What Not to Do with a Chainsaw

Eddie, the night of November 3rd, after returning from the emergency room after a chainsaw accident.

It was Tuesday, November 3rd and I left work at 3:30 p.m. to head to Hoover to vote.  I was on Highway 280, about to get on to I-459 when I got a text from my husband, Eddie.  It was 3:43 p.m.

Eddie:  Where are you?

Me:  About to get on I-459 to go vote

Eddie:  Ok, where is the First aid kit. 

Me: (thinking to myself) Uh-oh……

Eddie:  I cut myself with a chainsaw at the ankle

Me:  I don’t know if it’s in the hallway closet.  Good Lord…how bad is it?

Just a little side note here…the hallway closet is where I store my collection of Designs by Lolita wine glasses.  I mean, they are all over that closet and all I could see was Eddie opening up that closet door and riffling through for the first aid kit and breaking various glasses in the process!  I know that’s not exactly the thought a loving wife should have at a moment like that but I know my husband, and I know he can be a bull in a china shop!  Later he told me he opened that door, looked in and said to himself, “no way.”  You have to find the humor in situations like this and we both had a laugh talking about this later. 

Eddie:  I need to go to the medical center but I got to get it wrapped first.

Me:  Just grab a towel if you can.  Do I need to come home?  You can probably get to the medical center before I get there.  There’s a lot of traffic on 459 right now and I’m about to stop.

Me:  If Steve home?  Can he take you?  (Steve is our across the street neighbor.)

Eddie:  I can go.

Me:  OK, keep me posted please…and you are no longer allowed to use a chainsaw unless I am there.

Meanwhile, I was finally moving in traffic and was close to the John Hawkins Road exit thinking I could get to Eddie but he texted that he found a large bandage and got the bleeding under control.  He also said he could drive himself to the emergency center near our house.  So, I headed to the Finley Center to vote thinking I would be there for a bit.  You know…record turnout voting this year and I had already heard there were lines hours long in the morning.  Much to my surprise, I was in and out and in my car in exactly 11 minutes.  Eddie had made it to the emergency room by this time so now I was just waiting to hear from him. 

The scene of the accident and that’s the tree limb that got this whole adventure started.

When I got home, I immediately surveyed the scene of the accident.  Eddie had been trimming back large tree limbs between our house and our neighbors house.  The chainsaw was down the hill from where the tree limb was cut.  There was blood on a number of brown leaves on the ground.  There was a bit of trail to the basement and on the way up the stairs to the kitchen.  But bless him, I could see that he tried his best to clean up any blood that he trailed into the house so our puppy wouldn’t get into it.  I opened the garbage can to find he had thrown the pants he was wearing away.  I was able to see the enormous rip where the chainsaw hit.  That’s when I poured myself a rather large glass of wine, in a Lolita wine glass, and began the long wait to hear from Eddie.  At about 4:54 I was anxious so I texted him and we had this exchange:

Me:  How are things going?

Eddie:  Getting ready to sew it up.

Me.  How bad is it?

Eddie:  Good gash

Me:  How many stiches

Eddie:  Don’t know yet.  They are cleaning and numbing it right now. 

Me:  Well I saw where it happened.  Followed the trail of red. (insert OMG emoji here)

That’s when he sent me the photo of the gnarly gash inside his left ankle.  Don’t worry…I’m not going to show you the photo but trust me, it looked like something out of The Walking Dead show and I told him that.  It took 9 stiches to get it closed.  He then sent me the photo of the stiches. 

Eddie:  Going to be a cool scar.

Me:  You’re nuts.  Am I going to need to drive you to your CT Scan tomorrow?  (This was an already scheduled appointment unrelated to the chainsaw accident.)

Eddie:  Don’t think so.

Then, at 6 p.m. he sent the last photo.  In it, his leg was wrapped in a splint up to his knee.

Eddie:  I’m on crutches.  There is a slight fracture on my ankle.  I have to see an orthopedist.

Me:  Oh geez.  What the heck.

Eddie:  You may need to take me tomorrow.

Me:  Well, that leg is ready for Christmas.

Eddie:  Looks like I’m going to be binge watching Netflix.

Me:  Better than wielding a chain saw.

Thank goodness for pain meds and my ability to work from home that week.  I was needed to keep him from trying to do too much on his ankle.  He was told to stay put and keep it elevated but I know he was mad at himself for letting this happen and he also didn’t want to inconvenience me too much since things were rather hectic that week. 

Today is has been 10 days since his accident and he’s moving around a lot better.  Two days after the incident he went back to the medical center to see the orthopedist and he was told he did not have a fractured ankle after all.  That was great news!  He was given a boot to wear which was better than crutches.  Those things hurt!  And he did wear the boot this past Tuesday when we went out to dinner.  I told him it was the safest way to go because God forbid if someone bumped into him or stepped on his foot!  Stiches come out on Monday and I know Eddie will be eager to show off his scar.  Meanwhile, we are both so grateful this accident only required 9 stiches. 

The pants Eddie was wearing when the chainsaw hit his left ankle.

Stay Safe – Eat Tamales!

HICA Tamale Captain virtual meeting 2020

HICA’s 17th Annual Tamale Sale!

You’ve probably seen the meme that says “Stay Safe, Eat Tamales…because the more you weigh, the harder you are to kidnap!”  It cracks me up every time I see it and its usually right around this time of year too.

HICA Tamales go on sale Thanksgiving Day!

I’ve written a lot about tamales over the past five years that I’ve had my blog.  That’s mainly because I’ve been involved in a wonderful tamale fundraiser for HICA – the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama – ever since it got started in 2003.  I’ve made tamales, helped market them on TV, sold them to friends, worked tamale pick up day at HICA and best of all, I’ve enjoyed eating them!  This tamale fundraiser has been a holiday tradition in Birmingham for 16 years and I’m thrilled that it will continue for a 17th, with precautions of course, during the current pandemic situation we find ourselves under. 

Tonight, I attended a virtual Tamale Sale Captain meeting conducted by my friend, Silvia Espinosa Laxson, who is HICA’s Development Manager.  She took us through the details of the sale, pricing, marketing and delivery and/or pick up.  Tamale Captains got their start five years ago as a way to help streamline the sales process.  It’s like a circle of interest where each tamale captain sells to their friends and if they work at a large company, they can sell to their company.  You become the point of contact for these folks and make sure your friends get their tamales in time to enjoy them for Christmas eve dinner! 

Long time supporter Suzanne Martin with her tamales!

Under the old process, everyone would have to pick up on just one day at the HICA offices.  This required quite a number of volunteers to bag the tamales when people arrived for pick up, verify the orders, and then begin calling people later in the afternoon to make sure they remembered to stop by to pick up.  I’ve worked many tamale pick up days and always enjoyed it, especially when people would share their tamale stories with me.  I also loved photographing people with their tamales by the HICA Christmas tree.  They were always smiling broadly and happy to pose and raise their tamale bags in the photos.  It’s amazing how excited people get about these little corn husks filled with deliciousness!  (FYI…don’t eat the corn husks!)

This year, we have 36 Tamale Captains which is the most in five years.  Silvia went on to explain that because of the work of the captains, we exceeded the goal of selling 10,000 tamales last year. In fact, HICA was able to sell 11,000 tamales in 2019 with half of the sales coming from the Captains! 

During the Tamale Captain meeting two years ago, one of the captains suggested a vegan tamale might be fun to add.  We had never done anything like that before for the sale but the suggestion grew legs!  The usual choices are chicken tamales with green sauce, pork tamales with red sauce, and pepper & cheese tamales and they are all made with lard, so definitely not vegan!  But that didn’t stop Silvia or the tamale crew at HICA.  They worked with the tamale makers and were able to create a vegan tamale made with vegetable oil.  These are slightly more expensive than the others since they are a bit more labor intensive to make.  I didn’t get to try these last year but I’m curious so I may give them a try this year.

HICA Tamales!!!

I’m always amazed at the number of people who start asking me about tamales in November.  I keep a running list so that I don’t forget.  If you want on my list and you live in the Birmingham area, let me know!  The sale runs from November 21 to December 7 and tamales can be delivered December 9 or 10.  Visit the HICA website for more details here. 

It’s also important to remember that this is a fundraiser for HICA.  This year has been especially hard for non-profits with the added stress of working in the Covid environment and also providing assistance to even more families with housing, food and other needs.  HICA even functioned as a Covid testing site this year.  So sure, you can buy cheaper tamales, but buying HICA tamales not only makes you feel good when you eat them, they also make you feel wonderful because you are helping your community. So, get out there and buy some tamales and don’t forget to select me as your captain…. if you live in Bham, AL!!!

Letters About My Dad

Today is Veterans Day and naturally my thoughts are about my dad who served in the Army Air Corp.  He was 20 years old at the time he enlisted in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I wrote about his service and what little I know about it in a 2016 blog post called “Remembering A Veteran.”  In that post I referenced wanting to share a little about my dad through the letters of a few of his high school classmates. 

When dad died on June 1, 2001, my mother and I were going through some of his paperwork and keepsakes when I came across something interesting.  I found the program from his Carlsbad High School’s 50th reunion complete with addresses of his classmates listed.  It piqued my interest and I wondered what would happen if I wrote to his classmates and asked them to share a story about my father with me.

Right after dad passed, it was wonderful to have people I hardly knew share stories about my father with me.  Dad wasn’t able to communicate verbally for about a year and that was difficult.  We always think we have all the time in the world to ask our parents questions about their past – how they were raised, what their school experiences were like and what they loved most about their lives.  In my dad’s case, he shared a few things over the years but I wanted to know more.  I especially wanted to hear more about his experience playing football as one of the only Mexican’s on the high school team and later, how he learned to fly planes and eventually went into the Army Air Corp.  I began piecing stories together from what people were sharing with me and that’s when the letter to his classmates began to form in my mind.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I mailed the letters on September 3, 2001.  Dad was 79 when he died and it had been 61 years since he graduated from high school.  Some of his classmates had probably passed on too.  I checked the mailbox everyday and was getting a little discouraged when many were returned to me marked “not deliverable.”  But every now and then, I would get a response and my heart would jump with anticipation to read it. 

Each letter I received held a glimpse into my dad that I loved reading about and in many cases, there letters confirmed for me the man he had always been.  Four letters were from former football teammates.  Jack, who ironically lived in Huntsville, AL when he wrote, recalled the time he and dad were in a football scrimmage and he tackled dad.  Jack landed on his chin and split it open and he said “I carry a scar from it to this day!”  He said dad could fire the ball in a bullet pass hitting his target.  He also included a Xerox copy of the football team that I had never seen with dad on the third row.  Bob, who signed his letter Rear Admiral, USN Retired, said my father was a steady friend who was always ready to help with whatever was needed.  He added that he was an outstanding athlete but never one that sought the limelight, letting his actions speak for themselves.  This is so true of my father.

Dad is the third row on the left end – he is “unidentified” but his teammate wrote his name into the photo from the paper for me.

Another classmate named Bob had apparently been in touch with dad three years prior to his passing.  He said he always considered my dad a good friend and they played a lot of football together.  He added that he wasn’t very big but made up for it with speed and determination.  (Dad was about 120 lbs. at the time!)  The part that really struck me was when he said there were few Hispanics who went on to high school in Carlsbad, New Mexico.  “He was one of the exceptions which tells its own story,” according to Bob. 

A lady named Nadine wrote that she and dad had a good friendship although he was shy with girls.  They used to walk to classes together and she went on to talk about how much he was liked by peers and teachers, how good he was at football and what a great attitude he always had.  The cute part was when she said “If I make him sound almost too good, he played practical jokes, had a twinkle in his eyes and was lots of fun in a quiet, very likeable way.”  I loved how she described my dad…she added, “He wasn’t as handsome as some but better looking than most.  Did he become tall?  Did he keep his curly hair – it was thick and attractive.”  As she ended her letter, she mentioned they had a great high school class and many of the boys ended up on Bataan in the Death March as they were with the New Mexico National Guard.  I really teared up at this letter. 

I’m so glad I sent these letters.  Even now when I read them, they make me feel closer to my father.   

Once Upon a Time We Met – 39 Years Later

Me and Eddie – attending a wedding our first year of dating.

…the story continues…

Four years ago, I blogged about the night my husband Eddie and I met.  It was Veterans Day eve 1982 and we met at a work happy hour and ever since then we’ve celebrated this momentous meeting.  It’s always a fun reminder of where we started and a look at where we are today. 

Dancing at a family wedding last year

This year we went through an exciting change as a couple.  Eddie retired on August 1.  He had planned to retire earlier in the year but stayed on at work a little longer due to the pandemic.  About the time he retired, I was preparing to go back to work for 13 weeks with the United Way of Central Alabama’s annual fundraising campaign.  Eddie got to experience a little of what I experienced when I retired three years ago, ahead of our original schedule.  It’s hard to believe that we had both planned to retire together in June 2021.  But here we are now…both retired and ready for phase three of our lives together.

Enjoying the Apollo Ball this year at Boutwell Auditorium

When we go out to dinner tonight, I know we will talk about where and how it all started between us.  We will reminisce about the early days together, getting married and our early years together, having our family, building our home in Hoover, watching the kids grow up, countless soccer and softball games, band concerts, choir concerts, show choir concerts, girl scouts, boy scouts and everything else our kids were involved in over the years.  We will talk a little about our careers and how quickly work life went by…even though at the time it seemed like retirement would never arrive!  Most importantly, we will talk about what is next, where we will travel, home projects we have been wanting to complete, new hobbies we are excited to try and most importantly, how often we can be with our first baby grand. We always have a lot to talk about and thankfully, Eddie has a memory like an elephant so I count on him to keep me straight on events and dates.  He may have all of these details in his head but I take photos of everything so together we make quite the pair! 

Last year we headed to Firebirds for an early dinner and sat outside by the fire.  We had the entire patio to ourselves too.  Maybe it was because we went so early?  I remember telling Eddie we must have looked like we were there for the senior specials!  We shared some wine and an assortment of appetizers and then went home to enjoy a bottle of champagne.  It was a perfect evening.

I’m not sure where we will celebrate this evening.  I may let Eddie pick the place this year since he’s had a bit of a rough week and I’ll be driving us wherever we go anyway!  You see, Eddie had a bit of a chainsaw accident last week that required stiches and a foot boot.  You can bet we will be talking about that unfortunate incident at dinner too…and I may be blogging about it later! But I’ll let him make it up to me on January 4th for our 35th wedding anniversary…

Meanwhile, happy “first” anniversary sweetheart!

Why I Love Holiday Tablescapes

Thanksgiving Dining Room table 2020

My dining room table is set and ready for Thanksgiving!  This time of year, I’m working out of so many storage boxes for my dining room décor.  I start in October with a Halloween setting.  Then on October 31st, I begin the transition to Day of the Dead, including my ofrenda (altar) on my buffet with a few touches on the dining room table.  Finally, after letting my altar stay up through the weekend – depending on when Day of the Dead falls on the calendar – I take everything down the first weekend in November to prepare for Thanksgiving.

I’ve had friends ask me why I go to all this trouble to decorate for every holiday.  Honestly, I can look back on when I was growing up and see how special my mother made everything for me and my sisters.  She worked at a Hallmark store when I was in high school and would bring home some of the cutest holiday related items to decorate the house and for us to enjoy.  As a mother, I took that example and always tried to find the best ways to make holidays festive for my husband, kids and extended family.

When Eddie and I built our house in Hoover, AL, it quickly became the place where our extended family gathered to celebrate the holidays.  We have plenty of room, live on a cul de sac, which was great when our kids were little, and the adults would enjoy the deck.  With everyone scattered around the house, it was fun to add little holiday touches here and there. 

Charlie’s candle and Anna Marie’s tent prayer from their kindergarten years

Over the 27 years we’ve lived in our house, I’ve naturally changed things out.  When my kids were little, the table was set a little more for them.  As they got older, the table décor grew up too.  Some things remain constant though.  For instance, for Thanksgiving we always display a Thanksgiving candle my son Charlie made when he was in kindergarten.  Next to the candle, we always display a Thanksgiving prayer tent card that my daughter, Anna Marie cut out and taped together. 

Several years back, my mother gave me a few of those items I mentioned we had when I was growing up.  Mom said since we were always at my house it just made sense for me to have them for us all to enjoy.  She had a straw-like turkey she used to display on her dining room table and it now graces my dining room buffet along with a wooden Native American couple and a wooden pilgrim couple.  Using these pieces every year takes me back to Thanksgivings in the suburbs of Chicago.  I do get pretty nostalgic over the holidays these days.  I blame my age and the fact that Eddie and I are empty nesters!

You can say that decorating and creating holiday tablescapes is a way for me to stay connected to the wonderful memories of the past.  I do find myself telling my kids the same stories over and over and while I’m sure they get tired of hearing them I’m happy that they listen and humor me.  I expect that when they all have children of their own, they will repeat these stories and they’ll understand why I keep retelling them. 

Meanwhile, here are some photos of my Thanksgiving table this year and a few other decorations around my home. 

Bird Watching in the Pandemic

We have a bird feeder right outside our kitchen window.  To be honest,  we’ve had some sort of feeder on the deck for years.  At first I wanted one so that I could admire the cardinals that I saw in our yard from time to time.  It would bring me comfort seeing them and when they started enjoying the sunflower seeds we were leaving in the feeder, that made me happy.  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that when a cardinal visits, it represents someone you love who has passed coming to see you.  The cardinal was my dad’s favorite bird so I always associate seeing one with him.

Ever since my retirement about 3-1/2 years ago, I love to take time to sit at the kitchen table and have coffee, or do a little paperwork and occasionally glance up and see cardinals at the feeder.  Eventually, more birds began to find out about the great seed we had and we welcomed a larger variety of birds to the deck.  It was just nice to see them interact and share the bird feeder with the cardinals and I loved watching how they maneuvered the feeder openings, each taking turns to grab the perfect seeds.  I always get the urge to take photos when I see birds but with only my iPhone handy at the table, the photos would be blurry and not worth saving.  That’s when I decided to start leaving my Canon camera on the kitchen table.

Of course, as we sheltered at home during the early days of the pandemic, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table more and more after my morning walks with my dog, Lucy.  As spring arrived, I started sitting outside on the deck fairly close to the bird feeder.  The birds were skittish at first, as I figured they would be.  But eventually, they would fly up to the feeder and eat while I sat on the deck furniture sipping away at my coffee and listening to podcasts.  I would take my camera outside with me and ever so carefully raise it to my eye to snap a few shots.  I managed to get some really lovely photos over this time period.  I discovered after many hours of bird watching that male Cardinals feed their mates!  This was such a lovely sight to see and I managed to catch a few photos of that.

My husband even got into bird watching while he worked from home this year and eventually retired on August 1st.  We could be in the middle of a conversation in the kitchen when a bird we didn’t recognize would fly up and we’d immediately stop and watch and then google – “what type of bird has x-colored wings and and a x-stripe?”

Around this time, I heard a story on NPR about how birdwatching had become extremely popular with people during the pandemic.  I mean, it made sense.  You’re cooped up in your house and you really can’t go anywhere.  So you go outside to your yard and there’s nature, am I right?  And of course, spring is an active time for birds – right when the pandemic was in full swing – so its inevitable that you see birds and their babies! I think the key here is that people were noticing birds because it was quieter outside.  I also think that watching birds gave people a sense of freedom and feeling that they could fly away themselves.  They made me feel like I had friends in nature who depended on me for a little nourishment.  There were times when I would walk on to the deck and the bird feeder would be empty and I could hear the birds chirping away at me as if to say – “We’re hungry, lady!  We need more food!”  That always made me smile.

As I walked my dog every morning this spring and summer, I became even more aware of birds everywhere!  There were hardly any cars in my neighborhood during my walks and the distant sound of the highway was pretty quiet too.  Somedays I felt like Snow White seeing all the birds flying around and chirping and figured it was just a matter of time before the birds would be following me and I would stretch out my arm and they would land on it.  I actually had a close encounter one morning when a bird swooped down right in front of me.  Of course, at other times, I worried it would be more like Tippi Hendren in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds!  This was especially true several days when I saw a bird get into a fight with a squirrel and then several days later, a bird chased a squirrel under a car!  That wasn’t something I had ever experience before and I wish I had been able to video because it was so freaky!

One of the best bird sightings was in my own backyard.  It was late one afternoon and Eddie and I were sitting on the deck when a hawk suddenly flew into a tree directly in my sight.  Eddie had his back to the hawk and I told him to sit very still while I slowly slipped inside the kitchen back door to get my camera!  Fortunately, the hawk just sat on a huge limb and watched us.  Seriously though, I was also keeping an eye on my little dog, Lucy, during all this!  I wasn’t sure if the hawk was eyeing her as a snack or something!  Once I sat back down with my camera, Eddie slowly turned around and watched as I began snapping away at that hawk.  It’s as if he knew he was being photographed.  He seriously posed for me!  In one shot he raised one of his wings and it looked like a robe being raised in a dramatic Shakespeare scene.  I told Eddie it looked as if he was saying “To be or not to be…”

It’s November now and the bird feeder is full, which is unusual.  In the spring and summer we were filling it every other day!  I miss seeing the birds but I know there is a season for everything.  Oh, and we added a hummingbird feeder in late August and that was fun!  I was sitting in our gazebo tent on the deck one day and kept hearing this chirping sound.  I soon realized it was the hummingbirds!  Until that day I didn’t realize they made a sound!


I’ll miss seeing all these birds but come next spring, I’ll be ready with my camera at the kitchen table!

#30 Days of Fiesta – Part 2

This is the second of a two-part post about #30 Days of Fiesta 2020 and how the Fiesta Board was able to create memorable virtual events for our community.

 As July approached, the Fiesta Board was off and running with our 2020 plans.  The main task was to create content for 30 full days from September 15 through October 15.  In addition to to that, we also had to decide which social mediums to use and how to introduce and promote each segment, create Facebook invitations to attract viewers, and make sure we were posting at the appropriate times based on our Facebook interactions.  Whew!

One of our many zoom meetings to prepare for #30daysofFiesta

In order to give our 30 days a good flow, we created a theme for each day of the week.  This made it easier to create content and helped us include our sponsors and get them actively involved.  Our themes were reflective of our Fiesta villages during a normal festival in Linn Park and made it feel more like we were actually having the event.

Our 30 Days of Fiesta daily themes and sponsors.

Our week began with Wellness Mondays presented by Jefferson County Department of Health, Children’s of Alabama, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.  Information about services and resources available to help keep you healthy and safe were provided.  For instance, videos and live information about car seat safety, Covid-19 information, proper way to wash your hands and other great facts were shared.

Taco Tuesdays, Tito’s and More, presented by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Mi Pueblo Supermarket, we showcased Latin cooking and cocktails with recipes, culinary demonstrations and mixology classes all through Facebook live.  Fiesta friend, Comedienne Joy was joined by Fiesta board member, Phil Sandoval during the cocktail demonstrations and they were a hoot to watch!  The restaurants selected for the cooking demonstrations were incredible.  The foods presented seriously made me want to lick my computer screen because the food looked so good!  (just kidding about the computer screen…)

Cultural Wednesdays, presented by Regions Bank showcased the people, history, culture and traditions of the Latin American countries.  It was the perfect way to show beautifully colorful videos about Latino countries and what they have to offer.  This was our way to share the cultural village with viewers.  For fun, there was also a trivia contest each Wednesday.

Throwback Thursdays, presented by Rubio Law Firm was my baby.  I say that because we used many of the photos I’ve taken of Fiesta since the first event 18 years ago.  I was able to go through so many of the photos and relive those years by creating a slideshow and share a little history behind them.  I loved doing this for Fiesta and I’m constantly amazed at the people I discover in my photos who I photographed and didn’t know then but who are now friends of mine!  We like to say that Fiesta has made a huge impact in our community and I think if you look through these videos you can see that.

Financial Fridays, presented by Wells Fargo provided “fiscal fitness” in the areas of establishing and building credit, home buying, savings, budgeting and more great tidbits.  The Financial Village was a wonderful addition to Fiesta last year thanks to board member, Phil Sandoval.  We held a separate event that brought together financial experts for the Hispanic community.  This year, Wells Fargo produced videos for each week and we also joined forces with HICA, the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, and Bancorp South for two virtual seminars.  Very informative!

Celebration Saturdays, presented by Alabama Power Company helped us celebrate the best of Hispanic art, music, film, food, dance and more!  This is “the line” we use when we speak about Fiesta in a normal year.  And seeing the content we pulled together made it feel like a normal year being in Linn Park.  We had Zumba classes, dance classes by DJ Ivan Correa who is a mainstay at Fiesta each year, craft videos like how to make tissue paper flowers and so much more.

And finally, on Fiesta Family Sundays, presented by City of Birmingham and Bham Now, we observed the importance of family and community.  With the help of LaJefa radio station, we had a weekly talk show spot covering various topics.  We also reserved this time for our area non-profits that are always a part of Fiesta to have a voice.  The last two Sundays we promoted two films in Spanish at the Grand River Drive-in.  More on that in a minute…

See what I mean about content?!  Besides all of this, we also created something called “Fiesta in a Box.”  This box let our supporters have their own Fiesta in the safety of their homes.  We filled it full of fun items from our sponsors, information about our the Hispanic community, candy, craft instructions, fun little toys…and goodness!  The list of items was endless!  Several boxes contained a golden maraca or golden piñata which gave the box holder a special prize too!  The actual box was created by our board member, Cristina Almanza, who is a graphic artist.  She took such time and care to create something very unique to Hispanic culture. This keepsake box sold for $18 and we used it as a fundraiser for our Fiesta Scholarship Fund.

Our grand finale happened our last two Sundays when we partnered with Sidewalk Film Festival and Grand River Drive-in to show two movies in Spanish – Instructions Not Included and Disney’s Coco en español.  Several board members dressed in Day of the Dead costumes for Coco which made that last night of Fiesta all the more fun.  Of course, what’s a drive-in movie without popcorn or food?  We worked with Scott Cohen and Mi Pueblo Supermarket to create a wonderful taco menu for each movie night.  And popcorn with Valentina sauce was available for purchase.  If you haven’t tried Valentina sauce on your popcorn, you are missing out!  It gives it just the right amount of kick!

The best part of all this?  We were able to award $10,000 in Fiesta Scholarships this year to 8 deserving Hispanic students on our last day of #30 days of Fiesta!  After all, this is why Fiesta was created all those years ago.  My friend and fellow board member, Lui Fernandez, and I made the announcement during a Facebook live on October 15th.  It was an exhilarating feeling being able to do that and also reading the comments later…some from parents of the students who received awards.  It made my heart swell.  The check presentation to these students will be this November 2020 and I will share more about it later this month.

I’m so glad we did #30 days of Fiesta.  We learned a lot through the process and I think there are some elements that we added that we want to keep for the future.  This pandemic forced us to change how Fiesta functioned this year and helped us give the event a critical look.  It helped us see what we need to change in the future and what needs to remain the way it is.  I have loved this event since we began creating it over 18 years ago.  I never thought I would be a part of something this big for this long and I do cherish the moments, memories, craziness and friendships I’ve made along the way.  Here’s to 18 more wonderful years of celebrating Hispanic culture and heritage in the heart of Birmingham, Alabama!  Que Viva Fiesta!

Here are a few more photos from our very unusual year…


#30 Days of Fiesta – Part 1

Fiesta 2020 went virtual with #30daysoffiesta!

This is the first of a two-part post about #30 Days of Fiesta 2020 and how the Fiesta Board was able to create memorable virtual events for our community.

How do you have Alabama’s largest Hispanic culture and heritage festival during a worldwide pandemic?  That’s the question the Fiesta board was asking ourselves on April 20, 2020, during our first virtual board meeting.

We had already met on February 1st for our usual event review and strategy session.  Looking back on those notes, I remember the energy in the room that Saturday morning and how excited everyone was to share their ideas for our 18th year.  That day, we were even looking ahead to our 20th anniversary celebration in 2022.  We had also settled on a theme for the year – Celebrating in Unity / Celebrando Unidos – to coincide with the 2020 World Games that were set to happen in Birmingham this year.

By April, with the pandemic in full swing, a number of spring events had already begun postponing until the fall.  Our event planner, Denise Koch manages many of the area’s largest events so she was well versed in what was happening and the concerns out there.  Of course, with the state-wide order to limit the number of people gathering, among other precautions, that pretty much took care of having anything for a while!  The fall looked somewhat promising but we still had concerns.  So, at our April board meeting we decided to keep a watch on how things were progressing and make a final decision – go or no go – at our June board meeting.  Even then, we knew we would have to make some changes to keep our patrons safe. Board members were all coming up with alternative ideas to have Fiesta so we all agreed to submit them for discussion in June.

One of our virtual board meetings when board member, Phil Sandoval decided to wear his Lucha Libre mask. He knows how to bring the laughter!

The discussion was pretty lively at our June meeting!  So many great suggestions were shared and we dissected them every which way to see what fit Fiesta the best.  The one main decision though was to not have a live event on September 26 as we had hoped.  There was just too much risk and even those events that had rescheduled to fall were cancelling again.

Fiesta 2020 was set to be something we never dreamed it could be!  We decided to plan virtual events for 30 days during Hispanic Heritage Month which began September 15 and ended on October 15.  Our theme changed to #30DaysofFiesta at this point and boy did we ever “Fiesta!”  Fiesta 2020 would also prove to be a quite a learning experience for us all in terms of developing new skills and working in a virtual world.  As my husband continued to remind me throughout the 30 days…ya’ll took a one-day event and created 30+ events, so this will be a lot of work.  He was certainly right about that!

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of #30 Days of Fiesta where I share details of the virtual events, we were able to provide in lieu of a live event in Linn Park, Alabama.









Making Tissue Paper Flowers

Tissue Paper Flowers! So simple to make and so beautiful!

Have you ever made tissue paper flowers?  The first time I ever made this simple and easy craft was when I was a Girl Scout in Puerto Rico.  We learned how to make them during a troop meeting and I quickly became obsessed!  In fact, I went home and grabbed some pipe cleaners and a box of Kleenex and started making more.  I made so many that I used the entire box of Kleenex and my mother yelled at me before I could grab a second Kleenex box!

Honestly though…I can’t think of an easier and more colorful and budget friendly way to decorate for a party or event.  I remember several years ago when the HICA (Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama) team made a ton of these flowers as centerpieces for an event because the event budget was so tight.  I still have the ones that were on my table and they are decorating a Talavera vase in my powder room.

For Fiesta this year, my friend and fellow board member, Vanessa Vargas and I made a video on how to make these quick and easy decorations.  I’m linking the video to the bottom of this post so you can see how it’s done but I’m also going to give you a photo by photo tutorial here.

Items you will need to make tissue paper flowers

You will only need three items to make these lovely tissue paper flowers:

  • Various colors of tissue paper (I used 20 x 26 inch paper bought in a package at a craft store)
  • Pipe cleaners (the sparkly kind are fun!)
  • Scissors

Let’s get started!

Step 1 – To begin, select about 6 sheets of tissue paper.  The more you use the fuller the flowers will be.  I like to use 6 because this amount is manageable.  After you pick your colors, place them one on top of the next.

Step 1

Step 2 – Make sure the ends of the paper are in line.  Then you can begin folding the paper back and forth about 1-inch in an accordion fold.  Keep folding until you get to the end of the sheets.

Step 3 – Because I like to use the large sized tissue paper, I then will cut the accordion folded sheets in half in order to make two flowers.

Step 4 – Take the pipe cleaner and place it 1/3 of the way under the folded tissue paper.  Then fold it over to secure the tissue paper.  You should have enough pipe cleaner to twist slightly.

Step 5 – Once folded you are ready to start the fun part!  Begin very carefully pulling each sheet of tissue paper up, all the way around, one after the other.  You will want to fluff each sheet as you finish to give the flower body.

Step 6 – Once the last tissue paper is pulled up, you will want to fluff a bit to reveal a beautiful blossom.

Step 7 – Admire your beautiful flower!

NOTE:  There is one variation to these steps and that is during step 4.  You can take your scissors and cut the ends of the folded tissue paper in various ways to give the flowers a different look once it is fluffed out.  I do like this look but my personal preference is the smooth look without cutting the ends.

These flowers were cut after the accordion fold was completed. You can either cut the sides of the tissue paper or cut a “v” out to make different shapes like the ones here.

My Fiesta team used these flowers this fall to decorate several Facebook live events we had and they added the perfect dimension to our Fiesta theme!  They are so simple yet they add just the right amount of Latino flair!

Here is the link to the Fiesta video I did showing how to make these flowers.  If you make any, let me know.  I’d love to see them!

Tissue Paper Flower video:   https://www.facebook.com/FiestaBham/videos/334786707623746

The Simple Beauty of Mexican Dresses

1970s Mexican Puebla Dress

I’ve been wanting a Mexican dress for a long time.  When I said this to a friend recently, she was shocked that I didn’t already have several!  I told her that I’ve never had a chance to buy one.  I mean, there are vendors at Fiesta in Birmingham every year that sell them but I’m so busy working the event that I don’t have time to do any shopping.  I was even in Mexico earlier this year for a wedding and thought I would have a chance to find one but there was never time with all festivities.  So, when I got an invitation to a vintage clothing sale a few months ago, I was excited to see that there would be a wide selection of these dresses available!

My cousin, Lisa Ramirez, at the Frida and Diego Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum in October 2020. She got to see Frida’s clothing exhibit!

When you think of Mexican dresses, most likely the artist Frida Kahlo comes to mind.  Her clothing was – still is – iconic and her style is constantly replicated.  I find I can never get enough of her wardrobe and hope to someday see her clothing exhibit in person.  I love that these Mexican dresses are colorful and elegant while being functional and comfortable.  The embroidery that goes into making one of these dresses is just stunning too.  Frida popularized a short blouse type garment called the “huipil” – pronounced “whip-peal” which looks like a square fabric with the neck cut out.  This doesn’t sound very flattering when you think of its shape, but Frida really made it work for herself!

I started doing a little research into Mexican dresses and wondered, what are they really called?  There is so much information online about the different types of dresses and how they differ from region to region all the way through Central America.  It can be a little confusing!  Some dresses are for everyday and others are more elaborate and for special occasions.  One thing is for sure, each is a one-of-a-kind handwoven garment with intricate embroidery.  They can take several weeks to make too.  The dresses that I find myself drawn to are the Mexican Puebla dresses.  These are made by artisans in Puebla, Mexico, and are a tunic type of dress.  I think people get confused about all the various dresses that they just opt out and call them Mexican dresses.  And listen, I am by no means an expert on Mexican dresses.  I’m still learning myself, so if you have info to share with me about these beautiful creations, please hit me up!  I’m anxious to learn more!

The day of the vintage clothing sale, my friend Denise and I went straight for the rack of Mexican dresses.  I had seen a red one in one of the photos posted about the sale.  I had my fingers crossed that it was still available and luckily…it was!  I tried it on and I loved the way it looked!  The red color is striking and the yellow accents against the red…WOW!  Then I saw a white dress with purple lining and bright orange, red and blue embroidered flowers. The fabric was a little heavier than the red dress and Denise insisted that I try it on.  I was worried because I knew I would love it too.  Sure enough, I went home with both dresses!

It’s crazy to think that I’m living in Birmingham, Alabama, and this is where I ended up buying not one, but two Mexican dresses!  Unfortunately, I haven’t had an opportunity to wear them yet.  I had planned to wear them this fall but COVID-19 pretty much took care of that.  But I’m happy to finally have two beautiful dresses to wear when the opportunity presents itself.  Meanwhile…I did a little photo shoot a few weeks ago just so I could wear the dresses.  Here are a few of those photos!