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.




Guacamole, A Family Affair

There is nothing more delicious than freshly made guacamole and it’s so easy to prepare. Our family loves cooking together and we often make guacamole. Recently, my son, Connor, who loves to help in the kitchen with anything that involves chopping, helped prepare the onion and smashed the guacamole. My husband, Curt, and daughter, Clara, the family photographers, helped stage the photo shoot.

And well, Maya of course helped by making sure that the floors remained free of any food particles.

Vacuum Cleaner Extraordinaire

Our Family Guacamole Recipe


– 2 Hass avocados: cut, peeled, and smashed 

– ¼ to ½ of a medium onion depending on how much onion flavor you like (I use yellow or red onion): finely chopped

– ½ to  cup of fresh cilantro: chopped 

– 1 to 2 limes depending on their size: squeezed 

– ¼ to ½ of a jalapeño pepper or hot red pepper (depending on how hot you want your guacamole): finely chopped. If you don’t have fresh peppers then use a couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce.

– Salt to taste: Be generous
Note: There is no mayonnaise or sour cream added to an authentic guacamole recipe.

Preparation and Tips

I like to buy avocados that can be ripened at home. They start out feeling hard to the touch and are a very dark green color. Over a few days they will ripen, feel softer to the touch, and the skin will turn dark brown. If I feel the avocados are ripened but I am not ready to use them then I store them in the refrigerator for later use.

First I cut the avocados in half lengthwise…

Then I quarter them…

Then I peel the skin off. When an avocado is perfectly ripened the skin should peel off easily.

 Then I cut the avocado quarters, place the pieces in a bowl, and smash.

I add the rest of the ingredients, the chopped onion, cilantro, hot pepper, lime juice, and salt to taste.

I mix well. I am very generous with the salt.

I plate the guacamole…

 And serve.

Fresh Guacamole

The Mexican Molcajete

In our US home, I mix the ingredients in our “molcajete”, a Mexican mortar and pestle made from lava rock. You can also prepare salsas or grind spices in them. It is said that molcajetes impart a special flavor to the food prepared in it. We hand carried our very large and heavy molcajete back from Mexico eleven years ago and only spent ten dollars on it. I have seen them available on ranging in price from $18 – $60 depending on the size. It’s a great way to prepare and serve guacamole.

A Mexican Molcajete
A mortar and pestle carved out of lava rock

Meet Maya

I am finally sitting down to write and introduce you to one of the most beautiful furry girls in the world, our chocolate Labrador Retriever, Maya.

For short we call her,

M A Y A   P A P A Y A    J A M B A L A Y A

Maya’s First London Christmas 2011

Just kidding, although we do call her variations of the above and anything to do with delicious chocolate. Her color is shiny chocolate brown like devils food cake, and her eyes are a yellow honey color. Maya was named after the Maya Indians of Mexico who were the first to make a bitter chocolate concoction out of cacao beans as early as the sixth century A.D.  The word chocolate comes from the Maya word xocoatl, which means bitter water. But there’s nothing bitter about Maya, just the opposite, she is sweetness embodied.

The Day We Brought Maya Home
May 2007

One of my all time favorite pictures, Maya sleeping on my legs.

Maya joined our family in 2007 when we moved from Connecticut to Pennsylvania. She is the third Labrador we raise. Maya is now 5 years old. She passed her AKC (American Kennel Club) CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test at less than 1 year old. She also received her TDI, Therapy Dog International certification at 1½ years old. This allows us to share Maya in different settings like nursing homes or schools. Currently, we are looking to visit a local hospice. She is a happy, gentle, submissive, overly friendly dog who has made many friends along the way.

Maya now resides in London with us. She loves city living because she and I go on some amazing daily walks together. Rain or shine, she inspires me to get out of the house. Maya is allowed to go off-leash in most parks in London. She is even allowed on public transportation. So far she’s only been on the bus.

I’ll share other stories along the way. I don’t want to sound like the bragging mother. I will add, that one of my happiest moments of the day is when we first greet each other in the morning and I say to her, “God gave us another day together”, and she reciprocates with a total body wag and looking for the “gift” to carry in her mouth.  She is a daily reminder of what’s good in this world and she makes me live a more “mindful” existence. Can you tell I love dogs? And not just mine, all dogs. P.S. I like cats too.

Maya Discovers London

Maya smiles for the Camera