The Blizzard of 2016

Mother Nature delivered on her promise. The Blizzard of 2016 started on the evening of Friday January 22nd and continued through Saturday January 23rd. Approximately 30 inches of snow blanketed our area of West Chester, PA.

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My husband and son did several passes of snow blowing and shoveling on Saturday.

On Sunday we woke up to a beautiful sunny day. We went to play in the snow.

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Trekking on unchartered territories!

Trekking on unchartered territories!

Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader

Jessie, our puppy, discovering the joy of snow!

Jessie, our puppy, discovering the joy of snow!

Our seasoned snow expert, Maya, taking it all in!

Our seasoned snow expert, Maya, taking it all in!

Resting after playing in the snow.

Maya and Jessie resting after playing in the snow.

 

Coat of Arms in Fondant

 

Our son’s birthday is on Christmas Eve. Our family follows the Latin American tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve night. So the 24th of December in our home is a very busy and festive day, birthday celebration during the day followed by our Christmas celebration at night. When my son turned 7 years old he was into knights. So for his birthday that year I made him a cake covered in fondant icing and decorated with coats of arms made of fondant.

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I never imagined that 11 years later I would be making a coat of arms in fondant again. This time it would be an even more meaningful project for me since I was replicating the coat of arms of the university that just admitted my son in December. My husband made the delicious double layer chocolate cake and we topped it off with my fondant university coat of arms creation. When my son saw the cake he said with a big smile, “That’s pretty cool”.

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Proud Mama

 

Mariíta

Note: The accent mark on the second “i” separates the two short sounding vowels and is pronounced Mari-ita.

Mariíta was a small, frail, and very poor woman who lived in Medellin, Colombia. Even her name, the diminutive form for the Spanish name Maria, described her smallness. My paternal grandmother had taken Mariíta, her neighbor, under her wing. She would bring her food and keep her company. When my grandmother moved my father and mother took on the responsibility of checking in on Mariíta and helping her out. Mariíta also received help from the local parish priest and neighbors. Government assistance was non-existent.

My parents and I moved to the states in 1964 so in our absence my maternal grandmother took over the job of helping Mariíta together with one my uncles. Whenever we went back to Medellin a visit to see Mariíta was a mandatory stop. Even when I traveled to Colombia by myself, I was required to visit Mariíta with my grandmother. Mariíta had always looked very old to me, about a hundred years old. The reality was that her frailness and suffering made her look much older than she actually was. With each visit I would detect her decline in health and mobility.

My earliest memory of Mariíta and of her very poor existence is from age six when we visited Colombia in 1968. She lived in a modest one-story house typical of colonial houses built in Colombia in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. These houses were made of brick and covered in stucco, painted on the outside with two colors, a bright color in the lower part and a white wash on the upper section. The front of the house had one wooden double door and one wooden window with bars and interior shutters, no glass. As soon as you entered the house you would be impacted by the smell of damp earth because the floor was uneven compacted dirt, no poured cement or tiles. The house had one room, with a double bed in a corner and a couple of chairs and small tables. The room always felt dark and the only source of light came from a small lamp, since the window’s shutters were generally kept closed. Yes, the house had electricity. There was a door that brought you to the backyard and to the outdoor kitchen. There was a tin roof covering the kitchen area that had a stone sink and a small cupboard space holding a single portable gas-burning stove. Mariíta would light up with joy whenever company arrived. In the earlier years when she was more mobile she would offer us something to drink, generally aguapanela (a hot beverage made with water and brown sugar). She would shuffle to her kitchen, to her gas-burning stove, light it up and heat up the aguapanela. As a child I remember feeling uncomfortable in her home and bit squeamish at the conditions. My parents sensing my hesitation to accept the offer of aguapanela would nudge me and quietly tell me that the polite thing to do was to accept whatever it was she was offering. I remember taking the cream-colored tin cup from her skinny old hands, saying “gracias”, staring at the brownish liquid in the cup and finally building up the courage to take a gulp. Over the years, whether I went with my grandmother or parents I would politely accept the offerings and in time I would get over my discomfort and enjoy her aguapanela and her home.

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I never learned much about her. As a child I would just hang out while the adults talked. I would hear conversations about her ailments and suffering but that is all I learned. The last time I saw Mariíta she was bed-bound. She had become even more dependent on the kind souls that would check up on her periodically to help. Eventually Mariíta died.

Yes, Mariíta was a small, frail, and very poor woman. Perhaps we can say that Mariíta was one of the lucky ones with a roof over her head, a bed to sleep in, and the kindness and charity of friends and neighbors. I always wondered who Mariíta was before she became the Mariíta I met. What adjectives would I have used to describe her if her life had been different? What was she like when she was young, as a child, did she run and play? Did she have parents who loved her? How was she as young woman? What did she look like? Did she ever fall in love? Did she know happiness? Did she have a job? How did she end up in this house? What did she eat for meals? Did she have medical care? How did she end up so poor?

Yes, I learned many life lessons during those visits to Mariíta’s that have stayed with me over the years. I also learned about the frailty of the human existence and the need to nurture it through compassion.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

– Dalai Lama

 

May you always have compassion and love in your hearts.

 

My Brother, My Friend

My daughter had an English assignment recently. She wrote it following a specific format they were told to use. She concisely summarized 18 years of her brother’s life in relation to hers. Towards the end she extrapolates to when her brother will go off to college next year. When she says, “ Mom is crying”, I sure was when I read this. It also reflects the deep friendship that she has with her brother. In her words she mourns the natural loss of childhood and the departure of her brother to college but with her parting comment she leaves the reader with a sense of hope that life goes on and that all will be well. I hope you enjoy it.

My Brother, My Friend

By Clara Petrucelli

Mom and Dad moved to Brussels, Belgium. You were born Christmas Eve of 1997. You were the first child, everything was new. You were so small they didn’t know what to do. You had big blue eyes. You were always laughing. You learned how to walk. You were told you were getting a baby sister. You ate spaghetti with your hands. You played with your Playmobiles and Legos. Connor with Custom Car - Jun, 2000_new

I was born on August 16th, 1999. You were an older brother. You always squeezed my chubby cheeks. I always cried. You always laughed and wanted to hold me. You were playing with your toys. I wanted to play, too. I grabbed your toys. You grabbed it from me and said, “not baby’s toy”. You were still little. You were expected to act like an adult.

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We moved to Connecticut. You learned how to ride a bike. I learned how to ride a bike. You learned how to “swing” a baseball bat. I learned how to “swing” a baseball bat. You started preschool. We went trick-or-treating. C&C posing in Halloween costumes - 6 We played pretend secret spy agents. I started preschool. We made snow angels in the several feet of New England snow. We looked for the hidden Easter eggs. You always found the most. You started your first day of kindergarten. I saw you get on the big yellow bus and disappear. I stayed at home and played with my dolls. We learned how to ski.

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The lucky dogs, Paris and Tokyo, who were fed broccoli.

We played hide and seek. You tied my shoelaces for me. We secretly fed our broccoli to our dogs. 

I started my first day of kindergarten. I came to your bedroom, even though the door had a drawing that said, “No girls allowed, only Dad”.  We woke up when it was still dark out on Christmas day. We ran down the stairs to see the gifts. We walked around town following the pattern of stones on the ground. You led, and I followed your steps. DSCN1650_newYou went to karate class. I went to ballet class. You started reading chapter books. I was still reading picture books. I looked up to you. We were best friends.

We moved to Pennsylvania. We played in the pool for hours. DSCN0748_newYou tried to teach me basketball. We played Garageband everyday. We bought a Wii together. We played Mario Kart. You told me Santa wasn’t real. You started middle school. You started to have “homework” after school. I rode my bike outside after school. We broke the wishbone together on Thanksgiving. You started reading bigger books. You started to grow out your hair. I got my hair cut. You got your first cell phone.  I started middle school. I got my first cell phone.

We moved to London.

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We went to Rome. We went to Prague. We went to Paris. We went to Vietnam. We went to Spain. We went to Austria. You started high school in 2012. I could not believe you were already in high school. I thought that 9th grade sounded scary. You warned me about different teachers and who gave harder tests or more homework.

Here we aren’t, so quickly. We move back to Pennsylvania. We both start attending the Episcopal Academy. I start high school.

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With Maya our Chocolate Lab

 We no longer have time to play pretend secret spy agents. I am shocked at how much schoolwork there is. Every year you tell me, that the next year is more work than the last. I don’t believe you, but you are right. We sleep in on Christmas day. We don’t run down the stairs to see the gifts, we walk. We go skiing.DSCN1954_new

We don’t look for Easter eggs anymore. We don’t go trick-or-treating. You drive us to school everyday.

We start visiting colleges.

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Picked up new member of the family, Jessie, at the end of our New England College Trip

You start filling out college applications. You get accepted to college. You graduate high school. You start packing for college. It is move-in day and your dorm is all ready. Mom and Dad hug you goodbye. Mom is crying. I say goodbye to my best friend.

I will see you soon.

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