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."

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.

The Haircut

When I was a kid, as you know, I spent an extraodinary amount of time fighting The Battle of the Do, trying to tame my naturally curly locks into something more "comforming" to the cultural norm. Read all about that here...

I Have Naturally Curly Hair.

Of my four kids, Jonathan is the only one who has been stuck  blessed with the natural curls. Also, he can pretty much grow facial hair in the time it takes most people to boil water. Again, a blessing.

Imagine his delight when his high school performed Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream...the Disco Version (yes, you read that right).

He grew his curls out "long" (which in Naturally Curly Hair World just means "big") and used a pick to enhance his natural afro-ness. Along with this, he also grew his mustache out giving him a very convincing version of Creepy Disco Guy.

Behold the Epic Natural Fro.

Jon darby big hair

Jon darby midsummer

Jonathan as the actor Nick Bottom/Pyramus in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night Disco Dream

It's always fun for us to watch Jonathan on stage because he gets so into the roles he's playing. The Orange County Register thought he did pretty well, too.

Jon darby as pyramus oc register

How proud am I to see my son on the front page of the Varsity Arts section of the Orange County Register? Of course, he also happens to be wearing donkey ears and a leisure suit, but that's not important right now.

However, Jon is also trying to be an actor and for this reason, his manager suggested that he cut his hair. Not only that, she wanted him to get a professional haircut. At a specific place. In the most hipster part of LA.

Shortys in la

Which is how we found ourselves at Shorty's Barber Shop on Fairfax in Los Angeles on a Saturday afternoon.

Shortys menu in la

Eric and I sat around awkwardly waiting for Jon, trying to blend. We failed miserably, of course.

Jon darby at shortys

His talented stylist, Jessica took him from Creepy Disco Guy to Clean Cut LA Hipster in no time at all.

Jon darby haircut

I totally appreciated that this was a low-drama salon. They cut Jon's hair and the vibe was very welcoming and friendly. (Even if Jon's so-not-a-hipster mami may or may not have saved some of his curls in a zip-lock. Don't judge.)

Jon darby long hair

Jon darby short hair


Jonathan also had his brows "manscaped" and finally had some beautiful head shots taken by the very talented photographer Keli Squires-Taylor.

So here's the new and improved, cleaned-up-and-ready-to-work version of Jon.


What are you waiting for, Hollywood? Hire this kid!

Summer Manifesto

The definition of the word manifesto from



noun, plural man·i·fes·toes.

a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.
I know from experience that unless I am very intentional about doing something, it just doesn't happen. I know manifesto sounds like a big and serious word, but I like that it adds some gravitas to my summer goal making process. Besides, Summer Bucket List just doesn't sound as impressive.
Every year we make a list of things we'd like to accomplish and places we'd like to go over the summer. I've had a People I Need To See Live list for as long as I can remember.

Last year, one of my heroes, Ali Edwards turned the Summer Manifesto into a scrapbooking project (which I love). This bit about writing down intentions is totally how I work.

I didn't want to make my list too long. Also, there are things that don't need to be on there because we already do them. Much like not needing to remind myself to "brush my teeth," I don't need to write down "go to the beach." We automatically do this on a weekly basis all summer.

Summer Manifesto

I wrote my Summer Manifesto down in my journal and decided to turn it into a piece of Subway Art. (Which, by the way, I plan on opening a Custom Subway Art Shop online very soon, so stay tuned...but that's not important right now.).

Here's my Summer Manifesto 2013:

  1. Attend the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach.
  2. Shop at local Farmer's Markets as often as possible.
  3. Make S'mores (Cuban style!) over an outdoor fire.
  4. Take a Lake Cruise.
  5. Visit the Orange County Fair (and eat decadent food, but that goes without saying).
  6. Go to a Dodger Game. (Usually this would say Angel game because I love live baseball on summer nights and I think it's cool that we all get to wear RED, but hello! Yasiel Puig and Dodger Dogs!)
  7. Build a Farmhouse Table and have lots of meals outdoors. (Check!)
  8. Enjoy lots of Outdoor Movie Nights.
  9. Build a Sandcastle. (Not just a flip-your-plastic-bucket-over Sandcastle, but a serious all-day one. This requires a trip to Del Mar. Yes, please. Oh, wait! Did I forget to add "Go to the Del Mar Horse Races?" Consider it added.)
  10. Make ice cream. (I tend to forget that I have an ice-cream maker stashed away in my cupboard. And I'll be really mad at myself if I don't make my famous Homemade Dulce de Leche Ice Cream.)
  11. Take the train to San Diego. (The train station is just blocks from Little Italy and our favorite Italian restaurant, Filippi's Pizza Grotto, so technically this should really read: Take the train to San Diego and go to Little Italy.)
  12. Take the LA Bus Tour. (Lucy will be in Los Angeles taking an Improv class for 5 weeks and my friend, Jana and I decided we would visit her while she's staying up there and do the whole touristy-tour of movie star homes and point a lot and say things like, "there's the Hollywood sign!" and all that.)
These are all the big things. The little things that I don't have to remind myself to do are to go swimming as often as possible and as I mentioned before go to the beach every week. (On Wednesdays, if you must get technical.) Eat outdoors as much as possible on my new farmhouse table? That already goes without saying.

And I know I've forgotten things, but we'll continue to add over the summer as we come up with different ideas. And, trust me, I've always got ideas.

Maybe this fall I'll also do a "Best Cuban Places to Eat in Los Angeles" tour. *starts doing research and making notes*

That's my Summer Manifesto. It's in a prominent place in our home and we're already slowly working our way through the list. It's shaping up to be a fabulous summer. And of course, I'll definitely be Documenting the Magic.
So, what's on your Summer Bucket List Manifesto? Tell me.

Summer Movie Must-See: Monsters University

We are kind of serious movie nerds around here. If you've been reading this blog for a while you already know this. We're also serious Disney fans and faithfully worship at the altar of the gods at Pixar. (Oh, you know what I mean. Don't get weird.)

You would think that with no young children in the house the days of must-see-animated-movies be over. You would think seriously wrong. If anything, my artsy clan has a much better appreciation for the genius artistry and storytelling achieved by Disney/Pixar than their usual younger audience.

We were already salivating at the thought of the new installment to the Monsters, Inc. family, Monsters University.

So much so, that my husband insisted we watch the first movie last week. Which we did and were reminded once again why we love Disney/Pixar so much.

You can imagine that when the good folks at Disney/Pixar invited me to a pre-screening for Monsters University, I jumped at the chance.


It would be shown at the Disney's El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. (Double win.)

El capitan

Which is how we found ourselves in the car early on a Saturday morning heading up to LA. (We live about an hour south of Los Angeles, so this became an Official Road Trip.)

In the car

Monsters in car

Our expectations were super high and Monsters U did not disappoint.

Darbys at el capitan

Usually I don't enjoy 3D, in this case, I loved it! Don't we look appropriately nerdy in our 3D glasses?

Eric & marta 3D

The entire cast, not just Mike and Sully were even more lovable than in the first installment. I know. You wouldn't think that was possible, but believe me, you will fall in love.

Wait. Did I just refer to them as the "cast?" How else do you refer to characters in an animated film that makes you forget they're animated and that they are MONSTERS? Still pondering....


Lucy & monsters

So, I'm encouraging everyone I know to go see Monsters University.

It was laugh-out-loud funny. It had poignant moments and drama and all the elements that make for a wonderful story. The cast characters made you want to see more. I loved that there were so many nods to the first film. That made me really happy. (We have already decided we definitely need to see it again, but that's not important right now.)

We got so into it that we may or may not have come home with some Monsters University memorabilia. Also, do yourself a favor and go to the M.U. site. Here's the link: Monsters University. (WARNING: prepare to happily lose hours of your life.)

Genius. Seriously.

Lucy with monsters

Ah, Disney/Pixar, we are soo not worthy. *bows down*

{Disclaimer: I was not compensated by Disney/Pixar for this review. They invited me to the screening of the film. Thank you, Disney/Pixar!  The opinion that it was fantastic and soo worth going to see, is my our own.}

For the love of Belle - Beauty and the Beast in 3D

When my daughter, Amy Kikita was young, she was completely enamored with The Little Mermaid, as probably most 7 year olds were at the time. Ariel was spunky for a princess and went after what she wanted. I think she identified with those qualities.

Years later, Disney gave us Beauty and the Beast and when it was available on VHS, we promptly procured a copy and our sweet Lucy had found that Belle was a princess who had qualities she could admire.

My mom calls Lucy, "La Bella Lucy." And our Master Teacher throughout our homeschool years always called her "Lucy Belle." Coincidence?

I think not.

We had seen the stage show, Beauty and the Beast last year, but last week I was invited by Disney Pictures to the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood to experience Disney's Beauty and the Beast in 3D and I couldn't have stopped Lucy from joining me if I had wanted to. She was out-of-her-skin excited with the prospect of finally seeing the drama played out on the big screen. Not to mention that we just both happen to love being on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

El capitan

Check out the look on her face. Can't you just see her excitement?

Lucy in Hollywood

Because it was Disney, and because it was at the El Capitan, we were treated to an amazing organist who played every song from the movie as we all took our places. (Totally made me happy.)


Then, Belle and the Beast came out to dance and welcome the audience along with canon blasts of rose petals. (Oh, yes!)

Beauty and the beast

We got to don our 3D glasses, which I'm starting to kind of like. (I know. Shut up.)

3d glasses

And were treated to the new Disney short Tangled Ever After - The Rings, which was absolutely hysterical. Here's a preview:

When the movie began, we quietly sang along to each familiar song and even though we knew the movie by heart, decided that it was absolutely worth seeing it on the big screen. (The Tangled Ever After short was seriously laugh-out-loud funny. Almost worth the price of admission, but that's not important right now.)

And because I'm a big, sentimental uber-geek, I sat there thinking how cool it was to be sitting with a fully grown-up Miss Lucy Belle and enjoying that piece of her childhood as it came to life before us. And, okay...I might have wiped away a tear or two. (But I'll deny it if you tell anyone.)

Lucy & Me at El Capitan

I encourage you, if you've only seen the small screen version of Beauty and the Beast, or haven't seen it in all its glory, to find a theater playing Beauty and the Beast in 3D in your own town. It's playing in selected theaters opening this coming weekend, January 13th and runs through February 2nd. I swear you don't want to miss it.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast 3D

And then, because the story is set in France....we ate crepes...


...and we lived happily ever after. ;-)

Did you see Beauty and the Beast back in the day? Are you planning on seeing it again this time around? Tell me.

{Disclosure: Disney Pictures invited us to the pre-screening of Beauty and the Beast 3D. The opinions about the show are my own and the crepes were delicious, but that's not important right now.}

Beauty and The Grid

When Amy was about 12, we had the opportunity to see Beauty and the Beast (the stage show) at the Music Center in Los Angeles. (At that time, Lucy was only 2, but that's not important right now.)

I remember the show being so breathtakingly beautiful. And I remember my surprise that the Disney animated film could translate so perfectly to the stage.

As the years passed, it turns out that My Lucy loved Beauty and the Beast. She could always relate more to Belle, the plucky, well-read heroine than to any of the other save-me-from-my-sad-life-and-take-me-to-your-castle Disney princesses.

It was around Lucy's adolescence that Disney locked Beauty away in The Vault. And it was only this year that the dvd and the stage show were resurrected.

At Christmastime, it's become our tradition to do a Girls At The Theater Night. Read about that here and here. Beauty and the Beast came to our local venue, The Orange County Performing Arts Center in November.

But we were crazy-busy in November.

Amy Kikita: "Mom, we have to take Lucy to Beauty and the Beast. Make it happen."

Me: "Aaah! We're going on a cruise, it's Thanksgiving, she's leaving for a week, she has school until really late, umm...Excuse #263.... FINE."

Beauty and the beast

Here we are at the Center with the stage (see the Rose?) behind us.

Obviously we pulled it off, but it was November. And it seemed anti-climactic to have already been to the theater so far before Christmas. (I'm one of those people who waits to decorate my home for Christmas until about mid-December, that explanation can be found here.)

Lucy was beyond satisfied and deliriously happy that we finally saw the stage production of Beauty and the Beast. The show was just as wonderful as I remembered. (Win!)

Me & girls

So last week, I was invited to the premiere of the film, Tron:Legacy. It was playing at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood.

Tron marquee

My first thought was that for sure the boys would love it....but I didn't count on Lucy to be as excited to see it as well.

But, I was very mistaken.

First, it was already appealing because it involved a Road Trip to Hollywood.

Hollywood Blvd.

Always fun, but much more so during the holidays with all the glitzy, you're-on-Hollywood-Blvd.-star decorations.

Hollywood Blvd.

And of course, you never know who or what you will encounter on the Walk of Fame.

Jon & Marilyn

Jon and his new friend, Marilyn. ;-)

Donald duck star

"The Duck has a star. Who knew?"

And so it was that we (Eric, Lucy and Jonathan and I) got to experience the Uber-Geeky Awesomeness that is Tron:Legacy in 3D.

3d glasses

It was so much fun because:

  1. Eric and I were both already old-school-1982-Tron fans, so it's always cool to get to share that sort of thing with the kids.
  2. Jeff Bridges. (Hello...?)
  3. We happen to enjoy the show Chuck, in which uber-nerd main character Chuck has a classic Tron poster on his wall. They were finally able to relate to it. =D

Tron poster

Lucy and Jon prepare to Enter The Grid of Awesomeness.

Jon & Lucy

It makes me happy to know that my very feminine Girly-girl can also hold her own with the Uber-Geeks.

(The apple does not fall far....)

The movie, by the way, was phenomenal in every way. The modern story stands alone while providing just enough nostalgia to keep us old-timers satisfied.  And did I mention Jeff Bridges? (Hello...?)