Hola Mi Gente,
A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a friend, talking about how this whole blog started up, and the values that I want to be true of this space. It got me thinking, that one of my favorite parts about this blog being uniquely mine, is that I get to choose what I share. If I’m being honest, I never expected this to turn into a space that was about food. When Heart of Celebration started, it was about events and hosting: two things I’m kind of gaga about. Because food is a big part of both of those, it kind of weaseled its way in, and as time kept going I realized that my most popular content revolved around food and time around the table. So I decided to specialize and focus in on food.
One of the things that happened, incidentally, is that I started writing more and more about food, and less and less about myself. And hear me out, not that I want this space to revolve around me, but I do very much value the idea of you knowing me to a certain extent. I feel like it gives you context on who I am, and it makes this blog more than just about a wandering passing-by while you’re on a pinterest recipe hunt.
As I’ve been thinking about that more and more, I decided to start a sort of section where I can share a little more of myself with you all. My hope is that it will be driven by you–the questions you might have about health, life, marriage, beauty, and yes–food. With that in mind, I asked you last week to send me some of your questions, and I’m so thankful that you did! It’s personally a breath of fresh air to write about more than food (and some details about food), and to get to create a space for you to know me a little better here on the blog.
And now, for your questions: I’ve divided them up into sections depending on what they’re about.
Meal Prep & Whole 30:
Question: What days do you meal prep? How long do those prepped foods last?
I first started meal prepping when we completed our first round of Whole 30 two years ago. It was a completely necessary step for us to make it through the week effectively, and not cave to our cravings. It stuck around because at that point, Ben and I were both working in the same office, and it was a good practice for us to make some of our meals ahead of time, and take away some of the rush of the morning (I really, really love slow mornings). Since transitioning out of an office environment, I would say my meal prepping is a little more loose, and based on how busy our schedule is on any given week. In general, I like the idea of cooking fresh for the day, and letting my body dictate what it wants to eat. We also don’t have a microwave (not for wu-wu reasons–our house just didn’t come with one, and we’ve gotten used to living without it), which makes heating food up a little more work. Because of that I’m a big prepper more for the foods that I know I’m going to use all week for my cooking. Generally, I meal-prep on Mondays, after I go to the grocery store, but when I worked an office job, Ben and I would spend 2-3 hours on a Sunday meal-prepping. Here are some of the common ways I like to prepare food for the week:
- a pre-made protein source–be it a roast, a chicken, or some kind of meatballs. Because meat takes a while to cook, it’s just really good to have something on hand to throw into a tupperware with some greens, on days when I’m rushing around town. It also makes packing lunches for Ben’s office days a breeze. These proteins when refrigerated and kept in air-tight containers, last me the whole week.
- Pre-chopped vegetables: I like pre-chopping vegetables like cabbage, carrots, celery, and broccoli–vegetables I use almost every week. I choose these, because they’re a little more hard and less watery–this makes them keep better ( usually they last over a week when kept in air-tight containers in the fridge). Vegetables like onions or tomatoes I usually chop on the day of, because they get slimy, and a little bitter if kept for too long.
- Almond milk–this round of whole 30, I’ve been making my own coconut almond milk. It usually takes about 20 minutes to make, and lasts about 5 days. That isn’t a ton of time, but it’s enough for the week, and it makes sure we’re getting a good creamer/milk substitute, without any heavy preservatives.
- Different varieties of breakfasts. Ben goes into the office on Wednesday and Thursday, and I *try* to have something he can throw in a container and take into work. Whether that’s pre-portioned granola or Sweet Potato Breakfast Cups.
Question: Does Whole 30 exclude all carbs or just limit them?
You’ll be happy to know that Whole 30 does NOT limit your carb intake. You can eat carbs, just not any that contain gluten or grains (pasta and rice are out 😟). Also, as of a few years ago, all sorts of potatoes were add to the ‘good’ list–so you have a variety of starchy fruits and vegetables to choose from (red/yellow/heirloom/russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, plantains and berries). For folks who have very active lifestyles, or health conditions that require a certain amount of carbs per day, I totally recommend chatting with your doctor or dietician so they can point you in the direction of the ‘good’ food that will best suit your lifestyle.
Questions: Where do you get your hair done? What products do you use? What’s your wash routine look like?
First of all, I was so flattered with all the hair questions! To be totally honest, it’s the part of my appearance I’m most vain about. As an added bonus, I absolutely LOVE talking about what has worked for me, and to shout-out the genius behind my cut and color!
Paige Ashcroft Co-Owner of Fate Beauty Society does my hair regularly. Paige started doing my hair a few years ago when we moved to Portland, and her work ethic, creativity, and hilarity have made it impossible for me to ever go anywhere else. My hair is naturally pretty dark, and over the seasons, she’s managed to get me to my ideal color, without damage. She also thins out my hair every time we do a cut, because I have an entire wookie on my head otherwise. She is a dream to work with, and the crew of women assembled at FATE are both beautiful human beings, and skilled artisans! Not to sidetrack too much, buttt Facials with Jess Souliyalaovong have been game changers in my skincare routine + they’re SO relaxing. If that all sounds lovely to you, you can always book online to visit FATE, here. ALSO, none of this is sponsored, I just love them that much.
I have gone back and forth over the past year or so, switching most of my beauty care to natural lines. As I’ve become more and more aware of the toxic metals and junk that companies can put in your products, I’ve slowly transitioned to being more choosy about what I put on my body, as much as what goes in it. Unfortunately a lot of natural products don’t always yield the best results, but I’ve narrowed it down to a few that I really love, and still keep a few more “chemical-y” products around, because everything in moderation, y’all.
Shampoo: John Masters Organics – Evening Primrose Shampoo for Dry Hair – 8 oz : I tend to have pretty coarse hair and need a good hydrating shampoo to keep my locks looking healthy. This shampoo is totally safe for color-treated hair, and it keeps my locks shiny and healthy WITHOUT any grease factor. As an added bonus, it gives me a lot of natural volume!
Conditioner: Amika Bust Your Brass Conditioner : This is a must for those of use who have a good bit of blonde coloring in our hair. This conditioner deeply moisturizes and keeps my blonde tones from turning brassy, so I can go a bit longer in between getting a toner.
Heat Protector: Argan Oil Heat Protector : I curl my hair a lot to define my natural curls, and generally, because I just like having big hair. I love using an argan oil-based product to add a little moisture, and protect my hair from damage.
Spray: Aveda Control Force : I’m not sure anyone will ever be able to get me to use anything but this. My mom has an Aveda salon in Georgia, and I’m just really wild about this stuff. It doesn’t smell flowery or gross, it holds my heavy curls without creating any crunch, and it protects against humidity (hello 8 months of rainy Oregon 👋🏾💁🏽♀️). It’s a little pricey, but it’s worth every penny if you work hard to style your hair, AND each bottle lasts me about 4-5 months with regular styling.
I usually only wash my hair twice a week–never any more than that. With the combination of having color-treated hair + dry hair, it really just does best to let it go that long in between washes. I usually only style my hair one time and just brush it out and let my curls get looser and looser as wash day comes. I’ll be getting a new camera in a few months, and I’ll make sure and make a video on styling tips and tools then!
Questions: What habits do you keep? Is there anything that surprised you about marriage? Were there any cultural differences or observations coming from two separate families?
Ben and I have been married for almost four years now! That’s kind of wild when I think about it, because it feels like togetherness has been my always, and at the same time–like it’s gone by in a blur. I generally have always steered clear of the verbiage “my better half,” because I think it takes bringing your whole self to the table to make a marriage work. But I so relate to the sentiment behind the saying, because Ben brings things to the table the table that I never could, and the longer we’re married, the more he invites me to become my best self with him.
I think something that was surprising for us after getting married, was how easy it was for us to influence each other. When we were dating, I attributed it to us being really compatible. The longer we’re together, I realize that benevolent compatibility can be problematic sometimes. It’s really easy for me to tell Ben : Okay, we’re doing Whole 30 this month! He gets onboard with me (and spends all the first week convincing me not to quit) without any effort. It is equally easy for us to decide to stay home and watch TV all day…for a few weekends in a row. Apart from just our happiness with being slothy, it can cause problems when only one of us wants to do something. Being in the habit of saying “yes, let’s do this together,” can make entering conflict hard for us. In fact, we did so well at the whole “benevolent compatibility” our first year of marriage, that it was a breeze (contrary to everyone else saying it would be the hardest year). It was in our second year, when we started learning how to fight together as a strong-willed rebel, and a generous peacemaker (I’ll let you decide who you attribute those titles to 😅) that the hard came. Nowadays, we’re still working on it a good bit (and 100% convinced we always will be working on it), but generally are learning that it’s more important to bring our real, full selves into our decisions…even when they clash.
As far as the last question goes, woah baby–we have all the cultural differences you could tack on for any two people. Ben’s parents are married, mine are divorced. He has all brothers, I have a sister. The obvious–I am latina and he is mostly white, with a 1/4 sprinkle of filipino. I come from a family of yellers, he comes from a family of quiet-almost-imperceptible arguments. I celebrate my full birthday for a whole month, as well as my half birthday, and he hadn’t had a birthday party since he was 7. I love big, savory breakfasts and Ben would be okay with cereal everyday, or pancakes if we’re getting fancy.
All of those things have played big roles at different parts of our relationship. And I could probably write a small novel about each of those points. For the sake of brevity (she wrote, 2171 words into a blog post), I’ll suffice to say that we’ve had to blend who we are and what we come from a lot, to be a healthy, multi-cultural couple. We honor and celebrate where we come from, and bring a lot of that with us, and also build our own habits together. It takes a lot of work to bring your expectations, based on your upbringing, to the table and decide what works for you as a family unit. For example, where birthdays are concerned, I don’t expect Ben to make me a cupcake every day until my birthday, like my parents did one year. Instead, I give him a top 3 of things I want to experience that month, and let him fill in the blanks.
In the day to day, here are some of our favorite habits to keep us honest and healthy:
- Share food responsibilities: I cook A LOT of the time, mostly though, it’s because it is my job to do that. Ben is more than happy to jump in the kitchen with me, or to do it all himself. It’s so helpful and healthy for us to share food chores together, so that I know I have him with me, and it’s not my sole responsibility.
- Gather with people in our life stage. When we first moved to Portland, we had NO friends. And then we made friends, and they all moved away (damn this transient city!). We have a group of friends who are our people now. We’ve invited them into both the good, and the hard of our life together, and try to gather with them often.
- Build things together. I know that one seems weird. It started out because I wanted a farm table, and we didn’t have the budget to buy one, so we built it ourselves. Building things together is a way for me to enjoy Ben as a maker, and then I get to pretty-up anything he ends up building. It’s like a team-building exercise (in case you’re wondering, we got into one of our first big fights while building that table 😂).
- Enjoy nature together. We love being outside. Camping, hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, sometimes backpacking. It’s one of the reasons we moved to the PNW. Being active together helps get our explorer selves out of the attic, and enjoy one of our favorite traits about each other: being adventurous.
My Love For Food
Questions: When and how I first got interested in cooking and how my background influences that. Do I always listen to music when I cook?
I talk a lot about my background influences in my about me , because I really do think it tells a lot about where my love of food stems from, and I want people to have access to that information. In summary, food has always been a sort of home for me. Both of my parents cook really, really well, and I was spoiled to be their taste-tester throughout my childhood and adolescence. Watching both of them communicated to me from a very early age that food was a form of saying “I love you.” And so, a lot of my food love comes from that space–from using it as a way to communicate care and love to myself and my people. I also learned to appreciate the long-play of food from them. My dad is a meat expert, and can spend days working on a marinade. I learned to value from-scratch and slow cooking from him. My mom on the other hand, could make a five-course meal for an army in 30 minutes or less. I learned how to make quick flavor impacts, and Guatemalan staples from her. Sprinkle in a little traveling overseas, and settling in the PNW–a place that has extremely high standards for sourcing and sustainability, and you get me.
I would never consider myself a chef. I am a lover and student of food. I make it for sharing and caring (my Montessori preschool teacher would be so proud that I still carry that lesson with me), and as a form of expressing my creativity.
As far as music goes, I don’t ALWAYS listen to music when I’m cooking, but I would say 90% of the time, I do. Actually, more often then not, Ben puts music on for me. I think he’s caught on that I can’t contain myself from dancing, and my dancing-cooking is probably the best kind, because it’s when I’m having fun. Some of my favorite spotify stations are: Salsa Nation, Latin Dinner, and Latin Party Anthems.
And that concludes the first of my Matchas with Mary! If you made it through that small novel, thank you! Have any questions after this?? Feel free to drop them in the comment section, or let me know on Instagram.
Love, love, love,