Shopping: The agony and the ecstasy

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I’ve been diligently couponing for the past few months. But let me tell you, not every day is like an “Extreme Couponing” episode.

In fact, most days are definitely not. But I am saving a lot of money when I match coupons up to store sales, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to shopping blindly again. I pay a lot closer attention to emails I receive from stores and brands now, as well as couponing blogs that take the guesswork out of smart shopping.

The regular prices for the Cheerios and Maybelline mascara alone would've cost me more than I paid for this entire order yesterday./All photos by Ava Gacser

Take my trip to ShopRite yesterday morning. I scored 4 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios (12.25 oz), 2 Lysol toilet bowl cleaners, 3 Suave deodorants, 2 Maybelline Great Lash mascaras, 1 bag of chips, and 3 newspapers for just $21.13 after coupons! And that’s not counting a $2 Catalina coupon I received upon checkout for a future order!

From there I went to yoga and then to Wegmans, where I was super pleased to run into these fellas:

Now appearing at your local supermarket: The brothers Manzo!

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“The Real Housewives of New Jersey”: Bringing on the crazy

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The first ladies of the Garden State – that would be Teresa Giudice, Caroline Manzo, Jacqueline Laurita and, oh yes, Danielle Staub – have been all over the place in the past few weeks. Have they been in your neighborhood?

Gee, I wonder where Danielle could be?/Photo credit New York Daily News

“I know crazy when I’m looking at it” – Caroline on Danielle

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“The Real Housewives of New Jersey”: Eat, talk about Danielle, repeat

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What places have “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” – aka Jacqueline Laurita, Caroline Manzo, Teresa Giudice, Dina Manzo and yes, Danielle Staub – been visiting lately? Keep reading!

It's going to be strange not seeing Dina around anymore./Photo credit the New York Daily News

“She’s like parsley. She’s everywhere.” – Caroline on Danielle

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“The Real Housewives of New Jersey” are back!

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What have “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” been up to since the second season began?

A whole lot, that’s for sure! Keep reading for a full account of the faces and places Teresa Giudice, Jacqueline Laurita, Dina and Caroline Manzo, and – oh, yes – Danielle Staub have encountered since the series returned.

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The REAL “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and “New York City”

Just how real are “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and “New York City”? Pretty darn real, judging an appearance last night by four of the ladies – Teresa Giudice and Caroline Manzo from the Garden State, and Jill Zarin and Alex McCord from the Big Apple – in Englewood, N.J.

Jill Zarin, from left, Alex McCord, host Gino Bisconte, Teresa Giudice and Caroline Manzo. Sorry for the crappy picture, but it's the best I could do with my cell phone. If anyone has better images, please email me at ava@avagacser.com. I will gladly give you credit for them.

Jill Zarin, from left, Alex McCord, host Geno Bisconte, Teresa Giudice and Caroline Manzo. Sorry for the crappy picture, but it's the best I could do with my cell phone. If anyone has better images, please email me at ava@avagacser.com. I will gladly give you credit for them.

Teresa appeared self-conscious, although I thought she looked gorgeous in a crystal (Swarovski?) sleeveless dress that shimmered like crazy under Bergen PAC’s lights.

“I don’t think I look good,” she admitted at one point. “I still have a stomach.”

Considering Teresa just had her fourth daughter, Audriana, barely five weeks ago, I thought she looked – dare I say it? – FABULOUS!!!

Clearly, the woman has a skewed vision of reality – and Caroline thought so, too, because this is what she said:

“(Teresa) was complaining she put on a size 6 jeans the day after the baby was born.”

“I’m a size 4,” Teresa explained.

Not surprisingly, Teresa referred to her husband Joe – the owner of  G&G Stucco and Stone in Clifton – as “delicious and juicy,” though a little on the plump side.

“I told him he could lose a few pounds,” she added. “(I said) ‘Hon, we were pregnant together.'”

In additional baby Audriana news, Teresa said her older girls – Gia, 8, Gabriella, 5, and Milania, 3 – love the new addition.

“(Milania) squeezes her so hard and kisses her so much all over,” she said. “They’re being like little mommies.”

Unlike her parents, baby Audriana has blue eyes, and “everybody’s saying she looks just like Gabriella,” said Teresa.

One attendee asked Teresa if Star Magazine was correct in reporting that she paid $25,000 for a 5th birthday party for (I’m guessing) daughter Gabriella. She didn’t answer the question directly and said fans would have to wait until the next season to find out.

     Teresa, far right, revealed that the purple (amethyst?) necklace she wore above at the reunion actually belongs to Caroline, who bought it at Neiman Marcus. "Teresa is a jewelry whore," Caroline added./Credit Bravo

Teresa, far right, revealed that the purple (amethyst?) necklace she wore above at the reunion actually belongs to Caroline, who bought it at Neiman Marcus. "Teresa is a jewelry whore," Caroline added./Credit Bravo

Additional tidbits I learned last night:

*Jill, Alex and Teresa all have books coming out. Jill, who is a spokeswoman for Kodak, has a book called “Secrets of a Jewish Mother” that she co-wrote with her mother and sister; Amazon.com lists it as releasing April 15. Alex’s book, “Little Kids, Big City,” is scheduled for release on March 31. While Teresa offered no details on her book, Amazon lists it as “Skinny Jeans and Spaghetti,” with a release date of May 4.

*There is a feud going on between Teresa and “Real Housewife of New York City” Bethenny Frankel. “I know Bethenny hates me, and I don’t care,” said Teresa. Turning to Alex and Jill, she added, “You guys can relay the message.”

*Teresa purchases her children’s clothing at Stage Left in Franklin Lakes.

*Caroline loves living in New Jersey because “everything is just a blink away.” Jill loves the fact that “there’s no sales tax on clothes” in the Garden State.

*Caroline’s daughter Lauren is a freelance makeup artist. “I went to beauty school, and I wax backs,” Lauren revealed. She still will not go anywhere near chuckies, though. (Lauren’s brother, Albie, was also in attendance and received a lot of female attention.)

*After flipping over the table at Lu Nello in Cedar Grove, Teresa said to Joe, “Hon, leave some money. I broke dishes.”

*Caroline acknowledged that she doesn’t take her wealth for granted. “You never forget where you come from,” she said, explaining that she wore her husband’s shirts when she was pregnant because they couldn’t afford maternity clothes. “Tomorrow it could be all gone; it’s just stuff,” she added.

*While Jill and Alex couldn’t talk specifics about the new season, Jill said “I am so excited to have new blood” on the show.

*Jill spoke briefly about her encounter this summer with “Jon & Kate Plus 8” dad Jon Gosselin. “He was quite charming,” she admitted. She said she had no idea that Jon – who she described as being from “that crazy show with that crazy wife” – was also an invited guest to the same dinner party until she arrived and saw him and Michael Lohan.

*Caroline said she had a gut feeling that she should keep fellow “Housewife” Danielle Staub at a distance, even though she admitted that it was her own sister, Dina Manzo, who came up with the idea of getting Danielle on the show. “Why don’t we get the crazy girl from the salon (to be on the show)?” Teresa recalled Dina saying she told Jacqueline Laurita. “Let’s see how crazy she is.”

*Bravo has not announced when either the third season of “New York City” or the second season of “New Jersey” will return, although both are in production.

*The event was hosted/moderated by comedian Geno Bisconte.

You can get an idea of what last night was like from this video. In the meantime, you have another opportunity to see four of the five New Jersey housewives – Dina, Caroline, Jacqueline and Teresa (no Danielle!) – at The Wellmont Theatre in Montclair on Saturday, Nov. 7. Tickets are still available.

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