Why I Like to Run

My husband and children started a new tradition in 2013 when they baked me a celebratory chocolate cake after running my first half-marathon.


Let me tell you that I now await with great enthusiasm and appetite my chocolate cake after a race. And truth be told, I would be very disappointed if there was no cake. (hint to my husband when he reads this)


So perhaps you were anticipating a more philosophical or scientific explanation as to why I run. I would like to say that I enjoy the inner peace I feel when I run or perhaps it’s the release of endorphins, or simply that I like staying fit. Well, here it is, I run for the delicious double-layer fudgy chocolate cake that awaits me at the end of a race. Wouldn’t you?_dsc2964_new



Yay! Chocolate Cake Forever!

PS Chocolate comes from the cacao tree which is considered a fruit tree. So there you have it another good reason to love chocolate cake.

Nobel Peace Prize for Santos, Really?

As a fellow Colombian I felt that I could not stay silent after hearing this past week’s announcement that the Nobel Peace Prize had been given to Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos.

The Nobel Prize Committee’s press release states that Santos deserves this prize for his “resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year long civil war to an end”. https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2016/press.html

The bottom line is that his long effort has resulted in a peace accord that was rejected by the Colombian people in a referendum vote held on October 2nd and peace with the FARC  (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion de Colombia – The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has not been reached. I thought Nobel prizes rewarded true accomplishments like those achieved by the Chemistry and Physics scientists whose work has culminated in major scientific advances. Awarding this Nobel Prize to Santos trivializes it and in many ways makes it appear like the little plastic trophies our children get for mere participation rather than accomplishment.

I suspect that what really happened is that the Nobel Prize Committee got caught with its pants down and had no back up plan. From what most media sources were reporting, it was expected that Colombian citizens would ratify the peace agreement unanimously. Even President Santos was convinced that the peace accord would be approved and had made no formal plans for an alternative strategy. I can imagine the Nobel Prize Committee Communication’s department scrambling at the nth hour to add a paragraph at the end of their press release that would desperately support their decision in light of the October 2nd referendum results. Towards the end of their press release they acknowledge that although peace has not been achieved in Colombia they hope that this prize will inspire Santos to complete his mission. I find the Nobel Prize Committee’s comments trite and patronizing.

Colombia’s citizens have become polarized with a peace process that has dragged on for five years and with its resulting peace accord. Families and friends are divided with regard to how peace should be achieved. The referendum vote was very tight, 49.78 % of the population voting to approve the peace accord, and 50.21% voting against it, with only a 37.43% voter turnout. Many voted against the current peace agreement because it was unconstitutional. In other words in the many concessions agreed upon, the government would have had to set up different judiciary and fiduciary systems to accommodate the FARC’s requirements, ultimately mandating changes to the existing constitution. Furthermore, it was also believed by many of the victims who suffered at the hands of the FARC that there would be no justice for the crimes committed by this terrorist group. In addition, some Colombians believe that Santos is in cahoots with the communists in Havana and that the approval of the current peace plan could only lead Colombia down a path similar to that of Venezuela’s. Then there are the Colombians that voted to support the peace plan. They felt it was a good peace plan. They cried when hearing the results of the referendum vote. It is interesting because recently I mentioned to my dear Nigerian friend that many Colombians felt the proposed peace plan was not adequate enough. She offered a sage comment, “Sometimes we must accept the peace plan even if it is not perfect, forgive, and move on”. She observed this situation through a different set of lenses and offered me a different view. We must never forget how important it is to allow ourselves to listen to different and opposing views.

All Colombians want peace. Colombians are sick and tired of the FARC, they want hostilities to end, they want security restored, they want to put it all of this behind them, and move forward to a new prosperous Colombia. I have always felt Colombia’s potential is enormous if they can get past all of this. A tentative ceasefire holds and the negotiating parties appear willing to continue talks but they must move quickly on this. Santos, Colombia, and the FARC must continue working on a peace agreement that will bring Colombians together and satisfy the majority.

I leave you with a translation of a thoughtful verbal message I received from a high school friend in Colombia. It summarizes in my opinion how other Colombians may be feeling tonight. It shows how polarized family and friends are. To put the message in context, my friend is writing to three of us who live outside of Colombia. She wants to share her views with us. She explains why she has decided to exit “chats” that she belongs to because emotions are running too high and she feels friends are just hurting each other with so many negative comments.

 “… The country is very polarized. I do not censor nor do I judge anyone based on his or her views regarding the peace plan. I try to maintain a position of respect especially towards those people with opposing views to mine. Respect not just towards my immediate friends but to all the leaders involved in this peace process, Santos, Uribe, and Timochenko*.

We are all human beings. We all have our fears and dreams. Inarguably in Colombia we all want peace. We all understand the road to peace in a different way. What I don’t appreciate is all the negative rhetoric on the Internet. Because if we let ourselves be consumed by these messages that make fun of others, make fun of the opposing camp, we are falling into a trap that as a human beings we should not fall into. I am not a supporter of Santos, Uribe, or Timochenko. I don’t identify with any of the political leaders.

 I was going to vote “yes” for the peace plan but the day that I went to vote I voted “no” because I had seen Maduro** sitting at the Peace Accord signing ceremony and I got worried about the future of our country ending up like Venezuela. If I had not seen him at the signing ceremony I would have voted “yes”. My only fear was seeing Colombia become another Venezuela. Of course if the “yes” had won, it does not necessarily imply that we would have become like a Venezuela, it was a probability but not a certainty.

In order to achieve peace in a country, in our homes, or in anything I feel that the most important thing is to lower one’s guard especially in our hearts. We must be kind and respectful to others. We must try to have compassion and empathy so that we don’t get caught up in harmful attitudes, negative attitudes that don’t contribute to anything. I chose to exit various chats where emotions are running high. We end up making others and ourselves feel bad. I was too caught up in the Internet “noise”. I decided to quiet myself. I decided to spend time reflecting on the situation asking God for clarity, generosity, and sanity for all of us. I love you all. Don’t worry about us. This too shall pass. Our group of friends will come together again. I left the group intentionally because I don’t want to ruin friendships that are 45 years old. I hope you are all well. Chao..”

*Juan Manuel Santo: President of Colombia 2010 – present. He won his second term with the promise of bringing peace to Colombia. He has spent 5 years negotiating with the FARC. A peace treaty was signed in September 2016. The peace treaty was rejected in a Colombian referendum vote in October 2016.

Alvaro Uribe: President of Colombia 2002 -2010. Revered by many for using military force against the FARC and effectively diminishing it power while restoring security to the country.

Timochenko, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri: Took over as head of the FARC in 2011.

** Nicolas Maduro: Venezuela’s President

Below I include some links to help the reader better understand Colombia’s history and the background to this peace process.

  1. This report presents a detailed background to the peace process including history of Colombia, the FARC and other rebel groups. The report also outlines the agreement reached between Colombia’s government and the FARC. The report ends on September 26, 2016 just 6 days before the referendum vote in Colombia. As you read the facts listed for the month in September there is a real sense that the peace agreement would pass with flying colors. Presented also in this report are details of the rejected peace agreement: Rural Reform, Political Participation, Illicit Drugs, Victims, End of Conflict, and Implementation – http://colombiareports.com/colombia-peace-talks-fact-sheet/


  1. This article was written on October 3rd, one day after the referendum vote. The article talks about what happened and what needs to be done next. – http://colombiapeace.org


Personal Note:

I am willing to accept that when the FARC was formed in the early 60’s, all of Latin America, and for that matter the United States was in need of reform and was going through revolutionary changes. The United States was going through the Civil Rights and Women’s rights movements. Many Latin American countries were fighting dictators and looking for equality for its people. This is the time that Fidel Castro developed his strategy to fight Batista in Cuba. This is the time that Che Guevara, having grown up in an affluent Argentine family, would travel throughout South America to discover the harsh inequalities in society.  Colombia, although a democratic republic, can be viewed as an oligarchy. The few rich rule the poor majority. This is what inspired the FARC to take up arms. Other leftist rebel groups in Colombia did the same. The M-19 was one of those groups who eventually laid down their arms and became a political party. The FARC and the ELN  (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional – The National Liberation Army) have continued to use violence to try to achieve their goals unsuccessfully. But 52 years later, the goals of the FARC and ELN have gotten obscured. Although the FARC still wants redistribution of wealth and help for the poor rural communities, they do not have the support of Colombian citizens because the FARC commits terrible crimes such as kidnapping, murders, extortion, running the Colombian drug trade, destroying infrastructure, and hurting the economy of the country. The FARC has lost any popularity that they may have enjoyed in the sixties. I used to visit Colombia frequently throughout my childhood and early adult years. In 1997, I visited my relatives in Colombia when I was pregnant with my first child. Insecurity in Colombia got so bad because of the FARC that I would not return to the country for 9 years for fear of having my children kidnapped because they looked foreign. Many Colombian presidents attempted to negotiate peace unsuccessfully with the FARC and other rebel groups. Alvaro Uribe, the president between 2002 -2010 decided to take on the FARC and fought them with military force. He was able to restore security to the country. So it was that in 2006 that I felt it was safe enough to take my children to Colombia for the first time to meet their great grandparents and extended family. We went again in 2008 and 2011. My children really appreciated learning about their cultural background and meeting all their relatives. When Santos came into office in 2010 Colombia started to see a rise in the FARC’s power and a decline in the county’s security  once again. I cannot help but be distrusting of Santo’s peace plan. He has let the country’s security slip. I often ask myself why did the peace talks have to take place in Havana. I have not been back to Colombia since 2011. I also want peace. I want the best for everyone. I want the rural communities to prosper. I want for my friends and family to feel safe. I want everyone to feel they have a future in Colombia. I want for foreign investment to flood the country. I want to bring foreign friends to Colombia to show them what an incredible country it is. I want for the rest of the world to see Colombia for the amazing country that it is.


My children meeting their bisabuelita (great grandmother) for the first time in Medellin in 2006.

My children meeting their bisabuelita (great grandmother) for the first time in Medellin in 2006.


My children in el Peñol, outside of Medellin. This part of the country had become inaccessible because of the FARC and drug lords for a time period.

My children in el Peñol, a town outside of Medellin. This part of the country had become inaccessible because of the FARC and drug lords for a time period.


Celebrating my 50th birthday with my children in Colombia and a handful of cousins.

Celebrating my 50th birthday in 2011 with my children in Colombia and a handful of cousins.

I Am The Speed Limit – 55


Today I am turning 55. I was a bit apprehensive with such a milestone birthday. It sounded very daunting to be at the midpoint between 50 and 60, the jumping point down a slippery slope of sorts.

It was with said apprehension that I quietly shared with my hairstylist yesterday that I was turning 55 today. She immediately lit up and told me that to this day she vividly remembers riding in the back seat of her grandmother’s car and saying to her, “Mimom, you are the speed limit!” Her grandmother did not find this funny at the time but I sure did. My hairstylist also complimented me and said that my 55 looked nothing like her grandmother’s 55. Funny, how life has a way of sending us positive messages at the right time to help change our attitudes!

So today I am the speed limit – 55. I never associated the speed limit sign with an age, especially not my own. However, for the next year I will see my age posted all over the roads and be reminded that it’s pretty cool to have reached this speed limit. And to think that I’ll have other speed limits to achieve and even break! I’ll keep my eye on the road and enjoy the ride, a small reminder to me that the journey is what fills our life with purpose.


"With lots of wind in my hair, here's to the continued journey, and to being the speed limit. Salud!"

“With lots of wind in my hair, here’s to the continued journey, and to being the speed limit. Salud!”

Chocolate con Churros


A Spanish-American friend in college used to boast about Spain’s famous “Chocolate con Churros”, and how he would dip the delicious deep-fried dough pastry into the thick hot chocolate. Although I have been to Spain multiple times the opportunity to try “Chocolate con Churros” would finally come when I visited Seville. And it was all that my friend said it would be, it was heavenly!


Our family went to Bar El Comercio, a family run business since 1904, specializing in “Chocolate con Churros” and serving other drinks and snacks. The “Chocolate con Churros” is only available in the morning and mid afternoon when the kettle of oil is sizzling hot and each order of churros is made fresh. Since we did not know how big the servings would be we decided to order 3 portions for 2 adults and 2 children. To our surprise the servings of churros were huge and we could barely finish our delicious snack. The “chocolate” was not what we know as hot chocolate, but instead was a beautifully thick fondue-like creamy chocolate in which to dip the churro pieces in. My mouth waters just thinking about that afternoon.



Some fun history about Bar El Comercio


For a good article about Churros see Serious Eats:



Nine Mouth-Watering Reasons to Visit Italy

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Photo courtesy of Clara Petrucelli.

(Top row, left to right)

Penne Rigate all’Arrabiata – Penne in a spicy tomato sauce with crushed red pepper flakes.

Fettuccini Porcini – Fettuccini with Porcini mushrooms.

Rigatoncini all’Amatriciana – Small rigatoni with sauce made with Guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino cheese, and tomato. This pasta originates from the town of Amatrice. One of the towns in Italy hit recently by the earthquake.

(Second Row, left to right)

Spaghetti alla Carbonara – One of Rome’s signature dishes made with eggs, cheese (pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), bacon (guanciale or pancetta), and black pepper.

Fettuccini al Ragu – Pasta with a meat based sauce.

Pappardelle Cacio e Pepe with goat cheese – Pasta with “cheese and pepper”, Pecorino Romano and black pepper.

(Third Row, left to right)

Gnocchi alla Pomodoro – Small dumplings made with a dough of potato, flour, and egg served in a tomato sauce.

Ravioli Capresi – One of Island of Capri’s signature dishes. Ravioli, filled with caciotta (artisan cheese), Parmesan cheese, and marjoram served in a tomato sauce.

Penne all’Amatriciana – Pasta with sauce made with Guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino cheese, and tomato.

Spaghetti alla Nerano

Positano, Italy

Positano, Italy

This summer our family returned to Italy. We ventured to the Amalfi coast and stayed in the beautiful town of Positano. From Positano we took several day trips to the town of Amalfi, Ravello, and to the Island of Capri. It was during our boat trip to Capri that the captain pointed to the beaches of the town of Nerano and said that the famous pasta dish, Spaghetti alla Nerano, originated there. After circling the Island of Capri we were dropped off at the Marina Grande and from there we walked uphill to the city center of Capri. After our exhausting hike we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Al Capri Don Alfonso Café. I had the famous Spaghetti alla Nerano, a spaghetti served with a simple yet delicious zucchini sauce. It was so delicious that we were determined to replicate this dish at home.

View from our restaurant in Capri

View from our restaurant in Capri

Spaghetti alla Nerano – Spaghetti with Zucchini Recipe


  • 1 garlic clove (use 2 cloves if they are small) – minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 lbs. of zucchini (about 4 – 6 small zucchini)
  • 4 ½ to 6 oz. of Italian Provolone cheese grated. Note: Make sure it is aged hard Italian provolone cheese. Do not use soft deli provolone cheese. If you cannot find Italian Provolone substitute with Italian aged Parmesan.The amount of cheese is up to you. Our family prefers the recipe with the lower amount of cheese.
  •  Italian grated Parmesan cheese for topping.
  • 1 lb. of Spaghetti
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • A handful of fresh Basil julienned
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Thinly slice the zucchini using a mandoline.
  2. Start boiling water for the pasta. Make sure to generously salt the water when it comes to a boil.
  3. Add the olive oil to a separate large pot. Warm the oil and add the garlic. Allow the garlic to release flavors into the oil but do not let the garlic brown. Remove garlic from the oil and set aside.
  4. Add the sliced zucchini to the oil in layers, salting each layer separately. Sauté the zucchini until it cooks down completely._DSC2637_new
  5. Cook the spaghetti for the suggested cooking time. We cook ours 1 minute less than the suggested cooking time because we really enjoy pasta al dente. Remember to save about 2 cups of pasta cooking water that will be used later.
  6. Separate the cooked zucchini into thirds.
    Cooked down zucchini separated into thirds.

    Cooked down zucchini separated into thirds.

    Place 1/3 of the zucchini in a blender and add a ½ cup of pasta cooking water to blend. _DSC2647_new

  7. Combine the blended zucchini with the rest of the zucchini and add the sautéed garlic. _DSC2649_new
  8. When the spaghetti is done cooking remember to save about 2 cups of pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.
  9. Return the spaghetti to the pot with the zucchini mix. _DSC2651_newRemove from heat. Add the cheese and the butter and mix vigorously to create an emulsion. You will want a silky sauce._DSC2660_new If it is too dry then add more pasta water as necessary. Top with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.

Note: Some recipes do not call for blending the 1/3 of the cooked zucchini. That is entirely up to you. I like the thicker sauce that the blended zucchini makes.


Buono Appetito!

Geeking it Out

On a recent college visit to Lehigh University with my daughter I got very excited when  I saw The Bent of Tau Beta Pi in front of the engineering building. What you ask is the Tau Beta Pi Bent? It is the symbol of the National Engineering Honor Society of which I was a member in college. My daughter recognizing my nerdy excitement made me pose next to the bent and took my picture. I must admit that although I am no longer a practicing engineer, my inner geek is alive and well and I continue to be very proud of my past life as an engineer.IMG_0456_newI did further research and found out that Tau Beta Pi is the oldest honor society in the United States and the second oldest collegiate honor society in America. Tau Beta Pi was  was founded in Lehigh University. When the academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, chose to restrict its membership to just liberal arts students, the head of the mining department at Lehigh University decided to start an honor society for the technical subject students. The first student to join Tau Beta Pi was the valedictorian of 1885. The Tau Beta Pi Bent symbol was designed to look like a watch key, like the ones used to wind old watches. It is in the shape of a bent of a trestle as seen in bridge construction. The colors of Tau Beta Pi are seal brown and white just like the Lehigh school colors.




For further information about Tau Beta Pi visit https://www.tbp.org/home.cfm