About Jessika Toothman

Jessika has traveled to 47 of the 48 continental United States -- New Mexico, you're the big holdout. Of course, it's helped that she's lived all across the U.S. -- in Washington, New York, Wisconsin, Colorado and her current digs, Atlanta. She earned two undergraduate degrees from Georgia State University, one of which was in print journalism. Besides being a staff writer for HowStuffWorks.com, Jessika enjoys painting, expanding her vegetarian recipe repertoire and spending afternoons by the pool. She's also a junkie for modern American literature, although she takes in a nonfiction book as often as she can tear herself away. You can find Jessika on Twitter at @HowtoStuffHSW and on Facebook at the official How-to Stuff page.

Most Recent: Jessika Toothman Postings

So a few weeks ago, weirdly, I had a grand mal seizure. It was not so fun. I had just gotten home from work, felt a bit peckish, and went to heat up some SpaghettiOs. After I finished slurping down my toasty bowl of childish-noodle goodness, I went to the kitchen to clean up. That is the very last thing I remember for the next 10 minutes. In the interim, I had a major seizure that could have had serious consequences. More about the aftermath here…

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Like most everyone, there are things in life that make me nervous; frighten me even. But there are a rare couple of things that in my case are severe phobias. One of them? Deep water; a condition frequently referred to as bathophobia. See when I was a kid, around six or seven, I took diving lessons. And at one of those lessons, I — apparently, a pretty terrible diver — hit my head on the diving board when it was my turn to go, got knocked out, and regained consciousness after I’d sunk almost to the bottom of the deep end of the pool. I had to swivel sticks up like a crazy pants to get air in time to not drown. (Um, Diving Instructors? Other Lifeguards? Where were you guys? I still wonder…) Anyway, after that, water past a certain — and very shallow — depth has provoked nothing less than pure terror in me. So during my vacation last week to Grand Cayman in the Caribbean, my fierce wish to spend an hour swimming with dolphins presented something of a conundrum. After the jump — how I pulled it off.

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Now I’m not going to necessarily advocate the stance that a vacation must follow a rigorous itinerary — we stayed at a fancy resort for three days during our vacation largely lounging at the beach and the pool, after all, and it was fantastically relaxing to just kick back and not have to follow any schedule apart from that which our own levels of laziness dictated — but there is something to be said for doing some mapping out in advance. More after the jump.

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So. I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, I’m sorry, I know, but that was because the preparations for my two-week-across-the-world-mega-trip were approaching the home stretch and in serious crunch mode, making my regular stress levels soar to round the clock fight or flight type freak-out mode, and something had to give. Happily, all those efforts paid off, and the trip was amazing. Apart from the fantastic ruins, fast foreign cars, delicious food, glorious sunsets, sun-soaked beaches and many other captivating sights, I also came away with several interesting travel insights. The first? How to get the first tray of food on an airplane.

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I recently “inherited” a terracotta army, unfortunately not of the ancient warrior persuasion. (How cool would it be to have a few of those as yard ornaments? Really says: “Stay off the lawn!” like you mean it.) But no, this troop of terracotta is of the standard garden pot variety, in a wide range of shapes and sizes. So while I love to garden — and won’t turn down free stuff lightly — this slightly worse-for-the-wear collection was a little drab for my taste and I decided to take some time to pretty them up.

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Last week, I attempted to make my first lasagna. No particular reason I’d never tried to scare up a lasagna from scratch before, it had just never really crossed my mind. I was short on kitchen staff during the majority of the process, but I did have some preflight assistance. Unfortunately, much of that helpful chopping went largely forgotten after the Great Noodle Screw-up of 2011 went down. More after the jump.

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I recently mowed through the Emma Donoghue novel “Room” in all of two days, and although it warped my brain a little bit during that short time (as all intensely narrated books tend to do) I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Viewing the world through the eyes of other adults is interesting, but viewing it through the eyes of a child is fascinating, in my opinion. Reading it reminded me of another book I read years ago — “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” — which is told from the first person perspective of a teenage boy on the autism spectrum. In both cases, children were called on to go above and beyond what most of us ever had to face growing up, and that inspired me to ponder what it takes to summon that level of bravery.

Discovery Communications, LLC (as our parent company prefers to be formally known) is all about employee and community enrichment stuff. Which is awesome. But, it also often entails additional *work* for us employees. Last week, for example, we participated in our annual Discover Your Impact Day, during which thousands of us headed out of the office to perform some volunteer goodness. (And by goodness I mean intense manual labor.) In my case, that time was spent sprucing up a local park … Hit the jump to hear about it.

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I love spending time outside, so in the interest of not roasting my brains out this summer now that I’m sans-apartment-complex-pool, I decided to get a little aboveground pool for the yard. It’s about 10 feet across and 2 feet high. I got it filled up last night and it’s perfect for lounging in (but not for diving in! heed the warning, people, or your neck might explode!) and I’m really looking forward to spending hot afternoons hanging out in it. Question now is — how to keep it clean.

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The fierce battle waged between the cat people and the dog people of the world kind of stuns me. I’m not a huge fan of most dogs (I like medium, fluffy and quiet, that’s it). And, having also “owned” cats, I have to say — I’m not a huge fan of them either. I only truly enjoy cats in one particular compartment of my life: on my computer screen doing adorable or nutty things like riding Roombas, sleeping in bizarre contortions and acting like ninjas. My cats do none of these things, and are routinely boring/bossy with few exceptions. But this is the illustrated saga of one of those exceptions. My cat Pilar loves to go on walks with me. Hit the jump to hear more …

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