When Imitation Is Better Than The Real Thing, or “Where I Get My Food”

May 19th, 2011

I just got back from the faux-op, aka Trader Joe’s. I’m onto you, faux-op: I know you train your employees to be all the things that are great about hippies, without being any of the things about hippies that are hard to take. (I think the word “skippy” actually describes them better than does the word “hippie”.) I know someone in Corporate at Trader Joe’s has been refining the initiative to invoke just enough of that co-op atmosphere to make me feel like I’m buying the best for my household, even though I’m barely looking at the packaging, because I’m trying to get out of your crazy crowded-ass aisles and away from your skippies who are ringing up and bagging my items and acting like they have been my neighbors for 20 years, asking me about my weekend plans and telling me which items from the frozen foods section they like best.

And I love you! I LOVE YOU, TRADER JOE’S! I’m onto your gimmicks, and I still love you. I don’t find you an imitator at all; in fact, I think you represent an intelligent alternative. I like Whole Foods, and I go there sometimes, but the grocery industry is a money making industry, after all, and oh, Lord, have they made some of my money theirs at Whole Foods. It’s true, the 365 brand is affordable. It’s true that nothing else in that store is (for me, anyway).

I enjoy the Farmers Market now and then, but it’s gotten fairly corporate itself in places, and I don’t have the time or interest to get to know the people in the stalls to keep it all straight. Also, the prices are pretty high, and the crowds sometimes make me want to scrap it all and go back to the days (last Saturday) when I ate exclusively what was available in Aisle 11 of CVS. (If you lived across the street from a CVS, you might do this, too.)

As for the co-op, it’s great, and I do shop there, maybe once a month. I don’t want to badmouth it one bit. But here are five things I personally prefer about Trader Joe’s, versus the actual co-op:


The employees at Trader Joe’s are ambitiously efficient. They’re kind of dorks for efficiency, and they are nerds for groceries. The members working their shifts at the co-op are cooler than that, it’s true, but when I need hormone-free milk and free-range eggs, I need them stocked and scanned and in my car in the least amount of time possible. I don’t care how cool, versus how skippy, the people are who make that happen for me.


I feel constant co-op guilt when I’m there, because I did have a membership for a few years, and now I don’t, and maybe I should? I should support the co-op, here I am shopping at it, shouldn’t I let everyone who sees my keychain know I want it to be an option for all of us, always, like NPR and the Natural History Museum? Even if the savings don’t add up for me, shouldn’t I take up the cause? I hate feeling guilty the whole time I shop.


While Trader Joe’s may not have every brand I like best, they in most cases have an alternative that works. Where I prefer Prego, Trader Joe’s offers me its own brand of pasta sauce that tastes similar. Where I prefer Sarah Lee, Trader Joe’s offers its own soft whole wheat bread. But where I prefer Honey Nut Cheerios, the co-op offers me kasha. Or quinoa. Or a bin of brown nuggets I don’t want to dig into with the community scooper.


Sweets. Trader Joe’s has the world’s most awesome frozen cakes, pies, and such, and its selection of baking mixes and chocolates and candies is terrific. Not all of them are outstanding, but most of them are. At the co-op, the new baked good, box of cookies, or candy bar I decide to try always ends up tasting the way it smelled in GNC in the mall when I was a kid.


Finally, there’s the customer base. This may sound judgmental, but I’m going to own it: I like it best, when grocery shopping, to be among people I feel are similar to me. By that, I don’t necessarily mean my own “demographic” 100 percent. I don’t mean people of the same economic circumstances or family situations or ethnicity (although let’s all be honest, no one wants to shop with Canadians, they’re like natives for God’s sake). What I mean is, I like not having to navigate around extreme nutters. And there are always half a dozen of these, minimum, in the co-op, like the guy in the yellow tie who told me the Russians are still dropping nukes on us. Or the woman who had an employee cornered by the hand creams for my entire visit, asking about ingredients and basically trying to squeeze an education in dermatology from this poor guy. Or the lady in line at the register in front of me who felt the need to include special instructions for each and every item, like “That’s a very ripe avocado, so please handle it carefully.” Don’t these people have text messages to send? Because I do, and I’d like to get done with my grocery shopping and send them.

This does make me sound like someone who isn’t very “in touch” with where my food comes from, and that would be a fair accusation, and one I would like to work on, in ways that suit me. I love the farm tours we have gone on and would love to do that often. I also want to get cooking more, even though I hate it … in all reality, what I would love most is if Stevel got cooking more. Until Violet is eight, then it’s Chore Time, and chores include duck l’orange (it’s from Trader Joe’s, Violet, so you can juts unzip the packaging, chuck that duck in the slow cooker, and head off to soccer practice, NO BIG DEAL. Earn that allowance, Missy!).

Many Things

June 10th, 2009

Number one, Welcome, Ayati! Congratulations to Susan, Bobby, and Asha.

Number two, Thank you for the Milwaukee mini-tour, Kate.

Number three, Congratulations to Liss, who yesterday turned in her final assignment of her undergraduate career, and who graduates from UCLA this Saturday!

Yesterday I took Vibble to the Zimmer Children’s Museum. It’s a great place, and we ended up joining as members. This is a place a lot like Kidspace, where we went the week before last (Or was it last week? What year is it?), but targeted to a bit shorter crowd. It’s got a real airplane inside the kids can play in, a real ambulance … and then kid-scaled versions of various scenes they can play in to their heart’s delight—a hospital ER, a grocery store with cashier stand and produce section and shopping baskets … a bookstore … a bagel shop …. a synagogue … a little indoor park … a newspaper-making place (?) … all of this complete in detail and stationed along an adorable, DETAILED “street,” and all just sitting there with props and “costumes” lying about, waiting for kids and their imaginations to enjoy it. There’s also a small room full of big, thick, gym-mats designated for under-twos. We got there just as it opened, and no one showed up for about 20 minutes. So Vibble was able to walk around and explore without any bigger kids to compete with. She did not want to go in the plane or ambulance. She wanted to pull everything off of every shelf in each of the scenes. Eventually, more kids showed up—but no one older than 4—and then she was really in heaven. MUST. TOUCH. EVERY. KID. She did a lot of what Stevel calls Stalking, too, where she would single out one kid for a while and just trail them all around the place for a long time, until I put an end to it because it became so AWKWARD with the parent. Anyway, we will be going here more. It’s a great place for Vibble to interact with other kids, explore with great freedom (the place is a good size and is in a building more secure than the airport, I kid you not), and develop her imagination. It’s also a fantastic place for us to play TOGETHER, and I love that.

Which brings me to my next topic. You may have noticed that we seem to be “doing” things more and more. All of a sudden, this kid is C R A Z Y. I mentioned a few posts back a certain wildness. It abated some, but came back (Again coinciding with the full moon—coincidence? Have you SEEN the black fur on this child’s back? My furry little were-wee-one). Now the wildness seems permanent. It’s like some kind of backup-rocket-engine has engaged in there, and she has to be interacted with and stimulated constantly, or she acts out. And acting out is not pretty. Meltdowns over nothing, purposeful and violent dismantling of household areas, blatant rule-breaking (Did I not TELL you EIGHT times to stop playing in the pool of cat vomit by the TV? Mom will clean that WHEN IT DRIES!).

In terms of new-parenthood discoveries, I am confused as to why, when you have a kid, everyone warns you about the sleep deprivation of the infant stage. That is amateur-sleep-deprivation stuff. I would gladly trade that feeling for how exhausted I am by dinnertime every day now. And the last few nights? She has woken up and cried in the night repeatedly until she is in bed next to me. Which means I wake up feeling like I slept in the trunk of someone’s subcompact car. For about two hours. And that was my whole night. (Susan, I really don’t know how you’ve survived with Sleepless-Sunshine over there. I hope you have reinforcements coming to stay for a loooong time with the new addition.)

Last night I had a migraine again for most of the night, due to its being cloudy outside. See, my skull has AMBITIONS. It wants to be a famous meteorologist. Thus I would like to make it known on the record that when I die, I would like to have my organs donated, but my SKULL should be sent to UCLA’s School of Atmospheric Sciences, and enrolled as a first-year undergraduate.

I don’t know what today’s failed attempt at toddler exhaustion will involve, but I know it won’t be Gym n’ Swim. Combine the crazy active days with the contorted, cut-short nights and the fact that I’m lifting a 25-pound body every ten minutes (often while also lifting 80 pounds worth of groceries, or a jammed laundry basket, or …), and right now I feel like I got hit by a speeding subcompact car, one with a mom in the trunk. Thud. I just can’t do it today. Can’t swish her around the pool. Can’t spot her on the mats. Can’t lift her up and down during the chorus of the Pirate Song. I’m sorry, Vibble, but we will have to fail at wearing you out today somewhere where I can watch from the sidelines. Playground maybe, or the Creepy Restaurant. Or maybe David will come over and play Hide n’ Seek with you for two hours.

Just in case it comes across that I’m not enjoying my toddler, I have to state for the record that she is the cutest, funnest thing in the whole wide world, and I feel lucky every day to be getting to spend so much time with her.

I don’t want to end this post without updating you on Stevel. His recovery from the surgery continues. Still in pain, but looking less run-down now. It will still be a little while before we know how well the surgery worked in terms of improving his breathing. We will let you know for sure.

Time for Blue’s Clues. “La la la la la la because it’s really FUN!” Thinking Chair, please help me remember what day it is.

In Case You Thought She Was Just Inland-Cute

June 9th, 2009

At the beach, this chunky-legged, lurchy-walking, smiley, friendly kid is EVEN CUTER. Today we went to Malibu Lagoon State Beach. Packed up the red wagon with all of our gear AND the kid, and trekked to the sand. We ate our packed lunch and played in the sand. Mostly, she wanted to sit in a hole I dug and have water poured over her. Waves at everyone and says, “Ha-aah! Hoh!” Drinks salt-water and, while not a sand-eater directly, repeatedly dips her Nuk in the sand and puts it back in her mouth. Ack. We got kind of a late start on account of my never having taken a toddler to the beach before (read: pack one of every item in the house). Now that I have a better idea of what we need and am organized, we can be up and out of the house, headed for the beach in no time. Looking forward to a LOT more days there this summer. Local friends, let me know if you want me to text you on the mornings we decide to head seaward.

Steve is feeling OK. He had a very tired weekend, and the pain increased. We won’t know how successful the surgery was until the swelling has gone down completely, but he looks good.

A few photos I took in the last couple of days

… and the REAL treat: Photos Jeremy took yesterday! Enjoy.