Sometimes I sound like my sister

It’s a running joke in my family that my sister is … well … high maintenance I think is the polite version. We’ve used other words within the family, but most of them are not suitable for the blog, so I won’t go there.

I love her. We all love her. But, she wants what she wants in the way she wants it. No deviations are permitted. No small changes are allowed. No excuses are accepted.

She picks the restaurant. She chooses the cake. She decides the time. And she has veto power over others’ choices. The rest of us have just learned to go with it. Really, it’s just easier this way.

Today I was at a store buying a gift card. I asked for a gift receipt and the cashier acted like I’d asked her to translate the card into Chinese or give me her first born or something. Can I really be the first person who has asked for a gift receipt? I always include a gift receipt, in case the recipient has problems with the card. It’s happened before, so I just make sure I include the gift receipt just in case.

Because the cashier didn’t have a clue how to give me a gift receipt, a manager was called out. And she didn’t know  either. Between the two of them they couldn’t figure out how to give me a gift receipt for the gift card.

So, in the end, they decided that the only way to do this was to run a balance inquiry on the card. Which would have required that they scratch off the code in the back and pull it off the cardboard.

“Do you think they’ll mind?” the cashier asked me, wondering if the recipient would really care if she did this.

“I mind,” I responded in an exasperated tone. “Don’t do it. I’ll just risk it.” I told her after thinking about my options for a moment. “And you better hope she doesn’t have any trouble with the card.”

Two minutes later I was sitting at a table addressing the card and it hit me … I sounded liked my little sister. A lot. I think I even used her tone of voice. I never thought I’d see the day when that happened.

I’ll never tell her though.

Retail therapy that’s a family event

lizfranceli / Pixabay

Today, almost every female in my immediate family will be descending upon a shopping mall. More specifically, we are all going to one particular dress shop in a mall on the other side of town for a special shopping trip — my niece is picking out her prom dress(es).

I remember doing this with both  my sisters — going to the shops and trying on one dress after another. Driving the sales clerks to moments of panic and frustration over the thought that we’d never find that perfect dress. Eventually, the one dress that was “the one” would emerge from all the others. And it would be exceptional.

I think all the tías and abuelitas are going today/ My niece knew that, despite her recent tendency to keep her aunts and grandmothers out of the loop, today we all had to be included. There were two main reasons for that:

  1. we would have never forgiven her for “forgetting” to invite us to today’s outing
  2. with all of us here, she can fall in love with a dress in a higher cost bracket, secure in the knowledge that someone will say “don’t worry about, I’ll pay for the rest”

Regardless of the reasons why, today’s little shopping trip is one of those things I will remember when she grows up and becomes and adult. We’ll wax poetic over the “remember when” moments of today, adding them to when we helped shop for my sister-in-law’s wedding dress, my niece’s quinceañera dress, my outfit for my first TV appearance.

Pray for the poor sales clerks. There are a lot of us, all trying to help one teenager pick a dress.

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Photos courtesy of

I didn’t plan that!

As if I needed further proof that God hates me…

I bought a DSLR camera kit. I’d been lusting after one for quite a while but I couldn’t justify it to myself. I own a very nice point and click I bought mid-2012 that produces very nice shots. But I really really wanted a DSLR camera.

Christmas sales exist to make my life difficult. Amazon had been listing an “everything included” sale on a Canon Rebel T5i that literally had everything I ever wanted, including a long-range zoom lens, a tripod and an extra battery.

I really really wanted it.

I consulted with a friend who takes photos professionally. She told me to get it, that it was going to be the best deal I could find on this kind of thing. And still I paused.

“That’s a lot of money,” I kept telling myself. And I kept visiting the listing, secretly hoping that the sale would end and put me out of my misery.

I stayed within budget for all my Christmas expenses. I put aside the money for the New Year’s trip. I didn’t go crazy on any dinners, or presents or anything else.

“I deserve this,” I told myself. And still I paused. I knew that if I was going to buy it, I would need to put it on a credit card. The one that I’d almost paid off from my last shopping spree.

One morning, after Christmas, I finally gave in. Practically holding my breath, I ordered the camera kit. I entered my credit card info (secretly hoping they would deny the charge and save me from myself).

The camera was ordered. Amazon sent me a message to confirm that it would be shipped shortly.

I started to breathe easier. I should have known better.

Later that same day I cracked a crown. A subsequent visit to the dentist confirmed that I needed extensive work, again and on the same tooth as just a year ago.

How much is this going to cost me? You guessed it! Almost exactly the purchase price of the camera kit.

God is laughing at me. I just know it.

Taking over the world through food

2013.11 Dia de los Muertos cookies P1050695It’s an interesting experience when you see that Real Simple magazine posts 3 Easy Ways to Heat Tortillas. Are tortillas so mainstream now that a magazine has to provide instructions on how to heat them up? Are there really so many people out there buying tortillas and taking them home who have never had a tortilla in their kitchens (ever) that someone at Real Simple said, “hey, we really need to teach these people the way to heat a tortilla”? I guess so.

I can find Día de los Muertos sugar cookies at my neighborhood Kroger store. Tortillas outsell hotdog buns and burger buns. Salsa is the best-selling condiment in the country. Latino food cookbooks sell fast. When did Latino food take over the world as we know it? (And I’m not counting the spinach whole wheat things they sell at the local grocery store as “real” tortillas, though I’m sure the food industry doesn’t care about my opinion on that.)

Nowhere is this more evident than in Houston’s foodie scene. We have every kind of Latino food restaurant you can think of — from taquerías and churrasquerías to Tex-Mex and fusion. Pupusas, baleadas, tostones, maduros — these are all words I learned when I moved to this city. Yes, they’re all food.

Want a torta? There are many places you can find that, with at least one restaurant offering a torta/burger specialty.Want tacos? There’s a taco joint or food truck in every neighborhood in the city (it seems), with a few 24-hour options thrown in for those of us who go looking for them at 2am. (I know this from personal experience.) Cuban food, Honduran food, Colombian food, South American food — you can find it easily. And when you do go, you’ll see at least a few brave souls who have ventured outside the lines of “normal” (
Tex-Mex) into other kinds of food.

“Can you recommend a good Mexican food restaurant,” visitors will often ask me when they come in to Houston for a meeting. And I baffle them with my response, “What kind of Mexican food do you want?” When they ask me to explain what I mean I tell them, “There’s authentic, Tex-Mex, fusion, coastal, taquerías,

2013.11 Pinatas P1050590Target sells piñatas (they’re small, but they’re still piñatas). In Houston, even the mainstream museums and art organizations celebrated Día de los Muertos this year (which a few years ago was an almost unheard of holiday in this country). Sofia Vergara has design collections in every store in the planet, it seems. So, it looks like cultural tourism is “in.” The people who matter have decided that you must consume comida Latina and celebrate Latino holidays to be somebody, to count. And the world is listening to them. That’s a good thing, I think.

And I’ll be glad for this while trying hard not to wonder on how anyone could not understand the way to heat a tortilla: you microwave it. Wait, wait… is that just me? Nope. Even the people at Real Simple mentioned it as an option.