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Category Archives: Everyday Life

This blog is brought to you by the letter ‘S’*

It’s great to see José enjoy the toys and movies that Jess and I loved growing up. Mom kept most of the books and toys from our childhood. Before Jess left for Colombia, she dug through the boxes of toys and books in Mom’s basement and picked out some for José’s room. His coloring table is a small round table that I used to host tea parties on for my Cabbage Patch Kids and most of my collection of Berenstain Bears books now have a home on his bookshelf. I can’t wait until he’s old enough so we can play with all my old Legos!

Bert and ErnieOne of Jess and mine’s favorite things was listening to the record Bert and Ernie’s Sing-Along. We would often put on the record player set up in our playroom and sing and dance along to the silly songs. The premise of the record is that Bert is taking a bath when Ernie comes in…with a piano! He wants Bert to participate in his sing-a-long, but Bert just wants to have a nice quiet bath. His bath is anything but quiet as more people and monsters from the Street come into the bathroom. The songs they sing range from classics, like Old McDonald Had a Farm and She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain, to songs written just for the album, like Living Hand in Hand (my personal favorite). Jess and I would keep ourselves entertained for hours listening to that record. But we grew up and moved out on our own and eventually the record player got packed up.

I searched for the record in CD format for years, but to no avail. Maybe at one point it had been recorded onto a tape but even those were a rarity. It wasn’t until just a few years ago when I was searching online when I found out that the good people who bring us Sesame Street was going to release the CD, along with two other Sesame Street oldies. I snatched a copy up the day it came out and called Jess. That’s how excited I was and I knew she would be, too.

Jess has the copy of the sing-a-long in her car and José asks for certain songs from it. He’s still working on his English, but he’s getting better about it every day and he tries really hard to sing all the words in English. He likes Old McDonald Had a Farm and at the end of the song when the Sesame Street gang slows down and sings, “E-I-E-I-O”, he closes his eyes and deepens his voice. It is both the cutest and funniest thing to see and hear.

Monster at the EndAnother thing that Jess and I loved growing up was the Little Golden Book called There’s a Monster at the End of This Book. It starred none other than Grover. It’s a pretty basic premise: Grover is afraid of the monster at the end of the book and tries to stop the reader from turning the pages of the book. It’s still in print and I am excited when I see parents buying it for their kids. I actually don’t know if José likes the book; I just know that it’s on his bookshelf.

One thing I knFollow that Birdow he loves, though, is a favorite movie of mine and Jess’ called Follow That Bird. It’s a musical about Big Bird being adopted by a family of Dodos. When he runs away to go back to Sesame Street, the gang takes different routes to try to find him. At the same time, the stubborn Miss Finch searches for Big Bird so she can return him to the Dodos and the Sleaze brothers (one of whom is played by Dave Thomas) want Big Bird for their carnival. What ensues is a lot of hijinks, including Bert and Ernie flying upside-down to get Big Bird’s attention. Much to the dismay of Bert, Ernie sings about an upside-down world:

Come fly with me in an upside-down world.

There’s so many strange things to see.

There’s upside-down people who walk down the street,

Upside-down shoes on their upside-down feet,

In an upside-down world.

In an upside-down world.

(Bert, talking) Ernie, I don’t feel so good.

(Ernie) Wheee!

It’s fun to be in an upside-down world

There’s fish that fall out of the sea.

There’s upside-down clocks that make everyone late.

Upside-down food that won’t stay on your plate

In an upside-down world.

In an upside-down world.

There’s so many strange things all over town,

It all looks so funny that I’ve got to frown.

‘Cause a frown is a smile when it’s turned upside-down,

In an upside-down,

What-side-down?

Oops-side-down,

Whoops-side-down,

Upside-down world!

It’s a fun song to sing, which Jess and I often did. As it turns out, not only does José like the movie, that’s his favorite part of it! It’s probably because it all takes place in an airplane and he loves airplanes, but we often hear him singing the song to himself. Well, we hear him sing the second verse over and over (and over and over) to himself. We even listen to the soundtrack in the car when José asks for it.

I love being an aunt and getting to relive my childhood through someone who sees all of it as something new and exciting!

*The letter ‘S’ is for singing, silliness, and Sesame Street.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in About me, Everyday Life

 

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Awww au jus!

I used to live on roast beef sandwiches and au jus sauce. Any time I saw French dip listed on the menu of a restaurant, I ordered it. I loved taking the two slices of soft warm bread, stuffed with slow roasted beef, and dipping it until it was soaking in au jus sauce. My mouth watered at the mere thought of getting a French dip sandwich.

But then I became a vegetarian. It wasn’t always easy, especially in the first few years as my body adjusted to my new diet and I learned how to curb my cravings. I started eating meals made with meat substitutes, like tacos made from Morning Star Crumbles and fajitas from Smart Ones Chik’n Strips. Not only did it satisfy my body’s need for protein, I took comfort in the familiar tasting food* without sacrificing my principles.

When I meet new people and they learn I’m a vegetarian, they often ask if I miss meat. My answer is always the same: I miss French dip. There’s no substitute for beef drenched in hot beef broth. I can get a fake turkey for Christmas and Thanksgiving. I can have “bacon” and eggs for breakfast. I can even make “meat” loaf.** But I can’t find anything to replace the taste and experience of French dip.

Until now.

I was recently in Whole Foods, searching for Tofurkey Deli Slices when I saw they had a variation that I’d never seen before. I don’t know if it’s new or that my grocer in Indiana never sold it, but either way, I was happy to see it. It was their roast beef flavor. Roast beef! I couldn’t believe it! I grabbed a few packages, resisting the urge to buy up all the stock. After all, what if it wasn’t any good?

Later, when I was getting ready to make my first roast “beef” sandwich in 15 years, I flipped the back of the package over and read the suggestion to try it with vegan au jus sauce.

WHAT?! Au jus sauce can be made vegan? HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS?

I grabbed my keys and headed back to Whole Foods, bent on finding this sauce. Surely, if the Tofurkey people were suggesting vegan au jus sauce, then someone out there must be producing it. And if someone was producing it, then Whole Foods would have it.

But I couldn’t find it. I walked up and down the soup and broth aisle three times before it occurred to me to pull out my phone and search the internet. Thankfully, there were recipes for what I was looking for, including one that mentioned eating the Tofurkey Roast Beef slices with it. So, after much more searching through the store, I got the right stuff, went home, and made my first batch. As the sauce heated up on the stove, I took my hoagie bun and put several slices of roast “beef” on it and stuck it in the toaster oven.

After a just a few minutes, I sat down with my toasted sandwich, the bun warm and soft, and the vegan au jus sauce steaming up my glasses. I’d been waiting for this moment for the past 15 years and hoped that it wouldn’t disappoint. I dipped my sandwich and pulled it out soaked. I took a bite and closed my eyes.

Oui!

*Some meat eaters have tried these meat substitutes and say they’re pretty spot-on, but not all meat substitutes are created equal.

**I never ate real meat loaf when I did eat meat, so I don’t know if the recipe I have even tastes like the real thing. Also, if fake bacon is called facon, then wouldn’t fake meat loaf be called feat loaf?

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in About me, Everyday Life, Food

 

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Holá, José

After a day and a half of driving (well, mostly it was Mom driving and me sleeping in the car), we finally arrived at my sister’s – and nephew’s – doorstep. It was finally time for me to meet my nephew, José. I’d talked with him on the phone a few times, even Skyped with him. But soon I would see him in the flesh. My desire to hug him was already overwhelming, though I knew to wait for him to come to me. When my mom went down to Colombia to help out Jess, it took José a couple of days to warm up to abuela. (It didn’t take so long with abuelo – my father – but we figured that was because he’s also a dude.)

So, when he greeted me at the door and then ran away, shrieking happily, I didn’t take offense. Jess was there to give me a big hug, which I always enjoy. Right away, José was eager to show me all the surprises he and Jess had for me. First, there were presents. Of course, if there’s a kid around presents, it doesn’t matter who they’re for, the kid should be the one to open them. So I asked him to help me open them and even though he’d help Jess wrap them, he still acted surprised at what was inside. Everything was from his birth country: a journal, a mug, and a purse with Colombia’s flag colors on it. He tried to put the purse on my head like a hat, unsuccessfully.

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José looks over the coloring pages.

Being an aunt, I had presents for him and Jess as well. José received a Thomas the Tank Engine, coloring pages drawn by my friend Burt, and many books, including one that he and Jess had read down in Colombia. He recognized it right away and made a happy noise. Jess’ presents were a little less exciting but much more sentimental. One was a picture frame I’d made with the word “family” in big letters and the “gotcha date” stamped on it. The picture I put inside the frame was the first picture that Jess had sent me from Colombia, the two of them grinning to finally be with their family. Her other present was a set of watercolor paintings done by my friend Veruca, who is married to Burt. I’d commissioned her to make a watercolor map of José’s hometown. As a surprise, she also made a watercolor map of José’s new hometown. I framed them and Jess hung them up in the living room. They look great and I enjoy seeing them every day!

Even though José kept asking for mas, there were no more presents, but there was another surprise in store for me. I followed him into the kitchen where he showed me the torte he and his mama made together. We all sat down and had a slice. Yummy!

Swimming

José lets me hold him as abuela laughs at his adorable smile.

The next few days went by in a blur of playing, laughing, and being utterly exhausted. I knew that new moms got tired a lot; I didn’t know that new aunts did, too! By my third night, I passed out on the couch as Jess put José to bed. I slept for 12 hours that night and felt as if I could have slept even more.

We all went to the pool one day and abuela and I played with him while Jess took a well-deserved and much needed nap in the sun. He doesn’t know how to swim yet, but he knows how to hold his breath under water and kicking his legs. He likes to be submerged in the big pool, but is too scared to go by himself (he refuses to use the floaties). But that first day we were at the pool together, he let me hold him as I walked around the pool. He clung to me but he had a huge grin on his face and I relished in the time I got to hold him. I also got to sneak in a kiss. It meant so much to me that even after not knowing me for very long, he trusted me enough to let me carry him through the “scary” water.

And here’s our first family photo with Tia Liz (notice the creepy abuelo in the background?):

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(left to right) Abuelo, Tia Liz, Mama, José

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2013 in About me, Everyday Life

 

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A funny thing happened in the bookstore

Last year a book came out titled Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores and it was composed by Jen Campbell. Most of the quotes came from her time working in a couple of bookstores in England, but others came from booksellers in the US and Canada. It’s a quick read – I read it in just a day (ironically, I read it on Christmas, one of the two days that my bookstore closes for the year). Just when you think you’ve heard it all, though, someone opens her mouth…

I’ve had my fair share of the weird and funny, as have my coworkers. We swap stories so we can get a laugh because even though we work in a bookstore and not an emergency room, things sometimes get stressful.* In honor of Campbell’s book, here is a little compilation of my own and my coworkers’ (with my inner sarcastic remarks in parentheses as well).

Do you have Brains for Dummies or Dummies for Brains – one of those? (You obviously do.)

Little boy: Does this cost free? (It was cute until he yelled at his mom 10 minutes later, “You WILL buy me something!)

Grandmother: Star Wars is fiction, right? (No, it’s real. My Millennium Falcon is getting some detail work done at the moment.)

Where’s your Oprah Book Club section?

Where’s your birthday book section? You know, the books you would give to someone on their birthday. (All around you, lady.)

Do you have How to Draw Stick Figures for Dummies? (There is no such book, but give me $50 and I’ll teach you, dummy.)

Grandma: Do you have a younger version of Harry Potter? There’s no way my granddaughter could read something so big!
Granddaughter: Yes, I can! I’ve already read the first three books.
Grandma: So, is there anything for younger readers?
Me: No, these are the only Harry Potter books that there are. You could always watch the movies if the books are too hard.
Grandma: They made a movie?
Me: They made eight. (Have you been living under a pile of rocks for the past 15 years?)

Customer: Where is your non-fiction section?
Me: It’s 3/4 of the store. Is there a particular subject or book I can show you?
Customer: I want to browse gift books; books that I can give as gifts. Like cookbooks.
Me: Our cookbook section is right here.
Customer: But I want non-fiction books!
Me: *blank stare
Customer: I don’t want to give just cookbooks! I also want to look at your history books or anything that would be a good gift to get. Could you just show me what section that would be in?
Me: I’m afraid I don’t understand what you want.
Customer: I want the non-fiction section!
Me: *sweeps arm over 3/4 of the store It’s all right there.

That’s all I have…for now, anyway. But I want to leave you with a story that I wish I could have witnessed myself. This comes from part time bookseller who seems to get more than her fair share of the weird:

A customer was sitting at a table in our cafe. He was checking his messages on speaker phone. One message was from his pharmacy telling him (and the rest of the cafe) that his Viagra was ready for pick-up. The man quickly packed up his stuff and left the store. What poetic justice for disrupting the peace!

*Why is it that some people think that working in a bookstore is relaxing and that we get to sit around and read on the clock? Those books don’t shelve themselves!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Everyday Life

 

Read, work, sleep

I typically get up about 2 hours before I have to leave for work.  People look at me funny when I tell them this but I found through the years that this is the best time for me to read.  I live alone so it’s not as if I have screaming kids from whom I need to find sanctuary.  But I do have to have my “me” time or I get rather cranky (and nobody likes me when I’m cranky, especially me).

During these 2 hours of quiet, I start by brewing coffee.  Since I drink 2-3 cups before work, I brew almost a whole pot.  (Hello.  My name is Liz and I’m a coffee addict.)  As it brews, I ignore the dishes piling in the sink and instead dive into one of the books I’m currently working on.  Sometimes my cat, Albert, will hop on my lap and demand my attention.  Other times she* ignores me like I’m her sink of dirty dishes.  Other times, like today, I will write my blog.  If I’m really tired and don’t think that any amount of coffee will keep me awake while reading, I surf the internet.  Rarely do I go back to sleep, as I will only wake up more tired and I will not have drunk my 3 cups of coffee needed to get me through the day.

After my “me” time, I get ready for work.  Nothing exciting there, just the typical shower and brushing teeth.

For those of you new to my blog, I work at a bookstore in the receiving room.  Sometimes I am called to cover the book floor, which is fine because it’s a change of pace.  Even though I work in the back by myself, I still interact with people all day, mostly delivery men and coworkers but sometimes customers as well.  The boxes come in, I open and unpack them.  If I have time at the end of the day, I pack some books up to go back to the warehouse.  It doesn’t sound terribly exciting but I enjoy it because I get to see all the new books when they come in.  I’m also the first to open the Advanced Reader’s Copy of not-yet-published books.  Most of the time they are of no interest to me but every once in a while we’ll get a good one** and I call dibs.  (Okay, so there’s not typically anyone back there when I open those up, but I can’t go rushing to my locker every time we get something I want.  Instead, I claim it with a Post-It with my name.)

The unwritten job description of someone in my position is psychologist and sounding board.  Because it is one of two rooms off the selling floor, receiving acts as a shrink’s office to the workers.  It’s a place where they can get things off their chest without worrying about offending a customer.  And I’m their shrink.  I listen and nod, all while still working (it’s not easy; sometimes I lose focus).  Sometimes I give advice, or try to make them see the other person’s side.  Mostly, though, I just listen, which is what most of them want when they come back.

I don’t mind it most days.  There are times when it is too much, in which case I’ll just clam up.  Sometimes hearing all the negative comments, especially from the same people day in and day out (you know, those people who are always negative and rarely have something positive to say), gets me down.  But depressed or happy, tired or energetic, I still have to do my job, written and unwritten.

After work, I go home and make dinner.  I consume it while on the couch, the TV turned to whatever show.  When I finish eating, I either craft while I watch/listen to the TV or I hop on the computer to check my email (and to see how many hits I got on my blog).  Once my legs have stiffened from sitting, I no longer have the motivation to clean or do laundry that I thought earlier about doing.  And so, it is time for bed.

*Yes, you read that right.  Albert = girl.  No, I didn’t name her that.  The man I adopted her from liked boy names on girls.  I’m just glad his wife named their daughter.

**In the past we’ve gotten Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Weiner, and Emily Giffin, some of my favorite fiction authors.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2010 in About me, Everyday Life

 

How I celebrated America this past weekend

Working retail means you work holidays.  The only time our store is closed is Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Now, working on the holiday can be good.  Since I’m full-time, I get paid for the day whether I work it or not.  If I do work it, I get time and a half.  And let me tell you, I can always use the extra money.  But this year I had the whole three-day weekend off (a rare occurence).

Saturday we went to a local art museum that had recently opened up 100 acres of ground.  Since it was a beautiful day, despite the heat, we walked around the grounds, looking at the different pieces of art set up along the walkways.  There were yellow benches in various places and no two benches were alike.  The first one we saw sloped down like a slide.  Another was a small semi-circle sticking out of the ground.  Yet another was shaped like foothills with valleys and hill crests.

Other pieces of art included an old battleship sitting in the lake, clothes hanging from a clothes line as if it were occupied.  We had to observe it from the shore, but there was a deck with a security post in it.  Peeking through the window of the security post we saw three televisions, two showing a robbery happening on the ship.  The third showed us just outside the door.  Through the glass we could also hear the walkie-talkie as guards worked to stop the robbery taking place.  Our favorite piece of art, though, was the basketball one that showed the path of the ball’s bounce with red and blue pipes.

After the museum and running a few boring errands, we went to Fred’s parents’ house for a cookout.  Being a vegetarian, I always worry about there being food for me at cookouts.  However, Fred’s mother is aware of my dietary needs and, being the kind woman that she is, not only bought Boca burgers for me, but took the time to marinade eggplant and onions for grilling (on a separate grill, nonetheless!).  The food was good and the company pleasant.  Watching the dogs play was a lot of fun as well.

Sunday Fred worked during the day so we didn’t do our Fourth of July celebrating until the end of the day.  We went to the city’s fireworks downtown.  It was beautiful and fascinating.  I always am in awe of fireworks and wonder how they can be made to do certain things, like form a heart.

Monday was another hot day but we spent a good chunk of it outside.  Me, Fred, and his parents (mine live far away or we would have been with them as well) took a small road trip to a state park.  We had a picnic and then hiked along a trail through the woods.  I was so hot and tired by the end that I slept most of the ride back.  I felt I was being rude, but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open!

Overall, it was a fun weekend.  It was relaxing and tiring as well, but well worth it.  Happy Independence Day, America!

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2010 in About me, Everyday Life

 

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Freedom of speech isn’t free

We all know that many men and women have died or been injured to protect our freedom of speech.  But there is another potential cost for speaking out: our jobs.

Many people have blogs and, like me, will rant and rave on them.  Others use Facebook accounts to do so.  Some talk about rude customers while others might degrade a boss or coworker.  But this has led some into trouble, resulting in job loss.  A teacher was fired after writing a blog critiquing a student’s presentation, even though she did not name the student.  A waitress was fired after ranting on Facebook about the lousy tippers she served one day.  She had, though, mentioned the restaurant by name, which put the business in a negative light.

Recently I finished reading Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster.*  In the memoir, Jen recounted her two years of unemployment, filled with spurts of blogging.  When a good job lead fell through, Jen pursued why, only to find that the company did not agree with her blog, especially her “Companies that Suck” post (some of the company’s clients were listed).  Yet Jen’s blogging eventually landed her a book deal and now she is a five-time published, bestselling author.  Another blog-turned-book is Waiter Rant, which started in 2004.  The blogger started out writing anonymously so as not to be inhibited and for some protection.  After the book was released, so was the author’s name.  (The blog still shows posts written by “Waiter” but it’s not hard to figure out it’s Steve Dublanica.)  A second book is on its way this November.

It’s safe to say that blogs can be life-changing for their authors.  There’s just no certainty as to how life-changing it can be.

For me, this blog is more than just about ranting or making observations about my day-to-day life.  It’s a way for me to get my name and my writing out to a wider audience (and hopefully to someone who works in a publishing company).  It’s also therapeutic for me to write about frustrations and have others comment about their same feelings, letting me know that I am not alone.  I am wary that my voice may get me in trouble, sure, but at the same time I don’t feel like I should hide who I am and what I think.  However, I still need to be able to pay my bills (come on, Random House!**  Just call me up anytime soon and I won’t have to worry about any of this!).

I am torn.  Do I leave up the few posts I wrote about customers and risk my current job or any potential future jobs?  Or do I censor/delete them to the detriment of my writing and therapeutic outlet?***

*Great book.  I can’t wait to read her other ones!

**Harper Collins, I’m also looking at you!

***These are not rhetorical questions.  I really need some opinions here!

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2010 in About me, Everyday Life, Literature

 

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