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: DanShalaby.com

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?

The Cuban Table - A Giveaway

Last year I had the good fortune to participate in the  Cuban Cultural Center of New York's (Centro Cultural Cubano de Nueva York) 12th Annual Congress. You can read about that right here.

It was there that I met another one of the chefs involved in the event. Ana Sofia Peláez is the author of the very delicious food blog, hungry sofia. We shared a kitchen and chatted a bit as we made our own creations. That day she made Cucuruchos de Coco y Almendras for all of us (which were to die for!) and told the stories of how she had been traveling on a Cuban Food Adventure with the amazing food/travel photographer Ellen Silverman.

Together, Ana Sofia and Ellen went to Cuba and Miami (of course) and New York where they visited both Cuban home cooks and accomplished chefs who eagerly shared their stories and recipes and secrets to their own versions of favorite Cuban dishes. 

The culmination of all this traveling and eating and story-telling is the gorgeous cookbook: The Cuban Table - A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History by Ana Sofia Peláez and Ellen Silverman. 


I received a few copies of this beauty earlier last week and have been delectably enjoying each story and every recipe. Rich with Cuban history and full of evocative photos of all the food that I desperately love, I have been slowly and carefully turning each page and taking notes and drinking it all in.

Part text book, part history book, part story book - believe me when I tell you that this is the quintessential must-have Cuban cookbook.

The photography and stories are so gorgeous and compelling that I'm conflicted about whether to keep it on my coffee table or to take it into my kitchen. Right now it's still sitting on my coffee table where I pick it up and commence reading where I left off yesterday. It's a beautiful thing.

I was delighted that she even included the recipe for make-your-own pastelitos de guayaba. Like my own recipe, but a thousand times more detailed and beautiful. Well-played, Ana Sofia.


I have an extra copy of this fabulous cookbook, The Cuban Table to give away. 

To enter this comment drawing, answer one or both of the following questions:

  • Who is the best cook in your family?
  • What's your very favorite Cuban dish in the whole-wide-world?

Leave one comment only, please! 

Remember that if you want to enter the drawing for this cookbook, you must leave a comment on this post and I'll choose ONE winner on Thursday, October 30th at 8 pm PST.

Gracias and Buen Provecho!

The Versailles Restaurant Cookbook - A Giveaway

I can't, in good conscience, end Hispanic Heritage Month without talking about my love of Cuban food and sharing a wonderful new Cuban cookbook. 

Obviously I'm a lover of all-things-Cuban. Particularly the food that so defines our culture. Platanos, black beans, tostones, lechón asado, picadillo, and of course, pastelitos de guayaba. Food just doesn't get any better than this.


I'm happy to report that the wait is over for this wonderful cookbook. My friend and Real Housewife of Miami Alum, Ana Quincoces has partnered with the Versailles family, specifically Nicole Valls to bring you a collection of all of your favorite Cuban recipes from the iconic Versailles Restaurant in Miami, with the forward by ...wait for it...(drum roll, please)... Andy Garcia. (Pinch me!)

Part history and lore of the Versailles Restaurant, part detailed cookbook, with a good dose of Cuban idioms makes the Versailles Restaurant Cookbook a must-have in the kitchen of any self-respecting Cuban cook.

Ana had originally contacted me a few years ago, asking for a quote about Versailles to include in the book, which I gave her. Read that story here: Happy 40th Birthday, Versailles! My quote didn't make the book (sigh), but it's still a beautiful Cuban cookbook, with every single recipe you want in there. Ham croquetas, anyone?

Ana has generously given me an autographed copy of the Versailles Restaurant Cookbook to give away today. 


To enter this comment drawing, answer one or both of the following questions:

  • When you celebrate a special occasion, what's on the menu?
  • What's your favorite thing to order when you go to Versailles in Miami?

Remember that if you want to enter the drawing for the cookbook, you must leave a comment on this post and I'll choose a winner on Friday, October 17th at 8 pm PST.

Gracias and Buen Provecho!

Tickets Winners for Cubamerican, the Movie

Thanks to all who entered this giveaway. I can't tell you how much I love hearing a little bit about all of you. Especially about when you came here to the U.S. and where you're from.

I used Random.org to choose the winners of the movie tickets to see Cubamerican at the Tower Theater in Miami on Friday, June 14th.

Cubamerican the movie

And the winners are......

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Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 11.21.30 AM


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Congratulations to all four winners! You've each won two tickets for the showing of Cubamerican.

Please send me an email: m darby (at) cox (dot) net. Put HEY, MARTA! I WON STUFF ON YOUR BLOG! in the subject line so I won't accidentally delete it.

I'll make sure you get your tickets to the film. Trust me, you will love it.

For those of you who didn't win, please try to get to the screening anyway. Trust me, you will love it.

Cubamerican will be showing beginning Friday, June 14th in Miami at The Tower Theater • 1508 Southwest 8th Street, Miami, Fl.

WARNING: take tissues.

Cuba Nostalgia - Tell them, "Marta sent me!"

I didn't get to go to Miami for Cuba Nostalgia this year. And I'm feeling a little sorry for myself.

It's the 15th anniversary of Cuba Nostalgia and the brilliant Tony Mendoza did the poster for the event which I'm totally in love with.


Get it? 15 years. The Quinceañera. Genius.

I already put out the word to my people on the ground in Miami (I'm looking at you, Amanda from Brandon's Puppy) that I must have this poster, but that's not important right now.

I have lots of friends who will be at the Fair Expo Center in Miami this weekend.

Of course, Babalú Blog will represent. It's their 10th Anniversary in the Blogosphere telling the truth about Cuba. Congratulations, guys! So proud to be a part of the Babalú Family.

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I lamented my inability to be present to my friends at Santayana Jewelers, who always have a wonderful presence there. 

Santayana at Cuba Nostalgia

They're running a Cuba Nostalgia Special this weekend:

If you buy 4 of the Cuban Charms for your Habana Collection Bead Charm Bracelet, they'll throw in a 5th charm for free. Awesome, right?

1) I don't have to tell you this, but if you're Cuban or love all things Cuban, you must have a Cuban Charm bracelet. (Duh.)

2) If you already have the bracelet, you will want as many Cuban charms as you can fit on it, right?

Santayana cuban bead bracelet

Wait! It gets better...

3) If you're a MBFCF (which, obviously, you are if you're reading this now...)

"The first 5 people to come over and say Marta Sent Me get a free "cafecito"charm."

Cafecito charm
What are you waiting for, people? Go! Get yourselves over to the Santayana Jewelers booth at Cuba Nostalgia this weekend and say, Marta Sent Me! (I'll expect a full report from the lucky 5.)

Also, have a guarapo for me.

Thanks, Santayana! You are the maximum!

Cuando Sali de Cuba - Elena's Story

Marta here: Most Cubans are familiar with Santayana Jewelers. They are a mainstay of the Cuban exile community in Miami. I'm delighted that Elena Santayana has graciously agreed to share her family's stories. Her memories of growing up Santayana are both hilarious and poignant.

(Translations to her Cubanisms are marked with a red * and are at the bottom of the story.)

Gracias, Elena. You humble me.


I was born en la saguesera. That’s the southwest area of Miami, on June 8, 1978. I have three sisters, Marisa, Miriam and Patty and a twin brother, Rudy. We grew up in a split plan home in the beautiful Westchester area of Miami, Florida.

Totem pole pic
Totem pole pic

Santayana loved taking totem-pole pictures.

Both of my parents came to this country alone. My dad, known as Santayana, was Peter Pan (pronounced with rolling r’s). I thought that meant he wore green tights and fought pirates. Later, I learned it meant he came to this country without his parents and stayed at a home for boys until a cousin or uncle picked him and his brother up. But I never really “got it” until quite recently. When I was 17 years old and in high school, I never took a moment to imagine, “What if right now, I was sent away to live in another country, indefinitely, with little money and alone?”

Mom arrived in the United States on the Freedom Flights. In 1961, the day before Halloween, she was supposed to board a plane with her brother and sisters but there was a problem with her visa and she was made to stay an extra couple of days in Havana. She was 17 years old and didn’t speak much english. She lived in a house with 12 other people in the northwest area of Miami or, as she says, “la casa del nor’wes’ ”.

The original hipster
The original hipster

Elena's mama. The original hipster.

My father, Santayana, was a hard working man. Every morning he would dress in a fine suit and take his maleta* of jewelry to visit clients at their homes. Before he opened the jewelry stores, my dad was known for his maleta. I still hear stories of people who remember my dad showing up at their house, opening his maleta and revealing tray after tray of sparkling jewelry.

In the 80’s my dad had three really cool things in his possession. Number one, Santayana owned a beeper. Not the beeping kind we know now, the kind doctors still use. Dad’s beeper was like the speaker at KMart. Here’s how it worked:

  • Step 1: Call the beeper.
  • Step 2: Wait for the tone.
  • Step 3: Convey the message for all to hear over the speaker/beeper strapped to his belt. Twice.

The messages were to be coded at all times so that random strangers on the street wouldn’t suspect he was carrying a maleta of jewelry and give him the proverbial, “Palo por la cabeza.*” 

An example of an acceptable message would be: “Santayana, llama la tienda. Santayana, llama la tienda.*

However, if you said, “Santayana llama la joyeria.*” - that got you in big time trouble. Similarly, if you said, “Papi llama a mami,*  you would get banned from beeper detail. Singing Happy Birthday into the beeper was also not warmly received.

Second, Santayana had a car phone. His car phone was super cool, space-age stuff. Imagine a rotary phone bolted to the center consul of his wine colored Caprice Classic. The advanced car phone technology also required the Caprice to sport a subtle, 6 foot long antennae on its roof. Phone calls were ridiculously expensive but dad was a gadget man and had to have it. No one had a car phone.

Well, some people had carphones - drug dealers. In third grade some kid asked me, “Is your dad a drug dealer? Why does he have a car phone?”  We’re talking about Miami in the 80’s, this kid was not asking an illogical question. So I told him, “Noooo, my dad is not a drug dealer, he’s a jeweler.”

The third, neato thing Santayana had in the 80’s was a beautiful, brand-new, wine-colored Caprice Classic. On the rare occasion that Santayana took me and Rudy to school, he would pretend that his car was an airplane; he was the captain and we were his crew. I was the flight attendant offering peanuts and Rudy was the mechanic. There was always something wrong with the plane and we would have to rush, rush, rush to fix the problem. This game probably explains my fear of flying.

Although it had been over 20 years since our parents’ flight from Cuba, growing up in the 80’s, we were raised to believe that our residence in Miami was temporary. Every Christmas Eve someone proclaimed, “El año que viene en Cuba!*  Then everyone would toast and cheer and give each other big hugs.

Santayana fam 1980
Santayana fam 1980

The Santayana Family. Circa 1980.

My uncle Marcelo, who exiled to the Canary Islands after serving 9 years in a Cuban prison, had a really short index finger. His index finger was literally shorter than his pinky. Don’t imagine that his finger didn’t have a nail. It totally did. The whole thing was intact, it was just short. Like a baby finger. As a kid, that finger was the freakiest thing I had ever seen.

He waved that finger around like there was nothing wrong with it. I once asked him about it, he loudly proclaimed, “Porque este año, este año cae Fidel!* while slamming the tip of his freakishly short index finger on the table. I totally believed him. I mean, it made sense to me that slamming that finger down every day for the past 20 years would make it a whole phalanx shorter.

Every year was the year Fidel was going down. Every Christmas we were spending the next one in Camaguey. I worried about what I should pack in my luggage. Should I take a bathing suit, a sweater, boots? Should I start packing today? Was there going to be horseback riding? Whose house would we be staying at? How would Santa know where to leave the presents? It was all very confusing.

Mom (far left) with 8 of her 11 siblings
Mom (far left) with 8 of her 11 siblings

Elena's Mom (far left) with 8 of her 11 siblings. Tio Marcelo (not pictured) died this year, 2012, on her dad's birthday.

In 2007, my father was diagnosed with a horrible form of cancer. One night, as I was sitting with him at the hospital, it came over the TV that maybe Fidel Castro was dead. I wondered to myself, “Do I wish death on Castro now?” I wasn’t sure if I wanted Castro to be dead just then because my father was, at the time, on his own death bed. On this night, facing the uncertainty of my father’s life, I wasn’t sure I could wish death upon anyone. Not even on the person who had caused so much misery to thousands of people.

I also did not want my dad to live in a world where Castro was finally dead. The one reason he had not visited his childhood country after all these many years was the fact that Fidel Castro was alive, and finally, right when it was too late, the son-of-a-bitch up and dies? I didn’t know what to do. So I did the first thing that came to mind, I went to La Carreta.

I have celebrated many major life changing events at La Carreta. I sounded the horn of mom’s minivan from our house all the way to La Carreta both times the Florida Marlins won the World Series. I made sure to find parking far and early both times the Heat won the Playoffs because getting there late meant being stuck in traffic. Once, the day after Halloween, my friends and I dressed up in costumes and strutted our stuff carrying a boom box from the entrance, all the way to the back, then right out the front door. But this night, the night we thought Castro was dead was different. The energy in the air was celebratory, but nostalgic. It was both happy and sad. And I watched, completely covered in goosebumps, as a group of 20 or so teary individuals sang and danced in unison to Willy Chirino’s “Ya Viene Llegando” (video below) until the police came and broke up the entire party.

I don’t have to tell you, but I will anyway, Fidel Castro was not dead that night. Nor has he been dead any night since. My dad wasn’t happy I danced in the streets. He didn’t want me to go La Carreta to celebrate that man’s death. He didn’t want to be duped by the Castro regime. But I wanted to pass the joy in my heart to my dad. The joy I felt from being his daughter and the immense sense of pride I feel of being Cuban.

A few days or maybe weeks later my father passed away. He died in a world where Fidel Castro lived, his beloved Cuba, still existing under the foot of a tyrant. But, in the end, the only thing that ever truly mattered to him was his family. When my dad died I understood, for the first time ever, what Cuban nostalgia was really all about.

* Translation of terms used in Elena's story:

  • Maleta - suitcase.
  • Palo por la cabeza. - Blow to the head with a large blunt object.
  • Santayana, llama la tienda. - Santayana, call the store.
  • Santayana llama la joyeria. Santayana, call the jewelry store
  • Papi llama a mami. - Dad, call mom.
  • El año que viene en Cuba! - Next year in Cuba!
  • Porque este año, este año caie Fidel! - Because this year, Fidel will fall!

La Virgen de La Caridad - A Personal History

September 8, 1961.

My family had been in the U.S. for seven long months. There was still a longing for anything or anyone that reminded us of "home." We eagerly waited for news that the revolution had failed and that the new regime had fallen and that we would soon be heading back to all things familiar.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Miami, which was instrumental in helping 14,000 unaccompanied minors travel to the U.S. to save them from Marxist indoctrination, was to have a mass. (My brother was one of those Pedro Pan kids. You can read about that here.)

September 8, 1961. That same day...

The image of Our Lady of Charity (La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre) arrived from Cuba. She was first taken to the camps where the newly arrived children were interned waiting to be sent to host families in other parts of the country. Then she was to be exhibited during a mass at St. John Bosco in what is now known as Little Havana. My mother insisted we go. I think it was equal parts religious devotion and longing to be among other exiles.

Verdes sisters 63

The Verdés sisters minus one. Circa late 1961. I'm the little one with the curly hair.

Off we went to the participate in the mass, to see the newly-arrived-from-Cuba image of Our Lady, and to connect with other Cuban refugees. 

Picture my mother with her three youngest daughters (there are 5 of us girls) in tow. Into the throng we went. And there she spotted an Old Cuban Friend. The exchange went something like this:

Old Cuban Friend: "You! Here? What joy this brings me!"

Luza (my mom): "I can't believe it!"

They proceed to hug and cry and cling to each other like drowning children to a life preserver.

Breaking away and between the sobs, they begin to ask about the rest of the family. My mom introduces us as her three youngest. "You have THREE young girls?" The woman starts looking a bit suspicious.

Old Cuban Friend (or was she?): "Wait! What about young Arturito? And what about Zeida from down the street?"

It was at this point that both of them simultaneously realized that they did not know each other after all. But, of course, in Classic Luza Style, she said nothing. It was a case of completely mistaken identity.

She quickly grabbed us and we went into the mass.

"Mami, who was that?"

"I have no idea."

I think the emotions were genuine. We were here and we were free and there was some comfort in the familiar. The tears of grief and joy were heartfelt, even if they were grossly misplaced. And, to be honest, I've experienced that Cuban familiarity many times. My dad used to say that all of us Cubans have a map of the island on our forehead that only other Cubans can see, but that's not important right now. (Cuban Superpowers Activate!)

This happened 50 years ago and I can vividly remember the moment. I had never seen my mom cry so hard. It made such an impact on me.

September 8th is the 400th anniversary of the original finding of the statue in the rough Cuban waters in the Bay of Nipe (pronounced NEE-PEY). Here's that story.


The Archdiocese of Miami is celebrating with a mass and concert. And because the Cuban community has grown in the half century since the arrival of Our Lady, it will be held in a much, much bigger venue.

Here are the details:

Saturday September 8th 2012

American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Florida 33132

  • 4:00 PM - Doors of the AAA open to the public
    Statue of Our Lady of Charity departs by sea from the Shrine of O. L. of Charity
  • 4:30 PM - Holy Rosary at the AAA
  • 5:00 PM - Arrival of the statue at the AAA
  • 6:00 PM - Holy Mass, presided by Archbishop Thomas Wenski
  • 8:14 PM - Concert with the participation of well-known singers and musicians

*Admission is free, and there will be concession stands open throughout the event.

If you're in Miami, you should go. Maybe you'll see someone you know. Or think you know. Even if you don't know them, if they're Cuban and you're Cuban, you should hug and kiss them anyway.

It's what we do, isn't it?

KIA "Fun and Forty" Challenge - Miami to Key West - Part 1

 [Disclaimer: I'm going to be posting about my trip to Miami and Key West in installments because there's just too much to tell, and because the awesome can't be contained in just one post. Also, please excuse the blurry photos that may or may not have been taken from the passenger side of a fast-moving car.]

Last week I had the pleasure of taking a trip to South Florida. The invitation came from Kia Motors.

"How would you like to drive a new Kia 2012 hybrid from Miami to Key West?" Umm...yes, please!

I had my bags packed before you could say, "pastelitos."

KIA fun & forty

A group of auto writers and bloggers, which included Blogs by Latinas, Latina Bloggers Connect, and Mejorando Mi Hogar were invited to drive both the Kia Optima Hybrid (Not your average mid-size sedan) and the Kia Rio (FUNctional) from Miami to Key West.

We stayed at the beautiful Shore Club in South Beach where we had a chance to unwind and relax a bit with a fabulous dinner at The Raleigh before our long driving day.

Rachel monique marta

With my blog-friends and traveling buddies, Rachel Matos and Monique Frausto, or as we came to be known to the rest of the group, "The Bloggeritas."

Kias at Parrot Key

We were paired up in teams of two in Miami and given instructions for the drive to Key West along with a trip legend.

Trip schedule

The directions took us through the scenic parts of Miami as we made our way down to US 1 and on to Key West.

Kia fun and forty drive

Key West south

The challenge was to get the maximum fuel economy on the trip to the Keys. We were encouraged to attempt to achieve 40 mpg by going slow, not using the air-conditioning - that sort of thing.

My driving buddy, Rachel Matos (aka: The Art Muse representing Latina Bloggers Connect) and I figured we could sooo do this. However, we quickly agreed that driving in South Florida without air-conditioning was a bit barbaric.

Rachel and marta

Photo credit: The beautiful and talented Monique Frausto of Blogs by Latinas.

The 2012 Kia Rio was our car of choice. (Yes, darling. Come to Mami.)

Kia rio

Photo credit: Monique Frausto of Blogs by Latinas.

Mostly because it was a sweet candy-apple RED. And we both decided we look fabulous in red.

Rachel & rio

Red Kia Rio

And it had a handy charger/ hook-up for my iPhone, which I had loaded up with my favorite salsa tunes for the drive. Thankyouverymuch.

Caimitillo y maranon

Driving Kia Optima

And when I wasn't driving, I was in charge of navigating, which may or may not have been a mistake because of my tendency to talk so much and because I'm so easily distracted.

Kia sign

Plus, there was a photo scavenger hunt to find certain landmarks on the drive down to the Keys which provided yet another pleasant distraction on this particular road trip.

Key largo sign

So we drove. And we talked. And we sang. And we laughed. A lot. And took photos. And shared the fun on Twitter. And the drive was so smooth and comfortable and fun that we kind of lost track of the goal.....

Look! There we are on the 7-Mile Bridge in that cute RED (!) Kia Rio.

Rachel and marta on 7 mile bridge copy

Photo credit: Dole Photo

With all the driving, and photo-taking, and talking, and salsa music, and laughing and all that, the drive to the Keys felt pretty effortless.

We eventually reached Key West with a just few minor detours. (In my own defense, navigating while doing all of the above proved to be a little challenging for an A.D.D. type such as myself. That is all.)

We arrived at the beautiful Parrot Key Boutique Resort where we found time to do some serious Key-West-type relaxing.

Kia rio at parrot key

Key west chair

Parrot Key Resort

Parrot Key resort pool

Okay, so maybe one of us (*wink, wink*) might have stayed in the pool just a little bit longer than they should have and missed the trolley to the restaurant (but that's not important right now). Rather than having to wait and take another trolley and be late for dinner at the famous A & B Lobster House Restaurant, our hosts were gracious enough to drive me in the beautiful Optima sedan. Thanks, guys!

A&B Lobster house

The winning team for the Fun and Forty Drive and Ride Challenge managed to get a whopping 48 mpg (!) in the Kia Optima. They did all the smart "hypermiling" stuff like going slow and driving without air and all that.

As a matter of fact, on the drive back from Key West to Miami, I got to enjoy driving the Kia Optima with my 2nd driving buddy, Camilo. We turned off the air and enjoyed the tropical breezes, and I managed to get pretty close to the 40 mpg mark.

KIA Optima mileage

While Camilo drove, I also played with all the bells and whistles. Hello, moon roof and cooled seats!

Sunroof in Kia Optima

So, I can say that the 40 mpg goal was totally achievable with some "hypermiling" skills, but Rachel and I were a little.....well....distracted. Because driving both the Rio and the Optima was So. Much. Fun.

And isn't that what you want in a driving experience? You want to be happy and relaxed and comfortable. And Kia really delivered on all those counts. Bonus coolness points to Kia for making these cars super affordable, too.

How did we do in relation to the other teams?

Well, Rachel and I managed to come in dead last. (With a respectable 33 mpg.)

Rachel and marta KIA

And for this we each received a memorable award. (Yes, that's a carved-coconut-pirate-head. Be jealous.)

Coconut pirate face

I'm so grateful to Kia Motors for the wonderful trip and the totally fun driving experience. But as much as I love to travel, I was happy to be back in my own world.

With my own driver.

In my own Kia. ;-)

Eric in kia

Thanks again, Kia Motors!

 {Disclosure: Kia Motors invited me to participate in this event and took care of my travel and accomodations. I was not compensated for this post. The opinion that the Kias were a blast to drive is my own.}

3:05 Cafecito break in the 305 (area code)

I just got back from a fabulous trip to South Florida (more about this later). One of the biggest draws for me when I am visiting Miami (Area Code 305), besides visiting family and enjoying the mostly perfect beach weather is, of course, the Cuban food.

Bistec de palomilla, moros y cristianos, maduros (you could die from such beauty):

Bistec encebollado

I had this suberb meal at a place called Casavana in Homestead, Florida.

Another very Cuban phenomenon in South Florida is the mass consumption at all hours of the day and night of authentic Cuban espresso. Always ordered with the diminutive "-ito" at the end.

"Un cortadito."

"Una coladita."

"Un cafecito."

"Un (insert your favorite coffee drink)-ito."

When I'm at home I don't usually have much more than two cups of mild coffee in an entire day, but being in the 305 makes me crave Cuban coffee after every meal and at all hours. It must be a recessive gene stimulated by geographical proximity to the Motherland.

If nothing else, we have an informal "coffee break" in the afternoons. At my house, we call it Taka Taka Time. (If you're on Facebook you can "like" Taka Taka" here.)

Watch my daughter, Amy Kikita making coffee and you will understand about the Taka Taka at about the 1:37 mark. (What's up with all these numbers today, Marta?)

Which begs the question: what time exactly is Taka Taka Time? In Miami, there's a movement to make 3:05 (like the area code) the official Miami Cafecito Break Time. I love that!  That's right. Thanks to the genius of JennyLee Molina of JLPR who came up with the concept and my friend, Elena Santayana Power, who shared it with me (of Santayana Jewelers, who also happen to be in the 305, but that's not important right now) the 3:05 Miami Cafecito Break has its own Fan page. Click here to "like."

Although, I'm thinking that here on the West Coast, the Cafecito time would be at 3:10. (For those of you who don't know, since Pitbull never sang about our area codes, 310 is the area code for greater Los Angeles. You're welcome.)

There is something so sublime about that first sip of freshly brewed Cuban espresso with the perfect Killer Espuma®.  (Please ignore my 305-frizzy hair as this photo was taken in the middle of a rain storm. Thankyouverymuch.)

Cafe Cubano

I got so used to the multiple coladas during the day, that I had a hard time adjusting to the lack of Café Cubano windows on every corner like there are in The 305.

So much so that I had to resort to the next best thing, but at 3:10, of course. I know. Shut up.

Three coffees

The Best of MBFCF in 2010

I started this tradition last year.

I reviewed my posts for the entire year (which was kind of interesting in a wow-is-that-a-train-wreck? kinda way, but that's not important right now) and picked a mix of some of my favorites.

These links are a pretty good representation of what it's like Living the Vida Loca, MBFCF-style.

If you've been a regular reader, I thank you for your time and attention and your cyber-love. You may enjoy going into my cyber-time machine and re-living this past year via the following blog posts.

If you're new to my blog, make yourself at home and enjoy this slice of my Cuban-American life in the O.C.



1. The Writing is On the Wall - The one where I take you on a tour of the walls of my freakishly small cottage-like home.

E I love you m

2. A Living Legacy - The one where my mom turned 96 and had her photo taken with (almost) everyone in my big, fat, Cuban family.


3. Amy's Trip to Cuba - The one where Amy Kikita (my daughter) goes to Cuba and shares how she experienced the island and the people and how she ended up meeting Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez of Generacion Y. This link is to all the posts from her trip.

Amy varadero

4.  How Google Works - A Very Cuban Explanation - The one where my 96 year old mom explains how the internet search engines work. She calls them Cuco and Yayo (Google and Yahoo) and becomes an instant Youtube hit among Cubans everywhere.

5. How to Turn 55 While in Miami - In which I drag out my birthday celebration for days and enjoy a wonderful party and my husband's sweet surprise.

Birthday party

6. How to Throw a Virtual Birthday Party - In which I surprise and amaze my daughter by having everyone she knows post a birthday greeting. (*takes bow*)

Val birthday amy

7.  Hasta La Vista, Baby! - In which my son, Adam, moves far away and leaves me sad. (*wipes away a tear*)

Adam car

8. Baking With Betty - Brownieliciousness - In which I get to bake in the Betty Crocker Kitchens in Minneapolis and am overwhelmed by my own nerdiness.


9. When is a Pitbull NOT a pitbull? - In which I am introduced to Cuban rapper, Pitbull and I may or may not have called him a muñecón. Here's the video version. ;-)


10. El Palacio and me. (It was love at first sight.) - In which I visit El Palacio de Los Jugos (with my partner in Tiki Tiki blog-crime, Carrie) in Miami and document the entire comelata.


11. The Mother Ring - In which I tell about how I received a family heirloom.


12. Nochebuena. Cubans. Photobooth. (Pachanga!) - In which I manage to capture the silliness and beauty that is my big, fat, Cuban family.


It's a nice compilation, isn't it?

I'll just keep writing in 2011. I hope you come back. My blog-casa is your blog-casa. =D

Happy New Year!