LEGO® Friends Heartlake City

I get so many wonderful invitations to do so many fun things, that I really have to pick and choose where I can best apportion my time.

So when I received an invitation from my friends at LEGOLAND® California to visit their newest addition, LEGO® Friends Heartlake City, I was super excited, because...LEGO!

But the opening was happening on May 21st, which just happened to be my 60th birthday (but that's not important right now).  I couldn't go because my family had made other (fabulous) plans for me. 

Enter my friend, Marie Day, who lives in Carlsbad and with whom I've had the "We love LEGO®" conversation many times.

"Do you think you and the kids could cover this event for me?" I'm happy to report that the Day Family stepped up. Here's their story...


The Days at Heartlake City

The opening of LEGOLAND® California's newest addition, LEGO® Friends Heartlake City has been highly anticipated in my home. You see we first began visiting the theme park when my daughter was only 2 years old. Our first visits were on Thursdays with the Model Mom Club and that is when our love for all things LEGO® began.  

I remember in our early days visiting the park, we were amazed to find a rainbow of colored bricks for sale in the LEGO® Club House Shop. So when our niece's birthday rolled around, we scooped up a bag of pink and purple bricks and shipped them off to Texas for the birthday girl. Fast forward to 2015 and our daughter, who is almost 10 still can’t get enough of all things LEGO®


Heartlake City is based on the popular LEGO® toy line: LEGO® Friends, which focuses on the adventures and lives of five super awesome (of course!) girls: Andrea, Emma, Mia, Olivia and Stephanie. Although Heartlake City is aimed toward young female visitors, there are also plenty of things for boys to enjoy.


Our adventure in Heartlake City began with a meet and great with Master Builder Robbie who told us that the pink and purple bricks actually debuted about 10 years ago.  10 years! It’s now been 2-3 years since Lego Friends came out with the more exclusive colors we see today.

Robbie told us that there had been a few past LEGO® collections that also used similar colors but were not nearly as extensive as the LEGO® Friends line is with the tv show, set line, and of course, now Heartlake City.


 Armed with these fun facts we headed straight for some building fun inside Heartlake Stables.  


My son really loved the "shaking table." How it works is that you build your LEGO® horse, set it down, push a button and it appears that the Lego horse you built is now walking around. Genius.


Next we got to explore Mia’s Riding Camp.  


We rode the beautiful 60-horse carousel 4 times, much to the delight of my children. 


 Yes. 4 times.


At the Friends Forever Stage, we sang and danced and got our photo-op with the LEGO® Friends.


And finally, we satisfied our sweet tooth at the new City Park Creperie with our favorite Nutella treat!


It was so delicious and we were so happy that we can now have freshly made crepes in the park. I predict this is going to be a regular stop for us on our visits to LEGOLAND®.

The day of our visit was a little cool and cloudy but that didn’t stop a few brave guests from splashing about in the Heartlake Fountain. We know that’s going to be a big hit this summer and it’s a great upgrade from the smaller splash pad that previously occupied that spot in the park.


We ended our day by looking for an employee to trade a mini figure with.

In case you don’t already know this insider tip: You can ask anyone who works in the park who has a mini figure on their name badge to trade with you. Plus some of the restaurants have a box of mini figures at the cash register that you can trade. One of the many reasons we love LEGOLAND®.

And, of course, we shopped.


Thanks for the invitation, LEGOLAND® California. The opinions all belong to my friend, Marie.

It's very obvious that everything was awesome.

The Son of a Bartender and a Maid

A few months ago I was invited to an intimate lunch reception at Gaviña and Sons Coffee Roasters. As you well know, I never turn down an opportunity to visit them as it's always a wonderful time, so I went. 

The guest of honor was none other than Senator Marco Rubio. He was in town trying to make a Big Decision and was wanting to connect with the Cuban community here. 

Again, it was a relatively small group (as these things go) and we waited patiently for his arrival, made easier by the generous donation of Cuban pastries by Gigi's Bakery, but that's not important right now.


The Senator came in and asked not to be videotaped as he was just talking with us "entre familia." (As family.)


And he spoke to us from his heart. 

He answered every single question thoughtfully and not at all like you would imagine a politician would. He was genuinely wrestling with big questions, big policies, big problems and said so. He didn't know for sure at the time, but was considering a presidential run. 

His family was the biggest factor in this decision. 

He spoke in both English and Spanish as many of us Cuban Americans do in our own homes and with our people. I just loved that.

Picture a group of loud, enthusiastic, opinionated Cubans asking tough questions and pushing for serious answers. I was more impressed than ever that the Senator held his own with us.

And when he was finished, he stopped and smiled and took a moment and a photo with every single person in attendance. I was super impressed by this. Of course, we all loved every minute of it.


The lunch was catered by a local Cuban restaurant (of course) and it was right at the moment I sat down to eat and catch my breath and Senator Rubio was behind me getting his food that I thought, "A Cuban-American may actually be President of the United States one day."


And then the tears began. 

He sat down at our table and I was too overcome to even speak. Here was a wonderful embodiment of the fruit of the sacrifices of our Cuban parents. They came here to America to find a better life and hopefully give their children more opportunities. 

Also, how crazy is it that at the very moment that HE SAT DOWN AT OUR TABLE that I was overwhelmed and weepy and unable to speak. *sigh*


All of this hit home yesterday as Senator Rubio made his announcement that he would indeed seek the GOP nomination for President of the United States. 

Here's a two minute recap from Bloomberg. 

Let me be perfectly clear: I have no crystal ball or way to predict what will happen over the next 18 months, but I'm super happy and proud that so far there are 3 GOP contenders for the Republican nomination and two are of Cuban descent. 

Of course, that's not a reason to vote for anyone. My point in taking the time to write about this today is that it's a big deal for those of us whose families came here fleeing tyranny and hoping for a better tomorrow. Here's one of our own chasing the biggest office in the land. Go, Marco, go! 

From his speech yesterday:

"I live in an exceptional country where even the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as those that come from power and privilege." ~Marco Rubio


I'm also super delighted that I got to be present as history was being made when the Senator spoke to us from his heart about his vision and his profound belief that America is indeed an exceptional country. It's been way too long since we've heard that articulated from the seats of power in this land.

It's a proud and wonderful moment and I'm going to swim around in it until my fingers get all pruney. 

As the daughter of a Cuban engineer and a housewife who came here looking for a new life, I too have dreams for a wonderful future for my own family.


Also, the Senator takes a great selfie. 

Please visit the Senator's website to get involved in this historic campaign.

I'm not looking for a debate here. I'm just telling my own stories. Please be kind.

For the Love of Blue

Yesterday, as many of you know, was Baseball Opening Day. 


Can you just smell the freshly mown grass and the chatter of happy and excited fans?

Can you picture the dramatic unfurling of the US shaped flag?


And of course, the fireworks?


And are you now celebrating the Dodgers' Opening Day (1-0) win over the Padres?


And are you now so super excited for Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium coming this summer? (Of course you are.) We've also added a Cuban Night at Dodger Stadium this year. On Monday, May 11th at 7:10pm. How cool is that?

That's two games of Cuban Dodger Awesomeness. Oh the Cubanity!

I happen to live a few area codes from Chavez Ravine, but having grown up in Santa Monica, LA will always be my team. And, of course, I'm Cuban, which means baseball is part of my cultural DNA.

I'm super excited to be involved in the Cuban Heritage Day Committee to help plan all the fun for Cuban Heritage Day (July 12, 2015) and Cuban Night at Dodger Stadium (May 11th, 2015).

So, for the planning...

I get to visit with my favorite Cuban friends at Portos Bakery while we plan the festivities for both Cuban Night and Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium.


So picture us having coffee and pastelitos and talking baseball at Porto's Bakery. (I know you're jealous.)


Now picture us having coffee and pastelitos and talking baseball at Dodger Stadium. (I know. Shut up.)


I can't even believe I get to be one of the members of this group. All lovers of baseball. All leaders in the Cuban community. And I'm out-of-my-skin excited that they've let me be a part of this. I feel sooo accidentally cool.


First, let's talk about Cuban Night. Monday, May 11th, 2015. No se pierdan esta noche de Dodger Baseball mixed in with a bunch of Cubania. The Dodgers love us Cubans so much that they will be giving away the awesome Cuba t-shirt to EVERY person that buys a ticket

Cuba Night tshirt


ONLY those that buy tickets for Cuba Night on 5/11 thru or thru Sammy Park at group sales will receive a voucher for the commemorative t-shirt. Dale see you all there!

And now, since we're on the subject, let's talk Cuban Heritage Day Tshirts. 

Picture a stadium full of Cubans all wearing the same beautifully designed tshirts. Last year it was something to see and seriously, took my breath away. Here's some pictures from last year's event. It felt like being a part of a really cool and exclusive club.

Now picture yourself as part of that sea of beautiful blue Cubanity. I want you to have this experience. 

Which is why I want all of you to stop what you're doing right now and pre-order your tshirts for this year's fabulous Cuban Heritage Day.

Cuban heritage day tshirts

Habana Brand Clothing is accepting pre-orders now thru May 1st, at a special Pre-Order Price of only $20.00 - after May 1st the online price will be $25.00.

Orders will be shipped early May. They are only producing a very limited amount of these shirts, so do not be left out.  

Wear it proudly when you join your family and friends at Dodger Stadium for the cultural celebration of the 3rd annual Cuban Heritage Day on Sunday, July 12th.

The Cuban-themed Viva Los Dodgers festival will begin 2 hours prior to first pitch and fans can enjoy festive live music, player autographs and various activities. Admission to Viva Los Dodgers is free with a paid ticket to the game.

We will also be selling the t-shirts on various dates at Porto's Bakeries.

Click on this link to Habana Brand Clothing to pre-order your shirts. I can't wait to see all of you in your beautiful shirts.

Because, Go Blue!

For more info, please follow Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium on Facebook.

"That's No Moon."

The New LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Death Star Model Display

You know that I'm a self-professed über-nerd about all things Star Wars. Need I remind you about my recent visit to Skywalker Ranch? (<--there she goes again.)

Imagine my surprise and delight when I received an invitation from LEGOLAND® California to witness the unveiling of the LEGO® Star WarsTM Miniland Death Star Model Display. 

Yes, please! 

I brought my Lego-loving husband, Eric along for the fun, which really didn't take much arm-twisting.

"Legoland? DEATH STAR? I'm in!"


The LEGO® Star WarsTM Miniland Death Star Model was quite an impressive thing. 

At 8-feet wide, 13-feet high, weighing more than 1900 pounds and made out of more than 500,000 LEGO bricks, the LEGO Death Star model is the largest addition to LEGO® Star Wars™ Miniland.



The new model display features iconic film scenes made of LEGO® bricks that were filmed inside the Galactic Empire’s space station including the famous trench run scene where Luke Skywalker maneuvered his X-wing fighter through the combat zone to destroy the Death Star.  

Look at the detail in this model! 

"It's not impossible. I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, they're not much bigger than two meters." ~Luke Skywalker


Adjacent to the planet-shaped LEGO model, guests are invited to use their imaginations to construct their own LEGO starships at building stations. In other words, it's a Lego Star Wars über-nerd's dream come true. *sigh*

Stormtroopers and Lord Vader himself were on hand during the opening ceremony. Of course, the Force was as strong as ever, but that's not important right now.


The LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Death Star is designed from Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. It includes six animated Turbo Laser Turrets and LEGO starship models built out of more than 20,000 LEGO bricks.

“Since opening in 2011 and making the first major addition in 2012, LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland has become one of the most popular areas for children and their parents, because....Star Wars, people!

Every beloved scene recreated in Lego brick perfection.



For those of us who are lovers of all-things-LEGO-and-Star-Wars, this spot in Miniland is where dreams come true. I'm sure you'll recognize some old friends.


And possibly make some new ones.


May the force be with you. 

The unveiling of the new LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Death Star Model Display kicks-off the fan favorite, LEGO Star Wars™ Days event on March 7 and 8, where guests can spend the day participating in Star Wars™ related activities.

Cuban Opposition Leader Atuñez to Speak in LA on February 16th

To be Cuban is to be invested in the political outcomes of the island. Whether we live there or not.

We are all such crazy opinionated, and vocal people. I don't know if it was always this way, or if it's just what has happened in the last 56 years as the Castros destroyed our beloved homeland. 

People often ask me why the Cuban people just don't rise up and rebel against the communist government. The truth is that there are many brave souls who do. One such person is Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, better known as Antuñez. 


Imprisoned for 17 years in the Castro gulag, he has continued his resistance to the regime and has always called for the freedom of the Cuban people at great personal cost. For more information about his struggle, click here

On Monday, February 16th, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez and his wife, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera will be in Los Angeles for a very special event. They will be sharing their experiences of life in today's Cuba and their views on what the truth of diplomatic relations could look like. 

I'm inviting all of my LA people to join us to support them at this free event. 

Monday, February 16th, 2015

9:00 AM

CML Studios

326 Mira Loma Avenue

Glendale, CA 91204

Flyer English

I hope to see you there.

To learn more about the plight of Cuban political prisoners and activists please visit my friend, Marc Masferrer's blog, Uncommon Sense and, of course, Babalú Blog.

The Thing About Being Cuban Right Now

I don't usually post political opinion here on my blog. I have on occasion written about politics regarding Cuba because it's not just politics to me. It falls more under the umbrella of home town gossip. 

Cuban politics in particular aren't just things that are happening 3,000 miles away. They affect real people in my life. People I am related to, or that I've met, or who's writings I read almost daily. 

On Wednesday, President Obama made the declaration that now was the time for the U.S. to be "normalizing" relations with Cuba. I had been traveling all day. Just returned from a family trip to Northern California and had not heard the announcement. But my inbox was full of inquiries from the media. Would I be willing to give my reaction to the president's announcement?

I was conflicted for a moment. I know how these discussion inevitably go. There's the "it's about damn time" group. They are of the opinion that Cubans will be better off as soon as U.S.-Cuba relations begin to thaw. The argument goes something like this: There will be a new influx of American currency into the now 3rd world (or is it 4th world?) country which will save the day. 

Always missing in this argument is the fact that Cuba has been able to trade with every other nation. Today there are tourists spending their hard currency on the streets of Havana, not making a bit of difference to the lives of everyday Cubans. Those are the ones with names and faces and children and dreams. They are the ones most affected in this drama. And all that money is going straight into the coffers of the Castros, who just happen to be millionaires, by the way. 

Also, the U.S. already provides food and medicine and goods to Cuba. (You didn't know that, did you?) The only difference is that, up to now, Cuba has had to pay for those. With this new U.S.-Cuba BFF system, it's like we've issued Cuba an unsecured credit card. Our taxpayer dollars get to prop up the declining Cuban economy. And what do we get in return? Umm...we get to go to Cuba and spend more of our money to buy what? Cigars? Coffee? Seriously?

Let me say here that I'm glad American Alan Gross has been released from his 5 year Cuban prison ordeal. He was "swapped" for the remaining members of the Cuban 5 who were serving long prison sentences for espionage and murder. Yes, you read that right. An innocent man incarcerated in a Cuban jail for 5 years exchanged for convicted spies and enemies to our nation. Remind me, please, how this is in any way fair?

There are also rumors that 53 other prisoners will be released. But there are thousands. What about them? Will all the political prisoners be released? Why not? That means there really won't be any noticeable change. Next week, 53 more will take their place. That's how the communist apparatus keeps the population in line. 

I have so much I want to say. And I'm so conflicted.

In a perfect world, opening up relations between the U.S. and Cuba would make life easier for my family, the ones who are scraping by, making impossible ends meet every single day. Or would it? This particular world is far from perfect. And it's being run by a treacherous, murdering regime who care nothing for human rights or for the welfare of their people. That is the hard truth. 

The president wants to normalize relations with Cuba, but sadly, Cuba is not normal. 

I have thousands more words to write on this topic, but I'll just leave some links here and you can feel free to educate yourself. It's tough to be Cuban right now on either side of the Florida Straits. Because those of us who left early on in the revolution have tasted the bitterness of having all we loved ripped away and have also known the sweetness of growing up in freedom. Those still there in Cuba can't even remember what hope tastes like.

What do I wish the outcome of all this would be? A free Cuba. Sadly, I don't think that even came up in the talks between the Castros and the president.

And that's the saddest thing of all.


Here are some links. If you have any you'd like to add, please feel free to share in the comments of this post. 

My interview with KCET - In California, Announcement Seen From Varying Points of View.

My friend, Robert Molleda posted this very articulate essay on Facebook.

From Capitol Hill Cubans - Cuban Dissent Leaders React to Obama's Announcement.

From the PanAm Post - Only Cubans Can Save Cuba.

From HuffPo - In Cuba Policy Debates, Theories Don't Cut It.

From Cuban blogger, Yoani Sanchez - Goliath Opens His Wallet.

From my friend, Marc Masferrer over at Uncommon Sense - If U.S.-Cuba normalization doesn't free the Cuban people, it will fail.

From Gustavo Perez-Firmat - The Last Exiles.

From Gustavo Perez-Firmat's daughter, Miriam Perez - Why I Don't Want To Hear About Your Vacation To Cuba.

Follow updates from lots of sources over at Babalú Blog


Los Angeles Cuban Festival - A Winner

Marta and Pitbull
Me and Amy with Pitbull

I love doing giveaways here on my blog. I seriously love hearing from you folks and I appreciate that you take the time to write out some thoughtful responses to my questions. Thanks for all your input.

I'm delighted that I can now add to my growing list of "Best Cuban Restaurants in the LA Area." Thanks, guys!

So, the LA Cuban Festival is coming up in about 10 days, people! I'm hoping to see some of you there. I wish I could give you all free tickets, but The People In Charge Of These Things have limited me to giving away a set of two tickets. (For which I'm totally grateful.)

For those of you that are wondering how this is done, here's how I chose the winner. 

1) I took the number of entries and entered that number in the True Random Number Generator over at 

2) I took a screen shot of the result so you could see how it works.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 8.27.23 PM

3) I gave each one of your entries a number and I did a screen shot of the winner.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 8.30.19 PM


4) I then write this post and congratulate the winner. 

The winner of the Two Free Tickets to the LA Cuban Festival on July 13th is Ed Nuhfer. Congratulations! I'll forward your email to the generous folks at Fiestalegre Promotions who will provide your tickets to this year's fabulous LA Cuban Festival.

For those of you who didn't win, please be sure to buy your tickets soon. I still hope to see you there! 

Again, here are the details...

LA Cuban Festival

Date: Sunday, July 13, 2014
Time: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Place: Rainbow Lagoon Park, Long Beach (Across street from Shoreline Village)


  • Issac Delgado
  • Timbalive
  • Charanga Cubana
  • MC Paloma Morales
  • Super DJ Robby
  • DJ Warapo
  • y mas ...


Also, the photo of me and my daughter, Amy Kikita with Pitbull at the top of the post has nothing to do with the LA Cuban Festival. It's just to get your attention. No, Pitbull is not going to be at the LA Cuban Festival, but I am!

I just think it's a cute photo. And I like to randomly talk about That Time I Met Pitbull. There's an equally cute story about that photo. (This is a few years ago when I was still straightening my hair. Now I'm all-curls-all-the-time, but that's not important right now.)

Why do I even bring up Pitbull? Because if you come to the Festival (which I totally hope you do, because hello! Cuban music and food and dancing!), you must stop by and say hello to me. Then we'll have our picture taken together and you will be just one degree away from Pitbull. 

As you can see, my Cuban logic is completely intact. 

Los Angeles Cuban Festival - A Giveaway

Living in Southern California, it's sometimes difficult to find Cubans living nearby. Which is why I'm super delighted to be involved in this year's LA Cuban Festival. It's the very best place to celebrate all the things that we love most about being Cuban.

It's a wonderful event bringing together our people for a fun day of Cubania. There will be food, music, and all things Cuban. This pleases me greatly, because, as you know, I am always looking for the best places to get Cuban food in So Cal (but that's not important right now).

I'll be there with my family and my extended LA Cuban Family: the guys from Wassup En LA, the folks from Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium, and many more. 

The LA Cuban Festival will be held at

Rainbow Lagoon Park in Long Beach, California, on Sunday, July 13th, 2014 from 10:00am to 8:00pm. 

If you haven't yet bought your tickets, I'd like to offer you some! If you'd like to go ahead and purchase pre-sale tickets on your own, please visit Fiestalegre Promotions.

LA Cuban Festival


The featured artists are:

  • Issac Delgado
  • Timbalive
  • Charanga Cubana
  • MC Paloma Morales
  • Super DJ Robby
  • DJ Warapo

You know you want to be there for all this awesome Cubanity. (<--that should be a word.)

Today's giveaway is sponsored by the LA Cuban Festival. Thanks, guys! 

To enter this drawing for Two Free Tickets to the LA Cuban Festival on July 13th, please leave a comment on this post and answer the following:

  • Where do you live in So Cal? 
  • Can you find Cuban food there? (This is important information to have, people!)

For an extra entry, go to Facebook and "like" LA Cuban Festival. Come back and tell me:

  • "I like the LA Cuban Festival!" 

Please leave your comment on this post and I'll choose one winner on:

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 at 8 pm PST.

I really want to see you there! Oh, the Cubanity!

The BBC, The Cold War, and Me

I did an interview a while back with NPR talking about my recollections of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a young Cuban child living in Miami. (Also, that sounds really cool to say, but that's not important right now.)

Here's the link to that - Is Anybody Listening?

Apparently, that link was picked up by a reporter from the BBC News Magazine and he contacted me last week and we did a phone interview in which I told him what I remembered from that time. (Again, I'm seriously feeling soo cool just writing that.)

Reporter Jon Kelly wrote a lovely piece titled The Six Key Moments of the Cold War Relived in which he interviewed people (like me!) who had lived through a particular decade and remembered how the Cold War affected us personally. I'm quite proud to add my voice to that group. Thanks, BBC News.

Speaking of the Cold War, I have a friend, Susan, who is arguably one of the most well-traveled people I've ever met. In 1989 during a visit to Berlin, she brought me back this souvenir:

Piece of the Berlin wall

The "rock" inside this tin is a piece of the Berlin Wall. This is a real-honest-to-goodness historical artifact and representation that the ideals of freedom still exist in the world. It's one of my most cherished possessions. 

My Coming to America Story is also an artifact of the Cold War Era. As part of my personal history, it informs the values that I live out daily and how I've chosen to raise my family and conduct my life.

I'm seriously proud and delighted that BBC News Magazine chose to feature my story, along with the others, as an illustration of how History (with a capital H) is really played out in the context of everyday lives.

"Next Year in Cuba"

Every year we make a large batch of Cremé de Vie or Cuban Egg Nog, if you will.


Photo: Jae C. Hong, AP

And every year we toast, "El año que viene estamos en Cuba." "Next year in Cuba."

This started in December of 1961. We had been in this country for a little less than a year and it was obvious that the whole silly revolution thing was going to blow over soon. Of course, it was.

My parents raised their glasses and said the toast, "El año que viene en Cuba." 

My mom would always add, "Si Dios quiere." "God willing."

Year after long year. It will be next year for sure. Next year. No, next year. Maybe next year...

"Si Dios quiere."

The toast endured, even as we quickly and soberly realized that even if we could return, we no longer would. We were Americans now, with Cuban roots. This is our home.

Ah, but Cubans love their roots. We're proud of where we came from. We have endured loss and longing for many years. But we're not dumb.

Now when we raise our glasses and toast, "El año que viene en Cuba," it has become a prayer. Not that we would really ever return to live there, but that our homeland will one day be free and that we will live to see that day.

I gave an interview to the Associated Press last week. Now the story of "The Toast" is being run in hundreds of news outlets across the country. Here's the link on Fox News Latino. (Also, I'm quite delighted to be quoted next to my friend, author Gustavo Perez-Firmat, but that's not important right now.)

Next Year in Cuba

It's a proud and bittersweet moment for me to be the face of Cuban exiles and our broken dreams.

But I promise you this, I'm not going to stop toasting, or stop praying for this until Cuba is free.

It may be many, many more years (I hope not) but I'll continue to say it until I take my last breath, "El año que viene estamos en Cuba."

Si Dios quiere.