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Union Beer Store: the New Kids in Little Havana


Following an exhausting day comprised of guiding our future voters, as Betsy DeVos, who is less prepared than Oscar the Grouch, was confirmed as Secretary of Education, I followed a friend/colleague to a new place she was raving about, telling me this would be our new hangout spot: the Union Beer Store.  Hanging underneath an old I Love Calle Ocho sign, the storefront is quite humble. The tinted windows were a little confusing making us think maybe it was closed, but to our good fortune, it was not.

We were greeted by Jake, the bartender, a representative from Doral’s M.I.A Brewery and Tony from North Coast Brewing, located in Fort Bragg, California, just a little drive outside of the Napa/Sonoma area.  Union has an intimate feel, detailed with wood, a huge whale, and cool signs such as “Don’t be a Dick” that hovers near the snack area. We tried some of the North Coast brews one of which I simply adore: Old Rasputin, a dark Russian Imperial Stout style beer while my friend had the Old Stock Ale 2016, a wonderful brown ale with some interesting caramel notes.  Both beers are meant to be sipped, which we most certainly did as we chatted with Jake and Tony, while nibbling on Sriracha popcorn that was amazing.

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Shortly after we met the owners, Cici and David…both who may look familiar when you meet them:  while CiCi started the Miami Brew Bus that takes interested folks to nearby breweries. David was part of the founding staff at Lokal in the Grove and later went on as a partner to manage Kush, Lokal’s sister restaurant in Wynwood.

As a huge fan of all the aforementioned spots, particularly Lokal, I immediately felt right at home. This would be our new hangout: wonderful ambiance, an awesome staff and music set at a perfect level to engage in conversation which we enjoyed for quite a while before going home with an assortment of sensational brews.  Go check out Union soon! Here’s their info:

1547 Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street), Miami, Fl 33135

and hey, follow them on FB while you’re at it…

Union Beer Store’s Facebook page




It’s Christmas in summer…it’s Miami Spice!

The sun is shining, daylight lasts longer, and Miami Spice returns… it’s like Christmas for foodies (on budgets like me) to rejoice! What kicks off the season? Not eggnog and candy canes, but rather Fontainebleau’s Miami Spice Preview, hosted by the lovely Karen and Larry from BCPR and Ana Lanzas and Stephanie Giner from the Fontainebleau, showcasing: Scarpetta, Hakkasan, and StripSteak by Michael Mina, and their own patisserie, Chez Bon Bon.  This year we were greeted by Scarpetta’s limoncello cocktail that was delicious, followed by a lovely roasted branzino, and then the angels began to sing, the sky opened up and rays of light unveiled the dish before me… my favorite food perfected by this glorious place… spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce (pasta pomodoro e basilico)… it was and always is outstanding. It’s tough to follow that, but Hakkasan always can and they did it by greeting us with a Chinese mule (their version of the Moscow mule, which is my preferred summertime cocktail) which I had to pace myself with… and yes, they serve both lunch and dinner Miami Spice menus and yes, either will prove amazing, but my recommendation will always be to head for lunch because they serve their… dim sum basket which includes lotus root with mushroom chicken shumai that is heavenly alongside their baby bok choy with garlic that is scrumptious. We then headed to StripSteak, which greeted us with a “Sugar n Spice, whiskey is nice” cocktail that was my favorite of the evening (and that is not an easy feat especially since I’m not a huge whiskey fan). It was perfect.  The kale salad with pickled tomatoes was incredible, and so was their filet mignon that was served with a yummy carrot ginger purée and broccoli… and I had stayed away from bread all night, but their garlic bread was one that I wanted to cuddle with while nibbling on. The night ended with a goodie bag from Chez Bon Bon, which is always the goodie bag of all goodie bags (and whose macaroons make me sing), included their amazing flavored marshmallows, madeleines, and chocolate bon bons…by the end of the night my inner child was twirling with delight!



Clarins: a brand & philosophy.

If you see me on the street, you won’t usually see me with make-up, and I’m usually dressed rather casually.  I probably won’t come across as superficial, and I tend to be quieter.  And I doubt you’ll think my looks are too important to me, but you’ll be wrong.  Although I really don’t pay too much attention to the brands of clothes I wear or the kind of car I drive, I do care about what I ingest and what I apply to my skin.  So, imagine my delight when I was invited to the view the latest skin advancements that Clarins is rolling out for Spring.

First, let me say this company’s philosophy encompasses quality in all areas: excellence in the ingredients chosen, giving back to the world, being environmentally conscious, and practicing compassion towards its clients and employees.  Imagine that — a company that cares all around!  So, just like the foods I eat — I want to know that the products I apply originated from a positive environment, with good karma all around.

Clarins is a pioneer in anti-pollution skin care.  They actually observed the impact that pollution was having on steel buildings and thought of the impact on a woman’s delicate skin…and they created a line that includes anti-pollution components throughout “125 Clarins daytime skin care and make-up formulas”.  Now onto their Spring line

1. Total Eye Concentrate – smoothes out crow’s feet and wrinkles (starting to need it here so thank you!), reduces dark circles and puffiness (thank you so much!), and instant lifting of eyelids.  By the way, 94% of the women they tried it on were convinced within 7 days!

2.  UV Plus Anti-Pollution with SPF 50 – fights free radicals, UV rays, and pollution — I’m on board and I love the white tea and sanicle and cantaloupe melon extract!

3. The Everlasting Foundation with SPF 15 – 18 hour hold! matte finish, fights against free radicals, UV rays, pollution and it’s non-oily — lovely texture!

4. Garden Escape Spring Colour Collection –

  • beautiful array of Instant Light Lip Balm Perfector that almost act like mood rings for your lips (so yummy!),
  • a beautiful Blush Prodige, Crayon Khol in a gorgeous green,
  • (my favorite and it’s a Limited Edition!) the Garden Escape 6-Colour Eye Palette  WET or DRY!
  • Instant Light Lip Comfort Oil — nourishing, not sticky, and love the Honey, but it’s a Limited Edition so you gotta try it
  • Joli Rouge Perfect Shine Sheer Lipstick – wonderful, natural looking shades

The prices are reasonable, a little bit goes a long way and you’re feeding your skin quality products produced with good karma in every step.

I’ll sum it up in the words of Christian Courtin-Clarins: “It is essential to think that whatever we do today, we do for the future of our children.”  I think that’s good karma from a brand that demonstrates excellence on all levels.


LUCKYRICE Festival’s 5th Anniversary Celebration

     I love this time of year for a multitude of reasons: the cooler weather, Art Basel is soon approaching, and other wonderful events begin popping up, making Miami a more electric city.

     This Saturday, November 15th, is the culinary spectacular: the LUCKYRICE Festival’s 5th Anniversary Celebration.  It is being presented by BOMBAY SAPPHIRE East and hosted by Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto, from 7:30-11PM.

After five years of increasing hype and (sold-out) popularity in NYC, LA, Vegas and SF, the nation’s preeminent celebration of Asian food and cocktail culture, known as LUCKYRICE, is returning to Miami this Saturday. Once again, LUCKYRICE will bring together renowned chefs and mixologists from Miami’s exploding culinary scene alongside international celebrity chefs to create the ultimate Asian cocktail + culinary experience.  This year’s feast will return to Miami Beach at The Raleigh Pool and Oasis, combining the best of LUCKYRICE with Asian-meets-Latino bites and globally spirited cocktails from Miami’s finest chefs and mixologists.

Participating chefs/restaurants include: Masaharu Morimoto, Barley & Swine, The Bazaar by José Andrés, The Federal, Hakkasan, Juvia, Katsuya, Khong River House, Lure Fishbar, and SUSHISAMBA  who will serve a total of 16 custom cocktails featuring BOMBAY SAPPHIRE East and other spirits.

WHAT:                  LUCKYRICE Miami Presented by BOMBAY SAPPHIRE East
WHEN:                  Saturday, November 15 (7:30—11pm)
WHO:                    Hosted by Iron Chef’s Masaharu Morimoto

WHERE:                The Raleigh Pool and Oasis

                              1775 Collins Ave
                              Miami Beach, FL 33139
Dress code:         Firecracker or Chili Pepper Red (suggested)


Ticket Pricing
GA: $88

The Signature Cocktail

Bombay Sapphire® East Gin

To honor the 2014 Year of the Horse, Bombay Sapphire EAST has created a signature cocktail to celebrate this year’s LUCKYRICE festivities . Infused with Thai Lemongrass and Vietnamese Black Peppercorns, Bombay Sapphire EAST is the perfect spirit to pair with each imaginative dish.

Signature ‘Year of the Horse’ Cocktail – EAST Hibuscus Buck
1.5oz Bombay Sapphire EAST
1.5oz Hibiscus Tea
1.5oz Ginger Beer
2 squeezes fresh lime.
Build all with ice in a highball glass.
Garnish with lime wedge and lemongrass stalk.


The Cocktail Menu

Asahi Beer

Asahi Super Dry
Asahi Kuronama

Bombay Sapphire® East Gin
Sapphire® East Year of the Horse: Bombay Sapphire® East Gin, Hibiscus Tea, Ginger Beer, Fresh Lime, Garnished with Lime Wedge and Lemongrass Stalk

Cleo South Beach
Cleo Kiss: Bombay Sapphire® East Gin, Lime Juice, Pomegranate Juice, Simple Syrup, Prosecco
Lotus Flower: Bombay Sapphire® East Gin, St-Germain® Liqueur, Watermelon, Lemon, Simple Syrup, Sierra Mist Splash, Garnished with Watermelon Slice

Drawing Room Bar & Lounge (Albert Trummer)
Gin & Tonic From The Market: Bombay Sapphire® East, Herbal Bitters and Infused with Selected Herbs and Cucumber
Vintage Margarita: Corzo® Silver Tequila, Fresh Lime, Agave Nectar Flambeed with Saigon Cinnamon & Himalayan Salt Rim

Finka Table & Tap
Mr. Miyagi: Bombay Sapphire® East Gin, Pink Peppercorn & Ginger Syrup, Asian Pear Juice, Yuzu, Aloe Soda
Purple Rain: Corzo® Silver Tequila, Micro Cilantro, Spicy Hibiscus Syrup, Fresh Beet Juice, Fresh Lime Juice, Kimchee Salt Rim

Hakkasan (Sarah Lawrence and Mauricio Batista)
Shenzhen: Bombay Sapphire® East, Chinese Five Spice Cordial, Fresh Lemon Juice, Fresh Ginger Juice, Garnished with Lemon Wheel, Fresh Shaved Cinnamon and Star Anise
Chrysanthemum Kiss: D’USSE® Cognac, Koval Chrysanthemum Honey Liqueur, Mike’s Hot Honey, Lemon Juice, Garnished with Chinese Hot Mustard Powder-dusted Chinese Sausage and Antica Carpano-infused Filthy Onion

Juvia Lemonade: Bombay Sapphire® East Gin, Blueberry Preserve, Lemon Sour
Paloma: Corzo® Silver Tequila, Grapefruit, Lemon Sour, Pinch of Salt

The Regent Cocktail Club
Sapphire Cooler: Bombay® Sapphire East Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, Lime Juice, Grapefruit Juice, Tonic Water, Edible Flower
Le Coq: D’USSE® Cognac, Apricot Syrup, Peach Bitters, Angostura Bitters, Apricot Slice


The Tasting Menu


Azucar Ice Cream                                                                                                                                                                        Calabaza Pumpkin Ice Cream with Sriracha Five Spice Pecans

Barley & Wich
Pan Con Bistec Sandwich: Bulgogi-style Beef Tongue, Kimchi, Tomatoes, Potato Sticks, Cuban Bun
Elena Ruz Sandwich: Miso-braised Duck Legs, Fig Mustarda, Cream Cheese, Crispy Chicken Skin, Media Noche Bun

The Bazaar by José Andrés
Caprese Salad

Buns & Buns
Bourbon Glazed Pork Belly, Cabbage Slaw, Pork Chicharron, Garlic Aioli

The Federal
Finka Table & Tap
Pumpkin Duck: Roasted Kabocha Puree Topped with Pan Seared Duck, Scallion Salad, Wasabi Soy Dressing

Pan-fried Vegetable with Black Truffle Dumpling
Steamed Char Sui Bun with Chestnut

Ilios at Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
Stuffed Squid with Shrimp and Pork with Sot Ca Sauce

Tuna Poke Rice, Sesame Chili, Red Onions, Japanese Rice

Smoked Salmon Cone, Black Sesame Seed, Wasabi Foam

Khong River House
Thai Steak Salad with Green Papaya and Lemongrass Caramel Dressing

La Mar by Gastón Acurio
Cebiche Nikei: Tuna, Red Onions, Nori, Avocado, Daikon, Cucumber and Nikei Tamarind Leche de Tigre

Lure Fishbar
Tuna Tataki: Orange Ponzu, Crispy Shallots, Micro Arugula

Michael Mina 74
Sake Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass, Dashi Poached Tokyo Turnip, Cured Ikura Roe, Nitro Caramel Popcorn

Restaurant Michael Schwartz
Lucky Rice Salad: Coconut, Lemongrass, Ginger, Chilies, Cilantro, Lime, Tomato, Sweet Pork, Crispy Shallots
Rock Shrimp Rice Balls: Red Curry, Sesame Seeds, Grilled Scallion Puree

Open Blue
Open Blue Cobia Tiradito, Wakame Seaweed, Red Onions, Jalapeño, Ponzu

Pisco Picanha Saltado: Sesame Oil & Pisco Seared Picanha, Red Onion, Heirloom Cherry Tomato, Crispy Mochi, Poached Quail Egg

Kurobuta Yaki: Japanese Giant Black Pig Chicharrón, Scallion, Shiitake Mushrooms and Bonito Flakes with Yuzu-Tofu Crema and Rocoto Jam


So come out and join me for this celebration that will delight your taste buds!  See you Saturday!





Using Reader’s Theater During Intervention…

It was the first day of Autumn yesterday! As a teacher in the primary grades, I just wanted to read a good book with my class, bring in apples and make applesauce with them, which can of course, lead to a slew of writing activities after.  However, sneaking in a Fall-related activity can induce high levels of anxiety despite the positive effect it may have on a child.

The classroom has lost much of its pizzazz due to the overwhelming amounts of protocol teachers have to follow.  A teacher needs to be resourceful and manage his or her time wisely, which is a difficult feat when adhering to strict time schedules.  I have discovered that intervention blocks allow for some creativity and some lost pizzazz.  How?  One way to bridge learning gaps in reading is using Reader’s Theater, a research-based technique, in which students can act out parts.  It can become a truly fun activity that invites one’s creativity, in addition to honing on reading comprehension, fluency, and specifically prosody.  I particularly like using this strategy with children who have emotional and or behavioral disorders because it allows them to also focus on their socialization skills while improving their reading.

So, we might not all be able to make applesauce, but we can take out the puppets and create our own classroom theater!


New Girl’s Healthy Season 4 Premiere

We know that laughter is known to be a remedy for a variety of emotional states, but it’s a little better than that.  According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter’s short term benefits encompasses the stimulation of several organs such as your lungs and heart, it relaxes you, and promotes positive circulation and muscle relaxation. The long-term effects of laughter include improvement of your immune system, acting as a natural painkiller, helping you cope with difficult situations, and making you happier.  So, you might understand why I have incorporated its health benefits here….

New Girl is insanely funny.  This cast has you laughing out loud throughout the 30 minutes.  I can honestly say that two minutes in, I said “I had been without them for too long”.  The season 4 premiere was great.  The plot was centered around their final wedding of the summer and ensuring they all left with someone.  Zooey Deschanel’s character, Jess, opens the episode by saying they were going in as a sex fist and ending the episode saying they were leaving with just a sex finger.  She used a voice she named “Vagina Voice” which, as I write about it, has me laughing right now (I’ve heard writing can also be beneficial for your health). One of the other characters, Winston, advises Jess that since there is only one eligible bachelor at the reception, she was to “Joe Biden” him and just “be there” every time he turned around.  Since I will never be able to do it justice, I won’t go into Winston’s advise about foursomes to Nick and Schmidt using the salt and pepper shakers, Jess’ YMCA dance in the men’s room, or Coach’s “chocolate pocket”.

Go add laughter to your life and watch it on Tuesdays on Fox at 9 p.m. EST, and please go find and watch the season 4 premiere.  With everything that’s going on in the world today, we really need to take time to laugh and enhance the quality of our lives.  It may sound silly, but take some time for you, and go and double-over laughing at this wonderful cast!


Resourceful Teachers in an Ineffective System

As the summer came to a sad end, the back-to-school hustle and bustle has been in full throttle.  You can’t go to any place that sells paper, composition notebooks, pens or pencils because the lines have been outrageous and the crowds unnerving.  Yet there’s nothing like that smell of school supplies.  Teachers are a significant part of those crowds buying their own supplies on a limited budget.  In fact, in certain districts, teachers are just being asked to confirm their addresses in order to receive supply money in a few weeks, which would put us in October and they’ve been in school since August and haven’t even received paper.  You do the math (just in case math isn’t your strong suit, by now some teachers have spent an average of $500 of their own money for this new school year alone).

Teachers have to constantly make magic happen for supplies and educational resources.  Many schools and classrooms have been without textbooks, but teachers are still being held accountable for the learning happening in the classroom despite not being provided with the basics needed to teach. Thank goodness for Google and that teachers are resourceful creatures.  There are websites that are major supports, and I would like to acknowledge them at this moment and perhaps explore their effectiveness individually at a later time.  Ed-Helper has a wide range of printables available in many subjects and many grade levels, which you can customize; this is a wonderful site and a huge life saver.   Pinterest provides a wealth of how-to’s to build your classroom, for lesson plans, you name it, Pinterest has it, and often it will take you to another useful site, Teachers Pay Teachers.  There’s also Discovery to help build and teach science lessons, Khan Academy to reinforce a variety of subjects, and  Read Think and Share My Lesson that offer a wide variety of standards-based lesson plans.  Let’s not forget the often unsung heroes who help tremendously: YouTube and Google!

So there you go…some useful sites if you’re expected to pull a rabbit out of a nonexistent hat!


Trader Joe’s

In my mind, Etta James’ At Last is playing and I seem to be gliding through a field of daisies…where am I? At Trader Joe’s.  What is it if you haven’t ventured through its doors?  A grocery store chain from the West coast that finally brought one store here to South Florida a little over a year ago.  This store is unique in a number of different ways…

The folks working inside have a hippiesh feel and they are more than happy to help you.  The food, one might think is expensive, but check again because it’s actually cheaper than many of the typical grocery stores available, but it has wonderful little things like milk and meats without hormones, fair-trade coffee, a variety of foods that are healthier for you yet reasonably priced…please finf the sweet potato gnocchi in their freezer section and try it or their unsweetened dried mango, their cereals are so wonderful and cheap…just go and see what I’m talking about…oh and their simmer sauces like the curry or marsala simmer sauces are so good.  I’m going to stop…just go and discover your own favorites.  Then there’s their wine and beers.  Good wines, great prices.  I almost don’t want to tell you about my favorite area because it’s already difficult enough to get because it sells out so quickly…they have Boatswain beers that are $2.49 for each bottle that is a little more than a pint of deliciousness.

Some people go to therapy or a bar when they need to decompress, I go to Trader Joe’s.  Go and see what I’m talking about.

Here’s their information:

Trader Joe’s Pinecrest
9205 S Dixie Hwy
Miami, FL 33156 ‎
Grocery Trading Hours:
Mon-Sun: 8am – 9pm


Mi Rinconcito Mexicano

So we stumbled upon this little treasure thanks to the Miami New Times’, Best of Miami 2014 declaring Mi Rinconcito Mexicano as having the best burrito in Miami and years before in 2009 they declared it the best Mexican restaurant in Miami.  So I went to check it over with my family and we found the reports to be incredibly accurate.  The burrito with either chicken or meat, was delicious.  The enchiladas with either chicken or vegetables (yes, they have a good vegetarian menu) covered in their molé sauce was spectacular, (and molé isn’t easy to find around these parts, let alone good molé).  The horchata, which is a typical drink that I can best describe as an arroz con leche in a glass, is scrumptious — I didn’t order it so I had to steal sips from other people at my table! My favorite beer, Negra Modelo, was cheap and the food was very reasonably priced (they’ve gone up thanks to their fame).  The service was good and the parking fairly simple.  I personally love dining in Little Havana and now that I know about this treasure, I’ll be there more often.

…And here’s the address so you go check it out: 1961 SW 8th St. Miami, FL 33135 | 305-644-4015


True Blood’s True Death

I have opted to wait until this series’ true end to write about it.  Why?  Despite the criticisms over the last few seasons (and I include myself in that), I love this show, Charlaine Harris’ series of books on which it’s based on, and I can’t imagine Sundays without it.  It’s been a part of of our Sunday ritual for seven years and the void will be felt perhaps more than the void left by the books (despite the books being better).  Onto critiquing the series finale…

I loved Granny Stackhouse’s cameo reminding Sookie to never limit herself.  I enjoyed Sookie’s disdain of Jason’s preference for instant coffee.  Hoyt and Jessica’s wedding was a sweet and cheesy touch that took way too long (Jason’s was sweet and to the point).  Bill’s end was poorly chosen and pathetic.  And is it me or did Sookie’s baby daddy kinda look like Stephen Moyer from the back???  And Eric and Pam…sure, I guess, whatever…I wasn’t a fan of that story line ending either or Sam’s.  I had hoped that Sookie, who I love because she’s a bad-ass, would have an equally empowering final screen shot other than her pouring lemonade.

Well…good night sweet Bon Temps…you gave us many years of debauchery, romance, and fang-banging.  Really a stake through Bill? Really?!  Well, at least there was LaFayette’s sound ending.  Good night.