Category Archives: Travel

Pittsburgh

I drove to Pittsburgh last Friday, an almost 500-mile road trip all by myself. I don’t remember ever driving so much alone in one stretch. But it wasn’t too bad. With a GPS and determination, I can get anywhere! I got confused and took the wrong exit a couple times and had to make U turns to get back on track, and I went through about 30 minutes of monsoon weather once I hit PA, but other than that it was pretty smooth sailing all the way. I had an audio book (The Last Anniversary, by Liane Moriarty) I was listening to, which I’m more than half way through, and kept me awake and focused when I started losing interest in the road.


I arrived at Pittsburgh around 7-8 pm, having left home in Chicago, around a quarter past nine am. Liz was here with Nick, so we got to do so fun things together. That night, even though exhausted, we went out to dinner, to an Argentinian restaurant (Gaucho), and had some really good meat.

Saturday, we went to the Carnegie Museum of Art and roamed around looking at art for quite a few hours. It was great!

We went back to Nick’s place to have lunch. Liz brought some delicious meat Margot made, especially for Nick, so we were on that! And then we went to run some errands: get Nick on the cell phone family plan, get him a new phone since his was dead, get a new case and make a pit stop by Gap that was having a 40% off sale. All good! Lastly, we stopped by Target on our way back because: Coke Zero!


On Sunday Liz went back to NYC, so we drove her to the airport and our way back got to see the beautiful Pitt skyline. So very pretty, unfortunately, I was driving, so no pic of that. Nick took this short video.

Nick and I ran some errands and went back home so he could continue studying, this is finals’ week after all. I relaxed and got caught up with social media and my Sims, and then found out there was a mass at St Paul’s Cathedral at 6pm, and that’s just a hop away from Nick’s place, in fact, you can hear the bells chime frequently from his apartment. So I went to mass, it was good, I hadn’t been in a while and hadn’t realized I was missing it. The Cathedral looks a lot like St Vincent’s Church, both inside and out.


Today I stayed in all morning, while Nick went to class and met with his advisor and did his student related activities. Once ready, I headed out to lunch at the Bagel Factory and had my favorite: plain bagel with lox cream cheese. I had been trying to get bagels since Saturday with no luck. Finally, I made it in when it was still open and topped it off with a doughnut, because why not?


I ended my outing today with a visit to a quaint little bookstore on S. Craig St called Caliban Book Shop. I loved it! I need another book like a need a hole in my head, but of course, I had to get something.

So far I’m liking Pitts very much, it’s a charming little city with the vibes of a small town. Everything seems to be happening at a slower pace here as if no one is truly in a hurry or stressed out. I like it, I could get used to this.

Pool Time

Mike is still in Chicago, he won’t be back until the weekend, and then he stays with us for a whole week. But he was here the weekend we arrived, and my dad took these photos of us having some fun in the pool. My “new” family of 4.

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Vacation? Food!!!

One of the pleasures of being on vacation is being able to eat whatever one wants. And in Miami, the pleasure is even bigger because one has access to Venezuelan treats. I thought I’d share some of the goodies I’ve been able to consume these past days.

Empanadas de Cazón

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Pabellón con Cochino (Paleta, le dicen los Cubanos)

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Tequeños y Colita

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Homemade Tres Leches

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Alfajores

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Cachito de Jamón y Empanada de Queso

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Más cochinito y tajadas

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Platanitos

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Summer 2016

At the start of July, when I last posted, I said I would be back here to update you and share some of the things that have been going on this summer. Well, we are almost mid-August and I’m just now getting back to the blog. But, let’s get on it because a lot of big events have happened this summer:

Max turned 8 years-old on June 27th. It’s been 5 years since I adopted him, and we have come a long way. Love you Maxy!

Max 2016

Mike and I had our 1st wedding anniversary on July 25th and we had a nice outing. We went to see The Book of Mormon and then had a spectacular dinner at Boka.

1st Anniversary Collage

I was not able to make it to the UK on July 25th for the International Children’s Spirituality Conference, because of visa issues. But fortunately my paper and presentation were ready and Dr. Karen-Marie Yust was kind enough to read it, so even though I was not physically there, my work was shared.

Karen-Marie Yust

Mike turned 50th years-old on July 31st, and we celebrated with family. We had a plentiful meal at The Chicago Chop House and then stopped over at The Redhead Piano Bar for live music and drinks. (photos to come)

The boys (all of them) and I flew to Miami on August 5th and will be spending three weeks with los Pelos. This is where we are now. Mike had to go back to work, but will be back during our last week here as a vacation for him.

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I just realized I have most of my photos and videos in my hard drive at home, in Chicago. Bummer. I’ll update this post once I get back. For now I’ll share what I do have with me on my phone.

How’s you summer coming along? Did you get a break? Did you celebrate something special? Or is work looking mighty up to date for you? Speaking of which, I need to get at it my self, these papers don’t write themselves and classes are not prepped by the prepping Gods, unfortunately! Hope you are all having a wonderful summer!

A family of 4

My mom had another esophagus/varicose vein bleeding episode, Saturday night. I thought about it for a bit and decided, the best I could do was take a plane the next day to be there with my parents. Last time this happened in September, Liz and I talked about coming and we offered, but the Pelos said it wasn’t necessary. Things had evolved quickly and they had her under control. We both felt bad my dad had to go through all that by himself, with no direct or continuous support from us, since we were in Chicago and New York, and all that was happening in Miami. So this time, we decided it would be different. I flew in Sunday afternoon, with the earliest ticket I could get, and will be staying until Thursday. Liz and her kids are coming down this Saturday, and staying for a week. So, this time the Pelos will be on their own less than 48 hours.

Of course, they are not completely on their own. There is a lot of support from extended family and friends, and for that, we are all immensely grateful. But, I think it’s important for us to be here. The nuclear family. The family of four, as my dad used to call us when we were growing up. He used to say “No matter where life takes us, we will be fine because we will always be together. Us four, always together. We are a family or four.”

Our family of four got extended to five (Cas), then six (Nick) and then seven (Sophie). Liz added in, what I jokingly refer to as her “combo”. And more recently, with Mike, Max and Charlie, it grew to a family of 10. Now, we have Hazel and Jack too, so we are 12! Six adults, one teenager, one wanna-be teenager, and 4 dogs. The family of four surely has grown. But, sometimes, when we are together, just the four of us, it feels just as it did when we were growing up, just us, a family of four, and I truly appreciate that.

Yesterday, before my mom was going into surgery, we got to speak to the radiologist. I, unfortunately, had to run to the bathroom. My bladder had been waiting for over 30 minutes and I really had to go, so I ended missing the talk with the radiologist (!!!). When I came back, my dad told me he had gone through every possible negative outcome, as if covering his back, in case anything went wrong. Instead of building my dad up and telling him to keep it positive, like every other doctor had done so far, he completely deflated him and put all these negatives images in his mind. My poor dad. He was worried, nervous, and now frightful for what could happen. There was a possibility that the doctor could not do the procedure, because of the difficulty of finding the veins. He was doing a TIPS procedure, to bypass the malfunctioning liver (my mom has an autoimmune liver disease, that has caused hepatic cirrhosis, and bleeding varicose veins due to high artery pressure, is a side effect of the cirrhosis), and of course, anything can happen when a person is fully under anesthetics. But, for Pete’s sake, anything can happen to anyone, anywhere. Why did he have to bring up the possibility of death, right before she was going under, and make the two-hour wait an unnecessary nightmare?

I tell you, I was so mad at myself and my bladder for not being there, because you know I would have put that dickhead in his place. I’m usually a kind, calm, sweet person, but if you mess with my family, are rude, unnecessarily disrespectful or a complete jerk, I will go ape-shit on you. I wanted to punch that asshole in the gut! In retrospect, I guess it was for the best that I was not there for the talk. It wouldn’t have helped one bit to punch the doctor just before he was to operate on my mom.

Thankfully, what doctor-no-bedside-manners lacked in tact, he made up for in expertise. He came back ecstatic saying “we did it!”. Apparently, it had been difficult to get the bypass in (it’s all tiny instruments operating in an already compromised organ) and for a moment there he had thought it would not be possible to do, and they would have to try again next week (!!!!). Fortunately, there was divine intervention, and at the last minute, the procedure worked and immediately the arterial pressure dropped. He said “she’s not bleeding anymore, and will not be bleeding again”.

Coquito is recuperating now. They have her under observation and she’s making progress. Hopefully, she will be back home soon. I know Jack truly misses her, and she misses him. Soon our family of four (or twelve) will be back to normal, as it has been since 1972, that’s when I joined the clan. If you have been praying and sending positive (get-well) thoughts to Coco, thank you! I truly believe they all worked their magic during the surgery yesterday. And helped us continue to be the family of four, we have successfully been for all these years. Thank you! And may Coquito continue to get better.

I’m still here – The Update

I left off July 13th, two weeks before the wedding. Things got a bit busy after that, sorry. But let me recap and bring you up to speed to today.

(07-17-15) My family starting arriving for the Wedding. We had a full house for about a week before the wedding; it was crazy and it was great all at the same time. I loved that I had Venezuelan representation in the house. Thank you all, for coming!

(07-24-15) The rehearsal at the church, followed by a yummy rehearsal dinner happened quite smoothly.

(07-25-15) The wedding occurred the day after.  It was not without hiccups here and there, but fortunately no one really noticed and all seemed to enjoy themselves and have a good time. It was memorable, and after all the stress (there was a lot of stress build-up in the preparation), I was glad it was over. It was a beautiful, traditional, Catholic city wedding. Elegant, classic, timeless. Our church was St Vincent DePaul’s Parish and the reception was held at The Murphy. Both unforgettably beautiful spaces filled with history and stunning architecture. We danced the night away. It was fun.

(07-26-15) We spent the night, well only a few hours really, at The James, and flew out to Punta Cana very early the next morning. We spent a week in the Dominican Republic, in an all inclusive resort, with the most delicious all-you-can-eat food. There was a beach at walking distance from our room, several golf courses, a mall, several different restaurants, a few pools, and yoga and tennis classes. It was perfect.  We celebrated Mike’s birthday there at a Michelin star restaurant after a day of golf for him, and yoga and beach for me. It was awesome.

(August) My family was still in town when we got back, so we got to spend some time with them. The first month back was a blur of getting back into normal life mode. Life after the wedding, as I liked to call it. Or getting my life back, which I still refer to daily. If I could go back to before the wedding, I would have taken some things off my plate  during the wedding planning months (like the presidency of my home association, for example), or would have hired a wedding coordinator to deal with some of the idiots we hired before and during the wedding. But anyhow, I’m not doing this ever again, so there’s not much “live and learn” here to remember for next time, thankfully.

(Sometime in September) We sent out Thank You notes to all our guest, for coming to celebrate with us and helping us get ourself going with wonderful gifts and words of wisdom. Thank you!

(Also in September) School started again, and during the Fall term I taught two courses, one I had taught before (now with some modifications) and a brand new (to me) internship. I had to hit the ground running once Labor day had passed. The term went well. I think it’s the term I have enjoyed the most teaching-wise thus far. My students were great and I truly enjoyed teaching and learning from them.

(October) We went to NYC for my birthday. I got to see my very good friend Eleni, who was spending part of her sabbatical in NY, and my wonderful sister surprised all of us, with live entertainment in a party she so graciously hosted in my honor. I love that woman. And a wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, accomplished woman she is. I’m sure you would love her too, if you ever met her. My cousin Marco was there too, and that was such a special and heartfelt event.

(November) Was all about wrapping up the term, flying to Orlando for an invited presentation at NAEYC and then Thanksgiving with Mike’s family, up in Wisconsin. It’s always a good time up at Nancy and John’s place. They are such sweet and attentive people, I truly enjoy visiting them. Also, in November there was a situation with my car, which led me to turn it in for a new one. The positive is that I finally got myself the car I had been wanting and saving for for a few years. All my savings had gone into the wedding, so I thought it would take a few more years of saving to purchase it. But as good fortune and hard work would have it, I’ve been doing some consulting work on the side, which allowed me to purchase it sooner than I thought. And just in time too, because my old car really had to go immediately (I’ll tell you the story another time).

(December) Saw us working to get all things done in time to take some time off. We drove to NYC with the boys in-tow. It took us 13 hours, but we made it in one piece, all in one day. We spent about 5 days in Manhattan and then drove up to Hudson, were we spent two glorious weeks in the wilderness. Well, in a beautiful house, with central heating, wifi, and plenty of supplies. We spent Christmas and New Years there, and on the 2nd promptly drove back home.

(January) So far January has been good. I’ve resume my meditating, which I truly believe had much to do with last term being so positive for me. And I’m in the throws of several research and writing projects that I am very excited and motivated about. There is a ton of service on my plate these days too, but it’s ok, I’m not doing anything I don’t believe in, so that’s always a good thing.

This new year 2016 promises to be very busy, it has been so thus far. I have high hopes for it being filled with finished projects and accomplishments work-wise. At a personal level, I’m seeking peace of mind and embracing happiness. I think daily meditation is a good start, but I also think I need to get myself to yoga and exercising again, in order to achieve the happy state. I want to embrace being grateful and stressing less about the small stuff. I want to let things go more, and not strive for perfection as much.

I also need to lose 20 lbs and go on a no-buy phase in order to start saving again, this time for a house. But if I’m being fair to myself, I have started tackling all of those goals already. I have lost about 3-4 lbs (depending on the day), and have stopped buying things I want but don’t need (I was on a makeup buying spree that seemed more like an uncontrolable addition than anything else). The daily meditation really helps me be more present, grateful, and loving. It’s working. I’m on my way to making 2016 all I need it to be. How about you? What have you been up to since we last talked?

#RoadTrip2014 Recap

Happy September! And Happy Labor Day! We have it off here and are enjoying a day of staying in, doing some work (work-work and housework) since the weather is crappy and the forecast is rain all day. We did manage to get a walk/jog in by the lake, before the rain, so there’s that.

We are back from our #RoadTrip2014. I thought I would post and share some of the adventures from our vacation time, while on the road, but it never happened. I did take my computer because I had some work to finish, mostly class prepping. But towards the end, my computer started acting up and I couldn’t use it for the last couple weeks. Anyhow, blogging wasn’t on my mind, I guess, because I bypassed it completely.

I’ve been thinking about blogging this week, but have been playing catch-up at work,  running errands, getting the condo in order, and getting all doctor appointments in before the trimester starts. So, I thought I’d share a recap of our summer trip first, and then in future posts, share what’s been circulating within my mind lately. Game? Good!

We left on July 31st, Mike’s birthday, and headed toward Louisville, Kentucky. There, we stayed with Mike’s dad and step-mom for a couple days. We had been to visit them before, a couple times actually, but this time we did some of the touristy stuff there is to do in Louisville, aside for the Derby, which we went to a few years ago.

This time we ate out a couple times and visited the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. There, we saw The Babe and the Jeter! Take a look:

At Bonefish Grill

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At Momma’s Mustard Pickles and BBQ

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At the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

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After a few days in Louisville, we loaded the boys back into the car and on the road we went again, this time to Atlanta, Georgia. There, we stayed at Mike’s friends’ place.  We spent time with them, walking the boys and exploring their very high-end dog parks. We also went out for dinner to Buca di Beppo, but unfortunately I forgot to take photos of that.

Here’s Charlie having fun with the water at The Heavenly Dog Park.

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Then it was back in the car and off to Miami! The boys were really good in the car, except for some bouts of panic from Charlie when it rained. They were especially happy in Miami at my parents’ place. I think it was because both families we stayed with on the road had dogs, and now in Miami they were the kings of the backyard, with no one to put them in their place. They loved it!

In Miami we did what all people do when they go to a warm place for vacation, we relaxed. We lounged by the pool, went to the beach, went on a boat ride in Bayside Bay, went to Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, went shopping to the awesome Miami malls (well, that was mostly me) and played golf to our hearts content (that was mostly Mike). Oh, and how could I forget, the main activity of the trip, reason why I gained 6 lbs, we ate, oh how well and how much we ate! We went to El Arepazo, Bahamas Breeze, El Parador, il Forno Ristorante, and The Fish House. We also did some home cooking and ordered takeout a couple times, because pizza and Chinese food are always well received by all.

Us at Hollywood Beach, we went there twice. Once we rented jet skies.

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Sophie practiced putting with us once, and once my dad and I went with Mike on one of his multiple golf runs.

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This is us at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, a really lovely place, but if you go take water, the heat is something else!

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This is us at Bayside Bay, where my dad rented a boat for the day. He misses his Konsentida from Venezuela, so this was a real treat!

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The day was a success, the whole stay in Miami was wonderful. When at home we lounged by my parents’ beautiful pool and Sophie swam as much as she could, in the hopes that her dream of being a mermaid would come true. I think, in her mind, it did. Even Maxy misses the pool now.

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But our days in Miami came to an end, and on the road we went again. The boys were really good on the way back, even though I could tell they missed Miami and all its wonderful people. On our way back we stopped in Tallahassee for the night, and the next day we went through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and drove around the University of Alabama’s campus, Mike’s alma mater. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the beautiful campus since I was told we would go back after lunch and roam around, and we never did (I’m looking at you, Mike!). After Alabama we drove through Memphis and stayed the night in a little town in northern Tennessee.

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We arrived last Wednesday night in Chicago and it received us with great cool, summery weather. This is Lake Michigan, in Loyola Beach, where I went for a jog Thursday morning. Pretty, right?

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So we are back home, back in the grind, getting ready for the beginning of the term which starts on the 10th. But the memories of the great #RoadTrip2014 are still lingering, and we still miss tons the people we left behind. Thank you all for such a great vacation!

Our 4th of July weekend

Well, Happy 4th of July! I know, I’m late to the party, but I truly hope you all had a wonderful celebration of independence.

We had been wanting to go for a day at the beach, ever since it started getting warm. Well, at least I have been wanting to go; Mike is not much of a beach person. So on Friday, we planned to go to Loyola Beach (the closest Lake Michigan beach to us… it’s literally just a few blocks away, and it’s where we walk the dogs every other day) and spend some time in the sun.

Th weather was perfect. It had been raining earlier in the week, but on Friday it was around 70 degrees and sunny. Perfect! Not too hot, not too cold, just right!

This was our set up.

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The photos are deceiving, there were many more people there, but since we got there early (around 11am) we had premium sand real estate to choose from.

Later that morning, around noon, Meg and some of her friends joined us. I forgot to take photos, so I have no evidence of them, but they were there. And we had a great time.

On Saturday, our new couch was delivered. We had to disassemble the old sleeper couch, and carry it down to the basement of our building. I’m not sure we will end up actually keeping it there, or throwing it out, since we did do some damage to it while carrying it down the narrow staircase. Even taking out the back door to get it through was hardy enough space… it’s a big couch.

The new couch is slightly smaller. Or I should say, since it’s a sectional, it comes in pieces, which are easier to move around, carry, and fit through doors and staircases. Anyway, this is our new, very comfy, couch!

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And this is how it looks with the new cushions I went out and got on Sunday, while Mike and Meg played golf. If you are in the market for cushions, I got these at Pier 1, and they were all on sale.

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Everyone loves the new couch, the plush cushions, and the new soft throws. The dogs love it especially. Which is why we got some thick throws to cover the seats, thinking if the dogs stain those, we can always easily wash them, and also take them off when we have company.

Another pretty development of our weekend were these.

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They finally opened up and aren’t they the prettiest flowers you have ever seen. They are sitting on my nightstand, right next to my side of the bed, looking pretty and smelling delicious 🙂

So there you have it, some highlights of our 4th of July weekend. How was yours?

Friends in Chicago

My friends Andrea and Joan came to visit this weekend, with their little Greta, who is as cute as they come. They flew in from NYC late Friday night and were leaving for Indianapolis early Sunday morning, so we only had Saturday to spend together and do as much as possible.

We got a ton of talking and eating in, of course. But we also made it to Navy Pier and had deep dish pizza at Gino’s East.

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It was a great time spent with friends. Hopefully, we will get to spend some more time together next weekend, before they make their way back home.

Summer already? What about Spring?

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day, which traditionally is know as the weekend that launches the summer season in the US. Thus, technically summer begins right after next Monday. This means the beaches along the lakeside in Chicago will be open for business. Lifeguards will be back on duty and beach goers will be allowed to swim in the Lake’s waters (that is, if they want to risk hypothermia with those freezing temperatures). But I feel like we haven’t yet had true Spring. Do you feel the same?

Yes, I haven’t used my puff coat (my measure of when Winter truly ends) in over two weeks, there has been no need, and yes, the trees and flowers are blooming and there are buds everyone one looks, but it’s just been weird with all the cold, rain, and hail. I mean, it did snow last weekend in the suburbs.

I like Spring too much to have missed it completely this year. It seems like (as usual) we went from freezing Winter (the worse winter ever, for me, and the third worse winter ever in Chicago) to now sunny and hot Summer. It’s in the 60s so it’s not truly hot yet, but I can feel it, it’s coming, probably this weekend. And with the heat, boom! Summer is here and Spring? Well, Spring, never truly was.

My favorite thing about Spring are the flowers. The tulips that seem to spring out everywhere, as if they were weeds. The magnolia tress, with their beautiful shades of pink and white. And this year, Mike introduced me to Dogwoods. They are beautiful and seem to be everywhere in Rogers Park. I went a little camera happy on our walk the other day. But just take a look at the prettiness of these trees:

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