two pieces are probably stretch pants and a sweat shirt.  We do not hand over $100,000 cash for furniture, and I can honestly say that I have never flipped a table.  Wanted to.  Didn’t.

Muff Cabbage – never used it, never would use it, and yell at your kids right away if they do use it.  You can probably figure out that this is slang for a very private part of the female anatomy.

Cabbage – Money, or this cool fall plant we put in our yards in New Jersey in the fall and winter
Guide to muff cabbage from a Jersey Mom

It’s a Jersey thing – No, it’s not.  If you hear someone from Jersey saying it’s a Jersey thing, they’re trying to account for rude or obnoxious behavior.  We do have some of those types of people here.  We don’t like them any more than you do.

Downashore – Down the Shore – it’s where we flock on summer weekends – not to the beach, not to the boardwalk, we go Down the Shore.

Hoagies – sandwiches stuffed full of lunch meat (deli meat for those of you not from Jersey) and cheese, lettuce and tomato, and all sorts of other stuff.  If you are REALLY from Jersey, you know there’s only one good place to get a hoagie – the place you go (we go to Carmen’s in Bellmawr – and so does Big Daddy from the Food Network)

Gravy – the red, delicious, tomatoey goodness that you put on top of macaroni (pasta) for Sunday dinner

Blow Out – No, not something that happens to your car on the Parkway, headed to AC (Atlantic City).  Blow out is what you do to your hair (or your hair dresser does to your hair) before a big night out.

Smush – Smack your kid in da back a da head – this is Jersey Shore guido for having sex.  I don’t know anyone that smushes – they all pretty much do it using the old fashioned phrases – all of which you should smack your kid for saying.

There are a ton of other Jersey slang phrases.  You might have to come see us to learn some more.  Chances are, though, if you’ve heard it on the Jersey shore, you probably won’t hear it from normal Jersey boys and girls.  After all, they cast of the Jersey shore aren’t really from Jersey.

Christmas Gifts For Teachers – Inexpensive and Useful

I have two daughters, and each daughter has two teachers (a teacher and an aide).  Each year, on a tight Christmas budget, I try to come up with something different but useful to give as a holiday gift for the teachers.

Since I have a 19 year old in addition to my 9 and 5 year olds, I know the drill when it comes to teacher gifts.  There are a lot of great gift ideas in the aisles of Target and WalMart that are inexpensive, lovely to look at, and things you think a teacher would use.  But in my mind, I think if I buy that awesome coffee set, the teacher will already have 9 other coffee mugs and she doesn’t drink coffee.  If I buy the bath set, she’ll have a house that only has a shower and skin allergies.  If I buy the candles, she’ll get 14 other candles that she’ll end up selling at a yard sale in the spring anyway.

I try to find something different.

This is going to be the first post among the Christmas gift ideas that will help you put together a nice, memorable gift – but memorable because it’s something a teacher can use!

This year, it’s Pasta Night baskets!  While browsing the aisles of my local Michael’s craft store, I found these items in their dollar clearance section.  The gift I’m making includes four pasta bowls, a bag of tri-color pasta, coasters, four placemats, and a set of paper napkin rings.  The items are going to be put into a colander that I found in the Dollar Store.  Viola!  Pasta Night gift basket for $12 per teacher!

Our Michael’s had a variety of four of five different patterns – we purchased the set above for the teacher, and the set below for the aides:

It provides a quick meal on a busy night during the holidays for the teacher, as well as a colorful gift for your child to give.  If you want to upsize, you can add some Italian seasonings, a garlic press, and a jar of good pasta sauce.  You can do the gift for under $10 if you eliminate the paper napkin rings, coasters, and the colander.

What a great holiday gift!

Wine and Dine Weekend – Breakfast at Wolfgang Puck Express

I have to thank my dear friend and Disney Mom Joanne for turning me on to Wolfgang Puck Express.  I have to admit that for all the years we’ve been visiting Walt Disney World, we overlooked this restaurant every time.  We had eaten once at the regular Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Downtown Disney West Side, and it wasn’t so fabulous that we wanted to go back.  So we haven’t.  Which is probably why we never discovered this hidden gem at Downtown Disney.

OMG – two words.  Breakfast pizza.  Yes, pizza for breakfast – and not the way you ate it when you were in college – cold, right out of the box your roommate bought at lunch time the day before, praying e-coli couldn’t have set in over the course of the 16 hours it had been sitting on your dorm room floor.  This is fresh, piping hot, and delicious.

Wolfgang Pucks Downtown Disney breakfast

The thin, crispy crust is topped with scrambled eggs, apple wood smoked bacon, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, plum tomatoes, and then drizzled with ranch dressing.  Oh come on – you haven’t tried it yet!  It makes perfect sense once you’ve had it in your mouth.  This is so delicious, I’d eat it for any of the three (or four, or five) meals a day that I eat.  And as far as gastric bypass patients?  I have no trouble with this at all – and I often do have trouble with scrambled eggs.  I’ve had this pizza in two visits, and both times, the eggs were cooked perfectly, not dried out and prone to sticking in my pouch.

Next on our table was the crispy cornflake French Toast.  They give you a knife and fork to eat this with, but we ended up just picking it up with our hands and dipping it into the syrup.  This is not your Grandmom’s French toast.  This is a sliced bagel, dipped in egg, then liberally treated to a dusting of cinnamon sugar and rolled in cornflakes.  The meal is dense and delicious, but for us gastrically altered folks – not friendly.  If you can handle the sugars and the carbs in this meal without dumping, that bagel will sit like a ton of bricks in your stomach.  Have your husband order it and take a bite – that’s what I did!

Wolfgang Pucks Downtown Disney breakfast

Rounding out our breakfast selections was the breakfast pocket.  First of all, we had way too much food for our family of five, and we ended up leaving that piece of french toast you see above you and half of the breakfast pizza.  But, I thought it was better to get one more thing, and the pocket appealed to Eilis, so we ordered it.  This is essentially the breakfast pizza, except with different toppings and folded over, like a panzarotti.  In addition to the eggs, bacon, and cheese, the pocket also includes ham, mushrooms, peppers and onions.  It’s huge.  Be prepared to share!

It cost right around $40 for the five of us for breakfast, and that included two bottled orange juices and a bottle of water.  This is probably about $25 more than we would have spent if we had run out to McDonald’s to grab breakfast from their dollar menu, but we could have easily eliminated the $9 for the pocket and everyone would have been satisfied with the amount of food they had eaten.  So for just over $30, this would have been a fabulous breakfast.  For $40, it was still pretty darn good.

Via Napoli – A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

On our first night in Orlando, some of the Moms from the Walt Disney World Moms Panel had decided to do a quick meet up at Via Napoli.  It was all 2009 Moms, and we figured with all the events of the weekend that were planned, it would be one of the few times we’d get a chance to catch up with each other.

As you know if you’ve ever made reservations for a large party at Walt Disney World, they do not guarantee you will be seated at the same table.  In our case, they gave us 4 tables, but they separated the tables so that there were 2 tables pushed together, a space, then another 2 tables pushed together.  This made for 2 very distinct parties at dinner, even though we were all one group.  It was virtually impossible for those of us at one table to co-mingle with those people seated at the other table, even though they were right next to each other.

We all placed our orders at the same time – some people ordered pasta dishes, some ordered pizzas to share, and salads and appetizers were ordered.  Then food began coming out in all sorts of weird sequence.  We got our fried calamari appetizer at the same time that the folks at the other table got their salad.  We also ordered salad, but our salad was delivered to the other table, and because it was assumed it came with the meal, the other table enjoyed the salad.  Eventually, a salad was brought to our table, at the same time that some (but not all) of the pasta dishes began to arrive.  Finally, when everyone was finished eating – except for those of us that ordered pizza – we started asking about the pizza.  Eventually, it was brought to the table, but by then, the meal had already gone into it’s second hour, and the part of our party that had already eaten was ready to head out to get some sleep for their big race the next morning.  This was definitely not a meal conducive to enjoyable conversation, nor did it allow us all to eat together.

Okay, so how’s the food?

The fried calamari, as it was on my first visit, is delicious.  You’ll know if you’ve had gastric bypass surgery that some calamari can be overcooked to the point that you can’t swallow it, but this is not the case here.  The calamari is delicately breaded, fried to a crisp outside, not chewy inside perfection, and served with a very good (not great, but very good) marinara sauce in which you can dip these delicious morsels.

The salad is good, not overly dressed, but again, nothing special.  If you want the family style salad, it adds $4 per person to your bill, but it does make a nice complement to the pizza.

And the pizza!  That’s what you’ll come here for, after all!  You will find other pasta dishes, but if you want a true taste of Italy, it is here, in the pizza.

The wood fired pizza ovens are a sight to behold, and you might want to run in even if you don’t have a reservation just to view them – they are wonderful!  But they pale in comparison to the expertly prepared, authentically Italian pizza that comes from them.

The pizza margherita, which we ordered specifically for the kids, has a thin crust, not chewy and dense, so it makes it a very easy crust for many gastric bypass patients to enjoy.  The sauce is so fresh, it absolutely pops – you can smell the tomatoes almost as if you were chopping them at home yourself.  The mozzarella cheese isn’t shredded, so each bite offers a nice mouthful of fresh mozzarella.  And the added bonus of fresh basil just makes this one of the best pizzas I’ve had since I was in Naples (Italy, not Florida).  To paraphrase Paula Deen, this pizza is so good, it will make you want to slap your Mama Mia!

The other pizza we tried was the Pizza Piccante.  I worried a little about this pizza, because sausage can be a tough item to get into a gastrically altered tummy, but this was perfect!  It wasn’t terribly fatty, and I found no hard, gristly pieces in the sausage.  It was spicy, but not too spicy, and in small enough chunks that it didn’t overpower the freshness of the other ingredients.  The broccoli rabe on top of the pizza was well cooked, although I think I would have liked to see a little less of the bitter green on top of the pizza.  It was a delicious addition, but the bottoms of the stalks are a bit denser and were not as tender to eat, so more than a bite of them on the pizza made it hard for me to enjoy.  I’d recommend the pizza whole heartedly, but for the gastric bypass patient, I’d ask them to go light on the broccoli rabe.

Thank you, Zannaland for this photo, and check out her review at

Overall, this is an excellent dining option if you are going just for the food.  There is plenty for you to eat whether or not you’ve had surgery, and everything is fresh and delicious.

However, I just can’t see my family going here on many Walt Disney World vacations.  It eats up way too much time during a theme park day, and having our meal with friends end up so scattered and disjointed didn’t make for an enjoyable evening.

This place gets an A+ for food, but definitely takes a hit on service with a D.

Don’t forget – check out my friend Suzannah’s blog on Via Napoli to get another opinion!

Wine and Dine Weekend – FINALLY! Some Dining!

So, we’re in warm, sunny Orlando, and it’s time for lunch.  That can only mean one thing.  What’s that?  A Dole Whip?  I wish.  No, for us, it’s off to the Mara at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to see our oldest daughter at work!  She is in the Disney College Program, and quick service is her area of expertise.

So, I walk in with the other two girls, and Brighid is busy with customers.  You can see in the photo that she is cleverly disguised as, well, Brighid in her work costume, but for some reason, that little beanie on her head totally threw Granuaile off.  Word of advice to police agencies throughout the country – do not rely on this child as a witness in any criminal investigation.  Her powers of observation leave much to be desired.  I have to almost shove Granuaile under Brighid’s nose before she realizes, “Hey, that’s my SISTER!”, at which point, she ran over, disrupting the guest Brighid was helping.  Dear Brighid’s Boss, If Brighid’s cash register was off today, it’s totally my fault.  Signed, Brighid’s Mother.

Lunch at the Mara was mac and cheese for Granuaile, a burger for Eilis, and the African stew for Jim and I to share.  I love this stew, with it’s combination of flavors.  It’s a great autumn food, even if autumn is in Florida and it’s 88 degrees outside.

No meal at Animal Kingdom Lodge would be complete without a zebra dome.  Yeah, I’ve had gastric bypass.  Yep, done the diabetes thing.  But how can you resist?  I had one.  And a half.

I’d love to stay and chat here at the Mara – or at least wait until Brighid is done work, but I have to go.  Eat.  Again.  I am meeting some of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel BFFs at Via Napoli, and I can’t wait for some Moms Panel hugs!

Wine and Dine Weekend – Episode 2

We arrive safely at the Orlando International Airport, but we’re starving and tired.  We hop on Magical Express (I so appreciate this complimentary service more and more each time we use it).  It is truly nice not to have to run to claim the luggage and worry about dealing with it when you get to the resort, especially if you’re room isn’t ready.  The ride is cool, comfortable, and gives us not only a chance to relax, but also the opportunity to raid Jim’s bounty of First Class snacks.

We arrive within 40 minutes to Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, and there is no line at all at check-in!  The girls and I wander over to the High Rock Springs Pool while Jim heads for check-in, but he’s nearly done by the time we wander back over to him.  Guess what?  The room is already ready!!  Get the heck outta here!  That never happens to me!

Our room is in THE perfect location!  We are in the Springs section, and you literally just walk right into the first floor room off the parking lot.  It’s gotta be easily the most convenient room we’ve ever had.  I can almost see the Carriage House from here, and the gate to the pool is just across the street from the parking lot.  This is awesome!

There is just one thing….

The room is an accessible room, and my immediate thought is this perfect room isn’t really ours.  We are really in Congress Park, way in the back, where it will take an hour and a gallon of water to get me from our room to the main building.  I hesitantly ring the front desk, but I worry about karma, and if I’ve taken a room really meant for someone who needs the amenities here, I just know that not only will I be struck by lightening, but it will be just as they’ve loaded my treat bag from Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party with Clark bars, so I won’t even get to enjoy their crunchy peanut buttery goodness.  The double whammy, so to speak.

I call the front desk, and they immediately transfer me to the Room Assignment gods, who inform me that if the room had been needed by a guest, my butt would not be standing in it.

WHEW!  We get to stay in the cool room 🙂

It’s time to check my time, because I am meeting my Moms Panel Moms at Via Napoli for dinner.  Dinner?  Oh yeah – but wait, we haven’t even had breakfast yet!  No wonder I am slurring my words, broken out in a cold sweat, and panting like a starved dog!

Now where to go for lunch?

Maggiano’s Little Italy – Review Wrap Up

Overall, the family dining menu at Maggiano’s Little Italy turned out to be a great value and a delicious meal.  We ended up with enough left over items to put two additional meals together, and with tax and tip, our bill was about $140.  Three restaurant meals for a family of four for $140 is big bank for our dining buck.  We certainly could have pigged out more on salad and bread, and they more than encourage you to order refills, so we could have probably eaten for several more meals if we had wanted to take advantage.

The food is not the best Italian food you’ll find anywhere, but it’s good Italian food.  The menu combines enough familiar standbys (lasagna and ravioli) with chef’s specialty items to keep it interesting to come back time and again.

We were the ONLY people in the restaurant when we arrived for our early dinner at 4:30, but the tables around us had begun to fill up by the time we left at just over an hour later.

The Cherry Hill Mall location is very convenient, not only for Mall shoppers, but for people going home from work to stop in for a bite to eat.  It’s also a central and well known meeting place to have family dinners or reunions.  They do have separate banquet rooms.

From a gastric bypass standpoint, you’re going to have to rely on your pouch to determine what is safe her.  I can only eat a minimum amount of pasta, but fortunately, you’ll find a variety of non-pasta dishes, including my usually pouch safe lobster tails, salmon, and crab cakes.  There are also several items on the appetizer menu that I could have easily turned into my main meal had we opted out of the family style menu.

They only serve the family style menu to parties of four or more, and again, from a gastric bypass standpoint, this is a good thing.  You’ll have plenty of options to share with your friends.  I love how they give you four entree choices with two of the family style menu options, because it really does allow for everyone to get what they love and to share it with the table.  This is perfect for post-ops.

Definitely try this restaurant out – preferably before the busy holiday season, when you won’t be able to get a table!

Maggiano’s Little Italy – Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review – Dessert!

We are so full that even my sweet teeth little girls roll their eyes when the waiter comes over to ask if we want dessert.  Then the little one pipes up with “unless there’s chocolate ice cream!”

The dessert menu features a few Italian favorites, like tiramisu and spumoni; Italian spins on chocolate cake and pound cake; and the more traditional NY cheesecake.  Many of their options come with ice cream on the side, but there is absolutely not way this family is going to be able to eat two desserts unless they are bringing a crane to get us to our feet and roll us out the door.

The girls push for the chocolate zuccoto cake, which is a chocolate layer cake filled with chocolate mousse flavored with Sambuca.  Since this is one dish that doesn’t come with ice cream, I ask our waiter if he can just go ahead and box our cake to go.

We have the cake the next day, with our left over dinner, and I have to say, as light and fluffy as you think it will be because of the layers of mousse, it is a thick, dense cake with a thick chocolate frosting, and it is way too heavy for me to have more than a few bites.  Gastric bypass aside, this is a heavy duty cake, but when you factor in the gastric bypass, this could be dumping on a plate.  Take a bite to just satisfy your head hunger for the cake, but know that you aren’t missing anything by not being able to eat more than a taste.

Our second choice, which seems the least heavy of the bunch, is the spumoni.  The Maggiano’s version of this Italian ice cream combination features chocolate, pistachio, and cherry ice cream that is cold, creamy, and delicious.  There are chocolate pieces and dark sweet cherry pieces, although I would like to have seen a few more pistachios scattered in there.  Jim, who says he isn’t going to have any dessert, actually jumps at the chance when the waiter offers to bring another bowl.  Remember, this is all you want to eat.  Next time, we might start with the spumoni.

I know a lot of post-ops struggle with ice cream, as many of us become lactose intolerant.  I do fine with it, and I haven’t dumped on ice cream yet.  This was a much better choice for me than the cake.

Wrap up coming up next!

The one and only REAL reason we go on Cruises

People go on cruises so they can have luxurious accommodations, travel to exotic locations, enjoy endless pampering, experience non-stop entertainment and activities, and eat decadent and delicious meals 24 hours a day.

Not so the Skamarakas family.  The one and only reason we ever go on a cruise?  It is pictured above.  What the hell, you say?  You go on cruises to eat oatmeal with fruit in it?  This, my fellow Americans, is not oatmeal with fruit in it.  It is COLD oatmeal with fruit in it.

Yes, the one and only REAL reason we ever go on a cruise is so that my husband can eat Bircher’s Muesli.  It’s an item not found on the local diner menu, because honestly, they probably, like me, never heard of it.  Until we went on a cruise.

And they have it on nearly every cruise on which we’ve ever gone.  Jim loads up a big bowl of it every morning, and quite frankly, the ship could pull a Titanic on him, hit an iceberg, and sink to the bottom of the ocean.  As long as he has a tummy full of Bircher’s Muesli, my husband is going down a happy man.

So, on Monday, it will be the 14th anniversary of my husband’s 29th birthday.  I’d love to make him some Bircher’s Muesli for breakfast on Monday morning, but the recipes for this dish are so varied!

If anyone has braved making this dish, I’d love to know your tried and true recipe.  I’d hate to have to book another cruise to help celebrate Jim’s birthday with his favorite meal.

Hey, wait a minute….