A Day in Maya’s Life

As I have shared with you before our chocolate lab, Maya, is certified as a therapy dog. What this means is that through the auspices of Therapy Dog International, TDI, we can offer our volunteer services to places like schools, hospices, and nursing homes. For the last two years Maya and I have been volunteering at a public school as part of a reading program for second graders. It has been found that having children read out loud to canine companions increases their self-confidence, interest in reading, and overall reading skills.

At the end of the school year the teacher invites us to a goodbye party.

At the end of the school year the teacher invites us to a goodbye party.

Maya and I attend the school once a week. Before leaving the house I tie a red service bandana on Maya that sends her into a frenzy of joy because she is anticipating where we are going. Once we arrive we check in at the office where Maya is greeted by the staff. We then walk down the hallway to our classroom with Maya prancing, tail high, and budding curiosity making her turn her head to peek into classrooms we pass along the way. I love to see teachers’ and children’s faces light up when they see Maya and often they stop to pet her. We quietly enter our classroom, wave hello, and make our way to our special reading spot. Although we try not to disrupt the class, we still hear little voices whispering “Hi Maya”. The children start arriving according to the schedule. Maya greets each child, sometimes a group of children, and settles down to story time. Although Maya is friendly with all of the children I have noticed in the two years that we have been volunteering that Maya has her absolute favorites. When these favorite children show up, Maya can barely contain her excitement. After the greetings the child and Maya snuggle up against each other and begin the reading. Once our task is done we try to leave quietly, but undoubtedly we hear the children’s goodbyes as we leave the classroom.

At the end of the school year the teacher holds a goodbye party for us. The children love this because they all get to be up close to Maya even the ones that did not participate in the reading program. Maya loves it because she gets attention from everyone including the teacher. This year the children wrote Maya thank you letters. One letter stood out in particular because the little girl handed it to me two weeks before the goodbye party and because I never expected this kind of feedback from this little girl. In many ways she appeared disinterested in Maya during our reading exercises. But after reading the letter, I think that Maya meant more to her than she let on. When I read this letter it confirms to me how special Maya is and how she is making a difference with these children.

A Thank You Letter for Maya

A Thank You Letter for Maya

Happy International Women’s Day: Become Aware and Help Raise Awareness


It is a day in which we celebrate women’s achievements and also raise awareness for continued equality for women worldwide.

The official theme for 2015 is “Make It Happen”

The United Nation’s theme for International Women’s day is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It!”

I feel that as a woman “we” have achieved a lot especially in the western world yet I always say there is room for improvement, especially when we look at women and girls around the world. Join me today in this special celebration. Become aware and help raise awareness. There is still so much more to be accomplished. I have included various links below to sites you may find useful.

In celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the new “Let Girls Learn” initiative that will be a collaborative effort between the Peace Corps and worldwide Girl Scouts organization.



From the Girl Scouts Organization site:


For more information visit the International Women’s Day website:


Also visit the United Nation’s sites:



For Unesco Events: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/international-womens-day-2015/

I leave you with this quote from Malala Yousafzai:

I speak not for myself but for those without voice…those who have fought for their rights…their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.

Greatest Granola in the Universe

This granola recipe is a family favorite. We cannot keep enough supply of this delicious granola in our pantry. It is indeed a sad day when we run out and have to wait for the “master granola chef”, a.k.a. Dad, to make more. The secret to making this granola is baking it for 3 hours at a low temperature. The flavors of the ingredients develop beautifully. When compared to store-bought granola, not only is our granola delicious, it is healthy (we control fat and sugar) and has no unwanted additives or preservatives.

Petrucelli Family Granola

Petrucelli Family Granola

Petrucelli Family Granola


  • 1 lb dry oats (Quaker Old Fashioned Oats)
  • ½ lb roughly chopped pecans
  • ½ lb roughly chopped almonds
  • ½ lb roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 Tbs butter (½ stick)
  • ⅛ cup vegetable oil (mix in walnut oil if available)
  • ⅔ cup honey
  • ⅔ cup maple syrup
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Combine oats, pecans, almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix to combine.
  2. Melt butter in small saucepan. Stir in honey and maple syrup.
  3. Add vanilla to warm honey mixture, then pour over dry oatmeal mixture and stir until fully incorporated.
  4. Spread on two cookie sheet pans (18x13x1 inch/half sheet) and bake at 200°F (93°C) for 1 hour.

    Stirring the granola

    Stirring the granola

  5. Remove from oven and stir well. This helps prevent clumps. Raise temperature to 225°F (107°C) and bake for an additional hour.
  6. Remove from oven and stir again. Raise temperature to 250°F (121°C) and bake for one final hour (3 hours in total).
  7. Allow granola to cool down completely. Store at room temperature in air-tight container.
  8.  ENJOY!  (~1/2 cup per serving)

A Magical Winter Walk

It was a normal winter morning and my dog Maya and I went on our walk together. We discovered the neighbor’s horses close to the road. We stopped and quietly watched them, allowing ourselves to share space and time with such beautiful creatures. It is a moment like this that turns a normal winter walk into a magical winter walk.

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What Is Wrong With this Picture?

Last Friday I went to Trader Joe’s to buy goodies for my “Super Bowl” party tonight, January 25th. My husband is in Florida visiting his parents and sister so I thought it would be fun to celebrate the Super Bowl with my children. I stocked up on piggies in a blanket, mushroom turnovers, mozzarella sticks, Chinese dumplings, and some chips and dips. We have a blackboard in our kitchen where we post the date, menu, quote, and commentaries around special events or celebrations. Earlier in the day I had updated today’s Super Bowl day information.

The black board earlier in the afternoon when I was oblivious to the fact that today was actually NOT the Super Bowl.

The black board earlier in the afternoon when I was oblivious to the fact that today was actually NOT the Super Bowl.

Some time in the afternoon my son said, “The Super Bowl is not tonight, it’s next Sunday”. And I responded with, “What?!?!?” So after a good laugh at my continued lack of football knowledge, I ran to the board to make some adjustments. The menu was kept the same because it was too late to come up with something different but we freshened up other parts of the board.

After some minor adjustments, we were ready for the Practice Super Bowl Party!

All Fixed! After some minor adjustments, we were ready for the Practice Super Bowl Party!

Happy “Practice” Super Bowl Party!! After a very successful finger food practice party, we feel we are ready and in excellent shape for next week’s big event. Call it a first down or maybe just a fumble, I better go back to the playbook or more like the “Football for Dummies” book before the ref yells at me and calls it an illegal procedure. Go New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks! (At least I know who is in the Super Bowl!) It’s the spirit that counts!


Passing Down “Words of Wisdom” to My Daughter

Last night, my daughter and I were laughing while reminiscing about something that happened to her when she was 1½ years old. The year was 2001 and my husband, children, and I were living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. My in-laws had come to visit and we thought “Wouldn’t it be lovely to take my mother-in-law out on a boat ”. We knew my father-in-law would not join us because of his motion sickness. Anyway, we set sail on a warm, humid, overcast day, on a beautiful “clean” sailboat on the waters of the Bay of Banderas. And like most parents do, I packed snacks for our excursion.

Now, when we go back and look at some of the photographs of the trip we realize how much my daughter took a liking to “las papitas”, the potato chips that I packed. So much so, that she is either holding a chip in every picture, or has her hand in the bag of chips, or is pointing to the bag asking for more.

My daughter with "papitas" in hand.

My daughter with “papitas” in hand.

Grandma Mimi helping Clara with the potato chip bag.

Grandma Mimi helping Clara with the potato chip bag.

"Don't mind if I do"

“Don’t mind if I do”

"Looking good"

“Yummy, just can’t get enough of these”


Ah this blissful moment…

My Blissful Moment and my daughter pointing to the potato chip bag

My Blissful Moment and my daughter pointing to the potato chip bag and saying “Quiero mas papitas!”.

I’m living in the moment with the sea breeze blowing through my hair, the smell of sea salt in the air, the sound of the sails flapping in the wind, the view of the bow carving through the water, the dolphins jumping in the distance…This blissful moment would be abruptly interrupted by the explosive projectile vomiting sounds of the tiniest person on board. Yep, all those potato chips my sweet daughter had shoved down her cute little mouth would resurface and cover the deck of this very “clean” boat. In a frenzy, and probably saying something like “Ay, dios mio!, I started pulling out baby wipes and trying to clean the very smelly mess while fighting my gag reflex. I was so grateful because the boat crew appeared unflappable. They jumped into action to help me clean saying “Tranquila, no se preocupe”, “Relax, don’t worry”. It was kind of hard to relax after that but the good news was that my daughter had seemed unfazed throughout the whole episode and was probably feeling good enough to have a couple more “papitas”.

Funny how there are no pictures of our boating excursion after that point in time. I think I was probably traumatized and just wanted to get back to shore for a margarita. But the few photos that we took were enough to seal the memories in forever and give us plenty of material to make us laugh.

So this whole story came up again last night and we laughed all over again. At the end of the story I turned to my now 15-year old daughter with a serious face and jokingly said, “Note to self, no potato chips on a boat, remember that for when you are a parent someday”. To which she responded with a huge smile, “Hey, that’s a great idea for a baby shower gift for me one day, a list of parenting tips from you like that one!” Ah yes, how clever, I would begin documenting my words of wisdom to pass down to my daughter. First on my list, “laugh as often as you can with your child”, second on the list, “Do not bring potato chips on a boat” and the rest, well, that will take me some time to write because having children has taught me much more than I ever imagined and without them I would not have “words of wisdom” to share.



Te Mando Flores

Te Mando Flores Maya admires the flowers

Te Mando Flores
Maya admires the flowers

On this cold January day, “Te Mando Flores”, I send you flowers. That’s the title of an upbeat and uplifting song by Colombian Vallenato singer Fonseca. On this cold January day I share with you some of my Colombian heritage and introduce you to the warming sounds of the Vallenato.

The Vallenato music is from the northern coast of Colombia. It means, “from the valley”, specifically referring to the valley between the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Serranía de Perijá in the northeastern part of the country.

Vallenato is from the northeastern part of Colombia.

Vallenato is from the northeastern part of Colombia.

The Vallenato is one of Colombia’s most popular and representative genres of music. In my opinion, a party is not a party unless a Vallenato is played. Its origin has roots in Spanish minstrels and West African rhythms. The Vallenato originally played with an indigenous Gaita flute, a drum called a caja, and a percussion instrument called a guacharaca later added the European instruments of the guitar and accordion.

Symbols of Vallenato:  El Sombreo Vueltiao - The Turned Hat, The Accordion, the Caja, and the Guacharaca

Symbols of Vallenato:
El Sombreo Vueltiao – The Turned Hat, The Accordion, the Caja, and the Guacharaca

It was played by the farmers who traveled with their cattle throughout the region while providing entertainment and a means of story telling and communications between the villages. I often hear similarities between Vallenato and Cajun Zydeco. When I listen to contemporary West African music there is no denying the ancestral roots of these coastal Colombian tunes. Not only do I love the fact that Colombian music is a blend of many cultures, Vallenato in particular is going to make you want to DANCE. Those lively accordion songs and rhythms are guaranteed to take you out of any state of funk you may be in. In my case today, the January winter blues!

Visiting an island off of the the northern coast of my native country Colombia. Wearing the sombrero vueltiao and getting to know the local children.

2007 – Visiting an island off of the the northern coast of my native country Colombia. Wearing the traditional sombrero vueltiao and getting to know the local children.

I have very fond memories of listening to my first live Vallenato band. During my college years I went on an amazing expedition trip throughout Colombia with my best friend. The year was 1983. One of our many stops included Santa Marta located on the northern coast. It was there that I enjoyed my first “cerveza” ever while listening to live Vallenato music. The only reason we ordered beer was because it was cheaper than Coca-Cola. I remember a lot about that night: the place was an outdoor cafe, the lighting was golden, I felt so grown up drinking a beer, the beer tasted bitter but was o.k. (I had not quite acquired a taste for hops yet), the band played Vallenato on a stage at the front of the café, and had two female singers wearing identical yellow dresses singing away with gusto. We ended up calling the singers, “the screaming pestaña sisters”- “the screaming eye lash sisters”. I think the name came about mainly because they wore a lot of make up and not because their singing sounded like screaming. They probably were not even sisters but their identical outfits made them look like twins. We were two childhood friends, now in college, transitioning into adulthood, but still enjoying the laughter and giggles that we had shared since we were two years old. And mostly I remember thinking, “This music is awesome!”

So open up your favorite music-streaming app and look for Vallenato music. Look for Fonseca and Carlos Vives, both Colombian Latin Grammy winners. Try out songs by Fonseca: Te Mando Flores, Eres Mi Sueño, Gratitud, Ilusion, and Hace Tiempo. And by Carlos Vives try: El Cantor de Fonseca, La Gota Fria, El Amor de mi Tierra, Fruta Fresca, and Carito.

…. Let go and dance away in your kitchen, living room or office! It’s good for your heart and soul. You will feel so energized afterwards. I hope this music livens your day and your life as much as it does me. Baila conmigo… Dance with me!

2000 - Dancing with my children and dogs.

2000 – Dancing with my children and dogs.

Annual Colombian Festival of the Vallenato