bad shopping experiences, recycling experiences, Target

Shopping Daze in Target

I don’t know about you but I hate shopping. I’m a necessity shopper: like food, hygiene, or something broke and I can’t repair it. That’s why I did 80% of my Christmas shopping online. That’s why I shop early in the morning. Crowds irritate me. Costco after 11 a.m. gives me the jitters. I don’t shop on weekends or holidays.

Usually works too, except today. Everyone and their grandma’s were in the grocery stores and Target. I had to get out and buy food for the week because there were no more tamales. Everyone in the family wants to ‘detox’ from all the fatty/sugary foods we ate in the last two week. School begins again tomorrow and one of the kids needed some school supplies. I ran out of folders to organize my writing. I loaded up my Trader Joe’s and other fabric bags and took my coffee with me. 

Today was particularly bad. First, I had to wear my yoga pants because my jeans were too tight. Second, I had to chose a long blouse to hide the stomach chub that grew an inch or two. And then, the stores had more shoppers than I can remember on a January 2nd. Lines were ten people deep on all of the open registers. And at my last stop…

I got the cranky, rude cashier. She wouldn’t put my purchases in my recycled Target bags-although, she pointed out on the cash register tape, “I gave you .15 cents credit for your 3 bags.” That wasn’t the issue. It’s a matter of resources. She sighed and ignored me, then looked to the next customer. I didn’t want to hold up the huge line or unpack the humongous red Christmas Target bag. I did not want to go off in front of my teenage daughter. What would happen is she’d roll her eyes and walk away from me or get into it with the cashier too.  It’s only January 2nd, let’s start the new year right, right?

Cranky cashier pushed Santa’s red plastic bag onto the side counter and pointed me to the recycle bin where my used Target bags could be recycled. My mind kept repeating, “Keep calm, take care of this later with a manager.” Couldn’t find a manager.

The red bag was overstuffed and too heavy to lift into my trunk without my daughter’s assistance. It tore when we got home. Before I did anything else, I called Target and expressed my concern (complained) to a manager. He was perplexed, because “we care for the environment. Did you get your .15 cents?” 

Oh-Kay, let’s leave it at that. No more shopping at that particular Target. I registered a complaint on the phone, online and now I’m letting it go. 

10 Ways for Writers to Prepare for 2012, New Year intentions, writer preparation, Writing, writing space

10 Ways for Writers to Prepare for 2012

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” Ben Franklin

Maybe an hour is a stretch, but I do believe there is a lot of truth in that quote, especially when it comes to daily writing. Over the last year I found many opportunities to procrastinate from my writing schedule. Some days my lack of preparation added to this and caused me wasted time, energy, more gas, money, and late assignments.

This year I used the time after Christmas to think about my writing life for the coming year. I read about setting an intention for the new year from Rose Molinary over at Mamiverse. After I went through her simple exercise I came up with my intention for the year: Create. There are several words to add to this intention, like “Create joy…space…comfort…revisions…manuscripts…query letters…published novels.”

After a few minutes of intentional dreaming I looked at my work space and decided I needed to make a few changes. I want to bring more comfort for daily writing sessions and at the same time stop the time wasters which delay my writing. I found the following changes to my writing space useful.  (The laptop, computer, or netbook is a given as is a computer desk).

1-Notebooks, pens, large post-its, index cards, pushpins: A 100 page or more spiral bound notebook for each manuscript you’re writing. Buy three or four at a time. Make sure it lays flat. If there are pocket holders inside all the better for notes or torn out pages from somewhere else. Use one notebook for ideas and writing tips or resources, one to take to writing classes or critique groups, one to journal scenes, and one to use when you begin to revise your manuscript.
Use colorful, large sticky notes (3×3) to remind you of items you don’t want to forget during that writing session. Stick notes on your laptop, printer, desk, binder, notebook or forehead. Use index cards to write down each scene, number them and kept them bundled with a rubber band. Pushpins are useful to stick photos, inspirational quotes, and index cards on your writing wall or bulletin board.
2-Wireless mouse and/or keyboard: get comfortable, you are in it for the long haul. Many of these are now on sale.
3- The Chicago Manual of Style, and/or Strunk and White. Add a dictionary and Thesaurus if you find it faster than searching for a term online.
4-A sturdy comfortable chair. Spring for an ergonomic chair but if not use a comfortable chair with a pillow for your back if there is no lumbar support. If you have a wireless keyboard you can switch to a recliner if you want. For an indepth article on how to ergonomically optimize your workplace read this article by Lifehacker. I didn’t know the pinch in my shoulders came from having my laptop below the correct eye level.
5-Printer paper: Two reams minimum. One quality type for printed manuscript to agent and one economy one for drafts and to print your stuff for critiques or writing class. If you find a sale on paper buy more. 
6-Ink Cartridges: Use a printer like HP or Epson that takes refillable ink. This has been a big expensive for me this year and I’m now using another printer. Walgreen’s and Costco have frequent specials throughout the year for refills at $8-12 dollars. That beats non refillable ink cartridges of $26-30 each. If you’re printing out pages for critique groups and drafts you’ll save a bundle when you have refillable ink cartridges.
7-Bulletin board and/or white board. These are available at craft stores and most any large department store. Those fabric covered boards work just as well. You just need a place to pin up inspirational quotes, writing projects, favorite motivational photos, index cards, etc.
8-Three ring binders: At least 2 inch ring size. You need something to hold your printed pages during your revisions.
9-Color folders: use them to hold your printed drafts, writing resources, critiques, edited material, notes, the receipts you’ve spent on your writing. Label them and keep these near your writing area. Use them at the end of the day to file research notes or reminders.
10-Large coffee/tea mug and coaster. If you’re a heavy drinker, look for a carafe to keep your beverage hot or cold. It can hold whatever beverage suits you. No more extra trips to the kitchen for refills.  Liquor is not recommended or you may fall off your ergonomically correct chair. 
Maybe you have some favorite preparation items to share? I need all the help I can get. 
Now get thee to the Dollar Store or Staples and get yourself prepared for a great year of creating and writing.  
Freezing tamales, Latino Family Traditions, Mexican Cooking, Mexican Holiday foods, Tamales

Warning: Tamale Overload

Have you ever been so over-saturated with a food that you can no longer bear to look at it anymore? That’s the way I feel about tamales, today. I had the same feeling after working the graveyard shift sorting strawberries at a packing house. The plump red fragrant berries I sorted through on the conveyor belt became cold lumps of tan coal by six o’clock the following morning. My fingers were a wrinkled stained berry mess. I didn’t eat strawberries for a couple of years.

My family, from my six year old niece to my 80 plus year old mom, sat at the kitchen table for six hours, spreading masa on the corn husks, stuffing pasilla chile sauce and pork into dozens of ojas. We did the same for the roast chicken and tomatillo sauce, and the strips of California green chile and Pepper Jack shredded cheese. These were stacked in the steamer pots, either basketweave style or standing up, and cooked for two or three hours, depending on whether they went into my sister’s ‘good’ steamer or the traditional pot. By the end of the night I had to take ibuprofen for the back pain.

We used 30 pounds of masa. When you realize that one pound makes one dozen tamales, give or take a couple, that translates to 30 dozens of tamales, or


One the second day I divide and bag the tamales for everyone who participated in making them the day before. We usually take some to people we visit or who visit us on the day after Christmas. On this fourth day after tamale making, it’s hard to even look at one without wrinkling my nose. The kids want soy chorizo and tofu, or eggs and chorizo, cereal, toaster waffles, anything but tamales. This morning I looked into the refrigerator for the half and half. We still had one cookie sheet stacked with tamales. I couldn’t look at them any longer. If we have a fifth day, I’ll surely retch when I open the refrigerator.

Lucky for me I stocked up on aluminum foil and had freezer bags. I wrapped those puppies up, stuffed them in the bags and labeled them “Tamales,” with a blue Sharpie. I don’t care if I don’t see another tamale for six months, but it’s good to know that when my overload wears off I’ll have some ready to pop in the oven.

Champurrado, Chicano Christmas, Latino family tradition, Mexican Cooking, Mexican Holiday food, Mixed Families, Tamales, Vegan Son, Wine and Tamales

Christmas-Chicano Style

Mexican Nativity
Mexican Nativity
It’s a Chicano style Christmas in our house. We blend Mexican traditions with the Anglo-American since my children are third generation Mexican Americans mixed with French and Blackfoot Native American on their dad’s side.
My mother was born in California from immigrant Mexican parents. I was born in California and grew up in the 70’s, hence the term I use to identify myself: Chicano/a. The kids identify as multi-cultural. So our traditions are a mix of all our mix.
During Christmas time we make traditional Mexican ‘red’ tamales(chile and pork), green ones: grilled, peeled California chiles with Pepper Jack and Monterey Jack cheese, and the modern ‘healthy’ ones:  roasted chicken and tomatillo sauce. 

I’m getting a little loca from the shopping and preparation. The tomatillos, cilantro, and jalapenos are on the counter ready to boil, grill and blend for salsa verde. Bags of New Mexican Red Chile wait to be toasted with flour and oil. The pork loin is roasting under mounds of garlic and onions.
Abuelita (Mexican chocolate) sits in the cupboard next to the piloncillo (raw brown sugar cones) and maiz (cornstarch) for champurrado while the milk and soymilk wait in the fridge.(I am making vegan champurrado too for Vegan Son).
The See’s Nuts and Chews and Peanut Brittle, our reward after finishing our work, is hidden from everyone. The Merlot and Cabs wait patiently on the buffet table.
We start the tamale assembly line bright and early…uh, maybe not very bright and not too early…tomorrow morning. For a couple of hours, there will be calm before the storm of family, kids, music, laughter, gossip, warmth, and familiarity. All the great things one could wish for during the holidays. 
In the past week, I’ve come across some funny Chicano style songs to accompany our tamale making fest. I wish I could have found some accompanying music. Use the same melody as you would with the American version and snap your fingers for some rhythm. 
Arte Y Loqueras

From the talented Unknown Mami:

On the twelfth day of Christmas

my Nana gave to me
doce pork tamales,
eleven full piñatas,
ten chiles rellenos,
nine Padre Nuestros, (Our Fathers)
ocho tostadas,
seven Tias chismiando, (Aunts gossiping)
six kinds of chile,
five nalgadas (I was bad), (butt spankings)
four jalapeños,
three pairs of chanclas,
dos saladitos,

and a perico in an aguacate tree.
And by Felipe Campos, here’s his Chicano version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas: 
Tis the night before Christmas and all through the casa
Not a creature is stirring. Caramba, ¿que pasa?
The stockings are hanging con mucho cuidado
In hopes that St. Nicholas will feel obligado.
To leave a few cosas aqui y allí
For chicos y chicas (y something for me).
Los niños are snuggled all safe in their camas
Some in vestidos and some in pajamas.
Their little cabezas all full of good things,
They’re all esperando qué Santa will bring.
To all of the children, both buenos y malos
A nice batch of dulce and other regalos.
While mama worked late in little cocina
El Viejo was down at the corner cantina
Living it up with his amigos. ¡Carajo!
Muy contento y un poco borracho!
And soon he’ll return to his home, zigzagueando,
Lit up like the Star Spangled Banner cantando
Outside in the yard, there arose such a grita
I jumped to my feet like a frightened cabrita
I ran to the ventana and looked out afuera,
¿And who in the world do you think que era?
St. Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along like a crazy bombero!
And pulling his sleigh instead of venados
Were eight little burros, approaching volados.
I watched as they came and this quaint little hombre
Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre:
“¡Ay Pancho! ¡Ay Pepe! ¡Ay Cuca! ¡Ay Beto!
¡Ay Chato! ¡Ay Chopo! ¡Muraca y Nieto!”
Then standing erect with his hands on his pecho
He flew to the top of our very own techo.
With his round y gran belly like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.
Puffing, he finally stood in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala.
He filled all the stockings with lovely regalos,
(For none of the niños had been muy malos).
Then chuckling aloud, seeming muy contento,
He turned in flash and went like el viento.
And I heard him exclamar – y eso es verdad –
Merry Christmas a todos! Feliz Navidad!
‘Twas the Night before Christmas

Happy Holidays and may your traditions, old and new, find their way into your family festivities. Enjoy.