Monthly Archives: July 2014

Mani/Pedi Groupon Adventure at Matisse Hair

Now this is the thing with Groupon, it’s always an adventure.  This Groupon adventure begins with the fact that I desperately needed a manicure and pedicure after weeks of hiding my toes in ballerina flats.  I had just returned from NYC where you can get a mani/pedi for $15-20, and I stumbled upon a promotion by Matisse Hair, which is conveniently located within my beloved Coconut Grove.  The promotion was: “Essie/OPI manicure and pedicure with pressure point foot massage” for $25, so I bought one for myself and another for my kid because I really wanted to check out this massage part.  I called ahead of time, spoke with the owner, and she told me that the massage would only be a minute and it was to promote their pressure point foot massage.  1 minute?  Try not at all.  We went and the manicurist, Ildeña, was lovely, she did a great job on my manicure and pedicure (it involved a great massage chair and a cool callous removing power tool that looks like a sander).  I chose a snazzy medium to dark blue from some obscure brand that has lasted a week already (I will find the brand and report back), but my daughter used a mint color from Dare to Wear which barely lasted 24 hours (Ildeña had forewarned me that this might happen with this brand).  The place has a great vibe, they have cool beds where they wash your hair if you’re opting for hair services.  They are reasonably priced.  As far as the massage, well, when I sat down, Ildeña told me that she’s not trained to give pressure point foot massages and does not do them.  So I got over that and enjoyed the rest of my visit, which has allowed for my toes to go public once again!


Days 3-5 of NYC: Sweet Chick, MOMA, Central Park, Go Green Ride and more…

Okay, so it’s NYC and there’s tons of things to see, places to eat, etc.  Here’s what I did, broken down into places I ate at, hotels I stayed at, museums I visited, places I visited, and my preferred means of transportation.  So here goes:

Ate at:

First things first, it’s Restaurant Week through August 15th — you must check out these great restaurants offering 3 course meals for $25 lunches and $38 dinners!

Now, I ate at…

Los Tacos No.1 in Chelsea’s Market: TRY ANYTHING — the food is amazing and the prices are cheap! This is my new favorite place!

Capizzi on 40th & 9th in Hell’s Kitchen: pizza crust is great, the service is outstanding, very cozy, not the best area, amazing Oreo Truffle cannoli, decent wines.

Sweet Chick NYC – Williamsburg — Oh my, have everything at this treasure!  My table had yummy Arnold Palmers, Elote Corn (Mexican-style), biscuits with a variety of butters, divine mac ‘n’ cheese, a sweet ‘n’ spicy chicken on a bacon and cheese waffles, and a deliciously fried chicken sitting on scrumptious rosemary and mushroom waffles, and peach crisp for dessert.  Amazing! The ambiance is great.  The service was slow, but they are very nice, but who cares because the place is amazing and you need some time with that food!

Street meat – just go to a hot dog stand.

Broadway Bites by Urbanspace:  in Greeley Square Park, located at the intersection of 33rd Street and Broadway.  My lunch mates and I had: a slice from Roberta’s Pizza (yum), some shrimp dumplings, and the best was the rainbow macaroons with salty caramel ice-cream sandwiches!

Trop Pops – frozen fruit dipped in chocolate that requires a moment of silence.

People’s Pops – blueberry rhubarb deliciousness while strolling on the Highline? Please experience that!

Bouchon Bakery – Thomas Keller’s lovely bakery at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.

Banh Mi Saigon Bakery – Outstanding and cheap.  Vietnamese sandwiches (get the SANDWICHES not the rolls – down in Chinatown/Little Italy.  NOTE: When they ask you: “Spicy?” SAY NO unless you want to experience what it would feel like to eat a lit stick of dynamite!

Magnolia Bakery – Bleecker Street.  Great cupcakes, lousy service.

Mille Feuille – French cafe on 74th and broadway -great cronuts (a hybrid of a croissant with a doughnut), macaroons, coffee, pastries in general…


Stayed at:

The Standard at the Highline – great view, Joel who will meet you in the front has amazing customer service skills, but watch your charges because they will nail you with all sorts of incidentals that either you had nothing to do with or were supposed to be included. Oh and careful with being awoken repeatedly with false alarms at 2:30 am.

The Fairfield in Hell’s Kitchen – mmmm…not a great area and let’s leave it there.


Art Museums: take student IDs for substantial price reductions.

Guggenheim – the building itself is a work of art by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frick – I think this is my favorite museum in the city…and it’s right next to Central Park — look out the windows facing the garden facing Central Park…

MET – it’s the MET, you have to go see the mummies, and everything else…it’s the MET.

MOMA – despite the fact that Lam’s The Jungle and all of Mendieta’s works were not on display, Chagall’s, I and the Village was, which was enough for me, along with the Rothkos, Monets, Kahlos, Duchamp, and you-know-who’s The Starry Night.  It’s the MOMA, you have to go.

Whitney – Jeff Koons: A Retrospective.  Ahhh, the Rothko made it for me.



The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island – if you want to go up to the Crown, make sure that you reserve your tickets way in advance.

9/11 Memorial: check out one of my previous blogs for more information.

Central Park – Spend hours there, have a picnic in Strawberry Fields, ride a tuk tuk if you don’t value your life, and quickly walk by the Alice in Wonderland sculpture with a million children buzzing by.

Heather’s off-Broadway show at the New World Stage – rude staff that made me go all the way over there for nothing — yes, I’m still bitter.

WilliamsburgBrooklyn Flea, Artists & Fleas, Brooklyn charm

Riverside Park: beautiful, hidden treasure in the city.

Note: No, I didn’t miss the Empire State but the tickets are expensive, the wait is incredibly long so go to the top of a nearby building for cocktails. and take a selfie with the Empire State in the background.


Preferred means of travel other than the subway or bus:

Go Green ride – do it instead of a taxi – flat rate even if you’re in heavy traffic. Phone chargers.  Pleasant drivers.  Environmentally-friendly hybrid cars. Download the app and have them pick you up and drop you off at the airport so that you don’t get ripped off by a taxi.


Nearpod: the wave of the future that’s here now!

Let me tell you about a little treasure I found, well I found it thanks to FIU and Dr. Patricia Barbetta. It’s called Nearpod.

Teachers have to conduct learning probes to see if their students are truly understanding the concepts being taught, so there’s a few steps teachers go through to do so.  Teachers:

  • are checking for understanding
  • are asking questions/have them ask questions
  • use a wait time to have students think before answering and also allow their students to answer so it’s not always the same students.
  • try to be fair in the calling order
  • have all-pupil response moments

Well, Nearpod does all that and more in one place.

Nearpod allows you to create presentations using your own library of PDFs or PowerPoints, as well as Nearpod’s library (teachers can ask to create lessons for them and it pays!).  Teachers then share the lessons with students and control their activity in real time, (which keeps them from surfing onto different webpages because the teacher has the nifty master control indicating students that are actively involved or not!).  This programs allows teachers to request all-pupil responses and assess their students’ understanding of the lesson without the students experiencing the pressures of answering out loud.  Students who need more time can be assigned this lesson as home learning, and they can review it independently at their own pace…because yes, Nearpod creates a flipped classroom.  This program is easy to use and has been picked up by some big school districts already, and given a variety of awards for the quality and effectiveness of their product.  Nearpod can be used on any platform, which is relatively unheard of.    A little more about Nearpod…the creators are based out of Miami, Florida, and they provide the best customer service; you run into any issues or have any suggestions, well these folks are very open to that because they are constantly improving their incredible product.  I’m a big fan as you can see…and I’m a fan that’s a parent, a teacher, and more specifically, a special education teacher.  This product meets the needs of many students so check it out!


Day 2 of NYC, Part 1: 9/11 Memorial & Museum

On our second day, the first place we headed to was the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, which has been at the center of a lot of controversy.  It’s an emotional experience as you would anticipate.  When you first step onto the plaza, you will probably be facing one of the two enormous reflecting pools where the towers once stood. They each measure about an acre and have 30-foot waterfalls that cascade beautifully throughout multiple levels.  As you walk along the perimeter of the reflecting pools, you will notice the names of the victims engraved in bronze on the sides…it was impressive and gave us chills.  I would almost say that you feel a presence.  Once inside, the feeling of loss becomes increasingly present as you walk through what feels like catacombs.  You will see some of the steel beams where the planes hit, and the last one that was found, the 36-foot “Last Column” which became a tribute to all, but especially the rescue workers; it was the biggest urban rescue effort nationwide and most of them died valiantly as they did everything they could to help people get out.  You will walk by the wall, referred to as “the bathtub”, that had it collapsed, would have led to downtown Manhattan being under water.  You will walk next to the stairs where people were being told to “run fast, as fast as you can”.  You will see Brooklyn-artist, Spencer Finch’s, Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on that September Morning, which is an installation comprised of square papers, representing each of the victims, in different hues of blue to represent the color of the sky that morning on 9/11.  It was an incredible piece.

Spencer Finch_911 Installation

There are interactive touchscreen memorials, where you can search for a loved one, hear about them, and see their picture.  I chose to filter the search to victims from Florida, where I stumbled upon the picture and history of Bernard C. Brown II…he was from Leckie Elementary School in Tampa.  He was 11; born June 19th, 1990.  He was on Flight #77 to California because he had been chosen for a trip sponsored by National Geographic to visit a marine sanctuary.  I can’t tell you how it felt to see his smiling face and know that he never reached his destination.  You can hear about the history of every victim.

I remember that day clearly –  my daughter, then 2, sitting on my lap as we and the rest of the country watched on the day that changed our realities forever, and as my family, who worked in the city, walked home to Brooklyn that day as ashes fell on them.  Those of us that are old enough to remember, will never forget that day, where we were, what we did, who we lost.

When you go, you don’t need to get an audio guide, just download the free museum app.  If you’re a student, take your ID everywhere! If you are family of a victim, your entry is free. Here are the prices: Tickets.

Go to this, it is amazing.  Also, make sure you hug your loved ones every day…


Day 1 of NYC: the Meat-packing District

I’m going to have to break this up because it’s NYC and therefore, amazing.

I’ll get right to it after I complain about the taxi driver that ripped me off (you know who you are cab #8N21 that picked up unsuspecting victims from LGA around 9 a.m.!)…I know – I have Waze (great app) and you took the route that wasn’t even on there!

Moving on…I arrive at the Highline Standard — Joel and Weezer (I think that’s his name — blondish, cool beard, and very easy on the eyes) demonstrated amazing customer service– above and beyond.  Our view overlooks the Highline and the Hudson…I can’t tell you how spectacular today’s sunset was.  It’s The Standard — chic, hip, awesome location…all that good stuff.

So I’m starving…we head to the Chelsea Market – great stores, restaurants, etc…we find a stand Los Tacos No.1 and they are #1…get an adobada on a corn tortilla with everything on it — incredible.

photo (11)

Now that my belly’s happy, we head for the Highline, which I love (it’s a cool park overlooking the city), and if you walk enough, you’ll stumble on vendors and food stands that include: Blue Bottle Coffee and People’s Pops (try the Blueberry Rhubarb!), among others that I’m sure are equally great.

photo (10)


We relaxed a little at our lovely hotel and then headed back out.

We hit the West Village – ate at a Mexican restaurant, Molé that was okay…good cheese enchiladas, cheap and tasty margarita with salt that did its job very well…only thing don’t get the adobada tacos, especially if you just ate the best at Los Tacos No.1.  Headed over to the Magnolia bakery – great pistachio cupcake, yummy coconut cupcake, great iced coffee, terrible service.  I know we ate a lot today, but when you’re deprived of real cooking in your hometown, you’ve gotta make up for it!  Following that, I went into a food coma/side effect of a sleepless night for about 2-3 hours, awoke, felt refreshed, headed back out…

The Standard Grill – delicious and refreshing watermelon and cucumber salad on a bed of guac, wonderful fries, scrumptious mushrooms, and the rudest waiter.

Then, we found Perfect Brows, a threading shop at 316 West 14th Street, between 8th and 9th.  As a walk-in your wait time is less than 5 minutes, and you are done in 5 minutes.  $7 for eyebrows and $5 for the upper lip.  Great, great deal!

Then, finish off with  a sunset walk on the Highline and if you’re lucky you may see fireworks over the W from your room.

Tomorrow: 911 Memorial, the Frick, and more…




Two great vets: Trail Animal Hospital and Gomara Animal Clinic


I admit: I have a flair for the dramatics.  I’m a little hyperbolic according to my mother, and I tend to overreact…you know, sometimes.  With my studies, I was/am overly critical of myself.  An A- feels like an F.  Etc.  So, imagine how I get with family.  When my kid was a few weeks old and her umbilical cord had dried up and was falling off, I almost called 911.  So when my pug recently became ill, I almost took her to the local animal hospital that specializes in highway thievery, but I managed to get a hold of myself and waited until the next morning.

She has two vets that are both amazing and have each helped her out of some tough times.  Trail Animal Hospital and Gomara Animal Clinic are the only ones I trust with my Daisy, who according to everyone’s observation, seems to be my favorite from the family…I won’t admit or deny that though.

Trail’s info: 

6464 SW 8th ST
Miami,FL. 33144

Gomara’s info:

1835 SW 27th Ave Miami, FL 33145
(305) 857-0096





Cynthia, the Hair Guru

Good, meaningful relationships take work, sacrifice, communication, hugs, love, and yes, a couple arguments peppered in.  This rule doesn’t just apply to good and meaningful relationships with significant others, children, families, and friends.  Oh no, I’m here to tell you that this rule also applies to the often under-appreciated heroes in your life: your plumber, electrician, gardener, cleaning lady, and yes, your hairdresser.  I would also like to remind you that your hairdresser or hair guru, as I refer to mine, often has to deal with you when you are not in tip top emotional OR physical shape.

Take my hair guru, Cynthia, I sent her some crazed text message at 9 p.m. a few days ago telling her “I need to change my hair because my roots are driving me nuts and I feel old”, she laughed and scheduled me immediately.  I walked in with a blah mood after a tough morning, she gave me a hug, offered me tea, and confessed how happy she was that I had finally come around (I was being a little stubborn hoping that my hair would naturally become like Rogue’s from X-Men, but it was beginning to look more like Adela, the grandmother from ¿Qué Pasa, USA?).

An hour later, I walked out in a much better mood, and with a youthful, vibrant, healthy head of hair — she’s magical (ask my family and friends – they’ll tell you I was looking a little crazy)!

About Cynthia: she has a great eye for color and highlights, she is an artist, demonstrates enormous professionalism, and her prices are more than fair (if you have long hair, as I do, you may possibly incur an extra charge, which is fair so get over it).

You can always find another girlfriend or boyfriend, but a good hair guru, well, that’s tough to find!

Here’s Cynthia’s information: (305) 753-2001, she can often be found at Paul David salon, which is next to Duffy’s (great burger and beer, but that’s another blog) on SW 57th Avenue & 19th Street.



Funerals, Wakes and Derriere Lifts

The last few days have been tough for my family…the final link from the older generation passed away last week.

My great-aunt always had a smile, a dark sense of humor, and was a confidante to many.

The great thing about being part of a crazy family is that we manage to laugh at the darkest hours, always a good tool to possess given the cheesiness and money-hungry feel from funeral homes.  You hope for Michael C. Hall from Six Feet Under; you get a woman with too much hair spray and make-up, a thick accent, and a polyester suit, engrossed in a phone conversation, ignoring your tear-stained face, a dress belonging to the deceased hanging on your arm, and giving you attitude because you’re trying to get her attention.  Really?  Really.  That was the beginning when my cousins first arrived to make arrangements.  Let’s move forward in time to the wake.

A wake – we (most Caribbean islanders) are a passionate people; we scream, we cry, we faint on command, and we throw things and that’s when we’re happy.  So, when other people have quick memorial services, we prefer pulling an all-nighter with an open-casket, inviting long-lost family members, encouraging dramatic moments, and offering an unlimited supply of Cuban coffee.

At some point during wakes, a priest will come, and do his thing (I have no idea what that thing is because I grew up with an atheist father).  Our family, however, asked one of our priest-like cousins to lead the crowd in a memorial of sorts for my great-aunt; it was heart-felt, sincere, funny, sad, and great.  But apparently, no one gave the actual priest the memo that his services weren’t needed today so he came in 30 minutes later, demanding to be heard, and we all stared.  Really? Really.  That was the wake.  Now let’s move to the burial.

With most of the inner circle present, we said goodbye before the casket was closed.  It was probably the toughest moment.  My cousins went in the non-hearse vehicle while the rest of us carpooled to the cemetery.  We took the Palmetto through Hialeah, which was adorned with billboards recommending you get a derriere lift or a breast enhancement.  We all went in a procession towards the mausoleum where she would be buried with her husband.  All I could focus on were the containers of silicone that were being used to encase my great-aunt and the hydraulic lift supplying the height to the top because my great-uncle always kidded around that no one was going above him in his final resting place.  They seal her in.  They shuffle us out.  They encourage us to walk a little faster.  We get downstairs and are greeted by impatient funeral workers and the next mourning family.  Really? Really. Thanks for downplaying our grief, our reality.  Thanks for making her seem insignificant — I realize we all are in the grand scheme of things, but really?  at this moment?  Really?  Really.

Welcome to Caballero Funeral Homes.



Are you sisters?

Yes, I have a 16 year old daughter, BUT many people confuse as sisters.  Do I argue?  No, I send them flowers to their workplaces.  Can I take credit for looking younger?  Probably not, but I will anyway.  Aside from that whole genetics/DNA thing — like my grandmother and mother looking great and being nearly wrinkle-free, I do actually take care of my skin.  It is a learned behavior — we saw our moms do it when we’re young and we mimic them, and that hopefully becomes part of our daily regimen as adults.  Now, what we use will always differ.  My grandmother used Ivory soap her entire life to wash her face and barely ever wore make-up.  My mom has always used the best of the best on her skin and barely ever wore make-up.  So what do I use?  Throughout my life there have been several brands that I loved and here they are:

  • As a kid and teen, I swore by Johnson & Johnson’s Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash                             
  • In my twenties, I switched to Origins and started developing a regimen; I became aware of the importance of using SPF to protect my skin from the sun.  I alternated between Checks & Balances and Never a Dull Moment face washes,  A Perfect World skin serum (protects your skin from free radicals), Have a Nice Day moisturizer with SPF (discontinued), and Night-a-mins face lotion.                                                                                                                                                        
  • Then, a few years later (please notice I stopped dating myself after the twenties remark), I began using Dr. Weil Night Health Bedtime Face Cream, Ginzing Eye Cream, and the best make-up remover ever, Clean Energy (I still use these, especially Ginzing and Clean Energy!)                                                                                                                                                
  • And now…I just love Clinique face products, make-up (the two times a year I actually wear any), all of it. Highlights: Even Better Essence Lotion, Repair Wear Laser Focus serum, Super Defense eye cream with SPF 20, Youth Surge SPF 15 moisturizer and my favorite: Turnaround Overnight Moisturizer.

A few other notable mentions:

  • Cetaphil Face Wash (the CVS brand does just fine)
  • and any of the face products from Neutrogena, especially the moisturizer for acne-prone skin!

Oh, and like my grandmother and mother…I barely use make-up, so you figure out what the real secret weapon is against aging!


Katy Perry and the Prismatic World Tour

katy perry in b&W

Hmmm…where shall I begin…Okay, at the beginning.

I’m a huge fan.  I basically have the emotional maturity of a middle schooler, which is how I understand my students.  I blast “Roar” and “Wide Awake” when it comes on or any other Katy Perry song.  I once spent an entire karaoke-style evening singing Katy even though I shouldn’t have been (if you heard me, you’d understand).  So, you can imagine my excitement when I received tickets to her concert for my birthday!

My concert buddy (also known as my daughter) and I arrived at the American Airlines arena, headed straight to our area in the upper levels and then invested in cute t-shirts to remember the moment — I do love my pink tee: .

Then we sat down to listen to the first opening act — Ferras, who in retrospect was okay, but at that moment felt as though if I listened too long, I might fall into a deep depression.  An hour later, the second opening act, Capital Cities, came on; they are the ones that sing the catchy tune “Safe and Sound” and that is their ONLY catchy tune (the moment they tried to sing Madonna’s Holiday, I left to eat the world’s worst pretzel).

Moving on…as we sat and waited, I took notes like “Tick tock Katy. It’s 9:13 and it’s past your target audience’s bedtime…and mine”.  We were among a sea of pink, purple, and fluorescent green wigs on the heads of so many kids, one might think you detoured into Disney World.

Then at last, she came on with Roar…great performance.  The rest of the evening was a blur of scary animated cats that vogue and shop on Rodeo, her songs set to a mix Power 96 can use, and a lot of time speaking with the audience.

I was disappointed, but it made sense: she’s a pop star and her target audience is a younger one that likes that sort of performance with the really cool light show and visual effects…I guess I just really wanted to hear more of her.  However, I will not end this on a negative note, so here are the highlights:

  • As I mentioned, Roar was incredibly well done.
  • Her acoustic performance of The One that Got Away was amazing…it reminded me why I was there and nearly brought me to tears (but that’s another blog).                                                                                        katy perry singing the one that got away
  • Her final encore performance of Firework was outstanding…we wore special Prism Vision glasses and the entire arena became a kaleidoscope of colors and well, it was simply, awesome.
  • I also need to mention: #MakeRoarHappen;  Katy teamed up with Staples to donate $1 million to to help teachers and students in the classroom.
  • I also liked the fact that she was telling a sea of girls and young women to love themselves first and foremost.

Set list (pardon any mistakes, but the cats may have confused me at times):

  1. Roar
  2. Part of Me
  3. Wide Awake (usually my personal favorite)
  4. This Moment
  5. Love Me
  6. Dark Horse
  7. E.T. (Supernatural)
  8. Legendary Lovers
  9. I Kissed A Girl
  10. Hot and Cold (with cats)
  11. By the Grace of God
  12. The One that Got Away – acoustic – amazing!!!
  13. Unconditionally
  14. Walking On Air
  15. It Takes Two
  16. This Is How We Do
  17. Last Friday Night
  18. Teenage Dream
  19. California Gurls
  20. (Encore) Happy Birthday
  21. (Encore) Firework