Monday, April 13, 2015

Out of hiking boots!

First, allow me to apologize for only writing one post in 2014...I got married.  And if you are married, you are well aware that a wedding CONSUMES your life for a long period of time before and even after the big day - which leads me to my current post about an incredible wedding gift that we received from one of our guests.

Last weekend (April 3-5) I created an "Out of Office" Reply for my business email account and The Simple Laugh was temporarily put on hold while my wife and I cashed in on a wedding gift for our one-year anniversary.  The gift was for two paid nights at The Cabins at Crabtree Falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  Mountains replaced Midlothian (my home office location), Scrabble replaced screen-printing, breweries replaced branding and geocaching replaced Geoprovisions - the adventure division of The Simple Laugh.  Time to take a break and escape!

Our stay was specifically gifted for "Annie's Cabin" - the oldest of The Cabins at Crabtree Falls.  Upon arrival, I read the following to my wife from a flyer left for us on our rustic kitchen table:  "This authentic Appalachian log cabin was built circa 1800, making it over 200 years old...It is built of native Chestnut logs and consists of one downstairs room, one upstairs room and a gas stove for heat....For nearly 175 years this tiny cabin served as the home for the Carr family...Annie was the last Carr family member to have lived in the house..."  The 2-page story about Annie's Cabin was really interesting and got both of us excited about our stay, until I read "...the friendly GHOST at Annie's..."  Okay, NOT excited about the "ghost" comment, so I had to sleep, or rather *try* to sleep, with a lit candle next to my bed each night...waiting for something to move.  My Mom always told me, "Be afraid of the living, not the dead."  Uh huh.  Tell that to Carol Ann and Rick Grimes!

[click on photos to enlarge]
Welcoming daylight, from which ghosts steer away, our outdoor adventure began as we simply made a right out of our driveway and continued for a short 1/4 mile to the trail head for Crabtree Falls - the largest vertical drop East of the Mississippi River with a total drop of 1,200 feet!  During our 1.7 mile/1-hour hike to the top, we encountered wooden stairs, gravel paths, railed overlooks and a spectacular 100-foot bridge over the Tye River.  We also noticed several warning signs to respect the path since 28 people have lost their lives.  On our hike down, we passed a tour bus load of people not taking the Falls seriously.  Uh, why are you tempting Mother Nature in your work flats from DSW?...It rained the previous night...ALL NIGHT!...The wooden stairs are "Pittsburgh SLIPPY" and the path is extremely muddy...You're definitely not wearing those shoes to work on Monday...That is, if you survive.  Is that a newborn baby in your front pack?...Were you unable to get a sitter, or is the baby there intentionally as a cushion in case you fall?  Uh, you might not want to let your little 2-year old run way ahead of you out of her bedazzled pink sneakers...They look really slippy.  And, you might not want to TEXT while you're walking...Put away your cell phone...there's not a signal for MILES even at the very top of the Falls.  *SIGH*...A stress-free weekend disconnected from technology, yet surrounded by idiots.

[click on photos to enlarge]
In the end, Crabtree Falls was definitely the highlight of the weekend, but it was also filled with adventures in geocaching, (which included a "Jeeps Only" geocache!), antiquing at Historical Salvage (where we found items for our family room renovation - a rustic fireplace mantel and reclaimed pocket doors), and the sampling of craft beer at two of the local breweries (Devil's Backbone and Wild Wolf Brewing Company).  Thank you, John Fox, for giving my wife and I quality time in the mountains and a very memorable 1st wedding anniversary!

[click on photos to enlarge]

Hopefully this post has inspired all of you to create an "Out of Office" reply soon and get away for a few days from your job.  Use the links above and plan a long weekend to this beautiful off-the-grid location!  And, leave your work shoes, newborn and cell phone at home.  Just promise to stay on the path ;)

Jodi Stiefvater - Owner
The Simple Laugh/Geoprovisions

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Meet the New Staff!

As both the promotional product side of the business (The Simple Laugh) and the geocaching web store side of the business (Geoprovisions) continue to grow, I decided to organize a team for assistance in the New Year.  My parents owned a restaurant in Pittsburgh and they hired cheap labor...US...the kids.  My two sisters and I participated in restaurant duties anywhere from doing dishes, prepping food, and bussing tables to packing empty beer bottles into boxes from the chute.  So, following in my parents' footsteps, I decided to do the same in bringing on the "kids".  After all, it *is* a family business.

Introducing the new staff for The Simple Laugh/Geoprovisions:

Biscuit - Inventory Manager

Responsibilities: Track both inventory levels of catalogs and samples for The Simple Laugh, as well as geocaching products for the Geoprovisions online store.  (A business degree is not required and neither are two front legs nor two ears.)

Restrictions:  Goods delivered by UPS/FEDEX will be received outside by the owner, in order to avoid *SQUIRRELS* and fast-moving vehicles that may cause more bodily damage.

Nestle - Accounting Manager

Responsibilities:  Maintain both accounts payable and receivable reports, as well as preparing monthly, quarterly and year-end reports.  Restraint in chewing the calculator is required.

Restrictions:  Frisbees are not permitted inside of the home office, and will not be thrown outside until the work day has ended.

Hershey - IT Manager

Responsibilities: Provide computer support by installing new software, repairing hardware problems, installing new hardware and troubleshooting problems.  Most importantly, ensure computer cables do not become disconnected while hiding under the desk on top of them.

Restrictions:  Power strip licking is forbidden.

Peanut - Shipping Manager

ResponsibilitiesEnsure smooth-running operations in the warehouse (attic), on the loading dock (front porch) and within the logistics office.

Restrictions: Sleeping on the shipping materials while on the job will not be tolerated.  On the other hand, we adopted her from the "hood" in Norfolk, named her "Queen Latifah-Shaniqua-Shanene-Peanut-Jones-Jackson" and we know that she will cut a b*tch, so we will allow it.

On behalf of The Simple Laugh/Geoprovisions Team, I wish all of you a healthy and happy New Year, and I thank you in advance for supporting my small family business in 2014 by keeping my four girls busy in their new positions!

~Jodi...Owner of The Simple Laugh/Geoprovisions and Full-Time Pet Sitter

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top 10 uses for your Flower Pot Mug

The Simple Laugh offers a unique terra cotta mug in the shape of a flower pot.  Here are the top ten ideas for using this creative mug:

10.  When there's a chill in the air, fill your mug with hot soup.  Or, you can serve gazpacho in your mug on a hot summer day.

9.  Put your flower pot mug in the guest bathroom as a conversation piece, and fill it with travel shampoo, toothpaste, fancy coffee soaps made from goat's milk (as seen in photo), and so forth for your guests.  They will come me.

8.  Dire times call for dire measures...if you run out of red Solo cups, why not pour beer into a chilled flower pot mugBut, please don't insult the mug with Natty Light.

7.  Insert something fun into your mug that coincides with a room's theme, for instance: fill the mug with pencils made from branches in a rustic room, perhaps called "Moose Lodge".

6.  Use your flower pot mug as a toothbrush holder.  9 out of 10 dentists recommend this idea.  (The 10th dentist didn't have a sense of humor.)

5.  Grow herbs in your mug!  In eighteen states, you can even legally grow marijuana for medical purposes in your mug.  Attention Washington and Colorado readers: you can grow wacky tobacky in your flower pot mug for recreational use as well.

4.  You are more than welcome to drink tea from your mug, even though the imprint reads: "Coffee Pot".  And, it doesn't have to be snotty British tea either.

3.  Grow flowers in your mug as an interesting addition to your garden.  Don't forget to include a thin layer of small rocks on the bottom of the mug for drainage prior to adding potting soil and the plant.

2.  Of course, get 14 ounces of caffeine by filling your mug with hot coffee and bring on the beans!

And, the number one use for your flower pot mug is to give as a gift!  Right now these exclusive mugs are currently on sale for only $4 each in celebration of Spring.  And The Simple Laugh offers a FREE upgrade to 2-Day Priority Shipping for all orders, so you still have time to surprise your Mom for Mother's Day!  To purchase, go to:

On a final artsy note...I gave my Mom a set of flower pot mugs a few years ago for Mother's Day, but I wanted to add my own personal touch.  So, I purchased ceramic paint pens from Michaels called "Porcelaine 150", which are durable, dishwasher safe, and permanent once baked.

I wrote a message to my Mom on the bottom of each mug, allowed them to dry for 24 hours, then baked them in the oven for 35 minutes at 300 degrees.  The next day I carefully wrapped each mug, especially the handle, and shipped them to my Mom in Pittsburgh.  Needless to say, she was quite surprised and loved them.  Hey, it's tough competing against your siblings on holidays, so stay unique, my friends!

~Jodi...owner of The Simple Laugh and Mom's favorite :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Simple Laugh Smiley Story

When I was younger, my parents owned a restaurant in Plum, PA - a suburb outside of Pittsburgh - called "The Plug 'n Piston" where the restaurant’s entire motif was actual automotive parts, as well as the menu item names. It was quite a unique family restaurant that gained much attention in the area, including many articles in the newspaper following visits by the "mystery diner", a few tapings on Pittsburgh's "Evening Magazine", and even a visit from the Exxon tiger (of Esso's slogan "Put a Tiger in Your Tank"). Not to mention, the filming of George Romero's "Creepshow" right down the street attracted the movie crew for many meals, along with a well-sealed jar of African roaches that were in the segment "They're Creeping Up On You". I'm glad that I was away at college during that visit!

Every day, my Dad would arrive at the restaurant by 6 AM, work the lunch rush, come home for a quick nap, return for the dinner hour (usually with a rubber chicken in his hand to entertain customers), then finally close the restaurant well past midnight. By the time my older sister, Beth, and I came home from school each day, my Dad was taking his well-deserved respite between the restaurant's lunch and dinner hours. At that time, we were assigned the dreaded chores, while my younger sister, Robin, practiced her A-B-Cs. Beth and I took turns performing the two most important daily chores: (1) shining my Dad's shoes; and, (2) putting double-sided adhesive tape onto my Dad's hairpiece (otherwise known to my Dad as his "rug"). Even though it was chore that did not require a lot of time nor skill, it was...well, gross since we had to remove the old, sweaty tape prior to replacing it with fresh tape. Eventually, my Dad noticed that I became a champ at spit-shining shoes, so I was relieved of "rug duty" and permanently put on shoe shine duty. What a fortunate talent that came in handy, well noticed during inspections when I joined the Army later in life.

When I launched my business in 2009, I wanted an icon within the company logo to have a huge smile, since I've always believed that my purpose in life was to make people laugh. I sketched a few ideas and made a conscious effort not to draw a head similar to the beret-wearing "Jake" associated with "Life is Good". One idea was a fun, round smiley wearing a baseball cap, but then I heard my Grandma's voice in my head saying, "Take that hat off! You're going to be bald like your father someday." With that said, I erased the ball cap and replaced it with my Dad's hairpiece. How appropriate since my Dad was the definition of laughter! I remember riding roller coasters at Kennywood Park with my Dad (even though he was not permitted due to his heart condition) and he would wave his hairpiece in the air while speeding down spine-tingling drops. And so, the secret is out...the smiley within my company logo represents pure fun and my Dad's rug, riding the wave as the tape did not hold down the Jack Rabbit's 70-foot, double-dip drop!

In the end, my Dad's entrepreneurial spirit lives within me through "The Simple Laugh", and this is my way of giving back to him, especially today as I tell this story on his birthday. I lost my Dad in 2002 to heart disease. He was only 61 years old.  What I wouldn't give to be on "rug duty" just one more time.

Happy birthday, Dad!
All of my love,
~The "son" you always wanted...Jodi

Bottoms of the "Tequila Jo's" Pint Glasses
deep-etched with the company smiley.
For more details, go to:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sights of Summer

It seems like yesterday that a crew showed up at our home ready to powerwash and stain our entire house and deck. It was May 5th, so I greeted the Hispanic crew with "¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!" It was like a scene out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon when there was nothing but silence and crickets. With that, the crew dispersed, pulled equipment out of their truck and started to powerwash our cedar home. In the meantime, I grabbed a cup of coffee and walked upstairs to my home office. It never occurred to me that water may get under the single-pane windows in our older country home, until...I found water all over my desk, company paperwork and my unluckily opened organizer. A little warning would have been nice! Perhaps they were a little disgruntled by my Mexican-heritage-celebration-greeting since I learned later from their boss that they were, in fact, from El Salvador not Mexico, and El Salvadorians do not get along with Mexicans. My bad, amigos. But thank you for the close-up sight outside of my office window when you painted the window frames the next day.

It seems like yesterday that it was June when my fiancé and I wanted to have some part in our kitchen renovation, so we started tackling the walls right away. And, what conveyed when we bought this country home two years ago? Wallpaper, of course! Unlike the other wallpapered rooms, the kitchen was extra special since it had THREE layers of wallpaper. The "copper pot" border and the plaid wallpaper were both easily removed with a warm water/fabric softener cocktail. But, the surprise sight of "strawberry" wallpaper underneath the other two layers was not so easy. It's as if the house was built around this layer of wallpaper! The glue must have been applied during The Last Supper because it wasn't going anywhere - unless it took the drywall with it, and, in fact, it did. We patched and sanded all of these areas prior to painting, but it was nothing like the area we had to patch when we removed the ceiling light. Who cuts a large, rectangular hole into a kitchen ceiling to install a workshop light? Obviously, the previous owners.

It seems like yesterday that the new countertop, ceramic tile floor and stainless steel appliances were finally installed in July. I found myself with the contractors quite a bit to ensure quality work, so this was an opportune time for me to take some photos of the guys. Of course, I had to get a shot of the plumber low-crawling under the dishwasher. Unfortunately, he pulled up his shorts right before I took the shot, so the infamous "plumber crack" is not visible. I apologize. And, what's up with the knee pads? Did he have a volleyball match after work? 

And finally, it seems like yesterday that our home renovations for the summer of 2011 came to an end as we packed up for a much-needed vacation at the beach in August. We rented a home for a week on the 4x4 only Carova Beach in North Carolina ( “North Cackalacky”). However on the third day, Hurricane Irene forced evacuations along the East coast. We tried to wait it out and push the envelope as long as could, but we finally gave into the mandatory evacuation by day four when: (1) we noticed that the beach was empty; (2) the only vehicles traveling on the beach were trucks carrying plywood for boarding up homes; (3) the Sheriff pulled his truck right up to us as we were walking along the surf and told us to evacuate immediately; and, (4) county officials came to our beach house to make sure that we were packing and leaving the area away right. Geez. Oh, and the fun wasn’t over! We came home to find ourselves without power due to the hurricane. In the dark for almost a week…not a pretty sight at all.

Well, those were my very own “sights of summer”. Now, if you excuse me, I would like to close my eyes and recall my favorite sight of the summer...


Hold on! It's fall now, so I would like to switch out my beer for an Appletini.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In honor of Mr. Sam Vitelli

The first day of April marked the 100th birthday for my Grandpap Sam. A centenarian on April Fool's Day...Seriously?...Seriously. Since I live a few states away (and Grandpap has enough slippers to open his own slipper store), I wanted to do something special for him long distance. My Mother gave me the idea of somehow getting at least 100 birthday cards sent to him at the health center where he lives - otherwise known as "the jail", in my Grandpap's own words. [As far as I know, jails don't offer gourmet meals, special events and cute nurses!] I posted my Mother's idea right away on my Facebook page for all of my friends to see, while my sister did the same on her page. Excited responses started pouring in from all of our friends and the cards were on their way to my the jailhouse.

In the meantime, a friend gave me a couple of other ideas for my Grandpap's 100th birthday celebration: (1) request a birthday greeting from the President; and, (2) have Willard Scott announce his birthday on the TODAY Show. Without hesitation, I was on the phone submitting a request via my congressman for the birthday greeting from the President. It was only two weeks before my Grandpap's birthday and I was well aware that "requests should be received at least six weeks in advance of the event date". But, I still wanted Grandpap to eventually receive the greeting from El Presidente!

Then, I went to work on my email request to Willard Scott for the on-air announcement on the "Smuckers" segment of the TODAY Show. Once again, I learned that I was behind schedule since requests should be received approximately four weeks in advance, but I still wanted to give Grandpap a shot at his 10 seconds of fame on the air. In accordance with the instructions, I submitted: my Grandpap's name, date of birth (of course, this might be helpful), mailing address (1 Prison Lane), etc., along with a recent photo (no black-and-whites from 1911) and "anything interesting about the celebrant". Without a doubt, I thought the most interesting thing about my Grandpap was the fact that he played both the trumpet and trombone in a big band for many years. I remember staying with my grandparents on weekends and Grandpap sitting there at the dinner table with a maroon velveteen jacket, white ruffled shirt, and "Sam" embroidered above the left chest pocket. I stared at my Grandpap and I was so proud knowing that he was a musician, while other grandfathers were most likely sitting at home in their LazyBoy recliners reading the newspaper. So, I hoped and prayed that my Grandpap's interesting fact was enough to get him on the show even if the submission was two weeks behind.

On the morning of Grandpap's birthday at 0830, I tuned into the TODAY Show anxiously waiting for Willard Scott's birthday announcements. One "white-top", two "white-top", three "white-top", four 'white-top", then the jelly segment ended. That's it?...only four birthday announcements?! C'mon Willard! I know that you're busy playing shuffle board at your off-site location in Florida, but you couldn't have squeezed my Grandpap in the announcements?! Perhaps next year...if Grandpap hasn't checked out of the jail. Until then, I'm sending both of my requests to the White House and Willard Scott 48 weeks in advance!

In the end, my Grandpap received a total of 107 birthday cards - seven over our goal of 100! This included a very nice congratulatory letter from Willard Scott and the last item received as #107 was an official White House greeting signed by the President and Mrs. Obama - most likely a stamp, but very much appreciated. My Mother hung every item received on the wall in Grandpap's room (jail cell) to remind him of how much he is loved...thanks to everyone.

My sister and I want to thank each and everyone of you who helped make my Grandpap's 100th birthday so memorable! Hmmm...I wonder if my niece and nephew snuck a file into Grandpap's cake so he could escape from the jail?

Grandpap Sam's favorite grandchild,
Jodi...owner of The Simple Laugh (a trendy web store that does not sell slippers)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Remember November

The spirit of Halloween is back in its grave and our costumes were put away after a memorable night out in the city. The Cub Scout uniform and the Scooby Doo outfit can be found neatly tucked away in an orange bin with a black lid. Color-coded organization. That's how I roll with synesthesia. It's all about color.

The following day we found ourselves at Old Navy. My fiance was looking for new Fall clothes for work, while I found myself uninterested in searching for work-from-home digs. There is no need to impress the dog, the cat, and the UPS man with pressed khakis and a button-down shirt each day. While creating unique products for The Simple Laugh, it's important to remember: comfort promotes creativity! With that in mind, I browsed through cozy pants and other be-your-own-boss clothes, when all of a sudden "Feliz Navidad" came piping through the store's sound system. NO!! It seemed like yesterday that I was just watching the Shrek Halloween special on TV, "Scared Shrekless". I can still see Gingy shooting jelly beans out of his bottom cookie.

What about Thanksgiving? What about the Pilgrims, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the turkey (or the "tofurky", in my vegan fiance's case)? What about Joey Tribbiani wearing Phoebe's maternity pants? What about the traditional Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions football games? With 2-7 records respectivley at this time, the turkey won't be the only thing suffering that day! And, what about Adam Sandler's "Thanksgiving Song"? Why isn't that song played in retail stores during the month of November?

Give us time to give thanks!

Now, I have to figure out what I'm wearing to the "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Winter Tour" performance in two days...while the first day of winter isn't for 38 more days. I might need to go back to Old Navy. In the words of Dr. Jack Shephard from "LOST"..."We have to go back! We have to go back!"

I guess I'd better prepare myself for more holiday jingles. Feliz Navidad.