Monthly Archives: February 2013

Mrs. ShuGar’s Best Film of 2012

Movies were made for stories like that of the documentary Searching for Sugarman. Even though it is nominated for Best Documentary of 2012 (which I think it deserves to win), I believe it deserves to win Best Picture.  The film is so compelling and draws you in within the first scene – even more incredible that it is a true story.

Without the need of a spoiler alert, Searching for Sugarman is a story of a musician who, with a sound similar to Bob Dylan, released two albums in the 1970s only to see them never reach success in the United States. Living in Detroit, Michigan, Sixto Rodriguez, otherwise known as Sugarman, continued with his life as a day laborer making minimum wage and forgoing his quest for musical stardom. Unbeknownst to him, his albums somehow made their way to South Africa and were a commercial success.

Maybe it was because his music spoke to a nation grappling with the atrocities of the apartheid or maybe it was because Rodriguez was that good and South Africans appreciated his talent. Whatever it was, in South Africa Rodriguez became more popular that the Beatles, the Rolling Stones or Elvis. If only Rodriguez had known all these years that passed that he had a huge, loyal fan base on the other side of the world. Before the era of the internet when a mysterious story like this would have been solved by the click of a mouse, Rodriguez lived his life without ever being acknowledged for his musical genius and South Africans assumed Rodriguez committed suicide.

The soundtrack of the documentary is all original Rodriguez songs and provides a beautiful backdrop into this heartfelt story of hope, humility, love and destiny. I saw it three times with Mr. ShuGar and we both think it deserves  to win Best Picture of 2012.

On a more personal note, I loved this film because it told the story of a musical talent that just happens to be Mexican-American. Finally, something from the movie industry that doesn’t cast Mexicans as maids, illegal immigrants, gang bangers or incapable of speaking English without a Spanish accent. It was so refreshing to see a story about a Mexican-American being depicted as a true American talent — his ethnicity was not an issue. Although we are proud of our ethnicity and our Mexican heritage, we also are proud to be part of this country and to just be treated like everyone else. But Rodriguez wasn’t just like anyone else – he is now a true American icon and I am proud to see that his music is finally getting the world attention it has long deserved.

Flashback Wednesdays: I know you are, but what am I?

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

You’re a nerd! 

I know you are, but what am I?

You’re an idiot!

I know you are, but what am I?

I know you are, but what am I – I know you are, but what am I…Infinity!

My sister and I have Pee -Wee’s Big Adventure memorized. We could recite scenes line by line!  Tim Burton’s masterpiece never gets old and I had the pleasure of watching it a few years ago at LACMA’s Tim Burton ‘s retrospective in conjunction with his exhibit.  Watching again after all these years really brought back fun childhood moments, but also I felt a deeper appreciation for Tim Burton’s genius.  Impressive that this was Mr. Burton’s first feature film as a director.

When I think of this movie, I see my family gathered around the TV in our old family room. In particular, I remember my dad enjoying this film each and every time we watched it. He would crack up and then ask my sister to recite lines from the movie and then crack up even louder.  The innocence of those days – a time when movies, daddy and daddy’s girls were enough to bring happiness to a home.  Life was simple back then.

One of my dad’s favorite scenes is the Tequila dancing scene in the bar.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BodXwAYeTfM]

The scene is: Pee-Wee ‘s is in a pickle and has to think quick on his feet. He stumbles upon a sketchy bar with a bunch of thug- looking biker dudes, The Satan Helpers. He went straight to the phone, but couldn’t hear the operator.  He yells, “I am trying to use the phone!” That is enough to get The Satan Helpers’ attention and even more reason to get Pee-wee out of their private club. After kicking him out, Pee-wee clumsily stumbles on their bikes and causes them to fall – domino style. They couldn’t let him get away with it, so they bring him back in to let him have it. But, Pee-Wee asks for one last request  – The Tequila dance.

My dad loves that dance.  My sister and I actually learned to imitate Pee-wee’s Tequila dance per my dad’s request.  For my dad, there was nothing funnier than the Tequila dance.

Now that I am older, I can look back at these moments and smile. It was fun being young and laughing at cheesy movies. It was even more fun spending time with daddy. I am lucky to have these memories.

So, if you want a big laugh, I recommend Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure – you won’t be disappointed! Oh, and if anyone asks you – “Be sure and tell ’em Large Marge sent ya! “

Cheap Chic: Maxi Skirts

Mossimo's Women's Pleated Maxi Skirt @ Target

Mossimo’s Women’s Pleated Maxi Skirt @ Target

I am currently obsessing over maxi skirts. Long gone are the days when you only used maxi skirts if you were pregnant or on a hot summer day. You can dress up or down a maxi skirt and make it look as sexy as you want it! My fav maxi skirt is the pleated skirt because it adds nice volume to the shape.

I recently went to a Vintage Expo and was inspired by everything around me. The clothes and accessories were divine, but oh so expensive. I saw a pleated maxi skirt in navy for $75 and was in love. For me, the price was more than I wanted to pay so I decided to go on a hunt for a more economical version. I found an almost identical skirt at Target for $14.99 – it was on sale and now it is $19.99 (still a great price).  As long as you dress it up properly, who is going to know the difference?

I decided to use the skirt with two outfits – one more casual and the other a little bit more sophisticated.

For a more casual look, I used my grey pleated maxi skirt and paired it with a Beatles t-shirt.

Photo credit: Peter Shushtari

Photo credit: Peter Shushtari

Photo credit: Peter Shushtari

Photo credit: Peter Shushtari

As always, accessories can add a twist to any article of clothing. I chose to use a B & W chunky bracelet and my favorite  B & W striped scarf. The key to many maxi skirts is also not looking as if you were swallowed up by the skirt. For this reason, I chose to use a belt to cinch my waist so that you can see my figure a bit more.

For a more sophisticated look, I switched my top and decided to use a flowy blouse that I recently purchased from Marshalls ($14.99). The hearts on the blouse add a sense of whimsy to the outfit.

Photo credit: Peter Shushtari

Photo credit: Peter Shushtari

Photo credit: Peter Shushtari

Photo credit: Peter Shushtari

I switched my belt to add a pop of color to the overall outfit, but the black belt would also have been fine. Both belts were purchased from H & M for less than $10.

What I enjoy most about maxi skirts is that they can be so forgiving on a women’s body. I know we like to show off our curves, but sometimes you just want to be more comfortable and not have to deal with skin tight clothing. I think I might purchase more of these skirts in different colors and play with mixing and matching them with blouses I already have.  By just buying one new article of clothing, you can reinvigorate your closet and look chic for cheap!

Oh Barbara!

Barbara loves this song. Every time it comes on, she begins to sing it loud and clear for all of us to hear. Barbara has pizzaz; she has spunk. Barbara is my step instructor. She also happens to be, I would estimate, in her mid-seventies. She rocks my world and I write this post with so much admiration and respect.

I have been taking Barbara’s step classes for a few years now. I began when I got engaged because I was on a mission to lose weight and fit into that white dress. I credit her and my Zumba instructor, Wil, for getting me into shape and keeping me there.  She teaches step at various LA gyms and clearly loves doing it. She does it 7 days a week! I know, I still can’t believe it, but it is true. I am assuming she is retired, but knowing Barbara I may be wrong about that. She inspires me to get up at 7:00 in the morning on the weekends. Now, that is something worth blogging about!

What I love about Barbara is her zest for life. It’s contagious and gets us all there early morning to “step” with her. She plays contemporary Top 40 and pop music and has most of her songs memorized. She has a passion for ABBA (as do I) and she even has a whole remix ABBA CD. Love it!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFrGuyw1V8s]

I take Step class to be a healthy me. My fluctuating weight has been a constant in my life and I struggle with it daily. Even though I am now at an ideal weight, I fear gaining weight all the time. I was at my “scary” weight years ago when I was in a dysfunctional relationship. I should have read the signs – unhealthy body = unhealthy relationship. However, I did not let the fear paralyze me. With lots of cardio and nutritional eating, I slowly lost the pounds. Now, I get up and step or I get up and dance.  I also monitor my portions and take responsibility for everything that goes into my mouth. In other words, I am always being proactive about my body.

Barbara makes my weekend mornings so much fun. She gets so much joy from seeing us sweat. I still can’t get over how in shape she is! She is older than everybody in the class and some of us struggle to keep up with her energy. Barbara burns the most calories of all of us because she has to verbalize all of the steps we need to take….”repeater, power V, mambo, L step, revolve, scissor, criss-cross, ricochet etc.” She commands our attention and you better not interrupt her class or you will see the wrath of Barbara! There have been a few times when some people have come into the aerobics room to do their own exercises and she has kicked them all out, as politely as possible but still with authority. She is very protective of our time and of hers. Total respect for that.

I love to see women taking control of their lives and being positive role models for all of us. What I love is having this class as a support system of women (and an occasional guy) for healthy living.  We are all of varying shapes and sizes and of different ages, but we all are dedicated to our wellness. If you have the same weight struggles as I do, I suggest finding what you love doing and a support group that enjoys your same interests. There is power in numbers!

Barbara, you are our “dancing queen” and when I grow up I want to be just like you.

Abuelito, Can You Hear Me?

Abuelito & Baby Me

Abuelito means “grandfather” in Spanish. Since my abuelito was from Mexico and only spoke Spanish all his life, it only makes sense to refer to him in the only way I ever did. I cannot think of my childhood without thinking of him and how he shaped my meaning of love.

As a child, I was not lucky enough to have my abuelito live near us since he lived in Mexico and we lived in L.A., but I was lucky enough to have him visit us almost every year. I remember getting excited to pick him up at LAX! We would anxiously wait in Bradley Terminal for his bright cauliflower head to appear among the crowd. Inevitably, he was always wearing a three-piece suit because who doesn’t travel without one? Immediately, I would shower him with hugs. I especially loved rubbing his Santa Claus-like belly, like in this picture below!

Abuelito & Teenager Me (Plus my sister)

Abuelito & Teenager Me (Plus my sister)

My abuelito loved visiting us because he loved his family, but he also tremendously enjoyed traveling. He would talk endlessly about the places he had visited and the places he hoped to visit one day. His face would light up as he described the great wall of China or the beauty of the Australian country-side. Traveling was his passion and it soon became mine. I credit him with my love of travel. I can still hear my abuelito sharing his stories with so much gusto from his lips! My sweetest memories of love are filled with hugs from him.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my abuelito passed away a month before I was to study abroad in London. He always told me that the only continent he hadn’t visited was Europe.  I like to think of it as a symbolic gesture that he was passing the “traveling torch’ to his granddaughter. I wasn’t able to go to Mexico before his passing, so I never gave him one last hug….one last “Te quiero mucho.” (I love you a lot)

This week, a strange thing happened. I was taking a shower and I noticed there was a new bar soap Mr. ShuGar had never used before. I took a sniff and I was flooded by memories of my abuelito. It’s like the memories blanketed my entire being and, with it, tears flowing down my face. I couldn’t believe that one scent could have so much power.

After I got out of the shower, I contemplated why I got so emotional. I then realized that my abuelito’s birthday was just a few days ago and I forgot about it. Life is busy these days. What are the chances that the first year I forgot my abuelito’s birthday, Mr. ShuGar uses the same bar soap that my abuelito used in Mexico all his life?  Probably slim, but I’m glad Mr. ShuGar bought that soap.

After a death, love doesn’t become past tense. It remains present and multiples. You yearn and miss that person and, sometimes, they may slip your mind but they never escape your heart.

Abuelito, if you can hear me I want you to know that I miss you so much. Thank you for sharing your love. Please know, te quiero mucho.

You will find …

You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love. – Henry Drummond

I live because I love. My life has been motivated by my heart and for that reason, I have no regrets. These moments inspired by love encapsulate who I am. Some of the greatest moments I have had “done…in the spirit of love” are:

  • Trusting love again despite a heart-breaking betrayal
  • Wanting to help people improve their lives by empowering them through education
  • Hugging my grandfather every chance I had until he was gone
  • Changing careers because I decided to follow my heart, not my wallet
  • Traveling to different parts of the globe to understand another culture and realize we are all one
  • Believing in the good of everyone no matter how evil humankind can be
  • Saying, “I do” and “I will” love Mr. ShuGar forevermore

Today, and every day, live with love because there is no other way worth living.

Cheesy Tuesdays: Katrina & the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine”

Do you get a case of the “Mondays”? (Office Space) I know I do. Wednesdays are hump days. Thursdays are almost Fridays and Fridays are TGIFs. What about Tuesdays? I feel like Tuesdays get a bad wrap because they still carry the residual effects of a Monday, yet they are still forever away from the weekend. Let’s make Tuesdays “Cheesy Tuesdays” and have more fun! Cheesiness can help!

For this Cheesy Tuesday, I’d like to confess that I still love the song “Walking on Sunshine.” It doesn’t get any cheesier than that, right? You just can’t help but smile when you hear the song.

When Mr. ShuGar hears this song, he thinks of High Fidelity and Jack Black’s “Monday Tape.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVv5sIY57TA]

This is one of Mr. ShuGar’s fav films and he especially likes Black in this scene. Black’s character can’t understand how John Cusack and Todd Louiso prefer listening to Belle and Sebastian’s “Seymour  Stein” instead of “Walking on Sunshine” on a Monday morning! After all, it’s Monday and B & S is “sad bastard” music, according to Black. (BTW, I have pure love for B & S.)  I love what Black does when he plays “Walking on Sunshine”….classic! I agree with Black – “Walking on Sunshine” is made for Mondays, or even better, Cheesy Tuesdays!

However, when I hear “Walking on Sunshine” I don’t think of High Fidelity. I think of Michael J. Fox’s 80’s masterpiece “The Secret of My Success.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9TKsYixTy0]

I don’t know how many times I watched this movie as a kid. Michael J. Fox was so fun in the 80s – Family Ties,  Back to the Future , Teen Wolf, just to name a few.  In this scene, MJF is figuring out how to secretly have two jobs on Wall Street: a mailroom boy and a powerful executive. What is the secret of his success? Easy! Change into different clothes during your breaks and run to and from both offices to keep up the facade. MJF is so happy he is finally getting a chance to become a  business tycoon that he feels as if he’s walking on sunshine. Gotta love it!

So Tuesdays, I salute you. Even when you can be challenging, we can find the sunshine in cheesiness and make everything better! Try it! It has worked for me and it might help you get more easily to Wednesdays.

My (Sort of) First Year of Marriage

ShuGar Wedding

 

Do not do as I did. I started an intense Master’s program a few days before I got married. Yes, that means I was busy planning a wedding AND applying to graduate school. I sometimes look back and wonder how I did it.

Wedding planning is not for the faint of heart; I know everyone says enjoy it and cherish the moments, but when you are in the thick of planning your dream wedding you are utterly consumed. Ultimately, what matters most is saying, “I do” to the person you chose to love forever in front of your closest family and friends. The table settings, the favors, the drama with your bridesmaids, the cold chicken – all of it is forgettable!

I love the picture above because it shows the “behind the scenes” of my wedding day. It is a rushed experience that flies by in a blink of an eye. You and your partner don’t have many moments alone because there  is so much to accomplish in less than 24 hours. In the picture, Mr. ShuGar and I are being attended by his groomsman (brother) and my maid of honor (sister), while our photographer (the talented Ashley Rose) gets ready to take her shots. I’m so happy my bridesmaid captured this photo because it reminds me how chaotically beautiful that day was. If I could, I would relive every moment all over again.

I like to consider my second year as my first year of marriage because the first year was a blur of studying, writing papers, going to class and working. I felt like I hardly saw Mr. ShuGar, except during our meal times and bed times. But I think I’d like to reconsider my first year experience.

During my year at graduate school (our first year of marriage), Mr. ShuGar quietly made my lunches (turkey & cheese sandwiches), did the laundry (lots of it), went shopping (to TJ’s multiple times a week), stayed home watching movies, tv & sports (while I studied in the other room), listened to me whine and complain (more than once) and never once reproached me. I do remember one time he said he missed me, even though I was always in the other room.

I missed him too; I was consumed with guilt because in order to excel in my studies I had to be second best as a wife. It broke my heart. I would hardly consider our first year our “honeymoon” year, but I do consider it a testament of our love. Even before we got married, we had struggles during the engagement year with the stress of applying to graduate school made even more challenging by health complications I faced during that time. Through it all, he was there by my side, holding my hand and telling me he loved me.

I don’t claim to profess I have the perfect marriage; far from it. In fact, I want to write about the realities of marriage and how beautifully complicated and wonderfully challenging it can be. We are still in the “adjustment’ phase of our honeymoon years. I know there are things that get on his nerves about me – i.e. my tendency to crash on the couch and not want to wake up to go to bed (He says getting me up to walk to the bed is like pulling teeth) – and vice versa – he insists on doing his crossword puzzles and reading his books late night (I would rather cuddle).

I cringe when people say their partner is their other half – really? I was a whole person, with a whole lot of complexities and problems when I met Mr. ShuGar. He was too. That’s one of the things I fell in love with – he was his own individual and wasn’t looking for a co-dependent relationship. We want to be better people because of our love – we are works-in-progress.

I do know one thing: What I have with Mr. ShuGar is Real Love. Not because of what he said on our wedding day, but because of what he did every day before that day and every day after it.

(Photo credit: Angela Kim)

Happy V-Day to Yourself

It’s unavoidable; everywhere you look, Valentine’s Day is all around you. But why does that have to be such a bad thing? After all, does it have to be only about romantic love? I remember when I was a little girl, my mom would always give me Valentine’s cards and a small gift because in Mexico it was also a day to celebrate platonic love.

Don’t get me wrong – I can’t wait to share the day with Mr. ShuGar, the love of my life.

However, I am also taking the time for some self-love and not self-loathing. How often do we pamper ourselves? I decided to take a trip to the mall in search for some pop of color in my life.

Maybelline's Orange Fix

Maybelline’s Orange Fix

Inspired by Beyonce’s inauguration nails, I went shopping for orange nail polish. I loved how it looked on her skin tone and, as another woman of color, I thought it could look sexy on my nails too. Nail polish can be pricey these days. No need to worry – Target to the rescue! I bought this orange nail polish for only $2.99 and it’s fabulous! I can’t wait to model my nail a la Queen Bey.

MAC's Cremesheen Glass "Double Dare" and MAC's "Girl About Town" Lipstick

MAC’s Cremesheen Glass “Double Dare” and MAC’s “Girl About Town” Lipstick

My next mission was to find some color for my lips. I know we all have our simple lipsticks that we use daily to get us through our work week. But why not spice things up and add some bold colors to our lips? I was inspired by several images on Pinterest, but I was concerned with finding the right colors to flatter my carmel skin. I decided to go to MAC because they have such fun, bright colors.

After a couple of trials & consulting with the MAC girls, I chose the above pink lipstick and complimenting lip gloss. You first apply the lipstick (you can use a lip brush) and then use the lipgloss to add some shine. The pink I chose brings a lightness to my face and makes me feel like I am reliving the 80’s; in a good way, of course. It’s a whimsical pink and it’s quickly become one of my favs!

Sephora's Red Cream Lip Stain & Sephora's Glossy Gloss

Sephora’s Red Cream Lip Stain & Sephora’s Glossy Gloss

I then walked over to Sephora in the hunt for a red lip that wouldn’t look tangerine on my face. Mission accomplished! I wanted a vintage feel and something that would remind me of one of those Vargas girls. You first apply the red lip stain and then dab it with any clear gloss. The Sephora lady also said you can outline your lips with a liner before applying the lip stain. I love what a pop of red can do to your face! I finally found a red that didn’t look too dark on my face. I  used Gwen Stefani’s look as an inspiration.

I do not claim to be any sort of makeup guru. In fact, I consider myself challenged in the cosmetics department. It’s an art form that I hope to master one day. But, I love educating myself on ways to accentuate my features and I have fun doing it! All the above items were $20 or less, so you can pamper yourself and still be on a budget.

This V-Day, or leading up to it, treat yourself to something nice – whether it’s makeup, a massage, a new pair of shoes or taking time to just “be.” You earned it. You don’t have to spend money to pamper yourself. It’s nice to take some time and do what you love or have wanted to do for some time. We seldom take the time to love ourselves. Happy Heart Day to Us! You deserve it!

(All photos taken by Peter Shushtari)

Music to My Ears: Camera Obscura’s Careless Love

I consider myself a sort of maudlin individual. After all, I am definitely emotional and highly sentimental in many aspects of life. Mr. ShuGar can attest to that. This is probably why I fell in love the moment I heard Camera Obscura. This indie band from Scotland has a sad, yet heartfelt vibe to all their tunes. Their songs are enchanting because they lure you in with their melodic vocals and sweet sounds. Plus, I dig when bands have lead female vocalists; Tracyanne Campbell’s voice has a mix of tenderness and spunk that makes for a rad combo. They sing of love, hurt, hope, and, essentially, life.

Every chance I get, whether it’s when I’m cleaning dishes or getting ready for the day, I put Camera Obscura in the background.

It’s no coincidence that their latest album “Maudlin Career” (2009) has become music to my ears. One of my favorite tracks is “Careless Love.” The song tells of a broken love and the agony of knowing you gave your heart to someone who crushed it. Many of us have been there. When you love, you risk your heart. But, it’s this pain that makes you stronger and makes you appreciate true love when you find it.

I checked out their website and discovered they will be touring the States this year! Alas, they won’t be visiting LA, but I am sending this message out into the universe to ask the music gods to bring them to LA LA land. Their music touches my heart and I would give anything to experience it live.