Thursday, August 28, 2014

Discovering The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

One of our first stops in our #UnMinivanMoments #CaliforniaGold road-trip, was Santa Barbara. Originally, we planned on checking out the Santa Barbara Mission, but after taking a wrong turn, we ended-up at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.  As the saying goes, you always end up were you are meant to be.
The museum was small enough to go through its entirety in less than half a day, including the various collections and special exhibits; yet deep enough to keep you entertained for hours.
Now, granted it was just me and my hubby, but if we had kids or opted to take our nieces and nephews, there was enough to-do for kids of all ages. Starting with the HUGE whale skeleton right outside the museum. 
As for the museum space itself, it's gorgeous and the architecture is Santa-Barbara Mission. When you walk in, you are welcomed by a large courtyard where you can sit and meander, and there's a small hiking area in the back. (hubby and I weren't dressed for it, otherwise we would have hiked).

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the Butterfly Alive Nursery. Before you walk in, a couple of volunteers showed us chrysalis, one of which hatched in front of our eyes! 
It was fascinating, beautiful, and just an experience that is almost indescribable; and, as cooky as it sounds, I took it as a sign of what was to come in my life.
We spent most of our time at the Butterfly Alive Exhibit while at the museum walking through a man-made covered garden, with mini ponds, sitting areas, and more than 1,000 butterflies!  It was absolutely stunning!

I'm happy to share that entrance into exhibition was included with our Museum admission, and Museum Members receive free admission.

Museum prices are quite reasonable and also include free parking and admission to all of their current exhibitions: 
Adult (18-64 years) $12 
Senior (65+ years) $8
Teen (13-17 years) $8
Child (2-12 years) $7
Infant (less than 2 years) Free.
My hubby and I can't wait to go back to Santa Barbara and stop by the Museum of Natural History. I also invite you to schedule a stop at this great museum when you are in town and do let me know how much you loved it :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Migraines, Depression and Negativity, Oh My!

I grew up watching my mom coil in pain from severe migraines. As I child, I really didn't understand why my mom needed to be in a dark room void of any sunlight and noise.

Whether stress, change of weather, or just life, I don't think my mom ever figured out why she suffered migraines, how to prevent them, but most importantly, how to stop them.

When I grew up, I had a headache or two. Usually when I was sick, mostly when I was stressed. But I didn't suffer a migraine until I started working in PR.

I will never forget that awful throbbing pain in my forehead accompanied with severe nausea and sensitivity to light, touch, smells, noise...anything really. For a few years I had to carry pre-migraine medication and medication to take at the onset of a migraine.

This situation lasted for a few years until I quit a PR job that forced me two commute two hours a day. Who knew? Work stress and commuting were both triggers for my migraines...and ever since leaving that job almost ten years ago, I've only suffered through a counted number of migraines, and never as severe as before.

It's because of this, that I'm always hyper sensitive to people throwing around the word "migraine" to describe their every day aches and pains...especially when they claim they have a migraine on social media.

Let me tell you, if you haven't destroyed your laptop, phone or computer from throwing-up your last meal as you type your migraine "status," you really don't have a migraine.

Then I got to thinking about other situations that are also labeled wrong, and how many times we over exaggerate to make a point or possibly to gain the sympathy of well-meaning folks. But other times, people that really know what it's like to "suffer" these situations, roll their eyes and generally feel belittled when folks downplay something as serious as...


How many times have you heard your best friend vent after a breakup sobbing about her "depression." Depression?!

Let that sink-in for a moment.

As someone that really knows what clinical depression is, and manages life against all odds; hearing a friend, or anyone really, throw-around a breakup that has nothing to do with depression, as depression, makes me ill to my stomach.

Yes she's sad, incredibly sad. Unable to work, even shower or possibly function - but is that depression? Not really. Depression is so much more than that. Stop using that term to describe anything that makes you "sad."

But using "depression" or "migraine" to describe anything but, is just the tip of the iceberg. These are just two terms that many folks use interchangeably without regard of how it makes others feel; but most importantly, without any regard of what it actually means or feels to be depressed or suffer through a migraine.

Case in point, someone once called me "shady." Shady because she wasn't privy to the ins-and-outs of my business.

Shady because I had signed NDA's that didn't give me the open door policy to share things that were none of her business.

Shady, unfortunately, is a term that carries so much weight, that when someone is simply being professional and keeping certain aspects of her business (possibly even life) under wraps or confidential, many ignorant fools can't describe it as anything else but "shady."

Another term that drives me batty is "negative." How many times have you heard someone being called negative for simply sharing a contrary or none-popular opinion? Countless. I'm sure.

Maybe you haven't noticed it, but the truth is, just because someone disagrees with a popular opinion doesn't immediately put them in a "negative" category. At least not in my book. If that were the case, I am surrounded by negative folks.

Reality is, I'm surrounded by people that have a larger perspective on life and the world around them. Sometimes we agree, other times we disagree, but I would never categorize them as negative when they simply don't agree with my view points.

Lastly, and this is something that I'm constantly put up against, is being called a "Bitch." As a woman, as a Latina, we have a million and one things we can do, but one thing we can't do, is have an opinion.

We're told to...
Be strong.
Be open.
Be honest.
Go against the grain.

The moment we do, own who we are, we gain all the comforts and liabilities of being "us." On the flipside, we will adopt  a term, as a surname no less, to describe the absolute comfort we have sleeping at night knowing we are living life on our terms...


Oh well, life could be more complicated - but instead, that is one term that although it drives me crazy, it also gives me great comfort: Those that call me bitch, are the same women that wish they could live life on their own terms - but can't.

Some call it hating, others call it jealously, I call these folks simple-minded and with an intense need to expand their lives.

Maybe they need to read and travel?

There you go! They need to read my blog more - send them on over.

Maybe then they will realize that having an opinion, and calling it as it is, even when called a Bitch, is not a bad thing after all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Wear Emmys Red Carpet Jewelry

One of the funnest parts of any Hollywood Awards Show is the Red Carpet arrivals. 

I've even made it a point to run a play-by-play fashion policing live-chat on my Facebook wall for the Oscars. But as much as I love the dresses, the shoes, the makeup and hair, nothing stands out as much as jewelry does. 
In the words of Jada Pinkett Smith, "If I had my way, I'd wear jewelry, a great pair of heels and nothing else."
Bellarri Bracelet
Although most of us can't, and wont, spend the amount of money celebrities do for Red Carpet jewelry, we can all take a few tips from celebrity stylist and television personality Michael O'Connor, and wear jewelry that will make us look Red Carpet or special occasion-ready...any day of the week!
Earrings by Mastoloni Pearls
If you are going to invest in any high-ticket jewelry, invest in earrings. According to Michael, earrings will probably give you the most bang for your buck. Why? Because even if you forget to wear bracelets or a necklace, most women don't leave their home without earrings.

TIP: To make your neck look longer and leaner, pick earrings that contract your face shape and that land in-between your earlobe and shoulder.
Colorful gemstones are all the rage this season. The best place to wear them? On your fingers.

TIP: Pick rings that have a vertical placement or shape to make your hands and fingers look longer and leaner.
Vahan Jewelry Bracelets
I LOVE cuff bracelets and can't get over how much even the smallest bling can elevate an outfit - any outfit!

TIP: For gals, like me, that have thicker wrists: stack multiple bracelets to create the illusion of a cuff bracelet and to make your arms look longer and leaner.
Necklace by Mastoloni Pearls
Besides earrings, nothing gets as close to your face as a necklace does.  Don't be afraid or look-down at pearls, a personal fave, when choosing jewelry for those special night outs.

TIP: Wear long necklaces to pull you in and give you height.

Coincidently, I was wearing stacked long necklaces when I met Michael O'Connor at the StyleLab 2014 Emmy Awards Jewelry Suite...and I received compliments from the Style Master himself!
This just goes to show that even $10 necklaces can look fantastic when styled right!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I was not Prepared to Go Back to School

By now, everyone knows that I have been on the journey of going back to school to refocus and advance my career for my 40s, while at the same time preparing myself to teach at the University level in my 50s.

Being that my education was non traditional -meaning, I didn't attend or graduate from a State School- or attained traditional degree, things weren't that easy this time around.

Who knew that a 15 year break would be amazing for my career, but not so much for my academics?

Wrongly assuming that my new path would be easy to navigate because of my career experience and previous school grades, I wasn't prepared for all the red tape involved in returning to school.

Let me get this out of the way: If I didn't like school or hadn't done well this past semester, I would have already given up.

Thing is, I love school, I love learning, I love being in an environment where debating and discussing varying opinions is celebrated. I love implementing what I learn in my career and personal life. I love knowing that I am one step ahead of the crowd...and that I am only ten years from teaching at the university level (my ultimate goal, and ideal the last job I will have before I retire).

Unfortunately, things are not that easy. 

Not only that, but academic processes have changed considerably in the 15 years since I have been out of school. Heck, from what I have heard from other adult students, things have changed considerable in the last five years.

But, there is a silver lining in all this: My story has inspired many women to go back to school. Many.

The hick-ups of this summer, from my transcripts getting lost by the school I am ultimately transferring to; to my application having the wrong educational focus, I have lived through all of it. Through. It. All.

Yes, I have had headaches, sleepless nights, rants of frustration on Facebook, and even shed a few tears...but it's all worth it...

I have found a tribe that supports me and holds my hand as I navigate this new world. That, in itself, being another benefit of returning to school.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Recipe: Mexican-Style Pico de Gallo

I've been craving Mexican food as of late. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I have been with my hubby for over five years and Italian food outnumbers anything else we eat.  That, or the fact that Mexican food, prepared right, is actually quite healthy and flavorful.  

Either way, I have been preparing my own Salsa Mexicana (as I grew-up calling it), or Pico de Gallo. My version is prepared the way my family taught me, which is focused on mixing the ingredients at the right time to let the flavors marinate.

This version, which I claim to being the original way to prepare salsa Mexicana (Pico de Gallo or Salsa Fresca or Salsa Bandera), should be enjoyed within minutes the same day it's prepared; which is when the flavors are at their peak.


Ingredients to prepare pico de gallo or salsa Mexicana or salsa fresca or salsa bandera

  • 2 Roma tomatoes or one large tomato
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper or 1 serrano pepper (serrano is the spicier of the two)
  • 2 Mexican limes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • Mexican or sea salt (to taste)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Cut the white onion into small squares and put into a round/bowl-like dish.
  • Juice the limes over the onion and toss to coat the onion with the lime juice. (the reason you start with the onion, is that by the time you chop everything else, the onion has a milder flavor because of the few minutes of it marinating with the lime juice)
  • Chop the jalapeno or serrano pepper and fold into the onion and lime juice mixture.
  • Chop the tomatoes and gently fold into the onion and pepper mixture.
  • Chop the cilantro as fine as possible and add to the tomato, onion and pepper mixture.
  • Add salt and a pinch of sugar together with the cilantro.
  • Fold all ingredients as gently as possibly without smashing the tomatoes.
  • Set aside for a few minutes either at room temperature or covered in the refrigerator.
  • The salsa should be enjoyed within minutes of it being prepared, at most 30 minutes.
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