Mardi Gras: a celebration

As a Latina, I’ve always celebrated holidays with friends and family. My grandmother always made it a point to make every holiday a little special for us. And now, my extended family always makes an effort to celebrate their traditions with the girls, ensuring the cultural significance gets passed down to the next generation.

Mardi Gras in a Latin-Catholic family is about shiny necklaces, sparkly masks made of paper and then the last sad goodbye to whatever treat or activity that you will give up for the Lenten season. In my husband’s Italian family, they tend to focus on amazing food, which just elevates the celebration!

This year, Mike just returned from a trip abroad and so we’ve been fortunate to ramp up for Mardi Gras with new masks from Italy:

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The girls received buckets of beads while their cousin was attending Loyola in NOLA. Olivia is VERY excited to wear hers to school:

And finally, no celebration would be quite as sweet without the king cake!

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We wish everyone a safe and happy Mardi Gras!

Maui: a lesson in time management

The best travel advice I’ve ever given is that you have to be open to trying new experiences whenever they present themselves. It’s not always planned or well-timed, but the experience always outweighs the inconvenience in my opinion.

When Olivia was a baby, Mike told me that he was going to extend his time in Hawaii by a couple of weeks for a job he was doing in Maui. The problem was that time conflicted with Olivia’s first Father’s day. As usual, Mike came up with a perfect solution.

The inconvenient part is that I has actually just started a new job a few months previously. How was I going to let my boss know that I was taking a week’s vacation with one week’s notice? Brain-storm: I was going to work the whole week. REMOTELY.

Now for those of you who have never worked from home, or had flexible work schedules, this probably seems mind blowing. I had never worked remotely either. But when I worked through it, I would be able to do my job on local hours if I started my day at 4AM in the Hawaii-Aleutian time zone.  I could work until 5PM Central time and still have half a day left in Hawaii for a whole week.  I had to try.

We stayed at the Wailea Beach Resort in Maui for the week because it was closest to Mike’s job site.  Our days went like this: I woke up at 4AM and worked from my laptop with my team on-line. I took conference calls and managed until 7AM local time (noon in Chicago) when Olivia and I went down to breakfast and my husband went to work.

Then after breakfast, we came back to our room and Olivia played with her books, toys and iPad in the morning until it was time for me to sign off for the day. around noon local time. Then we packed up our stroller and went to the pool, took walks along the shore until she fell asleep at nap time and played on the beach in the afternoons. In the evening we would meet Mike for dinner or he would come back to the hotel and swim with us.

Vacationing in Paradise isn’t difficult. If you have a small child, you don’t have to leave your hotel. You don’t have to do anything more than hang out at the beach with your SPF50 and your little ones. We shopped at the local ABC store and just hung out.

It was 100% worth the extra effort on my part. I just didn’t acclimate to local time during the week. I fell asleep really early, but that worked for us and was factored into our plan.

So if someone asks if you could make a trip to Maui work, say yes! You absolutely won’t regret it.

Papeete, French Polynesia

“We could go to London?” said my husband.  “How about Mexico?” I countered.
“How about Tahiti?”

“Yes, I think I could go to Tahiti.”

And with that we packed up our infant, sunscreen and sarongs and flew to Tahiti.
It was a long flight: ORD to LAX, grab bags at LAX and walk outside to the international terminal and then catch a long flight via Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete. (Pronounced pa-peh-yet-eh)  

 Papeete is the capital of Tahiti and the last real “town” that you will encounter on the islands. They have a thriving Municipal Market to purchase your scented coconut oils in jasmine, gardenia or plumeria. They refer to coconut oil as Manoi and it’s produced on island and protected by an appellation d’origin, similar to Champagne.  They also sell insect repellant that is the only potion strong enough to deter the native mosquitos. Buy the large bottle.

We stayed at the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort near the airport and it was divine. It was  near enough to paradise without having to endure a long ride after being on a plane for half a day.  The hotel was clean, the pool was nice…but the VIEW. Well, have a look:img_1784

This is what you wake up to every morning in paradise.

We hit the market but also stopped to see the Museum of Tahiti and her Islands. It’s my inner nerd talking, but I think the best part of travel is discovering new places and learning about the people inhabiting that place. Tahiti met the same fate of colonization that affected the rest of the South Pacific, but they do have their own story and it was fascinating to learn about it.

And finally we hit the local waterfall and hiked some light trails before retiring back to our beautiful hotel to enjoy some local cuisine.

We recommend the fish and don’t forget to tip the in-house band. 😉

Until next time, bon voyages!

Multicultural appreciation

This is my daughter’s first year in real school, kindergarten. This means new rules for us as a family regarding when we can travel. It’s new for us and we’re adjusting, but we also have the opportunity to participate in interesting new events, such as International Appreciation Day at school.

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Because my heritage is Latina/Chicana, I assumed that the girls would wear pretty dresses from Coyoacan, we’d bring some tacos and we’d all have a good time.

Then, I received an excited email from my husband, who is 1/4 Scottish. “I’m going to make Haggis for International fair!”

Oh. My. Goodness.

If you haven’t tried haggis, it’s spiced sheep pluck and you can usually find it at a local Highlands festival. It’s REALLY good and I encourage you to try it. I’m unsure how I feel about having it cooked in my home, but we’ll see.

I didn’t think much more about it until I came home and Mike said that we had an email update that there was going to be a PARADE for the festival and the kids could participate.

What does that mean exactly? In my house, it means BAGPIPES.
My husband unearthed his bagpipes from the depths of our basement and cleaned them up for my 5 year old to play in the school parade.

If you have heard bag pipes in real life, you know that they are a unique sound and can only imagine the delight that making these noises has brought to my child. So, if the purpose of International Appreciation was to interest your children in their heritage and open them to new ideas, then mission accomplished.

In the mean time, Bella and I will just be sitting here appreciating Olivia’s new musical talents.

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