Monday, July 14, 2014

Why I Love Trader Joe's.

Mondays are grocery shopping days in the Lemmons household. As food-lovers, this is always an important and organized process with lists and trips to multiple grocery stores. However, our main stop is usually Trader Joe's.

I'll be honest with you -- I actually cried the first time we went grocery shopping in Los Angeles. I had spent the past two years shopping at Winco every two weeks. I found everything I needed and usually kept the bill under $150 (for two weeks). When my pregnant self shelled out that much for one week at the local Ralph's, I was sure that our family would never survive the expenses of La-La land. I didn't even try at Trader Joe's. If Ralph's, the neighborhood grocery store, was exorbitant, wouldn't a "fancier" store like Trader Joe's be even worse? When I finally ventured in a few days later out of curiosity, I was shocked to see that not only did they have unique food and great produce, but the prices were frequently better (or close enough that the better quality was worth it, unlike other stores with great produce *coughcoughWholeFoods!coughcough). It wasn't long before Trader Joe's was my biggest stop every week. Or couple of days. Whatever. The last few weeks I have been thinking about why I love good old TJ's so much (and why I'll probably cry even harder than I did about losing Winco when we eventually move...)

1. Delicious, seasonal produce. Also, it looks pretty. Those shining, colorful rows of bright tomatoes and peppers makes me want to eat my vegetables. 

2. Friendly staff. Thank you for giving stickers to my child when he is screaming his head off in the checkout line. Thank you for remembering me every week and starting up our conversation where we left off last Monday. Thank you for always having a smile. I like you people. 

3. Convenience. Yes, it would be cheaper if I bought all my cauliflower heads intact. But as a working mom (and let's be honest, I bought them as a stay-at-home mom too -- no such thing as a mom who isn't busy), I appreciate having my veggies pre-cut and pre-washed. It's nice to be able to just throw everything into the pot.

4. And with that, not only do they have conveniently cut baggies of broccoli, fruit, cauliflower, and so on -- but they also have veggie mixes, like stir fry mixes, mirepoix, etc. 

5. Interesting things to try. They are always incorporating something unique into their store, and I await my mailed Fearless Flyer eagerly each season to see what unique flavors are being featured. 

6. Healthy. I haven't done specific research into this or anything, but it seems like Trader Joe's really makes an effort to keep things as healthy and organic as possible. So it's okay that I eat a couple of servings of the Cowboy Bark, amirate?

7. Freezer section. Again, I know that in an ideal world, I would prepare everything from scratch and only eat whole foods. But no, it doesn't always happen. And I love me some Reduced Guilt Mac and Cheese.

8. And also, the frozen fruits and vegetables. In arrangements that I actually want. Like the mixture of pre-cut bell peppers (have I mentioned I like the pre-cut thing?). Or the pineapple tidbits, or the frozen berries, or the whole green figs. No limp cardboard packages here. 

9. Pork gyoza pot stickers.

10. Dark chocolate everything (but especially the peanut butter cups and the speculoos bar).

11. Cookie butter. 

12. Cookie butter.

13. Cookie butter.

14. 99 cent greeting cards. Which are cute, and a little tongue-in-cheek, and 99 cents

15. Fresh flowers, usually for less than $5 a bouquet. I am queen of buying myself flowers, and I can only justify it when they don't break the bank. 

16. Macarons. I came back from my study abroad to France in 2008. I walked two miles in Salt Lake City to pay $3 for a stale, brittle pistachio abomination. So I was kind of excited when I came to LA and found that I could buy macarons at dozens of little bakeries and at Whole Foods. More excited when I tasted Trader Joe's 12-pack and discovered that they can be done well on a budget (the coconut one, you guys). 

17. Sample table. Cal has a Pavlovian response to the sample table by now. He knows there is goodness awaiting there, and he demands to enjoy it. 

18. Pumpkin explosion in fall. They do so well with satisfying our nation's seasonal obsession. 

19. Homemade flour tortillas. 

20. Champagne grapes. Just picked these up today for the first time, and they are a win. 

21. Latkes -- a breakfast staple in our house (yes, I know I should make them myself).

22. Vegetable flaxseed chips. 

23. The best oatmeal. 

24. Good meat that is well priced. 

25. Cheap sushi. 

26. A huge variety of tasty ravioli. Definitely lived on that for the first few month's of Cal's life. 

27. Amazing, inexpensive EVOO. 

28. Clever product names. "This blueberry walked into a bar..." and so on.

29. Trader Joe's international personae. Trader Giotto, Trader Jacques, Trader Ming, Trader Jose, Trader Josef.

30. Plenty of cheese selection. Also, the moist mozzarella string cheese sticks. 

I'm sure after I press "publish," dozens more reasons I love Trader Joe's will pop into my head. But just know it is best. And go buy yourself some cookie butter.

**Edit** 31. The music!! I don't know if all Trader Joe's have phenomenal music, but whomever is in charge of the radio at about 9 am on Monday mornings at the Palms/Sepulveda store, thumbs up. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Inspiration from June

Here's my collection of what I loved on the internet this month. Posts that were beautiful, posts that made me smile, posts that made me cry, posts that made me think.

:: Mothers who write. 

:: Finding balance within the realm of working motherhood (rather than an either/or type of thing)

:: Motherhood: Defined (I love writing like this. Makes me think of David Levithan's Dictionary of Love)

:: A great example of loving and appreciating one's spouse.

:: Learning from trials.

:: I love examples of other real, live momma's days. And while this one is declaring she is not as positive as people make her out to be, I still think she is a great example.

:: How to be awesome, part 6. I definitely intended to write a whole post on this video, but suffice it to say -- this is a great message, and one I am constantly trying to apply rather than letting myself feel hurt.

:: A woman who helped organize a foundation for global service that is oriented towards families. Scott and I really would love to participate in something like this.

:: Does meaning come from the accomplishment of our goals or the striving towards them?

:: You can still have time to read when you have babies!! Amen, sista.

:: A very cool comparison of Christ to the hero of an epic story, and how that applies to all of us.

:: This is much like my philosophy on what to do when Cal won't eat. (It's always nice to be validated).

:: I want to be this kind of nurse.

:: Advice to young writers.

:: How amazing is this art gallery? I want to go there.

:: The secret to a good marriage: Definitely something to remember.

:: Mental course changers to stop mommas from trash-talking themselves.

:: Ten rules for reading.

:: On being honest about the adjustment period to motherhood -- such an echo of my own experience both then and now.

:: This makes me weep. I have seen so many families lose their first child, and wondered how it would feel to have another child. Here is one woman's moving story.

:: God as story-lover and law-maker. (Kind of weird, but it works when you read the article).

:: Get rid of the "shoulds".  

:: Chemo Barbie!!

:: A road-map for finding happiness.

:: Truly beholding our children.

:: Learning to be Christlike.

:: How the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints empowers women.

I hope you found something good to read. xo

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Happiness Project: June Recap and July

For the month of June, I focused on increasing the peace in my life. Here's how I did with my resolutions:

:: Journal daily -- While I didn't journal every single day, I used my journal much more frequently than usual, and I feel like it really did increase my sense of peace. When I was frustrated with something, I could type it out and get it out of my system, which left me feeling much less frustrated and also sometimes led me in a thought process that would solve the problem. 

:: Meditate daily -- I think this was the resolution that was most beneficial for me, new-agey as that sounds. I don't know that I meditate "right" -- but the five minutes of quiet thought that I've been taking almost every day has helped me to slow down, be less reactive, and find more creative solutions to my problems and ideas. 

:: Record my patriarchal blessing in my own voice -- I did this one on Sunday, and it was an incredibly moving experience for me. It fits well into my project for July, which I will comment on below. 

:: Go to the temple -- I didn't meet this resolution. On the day I planned to go to the temple, I spent the day throwing up. However, I am going to make an effort to go in July -- the beauty of this is that I can continue to try and keep following my resolutions even if my personal deadline has passed. 
:: Search for quotes, songs, scriptures, etc. that promote peace -- I haven't finished my topical study of Peace in the scriptures, but I have found a scripture that has become more or less my anthem for this month -- it came up multiple times and rang so true to some of the difficulties I have been experiencing with peace:
2 Nephi 4:27: And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?
I've come to realize that when my peace is destroyed, it is frequently because I have allowed it to be destroyed. I have taken offense, or reacted with anger, or beat myself up mentally, thus giving "the evil one place in my heart." I think my big ticket lesson from this month has been that peace is mine to choose (by the grace of God) and when it is chased away it is often by my choices.


For July, I originally thought I would focus on marriage or parenthood. I felt like I should move away from these "self-centered" goals and focus outward. However, another lesson I've learned this month is that in order to effectively serve and love others, I need to have a healthy relationship with myself. For some reason, I have always really struggled with my self-esteem. I've always been quick to berate myself, been easily offended, imagined the worst case scenario for myself. This has caused me problems with depression for most of my life. As I went through a rough several days this past month, I felt strongly that I needed to focus on recognizing my worth as an individual and daughter of God. So this month's emphasis is "Self Worth." My goals are:

:: Making use of that recording I made of my patriarchal blessing. (Explanation of patriarchal blessing). It is such an amazing tool for remembering my divine nature and I use it too infrequently.

:: Similar to my plan for June, study scriptures and other quotes/ideas about self-worth and divine identity.

:: Follow some journal-writing prompts on self-worth and self-discovery. 

:: Spend some time being creative every day -- So, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, girls from the ages of 12-18 work on Personal Progress, a project that encourages them to develop attributes like faith, knowledge, integrity, etc. One of them is individual worth, and I always thought those value projects were so easy to complete because many of them involved developing talents. Because I took piano, voice, and dance classes, I was always "developing talents." However, I feel like I missed the central message. I want to spend some time being creative and focusing on how that can help develop confidence. 

So far, this Happiness Project has quickly become an exploration of some of my deepest values and issues, but I appreciate the fact that it has me asking questions of myself and seeking to progress. What do you find helps increase your self-confidence and positive self-esteem? 
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