Pining for Plastic

Last night I took a stroll around Madrid, admiring the holiday lights and marveling at how mild the temperature was for early December. Being Month 12, there were Christmas markets and extra-flashy window displays; by the time I returned to my apartment I had been whacked by so many shopping bags that I too was intoxicated by the desire to BUY BUY BUY!

Glorieta de Bilbao, wrapped like a present

Instead of whipping out my wallet, I sat down and made a list of items I want to acquire when I visit Arkansas in a few weeks. Which pieces of Americana do I have a hankering for, you ask?

1) Index cards

I have been here for 15 months and have yet to find this beloved paper product at any stationary or chino store. Even El Corte Ingles failed me in my quest. How can I make quality lessons and games without their handy size and cardstock-perfect weight? How can I be expected to keep up my nerdy vocab-reviewing ways? Index cards are the future, invest now.

2) Black flats

Back in October I addressed my fruitless attempt to find black flats (read my rant here). Suffice it to say that I’m planning to hit up some after-Christmas sales in search of said shoes. Target don’t let me down!

Black flats, b. 2010, d. 2011

3) Pecans and bittersweet chocolate chips

Without these two ingredients I cannot make cowboy cookies, the staple sweet of my childhood. The latter is easy enough to substitute–just kill a chocolate bar–but pecans? C’mon, there’s no substitute for pecans.

4) Ziploc bags

In a country where everyone wraps their sandwiches in the ubiquitous aluminum foil, sandwich bags just aren’t up to snuff. I was sorely disappointed whenever I bought a box with a snowflake on it–I naively assumed this meant the containers would be freezer-worthy. Nay, this purchase was my introduction to the word “microperforado,” which means “a million tiny holes zig-zagging around a plastic surface which make a bag in no way suitable for holding anything other than stamps and envelopes and business cards.”

Top, Exhibit A : sub-par bags for sub-zero conditions

5) Craft supplies

Stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s don’t exist in Spain. Obtaining ovillos (skeins) from the yarn store, the two times I’ve attempted it, ended disastrously. The first time I bellied up to the counter, I realized I didn’t know the word for turquoise and had to resort to the point-‘n-grunt method. The second and last time, I was rewarded with a “Your Spanish is so good!” upon checkout. Let’s face it, if the owner compliments you on your gift of gab, it’s a kindergarten-esque participation award to take the sting off of being a loser.

6) Toiletries

I know, I know, I don’t live in a third-world country; finding shampoo is never a safari. However, with the final item on my list, I demand a certain brand. Without this specific make and model of Glide floss, my mouth feels as dirty as the last time I loose a resounding “joder!”

Dear Santa, this year I would like a floss bouquet. XoXo, Casey

If you live abroad, what items from home are on your holiday wishlist?

← Previous post

Next post →


  1. Yes to the floss! I spent almost four euros on some crap brand of floss here; desperate times. I really don’t think they’re as into (obsessed) with oral hygiene as we are, and I plan on bringing back an ample amount of dental floss accordingly when I go home for Christmas. And some toiletries just make more sense to buy at home. Face wash, for example? I can’t justify spending 7 euros on basic Clean & Clear here when I could get it for $4 at home. I also need to stock up on Excedrin, my migraine drug of choice, and possibly some razors. You know, the really fun stuff.

  2. Cassandra

    Lauren, I almost included facewash on my list, as well! I have some so-so scrub, but what I really want is a product with a made-up name like “exfoliating microbeads.” Astringent aisle, vete preparandote!!

  3. I definitely stock up on toiletries when home. I also buy curry paste, small packets of stir fry seasoning and tahini. Oh! and I’ll need red food coloring to make my birthday cake. I should really be writing this all down somewhere other than a blog 😉

  4. Cassandra

    Hmm, you’re right, I don’t ever remember seeing food coloring here…

  5. Hahaha I’ve been making the same type of list lately! I need flat boots, those handheld floss things, super cheap walmart contact solution, a good bread knife, possibly a cheap video camera… and probably a lot more I can’t think of at the moment. So excited to be going back for xmas!

  6. I know what you mean about floss! I stockpiled a few before I came and luckily have only been through once since arriving. And, I am starting a similar list of things so that my parents can replenish my stockpile of American necessities when they arrive.

  7. Thankfully, my boyfriend goes to the US more than I do and gets my floss! I couldn’t believe how much my razors cost here, or that the allergy medicine is strong enough to knock out a horse! He also brings me Reef sandals, Cheez-its and taco seasoning. I get more excited for him to go to America than Somalia for obvious reasons (hello, he brings me lighters with Osama Bin Laden on it from Somalia, not cheesy snacks).

    Hayley! THERE IS CAKE AND KRASTY AT YOUR BIRTHDAY!! OH BOY!! Ps I have bought food coloring here once. But only once.

  8. Cassandra

    Lauren and Alison – Holidays = time to stock up!

    Cat – I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who holds out for US floss! Also, I can’t believe you don’t prefer Osama Bin Laden lighters over Cheez-its…

  9. Thanks for visiting Madrid y yo! your comment brought me here and I really enjoyed reading your post. Have a great sunday. M.

  10. Cassandra

    Thanks, Maria! I’ll be visiting your blog again for more Madrid discoveries!

  11. Just got back from the States and you better believe I’m all stocked up on fun-sized American candy bars (thank you, Costco!), toiletries, and more. Fun read!

    • Cassandra

      A friend who visited the US raves about Skittles; I will also have to pick up some travel-sized chuches to share on the way back!

  12. I think if spaniards had index cards, they would be better at studying and wouldnt have to lock themselves in their room a month before finals.
    Floss: i bought my preferred brand for almost 5 euros. yes. 5 euros for string. nice.

    On my christmas list: Lots of ziplocks (i need some this weekend and im OUT!)
    chocolate chips
    hershey kisses dark chocolate
    crafrt supplies for fun entertaining
    cupcake papers
    natural peanut butter, oh how i miss thee

    ps i feel like such a fattie since just about everything on my list is food.
    oh yeah and i want condiments and powedered creamers

    • Cassandra

      5 euros for floss!! Thanks for sharing your list, it’s fun to see what everyone will be scooping up during the holidays!

  13. Btw my Condis supermarket has ziplock brand bags– but def. expensive!

  14. I was cracking up at the zip-locks. SO true!

    I bring everything back from vitamins to protein bars to deodorant back from the states.

    Hope Santa brought you everything you wanted! 🙂

  15. Cassandra

    I lucked out–Santa brought me Ziplock bags, floss, index cards, chocolate chips, and pecans. I think Santa must read my blog…

Leave a Reply

Read previous post:
Pass the pavo: a tale of two Thanksgivings

Jayson prepares the Thanksgiving bird Since the students had been introduced to Thanksgiving last year, my co-teachers asked me to...