Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Waiting for Abuelita!

My mum or abuelita as she is known around here is coming to visit for Spring Break and Easter. The kids cannot wait to see her and neither can I! I love having my mum here, I feel like a little kid again. She cooks for us all my favorite childhood dishes and she loves to play with the kids, but must important of all is that she speaks Spanish to them.

The kids have been practicing their Spanish more than ever without complaining. It is great! All because they know abuelita is coming and we are trying very hard to speak to her in Spanish - my son is also very eager to teach her English.

Abuelita's English is not too bad, she can defend herself out there. However, sometimes she switches between languages without realizing, it is quite funny really.

One day we were in NYC waiting to cross the road. My mum kept telling me how she was so much better at English. A Mexican family approached the corner where we were waiting for the lights. They were having a nice conversation. The light went green and we crossed the road alongside the family. On the other side we went our separate ways. When they were a little far away, my mother said: "See, I DO speak English, I understood every single word that family was saying, every single word!!!" To that, I could not stop laughing and replied to  my mum: " Mum I am sure your English is great, but that family was talking in Spanish!"

Another time, we were in Scotland on vacation and we were in a store and wanted to claim our tax free goods. She kept asking the store employees: "where are the free taxis?" to which they politely replied: "Madam, in this country taxis are not free, you need to pay for them"

I could go on and on about my mother's journey with the English Language. She has been studying it forever, she has never given up - I am very proud. Now we have a deal, my son will teach her a little English and she will teach him Spanish!

It is amazing, but my kids suddenly remember all their lessons while she is here. They do for her all they do not do for me - and that is OK. It is my little reassurance that I am doing the right thing by sending them to Language Stars every week. Because truly that is why I am doing it, so they can speak to the most wonderful abuelita in the entire world (I am not bias off course :) )

Disclosure: I will receive discounted tuition from Language Stars as compensation for this post. However all facts and opinions expressed in this post are true and my own. Language Stars have not asked me to write about anything in particular, only my true and honest opinion about my experience with their program.  This post have not been edited by a third person.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I have lost 40 pounds with the Dukan Diet!!! More to come...


You have all been asking for a before and after for a while and I have not been brave enough. But today I reached a major milestone: I am officially over 40 pounds lighter than when I started this journey! I still have ways to go to reach my goal but I could not ignore this achievement!!

When I started on the Dukan diet I had 3 milestones in mind. The first one was to get to the weight I was before I got pregnant with my first kid. The second was to get to the weight I was when I moved to the US and the third to get to the weight I was back at home in Venezuela when I was at college.

I am happy to announce that the first milestone is done. I past it at around the 38 pounds loss mark. I am now working towards the second goal.

In terms of stats I will let you know what the 40 pounds mean to me - I have lost:

  • Over 16 inches overall
  • 4 dress sizes
So far these are some of the things I like about being thinner:
  • I have more energy and rediscovered my passion for dancing - not being the fattest one at the gym helps!
  • I love wearing my nice, smart clothes to work again - no  more elastic pants and over sized t-shirts
  • Being able to wear skirts and not have big legs to show
  • Husband certainly paying more compliments recently
I will give you another update in about 10 pounds!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dukan Diet: Oat Bran Oven Baked Bread Recipe

This bread have been one of my saviors during this diet. It tastes delicious and you truly would not think you are eating anything other than a nice piece of bread. The Dukan diet book has a similar recipe but it is made in the microwave, and if you know me by now, you know I like to cook. Microwave bread is SO NOT for me. So I tried several recipes from online sources and tweak some things here and there and came up with this. I hope you like it.

Ingredients: Makes 8 servings
  • 10 tablespoons of oat bran (3/4 cup)
  • 10 tablespoons of wheat bran (3/4 cup)
  • 5 tablespoons of flaxseed meal
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons of fat free greek yogurt
  • 1 packet of fast rise yeast
  • 5 tablespoons of warm water (110F - 117F)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Stevia (optional)
  • 5 tablespoons of powdered milk (non fat)
  • PAM cooking spray
  • Damp cloth towel

Prepare the yeast by diluting the yeast packet and the stevia in the warm water (if youdo not want to use Stevia put 1 tbsp of yogurt in the water) - make sure the water is not too hot or you will kill the yeast and not to cold either or it will not rise. Put your finger in the water, it should be nice a warm, you should not get burn. Set the yeast aside - you will see it bubbling up.

Mix all the egg whites until the form peaks. Set aside.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Mix the yogurt and the egg yolks into the egg whites.

Carefully fold in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Spray a bread pan with PAM and pour the bread mixture in it. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 2 hours.

Remove the towel - the bread will rise a little (I had not been able to make it rise like normal bread yet - but I will keep trying! and keep changing this recipe until it is perfect! so keep checking) Put the bread in a hot oven (400F) for about 30-45 minutes. Check for doneness with knife after 30 minutes - insert in the middle and pull it out, if it is clean it is done! Let it cool in rack.

Cut it in 8 portions. You can eat right away and freeze the rest for later. Remember you are only allowed 1 piece a day.

If you want to buy some of the ingredients in bulk (as you will need them often for your daily bread!!) Here are some places I found for you. Click in the image for details:

I also found some cool bread pans!

When I am 60 years old...

I was talking to a friend this week and amongst other things we chatted about my decision to work reduced hours at the office even though I am the only bread winner in my household and that financially and career wise there was an impact to my decision. I told her how I used my 60 year old technique and that after that there was no doubt on my mind that I have taken the right decision.
I am sharing this with you today as I think that this is quite valuable. We make decisions that impact our lives every day, no matter how young or old we are. What to study at College? and Should I marry him? are not the most important decisions in our lives, the things we decide to do or not to do every day can also affect our future and our family’s future.
So here it is, the 60 year old technique!
Sit down or lie down some place comfortable where you know you will not be disturbed for a while, have a glass of wine if you wish (highly recommended). Close your eyes and imagine that you are waking up tomorrow and you are 60 years old, you are now looking back at your life as it is right now and if it would have continued to be exactly the same for as many years as it takes you to turn 60. Your kids will be grown up by now. Now ask yourself and honestly answer all of these questions:
·         Are you happy?
·         Are your kids, husband, family happy?
·         What are your kids saying about you?
o   In my case I was trying to decide whether to stay more time at home with them vs. continuing to work full time – so my questions were:
o   Are my kids saying?:
My mum is a very successful VP but I never got to see her much
My mum was always with me at every event and every single party but did not do much with her own life
My mum is successful and have a nice job but she was with us as much as she could, she missed some stuff but was always there for the important ones
·         Are you proud of what you see?
·         Are you or your children saying something that you regret, something you wish you could have changed?
This is a very powerful exercise, you may see things you do not like and things you love. Hopefully what you see can help you on your decision making process. However, please remember that there are no right or wrong answers. The same answer could be great for somebody and awful for others. It is all about you and what is right for you and your family. This is just a way to help you make a decision.
I know sometimes we have no choices, but if you are one of the lucky people that do have choices, give it a go, you have nothing to lose, and a glass of wine is always a good thing to have!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to make a Gymnastics Cake

This year my baby girl asked me for a gymnastic cake. She is truly getting into the sport and doing pretty well so we did the gymnastic party and off course I made her a cake! I decided to make a gym with 4 gymnastics girl figurines, one for each event she will be competing in later on in the year.

I made the gymnastic figurines out of polymer clay for 2 reasons: 1) I have recently discovered and have fallen in love with this new craft and 2) and most important is that she will be able to keep them on her room FOREVER! (or at least for as long she wants to). Click here for a tutorial on how to make the gymnastic figurines. Also, if you like them and want some, I am custom making them at my etsy shop (click here to go to my etsy shop)

OK, now back to the cake. The gym was relatively simple and straight forward to make as you will see:


  • 2 rectangular cakes of about 9" by 13" - if you have a bigger pan you can do one cake
  • 1 batch of my strawberry filling recipe (click here for recipe) (optional but recommended)
  • 1 batch of my buttercream recipe (click here for recipe)
    • Color the majority of it in blue (like the floor at gyms)
    • Leave about 1/2 cup in white for details
  • Gum paste or fondant hearts in white (optional)
  • Cake board - big enough to have both cakes side by side
  • Cake decorating tips: Star, circle #4 and flat
  • Cake decorating bags

Cut both your cakes in half horizontally and place the bottom halves side by side on a cake board. You can put a little buttercream icing under the cakes to help them stick to the board. Pour the strawberry filling over both halves and spread with a knife, making sure that all the cakes are covered with the liquid. Top the cakes with the other halves. If you are not doing the filling, skip all of the above!

Put a thing layer of icing over the cakes, making sure you fill all the cracks, seams, etc. The cake should now be as it was one rectangular cake and not two, this is called a crumb coat as it will prevent crumbs to get to your final icing later one. Put the cake in the fridge for about an hour or so so the crumb coat hardens a little and seals in all the crumbs!

Now it is time to cover the cake with your blue icing. With a big spatula, put a big blob of blue icing on top of the cake and spread carefully. Do the same to the sides. I made a weave basket design on the sides of my cake so I did not worry too much about making the sides perfect (they will be cover with the weave basket design). However, as the top was my gymnastic floor, I wanted it as smooth as possible. A good trick is to warm your big long spatula with hot water, quickly dry it out and slide it carefully over the cake, the heat will melt the buttercream a little leaving you with a nice smooth cake.

Decorate the edges of the cake and the bottom with whatever design you like best.  I used a star tip and put little stars all around my edges and borders.

To make the weave design, take your flat tip and make some vertical lines about an inch apart.

Then do some horizontal lines that go over the horizontal line in alternate rows i.e. row 1 it goes over the vertical line, row 2 it stars ad stop before the vertical line (it does not cover it), row 3 it goes over the vertical line and so on. Put some gum paste hearts to decorate. Do the same in all sides.

Now draw a small square for your floor setting with a tooth pick (make sure you measure it with the gymnastic floor figurine so you know it is big enough for the gymnastic figurine to be inside). Now go over the mark with white buttercream using a round tip - I used #4. You have now a floor!

You are pretty much done. Take your figurines and place them on the cake. With the white buttercream and the #4 tip, do small swirls here and there for decoration or write the age and name of the birthday girl. All completely up to you. And that is all!!!

TIP: if you are making the cake in one location and your party is somewhere else, I recommend you do not place the gymnastic figurines until the last minute - right on the place where the cake will be for the party - it will only take you 5 minutes before the party starts to do it. Believe me, moving and driving around with a cake without figurines is soooo much easier!!!! and you will not risk ruining the icing if one of them were to fall.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How do you know a language school is good?

When your kids do not want to leave!!! I was not quite sure whether to laugh or feel sad about the story I am about to tell you. Part of me could not stop laughing and another felt like "what do you mean? you should be running towards me now" I know, I know let me tell you the story.

My daughter goes to language stars to learn Spanish once a week, her class ends at 5:30pm, giving me not enough time to leave the office and get there. I leave the office and usually get stuck in traffic, lights, etc. so I am always one of the last moms to get there (if not the last :( ). My baby normally plays in the hall and talks to his teachers - she obviously has a good time!

Last week, I was unusually early, I was able to get there a couple of minutes before her class ended. I was so proud to be there and waited for her to come through the hall. She was coming towards the hall cheerfully and as soon as she saw me her faced changed and she immediately said:

"Why are you here? You are supposed to be late!!!"

It was truly quite funny! Needless to say, I let her stay in the hall, playing with the toys and talking-to her teachers. We stayed until we were the last ones there. Still then it was a challenge to get her out. so that is it, I guess she likes the school so much she did not want to leave.

Now I know that if I am ever early again, I will go to Trader Joe's next door, and spend some time there until I am late!

In the meantime while I was waiting I got the chance to have a nice conversation with the school director about my son. As you know I struggle with him and to get him to speak the language. The director was great and reassured me that my son was indeed learning, he mentioned that my boy is one of the most vocal kids in his class, always participating and speaking out loud in Spanish. I guess he is just trying to give me a hard time, so I just have to deal with it!!

This is just another fork on our path towards being bilingual!!!

Disclosure: I will receive discounted tuition from Language Stars as compensation for this post. However all facts and opinions expressed in this post are true and my own. Language Stars have not asked me to write about anything in particular, only my true and honest opinion about my experience with their program.  This post have not been edited by a third person.

Dukan Diet: Roasted Brussels Sprouts (PV)

I love the vegetable protein days on the Dukan Diet as I can vary my choice and get some vegetables in me. I have been making a point of choosing some of my favorite vegetables that I did not used to cook as frequently. Brussels sprouts are one of these! They remind me of the years I spent in the UK. Some people think they are awful, but to that I would say not if they are cooked right!

Here is a very quick way to cook them to perfection!

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Fresh Garlic
  • PAM organic Olive Oil cooking spray
Pre heat your oven at 375F. Wash and cut your Brussels sprouts - you can do this by removing the bottom end with a knife and discarding the first few leaves. You can either cut the sprouts in half or make a nice cross with your knife on the bottom of the sprout to ensure the center will cook.

In a oven proof bowl, put your washed and cut Brussels sprouts.

Now spray the sprouts with PAM olive oil until they are fully coated. Sprinkle sea salt, black pepper and fresh chopped garlic to taste.

Put the dish in the oven for about 20 minutes, stir it every so often and test for doneness - sprouts should be tender but crispy.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fitting into my old clothes is awesome!!! Thank you Dukan Diet!

For the last 8 years I have been collecting clothes in all different sizes, from 6 all the way to 16! Pretty much every year I will leave one size behind and move on up to the next size up. I would give away some of my clothes but kept collecting my favorite outfits with the promise that "one day I will fit them again". At some point in time, that phrase seemed like an impossibility. But I am glad I kept saying it as for the last couple of weeks that phrase could not be more true!

After losing 35 pounds, I feel like a million dollars! so last week I asked my husband to go in the basement and bring me the clothes. Wow! I was like a child in a candy store, I was shopping on my own basement and I was fitting 2 and even 3 sizes less from what I started from. I so truly feel like myself again.

I have been trying a "new" outfit to the office every day. I feel beautiful in my suits and not on the stretchy pants and t-shirts I was wearing because I refused to go to any size bigger. And do not worry, I only kept the classy stuff from the old days. I am not going out there with leg warmers and neon belts!! (I know you did wear them too!! LOL)

Now the old clothes are very visible in my bedroom and not on the basement because now I know that I WILL FIT THEM AGAIN!! very soon.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How to make a Soccer figurine Cake Topper?

As you probably know by now, I get to made quite a few cakes at the beginning of the year! This time is my boy's turn. He wants yet another soccer cake! I am running out of ideas as he has asked the same3 years in a row. I made him a soccer ball with a boy on year 1 and the logo of the Chicago fire juniors on year 2. Now I am making him a soccer field with a polymer clay boy. That way he can keep the figurine for his bedroom.

Here is how I made the figurine.


  • Polymer clay: Skin color, Black or Brown for the hair and the uniform color
  • Wax paper
  • Metal tray
  • Clay tools
Similar to all figurines (see gymnasts here) I started with the body. I took the skin color clay and kneaded  3 pieces which will eventually turn into arms, legs and head.

To make the legs, take one of the pieces and roll it until you get twice the length of what you want the legs to be making sure the roll is a little fatter in the middle.

Fold the roll in half, each side will become one leg. Now you need to mold each leg. Bend the ends to make feet and roll out the knees.

Now to add the socks, make a flat sheet of white with the pasta machine and cut 2 small rectangles, wrap them around the bottom of the legs to become the socks. Smooth the edges.

 To make the shoes, make 2 balls of the same size in black (that will ensure both shoes are the same size). Then mold them into a egg shape and from there as a shoe. Use your tools to mark the soles and laces, etc.

You are going to do the same initial technique with the other piece of clay for the arms. Make sure that you measure the length of the arms against the legs and that the arms are slightly shorter and thinner. If your socks have stripes, roll the doing into a thin strip and attach to the socks.

Now roll the head. Just take some clay and make a small ball - Again, make sure that you put your pieces together as it was a doll already to make sure your dimensions are OK.

Once you have the right dimensions, cut the arms and legs in the middle so you end up with 2 arms and 2 legs. Take your uniform color, in my case red and make a rectangle the size of the torso. Make the bottom into a v shape so you can attach the legs to it. Remember to keep checking your dimensions by placing all the pieces next to each other. Attach the arms to the shoulders.

Take the head and stick it on a toothpick. With the modeling tools, make some small holes for the eyes, roll a little ball of clay for a nose and open a little smile. Take some clay and make a little cylinder for the neck. Attach the head to the body and at this point choose the position of your figurine and mold it to it.My one is sitting down.

Now you have your structure and just need to add the details of your uniform. It will be different depending of what you need to do. For shorts and sleeves cut small rectangles of the color you need and wrap around the arms and legs - remember to smooths all edges. Cut pieces of different colors and stripes and numbers etc.

Once I had the basic body. It was time to do the ball. Roll a piece of white into a ball. Get a thin piece of black out the pasta machine and cut a few pentagons out of it. Stick one pentagon on the ball and with a tool, mark pentagon indentations for the white squares and place the other black ones as you go. It helps to have a real soccer ball next to you so you can see the patterns.

Now you do the hair and eyes. To do hair, get your black or brown clay and either roll it very thing by hand or pass it through a clay extractor to make strands. Carefully put the strands one by one on the head modeling the hairdo you want.

To do the eyes, I roll 2 small pieces of white put inside the wholes, you can then also put an even smaller piece of brown on top of the white and a white on top too. Flatten carefully with a tool.  Add whatever other details you need like logos and you are done!!!

 I have not put this boy on my etsy shop yet, but if you are interested and want me to make you one for your boy or girl, please e-mail me and I will be happy to make one for you!

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