No More Skirting the Issue: The Ride for Roswell Skirt Giveaway

Remember my Ride for Roswell?  Oh, that little 20-mile bike ride for cancer research fundraising?  The ride for which I trained with a shaky first ride and with a few rides full of panache and cycle style?

For which rain did not cooperate sometimes and for which I rode ghetto-unfabulous with a posse of my badass sisters for backup and commiseration?

For which I ate like a beast (sometimes during the actual bike rides)?

Baby Bel and I chomping on hot dogs

And which, of course, I rode with the coolest people on earth–my sisters and friends, not to mention all 8,000 other awesome Ride for Roswell participants?

As official a team photo as we could manage!

The unofficial shot--sisters scream silly Spanish swearwords, as per tradition

Yes, well…  All of that happened almost a month ago and I have been shamelessly neglectful in holding the Ride for Roswell Skirt Giveaway, due to some circumstances within my control (too much household craziness, chasing down some post-ride donations and pledges) and some outside of it (family issues, work craziness, flight delays, etc).

But no more!

I decided to go about this in a thoroughly unscientific way because math hurts my head on a Sunday night (as for the flash, the camera manual for my new DSLR also hurts my head on a Sunday, hence the glare–I’ll learn soon, I promise).  Each donor was allocated a number, which was entered once for every five dollars they donated:

How very scientific!

The numbers were folded up into itty bitty little squares and tossed in a most appropriate vessel–my scratched saucepan:

I know--it's time to replace this with better Teflon

Wherein they were tossed and shaken all about:

Boom shakalaka shake...

Shake it like a pan full of popcorn (go on, sing it to the tune of Outkast's "Hey Ya")

Then stirred for good measure:

The oatmeal spoon sees some night action, ooh la la

Before a winning number was pulled out:

The spoon is as impartial as I am!

Under the watchful eye of Umbi, who was monitoring proceedings for fairness and procedural propriety:

I swear his eyes are under there--and they're SERIOUSLY watchful...

And the winner is…. Kendra!

Woot woot!

Congratulations to the lovely Kendra!  I’ll be getting in touch to get measurements and ask for color/print preferences, etcetera.

I would also like to thank EVERYONE who donated and everyone who wished me well or even gave me and my silly team a thought on Ride for Roswell day.  We couldn’t have done this without you and I can’t wait to do it again next year–33 miles, here I come!

Shhh! Don’t Tell Anyone, But…

Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, but… I think I am a (gulp) clean eater. (And still chillin’ like a villain in Buffalo–I head back to my tropical home tomorrow, fingers crossed.  Just an aside.)

I’m really not the kind of person to categorize what I eat and how.  Yeah, I was vegetarian for three years, but yeah, I gave it up for pork chops in baked beans and chorizo–all in the same day.  I also eat vegan at home 90% of the time, but that’s down to lactose intolerance.  Present me with a steak (or better yet, a piece of pork–I am, after all, a good Puerto Rican girl!) and watch me be your best friend for the rest of the day.

However, a friend was asking me the other day how I eat since I decided to give healthy eating a go (and my old size too-big-for-my-frame pants a miss).  To be honest, I struggled to answer.  The best I could do was, “Well, I don’t eat as much bread as I used to, and I eat lots of vegetables, and… Uh, I don’t know.”

And then she said it:  “So, mostly clean eating!”

And she was right.  Since I’ve replaced the bulk of my intake of bread and rice and pasta with more complex carbohydrates, I’ve felt a million times better.  Ramen noodles and cookies do not make this girl run fast or want to don a bikini (or a carnival costume).  I started to eat less processed food about a year ago now and,  after the initial adjustment–and a vast improvement in my vegetable prep skills–and planning, I just don’t give it a second thought.  Wanna watch me snooze the afternoon away?  Give me a plateful of rice and beans and meaty stew and some plantains and you might just get your wish, now that said meal is no longer a lunch mainstay.

However, I’m not about to start waving a banner about clean eating (because what’s clean for me may still be too processed for others) or categorize myself as such.  I WILL eat hot dogs at family cookouts and I will most certainly partake of my mom’s lemon cake.  If I do this every day, though, I’ll probably spend more time clutching at my disgruntled stomach than telling you about how tasty that hot dog and that cake were.

So yes, my habits have changed.  And, despite my best efforts to eat the way that I eat back in Trinidad while I’ve been in Buffalo, there has been entirely too much of… well, a sweet here and a bagel there and a sandwich with chips at lunch.  This is not about weight (in fact, my clothes are looser since I arrived here six weeks ago)–it’s about bloat in my belly and bounce in my step and a beastly craving for toast at all hours once the two-toasts-for-breakfast line is breached.

Therefore, today’s lunch was a welcome respite from all things wheaty and meaty (and believe me, I’ll take belly blahness for my mom’s and Baby Bel’s cooking any day).  I found myself home alone and with poblano peppers and soft corn tortillas.  Need I tell you what comes next?

Tacos with black beans and green salsa!  Full of vegetable and bean goodness and enough spice that my eye stung like crazy when I accidentally touched it after chopping the pepper.  I present you with today’s saviors, courtesy of Wegmans and Goya:

(I should have shares in Goya.  I probably also should have shares in that most awesome supermarket chain that is Wegmans–but I worked there through college and though it was bearable enough, I’ll give it a pass.)

Into said tortillas (which were warmed on the stove until they were hot and starting to crisp on the sides) went black beans, a handful of lettuce, tomatoes, poblano peppers, a sprinkle of red onion, and a good dose of Wegmans green salsa.  They tasted the way heaven must taste, spicy and crunchy and just oniony enough that I tasted the onion but wouldn’t knock a passerby out from onion breath.

I Tweeted yesterday that the reason I must have missed my flight was to finally watch a movie in peace with my mother.  Don’t tell her, but I think these tacos were the real reason I had to miss my flight.  Karma owed me these suckaz, plain and simple.

In Which I Show You That I’ve Been Wearing Clothes

I have been very remiss in posting outfits during my time in Buffalo.  This morning, I realized that you might even think I’ve been running around in  my altogether–or in clothes for running and Zumba and riding a bicycle.  Frankly, there’s been very little evidence of sartorial sass around here lately, never mind sewing antics (what’s a sewing machine again?).

Well, I can assure you that I have not broken any public decency laws, as I have been FULLY clothed this entire time in Buffalo (except for a bikini sighting at Stonybrook and its beautiful gorges last weekend).  And, not only have I been fully clothed, I’ve also been making the most of having access to the closets of others, namely Baby Bel’s closet.

(Now handing camera over to Baby Bel, who will give picture-taking a worthy shot despite some rather creative, or sloppy, cropping tendencies.)

Exhibit A:

The provenance of this dress is unknown, except for the fact that it came from Baby Bel’s closet.  I think a friend gave it to her, and since it no longer has tags, I don’t have a clue as to the brand.  Or the size.  Or why it is so damn cute and I had never spotted it and thieved it from her before.

Exhibit B:

This dress was found in Baby Bel’s closet.  She acquired it in a nefarious trade with Little A, in which Little A wrangled a much more expensive item of clothing (what it was, I have no idea) in exchange for this dress, which originally came from Target.  I don’t care about the politics and trade negotiations and settlements that went into the agreement; I’m just glad I get to wear it when I visit in the summer.

The funny thing about having sisters–apart from being a collective toilet-paper-sucking unit–is that we all shop at pretty much the same stores .  If Target and Old Navy were as marketing-savvy as they should be, they’d ship us a truckload of their best items each season and have no need for any marketing campaign beyond that.

However, though we often end up buying the same items (and I mean the exact same items!) we manage to wear them differently.  Little A wears her bright tank tops slouchy and oversized; Baby Bel might wear the same one, fitted and layered; Minxy will wear hers fitted and with jeans; and mine will be fitted and tucked into a colorful skirt.  Clothes around this house get as much mileage as I’ve put in on Caribbean Airlines in the last two years.

Sadly, it’s just not the same with shoes.  We wear different sizes (ranging from teeny with Minxy to respectable non-Bigfoot with Baby Bel) and have widely different views on which shoes are “comfortable” and which ones pose the risk of a broken ankle or falling into a manhole.  Case in point:  Little A insisted that I wear a pair of her very high, very strappy, very platformy, very mean-bitch shoes out for dinner a few weeks ago.  In the ten minutes that I wore them and contemplated leaving the house in them, I managed to trip down the stairs, drop a contact lens, snag my dress on the shoe, and create scuffmarks on my mother’s kitchen floor.  You all know what happened after that:  I changed into flats and she rubbed my heel-sporting ineptitude in my face by teetering to and from the restaurant.  Oh, the indignity of it all.

So you may be seeing less of my own clothes and more of theirs in the coming days.  I’ve got just a few days left here, and I’m planning on squeezing out the very best from their closets.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll rock their clothes so well that they’ll feel generous and make a donation to a sister in want.  Here’s to hoping!

Welcome to the Sweatshop

Mamalicious, if you happen to be reading, stop right now and look away–this one’s about you (mostly)!

It has been a literal fashion sweatshop at my house for the last week, with the weekend hitting fever pitch of sewing mania. Did I seem distracted?  Blame it on the sewing.  Did I write lots of typos?  Blame it on the sewing.   Did I eat the most boring food alive?  Blame. It. On. The. Sewing.

There is a reason for this all, though.  As a condition of my six-week sojourn at Chez Mamalicious (the longest since I left home nine years ago–eek!), a list of Laura Must-Do’s has been issued to me.  These conditions include:

  • The almost-daily making of delicious lunches to the satisfaction of Mamalicious’s taste buds and dietary requirements (we’re talking lots of salad here, people)
  • The clearing out and cleaning up of basement and attic (hi, like I didn’t hate cleaning the basement when it flooded with yuckwaters last Christmas!  However, the attic is fair game, since that’s where the material evidence of my pre-Britain and pre-Trinidad life is boxed up–did you know I actually have “good cutlery” up in thurr?  Yeah, I forgot about it too…)
  • The making of a wardrobe for Mamalicious to teach in and leave her students agog at her fashionable adorableness

The first has been tackled appropriately, with a list of good eats for Mamalicious now living in my wallet, ready to be whipped out each time I think of something nice to add to it.  I hope she has a discount with a local funky-lettuce grower because, like I said, Mama and I are eating more (well-embellished) grass than the cows out in the fields this summer.

The second?  Ach.  I’m bringing a bottle of duty-free rum and a bottle of duty-free tequila into Chez Mamalicious to deal with clearing out the basement and attic.  I’m much better (read: reckless) at tossing old junk when I’m intoxicated–in fact, that’s the only way to do this, as far as I’m concerned.

The third?  Well, Mamalicious is getting the wardrobe I would have made myself this summer, had I not been slaving over making it for her.

I’m hooking her up with this skirt:

In these patterns:

She’s also getting a gorgeous shift dress similar to this one (the sleeveless belted one, possibly made A-line in the skirt):

In this beauty of a floral explosion:

And a shirt-dress like my very own beloved Frankensteined dress:

In this enviable navy-and-white abstract floral/blobby print:

With such cute, painstakingly-selected buttons that I almost regret making this for her instead of for me:

She’s also netting a few A-line shift dresses like this one:

In some gorgeous saturated solids–I’m thinking orange, a magenta of some kind, and a green, with fabrics to be procured over the next couple of days.  It’ll be easy sewing to keep busy with while I’m visiting–and she has about a week’s worth of summery work clothes that I’ll have made to tide her over while I work on those for about a week.

She’s got me so busy that I’ve had to forgo reading my guilty-pleasure George Pelecanos crime drama in the interest of getting these  selfish sewing endeavors finished:

Dress turned into skirt, with the help of some nice orange from my curtains (literally snipped off before sewing)

A yet-to-be-finished dress that needs a zipper and a hem

In other words, I’m giving up Dexter and DC crime for my Mama’s dresses.  If that doesn’t earn me free passes to her Zumba class and unlimited use of her bike (to train for my Ride For Roswell), I don’t know what does.  There’d better b a grand reception at the airport, complete with tulips and champagne, for her seamstress.  That’s all I’m saying.

Do you get sucked into any particular tasks when you go home?  Are there things you volunteer to do for the family when you go home to visit?

One thing I will happily and easily provide is a tuna lunch like today’s:

Tuna mixed with spicy mustard, mayo, lime zest, tomatoes, pepper, and black pepper, served on crunchy whole-wheat pita.  We’ll be seeing a lot of this, modeled on her pretty plates!  I can’t wait to use her lovely collection of plates and I’m sure that you can’t wait to see different plates either, so watch this space…

But before that, stay posted for my Core Fusion Sport review tomorrow. If I can move in the morning, that is.

Run? Swim? Both, Please–Because A Girl Can Dream

I am about to explode with excitement!  I have successfully done a double-duty run-and-swim day.  My legs are still attached and happy, I did not fizzle in the water, and I think I can allow myself to dream big now.

The details:

This morning, I questioned going on my scheduled four mile run (love the sound of “scheduled four mile run”–it makes me feel so official and hardcore).  My stomach had been displeased with me the day before, and I had the slightest hint of headache, and the room was hot already at 6 am despite the AC being on high….  You know, garden-variety excuses.

But I strapped on all necessary equipment anyway–knee sleeve, heart rate monitor and chest strap, band-aids in case new sneaks rubbed, i-pod, nike+, ipod holder, safety pins to attach the keys to myself–and headed out the door, not expecting much.

The first mile dragged a bit and, because I knew I had taken it too easy, I thought I’d make myself wait past a mile and a half for my usual walk break, until mile 2 rolled around and I realized I had yet to take a walk break–woot woot!  So I thumbs-upped myself and took a short walk break, and then ran the other half fairly incident- (and walk-) free.

Unlike my last four mile run, once I hit mile three my feet didn’t instantly hurt, nor did my stomach wobble, nor did I start thinking of how great it would be stop.  I actually thought of how great it would be to keep going , if only because I would feel majorly kick-ass and smugly entitled for the rest of the day, both of which are number one reasons for doing stuff as far as I’m concerned.

So, in the end, I ran four miles in 40 minutes, with only two walk breaks.  No mean dogs or dodgy men were spotted, and I lapped twice around the morning garbage truck (take that, Mr. Staring BubbleBelly Driver) and twice around a crew of workers pretending to dig at some plumbing near my street. By the time I got home, I felt like the Queen of My Domain (For Shizzle).

As I was also hip-and-knee-twinge-free and aware that I would not be able to swim on Thursday during lunch (doctor’s appointment), I decided that the day called for a double–that easy swim I didn’t do yesterday was in the cards indeed.

So, armed with my foxy new swimming bikini and a shot glass’s worth of SPF 85 sunblock, I dove into the pool for an easy 20-lap swim.  Which turned into 25 because the water was so nice, and the sunblock so effective, and I felt so shockingly OK after the run and the first twenty laps.

Which makes me think that my semi-secret goals of doing a half-marathon and a triathlon in the coming year may not be so unattainable after all.

The half-marathon “tease” goal has been on my mind since my visit to Puerto Rico.  You see, I have a wonderful jolly uncle:

That's my tio in the rooster mask!

He recently walked a VERY fast 10K race.  Not a big deal for many, but this wonderful uncle of mine has a tracheotomy from a bout of throat cancer he fought through about twelve years ago, and has lost about 100 pounds in the last year after a serious lifestyle overhaul resulting from a diabetes-hospitalization scare, AND did all of this after having dealt for years with excruciating back pain from a very badass motorcycle accident in his early twenties.

Said wonderful uncle of my heart just had laparoscopic surgery on his knee for a meniscus-related injury, but I caught him coming off the 10K race high last week.  He told me excitedly that, if his knee allows, he will be walking (or walking-running) the NY Half-Marathon in April 2011.  I was floored.  I tried to pretend I wasn’t teary so I wouldn’t appear wimpy in the presence of the uncle who was about to give me some VERY good, big-girl-style whisky–and then I vowed to him that, if he could get himself and his knees to NYC for it, so would I.  We shook on it and had a glass of the aforementioned whisky to seal the deal.

So that’s my secret half-marathon teaser goal.  I REALLY hope he can do it, and I’m petrified of training for it if we end up going for it. But fear not, my friends.  I’ll do it, even if my knee falls off afterwards and I end up confined to my couch (with bonbons and Maury Povich, for weeks afterwards) because I’d do anything for this crazy uncle of mine, and because my dad would have wanted us to do a crazy thing like this, and because I’m guaranteed a great glass of whisky at the finish line and a slammin’ night out in NYC with him afterwards.

Let’s just cross our fingers the Family Knee Issues are resolved so we can both get our NYC glory….

In other news, this time of a sartorial nature, I brought back the yellow:

Apologies for dark shots--it was dark by the time I got home and around to taking these


Which is now shockingly close to my year-and-a-half-in-Trinidad skin tone.  If only I could get cosmetics labeled “mustard” rather than olive, no?  Whatever–I take great pride in my ability to be described in terms of condiments.

As for food round these parts, I had the standard banana oatmeal (with coconut today–how very daring, eh? not) for breakfast, as well as an aloo pie (fried dough with spiced potatoes and topped with pepper sauce, curried chickpeas, and mango chutney) which was given to me at a meeting.  I seem to lack all feminine genetics when it comes to ice cream and chocolate (as in, I could swear them off for life without caring less), but when it comes to hot, spicy, tangy, fried stuff…  All I can say is I hope I come back as a sumo wrestler in my next life so I can eat these to my heart’s content, but since a sumo wrestler next life isn’t a sure thing, I’ll indulge wherever possible in this  one (and I’ll do it so greedily I’ll forget to take a picture, too).

For lunch, I had the second batch of my black bean, lettuce, tomato, green peppers, cucumber, and green onion salad, topped with homemade mango dressing.  The light was awful for pictures when I ate, but you can check out yesterday’s version if you want to see the real deal at its best.

As for dinner, the late afternoon errand of picking up The Smurf from the straightener (where they removed all the horrid scratches, bumps, and dents!) made for a hurried dinner-time.  What would have been lentil soup and pita pizzas turned into pasta with bottled sauce courtesy of Matouk, topped with baked breaded eggplant and fresh basil:

My peeps, the workouts have totally squashed my energy level.  I have crashed.  I will crash (into my bed).  I’ll be back tomorrow!

A Lapsed Catholic Throwback

Note:  I hope this post does not offend any Catholics, practicing or lapsed or otherwise. This is my own tongue-in-cheek account and completely separate from the religion in and of itself, which like all others I duly respect.

Ash Wednesday this year was a really strange day for me.  I was aware of it only because, if you get into celebrating Carnival, you will invariably feel like a truck rolled over you on Ash Wednesday–and you will invariably reconsider your relationship to higher powers/God if they can soothe your broken-down hip flexors and sad crampy calves and fill the void left in your life by the Carnival preparations. (Note that the naughtiness of wining on trucks, cars, and contraptions does not need to figure into this particular intercession session–that’s between you, your conscience, and your washing machine).

Though my immediate family is of the relaxed, chill, ever-accepting Episcopalian kind, and I am of the there-must-be-a-reason-for-everything-otherwise-how-else-am-I-to-explain-what’s-become-of-me-and-where-I-am persuasion, I had a beautifully idyllic dalliance with Catholicism in my youth.  And I mean youth:  between the ages of 8 and 10, I attended an all-girls, nun-run Catholic school in Seville, Spain.

When I jump, I jump headfirst and hard.  So it should come as no surprise that your girl here put the same rigor and effort into being a model young Catholic girl that she put into being a model Carnival diva.  When my parents wheedled the nuns into letting us attend their very prestigious school for the daughters of the classy, pious, and rich of Seville, little did they know that Little Laura was going to absorb Catholicism like a sponge.

And how could I not?  I was going to be taught by REAL NUNS, with REAL habits, who lived on the grounds and did their grocery shopping in pink and yellow Vespas that they drove faster than anyone else, surely convinced that their habits marked them to other drivers as being of God (and therefore, as far as traffic was concerned, like the police and firetrucks–to be let through and not run over).

From the beginning, I loved the fact that there were so many rules and injunctions.  If you are going to have a religion, at least put 1,000% effort into it and make people feel like they have to work at it, no? Especially when the rules were so many and so strict that it was impossible not to break them.  I felt put-upon, and pious, and more-than-slightly better than other kids for having so many limits from Him Up Thurr.  What did the other kids know, running around chucking balls and rocks at each another, peeing behind the bushes in the park and throwing tantrums at their moms in the supermarket?  God saw everything, I was forbidden from doing any of that (though where is the Biblical injunction against peeing in the park bushes?  never found it), and I was clearly MUCH better than them for not making God, Jesus, and the poor ever-weeping Virgin Mary cry more on my account.

And oh, the rules, rules everywhere… Our skirts were not to be shorter than our knees, and the school’s designated uniform seamstresses knew that so they made them extra long, which invariably led to all the girls rolling them up and getting great delight in getting past the nuns:  get through front door, roll once; get past nun in the schoolyard, roll again; get past the nun at the stairs up to the classroom, give your skirt a final roll.  Voila!  Short skirts for none to see or care, except for God, but a confession-worthy infraction committed.  Score!

Why score?  Because one of the best parts of Laura Catholicism circa 1988 was confession.  I loved the fact that you were supposed to have something to confess, and to assume that you didn’t meant that you were either a) lying, or b) thought too highly of yourself.  I didn’t want to be a liar or think too highly of myself, so I purposely did things for which I’d need to confess.  No biggies, mind you:  usually it was thinking that Little A was annoying enough times for it to count as a sin, or telling her I saw a spider just to freak her out, or just taking the better Ken doll and saying so to her.  You know, harmless stuff, but just enough to have some good confession material.

When confession time came, holy be–I was in smug nine-year-old heaven.  I knew that I had enough to confess to make God happy(but that it was not as bad as peeing in the bushes), that I’d get to talk to an actual male specimen even if it was a priest (other than my father, or the two boys downstairs–going to an all-girls school makes you hyper-aware of interactions with the opposite sex), that I’d have the slate wiped squeaky-clean, AND that I’d get to eat a yummy papery wafer to boot.  What is not to like?

Apart from the rituals pertaining to me on a daily basis, there were rituals that came once a year.  During Holy Week in Seville, the city would be bursting at the seams with tourists and Spanish folk who’d come to see the religious processions parade through the streets, inching and worming their way through their devotion to the Cathedral.  If you were a good Catholic woman, you’d wear all black (so grown up and glamorous) with a peineta and mantilla (black lace veil arranged over a huge headcomb contraption to hold it upright on your head, creating a headpiece-like arrangement), and would get to spend all week dressed thusly, following the processions in your high heels and dramatically shaking your head at the suffering of our Lord–and at the impudent impious hussies who came out in jeans and flats to witness the spectacle.

Needless to say, I was ALL OVER THAT, and was all googly-eyed admiration when my mother (Episcopalian interloper!  Go Spy Mami go!) would don her black garb and rock it like the Sevillanas on the street.  Right then and there, I knew that, if my future as a Catholic included that level of glamour, I had picked the right religion–nay, I was one of the chosen ones, lucky enough to someday shake my head and dab my eyes gently with a black hanky for all the city to see.

As if such a ritualized and sartorially-influenced take on Catholicism wasn’t enough for my eight-year-old self to go all Vatican, there was the culmination of my year:  Good Friday dinner.  Was I Cuban in a past life (and doesn’t that demonstrate my lapsedness)? Clearly so, because I could eat black beans and rice three times a day for the rest of my days, even back then.  In Spain, my mom struggled to find the black beans for this, the delicacy of my soul, but she made an extra effort and always found them for Good Friday, stewing them up and serving them with her codfish salad, hardboiled egg and cruet of extra-virgin olive oil on the side.  I would pray that I’d forgo meat all week long, all year long, if only my mom would make this every Friday.  Clearly, neither the supermarkets nor my mom had a direct linkup with God on that one–beans were hard to find and my mom couldn’t be induced to look through hell and damnation to find them each week.

But that was another great thing about Catholicism as I saw it:  your prayers would not always be answered.  Therefore, you had to persevere, and pray hard, and keep confessing (and doing stuff to confess) if you were to get a one-on-one audience with the Big One.  And this made smug little Laura very happy indeed.

Much like any other crazy fervor, this all died down when I moved to Puerto Rico after those three years in Spain and saw that normal children did not act thusly for the sake of papery wafers.  The Bible went away and was replaced by Babysitter’s Club books, the skirts were made short and needed no rolling, and my mom didn’t wear her mantilla and peineta anymore.  But oh, those black beans and that codfish salad….  They remain the only vestige of my great Catholic days, and are completely  non-negotiable on Good Friday.

So, 38 days from now, you know what I’ll be eating.


But I’m not eating it yet.  Instead, I’m having scrambled eggs with ham and toast with guava jelly:

A salad (oh, how I missed these  earlier in the week, despite the delicious Trini fried food parade) with red kidney beans, peppers, tomatoes, green onion, lettuce, and a cumin-mustard-hot sauce vinaigrette:

And that British stalwart of comfort food for the tired (or overly affected by Carnival heartbreak and grease), a baked potato with tuna salad and a green salad on the side:

When I first saw someone eating that on my second day in England, I almost hurled, but I got over it and ate my fair share (and then some) in the subsequent four years there.

Happy Friday night, peeps!  Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do…

Back to Reality

My dear blog peeps, I’m so sorry to have left y’all abandoned and alone for so many days!  I hope you will find it in your gracious hearts to forgive me, or at least pity me for what the last week of my Christmas break turned into…

So, about that last week.  It could be summed up thusly:  stank sewer water cleanup, snow, and sickitude, all of the first degree.

The Stank Sewer Water Cleanup

Remember the disgraceful mess outside my mother’s house caused by the digging for a clog in the pipe outside?  Well, what I may not have noted was that the flood in the basement was two inches high in some places, and that the water was backed-up drained water from household use, which included sink water, bathwater, and….  the rest I leave to your imagination.  The plumbers who came managed to drain the water away, but of course they were not responsible for cleaning up the rest of the mess, their sole job being to dig up the entirety of my mom’s lawn and remove the clog.  Obviously.

So, last Wednesday (the day before New Year’s Eve), after attending the wake for Juan Diego’s grandfather (JD being Baby Bel’s wonderful, nutty, and mega-tall boyfriend) who sadly died a few days after Christmas, Baby Bel and I dressed in our mankiest clothes, screwed up our courage, blasted some music, and cleaned out the basement (well, most of it–we left a closet for the boys to have their own nasty cleaning experience).  We stuffed garbage bags with all the junk that had been stored on the floor and threw away half the contents of the basement.  We tossed toys that made it from my 80’s childhood into her 90’s one and joked that our childhoods had been washed away by the sewer water and sang loudly any time we were tempted to puke at the nastiness of the basement.  We doused the floors with ammonia and rinsed and mopped, times three or four.  We did a damn good job and finished in about two hours, which was as long as we could stand the ammonia and stinkwater fumes without fainting, and I’m sure we both dreamed of that foul basement.

The whole disgusting experience served to further strengthen my stance on home ownership:  no thanks.  I’d rather be very Continental and rent for the rest of my days–because if MY basement ever flooded, I’d pick up my scant belongings and move.

The Snow

I lived in Buffalo for plenty enough years to accept that yes, it snows.  But this time, the snow came with extremely cold temperatures–I’m talking a day-time high of 11 F on one particular joy of a winter day.  Not only did it snow every day for that last week, but the skies were 3 pm-dark ALL DAY LONG.  So there were no nice winter walks for coffee and bookstore fun, no ice-skating, no park runs, no nothing.  The family and I just huddled, shivered, and froze.

The Sickitude

As if seeing her basement provide a display of dirty waterworks weren’t enough, my mother spent the last week of my visit in a fog of flu with a helping of ear infection.  She’s a tough one and generally powers through anything, but this thing knocked her out and she spent the week in bed, tossing and turning and looking extremely pitiful.  Though she tried to keep us all far away, we still tended to her like dutiful daughters.

Unfortunately, some of her germs must have drifted my way and, combined with the germery that was the basement cleanup job, they did a number on me too.  On New Year’s Eve I woke up with the worst stomachache I’d ever had and some nasty flu-like symptoms as well.  To make matters worse, I had been the back-up hostess for New Year’s celebrations (given my mom’s state) and I had to back out of making dinner and merriness for the family and friends that night, which was extremely upsetting to me (yeah, I love my family and friends, but I also love hosting like an adult with grown-up china and sufficient cutlery).

Luckily, the stomach pains subsided long enough for me to get showered and dressed on New Year’s Eve and I managed to join the sisters, sister boyfriends, and a couple of sister friends downstairs, where I presided over kindly muted festivities from underneath the blankets on my sick couch.  I toasted the New Year with a tiny sip of champagne, threw water out over my shoulder on the porch to get rid of my bad luck (Puerto Rican tradition) right afterwards, went upstairs with the elephant-stampeding sisters and fam to wish my mother Happy New Year’s from six feet away, and then fell asleep while the Wii party went on around me.

After that, it was two more days before I felt normal, and I didn’t actually make it out of the house in a unmedicated state until Sunday.  I did, however, make Mr. Laura drag me out to my favorite bookstore on Saturday afternoon–sometimes you have to risk vomit and subsequent embarrassment for books, and no way was I letting this bug stop me from stocking up on good reads for the next six months in Trinidad.

But, apart from that (ha!), the visit home was an overall score!  Here are some pictures of the rest of the visit, from New Year’s Eve on, just to prove my point:

New Year's Eve family time, the photo taken from my sick couch--Miggi, Little A, The Mop, and Baby Bel joke it up

Minxy, Baby Bel, and yours truly, wearing masks before sitting with Sick Mama, as per her request the day she insisted she had "the H1N1, oy"

Minxy, Little A, Baby Bel and her Juan Diego--this is what happens when my family gets together to watch movies

Italian sausage and peppers pasta, courtesy of Baby Bel's cooking chops

Little A and Baby Bel enjoying snacks during a Flight of the Conchords marathon

The snow, the snow, the snow...

"Our" dog (borrowed from next door), the massively fat Bella

Hamming with Mamalicious and Little A before jumping on my jet plane

On a zen-like and very un-Laura tip, I feel ridiculously proud of myself for good behavior  on this break, despite the circumstances.  To wit:

  • I did not revert to the competitive-eating antics of yore.
  • I ran AND did strength training five times in the first week-ish (before disaster hit), and even had a 5K PR of 31:40!
  • I did not stress out, mini-mom-style, about much of anything this time around.   Being an older sister (and by a lot to the youngest two), my visits home tends to bring out a people-organizing, big-pots-of-food-making, stressy-and-naggy-and lectur-y side of me that I really hate, because I’m not like that in my day-to-day life.  I used to feel very old and very uncool after visits home because I would fall into that behavior and then beat myself up for it afterwards (your chica has guilt complexes that would make a good Catholic marvel).  I had resolved I would NOT revert to this me this time.  And surprise surprise,  I didn’t, and we still ate and came and went and had a great time–a better time, dare I say, for it.
  • I didn’t sob at the airport for the two hours between parting with the fam and getting on the flight, which is my usual MO.  (I did, however, cry three times on Monday before heading to the airport, so it may have been that I was out of tears).  This is a serious accomplishment because I am a HUGE weeper when I leave home and it’s a source of great amusement to my family.  Yes, I’ve lived away from home (and mostly out of the US) for eight years now, and I still cry like a five year old, snotfully and needing plenty of tissues, every single time I leave.  Whatever, I’m not ashamed–and they DO say that crying (or not bottling it up) keeps you young.
  • My suitcases were packed but not overweight, despite undertaking my usual twice-yearly-when-at-home shopping binge.

So that’s my visit home.


And, after an uneventful but tiring red-eye flight back to Trinidad on Monday night, I made it to my humble abode yesterday morning, unpacked my stuff, and have restarted my campaign to be favorite owner to the dog and a good blogger worthy of your reading exertions.  Regular outfit/dinner/etc. blogging will resume after this post, once I dust off the mirror and plate cobwebs–and get Mr. Laura to fix our laptop’s internet-getting card whatchamacallit, which has refused to connect to the internet since we poked and prodded at its security settings to get wifi access at JFK airport on Monday.