Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Can you make your liver smile?

Just a year ago I received a gift (from life) called Julie & Julia, a movie full of personal meaning and mainly a reminder of how fortunate I’ve been to have journeys in my life. This summer, life conspired again to give me another gift, this time named: Eat Pray Love. Even when I got the book almost two years ago, I never connected and couldn’t finish it. Probably, it wasn’t my time to read it but after watching Julia Robert’s movie I felt the same way I did a year ago after enjoying the delicious story of the Julias: full of life and dreams!

This is a movie about finding love but most importantly rediscovering yourself, something that could be a little bit more challenging than everyone would think. For Liz (Julia Roberts) it took a year of traveling through Italy, India and Indonesia to connect with her soul and to find her new path. Like I wrote a year ago on the Julie & Julia post, for me everything started 8 years ago when I moved to Canada. At first it was my adventure in Montreal, having a French or more precisely a Quebecois lifestyle where I learnt to really live and enjoy the present and savour the smallest details in life. A year later when I moved to Toronto, I was faced with a world in which life goes faster than other places and where time is money. A place where I really needed to know my direction in order to succeed. Here, I started one of the most important battles of my life: letting go who I was in the past, defining who I really was and daring to be who I wanted to be. Eight years after, even when I think I have a pretty accurate idea of my path in life, I’m still reinventing myself every single day.

Eat Pray Love reminds us that life is a constant evolution, that we have to learn to forgive us in order to be free and then happy. We have to embrace life in our own personal way. There are no other formulas but ours. Every person we meet in life is someone that is there to teach us something about ourselves and just like Ketut, the medicine man, said: “We have to smile not only with our face but with our heart, mind and even with our liver”. That’s the only way to survive in a world where sometimes it seems like there is no time to be present and to have happy feelings and thoughts.

One dialogue that I loved is when Richard from Texas tells Liz that we have to learn how to select our thoughts just the same way we select the clothes we are going to wear every day. He says that we constantly have the need to control our life but that we should be better working on controlling our mind, a power we can cultivate. He also says to not invest energy in bad thoughts or feelings and that whenever they come to our mind we should send them light, love an let them go. Then focus on what really matters: US.

I can just say that we have to have an appetite for our life, to marvel at something and that sometimes we have to lose our balance as we know it in order to find it all over again. If you can’t read the book (yes I’m finally reading it!) I suggest that you watch the movie. It’s pretty close to the story and just as inspiring. Thank you life for thinking of me again and sending me such a nice gift! I can’t wait to continue my journey in life, to keep learning, growing, eating good gelati and of course writing! And just like Ketut would say: “See you later alligator!”

Dedicated to all the wonderful women in the world that are in a personal journey to rediscover themselves. Let yourself GO!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Love is in the earth...

On my last birthday my very good friend Val not only wrote some very special words to me but she also gave me an incredible present: a Grow-A-Note card! These cute cards are made with recycled paper that has a variety of wildflower seeds embedded which apparently will grow just about anywhere! The paper is supposed to recycle naturally into the soil as the seedlings grow, isn’t that cool?

Well, as you have already read in some past posts, I’ve had a crazy year. So winter was gone, spring came, summer is almost gone and I haven’t had the chance to plant my card. But then, an idea came to my mind! Sadly (for me), Val is moving to the west-coast so what better gift to say good-bye than a Grow-A-Note Card! In this way, next spring we’ll both plant our cards and these beautiful flowers will remind us of the incredible and nurturing friendship that we’ve had for the last 6 years. I think the power of love of those written words will act like magic fertilizer bringing the most amazing blooms.

We usually forget how the paper industry affects the environment. How important it is to avoid buying unnecessary products made out of paper and when buying them checking that they come from recycled sources. The excessive harvesting of trees is one of the most worrying problems that have to be addressed and solved. Trees are a synonym of oxygen, clean air and less pollution, so we have to protect them!

These eco-friendly cards are handmade in San Diego, California by the Green Field Paper Company and you can find them at Grassroots, a store in The Annex specialized in environmental products.

So let people know how much you care about them and literally spread love in the EARTH!
Dedicated to Val, one of the most beautiful souls I've met who has profoundly impacted my life!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hot vegan!

This last Thursday I finally made it to the Hot Yam! Two of our best friends had been inviting us since a long time ago to enjoy some delightful vegan food at this original concept hosted by the University of Toronto’s students. Everyone involved is a volunteer and they do these lunch parties once a week, every Thursday to be more precise. The food is mostly local, mostly organic and ENTIRELY vegan and you can enjoy it for only 4 bucks!

The lunch is served from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and don’t be late cause besides the huge lineup the food goes fast. That day they were sold out by 1 p.m., oh yes! I just loved the sense of community of the event; everyone saying hi, open to try new flavours and probably to eat in a different way for the first time (don’t forget it’s yummy vegan food: no meat, no dairy, no animal fat, just creative veggies and spices!).

That day the menu consisted of Borscht (a super delicious and unique Ukrainian beet cold soup, definitely the winner of the day!); kale, rice and nori (a combination of rice with cabbage and seaweed); carrot and white bean salad; and a plum crisp.

This community is so giving that they even share their recipes on their blog in case you loved something and you want to try it at home. Thank you Val and George for this great tip, we’ll be definitely going back soon and I’ll probably even volunteer! This was a great and different way to spend a Thursday afternoon, eating healthy and having lots of fun.

Hot Yam
International Student Centre
33 George St.
Toronto, ON

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gingerlicious: the comeback

Some months ago, I wrote about my crush with ginger and specially The Ginger People products. At that time I was kind of disappointed because of the small selection of these products available in Toronto. Well, that has changed!

I just found out that Winners and HomeSense (two of my favourite stores for their good deals) carry the brand! But you have to remember, these stores specialize in bringing you the best products with the lowest prices, so the selection you’ll find is not steady and it will be just about luck to find what you are looking for. The day I was there I found, cookies, cooking sauces and crystallized ginger chips.

I decided to buy the Ginger Lemon Grass Sauce which is great with rice, veggies and shrimp (if you are a meat eater). My second choice was the Ginger Peanut Sauce which is the perfect touch for some delicious Asian noodles. Their flavours are so right that you don’t have to use the whole bottle to get the kick you want. Just a tablespoon will make the trick!

So now you know where to find The Ginger People products and become a ginger addict just like me!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cool memories

What could be better than an ice-cream on a hot summer day? Well, to eat one that besides refreshing you would bring back the coolest memories of your childhood!

Of course, I have my favourite ice-cream and gelato spot in Toronto called Ed’s Real Scoop. They have from the ordinary vanilla to the extravagant spicy chocolate, but this time I was delighted by something out of my freezer: the Sprinkle Party Cake Ice Cream from President’s Choice Ice Cream Shop.

Today at the supermarket I saw this vintage and colourful display full of ice-cream containers with flavours you could only find in a fair, an ice-cream truck or a Mom and Pop shop parlour: Bubble Gum Candy, Banana Split, Rainbow, Cotton Candy, Tiger Tail, and Marshmallow Chocolate Swirl, among others.

I decided to try the Sprinkle Party Cake, a vanilla ice-cream with vanilla icing ripple, pound cake pieces and coloured candy sprinkles. It was yummy and like a time machine it transported me to the ice-cream shop I used to go when I was little. We used to call it “Yom, Yom” I’m not even sure if that was the real name of the parlour but I remember my mother taking us there every time we would get good notes. My brother and I standing on tiptoes choosing from coloured ice-creams that my mother would never eat because of their radioactive appearance and strange flavours (LOL)! Our favourite was an explosive purple coloured ice-cream with a grape bubble gum flavour for which I would yell: “El de uvita por favor” (“The grapy one please!”).

The memories were as real as the pieces of pound cake in my ice-cream and they reminded me of the incredible brother I have and the amazing experiences we’ve shared together (I can’t forget his happy face while having his favourite dessert, PRICELESS!).

So after this delicious experience I would say that once in a while it’s not a bad idea to substitute your grown-up favourite gourmet gelato for a childish Bubble Gum ice-cream. You could be amazed by the after taste!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Milagros caninos

Por ahí leí que el 27 de Julio fue el día Internacional del perro callejero y no me extraña que por ningún lado haya escuchado de ello. Estas almitas lamentablemente son ignoradas día con día y ¿por qué habría de ser hoy la excepción? Seguramente algunos piensan que no hay forma de comercializar con un día como éste, entonces ¿para qué darle difusión? Tristes pensamientos los míos pero seguramente llenos de verdad.

Hoy después de disfrutar un paseo con mi perro pensé ¿qué pasaría si todos los que hemos tenido la oportunidad de vivir el milagro canino compartiéramos nuestra historia? ¿Será que la gente podría darse cuenta de la grandeza de estos seres? o ¿Qué su curiosidad o interés por experimentar algo parecido sería mas grande que sus prejuicios? La respuesta no la tengo, pero nada pierdo con contar la historia que comparto con mi perro y tal vez sembrar alguna semilla por ahí.

Coffee llegó a mis manos hace casi nueve años y era del tamaño de la palma de mi mano. El nombre no se lo puse yo, fue un capricho de mi madre y condición para poder quedármelo. Afortunadamente Coffee responde a cuanto sobrenombre le ponemos mi esposo y yo. Algunos días amanece con cara de “Romino” mientras que otros de “Fondito” o “Bonifacio”.

Coffee ha vivido todas mis aventuras incluidas el casarme, el mudarme de país, el cambiar de casa 5 veces en 7 años, el aprender a salir a caminar a -20 grados y aunque no puedo negar que todos estos hechos le han afectado su personalidad a veces de maneras no muy positivas, finalmente su capacidad ilimitada de adaptación ha salido a flote.

Gracias a Coffee aprendí a ver la vida de distinta manera. Me hizo ver la simplicidad de las cosas y lo rebuscado que podemos ser los humanos. Lo fácil que puede ser divertirse con cualquier tontería y ser feliz. Me enseñó el amor, la fidelidad y agradecimiento infinito. Sin él, jamás hubiera podido salir adelante después de la muerte de mi padre. El me siguió hasta cada rincón y se paró junto a mí tratando de desaparecer mis lágrimas con su lengua. Recuerdo su carita de angustia y de desesperación cuando yo no paraba de llorar por horas. Y no olvido como esa misma carita fue la que me hizo salir del hoyo que estaba metida y me hizo recordar que yo aún estaba viva.

Gracias a Coffee hoy soy vegetariana y mi salud está mil veces mejor que antes. Por él nació mi enorme respeto a los animales y por consiguiente mi no aprobación a los métodos no éticos por los que se rige la industria de la carne.

Gracias a Coffee camino todos los días por lo menos 30 minutos los cuales no sólo me sirven para mantener mi condición física sino para conectar con el mundo y la naturaleza. Gracias a ello puedo disfrutar de los parques, de los pájaros, del sol y hasta de nuevas amistades. Sin él mi adaptación a Canadá no hubiera sido tan rápida ya que durante nuestras caminatas he conocido a personas muy valiosas.

Gracias a Coffee es imposible pasar más de 10 minutos deprimido o enojado. Nada más hace falta ver su hermosa carita para olvidar el tráfico, un mal día en el trabajo o cualquier problema existencial. Lo mejor es ver el mismo efecto en la gente que lo observa caminar en la calle. No hay regalo más grande que ver las sonrisas que provoca cuando anda por ahí.

Por todas estas razones no puedo entender porque hay gente que abandona a sus mascotas, que se aburre de ellas, que las dejan amarradas a un árbol día y noche, que las mantienen en azoteas, que se les olvida darles de comer o que peor aun las centra y las atropella con su auto. Es un hecho que ninguno de ellos se ha permitido vivir el milagro de conectar con el reino animal.

Los animales no tienen esa mala compañía llamada “ego” por la cual los humanos hacemos y deshacemos. Y el ser partícipe de ello te cambia la vida.

No tienes que tener una mascota para ser parte de ese milagro. Empieza por observarlos y respetarlos. Educa a tu gente y si puedes ayuda a quienes eligen la misión de rescatar a estas almitas. Atrévete a sentir la conexión y a disfrutarla estoy segura que si la dejas florecer en tu corazón no podrás regresar a la indiferencia del ayer.

NOTA: Este artículo no está mal editado :D La palabra “gracias” se repite casi 100 veces porque ese es el objetivo del post, compartir el agradecimiento infinito hacia estos hermosos seres que en lo personal me han ayudado a ver y a disfrutar la vida de una manera diferente.
Milagros Caninos: es el primer santuario para perros en México. Visítalo y únete a los esfuerzos de Paty su fundadora.
Rescate Malix: es una asociación que se dedica a ayudar a perritos callejeros en la zona de Cancún. ¡Un equipazo!
Cuidando sus huellas: es una comunidad interesada en acabar con el fenómeno de los perros callejeros. ¡Sus esfuerzos son admirables!
Justicia para callejerito: grupo de personas en contra del maltrato a animales callejeros y haciendo esfuerzos para terminarlos.
Rescate animal: grupo que hace esfuerzos por evitar el sufrimiento de animales, apoyan adopciones, etc.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Keep calm and… buy it all!

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen this poster in very chic and hip décor stores. I found it kind of profound and very decorative. They usually carry it in different colours that will match perfectly any house scheme and style. In fact, I’m looking for a yellow or a green one for my own place.

But this doesn’t stop here. I’d be surprised if you haven’t seen notebooks, mugs, t-shirts, greeting cards, shopping bags, etc. with the same theme. You can find them in small gift shops, online and even Chapters bookstore have some of these available in their gift area.

The most important questions are: What is the buzz about this poster? What does it represent or who designed it? Well, everything started in 1939 when the British government produced it to raise the morale of the British public in case of an invasion during World War II. The funny thing is that not only the designer of the poster is totally unknown but it was NEVER used! In 2000 this poster was rediscovered in Barter Books, one of the largest second-hand bookstores in Europe which is located in the North East of England.

Since Crown Copyright expires on artistic works created by the UK government after 50 years, the image is now in the public domain. So the owners of Barter Books decided to reprint copies for customers and the frenzy started!

It has become such an interesting phenomenon that parodies of the poster with similar type but different phrases or logos have gone viral! So if you are a décor junkie like me or you just like curious things this might be one little perfect gift for you or perhaps someone else.

Choose from all the fun combinations “Keep calm and…”: “Eat Cupcakes”, “Drink Wine”, “Love Doxies”, “Ride Bikes”, “Love Knitting”, “Love Goldens” or just stick to the famous and timeless “Carry On”.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Italians do it better...

Madonna has always said “Italians do it better” but when it comes to chilies I never really thought they would. I have become a fan of these extremely spicy and “deliziosi” chilies called Peperoncini Piccanti that I tried in my favourite Italian restaurant called Terroni.

Apparently, they are a variety of the species “Capsicum annuum” just like the bell pepper and they are also known as Tuscan peppers. The term peperoncini is moslty used for hotter varieties and they are the key ingredient for dishes like Pasta alla Puttanesca, Bolognese and Salsa alla Diavola.

They are the “tocco perfetto” for a pizza or pasta. Adding a little bit of these chilies wouldn’t let you stop eating. As a Mexican, I have to say that not only I’m really used to spicy food but I also love it! I’ve tried different types of spiciness like Thai and Indian which are totally different than Mexican. With Thai chilies you will feel the heat at the back of your throat, Indian on your tongue and Mexican on your lips. And let me give you a tip, drinking water after eating a lot of hot food will not put out the fire on your mouth or stomach. The only thing that will is some sour cream, yogurt or milk. Why? I don’t really know, it’s just a “nonna’s” remedy and it works pretty well!

The best part of this is that you don’t have to wait to go and eat at Terroni to enjoy this delight, for as little as $10 CAD you can buy them in their retail area and enjoy them at home with any type of food (they are really good on sandwiches, pitas and even quesadillas!).

They are homemade and since they come preserved in olive oil, they’ll stay fresh for a long time. They are so good that I think you’ll eat them all before they go bad! Godere (enjoy in Italian)!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I’m back and reloaded!

It’s been five months since I last wrote on my blog. Many things have happened during this time, the most significant one: selling my business. A couple of weeks ago I ended one of the most important chapters of my life. Owning a restaurant was not only one of my biggest challenges, it was a life changing experience that brought incredible professional and personal growth. There is definitely a V before and after. I feel happy and blessed to have had an opportunity like that.

The good news is that I feel it’s time to fly to new horizons, share all what I learned and most importantly, keep learning from life and others!

So I’m back and reloaded, ready to keep dreaming and of course BLOGGING!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Since some weeks ago I have these new friends that go with me everywhere and they not only sweeten my life but they spice it up! I’m talking about The Ginger People chews. This delicious brand offers an extensive variety of ginger products that go from candy (like my new best friends) to sauces.

I have to confess that some years ago I wasn’t a huge fan of ginger. I think my first approach to it was when I started eating sushi and I have to say that even with that “girly” pink colour I could never fall in love with it! But it was until I moved to Canada that I started learning from other cultures and educating my palate into new flavours. That’s how I started loving things that I never thought I would, like tea, soymilk, sparkling water or pepper.

A few days after my obsession with ginger chews started I decided to do some research about this amorphous root and I couldn’t believe all the benefits it has! Ginger can not only be used as a spice but it also has curative properties. Experts (naturopaths, herbalists and doctors) say that it can boost your immune system since it’s loaded with virus-fighting substances. It promotes digestion, lowers cholesterol, purifies the pancreas, gives cardiovascular protection and is an energy tonic. It also has an anti-nausea property that is excellent for motion sickness, pregnant women or people undergoing cancer treatments.

Ginger has anti-inflammatory components called gingerols which inhibit an enzyme that causes inflammation so you can say goodbye to headaches, menstrual discomfort and arthritis. It works just like Ibuprofen but without the side effects (wow!). One of the best parts is that it has anticancer properties that have shown to destroy colon, ovarian, and rectal cancer cells (could you believe that?)

So after knowing all this I could only think about having as much ginger as I could! So I got some fresh roots that I’ve been adding to salad dressings, shakes and soups (with small amounts you get tons of flavour). Now I’m also fan of the ginger-honey green tea from President’s Choice, it’s delicious! Definitely my favourite are still The Ginger People chews which you can also find in unique combinations with apple or peanut. One of the reasons I love them is because they bring memories of my childhood since they somehow taste like “camotes” a Mexican type of candy original from the state of Puebla.

If you want to experiment with the magic root I really recommend you to visit The Ginger People website, they have a recipe section where you’ll find great ideas on how to include ginger in your daily diet. Try from a fun cocktail to a formal main dish. One of the ideas that I loved the most for “simple” was to replace sugar in your preferred tea for small chunks of crystallized ginger, it will make it sweet and when the tea is gone you’ll have some chewy rehydrated ginger to enjoy. Definitely the best!

I think I’ll tell my husband to pamper me with the Ginger Carrot Soup, the Halibut with Ginger Lemon Grass & Apple Couscous or the Key Lime Pie (my favourite dessert) with Gingersnap Crust. I’m looking forward to enjoying some of the last days of winter with a Hot Ginger Lemonade. If I’m lucky I’ll have it on a snowy day.

The Ginger People Company takes pride in being the most quality-oriented and environmentally conscious ginger producer in the world and when you try their products you cannot but agree with that statement. I’ve tried some other ginger products that are not as good as theirs. The only downside to this is that TGP products are not that easy to find in Toronto, you can only find a small selection of them in some health stores like Noah’s Natural Foods. But anyways, with the downsides and the highlights, the sweet and the hot, I’m having a blast with ginger in my life!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feeling like a mermaid…

Some weeks ago I had the opportunity to enjoy not a cup of tea but a dip in a swimming pool of green tea. Wow, it was just delicious! One of my best friends decided to celebrate her b-day in a very unique way and we went to Body Blitz.

Body Blitz is a different type of spa where you can relax and detoxify your body (and I would say your soul as well). Their motto “health by water” says it all! This warehouse located in downtown Toronto offers a mix of pools, steam room, sauna and treatments that make you feel in aquatic heaven. I’m not a swimming pool person but I have to say that I loved this experience. In fact, I’m dreaming about my next visit.

I didn’t know that the word spa is an acronym from the Latin phrase “salus per aquam” (health through water) and at least in this place it makes total sense. Here you’ll find a variety of pools (sea salt, hot green tea and a cold plunge) that are complemented by an aromatherapy steam room and an infrared sauna. If this wasn’t enough you can enhance the experience by also getting treatments that go from body scrubs to massages.

For privacy reasons you cannot take pictures inside the place and even your mobile has to be off when you go in (I'm using their website pics). By crossing those doors, you will not only forget about time and real life but you’ll enter to a new world of femininity, peace and self love (this is an only women place). You can either go and have a quiet time for yourself or enjoy a fun moment with your girlfriends along with some healthy drinks from their juice bar.

After filling out a health form I received a body blitz tour where they showed me the locker and washroom area, the pools and the vanity room (a place out of a movie full of lights, mirrors and everything to make you look beautiful: hairdryers, hair straighteners, and personal care products). They provide you with clean robes, sandals and a set of towels. The question is: birthday suit or bathing suit? This is up to you! Most girls will opt for bathing suits but there will be others wearing just bathing suit bottoms. You can buy one in their retail area or bring your own but always keeping in mind that the waters may discolour it (mine was completely ok after the experience).

When I got there my friends were already having a chat in the warm sea salt pool so after having a shower (for hygiene reasons you have to shower first before starting the bathing ritual) I joined them. This pool was a relaxing and pleasing experience due to its 24 hydrotherapy jets that gently massage your body.

There is a recommended water circuit to follow where you will go from one place to another always having a rinsing shower and a minute in the cold plunge pool in between to keep your body temperature and heart rate at a healthy level.

We were so into the chat that we went straight from the pool to the steam room and for me it was hell! I had a mini panic attack. I couldn’t breathe, and I felt like I was burning inside. I only last about 30 seconds in there and went out to get some fresh air. At that point I doubted if this was going to be a nice experience, so I decided to have a rinsing shower and give it a second chance by starting the cycle all over again.

We all decided to start with the cold plunge, a really difficult and scary experience for many, fortunately not for me! The water was sooo cold that it felt like if you were just going into lake Ontario in a cold January morning. Some girls couldn’t make it the first time but I totally liked it. This balanced my temperature and made me enjoy the rest of the experience.

My second visit to the steam room was incredible and in fact I loved the aromatherapy oil (an eucalyptus-mint mix) that made my respiratory track feel in heaven and not in hell like the first time. The hot green tea pool was as delicious as it sounds and it was probably my favourite although I must confess that my guilty pleasure is the cold plunge, LOL! It’s shaking but refreshing.

After two hours of fun we decided to take off our mermaid tails and start getting ready to go back to reality. The experience made me eliminate toxins and polluting agents from my body as well as strengthen my immune system. All this feminine energy filled my heart with an inexplicable good vibe.

It’s definitely a must go place in the city of Toronto, the prices are fare and the good news is that they have a reduced price on Tuesdays. I’m thinking about making Body Blitz my once a month energy recharge routine. In addition to discovering that I have a mermaid soul the experience splashed my life in a very unexpected and positive way!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


As a Latin American it is always refreshing to see that our community is growing and becoming more respected in the multicultural city of Toronto. I say Latin American because I don’t think I could say I’m 100% Mexican anymore. After having the opportunity of knowing people from countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina I now think that I feel more Latin than just Mexican. My vocabulary (even my accent!) is a mix of Colombian, Venezuelan and Mexican words. I enjoy their music, food and culture as if they were mine.

Quite differently to what people might think, even when we all Latin Americans share Spanish as a language, our culture and lifestyles are not the same so we have plenty to share and learn! I have to say that I love the way Colombians and Venezuelans see life, they are happy people. They laugh, dance and enjoy life like there’s no tomorrow and they welcome Mexicans as family.

When we arrived to Canada almost seven years ago, we got to Montreal at the same time as this wonderful Venezuelan couple with whom we became best friends. Besides sharing our first steps in our new country we had the opportunity to know their cheerful culture and their delicious food. Ale and Freddy introduced us to a side of our Latin culture that we didn’t know and to the luscious world of the arepa.

Arepas are made of corn and they look like a super thick tortilla. They are more like patties and can be grilled or baked (we have a similar thing in Mexico called Gorditas only that these are fried). There are many variations of the arepa according to their place of origin but I have to say my favourite is the Venezuelan (yes mi pana!)

So now you will understand my excitement when I saw there was a place called Arepa Cafe opening soon in Queen Street West. As a business owner I love to check out new concepts and I have to say that this place gets a straight A (or 10 for the Latin American community).

Arepa Cafe, is a Venezuelan eatery where you’ll find the most popular types of arepas from the famous Reina Pepiada (chicken and avocado) to the Pernil (roasted pork with caramelized onions and cheese). Another delight is a type of finger food called Tequeños which are cheese strips covered with bread dough that make them look like breadsticks. These are deep fried and come with a side of “guasacaca” (an avocado spread very similar to the Mexican guacamole).
My favourites were the Avocado and Queso Fresco arepa and the Cachapa (a corn pancake with fresh cheese). Both were fresh and light and a perfect option for a tasty vegetarian meal. For dessert we had the Quesillo that is very similar to what we know as a flan or crème brûlée, it was really yummy! They also sell soups, sandwiches, coffee and what they call batidos (fresh fruit juices).

We had the chance to meet Eduardo Lee, one of the owners. He was a delight! He explained to us a little bit about the concept and made us feel totally welcomed. Eduardo has a degree in environmental design and many years experience in the restaurant industry and it shows. The minimalist, chic and retro decor with the authentic and cool music reflect the modern Venezuelan culture (and I would say Latin American reality) or as he calls it “Venezuelan urbanity”.
The excellent quality of the food, the warm and nice ambience with accessible prices and a self service formula make Arepa Café a perfect Cheap and Chic place!

Congratulations, Eduardo and Mark! You’re doing a great job. I’ll spread the word and I hope your place becomes an inspiration for other talented Latin Americans with great ideas.

Wow, it feels so good to be Latin! Believe me, this was CHEVERE!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The September Issue & My Own Issues!

The September Issue is a movie that shows the fascinating and sometimes controversial worlds of fashion and publishing. I have to say that for me it only brought some of the best memories of my life and reminded me of some of the most precious and talented women that I have ever met.

I worked for the publishing industry for 8 years and I can only say that there’s a Vivian before and after that. It changed me forever in the best ways. This experience besides being the most exciting of my life made me a more confident and independent woman, gave me a different perspective of the world and made me think outside the box.

When I started working at the publishing house I was coming from a marketing background and a very technical company (Ericsson). At that time I was looking to work in a more creative place doing public relations. So when Toni, the editor in chief for Tu Magazine contacted me for an interview it was a dream come true! The reality is that I didn’t know what I was getting into. So when I was asked to go for an interview I dressed into my best suit and showed up with my most professional and serious attitude.

When I got there I was completely surprised to see this different world where being laidback, fun and original were the keys to success. I remember feeling totally out of place with my slick outfit and attitude (LOL). After my first interview I was asked to write three articles for the magazine (a title dedicated to girls from 12 to 18 years old). I was sooo excited because my passion for writing was going to become a reality. I wrote the required texts and a week later I was already part of the team. I couldn’t believe what was happening! I was not only going to work in the most important publishing house in Latin America (Editorial Televisa) but in one of their most important and profitable titles (Revista TU).

With a bachelor degree in marketing I quite never thought that this would become real. I discovered my passion for writing when I was 8 years old after I wrote a short story about a girl with a magic finger for a writing contest at my school in 3rd grade. I won the 3rd place so that totally encouraged me to keep writing short stories that I would only read to my mom. I was too shy to share them with my whole family or friends. During the next years at school I enjoyed everything related with writing articles, essays, poems, etc. But when it was time to choose a career I think Mexico’s reality pushed me to go for something more corporate and business oriented like marketing which is also something that I really like and that definitely has given me the skills to accomplish a lot of dreams in my life like opening a restaurant.

But the magic started the day that I began working for Tu Magazine. With no experience at all in this industry I was in charge of more than the third part of the editorial content. I remember that during my first day I had my first interview already. I was so nervous! I grabbed a borrowed tape recorder and drove to meet this Latin American singer called Emanuel Ortega. He was launching his first album so he was as nervous as me. We even shared our stories and laughed during the whole interview about the fact that we both were two completely beginners. That day I had so much fun that I knew I was on the right path and in fact after that moment a cascade of unbelievable events began to happen.

I started meeting and interviewing national and international celebrities. Names that went from Hanson to Christina Aguilera. I had from the best experiences like interviewing one of my favourite actresses, Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins & The Sound of Music) to the worst phoner (phone interview) with Matthew McConaughey which was a stressfull phone call that cut off like 10 times in 15 minutes and put him and his manager in the worst of the moods (I just remember the shaking of my voice and body while his manager could just yell and blame me for the troubled call).

I had the chance to travel and cover set visits, junkets, and incredible events like the season finale of Dawson’s Creek in N.Y. or the launching of the first Britney Spears movie in New Orleans where I had the chance to meet a shy and sweet Britney. I met intelligent and fun people like Kirsten Dunst, Anne Hathaway, James Marsden, Mena Suvari, Jack Black, Mandy Moore, James Franco and Shakira and lost and sad like Jessica Simpson. I used to stay at the same hotels as these celebrities so I shared elevators with people like Toni Collette or Macaulay Culkin and learned that some of them were as ordinary as me.

The most ironic part of this is that the more celebrities you meet the more down to earth you get and the more you value your common life. I never asked for an autograph or a picture (well, I’m lying since I only did it with my idol Julie Andrews!). You just get so used to this world that you learn that these celebrities usually are as ordinary as your co-workers so putting them in such a pedestal feels weird! The funny thing is the more famous they became the more humble and educated they were.

I’ve been kind of feminist since I was born (you can ask my mother, I was looking for equality since I was in her womb LOL!) and the fashion and publishing industries are just inspiring since they are mostly ruled by powerful and passionate women. A lot of people would think that it's one of the vainest worlds but after my experience I can only say that I became a more human and caring person. You travel and meet so different people and places that it's impossible not to evolve into a more conscious individual.

I had the honour of working with two of the most amazing women I have ever known. Toni Salamanca, now editor in chief for Harper’s Bazaar Mexico and Susana Ogando, now editor in chief for Eres Magazine. These two incredible, creative and intelligent women showed me everything about passion, hard work and ethic. They were not only committed to their title but to their readers. In this case, little girls looking for answers that went from the triviality of what to wear to the complexity of what to do during an unexpected pregnancy or a profound depression. They taught me things that have been precious in my personal life and as a business owner. And just like them there's a list of wonderful women that I had the pleasure to meet.

I’m just grateful for this incredible opportunity of having been able to share my thoughts, insights and experiences and probably make a difference in teenagers living in more than 15 countries all over Latin America including the Latin community in the U.S. I totally miss it and in fact this feeling is the fuel for this blog.

Lately, there has been an obsession from the media with the fashion and publishing industries and I totally understand it, they are magical, intriguing and unique worlds. But there’s more than angry and cold women, there’s a group of people interested in making some changes in the world through the power of word. The September Issue is more than a movie about fashion, it's a film that shows that there’s more than ads in a magazine. There’s vision, passion, intelligence, a lot of hard work and an ideal to make the world a better place.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Close encounter of the protein type

One of the first questions that I get when people know that I’m a vegetarian is: “So, where do you get your protein from?!?!” (Don’t forget to read it with surprise and a little bit of panic). At the beginning of the process I was as panicked as them and I really didn’t know what to say. My first answer was: “Cheese!” (Like if I was smiling big time for a picture LOL). At that point I knew that I would have to do something about it not only to have a good answer but for having good health. I started reading and finding out that there were plenty of ways to get protein in a vegetarian and delicious way.

I’ve been eating a lot of legumes and nuts like lentils, beans, almonds, walnuts and peanut butter. But this week I decided that it was time to go further and start experimenting with totally new ingredients. So after hearing a lot about this pseudocereal I decided it was time to finally welcome quinoa to my diet. Quinoa’s nutritional value is so rich and special that even the NASA and the UN are including it in their projects under the label of “super food” and “super crop”. It has more protein than any other grain (between 12% to 18% compared with 7.5% for rice) and contains a balanced set of essential amino acids.

I got it from my regular market and found it in an organic version which made it even more attractive. Since this was my first close encounter with this pseudocereal I decided to go with a really easy recipe and cook it just like rice. Instead of the recommended amount of water, to give it a little bit more flavour I decided to put half water and half organic vegetable stock. I like to mix as many vegetables as possible to try to get as many nutrients as I can so while cooking it I added some chunky home made salsa roja (with onions and chiles) and some corn. Thirty minutes later I had a delicious and really healthy meal. It looked pretty much like couscous but with super powers!

The flavour is so similar to rice while the texture is a funny and almost unbelievable combination between soft and crisp. Definitely a versatile main dish that will become a favourite in my food repertoire.

It’s funny to think that only because you decided to eat in a different way to the majority of people you should put more attention to what you eat. The truth is that everyone should do the same. Not because you eat meat means that your health is in good shape. Usually meat eaters consume very little vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds making it a less balanced diet. So be adventurous and try this “super food”. I can’t guarantee you’ll get "super powers" but at least you’ll feel suuuper good!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Run chicken run!

Some weeks ago, my friend Maru posted a video in Facebook about the chicken and egg industry asking herself if it would be just better to go for organic when buying eggs (because of the cruelty related with the industry).

As a vegetarian, of course it caught my attention. I started watching the video and five minutes later I was already crying. I’m very sensitive about this animal cruelty subject, in fact, it is the main reason why I am a vegetarian. More than for health or lifestyle it is for my profound love towards animals and the planet that I’m not eating meat anymore.

These images shook me to the point of asking myself if I wanted to continue eating eggs and dairy products on a daily basis. This is a really tough decision for me because while I can live without meat and probably eggs I don’t see myself skipping dairy for life. Could I go from veggie to vegan? That was the BIG question.

My journalist’s side wanted to know more and find a solution to it, and even when I knew it was going to be painful I put my fingers to work and googled as much as I could about the subject. Along my way I found horrible videos about the chicken/egg industry but luckily there was also light at the end of the tunnel.

I was surprised to find that there are some options available not exclusively for vegetarians but for everyone who wants to make a change.

Even when I have already heard about them I didn't really know what all was about and I also thought it was something that you could only find in specialty stores. How wrong I was! There is something called "free-run" or "cage-free" and "free range eggs" . These eggs are produced by hens that are able to move about the floor of the barn (free-run/cage-free) or even have outdoor runs (free-range) and that have access to nesting boxes and perches. You will find them in your regular supermarket and unbelievably the difference in price between a regular eggs carton and a free-run one is just less than 90 cents! Cents that will give a better life to animals and peace to my heart and hopefully to yours as well!

For my milk crush I’ve found that soymilk is a great substitute and I already have my favourite brand called Natur-a that besides being organic you can find in vanilla, strawberry and chocolate flavours, and also in a light (less sugar) version. So, instead of having two daily glasses of milk plus my cereal (yes, I drink a lot!) I’m having one glass of each milk and soymilk and sometimes I even mix it with rice milk which is also good and delicious.

As you can see there are plenty of choices! Would I become a vegan? Still don’t know. But what I do know is that there are many ways to eat and live better and enjoy a free-cruelty world. The best part is that you don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to start making the difference. Substitute milk for soymilk once a week or start buying organic meat or free range eggs. Small decisions can push the world to the right direction and that’s all that matters, don’t you think?