My Heart Almost Died.

I was always known to take chances, for following my dreams and being a free spirit. At times it was a little scary, but the thrill and pure joy of doing what I love outweighed that fear. It squashed the doubt inside too; all of those practical questions about money and the future didn’t matter. I was living in the moment, for “right now”, and I wasn’t going to grow up and let my “heart die” like Ally Sheedy claimed would happen in “The Breakfast Club”.
I spent my twenties finding myself, building my self-confidence and reaching for all of the exciting possibilities as a journalist and author. Money was not an obstacle; not because I had a ton of it, but because I could make almost anything work on very little.
I interviewed some of my favorite celebrities, could state I was the first person to interview Taylor Swift, made so many wonderful connections in the entertainment industry, and published 5 books all by the time I was 30. I even started seeing more money from book sales and actually got some paying gigs for articles.
I moved around a ton, leaving New York, my family, and some of my closest friends, always knowing they were there, cheering me on. To Nashville, back to New York, then to Anna Maria Island, and my 6 months of travel of the West Coast and New Orleans, and back to Nashville… something changed after that last move.
It wasn’t that money started to matter to me, but time did. I spent so much time running toward my next adventure. I gave so much of my time working as a barista even after it stopped supporting my free spirit lifestyle.
Suddenly, I was back in Nashville, where I had felt so alive just five years ago as I wrote “The Watch Dog”, but now I was stuck. Stuck being underpaid and overworked as a barista. Stuck doing digital marketing to create more income, and because I was trying to force myself to like it more since it was related to my chosen career path.
I always knew journalism wasn’t going to pay much, but times have really changed. With every high school and college kid blogging and writing articles, talent doesn’t mean as much as the time, energy and social media strategy you can bring to the table.
This past year, I have lacked in all of those departments. I’m fully aware I’m no longer 25. I don’t have the energy to run around behind an espresso bar for eight hours, write a chapter of my novel afterward, interview a singer-songwriter, write three articles, spend an hour on social media, cook dinner, and still have a social life.
Believe me, I used to do it all. I used to wake up at 4am and go to bed at midnight, and be at my best. I was bubbly about it all, too. Now, I’m a grumbly shift manager at one of the busiest Starbucks I’ve ever worked at, lucky if I write in my journal twice a week and my energy along with my spirit is depleted.
Ally Sheedy was right (or John Hughes rather)… I feel like my heart died a little. But I’m determined to get it beating again. What’s equally as bad as my dreams, or the energy to pursue those dreams, being on pause, is I miss home. I miss my brother, sisters, my niece and nephew. I hate watching them grow up so far away when I was there every day with them for so long.
It’s time to come home. I’ve spread my wings. I’ve left the nest. I soared. I fell. I got back up and soared again. And fell again. I’m tired now. Time is precious. I don’t want to waste that time working just to pay the bills. I am so drained and stagnant that I am not living.
When I move back to New York, I will be a nanny for my niece and nephew. There is nothing like being around children to awaken my creativity and remind me of all the excitement left in this crazy world. I will no longer have to waste all my energy at a job that underpays and overworks me. I will be making quality moments with people I care about, and when the little ones are off at school, I can focus on my writing.
I will encourage those kids to follow their dreams and that anything is possible. Along with their parents, I will try to help guide them with advice, but I know—and I hope—they won’t take all of it. Everyone needs to find their own way in life. There were tons of advice and warnings and discouragement thrown at me growing up.
Some of it was good advice, and maybe I should have taken it into consideration, but I wouldn’t have had this amazing journey with all of its ups, downs and wonderful surprises. My mother always said to me, “I don’t want you to get your hopes up”. To this day, I try to always get my hopes up. Sorry Mom, I know you didn’t want me to get hurt, but really, I’m fine!
Hope is one of the most important things. It’s our life line. Even if something didn’t work out, I never regretted the hope I felt beforehand. That feeling is magical; to allow yourself to get buzzed off of excitement and believe that anything can happen. I will always tell my niece and nephew to keep their hopes high. It’ll keep our hearts from dying.

Traveling Barista Picks: Coffee Shop Playlist

Let’s face it, being a barista is sometimes a gruesome job.  We romanticize it, and how it allows us to pursue our dreams, and connect with people.  While that is all true, there is also the downside.  We’re often underpaid, overworked, and take crap from everyone.
The particular coffee shop I currently work in is definitely the busiest one I’ve experienced.  We’re never staffed properly and while I’m making drinks, a crowd of millennials are either glaring at me to see if I’m working on their frappuccino or they’re totally ignoring me while staring at their phone.
Still, there are those customers you connect with and look forward to seeing.  One moment, one person, can make or break our day.  I have selected a handful of songs that express our hot and cold feelings toward being a barista along with the romantic notion of connections over coffee.
Barista or not, we’ve all sat in a cafe with a friend, crush or a dream.
1. One In A Million – Backstreet Boys
This song was the one that inspired this playlist. When the Unbreakable album was released by BSB in 2007, of course, I felt like “One In A Million” was dedicated to me.
Notable Lyrics: The line’s out the door/Serving up fraps/Until she can’t take anymore/I see it in her broken smile
2. Taylor The Latte Boy – Kristin Chenoweth
We all love Kristin Chenoweth! This song is about a customer’s hilarious crush on a barista.
Notable Lyrics: But I saw him flip the lever and for me he made it triple/And I knew that triple latte meant that Taylor loved me too
3. Falling In Love In A Coffee Shop – Landon Pigg
What a sweet song! The title says it all.
Notable Lyrics: I never knew just what it was/About this old coffee shop I love so much/All of the while I never knew/All of the while, all of the while it was you
4. Starbucks! – Bobby Bones & the Raging Idiots featuring Kelsea Ballerini
A silly country ode to the coffee corporation.
Notable Lyrics: There’s a tip jar on the counter/I’m about to make it rain/Hey its Bobby I’m not booby/Please stop messing up my name
5. The Starbucks Rant Song – Christopher Cristwell
One of my former Starbucks co-workers played this song for me years ago. Most of us would never be so mean, but we can all understand some of these thoughts that go through this guy’s mind. P.S. – He got fired for making this song.
Notable Lyrics: You get cappuccinos. You’re the pickiest of all. You didn’t order it dry, but you didn’t want any milk at all.
6. Tom’s Diner – Suzanne Vega
This song reminds me of my childhood. It’s about a diner obviously, but that was the coffee shop of the 80s and 90s.
Notable Lyrics: I am waiting/At the counter/For the man/To pour the coffee/And he fills it/Only halfway/And before/I even argue/He is looking/Out the window/At somebody/Coming in
7. Cold Coffee – Ed Sheeran
A sweet love song about wanting the person in your bed to stay.
Notable Lyrics: I’ll wake with coffee in the morning/But she prefers two lumps of sugar and tea/Outside the day is up and calling/But I don’t have to be so, please go back to sleep
8. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
Not a song about coffee shops or even coffee really, but I just love the line: “I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee”. One day, a newby barista and I listened to this song on repeat after I taught her my trick to make cloud-like foam.
9. Cigarettes and Coffee – Otis Redding
There is no one quite like Otis Redding that can set any mood. I can picture this story in my mind and absolutely love when a song can do that.
Notable Lyrics: People I say it’s so early in the morning/Oh, it’s a quarter till three/We’re sittin’ here talkin’/Over cigarettes and drinking coffee, now, lord
10. Java Jive – The Ink Spots
My mother used to sing this song, but I never knew what the hell she was talking about. When I heard the song recently, it made me laugh realizing she wasn’t just babbling about “a cup, a cup, a cup”.
Notable Lyrics: Oh slip me a slug from the wonderful mug
And I’ll cut a rug just snug in a jug
11. Sugar Shack – The Fireballs
A fun oldie that puts you in a good mood!
Notable Lyrics: Well, it’s just a coffeehouse and it’s made out of wood/Espresso coffee tastes mighty good/That’s not the reason why I’ve got to get back
12. The Sad Café – The Eagles
This is another one of those great stories within a song. They don’t make artists like The Eagles anymore.
Notable Lyrics: Some of their dreams came true/Some just passed away/And some of them stayed behind/Inside the Sad Cafe.
13. Tryin’ – Little Big Town
This song is for all of us who refuse to stop dreaming!
Notable Lyrics: It’s been six years since she left home and she hasn’t made it big yet/Oh but there’s no second guessing baby, she’s got no regrets/She still works late shift down at the Greasy Spoon cafe/When she brings you out your milkshake you just might hear her say/It’s about hoping/It’s about dreaming/It’s about never not believing
14. Down – Mat Kearney
This song was recommended by some friends of mine who are huge Mat Kearney fans.  It makes me want to listen to more of him!
Notable Lyrics: I’m working late again slaving to make the rent
I’m slanging coffee with dreams heavy as cement
They’re coming one by one the face of falling love
I write a song with a prayer as I slide the cups
15. Black Coffee In Bed – Squeeze
I love the imagery in this song.  I have tons of journals with coffee stains on the pages, and it brings me back to how I usually write with coffee by my side.
Notable Lyrics: The stain on my notebook/Remain all that’s left/Of the memory of late nights/And coffee in bed
16. Me And Mrs. Jones – Michael Bublé
Hearing Bublé’s version of this classic gets you dreaming of a secret affair with him, which is why I chose his version over the others. I used to have customers who were both married to other people meet in our cafe every morning before they went to work. Sneaky jerks! All kinds of stories unfold at a coffee shop.  Baristas get just as many as bartenders do, if not more!
Notable Lyrics: We meet every day at the same cafe/Six-thirty and no one knows she’ll be there/Holding hands, making all kinds of plans/While the juke box plays our favorite songs/Me and Mrs. Jones/We got a thing goin’on/We both know that it’s wrong
17. Caffeine – Psychostick
This is the song on the playlist that will surely wake you up. Two of my oldest/best friends recommended this screamo-esque song for this playlist, and I couldn’t leave it out. It is in fact the only song on this playlist that’s straight up about coffee!  Be warned: Pretty sure the band was on more than caffeine when writing/recording it!
Notable Lyrics: Cappuccino is my mother/Frappuccino is my lover/Makes me feel exhilarated

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All That I'm Not Makes Me All That I Am

It’s easy to get caught up in envy of others who we feel are more beautiful, successful, funnier, and the list goes on and on.  We’re all guilty of wanting what we don’t have.
During my morning commute the other day, I admired a young woman’s hair.  It was long, strong and looked like she hadn’t fussed with it at all.  It wasn’t thin like my hair or extra coarse.
I could never pull off long hair, with the baby-fine strands I’ve been blessed-or cursed-with.  While admiring the woman’s hair, I came up with the title for this post.  I thanked God I can pull off all of the fake ponytails and hair extensions I wear frequently.  I can go from long hair to short to blonde to reddish to dark in seconds and people sometimes never catch onto my secret!
See, I was born with hair that changes like eye color.  If I put a darker color extension in, my hair looks darker, and the same with a lighter one.  So many people have told me they could never pull it off, but I make it work.
While that’s great for my hair problems, this post isn’t really about that.  It’s about accepting who we are and what we have as well as who we’re not and what we don’t have.
I was always a plus-size girl – growing up and into adulthood.  The past few years I’ve been able to teeter along the lines of “regular” size and those additional X’s.  Sometimes I make a big deal about having to buy those bigger sizes.  Sometimes it is because I’ve gained weight and sometimes it’s about the style and the design of the clothing.
That’s when I remind myself that these numbers don’t matter.  All that matters is that I like the way the clothes make me feel.  I may never be a size small or a medium or even a large, but I am trying to remind myself that size is just a stupid number or letter manufacturer’s make up.  It is not a science and no one fits a perfect mold – no matter what size we tend to wear.
Admiring someone else is a great thing, but beating yourself up for not being that person is futile and damaging.  What you’re telling yourself is, “I’m not good enough”.
This is not only true with appearances, but in careers and parenting as well.  I am guilty of it – at times feeling jealous of other writers for making more money or getting more exposure than I do.  Everyone has their own journey and timing.  All we can do is keep working hard and stay filled with a hunger to achieve our goals, without letting self-doubt creep in.
Although, I am not a mother – I know all of my Mom friends out there feel the pressure to be the perfect parent.  With social media comes tons of input on what items to buy, how to raise your child, and what to do/not to do in your pregnancy.  Wow, as if becoming a parent wasn’t scary and tough enough – now you have to live up to the “perfect Mom society”?  Again, you do what’s right for you and your child.  There is more than one way to do things and everyone has their bad days.  Don’t be fooled by the smiling family photos and the bragging Moms with clean houses, home cooked meals, and who have were never on the verge of losing their minds.
Believe me, all of the advice I’m dishing right now is definitely advice I need to keep taking myself.  I have my bad days, but I am trying to make them less frequent.  I am trying to not beat myself up when I slack off of work, my routine, exercise or ate too much vegan pizza.  Telling myself that it’s okay when I’m not perfect and that I’m still beautiful and a go-getter is the most important thing to do.
When I feel good about myself, I’m rewarded in so many ways.  Not only do I feel happy for no particular reason, but others seem to be drawn to me.  I receive compliments about my smile or strangers randomly start a conversation with me.
When we love ourselves, it truly does shine outwardly to others.
There’s my Tony Robbins speech of the week 🙂 Have a good one!  Love you guys.

Meet Singer/Songwriter Taylor Grey: An Old Soul with Youthful Energy

Indie-folk singer/songwriter Taylor Grey maybe your average teenager talking about love, but she somehow brings the conversation to life so eloquently and maturely, yet remains relevant to her age.
Her two EPs, Mind of Mine and Mind of Mine II (available here) were released earlier this year and teases at one incredible album from a new artist that’s bound to make waves in the industry.
Oh, and did I mention she is charismatic and  adorable to boot?  Check Taylor Grey out in the music video for “Love Sweet Love”
Listen on Spotify!
Follow Taylor Grey
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Mama Kate's Potato Salad

Like many people, I learned how to cook from my mother.  I began cooking and baking when I was 8-years-old and adored that time spent with Mom.
Whenever I make one of her recipes, I get nostalgic and sometimes, it feels like Mom is right there with me in the kitchen.  Yesterday marked 9 years since she has passed away and the moments I miss most were those times we slaved away well into the wee hours of the morning cooking for holidays.  We’d laugh so hard and listen to music and talk about anything and everything.
The thing about Mom’s recipes, though, besides being delicious, they were never vegan or measured out.  Hell, I still don’t measure anything, unless I’m creating a recipe to post on the blog.
Mom’s potato salad is one recipe that can easily be made vegan.  I had my siblings be the judge on comparing the taste and they gave it a family stamp of approval.
This potato salad wins over any crowd, even those who don’t generally like potato salad.  It even won a contest at a barbecue with my friends a few years back.  The ingredients are simple and the hardest part of this recipe is boiling, cutting and peeling the potatoes!  But if you hate peeling like I do, and love tater skins, use red potatoes, keep those skins on and you’ll love it just the same!

MAMA KATE’S POTATO SALAD [VEGANIZED]

SERVINGS: 10+
INGREDIENTS:
5lbs Red Potatoes
1.5 Cups Vegan Mayonnaise (I use Follow Your Heart’s Vegenaise)
1 Onion, chopped
1 TBSP White or Apple Cider Vinegar
A few splashes Nondairy Milk
2 tsp Salt or to taste
1 tsp Pepper or to taste
1 TBSP dried or fresh Parsley, plus more for garnish
Step 1: Wash potatoes and peel if desired. Place in pot with water and boil until a fork can easily go through potato.
Step 2: Run cold water over potatoes for a few minutes and set aside to cool off.
Step 3: Once potatoes are cooled down, slice into chunks.
Step 4: Stir together chopped onion and potatoes.
Step 5: Season potatoes and onions with salt, pepper and parsley. Mix together.
Step 6: Add vinegar and nondairy milk and mix before adding in mayo. If potatoes look dry, add more mayo.
Step 7: Store in refrigerator overnight preferably or for a few hours. The flavor will set in and it will taste much better the next day. If salad looks dry, add a little more nondairy milk and/or mayo.
Step 8: Garnish with parsley.
*Non-vegans: Mom used Hellman’s mayonnaise only (swore by the stuff) and also used about 3 crumbled hard-boiled eggs in this recipe.

Trying out this recipe?
Post your photos and tag @SandyLoMedia on Instagram! 🙂

Spotlight – Prologue

Available on Kindle March 1, 2017.
Available on Kindle March 1, 2017.
Spotlight” is the 6th book in the “Dream Catchers” Series and is from the perspective of photographer Haley Foster and rock star Jordan Walsh’s daughter, Aylin.  “Spotlight” is available on Amazon

SYNOPSIS
Aylin Ashton always had a voracious heart and is fiercely loyal to the ones she loves. At twenty, she wants more than the celebrity lifestyle her family is known for—she wants an identity of her own with friends who care about who she is and not her last name.
Most of all, Aylin wants the love story her parents have. In a world full of divorce, and a society that has made it hard for her to be “normal”, she is not sure if true love can be her reality.
She finds herself struggling to grow romantically and keeps hitting a dead-end with men. From the egotistical pop-rocker Rad Trick to hipster music critic Mike, Aylin is not particularly gaga for either of them, and can’t help to pine for too-old-for-her Irishmen, Colin Houlihan, who happens to be her father’s tour manager!
The impetuous Aylin can’t help but make passes at the flirty, always doting on her Colin, and when he actually admits an attraction to her, the two are on dangerous ground.
The experience leaves Aylin wounded, but ultimately sends her on a journey to find out who she is and what she really wants, and maybe to the special someone she had hoped for.

Read the “Dream Catchers” Series on Amazon!

PROLOGUE

Prologue
True love was something I knew existed, but I also believed it to be rare. Relationships crumbled too often for me to think it common.
My parents said the words “I love you” often—to me, to one another, to their friends. But I hadn’t given any thought to what those words meant. I loved lots of things, like animals, other children, ice cream, and my family. Outside of that, I never had a dire need for any particular person or object growing up, until recently.
I know how much I love my parents, but the kind of love Mom and Dad have for one another is what really baffled me. They embody true love. In today’s world, you don’t see it often, but it was always right in front of my face.
Throughout my school years, I couldn’t remember a single friend whose parents weren’t divorced. While traveling with my dad’s rock band, Tortured, I would meet so many celebrities who were on their second or third marriage. Some never settled down with anyone at all.
Even my dad’s best friend, Danny and the band’s manager, Cami, who were married almost as long as my parents had been, got a divorce a few years ago! I came to find out Danny was cheating on Cami, and they never had what she would describe as true love to begin with. The demise of their marriage opened my eyes to the fact that love is sometimes (most of the time) a novelty that wears off.
I used to be content surrounded by two loving, amazing parents who had the coolest careers. Mom is a notable photographer whose work had been featured in just about every magazine across the world. Dad, AKA Jordan Walsh, famous lead singer of Tortured, is renowned for his voice, songwriting, good-looks and humble personality. I’m proud of who my parents are and all they have accomplished.
While people think they’re cool for their professional accomplishments, I find their love for one another to be the most significant thing about them. They’re incredibly in sync with each other. They’ve been together for over twenty years and they still act like teenagers with a crush. I want that.
I don’t know when I will have it—if I will ever have it. While I am grateful for the life I’ve been blessed with, relating to my peers, making friends and having boyfriends is difficult.
I am around the band more than anyone else and they’re all at least twice my age. When I am not on tour with Tortured, I am accompanying Mom on photo shoots with teen heartthrobs, or cheering on Uncle Drew, shortstop for the New York Yankees, at home games. That is normal for me, but it isn’t for the average person.
Now that I’m no longer a teenager, I have grown tired of tagging along with my parents. I used to be a boisterous free spirit who went with the flow and didn’t stop to think about anything but the moment I was in. Senior year of high school was a serious wake-up call. I grew frustrated with my so-called friends when they continuously wanted to use me to get to Tortured or the Yankees or set them up with a celebrity.
Kayla was the closest I had to a best friend. We met when we were fourteen, and kept in touch through social media and text messages while I traveled with my parents. She’d always beg me to Face Time from backstage at whatever event I was at and made lots of ridiculous requests—like celebrity phone numbers.
I used to be happy and excited about life. When I turned eighteen, I suddenly felt alone. I couldn’t trust any of the friends I made in high school and meeting new people was not easy.
I keep waiting for something and I don’t know what that something is. I thought college would be better. I could discover some kind of career calling and find real friends, but ultimately, I want to find true love—to have a partner in life to express all of these emotions to. I don’t want to feel used for my last name, the celebrity company I keep, or my money.
I’d settle for a simple crush on someone my own age who wasn’t super out-of-reach. The hugest crush I ever had was on my dad’s hot tour manager, Colin Houlihan. As soon as he said hello to me with that adorable Irish accent, I was planning our life together at eight-years-old.
Not long after I became infatuated with Colin, I asked Mom how she knew Dad was her soul mate. I hoped her explanation would help me identify the feeling within myself one day.
“Did you know right away?”
She laughed, “No, I hated your father at first sight.”
My eyes widened, “Hated him?”
She nodded, “I thought he was gorgeous, of course, in that unpolished way he has about him, but we were totally different people. I feared boys, especially ones that smoked and had tattoos…”
“Dad smoked?” I gasped, disgusted.
“Yes, repulsive, right?” She rolled her eyes and then laughed, as if she was lost in the memory of when they first met.
“So, did Dad fall for you right away?” I wondered. “Did he annoy you so much until you just went out with him?”
Fame or no fame, Dad had a way about him. He was good at getting people to do what he wanted, especially girls. He was what most people called charming, and I’ve been told many times that I have inherited his charm. I don’t know about all of that since most people were too entranced with my father than to ever notice me.
Mom laughed at me thinking Dad forced himself on her.
“Your father thought I was a stuck-up brat. But we both felt like we had to prove something to the other one. I think we came off so different that we were both a little intrigued, and secretly liked challenging each other,” Mom shrugged. “We got to know each other and realized you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” she concluded.
She looked at me the way she did when she wanted me to come away from something with a lesson. Never judge a book by its cover, got it, Mom. She didn’t realize the response I was searching for, though.
I never did get a clear answer of the moment Mom knew Dad was her true love, or how she knew. Does the feeling just hit you? Was it gradual?
Now at twenty-one, I feel I should know something about relationships and love, but I am still clueless and desperately wanting to mature in that department. As for the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover”… well, I never did, and sometimes I think I should have. Sometimes a book turns out exactly like its cover, and its one you never should have read to begin with.
Read Chapter One

Read the “Dream Catchers” Series on Amazon!

Funny Video: MTV Stars James Manzello + Matt Pavich are Itchy with a B!

If you watch MTV’s Joking Off, you’re familiar with the hilarious comedy duo James Manzello and Matt Pavich. These two best friends have been working together for years on funny and addictive YouTube videos. One of my favorites is “Capitale’s Hit Single!”
With a great beat, silly, but clever lyrics, along with terrific visuals (“this is how I turn on the television” while James is actually standing on top of a TV and spinning around) — you will find yourself singing these catchy lyrics aloud, and wanting to “side walk on the sidewalk”!
For more on James Manzello: YouTube | Twitter | Instagram
For more on Matt Pavich:  Twitter | Instagram
Check out their YouTube Projects:
Handsome Dancer
The Neighborhood Series
Catch these guys on MTV’s #JokingOff Thursday nights!
 
 

Coffee Shop Etiquette 101

There are some things you should never do in a coffee shop.  You may think your behavior is totally normal, but you might be royally pissing off your barista.  Who cares, you say?  Well, not only will your baristas secretly dread seeing you, you may actually be slowing down the pace of the cafe for other patrons.  So many people (most of them good people) are guilty of such bad etiquette that I thought I’d list some items here for all to see.

Pay Attention

working-in-retail-gets-me-every-time-65621This one should be obvious, right?  But in today’s world, NO ONE pays attention to anything but their phone!  You stare at your phone while waiting online.  You talk on it while placing your order, which is kind of rude, by the way!  Hell, ,you even pay for your coffee with your phone, but yet you never have your app ready at the register!  Worse yet, you don’t even have your order ready after waiting on line!  To top it all off, you complain about how long the line is and how we’re making you late for work… it could never be poor planning on your part, right?
However, lines can get pretty long during the morning and we try so hard to get you guys in and out quickly.  But sometimes, our customers don’t make it easy.  I’m not saying it’s your fault, but it’s everyone’s fault.  You don’t know what you want, so you stare at the menu board, trying to figure it out, even though, we both know you’re going to get a caramel macchiato, though you want to “try something new”.  You know what happened before you got to the register?  The person in front of you also couldn’t decide what they wanted.  And the person after you?  You guessed it, also decided to play on their phone instead of figuring out  what they were ordering.  In short, use your time on line wisely.

Don’t Stare!

When you’re at work, do you like it if someone is behind you, lurking over your shoulder while you type at your desk?  No?  Funny, us baristas hate lurkers too!  Staring at us over the espresso machine does not bring your drink out faster!  In fact, it totally creeps us out.  It also makes us nervous, thinking we’re not moving fast enough when in fact, you JUST placed your order and there are 10 drinks in front of yours.  And FYI, if you happened to have ordered food, hot tea or regular coffee, it is not the barista at the espresso bar’s responsibility to make those items, so don’t look at them wondering whether or not they’re making it.

Stop Explaining

Not to be rude, but we don’t need to hear reasons behind why you order a certain drink or why you don’t want to reload your gift card or how you spilled your drink.  We will gladly try our best to solve your problem and give you great service, no questions asked.  Yes, we love small talk.  Yes, we love building relationships with our customers, but just let us clean up your spilled drink instead of continuing to describe how it happened.  When placing your order, we don’t need to know why you want nonfat milk, but keep the whip cream.  We’ll make it anyway you want – no explanation needed!

No Touching!

Anything behind the counter or bar area is off limits to customers.  Just because you have long-ass arms that can reach a cup, straw or our water spout does not mean it is free to take!  In fact, if you touch a cup or lid, we are technically required by our quality assurance inspectors to toss those items out.  Just politely ask for something and we will be happy to get it for you!

Don’t Talk To Us Like Idiots

willywonkaThis one should go without saying, but nothing bugs me more than when people speak to me like my brain can’t comprehend much or they talk slow as sludge to me.  “I would like a… grande… mocha… extra shot… decaf… iced.”  And then they look at me as if waiting for me to ask them to repeat their order.  It actually makes it harder for me to take your order the more you slow it down.  As baristas, we were taught to call out beverages in a certain order.  We don’t expect customers to figure out our code, but telling us your order in a normal, audible speaking voice is best.  By the way, while we’re at it – if you specify the size and whether it is iced or hot first, that is a huge help to your barista.  We can’t mark anything on a cup until we know those 2 things.  Lastly, you repeating “decaf” five times is unnecessary.

Stop Spelling Your Name For Us

As a writer and awesomely intuitive name speller, this actually offends me.  If I ask your name, tell me what it is.  Don’t immediately start spelling.  Now you’ve thrown me off.  If someone asks my name, I don’t say, “Es. Ay…” I fully expect someone to think my name is “Essay” before I can finish spelling.
Also, if I ask you to repeat your name, it doesn’t mean I don’t know how to spell it.  It simply means it is too damn loud between the blenders, the grinder and espresso machine to hear you.  Just repeat your name for us.  If I ask if your name is Sarah with an “H” or Zack with a “K”, don’t tell me it doesn’t matter.  I take my names very seriously and nothing pisses me off more than people spelling my name “Sandi” (as so many of my co-workers do).
Okay, wait.  Scratch this whole paragraph… maybe most baristas don’t care about spelling your name right at all.  Maybe some of them are snarky jerks.  But if you happen to come to my register, let me spell your damn name! 😉  Apparently, I am just a weirdo with a name spelling fetish.
The Traveling Barista is meant to be in good fun.  Baristas genuinely love their customers, but we deal with the general public on a constant basis and therefore need to vent heavily.

Have a coffee shop story you want to share?  Comment below!

Funky Monkey Stuffed French Toast

I’m very much the unplanned cook.  I don’t purchase ingredients with recipes in mind, I create recipes from what I have on-hand.  This system can fail, but often, I enjoy the challenge and come up with some pretty creative ways to incorporate things from my pantry.
This stuffed French toast recipe was inspired by something I saw online, but I have changed quite a bit.  It’s easy, vegan and customizable!

funky monkey french toast 2FUNKY MONKEY STUFFED FRENCH TOAST

SERVINGS: 3
INGREDIENTS:
Filling
1/2 Banana, the riper, the better!
1/4 cup Nut Butter (I used Almond, but I bet PB would be fantastic!)
1 TBSP Cacao or Cocoa Powder
1 TBSP Cacao Nibs or Nondairy Chocolate Chips
2 TBSP Brewed Coffee
Batter
1 tsp Vanilla
1 TBSP Brewed Coffee
Dash Ground Cinnamon
Dash Ground Turmeric
1/2 cup Nondairy Milk
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Lemon Juice
6 Slices Whole Grain Bread (or any bread you want!)
2 TBSP Coconut Oil
Optional Toppings: Sliced Banana, Maple Syrup, Cacao Nibs, Powdered Sugar, Cinnamon, Walnuts, Chocolate Sauce, Honey or Agave
Step 1: Mix ingredients of batter with a fork and let sit for a minute.  This will allow time for the mixture to curdle to make a buttermilk consistency.
Step 2: While waiting for the batter to curdle, mix together the ingredients of the filling.  Mixture should be spreadable.  If it is too runny, add more banana or almond butter.
Step 3: Spread filling on 3 slices of bread.  Place the other 3 slices on top to make sandwiches.  Cut diagonally.
Step 4: Heat a pan on low to medium heat.  Add the coconut oil to the pan.
Step 5: Soak sandwich halves into batter, making sure the bread gets wet on all sides.  Don’t soak too long though – you don’t want the bread to fall apart!  Immediately, place in pan.*
Step 6: Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.  Serve on a plate with maple syrup and banana slices or your toppings of choice.  Enjoy!
*Author’s Note: Some breads get soggier than others, so choose wisely.  The first time I made this, the bread I used barely got soggy, which upset me – I want my French Toast to be a little doughy.  I switched to Multigrain Sunflower Bread from Costco and it was the right choice – but I had to be very quick with the batter process or else it would have fallen apart.

Trying out this recipe?
Post your photos and tag @SandyLoMedia on Instagram!  🙂

 
 

The Girl and the Dreamcatcher: Dove Cameron & Ryan McCartan Talk EP, Descendants 2 + More

Although The Girl and the Dreamcatcher sounds like the name of my next novel, it’s actually a musical duo consisting of Dove Cameron (Disney’s Descendants, Liv and Maddie) and fiance Ryan McCartan (Liv and Maddie, Rocky Horror Picture Show).  And yes, their personal story also sounds like the plot of a romance series: girl meets boy, they dislike each other, but are forced to work together and eventually fall in love, making sweet music together.  However, for Dove and Ryan — this isn’t a role they’ve been cast in, it’s their reality!

Available on iTunes
Available on iTunes
Last week, TGATDC dropped their first EP, Negatives, with their musical and personal chemistry apparent in every song.  Already receiving high-praise from the media, Negatives is heating up the iTunes charts quickly and their music video for “Make You Stay” went to #3 on VEVO’s Top New Music list.
Negatives consists of 6 infectious pop hits, but not your typical bubblegum or hot club songs we’ve come to expect from Disney stars of the past.  While danceable and upbeat, Dove and Ryan’s music surpasses cliches with electro-pop beats and incorporating themes like,wolves, the moon and stars — tieing in the dreamcatcher name.
“You know how I get when the sun goes down,” sings Ryan on “Glowing In The Dark” while other tracks “Cry Wolf” and the powerful “Monster” could be songs on the soundtrack for “Twilight”, but are beautifully done and relatable.
It’s incredibly hard not to fall in love with Dove and Ryan’s voices and how well they complement one another.  Seriously.  Listen and repeat this EP!
I sent the engaged couple some questions earlier this week and am happy to share their answers with you!
Sandy Lo: First, I LOVE the name of your duo. How did you come up with it?
Photos by Paul Smith
Photos by Paul Smith
Dove Cameron & Ryan McCartan (The Girl and the Dreamcatcher): Thank you so much! It was a big team effort to find a name that fit us as well as this one does…we are both such imagery based artists, we wanted to find something evocative and painted a mood for the listeners! Plus, we both had recurring themes of dreamcatchers in our lives.
SL: Congratulations on your EP, Negatives. What was the journey to release it like?
TGATDC: Again, thank you! We couldn’t be more thrilled. Negatives was a 2 year journey filled with long writing intensives, lots of ground work and long days, but ultimately some of the most fun we’ve had in our lives! Having it be out in the world for other people to feel what they feel about it is surreal, and something that we could never have prepared for.
SL: What sounds and themes were your main influence making Negatives?
TGATDC: Negatives is filled with lots of air, but also walls of sounds, ultimately resulting in a building of tension for the listener that we both really respond to. We wanted to write about real life circumstances that may not be as pretty or as “pop relevant” but that everyone could feel in their core as a place that they’ve been. Music should make one understand oneself better. And that’s what we had hoped to do.
SL: Does being a couple make it more challenging to work together?
TGATDC: Being a couple makes it easier and definitely harder to work together. Easier, because you get to spend so much time with one another, you never have to miss the other, and there is no lack of communication. Harder, because you’re spending almost 100% of your time with one person! There is bound to be some friction. And sometimes, work can bleed into home, which can make you feel like there is no escape from work.
SL: Describe your first impression of each other and how that might have changed over time.
TGATDC: We did not like each other at first. One of those “attraction being mistaken for annoyance or upset” kind of situations. If you know anything about our story, that obviously changed very quickly.
SL: Dove, can you give us any teasers about “Descendants 2”?
Dove Cameron: I can’t tell you much about D2, but I can tell you it is very different from round one! Lots of different locations and images in this one…and lots more drama.
SL: Ryan, any more acting projects you can talk about coming up?
Ryan McCartan: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” comes out October 20th, and I have an indie drama called “The Standoff” coming out in September. Check ’em out!
SL: Can we catch you on tour in the near future?
TGATDC: We hope to tour in the future! Keep an eye on our socials…
SL: What song on the EP was the most personal one for you?
TGATDC: Honestly, they were all personal to us. They wouldn’t have made the EP if they weren’t! As artists, probably “Gladiator”, because it took the most time and effort, and we fought the most for it. As people, probably “My Way”, or “Cry Wolf”. Lots of personal stuff in there.
SL: What’s next for you guys personally and professionally?
TGATDC: Now that “Liv and Maddie” has ended, we’re playing a game of catch up, in a huge way, both professionally and personally. It’s definitely a time of transition, learning, building and growing! It’s like graduating high school or college. Just a whole lot of a lot. Lot’s to do with furthering the band while Dove is away at “Descendants 2” and Ryan does press for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. The life of two actor/musician performers who are also engaged is a bit of a “play it by ear” life!
SL: Is there anything you want to say to all of your fans out there?
TGATDC: To our DreamCatchers: We love you more than we have words to say! Thank you for skyrocketing Negatives to #2 on the iTunes pop charts, and for your never ending support of everything that we do! We hope that we are making you all as proud as you make us every day! Keep catching dreams.

Follow The Girl and the Dreamcatcher:

twitter.com/tgatdc
instagram.com/thegirlandthedreamcatcher
facebook.com/tgatdc

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