#157 One-word ingredient lists

I had a bad ice cream experience on Saturday.

Leslie and I were walking home with a hankering for the cold and creamy so we popped into the local drug store and grabbed a carton of vanilla.  It looked good enough and was from a blue-lidded brand we knew so we bought it quick styles and came home for a perfectly healthy late night snack of waffles covered in maple syrup and ice cream.

Everything seemed fine until we dug in.

Yes, that’s when we noticed our ice cream was a little … strange. It tasted like plastic. It didn’t melt. And it had the consistency of the foamy white stuff you spray into drafty holes in your attic.

A closer inspection of the carton made us realize this wasn’t even ice cream at all! Nope, it was “Frozen Dessert”, something so mutant we can only refer to it by its temperature and the time of day it can be consumed. It sounded sort of like some terrible meal pill from the future. “One-hot-break-fast-please,” the robot says to the holographic employee. “And-three-fro-zen-des-serts.”

Yes, the name explained a lot as did the twenty-seven word ingredient list that read like what goes into making a tire.

It made us realize that maybe the days of milk, cream, and vanilla are slowly going away. Maybe we’re losing the ice-cream loving of yesterday in favor of oil-infused aspartame air that goes down cheap and doubles as bleach.

Well, to that I say for all the ways our food keeps changing, one thing remains a rare beauty in the grocery store are those one-word ingredient lists. Spot them like endangered snow owls when you spy them on bags of almonds (Ingredients: Almonds), packs of dried plums (Ingredients: Plums), or slapped on the side of orange juice cartons (Ingredients: Oranges.).

Because maybe injecting whey protein powder loaded with omega-stuffed vitamins is the way to eat your breakfast cereal.

Or maybe it’s time to go back to oatmeal.

(Ingredients: Oats.)


Photos from: here and here

Read More

#158 When a human answers the phone

My office is open concept.

We’ve got short walls between cubes so we can all hear each other’s conversations. Yes, everybody knows when grandpa’s in the hospital, dinner needs sour cream, or junior wet his pants at school.

It can be a little distracting so some folks stuff their ears with headphones, others book rooms for phone calls, and the rest of us, we’re just working over here and listening in.

When you hear your office pals chatting all day you start noticing some voices rise higher than others. Sure, there’s tense phone calls home once in a while, but generally the biggest culprit of Telephone Anger is getting locked in a fierce battle with a voice-automated help desk. Yes, frustration fills the air anytime anyone rings up an airline, cable company, or government.

That’s when you overhear the painful ten-minute experience of Office Joe or Jane trying to talk to a computer. There is the extremely long pause before the stern “Option Seven, please” and “NO. SEV-EN.” There’s the frustrated hanging up and calling again. And there’s the exasperated attempts to exit the system completely. “Main menu.” “Request agent.” “Main menu, main menu, main menu.”

That’s why it’s great when a human answers the phone.

See, we’re not always great talkers, me and you. We mix up words, we have weird questions, and we don’t always know what we need. Option 4 might not rebook our flight and Option 7 can’t fix the mistake on our bill. We know we need a human to get things moving and we just want to find one to help us out.

Today we give high gives and big cheers to companies that ditch electronic prisons and just send us straight to someone who helps us keep moving.


Photos from: here and here

Read More

#160 Going really fast over the speed bumps at the back of the bus

It’s a different world.

The back of the schoolbus is a strange seatbeltless land far away from teachers, parents, and watching eyes. Slide on the slippery vinyl seats, let your booger noses drip, and laugh out loud with your eight-year old pals as you bump and bounce along to school.

When the bus smacks a big bump there’s suddenly a blurry scene of flying elbow-scabbed arms and grass-stained knees. Butts leave the seat, faces smack the window, and some kid sitting backwards sucking on a juice box might even go rolling right down the aisle.

You keep your looping roller coasters and fancy water slides.

We’ll take these big ol’ speed bumps on our daily school bus rides.


Read More

#161 When you haven’t seen any of the previews before

I was a movie junkie.

Back one summer in high school my friends and I went to the mall a couple times a week to catch whatever teen comedy, sci-fi epic, or blow-em-up special Hollywood had just churned out. Mid-week matinees, Friday night openers, weekend doubleheaders — it didn’t matter. We just snagged a ride in mom’s minivan and went downtown for a show.

Back then it was rare catching a preview we’d never seen before. We’d done the whisper recommendations, seen the second version, and groaned with the bad jokes. There weren’t many surprises so I took for granted how great it is when you haven’t seen any of the previews before your movie starts up.

It usually happens three ways:

1. Wrongly targeted. Maybe you’re an arty movie snob slumming it with the kiddies on a Saturday morning birthday party. Just when you thought you’d caught all the French foreign film teasers with people stirring fresh chocolate and looking into each other’s eyes in meadows, there’s suddenly a pile of 3D animated animals to charm you away.

2. Season’s greetings. Here’s where you catch the first big summer blockbuster and are greeted with a pile of previews that welcome in the season.

3. Old basement classics. A delectable goldmine of rarely seen previews is when you push in a crusty videotape of Goonies on your friend’s basement couch and catch a pile of 1980s previews you haven’t seen in years. Coming soon! Adventures in Babysitting.

Sure, it’s a small thing, it’s a simple thing, but catching an entire lineup of fresh previews is a beautiful little appetizer of


Read More

#163 Shampoo memories

My sister is way cooler than me.

Growing up, I was a thick-goggled nerd with solar system posters in my bedroom, Tetris blisters on my thumbs, and limited understanding of how to comb my hair.

My sister Nina was two grades below me but way above me on the popularity scale. While I was practicing my Pythagorean Theorem, she was captaining the Junior Girls basketball team. While I was taking figure skating lessons, she was going to the mall. And while I was upstairs playing clarinet scales, she was hosting parties in the basement.

I remember those parties well, too. She invited me to hang out with her friends, but I preferred watching Perfect Strangers with my mom. We would split a can of Pepsi and a bowl of popcorn and sock-slide to the front door whenever the bell bing-bonged. When Nina’s friends rushed inside, the hallway was suddenly full of deodorant clouds, perfume sprayballs, and the wafting aroma of some kid wearing too much cologne.

See, whether you like it or not I got news for you, baby: You smell. Yes, you’re some bizarro concoction of shower soap, dryer sheets, and hair spray. You’re a walking cloud of deodorant streaks, sweat stains, and perfume spray. Your closest cuddles with your closest pals will reveal your smell to them and them to you.

When you walk away from old places and disappear from forgotten scenes you might miss those little moments that come from cuddling in between. Snuggling with your boyfriend on Sunday morning, holding hands with your wife at the park, running in the basement with your sitter, squeezing Grandma in the theater when it’s dark.

Shampoo memories are distant smells of days gone by that pop back into your brain a long time later.

They surprise you in random closets, walk by you in jeans at the mall, pop out of dusty old dressers, and come back like no time’s passed at all. Shampoo memories are Grandma’s skin cream on crinkly letters, an ex-boyfriend’s cologne on new friends, shampoo memories are smells that pay you a visit, new beginnings or teary-eyed reminders of an end.

When a shampoo memory pops into your brain make sure you stop to appreciate it’s there. Because those memories built you and made you, they formed you and raised you, and that little moment gives you a chance to remember someone who helped shape your life.


Photos from: here

Read More

#164 The look on someone’s face when they realize they’re on the big screen at the game

It’s a classic scene.

Between innings at the ballgame the camera pans the crowd looking for screaming kids, sleeping babies, and superfans. When the 14-year-olds with the painted chests, Grandma with blue hair and thirty pins on her shirt, or the kissing couple pops on the screen, it’s a great little moment.

Everyone in the crowd gets to watch someone blow up to supersize in front of thousands of people. And we get to watch their reaction range from red-cheek blushes, horrified screams, complete indifference, or wild cheering. Nobody knows what’s coming, either! We might get a little dance if we’re lucky. Maybe even some hip shaking. Or a big two-armed scream of


Photo from: here

Read More

#165 Homemade dishes at the potluck

I have a bad potluck history.

Back in college my friend Roz would occasionally host extravagant potlucks where folks would come toting homemade potato salads, freshly baked lasagnas, and warm brownies straight from the oven. Of course, I’d pick up a tub of cheapo store-brand ice cream on my way over and really bring down the value of the spread. “Hey, did you try some of my vanilla?”, I’d offer meekly to the host, sugary crumbs from someone’s homemade date squares spilling down my sweater. “It’s double churned!”

Yes, I was a Potluck Novice then, but I was young so forgive me. I learned my lesson after sheepishly scooping up packs of warm liquid freezies and unopened jars of pickles at the end of the night. Hey, my store-bought stuff just wasn’t in the same league as anything homemade because who wants a Fudgee-O when there are hot chocolate chip cookies lying right beside it? (Hint: Nobody.)

Now how good does it feel bringing the most popular dish at a potluck? Yes, when your famous veggie lasagna, homemade chicken wings, or secret-recipe chocolate-coconut squares get scooped up quick, it’s a sign that you made the right dish. Homemade dishes at a potluck jump out between wet shrimp rings, cold buckets of fried chicken, and frozen pizzas. They’re a big sign of giving your time, a sign of caring, and a sign of spending lots of love to make sure we enjoy a great meal.


Photo from: here

Read More

#166 Midnight summer walks

Step into the breeze.

After the sun dips down and the day goes by, the houselights flick on and fill streets with checkery yellow teeth. Moonbeams shine softly on tree branches, warm winds whisper through black hedges, and a still and soothing softness settles over everything like a blanket.

Midnight summer walks help soak up beautiful moments between today and tomorrow. Systems shut down, stresses ease up, and work days fade away as you stroll through quiet streets after dark and quiet paths in quiet parks.

Let the world fade away as you drift to the end of today.

Nothing else matters right now.


Photo from: here

Read More