A Latina Grinch

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FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

Those are usually the words that come out of my mouth when I am feeling cranky during the holidays.  Except that I say them with a heavy Spanish accent and using a very low and monotone voice.

In reality, I have nothing serious to be complaining about.  I have no business whining or being bratty.  But let’s be real here, it gets exhausting faking jolliness all month-long.

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

I am suffering from a severe case of the, “I don’t wanna’s”.  Have you ever suffered from this?  It can be very serious and highly contagious.

This Puerto Rican Grinch is at the peak of her illness and needs medical attention (or a good slapping) ASAP.

Here are examples of how this ailment is manifesting itself: 

1. There are rotten bananas liquefying on the kitchen counter and a decision needs to be made.  Banana bread would be the logical solution.  My response:   I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna.

2.  After laboring over placing a fake garland with lights attached to it on the mantlepiece and ensuring that the lights worked prior to using it, the lights don’t work.   New lights would be the logical solution.  My response:  Sh#%&*@^!!!!  I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

3. My in-laws need my husband and I to stay at their house overnight to help out while my mother-in-law goes to a Christmas show two hours away.  The logical and usual response is to do this lovingly and with no hesitation.  My response:  I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

4. My Puerto Rican mustache is in dire need of waxing.  We are talking Señor Brick House!  The logical solution:  wax the hell out of it.  My response:  I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

5. I have mad amounts of Christmas shopping to do.  I even know what to get my loved ones.  Some gifts take two seconds  and a simple click of the submit button.  The logical solution: buy the frikin’ gifts already!  My response: I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

6.  By this time, I have usually indulged in Puerto Rican no-good-for-you fried goodies and have listened to festive (and loud) Puerto Rican Christmas music to get me in the mood.  Logical solution: go to freezer, defrost said no-good-for-you fried goodies, fry those suckers, eat them, press play on your Christmas play list, grab your maracas and güiro and dance the merengue ’till you pull a muscle.  My response: I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

PLEASE SEND WELL-WISHES FOR A SPEEDY RECOVERY!

FELIZ NAVIDAD TO YOU AND YOURS!

 

It’s The Most Magical Time Of The Year

morguefiles-freephoto

morguefiles-freephoto

The music, the cooking, the decorating, the planning, the giving and the gathering together with loved ones.  This time of the year makes us all want to give and do for others, more than we do any other time.  I guess that is where the magical part comes in.

A great time to reflect.

I am feeling at peace these days and incredibly grateful for what I have around me.  My health may not be the best as I get ready to try a new weekly injection to combat my growing and much inflamed knuckles and hands, but I am alive and more fortunate than many who are battling R.A. or any other chronic medical condition.

I am also enjoying the time I am spending with my adult-behaving kids while they are home from college. Seeing them as they have matured only confirms what I have suspected all along.  That they are caring and giving individuals who will not only succeed in their chosen careers, but who will scatter kindness around them, as Mr. B and I have taught them to do since they were little.  That is the best Christmas present ever.

Yet, with all these blessings around me, my heart is aching.  Aching for friends and relatives who are going through difficult times at this very moment.  Wether it is my dear friend who is facing some medical issues as well as a family crisis, another friend who lost her mother two days ago, an elderly family friend who sits in a nursing home feeling alone and abandoned or family members having to spend the holidays in a hotel room because their home is no longer safe.

How is it that we are capable of feeling real physical and emotional pain for others?  Even for strangers who are suffering.    It can hurt almost as bad as if it were happening to us.  We have this amazing ability to empathize and feel for others, be it happiness or sadness and that right there, is magical as well.

What has nothing to do with magic, however, is our ability to cope with the situations and obstacles we face on a daily basis.  This takes work, practice, patience, love, hope, faith and inner peace.

This ability to cope does not come easy and is a work in progress, but I thank my incredible mother for teaching me how to be strong and accept what comes my way, as well as teaching me to move on with grace, faith and confidence.

 I also thank my brother Rafael, for showing me what – kind, loving, giving, disciplined, unpretentious and grateful truly look like, as he is the example I strive to live by.  The real deal.

I wish you all a peaceful, magical and happy holiday season.

Your friend,

Maria aka brickhousechick

Memories of Many ‘a Christmas Mornings…

wrestlingwithretirement.com

wrestling with retirement.com

Growing up, my family had a fascination with bathrobes.  Since before I could walk, I had a bathrobe.  My dad and two brothers also had bathrobes (though they didn’t always wear them.)

The women in the family still love their robes.  They signify complete and utter laziness coziness.  On many ‘a day,  we have been known to throw our robes on in the morning, stay in them through lunchtime, perhaps through happy hour and heck, throw them off and jump back in bed at night.   We have a name for these special days:

We call them BATA DAYS!

 {Yes, bathrobe in Spanish is bata.}

There is simply nothing better than a Bata Day.

As you can imagine, Christmas mornings were and still are the perfect mornings for wearing your bata. On these special mornings, we would usually still be recovering from a night filled with wonderful Puerto Rican traditions like gorging on greasy pork, rice and beans,  fried pig intestines, fried everything else, flan, a lot of rum and singing and dancing while shaking our maracas, which in turn caused irreparable damage to our ear drums. What?   If that does not scream BATA DAY, I don’t know what does!

Undoubtedly,  besides having food and alcohol hangovers,  some of us were simply  not able to hide our crankiness on Christmas morning.   That would be… my older brother whose middle finger always managed to “photo bomb” our pictures and videos. My dad would have the Spanish music blaring and my mom the mimosa’s chilling as we would sit in the living room in a catatonic state, staring at the presents we would soon open.

Now, as braggy as this may sound, we were known to many as a, “pretty” group of people – my family.  But on Christmas mornings, there was absolutely no sign of prettiness to be found.

My dad’s bata would be partially open exposing his Santa-like belly and tighty-whities.  His surviving strands of hair would stray from their usual position and stick straight up into the air.  My mom’s curly hair combined with the static electricity of the season,  had a life of its own – It too had a hangover. Her bata stains were reminders of the previous day’s grease fest.

I remember us kids suffering from either flat as a board bed hair or hair that had permanently set into our skulls with a different part than our usual.  This resulted in our hair hurting.  We were also blessed with pillow marks etched deeply into our faces that would take days to fade.  Our breaths could light the house on fire and my younger brother always smelled like fried eggs.

Ahhhhh….the memories.

gettyimages.com

gettyimages.com  This is NOT what we looked like.

Yet, for some twisted and probably narcissistic reason, we would take out the cameras  and document ourselves in this state, every Christmas.  Not that we showed the pictures to anyone else, in fact I still keep them locked up for safety in my basement.  They are a reminder of how fragile our good looks were/are and how quickly they can disappear into thin air.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at these beauties.  Faces were covered to protect the guilty: As you can see, we had brown batas, white batas, floral batas, pink batas, short batas and long batas.

I have learned a bit since those days and now brush my hair, brush my teeth, cover the pillow marks and wear a nice bata on Christmas mornings.  It is only then that I allow the all familiar *clicks to take place.

My childhood bata traditions must NOT BE REPEATED – EVER. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas filled with no hangovers, grease stains, pork breath or messy hair.  May your day be filled with the warmth and comfort of your batas.

Feliz Navidad!

My Big Fat Puerto Rican Christmas

travelpickr.com

travelpickr.com

It’s a bit of a challenge to celebrate your childhood holiday traditions that are meant to take place in the warmth of the Caribbean, when you are living in arctic-like conditions and are no longer anywhere near that sunny oasis (why have I not moved back yet?) Not only is the weather a factor but it is difficult to find all the delicious typical fried and fattening foods that make the holidays what they are. I have such fond memories of Christmases in Puerto Rico.  I lived there until I was nine when my parents we decided to move to the Northeast, to freeze to death.  As you might have guessed, I haven’t recovered from the move yet.

First of all, almost everyday from December 1st to January 15th in Puerto Rico, is a holiday!  Nothing is open and you can’t get anything done( I’m exaggerating just a tad.)  This leaves you no choice but to party like an animal and eat like one too. Although I enjoy  traditional Christmas carols, frankly, they tend to put me to sleep.  They are not exactly get-down type of tunes, unless there are moves to “Come all ye Shepherds” I don’t know about.  Many of the Puerto Rican aguidaldos (Christmas songs) are great party songs.  It is not possible to stay still while listening.  The beat and rhythm of the songs take over your body and ignite the, Elaine from Seinfeld in all of us. Take a listen to this medley (really do click on it before reading on, I promise you will enjoy.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=jJAPPPWIfLY

If you are not dancing around your office or kitchen right now (after listening) then you must be dead.  The music just perks me up and makes me feel like I can do anything (sometimes I vacuüm to it).  Fortunately, living in “Iceland” has not impeded my ability to continue this tradition.

This next tradition is a bit tougher to sustain.  Because the music is so festive and makes you want to drink and eat more, it’s only natural that you would want to share in the celebration with your friends and family.  So you go on a Parranda.  

google.com

google.com

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google.com

Parranda is a gathering of a group of people with fun instruments like maracas & guiros that go from house to house singing together.  Except for, it is not soft angelic music and you don’thave hot chocolate afterwards.  You “surprise” (asaltar) a suspecting or non-suspecting friend or family member in the middle of the night by showing up at their front door, singing at the top of your lungs and begging them to let you in to give you drinks and food.  Then, you kidnap that person and take them along to the next house.

 Yea, no.  My parents tried doing a parranda one year in our quaint little New England college town but the neighbors called the police – cutting short the festivities.  We were just a group of people keeping with our traditions.  Had we been in Puerto Rico, all the neighbors would have joined us.  Sigh.

Lucky for my kids, this has never stopped me from doing a parranda indoors in the comfort of my living room.  All visitors that walk in get an instrument handed to them and are forced  encouraged to join in.  I admit that I too hated it when I was a teen but now, it’s a big part of their tradition.

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“Before” picture
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I know it looks gross but this is one tradition I really miss! Navidad is not Navidad  without charred swine to munch on.  Deliciousness and juicy fat dripping in your mouth (oh, sorry).  Seriously, you slowly “rotisserize” the pig right in your back yard (or front yard it you want to make your neighbors jealous) for hours until it is just perfect.  Then you serve it (pernil) with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) and some sweet plantain. Ay, ay, ay!

"After" picture foodspotting.com

“After” picture
foodspotting.com

That tradition, my father managed to sneak through in the privacy of our backyard (probably in the snow and sleet) a year or two without a visit from the police.    

Other foods I miss and love are, pasteles made with a masa dough combining yuca & plantain stuffed with pork, beef or chicken and boiled in a plantain leaf.

Pastel gourmetrix.com

Pasteles
gourmetrix.com

These are hard to come by in this bone-chilling area but every once in a while my mom brings them with her from Puerto Rico when she visits for Christmas.  Deliciosos.

My kids immediately took to celebrating, Epiphany or Three Kings Day,  (the 12th day after Christmas when the Magi arrived bearing gifts for baby Jesus) on January 6th, after figuring out that they would get even MORE presents.  Since they were little, the eve of Epiphany, we take a shoe box for each child (yes, they still like to do this), we fill it with grass (if we can find any under 5 feet of snow) and carrots and leave it under their beds for the night.  While they innocently sleep, the Three Kings and their camels trek through the snow (the poor things are used to the desert or tropics and now have to endure the winters in search of children who moved away), and put small presents in the shoe boxes.  At 20 & 17, my kids still love this tradition unlike Mr. Brickhouse who reminds me that we are not Magi and don’t have extra gold and frankincense lying around the house after Christmas, to give to the children.

The truth is that I cherish these traditions and enjoy passing them down to my kids in hopes that they appreciate them and continue to celebrate them with their own families.

*You can take the girl away from her culture,  but you can’t take the culture away from the girl.

  I will leave you with the recipe to a must have beverage when celebrating a Puerto Rican Christmas or any Christmas.

Coquito

google.com

google.com

(Similar to Egg Nog but with Bacardi Rum)
30 ounces coconut milk
14 ounces condensed milk (you can use light condensed milk if you prefer)
1 cup Bacardi rum
½ cup water
pinch of salt
½ tsp. cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in the blender. Taste and add *more rum if you like it stronger. You need to add the water because it will get thicker later in the fridge. Pour into a bottle and refrigerate well. Make ahead for richer flavor. Serve in small glassware.

Salud & Feliz Navidad! 

Fa la la la la – la la la la

A little Holiday Humor to keep us sane:

dailymail.co.uk

dailymail.co.uk

Deck the house with junk made in China,

Fa la la la la, la la la la

‘Tis the season to pretend you’re happy

Fa la la la la, la la la la

You don’t have time for all this nonsense

Fa la la la la la la la la

Bank account will soon be empty

Fa la la la la la la la la

Fighting with family while decorating the tree

Fa la la la la la la la la

When you’re done the tree tips over

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Why didn’t you just get a fake one

Fa la la la la la la la la

Vacuuming needles into April

Fa la la la la la la la la

Buying junk that no one needs,

Fa la la la la la la la la

If you get one more damn Snuggie blanket

Fa la la la la la la la la

You will hit someone with your Chia Pet

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Eating cookies drinking egg nog

Fa la la la la la, la la la

Getting fatter by the minute

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Now you go return your presents,

Fa la la la la la la la la la

Make resolutions you’ll never keep…

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Please Oh God can it be over,

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA!

* I really do love the holidays, just having a little fun! 🙂


That One Obnoxious Christmas Letter

The Most Beautiful & Talented Family

100 Obnoxious Drive

Bragging, MN 11111

Dear average people  Family & Friends,

I hope this letter finds you all happy (actually, I don’t really give a damn how you are), healthy and with none of those ugly warts and chin hairs many of you had last year filled with joy.  What a year it has been for us (because it is all about us)!  Where to begin?!

Little Grant graduated from first grade after only three months.  He was named valedictorian of his class and won the alphabet writing contest duh.   Because he has the best hand writing in the entire prestigious private school, the Dean has chosen our little Grant to do all the hand writing for the school.  We insisted they pay our little nugget $300 per sentence (if they think they are going to take advantage of our gifted heir, they’ve got another thing coming!)

Of course, Grant is even more handsome than he was last year (if that is even possible).  Is it me or are children getting uglier and uglier by the minute?  We tell precious boy not to get too close to his classmates and send him to school with extra anti-bacterial wipes. UGH!  If only he didn’t have to interact with those dirty rug-rats!

Our dahhhhlin’ Elizabeth continues to keep us on our toes! She does not let her father and I get away with anything.  She insists on storing all the alcohol in the house in her private wing.  She wants to protect us and keep us safe from the awful stuff (I prefer Xanax).  What a caring and amazing daughter we have.  We most certainly trust our little princess.  She does not drink (that’s just Listerine on her breath), does not do drugs (the smoke is from her incense candles) and has never had SEX at the tender age of 18.  She would never betray us.

This past summer, Lizzy-poo flew to Africa on her own with no clothes on her back and lived in a remote village where she discovered a pristine water well!  Her discovery was responsible for providing drinking water to the entire continent!  Oh, Lizzy…  Now, she is preparing to move to the White House after the President asked her to bypass college and be his Chief of Staff.  Oh my, I haven’t got a thing to wear to the White House!

Dick the 10th and I took our little 150 foot yacht out on the Caribbean Sea for a couple of months but ended up having to cut our trip short because Dick-wad spilled red wine on our $20,000 sofa.  I’ve told him a million times not to sit on the sofa, never mind drink wine on it!  Instead, we flew to London in our private jet for the day and returned with 8 top of the line English Bulldogs given to us by the Queen.  I have had no choice but to kick Dicky out of our bedroom quarters because my precious puppies don’t fit on our bed when he’s there.

I would like to wish all you commoners  all of you a mediocre Christmas spent eating WalMart steaks and store-bought stale  pound-cake very Merry Christmas spent with your butt ugly relatives who smell like cheap potpourri from Ocean State Job Lot loved ones.

I look forward to receiving your Christmas cards and letters (don’t bother, I am not even going to open them because your lives are so dreadfully boring) and hearing about the past year’s events.

Dreadfully Fondly,

Annabel Rose (shit, I just broke a nail typing this)

I love Christmas letters but there is always that ONE that belongs in the obnoxious category.  Do you get any obnoxious letters for the holidays?