Saturday, November 30, 2013

Small Business Saturday: 3 Small Business Women I Am Inspired By

Today is Small Business Saturday, so I thought I'd share 3 small businesses that I adore and support. These three women inspire me so much. They are fueled by passion and purpose. So if you're thinking of getting someone special a unique holiday gift, you may want to check out these ladies.  

Nell of NellEsc Designs is a local Bronx Latina, blogger, designer and mother of two special needs boys. One of my favorite pieces is the Young Lords fabric cuff. Whenever I wear it, I get so many compliments on it. Check out Nell's Esty store --> HERE

I had the pleasure of meeting Aurora Anaya-Cerda of La Casa Azul Bookstore at the LATISM Conference back in September. La Casa Azul is a much needed gem in our city. And the story of how it came to be is inspiring. In most major bookstores, you can barely find of a shelf of Latino authors- Aurora has filled an entire store of wonderful books all written by Latinos. If you're looking for something special, you will surely find it at La Casa Azul.  

Jennifer Bunt is blogger and autism mom. She also created her own line of Autism Awareness Jewelry. "The creation of the Autism Awareness Collection was inspired 
by my personal connection with Autism Spectrum Disorders,
 as well as my belief in giving back to the community," Jennifer says. I shared Jennifer's story earlier this year, you can read the post in full, HERE

What small businesses do you support? Please share in the comments :)  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gifts for Everyone at Best Buy | #bbyHoliday13

Disclaimer: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free. 

Last week The Husband and I started our holiday shopping. And the first place we hit was Best Buy - always our go to store when we have to buy gifts for The Boy. The Boy is really into movies and video games (especially Disney Infinity). Since The Boy's birthday is in January we do all of his shopping at once and set a few gifts aside for his birthday.
We picked up Disney Planes. We took The Boy to see it when it came out and he really enjoyed it and has some of the planes. We know it will make a great stocking stuffer! And I don't know how you do your holiday shopping but we always manage to pick up a little something for us too. The Husband picked up The World's End. Before walking away from the DVD section, I pointed out the Downton Abby (seasons 1 - 3) box set - in case The Husband wanted any ideas on what to get me. 

The Boy has really loved playing Disney Infinity and he's also a huge Toy Story fan. So we picked up the Toy Story Play Set and Woody figure. There are still a few more things we'll pick up before Christmas, but these were the items we really wanted him to have. The Husband also enjoys playing Disney Infinity and has his eye on a few figures for himself. (Think I'll surprise him…sssshhhhh!)

Need more ideas for Gifts for the Kids?
  • Digital Barbie Makeover Kit
    • Let your child transform an Apple iPad into a makeup mirror with this Barbie digital makeover kit, which includes a vanity frame and utilizes a downloadable app to let your little beautician apply virtual eye shadow, lipstick and more.
  • Fisher Price Little People Apptivity Barnyard
    • Compatible with select Apple® iPad® models, this Fisher-Price Little People Apptivity barnyard features 6 play pieces that interact with your device in a variety of ways to capture your child's imagination and attention.  
How about ideas for Gifts for Everyone else on your list?
  • Fitbit
  • Misfit Shine
  • Jawbone Up
  • Logitech Headphones & Speakers
Our go to gifts for friends, family and the kids in our lives:  
  • Games/Gaming: Best Buy has the latest Xbox and PlayStation consoles, the hottest game releases and everything else you need for a great gaming experience.
  • Music/Movies/Musical Instruments: Best Buy offers terrific deals on the best entertainment stocking stuffers. We always check out Best Buy on new movie Tuesday - it's a great way to save on new releases!
No matter what your budget, you can find the perfect gift at Best Buy. For more gift ideas check out the Best Buy Gift Center.

And now for an exclusive savings offer starting Dec. 1, 2013 through  Jan. 15, 2014

  • Exclusive Savings Offer 1: 15% off Health & Fitness and Fisher Price & Mattel Toys. To redeem online enter bloggers15off at checkout click HERE.
  • Exclusive Savings Offer 2: 10% off Headphones and Portable speakers (some exclusions apply). To redeem online enter bloggers10off at checkout click HERE.

Disclaimer: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

The first time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my family, my mother said:

You're not a great cook, you just buy fancy ingredients. 

Oh my mother…she's quite the character. 

Growing up our Thanksgiving dinner was pretty much a typical Puerto Rican dinner: arroz con gandules, potato salad, tostones and/or sweet plantains. And we ate turkey. But there was no stuffing, sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce. In fact, I didn't have any of these things until I married The Husband and I learned that this is what he wanted for Thanksgiving dinner.   

I don't cook full meals often. But I enjoy cooking for friends and family when I can.  And I am so excited to be cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year for my family. Even though I know my mother will have something to say about what I prepare. It's okay, she's amusing. And I'll ask her to make arroz con gandules. 

What I'm Cooking on Thanksgiving

Truth be told, I'm not crazy about turkey but The Husband is, so I make it. This year I'm making a Mojo Cubano Turkey. I've never made it before but this recipe got rave reviews on 

Every year I ponder the same thing: Sweet Potatoes versus Yams. Are they the same?  What's the difference? Seriously, does anyone know?! I just started to like sweet potatoes this year and I'm super excited about this Pomegranate Lacquered Sweet Potatoes recipe my friend Ericka from Nibbles and Feasts shared on her site.    

One thing I absolutely love is stuffing made from scratch - none of that box stuff over here.  I especially love corn bread and this Chorizo Sausage Pistachio Pear Stuffing by my friend, Nicole of Presley's Pantry sounds scrumptious!   

And now…for the Cranberry Controversy! 

The other day I got into a heated debate with my BFF over cranberry sauce. I like fresh cranberry sauce and she likes the jelly canned stuff (gross). And it surprised me, because my BFF is sort of a food snob. We spent a good 15 minutes discussing cranberry sauce. I feel like cranberry sauce is a hot topic and everyone has an opinion about it. Which do you prefer? 

Anyway, since I prefer fresh cranberry sauce, I'm going with this recipe by Alexandra Guarnaschelli - one of my favorite Iron Chefs on The Food Network. Do you know about Alex? (I'm going to call her Alex, because even though I don't know her, I think she'd be cool with it.) I mean, the way this woman talks about food and bacon - I know we could be friends. I just know it. And so when it comes to food, I trust her completely.  

As for dessert do I want to make:

a. Horchata Cupcakes 
b. Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake 
c. Apple Yam Crumble 
d. all of the above

So…what are YOU making for Thanksgiving dinner? And seriously, if someone can explain the difference between a Sweet Potato and a Yam I'd appreciate it. Thanks. 

AND  for the kids check out this cute DIY Thanksgiving Placement for the kids by Ruby of Growing Up Blackxican.

Curious to know how I'm teaching The Boy about Thanksgiving? Check out my latest post on Babble, click --->

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Very Furry Christmas at #SesamePlace

I am a Sesame Place Blog Ambassador. I was not compensated for this post but was provided with a 2013 Season Pass for myself and complimentary admission for my family. All opinions are my own.

A Very Furry Christmas to Transform Sesame Place into a
One-of-a-Kind Holiday Winter Wonderland

Get into the holiday spirit this season with everyone’s favorite furry friends

Starting November 23 through December 31 (select dates) Sesame Place  will be transformed into a one-of-a-kind holiday winter wonderland where visitors can enjoy cheerful Christmas music, twinkling lights and spectacular seasonal entertainment.

Last year we visited Sesame Place for A Very Furry Christmas and The Boy had a BLAST! The holidays are so much more fun now that The Boy is starting to understand. And I can't wait to visit this year and continue our Very Furry Christmas tradition!  

This year, the park is enhancing their holiday festivities by adding a second trackless Furry Express train as well as adding new features to the Gingerbread Cookie Factory tour where guests can experience how Twiddlebugs bake their famous chocolate gingerbread cookies. 
General admission tickets for A Very Furry Christmas are on sale now for $24.99, which includes a free second day throughout the event. 2014 Season Pass Members can enjoy unlimited admittance to A Very Furry Christmas.  For a complete operating schedule and list of events, please visit

Related posts

I am a Sesame Place Blog Ambassador. I was not compensated for this post but was provided with a 2013 Season Pass for myself and complimentary admission for my family. All opinions are my own.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Coping With Working Mom Guilt When Your Kid Has Autism

When The Boy was first diagnosed with autism there was no discussion on whether or not I would continue working. I knew that I didn't have any other choice. We just couldn't afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom.

And aside from needing to work, I wanted to work.

Whether you're a mom who works or stays home - guilt is inevitable. And when your kid has special needs, it adds a whole other layer of guilt. (Yeah, it's super fun!)

Lately my guilt has been in overdrive. This last year, in addition to working full-time (I'm an administrative assistant to three attorneys.), I've been doing a lot of freelance work. (My day job schedule varies but I work a 35 hour week. And it's an hour commute each way.)
side note: My day job isn't my dream job but it pays the mortgage on our little condo apartment and provides kick-ass health insurance. I need my day job.
When I come home from work, there's dinner, laundry and cleaning, before bath time and bed time stories. 

Somewhere between all of that (and well after), I write for Babble and And every so often, I agree to write for other venues. It seems as if I'm writing more and more. Which yeah, it's great. I LOVE writing. I'm grateful. It's extra money. The extra money helps with therapy costs. It allows for the little extras in life - a new DVD, a meal at a favorite restaurant or a new toy for no reason. It also provides opportunity.  

Last month I attended a blog conference in Atlanta. And last week I flew to Disneyland. Both trips required me to travel alone. Without my family.

I'm not the kind of blogger that travels often (usually once a year). But when I do leave, it's tough on The Boy. He cries every night I'm gone. Though we try to explain to him, he doesn't understand why I'm not home. It throws him completely off schedule. And The Husband is left on his own to deal with meltdowns, bath time and the morning routine. I know he's a parent too but I feel like it's my job to take care of them both. And when I'm not there, I'm failing as a parent and as a wife.

And even when I am home, I'm still not always "there." I spend most of my weekends, sitting on the sofa typing away and most evenings, I'm working. The Boy often comes over and says, "Momma close the computer and come to my room." Sometimes, I close the computer and sometimes I just can't. And when I can't, it hurts because I waited so long to hear those words. It hurts because there are times when he wants to be alone in his room and asks me to leave. 

Lately I've been wondering if the little extras are worth the time away from my family. I've been juggling so much, for so long and I'm exhausted. I thought that once I graduated, things would be easier. Nope - I've gotten busier. And while I'm grateful for the work and recognition, what I really want to do is slow down.

Will slowing down eliminate all my guilty? Probably not. But I'm hoping that doing less for everyone else will allow me the time to do more with my family. 

Catch up with my Babble posts

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

This is Autism

I don’t understand autism,” a friend said while we were eating dinner. We’ve know each other since grade school and hadn’t seen each other in a while. We were catching up and asking about our families. Though we are close enough to ask each other almost anything, I could tell she was uncomfortable admitting she didn’t know much about autism. I couldn’t blame her. I didn’t understand autism either, until I had to.
Autism isn’t something that can be easily summed up in a sentence. Or a blog post for that matter. And I was at a loss at how to explain it to her so that she could understand. I told her about Norrin and the progress he’s made. We talked a little about the future. And then like long time friends who hadn’t seen each other for a while, we immediately moved on to another subject.

But I’ve been thinking about our conversation since. I thought about the This is Autism Flash Blog in response to Suzanne Wright’s Call For Action. Wright believes that parents raising kids with autism are “not living,” they merely exist. And that we live in despair.

Read my post on The Max - This is My Son. This is Autism - HERE.

Monday, November 18, 2013

#VivaNavidad & #DisneyHolidays | My 1st Visit To Disneyland

Three years ago, we visited Walt Disney World and it was an emotional trip for me. Growing up, I always wanted to go to Disney. We just couldn't afford to go. Being able to give something to The Boy that I wanted as a child filled with me pride. And I was happy that we could experience Disney together for the first time.

Last week I was honored to be one of the Babble Latina Mom Bloggers invited to visit Disneyland. (And I was beyond excited since it was my very first visit to California.)

I knew that I would fall in love with Disneyland. But I had no idea how hard I'd fall. The Disneyland Hotel is all about the fine Disney details - from the headboard, to the light fixtures to the rug. My favorite were the throw pillows.

Then there was the walk through Downtown Disney. So happy that I got my holiday shopping done for The Boy! I know he's going to be excited about his gifts.

I was walking around Disneyland with the biggest grin on my face. I got on a few rides including - It's a Small World, the Jungle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion. Disney just makes me happy. It reminds me of all the possibilities that come with a single dream.

My visit to Disney, included a premier viewing of the “World Of Color – Winter Dreams” water show at Disney California Adventure. And it was simply AMAZING - unlike anything I've ever seen in my life.

There were moments when I had to fight back tears. I wished that The Husband and The Boy were with me. Nothing made me miss them more than walking through Disneyland without them. I felt guilty about being there without my family - reallyreally guilty. But it gave me ideas on how to plan our trip. Because I will return with them. I don't know when but it's going to happen. Disneyland is an experience I want The Boy to have.

There aren't enough words to describe the magic of the Disney Holidays. Check out how I used Disney Story to share my first visit to Disneyland and below get a sneak peek of the Disneyland ¡Viva Navidad! and World of Color fun!

“Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” takes over Paradise Gardens with a daily celebration inspired by the warmth and joyous spirit of Latino culture and holiday traditions. From Nov. 15 through Jan. 6, 2014, “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” offers special activities such as live Latino music, dance lessons, crafts and face painting for children and a “Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party.” The festivities also include traditional holiday foods. The grand finale of “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” will be the special celebration of Three Kings Day (Dia de lost Reyes), Jan. 3-6, 2014. 

 “World of Color - Winter Dreams” is an all-new version of “World of Color” in Disney California Adventure Park that brings the spirit of the holidays to life with music, humor and the joy of the season. Hosted by Olaf the snowman, from the upcoming Walt Disney Pictures animated feature “Frozen,” the show combines new animation with classic winter scenes and a funny Nutcracker scene danced by the toys from “Toy Story.”

Saturday, November 16, 2013

#DearBlogalicious {My 600th Blog Post & #Blogalicious5 Recap}

When I first started blogging, I had no idea a community like Blogalicious existed. And after I met a few bloggers and learned about blog conferences, Blogalicious was a name that constantly came up. It seemed different from other blog conferences I heard about. The women that I knew, spoke about it with affection, they all had a story about their first time. And for many of them, Blogalicious seemed to be a turning point in their careers.

I'll be honest, while I wanted to attend Blogalicious, I had no intentions of making the trip to Atlanta. But when I was invited to speak on a panel on awareness blogging, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I had to make it happen. 

And I am so very glad I did. 

I don't attend many conferences. Working full-time (outside of the home as a legal secretary), blogging is my side gig and often takes a back seat to my other responsibilities. Attending conferences means taking vacation days, spending money and time away from my family. Attending a blog conference is difficult to justify. But Bloglacious was worth it. 

Usually I'm intimidated by conferences. The crowds, the brands, the pressure to network and practice my elevator pitch. But Blogalicious was different. I mean, yes there were brands and networking is always a must. But the vibe was so laid back. I felt the sense of sisterhood. And everyone was so genuine, I felt completely at ease.

While at Blogalicious, I spent time with Ananda Leeke and got a 15 minute coaching session. She gave me a game plan and set a time line for me to publish my book. For the first time in a long time, I was inspired to write. The plan feels like a real possibility.
I can go on and on about why I loved Blogalicious. But what I really want to say is thank you

Thank you for creating space for bloggers to come together - to reunite with old friends and to make new ones. Thank you for creating a place for us to learn and to be inspired.   

Thank you for being a one of a kind experience. Blogalicious is my fourth conference in the three years I've been blogging. With each conference I've attended, I learned something new. I've learned to value my writing and my work a little bit more. But what I learned at Blogalicous couldn't have been learned anywhere else.

At Hispanicize, Pierra Jolly taught me I needed to own it. At LATISM, I learned that my voice matters

At Blogalicious, I learned that I was worth the investment. I realized that I needed to start seeing myself the way others saw me. I realized that my dreams were within my reach, I just need to continue moving forward. I learned that I have the power to make it happen.   

Blogalicious used to be the conference that changed other bloggers lives, and now it's the one that has changed mine. 

I cannot wait to see you all next year!
from top to bottom, left to right 
(1) [@ the Gloria Estafan Concert for AARP] w Denisse Montalvan, Crystal Gudino, Vanessa Martinez Bell, Nicole Pressley, Monique Frausto, Maura Wall Hernandez, Jessie Nuez, Yoly Mason and Lorraine Ladish 
(2) Jessie Nuez & Monique Frausto
(3) Ananda Leeke  
(4) Jessie Nuez 
(5) Pierra Jolly 
(6) Ana Flores 
(7) Denisse Montalvan 
(8) Nicole Presley 
(9) Maribel Lara 
(10) The best damn donut I've ever had in my entire life. There's bacon on it. 
(11) Rhachelle Nicol, me, Christine Koh and Janee Darden

Saturday, November 2, 2013

#BreakingTheSilence at #LATISM13 {LATISM recap part 1}

On September 18, 2013 (on my 38th birthday) I stepped into The Waldorf Astoria for the very first time. For the 2nd year in a row, I was honored to be named one of LATISM's Top 100 Blogueras. And also, for the 2nd year in a row, I attended the LATISM conference.

I laughed, I cried, I learned and most of all I was inspired by the many voices of LATISM13. The women and men I met were courageous in breaking the silence and sharing their stories - from immigration, mental health, finding balance, obesity, chronic illness and special needs.

I wanted to share some of my highlights with you.

1. I got to meet the President of Iquana Films and film maker, Maria Aqui Carter. Carter's, recent documentary, REBEL, tells the untold story of Loreta Velazquez - a Civil War soldier and spy. Carter says "In a world where our Latino children grow up knowing little of Latino contributions to this country, it is imperative that we recuperate the stories of the incredible Latinos in American history, particularly biographies where we can connect with individual stories."

2. The Panel that should have been sponsored by Kleenex because by the end of the 60 minute session, there wasn't a dry eye in the room: "Work, Life and Balance: Se Puede," moderated by Helen Troncoso. The speakers included: Vicky Barrios, MSW, Jeannette Kaplun, Michelle Herrera Mulligan and Cynthia Santiago. The women spoke candidly and passionately about their personal lives, families and careers. One of my favorite takeaways from this panel was what Jeanette Kaplun said "I believe you can do it all, just not all by yourself and not all at once."

3. The Panel that inspired me to break the silence: "Mental Health: Breaking the Silence in the Latino Community" moderated by Pauline Campos. The speakers included  Helen Troncoso,  Pauline Campos, Nelly Maseda, Jes Sofia Valle and Ane Romero. Pauline Campos nailed it when she said "We are a family-oriented culture. But our tendency to sweep tough stuff under the rug needs to stop."

For years, I have struggled with depression, insecurity and anxiety. If you've been reading my writing for a while, maybe you've seen traces of it here and there. Last year, I hit bottom and decided it was time to get help. During my first therapy session, I explained everything I had gone through over the last 5 years and she said, "It sounds like you've experienced a lot of loss..." Seeing a therapist has been the best decision I could have made - not only for myself but for my family. Yet I found myself ashamed of being in therapy. I only told my closest friends (and it took me months to tell my mother). I hid it, as if it was weakness with me. 

It was during this panel that I had the courage to stand up and tell a room full of strangers that I had been in therapy for the last year. Seeking help for mental health is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of courage. In the coming months I plan to share more of my mental health journey here. 

4. Meeting Pauline Campos and hearing her story truly inspired me. She is funny, fearless and passionate about raising awareness on mental health in the Latino community. Her blog Girl Body Pride empowers women and girls to love their bodies and accept themselves just the way they are. 

5. One of the best parts about attending conferences is connecting with my online friends in real life! It's always such a treat to see Jeannette Kaplun.  What can I say about Jeannette that hasn't been said a million times over? She's an award-winning journalist, author, TV host, spokesperson, public speaker and Latina blogger. Jeannette is just a genuine person and I'm grateful for her support and her friendship.

 Who inspired you at LATISM13? 
from top to bottom, left to right: (1) Maria Aqui Carter  (2) Helen Troncoso, Jeannette Kaplun, Maria Herrera Mulligan, Cynthia Santiago, Vicky Barrios (3) Helen Troncoso,  Pauline Campos, Nelly Maseda, Jes Sofia Valle, Ane Romero (4) Pauline Campos (5) Jeannette Kaplun

More LATISM photos and inspiration to come this week!