Mil Gracias


I celebrated my 31st birthday last Saturday with a party at my parents’ house. Lots of family and friends — several I hadn’t seen in years — came by to celebrate, eat delicious food, drink, dance, and watch the Mayweather/Ortiz fight. My guests subtly requested that I show the fight, so I added it to the entertainment budget. It was a fun night, even if I was already tired and ready to call it a night before 11:30.

Under the tent Papel picado above the dance floor

Lotería cupcakes by Lori Didn't plan these to match the piñata

One thing I regret from the party was not grabbing the DJ’s mic and thanking the guests after we cut the cake. If I had, I would have said something along these lines:

In planning and preparing for the party, I had a lot of help from my parents, siblings, extended family, close friends and Sean. My family hosts a lot of big parties (75+ people) at our house and they’ve got it down to a science. Seriously.

Mil gracias go to:

The parents

While running errands and setting up on Saturday, I kept thinking that she deserved a whole post on her master party planning and hostess skills. If my mom ever wanted to leave working with special needs kids at schools, I’m pretty sure she could start a second career out of party planning/day-of-event coordination. My mom is awesome, and I’m not saying that because I get half my DNA from her. I’ve seen her host a taquiza (taco party) without a functioning kitchen for 40+ people with just a few hours of preparation. For this party, she secured some decorations on loan from friends, cooked a delicious spread of ~200 chicken enchiladas (with homemade enchilada salsa, of course), beans, rice, salad, and chicken/beef/cheese nachos with warm and toasty tortilla chips. She didn’t have her usual expert helper (my godmother/her sister Chilo), to help her out. Instead, Sean, I and Mamá Toni filled in in when necessary. Still, my mom deserves all the credit as she did the heavy lifting.

He’s equally good at this party thing. While my mom handles most of the indoor preparation in her shiny new kitchen, dad takes care of the outdoor set-up. His job started Thursday evening when he picked up a custom-made tent from my cousin Tony (thanks, primo!). The next morning, he recruited any extra hands around the house — that morning there were a lot including Papá Chepe, Padrino José and Danny — to put up the tent. On Saturday afternoon, he put up strings of white lights around the tent and under the carport. “Charlie Services” never fail me.

My sister the baker

My sister used her baking skills to make cupcakes topped with Lotería cards and Mexican wedding cookies. She made my favorite carrot cake cupcakes as well as a few other flavors (vanilla, funfetti, chocolate). At the same time, she was baking and decorating cupcakes for another “client.” Later in the day, Lori did my makeup and helped me get all dolled up. She was even patient when I threw a hissy fit about the eyeshadow being a little too dramatic.


My older brother helped with the set-up and take down. He does it all without complaining and with a smile on his face. Oh, and he made sure to sing Las Mañanitas extra loud. I’m glad he did. He has a great voice.

Danny’s girlfriend came over after work late Friday night and joined Lori’s baking team. Cynthia created the “triple threat” chocolate cake featuring chocolate ganache, Nutella and banana filling. They were up until the wee hours of the morning. Her work paid off. The cake was delicious and she received several compliments.

Yael + Robert

He got his first taste of Mosqueda party hosting and worked like a champ. He helped where ever he was needed, whether it be putting up the papel picado, setting up tables and chairs, or helping my mom to make the enchiladas. He took over my usual job of lightly frying the tortillas and burned himself on the pan. Oops. He also took over photo duty.

Stephen, tío Ivan & tía Paty

Tía Paty, tío Iván and Stephen
My aunt and uncle are always early to parties and ready to lend a hand. This time tía Paty called ahead and asked if my mom needed anything. All my mom needed was an extra hand and she came through as did tío Iván and my cousin Stephen. They helped set up the tables with the fruit and salsa.

The little brother wasn’t actually at the party. Due to scheduling conflicts I had to push back my party to the 17th, the same day as Adrian’s birthday and the weekend he was planning a camping trip. His girlfriend planned a small surprise BBQ on Thursday and we pre-celebrated his birthday. He was a good sport about me stealing his birthday.

Los Aguilar Compadres

Friends/family who loaned us stuff
We borrowed tables from some friends/neighbors. We borrowed our neighbor’s actual yard. My cousin Valerie loaned me her globe lanterns. My cousin Tony loaned us the tent he custom made.

Friends since freshman year at UCLA

The Guests!
Of course! It was nice to celebrate my 31st birthday with many of the same people who celebrated my 21st birthday with me.

Otra vez, mil gracias!


The new girl

Daisy greeted me when I stopped by my parent’s house to pick up my sister a month ago. I figured she was one of the neighbors’ dogs who had just gotten out.

“She’s been here since the morning and won’t leave,” Lori told me. “I think Chepe fed her.”

She kept hanging around and watched as we drove off. When we returned from the baby shower, she was still hanging around.

A few days later, Lori sent me a photo of my parents sitting side by side. Mom held VR, the spoiled dog we’ve had for seven years. Dad held the new girl he’d named Daisy because of her Daisy Duke-like legs.

My parents decided to take her in until a possible owner showed up. They took her to the vet to look for a chip. She had none. While there, my mom tried to encourage another man looking for a rescue to take her home, but he wasn’t interested. Later, my dad scolded her, “She’s not for giving away!”

My family registered Daisy, who we found it just seven months old. She got her shots and got fixed too. She’s legit now and she’s part of the family.

VR doesn’t seem too happy about it. She gets in his space and takes away attention from him. I really can’t see why.


Four weeks until the Long Beach Marathon

Mile marker silent auction

I’m running the Long Beach Marathon in four weeks. My training had been going well until Thursday. While at work, I started feeling some mild pain in my inner right knee. I’ve had knee pain before, but this pain was new. It wasn’t too bad, and I was able to do a marathon pace 6.5 mile run that evening without a problem.

The next morning it hurt again so I iced. It got worse throughout the day as I went to school/work and ran some errands. In the evening, we went to the Angels and Yankees game. Walking up and down the steep stadium steps aggravated my knee. When I got home, it hurt to change out of my jeans. I figured if I couldn’t bend my knee without wincing in pain, I probably should postpone my 20 mile run the next day.

I iced my knee, took Advil and rested on Saturday. In the evening, I felt much better and prepared to run early the next morning.

I ran my long run this morning and felt great, well as good you can feel running 20 miles. I followed pretty much the same route I did when I ran my last pre-LA Marathon long run (to the beach and back). It was cool and cloudy through 90% of my run. I felt great and pushed the pace faster than my normal long runs. I was running pretty close to my intended marathon pace, probably too fast for a long run. Still, I felt comfortable. I think it might be a good indicator of what I’ll be able to do on race day if all goes well.

Hopefully the knee pain is past me.



On milestone anniversaries it’s almost impossible for me not to think about what I was doing or where I was at that same point just X years earlier. I wrote the following on September 11, 2002. The GM I refer to was a good friend and leader of the Muslim Student Association at UCLA at the time.


I cried this morning as I drove to work just as I did one year ago as I drove home in the morning from campus after working on a paper all night long. Except this time, I think I finally let myself grieve. I did it as I passed the cemetery where Grandma and Grandpa are buried. I felt so much pain and anger. I didn’t grieve only for those who lost their lives on September 11.

I grieved like GM did when he wrote this article last year in response to another in the Daily Bruin (October 10, 2001):

I end this submission with a response to Jones’s statement that I should join Jones in “howling for blood” in order prove my “Americanness.”

I condemn these attacks on innocent lives as I condemn all innocent lives being taken. I grieve for the daughters whose father was working on the 101st floor of the fallen building; my heart aches when I think how those passengers aboard those ill-fated flights must have felt before the horrendous impact; and my eyes lower in grief whenever I see a view of the New York skyline.

Yet this pain is not new for me or for many others around the world who have seen the same horror of innocent life being stolen away countless times around the world, whether it be in Sudan, East Timor, Chiapas, Bosnia, Nicaragua, Chechnya, the Phillippines, or in my homeland Iraq.

Excuse me, Jones, if I don’t “howl for blood” along with you, for I have already seen more innocent bloodshed than my eyes can bear to stand.

Last year, I bought the September issue of Latina magazine. I think I was really feeling down that day and just picked it up at the drug store.

Months later as I flipped through it, I found the calendar it had for the month of September, 2001. In the box for Tuesday the 11th was the following: a dove with an olive branch, and the words “International Day of Peace: Make peace with your suegra (mother in law)” [or something like that].

Que ironía.

Peace to all those who lost loved ones, peace to those in war ravaged countries, and peace to those who continue to suffer the brute force of US military intervention.

Paz. I’m off to listen to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” because it’s as fitting now as it was 30 years ago.


I remember staying with my friend Jonathan late in to the night. I was writing the final paper for my summer school class, research methods in sociology. Jonathan was writing a funding proposal so he could have a job. He didn’t stay until about 7 am like I did. I left at that point because parking in the school lot was no longer free. When I left the underground parking structure I could hear the radio without static. I was waiting at Sunset Blvd to head out to the freeway while the news came in. I was very confused, but by the time I was on the 405 south, I knew something was wrong. The freeway was eerily empty and I momentarily freaked. What if New York wasn’t the only city to be attacked? What if something happened in LA or elsewhere? When I got home, I turned on the TV. My roommates were just waking up and I told them what happened. We watched in horror as the planes crashed in to the two towers of the World Trade Center and then they collapsed.

I returned to work and class later. The bus was empty, so was campus. I chatted with my friend, Chris, while at work and he thought it would be safer if I stayed home. I told him I didn’t have a choice. In the afternoon, I went to class. My professor didn’t mention the attacks, but he said it was okay if we just turned in our papers and left. I don’t remember what I did.


Labor Day weekend in Napa and San Francisco


Sean and I spent Labor Day weekend in Napa and San Francisco. It was a fun trip and I’m glad I got to see some Bay Area friends. I used to go up monthly for school. Most of those trips were day trips, but I occasionally had time to hang out with friends.

We arrived in San Francisco on Friday afternoon and headed out to Sonoma. Despite rush hour holiday traffic, we made it just in time for Suzzy and Terry’s wedding rehearsal dinner. It was fun to reconnect with Sean’s NY friends who I hadn’t seen since December.


The next morning, I did my long run in the neighborhood near our hotel in American Canyon. I found myself running along the American Canyon wetlands. After brunch, I too Sean back there to check it out before getting ready for the wedding in the afternoon.

Vineyards at Gundlach Bundschu Winery

We split a cab from Napa to Sonoma with some friends staying in the same hotel. Suzzy and Terry’s wedding was held at the Gundlach Bundschu Winery on the edge of the vineyards. It was a short and sweet ceremony where they both spoke about the importance of their families.

Sean in suit = swoon

Afterward, we cooled down with many glasses of white wine and snuck in to the cool cave between the vineyards and the patio where the reception was held.

Suzzy & Terry's first dance

Suzzy and Terry had a fun and low key wedding. We danced and drank more, took pictures in the photobooth and then boarded the shuttle to the after party bar/club. We got a ride back to our hotel with the same cabdriver. Taking a cab was definitely worth it.

Crissy Field... there were a lot more dogs around than you can see in this pic

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and had a quick picnic lunch at a park. We drove to SF and decided to visit the Golden Gate Bridge since Sean had never been. We parked in the Marina and walked from Crissy Field to Fort Point and then on to the bridge. (Thanks to Alex for the idea.)

Golden Gate Bridge

As expected, it was cold, windy and crowded on the bridge, but worth the view. We left the Golden Gate Bridge and headed over to our hotel. We checked in and then took BART from Union Square to the Mission where we met up for burritos, a mini Mission mural tour and ice cream with Rio.

La guerrillera

As soon as we came out from the 24th Street BART station, I thought it would be nice to check out some of the Mission’s famous alley-filled murals. I didn’t even have to bring it up to Rio as he suggested it as a good way to walk off our dinner.

The "we're so hip and urban" faux engagement shoot

Sean and I took the opportunity to take some “hip and urban” pseudo engagement photos.

Rio is awesome. Can't you tell?

Rio and I tried to be serious.

Vanilla + sprinkles for Sean

We ended our evening in the Mission with some ice cream at Mitchell’s Ice Cream. It was delicious.

On Sunday, took BART in to Berkeley for lunch with our friend Mariam. I’ve been reading Mariam’s cooking/travel blog for a while, but never tried any of her delicious dishes. This time around, she offered to make lunch. We were too hungry to stop to take photos of any the food. Good thing Mariam has photos and recipes on her blog: sesame chicken, Chinese chicken salad, clams with black bean sauce, and spicy eggplant. We were stuffed, but we couldn’t turn down an offer for ice cream, Turkish delight, and Iranian tea. It was nice catching up with Mariam about travel and puppies.

We left Mariam’s apartment and took BART back to San Francisco. After picking up the car at the hotel, we made a quick trip to Nob Hill (Bob’s Donuts!) and then drove to SFO.

I wish we would have had a little more time to catch up with friends, but the weekend went by pretty fast. There’s always next time. We’ll be sure to bring warmer sweaters and coats.