Nerd Home Improvement

Nerd Home Improvement

We are unabashed movie fanatics here at Casa De La Loma. (Click here for the story of how we named our home.) 

We spend our summer nights entertaining quite a lot here and having friends over to enjoy our Darby Outdoor Movie Theater. (We have our own Instagram hashtag for this: #DarbySummerMovies, but that's not important right now. Also, I'm martadarby on Instagram if you want to follow my own personal "relajo.")

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Hi Mom.

For those of you loyal readers, by know you've figured out that almost every Mother's Day, we (the children of MBFCF) have proudly hijacked our mom's blog with some adorable photos and commentary about how much we love and adore our mom.

The first year, we wrote THIS.

The following, THIS

You get the idea.

This year, we decided we were tired of writing about it… but that’s not important right now.

(Happy Mother’s Day. We love you!)

There is so much more we have to say... but maybe we'll save that for next year. 




What's Important Right Now - April

I can't very well let the month of April go without stopping to celebrate the things that I'm grateful for in my very extraordinarily ordinary life.

What's important right now?

DRIVING a brand new car. So new, in fact, that I don't quite recognize it yet. I told Eric that I felt like I needed an ESCAPE. He took me literally. I am pleased.


LISTENING to a wonderful collection of inherited old records from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. I'm so glad Jonathan appreciates vinyl, big bands, and crooners. We've been having a great time sitting around just listening to records. It's become a thing around here. 


CELEBRATING Eric's 50th birthday. We kidnapped him and took the train up to LA and spent a day at the California Science Center exploring the Dead Sea Scrolls. A dream field trip for us nerdy types.


BABYSITTING as often as possible for our grandson, Asher.  We set aside an entire day and just give him attention. It's good medicine for all of us.


BAKING fresh bread in a new bread machine. I know. I suppose I could easily let things rise and punch out and shape and bake, but I'm kind of enjoying the dump and go method. My favorite is fresh hot bread with real butter and honey. That's heaven to me.


SHARING the moon. My BFF, Pam and I send each other photos of the moon from wherever we happen to be. There's a comfort in knowing that no matter where our travels take us and how different our lives may be, we are looking up at the same moon each night. It brings comfort in an I'm-thinking-of-you way.


APPRECIATING the little things. Eric makes extra boiled eggs in the morning which I find when I get up a little later than he does once he's off to work. I appreciate that I was on his mind and that he's taking care of me with this small gesture. Also, I'm on a fresh raspberry jam kick. Don't try to stop me.


READING Chip Chip by Rusty Jaquays. Sent to me by one of my blog readers, it's a novel based on the events of the Mariel boatlift in 1980. So far I'm enjoying it immensely and am intrigued by the plot.

Chip chip

THINKING a lot about the coming summer months. Fixing up my garden, making notes for outdoor entertaining, collecting movies for outdoor movie nights. Come on, summer!


PLANNING Cuban Night at Dodger Stadium in a few weeks and Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium in July. Looking forward to seeing all my cubiches and hoping for a Dodger win.

If you don't already have your shirts for the July game, be sure to order them early from my friends at Habana Brand Clothing.


RELISHING the days we can spend time with the kids. We're having fun negotiating our growing and changing relationships.


GOING out of our way to cultivate gratitude in our simple lives. I'm so glad that we are stopping to make time to celebrate the good stuff. It takes just a moment for me to look at these photos from this past month and reflect and thank God. We are indeed blessed.

What about you? What's important right now? Feel free to share.

What's Important Right Now - March

I really am so very grateful that I have so many wonderful opportunities come my way. I seriously get to go to some fun places and do really fun things. Like that time I went to Pixar and Skywalker Ranch. (I told you. Insufferable.)

But my real life moves at a much slower and more reasonable pace. I still make dinner every night (mostly) and have mountains of laundry to do each week, but that's not important right now.

What is important right now is the following. 

Discovering lots of places in and around our own area code. It's amazing sometimes the things I take for granted.  This is at The LAB - AntiMall. 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. Hands down the coolest hipster place to do a photo shoot in our area. (It took Lucy no time at all to move those cubes around while I just clicked the shutter.)


Watching our grandson, Asher grow and change from month to month. He is the happiest, smiliest little human ever.


Appreciating that Eric can juggle. Seriously. He will come home from work and we then sit outside and discuss our day while he expertly throws those pins around. I love that.


Shopping at the local Farmers Market every week. We like eating fresh anyway, but it's super fun to grab some local produce and plan new menus each week. (Of course I made flan. Why do you ask?) 


Practicing using my camera in manual mode. I usually shoot in auto and I finally decided to have some fun with all the bells and whistles that my Canon Rebel T3i has to offer. This is Poseidon Darby. Our blue-eyed-cross-eyed cat.


Playing with my new Extendable Monopod Phone Mount Holder. Also known as a "selfie stick." (I know. Shut up.)


Cherishing so many tender moments at this very fragile time of life. 


Applauding my son, Jonathan for taking risks. He was one of the guards in the American Ballet Theatre production of The Sleeping Beauty Ballet. He stood around a lot and helped carry Princess Aurora off the stage. It was glorious.


Planning Cuban Night and Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium with a team of fabulous Cubans. This has been a delight because of the people I get to hang with and because I get to be privy to the fun. (Get up to date details on Facebook by liking and following the Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium page.)

Extra perk - having our meetings at Porto's Bakery. (Thank you, God.)


Keeping busy with my Etsy shop. I'm really loving the rhythm of my days and am working on some fun new designs for friends. If you don't have one already, you should order one of my Cuban Food Posters from my shop. Also, I just really like to say, "My shop."

Cuban Food Poster

Enjoying my new studio/office space. It used to be Lucy's room. This is the upside of empty-nesting. (Yes. The toys are mine.)


Finding that switching up my regular old routine and stopping to be grateful for all the good in my life keeps me finding inspiration in the craziest places.


So, what's important in your world right now? Tell me.

Also, in case you missed it, here's my list of What's Important Right Now for January.

"That's No Moon."

The New LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Death Star Model Display

You know that I'm a self-professed über-nerd about all things Star Wars. Need I remind you about my recent visit to Skywalker Ranch? (<--there she goes again.)

Imagine my surprise and delight when I received an invitation from LEGOLAND® California to witness the unveiling of the LEGO® Star WarsTM Miniland Death Star Model Display. 

Yes, please! 

I brought my Lego-loving husband, Eric along for the fun, which really didn't take much arm-twisting.

"Legoland? DEATH STAR? I'm in!"


The LEGO® Star WarsTM Miniland Death Star Model was quite an impressive thing. 

At 8-feet wide, 13-feet high, weighing more than 1900 pounds and made out of more than 500,000 LEGO bricks, the LEGO Death Star model is the largest addition to LEGO® Star Wars™ Miniland.



The new model display features iconic film scenes made of LEGO® bricks that were filmed inside the Galactic Empire’s space station including the famous trench run scene where Luke Skywalker maneuvered his X-wing fighter through the combat zone to destroy the Death Star.  

Look at the detail in this model! 

"It's not impossible. I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, they're not much bigger than two meters." ~Luke Skywalker


Adjacent to the planet-shaped LEGO model, guests are invited to use their imaginations to construct their own LEGO starships at building stations. In other words, it's a Lego Star Wars über-nerd's dream come true. *sigh*

Stormtroopers and Lord Vader himself were on hand during the opening ceremony. Of course, the Force was as strong as ever, but that's not important right now.


The LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Death Star is designed from Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. It includes six animated Turbo Laser Turrets and LEGO starship models built out of more than 20,000 LEGO bricks.

“Since opening in 2011 and making the first major addition in 2012, LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland has become one of the most popular areas for children and their parents, because....Star Wars, people!

Every beloved scene recreated in Lego brick perfection.



For those of us who are lovers of all-things-LEGO-and-Star-Wars, this spot in Miniland is where dreams come true. I'm sure you'll recognize some old friends.


And possibly make some new ones.


May the force be with you. 

The unveiling of the new LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Death Star Model Display kicks-off the fan favorite, LEGO Star Wars™ Days event on March 7 and 8, where guests can spend the day participating in Star Wars™ related activities.

What's Important Right Now - January

I have lately been so caught up in telling all about my latest travel experiences (Skywalker Ranch, anyone?) that I have not stopped to write about the things that are happening in my real life and taking up space in my heart and mind. 

And I know I always tell you that some things are "not important right now," so I decided to share things that are important to me right now. 

With that in mind, here's what's happening in The Present Participle World of Marta for January 2015. (I know you care.)

Loving our brand new mattress. Yes. It was time and we finally bit the bullet and now our bed is The Most Comfortable Bed Ever. We painted our bedroom yellow months ago and all of this is making me super happy. Mostly because I'm sleeping better, but that's not important right now.


Working on some custom orders and some new designs to add to my Etsy shop, Marta Darby Designs. You have one of my Cuban Food Posters already, right?


Delighting in the beauty and fun (and work!) that is our 5 month old grandson, Asher. Grateful to Adam and Alysha for so graciously sharing him with us.


Reading Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Getting inspired, laughing out loud and hating her potty-mouth all at once.

Trying lots of new Pinterest recipes which is making my family love me oh, so much. Lots of keepers. Follow my I *Heart* Food or Cuban Food boards if you're so inclined.


Watching the old Batman TV series with Eric and Jonathan and seriously loving the cheesiness of the acting and dialog. Also, yes, as a matter of fact, we do keep those lights in here all year round.

Batman on tv

Supporting our son, Jonathan as he continues to pursue his acting career. 


photo credit:

Missing my daughter, Amy who is still doing life in Miami. She hilariously shares photos of the Cuban food that she's enjoying in order to entice me to visit soon. (It might just work.)

Amy's breakfast

Celebrating a day off together with my husband and kids at Disneyland. Those days are few and far between lately which makes them that much more delicious.


Procrastinating on making dinner tonight because I may or may not be spending too much time on Pinterest pinning some Really Really Fabulous Dinner Ideas That I Must Try Immediately, but that's not important right now. 

What about you? What are you doing that's important right now?


My four kids have always been in super different places in life, which has always kept our lives interesting.


I remember when Amy Kikita started college. It was the same year Jonathan started Kindergarten. Yeah. Kindergarten and college. With Lucy in grammar school and Adam in high school there was never a dull moment around here. 

Change is inevitable. Kids grow. They go out into the world to find their fortunes. They meet other people. They make new friends. They have adventures. They find their way in the world and add different kinds of cares (good and bad) into our lives as parents. 

So I mark the passage of time as I always have, by the ages and activities of my children. Eric and I find ourselves navigating some challenges that we hadn't experienced before. But that's what keeps life exciting, right?

And, yes, our kids have always been in different places, but this season totally wins as far as the most diverse changes for all of them. Read on.


Amy has moved to South Florida. Specifically to Hialeah. With nothing to hold her here in Southern California, she has struck out to find adventure in Hialeah to get her Cubanity on. She has a job, an apartment, and a car. We text multiple times a day, but even at those times, I'm acutely aware of the distance between us. I miss her desperately. (Shh! Don't tell her.)


Adam has ventured into marriage and fatherhood. He and his wife, Alysha live near us and we have the good fortune to see them on different occasions.


As you can see, our dinner table is still quite full. (Also, I'm trying to master the art of picnicking, but that's not important right now.) The faces around the table are changing. And I'm not just talking about the extra wrinkles that are adding *ahem* character to our faces.

Eric and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary on August 8th. We had a lovely, quiet dinner and recapped all of our adventures. We agreed we would say, "I do" all over again. We also decided that quiet and calm may be over-rated. We have also categorically reserved the right to change our minds.


I took Lucy to San Francisco to celebrate her 21st birthday. We saw all the cool spots in the city and even had a cable car adventure. All the while, I kept hyperventilating when I remembered that my daughter was now 21. "Deep, slow breaths, Mom."


Jonathan started his first week at the local community college (where Lucy is employed, by the way). He is taking theater classes and also going out on lots of auditions in Los Angeles. I'd tell you what exactly he's been doing, but then I'd have to kill you. 


Jon's first day of school photo

Last week, Adam and Alysha were blessed with the birth of their baby. A beautiful boy. My son has a son. Making me an abuela. (I had a dream in which the baby called me, "Wella." I'm going to go ahead and go with that.)

People, meet my grandson, Asher. I think this guy has changed my life forever.


So many changes. 

In between all these milestones, I've made dinners, and done loads and loads of laundry. I've visited my 100 year old mom, and gone swimming in pools and at the beach. We've hosted lots of outdoor movie nights and have attended concerts and baseball games

I know this post sounds like somebody's annual Christmas newsletter, but guys, this only encompasses the last 6 weeks of my life. 

A few months ago I might have said, "I hate change." But now I embrace the many and varied happenings and simply say, "Bring it." 

Life is in session. Amen.

We Did the Conga at the Hollywood Bowl. Thank you, Gloria.

Eric and I went to see Gloria Estefan perform at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday night.


Let me just tell you how beautifully our Southern California weather performed as well.

It was that magical kind of summer night - Not too hot. Not too cold. A slight Summer breeze. Seriously, So Cal. You sooo won.


Of course, you know how much I love the Hollywood Bowl. In case you don't, read this. And especially this.

The Parking Thing

We live in South Orange County, which, when measured by So Cal distances, means at least an hour drive to get to Hollywood on a perfect day. The concert started at 8:00 pm, which meant we left our house at 5:00 pm. (I know the math doesn't add up, but then, neither does measuring distances by time.)

The most stressful part of the evening for us is the drive - the 1 hour drive took us an hour and a half - and then we had to park. The parking at the Bowl is stacked. That means that you park behind the first guy, and the next person parks behind you. Or next to you. Like an elaborate, real-life, 3D game of Tetris. At the end of the night, you have to wait until everyone in front of you and next to you and all around you gets to their car.

It's amazing how civil we all are when faced with this situation. Kudos to us concert-goers for not killing each other.

It's truly as frustrating as it sounds unless you're prepared for it (which we are), in which case you manage your expectations and just hang in your car until everyone is ready to go. 

The Picnic Thing

The most important part of the Hollywood Bowl experience (and my favorite) is the Picnicking. Ask anyone. It's not like going to a regular concert venue where you grab a bite before the show. The Picnic is The Reason the Hollywood Bowl is so awesome. 

There are lots of areas around the Bowl to lay out your blanket and serve your picnic feast. If you get there early enough, you can even stake out a table. (For the record: We've never gotten there early enough. See The Parking Thing above.) There are also lots of restaurants and food service on the premises. On this particular night, because it was just the two of us and we got there early enough, Eric and I decided to just find our seats and enjoy our dinner there.

Note: If we left SUPER early enough, we could go to Porto's Bakery for Cuban Sandwiches and Pastelitos, but obviously, that would have meant we'd need to leave at noon to make that happen, so that didn't happen.

Also, I suppose I could have made my own Cuban sandwiches and pastelitos, of course. But I've been spending waaayy too much time on Pinterest looking for inspiration, and I was - in a word - inspired.

Picnic-at-the-Hollywood-Bowl copy

1) Cobb Salad in a jar

I got a couple of jars in which I put simple Cobb Salad ingredients. Have you heard of this? You start with a Mason jar or any jar with a lid. Then fill the jar in this order:

  • Blue Cheese salad dressing
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Scallions
  • Cooked, chopped bacon
  • Lettuce

The dressing stays at the bottom, keeping the lettuce dry. The ingredients stay fresh in the sealed jar. When you're ready to eat, you just shake it up and it's all dressed and ready to party. Seriously genius.

2) Sliced baguette & 3) Creamy Brie

Just exactly as it sounds. The baguette slices were just right for spreading the creamy brie and were perfect with a bit of red wine.


4) Chips & 5) Ham/Roast Beef & Cheese Sandwiches

Wrapped in parchment and string (because Pinterest!), they were the perfect main course for our picnic.

6) Cheesecake with Strawberries

For our Picnic's grand finale , I made individual cheesecakes in small Mason jars. Which, I'll confess to you, were super easy but added a big Wow! factor to the dessert.

I used a Jell-O No Bake Cheesecake and just followed the recipe on the box and pressing the graham cracker crust tightly into the base of the jars. The strawberries were sliced and packed into a ziplock so it was easy enough to add to the cheesecake before eating.


My husband was both impressed and delighted, as were the people around us.

People Around Us: "Where did you get that great picnic?"

Me (looking demure and blushing slightly): "I made it."  (Win.)

The Music

Gloria sang a mix of traditional standards and some of the old-school Miami Sound Machine favorites. She did not disappoint. The crowd was predominantly bilingual and sang along with her when she went into her Spanish mix.

She also sang a lovely medley: Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar (Portugese) - Here We Are - Con los Años Que Me Quedan (which completely slayed me, but that's not important right now) - and she snuck in a little Conga (see if you can catch it).

I always try to take a moment and take in my surroundings when I'm at the Bowl. The open air. The beautiful music under the stars. My very satisfied belly. My sweet husband by my side. I stopped and thought, "It just doesn't get any better than this."

But Gloria knows me. (I mean that metaphorically, of course.) She chose that moment to bring out Andy Garcia to play the bongos. Andy. My Andy. Gracias, Gloria. *sigh* 

 The Fireworks

If you ever get the chance to go to the Hollywood Bowl, try to pick a night when they're having fireworks, because believe me when I tell you, you've never seen a real fireworks show (sorry, Disney) until you've experienced the fireworks at the Bowl. 

When Gloria launched into Conga, everything exploded in a riot of lights and sounds and color and the entire crowd jumped to their feet and began to do the Conga.

"Feel the rhythm of the music getting stronger
Don't you fight it 'til you tried it, do the conga beat."

She gave the instructions for the Cuban way to conga from the stage: "To the right...two...three. To the left...two...three."

And we did.

WOW. Just wow.


It was a perfect, magical, iconic Southern California Summer night. I don't know if Andy will be making another appearance at the Bowl. I'd like to believe that was a treat Gloria brought out just for me.

I can dream, can't I?

There's still a lot of summer season left at the Hollywood Bowl. Tickets are very affordable and I've already shown you how to pack your picnic and warned you explained about parking. 

Some tickets are even as low as $20! Order today by calling (323) 850-2000 or visit You're welcome.

A Big, Fat, Cuban Family Gracias! to Al Punto Advertising for your sponsorship.

Tearing Down Fences

The fence separating our property from our next door neighbors was falling down. Too many years of watering and the daily wear and tear of life was making it wobble and it had started taking on a slight I've-had-one-drink-too-many look. 

Through the screen

Looking down at the wobbly fence from my screened bedroom window.

But you know how you look at something every day and it makes you slightly crazy every time and yet you choose to ignore it because there's no time to deal with it right now? That was us and The Fence. 

"That fence is really wobbly." 

"I know."

And we would go on with our lives until the next time we were outdoors, which was usually the next day as we watered the few plants that were still hanging on to life support in our sadly neglected backyard. 

"That fence..."

"I know."

And so it went, until the day, about a month ago when we got together with our neighbors (whom we dearly love, by the way) and actually talked about the fence. 

"We need to do something about the fence."

"We know."

Then it was time for high school graduation and we decided to throw a huge party to celebrate. Not only was Jon graduating, but their daughter, Tori, and Jon's best friend, Nathan were too. So we had 3 graduates to celebrate and 3 families who were on board. 

It was the kids who first made The Suggestion.

"Let's tear down the fence. It's an eyesore."


"But let's just leave the space open."

"Wait. What?"

They convinced us to tear down The Fence and open up the space between our yards for the summer, at least. And maybe for good. 


We hadn't managed to muster up enough energy to plant fresh flowers or pull up the dying plants. (I know. Shut up.) How embarrasing to tear down the fence and have our neighbors have to daily look upon our eyesore-of-the-neighborhood backyard. 

Not only that, but we were now making plans for The *Biggest Graduation Party of The Year (Or the *BGPOTY) to be held in our corporate backyard space. 


So we had a Party Summit in which we discussed ground rules and what to do with our respective yards to pull off the *BGPOTY. There were sketches and discussions and many, many trips to the nursery.

Then the day came. We were going to tear down the fence. We were making the cataclysmic and counter-cultural decision to live our lives in a type of community that is rare in this age. 

Tearing down the fence

We recruited all the able-bodies who were willing and able. 

Eric tearing down the fence

Tearing down the fence 2

And down it came. 

Tearing down the fence 3

By this point, our wonderful neighbors, much to my everlasting delight, had already planted some beautiful butterfly garden beds and seriously, from the moment that fence came down, we have had some gorgeous Monarch butterflies dancing back and forth between our two (now one) yard(s). 

It felt so magical and like somehow we had broken not just the physical barrier between our respective property lines, but like we had dismantled a cultural norm. 

We are choosing to be counter-cultural and live in community. It feels freeing and magical. The dancing Monarchs feel representative of the magic that we have created between us and how our lives are intertwined.

I took this next photo this morning. The *BGPOTY was absolutely amazing and deserves a post of its own (coming later this week). But here is what the space looks like and we couldn't be more delighted.

No fence

The day after the party, we pooled our collective resources and shared a family meal.

Sharing life

This, ladies and gentleman is how we are now doing life. And we couldn't be more content.

The Fence that used to separate our lives? We found a much more appropriate use for it.


I can't stop smiling.

59 Wonderful Truths About Getting Older

I'm 59 today. 


There's so much I want to tell you about how this feels. And because this is all about me, here are My 59 Wonderful Truths:

1. I feel the same inside as I did when I was 17. (Nobody tells you this.)

2. I still have moments of insecurity about: my hair, my hips, my gut (pick a feature). I just don't care enough to let it paralyze me.

3. I don't have to get the last word in anymore. (I like to. But I don't have to.)

4. I don't love how my body looks at 59, but I'm still amazed by all it does for me.

5. I have a tremendous capacity for love. (Much more so than when I was 20, or 30, or even 40.)

6. A good belly laugh is worth as much as a spa day.

7. Regarding make-up, less is more at my age. (That's so freeing.)

8. Tending to my garden and my soul is much more important these days.

9. I can't begin my day well unless I talk to God about it first.

10. Forgiving completely is the most important thing I've ever learned to do.

11. I don't know everything. But I do know a lot.

12. I still love learning new things. Every day.

13. Routines are precious to me.

14. I laugh at myself much easier than I ever did when I was younger. 

15. Food must taste delicious or why bother? Seriously.

16. I value my time alone much more than I ever have.

17. I love a book that makes me cry.

18. I have not outgrown my nerdiness.

19. I'm no longer self-conscious about how round my face is. It just is.

20. I know what I'm worth now. 

21. I care less about what people think.

22. Some days I don't want to interact with people at all, and that's okay.

23. I'm much more of an introvert than I ever knew. 

24. I am finally comfortable in my own skin.

25. I feel things deeply.

26. I don't mind the wrinkles around my eyes as much as I thought I would.

27. I'm deeply grateful every day.

28. I've finally found my voice.

29. I am wise.

30. I am strong.

31. I'm happy to share my wisdom and my strength.

32. Anti-aging really means death.

33. I have no problem with re-invention. (Or maybe it's re-discovery?)

34. I know I have authority.

35. My internal editor just doesn't show up for work anymore.

36. I have the most wonderful friends.

37. I know that I am loved.

38. I married well.

39. I refuse to quiet down or fade away as I get older.

40. I am finally embracing my curly hair. It's symbolic of so much more.

41. I feel things much more deeply than I ever did.

42. Pushing myself is not very kind. I finally stopped.

43. I am much more conscious of beauty.

44. Gratitude takes practice.

45. My happiness doesn't depend on anything I own or anything I've accomplished.

46. I can be a pain in the butt sometimes.

47. I am a big fan of making mistakes. It shows I'm still trying.

48. I don't live in the past or in the future. God is in today.

49. I am okay with asking for help.

50. It's important to me to tell the truth.

51. Saying no is easier.

52. I'm still very curious about many things. I am a learner.

53. Life experience is worth a lot.

54. I am much more fragile than I let on.

55. I have a large capacity for pain.

56. I have a large capacity for courage.

57. Breathing deeply does help.

58. Telling stories is my secret weapon.

59. 59 is not the new 39. 59 is wonderful on its own.

I'm celebrating my 59th birthday today surrounded by good friends and good food and my beautiful family. I am richer than all the dreams of avarice.

Happy Birthday to me.