And...they're off!

This is not the way I pictured it. 

I'm talking about my life as Eric and I approach our Twilight Years. Which are really more of a pale yellow at this point, but that's not important right now.

Here's how I pictured it:

My kids would all be grown and gone. I have never had any illusions that they'd stay home forever. That would be just plain weird. 

But I did picture them living nearby. And they'd be coming over for a weekly family dinner. And we'd sit around the table and I would bask in the love and fabulousness of the beautiful family I'd created. And we would grow. And the table would stretch to accomodate more. It would all be super noisy and delicious and there would be lots of laughter and smiles.

And that would be how Eric and I would live out our Twilight Years. Happily surrounded by our growing family and maybe investing in a bigger table.

But obviously God (and my growing family) have other plans for this whole Twilight Years business.


As you know, Amy Kikita moved to Florida last year. See this post about Changes. I wrote about all that last August and now, just recently, there have been so many more changes. Which is where I find myself today - thinking about all of this and questioning my Twilight Year Plan.

From that writing to now, Amy has landed a job in Sacramento, California. 400 miles away, but now she's at least on our coast and is only a one hour flight away. She's busy shopping for an apartment and furniture and settling in to her new (from the sound of it) Hipster lifestyle. 


Adam has taken a job in Washington D.C. with the Susan B. Anthony List. I'm quite excited for him as this is a great opportunity, but of course, that means he is clear across the country. Alysha and the baby are still here as he looks for a place to live, but they'll be leaving in about a month. I will miss them terribly. Especially my grandson, Asher.


However, we are happily offering our babysitting services as often as Alysha will let us.


Lucy moved out last September (see this post about Finding Her Place) and is adapting well to her new digs. She's also only a few minutes away right here in Mission Viejo, but she's busy starting her own graphic design business, so I have to bait her with use of my washer/dryer and food. It's working so far. (Food always works.) Who knows what her next adventure will bring?


Jonathan is in school and going from audition to audition, which means driving to Hollywood a few days a week. Some days I'm lucky enough to be called upon to be his carpool buddy. But I'm picturing the day he needs to move up there permanently. For now, he's still here with us.

But who knows for how much longer?


Here's how I'm dealing with all of it...

The weekend that Adam was set to leave, I bought Amy a plane ticket to come down and scheduled a family photo shoot and going away dinner. 

I contracted our friend and Master Photographer, Dan Shalaby to document the magic and we spent a few hours down at our favorite beach frolicking and posing. Or photobombing. Or just having fun together.

I just wanted one last hurrah before everyone went their separate ways.


Many Cuban mothers take issue with their kids moving away. I swear, I thought I'd totally be in that category. Until now.


Now, I'm just embracing the moments as they come. So grateful that we live in the age of Skype and FaceTime and texts and emails and Facebook and Instagram. (Also, I'm Smrtqbn on Instagram if you want to follow me.)


I love that they have developed their own relationships with each other. I'm no longer the glue that holds them together. Even though I am the one who insists on the photo shoots, but that's not important right now.


I'm grateful that they're all so much fun to be with and I'm looking forward to reinventing myself. 


I still can't get enough of my grandson, Asher. But that's the general consensus around here. That kid is seriously well-loved.


So I'm working on accruing miles on my Southwest credit card and making plans to travel more often this year and thinking big thoughts about what I'd like the next chapter of my life to look like. 


And truly, Eric and I are happy in this season. It's taking some getting used to not having all the crazy around all the time. But it's really good. We are delighted for all of their success. And grateful for the quiet days. 


As far as my Dinner Table Fantasy goes, I had them all with me right after the photo shoot. We went to our favorite Cuban restaurant (of course) and it was all super noisy and delicious and there was lots of laughter and smiles.


And I thought to myself, "I really am the luckiest."

CUBA NIGHT at Dodger Stadium - Ahora Sí!

As you well know, it's my great pleasure to be a part of the Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium Committee

For one, we get to have our meetings at Porto's, but that's not important right now. What's so very cool this year is that the Dodgers love our Cubanity (<--that's a word, rightr?) so much that they've added a Cuba Night At Dodger Stadium

How awesome is this? 

The fun goes down on Monday. May 11th at 7:10pm against the Miami Marlins. Mark it on your calendars and make it happen!

For every person that buys a ticket through for that night, you'll receive a voucher for a commemorative Cuba/Puig t-shirt.

Cuba Night tshirt

Are we having fun yet?

Of course I'll be there along with My Big, Fat, Cuban Family. (Thanks for asking.) We'll be the ones wearing Dodger Blue and yelling "Dále!" at Yasiel Puig and eating the Cuban Dodger Dogs. Here is my recap from last year


Because that's the way of our people. 

Just so there's no confusion, we also have a Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium over the summer.


This year the 3rd Annual Cuban Heritage Day is on Sunday, July 12th, 2015. 

Please follow Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium on Facebook for all the details. 


For Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium in July, here's what you need to know for tickets and tshirts.

Habana Brand Clothing is accepting pre-orders now thru May 1st, at a special Pre-Order Price of $20.00 - after May 1st the on-line price will be $25.00.

Cuban heritage day tshirts


Orders will be shipped early May. We are only producing a very limited amount of these shirts, so do not be left out! Wear it proudly when you join your family and friends at Dodger Stadium for the cultural celebration of the 3rd annual Cuban Heritage Day on Sunday, July 12th.

The Cuban-themed Viva Los Dodgers festival will begin 2 hours prior to first pitch and fans can enjoy festive live music, player autographs and various activities.

Admission to Viva Los Dodgers is free with a paid ticket to the game. We will also be selling the t-shirts on various dates at Porto's Bakeries. Click on the following link to place your pre-order:

Habana Brand Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium tshirts.

Is it summer yet?

Why Are Cubans So Special?

That was the headline of a recent article in the New York Times. 

Why are cubans special

A dear Cuban friend texted me that headline and asked, "Why are we so special?"

I don't think she was really trying to start a political conversation because she knows me so well, but that's not important right now.

I responded with, "Because we can dance and have great butts."

And that's how the crazy began...

I decided to have some fun with this today. (Thank you, Carrie for sharing your Cubanity with me.)

Here are 10 ways Cubans are special:

1) We can make great flan.

2) We know how to curse colorfully.

3) We can fix anything with duct tape.


4) We know the secret healing powers of Vicks VapoRub.

Vicks Vapo

5) We make beautiful babies that smell of violets.


6) We have sexy hair.

7) We smell really good.

8) Our full-of-sh*tness is endearing.

9) Everyone we meet is a friend.

10) Our abuelas are amazing characters.

Now it's your turn.

Why are we Cubans so special?

(Note: If you start going political, I will assume you have no sense of humor and I will be forced to delete your comment. Ya tu sabes.)

Cuban Heritage Day - "Tremendo Vacilón"

The 2nd Annual Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium has come and gone and it was, by all accounts, a huge success. 

I'm still a little overwhelmed by all the fabulousness and fun of celebrating baseball and Cubanity(<--it's a word, right?) with my people. And it was the hottest stinking day of the summer in LA, so, if this is a little incoherent, please forgive me ahead of time. Still recovering from the heat.


Picture this: Cuban music playing (loudly) from the stage. Once a song starts, the smile of recognition quickly spreads across the faces. When the music plays, we must dance. It's in our Cuban DNA. We seriously can't help it. We spontaneously begin dancing with, and next to, and behind, and in front of whoever happens to be there. I so loved that.

Although many wore their tried and true Dodger Blue, many of us showed off the official shirt of Cuban Heritage Day 2014. Designed by the extremely talented Roly Vega of Habana Brand Clothing

I have it on good authority that these beautiful shirts (only $20!) are still available through the end of August. Please visit Habana Brand Clothing and place your order ASAP. 


It was a crazy-hot day in LA, but there were lots of fans (works on two levels) available to beat the heat provided by Café La Llave and a special one designed for the day by Habana Brand Clothing and our good friends from Wassup En LA. 


Part of the fun was wandering the stadium (in the shade, of course) and finding old friends, all of us flapping our fans to cool off in a modern version of what was probably a typical scene from Havana of the 50's. 


Rudolpho Zalez, Pritesh Shah, Carlos de la Vega of Wassup En LA?

Speaking of old friends, the first pitch was to be thrown out by Tony Plana, the very talented Cuban actor who played the dad on the hit TV show, Ugly Betty. Tony has had a distinguished and accomplished career. My favorite of his roles being "Jefe," from the comedy film, The Three Amigos, but that's not important right now.

It turns out that Tony's brother and I went to school together and I knew his family pretty well. "Tony, I'm Marta, from St. Augustine's..." I didn't get a chance to finish my sentence.


He grabbed me in a big Cuban hug of recognition. Made my day.


The Committee

It was my pleasure and privilege to serve on this year's Cuban Heritage Day Committee. What a delight it was to get to know the other Cubans involved in putting on this event and sharing our love of baseball and Cubanity (<--I'm pretty sure it's a word) with each other. I loved how everyone brought different skills and talents to the table. 

My friend, Lucy Vega, of Habana Brand Clothing, also brought red lipstick. I'm forever grateful. The beautiful blonde you see here is Rose Marin, head of the committee and the mastermind of this entire project. 


Lucy Vega, Marta Darby, Rose Marin celebrating red lipstick

The committee got to do a photo-op with Cuban Wonder Boy, Yasiel Puig. Or as our community refers to him, "Yasielito." 


I confess that I totally gave in to temptation and went in for the selfie. Guys... I had to.



I know. Shut up. 

Jonathan and Lucy (and friend, Nathan) happily partook of the Cuban Dogs. Picture a Dodger Dog, but with a Cuban sandwich twist to it: Ham, pork, swiss cheese, mustard, pickles. (For more on the awesomeness of Cuban sandwiches, see this post.)


Eric, who has been married to me for 22 years, held his own with all the Cubanity (<--I think it's a word now).


 To get all the info about next year's Cuban Heritage Day, please be sure to follow them on Facebook: Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium on Facebook.

It was a long, hot, wonderful day. The Dodgers eventually lost to the Brewers, but that didn't dampen our spirits. The day was a perfect celebration of all that is good and holy about Cuban baseball.

Here's a perfect recap by the talented and lovely, Ailis Garcia of Dodgers Nation

Pastelitos provided by Portos Bakery. Cafecitos provided by Café La Llave. First pitch and MY FAVORITE MOMENT provided by Tony Plana. Tshirts provided by Habana Brand Clothing. Fans provided by Wassup En LA? Dodger Baseball magic provided by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The rest of us? We brought the Cubanity. (<--word officially coined by me.)



photo credit: Lucy Vega


Cuban Heritage Day and the Dodgers - Stuff You Need

I'm still recovering from the LA Cuban Festival last weekend. Thanks to all of you who came out and said hello. Also, if you have a photo of us together (and we look cute), please send it to me! 

Today's post is really a PSA for Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium.

Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium is coming up next month on August 17th, 2014. I would love to see as many of you there as possible, which is why I'm sharing this today. I promise you won't want to miss it. In case you were wondering about my love for the Dodgers and last year's day, look here, and here.

(Also, if you want to read a really cute story about my mom, Luza and a former famous Dodger player (full disclosure: she's a Yankees fan), click here.)

Thing 1) You need tickets! Click on over to the Los Angeles Dodgers Page and order them today. There are some good seats still available. (I'll be giving some away in a couple of weeks, but that's not important right now.)

Thing 2) You need shirts! My good friends at Habana Brand Clothing have designed some gorgeous t-shirts, which you will want to wear to the game, beause that's what all the cool Cuban kids are doing. Pre-order is happening NOW. We need to represent, people! 



I'm loving these shirts so much that I'm thinking you're going to want one even if you don't make it to the game.I'm super excited about this day, because...

Cubans + Dodger Baseball = The Best Day of Summer 2014. See you there!

"It's time for Dodger Baseball!"

My Big, Fat, Dodger Blue Cuban Family

I have amazing news! I'm proud and privileged to announce that I was invited to be on the planning committee for Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium this year! (I know. Shut up.)

Seriously, if I was going to add an item to my Bucket List, this would be it. Of course, I didn't know I would have added it until they actually asked me, but that's not important right now.

So our very first meeting was at Porto's Bakery. (If I was writing the script for the movie of my life and adding this chapter, I swear I couldn't have written it any better than this. Pinch me.)

Portos coffee & pastelito

And even though I was completely driven to distraction by the giant plate of pastelitos de guayaba (guava pastries) they placed in front of me, I think I was able to contribute something of value besides, "Can I please have another?"

I have a lovely Facebook friend/MBFCF reader, whose name is Ed. He was following my Hey-I'm-on-the-Cuban-Heritage-Day-at-Dodger-Stadium-Committee excitement on Facebook (if you're not following the relajo on My Big, Fat, Cuban Family Facebook page, you totally should) and he sent me and my family an amazing gift.

Shirts! Beautiful Dodger Blue Shirts! Not only that, they say, "Los Doyers." Also, he sent them for the entire family. I was overwhelmed. (Again, I couldn't have written this part of the book better myself.)

Amy Kikita and I put ours on immediately and Instagrammed the awesome. (If you're not following me on Instagram, you totally should. I'm Smrtqbn. That is all.)

Marta and amy doyer selfie

How cute and happy do we look in our Los Doyers shirts? (Didn't I tell you they were awesome?)

Lucy and Jon decided they would rather do a "photo shoot." Of course.


Lucy darby dodgers

"Look at my shirt!"

Jon e darby doyers

I don't know which makes me happier - being on the Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium this year, or having such a thoughtful and generous reader bless our family in this way. (I'm thinking it may be a tie.)

Also, having my kids be so excited and proud to represent makes my cup runneth over.

Amy kikita

Jon e darby

Lucy darby

Eric got a shirt, too. But he was busy doing some work in the garden, so he missed the photo shoot. (Or did he?)

Lucy darby doyers

Thank you to the Dodgers ("Viva Los Doyers!") and the Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium Committee (if you're not following them on Facebook, you totally should) for including me in this awesome event.

Thank you to my friend, Ed for the beautiful and generous gifts.

Color me happy! (Of course, you realize that happy is now officially Dodger Blue, but that's not important right now.)

The Random Italian Thing or Mac and Cheese for All

We're getting ready to celebrate my mom, Luza's 100th birthday in another week. And of course, as we're trying to put this thing together, we've tried to include her in as many decisions as possible.

Luza invitations

She doesn't care much about the decorations, she says. She trusts us with those, as long as they are bright, not just one color, but all the spring colors, but no red and absolutely no black. Oh, and flowers. Lots of flowers. (So much for the trusting us part... but that's not important right now.)

There are two other things that she has a very strong opinion about.

1) Send an invitation to every single person in her address book. This was a no-brainer and obvious to us, of course. The interesting part is that the names in her address book ranged from her first neighbor in Miami back when we first arrived in the U.S. back in 1961 to her old ESL classmates from the 70's. *shaking my head*

2) When we asked if she had a preference for the food we'd be serving, she said, "Yes, I want it to be Italian."

This second feature comes up randomly and at the most bizarre moments. Of course, there's a back story...

The Random Italian Thing

When she was growing up in the Cuban port town of Manatí (read some of that story here), the big cargo ships would come in to load Cuban's main export, which was sugar and they would unload whatever import happened to be coming from Italy (of all places). It was the Italians that captured her imagination. They were from a far away place called, Napoli, and they sang songs, like "Oh, Marie," and talked in accents and fascinated the residents of Manatí, particularly the children.

Apparently the entire family was enthralled with the Italian Thing. My grandmother, Osmunda (as my mom tells the story) learned to cook the most amazing macaroni. And every now and then, as happens to all of us, the craving for the food that her mom cooked overwhelms her.

So, the menu for the party is Italian with a Cuban spin.

In honor of that, I'd love to share this recipe for the most delicious Mac and Cheese. It's pretty simple and in fact, I did a test run the day of the Super Bowl Big Game and it was a hit with everyone. My grandmother, Osmunda's secret was to use chicken broth to cook the pasta and then make it in a flat pan so that every bite has cheese and crunch. I promise you will love.

In honor of Luza's 100th Birthday and the Random Italian Thing, I give you...

  The best mac and cheese

Flat Pan Mac and Cheese (estilo Osmunda)

  • 3/4 pound elbow macaroni
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (you'll be dividing it up)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk (must be whole for the best texture)
  • 5 cups chicken broth (divided)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 oz bread crumbs. (I use fresh bread and make crumbs with my food processor. This gives it a fresher
  • taste.)
  • 1 medium bunch of fresh parsley
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup Fresh Mozzarella, diced into small cubes (8 oz)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt.
  3. Boil macaroni for about 5 minutes. You want it "al dente." Drain. Do not rinse. Set aside.
  4. In the same large pot, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.
  5. Add flour, whisking constantly for about a minute. Add milk and chicken broth, whisking constantly.
  6. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 20 minutes. Note: It won't get too thick, but it should coat the spoon.
  8. Meanwhile, melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Measure 3 cups of breadcrumbs (Pulse bread in food processor to make crumbs or use packaged crumbs) and place in a mixing bowl.
  9. Add parsley and garlic to food processor. Pulse until fine, then add to bowl with breadcrumbs. Season with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Pour butter over top and mix with spatula until combined.
  10. In a large mixing bowl, toss macaroni with grated the grated Parmesan — it's ok if the noodles are sticking together.
  11. Pour the milk mixture (bechamel) over the top of the noodles. They should come apart easily now.
  12. Line a long, flat, jelly roll pan with a sheet of parchment paper. Spread macaroni mixture over top.
  13. Distribute the diced mozzarella cubes over top. Scatter breadcrumb mixture evenly over top of those. You can add any other toppings that make you happy at this point. I like it as is.
  14. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is golden and the macaroni is bubbling. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

 Also, it's not too late if you would like to send my mom a Happy 100th Birthday Greeting. Click here and feel free to leave your good wishes in the comment section.

The Best of MBFCF in 2013

I'm looking at my calendar and it's already the 8th day of 2014. I was planning on taking a few days off at the beginning of the year and wow, did they go by quickly!

Come to think of it, 2013 feels like it went by pretty quickly also. Is it just me, or is this one of those things people tend to repeat a lot as they get old? Shut up. Don't even say it!

This past year has been quite eventful in lots of ways, which makes me happy that I blog (and scrapbook) because I would otherwise forget the thoughts and events and conversations I've had this past year. I know. There's that getting old thing again. Stop it.

Here are the top posts for each month of 2013. (Time is seriously flying, isn't it?)

Drum roll, please.

1.The Things I Didn't Blog About in 2012 - Luza - in which I confess my growing discomfort with my mom aging and how our roles are shifting.

Lucy and luza

2. #LookAtMyFood in which I continue to overshare what exactly I had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner via Instagram. (Also, if you don't already, you should follow me. I'm Smrtqbn.) I'm really very good about sharing my food.

Cuban food

3. Cuban Word of the Day - in which I share my delight at being honored by the wonderful artists from Wassup En LA? in their Cuban Word of the Day segment. (Technically it was 3 words - Pastelitos de Guayaba - but that's not important right now.)

Martas pastelitos

4. 99 Red Balloons in which I share how we celebrated my mom, Luza's 99th birthday. Cute video attached to that post, too.


5. Ahora Sí! in which I tell about the night I finally got to meet Andy Garcia. (I know. I still can't believe it. Pinch me!)

Andy garcia

6. Hello, Outdoor Movie Nights - in which I list all the great movies we have to choose from for our Summer Backyard Movie Theater. Also, it always marks the official beginning to our summer. And this pleases me greatly.

Movie list

7. "If you build it..." - in which I celebrate the wonderful farmhouse table that my kids built for me.

Lucy on table

8. Hurry up...and wait - in which I tell the story of Jonathan's first acting job in a feature film. (Now that I told you, I'll probably have to kill you.)

Jon on the set

9. We Visited Coffee Heaven and Lived to Tell the Tale - in which I describe (in great over-sharingly detailed detail) our wonderful visit to the Gaviña Coffee plant.

Eric and marta coffee tour

10. My Big, Fat, FROZEN, Cuban family - in which I gush (yes, there's gushing) about my day at the Walt Disney Animation Studios and the making of the animated feature, FROZEN. Also, the Disney Animators made me a personal video which totally put me over the edge.

Marta Frozen

11. ALL the Picadillo at the Blurb Books Food Fair in which I share about my visit to San Francisco and how I got to cook for lots of hungry book buyers. Also, there's a very cool video they did about me and my picadillo.

Marta cooking picadillo

12. Cuban Picadillo Pies® - in which I developed a new and fun way to eat and share picadillo. (<--also, what a weird descriptive sentence that was!)

Picadillo pies

Thanks to all of you who have been faithfully following MBFCF for all these years or who have just found me in the last year. I write this blog mostly for myself, so it genuinely pleases me when you respond so generously to my over-sharing.

Also, did the year just fly by for you, too? (I know. Old. Shut up.)

Happy New Year, my friends!

"Next Year in Cuba"

Every year we make a large batch of Cremé de Vie or Cuban Egg Nog, if you will.


Photo: Jae C. Hong, AP

And every year we toast, "El año que viene estamos en Cuba." "Next year in Cuba."

This started in December of 1961. We had been in this country for a little less than a year and it was obvious that the whole silly revolution thing was going to blow over soon. Of course, it was.

My parents raised their glasses and said the toast, "El año que viene en Cuba." 

My mom would always add, "Si Dios quiere." "God willing."

Year after long year. It will be next year for sure. Next year. No, next year. Maybe next year...

"Si Dios quiere."

The toast endured, even as we quickly and soberly realized that even if we could return, we no longer would. We were Americans now, with Cuban roots. This is our home.

Ah, but Cubans love their roots. We're proud of where we came from. We have endured loss and longing for many years. But we're not dumb.

Now when we raise our glasses and toast, "El año que viene en Cuba," it has become a prayer. Not that we would really ever return to live there, but that our homeland will one day be free and that we will live to see that day.

I gave an interview to the Associated Press last week. Now the story of "The Toast" is being run in hundreds of news outlets across the country. Here's the link on Fox News Latino. (Also, I'm quite delighted to be quoted next to my friend, author Gustavo Perez-Firmat, but that's not important right now.)

Next Year in Cuba

It's a proud and bittersweet moment for me to be the face of Cuban exiles and our broken dreams.

But I promise you this, I'm not going to stop toasting, or stop praying for this until Cuba is free.

It may be many, many more years (I hope not) but I'll continue to say it until I take my last breath, "El año que viene estamos en Cuba."

Si Dios quiere.