Thursday, June 30, 2011

MUY Big News! I'm going to BLOGHER!

I am soooo excited! I'm getting to attend Blogher 2011 courtesy of Jockey Person to Person! SQUEEE!!
Me at the opening of the Long Beach Transit Gallery in Jockey Person to Person. Photo via Ana Lydia Monaco

I love their clothes, they're pretty much all I wear and I became a comfort specialist with them just for the discount! I am so excited that they're giving me this awesome opportunity. I just wanted to let you all know that I am DEFINITELY going to be attending "the mother of all Social Media conferences". Follow me on twitter @shesnachomama and on facebook-I'll be live tweeting and postin' the entire conference.

THANK YOU Jockey Person to Person!
Jockey Person to Person
Please click to "Like" Jockey Person to Person on Facebook-Gracias!!

Are YOU going? Can't wait to meet you!

Wishing you love with extra cheese-
Nacho Mama

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

THEME PARTY! Happy Dependence Day :)

Do you have any made-up holidays that you celebrate year after year? Kind of like "Festivus" on Seinfeld? I do!

The summer before my husband and I got married, we moved from Manhattan to West New York, New Jersey. It was literally across the river from NYC-if you hopped in a boat at about 79th street and rowed west you'd hit our building. Our new digs in the Garden State had many perks, including air conditioning and a swimming pool with a stunning view of the skyline.

New York City summers are notoriously brutal so we thought, by way of a housewarming,  we'd invite all of our city friends out for a BIG 4th of July party in beautiful New Jersey! We'd spend the afternoon barbecuing out on our patio, swimming and cooling off in our new place.  Sounds like the perfect way to spend the 4th, right?
The view from our street in New Jersey-photo via Wikipedia
The morning of the party we noticed that there seemed to be an awful lot of people on our street, which also overlooked the skyline. Every hour, there were more and more of them. By 3pm, when our guests were supposed to arrive, thousands of people clogged up the road and sidewalks. Seems they thought our street was the perfect spot from which to view the Manhattan fireworks show over the river. Except that they had the wrong river. The fireworks were on the East River and we were on the Hudson. We asked our new neighbors about it and they told us that yes, this happened every year. Every year, thousands of misguided gawkers made it impossible to traverse the streets of our little town. "We just don't ever leave the house on the 4th!" they said.

We tried to call our friends back in the city but they were long gone. When they finally arrived at our door at about 9pm, they were very grumpy, the food was cold and the pool was closed. The air conditioning was poor consolation for the six and a half hours they'd just spent in traffic. Oops. Let's just say it was a very long time before they accepted another invite from moi.

The next summer proved even more sweltering and I wanted so much to make up for the disaster of the "Fatal Fourth"-but what to do? Suddenly, I had a brainstorm! I sat down and drafted the following invitation:

Ever have days when you wish you could blame all of your problems on someone other than yourself?
File:Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
image via Wikipedia

You are invited to commemorate the last day in history when Americans could truly pass the buck. 
Come celebrate DEPENDENCE DAY with us this July THIRD!

And thus a tradition was born. Our friends delighted in coming out to celebrate Dependence Day year after year with a barbecue, a dip in the pool and games in our cool and spacious apartment. They'd come by right after work on the 3rd and get into the holiday spirit a day ahead of their fellow citizens.

At first our Dependence Day festivities bore little difference from a traditional 4th, but in the years since we've enjoyed adding more and more touches from the UK. Here's what you'll need to enjoy a Merry Old Dependence Day, indeed:

File:Queen Victoria by Bassano.jpg
photo via Wikipedia
Red, White and Blue tablecloths, plates, napkins, garland, etc. YES you can use the same decorations you would for the 4th, just steer clear of anything with stars. Add a few Union Jacks, a portrait of Queen Victoria and you're laughing! Don't you just love decorations that can do double duty? You can even keep them til the 14th and throw a Bastille Day bash!

File:Jaffa cake.png
You can even order Jaffa Cakes online! photo via Wikipedia
I am a gigante fan of British food and culture and am lucky enough to have somewhat ready access to it. If you don't live somewhere with a British expatriate community like we have here in San Diego, you can look up recipes on the internet or order your favorite UK treats online! The advent of the internet has made it easy to procure all kinds of British delicacies like Victoria Sponge, curries, Hobnobs and Fish & Chips. Our fave local pub, Shakespeare, has an online "corner store" with tons of edibles on offer. Click HERE to peruse their wares.

File:Bass logo.svg
The UK's Bass Brewery is only 1 year younger than the United States! image via Wikipedia
British ales, lagers and more are available at your local supermarket. When my husband and I visit Shakespeare Pub, I often order a "Black Velvet", which is Guinness floated over champagne. I find it super yummy and have heard that this is Bono's favorite drink, so it must be good, right?  My husband doesn't care for it, though, preferring a "Black and Tan", which is Guinness with Bass Pale Ale. Or you could skip the hooch all together and just serve tea!

File:Trivialpursuit Token.jpg
photo via Wikipedia
Soccer of course! Save the flag football for the 4th. Too rough? How about a sporting round of croquet, a la Alice in Wonderland? Or billiards? Or darts?  Or a good old PUB QUIZ? Challenge your friends to a game of Trivial Pursuit, inspired by the traditional pub quiz, and reward the winner with a pint!

OK, I'm going to try not to geek out too much here with my love for British music from the late 70s and early 80s. Must. Resist. Temptation. To suggest. Gary Numan! If you really need help, though, here's just a few Dependence Day-appropriate ditties:

-Fascination, The Human League
-Celtic Soul Brothers, Dexys Midnight Runners
-Dear Prudence (live at the Royal Albert Hall), Siouxsie and the Banshees
-Ace of Spades, Motorhead
-A Message to You Rudy, The Specials

And of course-

All that's left is to enjoy the party, clean up everything but the decorations and add the stars and stripes in the morning! Because we shouldn't have to depend on someone else in order to enjoy our independence, should we? Here's to a star-spangled, grand old, high-flying (In)Dependence Day weekend!

Wishing you love with extra cheese-
Nacho Mama

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Product Review and Giveaway-SMALL WALL

The number one decorating issue I'm asked about is paint color. Paint is easy to apply yourself, it's relatively inexpensive and is a highly effective way to transform any room in your home. Only problem? Paint color can make or break your space. You know the wrong paint color or finish can really ruin your decor, but how can you be sure you're choosing the right color before you invest the time and money? I can see why so many people get intimidated and just stick with basic white.

As a designer, when I have custom paint colors mixed for me, I also have what's called a "drawdown" made. This is an 8x10in card with my paint color on it. Drawdowns are much more effective than paintchips in helping my clients visualize what their paint color will look like. Problem is, most places won't make drawdowns for you unless you're a professional designer, painter or contractor. That's why I was so excited when I read about Small Wall!

According to the manufacturers, Small Wall is a package of two 12x12 inch adhesive backed paint sample boards that:
  • Has no-mark adhesive back, allows you to preview color in multiple locations & in different lighting through out your room
  • Surface is ready to paint it doesn't require primer it won't absorb the color and it won't warp when dry
  • Provides excellent color and finish representation & can be repainted multiple times
  • Lightweight portable and easy to take with you when you shop for accessories
Small Wall retails for $6-$10 (for a pack of 2 boards) and is available at Ace Hardware, Sherwin-Williams and online through Amazon I contacted the company with so many questions that they sent me a pack to try out for myself. Just in time too, because I am currently fixing up my guest bathroom!

When I received my Small Wall, I painted each board with one of the 2 colors I'm considering for my accent wall and tacked them up inside the bathroom.
There are only 2 Small Wall boards here-they're next to the mirror!
I found all the product claims to be true. I really like the size, even better than my 8x10 drawdowns. I also appreciate that you can move them throughout the house. For example, I am considering using the brown in my kitchen so it was easy to move the Small Wall into that room for a few days and live with the color.
There was one HUGE advantage to using Small Wall over professional drawdowns that I hadn't anticipated: I was able to see, before I buy the paint by the gallon, how many coats each color will require! It is very helpful to know that the brown will need 3 coats and the red will need at least 4. This greatly affects how much paint you'll need. For instance, after using Small Wall, you may decide to use the color that needs 6 coats on just one wall, instead of throughout the entire room.

I think $10 is a great price for this product, considering how much time and money you'll save. I also really like that they are durable enough to use time and time again. But if you have a summer paint project you'd like some help with, the makers of Small Wall are generously giving away a package of Small Wall to one of you! Remember,  Small Wall is available at Ace Hardware, Sherwin-Williams and online through Amazon

Here's how to enter-there's a maximum of 3 entries per person, one entry for each of the following:

1. Leave a comment below with your biggest paint-related question (I'll try to answer as best as I can!)
2. Follow Nacho Mama's Blog on Facebook and leave a comment letting me know you did or already do :)
3. Follow Small Wall on Twitter, @mysmallwall, and leave a comment letting us know you did

That's it! Contest ends at midnight, July 2nd. Winner will chosen at random and announced on July 3rd.

Good luck and happy painting!

Wishing you love with extra cheese-
Nacho Mama

Discolusure: The product mentioned in this review was gifted to me by the manufacturer. I was not compensated for what was written, this review is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Making a short story long: My Story

My Mama Lola opening the Christmas tablecloth I made for her when I was 6 years old (with help from my mom of course!) Making her smile was one of my favorite things.
I’ve had a flair for decor and style for as long as I can remember. I was always re-arranging my room as a child (I even remember hiding my clock radio so I could have “background music") and I loved drawing and writing.  But I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. My dad was a very well-known interior designer and it never crossed my mind that I could do what he did, even though he was my biggest cheerleader. You see, in the culture of my family there is a unwritten law that you’re a failure if you do what your parents did. I can understand why, my grandparents were farmworkers who wanted their kids to finish school and have careers, but it really got in my way! I struggled to find my purpose and my place.
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The Met-I was always RACING up those steps to get to work on time! (photo via Wikipedia)
Because I loved art, I got my BA in Art History and landed a job at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, far from my home in San Diego. I was married to the love of my life and had a very stable job, but I had no creative outlet whatsoever.  I devoured design books and magazines like Doritos. Soon my friends at work started asking for decorating advice. Then they started asking me to actually design things for them. Finally they kindly said, “Why are you working HERE when you could BE A DESIGNER?”

Somehow hearing it from someone outside my family helped all the pieces to fall into place. I applied to a heap of graduate programs, telling everyone I was “just doing it on a lark.” In my heart I secretly wished to get into the exclusive and famously tough program at the Pratt Institute. One by one, the rejection letters came in. I began to tell myself that I’d been a fool to believe that I had any talent, that my dad was the designer, not me and I just had to accept that it was never meant to be. My hands trembled as I opened the letter from Pratt, the last to arrive, and I could scarcely believe it when I read that I’d been accepted! I knew immediately that my life would change forever.
Pratt Institute-you have no idea how much I miss Brooklyn! (photo via Wikipedia)
It was tough, but I loved every minute of it! During my second year one of my designs was featured in The New York Times, a tremendous honor for any designer, let alone a student. That summer my husband and I took a trip home. On the last day of our visit, we sat on my parents’ sunny back porch with my dad and planned out the next 5 years. I’d finish school, apprentice at a firm in New York, then move back to San Diego where I’d join Dad’s firm, taking it over when he retired. Then my husband and I would start our family. After that conversation, I felt like I finally had a purpose and a place.

The very next day, back in New York, I threw myself into my schoolwork with more enthusiasm than I’d ever felt before. My phone seemed to be ringing off the hook that day, but I was not going to be interrupted! When I got home that evening I finally checked my phone and saw it was my mom who’d been calling. I figured she just wanted to know how my first day back had been. I was wrong. She was calling to tell me that my dad had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer.

I was too paralyzed with panic to know what to do. My wonderful husband, who knows me better than I know myself, said, “We have to go back. Now.” We packed our bags and took the first available flight back to San Diego. We were told that Dad could go at anytime and that he should never, in fact, have lived long enough to be diagnosed. Then, a few days after we arrived, I became pregnant. Even though it was 9 years ago, I still refer to it as “the week my life was hit by a truck.” After that my husband and I spent our time helping my parents, fighting to save my father’s design firm, selling our home back east and nurturing our daughter.
Dad with my daughter on the steps of the tiny house where he was born, in the Colonia of Oxnard, Ca. The calla lilies were planted by my Mama Lola over 60 years ago.
It was extremely difficult to uproot our lives and leave our friends but I would have done anything to help my father. For as long as I could remember he'd done everything in his power to make me, my sister and my mom, feel how special we were to him. He delighted in celebrating every seemingly insignificant occasion in our lives with parties, gifts and love. He marked every moment of my pregnancy with fanfare, as though I were a queen, and lavished his unborn granddaughter with presents. Remarkably, Dad lived long enough to be present at my daughter’s birth and for her to remember him. He passed away just before her 2nd birthday. He was 57 years old. The years that followed were a blur of sorrow and work that I would never have survived without my husband and my kid. Through all the grief and the enormous workload I'd taken on (helping to finish the projects Dad had started before he'd passed) my husband always had the right thing to say when I needed to hear it, even if I needed to hear it at 3am. Even our baby daughter helped by lightening my spirits during those very dark times when I just couldn't face what had been lost.

It’s been a painful journey but now, years later and after the birth of our 2nd child, my husband and I honor my dad’s memory by living his philosophy, “Celebrate life. Celebrate all the good things and keep celebrating them, no matter how small.”  I know now that celebration is the only way through grief and loss, two things that every human must experience. I also know that it's important to surround yourself with beauty, with things that are meaningful to you and with people who love you for who you are. I feel so blessed to have been able to make my living bringing beauty into people's homes, businesses and lives.
Me with the editorial staff of San Diego Home and Garden, shooting a spread on a home in La Jolla.
I’ve made it my mission to show people how they can celebrate all the good moments in their lives, no matter how small, as much as possible, until joy and gratitude become a reflex. I call it “Life, with extra cheese.”  Because cheese is good, but extra cheese is better. Beauty is good, but more beauty is better. The same goes for friends, laughter and glitter. And love? You can’t ever have too much, you can’t ever give too much and you can always make more.

Wishing you love with extra cheese,
Margo (aka Nacho Mama)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMIN: Glamming up your office for $100 at Homegoods

Who doesn't love a good bargain?  HomeGoods stores promise "Unique Home Decor and Affordable Home Funishings." I decided to put them to the test. Can $100 buy a makeover for a home office? Is it possible to be penny pinching and posh? Almost.

OK, so I went over budget a teensy bit. Here's what I picked up at Homegoods for $100.96:

  • Ceramic and Lucite Lamp with Shade {$49.99} 
  • White Lacquer Stack File Box {$19.99}
  • Blue Lacquer and Chrome Hinged Desktop Box {$24.99}
  • Crystal Frame {$5.99}
I was impressed at how many coordinating colors and patterns were on offer, and how the store's layout made it easy to locate pieces that work with each other. You don't have to downsize your style to match your budget. With a frugal attitude and discerning eye, you can find the right pieces to cheer up almost any workspace without breaking the bank.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I had so many questions about the Skecher Shape-ups I purchased as part of the Ross Dress for Less Challenge, that I thought it warranted it's own post. I've been wearing toning shoes for a few years now and am happy to report that they've not only come a long way in looks, but they seem to be more effective than ever.  I've been wearing 3 styles lately, from 2 different manufacturers. Here are my thoughts on all of them:

Reebok Easytone "Go Outside" Training Shoe

1. Reebok Women's EasyTone Go Outside Training Shoe OK, I admit it, I bought these simply because they were so much cuter than the Skecher Shapeups! But after much wearing I can tell you that they are SUPER bouncy and comfortable.  They retail for pretty much the same price as Skecher Shapeups (around $100) and you can also find them at Ross or on Amazon for much less. The big difference between these and the Skechers is that, after a full day of wearing the Reeboks, I really feel the toning primarily in my legs. I especially feel the back of my thighs getting a workout with these shoes (hope that's not TMI). I love them but find them too tiring to wear 2 days in a row, considering the amount of walking I typically do in a day (at least 3 miles). I think that's a good thing, though!

Reebok Easytone Flip Sandal

2. Reebok Women's EasyTone Flip Sandal I don't know about you, but there are days I just don't want to wear lace-up shoes! I LOVE these flipflops, also from the Reebok Easytone line. The ones I have are black with a cute pink sole and bottom. I bought these over other brands (Skecher and Fitflops, namely) not only because they were WAY more flattering, but also because they were more comfortable. I found the Skecher and Fitflop version to feel much more stiff and clunky than the Reeboks, which have the same bouncy sole as the Easytone "Go Outside" trainers. Like the lace-up version, I feel the toning primarily in my legs, but the toning is a little more gentle. I can wear these sandals 2 days in a row without any fatigue. Again, at $60 retail, they are competitively priced with other brands and you can easily find them for less on Amazon or (if you're lucky enough to find them!) at your local Ross.

Skecher Shapeups!

3. Skechers Women's Shape Ups - Fitness Sneaker While I feel, like many of you probably do, that these are the least "cute" of all the toning shoes, I must concede that they are by far the most effective. When I wear these shoes I not only feel toning going on in my legs, like with the Easytone shoes, but also in my glutes and abs. These are also extremely comfortable, enough for me to wear all day long with a great deal of walking. I try not to wear them 2 days in a row, though, just so I can also wear the Easytone. They retail for around $100, but I found mine at Ross for $40. You can also find them on Amazon for around $60, or even less depending on the style.

If I could only have one toning shoe? It would still be the Skecher Shapeups. I had one of the first versions of this shoe (which I think I bought for $70?) and this version, though more expensive, is WAY more comfortable and provides better toning.

I hope that was useful-I really love my toning shoes and highly recommend them in general. There are a lot of great brands and styles out there, but these were the ones that worked best for me.

Happy Walking!

Wishing you love with extra cheese-
Nacho Mama

Disclosure: The Skecher Shapeups mentioned in this post were gifted to me by Ross, the other shoes were purchased by me. The above is my honest opinion.

Monday, June 6, 2011

VIDEO POST 'cause it's big news: I finally have a FACEBOOK PAGE!

Please excuse the shaky camerawork! My kids were being extra noisy so I had to escape to my bedroom balcony. Believe me, I know, it's SUPER shaky! :)

I mean it-THANK YOU all so much for your support, your kind words and especially all the wonderful things you share here! And extra gracias to Kathy, The Crafty Chica, for helping me see why I needed a facebook page. I'm taking her online publicity course (click HERE for details) which I believe you can still get in on if you're interested!

You can click the "Like" button at the top of my sidebar or visit my NEW FACEBOOK PAGE by clicking HERE!

Wishing you love with extra cheese-
Nacho Mama

Saturday, June 4, 2011

THEME PARTY! Golden Girls Baby Shower...

As I mentioned in my review of Legoland, I'm a sucker for anything with a "theme." I love theme restaurants; seafood places with plastic lobster-choked fishnets hanging across the ceiling and "Buoys" and "Gulls" signs on the restrooms. I LOVE theme hotels-I get giddy the moment I step onto the Vegas strip!  I especially adore theme parties!
File:Madonna inn august 2008.jpg
My hubby & I spent our honeymoon at The Madonna Inn-QUEEN of theme! photo via Wikipedia
So I thought it might be fun to share few theme party ideas here from time to time-hope you don't mind!

One of my favorite theme parties I ever threw was a baby shower for my sister, who is the HUGEST Golden Girls fan I've ever met. Even though she was under 13 when the show originally aired, she nevertheless caught every single episode and knows most of them by heart. When my husband and I were first dating, he was totally baffled by her love for this show. I remember him having this conversation with my then-15-year-old sister:

HIM: Why do you love that show so much, anyway? What's the deal?
SIS: I'd just like to be like them when I'm their age! Sharing cheesecake and telling stories to each other in the middle of the night...
HIM: Um,'d like to be widowed?
SIS: (dreamily) Yeah....or divorced!

Don't worry, she grew up to marry perfectly lovely man! And when we found out she was expecting, I immediately knew what the theme of her shower would be. :)
Got a Golden Girls fan in your life? Here's how to throw a shindig that'd make Blanche Deveraux beg for an invite!


FIRST: The invitations! I went to and found a Golden Girls template. Popped my sister's face in Rue Mclanahan's place and voila! The perfect invite.
SECOND: I hit my local fabric store and picked up a few yards of "Miami-Nice" fabric (see above). I can't sew a stitch, but my mom was kind enough to whip up  table cloth for my buffet and a runner for my coffee table. Thanks Mom!

THIRD: I filled my home with vases of Birds of Paradise and palm fronds. Now I live in Southern California where these things are literally right outside my door, but if you live somewhere where tropical flora is scarce you can easily find some fabulous fakes at your local craft store.

FOURTH: Never forget that, as the hostess, YOU are the most important decorative element of your party! I served my guests and moderated the games in my FABULOUS Shady Pines apron, which I found at

(All the food and drinks had printed placards letting the guests know what they were in for!)

-Miami Mixed Salad
-Rose's nutty Scandinavian Meatballs (served in the crockpot)
-Dorothy's Brooklyn Sausage and Peppers
-Sofia's Dinner Rolls (Just like they served at Shady Pines, Ma!)

And for DESSERT~
-Blanche's Georgia Peach Pie a la Mode
and, of course, 
(my favorite is the New York-Style Cheesecake from Trader Joe's, in the blue box)

-Rue McLemonade
-Iced Tea Arthur
-Betty White Sangria*
-Estelle Wetty (Ice Water)

*I realize some consider it poor taste to serve alcohol at a baby shower, but this was a party for 35 and I think you simply can't expect that many women to get along without wine (especially if they're related to me) but that's just a personal quirk!


-We played the standard baby shower games (cut the string to what you think is the preggo's circumference, find the safety pins in a dish of rice, etc.)
-We also played Golden Girls TRIVIA! This was the hit of the party. I was shocked at how well those ladies knew their Golden Girls!

The prizes all had an 80s theme: A bottle of Reunite (to be served "on ice"), a Rubik's Cube, Calgon, etc.


-"Conga" by Miami Sound Machine
-The theme to Miami Vice
-"Cheesecake" by Louis Armstrong
-"Bosom Buddies" from the movie Mame-sung by Bea Arthur and Lucille Ball
-For that matter, the theme from Bosom Buddies
-The theme from The Golden Girls
and so on.

Getting some ideas for your own theme party? Got a brother who can't live without MacGyver? Was your mom despondent when they canceled The Love Boat? Got a cousin who knows all the words to the theme from The Facts of Life?  Make their YEAR with a party based on their TV-land faves!

Wishing you love with extra CHEESECAKE!
Nacho Mama

PS-here's my favorites Golden Girls moment EVER! If this doesn't make you laugh, I'm not sure we can be friends. (OK we can-but no theme party for you.) Enjoy!