Tag Archives: Kikita

Life as a Rockstar

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I know plenty of musicians. There is only one or two that I would ever refer to as rockstars, but that is beside the point.

I think a huge part of being a rockstar is about your attitude, how you carry yourself, and how you present yourself.

I never considered myself a rockstar… until recently. I was much better at being a groupie. I made the best groupie. I was that girl you loved to have at your show because it was so obvious how much I loved the music. Musicians love their music and so they love it when someone else loves their music.

Some musicians hide their true-selves under a facade of deep thoughts. These are not rockstars. These are tortured artists.

One can be an artist and a rockstar, but you don’t have to be a rockstar to be an artist. (In fact, there are plenty of rockstars that are NOT artists, but I won’t name any names here.)

Rockstars have a quiet confidence about them. They KNOW they are awesome and, more often than not, can be seen enjoying the music they are making just as much as the audience. They also know how to connect and engage with their audience in ways that the tortured artists are sometimes too afraid (or too distracted by their own music) to do.

My friend, Michael Pancier, is a different kind of artist; he’s a photographer (Yes, of course, he’s a musician, too.) and was kind enough to take me on a photoshoot while I was in Miami.

He made me feel like a rockstar shooting  an album cover.

Here are some of my favorite shots from our shoot. (The ones that I think best capture me… or just make me look like the bad ass timbalera that I am now. 😉 )

(Seriously, doesn’t this one look like an album cover?)

And here are my two absolute favorites:

The Dentist

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I was at work translating a benefit summary (the list of medical/dental/vision procedures covered by one’s insurance) and I came across a word that I had NO IDEA how to say in Spanish.

Root Canal.

So I checked a few online translators, but I was fairly certain that “endodoncia” wasn’t quite specific enough for what I wanted.

I asked a Spanish-speaking co-worker. He didn’t know either.
I asked the people in our call center. They didn’t know.

I became determined to find out the word.

I remembered that O.D. Churroman had a cousin who was a dentist so she MUST know. Yet another reason to be bummed that he was still not speaking to me.

LIGHTBULB!

That one Colombian friend of mine that I casually blew off all of last year because I wanted to stay just friends! He was a dentist! Perfect!

I called.

(The following conversation took place in Spanish, but has been translated for the non-Spanish readers.)

The Dentist: Alo?
Me: Hey, chico! How are you?
The Dentist: Hey! Kikita la Cubanita! It’s been a while! Where have you been?
Me: I know! I’ve been working. Speaking of work, I have a question… how do you say “root canal” in Spanish?
The Dentist: Transamiento de conducto.
Me:  Perfect! Thank you so much!
The Dentist: When am I going to see you again?
Me: … soon!
The Dentist: Monday?
Me: I have plans.
The Dentist: Thursday?
Me: I have drums.
The Dentist: 2013?
Me: Sounds great!

When you love what you do, you’ll go that extra mile. 🙂

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. 🙂

Kikita on New Year’s Resolutions

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No.

Why?

What was so bad about last year that needs resolving? (Don’t answer that.)

In my opinion, here are the problems with New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Looking back… You base your resolutions on things you don’t like about the year before. Admirable, but how is focusing on the negatives from the year before going to help you be positive in the new year?
2. It’s a set up! You give yourself such high things to aspire to and will only hate yourself more when you can’t acheive them.
3. Who can remember that much? Let’s say you keep your list short and only make 3-5 resolutions. Life happens, will you remember all of those things in 6 months?

Who wants this kind of pressure? Not Kikita,  I can tell you that much.

“But, Kikita! don’t you have goals? Or some way to differentiate between one year and the next? How can you not make resolutions?!?”

Yes, I do.

It’s called “One Little Word.

I learned it from Ali Edwards*.

“And what do you do with this one little word? You live with it. You invite it into you life. You let it speak to you. You might even follow where it leads. There are so many possibilities.” ~ Ali Edwards

You pick a word and it becomes a sort of mantra. It is your answer to everything. A sort of mantra. It can be something you want to be more of, something you want to be less of, something you used to be and want to get back to.

Last year my word was AMAZING, but I told everyone else my word was YES. (I was feel rather saucy the day someone asked.)

So really, I had two words…. *shrug*
It’s a Gemini thing.

How can you fail yourself with just a word?
You can’t.
So you’re already setting yourself up for success.

Besides, if you say something enough to yourself, eventually you’ll believe it.
This may be hard to fathom, but there was a time when I did not find myself amazing. O_O
Now? Just about everyone I know finds me amazing. (Some more than others.)
In fact, it is almost annoying how amazed some people are by me.
And I am amazing because I chose to be. Not because I was trying to resolve something from the year before.

And one (or, as in my case, two) word is a whole lot easier to remember than a list of things like “Go to the gym more.”

So maybe I need to pick two words again for this year… and you know what’s great? You can keep your words from last year if you’d like.
I KNOW I will have amazing moments this year.

The words I’ve chosen for 2012 are…

BRAVE: Bold, Intrepid, Daring, Dauntless, Heroic. BRAVE, courageous, valiant, fearless, gallant  refer to confident bearing in the face of difficulties or dangers. BRAVE is the most comprehensive: it is especially used of that confident fortitude or daring that actively faces and endures anything threatening.

SHINE: Glow, Glisten, Glimmer, Sparkle, Shimmer

I’m sure some people might think that I already am these things, but I want to really focus on them this year.
I want to have adventures.
And I believe that every day life can be an adventure if you let it.

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*Ok, Mami learned it from Ali Edwards and shared the idea. I read up on it, tried it last year, and loved it.

 

Creepy Work Guy Asks Me Out

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I genuinely believe he is lacking in social skills. That there is something wrong with the way his brain works and that is what adds to his creepiness.

He carries a Batman lunchbox and has somehow made it UN-cool. It takes real talent to make something that is always cool UN-cool. He has that talent.

I have caught him staring at me. With a creepy look on his face.

One day, while making my afternoon café cubano…
Creepy Guy: Kiki, how much time do you spend making coffee every day?
Me: … Would you like to try some?
Creepy Guy: Ok! I was going to ask you to get a drink with me sometime after work, but now we can just have a drink here!
To Myself: *shudder* Thank GOD I didn’t have to deal with that.
Me: HA!

Another time…
Creepy Guy: I love that dress. Did you wear it just for me? Green and black are my two favorite colors.
To Myself: I’m burning this dress the minute I get home.
Me: …
(I really didn’t know what to say.)

And Another time…
Creepy Guy: Hi Kiki! I love your hair like that!
To Myself: I’m shaving it all off the minute I get home.
Me: Thanks.

Last Friday…
Creepy Guy: Nicole! Come here, I want you to witness this. Kiki, will you be my date for the Christmas Ball?
Me: No. *pause* My boyfriend wouldn’t like it.
Creepy Guy: Boyfriend? I heard you were SUPER single.
Nicole: Boyfriend? Really?
Me: Ok, no boyfriend, but no, thank you.
To Myself: Super Single and Super Not Interested. And now I have to find  damned date to this party.

Lighting My Way

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The past week or so, I haven’t been able to get thoughts and feelings about my trip to Cuba out of my head.

And last night, on the drive home from the AMAZING Straight No Chaser concert, I was looking at the streetlights and it hit my like a ton of bricks: my abuelo, Papi, died on December 11, 1999. It hit me as if I was hearing the news for the first time instead of just remembering it 12 years later. Ok, maybe not THAT hard. I did cry when I finally got home, but I didn’t weep. And then I had a fresh sense of loss when I wished I could talk to him about Cuba and what’s happening there now and what he thinks.

All that thinking and remembering kept bringing up a post I wrote shortly after I got back.

So here is the post that has been in my head all day. The orginal can be found HERE and the rest of the stories from my trip can be found HERE.

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As I said before I left for Cuba, I went with no expectations. I went with an open heart and an open mind. I went with a mission. And I accomplished it. But what I didn’t expect (literally) was to find Papi everywhere I went.

If I am going to be perfectly honest, I DID think that I would feel SOMETHING when I got that first glimpse of Cuba out of the plane window…

But I didn’t.

On the way to Tio Timbiriche’s house my eyes were more like saucers; I was just taking everything in.

After my primo and I rented a car, the real adventure began. I didn’t have time to think. I just kept soaking everything in. There was one thought pressing on my mind though as I stood looking out at the Malecón and El Morro: Papi.

My abuelo, Papi, was an Electrical Engineer and he was out working on the lights for the Malecón when he and his crew were arrested, jailed, and some of them were killed the next morning. By some miracle, Papi was released. He left his homeland with the plan of being gone a few months and ended up never returning, until I brought him. I couldn’t help but have a surge of pride that the lights Papi put up where still there.

I begged my cousin to bring me back when they were lit, and he did. I felt the internal click I had been waiting for. The warm lights gave me a sense of comfort and even a hope for the future of a coutry that is in so much turmoil and disarray.

After I accomplished my mission, I thought that would be the end of the Papi chapter of my trip, but that was not the case. Ask anyone who has made the trip from Havana to Varadero and they will tell you to do it in the daytime because it is one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. That had been my plan, but in the true spirit of embracing the moments as they came to me and in an orchestration of events that I think could only have come about through Divine Intervention, the sun had set by the time we reached the city limits of Havana and the street lights had been lit.

I had always known about Papi’s lighting the Malecón, but it was all I’d ever known about his projects in Cuba. While I was marvelling at the uniqueness of the street lights, my cousin turned to me and told me that Papi had done those too. I had been marvelling at my abuelo and he was the one who was lighting the initial steps of my way to Varadero.

The plan had been to return from Varadero in the late afternoon of the next day. It didn’t happen. We didn’t leave Varadero until it was dark which meant we came home to Papi’s lights. I can’t even remember what ridiculous reason had us pulling over, but my cousin (who had no idea how much I was being affected by the lights) had stopped the car in the perfect place under one of Papi’s works of art.

I saw and did an incredible amount of things in a short amount of time. I traversed three provinces in three days. I couldn’t entirely comprehend why I was never too afraid, but I think it might have something to do with Papi being with me the whole time . . . lighting my way.

Kikita & The Mechanical Bull

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During Employee Appreciation Month at work (SEE: September) there had been a dinner trip scheduled to visit the famous Saddle Ranch Chop House in L.A., but it had to be postponed because we were all too busy working to be appreciated. 😉

Towards the end of October, it was announced that the new date would be December 8th.

There was a catch (or an added bonus, depending on who you are). We were going to the taping of “Let’s Make a Deal” and only AFTER would we go have dinner at Saddle Ranch.

Great.

I had no real desire to be on a game show, but shrugged it off, got in the spirit, dressed like a gypsy, and made it happen.

Because I REALLY wanted to go to the chop house. I’d heard the food was delicious, but what I was really looking forward to was a mechanical bull ride. I’d never done it and had always wanted to. And I did, it true Kikitiando style. You might go so far as to say that I … (please forgive this pun) … “grabbed the bull by the horns” and went for it…

http://youtu.be/1ePiXosjFGA

And FAILED.

ROYALLY.

In fact, what I did was make failing cool.

THAT is how one fails while Kikitiando.