Category Archives: Travel

Making Lemonade From Lemons

Like many of you, I spend most of my weekends doing errands, catching up on household chores and chauffeuring kids to sporting and social activities. These days it seems even busier, since my kids have gotten older and I have to spend a lot of time taking them places to accommodate their busy lives. This past weekend was no different. Olivia had to attend a 6 hour college preparation workshop in Santa Monica, a beach city that is an hour drive from my hot, dry foothill community. I dreaded the thought of the freeway traffic–an hour there, an hour back—and two hours later, another hour there and another hour back. One long, wasted day. Lemons.

Juan suggested I take the time I would have spent sitting in traffic and stay in Santa Monica. He told me to use the time to write, or do whatever I needed. Brilliant! So, instead of sitting in my car all morning I packed my laptop, dropped Olivia at her workshop and then went for breakfast at a nice café and did some writing. Lemonade.

After awhile I realized that my laptop battery began to die, so I packed up my things and walked back to my car, which I had parked in front of a small public library. I went inside, found a nice table to continue writing and took out my computer charger. That’s when I realized I had brought the wrong charger. With 3 hours to go until I could pick up Olivia, 20 minutes left on my battery life, and a whole lot of writing still to do, I had no computer. Lemons.

I left the library and went out to my van. Good thing no one ever cleans their stuff out of the van, because I found this:

Old school writing device.

I walked two short blocks to the beach, found an empty chair with an umbrella and finished writing. Lemonade.

Lemonade

After I finished writing I still had over an hour left before I could pick up Olivia. I looked around and saw that there was a bike rental place behind me. I realized that number 17 on my list, of 50 Things to do Before my 50th Birthday, “Ride bikes along the beach”, was still unfinished. Unfortunately, the bike rental shop accepted cash only. I looked in my wallet and found a whopping $2.00. Lemons.

Then it occurred to me that I had bought a Groupon a while back for Venice Beach bike rentals. I looked on my Groupon App on my phone and found that the Venice Beach bike rental shop was less than 2 miles away.

I also noticed the Groupon had expired. More lemons.

Ah well, I decided to go there anyway to see if I could still use it. I left Santa Monica and drove to eclectic Venice beach. I quickly found parking and the bike rental shop. When I got to the bike rental shop the quirky man with the eye patch and Aussie accent told me I could still use the expired Groupon. Lemonade.

A spontaneous bike ride on the beach.

How do you make lemonade from lemons?

 

 

We Decide- As a family and as a Nation.

This summer Olivia travelled to Medellin, Colombia with her aunt and cousins. Olivia had the chance to visit the town where her grandmother grew up, and she met many family members for the first time. It was Olivia’s first time to Colombia and she loved it. Juan and I wanted her to go for many reasons, one of which was to learn about the country where her grandparents were born, and lived. It was a chance to connect with her history, her roots. It was also a chance for her to be exposed to a different way of life. She had a fantastic experience.

After four weeks in Colombia, Olivia came home and immediately left again. Two hours after her flight landed, she boarded another flight to our state capitol, Sacramento. Olivia was selected to participate in a week long conference called the Chicano Youth Leadership Project. There she had another kind of experience putting her in touch with her culture as a Latina in the U.S. Olivia is interested in politics, policy and social justice, and will be going to college next year to study international relations. Her week in Sacramento exposed her to some of the political and social issues that Latinos face today, and have overcome in the past. Through this dynamic program, and perhaps her month in Colombia Olivia has gained a deeper appreciation about what it means to be an American of Colombian ancestry–and what it means to be a Latina. She came home after 5 weeks away on fire!

Olivia was inspired and motivated to begin working in politics and social justice issues. She wasted no time. A few days after she returned from her travels, she began interning at a US congresswoman’s office, a Latino organization and a grass-roots organizing group. I am so proud of her and excited for her future. She is interested in poitics and as the election draws closer, we discuss the issues more frequently. As a Latino family we have been discussing those issues which are personal to us–immigration, education, voter disenfranchisement, and of course, the economy and health care.

That’s why I was so excited to read about the launch of a new program on nuvoTV. We Decideis Latino town hall program moderated by Natalie Morales, and premiering on Sunday, August 19 at 8 pm. The program will feature a panel of high-panel experts who will engage with a live audience and other virtual particpants engaging through social media platforms. The program will cover how the presidential candidates are addressing issues specific to America’s Latino population. Not only will Latino celebrities and political figures be appearing on the show and tuning in, but our family will be tuning in too. As a social network savvy teen, I hope Olivia will be able to contribute to the discussion by accessing the Facebook site. Even though Olivia is still to young to vote, she’s not too young to follow the discussion and stay informed on the issues we face as Latinos, and as Americans.

Click here for a preview of We Decide on nuvoTV.

 

This is a compensated post in collaboration with Latina Bloggers Connect and nuvoTv.

50/50 Friday – Week 46

Last night I got home from a busy day at work and collapsed onto my unmade bed. I had a headache, and I felt like changing into my pajamas even though it was only 6:00pm and no one had eaten dinner. I did not feel like cooking but the thought of letting my family eat another night of frozen food made me feel like Slacker Mom. As I lay on my bed and thought about the contents of my refrigerator all that came to mind was a lonely leftover cooked chicken breast and some asparagus. Even McGyver can’t make a meal for five people out of that! As I moaned with dramatic flair and complained to Juan of my exhaustion and the pounding in my head, I asked him to please pick up some take-out dinner after he took Molly to the dog park, and on his way home from picking up Nico from baseball practice. I put on my pitiful face and told him that I just wanted to lay in bed. Whew!

Did I mention he had already worked traffic duty at our kids’ school this morning, gone to court, worked in the office this afternoon, taken Erica to the doctor and drove Olivia home from school? Yeesh. I started to feel really bad about asking him to do one more errand tonight. I began to feel a growing pang in my stomach. At first I thought it was guilt, but then I realized I must be getting hungry. As I considered what I was hungry for and nothing came to mind. I remembered that Friday was approaching and admitted to myself that I hadn’t cooked in a while for my 50/50 challenge. So, I rallied and hauled myself out of bed and became McGyver. As I looked through some recipes on line I suddenly had an appetite for, wait for it…crepes! I know, I know, crepes? Who gets an apetite for crepes? I think it had something to do with the lone chicken breast and asparagus, and the recipe that said EASY. That is how it came to pass that I made not just one new recipe this week but two!! Savory Crepes with Asparagus and Chicken and Sweet Crepes with Strawberries, Whipped Cream and Nutella. Surprisingly, it was easy. They came out really good considering I have never made crepes before. I even got Nico to try them, although he ate the sweet ones without the strawberries. After I finished cooking them, I announced to the family in my best fake French accent that, “Ze kitchen is closed and ze chef is going to her room to rest.”

Earlier in the week, before I was too exhausted to do anything else on my list, I managed to check off number 38, See the Desert in Bloom. This is something I have always wanted to do, but despite living in Southern California all my life, I have never done it. On Wednesday this week I had to drive another courthouse about 80 miles from downtown Los Angeles, in the high desert area of Antelope Valley. This area is known for its wild California poppies and other desert flowers. I remembered to grab my camera on the way out the door that morning. After I was done with court I took a slight detour and visited the poppy reserve.

A lone bunch of poppies in the middle of the desert landscape. Too bad there wasn't much rain this year.

It was a picture perfect day, one which makes you wonder why anyone would live anywhere but Southern California. The only thing missing was an abundance of desert flowers, and a charged camera battery. After 5 photos my camera died and I had to make due with my phone camera. Our dry winter did not produce the desert flowers I hoped to see, but still I found a few along the road. Driving through the country side with my windows down, the cool breeze blowing, and the Dixie Chicks playing on my car stereo, I felt like I was a million miles from home. Too bad I had to go home and fix dinner.

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Feeling like a Vegas High Roller Without Breaking the Bank

I am home from my weekend in Sin City with Juan. We decided to take some much needed time away from our hectic home life and celebrate Juan’s birthday and Valentine weekend by indulging ourselves in an Adults Only trip to Las Vegas.  As we planned our get away weekend, we knew we wanted to do something fun and relaxing. I immediately thought of staying in a quaint bed and breakfast  in a sleepy coastal town where we could stroll on the shore and curl up with a good book. Yawn! I searched the Internet for deals, but when I proposed the beach getaway to Juan, he didn’t seem too enthused about the idea.  That’s when when I learned he really wanted to go to Vegas. Vegas is about 180 degrees from a sleepy coastal town, but I’m Gemini like that, so I immediately switched internet search terms and began looking for deals.  That was easy too, because, February isn’t exactly high season in Vegas, and I get spam email from about a gazillion sites offering me travel bargains, hotel deals and discounts.

I looked at a lot of options from TravelZoo, Expedia, TripAdvisor and SpreeBird, and ended up choosing the air/hotel package deal on Southwest Vacations.  It was not the cheapest of options, but we decided we wanted to splurge a little on the accommodations and chose the elegant Wynn Hotel. We are not gamblers but the casino at the Wynn makes me wish I knew how to throw dice or play cards. I did find a fun slot machine with a Wizard of Oz theme,  and before I knew it I had doubled my $20. Then, faster than you could say, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,”  my winnings were back down and I walked away with .30 in my pocket. Good thing I quit before it was a total loss.

Yes, it was a good thing too, because even though Juan and I splurged on the accommodations and travel, we wanted to save all our pennies on other activities. That’s where one of my favorite pastimes comes in handy–bargain hunting. I love a deal, and with the Internet, deals are easy to find. As I mentioned, I get a lot of emails from bargain hunting sites, so I took full advantage of them on this trip. The first thing I did to make sure that I didn’t miss a deal was to subscribe to daily Groupon Las Vegas email alerts. I did this a couple of weeks before our trip so I was on the lookout for any offers which I might be able to use. I love Groupon and have used it several times for all kinds of things, from plants to restaurants.

I caught several Las Vegas deals right away. One was a $25 Groupon for $50 worth of food or alcohol, at the Public House restaurant in the Venetian Hotel. The restaurant had a modern atmosphere and an interesting food and drink menu. We had wonderful service and a delicous lunch. After our Groupon, our bill came to $25 for 2 entrees and 4 drinks.

But Groupon wasn’t the only discount provider with good deals. One deal which was too good to pass up was an offer from Travel Zoo. The deal was $89 for a 50 minute massage, 25 minute facial or pedicure, and a glass of champagne at the Reliquary Spa in the Hard Rock Hotel. I purchased this deal for Juan and I, and we loved it. We arrived early enough to use the spa facilities, including the Roman style spa, then we lounged in our comfy terry robes, while we sipped on champagne and waited for our massage therapists to escort us to our individual services. Feeling relaxed and indulged we got ready for an evening out on the town.

Earlier in the day I received another email alert from Groupon for $15 tickets at the V Theater in Planet Hollywood for a comedy burlesque show called Sin City. Juan really enjoys live stand-up and keeping with our adult themed weekend I thought a burlesque show would be fun. While we were in line waiting to get into the theater we chatted with another couple from Phoenix who were also on an Adults only weekend. I asked how they heard of the show and they said Groupon! We started comparing deals and exchanging bargain hunting tips. The couple in line behind us heard us talking and complained to her husband that they had paid the full price of $50 for the same tickets!

The next day we spent around the hotel, relaxing and people watching.  We planned to spend the evening at a nice restaurant for a special dinner, and I found another bargain at Restaurant.com.  I did a lot of research on TripAdvisor, looking for a steak house that offered  discounti meal coupons. I found that Restaurant.com offered a $100 off coupon for $45 at Envy at the Renaissance Hotel. When I used a promo code I found on the internet I saved another $10 on the coupon. We had a fantastic 5 course dinner, drinks, coffee and desert, with outstanding service, and with the coupon our total bill was $102.

Finally, on our last day we wanted to see a big Vegas show. We went to a popular discount ticket vendor, Tix4Tonite to see what show tickets they were selling.  They were offering Blue Man Group at the Venetian for $91 in the middle section.  I checked out TravelZoo and they had the same seats for $60. Needless to say, we bought the tickets through Travelzoo. But before we went to the show, we had to eat, so again we used a Groupon I purchased earlier. The Groupon I purchased was for the Queen Victoria Pub and was $10 for $35 dollars worth of food. When our bill came for our lunch of a steak sandwich, fish and chips and two beers, the amount was only $8!

Even though we splurged by staying at the 5 star Wynn Hotel, we saved some money with Groupon, TravelZoo and Restaurant.com. Our indulgent Adults Only weekend made me feel like a high roller, without breaking the bank.

A Weekend Without Kids

Today it’s Juan’s birthday and it’s also Valentine’s weekend, so it was a perfect reason to get away–without the kids. We used to do this a lot more when our shared custody schedule permitted a weekend without kids, and before Diego was born. Lately, the kids’ schedules have prevented us from getting away. Last year, Juan and I were only to get away for a single night’s escape all year. Boo hoo. I know that this sounds like a first world problem, and many families don’t have the luxury of being able to get away at all, so I apologize if my complaints really sound self-indulgent, but for me, getting away with my husband without the kids is really important.

Dedicating time to each other, without the kids around, in my opinion, is one of the best things we can do for our kids. A good relationship between parents, contributes to a stable, happy home. My older kids have already lived through divorce and I know I don’t want them to have to experience it again. Not that Juan’s or my previous marriages ended because there were no getaway weekends without the kids, but for Juan and I, in our marriage, the occasional weekend away helps us to re-connect and re-charge. We get the chance to enjoy each other’s company, relax and take us away from our normal weekend routine, all of which can be wonderful, but also exhausting.

This weekend we got away to an adult locale–Las Vegas. I have been here several times before. It is only a 4-5 hour drive from my hometown, so getting here is fairly easy. We even brought the family here a couple of times and really enjoyed it. Vegas is still pretty much an adult playground, but there are a number of family friendly sights and shows. In past summer visits with the kids we spend days by the pool and evenings taking in a show or walking to see the hotels and sights. This weekend, however, Juan and I are enjoying the very adult offerrings. We are not real gamblers, but the shows, shopping, restaurants and bars give us more than enough ways for this town to take our money!

I can’t believe this place? Doesn’t anyone know there’s a recession? Well, Juan and I do, so even though we are here on a very indulgent getaway, we are still trying to economize where we can. I’ll write more about that in my next post. Right now, I am walking to Walgreens’ to check out the wine selection. (The bar at our hotel is charging me $15.00 a glass!) Then, we’ll have our own happy hour, take a nap, and head to a restaurant for a celebratory birthday dinner.

Looking and feeling relaxed during our weekend in Vegas.

 

 

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