Back to Blogging

I am dropping by this blog for a quick minute to say hi and see if anyone is out there? Anyone?

Actually, I’ve been thinking about doing this for quite sometime, but something always got in the way, namely me and my so-called life. So much time has gone by and so much has happened—really good things, and some really-not-so-good things. I have allowed these things to keep me from blogging.

I woke up today and turned over a new month on the calendar. How did it get to be August? And how did so many months go by without me stopping to enjoy, reflect and blog? Everytime I thought about blogging, I would get so overwhelmed about how many things I’ve missed writing about, and how much I still needed to process before I could write, that I would get overwhelmed about the thought of blogging. I didn’t know how to catch up. I didn’t know how to start again.

I took my lunch hour to check in on some blogs which I enjoy reading, and which I haven’t read in many weeks. Just as I was finished and was about to turn back to the pile of legal documents on my desk, my husband walked through the door carrying gifts, fresh flowers from the farmers market, and broccoli. The flowers are for me and the broccoli is for tonight’s dinner. Maybe it’s the flowers, the blogs, the passing summer, but I decided I just need to get to back to blogging. I guess I’ll just start out blogging about today. I’ll catch you up later,

So, here I am. Is anyone out there? Anyone?

Flowers for Today

Here and There

I’m here!! Well, to be totally honest, I am only here for now.

In case you haven’t noticed the sound of crickets chirping on my blog, I haven’t posted in a while. In fact, it’s been a little over one month since my last post. I wish I could say that I was traveling the world, and was in an exotic location where there was no internet access. Or perhaps, that I was caught up in the middle of some terrific criminal trial that left me little time or energy to blog.  But, it was nothing that exciting, I was studying.  I was studying so much that Diego often asked me if I could stop reading long enough to give him a “hugga.” My stress and absence was enough that my teen kids even noticed, and prompted them to ask me when my exam would be over; and it was enough to make my high school daughter grin in delight when I asked her if she had any blank index cards I could use to make my own set of study flash cards.  Sigh.  Crazy as it is, between work, home and family, I really missed my busy but predictable life. I have a newfound respect for any parent who manages to juggle school, work and family at the same time. I only had to do it for a few months and it was awful. Now that the exam is over, and the period when I wait for exam results has begun, I am trying to get back to the business of living…and blogging.

While I was on blogging hiatus, I was not able to make much progress on my list of 50 Things to do Before my 50th Birthday, with the exception of one thing, Number 23, Get a New Blog Design. When I started blogging I knew next to nothing about it. I knew even less about creating my own blog site.  I used a blog theme that allowed me to design my own banner, but I have never liked my banner. In August, I attended a BlogHer session about designing your own site.  One of the session panelists  was Cynthia at Nap Warden Designs.  She provided a lot of great information and made the whole thing seem easy. I was inspired. Even though I lacked the technical know-how to create a new site, I thought that with a little time and effort, I could do it. Well, one month later, I was still fiddling around with this idea, and I wasn’t’ any closer to having a finished look. In fact, I spent more time trying to get the hang of codes, and design, than I did writing any content.  So, I decided to scrap the do-it-yourself idea and hire someone who actually knows what they are doing. I started exploring design sites and found some really great ideas. Lo and behold, the sites I liked the most were those created by Cynthia. I figured it was meant to be.  I hired Cynthia to re-design my blog. Part of her job was to figure out what I blogged about, and come up with something that captured my “brand.” She came up with what I think I’m about, family and  heritage. I hope you like it. I really do.

Since I was going to all this trouble of getting a new blog design I decided I should also get my own domain name. So, I am packing up this WordPress address, and moving here:

I hope you will follow me there by clicking on the link.  If you are a subscriber, then you will need to re-subscribe by clicking on one of the one of the icons on the new site. While you are at it, you can like my new Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter. And just to make it interesting, and because I have nothing better to do, I have decided to participate in NaBloPoMo again this year. This means I will be posting everyday for the month of November.  Now,  maybe instead of watching me study every night, my kids will see me blogging.

50/50 Friday Weeks 10-15

It’s been several weeks since I have updated my list of 50 Things to Do Before I am 50.  My progress has slowed to a near grinding halt, since I have been preoccupied with getting everyone back to school, including me. Well, I am not actually in “school,” but I am studying for a big exam, and it leaves me little time to do anything else, including working my 50/50 list.  When I am not working my glamourus full-tim job as a high-powered government attorney, driving carpool, or helping with homework, I am reviewing criminal law and procedure. Bleh.  But, the family still needs to eat, and I still need to have my ocassional glass of wine, so here’s some minor progress on my list:

Iced Coffee.

It was really hot recently. My Colombian husband practically grew up on cafe con leche.  Iced coffee sounded like the best way to satisfy my  husband on a hot end-of summer day, without having to take my clothes off.  Plus, I was tired and needed a jolt of caffeine. I found this recipe on this website. It looked so good and very simple. The problem was that I didn’t have a  container big enough, so I had to cut the recipe in half. That involved some simple fractions. Yuck. Hey, if I was good at math, I would have gone to medical school, not law school. The end result was that I made some really strong iced coffee. Even my coffee addict husband thought it was too strong. After we diluted it a bit, poured in some half and half, it was as good as any baristas’ iced coffee and a fraction of the price.

Cedar Plank Salmon

Over the Labor Day weekend we hosted both sides of the family for a family dinner. When both sides of our local immediate families get together we number 22! Naturally, our celebrations involve pot luck and I assigned myself one of the main dishes, Cedar Plank Salmon.  I have tried cooking salmon wrapped in cedar paper, but it didn’t seem to have enough flavor. This time, I bought some cedar planks at the grocery store and soaked them in water.  I bought the fish at Costco, seasoned it and sprinkled it with brown sugar. I was inspired by this recipe, but, I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I kind of improvised. The fish was a hit, as evidenced by this photo. We couldn’t take the photo fast enough. The crowd was hungry!

Cedar Plank Salmon

Smothered Pork Chops

The next thing I made was Smothered Pork Chops. Last Sunday I was feeling like I wanted some comfort food. I had some pork chops in the refrigerator so I looked on my favorite online cooking resource and found this recipe.  Just what I wanted, and even better because I only had to wash one pot.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

As a side dish I roasted brussel sprouts. I didn’t really need a recipe for this since I have made brussel sprouts before, but I still consulted with a few sources to find a different way to prepare them. I have boiled them and sauteed them before, but never roasted them. First  I cut them in half, then I drizzled some olive oil on them and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I placed them flat side down on a cookie sheet and roasted them in the oven for about 40 minutes at a temperature of 425 degrees. When they were done I sprinkled a little parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes on them.  I thought they came out great, and I will probably always make them this way.  Here’s what the dinner looked like:

Smothered Pork Chops and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

September Wine

During our family gathering we served this wonderful pinto gris. Juan scored this wine for a great price at our local grocery store. It was crisp, light and if I really knew anything about wine I would say it had tones of citrus and vanilla. What I do know is that it was really refreshing, and our guests enjoyed it too. It seems like we weren’t the only ones who liked it, and I am not the only one to blog about it. Check this mom’s post about her review of the same wine.

Latino Heritage Month

Today marks the beginning of Latino Heritage Month. In honor of the month long celebration of Latino culture, I am re-posting something I wrote last year.  Well, I am re-cycling the post for that reason, and the fact I am so overwhelmed with life right now that I haven’t had much time to blog.  But, with the weekend in sight, I may be able to put up a new post soon! Thanks for stopping by.

This past month has been a celebration of Latino heritage. Latino Heritage  Month technically runs from September 15 to October 15.  Being Latina is a big part of who I am.  During most of my childhood, I lived in a very diverse community near Los Angeles.  In my neighborhood there were Armenians, Japanese Americans, Anglos, and people who looked like me. It wasn’t until I moved to a predominately white suburb that I was aware that I was different. During my first days in the new school, my new classmates were naturally curious about the “new girl.”  They asked me “what I was.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question because I wasn’t really sure what they were asking, and I had never been asked that question before. I must have looked confused because the follow-up question was, “Are you Hawaiian…Italian… Indian?” Mexican wasn’t even an option.

I responded that I was Mexican, and then they asked if I was born in Mexico.

 Over the years I have been asked that question several more times, although it may not have been phrased the same way.   Depending on the circumstances I answered the questions in varying ways:

“I’m Mexican.”

“I’m Mexican American.”

“I’m Hispanic.”

“I’m  Latina.”

“I’m American, but of Mexican ancestry.”

“I was born in the U.S. but all of my grandparents were born in Mexico.”

Even though I wasn’t always certain what was the best way to answer that question, I still felt certain that I knew who I was and where my family was from. And I felt proud of my heritage.  My parents and family raised me with pride in our heritage, and culture. At family celebrations,  I would watch my mother dance  the Mexican folk dances she had learned as a young girl. 

I learned these dances too. I have had occasion to dance as an adult. 

I am so glad that some of these cultural lessons have been passed on to my children, my step-daughter Erica.

Diego, my youngest son, walked in the Latino Heritage parade last week. He marched with his classmates from his 1st grade Spanish immersion program. He wore the hat typical of his father’s native country, Colombia.

This is what Latino heritage is all about. A celebration of who we are and who are ancestors were. I hope that when my kids are asked the question, “What are you?” They will know how to answer, and they will answer with pride.

Mom’s House, Dad’s House – When Back and Forth Doesn’t Work for Back to School

Today I have a post up at Huffington Post. You might want to check it out by clicking here.

But, put on your earmuffs if you don’t want to hear a lot of divorce bashing from the commenters. I am tempted to respond to all the ruckus, but honestly, I agree, a little. Divorce can hurt kids. It’s difficult, for everyone. Staying married in an unhealthy situation can hurt kids too. It’s difficult, for everyone. I used to think I would never get divorced, but here I am. And I am doing the best I can, as I think we all try to do with our kids, and our families. So, read the post if you want, and leave a comment if you are so inclined.

Recalling 9/11/01- The Day in My Life

One of the often asked questions of my parents generation was, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”  I remember hearing my parents talk about where they were when they heard the news that the president was shot while riding in a motorcade.  The question for this generation will probably be, “Where were you when the planes struck the Twin Towers?” It was such a tragic moment in U.S. history,  that it’s not hard to remember where one was when they heard the awful news.

I was at home, getting ready for work. I was a single mom of a 3 year-old. I woke up early,  and as usual, tried to keep quiet around the house as I took my shower, made breakfast and got dressed, while I let Nico sleep as long as he could.  When he finally woke up I turned on the TV so that he could stay occupied while I made him breakfast,  and got his clothes together.  Shortly after  7:00 am pacific time, my phone rang. It was Juan. We had just started dating a few months earlier, so it wasn’t that unusual for him to call me in the mornings and say hello.  He seemed frustrated and asked me where I had been and why I hadn’t answered the phone.  There was an urgency in his voice. He told me to turn on the TV. By this time the planes had struck both towers.  He told me he would be right over, that he was going to drop Erica  and Olivia off at their grandmother’s house. Olivia was in the 1st grade. It was her 6th birthday and she was supposed to have a pizza party at school that day, but Juan and Olivia’s mom decided not to send Olivia to school after all.

I hung up the phone and turned on the television, just after the South Tower collapsed.  Juan arrived at my house shortly after that. I wanted his company. I did not want to be alone. Nico was still watching television in the family room, while Juan and I watched the North Tower go down from a small television in my room.  We weren’t sure if we should report for work.  Our office has a command post to call for such emergencies. We called in and were told not to come into work because of the threat level.  Juan’s workplace was downtown, while mine was just outside the civic center.  We were riveted to the television, watching in disbelief what was happening. I had visited New York a couple of times and I loved the city.  I was a native Angeleno and I lived in Southern California all my life, however, at that moment, I was a New Yorker. I felt the horror that those in New York must have been experiencing.

NYC Skyline in 2000 - Twin Towers in the background.

On the ferry from LIberty Island in 2002. The Towers are no longer part of the skyline.

Juan and I sat there all morning, watching the television reports, reliving the horror of those planes crashing into the towers.  Around midday we realized that even though Olivia had not gone to school that day, her classmates were counting on their pizza party.  Juan decided to take the pizzas to Olivia’s school.  I went with him. It seemed surreal to be walking through a grocery store picking up a cake, plates and napkins and getting pizza, on a day that America was attacked.  We went to her school and had the party. Olivia and her classmates were totally unaware of what had happened. They were happy to have pizza and sing Happy Birthday to Olivia. Olivia, with her beaming smile, was happy to be the center of attention.  Juan quietly told me how sad it was that for the rest of her life her birthday would be shared with such a horrible event.

Olivia at her birthday pizza party on 9/11/01.

Olivia's 6th Birthday - 9/11/01

After her pizza party, Juan and I wanted to do something other than go home and watch more news reports.  But we didn’t know what to do.  We decided to to a local pub, to be around other people. The pub had some other customers, but it was eerily quiet. Of course, the television was on and we watched more news reports and replays of the planes colliding. At the end of the day we had to go about our routines, picking up kids from school and daycare, and getting ready for the next day at work.

New Yorkers were dealing with the aftermath.  The President came on TV and asked us to go about our business.  The next day I went to the office. I tried to get on with business as usual. My brother was getting married 4 days later.  The bride’s grandparents from Illinois couldn’t get a flight out to the wedding. Some of the wedding guests had to cancel or make other travel arrangements. The wedding went on anyway, but even during the ceremony the priest made reference to the week’s event.  Two days after the wedding Juan and I decided to take the kids to Disneyland. We thought those wedding guests from out-of-town would want to go too. It turned out that most guests wanted to return home. It seemed like everyone else stayed home too. Disneyland was almost empty.

Olivia and Erica get an autograph from Mary Poppins in an almost deserted Disneyland.

California Adventure nearly empty one week after 9/11/01

Ten years later I can still vividly recall the days events from September 11th.  It was a day that changed America, and a day which I will probably always remember. It’s a day we should never forget.

A cross where Twin Towers used to stand.

Where were you when you heard the news that a plane struck the Towers, the Pentagon, or crashed in a field in Shanksville?

Summer Strategizing Wrap-up

Now that summer is unofficially over, I thought I’d write about the results of my Summer Strategizing.  At the beginning of the summer, I wrote this post about how I was planning on filling up my kids’ summer days with summer school, chores and summer activities.  You know that saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry?” I think my summer was a bit like that.

I did have some success in engineering the kids’ summer school programs. Olivia completed the SAT prep course and Drivers Education. Nico and Erica both completed their High School entrance exam course, and Eric even did an Algebra review course and a painting class. Diego, well, he had the most fun, taking a science and geography class. All in all, I think it’s safe to say we spent about a small fortune keeping our kids in school this summer. Did they learn anything? I hope so. I do know that the girls learned how to navigate public transportation pretty well, so if Olivia can’t pass her driving test, at least she’ll know how to ride the bus.

One of the other plans I had for my kids this summer was to work on some chores. I intended for them to start dinner while I was at work. Yeah. That didn’t go so well. I still found myself rushing home from work, faced with four hungry kids who apparently didn’t know how to cook anything but a Lean Pocket in the microwave.  There was one day, when Olivia had an urge to bake and when I got home from work I saw this:

Lemon bars and an apple pie. Both were delicious, and since she had even washed all the dishes, I guess I can  overlook the fact that no one really cooked dinner while I was at work. Oh well.

Another task I set up for the kids was to complete their summer homework.  Each of the kids had summer reading to do and Nico and Erica both had to write essays  on their books.  Watching Nico sit at the computer to compose a paragraph is like watching paint dry. On the other hand, getting Erica to read her assigned books is like pulling teeth. I don’t know if she finished reading Pride and Predjudice and the Watsons Go to Watsonville, but she is so crafty, that one, she should be able to write her essay even if she didn’t finish the books.

Now that Labor Day has come and gone and summer is unofficially over, I can say that while I certainly did manage to fill my kids days with activities, I did not really enjoy the season. There were some fun days, but with my grandmother’s passing, and the hectic pace at work and home, I feel like I just got through it.  Barely.  I think part of it had to do with the fact that this summer we did not not really getaway.  Not that we really go anywhere glamorous, but at minimum our family goes camping. Sad to say, we didn’t even do that. I think it makes a difference to get away and break up the routine.  I hope we can manage some type of getaway next summer.

A vacation would be great in the Fall but unfortunately, my life has become all about studying. In August, I received news that my job was offering promotions in Spring 2012. Unfortunately, in order for me to be eligible for a promotion at my government agency job, I have to take a test and rank high enough to be placed on a promotability list. The test will be given in October and will cover materials in these notebooks:

I have to say that studying law and policies as a 48 year-old with a family of four kids, while working full-time, is a lot more challenging then studying law and policies and having a social life as a 28 year-old law student.  So, I hope you will hang in there with me if I am not able to post regularly for the next six weeks. After October, I hope to back to my regularly scheduled life.  Until then, I better check on dinner. No,  the kids aren’t cooking (still), and after dinner I have to hit the books.

Happy end of Summer. Welcome Fall.