Tag Archives: shopping

The Impostor at Trader Joe’s

22 May

Image

I think we can all admit that at some point in our lives, we’ve felt like frauds; impostors who don’t fit in, and who though surrounded by people, are totally alone. We worry that if our secret were to get out, the jig would be up and everybody would finally see that we really don’t know what we’re doing after all. We can feel like this at work, at school, at parties, in church, at book club, browsing art galleries or anywhere sports is involved. I’ve felt it in all of those places; but for sure, I’ve felt like an impostor every time I’ve stepped into Trader Joe’s.

If you’ve not been to a Trader Joe’s market, it’s a dazzling almost choreographed circus of grocery shopping. The atmosphere is festive and tropical. The employees are friendly, chatty, and seem happy to be there, wearing casual tropical tees and box cutters on their belts. It feels like everybody else, customers and employees alike, know each other, though rationally, I’m fully aware they don’t.

Trader Joe’s is not a chicly curated organic grocery experience stylized to placate the most discerning hipsters or foodies or hipster foodies. The chain has been around since the 50’s and the customers are diverse in every way, and from what I’ve seen, utterly devoted to the place. Our closest Trader Joe’s has a line of cars that stretch for a block waiting to get into the little parking lot that is overseen by a lovely lady charged with managing all those Subarus, and pointing out the parking places, and then smiling and waving goodbye to you as leave. This morning I saw a guy peddling away from the store on a bicycle modified with so many grocery holding attachments, I was worried that once he got going down a San Francisco hill, the weight of his loot would not allow him to stop.

Guys or gals, old or young, artsy or corporate or retired, every customer to me looks like they know what they are doing. I’ve been there countless times and continue to have so many questions. “What’s bulgur? Is this healthy? Or at least healthier than other stuff I buy? Is it obvious how hard I’m having to think right now? These other people don’t look like they are thinking at all. Are they on to me? I can’t stand out that much; I’m dressed casually, but not too casually; I have a well-worn Trader Joe’s disposable shopping bag. I’m here at 10:00 am with all of these other people. And by the way, how are so many of us out on a school day?”

I’ve done my fair share of grocery shopping both as an adult learning to read labels, look for bargains, and control myself in the potato chip aisle; and as a kid when already long grocery runs with my mom were inevitably lengthened by the fact that she seemed to know and chat with everyone in the store.

At Trader Joe’s, my old crutches have been stripped away – I don’t see most of the brand name items I’ve used all my life, or at least heard of all my life; or if we’re being honest, the ones for which I have seen the commercials 39,003 times. And with so few of the brands I’ve come to rely on, there I am facing all kinds of new and mysterious stuff I’ve blissfully ignored, until now.

Where I miss my Raisin Bran Crunch, there, somehow is a jar of Hearts of Palm. I can’t find a Pepsi, but I do see Kefir. What’s Kefir? Do I need this? What do I do with it? (And this is from a girl who spends A LOT of time on Pinterest.) I’m reminded aisle after aisle about just how little I really know about food. And maybe about life.

I grip my cart tightly and grab a bag of Olive Oil Popcorn (delicious) and Triple Ginger Snaps (super delicious), tomatoes, and a 10 lb. loaf of bread. I’m confident with my familiar choices, but I know they are pedestrian. I feel certain that if you asked any of my fellow shoppers about Alkaline Water or Yacon Syrup, they could tell you what it is and how to use it. I see the Cold Brew Coffee, Speculoos Cookie Butter, Chia everything, and Pomegranate Vinegar, but walk away defeated. The store’s circular, The Fearless Flyer, probably explains it all, but perhaps I’m not fearless enough of a flyer to read it.

I wrap up my trip where I feel most at ease, in the frozen foods aisle surrounded by little frozen pizzas and hot dog pastries, tiny tacos, small dumplings, adorable chicken pot pies, mini meatballs, itty bitty feta bites, and not-so-little samosas. I’ve been known to put all of these appetizers together to create one global mish mash of a meal that requires multiple oven temperatures, and wildly different cooking times, illustrating to me that these items were not meant to be prepared for the same meal, let alone as the entire meal. (The adorable little things in very similar boxes can take anywhere from 12 minutes to 55 minutes to cook, which results in a two-hour, sweaty, math heavy, “no fuss” meal.)

Recently, I left my comfort zone and bought coconut oil, which according to the folks on Pinterest, is the most amazing product of our time. While, I haven’t had the guts to smear it through my hair as a conditioner, or across my skin as a moisturizer as suggested, I have taken the leap with a Pinterest recipe and created a delightful little snack that is reminiscent of fudge. A HEALTHY (?) SNACK THAT IS LIKE PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE!

Maybe I’ll tell my fellow shoppers about my coconut oil success next time I’m at Trader Joe’s, which might score me an invite me to one of their customer club meetings.

 

For you recipe fiends out there, here’s a variation of the oft copied recipe that’s floating around Pinterest: Take 3 Tbs peanut butter, 3 Tbs coconut oil, a teensy dash of sea salt and a squeeze of honey. Mix it up. I pour it over a wax paper lined pie plate, and toss it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Then you crack it apart with a knife, throw the uneven pieces in a freezer bag, and eat it whenever you want. Although yes, it reminds me of FUDGE, just a couple of pieces of this stuff makes for a delicious, guilt free, and filling snack.

 

Find me on Twitter @FulcrumChron and on Instagram @ColleenWeems

 

Image

sunrise

13 Oct

Two nights ago, I posted this as my Facebook status update:

“I drank an Orange Julius today. It tasted like 1983.”

Without mentioning anything about where exactly I drank that Orange Julius in 1983, a slough of people tapped into exactly what I had been thinking about all day: Sunrise Mall.

Maybe you had a Sunrise Mall. Maybe your Sunrise Mall was Sunrise Mall. John’s was Magic Valley Mall, and his eyes gleam as he waxes poetic about being dropped off there on a Sunday with a pocketful of quarters. But the mall – your mall, my mall – was a special, magical place. Especially if you were lucky enough to be a patron in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Kids weren’t looking for $300 handbags or hitting each other over the head for $200 shoes. It was big big, epically big hair and Pac Man and Orange Julius. You know… the good ol’ days.

I saw Breakin’ Two, Electric Boogaloo there for pete’s sake, with my parents on a Saturday night. Only now, writing this, do I realize what a sacrifice this was on their part. They were probably scared to death. Of the clientele? Maybe, but I’m guessing, mostly of my aspirations. Thank you Mom & Dad!

Sunrise Mall held a world of possibility. Say you’re, oh… I don’t know, 13, and it’s oh… I don’t know, 1987. You’ve got $25, and 4 hours to spend it before your mom picks you up in her giant grey Chrysler Cordoba. You have no idea who you are going to run into, or what feather-haired hottie you might meet. Maybe something’s on sale at Miller’s Outpost or Chess King (if you’re a boy in the market for Z Cavariccis)? Maybe you want to get another inflatable Palm Tree at Zanzabar? Maybe you and your giggly friends will window shop for Swatches at Macy’s or cruise the Esprit section at Weinstock’s. Will it be Sbarro or Taco Bell or McDonald’s or Orange Julius? Where do you go first? Contempo? Wet Seal? Waldenbook’s? The hook rug store? (There was a hook rug store. I’m not kidding.) The candle store? See’s candies? Sadly, we never did go in the pipe shop or the wig store, Merle Norman, which now I see as missed opportunities.

When I put the Orange Julius post up, again with nary a mention of the mall itself, Erica who I met as an elementary school girl, was the first to reply wistfully, and from England, no less, “Oh Sunrise Mall…” Staci, who I met somewhere around kindergarten, remembered the octagonal benches that were outfitted in that signature orange and burgundy tile, where she liked to people watch. Then there was Laurel – one of my middle school go-to shopping friends, with whom I even traveled to our version of Mecca – the Esprit Outlet in San Francisco – while sporting matching striped shirts, Keds and permed hair. Anyhow – she remembered the Orange Julius crinkle fries with her mom and the fountain that held center court, where people would throw their change, their wishes, and their Orange Julius cups…yes, the fountain was the crown jewel of Sunrise Mall.

I look at my own kids and wonder if they are so overwhelmed with cool stuff and places and experiences, that the mall could not possibly hold the level of fantasy and coolness that it once represented for us. I used to daydream that I lived in, and went to school in the mall. I thought the most sophisticated people lived in the apartments at the edge of the parking lot. That the people revving the engines of their Z28’s outside, were forces to be reckoned with. Could the modern mall hold the same allure for my boys? Perhaps.

As I sat sucking down the classic Orange Julius that did in fact taste like 1983, I couldn’t help but enjoy how much the boys were enjoying our mall. They loved the Silly Bandz kiosk, nay, pavilion, that was the whole reason for our visit. There was a Mini Cooper parked on display by the elevator. Johnny Rocket’s has a patio that makes it feel like you’re sitting outside, when really you’re about 15 feet from Sears 2nd floor entrance. Two stores in a row have the same display of pillow pets. And then there’s the wonderment that comes with the fact that there’s a Wetzel’s Pretzels on one level, and an Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop exactly one floor down! And I know, without him saying anything, that Zach always has one eye out looking for Paul Blart.

You know what? Sunrise Mall is still there, but I refuse to go. I like it frozen in time in my head and memories. I like that I can go right back there when I see a Camaro, or acid wash, when I smell that intoxicating scent that is a mix of new clothes, perfume, hairspray, floorwax and nacho cheese, and of course, when I run across “Here I Go Again,” by Whitesnake.

atrophy

24 Aug

Atrophy. If school wasn’t starting in two days, it certainly seems that would be the word of the week, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you how to spell it.  Looking around the house, it is essentially a time capsule from June of 2010. The backpack is slumped in a corner where it was dropped on the last day of school. The fool-proof organizing system of boxes and document holders with which I am continually tinkering, still spews papers from the top, mocking my good intentions.  Feeling entirely too much like an adult, I had to take pause this week and wonder, where did my summer, once so full of promise and untold delights…yes, THAT summer, go?

The last week of August already tends to be one of mixed emotions. The kids have dissolved into mini-delinquents whose sole purpose for punching each other is force of habit, but they shyly admit that they might indeed just be ready for regular school stuff. And while I fancy myself fairly footloose and moderately fancy free, I’m pretty stoked about having some structure reintroduced into our lives.

Faced with the reality of summer’s end, Jake shimmied out of one of his beloved baseball tees and into a collared shirt for school pictures this afternoon, followed by a peek into his new class. The glimmer of joy came when he realized he scored one of two air conditioned classrooms.

The glimmer disappeared with the school supply shopping. It should come as no surprise that when you’re shopping for pencils and paper, the biggest smiles are on the parents’ faces. You’ve seen the commercials. It’s totally true. Grown-ups chipper with anticipation, happily checking off otherwise mundane items from their lists.

 “3-ring binders? Theeeeere they aaaaarre!” …this from a smiling cherubic woman with a Blue Tooth headset firmly in place and the lilting sing-song voice of Snow White. She was followed by a wincing teenager whose hands were shoved defiantly into his pockets.

 All over the store, parents were holding up items, saying “which one?” enthusiastically trying to sell kids on the luxury of choice that they have in the color of their binder, their notebooks, their pencil case –  offering perhaps a semblance of control in a situation where essentially, young students have little. Jake haphazardly pointed at the red, the blue, the black. It seems he would have been happy if we were picking out a leather office chair or fax machine…that’s where his attention was.

 But now, as my tall funny fifth grader, and my cuddly sweet last-year-of-pre-schooler are not punching each other and tucked snugly into bed, I’m having a heck of a time being excited about launching into a new year without a firm grasp on what happened to the last 12 weeks? Where have we been that I didn’t finish the recipe project or paint the living room? How cute is it that I thought that I might?

Let’s see, the DVR sputtered out its last CSI weeks ago – dead of fatigue.  (Killing your DVR with overuse doesn’t result in the prideful feeling you’d think it would.) When that noble piece of technology finally went, it took about 18 hours of stored treasures that I had reserved for the summer programming drought. So aside from the recent delicious start of Mad Men, I wasn’t near the TV like I usually am. Hmm…the evenings were too cold to lounge around outside and spray down the boys with a hose, though there were moments I considered it. And I’m just as far into The Girl  With the Dragon Tattoo as I was in June.

Even my personal magazine pile has doubled. Have I really been that behind on Entertainment Weekly? Well, not entirely. I almost forgot to feed the boys dinner the day the fall movie preview issue arrived. And all those issues of The Economist? I did take the time to toss those, so that’s good.

So I did an exercise to get to the bottom of this mystery. Please, please, please don’t stop reading when I say this. OK, it involves Twilight, but it has a point. During the 9 hours of special features on the DVD that I watched as happily as I did the actual movie, the screenwriter, Melissa Rosenberg said she read the first book in a single sitting, focused on the scenes & images that stood out from this initial read – and then structured the screenplay around those. So I did the same thing, but to rediscover the highlights of a season past.

 Melodramatically closing my eyes…I flitted back to the ill-advised but glorious Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast in Las Vegas. The 4th of July fireworks over Disneyland. Sitting in the theater watching Eclipse with my friend Margie and a gaggle of really rowdy and inappropriate mothers. My friend Megan making me dinner in my own kitchen, and having a mom talk with the little one when I was just too tired to do it myself. Jacob jumping himself silly on a trampoline for his 10th birthday. Trying and failing to get our hands on chocolate covered bacon at the State Fair. The butterflies in my stomach when my handsome husband appeared on the escalator at the airport, finally home from Zimbabwe. The sinking feeling I had when I realized the gifts he brought the boys were two vuvuzelas. The plotting of where I could accidentally lose two vuvuzelas. A couple of great end-of-summer parties with old friends, and new friends, and many many appetizers. And then there was starting this blog, which during the nail-biting hemming and hawing stages of discernment about it, felt kinda self-indulgent, overly revealing, a little brave, a tad silly, and maybe a little bit cathartic.

And so now I will post this piece, walk by the backpack and filing system, and hop into bed with the triumphant posession of a summer well-spent. I suppose there are worse things than atrophy of housecleaning.