Let’s give this a whirl…

Just like many of my friends, I am obsessed with Pinterest, the online pin board full of great ideas, crafts and recipes. I find myself constantly refreshing the browser to see if new pins have been added and what goodies they may hold. Once in a while, I’ll find a pin that’s too good not to try so here are a few that I’ve completed successfully.

1. Blackhead Remover – Blackheads have been my biggest nuisance since I hit puberty. They’re always there – they never go away and I swear I’ve tried everything out there to make them disappear. Once, in high school, I was so desperate to get rid of blackheads that I would put egg yolk on my face — I had learned of this idea from a beauty magazine….I didn’t see any results.  So when I saw this blackhead removal pin, I was skeptical but thought “what the heck, I’ve tried everything else!” Plus, it used household ingredients I already own, so I didn’t have to go to the store to pick anything up. I have to say, although it looked weird and bubbly as it dried for the 5 minutes, my face felt a lot smoother and cleaner afterwards and it did reduce the amount of blackheads that you could see on my nose, chin and cheeks. I will definitely be doing this again.

2. Interval Treadmill Workout – I hate running on a treadmill but I despise running outside when it’s cold out even more, so, usually, I suck it up and try to do the quickest treadmill run ever. It’s not that I don’t think the treadmill is a great exercise tool, I just get BORED! Same scenery, nothing new to look at, no wind in my face…. it’s just boring. That is, it was boring until I found this interval treadmill workout. This workout is a quick 20-minutes (or longer if you want) that leaves you feeling great afterwards. Set the incline to 2 and then every few minutes you’re increasing or decreasing the speed. I had to alter the chart the first few times i did it (there was no way I was going to be able to run at level 7 on my first try) and I’ve increased the speed little by little. When I start to get bored with the treadmill workout, I know I have to kick it up a notch. Now, I look forward to runs on the treadmill – plus, interval training helps burn fat faster.

3. Kick My Butt Cardio Workout – In order for me to feel sufficient in my workouts, I need to sweat. If I don’t sweat, I feel like the workout wasn’t as successful and I need to push myself harder. I try to switch up my workouts often so I don’t get stuck in a rut and I was so excited when I found this on Pinterest. It reminds me of Shaun T.’s Insanity workouts that I did this summer and it’s quick and effective. After this workout I left feeling accomplished (well, I left hurting, winded and sore, but I felt accomplishment in there, too!).

4. Delicious Apple Snack – I eat an apple every morning and I like a certain type and taste of apple (can’t be too sour, or squishy and the skin shouldn’t just peel off when you bite, there should be more of a crunch). I’m very particular about my apples but figured I’d give this recipe a try so I bought a lemon and an orange and let the apple sit in the juices over night. Let me tell you, this was delicious. I wouldn’t eat it everyday, it was a tad too sweet, but it was definitely something I’d make again. Plus, 3 fruits in 1 snack – count me in!

5. Windshield De-Icer – I actually tried this pin this morning! We had a little snow fall yesterday so I knew that my windshield would be iced over this morning when I left for work. I hate having to defrost my car because it takes too long and it’s cold, so anything to shorten that process is definitely worth trying. I bought a spray bottle for a $1 at Big Lots! and mixed 3/4 cup vinegar with 1/4 cup water last night. This morning, when I went out to my car, I started the defrosters and then got out and sprayed the windshield, rear window and side windows. By the time I had gotten back in my car, the rear window was clear! I had to run my wipers a few times to get my windshield clear but this process was much faster than me just sitting in the cold car waiting for the defroster to kick on and clear the windshield. I will be keeping this spray bottle handy to use every morning!

6. Peg Board Jewelry Board – This was a very easy project and I was able to complete it in a weekend! The hardest part was putting the hardware through the pegs, the rest was a piece of cake. I chose yellow since it’s my favorite color and bought the hardware and spray paint from Sears Hardware. It was relatively inexpensive too and I love how it turned out. Image

7. Our Alphabet – For our 1 year anniversary back in February, I made my boyfriend a book of “Our Alphabet” and filled it with things that pertained to our relationship. It was cute, easy and best of all, very personal. For example, J – you fell in love with a Jersey girl; A – Adworks, where we first met; M – “It’s a-me, Mario!” (since we enjoy playing Mario Kart / Mario Party together). He loved it and I really had fun thinking of 26 different ways to describe us.

I really love Pinterest and I plan on making a lot more things come this holiday season. Hopefully they turn out OK so I can post them.

Follow me on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jks724/

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¿Tu habla español?

“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”
‒Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In the late 1950’s, my grandmother, Juana Maria, emigrated from Cuba to the United States. She was leaving behind a tough life in Cuba, growing up poor as the youngest of 8 children, with only her mother and the older siblings to support them as her father had passed away before she was born. She started working at a very young age in Cuba and finally, after years of trying and applying, was granted a Visa to visit the United States of America, just before the reign of Fidel Castro.

Once here in America, she found a job as a seamstress and met my grandfather through his sister, a friend she was working with. She spoke very little English, he spoke very little Spanish (he was of Spanish descent), but, as their story goes, it was love at first sight and they only needed to speak the language of love. (Later, when we were older, we found out that my grandmother had a very short Visa and had decided she was not going back to Cuba; They met on a Saturday and were married 2 Saturdays later). They were married a very long and happy 50 years, with my grandfather actually passing on their 50th wedding anniversary. Out of their love story came 3 children and then 11 grandchildren (myself included!).

Growing up, we spent a lot of time around my Ta-Ta (we couldn’t say abuelita – “little grandmother” – when we were little so it came out as Ta-Ta) and Pop-Pop. Pop-Pop had learned to speak Spanish and Ta-Ta spoke very broken English, but tended to stick to Spanish. Their children grew up in a bilingual household, being able to fluidly move from English to Spanish to Spanglish conversations… but that’s where the bilingual traits stopped. Spanish was not taught to us, the grandchildren, at an early age as it was for my Mom and her siblings. In fact, we grew up hearing the Spanish language all the time but never learned it ourselves and to be honest, I’m not sure why. This is something that has always questioned me, my siblings and my cousins. Why were we not taught Spanish so that we could communicate better with our grandmother? So, instead of learning Spanish, we became really good at understanding broken English.

Over the years, I’ve learned some Spanish, enough to get me through a small conversation. Spanish classes in middle school and high school helped a little but words were different in “school” Spanish than in “real life” Spanish. I would come home and tell my Mom what I had learned and she would always say, “Yes, they say that in Spain but it should be said this way…” However, those classes were not a total waste; I comprehend more Spanish than I can speak. I am able to understand and answer Ta-Ta back in English when she starts talking to me in English and then suddenly finishes the conversation in Spanish.

Ta-Ta is now 87 years old and currently isn’t in the best of health. She’s been in and out of the hospital and rehab facilities since June and is now living with my aunt. She can’t do much on her own and only wants to sleep all day. She can only speak Spanish now, the English language has escaped her. It’s become extremely difficult for me, or any of the 7 grandchildren living up here, to hold a conversation with her without searching for my aunt or mom to translate. It makes me sad that we’ve lost that connection, that ability to speak without a translator. Mom says it’s ok, that most of the time her Spanish is just gibberish so I wouldn’t be able to understand her anyway even if I could speak Spanish. But it’s still a helpless feeling when Ta-Ta’s speaking directly to you and you can only do one of three things: nod and smile; try and answer with the words you do know how to say; or just blatantly change the subject.

I’ve been trying to brush up on my Spanish speaking skills. Every now and then I’ll pop on to some Spanish learning websites to help me with the basics and form sentences. My sister and I have even talked about taking classes – maybe looking for a Groupon or LivingSocial deal. I guess it’s never to late to start learning something new.

So, ¿Puedo hablar español?  ¡Un poco, estoy intentando!
(Do I speak Spanish? A little, I’m trying!)

A series of moments

“You can find something truly important in an ordinary minute.”
– Mitch Albom

Around my new apartment, I’ve finally started to hang some artwork and photos on the bare white walls. I’ll admit, it definitely makes it feel more “homey.” With each photo I choose, there’s a back story: a fun weekend with friends, a birthday celebration, our first date at the zoo, and of course, my family. All of these moments in time are important to me in one way or another and in some ways, define who I am as a person.

A picture truly is worth a thousand words, however, sometimes, I really wish I had a video of a series of moments that I could hang around the apartment. Most of these moments I wish I had “taped” are moments that aren’t even that extraordinary, like a movie date with a friend, or a car ride down the shore, but it’s that moment that I want to be able to relive because it was in someway important to me. Most of these moments I don’t even have photos of, they just stick with me and pop in my head every so often.

Of course, there are instances that trigger these memories to resurface. The mention of scary movies, particularly the movie “The Ring,” and I’m right back in the dark theater, in the front row next to my best guy friend, holding his hand for dear life and burrowing my head into his right shoulder. We were freshmen in high school and I was so frightened of this movie that I’m pretty sure I was hiding for more than half of it. At the end, we stood up and he shook his hand out, sore from me squeezing the living daylights out of it. He made a joke, something like “good thing it’s not baseball season,”  and we laughed and headed outside to wait for our ride to pick us up. This was 10 years ago and every time I think about it, I swear it feels like it happened yesterday. I don’t have a picture from that night, the guy and I barely even talk anymore but this is one of those moments I will cherish forever. Just an ordinary movie date.

I catch myself reminiscing frequently. Some moments I’ll share with my boyfriend or friends; others, I still like to keep to myself. I have “movie memories” (as I call them) about all my friends, even ones that I’m no longer close with, however, these are all instances in my life that have helped shape me into the person I am today. Yes, some of the movie memories are quite embarrassing (like when I was 16 and I said a 50-year old woman shouldn’t have a belly button ring and the woman I was talking to raised her shirt up and said “Oh, you mean me?”), heart-breaking (the afternoon my high school sweetheart broke up with me – we dated 6 years, I was 20 when it ended), or just down right silly (hiding in the kitchen cabinets to “surprise” my Mom for her 30th birthday – I was 5), I would never trade any of these moments for the world.

I have no regrets and am thankful for the many memories I have already made but look forward to the ones that haven’t even been thought of yet.

Hit closer to home this time

“It was an extremely devastating and destructive storm, hopefully one that people will only see once in their lifetime.”
Joe Pollina, National Weather Service meteorologist

In January of 2008, I, along with a large group of college friends and high-schoolers, filled a luxury bus and headed down to New Olreans, LA to participate in a week long Habitat For Humanity rebuild. Two and a half years prior, NOLA had been ripped apart by the Cat. 3 hurricane, Katrina and they were still trying to clean up and rebuild. I couldn’t believe how much devastation was left years after the hurricane had hit. We saw it all: boats still in streets that had been carried there during the storm, vacant houses filled with mud and dirt, and the worst, FEMA trailers lined up on plots of land where houses once stood. It was a heartbreaking, yet eye opening experience for me.

Before I went down there, I was aware of the hurricane and the damage it had caused but felt very little emotion towards it. I saw the images on the news and felt sad for those hit the hardest, however, they were over 1,200 miles away and in Aug. of 2005, when Katrina hit, I was just starting college and that was more important to me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be in NOLA a few years later to help rebuild but life is unexpected like that.

Over this past weekend, Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm dubbed as “Frankenstorm,” wreaked havoc on the New Jersey coastline, destroying homes, boardwalks and seashore attractions in its way. It then took a turn and headed up to New York, only after hitting Pennsylvania, Delaware and the rest of the East Coast along the way. On Sunday, I was glued to the TV watching the all-day coverage of the local news channels that were showing the press conferences of elected officials demanding mandatory evacuations of all the shore points. The weather reporters were constantly showing us the track of Sandy and how we shouldn’t underestimate the power of this storm… boy were they right.

Monday work was cancelled due to the high winds and pounding rain. Cancelled again Tuesday due to no electricity at work. Although inland didn’t get hit too hard (trees and wires down, electricity out), the coastline was pummeled. I am grateful that our apartment complex did not lose power, however, I’m sad that so many people in the region are still without power, 3 days after the storm. Those 2 days, I sat and watched the news so intently that the images of the storm will be etched in my brain forever: boats on top of boats, beachfront houses crushed by the ocean, the Atlantic City boardwalk, gone. All the places I frequent during the summer, all the memories I have at the shore, are now covered in sand and debris, destroyed by this historic storm.

It was hard not to have images of NOLA flash into my head. Things I had seen years before were now happening in my home state of New Jersey. States of emergencies were being issued and the Red Cross and FEMA were being sent in to help the displaced. President Obama and Governor Christie were assessing the billions of dollars in damages and trying to console the ones that were greatly affected. And there it is, the silver lining, when awful things happen, we find a way to unite and start the healing process. That is truly a blessing and now the rebuilding process can begin.

I am in no way trying to compare the damage and devastation done by Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Sandy. Each storm was massive and destructive in their own way, however, sometimes our eyes need to be opened to the fact that there are ways to help the rebuild process, even if you are far away. Don’t take for granted something that has happened miles away from you, it could come around and happen closer to home than you would like.

You can read about the experience I had in NOLA here: http://theloquitur.com/?p=6691