Thursday, December 27, 2012

Field Trip!

At holiday time, my meal planning shifts into overdrive. I shop for meals, second-guess my menus and recipes, prepare them anyway, clean up afterwards, and repeat the process. So what did I do the day after Christmas? I visited the first Houston location of Trader Joe's, the California-based specialty-grocery chain. 

This post isn't a plug for Trader Joe's, although I enjoyed my field trip and plan to make another, chiefly because TJ's doesn't pretend to offer everything a household needs, so a visit doesn't require a super-long list and two carts. More importantly, at a time of year when food-prep burnout looms with every invitation that requests my company PLUS a dish to share, I need a creativity jumpstart.  

Spent so much time in the kitchen you've got a cooking hang-over? Take a hair-of-the dog approach and visit a farmer's market, food bazaar, or new grocery store for ideas. While there, snap up an already-prepared shortcut. 

Trader Joe's olive tapenade will appear at  my house on New Year's Day. Later that week, I may mix it with cheese and butter, slather it on French bread, and tote it to a party. 

The strategy that eases kitchen burn-out works, with tweaks, in other areas. Exhausted by writing, teaching, working retail? Take a flyer on something related but different. 

If you write fiction, give blogging a shot. If you write science fiction, try your hand at contemporary suspense. 

Do you know any teacher who isn't bone-tired come holiday time? When exhaustion hits, it's tempting to eat, drink, and sleep away the school break, but those strategies are less effective than a classroom-role switcheroo.  If you teach, use the break to take a dance class, conversational Spanish, or learn basic auto repairs. 

Nothing kills holiday spirit like working retail. You're knee-deep in returns now, I know, but on your half-day off, deliver yourself to a restaurant, barber shop, or nail salon with a reputation for good service, and let someone wait on you/anticipate your needs for an hour. 

A new approach can be more invigorating than a nap and better for us than another cup of eggnog or a second cupcake. 

Olive tapenade, anyone?


Jennette Marie Powell said...

My family was supposed to take a field trip to Jungle Jim's today (like Trader Joe's, only many times larger!), but my DH ended up having to work. I'm with you on the try something different, though - I wrote a contemporary YA with no speculative elements for NaNoWriMo - something I never thought I'd write. And yes, I had fun - and I won!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Yay, you, Jennette! Congrats on your YA. Writing's not supposed to be all slog, all the time, so I'm glad you found (refound) the fun.

Jungle Jim's? I'm off to Google it--and plot for its entry into the Houston market. I'm a fool for grocery stores.

Lark Howard said...

Trader Joe's is just a couple blocks up the street from my house! Sorry I missed you on your trip to "town."

I'm working this week so I'm stuck in the office all alone...not so bad really since I can wear casual clothes and catch up on "stuff" uninterrupted. On the other hand, the cold weather is a nice change--though one I hope doesn't last too long.

Emma Burcart said...

What a great idea! I am a teacher and a writer, so I could use a few of your ideas. I actually signed up for a new CrossFit gym now that I am settling in to my new city, so I will be a student for awhile. And I'm currently on a break from my WIP since finishing the first draft, so I've been trying out short stories. It really does feel different!

Lynette M Burrows said...

Love the change-it-up tips, Pat. I am not a shopper - I research what features I want, then I want to walk in, purchase it and get the heck out of there. But classes - there's an idea, and a change of genres . . . hmmm, she says as she wonders away to work an idea . . .

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Shhh, Lark. I don't want the weather gods to hear you because I hope the cold lasts.

Sorry you have to work this week, but enjoy the quiet in the office.

I'll let you know next time I venture inside the loop for a visit to Trader Joe's.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Emma! You're proof a role change and task switch work. Good going with the CrossFit and the short stories.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Have fun experimenting with genres, Lynette!

I'm not a shopper, either, except when it comes to food.

Yesterday, before I visited Trader Joe's, I walked into an upscale kitchen-goods shop to buy two gifts from a wedding registry. I had checked the registry from home, printed it, and brought it into the store with the items I wanted to buy circled. An employee greeted me at the door, offered to help, and ordered, via her clip-on walkie-talkie, that the items I wanted be delivered to the register. Easy peasy! It didn't feel like shopping.

Louise Behiel said...

Boo, we don't have TJs in Canada. and nothing really like it, from the few times I've been in the store when visiting the US. but the ideas here are excellent. thanks so much.

Coleen Patrick said...

I always describe Trader Joe's as the store to get party items. Enjoy your tapenade Pat. Here's to new adventures this year!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Louise! I guess you're going to have to visit the US more often. TJ misses you.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Coleen! When cooking becomes a chore, a few party items transform it into something fresh and fun.

Here's to adventures!