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.

My Blessing and My Curse

I have recently discovered a couple of beauty items that I just love. One is for my nails and the other is for my hair.

I have the good fortune, or good genes, to be blessed with strong, healthy fingernails and hair. My hair grows quickly and I have always had a lot of it. Even now,  when I am at an age that most women begin to experience some hair loss,  my hair has become, as my hair stylist says,  “normal.”   However,  even though the hair gods have been kind to me in some ways,  they have not smiled upon me when it comes to hair color.  You see, I am losing that too, that is –my color.  I started greying in my early 20’s and have been fighting it ever since.  (My 12 year-old son also has good hair genes and has a healthy head of hair, but I recently spied two grey hairs on his head!)  If you combine the premature greying of my hair and its fast growth rate, you can see I have a real problem trying to stay ahead of my greying shimmering roots. I have had to spend more and more time and money to achieve my “natural” look.  I have toyed with the idea of letting my hair go au natural, but I still feel too young and I am far too vain to allow myself to do that.  For now, I put up with frequent trips to the salon for my color, or enlist my husband’s help for the home color touch-ups. But I recently found a new weapon in my fight against silver roots.  It allows me to extend time between salon trips, and keep me from donning the plastic gloves and staining my bathroom and towels,  with hair color from home do-it-myself jobs.  This secret weapon looks a lot like a  crayon, but I consider it more to be a magic marker:

The other asset that good genes have bestowed on me are strong fingernails. They grow quickly and are quite strong.  I used to get a professional manicure, but, lately I have given up paying for them.  I think professional manicure is a waste of money on me, because I don’t have the time to wait for the polish to dry completely.  I ruin the manicure before I am out the salon door.  Inevitably, I will sit through the cuticle clipping, filing, shaping, buffing, painting, but the moment I get up from the salon chair, I smudge the polish reaching for car keys, credit card or the door handle!  Besides with all the housework, and keyboarding I do,  the manicure starts to chip away after one day.  Because I am cheap frugal, I save my money and don’t pay for a professional manicure unless it’s a special occasion, like the trip to NY I took three weeks ago. The morning I was leaving for my trip I went to get a manicure. As usual the manicurist tried to sell me extras:

  “Hot oil cuticle treatment?” No.

“Neck and shoulder massage?” No.

“Callous Remover?” Hmm?  No.

“Gel Polish?” What?

The manicurist pitched me the gel manicure. She told me it would last much longer than a regular manicure. It would cost slightly more, $13, and take a bit longer,  since they had to put my nails under a UV light between polish coats. I thought I was running short on time so I said no. Then, as it is my prerogative, I changed my mind and went for the big splurge. I am glad I did. That was three weeks ago, and here are my nails today:

My nails have grown out,  so it’s time for me to remove the gel polish, but the polish has not chipped.  Three weeks later and  it is going strong. I loved it!  I don’t know when I will get another manicure, since I don’t really have  a special event coming up, however,  when I do get my next manicure, I am going to pay the extra money and spend the extra time for a gel manicure.

Now if only they could come up with something that makes the color in my hair last as long the gel polish on my nails!

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.

Fun Friday – Blogging From Boise

Last weekend I was in Boise. Idaho.  I left the warm temperatures and these sunny skies of Southern California:

For this:

But I didn’t go to Boise for the climate. I went to visit my sister. My sister and I are only 17 months apart, and we were very close growing up.  We shared  a room when were young, and had a lot of good times.

As we have grown older, it’s been more difficult to stay close. Thirteen years ago my sister and her family  moved to Boise. She is very happy there and has built a nice life for herself and her family. Unfortunately, we don’t see each other very often, so I decided it was time for a visit.

Besides, I got to travel ALONE.  When I arrived my sister picked me up and took me for drive in her home town. We had a nice lunch in Boise downtown, BODO. Then we went to Basque market on this little street that has a Basque community, because apparently there are a lot of Basque people in Boise. Who knew?

Then we did what all sisters should do…we went shopping.

My sister is a star shopper. I do not like shopping.  But I watched and shopped along with her.  It was a quick trip but a nice visit…eating, shopping, movies and more shopping.

We even bought the same sweater. Good thing we live in different states because we won’t be spotted wearing it together.

Walking in LA

Fall has decided to make a reappearance in the land of eternal sunshine. This past weekend, after several weeks of sunshine and temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s we finally had some rain. After the rain left, the temperatures cooled, the air was brisk , the skies were washed blue, and to the north, the lingering rain clouds hung over the San Gabriel mountains. It was a picture postcard kind of day. The kind of day which makes you want to walk in downtown LA,  something Juan and I did during our lunch hour.  Besides it gave Juan the perfect opportunity to take some photos with his NEW iPHONE 4!

Here’s a look at our lunchtime route:

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Today is Election Day. Two years ago, on Election Day, I was in Las Vegas, Nevada with my long-time friend Julie. We had voted absentee and traveled from California to be  poll monitors in the swing state of Nevada. We spent the entire day, beginning at 6:00 a.m., outside a polling place to ensure that people were exercising their constitutional right to vote unimpaired. As the day progressed and the polls closed around the country, we used our smart phones to watch voting returns and eagerly waited with excitement for our candidate to be forecasted the winner. By the time the election was called for our candidate, Julie and I were too exhausted to celebrate with all the other poll monitors. It was a historic day and one I will not forget. I was so glad to be a part of it, supporting the election, participating in the process. Throughout the 2008 campaign, Juan, my news junkie, politico fanatic husband, was completely in his element. I learned a lot from him. Our kids did too. All my kids knew about the candidates and engaged in our political discussions.  Even Diego, who was 4 at the time, knew the candidates. When he saw a dollar bill, he said the picture on it was John McCain. On Election Day 2008, Diego’s pre-school teacher asked all the kids, “What is the president?” The teacher had a large paper taped to the classroom door, and wrote the kids’ responses to the question on the paper. Most kids said a president was what you get for your birthday, at Christmas, etc.  Next to Diego’s name, it showed his response:

“A lot of people vote for the president. Me and my sisters and brother and Mom and Dad are voting for Rockobama.”

No doubt, you know that this year’s election is just as important as the election in 2008. I wish I were as engaged as I was before. Still, it’s hard not to feel that we are living in a historic time right now. So, even though, I will not be monitoring polls this year, or Diego may not be able to say who is running for the Governor of California, I will vote today. Will you?