Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ricardo & Connie's Engagement Party

My husband has made many friends throughout the years but very few of them have reached the distinct rank of “boy” (funny, right?). When Paul says: “That’s my boy” he means that’s a really, really good friend. In other words, boy means loyalty and Ricardo Garcia is one of Paul’s boys. They worked for the same law enforcement agency and have shared many a memory together, including fishing trip expeditions and severe whisky nights (Inside joke…I won’t go into details).
At one point two years ago, Ricardo met a lovely Salvadoran girl named Connie Vega and fell in love!
A year later, he proposed to Connie, bought a house and now they’re planning their “happily ever after”.
Paul and I were honored when Ricardo and Connie came over for dinner and drinks one night and asked us to be in their wedding, scheduled for May 2014.

Recently, they threw an engagement party in their new home and since Paul couldn’t make it (he works Saturdays), I was there on his behalf.

Connie and I share a girl moment at the party!

Connie is quite the homemaker! Even though she is a mother and works full-time, she always finds time to make and design cute things, with flowers being her specialty. On this occasion, she created some amazing little details for their engagement party. She made fresh flower table centerpieces with hanging tea light candles.

She decorated the buffet table with fresh hydrangeas and even made some amazing Mango Mojito and White Peach Sangria drinks for everybody.
The party was lovely with many of their friends and relatives present to wish the happy couple a wonderful future. The DJ spun the likes of cumbia and punta music, with the ladies opening up the dance floor, of course.

Connie and her good looking siblings!
Cheers to the lovely couple and we can’t wait for the wedding! Oh Wait, did I mention it’s going to be in Cancun? (VACAY!!)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Phoenix, Arizona

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When I returned to work after three months of maternity leave, I went through the difficult task of convincing myself that having a full-time job and dropping my baby off at a daycare center was the right thing to do (oh, the guilt a mother feels!). On my second day back at the office, my mom called to check how I was doing and she called during my lunch hour, which meant I was in my car, weeping about missing Benny and feeling wrong about not being there to care for him. I had a terrible feeling of homesickness for my 3-month old baby!

But my mom, who worked a full-time job (and still does) throughout our childhood, knocked some sense into me. In a few words, she reminded me that we come from a line of hard-working women that have all gone through the same emotions and survived. She reminded me that a job gives us the ability of providing a better lifestyle for our children and it will be what helps our families survive if something were to ever happen to our husbands.
In retrospect, my job has been a blessing in my life. It was the opportunity I had been waiting for after numerous years of stressful, low-paying, overwhelming news reporter jobs.
Needless to say, after my second week back at work, I was doing a little better and by the end of my first month back, I was fine (LOL)!!
My son Benny has proven to be quite the independent little child. He doesn't seem to miss his mama too much if I'm not around, and adjusts very well to any environment.
That has made work assignments a little easier since I'm occassionally assigned to travel out-of-state.
Take my last trip to Phoenix, Arizona, for example. I was there in mid-July for training and for media interviews, for which I visited several Spanish-language local news stations.
Here with Sergio Urquidi, a fine journalist from Univision Arizona
I tried to Facetime with Benny at every opportunity but on my first night, the boy was completely knocked out by the time I got to the hotel (not fair)!

Earlier that afternoon, I visited a restaurant called Aunt Chilada's. I had seen a lot of advertising for it on travel brochures and Phoenix visitor magazines so I checked it out. I had a stuffed Poblano Pepper and one of their signature Margaritas (only because they didn't have any specialty martinis). The Margarita was refreshing but the meal was just ok. I skipped on the beans and rice and focused more on the veggies stuffed inside the pepper.

I had a good conversation about Lance Armstrong with a bike shop owner named Jonas and for the purpose of this blog, had the bartender lady snap a photo of me :)

The next day, I had a full day of training and once I was done, I stopped by a place called Stuffington Bear Factory. It was a local version of a Build-A-Bear Workshop, except this one featured all stuffed animals made in-house, therefore made in the USA. In the past, I would have never stopped at a place like this but I have a son now!!

I ended up getting a tour of the facility, which is very cute with rows of tiny outfits to dress your stuffed, furry friends.

I bought Benny a bear with a basketball outfit to go with it, as a way of supporting the local Phoenician economy and fulfilling my motherly inclination of buying something for my son.

Then I headed out to grab a bite to eat and in the middle of my meal, my sister-in-law (Cristina) who was taking care of Benny, called to see if I was available to FaceTime since my brother-in-law was home and offered his iPhone to do so. I quickly got in my car, headed back to the hotel and got to see my Benny playing and smiling at his mama...a much more engaging conversation with my son than the night before.

When people ask me "how do you do it?" (leave him behind for work travel) I tell them it's not easy and I do get sad, yes, but -- I limit my travel to two nights, max. I use technology to communicate and see my son at every chance (FaceTime using my Mini-iPad and/or my iPhone). Further, I've been blessed with a baby who doesn't cry when I drop him off-- anywhere! And I have amazing people to look after him (my husband, my mother, my sister-in-law or his babysitter).

The best thing about this trip though, was of course, returning home and watching my Benny enjoy his new stuffed bear, which was adequately named "Bearjamin" (Awww).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sheryl's Shower

Sheryl and I laughing together, like always!
So last year when my best friend Sheryl Huezo announced she was engaged, I decided I wanted to do something special for her (Because she’s lovely and amazing and the best).

Six years ago, when I got married, Sheryl surprised me with an incredibly gorgeous Tiffany & Co. necklace! I thought about doing something similar but after analyzing her wedding dress (which is beautiful and you’ll get to see later this year), I realized a piece of jewelry was probably not necessary for her.

So I decided I would do something fun instead that would involve her closest friends and relatives and yield many gifts and laughs and memories in return— a bridal shower!

I started planning months in advance. On some nights, I would sit at the table with Benny and cut out favor tags.

"Thanks for showering Sheryl with sexiness. Cheers!"
Other days, I would put the baby to sleep and plan shower games for the ladies. Together with Sheryl, her mom Ruth and Sandra Robles (one of Sheryl’s lovely bridesmaids), we decided we wanted to stay away from adult male dancers (if you know what I mean) and have a classy affair. So we planned an “all-white” theme and chose a hot pink and orange color palette. The idea was for all the guests to dress in white except for Sheryl, who would wear either a hot pink or bright orange dress!
Sheryl’s mom and Sandra helped me tremendously with putting together this party at my house—from assembling the invitations to paying for the alcohol and covering the catering expenses.

From Left: Sheryl's Mother-In-Law Floydell Carter, Sheryl & Ruth

Sheryl & Sandra sharing a sweet moment during the shower
We had a great turnout with about 30 lovely women, all of whom Sheryl loves and appreciates dearly. My mom joined in the festivities but mostly helped take care of Benny as I took on the role of leading the games and making sure people were as comfortable as they could be.

The shower turned out to be a memorable event for all. I transformed my living room and dining room into a sort of banquet facility with rental tables, white linen table cloths and white resin chairs. My amazing friend Connie Vega created colorful and tropical floral arrangements inside giant martini glasses to go with the theme.
Sandra and I created a mural to use as a backdrop on one of my living room walls using red, orange and pink streamers and a gold metallic curtain.
We set-up a food buffet, featuring some tropical fare such as chicken teriyaki skewers and mini tropical fruit tarts as well as Dominican favorites such as chicken empanadas (Sheryl will have a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic).
I also put together a candy buffet with hot pink and orange sweets for all to enjoy.

My good friend Margie Castellanos made dozens of cupcakes designed with pink and orange flowers similar to the ones on the invitations.

The bartender set-up in my kitchen and since we knew we would have plenty of booze throughout the night, I made sure there were water bottles at each place setting (let’s hydrate, ladies!!)

Overall, I was thrilled to see my bestie enjoy her special day. Sheryl is like a sister to me and seeing her smile while surrounded by such positive energy was priceless.

I thought the shower went well and the women seemed to have a great time (success)!

4th of July in Fillmore, CA

Our country’s Independence Day is a wonderful holiday for me (and it has nothing to do with the red, white and blue desserts).

Benny and grandma watch the Fillmore High Fireworks

I have fond memories of anxiously anticipating the trip to Fillmore, California where fireworks are allowed and where we would gather at my godmother’s Guille's house every year to watch the colorful light displays of dangerous explosives. I usually stood back and let the little boy cousins do the work, often covering my ears and nervously waiting for the bright, smoky surprise to pop.
This year, I drove my son Benjamin to his first Fourth of July Fillmore Experience.

I should mention that my husband, in hopes of passing along to his son the boyish amusement of lighting rowdy, loud firecrackers, purchased several the night before and lit them on our driveway. Benny cried and hated them.

But I figured it would be better the next night since I took time to explain to my 7 month old, the history of Independence Day as I drove to Fillmore. His little eyes seemed sleepy as I went on about the 13 colonies and Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence but I know my Benny, and I just know he understood and immediately felt a new appreciation for the fireworks..ha!

In any case, we arrived in Fillmore but this time it was not at my godmother Guille's House.  We went to her daughter’s house (my dear cousin Luanita…how we’ve grown!).
Luanita has a month-old precious baby named Ethan who is certainly going to be one of Benny’s partners in crime.
Baby Ethan being held by his Uncle Alex
Both babies took the fireworks very well… Benny seemed to want to let out a loud cry every time a firework was lit but was overcome by curiosity to keep watching the light show and never actually cried. Ethan let out a few soft sobs, but he's practically a newborn so we'll attribute those to colics :)

It was a beautiful, cheerful and festive day with love all around. Best of all, our baby boys handled the noise fairly well! (yay). 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Salon Eleven Soiree

Salon Eleven in Downtown L.A. is owned and operated by Jared Jackson Dean (remember the name). Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the salon, where celebrities have been known to make appointments and the stylists are as sharp as their shears!

It was an evening event for bloggers, in collaboration with Elle Magazine and Wella Hair Products.
During the soiree, we were offered drinks and Hors d’oeuvres, free Wella samples, a diverse crowd to mingle with and the chance to get a free hairdo or manicure.
I went for the ‘do and enjoyed every minute of getting my hair teased!
I also had a great conversation with Mr. Dean, who has big plans and even bigger dreams for his brand. His motivation matters to me. A lot.

Jared Jackson Dean posing for a photo with one of his stylists.
It matters because surrounding yourself with positive people is very empowering and necessary but also because back in March, Jared Jackson Dean hired a very special stylist to be part of his dream team…my baby sister Frances Marquez, aka “Frenchee.”

Frenchee is a world class cosmetologist who is just as fabulous as the clients she serves.
She was my stylist at this event and getting an extra bit of volume from her little talented hands made me feel so proud!! She is doing big things and I was glad to meet the rest of her ridiculously cute co-workers that are sharing in the adventures of working for this unique salon...Thanks dream team, for all the good fun!

On a back-to-business note, the Wella Brilliance Treatment is unbelievable… Amazing for fine to normal colored hair (like mine). You apply it after shampooing and once you’ve left it in your hair for a few minutes, you rinse and continue with the conditioning. Retail price for the Wella Brilliance Treatment is approximately $25.00 and it comes in a neat, red plastic jar, which means you scoop the product out with your fingers! (fun).