One Step Closer To Feeling Whole

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brickhousechick.com

Every time I travel back to my hometown, I learn something new about my upbringing and my ancestors.  It feels like a piece of the puzzle, that is my life, fitting nicely into its proper place.  The dots are easier to connect and I can feel myself closer to becoming whole.

Even though I left Puerto Rico at the age of nine, the minute I step off the plane and into the warm and welcoming ground of this island, my heart does a happy skip and I am where I belong.  I feel at home.  The smells, the sounds, the people, the music and the food are like no other anywhere.  A place where the flavor and way of living are as unique as the people that inhabit it.

As I sat with my dear mother reminiscing about old times yesterday,  I learned more about the life she led as a child and the experiences she had growing up.

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Lares flickriver.com

Her family lived about 2 hours from the metropolitan area of San Juan, high in the mountainous town of, Lares.  A small agricultural town in the western part of the island.  Her father (significantly older than her mother) owned acres of farm land where he had a coffee plantation, grew sugar cane and raised cattle.  His farm was a successful and lucrative business that allowed him, his wife and three daughters to enjoy a comfortable life.

I learned that he housed his farmers and their families on the land, in houses he built for them.  As a result, he had incredibly loyal employees that made sure the crops were well taken care of.  My mother remembers jumping in her father’s jeep with him as he surveyed the crops and worked along with his farmers.  She too would join in to help.

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flickr.com

The process of growing coffee was an arduous one that required skill and the proper timing to protect the beans from decaying in too much moisture.  Every morning they would spread out the beans on cement glacis (a surface with a slope) to dry them in the sun.  They would rake the beans and turn them to ensure that all sides would dry.  My mother remembers that almost every day at noontime, it would rain.  She would help as the laborers quickly gathered the beans and put them into covered barrels before the rain began.  Once the rain would stop they would set the beans back on the slopes to dry some more.

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archivofotograficodepuertorico.com

Maintaining the sugar cane and harvesting it was also time consuming and hard labor.  She recalls when fires would break out in the fields and the workers would rush to cut the leaves off of the remaining canes in order to save the rest of the crop from burning.  Her father supplied the coffee and sugar cane to various manufacturers around the island.

As the youngest of the three daughters, when she was not helping at the farm, my mother spent a lot of time by herself.  Her sisters were five and six years older and did not welcome their younger sister to join them in their activities, particularly during their teen years when  going to parties and dances was more appealing than playing with their little sister.  As a result, my mother had two imaginary best friends.  Mary and Bette.  She spent hours upon hours playing with them and including them in her daily activities all the while,  entertaining herself.  A skill that helped her later in life and contributed to her being remarkably resourceful in all aspects of her life.

Her mother was ahead of her time in that she had a vision for the modern and the latest fashions and used her talents to do most of everything by hand.  She was a skilled seamstress and would make her daughters beautiful gowns to be worn at balls and grand events.  She tells me of days when her mother would wait for her father to leave the house in the mornings, so that she could secretly make her daughters’ gowns in preparation for dances he had yet to give them permission to attend.  She kept a hidden trunk filled with her sewing machine and fabrics and would get to work as soon as he left the house.  As the event neared and the sisters waited for his permission (sometimes not until the very day of the event), if he allowed them to go, they had beautiful gowns ready and waiting to be worn.  An unspoken and unplanned agreement her mother and father had among themselves, each feeling satisfied that they had gotten their way.

Pasteurizadora

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Fresh milk from their cows was on their dining room table every day.  Unpasteurized and hard to swallow, the sisters would beg to pair their mandatory drink of choice with some sort of a sweet treat.  At times, their father would not allow for such sweets and watched to make sure they drank their full glass of milk.  My mother remembers being giddy with joy the day her father showed up from a trip to San Juan with a pasteurizing machine to be placed on their kitchen counter for their use.  Alas they could enjoy their milk.

As I listen to more accounts of my mother’s childhood, I cannot help but feel a deeper understanding of why I am the way I am.  I have a better grasp as to the influences that shaped my mother and in turn, her children. The stories leave me wanting further insight into the lives of my ancestors who left their mark on this beautiful island by contributing to its growth and livelihood.

No place is perfect and God knows Puerto Rico has its problems and challenges, but in spite of the uncertain economic future it faces, there is a past and a present that cannot be overlooked.  A land rich in culture and pride where family comes first and where outsiders are welcome with open arms so they can share in the beauty and uniqueness that is, Puerto Rico.

I have another week left of my visit and I look forward to learning more about my past and getting closer to understanding what has made me the person I am.

 

 

 

 

Besame, Besame Mucho

Rather than refer to Puerto Rico as The Island of Enchantment, it really should be called, The Island of The Kiss.  Isla Del Beso.  I grew up kissing, so it should not have come as a surprise during my recent visit, when I got kissed a total of 555 times (approximately).

My mom and her husband kissed me. So did my aunts, cousins, neighbors, the cleaning woman, the hairdresser, the manicurist, a chef, a wedding groom I barely knew, strangers and even a dog.  Multiple times.  Every time I saw them.  Again and again.  Muchos Besos.

I had somehow forgotten how much one gets kissed in Puerto Rico.  It is a lovely tradition in spite of the germs it spreads.  You feel instantly connected to the person and affectionately greeted.  I am back from my two and a half week visit, so if you see me and I kiss you, please do not take it the wrong way.   MMMUUUUUA!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Mi Casa Es Su Casa, I went to visit my mother in Puerto Rico, fleeing the record cold February from Hell of 2015 (Welcome March, I think I love you!)  Not only did my aching arthritic joints thank me profusely and my taste buds kissed me passionately for giving them such savory and sweet delights to taste, but my heart burst with immense love and gratitude from the abundance of kindness my mother showered me with, the entire time.

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Mucha comida above

She made sure every single minute of my stay was comfortable, loving and fun.  I awoke every morning to a table set with linens and a healthy delicious breakfast with freshly squeezed orange juice.  The questions during our breakfasts consisted of what activity I wanted to do that day, what Puerto Rican food I wanted to eat and did I want white wine, red wine or both.

She hosted a family dinner where I got to see relatives that live in Puerto Rico that I don’t get to visit with often.  She made sure to serve my favorite rice and bean dish with steak and sweet plantain.  This is when at least half of those 555 besos took place.

As the days passed, my mother and her wonderful husband included me in all of their activities with their friends, to introduce me to those I had not yet met and to visit with the friends I knew.  We went out to lunch and dinner for several days in a row. And got mas besos.

I was dropped off at the beach resort anytime I wanted and picked up when I was ready to go home, always with a smile, kindness, love and wine.

My mother insisted on buying me an extra pair of the special shoes I wear that fit my arthritic non-matching feet, just because.  She also arranged for her hair dresser to cut my hair and give me a Keratin treatment ( sans the  formaldehyde) to tame my curls (jumping up and down with glee with my new softer hair.)  Do you see what I mean about her spoiling me?

Her love for her children has always been this strong (I have 3 siblings) and has never wavered.  What has changed, is the quality of life she is able to have now at the age of 78 with her husband of four years who adores her and is able to provide a financially secure future for them both.  My father passed away 17 years ago at the age of 62 and my mother had the struggles many widows have when they find themselves alone.  Her joy comes from her wish and ability to provide the special extras to her children and by spoiling them rotten.  And muchos besos.

After my diagnosis of ITP  in 1989, when I became gravely ill and had my spleen removed and the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis in 1992, my mother became my number one caretaker (well, neck and neck with my husband.)  She worries about me and hates to see me in pain.  That she can spoil me and make me feel better if just for a short time, is priceless.

Although I won’t see my mother again until November when she visits for Thanksgiving, I have a high reserve of love from her that will carry me through until then.

Besame Mucho!

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

morguefile

morguefile

It is never a good sign when a flight attendant asks if there are any doctors or nurses on the plane.  It is even worse when the attendants are running up and down the aisle with a look of panic, getting the airplane first aid kit, frantically calling the pilot via a special phone and ignoring the other passengers. I kept looking  back to see if I could see the passenger in need but there were so many people hovering over them that I could not see.  This went on for 45 minutes.  More running up and down, each time with more urgency.  I actually began to shake in my seat with worry for this mystery passenger and had accepted the likelihood that we would have to land at the nearest airport. Thankfully, the passenger was stabilized and we were able to resume our flight to Puerto Rico. As it turns out it was a little baby about six months old who was in distress.  I got to look at his little face as they carted him out to an awaiting ambulance when we landed.  Poor little guy!  It made it for a very stressful flight.

Once on the Island of Enchantment, things got significantly better.  You see, I go visit my mother and her husband during the winter months so that I can escape the cluster fuck that is winter (did I just say that?)  And what a CF it’s been!  Mr. B. tells me it will get below 30 this evening.  No, Gracias.  I may have to extend my trip.

Even though I left PR at the age of 9 to live in the States, as soon as that plane lands and I step foot on the Island, I feel at home.  Mi casa. Mi Hogar. The humid breeze on my now frizzy hair , the smells, the sounds, the feel.  Nothing like it.  It’s like my heart and soul are doing a happy salsa dance knowing that I am back.

My mother is the MOTHER of mothers.  She wrote the book on how to spoil your children and make them feel loved.  The spoiling begins when she picks me up at the airport and drives directly to one of my favorite restaurants.  Her and her wonderful husband urge me (it doesn’t take much) to order all my favorite dishes including tostones (fried plantains), arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans) and bistec encebollado  (steak and onions) along with a tall glass of Sangria.  And then there’s flan.  I’m pretty sure I inhaled my piece of flan through my nose.

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As we walk through the busy streets of Condado (a great area in San Juan where she lives), I take in the night life, the sounds of the car horns, the smells of the many restaurants and the rhythm of the live bands.  That first night, I literally hugged a tree.  It was my way of thanking the heavens above that I had landed safely and that I was now marinating in the 80 degree temperatures.  Ahhh….

The thing about being here is that you have to come with a completely different mind-set.  You have to leave behind your worries, your habit to rush through things, to hurry up and get somewhere and to try to accomplish things at reasonable time frames.  Just like in many other islands, Puerto Rico functions on Island time.  You take it slow (otherwise you will sweat like a pig) , you relax and most importantly, you let things go.  Elsa from Frozen needs to get the hell out of the cold and move to PR where she can make some awesome sand castles, rapido!

Elsa goes to the beach playdora.com

Elsa goes to the beach/ playdora.com

Never do I feel more feminine than when I am here.  Puerto Rican women are the Bosses of femininity .  This femininity is not to be confused with fragility of meekness.  No Señor.  We Puerto Rican women own our femininity like there is no mañana.  We have five Miss Universe titles to show for it. We dress to a T, nails always groomed, impeccable clothing with badass heels and lustrous colors on our plump lips.  You do not leave the house unless you are dressed to kill.  Yet, we are strong, intelligent and know how to succeed.

What makes women feel even more feminine is the way PR men treat us.  There is a lot of talk about machismo and how latin men rule and have the final say.  This is not necessarily true. They may think they are in charge but we all know that we women are the ones  who rule.  Puerto Rican men are some of the most chivalrous men I have ever encountered.  Be it the valet parking attendant, the hairdresser, waiter or friend, they know how to treat a lady.  Umbrellas are held up quickly for us when it rains,  doors open from every direction when we enter a room, chairs are moved back, packages are carried and compliments are a flyin’, in a respectful way (ok, not always but you get what I’m saying.)  I feel like royalty when I am here.

distractionmagazine.com

distractionmagazine.com

Family is what matters the most for Puerto Ricans.  So much so, that we see each other as often as possible.  Even if we were all together on a Saturday (I’m talking aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, fourth cousins and more cousins), we do it all over again on Sunday.  And Monday.  And Tuesday.  Don’t even think about saying anything negative about any member of our family.  We WILL eat you, alive.

funny-pictures.picphotos.net

funny-pictures.picphotos.net

Before I visit, it is imperative that I gargle with salt water, exercise my vocal chords and pack a couple of ear plugs.  You see, there is a lot of yelling that goes on when together.  Not yelling like at each other, it is more like setting the volume of your iPod at its maximum, while wearing ear buds.  The louder Tia Maria speaks, the louder you have to speak.  The key is to talk over everyone else so that your voice is the loudest and may have a chance to actually be heard.

We live for our next meal.  While having breakfast, we plan our lunch and dinner menus.  Our days revolve around meal times and everything is planned accordingly.  While here, my schedule has been as follows:

Wake, Eat, Drink, Rest, Eat, Drink, Rest, Eat, Drink, Rest, Sleep.  

Every couple of days,  I visit my favorite resort nearby that has a wonderful beach, pools, pool bar, hammocks, palm trees and killer pina coladas.  My parents drop me off in the morning and pick me up before dinner time.  Many Puerto Ricans on the island want nothing to do with the hot sun.  They avoid it like the dengue and only enjoy the beaches during the early mornings or early evenings, if at all.  I am not one of those Puerto Ricans.  When my time comes, I would like to be buried in the sand of a beautiful beach – hot sun and all.

Sensationalism is our pastime.  We love the drama, the Novelas and are prone to pull a Brian Williams when telling stories.  What’s a little mis-remembering here and there.  As part of this sensationalism, we think we experience things more intensely than others (cough-cough).  If we experience a hurricane, it was THE WORST one in the history of hurricanes.  If there is a mosquito-bourne illness, like the Chikungunya (the latest),  WE ALL get it and WE ALL DIE.  If your mother is ill, mine is MORE ill.  We feed off of tragedy.  The more tragic, the better the story.

You want to meet a more PROUD group of people?  You won’t.  That would be, us.  We are still raving about Roberto Clemente, we think the group Menudo was bigger than The Beatles.  Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony are obviously  the best singers.   There is no one greater than Jose Feliciano and the first Hispanic to win an Oscar, Rita Moreno.  José Gautier Benítez  was the greatest Romantic-era poet that ever lived (duh).  

But, the one thing I can tell you with certainty, is that Puerto Ricans are kind and  hospitable.  

You need your whole family fed?  Come on over.  You don’t have a place to stay?  Sleep with us.  You need a ride? Hop on my back.  You are thirsty?  Here’s the bar.  You need a new kidney?  Take one of mine.  

This is what truly defines us and what we are most proud of.

 Mi Casa Es Su Casa

   

Get Me Out Of Here

songbirdgarden.com

songbirdgarden.com

I spent four consecutive hours yesterday watching, HGTV’s Beachfront Bargain Hunt.  For those of you who know better and spend your Sundays reading, writing or doing something productive, this particular segment on the HGTV network features people who are tired of renting and are looking for beachfront vacation properties to buy.  A realtor shows them several properties until they find the beachfront oasis of their dreams. 

After bombarding my brain with images of pristine aqua-blue waters framed by miles of golden sandy beaches, clear blue skies, thirst quenching tropical beverages and sling-shot bikinis, I felt even more depressed than I already was.

Really.

I am no different from the 1.3 million US residents living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. If you have RA, you will experience pain.  If you have RA and you live in a cold climate, you will most likely experience even more pain.  And stiffness.  And aches. And sadness.  And isolation. 

I know I do.

As a result (and just because) I am leaving tomorrow (weather permitting) for an almost 3 week hiatus, landing directly in the warm and comforting arms of my wonderful mother, who happens to live on the island of PUERTO  RICO.

 

Just what the doctor ordered.

What If He Says No?

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photo credit: morguefiles

It was agonizingly frigid on this stormy December evening, twenty-six years ago.   The highway was deserted except for the sand trucks, snow plows and a handful of foolhardy drivers.

What is typically a two-hour trek, took three and a half hours of white knuckle driving while his father directed his every move from the passenger’s side.  His mother sat silently in the back seat trying desperately not to show the terror she was feeling.  They should have canceled and gone on another night but her son was in love and insistent on making this special night happen.  She was proud of the young man he had become and admired the respect he exhibited for his girlfriend’s cultural traditions and norms.  She did not know what caused her more angst, the treacherous drive or the mission they were about to undertake.

Meanwhile at her home, a twenty-five year old nervous woman sat restlessly waiting for her visitors to arrive.  She was worried about their drive in this storm but not worried enough to have canceled.  She had been waiting for this remarkable yet terrifying moment since she was a little girl.  She prayed that her father would go easy on the man she hoped to spend the rest of her life with.  As if having to wait for her father’s response was not bad enough, her grandfather had flown in from Puerto Rico for a visit and was to weigh in on this scheduled convocation.

He carefully parked the car in her driveway wondering if the unrelenting snow would block them in and make it impossible to go back home.  He was sweating now and felt his throat dry up.  He held on to his mother and helped her navigate the slippery steps to the front door.  He had rehearsed his speech over and over but could not remember one word of it at that moment.  What if he says no?

After hearing the sound of the door bell, her siblings and cousins who were visiting, assumed their positions in another room but still within ear shot of where the deliberations were to take place.

Once inside, she could not take her eyes off of him.  He looked so nervous and pale.  He must truly care for her.  After enduring years as the boyfriend who had to prove himself worthy of her, there he was with his parents in the midst of a blizzard, proclaiming his love for her and stating his intentions of marriage for her father and grandfather to consider.

He spoke, his voice cracking at times while describing in detail what he could offer his bride-to-be and why he deserved their blessing.  Then, as planned, his father spoke, collaborating his son’s story and assuring her family that he and his wife supported his son’s decision and plan.

Her grandfather, in spite of his labored speech as a result of a stroke he suffered many years before and a limited English vocabulary, spoke about the true meaning of marriage and what it entails.  He was a proud and stern man and took his elderly and wise role in the family very seriously.

At last, her father began speaking.  He described the difficulties that life brings and the importance of family and values.  He took his time.  This was his time and he would use is wisely.  He offered his guidance, counsel and experience before finally raising his glass and giving his new son his blessing.

Tears were shed, corks were popped and the celebration began.

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Today, I wish my loving husband a Happy 25th Wedding Anniversary!

morguefiles

morguefiles

daveswordsofwisdom.com

daveswordsofwisdom.com

Ooh, yea. A little more to the left…

essex1.com

essex1.com

It has been a week since I last posted.  That is unusual for me as I enjoy boring keeping you briefed on my whereabouts and happenings.

  Let me sum up for you a few of this past week’s newsworthy facts from around the country,  in case you missed them:

1.  Shia LaBeouf was arrested after a theater outburst – Shia, Shia, what are we going to do with this bag-over-his-head Transformer?

usmagazine.com

usmagazine.com

2. A California Nanny would not leave the home of the family that hired her after being fired – now she has gone missing

3. Rob Lowe‘s French vacation home almost got washed away in a storm

4. Two men (in New Jersey) threw away a $1M lottery ticket, after thinking it was a loser because the lottery website had not updated the winning numbers – they are suing the state.

5.  A new report by US psychologists suggests that one-night stands can boost life satisfaction and self-esteem – Hmmmm…. Read about it here.

 6.  USA got eliminated in the World Cup – Olé to Tim Howard , though.

7.  Cheerleader posts selfies with big game hunted in Africa – and this is news because…

**8.  Corporations can now (for religious beliefs) choose not to pay for some contraception for women as part of their health insurance, yet will continue to pay for  men’s condoms, vasectomies and Viagra.  This sounds perfectly fair to me.  Don’t even get me started…

But, enough about what is happening around the country; let me tell you about some  real and exciting news:

1.  My daughter is back from her trip to Puerto Rico (where the drinking age is 18) with her three girlfriends (who are 18 and can drink in PR), safe and in one piece (did I tell you the drinking age in PR is 18?) Phew.

copykat.com

copykat.com

2.  My son began his internship with our local police department.  He needs to wear a shirt and tie and will shadow some detectives and officers.  I am secretly hoping he hates the whole idea but I have a feeling I am going to lose this battle.  He has two more years of college, a lot can change, right? 🙂

3.  Mr. B took me on a wonderful walk on a bike path before the oppressive heat hit the Valley and we sort of fell in love with each other all over again.  I know that sounds corny but you should have seen the elderly couple walking behind us holding hands the whole way.  They were giddy with excitement as they told us that they had been married for 60 years and were still in love.  That did it for us.  Utter Adorableness.

4.  I had a reunion with three childhood friends whom I adore.  We lived in the same neighborhood growing up and were inseparable.  I hope we can continue to meet up in spite of the distance that separates us.

5.  Remember how I signed up for a jewelry making class?  No? Well, I did and I went.  The best thing about the class was that I was the only student who signed up. SCORE!  A private two-hour free lesson.  Oh, yes I did.  Take a look at the creations I made for my twin nieces who have a birthday coming up this month.

brickhousechick.com

brickhousechick.com

brickhousechick.com

brickhousechick.com

brickhousechick.com

brickhousechick.com

*Move over, K Jewelers.  Every kiss begins with B.

6.  I have mysteriously developed the case of the itchies.  I am going insane scratching away.  Every part of my body itches.  I need to go get this checked out soon.

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joereactor.com

joereactor.com

I found this scratcher tucked away in the basement and it has  been my salvation.

Wood-Back-Scratcher-W--1-Rolle-221816

WellPromo.com

Ooh…ahh…yea…

There is  nothing better than scratching an itch.   I know, I know –  I always talk about gadgets (ie. battery operated necklace fan) but when you find something that works, it is complete happiness.

Happy 4th of July My Friends!

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! 

The Swim to My 50s – Heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another you’ve been “messing around”.

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photo by colourbox.com

How is a Catholic girl to blog about s—, you ask?  I know you did not really ask, but I will tell you anyway.  She researches the many euphemisms out there to describe the nasty, without having to actually use the forbidden word.  Oh, believe me, there are endless lists of them, enough to please a whole church filled with sinners who can continue to avoid saying what they actually mean.

As I approach my 50’s, I think about my, dippity doo-da history and what awaits me in the next 50 years of my life.  Truth be told, I was a late bloomer.  Having grown up Catholic and under the direction of a very, very, very (did I say very?) strict Puerto Rican father, bouncing the pogo stick, before marriage, was out of the question.

Interestingly enough (Grrr), this waiting to, dip the wick rule before marriage, did not apply to my two brothers.  Something that did not sit well with my sister and I and the reason for continued therapy.

It is very difficult to re-train your brain and body from believing that, buttering the muffin, is bad, bad, bad, to suddenly feeling that it is ok to enjoy,  feeding the kitty, every night.  The button does not just switch that easily from one day to the next. Often, the button actually stays stuck in one place for a while, until you have to force it to switch with a pair of pliers.

Lucky for me, my switch was not faulty and I have had a very enriched life of, dipping the donut, with my husband throughout our marriage.  I look forward to, hiding the salami, for many years to come.

Doctors and therapists encourage married couples of all ages to continue to, stuff the taco, at least three times a week.  Really?  What happens when your body stops cooperating and you can’t, bury the bone, as often as you would like?

I heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend, who, heard it from another that there are certain, aids out there to help the aging population, go fishing, more often. But, the same friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another, said that you can only get 4 of these aids per month. Seriously?

Who do the doctors and insurance companies think we are?  Monks?

 

The Swim to My 50s – Eat, Pray, Love, Slurp & Lounge Your Way Through Puerto Rico

I was born in this Enchanted Island back in the early 60’s…

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When I was nine years old, my parents decided to move my three siblings and I from Puerto Rico to a small town in the northeast to live.  Why, you ask?  Believe me, we asked and protested!  It had to do with a wonderful job opportunity for my father.

 It was quite the challenge (to say the least) since we did not know English very well.  But we soon adjusted, learned the language and have stayed in the States ever since.  All except for my mother, who moved back to PR.

Do you know how lucky I am to first, have such a wonderful mother, but also to have her live in this beautiful, spicy, warm and hospitable island?

I try to get there at least once a year, but it does not always work out that way.  However, when I do, watch-out island!  I EAT, pray (really, I do), love, drink, and enjoy every single minute of it.

If you have not been to PR, what are you waiting for?  No passport needed and a quick flight from most major cities!  There truly is something to do for everyone!

images-7 images-8 images-9 images-10 (None of these people are me) 

I am not going to pretend to be one of those tourist sites showing you the major attractions in Puerto Rico.  You can go to, http://www.visit-puerto-rico.com, for that.  

I will be showing you MY experiences in Puerto Rico and let me warn you, they have mostly to do with food!  {LOVE}

Although I stay at my mom’s place in Condado (a wonderful part of the island in San Juan filled with restaurants, hotels and beaches), my favorite place to lounge at is,  The Caribe Hilton.

 

Caribe Hilton Pool

Caribe Hilton Pool

DSCN5600  It’s so tough…being me.

My 'crib' at Caribe Hilton

My pimped-up ‘crib’ at Caribe Hilton

 

Photo on 2013-02-21 at 14.39

Need I say more? Need I say more?

AY! The dragon iguana!

AY! The Dragon Iguana (harmless)

The Hilton has a safe private beach, hammocks, a swim-up bar, drinks delivered to you at your request and, yes, iguanas – but don’t worry, they don’t show up very often.  It is heavenly to lounge around there.  Trust me.  {LOVE}

Now, for some of the most scrumptious food.  It is amazing what one can make with Plantain (looks like a green banana but bigger) .  Check it out:

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Before – Picture. Mofongo! Mashed plantain stuffed with seafood! Total food-gasm!

After Picture.

After – Picture
Yup, I finished the whole thing!

TOSTONES! Fried Plantain

TOSTONES! Fried plantain with a little salt and garlic

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Pinon! It’s like a lasagna except with delicious seasoned ground beef, green beans and plantain instead of pasta. We will kill for this!

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Churrasco with chimichurri sauce, rice and beans, avocado and sweet plantain!

Rice and beans are a must! 183896_1702795364636_8325964_n

Bistec with onions, rice and beans

Steak with onions, rice and beans

How about a grilled cuban sandwich (we borrowed it from that island near by) on a sweet roll sprinkled with confectioners sugar?  Mallorcas! Deliciosas! {LOVE}

Now, for the sweets and desserts:

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Puerto Rican Coffee-Mousse

Piragua de Frambuesa -Raspberry Snow Cone

Piragua de Frambuesa Raspberry Snow Cone

Flan!

Flan! Melts in your mouth.

Guava with cheese

Guava Paste with cheese

These… are just a few of the many wonderful indulgences to enjoy.

Moving right along to the beverages I love to slurp:

Piña Coladas

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Sssssllllluuuurrrrpppp!

 

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DSCN5578 You can learn some history while there…

Other slurpable drinks:

 

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Rum Explosion, with Bacardi Rum made on the island!

You go can visit the Bacardi Rum Factory while there!

Sangria!

Sangria!

Fruity and refreshing!

 

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The best Margarita in town (Super Strong) @ Auroritas

*Have a designated driver when visiting Auroritas.

I know what you are thinking — besides, how fast can you get to PR, why doesn’t she weigh 300 lbs. and will she make it to her 50th birthday?–  You have seen pictures of me eating, loving {everything about PR}, drinking and lounging, but what about praying?   

The truth is, I have no pictures of myself praying.  Only, because praying is a very private affair.  As long as the Big Guy upstairs knows I am praying, that’s all that matters. Right? Oh wait, is He also watching me doing the other stuff?

I hope you enjoyed my little tour and that you plan a trip to Puerto Rico in the very near future!  

Adios & Buen Provecho!