Saturday, March 13, 2010

Featured memoir: Rice and Beans

Featured memoir: Rice and Beans & Everything In-Between, by David Cruz

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Monday, February 15, 2010

With Kids, Will Travel! The importance of showing your kids that there is a world outside of their own!

The times that I am fortunate enough to travel, I'm often asked "are you taking your kids with you?". Well, when I do respond with a resounding "yes!", I get an almost shocking look from those asking the question. Granted, if I am traveling for business or just a quick one or two day getaway with my wife, it's possible that I might not have my kids. But for the most part, I do have my kids with me and my wife whenever we are on vacation.

With today's technology, anyone can get away to far off destinations without even leaving their home. With a click of a mouse, we are transported to far off places and get a sense of what the destination has in store for us we we choose to visit it some day. Of course, it's not the same as being there but it's a start.

With that said, so many of our kids are lacking the experience of what it means to actually travel and meet different people and see what beautiful cultures there are in this world. Actually, international exposure is just the beginning. Even exposure to different states right here in the U.S. is being neglected by our youth. When I recently mentioned to one of my middle-schoolers that I was traveling to Minnesota, he promptly asked if I had a passport and if they spoke English at this far away destination. Are we not teaching geography anymore? At the very least U.S. geography!

As I've mentioned, I was in Minnesota with my family. Despite the chuckles I received from my colleagues (they couldn't understand why I would travel to the state of 10,00 lakes during the month of February), my wife and I decided that visiting Minnesota would be a good experience for my two kids. The flight alone was exciting for my kids and landing in a different state was enough for them as well. Just finding out that the Mississippi River starts in this pasrt of the country was beyond comprehension for my kids. They could not believe that this mighty river stretches all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico some 2,552 miles away! Or that the hotel that we were staying at was over 100 years old and its still functioning. Or that Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts was a St. Paul native. Or that Gordon Parks, Poet, Photographer, Movie Director, was from Minnesota. Canada? Just north of Minnesota which by the way was a nice segue into a discussion about borders, passports and how big Canada actually is. Geography lesson? Yeah, sure!

Many complain that our kids today are missing out on simple current events and simple information about each other. So many times our kids are missing out on other cultures as well as good old American cultures, traditions and beliefs. If you want to understand what makes Americans tick, travel the country. If you want to understand what makes the World tick, travel it and travel it with your kids. As history has taught us, so many wars have been started simply because of misunderstandings. If we understand our fellow man, we tend to have more tolerance. How do you accomplish it with todays youth? Expose them to the rest of the world, the U.S. included. I don't care if it's as close as traveling from New York to Southern New Jersey; it's still a trip to another part of America.

As I write this, I recall that one person who when told that my family and I were going to Minnesota she remarked "I don't think I would waste my miles and or points to Minnesota" I say it beats staying at home and seeing the same old things I see everyday in my little town!
So, come on out and see the states! Go on! take your kids to a different part of the world and let them see how diverse the planet is! It'll make them and this world a whole lot better some day!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Going Green? Latinos ahead of the game!

With each passing year, more and more of us are being bombarded with

go green” messages from just about every medium available. From car advertisements that trumpet their energy efficient hybrids to cars that run on vegetable oil. From bathroom tissue that is recycled, which by the way is NASTY if you think about it, to paper plates that have been recycled. Playgrounds made out of recycled rubber,

re-usable wood, pens, containers, clothes (think hemp), stones, oil, and even body parts (any organ donors out there?)!

All of this is great and dandy and I get it! I really do! But, as many Latinos already know, this “go green” campaign is nothing new to us!

How many Mami’s, Papi’s, Abuelitas, and Abuelitos made us re-use everything in our houses to the point of extinction!? We’ve been doing this for ages and NOW the rest of the free world is catching up with one major difference; we’re not profiting off of it. And by profiting, I mean monetary or via publicity.

El Choping Bag: Early Thermal Insulation

During the mid 1970’s ‘til about early 1980’s, especially here in the New York tri-state area, many of us who are now in our late thirties early forties remember having our feet wrapped in little plastic bags and shoved into our sneakers; a pre-requisite to playing in the snow. The little bags would come from the local supermarket; usually Sloans, A&P, Associated, or Keyfood. The bags were actually used to put frozen foods such as ice cream, a bag ice, frozen vegetables, or anything that was cold or frozen. They usually had a picture of a Polar Bear on them and the color of the bag was usually blue.

Besides keeping anything frozen cold enough until you brought your groceries home, these bags were placed around your feet in order to keep them dry from the snow whenever you went outside to play. Never-mind that your feet still froze but at least they were dry!


What ensued was the re-use of a plastic bag! Going Green at its best!

Not Con-Ed but Con Edwin!

One of my neighbors growing up was a guy by the name of Edwin or as we like to say “E-Dweeng” whose mother insisted on yelling “ Carajo! Apaga esa luz! Tu trabaja para Con Ed?” We could not enter a room, turn the light on and then walk out for a second without her screaming at us to turn off the light! You would think that we lived in a Communist country that rationed electricity! Who knew Doña Juana was ahead of her time! Not only did she probably save tons of Kilowatt hours, she also taught us to not be afraid of the dark!

A Jar goes very far!

Love Jelly? How many Welch’s jelly jars did you have? How great was it that your mother was able to get you your favorite grape jelly and after it was gone, you just washed it out and had a great glass to drink out of?

Mami was recycling plastic and glass back then and she didn’t even know it!

As you can see, these are just a couple of early “go green” techniques that have been in existence within the Latin world. So, the question remains: Are or better yet, have Latinos contributed to saving the planet? The answer has to be Claro que si!

Here are a few other go green techniques that we managed to spawn without even knowing we created them.

According to the Environmental Working Group (, an environmental group that uses the power of public information to protect public health and the environment, the following tips should be applied to “go green” :


Use cast iron pans instead of nonstick. Read about Teflon health concerns.

BS: Hello! Calderos anyone!? God knows they’re not tossed out until the handles fall off completely or worst, your tia Anna never returns it!


To avoid chemicals leaching into food, go easy on processed, canned or fast foods and never microwave plastic. Read about Bisphenol A, a toxic food-can lining ingredient associated with birth defects.

BS: How many aluminum foiled leftovers have you had? Pop it in the oven and ... voila! 30 minutes later its warm!


Buy organic, or eat vegetables and fruit from the "Cleanest 12" list. Find out more about the "Dirty Dozen."

BS: Mami spent many years growing our own Avocados in a converted gallon of milk container from the left over avocado pit. Of course toothpicks held it altogether.


Pregnant women should use iodized salt to combat chemical interference from the thyroid. Read about rocket fuel's effect on the thyroid.

BS: A new bottle of Adobo goes a long way!


Seal outdoor wooden structures. Order a test kit to find out if your wooden deck, picnic table, or playset is leaching arsenic.

BS: We already know that our milk crate chairs are recyclable.


Leave your shoes at the door. This cuts down on dust-bound pollutants in the home.

BS: Chancleta’s are forever! They’re not tossed out until there are a million holes on the sole. If you need another pair, the 99 cent store is just around the corner.


Avoid perfume, cologne and products with added fragrance. Search for personal care products that are fragrance-free, or check the products you're already using.

BS: Personal fragrance? You can just wash your clothes and the fresh scent of the clean clothes is good enough for personal fragrance. You knock out two birds with one stone! Clean clothes AND you smell good!


Buy products with natural fibers, like cotton and wool, that are naturally fire resistant. Use our list of products and manufacturers to avoid the chemical flame retardant PBDE.

BS: Walmart and Target only make fire resistant clothes and we know how much we love going to these two stores!


Eat low-mercury fish like tilapia & pollock, rather than high-mercury choices like tuna & swordfish. Check our Safe Fish List to see which fish to avoid and what's safe to eat.

BS: Tuna and Swordfish? That’s fancy schmancy food! Bacalao Salao for everyone! Besides, if the fish from City Island in the Bronx hasn’t killed us, nothing will! I think we’re immune to mercury by now!


Filter your water for drinking and cooking. How does your tap water stack up? Search our tap water database to see what you're drinking.

BS: No need to filter or spend money on a filter that you will have to toss out eventually; ain’t nothing better than NYC water! Best in the country!


Learn your personal body burden. Take a step-by-step tour of your home to learn the toxic truth about how household products contribute to your body burden of industrial chemicals.

BS: Our household products comes down to two products: King Pine and Mistoline. With these two, you can clean floors, disinfect, rub out mildew and clean your windows if need be. To save waste even more, use newspaper to clean all your mirrors and windows!

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