An artisanal ice cream boutique

This week my friend Texas and I took our little cowboys with us on our weekly exploration of Miami (weekly exploration described here).

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We took in a little Cuban culture and visited Azucar Ice Cream Company on the “main street” (8th Street) in Little Havana, less than 10 minutes from my  house.

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Azucar is an artisanal ice cream and sorbet boutique.  Normally I would not indulge an ice cream parlor by repeating their marketing material’s fluffy words, but the creator of Azucar went to Penn State’s Ice Cream University and has her  abuela’s (grandmother’s) passion for creating tropical ice cream flavors “tattooed on her soul”, y’all. These Latino sabores are for real!

The Cafe Con Leche (coffee and Oreo) was to die for and the Elvis(peanut butter and banana) looked fabulous too. My little niños did not venture too far from chocolate and vanilla and honestly, I think both flavors could have received a gold medal for best in their class they were both just perfect (oh the fruity sorbet looked wonderful, but even so I always go for the chocolate, it’s just who I am).

So fellow Miamians if you haven’t been to Little Havana since last July (when they opened), run! Azucar is the ice cream bomb.

And to all the others, when you find yourself in this corner of paradise, Azucar is the sp0t where you can get a little taste of Heaven!

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Find all of the information that you need on Azucar here on their website.

If you want more luck, show up more often*

I know that the first step to accomplishing any goal is showing-up.

If I want to make more friends in Miami I need to take advantage of every opportunity to meet new people. I’ve got to show-up, even if I don’t feel like it.

That is what I did last week to honor my pledge of trying one thing per week to meet a new friend in Miami (see friendship challenge here). I went to 2 kids birthday parties even though I didn’t have to go.

SIDEBAR: It is my experience that most adults do not like children’s birthday parties, especially when the children are not their own. I bet at least 95% of you understand this, but for the small minority that might not have children yet and look forward to other children’s birthday parties, like I once did, let me explain (1) most adults can think of something they would rather be doing on a Saturday afternoon and often wear this emotion on their sleeve; (2) it is not that fun to watch children play hide and seek or pin-the-tail on the donkey unless you have a glass of wine, and some parents do not serve wine; and (3) your friends will work hard to find ways not to attend these parties and often will not be there.   I can’t tell you how many times I have been stuck holding a pink balloon searching for ways to make conversation with a nanny I’ve never met or a guilt ridden husband who works 60 hours a week and  his designated dad duty is to chaperone his children at all birthday parties.

In Dallas, by the time the kids were about 5, we started having “drop-off” parties. You literally drop the kids at the front door and leave. As a hostess, you had to be careful to only invite the amount of kids that you could handle. Recently 3 friends in Dallas invited all of the first grade girls at school to a joint cowgirl party at the local stables. My friend explained that the 6-year-olds had a blast but said it was a little hard to manage 63 girls and ponies once their parents “dropped” them at the barn gates.  That will not happen to you in Miami.

It did not take long for me to figure-out that drop-off parties did not exist in the Magic City.  Six weeks after we arrived I copied a cute party my son had been to in Dallas and invited his entire Miami second grade class to the park for a kickball game. Our plan was for my husband to man the mound and me the picnic benches with hotdogs,  juice boxes and cake. As I started receiving RSVPs I realized entire families were heading to the park that Martin Luther King Day. I ran to the store for OJ and champagne (Mimosas are the best solution for pre-noon kid parties) and grabbed some “fancy nuts” and everyone seemed to have a decent time.

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Last weekend I had an excuse not to go to the roller-skating rink or the luau to which we were invited: a childless good friend from Dallas was flying in to celebrate her birthday and even in Miami these circumstances disqualify you from the obligation of “showing-up” at that weekend’s children festivities. Two other parents agreed to take my kids to each party.

At the last minute, my friend’s plans changed. She had to postpone her trip. When I reviewed my calendar (another school year resolution of mine: use calendar) to see how that effected our weekend plans I realized: I COULD STILL SEND THE KIDS TO THE PARTIES WITH THE OTHER PARENTS AND WOULDN’T HAVE TO DIG OUT MY FLORAL SHIRT OR ROLLER SKATES. Score!

But it hit me, there would be adults there with whom I am not yet friends. In fact I was not friends with any of the adults that would be at these parties and really, how hard would it be to “show-up” then check-off the first week of my friendship challenge as done. The opportunity was really too good to pass up.

So I went… and I tried. Showing-up, to me means both in mind and spirit so I forced myself to “work the room” as best as I could and talk to as many parents as possible.

And do you know what?  It paid off.  I added a name to my potential friend list.  The neighbor of the 6-year-old luau honoree was in my 4-year-old daughter’s class last year (was that clear?). At another party I had really enjoyed talking to this neighbor family  and was able to easily engage both parents, Laura and Lee, in conversation again. Laura and I had exchanged phone numbers at the end of preK-3 but neither of us followed through on the play date that we both said could be fun.

But, just as I hoped it would, my declaration of my search for friends propelled me into texting Laura and inviting she and her family over for dinner and a swim. And after a little back and forth we found a date that worked for both of us and voila we are hosting our first family dinner party since we moved to town.  I showed-up and made it happen, and I would call that a success.

Note to fellow new-Miamians: I do not completely have this birthday party thing figured out. I can definitely tell you that you should not ever assume that you should drop your child at someone’s home without a chaperone.  It is not yet clear to me, however,  when the rest of the family is supposed to be there. If there is a clue written on the invitation as to expected guests, I have not found it. I have done both: shown up with just the invitee and wished that my husband and the rest of the clan were there, (because all of the other guests had complete family units and I wished my hubby was there so I had someone to talk to).   AND, I have  dragged brought my husband and son with me to the party and then neither would talk to me because they were the only males there in the pretty pink party room.

*This is part of a quote from an American Talk Show Host Brian Tracy.

Tuesdays with Texas

I lived closer to my second friend that I met in Miami when I lived in Dallas, than I do now.  Texas moved to Florida, from East Dallas with her family in June. Just like me Texas’s husband was offered a job here in the Magic City that he could not pass-up.

I didn’t know her before I moved, but when a friend that I have known since I was in diapers in the nursery at church facebook messaged me and told me that Texas was moving to Miami I had a feeling we would be tight; those who choose to live in East Dallas have something in common.  I can not pin point exactly what it is, but there is something that made us, and others, choose this more expensive, eclectic, area of Dallas, “inside the loop”

When Texas arrived in June, I didn’t waste anytime.  We went and bought beach towels for her kids and showed up at their new front door.  I welcomed her like I would have loved to have been welcomed to a new city and hoped that my eagerness did not come across as stalkerness.  My gamble paid off.  Texas seemed to appreciate the calls of support and our kids enjoyed playing with each other.

I would have prefered that she moved right next door (I know, I know that might be a little too much togetherness for a new friend, but I’m telling you if my neighbors would talk to me they would really like me. I’m good at neighborly conversation with great instincts for how much is too much), but the promise of excellent public schools, and a well located office building,  took Texas and her family to a great neighborhood about 30 minutes south of mine.  Even though it was not my first choice to have my second friend live so far, the milage between us might have some advantages.  If Texas ends up loving The Falls and reports a much easier time with getting to know the Miamians in her area, there is nothing stopping us from buying a house down there when our Coconut Grove lease expires (except for a little hour+ commute for my hubby but he could get over it right? Well, maybe that is too much too ask, we would miss him).

Thus far at least two of Texas’s neighbors have spoken to her and one even invites her little cowboys to play ANYTIME THE GARAGE IS OPEN, and it sounds like it is open quite a bit.  We have agreed that we will probably decide there is simply a trade-off.  It looks like The Falls might be more friendly like our former home in East Dallas, while “The Grove” is probably one of the more beautiful parts of Miami, the classic brains vs. beauty debate.  It was love at first sight when my husband and I saw the Grove, but we wonder if the size of her coconuts, so to speak,  might not be enough in the long run to make us happy.

Texas is still enjoying the anonymous stage of her move (described here), so there is still a lot to learn about The Falls.  Time will tell.  We look forward to comparing notes.

It would be easy for a married mother of elementary school aged children to find no time to see her friends, that is why Texas and I made a commitment.  We have a date each Tuesday to explore a new part of Miami.  We’re going to kill two flamingos with one stone: we’ll catch-up and get to know this crazy place at the same time.

We started our Together Tuesdays this week and thought there was no better place to begin than the epicenter of the city: South Beach (some locals may not agree with that statement on “epicenter” but us newbys have gotta start somewhere!).    Texas and I went on a walking tour of the Art Deco Historic District that stretches about 10 blocks wide, and maybe 5 blocks deep in the heart of Miami Beach. Trip Advisor rated Christine Micheal’s small group tour as the second best tour of ALL AVAILABLE tours in Miami (it would be hard to compete with a boat on the beautiful bay waters, but she beat all but one).  Not surprisingly in the 90 degree weather and 150% humidity, Texas and I had this delightful tour guide to ourselves.  Christine talked history, architecture and design while she crab-walked through the district.  We just loved it.  We learned so much about both Art Deco and Miami and we promise to share our new knowledge with you when you come visit (I noticed from her recent facebook posts that Texas really listened to my success stories of heavy campaigning for out-of-town guests). Click for a link to the Art Deco Walking Tour here.

And this is just the beginning.  Texas and I have a lot of  places we want to explore and week by week we will start crossing our Miami must see spots off our list.  This is something that you could do in your own city, even if you have lived there your entire life.  It seems like locals of every city do not always take the time to explore or take advantage of their home town’s treasures.  Many Miamians have admitted to rarely going to the beach  and usually say they wish they could find the time (if they only knew what it meant to be land locked I bet that wouldn’t be the case).  But the truth is, you’ve got to make the time: sit-down, carve it out, and make it happen.     Even if you aren’t on a new friend search like me, I am sure there are hidden gems in your town waiting to be uncovered.  Experts say that friendships are based on shared experiences and even if you think you don’t have room in your life for new friends, I bet you have a few bonds that could use strengthening.  So what are you waiting for?   Call a friend, or take a risk and call someone you hope might be your friend, and make a commitment to go see or do something new!  I don’t think you will regret it!

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If I wasn’t going to the PTA meeting…

If I wasn’t going to the PTA meeting but rather meeting a few friends at a wine bar that I’ve been dying to visit, I might wear this skirt from the new line at Target, Kima Zabete, with a v-neck white t-shirt, my favorite accessory of the moment, a yellow necklace from Francesca’s and these awesome black booties by Diane Von Furstenberg.

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I will, however, be at school; like I was last night and will be again tomorrow. 3 kids, 3 Meet the Teacher Events.

So I am going to wear my old animal print loafers instead, which I believe are Sam Edelman but I can’t be sure because the label has faded.

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I am glad to get a glimpse of the class rooms, and think it is cute my daughter can’t wait to send me back to first grade, but a glass of wine with a few girl friends sounds pretty nice… plus, I really love my DVF shoes.

On the bright side, 3 Meet the Teacher Night will definitely be helpful for my quest of new friends… 100 parents, in a captive audience, that I at least have one thing in common: the school. By tomorrow night I hope to have perfected my pick-up line.

I was inspired to write this post because one of my favorite bloggers, Melissa from I Pick Pretty, is hosting a link-up and I finally figured out what that means. I don’t know why, when it comes to computers something has to be explained to me at least 3 times before I can understand… I should have asked my 8-year-old to explain it to me a long time ago…

Anyway, it is pretty fun. Melissa and her friend at Forever 29 (which I haven’t read but look forward to checking-out) invited fellow bloggers to post outfits for a girls night out. I just post this cute button here, and then share my blog link on the Forever 29 website, and you readers can go there and get several ideas.  Its fun to see what other ladies around the country might wear when they go out with their friends.

See the “link up” here on Forever 29

Footnote: If you haven’t seen the Kima Zabete line at Target yet I would go check it out! KZ is a boutique in NYC and Target partnered with them as part of their second round of “Shops at Target.” There are also some great dresses.

Second Footnote: Go check out Melissa’s blog, I love her because she (1) is an attorney in Austin and reminds of my cute friend Lisa who is an attorney that went to school in Austin (2) talks about fashion and her two-year old “Master P”- I think the “two” talk makes me feel better about my 3 adorable but somewhat wild kids. They might be difficult sometimes, but when they were two… (3) says things like “Sweet Neiman Marcus, I thought that child would never take a nap” and (4) has a super sassy writing style that reminds me of the Southerners I love that can give someone a tongue lashing without her even realizing it until 20 minutes later. Here is the link to I Pick Pretty

The Aristocrat: my first friend in Florida

On Saturday I launched a search for the best way to make friends in Miami (see my previous post linked below).

My family and I moved here from Dallas on New Year’s Day, 2012 and thus far I have made 2.5 new friends.

I met my first friend Mary in mid-February. After unpacking boxes and getting my three children settled in school I sat down and emailed the four friends of my friends whose addresses were given to me before I moved (did you follow that? Friend set-ups). I heard back from all but one.

With two of them I played a game of tag. We emailed back and forth until someone forgot we were playing. I am pretty sure it was not me. That left one potential new friend and honestly, I thought a 25% return for my email efforts was not so bad.

I get it. We are all busy and some people just don’t have any white space on their calendars. A dear friend from Dallas, who I vacationed with this summer said something like that: “You know Meredith, I have such a full, busy life, I don’t really want to make any new friends. I can barely keep up with those that I already have.” Why should these new girls work a stranger into their lives if they can barely make time for people they already know?

But Mary had her reasons. In fact, as soon as she read the name Sarah Brown, she said her fingers were flying with a reply (I love this story).

“Dear Meredith,

It was so good to hear from you. I would love to plan a get-together soon. What day will work for you? Sarah Brown was my very first friend at the University of Texas. I went to orientation without knowing a soul and Sarah was assigned the dorm room next to mine. She was from Dallas but seemed to know every Texan at the entire school and I was so thankful that she let me tag along with her for the weekend. When our freshman year began we pledged different sororities but always kept up. If I ever needed clarification on a Texas eccentricity, or really anything at all, Sarah was the first person I called. I would do anything for her.”

Well thank you Sarah. I thought that was a pretty awesome pay-it-forward twenty years after the fact!

We agreed to meet with the kids at Riviera Country Club on a Tuesday after school the next week. When I came home from our date I told my husband if anyone ever used the term aristocracy anymore I would call Mary an aristocrat!

The Junior League, University of Miami Art Board, TWO yacht clubs, never mind the golf club where we were sitting. Have you heard of the fancy resort in Key Largo that every U.S. President has visited? It is called Ocean Reef. Mary and her family are members there too! They take their beautiful 32 foot boat down for the day and sometimes spend the weekend in their condo in the Keys.

I hit the jack pot! Mary is a well of wonderful information, but it gets even better. She is SUPER NICE, but not in that sappy sweet sort-of way. Really nice which made me feel comfortable digging for information about Miami society.

She is also available. Not all the time, but enough. She works, has 2 young children and lots of family and friends in town. Mary and her husband both went to high school in the Gables… well look at me, I am already picking-up the local slang. “The Gables” is short for Coral Gables. Some would argue the Gables is the most beautiful suburb of Miami and I might agree, but I digress…

When I call, Mary always finds time to answer my questions. We have enjoyed dinner at a few Miami hotspots with Mary and her husband and spent a wonderful afternoon on Biscayne Bay with their entire family.

She lives close but our paths rarely cross. Our children go to different schools. If I was in a bind and my husband was out-of-town, I would be comfortable asking Mary or her husband for help. Just knowing that they are there feels nice.

Sometime before Christmas, when I get through my back-to-school to-do list, I will call Mary for a lunch date to hear about her typical Miamian’s summer, which means a summer not spent in Miami (they say it is too hot to stay here… we’ll save that topic for another day) and I know she will make it happen.

And when I am teaching and re-teaching my children the Golden Rule I will tell them the story of Sarah, Mary and me and remind them that you must always do unto others as you would have done unto you because you never know when you will need a recommendation for membership to one of the most exclusive yacht clubs in Florida every action causes a reaction and your simple kindness might brighten someone else’s life 20 years from now, and that is just well, super cool!
Key Biscayne Sand Bar

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Biscayne Bay

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Miami Friendship Challenge

I am starting a new challenge today.

And in the spirit of a new diet or a new budget I am declaring my intentions here on this blog so that you might hold me accountable.

Beginning now just after Labor Day, 2012 and ending at the end of my children’s school year, on Memorial Day, 2013 I promise to TRY ONE NEW WAY EACH WEEK TO MEET A FRIEND IN MIAMI.

Because, at the moment, I can’t figure out how people make friends in this city.

The truth is I moved to Miami 8 months ago, without knowing anyone, and I have two and a half new friends. Some of you might think that sounds like plenty of friends. With 3 young, active children, an adoring husband and a couple of friends, what more does a girl really need?

Well, that question has caused many pep talks from my inner cheerleader and several “talking-tos” from my inner drill Sargent (both of whom can get annoying, but when a girl is short on friends she must resort to a little self talk). After a few of these conversations and a bit of thought this is what I’ve come up with in answer to the question “why exactly do I want more friends?”

(1) I like people. My mom has always told me I am a people person and have been outgoing since birth. I was voted “friendliest” in both junior high and high school. I was social chairman of my sorority at Ole Miss, president of a large early childhood PTA in Dallas, and have always heard, “you seem to know everyone.” The maid-of-honor in my wedding told me that she sought my friendship because I was the girl in our sorority who knew everyone’s name at the party on Friday night. All of these things could be considered super cool or super dorky, depending upon who you ask. The truth is I really like people and enjoy the process of getting to know the intricacies about each individual that eventually I call friend. Even more basic than that though, I am used to having friends around.

(2) As a mother and wife I find it hard to find the time required to develop a “best friendship.” When I moved back to Dallas with my boyfriend (now husband) 14 years ago I found myself in the same predicament that I am in now: in a new city with no friends. During the 12 year period I lived in Dallas (we spent two years living in Zurich, Switzerland which makes my math work) I would not say I made a best friend, but a lot of good friends. This was nice because, although best friends are certainly wonderful, there were quite a few women I could call upon during an emergency, if I needed a favor or if I just wanted a partner in crime. As our families grew both mine and my friends’ free time seemed to dwindle. It was nice to have a large circle of friends because the same person was not available all of the time. I would like to have more friends in Miami so I have someone to call when I need or want her and she can be there.

(3) I much more enjoy the things that my 4,6 and 8-year-olds find fun when there is another adult around. My husband works great for this companionship but during the summer, after school and during the day with a part time pre-schooler (I have one left) he is not available. Pre-Miami, I spent a lot of time with women at soccer practice, dance recital dress rehearsals (maybe the worst) the zoo, little gym, the splash park, well, the list goes on and on… I would like to have more friends because it makes life more fun.

(4) Also, I would like to have friends so I can gossip. I like girl talk. I like hearing every detail of your latest dinner party, from the decor to your recipes. I want to tell you about my favorite new nail color or the latest shirt I saw at the Target across town (because it was not at the two locations closer to our neighborhood). I want to try to decipher why Justin is marrying Jessica and explain why even though she isn’t my favorite, I do think she is a better choice than Cameron who is gorgeous but is probably pretty nutty.

My sweet husband tries to be a gossip sounding board for me and although I appreciate it, he is not quite the same as one of my running partners or the moms on the Lightening soccer team. He doesn’t know the subject matter and can’t provide any reciprocal insight. The lead story on Access Hollywood does not fall high enough on the importance scale to waste an out-of-town friend’s precious phone time. And although I’ve exchanged some great texts on such matters, it’s just not as fulfilling. I’d like to get some good acquaintances in place for the not-so-important conversations that I find oh-so-important to lighten-up some days or make baseball practice not seem as long.

So, you might be wondering, “well Miss Friendliest, what is the problem? If you’re so good at making friends then get to it. ”

But that is just it! I am stumped. I have tried to make friends and what I thought I knew was the magic formula for friendship just isn’t working for me in Miami. This friendly Houdini can not figure out how the “Magic City” is pulling the rabbit out of her hat.

I thought that stay at home moms across the United States probably all made friends the same way. I knew that I had to be patient. We are a very busy group. But I believed if I consistently practiced the behaviors and routines that I did in Dallas, the women would just appear in my life and then I could nurture relationships into friendships.

But that just has not been the case.

In Dallas 3 of my closest friends were the ladies I ran with at 5:30 a.m 3-4 days a week but I have not found anyone that enjoys running before the sun comes up. It seems like everything happens a little later in the day here in MIA.

Another close knit-group of friends was my play group: 7 women with whom I met every Tuesday at 2:00. We rocked our babies and chased our toddlers while we shared stories or exchanged advice and sipped on coffee or water or wine or whatever we felt like that day (usually wine!). I have not found many women available during the week day in our new home town I do not have any research to support this, but it seems like there are a lot more women who choose not to stay home here in Miami than in Dallas. I think that is great, but I have not figured out when these working girls see their friends, or more importantly, when they might be able to see me!

I loved the women I worked with on the PTA board in Dallas. The percentage of parents who participate in the Parents Club at our new school is pretty small so not a large pool of potential new friends. I really enjoyed talking with the new school’s President and Vice President, who just so happen to be the owner of the school’s sister and wife, but those relationships did not progress once school ended in May. Their children left Miami for the ENTIRE summer for sleep away camp in the Northeast and I did not think either of them would be interested in hanging out with me and my 3 kids at the beach all day.

My son joined a baseball team and none of the other moms talked to me. But it wasn’t just me… none of them talked at all except for the two crazy ladies that yelled at their son, the coach and any one else who did not play the game to their liking. I am sure I could find one or two psycho sporting parents at every baseball field in the United States but what is the deal with the rest of the team moms not talking amongst themselves?

In Dallas, when school was out and the temperatures sky rocketed my family and I spent most of our time at the Knights of Columbus local pool. We had swim team practice every morning and it was a great place to cool off in the afternoons. Many of the worlds biggest problems were resolved there on Friday night, and then again on Saturday night when the topics seemed fresh because the previous night’s margaritas tasted so good. But there are no summer swim teams here and if anyone was swimming in the country club pool to which we bought a summer membership, it was most likely a member of my family.

I am not sure if it is the international demographics, the Northeastern influence (even though it is almost the southern most city in the continental United States no one would dare call Miami southern) or if I just have a lot to learn about people and how they make friends, but the fact is I have had no luck making friends in Miami.

But I am not giving up.

I am going to be creative.

I am going to be brave.

And by the end of next May I will have compiled a list of the top 10 ways to make friends in Miami.

And hopefully, I will have friends.

And if I do not, I will present to you “The Complete List of What Not to Do to Make New Friends in Miami” and maybe save you a little time.

Wait listen… can you hear that? That is the sound of me bracing the arms of my desk chair waiting for your comments that will set me straight. Am I making presumptions about Floridians that just aren’t true? Have I completely missed the Miami friendship cruise boat and instead bought a first class seat on the train to Loserville? Well I can take it. Bring it on. I really want to hear your comments and would appreciate a nudge in the right direction.

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