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The Personal Chef experience with Chef Brito of YMB Catering

With my husband’s constant travel and last minute schedule adjustments, it is really difficult to seamlessly plan pre-paid events, reservations and getaways. I am not complaining…I love living on the edge lol; but sometimes it can be annoying. I am naturally a control-freak and a bit anxious so handling last-minute changes does a number on me because outside my family, my heart and life revolve around food. So I started thinking of ways that I can plan ahead and buy our family more time together while doing awesome stuff.

For instance, I already know that 1. Valentine’s day is overrated, and commercialized…. but that IS an excuse to eat (my heart smiles) 2. My hubby has tentative travel plans around those days 3. Sitters will be all booked and I only have two on my rolodex. After a few failed attempts at planning what might be canceled, I decided to eliminate the variables and “rescheduled” the Valentine’s dinner for a day I knew he would be home, saved the sitter money, eliminated the production of compressed “mommy getting ready in 15 mins” and did away with having to travel to a restaurant during traffic in Orlando’s Route 4, no gracias! My ingenious idea was the easiest of them all: call Chef Brito of YMB Catering to cook for us…. you know…a traditional “Valentine’s Day” dinner…Surf & Turf baby!

It was the most perfect idea! YMB arrived early, hauled in her crates of pots, tools and pre-measured ingredients. I gave her a quick tour of our kitchen and showed her where all the essentials were (in my pjs because I was still getting ready) I was impressed at how “portable” her set-up was… it was beautiful to watch! She was “that” level prepared…I mean there was a portable waste basket, stove-top grills, a torch and what looked like an arsenal of disposable gloves and white crisp kitchen towels. The real kicker in the set-up was how thorough this planning was and how seamless the set-up was. To see several cutting boards for veggies and meats… it was like seeing cherubs sing… you know.. because I am OCD and well of course you cannot expect less from a professional chef. I was in awe. I must also add that I was making multiple trips to my bedroom as I was still getting ready!!! This was such a win for me! At one point I even checked up on the babies, and all was good and I was even more excited than before because I knew all was going to be under control. ❤️

Chef Brito was focused and as soon as I saw her chop the shallots in a nano-second I asked Randy if we could sit by the island and be entertained by her skills. My initial idea was for us was to experience a complete private dinner, but I DO have an open-concept kitchen so unless I sat in our  backyard there was no way this curious foodie could sit still while hearing the melody of a chopping knife and a soft sizzle.

Because  I had a front row seat, I really must say that I experienced this private dining on another level. Let me paint you the picture… I felt as if I was a judge on “Iron Chef America”, Chef Brito’s  focus was that of a competition, yet she managed to take time to briefly explain the process and answer all questions. Typically a private dining experience would be different, where the dining party is usually seated away from the cooking action. In that case the private dining experience is much more intimate. However, we were thrilled to get to know her through hearing story and the love for her craft.

Once dinner was plated on our nicely heated plate, our wine poured and mood set for the evening, Chef Brito delivered our beautiful dinner: ribeye steak, crab cakes with a side of zesty remoulade, arugula with cherry tomatoes in lemon and oil, and grilled asparagus. The food she prepared was the perfect pairing for an evening with my hubby. We were able to enjoy dinner AND a show with Chef Brito. The savory flavors and aromatic delight of the beautifully dressed plates of Chef Brito’s creations was just what we needed to truly enjoy our Mom and Dad evening alone. Thank you Chef Brito for taking the stress of planning a romantic date night off of this overwhelmed mami’s plate! 

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NYC Chick moves to Lake Nona, Orlando, FL

a neo-modern community…

I’m a big city girl who’s familiar with big city living. When my husband and I decided to uproot our small family from NYC to the burbs in Central Florida, it was a genuine search for space, growth and a suburbia lifestyle for our girls. Fast forward to one year later where I’m homesick and missing the constant social environment and activities centered lifestyle we were so accustomed to. After some research and intense discussion with my hubby, we decided once again to make a move…this time from Kissimmee, FL to Laureate Park a trés chic community, nestled in Lake Nona, Orlando, FL.

Can you spot my new digs?

My previous home was great! However, everything around me was too rural, I wasn’t crazy about the neighborhood schools’ performance and the local dining experience was blah. Discovering Laureate Park in Lake Nona, FL was a dream…literally I dreamt about a place where I had the best of both worlds: family-centered and trendy community. Laureate Park provides both plus so much more! Laureate Park how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Lol, check out the top reasons why I fell in love with this amazing community:

1. Top builders from across the globe are right here! I know fancy and the architectural designs of the homes are beyond anything I’ve seen. Just check out the www.crafthomes.com to see some amazing designs, like our very own Brewer model, which we love (home debut blog, coming this spring!!!)

2. Network, NETWORK, nEtWoRk. Demographically, tons of young professionals and young families. An ideal place for new families with working mom and/or dad.

3. Location. Guys, 10 minutes from the airport! Who has a constant traveling husband? I do! So convenient for my husband on his travel days. I was doing an hour drive to the airport with my two little sopranos in the back seat 2-3 times a week! Imagine driving an hour to the airport then another hour back home with two screaming toddlers. No bueno!

4. Super active. I live in a resort. Almost. So many activities and things to do! Our community calendar is amazing, just peek at our Facebook community page (https://www.facebook.com/learnlakenona/) We also have a community manager every few blocks. Loads to do like,  #winewednesdays where each home within a community has the opportunity to host an evening of BYO, Amazing Explorers Academy (aexplorers.com/) for the little ones, Canvas Restaurant (https://canvaslakenona.com), breathtaking golf clubs, an abundance and variety of parks – nature parks, toddler parks (every home is within walking distance of one), and amusement parks of course (have you heard of Disney???) In addition, a water park is scheduled to open this summer!!! This list can go on, I can talk all day about “Art after dark”, “movie night by the park” and community yoga! But what I must also highlight is the community’s active presence in instagram (only mi favorito)… Lake Nona’s handle is @learnlakenona. There are some very cool and engaging accounts like @nonahoodlatino and @lakenonasocial that you will love! (I will save these for another blog).

This video is 4 yrs old!!!! can I say it’s 100xs better!?

5. Community of the Future. Lake Nona is living in the year 3019. Going outside of the neighborhood makes me feel as if I’m a time traveler going back in time. Seriously. For example Laureate Park is one of the first U.S. gigabit communities and one of nine Iconic Smart + Connected communities in the world! Cutting-edge tech is imbedded in every corner of this community.  The most technically advanced medical facilities are situated right here. Nemours Children’s Hospital (nemours.org), Orlando VA Hospital (orlando.va.gov), and several university medical research centers. I mean come on do I need to say anymore? My list could have been much more extensive, but I’ll save the rest of the ‘hood for you guys to explore and see how great it truly is. If you’re thinking about visiting Orlando, come to Lake Nona, don’t give it much thought – just come down and see for yourself why I’m living in “the happiest place on earth”! (Sorry Disney…I had to borrow that line).

So here it is, this explains my grand excitement for being part of this community, and my muse for the recent changes in my blog. I have truly found home. I am dying to read your responses! let’s continue the chit chat on here and @onceuponamami … thank you for reading and watching!

A letter to my believers…

Dear Friends,

Can you believe @onceuponamami is turning one!? I can’t believe it either! Such a big girl now! 

Although I may not be the best at staying consistent with my posts, I’m so blessed to have followers as consistent as you. Thank you for sticking with me on this journey because it’s only going to get more exciting from here. Promise. I’m actually working on some very exciting things for you…shhh.

Here’s a couple of things to expect from me this year:

Learning more about the things I do and call “work”!

Writing. This means I am beefing up my reviews on yelp.com and getting a little more technical with my writing. I’ll be sharing these critiques with you and organizing them for you to utilize with ease. Just think about ordering the perfect meal at a new restaurant on your first visit. Pretty amazing right? Well that’s why I’m here to help! Speaking of writing, I want to introduce you guys to Pencil Loft, small writing company powered by women founded by my business partner and yours truly.  Pencil Loft specializes in content editing and writing tailored to meet our clients’ needs. We are still getting dressed and arriving to the party in February 2019! Lol – stay tuned!

Real Estate
I’ve let you all in on “House of Wolves” vía Instagram. HOW is a real estate investment company that my husband and I founded in 2016. Through this business, we buy, renovate and rent homes which I manage.  This year I aim to be more transparent about “how”, “why” and “where”   we invest and my favorite part of it all…designing!

This webpage will be glammed up in the near future with a cleaner look, less pink and more content! I’ll be adding pages dedicated to my restaurant reviews, fashion, home renovation ideas and top picks! I’ll be in mommy mode sharing more pics of my minis and definitely sharing more ME since you all have given me so much of YOU.

Gracias and cheers to our first of many years together !



How to Impress your Mother-in-law & make her your new BFF

So there I was making my way out of my then boyfriend’s apartment (now, my husband aaaooww)… face beat from hell, hair: a beautiful mess, wearing a borrowed T-shirt… looked like a classic “walk of shame” but in this case… I had legit rights lol, he was mine and he knew it…and I was in  a rush and blah, blah, blah aka “walk-of-shame” to my canary yellow Audi TT (details of the car are completely insignificant… but in my head I couldn’t had been in a more subtle car… it had to be yellow 😂). I knew who she was, from pictures obviously and he told me she was on the way… but never knew she was a ninja, and well she showed up in a matter of seconds. “Oh! hola Señora! como esta? yo soy Mary.” (open door to car, slip in, look up at Randy looking out the window dying laughing.) I do not remember what she responded, I spoofed and thought to myself that I was doomed with la Doña.

Later on I connected with Randy, obviously, I interrogated him…asking him every detail and syllable enhancement she made while talking about her encounter… he assured me that I was fine, and kept laughing.

That weekend or so, we arranged a proper meeting. We hosted her at his apartment, I cooked and took over for the night. This was a super BIG deal. The things you do on the first encounters with your Mother-in-law (MIL) matter. So here was my strategy to “play it cool”.

1. I thought I blew it, by looking soooo umm casual that first day (let me not even get into what she might of thought of me with her Traditional-Catholic-Dominican-conservative beliefs…as I am pretty sure I depicted the devil).

2. Hosting her will allow me the opportunity to vanish her first impression of me, by really showing her what I am about…oh, and I did.

I proceeded with making my famous lasagna, the best meat blend, best fresh mozz, and tons of basil and garlic.. (you know, to have something to talk about lol). I didn’t miss a detail, a green salad, a choice of wine, and dessert. Ah, here is where attention to detail comes into place: find out what she likes and dislikes…and well sneak that in there here and there, and whatever she does not like well stay away from that… unless you guys have something in common that you guys dislike together lol. Your partner MUST be  your ally in this, he/she has to give you the scoop, but you also need to do your homework by asking these types of questions, so you are prepared for this encounter. But let’s go back  little… let’s talk about my appearance. I did not dress to impress, I wore something chic-comfy I mean we were in his apartment on a Sunday during football season… lets’ be real. My hair did look really nice, my makeup was subtle but done, nails were of course manicured. I did not change the way I talked, I was trying to show her who I really was without making it so obvious that I was trying to impress. How did I do that, and what you must keep in mind:

  1. Don’t do anything you cannot keep up.
    1. be yourself, if your plan is to be around for a while then it will be difficult to keep up appearances.
    1. I cooked, yes, a hella good lasagna. Yes, that sends some kind of message, that of I like to cook maybe, and that I am willing to slave every time she’s around… NOPE, that’s not me! so, I made sure I drove the message I wanted to send. “This is a special occasion, I don’t usually cook like this (or ever), I prefer to go out to eat, but will hold it down if I have to” and I did that, by making casual and subtle jokes like “I hope you guys enjoy the meal…it might be the last meal I will ever cook in  my life” and laugh…and then follow by “no, seriously I am not joking lol” you get the point. Its ok to show off, but its more important to show who you really are.
  2. Dress the part. When you go to a job interview, you dress the part right? well, this is no different. If your intentions is to be with your partner forever, then you need to understand that la Doña is one of the most influential people in his/hers life. Therefore you want to look like a regular version of you, but in a way that conveys “I care”.  Listen, no judgement here… if you are Goth or Emo, more power to you, but if you know la Doña might cringe at your drawn in tears, maybe lay that day go easy on her with your regular look, but don not O.D. You know what I mean. This is very important that you understand this, and also learn to understand how MIL thinks… oh she’s a republican? she believes in such and such and maybe this and that. Take notes, because you don’t have to agree with what her beliefs are, you just need to navigate around them intelligently. For example my MIL is a Republican, while I am not. I try not talk politics around her and her husband, because 1. I can’t keep up on the conversation (politics its just not my thing) 2. We will disagree, and I know myself enough that I will sit there 4 hours trying to make my point if I have to (nope, not worth it) 3. She is who she is, and I love her for all that, and I like treating her with the respect she deserves and vice versa.
  3. Expose your weaknesses. Relax! breathe… trust me! your strengths will naturally shine, and you know this. So really really on those super powers and shine like a diamond. However, by talking about a weakness or two you are making yourself vulnerable, you are being real and setting the right expectations for the future. No one likes an ego, so speaking of say for example “I am a terrible cook” (to keep the theme going) is good! it shows that though you do not have an affinity for the culinary arts, you put forth some effort to host. It will also save you from casserole duty for family parties lol (I get no requests… maybe a fruit salad 🙂 ). To be honest, I cook, but I cook what “I” like… so if la Doña is not into ceviche… but I am that’s cool. We will just keep at “I don’t cook for crowds.”

Now, it’s been a few years since that first experience. But there have been a lot of “firsts” with la Doña and I. You will have those too, like who turns the candles for the cake and brings it to him/her lol… (it has happened to me) or, who initiates grace in your own home. So, always keep in mind that YOU are the new person in everyone’s life in your partner’s family. So, do not take things so personal, they are honestly getting used of you as much as you are getting used of the idea of them. I recall getting upset at many different things… but let’s be real… in-laws will always thing “we”are babies, though we may be able to run circles around them and have successful careers etc.  My first experiences with my MIL have all been unique, and often I have had to speak up and ask for her to take a seat, and often she has handed me the baton to lead the crowd… I am lucky, because my MIL is honestly an angel. Yes, she has spoiled her kids rotten, but she is loving, respectful and has embraced me as a daughter. To the point where my husband thinks she sides with me on everything. I give her fashion and beauty advice, I introduce her to tech like Amazon.com (I mean, same-day delivery curtains!!? hello? #IWIN) and Pinterest (I blew her mind).

Our relationship has grown so much, and today I am so grateful to have her. She is one of the very few people I trust my daughters with. I seek her advice ALWAYS, when it comes to home-remedies and other mom-stuff. At times, I even open up about my relationship with her son, and she honestly gives me sound advice without coming from a judgmental place. She respects that we are very different, and praises me to others. I have earned her trust and respect because I have always, and I mean always kept it 100%. Never have I smiled things away, just because of who she is, and she admires my backbone. She respects my decision making, because I have reassured her and proved that I am as capable as any other “fantasy daughter in law” lol… her grand children are well taken care of, son too, and my home is on point. That is honestly all they care about… Me, Goth, Vegan it does not matter, as long as everyone is alright. I know deep in my heart she thinks we are babies, and that is ok (my mom thinks the same), but  little by little I keep building with her. She is now a very good friend, and mother to me. We maintain an open communication style that allows for feedback and gratitude.

Please enjoy the video embedded below:

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Frequent Flyer Miles… and Marriage

I ‘m not a regular mom, I am a cool stay-at-home mom

My husband and I came to the decision that I would be a stay at home mom for several reasons.

1. We wanted one of us to always be within reach of our children. My previous job would had required me to travel and since he travels then there would have been times where both of us would be absent.

2. Focus on growing our business and venture into new ones… I am a millennial mom after all 🙂 I create opportunities, not sit and wait for them (aaaoooooowwww) lol.

3. I had reached my salary potential, and just did not see the worth in returning. There was much more value in me growing
our businesses and pursuing my dreams while raising our daughters.

So while this decision was great for us, there was still the issue that my husband is still traveling extensively for work. Let’s cut to the chase. Having a traveling partner can take a toll on you, your spouse, the children and the household. A traveling partner leaves a void in the household that when he/she is present that void may still be there because you’re trying to recover from the moments he/she was gone.

What helps us recover and cope with my husband’s travel is realizing how crucial miscommunication (whether small or large) can make everything go to shiz. Curbing your pride to ensure conversations don’t become petty will ensure that when you guys are together it’s enjoyable!

Add value to your “Me time”

Take advantage of the time away by embracing the healthy space allotted which gives you guys a deeper connection when you’re together. Enjoy your social life, and really focus on your personal goals/projects by having the extra time after the kids are asleep…which is what I do. You can catch me doing a late-night workout to literally trying to build an empire at night. Yes, I am dead tired, but frankly having that time is so productive for me, I find a lot of value in this “me time” and when hubs is home, I can dedicate my nights to netflixin’ and chill :).

You might snap…just sayin’

Avoid a tense situation by making assumptions which lead to unnecessary arguments. It happens, I have learned through trial and error. I once snapped at my husband for not calling in time to wish our daughters good night…and frankly I did not even consider that he only had one electric converter port to charge all his devices, laptop, personal phone, work phone, headset etc. So things like this can happen, and at the moment I was ready for war. Yes, calling home is important and no I did not have to snap over this…I can still achieve to understand why he didn’t call when he said he would, by simply changing my tone and perspective. Really, it’s all about how we say things. However, I knew I was under a lot of stress, and coping with multiple demanding priorities and that was basically the cherry on top, that set me off. So trial and error it is, I am much more mindful these days and truly my experience has made me so much more understanding . Former on this you can look up “spouse resentment + travel”.

Outsource time consuming chores

Try to tap out of those cultural expectations of how to behave when your spouse travels (i.e. making 5 course meals… not!). Hubby and I have broken a lot of those traditional/social norms. He understands that life goes on without him around, and therefore we at times have to make decisions on our behalf without consulting… and often it’s me. I take lead in most  home/kid based decisions. For example, I don’t have to wait around for him to make a decision on pest-control or when to schedule a medical exam for the kids. We have very defined roles in our relationship. I manage our businesses from home, he gets updates and when necessary we’ll do a deep-dive. Whenever I am moving a large sum, I send him an FYI; when it comes to his career we also approach that as partners… we discuss the best options for us, and carry on, because at the end of the day we are both working towards one goal in mind… though we arrive from different channels. You get me? Finally, on this topic we also outsource  a lot of those time consuming tasks. By hiring someone for lawn service, pest, home repairs, and even home deep cleaning we buy ourselves much more family time. We also use amazon.com/fresh for our shopping lists when things get a little crazy. It works for us, it can work for you.

Some quick  no-no’s

  • Choose your battles
  • Don’t bring anything up that can wait to be discussed later
  • Be mindful of each other’s tasks and sacrifices
  • Don’t book social gatherings the day after travel
  • Don’t forget to tell how much you guys miss each other
  • Try not to establish a calling schedule since this can be stressful and frustrating if a call is missed. Both work and babies can be unpredictable. Do however leverage other forms of communications like sweet texts or a 5 min FaceTime vs 1 hour call. Quality over quantity.
  • Life goes on. Do not get in the habit of accommodating things to traveling spouse… there are exceptions but don’t over stress yourself.

Now don’t get me wrong, having the experience of traveling domestic and abroad is a great opportunity for your spouse and essentially for you and your family. Just look at the perks…being able to travel with your mate on his/her trips, free upgrades at hotels and airlines when we travel as a family, and the cutest souvenirs from around the world! And while we’re talking (perks), I can selfishly take shortcuts around the house to just cater to the kids and I… pizza or cereal for dinner anyone? 👧🏻👶🏻

Don’t let a traveling spouse put a damper in a temporary situation. Love the right now moments and look forward to them while he/she is away! Remember to be mindful of each other, remember that you both chose this life, and do not forget to remind each other how much love and miss one another. The end.

What did think? comment below. Thank you y hasta luego.


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Unique and Free Father’s Day Gestures to Make his Week special

Father’s Day…

The day we moms get to show our beloved how thankful we are of their fathering💕. If you haven’t had the chance to think of something unique to give your special guy, consider giving him a week’s long gifting. Think of Secret Santa minus Christmas plus he’ll know who’s giving him the gifts 😳.

Here’s some awesome ideas to consider this week:

1. Breakfast in bed. I know it’s been done a million times, but with the busyness of your household I’m sure the last thing he’s expecting is time carved out to fix him a special breakfast before he starts his day. And who doesn’t love receiving food😋.
2. Love notes expressing how much he means to you and your family. A note everyday left in random places will catch him off guard. Make sure you leave the notes in places he frequents daily (in my case his gym bag…rubber-band a post-it to his water bottle). The kids can also join in on this activity.
3. Kids are asleep. Good. If not, try your best to get them asleep early one evening so you can have a glass of wine and a slow dance with him. Put on his favorite love song (I am thinking Sade 🙂 and take a moment to embrace one another while dancing and enjoying your love story.
4. Run that man a bath. Ahhhh I am jealous of the thought lol. But really… a warm bath, drop some salts in that baby and some essential oils (totally optional) these will help him relax even more. You can you sit by the tub, read him some sports headlines (or whatever your man is into… or totally go Shakespeare on him…or maybe let a “love” or “appreciation” inspired podcast session play for him. Trust me, he will appreciate this surprise very much.
5. Send him Lunch! Yasss! with UberEats you can now send him his favorite dish from almost any restaurant. Send it early enough that he won’t have time to step out on his own. He will be shocked at your gesture, I assure you success. (OK this one is not free, but its pretty awesome!)
6. Make time to watch his favorite movie…even it’s Saw III. He will always remember you made this effort.
7. If you are co-parenting and would like to show appreciation to the father of your child/children, you can skip buying a card, and instead ensure your kid/(s) make a beautiful hand-made card, one that he’ll keep forever.
I promise you that nothing feels better than doing acts of kindness. Your gestures will be so appreciated  and he’ll be so overwhelmed by the daily affirmations of love you’ve been providing all week that you can gift him a banana on Father’s Day and he’ll cry tears of joy. #momwins!!!
Please comment below if you have other ideas we can use this week and post the outcome of which of these you applied! (I am challenging myself to doing all of these! 🙂 Just hope my husband doesn’t read this post :). Keep an eye out for “Mary’s Picks” for gift ideas on Instagram.