Puerto Rican New Year Traditions

everystockphoto_185490_m.jpegMy mom introduced this to me last year.  Why she did not do this earlier no clue but on Midnight we throw out water from the old year…getting rid of bad tidings.  Here is some more info regarding some PR traditions for the new year:

 In Puerto Rico, children enjoy throwing buckets of water out the window at New Years Eve midnight. Some believe that this emancipates their home from evil spirits.

In Puerto Rico, everyone goes to the beach at midnight (okay not everyone)….and falls backward into the ocean. Making loud noises at the stroke of New Years Eve midnight with car horns, boat whistles, church bells or drum beats is also practiced to drive off the demons.  I remember the car horns but not going to the beach at midnight and acting crazy…. :^)

Parrandas

Even before December arrives, the chords of cuatros and guitars, accompanied by guiros and maracas, can be heard playing the traditional tune of an “aguinaldo” or “villancico” (Christmas song). Parrandas, also known as “asaltos” or “trullas,” are the Puerto Rican version of Christmas caroling. Friends gather late in the evening and go from house to house singing traditional holiday songs. The parranderos (carolers) generally are invited in by the homeowner and, in anticipation of their visit, the host offers them food and drinks. The parranda then continues on to the next house with the host usually joining in. Parrandas generally last till mid-January.

Año Viejo

Indisputably, Año Viejo (New Year’s Eve) is the holiday with the most noise and bustle in Puerto Rico. Friends and family gather to await the arrival of the New Year and say good-bye to the old. The celebration begins early in the evening with a lot of drinking and eating of traditional foods. Many choose to dress in brand-new clothing so they can receive the New Year with new things.

Although the government has outlawed pyrotechnics, you can hear plenty of firecrackers, bottle rockets, and cherry bombs exploding all night long and, as midnight draws closer, everyone gathers in anticipation of the new year. When the clock strikes 12, all you hear are fireworks, horns, cheers, and cries of joy as everyone hugs and kisses one another, wishing each other “Feliz Año Nuevo!”

Año Nuevo

After saying good-bye to the old year, a lot of Puerto Ricans do one of many rituals to receive the New Year. Eating 12 grapes at midnight is a custom that comes from Spain. It is said to bring lots of prosperity to those who do it. Another one is to throw a bucket of water out into the street to rid the home of all the bad things and prepare it for the arrival of all the good things. Another ritual is throwing sugar around the outside of the home to attract good luck and ward off bad luck.

Website:

http://www.puertorico-herald.org/issues/vol4n50/PRHolidayTrad-en.html

Exercise for the lower abs

parthanon_fitness_chisled_230774_l.jpegOne of my New Year resolutions is to continue going to the gym and toning up.  One thing I noticed is that I have to work harder to keep myself in shape….not like at 17 when I could walk across the room and still be toned…lol.

 Tonight I am going to try a new exercise….luckily they have this equipment and also one of the best exercises to perform when toning your lower abdomen.  A trouble spot for women as they grow older and ESPECIALLY if they had children.  Pregnancies will weaken the ab muscles and trust me is hard to get back.  But if you are diligent and motivated you can do it:

Hanging leg raises are becoming one of the most popular abdominal exercises, and with good reason.  This intense movement is a great way to target the entire abdominal region including the difficult to hit lower abs (MY PROBLEM SPOT).

 Basic Technique:

1.  Hang from the Lat Pull-Up Bar

2.  Grip shoulder width apart-arms should remain fully extended throughout this movement. You may want to bend your knees slightly and keep them bent through the whole exercise.

3. Using ab muscles ONLY, raise your legs to a point where you feet are about level with your belly button (I have a long torso so should be interesting)…do NOT swing your legs up with your hips FOCUS on using those stubborn ab muscles……….

4.  Hold the peak contraction (sounds like giving birth) for a count of 1 or 2, and squeeze hard (again sounds like giving birth)…Perform the negative portion of the movement slowly by lowering your legs resisting somewhat on the way down.  Repeat for a tight set of 12-20 reps (should prove to be interesting)………

Of course good diet coupled with exercise will help. If you are genetically predisposed to have that lower ab fat then you need to work out harder or opt for the lipo…. ;^)

Websites:

http://www.bodybuildingforyou.com/training-fitness/abs-exercise-leg-raises.htm

HERE’S TO THE NEW YEAR!!

antique_zodiac_past_234914_l.jpeg Another year over…I wonder what the next 12 months of 2008 will bring? 

A milestone for me…turning 40 and my daughter is the big 20….

I think about what I shall write these next few months…how the time will fly…think about savoring each and every day.  Living in the moment.

New Year resolutions:

1.  Maintain my weight continue to tone up

2. Travel

3. Upward mobility in my career

4. Perhaps teach part-time

5. Join the Army

Happy New Year!!!!!!!

Exercise and the Winter Blues

One thing that I have found which is saving me this winter is being able to go to the gym.  I am not a Midwestern wintry type of gal.  Don’t get me wrong…I love looking at the snow and even gleefully playing in its cold recesses, however I hate the gray skies which usually comes with it in this part of the USofA.

When I begin to see the flowers starting to bloom and leaves gracing the trees now we’re talking.  Ready to sing a sappy Disney tune to go along with it………..

In the meantime I make myself workout at the gym though the animal in me wants to be a hermit and hibernate during these cold months.

But afterwards (I usually spend an hour) I feel a lot better…energized.  I did gain a few pounds from Holiday eating but lost two of them already just by going to the gym for one day.

The hardest part of any exercise routine is getting started. But like brushing your teeth….a necessary “evil” and should be incorporated into living a healthy lifestyle.

Responsibility of Free Speech

“As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship.” — Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority

I was reading a post by Saudi Jeans regarding the dilemma of a Saudi man, Fouad Al Farhan, a leading Saudi blogger who faces jail time….due to comments made in a blog. I find this disturbing. I fail to see why such a man should be punished for this kind of thing.

Perhaps his comments are a threat to the Saudi elite and the “good order” and “discipline” of that country? Makes me wonder.

Makes me appreciate my own rights to free speech.

I think we Americans can sometimes take for granted our ability to express ourselves. Now, with this freedom comes responsibility. We cannot incite violence (makes sense) or voice extremist concerns to overthrowing the government. Of courseWe can let it be known our displeasure regarding the current administration…that is our God given right.

We shouldn’t be a bull in the china shop so to speak when it comes to being able to express ourselves. Tact, maturity and reason should be taken into consideration. There will always be dissenters, buffoons, terrorists who equate freedom of speech with irresponsible behavior. A civil society has boundaries…finding that balance to being civil and being censored is the key.

The Shrinking Middle Class

Is this class becoming the overladen donkey?  We seem to bear the worst of it when it comes to taxation, overworked….underpaid…struggling……In order to make it these days with an average family:  two parents and 2.4 children…what must the income be?  Can we even save for retirement? Our children’s education?  A home?

Coments most welcomed…..

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An article written by Clammyc addresses this most delicate of issues.

According to the author: Wayne State University demographers recently conducted a study with respect to the middle class, the disparity between the wealthy and the lower income class as well as the shifting economic demographics in a number of large cities around the country. And the Brookings Institution released a report late last month which looked at the shrinking middle class over the thirty year period covering 1970 – 2000. The Wayne State University study was incorporated into or at least formed the basis of part of the Brookings report and was not released in a separate report.

The results are sobering.

From the NY Times article:

[s]ociologists and many economists believe that there can be non-economic consequences for cities that lose a lot of middle-income residents. The disappearance of middle-income neighborhoods can limit opportunities for upward mobility, the authors of the Brookings study said. It becomes harder for lower-income homeowners to move up the property ladder, buy into safer neighborhoods, send their children to better schools and even make the kinds of personal contacts that can be a route to better jobs. The Brookings study, which defined moderate-income families as those with incomes between 80 and 120 percent of the median for each area, found that the percentage of middle-income neighborhoods in the 100 largest metropolitan areas had dropped to 41 percent from 58 percent between 1970 and 2000. Only 23 percent of central city neighborhoods in 12 large metropolitan areas were middle income, down from 45 percent in 1970.

Meanwhile, New York University researchers reported last month that the number of apartments affordable to households making 80 percent of the median household income in New York City dropped by a fifth (over 200,000 households) between 2002 and 2005.

The article also discusses the potential for this demographic shift to not have much of an economic impact in the short term if labor and services is still available. However, that seems to be pretty shortsighted to me. Rightfully so, as the article continues with the warnings above, as well as the observation that such a reduction in the middle class only creates a larger “haves vs. have nots” situation when it comes to public vs. private schooling, options for shopping or other services.

Websites:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/7/23/123025/562

Celebrating Life…

grow_blue_flowers_242715_l.jpegSometimes when I read the news and realize how sad the world state of affairs can be I remind myself how precious life is, joyous…sometimes when I watch the news I just want to cry…the desolation I see in people’s faces…the war, famine, poverty…makes the mind reel and the heart ache…

So I always try to count my blessings, realize that despite the formidable odds out there…we should always try to find hope.  Perhaps far too altruistic for some…however for myself I need to believe in this…that human beings are basically good at heart.  That we need to come together and just celebrate life.

Living in America…$$$

what-we-share-de.jpegWhile on my lunch break I came across an article from Redbook Magazine (one of my favs) and it discusses the current dilemma Americans are facing when it comes to our ongoing financial crisis.  I applaud this article for hitting home.

The Price of Living In America really struck me.  I am a person who is a single mother with a child in college trying to make ends meet.  Seems like millions of Americans are facing the same dilemma as I am when it comes to just trying to live a comfortable life.  I am not talking about owning a fancy car or luxury home but just living in a safe neighborhood, working full time and trying to put food on the table.

According to Lindsey Palmer, she states that:  The middle class may be shrinking, and with the skyrocketing cost of housing, health care, and essentials like groceries and gas — coupled with the relatively slow growth of salaries — it’s no surprise.

There are many many factors which Middle Class America has to face.  For myself, my health insurance has gone up yet again–along with the co-payments, my rent, price of gas…the list goes on and on…

Ms. Palmer hit it right on the mark when she narrows down the various causes of today’s Middle Class feeling the pinch in their pocket books:

A Lack of Work-Family Policy
“Our country talks a lot about family values, but we do very little in terms of policies that help families manage the competing demands of job and family,” says Debra Ness, president of National Partnership for Women & Families. “Three quarters of families have two working parents, and yet our government offers minimal support in the way of child-care costs. We are one of the few developed nations without guaranteed paid maternity leave, and half of our private-sector workforce offers zero paid sick days. Both our government and our corporations must instate policies that enable workers to manage the realities of their lives.”

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What has happened to the American family?  Now we need a dual-income family in order to just MAKE ENDS MEET!  Where have our values gone?  Seems to me that the money being spent on this war in Iraq and Afghanistan could be better used here.  The price of gas is outrageous.  I have always budgeted my travels but now with the high cost I have to really curtail my excursions.

I understand that there are people out there less fortunate than myself….I have walked down that road.  Now that I am able to bring in some decent money most of it is being spent just to keep my head above water.  I don’t take vacations like I used to…and I surely don’t go out on huge spending sprees.  Maybe this is a wake up call to America to stand up for their rights…yes to continue saving when they can and to really become more involved with their local community politics, state and federal….time to WAKE UP!

Palmer states that Americans are paying higher prices for the basics.  The cost of living is outpacing our wage increases.  As a Federal employee my salary received an increase of 2.75% but it spreads itself really thin across 12 months and with my increase of health care premiums I am not really seeing any kind of siginifanct increase at all.  What is even more hairy than this is that over 61% of Americans are without an adequate emergency savings plan. Palmer feels that three months worth of living expenses should be put aside in case of say a layoff or illness.  This is creating a significant social impact on our society and personally I feel that the Federal and State governments have their priorities slightly askew….when we have hard working Americans struggling to make it while billions are spent on a losing war…it really causes some grave concern…at least for this American it does.

Website:

http://www.redbookmag.com/your/living-in-america