Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Art of the Ninja

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When one is a creep magnet, it is probably a good idea to know how to kick a creep’s ass (or at least how to make a quick getaway) should the occasion ever arise. Odds are that simply having the knowledge will help to de-magnetize one from creeps and will never actually have to use such knowledge, but still… a golden goddess can never be too careful, right?

Besides, what could be more Kikita than becoming a ninja?

Luckily, my friend, The Ninja, was willing to spend an hour with me and show me the basics.

First we spent about 30 minutes watching YouTube videos so that I could take a deeper look into the world I was about to step into.

I was amazed.
And super excited.

My friend, The Ninja: If you really decide to take this seriously and go for it, look at where you can go.

Where we went was to a nearby park.

And I learned the basics.

My friend, The Ninja, seemed a little surprised that I was such a willing student.

My friend, The Ninja: I could teach you how to roll, but most people learn that on a mat first.
Me: Oh? Not on slightly damp, leafy, uneven ground covered in twigs and rocks?
My friend, The Ninja: Exactly. So if you would rather skip that…
Me: Hell no! I am learning how to roll.
My friend, The Ninja: I like your attitude.

So I learned how to roll like a ninja.

Of course I got bruised.

And covered in leaves.

It was glorious.

Maybe it sounds a little cliché… (ok, maybe it sounds REALLY cliché), but I felt like I “got it.”

There’s so much more to it than just learning moves.

It’s about balance.
Physical Balance.
Emotional Balance.
And, yes, Spiritual Balance.

I felt so lucky to be a student of this ancient art form out at a park… it almost felt like I was more centered and grounded because of it.

As we were leaving the park and I was processing what I had just been through, an old man walked up to us and asked if we had been practicing yoga. He was holding yellow prayer beads and had an accent that I couldn’t place until he said, “There is an old French proverb … Vie des jeunes sur l’espoir, la vieillesse sur le souvenir… Youth lives on hope, old age on remembrance. Enjoy being able to move as well as you do now because I can’t move the way I used to.

Oh, I am, sir.

But, considering it was a FRENCH man with YELLOW beads… the magic was almost too much for me.

It was like God was saying: You are EXACTLY where you’re supposed to be.

He Dropped Me

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It was a long day.

I had an early meeting. I had projects to finish. I had projects to start. I had Cuban coffee to drink.

Somehow my boss convinced the VP to go to lunch at my new favorite Cuban place (Bella Cuba) and so what is usually lunch at my desk became two hours of not being at work with the added bonus of the VP mentioning how much “Kiki LOOOOOVES chocolate” (and he wasn’t talking about my eating habits – though how he learned about that I’m not sure because all three people I’ve dated since being at the company have been … *ahem* vanilla).

As I was finally leaving the office, LATE, the wind howled and stole the last drops of café that were in my cup… and proceeded to spray them onto my favorite pair of white pants.

I hurried home to change into a pair of less favorite jeans so that I could hurry to the cd release party of an African girlfriend of mine.

I called an old BFF to make sure he was going. He was. We walked in together, but then an ex of his pulled him away just in time for me to see the ex-girlfriend of an ex of mine. She was absolutely thrilled to see me and demanded we take a picture together. Why not? Now there is a permanent record for me to review and wonder how the hell I ever ended up following an act like hers…

After the picture, I turn to greet a few other old friends and then see the pregnant wife of another ex. Of course, she has no idea of my ex status because when she and I met everyone thought I was with my BFF (when, in fact, it was his roommate I was with… ish). She is super sweet and absolutely adorable, but I get the sense that she’s not entirely thrilled to be pregnant and is worried that her mixed baby is going to come out less-than gorgeous. After hugging her and catching up a bit on her and then on everyone else who has had babies lately and everyone who was about to have babies, I found my old BFF again and we went looking for seats.

He had someone he wanted me to meet and started steering me in that direction. Of course, the friend he wanted me to meet was sitting right in front of the pregnant wife and her husband (my ex).

The break-up conversation that led to this ex becoming my ex was simple, to the point (something along the lines of “Kiki, you deserve better than what I have to offer you right now“), and we stayed friends. Since this was several years ago, certain things shouldn’t bother me, right? Of course, right!

My Ex With The Pregnant Wife: KIKITA!! It’s wonderful to see you! You’re beautiful! Do you know that? Really! You are so beautiful, and you have a beautiful heart and are just an amazing and beautiful person. Have I told you how beautiful you are?
Me: Not today…
My Ex With The Pregnant Wife: Come! Sit with us!
Me (to myself): You have GOT to be kidding me right now.

It was a spectacular concert. And the sound was done by the awesome Cuban guy from my church because the world is really that small and my night wasn’t weird enough.

Meanwhile… on my phone…

Dance Buddy: Hey there sexy lady! What are you up to?
Me: At a concert having a weird moment.
Me (to myself): I’m sorry, who gave you permission to call me “sexy lady”?
Dance Buddy: Oh, sorry to hear that baby! Just imagine I’m there dancing with you.
Me: Ha!
Me (to myself): Baby? Seriously? And this whole time I thought he was gay…

After the concert, but before leaving…

My Ex With The Pregnant Wife: Kikita, you know you need to have a mixed baby.
Me: Yeah, ok. I’ll get right on that.
My Ex With The Pregnant Wife: Why not [your old BFF]?
Me: That will never happen. Beyond not being attracted to him, when I turned 25 and freaked out about getting old, I asked him to be my back-up plan. If I turned 30 and didn’t have any prospects, I asked him to have a kid with me. Of course he agreed, but then we spent the next 6 months discussing baby names and were never able to agree on anything. So, even if I WANTED to have a kid with him, which I don’t, we could never name it.
My Ex With The Pregnant Wife: You are too much. Poor guy. He’s really awesome.

A little while later, some other individual came up to introduce himself to me. We ended up having quite a bit in common, including a penchant for learning new languages. My Ex With The Pregnant Wife  overheard us going from Arabic to English to Spanish and was kind of amazed.

My Ex With The Pregnant Wife (to the new guy): Kikita is an amazing woman. She’s really quite brilliant. Kikita! Have you ever tested for your IQ? She likes to pretend she’s not very smart because she’s blond, but really she is brilliant.

I guess the sales pitch worked because when some of the other girls asked if we could all go to a nearby dance place (which just happened to be my Sunday night hang-out), the new guy was happy to come along. And fearless about dancing even though he wasn’t very good.

My old BFF pulled me aside: Kiki! You have to dance! I’ve told everyone what a great dancer you are!

No pressure.

Luckily, one of my Sunday night buddies was there. He’s a bit odd, but fun to dance with so that’s all that really matters. We were dancing, but joking around a lot, too. Somewhere in the middle of the dance, he dipped me. No one ever dips me, which I understand, there’s a lot of me to dip.

Well, this kid dipped me, and then we kept dancing.
And then the song ended.
And he dipped me again.
And I am not sure exactly what happened…

He might have tripped me.
Or I might have lost my balance.
Or he wasn’t supporting me…

Whatever the reason, I found myself on the ground… sort of.

I really don’t even know how it happened. I was on the ground, so I knew I had fallen (or had been dropped).

But the kid hadn’t fallen on top of me.

And then he did.

And I didn’t think it was possible, but I fell MORE.

And I think we sort of rolled…

And I couldn’t stop laughing.

He dropped me.
He dipped me.
And he dropped me.

I’d never been dropped before…. Well, not LITERALLY dropped.

Obviously, all the exs of the evening had dropped me at some point…. figuratively speaking.

The lesson: You are going to get dropped and even if it doesn’t hurt too much at the time, you’ll still find bruises.

 

Happy Chinese New Year 2012!

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Why I love Chinese New Year…

Ok, I have no real good reasons. I hear that Chinese people give money to their co-workers, but  I have never had the occasion to be on the receiving end. Up until recently, I was pretty convinced I didn’t know any Chinese people at all…

However, THIS year, I am excited.

THIS year, I am celebrating (probably by going to Pick-Up Stix for lunch, but that is not important right now).

The reason I am so excited about this particular Chinese New Year actually goes back to October when I went to Mambo’s Cafe to see Cartaya’s Enclave.

I could not wait to go back to Mambo’s and see the group play again in December. I loved the idea of the Toy Drive. I spent an hour in Target looking for the perfect gift. All they had said was “bring an unwrapped toy.” I thought about buying something for a girl, but ultimately decided to pick out a toy for a boy. While walking around the packed boy-toy aisles of Target, I wished I could have borrowed someones son and just said “What toy would you like?” and bought that. Unfortunately, I was on my own. I picked up a Batman. I walked around with the Batman and thought about picking up a some other Batman thing and then, I saw it…

A freaking Ninja Dragon!!

I loved it. wanted to keep it. That’s how I knew that there would be one very happy kid out there.

I could not wait for December 13th. It was going to be a great night. I was so proud of my Ninja Dragon.

This is the part where things get magical…

On December 13th, my gut told me that Mambo’s Cafe was not going to work out that night. So I called and canceled my reservation.
An hour later,  my ride to Mambo’s for that night sent a message saying they could not give me a ride that night. Amazing, right? That before I could say “I don’t need a ride anymore” I was being told the ride wasn’t happening. That worked out perfectly. Magically even.

Except… Now I had a freaking Ninja Dragon on my hands and, as much as I loved it, I decided it was not something I was supposed to keep. But who in the world would I give this thing to? I didn’t know any kids… and I was not going to give this random gift to one of my cousins’ kids just because they had boys. This toy was too cool. This was a special gift. I could feel it.

I thought about giving it to my friend, The Ninja (because I have one of those), but I rarely see him…

Besides, the last time I’d gotten him a small gift for Christmas, I didn’t give it to him until March.
As awesome as it would be to give a Ninja Dragon to my friend, The Ninja, I knew that it wasn’t for him.

I remembered that one night (before December 13th) while talking with the Yellow-Shirted Conundrum, I had told him of my amazingly cool Ninja Dragon. That’s when I thought I should give him the Ninja Dragon. So I did. And he loved it.

It was perfect… I just had no idea HOW perfect until I was talking to my friend, The Ninja.

My friend, The Ninja: A Ninja Dragon. Yeah, that’s pretty cool… You know Chinese New Year is coming up, right?
Me: Yeah, why? How funny would it be if this year is the year of the… OH. NO. WAY!! Don’t tell me! Is it? SHUT UP RIGHT NOW!
My friend, The Ninja: Yes, this year is the Year of the Dragon.
Me: That is so amazing!! What are the odds? I mean, I know I was trusting my gut with everything, but … WOW! So many things had to line up for that to happen that way!
My friend, The Ninja:  You should find out when his birthday is because I bet…
Me: No. Way. Don’t say it. I know where you’re going with this. That would be too much!

I checked… (Facebook rocks.)

My friend, The Ninja, was right; the Yellow-Shirted Conundrum is a Dragon in the Chinese Zodiac.

I gave a freaking Ninja Dragon to a Dragon just before the Year of the Dragon… the Year of the BLACK Dragon.

O_O

AMAZING, right? Freaking MAGICAL!

I can’t wait to see what magical thing happens next!

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!!

The Gas Company

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Friday night.

I had no plans.

Ok, that’s not true. I had BIG plans.
I had to go to the grocery store.
I had to fill my car with gas.
I had to read more of the “Game of Thrones” sequel: A Clash of Kings.

Like I said, BIG PLANS for my Friday night.

I got caught up at work, though. And found myself leaving at around 7:30pm which had me arriving a mi casa around 7:45pm.
(Why is this important? Because Mami had picked up Abuela at around 4, which means my house had been empty for around 4 hours.)

When I opened the door, the house smelled like someone had been cooking, but cooking something odd.

I shrugged and went to the kitchen to rinse my empty mug of café.

That’s when I smelled it: Gas.

I glanced at the stove. The burner was on, but there was no flame.

Off went the burner. On went the fan. Open went the doors and windows.

I figured I’d just run to the store and then I’d be fine.

My mistake was calling Mami just to double check…
“GET OUT OF THE HOUSE NOW!! CALL THE GAS COMPANY… FROM OUTSIDE!”

Nothing like an over-protective Cuban mother freak-out to bring drama to a Friday night.

I called the Gas Company. They would send someone out, but could not give me a time frame. Awesome.

To the garage I went and practiced my timbales for an hour. And then read. And texted Mami every ten minutes so that she knew I was fine.

At 9:30 Mr. Gas Company shows up.

He was a strange little man. Very nice, but talked a lot. And fast.

He pulled out his gas detection device (I swear it looked like he got it from the movie Ghostbusters) and got to work.

After having me explain what happened, he mentioned that he couldn’t smell gas anymore. I agreed.

Next he had to check behind the stove… which meant we had to pull it out.

It turned out there was a ridiculously tiny leak that had “probably been there for years.”

And he fixed it within 30 seconds. And was all happy that it was a super easy job. His last job for the night and it was so simple.

As we were pushing the stove back into place, Mr. Gas Company noticed the oven bar was loose so he grabbed his screwdriver and tightened it.

Me: Wow! Thank you! It’s been loose for a while, but I only notice when I’m actually USING the oven and it’s too hot to fix.
Mr. Gas Company: I TOLD you I would impress you.

And he explained that the gas I had smelled would not have hurt me, but it was good that I called anyway, if only because it ended his night on a good note. He handed me “An informational pamphlet… I don’t know.”

The man was cracking me up. Definitely an odd bird… I don’t think he had Asperger’s only because he was able to make eye contact, but maybe at his age he had learned to make some eye contact. Who knows?

He thanked me what seemed like a thousand times and left.

6 minutes later, he knocked on my door.
Mr. Gas Company: Sorry to bother you again. I just wanted to let you know that the gas you smelled was natural gas and it just rises and dissipates so just leave a window open for a while and you should be fine. You have nothing to worry about. It’s just natural gas that rises. It rises and then it dissipates.”
Me: So I don’t have to worry about blowing up tonight?
Mr. Gas Company: Shhh. We don’t like to use that word. But really, it just rises and dissipates. Would it be alright if I saw your drum set?
Me: Sure!

So I showed him my timbales and explained how they were Cuban drums. And made a short little sound on them…
Mr. Gas Company: Shhh! I didn’t ask for a demonstration! I don’t want your neighbors to get upset with you on my account! Thank you though. They are very beautiful. Sorry for the imposition! Thank you! Have a great night!
Me: It’s Friday night. I’m sure my neighbors are fine. Thank you, Mr. Gas Company!

Meanwhile, my mother had not stopped texting me.

Her new stove had arrived, but they couldn’t install it yet.

Mami: When was the last time we texted STOVE pictures back and forth?? All good?
Me: RIGHT? Yeap! Aparentamente the gas I smelled wouldn’t hurt me.
Mami: I didn’t think so, but then I’d hate for those to be famous last words. “I don’t think the gas smell will hurt me….” KABOOM! I’m glad it’s over. Also, I’m going to call you KABOOM from now on.

Just another Friday night Kikitiando con KABOOM.

French or Italian?

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No, not food.

Yes, I love both kinds of food, but I am currently thinking about languages.

I have a list of languages I want to know “one day when I grow up.” I forced myself to stop after 10, but I could easily get up to 20.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • English – done
  • Spanish – done
  • French
  • Italian
  • Swahili
  • Portugese
  • German
  • Russian
  • Arabic
  • Hebrew

This list is always in my head. (So are the lists of “things I want to do” and “things I want to learn”, but those are lists for a different day.)

As it is with most of the magic that happens in my life lately, Living Social sent me an email.

Considering that for most Language Courses you’re going to spend AT LEAST $100, but likely more in the neighborhood of $200, this really is an amazing deal. Granted, I have no idea how good the course is, but for $25 there’s not much I could lose. So I’ve decided to just go for it. But what language to learn first? French? Italian?

I posed the question of French or Italian to my friends on Facebook and received an almost unanimous response in favor of Italian. For some reason, though. I was not pleased with that response. Que boberría! What is the point of asking people if I am only going to shirk their responses? Then again, if the goal of asking was to help me determine what I wanted to learn first, then I suppose their opinions are less relevant than my ultimate decision, right? Because, in the end, this is about me.

Come to think of it… considering my theme song for the year, I guess it would stand to reason that I learn French first, no?
No WONDER I am leaning towards French!

Besides, I get the feeling that Italian will be a breeze to learn since it is so close to Spanish. Meaning, I can save it for later.

Ok, it’s decided French… I think.

How To Make Paella

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Way back at the beginning of December, Living Social had a deal for a cooking class at The Wine Artist.

I saw it. Thought about it. Decided it would be more fun with a friend. Realized I couldn’t come up with someone I would want to cook with because that has always been such a special thing for me. I cooked for Kaima. I cooked with O.D. Churroman. I cooked alone. That was it.

So I got on with my day.

Two hours later, my salsa dancing friend (Donna Martinez – whose has one of those names that you have to say her full name… and in quite the nasal tone) sent me an email asking if I would be interested in taking a cooking class with her because Living Social had a great deal. Since I already knew I had wanted to do it, I decided to just go for it. We bought it, booked it for January, and spent the next few weeks talking about how excited we were.

On the day of our class, Donna Martinez updated her Facebook status talking about how excited she was for her cooking class and proceeded to enjoy the ensuing commentary of how amazing she was and how she MUST cook for everyone. It seemed, Donna Martinez forgot to mention that I would be joining her. Of course, that worked to my advantage because then I would not have anyone demanding I cook for them, especially since none of them know that I only cook for special people.

Because Donna’s heritage is Mexican and and I’m Cuban, we decided to take the “Taste of Spain” class where we would learn to make:
Sangría
Spinach & Cheese Empanadas
Gazpacho
And… Paella*.

The Wine Artist is a winery in Lake Forest. (Who knew that Lake Forest had one?) It is a charming little place where they make and bottle their own wine. They even have Wine Bottling Events where you can design your own label, pick your own wine, cork it, slap the label on, and take it home.

It is SO. COOL.

Plus, they have all kinds of cooking classes and there is wine with every class. Yes, you read that correctly. Wine with every class.

I am not the biggest wine drinker, but some of these wines were DELICIOUS!! And I am in love with the idea of creating my own labels.

The first thing the chef/teacher/owner (MJ Hong) did was ask “Red or White?” and pour us all a glass. She explained that she likes to keep the classes between 8-10 people so that the intimate and dinner party feeling isn’t lost. Besides, if you have as much fun as we did with total strangers, how much more fun could be had with a handful of your closest friends?

Everyone got a station and a job. Not that we were assigned jobs it went more like:
I’ll chop the bell peppers!
I’ll cut the fruit**!
I’ll handle the cucumber***!” (yes, of course that was Donna)

Once the sangria was … marinating?

Once the fruit was chopped and in a pitcher soaking up the wine and other alcohols and the gazpacho was chilling, it was time for the empanadas.

MJ explained that a ruler and a pie cutter were the easiest way to cut the dough into a good size for empanadas. She suggested we do triangles because it was easier and didn’t waste any dough, but that if we were going to make more than one kind of empanada (e.g. spinach and cheese, meat, mushrooms) that having one kind as a triangle and another as a half moon would be an easy way to distiguish the two.

Now that the empanadas were baking, we set down to “work” on the paella****.

And while our paella was cooking, we enjoyed our fresh-out-of-the-oven spinach & cheese empanadas and our gazpacho.

Did you know gazpacho can be served with tortilla chips?
I didn’t, but Kevin did.

So, Paella.
Just about the easiest thing ever to make.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup of Olive Oil
  • 4 oz of Boneless Chicken – cubed into small pieces
  • 1 Large Onion – finely chopped
  • 4 oz Chorizo Sausage – crumbled and with the casing removed (or you could go with Traditional Spanish Chorizo and not crumble it)
  • 5 cloves of Garlic (although, we used 10 because I like garlic) – minced
  • 2 Bell Peppers (red or green) – cut into thin strips
  • 3 Tomatoes – seeded and chopped (you could cheat and use canned diced tomatoes if you wanted)
  • 4 cups of Chicken Broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Saffron
  • 2 cups MEDIUM grain rice (uncooked)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Dried Oregano
  • Salt & Pepper – as little or as much as you want
  • 8 oz of Uncooked Shrimp – peeled and deveined (or keep the ends on if you want, but peel them for sure)
  • 1/2 lb of Mussels – cleaned and debearded (or buy them cleaned and open already to save yourself time)
  • Chopped Parsley – for garnish
  • Lemon Wedges – to serve

Contrary to what you may be thinking, you DO NOT need a paella pan.

Does it make it easier? Maybe a little.
Does it look cooler? Sure.

You can make it in a frying pan, just remember that wider is better than deeper. 😉
You want a shallow-ish pan otherwise your rice won’t cook all the way through.
However, if you feel like you really want the Paella Pan in order to score “Cool Points” then don’t worry about spending hundreds of dollars on one. You can find a great pan at Target.com for around $30. OR, if you’re already going to special order the Spanish Chorizo, you could order the exact size paella pan you want from LaTienda.com.

So, how do you make paella?

Simple.

Heat the oil in the pan.
Brown the chicken.
Add the chorizo and onions. Cook for 5 more minutes.
Add the garlic, bell peppers, annd tomatoes. Stir fry for a few more minutes.

Meanwhile…
Heat the chicken broth in a sauce pan and, once heated, add the saffron. (This way, the saffron will color everything a bit more evenly.)

Stir the rice in to the paella pan and sauté for 5 more minutes.
Pour in the broth.
Add turmeric, paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper to suite your taste buds.

Add the shrimp on top.
Add the mussels on top.

Make sure just a bit of broth from the paella gets into the shell so the actual mussel cooks, but it still should be sitting on top of the paella, not drowning in it – you don’t want to take too much of the broth away from the rice.

Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
(Until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.)
The bottom will burn a little. That is the best part. It does not mean you failed.

Top with parsley.
Garnish with lemon wedges.

Serve.

Enjoy.

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*My fascination with paella first occured when I saw a Pinky and the Brain episode where Brain says, “Pinky, are you thinking what I’m thinking?
And Pinky replies, “I think so, Brain, but how are we going to get the Spice Girls into the paella?

**Fruit for the sangria.

***Cucumber for the gazpacho.

****Up until recently, no one could get me to eat anything that came out of the ocean. Up until the night we made paella, I had never had mussel before. Luckily, I’m not allergic. Oh, and I eat seafood now. 🙂