A legend arose in Ireland years ago of a ne’er-do-well named Stingy Jack. He was a manipulative, corrupt human being, who, when confronted by Satan, managed to capture the Devil, ensnared as a silver coin in his pocket for ten years. After Jack eventually passed away, he was denied access to heaven, owing to all his misdeeds. Hell did not take him either, as he had tricked Satan. Instead, he was cursed to wander the Earth, caught in a plane of existence between the worlds of good and evil, his path illuminated by a hollowed out rutabaga that contained a single ember. His myth became known as Jack of the Lantern… from which we now have our tradition of the Jack-O’-Lantern, (via Wikipedia).

For eight years, Wagner Farm Arboretum in Warren, New Jersey, has hosted Brite Nites, a special event where the gardens of the farm are filled with elaborate carved pumpkins for visitors to admire. In addition, the barn holds a haunted house, there are food trucks on site, or you can just pick up a cup of hot coca or apple cider to warm yourself as you stroll through the farm on a cool autumn evening. My wife spotted ads for this event online, so on a cold Friday evening in mid-October, we set off to explore this spooky jack-o’-lantern spectacular, and get ourselves in the mood for Halloween!

Before we begin, however, some updates are in order:

Updates, Automotive and Otherwise

Oil, Oil Everywhere

2012 Honda Accord coupe parked in service drive of Keenan Honda.
When I brought the Accord in for an oil change a few weeks ago, I had a small sample of the car’s used oil poured into a small test tube and mailed to Blackstone Laboratories, an Indiana-based company that provides an analysis of your vehicle’s engine based on the properties of its used motor oil.
Copy of Blackstone Laboratories Oil Report, with oil analysis both in numbers and in words under comment section.
A few weeks later, I received an email from Blackstone Labs that had the results. I especially loved some of the comments in the report: “This Accord is wearing a lot like a Honda, which is to say very nicely… Whatever you’re doing to make this engine so happy, just keep it up… Impressive first report at 139,286 miles.” Needless to say, the Accord has a lot of life left in it.
White 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, parked in front of a white picket fence.
Speaking of oil… less happy news was the discovery of oil on the floor of our garage. At first, I assumed it was the Accord, given its age and mileage, but a trip to the mechanic assured me that its engine was dry. Instead, it was the Jeep that was suffering a significant oil leak from the oil filter housing, which connects the oil filter to the engine block. Formerly made of metal, Jeep switched to a plastic housing in 2014, and other owners have reported similar issues. Fortunately, my wife has the extended warranty for the Jeep, so aside from the vehicle being left at the dealer for several days to be repaired, it wasn’t painful for our checkbook. Apparently the faulty design has been addressed with the replacement part, but I’ll keep an eye on it.

Boozy Cupcakes

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in front of strip mall. Sign above door says RAY'S BOOZY CUPCAKES ETC. BAKERY.
Recently, the CBS Sunday Morning show featured a profile of Ray Boutwell, a 93-year old who, bored in retirement, decided to do something different… he opened a cupcake bakery! Upon discovering that the bakery is located in the town where I grew up (Voorhees, NJ), my wife and I made plans to detour there on a recent trip to South Jersey.
Shelves full of cupcakes with signs for FIREBALL KAHLUA CAPPUCCINO, and others.
Ray’s secret ingredient? As the name of his store says… alcohol! Among the cupcakes were the Tequila Sunrise, Fireball, Pina Colada, and Kahlua Cappuccino.
Strawberry Banana Daquiri and Pina Colada cupcakes.
To finance his venture, Ray mortgaged his house and liquidated his savings, much to the alarm of his family. In his words: “But what the hell is money? Money is nothing.” Is this cupcake bakery his crowning achievement? Nope! As he relayed to CBS, his next plan is for an ice cream shop. Stay tuned!

You can watch the original segment on Ray here:

Brite Nites

Map of New Jersey with a red pin in location of Wagner Farm Arboretum Foundation.
Located only an hour west of New York City, Wagner Farm Arboretum is nestled in the hilly countryside of northeastern New Jersey.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in front of Turf N Surf Burger Grill.
Our first stop in Warren was dinner, at Turf N’ Surf Burger Grill. The online reviews were promising, and so we looked forward to chowing down!
Counter, with chalkboard menu hanging behind counter, in restaurant.
There is no menu – simply work your way from left to right on the chalkboard behind the counter. Select your meat, choose how you’d like it to be served (on a bun, a salad, or a bed of rice), and then choose your toppings. I had an angus beef burger served on a brioche bun, while my wife ordered grilled shrimp on brown rice with a side of veggies. While the staff were friendly, the experience was disappointing: the french fries we ordered to share came out first, followed by my burger five minutes later, and then my wife’s order didn’t arrive until almost ten minutes after that. In addition, the meal was quite pricy. The food was tasty, but I don’t think I’d return anytime soon.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in field at dusk.
Wagner Farm Arboretum was only a short, fifteen minute drive from the restaurant. When I purchased tickets, I noticed that the parking is in a large, unpaved field. We had significant rains a few days prior, so we left the Accord at home in favor of the Jeep’s all-wheel drive capabilities.
Silos in field at Wagner Farm, with floodlights illuminating the area around it.
Founded in 2004 on what was formerly the Wagner Dairy Farm, the Arboretum is now preserved land that is used as an educational institution, teaching people of all ages about the importance of conservation and environmental awareness.
Stand of Pumpkins with sign carved into pumpkins saying BRITE NITES and logos for sponsors carved into other pumpkins.
After winding our way through a seemingly endless rope line, we were able to enter. Countless pumpkins, stretching for as far as the eye could see, were carved and on display.
Logos of sponsors carved into pumpkins, including Lions Club, Warren Family Dental, Wells Fargo, and Lions Expo.
Even the sponsors had their logos carved into pumpkins!
M and M candies carved into pumpkins
The level of detail of the pumpkins was fantastic.
Two pumpkins one carved with a black cat, the other with the Pi symbol.
Are you in the mood for Halloween yet? Keep scrolling for some more inspiration!
Pumpkins carved into a koi pond.
How about a pumpkin koi pond?
Twelve pumpkins in three rows of four, with butterflies and flowers carved into them.
We stopped by the butterfly garden…
Tyrannosaurs Rex made of pumpkins.
…a Tyrannosaurus Rex made of pumpkins (Pumpkinsaurus Rex?)…
Monkey standing in a tree, all made of pumpkins.
…and hung out with this monkey in a pumpkin jungle.
Dragon made of pumpkins.
“Dracarys.” Game of Thrones fans rejoice. They even had a jack-o’-lantern dragon (which occasionally blew smoke).
Pumpkins with Harry Potter characters and logos including Dobby, Dumbledore, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
“I solemnly swear I am up to no good.” The Harry Potter universe was well represented.
Treetop from Alice in Wonderland, with different animals and a Cheshire cat in the tree.
Alice in Wonderland had a large display telling much of the story (“Off with her head!”). Can you spot the Cheshire cat in the treetop?
UFO made of pumpkins, with sign on ground (carved into pumpkins) that says AREA 51.
We even had evidence of alien life. As The X-Files would have said: “The truth is out there.”
Pirate ship made of Pumpkins
“This is the day you will always remember as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow…” The Pirates of the Caribbean sailed into the pumpkin patch.
Statue of Liberty with New York Skyline, all carved from pumpkins.
To quote Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, this display had me in an Empire State of Mind.
Skeletons playing instruments, carved out of pumpkins.
Speaking of music, the skeleton band was playing some great tunes.
Three pumpkins, carved BOO with a traditional jack-o'-lantern in the background.
This was appropriately stationed near the walk to the haunted barn as we exited the jack-o’-lantern display. Overall, it was a really fun night!
Jeep Grand Cherokee odometer reading 41654 MI.
We arrived home after a fun, if chilly, evening. While the Accord has recently crossed the 141,000 mile mark, the Jeep is accumulating its own mileage, as it now has its sights set on the 50,000 mark. Hopefully, the oil filter housing repair will be the only hiccup on the way to that milestone!

If you’re looking for a stroll through the most elaborate pumpkin patch you’ve ever seen, Brite Nites at Wagner Farm Arboretum runs every weekend evening from October 11 through October 27 of this year. Entries are timed every 45 minutes between 6:45 and 8:15 pm, and it is highly recommend to purchase your tickets in advance (we purchased ours online and saved them to my phone, which greatly simplified our experience entering the event). On the other hand, if you’re in the mood for some delicious, decadent desserts, Ray’s Boozy Cupcakes is open Tuesday through Friday from 7:00 am – 8:00 pm, Saturday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm, and Sunday from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.

Thanks for coming along for this spooky journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.




2 thoughts on “Jack-O’-Lantern

  1. I learned a few things here and enjoyed the background on Jack! Cool stuff – and the artistic skill exemplified in the design of those pumpkins is incredible. I haven’t done any decorating yet this year aside from putting a skeleton at the kitchen counter stool. I’ll take a Fireball cupcake, please!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s