"Move Over Mojo." - A Giveaway

I've been blogging since 2006. In that space of time and all across the internet, I've made some really wonderful friends.

One of those is the lovely don't-hate-me-because-I'm-beautiful Ana Quincoces. Recently seen on Real Housewives of Miami - she was the smart and classy one - Ana is a talented chef and quite the delightful personality. If you're curious as to how we met (and also want a killer, stuffed, Cuban French toast recipe) read that story right here.

Ana Quincoces is one of the most genuine people I've ever met and I feel privileged to call her my friend. In June when the Miami Heat won the championship and my daughter, Amy was also in Miami, I made sure she and Ana found each other at Versailles some time around midnight. (Just call me Mission Control.)

Amy and Ana

Ana has recently developed a new all-purpose marinade called Skinny Latina Million Dollar Marinade.

Last week, this package of awesomeness arrived.

Million dollar marinade 1

You know how much I love shortcuts when I cook. This marinade is the perfect beginning to any sauce. Ana calls it, "Cooking for dummies in a bottle. Move over, mojo!"

To help celebrate the launch of Ana's fabulous Skinny Latina Million Dollar Marinade, I'd like to offer one lucky MBFCF reader a case (six 12 oz. bottles) of this amazing stuff. It's low calorie, glutten-free, and delicious. Win!

On her site, Ana has recipes for 8 different sauces using her MDM as a base. Find those recipes right here.

Million dollar marinade

To enter this drawing for A Case of Skinny Latina Million Dollar Marinade, please leave a comment on this post and answer the following:

~ Tell me your favorite go-to recipe that's in heavy rotation at your house.

Please leave your comment on this post and I'll choose one winner on Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 at 8 pm PST.

Also, I feel like I have to add this disclaimer for the benefit of all my readers:

You don't have to be Cuban to enter any of my giveaways. That is all.

My 7 Favorite Blog Posts

Wrapping up my month-long Happy 7th Blogiversary Celebration and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what I've managed to put up here for the past 7 years.

It's funny. I sit down to a blank page (so to speak) and I have some idea of what I'd like to write about. Usually, because I tend to be very visual, I start with a photo that I feel illustrates a story that I'd like to tell. Sometimes I have a story and I feel compelled to search for the photo to illustrate it. Either way, I must have the photo.

Many times when I sit down to write, I don't feel like I've got one creative thought left in my brain, but that's not important right now.

That's my process.

So, in honor of my Seven Years in the Blogosphere, here are 7 of my favorite stories posts from the MBFCF archives over these past seven years. I tried to take a random sampling so you get a good idea as to how my brain works. (You've been warned.)

1. ABC...easy as...1,2,3...

In 2006, I wrote about our Cuban superstition fascination with lucky and unlucky numbers.

Amy jon & adam


2. El Cocotaso - or how a blow to the head forever altered my identity

In 2007, I told the elaborate story of how I came to be called Marta.

Marta as a baby


3. Out of the Shadows

In 2008, I wrote about my kids and their baby shoes. Get tissues.

Shadow boxes


4. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

In 2009, I got an email from a British TV producer who was interested in maybe having their cooking celebrity (rhymes with Ramie Toliver) visit a Cuban family in Southern California.

Jamie oliver


5. How Google Works - A very Cuban explanation

There was that time in 2010 that I got my mom (she was only 96 then) to explain how the internet search engines work and she became an overnight YouTube sensation. Get popcorn.

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 12.57.12 PM


6. Cooking With the Troops or Meet Team Cubanaso

In July of 2011, my family and I got the chance of a lifetime to feed 300 of our troops a big, fat, very, Cuban lunch. In cooperation with Babalú Blog and Dos Cubanos Pig Roasts in Texas.

Team Cubanaso


7. Everyone Should Have a Giant Chalkboard

Showing a little of my creative side with a step-by-step on how I do my party planning. Also, I have a giant chalkboard. And it makes me happy.

Lucy me and amy


Those are just a few of the highlights of my blogging life for the past 7 years. If you're interested in reading more, you can always peruse my Categories and Archives or check out my Cuban Recipes.

Or feel free to join the big, fat, Cuban relajo on Facebook.

You can also click on the link below if you'd like to follow me on Instagram. I'm Smrtqbn.


Thanks for reading my stories for all these years. I will seriously take up the challenge of entertaining you for at least 7 more.

Habana Brand Clothing - A Winner

First of all, I'd like to thank Habana Brand Clothing for being so supportive of My Big, Fat, Cuban Family in everything I do here.

Secondly, I'm so grateful to all of you who faithfully read, and follow along with my blogging adventures and enter my fun giveaways. I'm grateful that you're the ones who have made this little corner of cyberspace such a great place to hang out. Gracias.

MBFCF Giveaways

Congratulations to...

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 11.13.27 AM
Martha, you won! Please send me an email with your mailing address and HEY, MARTA! I WON STUFF ON YOUR BLOG! in the subject line (so I don't accidentally delete it).

Lucy & Jon Habana Brand

I'll forward to my good friends at Habana Brand Clothing and you can let them know which shirt you want and what size and all that and they will send out your goodies ASAP. You will be sooo proud to represent. I promise.

Also, don't miss any of their new designs and promotions, follow Habana Brand Clothing on Facebook. And love them on Instagram. You can thank me later.

Thank you again to everyone who participated. You make me so happy.

Seven Years. (MBFCF Giveaway WEEK!)


You know that I'm all about celebrating.

Big events. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Summer. Dinner. I believe in celebrating. Often. And well.

Today marks my 7th anniversary here in this space. SEVEN.

My big, fat, Cuban family is 7 years old today. And so I'm celebrating. *fires off the confetti canon*

Buen provecho 2013

But first you have to sit through the usual recap of my 7 years in the Blogosphere. 7 years, people! I totally deserve a party. Or at least a recap. But before the 7 year recap, how about a celebratory video?

Yes, I think a video would be perfect. Enjoy!

Did you know I also have a YouTube Channel? I know. The over-sharing never ends.

Also, if you're following me on Instagram, you'd recognize that most of my life takes place at #CasaDeLaLoma. I'm Smrtqbn, by the way. (See what I did there?)

Year One. October 1st, 2007. I was delighted to have found my voice and an audience.

Mbfcf year 1

Year Two. October 1st, 2008. I was taking care of my family and sharing the stuff I had cooked. And people liked it. Who knew?  I also wrote a cookbook that year, which gave me something to give away. And so the giving away commenced in earnest.

Mbfcg year 2

Year Three. October 1st, 2009. Three years? I was amazed that I had been able to keep at it for so long. And I fell in love with you, my readers. Always kind and ever gracious. I felt like I had won the lotto.

Mbfcf year 3

Year Four. October 1st, 2010. I could have graduated from an institution of higher learning with a degree. Bachelor's in Bloggology?

Mbfcf year 4

Year Five. October 1st, 2011. It was a rough year, filled with some physical challenges, but then I became the "little Cuban that could" and just kept right on writing. (<--That last bit took tremendous grammatical focus, as do most of my blog posts, but that's not important right now.)

Mbfcf year 5

Year Six. October 1st, 2012. Six years. Add lots of great experiences and some amazing blog-friends later, I was still standing. Seriously so much to celebrate.

Mbfcf year 6

Which brings us to today.

Year Seven. I am so very grateful that I get to write and you are still there, reading and sharing your lives with me. You get my sense of humor and you seem to enjoy my writing style.

I have met so many of you in person and I'm always amazed and humbled by your enthusiastic response to whatever silly things I'm up to. I enjoy hearing from you on Facebook and Twitter and (even if I don't respond right away) I love receiving your emails.

And yes, of course I'm going to get to the giveaway, but first I want to say thank you. I would not be doing this at all if it wasn't for my awesome online and (for some of you) now real life friends.

Thank you. From the bottom of my big, fat, Cuban heart. Seriously. Thank you.

You may have noticed that I've changed up the banner up on top there and added color. It makes me happy and I hope you'll enjoy the things I've got coming up this year.

I have so much to celebrate!

In fact, I'm going to be celebrating ALL WEEK. From today, October 1st, 2013 through October 7th, 2013.

Seven glorious days and seven fun-filled nights of celebrating that I've survived and possibly even thrived right here on the internet. For this next week I've lined up some wonderful Cuban friends that I've met because of my blog who have graciously agreed to sponsor some very cool giveaways every single day for the ENTIRE WEEK to celebrate each of my SEVEN bloggy years.

I can officially call this MBFCF Giveaway Week! (7 days and all that...) Yay!

MBFCF Giveaways

To kick things off - here's MBFCF Blogiversary Giveaway #1

My Big, Fat, Cuban Family Cookbook

Mbfcf cookbook

An autographed copy of My Big, Fat, Cuban Family Cookbook. I know. Shut up.

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win my cookbook and please answer the following question:

  • When and how did you find My big, fat, Cuban family?

I'll choose a winner at the end of MBFCF Blogiversary Giveaway Week on Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 at 11 am, so you have lots of time to enter.

Thank you again and let the celebrating begin!

The Things I Say

My dear friend, Jana has embarked upon an ambitious project. She is quite the accomplished hand lettering artist. Each day she chooses a thought, or  a recipe, or a quote and works it into a beautiful piece of art and she's determined to do this for 333 days. 

I love visiting her portfolio site, janaleemiller.com. It always makes me happy.

Because she is my friend, and I'm a chatty and noisy Cuban, she constantly has to listen to me spout off my "Marta-isms." What's cool about Jana is that she doesn't just listen, she takes what I say and turns it into a cool piece of art.

Like the other day, when I blogged about my daughter building me the Farmhouse Table. I wrote a self-quote at the bottom of the post:

“If you build it, I will cook. A lot.” ~Marta Darby

And I posted this on Instagram:

If you build I will cook

Jana turned it into this:

If you build it

Don't you wish you had talented and artsy friends like me? (Also, I'm sooo framing this!)

Thank you, my friend.

Please visit Jana and her designs at janaleemiller.com. Leave her lots of comments and feedback. She'll like that.

Coffee and Therapy

When Lucy was a freshman in high school, her drama class did a showcase of Broadway tune vignettes. In one of them (maybe it was Grease?) she was paired up with one of the boys to do a dance together in the finale.

The mother of the boy and I didn't know each other before then, but we sat together and pointed in a look-at-our-kids-aw-aren't-they-cute-dancing-together way.

Lucy & josh
Lucy and Josh looking appropriately awkward before the dancing. Also, she's probably going to kill me for posting this photo, but that's not important right now.

This boy's mom and I started nodding hello more often and talking after rehearsals. When summer came, the kids wanted to do a beach day, which is exactly what we did.

We all went down to Crystal Cove and while they frisbeed and body-surfed and sun bathed, us moms talked. And talked. And talked. And found that as different as we both were, we had so, so much in common. And never seemed to run out of things to say.

"Let's do this again next week."

So, we did. That was in the summer of 2008 and Jana (my blog-friend from The Summer House) and I have been meeting at least once a week since then. For Coffee and Therapy. Every week. For the past 5 years.

Josh has been away at college for a few years now. Lucy is working and going to school and is gone and busy most of the time.

But Jana and I are still meeting every week and having coffee. Or breakfast. Or sometimes lunch. But always therapy. The kind that comes from friends who are up to date on each other's lives from talking every week.

I like that. I love that with all the changes in my life there's a constant: coffee with my friend.

Of course, you know it's not about the coffee.

And it's not about where we go to have coffee (or breakfast or lunch). Although, can I just tell you that Crystal Cove is a fantastic place to have breakfast on a perfect California day. Seriously.

Crystal cove

It's the point of connection. I just felt so appreciative of my friend's input this week. I appreciate her understanding and how easy it is for us to be together. I wanted to write about that today because some weeks our Coffee and Therapy is what keeps me moving forward and ready to tackle the next thing in my life.

To be clear, I have lots of really great friends. Many of them live too many area codes away for me to connect with them in person regularly. Thank goodness for the Internet and email and smart phones and Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. I'm so grateful to be living in this technical era where I can follow their lives and we can send each other thinking-of-you messages with such ease.

But, Jana is my every-week-face-to-face-coffee-friend and truly, she has saved me thousands in therapy. And I'm so thankful.

Crystal cove 2

My prayer for you, my friends, is that you would find a Coffee and Therapy friend of your own.

Thanks, Jana. You're a gift to me.

Jesus and My Hair

I've been letting my hair go back to its natural curl.

That sounds like a really simple thing, right? It's not.

I've been going to a specialty hair salon in Laguna Beach. The hair gal, Vickie (who happens to be Puerto Rican, which makes us practically related) runs a cute little shop called Curls on Top. She specializes in curly hair. Sounds crazy, right?

Curls on top

So, I started going to this curly-girl-specialty-salon back in August. And let me tell you, it isn't as simple as "just let your hair go curly again."

I must interject here that I love going to the salon. Everyone there gets me. We're all curly girls who are embracing our natural curls. It's kind of like an elite club. (Or a recovery group, but that's not important right now.)

I've been straightening my über-curls for the past 9 years. I've Brazillianed them, Japanese systemed them, Keratined them to get my curls stick straight and manageable. That's some serious curl-taming.

Here's a story and video of me getting my blowout. (Get popcorn.)

The straightener people always tell you that the process will eventually just disappear with enough washing. Lies. I haven't straightened anything since last summer and there are still pieces of straight hair that must be coaxed into keeping at least a bit of a bend until the straightened bit grows out and can be trimmed off.

This requires tons of special conditioner and gel and special clips that keep the bend in place, and at least 30 minutes under a hooded dryer. So not the "just let it go curly again" easy-peasy thing. But I'm determined. Also, I have two really great friends who have been my Curly-girl Advocates, Jana from the Summer House and Carrie from Tiki Tiki Blog.

So I follow the Curly Girl Method. (<--Google it.) And eventually I will tell you the story with a video. But today's not that day.

Today I want to tell you that it's kind of hit or miss when it comes to how my hair will look. There are days when it cooperates beautifully and I get compliments.

"Why yes, it is naturally curly. Thank you." (I'm practicing being demure about it.)

Marta darby

But there are other days when all the straight pieces just really want to do their own thing screaming, "We'll never go curly again! Not ever! Never!" Those days I end up looking a little crazed. (Don't judge.)

Exhibit A:

My face

I have been taking self-portraits every time I attempt to do my hair (I've been documenting since September) because I know that one day I'll want to document this for my posterity.

Anyway, I took the photo above with the I-can't-even-believe-I'm-still-trying-to-grow-out-my-curls face. And I was reminded of something from back in the seventies....

Godspell cover

Remember Godspell? The musical from the 70's? And Jesus (played by Victor Garber. Seriously.) had a big mop of untamed curly hair? Yeah. That would be me last week.

Just to prove my point, I made this collage:

Godspell hair

See what I mean? Me and Jesus have hair in common. I posted that pic on my Instagram feed (which you should totally be following, if you don't already. I'm Smrtqbn).

I'm thinking this transition back to my curly roots (Hey! That works on two levels!) is even making me more creative. Every day I am feeling more and more confident in my new-found Curly Girl Awesomeness. Almost like being myself again.

I guess I just have to take this one day at a time. Or Day by Day. (<--see what I did there?)

Goodbye, Google Reader. Hello, Bloglovin.

Those of you who subscribe to my blog feed and use Google Reader may have already heard that Google Reader is going away. The beauty of using a "reader" is that it delivers the content from your favorite blogs straight into one place where you can then read up on the comings and goings of your favorite blogger-people.

Marta Darby ipad

I tend to use my iPad for everything and I take it everywhere so I can catch up on my reading whenever I have downtime because I....Must. Have. Input. Not long ago, the back of my kids' cereal boxes were even fair game, but that's not important right now.

So, back to Google Reader going away....

Enter Bloglovin. My good friend, Jana of The Summer House turned me on to this newest-most-improved-welcome-to-the-21st-century blog reader and I fell in love.

Now my favorite blogs are delivered straight to my inbox in a beautiful package with great, big, fabulous pictures. And stories, and food, and art. In my inbox. Everyday. Which lets me know exactly when my favorite blogs are updated. And I can "like" whatever they do and comment from the Bloglovin platform.

And seeing as I don't post every single day, this keeps me much more accountable to you, my readers, to write something fabulous and funny as often as possible. See? What's not to like?

It looks something like this:

Bloglovin screenshot

Did I mention I'm in love?

If you would be so kind, I would be honored if you would Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

It's easy to sign up and I promise you will be so delighted, you'll send me a dozen pastelitos in the mail. (I'm talking to you, Miami.)

Actually, that was my lame attempt at a Jedi Mind Trick. *crosses fingers & hope it works*

But seriously, you should sign up for this wonderful free service (no, they're not paying me - it's just that fabulous).

Also, the pastelito thing is completely optional.

Where in the world is Marta today?

I realize I haven't been posting as often as I like and I apologize, but that doesn't mean I'm not around. In fact, I seem to be all over the web today. I'm guest posting in a couple of places:

I have an essay about Mother's Day over at the Tiki Tiki. I tell you a lot about Luza. It's titled "My Mother. My Inspiration."  Or as I like to call it: Not your typical Mother's Day tribute. (But that's not important right now.) Click on over and leave some comment love. I think you'll enjoy it.

Luza and me

I also have a homeschooling article about how I taught both my boys to read over at Mommy Maestra. It's called "Tintin and the Reluctant Reader." Please click on the link if you're interested (or at least curious).

J today

Thanks for your patience. I'll be back in my own neighborhood very soon. And have I got stuff to tell you!


Home-Ec 101? She wrote the book. (A Giveaway)

When I was a very young child in Cuba, we had domestic "help" who cooked, cleaned and generally took care of the business of running the household. That "household" consisted of our two parents, five daughters and a son and various staff. We lived in a large (semi-mansion-size) home with eight bedrooms, two kitchens and a courtyard.

All of that abruptly changed when our family had to leave Cuba in early 1961. Take a group of five girls, raised in privilege and suddenly plunge them into another world where they had to struggle and pitch in to help keep up with the daily chores.

It was a bit traumatizing. My parents, to their credit, never spoke much about our former life. That was in the past. "This is our new reality."

And so we managed as best we could to learn the skills we formerly took for granted. We worked hard to learn the new life skills that were required of us - the cooking and cleaning and general running of a household.

Not only were we expected to clean our new home, but it had to be "Cuban clean." That means perfectly spotless and spelling of PineSol. (I am still missing this particular skill. I think it skips a generation, but that's not important right now.)

There are things that, to this day, still elude me. I confess I'm never really sure how to get certain stains out of my laundry. And a chore list? I must have one somewhere around here....

I do make a regular menu list, but I'm always kind of flying by the seat of my pants. What I need is Home-Ec 101. If only someone, somewhere would write a book!

Heather Solos and Marta Darby Home Ec 101

Meet my friend, Heather Solos. She not only wrote the book, she is the brains behind the very popular and informative website, Home-Ec 101. (Go there. Bookmark it. Thank me later.)

I had the privilege of meeting Heather in Texas last year when we were both part of the Cooking With the Troops team in San Antonio. We all immediately fell in love with her and embraced her as an honorary Cuban. She quickly became an integral part of Team Cubanaso. ;-)

This woman seriously knows how to do everything. (I'm not kidding about this.) She is amazing. Last year when we were struggling with an ant problem, the first person I contacted was Heather. She knew exactly what to do. And it worked! Read all about that right here.

Home ec 101

I was so excited to receive my very own (autographed!) copy. I quickly turned to Chapter Eleven - Laundry: The World's Most Thankless Chore and read it as if my life depended on it. (So that's how you pre-treat stains!)

I promise you will enjoy this book immensely. It should be a staple in everyone's home. Speaking of staples, she covers just exactly what you should have in your kitchen in Chapter 18. (Get this book!)

Or maybe you could win it...

Heather has graciously offered to host this week's giveaway: An autographed(!) copy of her fabulous book (which everyone totally should have!) Home-Ec 101, Skills for Everyday Living.

1) To enter this drawing, please leave a comment on this post and answer  one or both of the following questions:

  • What household skill are you particularly good at?
  • Where do you still struggle?

To enter this drawing for Heather's must-have book, please leave your comment on this post and I'll choose a winner on Friday, March 30th, 2011 at 8pm PST.

Would it be an over-share to tell you that I may or may not have found some pertinent information I needed under the heading: Dealing with Tub Funk?  ;-)