Image Map

Orlando doesn't suck/ Home for the holidays

December 31, 2014

Spending almost a week back home was exactly the recharge I needed after a change-filled last 6 months. Moving across state lines ranks high on the life stressor charts, even if it is still exciting at times. I remember my orientation leader at Florida State advising us to wait a few months before going back home for a visit. She said that you should give your new home a chance to settle in before running off to visit your hometown. I tend to think there is some truth to that line of thinking. Coming home now gave me the perspective to view my home city through a new lens. I'll be the first to begrudgingly admit that I had a negative view of Orlando the last few years. I was that person who was quick to say that the city was boring and it lacked culture. Even as we were making our decision to move and getting the house on the market to sell, there was a noticeable shift in Orlando with more independent restaurants opening and neighborhoods focusing on weekend events for locals. Now there is a full blown "Orlando Doesn't Suck" movement of people working to rethink the city and make it a better place to live. I saw a lot of this shift when I was down for the holidays. Where I normally would be greeted with endless chain restaurants I now found new independent restaurants with distinct flavors, and empty entertainment complex near the tourist area converted to an artisan marketplace, and a beautiful new performing arts center. Color me impressed Orlando.

We were more than ecstatic to leave behind the days of high temperatures in the 40's and Florida did not disappoint in the weather department. High in the 70's and being bale to dine at fresco at night was a treat. Kavalier made the trip down with us and he loved having so much space to play around. Funny how quickly my parents got used to having him in the house. Overall it was a relaxing trip home filled with spending quality time with my parents, eating good food, and taking it easy.

When blogging takes a backseat

December 21, 2014

It's been a few weeks since I wrote in this space. I find that when life gets crazy I lose my motivation to write. Things at work have been hectic to say the least with working on community outreach regarding the Affordable Care Act and when I get home all I want to do is a whole lot of nothing. I'm also pretty sure I am suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The sun goes down here around 5:00 pm which seems to zap me of any post work energy. I had the same problem when I lived in Worcester. I have no idea how people live in places with limited sunlight, not having it definitely affects my mood.

In 2 days I will be home in Orlando for the holidays, which I couldn't be more excited about. I haven't been back since I left 6 months ago and it will be nice to be home for a few days. I'm not going to lie seeing the forecasted weather of high in the 70's is making me excited. The highs here have been lingering in the 40's for weeks. Bring on the chance to be able to go outside sans coat.

Lucky 7

December 08, 2014

It is hard to believe that 7 years ago this week I went from daily phone calls and the beginning of a crush on T to becoming his girlfriend. At the time I was five months into my move to Worcester, MA and thought nothing would become of the guy I went on two dates with just weeks before my departure to New England. Life had unexpected plans for me.

Seven years later and we have been through so many adventures.

We survived 4 months of long distance dating and became experts at the airport goodbye.

We successfully managed the transition from never living with a significant other to living together without killing each other.

We rescued Kavalier and made our family of 3.

We survived layoffs and career changes.

We discovered our own little paradise on Earth (Key West) and got engaged there.

We maneuvered the home buying process and planned a wedding. Not at the same time, kudos to those who handle both in the same year.

We managed to stay sane during his thesis work in our first year of marriage.

We have lived in a new city and state for the last 6 months and truly learned how strong our bond is. If you ever want to see how strong your marriage is, just move out of state and see how it tests both of you.

Thanksgiving 2014

December 01, 2014

This Thanksgiving week I had to work Monday-Wednesday and was grateful to have my parents fly in Monday evening and my sister and nephews joined us the next night.  Luckily Northern Virginia is only a 5 hour drive away from her, since she has to split holidays and won't be coming down to Florida for Christmas. DC got a small amount of slushy snow on Wednesday morning while I was busy at work which means I missed my mom freaking out about it while walking around the National Mall. I'm pretty sure her Caribbean blood is not made for snow.

We spent Thanksgiving at the National Zoo and had a traditional turkey dinner in Chinatown. It was definitely cold the last few days here with highs in the 40's. I couldn't help but roll my eyes when I saw people back home complain about 50 degrees on Facebook. Floridians are so funny.  It was nice to have my family up here for a few days and spend quality time with them.  My nephews grow so fast that I try to treasure each visit we have. I can't believe my oldest nephew is about to turn 7 years old. They grow up so fast.

This visit could haven't come at a better time. I'm going through some difficult things right now and having my family around me was just what I needed.  Only 22 days until I go home for Christmas.


November 21, 2014

Thursday morning I walked into work when a co-worker asked me if I heard about what happened at Florida State. The ladies I work with obviously know I'm from Florida and have learned quickly of my love for all things Florida State. I had no idea what they were talking about so of course I instantly check Facebook. A shooter went into Strozier library in the early morning hours and opened fire on the students inside. In the end 3 people where injured and the shooter ended being killed. I couldn't help but flashback to my freshman study sessions at Strozier and my heart ached knowing that this happened at my beloved university. #PrayforFSU

Lessons from 2 years of marriage

November 10, 2014

Two years ago today all the planning and stress paid off when I walked down the aisle to marry my husband. We lived together for a few years before getting married, so honestly I shrugged off the people who warned me that the first year of marriage was the hardest. For us that wasn't the case. If anything this second year of matrimony has been far more challenging for us as a couple. In year number 2 we decided to put our house on the market, dealt with the stress of selling a house, moved states, and went from living in a 3 bedroom house to a l bedroom apartment in a much more expensive area of the country.

Compromise is a verb.

Everyone knows how important compromise is to any marriage. We hear and read about it all the time. But it is the truth, sometimes you are the one who has to compromise. And it isn't always easy. Sometimes it will feel like one person is doing all the bending backwards, but that is just the ebb and flow of marriage. It is not just about you anymore.

Remember that you are on the same team.

One of the toughest adjustments has been living in a smaller space than we are used to. Add in the fact that we went from living in our hometown with family and friends for support to becoming each other's main support in a new state and you get stressful situations with your spouse. It is easy to forget that you are both going through a transitional phase and you need to be each other's support.

Don't forget to be silly with each other.

We love to act silly with Kavalier often. Having time to just let loose is necessary for a marriage to last. I like to think we have this pretty well covered in our relationship.

Things I miss about Florida

October 28, 2014

1. Having no parking issues. In Orlando you have no real worries about parking. Most places have ample parking lots and the parking spaces themselves are not super small like up here.  The joke about Floridians not being able to parallel park is truth for me. It wasn't even on my driving test down there, probably because you rarely use it. I am lucky that T is an excellent parallel parker and that if I need to go into DC I can just use the Metro.

2. Being around fellow Florida State fans during college football season.

3. The ease of just spending your weekends in flip flops. I am a little bummed that my flip flops are collecting dust for the time being.

4.  Easy access to Puerto Rican food. I got spoiled by having my mom's delicious authentic  Puerto Rican cooking in such close proximity. It also doesn't hurt to have such a large Puerto Rican population in the area.


I missed Publix when I lived in Massachusetts for a year. It is hands down the best grocery store in the country. Just trust me on that. The one close to me even had a Chinese take out section next to the deli.  And don't even start me on the Publix subs.

ABC's of Me

October 24, 2014

I figure since I have a few new readers on the old blog that it was a good time to do a getting to know me post.

A. Age:  33

B. Best friend: I don't have one best friend. I feel like I have several very close friends.

C. Chore you dislike: Cleaning the bathroom wins hands down. Folding laundry is a close second.

D. Dogs: I have a 7 year old border collie/lab mix named Kavalier. We rescued him in November 2009 and he is the best.

E. Essential start to your day: Good morning kisses from my boys.

F.  Favorite colors: purple and grey

G. Gold or silver: Silver

H. Height: 5'6

I. Instruments played:  In elementary school I played the violin for almost 4 years.

J. Job title: Eligibility/ Outreach Specialist for a healthcare non-profit.

K. Kids: None and not planning on having any in the future.

L. Live: I currently live in Alexandria, Va (just moved 4 months ago). I was born, raised, and lived most of my life in Orlando, Florida. I lived in Tallahassee, Fl for 2 years while attending Florida State University. In the fall of 2007 I moved to Worcester, MA for a year.

M. Mom's name: Lillian

N. Nicknames: One of my oldest friends calls me Deni.

O. Overnight hospital stays: Luckily, never. I'm knocking on wood as I type.

P. Pet peeves: People who don't turn their turn signal off.

Q. Quote from a movie:

“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.” The Notebook

R. Righty or lefty:  Righty

S. Siblings: An older sister who is 20 months older than me.

T. Time you wake up:  7:00 am

U. Underwear: Yep I wear it lol.

V. Vegetables you don't like: Beets, tomatoes, onions

W. What makes you run late: My love of the snooze button

X. X-rays you've had: No broken bones, but had quite a few for other things through the years.

Y. Yummy food you make: I have been told my baked mac and cheese and beef tacos are quite tasty.

Z. Zoo animal you like: Pandas and zebras are my favorite.

I Heart Charlottesville

October 21, 2014

One of the best parts of living up here is the proximity to so many cool day trips. I love my Florida and all, but it is a big state which means long drives. Charlottesville is just a 2 hour drive away from Northern Virginia, but it feels like a different world. The DC metro area is full of busy people, lack of space, and the infamous traffic that clogs the roads at all hours. The drive into Charlottesville is almost a visual reminder to slow down and enjoy the simpler things in life.

You are greeted with sleepy little mountain towns that seem to know nothing of the hustle and bustle just up state. The biggest attraction in Charlottesville is Thomas Jefferson's Monticello which is the reason why we ventured down south that Saturday morning. For the price of admission ($25 per person) you get a tour of the inside of the house and the grounds. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures of the interior of the house.  It is no secret that we are both history nerds so we knew this place was a must-see while we are living in Virginia. Walking along Jefferson's homestead it was clear to understand why he loved living in Virginia so much. Seeing Monticello in the fall with the leaves changing colors was especially a treat for us Floridians. Fall doesn't exist in the Sunshine State.

After working up an appetite from our tour of Monticello we made our way into the city limits of Charlottesville. I had only heard good things about this artistic college town before our trip, so I was looking forward to exploring it. Also I have a soft spot for college towns in general. I think it comes from my years living in Tallahassee when attending Florida State. I just love the vibe found in college towns. We found a mom and pop diner called Mel's Cafe to have lunch and it did not disappoint. Their fried chicken is authentic and the best I've had in ages. So good I forgot to take pictures. We walked around the downtown mall and found the bar where Dave Matthews Band was formed back in the 1990's. They don't advertise it and you wouldn't know it from anything inside the bar, but if you are a fan (like me) it is a must visit.

Favorite quotes

October 15, 2014

To say I love quotes is like saying kids love Christmas morning. An understatement to say the least. I have been collecting quotes in my journals since freshman year of high school (I also jotted down song lyrics I found deep at the time) and have continued acquiring quotes ever since.  Today's prompt asks us to share our favorite quote and explain why, so I'm sharing some of my favorite quotes from over the years.

I think we all get caught up in the possibility of failing at something that we forget that to fail means you tried. Everyone fails at some point, how we deal with that failure and get ourselves back up shows our true character.

 Life doesn't always care about the grand plans you made for yourself. You have to be willing to try another plan.

Best advice given

October 12, 2014

I'm pretty sure I was given this piece of advice by my mom before having to learn it the hard way as a young woman. It is so easy to lose yourself in a relationship and not realize it until much later. You have to keep your own hobbies and sense of self to make any relationship work.

I'm keeping it short and sweet today since I normally don't blog on the weekends.

Helene in Between Blogtober

Letter to my future self

October 08, 2014

Helene in Between Blogtober

I hope 43 is treating you well. I know you freaked out when turning thirty, so I hope by time 40 comes around you don't let aging faze you. I'm sure you will rock it in your 40's just like your mom.

I hope you finally realized that being blessed with a fast metabolism does not mean you can slack off on exercise. I know we hate going to the gym, but you enjoy other types of physical activity. Pick something and do it consistently. Your younger self is working on this. 

So you have been married for coming on 12 years now. Wow. I wonder if T is still all about his comic books and lovingly buying all your movie tickets to see the latest film based on a comic book. I hope you guys have finally made it out West. I know ten years ago the farthest west you had been was Las Vegas, but trips were being planned and his job field allows for moving all over the country. Are you in Denver enjoying weekend hikes and visiting all the many breweries in the area? Or did he convince your Floridian needs the sun self that Seattle was the place to go? I hope you have made it to many of the places you both dreamed of visiting like Europe, parts of Asia and South America.

Ten years ago you started dabbling into the freelance writing. I hope you have become successful enough in it to at least make it a legitimate second income (you can never have enough money for travels). I hope you find a career that makes you happy and perhaps involves a little travel.  By this age I am already coming to the realization that my 16 year old notion of being a career woman looks a lot different in my reality.  I just want to pay my bills and like what I do for a living. It doesn't need to be a passion that is what my free time is for. I'm sure by this point you have already realized that.

In all, I just my future self is happy and enjoying her life.
(Am the only one who found writing a letter to your future self difficult?)


Best & Worst Vacations

October 07, 2014

">I'm going to be honest. It was a lot easier to come up with my worst vacation experience than my best one. In writing this prompt I also realize that I don't have photos from some of my older trips. My high school graduation present/trip to NYC in 1999 is a perfect example. Let's start with what happens when travel goes wrong.

New Orleans - December 2012

We got married on November 10, 2012 and at the time I was still a teacher. One of the disadvantages of following a school year schedule is that it is tough to get a block of time to go on a long honeymoon during the school year. I wanted to get married outside and that just wasn't happening in hot, humid Florida weather. So we decided to take a mini honeymoon for logistical and financial reasons. I had originally suggested Savannah, GA but T wasn't feeling it so somehow we both came up with the idea of New Orleans. We got great feedback from friends who said that we would just love it there. Seriously we didn't hear a single person say anything negative about New Orleans. I quickly went into my research mode that I go into before any trip. We left Orlando armed with things to do and places to eat authentic gumbo. The trip started off with a rude valet driver who gave us unnecessary attitude and only went downhill from there.  My apologies to anyone from New Orleans, I thought I would love your city, but it just didn't make a connection with us. We can look back at it now and often make the joke that we need a honeymoon re-do. 

T and I feel that we made it to Bourbon Street 10 years too late. As someone in my early 30's the appeal of open containers and peep shows had clearly moved on along with my drinking tolerance. We did find a cool dive bar called The Boondock Saint that wasn't awash with drunk 20 year olds. You gotta love any bar that has a dog on the bar stool. I did enjoy strolling the shops and restaurants on Magazine Street. If I ever return to New Orleans I will probably just hang out on Magazine Street and skip the mess on Bourbon. You never know how you will react when you visit a new place. Some places capture your heart in an instant, some leave you indifferent, and some just don't make a connection with you. New Orleans was like that for me. I thought I would like it due to everything I had seen in pictures and television, but the city and I just didn't make a connection.

Key West, FL 

Key West is often called the real and quirky side of Florida. People come from all over the country to Florida to reinvent themselves, Key West is where Floridians go.  From the first time I drove across the Seven Mile bridge that is the only way to drive into the Keys I quickly felt like I was home. The vibe down there is casual, laid-back, and accepting. This is Florida with no pretense. You will find no theme parks here. T and I started going there early in our relationship and then started making yearly spring trips to the Keys. He even proposed at our favorite place (Pepe's Cafe) on one of our trips.  

Puerto Rico

I grew up going to Puerto Rico every few years since both of my parents are from the island. I have been all around the island from the crowded streets of San Juan, to the east side of the island to visit El Yunque rain forest, to the mountains in the middle, and the beauty of the beaches of the south. It requires no passport since Puerto Rico is United States territory, but I love that it still retains its culture and traditions. It also gets bonus points for allowing me to speak in Spanish and not giving any of those "You don't look Hispanic" comments I get way too often. 

The Daily Tay

What I wish I could tell myself when I started blogging

October 06, 2014

The Daily Tay

I started this little blog of mine back in May of 2012 right after I made the decision to exit the teaching profession after it finally took its toll on my emotional and physical health. At the time I felt lost and disconnected from the person I was before I started teaching, my life had become teach, plan, and repeat. Ironic that an English major turned English teacher had lost touch with the write side of herself but that is what had happened to me.

Don't get stuck comparing yourself to other blogs.

I found that it is easy to read other blogs and start to question if yours is up to par. Some bloggers start off strong and get followers like crazy, after a while you might begin to question why your blog isn't growing like the other ones. Don't fall into that trap. What makes me keep reading the bloggers I enjoy is hearing their unique and genuine voice coming through the page. Don't lose that about your blog.

Decide what kind of blog you want to be.

I have dabbled in sponsorships but I can't always justify the expense. A part of me would love to be one of the bigger blogs, but when I really think about the time commitment that entails I recognize that I am not comfortable with that. I like being a small blog and not having the pressure of sponsored posts and sponsorships for right now.

Invest in a good blog design.

In retrospect I would have done this before even writing my first post. Most of us are visual creatures and it helps attract readers with a crisp blog design.

The beauty of the blogging community. 

Blogging is a great way to connect with others from all over the world. I have yet to go on my first blate, but I treasure the friends I have made through blogging.