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.

BlogHer Bliss and Thoughts on my 100th Post

I think it’s fitting that my 100th post is about blogging and my experience at the past weekend’s mammoth blogging conference, BlogHer’ 11.  When I started this blogging project I really didn’t know where it would take me. I wasn’t even sure what I would write about, and as you can tell from my sometimes rambling, often random posts, I am still not always sure what specifically I blog about. In other words, I don’t have a niche blog. Instead, I blog about the things that interest me, (and I hope interest you),  otherwise known in the blogosphere as a lifestyle blog. Whatever, you call it–a lifestyle blog, an identity blog–I think, what I find special about blogging is the process. The process of having a thought and capturing it in a post. Experiencing a moment and documenting it in a story.  Creating something, and memorializing it in a photo or in a blog post, and then hitting the “publish” button and putting it out into the internet world. Sometimes I just hear crickets chirping, but, sometimes I reach someone.

Attending BlogHer conference this weekend, for me, was all about the “someone.” Sure, I went to a couple of really good sessions, I had a lot of fun at the parties, I walked the exhibit hall where I filled 4 bags of swag, and took some goofy pictures, but the best part of my BlogHer experience was about the people I met. There were over 3500 attendees, about 95% of them were women, and most of them with a shared passion and interest in blogging.  The more I talked to these women the more I realized, that although our blogs may have different content, we share an interest in the idea, and the communication of that idea. Sometimes, the idea is one which may hopefully generate a discussion, or create community.  For instance, some of the women I met this weekend were Latina bloggers, like me.  There were about 20 of us who gathered for margaritas, and socializing. Our blogs were as diverse as we were, because even though we are all Latinas, we are all unique.

Another group of bloggers I met with were the Step-family bloggers. There were only 7 of us, but we all shared similar stories of the challenges and joys in step-parenting. We had a great time offering support and encouragement to each other and giving voice to ideas to create a community  to offer support to other step-moms.

And then there was the other bloggers I met with, informally and casually. I roomed with JCK, a blogger who I know from my church. I got to know her more this weekend and loved the time we spent together.  Through her, I had the opportunity to meet other bloggers she knows, Jenn who blogs at  Juggling Life, and Maggie at Magpie Musing. On Friday night, while JCK and were at the bar, I met Jessica, whose own story about loss touched me so deeply I felt myself tearing up. But with her quick wit and comedic sense she had me crying with laughter a few minutes later.

Thanks for sharing the last 100 posts with me and I hope you’ll be along for the next 100. In the meantime, here’s my shameless plug for some of the product I tried at the conference:

Dove Ice Cream Bars: There were ice cream vendors everywhere, giving away their delicious chocolate bars. I loved the new peanut butter flavored bars.

Skinny Cows: A really good low-calorie ice cream sandwiches. Made me feel less guilty when I snacked on them after indulging in the Dove Bars.

Knorr: This isn’t your mom’s bouillon. I loved the new chicken bouillon base. So easy to cook with!

Pressman Toys: My kids are enjoying the games and puzzles I brought back for them.

Proctor and Gamble: I can’t wait to try the free product they are sending. I also got to participate in a personal version of the new Febreze campaign.


There were so many more! Thank you sponsors of BlogHer’11

50/50 Friday – Week One

Last week, on my birthday, I posted 50 things I wanted to do before my 50th birthday, which is still a couple of years off, thank goodness.  I am happy to report that one week into my project and I am making some progress.

The funny thing about list-making, is that the act of writing it down, somehow makes it more likely that the task will get done. The really funny, like strange, thing that has happened, is that now that I have sent out a message to the Universe about what I would like to accomplish,  the Universe is sending messages back to me. For instance, I listed that I want to contact some former teachers and thank them. Well, the other day, I received a Facebook message from some of my high school friends about an informal reunion. This led me to find one of my favorite former teachers. We are now friends on Facebook! Number 32 on my list states, “Take a sunset horseback ride.”  Last week I received an email offer to take a sunset horseback ride in nearby wine country!  Needless to say, I bought the offer and  during the coming months I will be able to check that off my list too. In the meantime, here’s my progress, so far:

I spent my birthday at the beach.  We went to Paradise Cove in Malibu. This stretch of Southern California coastline is a local landmark that I have never visited before. So, I just completed the first month of  Number 21 on my list. Paradise Cove was perfect location for relaxing on my birthday,  and I can now understand why it is a Southern California favorite. There was a small pier,   lounge chairs and cabanas, it had a nice restaurant. I don’t know why it’s taken me 47 48 years to visit.

The restaurant makes a great place for meal or people watching.

Diego on a stretch of Paradise Cove.

I have also been replacing my coffee with green tea, number 28 on my list.  I really only drink coffee in the morning, when I need it most. I miss the taste of coffee in the morning and I guess my body is missing the caffeine kick too, since I seem to take longer to get going now that I am drinking green tea instead of coffee.

I noticed that I was a little slower on the uptake the other morning, as I was practicing speaking Spanish, number 50,  on my list. Juan, is fluent spanish speaker. He is helping me out by speaking more and more Spanish around the house. I am not a fluent Spanish speaker, but I notice a dramatic improvement after a margarita . Anyway, I felt like the extra practice was helping until Juan tried speaking Spanish to me in the morning, after I had cut out the coffee. No caffeine or margarita at 6:30 a.m., and I couldn’t understand a word he said, nor could I form a cohesive sentence. Note to self: Do not attempt to speak spanish without having caffeine or margaritas.

The last thing I did to make some progress on my list was to buy a new food and use it in a new recipe, numbers 19 and 37 on my list.  I went to a farmer’s market and bought Black Kale.   Then,  I went home and made Tilapia and Escarole, a recipe I found here. The recipe called for esarole but I substituted kale. When Erica and Juan saw I was cooking with kale they were not sure they’d like it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would like it either. But the recipe was healthy, easy and  it got great reviews, so I thought I would try it. It turned out great.

The Farmer's Market vendor told me that this was Black Kale even though it looks green to me.

It may not look good but it tasted good.

So, that’s my update on my 50 Before 50 list.  I’ll be posting more here as soon as I have checked more off my list.

Freshly Pressed In My New Year

This morning I was all set to write a post about how I had a wonderful birthday. About how much I enjoyed breakfast in bed, prepared by my husband,

Breakfast in bed

and presented by Diego, with a smile.

Breakfast smile

I was going to post about how I spent the day with my boys at the beach…

Nico and I on my birthday.

…and the sky was clear, and blue, and the temperature, a perfect 70 degrees.

And,  I was going to write about how I was actually getting  started on my  bucket list of 50 Before  50 because  of the birthday gift Juan gave me, Number 47.

Number 47 on my list

I was going to post about how turning another year older wasn’t so bad, and celebrating my birthday as my own personal New Year was a positive spin on the “age” thing.  The post was in my head and I wanted to get it out.  I wanted to sit down with my laptop and write about it. But wouldn’t you know it?  I came home from a day at the beach and my refrigerator was dead. Everything in the freezer was thawed. We spent the evening dumping food, moving everything that hadn’t spoiled  to our back-up garage fridge. I had to help the boys with their homework, and I still needed groceries for the week. No time to write. My post just stayed in my head. I thought I might be able to get out a draft during my lunch hour, but first I had to check my email for responses to the T-Ball team party I was planning.

What? No email from the other T-ball families? But, I did see an email from WordPress. And then another, and another. And this…

My blog had been Freshly Pressed!  This post was featured, and I was receiving dozens of comments, and “likes.” What a great belated birthday surprise! Thank you everyone for reading and commenting. Thank you for subscribing. Thank you for, well, “liking” me.  I think this is going to be a good year.

My Own Memorial Day…Also Known as My Birthday


Image via Wikipedia

Memorial Day 1963. A day when our nation was honoring the fallen who had given their lives in service to their country. A day when many were probably out enjoying picnics, barbeques, and parades. It was also the day when my mom went into labor, my dad drove her to the hospital and, thinking he had time for a quick errand, left her in the doctor’s capable hands. Boy, was he surprised when he returned to the hospital a short while later, and was told my mom had a baby girl, me! As my brother will tell you, that was probably the last time I arrived early for anything!

Like my brother, who was born on New Year’s Eve, this year my birthday falls on a holiday. But unlike my brother, who grew up feeling like he was getting short-changed on gifts or parties because he had to share his birthday with a major holiday, I don’t mind sharing my birthday with Memorial Day. Because my birthday falls on Memorial Day I sometimes get a day off from work, friends or family are ready for a party, there’s always a new movie release, and there are some really great sales. This year, I am not going to any parties or barbeques. I will go out to lunch with my family and if the weather clears, maybe I’ll go the beach, and if not, then I may see one of new summer movie releases. Sounds like a perfectly good way to spend the day, especially when I am still reeling from our whirlwind New York trip last weekend.

In honor of this birthday, the birthday that brings me another year closer to a landmark birthday, I have been putting together a list, a Bucket List, of sorts. I shared the list with my husband, and he said it looks more like a big ass TO DO list. True. Many of the things on my list involve home projects, and probably cause him some concern because that means the Honey-Do List isn’t too far behind. Some of the things on my list probably are contradictory, like #37, “Try a new wine, #20 “Try a new recipe once a week” and #18, “Lose 15 pounds.” But still, it’s my list, and I hope by putting out here in the Blogosphere, I will be more inclined to check it off as “Done.” Besides, the list may generate some interesting blogging material. I hope that some of the activities on my list will keep me from getting too caught up in the busyness of life and force me carve out some time for some fun. So, here’s my list of 50 Things to Do Before 50:

1. Take a sunrise hike.

2. Clean out my attic.

3. Clean out and re-organize my pantry.

4. Organize the kid’s school files/records/memorbilia.

5. Re-paint my family room.

6. Take a cooking class.

7. Make curtains for my bedroom.

8. Read a classic American novel.

9. Read a classic English novel.

10. Whiten my teeth. :)

11. Learn to take better pictures.

12. Print photos for my hallway.

13. Frame photos for my hallway.

14. Hang photos in my hallway

15. Go on an overnight spiritual retreat.

16. Teach Diego to ride a bike.

17. Ride bikes along the beach.

18. Lose and keep off 15 pounds.

19. Try cooking with a new food once a month.

20. Try a new wine once a month. :)

21. Visit a local landmark/attraction once a month.

22. Travel to Italy.

23. Get a new blog design.

24. Review my financial retirement plan.

25. Begin working on my book.

26. Drop a dress size.

27. Take on a cause.

28. Replace my morning coffee with green tea.

29. Take a hot air balloon ride.

30. Keep a Gratitude Journal.

31. Thank some of my former school teachers: Mrs. Smith, Mr. Gilliland, Mr. Brooks.

32. Take a sunset horseback ride.

33. Participate in a 1/2 marathon.

34. Go to the Hollywood Bowl with a picnic.

35. Camp on the beach.

36. Get a dog.

37. Try a new recipe once a week.

38. See the desert in bloom.

39. Watch a movie marathon.

40. Go on a baseball trip.

41. Plan my 50th birthday bash.

42. Take a family portrait.

43. Pay off my student loans.

44. Get a new car. (Not a minivan)

45. Try out for The Amazing Race.

46. Complete Covenant II.

47. See Les Miserables (again!).

48. Learn to knit a hat.

49. Scan and organize old photos.

50. Practice spanish weekly.

So, there you have it. This list will stay up under the “My Story” menu tab on my blog. So you and I can both go back there and check it out to see how I am progressing. Good thing I have some time to finish it off because I will definitely need it. Now, I am going to get celebrating my own Memorial/Birthday….

Blogging from the Big Apple

I have been on vacation in New York. That is, if you call flying across the country with three kids, and two septuagenarians to attend a college graduation and family wedding, a vacation.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I love to travel, but vacationing with a large family, to attend assorted family events makes it more family than vacation.

In the interest of economizing I booked our flight on a red-eye from LA to JFK.  I tried to prepare us all for red-eye flight by packing neck pillows and blankets.

Waiting to board the red-eye to NYC

We were scheduled to arrive in the city that never sleeps at the sleepy hour of 5:30 a.m. I thought  this was a good idea since it could  save us a few hundred dollars by not having to pay for the extra night in a hotel.  I figured that if we could check into our hotel early we could  rest and freshen up later.   I am also the kind of person who can sleep anywhere, including an airplane, and who needs sleep anyway?  Well, maybe my 70+ year-old parents and my kids could have used some.

Asleep at breakfast.

So much for my planning.  But,  eventually we did manage to get into our room shortly before noon, and everyone promptly went down for a long nap. Finally, about mid afternoon,  we headed out to explore the city. We stopped at Rockefeller Center.

In front of 30 Rock

And Diego and Nico stopped at the Lego Store in Rockefeller Center.

We strolled down 5th Avenue where my parents visited the Waldorf Astoria…

My parents, being the good Catholics that they are, wanted to visit the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Juan, being the Apple Fanboy that he is, wanted to visit his cathedral…

We ended up at Central Park for a carriage ride.

The family in a carriage at Central Park

Diego in Central Park

Then took the subway to Times Square, where we took more pictures  and saw ourselves on the Jumbo-tron.

There was much more on our list that we wanted to do, but time,  money, and energy prevented it. So, we ended our first day in the city with a meal at Juniors and their famous cheesecake.

On Day Two in NYC we had planned on heading out to Ground Zero, and having an early lunch in Little Italy and then take the 1:00pm tour of the Statute of Liberty. I had the foresight to book the Statue of Liberty tour online months ago, but wasn’t able to book the tour to the inside of the torch since it was sold out until August!  What I didn’t’ have the foresight to do was account for the inevitable delay that occurs when you are traveling with such a large and diverse age group like mine. Let’s just say that traveling with my family is  a lot like herding cats. I also did not plan on it taking nearly an hour to get from the upper East side to financial district in our rental van. By the time we arrived at our $45 (!) parking lot we had to sprint to make it to the ferry that would take us to Liberty Island.  We finally managed to board the ferry, and had a great memorable  time touring this landmark in the rain, wearing our trash bags rain gear.

The kids made all kinds of inappropriate jokes as their brother posed under Lady Liberty's nostril.

It was a foggy, rainy day at Liberty Island.

Running low on energy and time, we had to skip the Ellis Island tour and headed back to Ground Zero where we took in the very moving exhibit at the World Center Tribute Center.  By the end of the tour we were all feeling pretty drained so we thought some authentic NY style pizza was in order. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything that looked like an authentic NY pizzeria so we ended up at a little hole in the wall that had only two bar stools and a standing eating counter. After two days of walking the NY sidewalks, our feet were tired, and even though next door there was a Papa Johns Pizza  with plenty of seating, we were unwilling to compromise comfort for “authentic” NY pizza by the slice. This “experience” finished us off and we limped back to our van so we could make the 2 hour drive north to the Hudson River Valley to attend the graduation of my cousin from West Point the next morning.

The graduation ceremony was very inspiring, and was a nice educational tie-in to the previous days sites we had visited.  At the conclusion of the ceremony the graduating cadets throw their hats in the air and the kids attending are allowed to enter the field  retrieve one. Erica, Nico and Diego each got a hat. Inside the hat, the cadet had written their name and included a message of inspiration and/or money. Erica and Diego both got nice notes in their hat and Erica got $50!  I promptly told her she could use the money to buy her own NY souvenirs, since NYC has to be the most expensive place for a family vacation!

The rest of the weekend was spent with family, attending the ceremonial pinning of lieutenant bars on my cousin overlooking the Hudson River at Trophy Point, and a celebratory brunch at the historic Thayer Hotel.

Sunny skies at West Point’s Trophy Point.

My cousin gets her Lieutenant bars overlooking the Hudson River.

On one of our last days we were supposed to attend my cousin’s wedding at 2:00pm at the West Point Catholic Chapel.  However, someone forgot to inform the bride and groom that NY state law requires the marrying couple wait 24 hours after getting the marriage license before getting married. Since my cousin got her marriage license on her wedding morning, the priest refused to marry her. Oops! With some last-minute scrambling and frantic phone calling, an unofficial wedding was rescheduled for the guests at 2:45 at a protestant chapel.  The official Catholic wedding would take place the following day,  after the requisite waiting period, and after we left for our trip home.

Once the happy couple’s ceremony was concluded, we proceeded to the official reception with an official open bar.  My kids cleaned up real nice and everyone had a great time.

The other wedding guests seated at our table remarked how well-behaved our kids were, and asked how we did it?  I revealed our secret. I told them that we pinch them under the table any time they start to misbehave. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised that after over four days of traveling and sight-seeing my kids were still getting along pretty well and they remembered their table manners. And I was even more surprised,  shocked actually, at how grown up they suddenly seemed…hanging out at the bar ordering Rob Roys and Shirley Temples and dancing all night.

Whose son is this?

Diego worked it all night long!

All in all it turned out to be a good trip. But, after all the coordinating of travel plans, schedule snafus and family obligations, I am ready for a REAL vacation. One that involves me, and a beach,  and a drink that isn’t named after a 1940’s child movie star.