Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How do you feed 60,000 people on Thanksgiving…

…with A LOT of helping hands and loving hearts.

Since 1992 the Big Heart Brigade has been “coming to the rescue” of local residents in South Florida who would otherwise not have a Thanksgiving meal. Joined by an army of volunteers they fed over 50,000 South Florida residents a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving 2008. The goal for 2009 is to feed over 60,000. They plan to reach this goal together with 3,800 volunteers from Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (all campuses participated).

I cannot begin to tell you what a moving experience it was to participate in this year’s preparations.  Coming together with all the volunteers for this evening was a wonderfully blessed time.  Had I known how much fun I was going to have I would have volunteered for more than one session (a definite for next year, and I will be bringing the family).

The meeting place was a Palm Beach Gardens Firehouse, a station with plenty of room to accommodate the set up that was needed.  I arrived to the aroma of smoked turkey in the air, and hustle and bustle of many volunteers (they were the early shift).

There were lots of jobs for the volunteers to do, and no job was less important than the other.  So my first stop was the coloring room.  Here the goal was to complete 500 placemats per volunteer shift, a doable feat if at least 50 volunteers went through the coloring room and completed 10 mats.  I was told that while the recepients greatly enjoy their meals each year, some of their fondest memories were of their placemats, so I was off to make my 10 as special as possible (hope they like them).

When I was done with my placemats, it was time for me to join the assembly line.  There were boxes being assembled to hold the meals, and the food assembly lines were a buzz of activity.

I quickly joined in the buzz helping wherever I was needed.  By the end of the evening I was exhausted, energized and elated all at the same time.  I was happy to be part of something that was going to bless so many, and I am hopeful for all of those who will recieve the meals being prepared.  I pray that these meals will be a blessing to them.

We all gave our hearts to the Big Heart Brigade!
Big Heart Brigade

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pasteles!!! A time honored Puerto Rican Tradition.

Puerto Rican Pasteles (similar to Mexican Tamales in shape and concept, but not made from corn) are a cherished holiday tradition.  No Puerto Rican household would be without pasteles during the Christmas season.

I have wonderful memories of pasteles making growing up.  My parents would start the process in the evening usually after all the evening clean up was done and us kids were off to bed (at least until the "first fruits" were ready; I was always up to have the first of the pasteles as soon as they were cooked).  Pop would prepare the masa grating by hand each of the vegetables and Mom would prepare the meat; then when each of these were ready together they would assemble and wrap the pasteles.  They would work late into the night, most times making well over 100 in one sitting.

The making of Puerto Rican pasteles is a time consuming process, not one usually taken on alone; just as my parents did this process together, the process is usually a shared family event.  I myself have taken on the task of making pasteles twice before, once alone, another accompanied by my sister Carmen and my cousins Barbara and Belinda.  However, this year in an effort to preserve the element of surprise for our "early bird" Thanksgiving, I decided to tackle this task alone once again.  But I am never really alone, as I had my best helper, my daughter Briana, help me in preparing the vegetables; cleaning, peeling, etc. and I also had the help of my sister Carmen when it came to wrapping.  

I started my task by checking out the recipe at Elboricua.com, unlike my parents who prepared their pasteles without having to reference a recipe, I have not yet reached that level of confidence so I am thankful for recipes such as this one being posted.  This particular recipe yields 18 pasteles, but I wanted more than that so I did double the recipe.

First I set off in search of my ingredients.  This of course started with a trip to the farmers market for all of the vegetables that go into the recipe.  Unfortunately, not all items were found in one place, so after going to a total of 4 stores (there must have been a shortage of green bananas, as that was the hard item to find), all ingredients were purchased and I was ready to start.

I prepared the masa and the meat...

...then it was time to assemble.


In the end just over 40 pasteles were made in total.  We will be enjoying them throughout the holidays!

But I look forward to another pasteles making session before the holidays are over, accompanied by my my daughter Briana, my sister Carmen, and my cousin Barbara (hint, hint ladies).

Feels like Christmas is in the air!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Five Years and Counting ~ Anniversary Dinner 2009

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated 5 years of marital bliss.  It seems like only yesterday we were planning our wedding, I can't believe it has been 5 years already!

We spent the day low key relaxing at home, it was raining here in South Florida, so it gave us an excuse to lazy around the house.  Of course like all special celebrations food was to be involved, but we had already decided that for this year's Anniversary we would stay in and have a home cooked meal, so it was ok to keep the day low key.

We did go out for a portion of our day so that we could attend church services (http://www.gochristfellowship.com/).  We were blessed with a wonderful sermon from our teaching pastor John Maxwell on "Paying it Forward".  We know that we have MANY blessings in our lives (including that of our marriage) and are thankful for that!

After church it was time to get the final touches for our dinner then home to get things going.  On the menu was Flank Steak with Garlic Tomato Jam, and Arugula Salad; recipe presented on the Today show this week ~ a recipe I got from the Today Show: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/32878607/ns/today-today_food_and_wine/ (all ingredient info is at the end of this blog).

First I prepared the garlic tomato jam; it had to cook down so it was going to take a bit longer than everything else.

Then I prepared the Arugula Salad; I varied the recipe by adding some spinach as well, but the ingredient that turned out to be key in the salad was the freshly grated parmesan cheese ~ YUMMY!

Then it was on to the steak, which I had marinated all day in a roasted garlic & herb marinade (store brought ~ another variant to the recipe as presented on the Today Show).  The steak smelled absolutely delicious while it was cooking (sorry, the aroma distracted me and I forgot to photograh it); and once topped with the garlic tomato jam it made for a deliciously looking professional presentation (ok, I will let you judge for yourselves).


Once everything was ready, and the table was set, it was time to dig into our special meal.

...and of course no special occasion meal is complete without a special dessert (thank goodness we left room for dessert).  Thanks to my beautiful sister Carmen, we indulged in red velvet cake ~ thanks Sis!

We ended the night with a movie.  It was a wonderful meal, and a wonderful anniversary!  I am thankful for this and all the blessings I have in my life.

Garlic tomato jam
• 6 large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut in half crosswise (about 4 pounds, peeled seeded and fine diced)
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup diced sweet onion
• 5 garlic cloves, roasted until soft and pureed
• 1 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and minced
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
• 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• 1/4 teaspoon salt

Flank steak
• 1 1/4 pound flank steak
• Sea salt
• Fresh cracked black pepper
• 1 tablespoon olive oil

Arugula salad
• 1 bunch (about 5 1/2 cups) arugula
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
• 1 1/4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
• Dash kosher salt
• Dash freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 cup Regianno-Parmesan cheese, sliced thin

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Celebration of Life!

For the past 16 years my family and I have taken on the challenge to raise funds in support of the Greater New York City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure in its efforts to END BREAST CANCER FOREVER.  Last Sunday, September 13, 2009 our team The Pink Sisterhood met in Central Park to continue the tradition.

We have participated in this event in honor of three of my sisters (pictured right: Edna, Carmen and Vilma) who, until earlier this year, were all breast cancer survivors.  However in Februrary, my sister Edna went to be with the Lord.  She faced this battle for 28 years with grace and dignity. She inspired all of us to bring attention to this cause and to raise awareness that early detection is the best advocate in this battle.

So this year the event took on a special meaning.  We laced up our sneakers and walked in celebration of her life and of her years of survival, but we also walked to celebrate the continued survivorship of my sisters Carmen and Vilma, and for all of those who are part of this great SISTERHOOD.

We were joined in the park with lots of family and friends!

It was truly a day of CELEBRATION!

Our team was blessed to have been able to raise over $3000 towards the cause.

My siblings and I were so pleased to have such great support for our cause and our team.  We know that we are truly blessed with a wonderful and supportive family, as well as wonderful and supportive friends.

I want to take this time to personally thank ALL of you who participated and supported The Pink Sisterhood in the Komen New York City Race for the Cure®.

The race to end breast cancer is not over yet, and continued support is always appreciated.  If you wish to suppor the team please visit http://www.komennyc.org/site/TR/Race/race2009-wide?team_id=31380&pg=team&fr_id=1170.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Don't forget to take a moment...

...to remember those lost, and the change that came to the United States of America eight years ago today.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

From Pink @ Heart to Puerto Rican Chef in the house!

This morning I started my day with a splitting headache; to be exact, it was a continuation of how I started my weekend. It was no way to start off a 3 day weekend nor was it the way to start off a Sunday morning. The headache was enough to keep me from church, but thankfully my church offers an online campus, so it wasn't a total loss.

After getting a late start to my day, I decided cook. For most people this would not mean a major event, but for me ~ well not so simple. For me this meant grocery shopping for ingredients, you see to me Sunday dinners should be special, not your run of the mill ("typical") meal. So deciding to cook on this Sunday meant planning out a "not your everyday" recipe and a trip to the farmers market.

I had been mulling around with an idea to do my own "Julie & Julia" type cooking experiment, but with a Puerto Rican twist. So today I decided to test the waters of this potential experiment and make Sancocho. For those of you not familiar with it, Sancocho is Puerto Rican stew. I followed the recipe I found at http://www.elboricua.com/index.html, a website I recommend for all those who want to venture into authentic Puerto Rican cooking.

Puerto Rican cooking is something I grew up with, and my mother made it look easy! Over the years I have been adventurous, dabbling in a few of the more complicated Puerto Rican recipes, not just your regular rice and beans. The thing I cannot say about some of the recipes is that they are easy! ("Mom how did you do it?"). But now it was time to see how I faired at making sancocho.

First things first, the base of most Puerto Rican recipes is know as "sofrito". The sancocho recipe did not directly call for sofrito as a base, but I decided to start easy (and authentically) and make my own. I usually use the store brought frozen kind and have only occasionally made my own.
So I packed everything in to the blender... ...and viola! Sofrito!

Then it was on to the sancocho...
The link for the recipe I used is: http://www.elboricua.com/sancocho.html

First I browned the meat with the base (yes, I admit it I used sofrito! It is how Mami does it.)
Then I added the tomatoes.

With a little help to peel and cut all the vegetables (that is a big job!!! Happy for the help)...
...the next step was to let it cook!

The end result... ...not bad if I do say so myself.

But I will leave the final verdict to the real judges...

...mmmmmmm, looks like it was a success!
So the experiment is off to a positive start!
Stay tuned for the dish!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

God's Chisel - The Skit Guys

My sister sent me this video. I enjoyed watching it, the message is great!

I hope those of you who may see this blog and view the video would be blessed.

God's Chisel - The Skit Guys

No one is perfect, and it is not easy to face our short falls. It is wonderful to know that God has made us each a masterpiece in his own sight; and that through God's amazing mercy and grace, given to us through the sacrifice of his son on the cross we are forgiven of our sins and short falls. What wonderful blessings we receive when we come to the Lord and put him first in all our needs, allowing him to mold us into his masterpieces.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Power of Purple

My sister and I recently accepted the challenge of being part of the planning committee for one of our local American Cancer Society (ACS) Relay for Life Events (http://www.relayforlife.org/relay/). We will be planning the event for Royal Palm Beach, Florida.

Relay for Life is not your traditional walking/running event in support of cancer. It really is a “relay”, team members take turns walking (usually around a track); not all team members need to be walking at all times. However, teams are asked to have at least one representative on the course at all times. In the 25 years since its inception, Relay for Life has grown from one event in Tacoma, Washington, into a global event that has helped to raise billions of dollars in support of the ACS’s mission of “eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.”

This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending a portion of my weekend in Orlando, Fl. with my sister Carmen. We attended the Florida Division Relay for Life Summit. It was a weekend filled with lots of great training, lots of information on making our event great, but especially filled with a full gamut of emotions over the stories of hope and celebration of those who have fought and won, and sometimes lost, their battles with cancer. Having such close relations to cancer survivors and cancer victims (my sisters, my cousins, etc.), I could fully relate to many stories that were told.

While I have participated in Relay for Life events in the past, I have never fully taken in the meaning of the event, until the event I participated in this past Spring. The event is a chance to celebrate the lives of those living with cancer, remember those who have past away from cancer, and best of all a chance to join in the fight to eliminate cancer.

The signature color of the event is Purple; so to explain the blog title today, I would have to say the Power of Purple is the power that each of us as individuals has when we participate in the fight to eliminate cancer, but even more so it is the power of that we have as a community to join forces to help the ACS achieve its mission. I am (and will always be) Pink at Heart, but for at least 17 hours next April (and for all Aprils to come) my blood will run purple, with a hint of pink!

I encourage all of you who read this blog to look into and participate in your local Relay for Life event. If you don’t have one yet, contact the ACS to get one started. And if you cannot participate, be sure to support someone who is participating in their own event. Be sure to check out http://www.relayforlife.org/ for more information on relay and to see about the relay in your area.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Educational Lesson of the Week - 2009 New Words

We all should learn something new everyday! Today I have chosen to share one of my lessons of the day.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary recently released information on newly added words for 2009. I looked these over and was surprised that some of these words weren't already in the dictionary. I grew up Catholic so a missalette was something I was always familiar with ~ who knew it was not a listed word; and naproxen has been around long enough that I would have thought it would have already been there as well, but both of these are listed among the new words for 2009.

The other thing I found interesting about some of the words is how much our world of social networking, reality television, environmental awareness and recession has influenced the words we use on a regular basis to the point that some of these have made it into the dictionary fairly quickly. I was curious about how quickly some of these words have made it into the dictionary while some have taken much longer. I did look it up, basically it is all in how many people use it and in how a word is used, at least in regards to how a word enters the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. So I can see why a word like misselette would take longer than frenemy; here is the website if you to would like to learn more about how words get into the dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/help/faq/words_in.htm.

Here are just a few of the new words (for their definitions visit http://www.merriam-webster.com/info/newwords09.htm):
  1. acai
  2. carbon footprint
  3. cardioprotective
  4. earmark
  5. fan fiction
  6. flash mob
  7. frenemy
  8. goji
  9. green-collar
  10. haram
  11. locavore
  12. memory foam
  13. missalette
  14. naproxen
  15. neurprotective
  16. pharmacogenetics
  17. physiatry
  18. reggaeton
  19. shawarma
  20. sock puppet
  21. staycation
  22. vlog
  23. waterboarding
  24. webisode
  25. zip line

So now I am off to plan my next staycation, where I will catch up on some fan fiction or the latest webisodes of my favorite programs; hoping any frenemies I may have will leave me alone to enjoy my goji berry smothie and my locavore while I try to reduce my carbon footprint on the world. I will be sure to post a vlog of my fun and I won't do it using a sock puppet, so as to be sure you know it is from me.

Have a good day!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oh Say Can You See (Pt 2)

I am sending this Pt. 2 to my last blog as an update and apology.

I inadvertently included a link to a video that included a political message at the end that I neither realized was there nor supported. While it did contain the message that I wanted to relay, I did not want to lead anyone to incorrect conclusions about what I was really trying to say.

I have a great video on my computer that I wanted to add here, but as this blog is still a learning process for me, I am having technical difficulties adding this video.

I decided to go back to youtube.com for one more try and have found a replacement video which contains the desired message sans political commentary.


Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light...

I am a big patriot at heart. I love being a citizen of the United States of America and I am thankful everyday for the privilege of being able to call myself a US citizen.

I don't know if I was always like this, but I do believe I was at least at heart; I do recall not wanting to pledge my allegiance to an inanimate object in the first grade, but I digress.

As a Girl Scout leader a few years ago (about 6 to be exact), trying to instill some patriotism into my troop, I gave my girls a lesson on the history of our nation's national anthem. I myself had never learned about the story behind the song, but I was always one of those wimpy people that teared up at the song whenever I heard it ~ and being a baseball fan, I hear it a lot. Now knowing the story behind the song, I really cannot hear it with out being overwhelmed with a feeling of patriotism.

I think no matter how bad things get in this world or in this country, I will always be thankful to call my self a US Citizen!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Jon and Kate Gosselin Divorce

So I think it is safe to say that there are very few people we encounter in our day to day life today that haven't had a water cooler debate about the state of the marriage of Jon and Kate Gosselin. Well fuel has just been added to those debates with the announcement on today's episode that they have separated (an announcement that is probably no surprise to most) and that earlier today they filed for the dissolution of their marriage in a Pennsylvania court.

I watched today's episode with my husband, discussing in between commercials what we had seen or what had been said in the previous segment. We each had our "she said", "he said" moments, but at the end of the day (or show), we remain on the outside looking in, and we will never know, and never presume to know, what it is like when the cameras are not rolling and they get to be just Jon, just Kate and just their 8. Ours is not to judge who is at fault in arriving at this moment in their lives, but I do know that ours is to keep them in prayer.

I find that what has become of them is very sad. They (or Kate) may say differently, but I can't help but think that "Reality TV" is the biggest contributor to their current state of affairs. I had been a fan of the show pretty much since the beginning. One of the key appeals to me was that they appeared to be such a grounded couple; grounded first in their faith, second in their marriage and lastly in the raising of their family.

I don't pretend to imagine what raising 8 children all under the age of 10 is like (I raised one and that was a handful for me!); nor do I pretend to imagine the pressure that raising a family under the scrutiny of camera places on a marriage. But being a believer, I do know that “All things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27; and that when we place Him first in our lives we don't have easier lives, but we do have a place to bring our troubles when the world around us fails. It troubles me to see that the ways of the world have so clouded their vision that it would appear that they have forgotten to put God first.

I pray that one day we may see a more amicable couple in Jon and Kate (whether married or divorced), but most of all I pray that they are able to continue to raise their 8 to be productive contributors to the world. However, maybe they need to do that off camera.

Welcome to my Pink at Heart Blog

Well, here I am; I find myself in the midst of the Social Networking wave. I have a Facebook page, I twitter, I'm Linkedin and at one time I even actively kept up a MySpace page (although only really to keep tabs on my then teenage daughter, she's mostly grown up now and not a teenager) ~ its still there, but I'm not. But when it has come to blogging/online journaling, I find myself on the outside looking in, but really wanting to be part of this world. I feel like I have at least a little bit to say about just about everything, so I decided to jump in feet first into the world of blogging/online journaling.

So I made the decision to join in, but then there was the matter of a name. Should I use my own name or should I have a catchy/cutesy name? After much thought and consideration of all options, I decided on "Pink at Heart" for the title of my little space of social networking.

Why you may ask? Well first there is the obvious Pink is my absolute favorite color! A little less obvious to those who don't know me well is the fact that Pink is more than a color to me.

You see, I stem from a family of 6 siblings, 1 boy and 5 girls. Three of my sisters are all breast cancer "victims" (for lack of a better word). My oldest sister was diagnosed in 1981, I was just 14 years old at the time, so the words "breast cancer" seem to have been part of my life for most of my life. Since that time, another sister has battled both ovarian and breast cancer, and third sister also face breast cancer. In my opinion, this is a blessing, I grew up with an awareness of a disease that even today some people do not have.

I consider myself an advocate for the cause, and what you may find on this blog that I will often post about what I read, hear, or just plain old feel about breast cancer, breast cancer awareness, etc.; this is a subject near and dear to my heart. But since I don't want this blog to be just about one thing/cause, you will also find that I will post about what I read, hear or just plain feel about other things as well. I like to think of myself as a multi-faceted person, so I hope to make this blog multi-faceted as well.

Once again, welcome to my blog. I imagine this may be a slow start, but I hope you stick around for the ride as I get the hang of this thing.

Thank you!
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