It's Time To Talk. HIV One Conversation at a Time {#spon}

Disclosure: This post is made possible by support from the We Can Stop HIV One Conversation at a Time campaign. All opinions are my own. 



Miguel was the best man at my parent's wedding. He was tall, good-looking and had a dimpled smile. He wore silky shirts, the three top buttons unbuttoned, sipped beer with a straw and loved to flirt with women. Miguel was the kind of man everyone liked to be around. Every so often, he'd come over on a Saturday night for dinner. We'd sit around the dining room and I'd listen to my parents and Miguel tell stories of the old days of dancing and drinking.  

I was a freshmen in high school (1990) when I heard my parents whispering about Miguel. He was in the hospital and my mother had been to see him. Miguel had AIDS. 

At 14, I sort of knew what AIDS was. It wasn't openly talked about, often a word whispered among adults. But I knew that Rock Hudson had died from it a few years earlier. And my aunt (who owned a hair salon in lower Manhattan) talked about it often. Though she never used the word AIDS, she'd say "sick." 

Miguel was gay and my father was shocked by the news. My mother wasn't. "I always kind of knew," she said. When Miguel died, my father was devastated. He had lost of his best friend and he realized that he never really knew Miguel at all.
For some people, talking about HIV/AIDS may be uncomfortable and may feel embarrassing at first, even with close family members and friends. With a little preparation and practice, you can boost your confidence, overcome any fears that you might have, and start talking openly about HIV with your family and friends. A conversation does not always have to be face-to-face. Whether you talk, type, or text, what is important is that you start the conversation about HIV.
If you want to start the conversation about HIV, here are a few talking points:
HIV is still a health issue in the United States. More than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States, including more than 220,000 Hispanics/Latinos.


Myths persist about how HIV is transmitted. HIV is spread mainly by having sex with or sharing drug injection equipment with someone who is infected with HIV. HIV cannot be spread by casual contact such as hugging, shaking hands, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, cigarettes, pets, or insects. HIV is not spread through the air, and it does not live outside the body.


Many people who are living with HIV don’t know it. Getting an HIV test is the only way to know if you have HIV. HIV testing is fast, free, and confidential. To find an HIV testing center near you, you can enter your ZIP code online, call 800-CDC-INFO, or text your ZIP code to “KNOW IT” (566948) and you will receive a text back with a testing site near you. You can also get a home testing kit (the Home Access HIV-1 Test System or the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test) from a drugstore.


Although there is currently no cure for HIV, there are treatment options that can help people with HIV and AIDS live active and longer lives. Proper medical care including taking medicine known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV and lower their chance of infecting others.

HIV can be prevented. Today, more tools than ever are available to prevent HIV. In addition to limiting your number of sexual partners, never sharing needles, and using condoms correctly and consistently, you may be able to take advantage of medicines that prevent HIV such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis(PEP).


For more tools/tips visit www.cdc/gov/actagainstaids



CDC One Conversation at a Time Campaign web banner. Image of a middle aged Latina and a young man with two speech bubbles with messages about the importance of having HIV conversations.
Disclosure: This post is made possible by support from the We Can Stop HIV One Conversation at a Time campaign. All opinions are my own. 

OMG! Max Likes a Girl [Parenthood: The Scale of Affection is Fluid]


Recap of Parenthood: The Scale of Affection is Fluid {Season 6 Episode 605}

Adam and Kristina sit Max down for a conversation about relationships, since they are experts. And sometimes, in relationships, people can like each other at different levels. For instance Adam and Kristina both like each other at a 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, but when they first met, Kristina liked Adam at a 2, though he liked her at a 5. Kristina bristles when Adam agrees with Max's deduction that the scale of affection is fluid, it can change. The conversation to temper expectation, has morphed into steam for Max's engine of love. At lunch, Max corners Dylan to ask the quantitative representation of her feelings for him. When Dylan opts for a 2, Max figures he can work with it, since he'll have roughly a decade to change her mind.

Max has been to the library to take out several books on how to pick up women by so-called experts. Kristina levels a withering gaze at Adam, accusing him of thwarting their plan. Dylan isn't going to like Max the way he likes her! But Adam can't see it. Why can't Dylan like Max? Adam has to think it's possible. Kristina doesn't like it, but she comes around, joining Adam for a talk with Max on how to utilize his best qualities in the romance department.

***
I have been watching Parenthood from the very beginning. At first I had mixed feelings about it but as the characters and storyline developed, I've become attached. Especially to Max  - the kid with Aspergers - and his parents, Adam and Kristina. But I'll talk about that another time...right now I just want to talk about the latest episode.


Max likes a girl! And once again Adam and Kristina are at odds on how to handle it. Kristina doesn't believe that Dylan (Max's love like interest) will like Max. But Adam is all like "Why not Max?" because he has to believe that someone will care for his son in that way.  

As I sat on my sofa Thursday night, sipping my glass of pinot grigio, I started sobbing. I usually sob during Parenthood because I get it. I get exactly what Adam and Kristina are feeling. Well, maybe not exactly. Because Norrin is only 8 years old - he's no where near liking girls just yet. But I wonder about the future. Will his heart flutter for someone else? And will those feeling be reciprocated. I understand Kristina's hesitation - she doesn't want to see her son get hurt. But I also understand Adam. And I want to have Adam's same "Why not?" attitude. And by the end of the episode, I kind of saw Dylan showing Max a little more interest. I can't wait to see how their story unfolds. 

I love how Max continues to evolve through the natural phases of growing up. I appreciate the writers allowing his character to grow up with both honesty and dignity. Max hasn't had the easiest time making/keeping friends - but it seems as if he is really trying. It's sweet.  

Norrin may not have Aspergers and I know that Max isn't real but it still gives me so much hope for Norrin's future.   

Do watch Parenthood? What are your thoughts on Max's first crush?      

photos: NBC Parenthood

Celebrating Halloween at The Magic Kingdom {When Your Kid Has Autism} #MNSSHP


While at #NicheParent14 last week, I took some time away from the group to visit The Magic Kingdom with Norrin. It was our first time at Walt Disney World during Halloween and there was no way I was going to miss out on Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party! And I am so happy we did. 

I've been to Walt Disney World in the summer, visited for Star Wars Weekend. I've been to Disneyland in November (for Viva Navidad!). But The Magic Kingdom at Halloween is simply spectacular! Typically I'm not a fan of Halloween but like everything else, Disney makes it special.

If you've never been to Walt Disney World in October, can I just say the weather is perfect. The afternoons are warm (you can easily take a dip in a hotel pool) and the evenings are cool and comfortable. 

Traveling to Walt Disney World when your child has autism requires planning and preparation. As an autism mom, what I loved about #MNSSHP is that tickets are limited. Once they sell out, that's it. This means, the Magic Kingdom isn't overwhelmingly crowded. We were able to easily navigate the park and the lines weren't outrageous. We didn't even need the Disability Access Service Card. With the exception of The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train*, none of the ride wait times exceeded 20 minutes. Our average wait time was about 10 minutes.

*We waited an hour for The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, got in a car. And then Norrin changed his mind. Maybe next time...

Two seconds before getting on the Mad Tea Party ride, I check my email. Back in September I applied for the Disney Mom Panel Search. As it was mid October, I assumed I hadn't been selected to move on. Well wouldn't you know, while in Fantasyland I got an email saying I moved on to Round 2 of the #DisneyMP Search! Our first trip to Disney in 2011 was carefully planned. And it was such an important part of our life, I want to help other special needs parents with their Disney experience.  I know, not really related to #MNSSHP, but I just had to share. 



The Magic Kingdom was decked out Disney Halloween decorations and almost everyone was dressed up - guests and characters. We weren't but that was fine too. There were Trick or Treat stations throughout the park and Norrin got some candy (which I later ate). 

We visited The Magic Kingdom in June and it was great to see Norrin's progress since our last visit. He was interested in getting on rides. And he was quite vocal about what rides he wanted to go on next. 

This time, Norrin loved the fireworks. I went prepared with his headphones and he was in awe of all the colors. 


A photo posted by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez (@laliquin) on


Norrin was open to posing with character favorites - like Winnie the Pooh, Tinker Bell and Mickey Mouse - something he's usually hesitant about. We've seen Mickey at Epcot but never at the Magic Kingdom. As we were exiting the park, we decided to see if there was a long line to meet Mickey at the Town Square Theater. There wasn't a line at all! (Probably since it was late in the evening and the parade was about to start. So keep this in mind when you go.) At first Norrin was hesitant, he didn't want to go in. The cast members were really nice and patient with Norrin. And then Mickey reached out his hand and spoke! He said, "Hi there! Come on in." Norrin approached Mickey with caution. When Mickey spoke again, Norrin had the biggest smile on his face!

After meeting Mickey, we decided to meet Tinkerbell. Tink is my childhood favorite. She's really my first connection to Walt Disney World since it's the very first costume I remember wearing for Halloween. When the cast member asked us if we brought Faith, Trust and a little bit of Pixie Dust, I gasped when the room lit up with Pixie Dust.

We even got to see the parade - a Disney first for us! While everyone was crowded on Main Street U.S.A, we had a prime viewing spot in front of City Hall. I found myself dancing and singing along. And all week long, I've been humming Boo To You to myself.    

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party was the perfect way to celebrate Halloween. The only thing missing was Joseph. I wish he was with us because I know he would have loved it. But that's okay, I have a feeling we'll be back real soon!


What you NEED to know about Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

You NEED a separate ticket to get in. If you want to buy a ticket, you better hurry! There are limited tickets available for Oct. 23, 24 & 26.

The Party officially begins at 7pm (until close). However, if you arrive after 4pm, you may be granted entry if the park isn't at full capacity.

Not all the attractions are open.

For more details click HERE

And here's my #MNSSH video mash up. I combined my Flipagram & Instagram videos together.  



#NicheParent14 Takeaways & Magical Moments

Disclosure: As a Niche Parent Ambassador/Affiliate I received a family conference package and 10% of all sales (including packages) from any purchase made through affiliate link. All opinions are my own. 



I'm back from #NicheParent14 and I'm still on a blog high. That's one of my favorite things about attending conferences - I always feel so motivated when I return. It's like a jolt of energy. I have all these ideas and not enough time. But I'm not complaining...because lots of ideas is a good thing. I'm writing them all down for those moments when nothing comes to mind. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to attend the Niche Parent Conference. I've been blogging for four years - I'm not a newbie but there is always room to grow and learn. 

While at Niche Parent, I had the opportunity to meet brands and bloggers. It was fun to reconnect with my blog amigas and I also met some new friends. And it was also my first conference with Norrin. He even sat in on a few panels! I was so proud of him.  

If you didn't get a chance to attend the conference - don't worry. Here are my key takeaways:   

I could listen to Alberto Sardinas talk all day. His story is so inspiring and motivating. Alberto was an ideal keynote speaker for #NicheParent14. He believes in the power of your story. As bloggers, that's what we are: storytellers. No matter what we blog about - we always have to bring it back to our story. That's the way to make a real impact. 

Probably one of my favorite people I met while at #NicheParent14! Julie Cole of Mabel's Labels was fun, honest and engaging. As a mom of 6 (one with autism) who is a successful businesswoman (or Mompreneur), Julie encouraged the moms in the room to "lower [their] standards" because "the kids are all right." I loved her laid back, keep it real attitude about motherhood. So many women are running themselves ragged trying to do it all and be everywhere. It's kind of impossible to do. Julie shared that she is strategic about her business and strategic about her kids. She also stressed the importance of keeping the commitments you make to your kids.    
I've been following Kim Garst on Twitter for a while and it was such a thrill to hear her speak in person. She has a quiet confidence. But her message rings loud and clear. If you don't follow her on Twitter, you should.  
Okay...I am secretly obsessed with Laura Fuentes of Momables right now. Her site is amazing and she was just totally down to earth! I'm determined to download a menu and follow it. Also, after chatting with her I am tempted to switch to a Paleo lifestyle. Anyway, Laura is all about building your business and focusing on what matters.   
Yup...another Laura quote. But this was my little golden nugget of the conference. She encouraged us to start investing in ourselves by boosting our FB content. She suggested taking an evergreen post that did really well and giving it a boost. I've written so many articles over the last four years - some better than others. But just because something was written last year, doesn't mean it's unrelatable today.  
Matt Cherry was electric! I loved meeting him and hearing his panel on 30 Easy Changes To Make for Giant Growth. (I also won a subscription for iBlog Magazine - woohooo)! I loved what he said about peers. He put things in perspective. He encouraged us to collaborate, to network, to reach out to other bloggers. There is no need to be jealous or feel competitive because there is room for all of us. We are all unique - even when we blog about the same topic. 

Like Alberto Sardinas said - we all have our own personal story. There is power in that. No other blogger can tell your story, except you. 

Did you attend #NicheParent14 - what were your key takeaways?    

Some of my #NicheParent14 Magical Moments


Please Don't Go Barnes & Noble @BNBuzz. The Bronx Needs A Bookstore.

10/25 Update: 
Barnes & Noble executives said on Thursday that its store in Bay Plaza in Co-op City will remain open for two more years, reversing an earlier decision to close it after the year-end holidays. The announcement followed efforts by Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, to negotiate a compromise between the bookseller and its landlord, Prestige Properties & Development. [Winnie Hu, NYT]



When my friend shared this photo on Instagram (see below) and tagged me, my first reaction was sadness. Another bookstore I frequent is closing.



I work in midtown Manhattan. The building where I work used to have a Borders Books. I'd spend many a lunch hour walking up and down the aisles looking for books. It's where most of Norrin's books were purchased. A few blocks away, there was a multi-level Barnes & Nobel. And on my way home after work, another Borders Books on Park Avenue. Now they are all gone. There isn't a bookstore nearby to spend my time or my money.

I miss it. I miss the bookstore.

But I took comfort knowing that I had the B&N in Bay Plaza. It's the first bookstore I went to after Norrin was diagnosed with autism. It's where I bought 3 copies of the April issue of Latina magazine, where my first print article was published. It's where we like to spend Saturday afternoons, letting Norrin pick out his books.

I love bookstores. I love discovering new books and seeing old favorites. I have an iPad and a Kindle but I will always prefer holding a book. And buying books on line is just not the same.

According to Nielsen’s survey, ebooks constituted only 23 percent of unit sales for the first six months of the year, while hardcovers made up 25 percent and paperback 42 percent of sales...not only did overall print book sales, at 67 percent of the market, outpace ebook sales, both hardcovers and paperbacks individually outsold ebooks. [Claire Fallon, HuffPost Books]

If this is the case, why do bookstores keep closing? 

Barnes & Nobel is the ONLY bookstore in The Bronx. Once its closes its doors, Bronxites will no longer have an option to buy books in their borough (outside of a Bronx college campus bookstore). If any borough needs a bookstore, it's The Bronx. And our kids need access to books - and not books they can check out from a library, books they can have forever.

Whether you're a Bronx resident or not, PLEASE sign the petition and share with your friends so that we can keep our 1 and only bookstore! To sign click - HERE.

And if Barnes & Noble must close its current location - I hope they reopen a smaller store within the new Bay Plaza shopping center. I hope they recognize that there is a need for one in our community.

One Word Can Ruin An Entire Book


"I've never heard of an aphrodisiac giving anyone flashbacks, especially a decade later. In fact, that's the most retarded thing I've ever heard..."

As soon as I read the r-word on the page, I froze. All the other words blurred and all I could see was 'retarded.' I tried to keep reading but I couldn't. I closed the book, put it back in my bag and closed my eyes for the rest of the train ride home. Only 49 pages into a 371 page book and it was suddenly tainted. 

And honestly it pissed me off because I was really getting into the story. Why did the author have to use that word? Out of all the other words in the English language, the author made a conscious decision to use "retarded."

Not stupid, dumb, lame, ridiculous, silly, crazy, absurd, senseless or illogical (I could easily go on) but "retarded."

It's disappointing because the author is Latina. And I want to support Latino authors, recommend them and write about them. But I don't feel good supporting someone who makes the decision to use the r-word in their writing. 

Junot Diaz and Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez are two other authors who have used the r-word in their writing. Reading them 10-15 years ago, I didn't think anything of it. I didn't even remember it was used until I reread them earlier this year. 

[This isn't a Latino author thing, other writers have used the r-word too and it stirred the same reaction in another blogger.]   

Now I love me some Junot Diaz, I've heard him speak and I've gone to his book signings. But I feel differently about him now. I don't know if I'll ever wait on a line to hear him speak again. And while I've never met Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez (at a signing or conference), I'd be hesitant to purchase another of her books. But I'm willing to give them both the benefit of the doubt - their work was printed years ago. When use of the r-word was considered slang.

This 2014. And the r-word hasn't been considered slang for years. 

The book that I am reading now, the book that I had to put down was published in 2010. I feel like there's no excuse for the author's use of the r-word.
I've called out comedians (D.L. Hughley), commentators (Ann Coulter) and rappers (Drake & J.Cole) for using the r-word. Just the other day, I yelled at my boss (who is an attorney) for using the r-word (I am still too angry to write about that). If I can put them on blast, I should be able to do the same with authors. I would be a hypocrite to overlook a writer's use of the r-word because they are Latino. 

Writers have a command of the language. They're people who study prose and poetry. People who create beautiful imagery and resonate emotion through their words. I expect a little bit more. I expect writers to have enough vocabulary so that they can choose a word other than "retard" to get their point across.

It's not about being oversensitive or playing word police. It's about dignity and respect. When people use the r-word (as an insult to a person, place or thing) it perpetuates this idea that individuals with special needs are dumb, worthless and ugly. It is not an acceptable word to use. Ever.

In the Latino community autism and other special needs are misunderstood and stigmatized. Many parents are afraid to come forth with their children's diagnosis out of shame or fear. They fear the label that comes with special needs. What they fear is someone thinking their child is dumb, weird or less than. They fear the "r-word" and all the cruel implications that come with it.

When I think of how hard Norrin has worked to do all the things that come so easily for other kids like point his finger, wave, jump or speak - I am so amazed by his resilience. I never take any of those moments for granted. I am so proud of him and I cherish every single milestone. Norrin is a bright, funny, sweet and wonderful kid. 

When people use the r-word it diminishes all my son has achieved. When the r-word is  used as an insult, it robs individuals with special needs of their dignity and pride. 

And when people use the r-word around me (or when I read it) I think a little less of the person who used it.   

The ability to write is a gift. And words are powerful tools. When writers (comedians, singers/rappers) use the r-word in their work that is distributed to the masses, you are saying: it's okay to dismiss and discredit this community. 

I am here to say that IT IS NOT OKAY.

As a writer, I get the craft. I wouldn't want anyone to censor my words. All I am asking is that writers use their words responsibly. To think about who they hurt with their words. 

It doesn't matter if you were to say, "Oh I didn't mean your child." That still doesn't make it okay. When folks use the r-word, they don't have to specifically name my child because they mean someone like him. You are hurting an 8 year-old Puerto Rican kid from The Bronx who struggles so hard to fit society's mold of what is typical and every other kid like him.


I will finish this book that I started (because I paid for it). I will be guarded, expecting the word to pop up again. And I will try to be optimistic, hoping the writer makes up for using the r-word. That's not the way I want to read a book.

And it's a shame because the first 48 pages are well-written. It's a beautiful and compelling story. I wanted to be able to share this book and tell everyone to run out and buy it. I don't know if I can do that. Right now, the r-word has overshadowed all of that.   

An Afternoon at Comic Con 2014


This is our 3rd year attending Comic Con as a family. We went back in 2012 for the Sunday Kids Day. It was so hectic for us, that I said I would never do the kids day again. Last year we took Norrin out of school to attend on a Thursday. And this year, we did the same. 

Since I'm taking time off to attend Niche Parent next week, I didn't take the day off of work. So I went to work in the morning and met Joseph and Norrin at the Jacob Javits Center in the afternoon. Probably my biggest mistake. I got out of work late and a little stressed out. Not the best mindset for Comic Con.

Now I like Comic Con - I like seeing the vintage toys and cool merchandise. I get out a kick out of seeing folks dressed up. But it gets so crowded. Joseph likes to walk around aimlessly because he refuses to have make a plan of the booths he wants to see. Do you even know how big the Javits Center is? Then my feet hurt. And it just brings out every anxiety I have about losing Norrin in a crowd. So I hold on for dear life and he spends most of the time yanking my arm because he's moving from one exhibit to the next. It's also tough to keep up with Joseph because he's like a kid in a candy store and forgets all about us. 

The first thing we did was stop at the Nickelodeon Booth. We got to sing the Spongebob Squarepants theme song. I mean, we are totally off key but it was fun. And Norrin loves watching the video of us singing.

I didn't get a chance to take too many pictures. We have none of the 3 of us. Not a single one. Not even a bad one. It was just too crazy. So I feel bad about that but...oh well, what can you do. It was all about Star Wars and Big Hero 6 and Super Sprowtz. 

Norrin likes Comic Con but like me, after an hour or so - he's ready to go. This year was the first year that we checked out the Family Activities on the lower level. It was pretty cool (they had coloring sheets, crayons and a 'make your own cape' craft) and calm. I actually got to sit down. That's where me and Norrin spent the last hour of Comic Com. We colored while Joseph did some shopping. (My husband is a t-shirt junkie.)

But next year if we go, I'm going to have to take the day off.     

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Waiting so patiently to sing in the Nickelodeon booth.






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How cute are these?! #ComicCon #nycc

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I just wanted to hug him. But that would have been weird. #nycc

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These guys - #SuperSprowtz - were so much fun! Be on the look out for them. #nycc

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I really just wanted to take him home. #R2D2 #StarWars #ComicCon #nycc

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Hanging out in the family activity room while @bobafont165 shops. #nycc

NYC Halloween Fun for Kids


Boo at The Bronx Zoo (and also at the Queens Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo)
Saturday, October 4 - Sunday, November 2; includes Columbus Day and Halloween. 


Activities range from a magical illuminated pumpkin walk to costume parades with stilt walkers and giant puppets to musical theater, Broadway show performances, magic, crafts, treat stations and more! Families can also check out our animal exhibits of bats, owls and other winged icons of Halloween. Guests can also embark on a trip back in time with a ride through the Dinosaur Safari before it goes extinct!



Brick or Treat
October 4th-26th
Little ghosts and mummies can experience Halloween at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester every Saturday and Sunday and participate in fun Halloween activitiesJoin LDC Westchester for a spooky scavenger hunt and receive a limited-edition Halloween collector LEGO brick. Come in your favorite costume for $3 off kid’s admission (walk-up only).


Halloween Party at Brookfield Place 10/26 {FREE}

12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Brookfield Place New York


Winter Garden @ 220 Vesey Street NYC
Wear your scariest costume to this ghoulishly great family-friendly Halloween celebration! Flaunt your fierce style while you strut down the runway like a real fashion model on the Costume Catwalk and take your photo at the Freaky Photo Op Mosaic Wall by artist Sean Kenney. Transform yourself with Terrifying Temporary Tattoos and at the Face Painting Parlor. See water disappear with Carmelo the Science Fellow in his Spooky Science Lab! Be enchanted at the Magic Stage with storytelling, magic tricks and performances by The Toys & Tiny Instruments band. Lead by Pixel Academy, explore a virtual reality environment, play video games at the Drumkin Patch and transport yourself with 3D scanning. Dine and Trick or Treat at Hudson Eats among the stilt walkers and zombie clowns before showing off your own costumes in the Parade Finale!



Saturday, October 25 

Put on your holiday best and head to the Scholastic Store for a quick parade around the neighborhood. Afterward, hang out with Clifford the Big Red Dog, craft creepy treat bags and participate in a costume contest.

The Haunted Pumpkin Garden

New York Botanical Gardens
September 20 – October 31
Bring your whole family to enjoy this exciting annual tradition at the Garden. This year, The Haunted Pumpkin Garden combines the spooky fun of Halloween festivities with an astonishing display of the most eye-catching and intriguing pumpkins and gourds. On October 18 & 19, Ray Villafane will work his carving magic to create intricate pumpkin sculptures, while the largest pumpkins from North America will once again call the Garden home on October 25 & 26.


Weekends from September 20th until October 26th

Luna Park is open for Halloween fun. With pumpkin picking, trick or treating and special events you don't need to leave NYC to have some fall fun!

After a day of Halloween fun, make some popcorn, dim the lights and snuggle on the sofa to watch a not so scary movie.   


and if you're up for a road trip...

Weekends through October 26th 
Come in costume and play in our not-too-spooky Halloween haven featuring two new Halloween shows, themed mazes and a Sesame Street character hayride. Don’t miss exciting rides, the Neighborhood Street Party Halloween Parade, the all-new Cookie’s Monster Land, and everyone’s favorite furry friends dressed up in costume!

What Halloween family fun do you have planned for this month? 

White Rice: A Staple of My Childhood


Growing up my mother kept her white rice in an old green tin cracker can. It was dented and scratched and inside a white and blue tea cup - it's handle broken. White rice was a staple in our home. This was the 80s before white rice was deemed bad. 

I'd watch my mother in the kitchen. Admiring the ritual of her rice making. Bringing out the tin from underneath the stovetop cabinet. Scooping out 2 - 3 cups of rice and pouring it into a bowl, sifting through the grains and picking out the discolored ones. She'd fill the bowl with cold water and rinse the rice before cooking. My mother never used a measuring cup for the water - her eye was her instrument. And just as the water came to a boil, she'd cover the caldero placing a match in between the lid and the pot to let the steam out. 

Depending what kind of rice she was making, the room took on a different scent. But whatever it was, it was comforting. It was home. It was the meal I could always count on. We ran out of many things between compras but never rice. There was always a pillow sack of rice around. 

We could eat (and we usually did) white rice every day of the week and not eat the same meal twice. Rice and beans were typical - they were a poor person's meal to keep a family full. My mother made:    

White rice with beans - red or pink; 
White rice with spam;
White rice with a fried egg; 
White rice with salchichas;
White rice with chicken mixed in (arroz con pollo) 
White rice with stewed or fried chicken on the side; 
White rice with pork chops; 
White rice with tomato sauce and other ingredients for yellow rice; and
White rice transformed into arroz con gandules (my personal favorite).

As a teenager I worked in a rectory and the cook made white rice often too. But she made it differently than my mother. It was something new and exciting. (Yes, I am still talking about rice.) The cook tossed half an onion in the pot and used chicken broth instead of water. And sometimes she'd add green peas or red peppers. It was the best white rice I ever had. I could eat it plain and usually asked for a second helping. And on nights when I wasn't hungry, the cook would look hurt and beg me to "have a little more." 

Norrin is like me. He could eat rice every day of the week. I don't make it everyday like my mother. Though I have to say I make some damn good white rice. (I do feel guilty because I tell myself I should make brown rice. We both like brown rice too but it's just not the same.) Now that it's fall and the weather is cooler, I'll make rice more often. I'll spend Sunday afternoons making (red or pink) beans to go with it. The scents of my childhood - cilantro, onions, garlic and peppers - will linger in the air. I am passing along my memories to Norrin and I hope giving him something to remember me by.

Yesterday Rachel, aka The Art Muse, shared a picture and post about tostones for Hispanic Heritage Month,"...of the things I could have written about to cover this month, look what I chose. Tostones." My mother made tostones too. And I understand Rachel's love affair with them.

Food is often our first connection to our heritage - whether it's white rice, red beans or tostones. The food we grow up with are the things that keep us close to our culture and to our childhood.

What is the food of your childhood?

And if white rice is a staple in your home - join the fun on Instagram and share where you store it? 

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I keep my rice in a big plastic container - it used to be filled with pretzels. No dented cracker can for me. Where do you keep your rice?
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