Wednesday, November 30, 2011

And our shoes are still wet

The sun came out for about 5 minutes, and my first thought was to put Sebastian's shoes outside.  We went to a birthday party at the Ecological Park in Pampulha on Saturday, and it rained.

And rained.

And rained. 

We accidentally parked in the parking area that was quite a trek to the covered area.  We had 3 umbrellas for the 4 of us, and I made the mistake of wearing my "nice" shoes.  But I carried Beatrice, so we were ok.  It wasn't so bad walking there, because it was only raining, not dumping (yet).  The party was fun, including candy, yummy cake, brownies, and a piñata.  At the end of the party, it the dumping rain arrived.  I was too tired to carry Bea, and Sebastian just wanted to walk in the grass (without an umbrella), which I foolishly conceded to.  We trekked back to the car, getting totally soaked.  It was so wet that it was dripping inside my umbrella.  It was so wet that water had soaked my orthotics.  I wish the story ended there, but it actually gets better.  We piled into the car, forgetting that there is a leak in the passenger door, so Sebastian stepped into a lake of water.  I shut the door, and then our wet shoes, wet hair and wet clothes started fogging up the windows.  Unfortunately, 1983 VW Bugs don't come with air-conditioning and it was getting pretty steamy.  I used the flannel rag that I keep in the car to wipe off the windows, but then my glasses started fogging up.  I decided that we just had to go, and the good thing is that usually the traffic tends to lighten up when the torrential rain comes.  We crept along at about 20 kilometers and hour, but missed our turn and ended up going the "long-cut" as I like to call it.  I am good at taking the scenic routes.  The flannel rag got soaked, so I had to take off my shirt (I had a tank top on underneath, don't worry) to wipe off the window.  Forty five minutes later, we made it home.

And finally today, 5 days later, I think that Sebastian's shoes are almost dry!


I went shopping at the Sacalão (fruit/vegetable store) the other day, and saw this:

I've seen it before, but never bothered to look it up or ask what it was.  One of my favorite workers was there, and I asked him what it was, and he said "mu-she-she."  He was surprised that I'd never had it before.  I don't know, but there's something about the spikes that just doesn't say "try me! I'm tasty!" 

But it was R$1,90 (about $1 USD), so I decided to go for it.  I came home and showed it to my husband, and he was so excited.  It is so wonderfully Muppet looking, isn't it?

A little research (thanks Flavors of Brazil), and I've learned that it's named after Maxixe, Mozambique.  It was brought to Brazil by African slaves, and is very common in the northeast of Brazil.  They are related to cucumbers (and zucchini?), but best when they are cooked.  It's frequently cooked with okra (another very popular Brazilian veggie). 

I forgot to ask the housekeeper to make it today with lunch (oops, I'm a little too busy-end of the school year!), so we have yet to try it yet.  But I'll let you know how it is!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My thoughts on grocery shopping

When we lived in the states, I did most of the grocery shopping.  I honestly really liked it.  I was one of those crazy coupon ladies, stock piling coupons, matching them with sales and promotions. It gave me this strange kind of thrill to come home from the grocery store with 4 boxes of cereal, a box of Capri Sun "drinks," and 2 boxes of fruit snacks for $4.  I think I saved the receipt on that one for a while.   That was a good deal.
I continued doing the grocery shopping when we moved to Brazil.  Except it made me SO grouchy.   First of all, it was expensive.   There are no coupons here.   And the stores advertise "ofertas" which usually mean that the regular price is R$5,99 and now it's on sale for R$5,79.  The price of food has gone up a lot, even just in the past year.  I don't like spending so much on groceries.  I'm really lucky if I can make it out of the store and only pay R$150.   And then of course, back then we didn't have a car.  I liked to stock up when going grocery shopping, and it was not fun to come back from the store lugging groceries for a week for a family of five in one of those little wheely carts. Uphill.  I have fond memories of sweating profusely, trying to avoid the dog poop on broken sidewalk or navigating the lack of sidewalk, a bag of milk breaking open and leaving a trail all the way up Rua do Ouro, and the stares from all our friendly neighbors, who were wondering if I knew that delivery existed, or that I could send my empregada/house keeper to do the shopping.  Ah, memories.
My husband got tired of all my whining, and finally offered to take over the chore of grocery shopping.  It has been a gift.  Thank you dear husband.  And he frequently comes home perplexed by the many challenges of grocery shopping in Brazil.  The most recent confounding situation is the fact that the stores will be out of staples for weeks at a time.  I have encountered this too.   I go to buy cornflakes, and they are out.   I go back a week later, still no cornflakes.  Now granted, cornflakes are not a part of most Brazilians diet, but you can pretty much find them at all the bakeries, the drugstores, and the fruit/vegetable stores.  Other times we've not been able to find tonic water, Cera incolor (the wax we use on our floors, makes them actually look clean), and vinegar.  My friend Corinne said she went to the store one time and they were out of sugar.  Hmmm…
The other strange that happens is that we find a brand of a certain product that we like, we get used to buying it, we enjoy it.   And then one day, it's gone.    We found some granola that we really liked, and about 2 months ago, it disappeared.  This has led us to do some odd hoarding.  When we find Rap 10 (something somewhat like a tortilla) we buy several packages and freeze them, even though we have a TINY freezer.  It’s usually got some Rap 10.  If I Dorito's Dippas (corn chips), I buy a bunch of bags.  Because of the odd nature of supply here, it's quite possible that I will have a hard time finding these products again.
But the whole reason I started this post was because my husband went to the store to pick up a few things today.   He actually came home with everything on his list (milk, fresh milk for yogurt, cilantro, eggs, popcorn, frozen French fries, granola, and 2 cans of tonic water), and it only cost him R$30.   Needless to say, he was very happy.  And it's such an unusual occurrence that I thought it deserved it's very own blog post. 
Now I'm off for a very American night.  I'm cooking the last box of Macaroni and Cheese that my sister brought for us back in July, make some Roasted Salsa to go with our Dippas, and then watch a movie with the family (did I mention that you can now get Netflix in Brazil? It's amazing).  Happy Saturday night to you!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Filarmônica para Todos

My husband plays cello with the Orquestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais. They have quite an amazing camera crew, and they make some great commercials, videos and documentaries. I'm posting here a video that brought me to tears. First of all, it's just beautifully done. Secondly, it captures Belo Horizonte. There are scenes from the Mercado Central, and a very friendly newspaper vendor who works there. They capture a taxi driver and some of her routes. Then a dentist and a tattoo artist. And then there's the "story:" they found 4 people who had never attended a classical concert, and filmed them as they were getting ready, traveling to the concert and filmed them watching the concert. But before I give too much away, here it is:

I love the idea, and I love the images. The newspaper vendor flagging down the bus and singing Mozart's Symphony No. 40 on the bus, the dentist with the serious biking "hobby," the tattoo artist on the motorcycle. It just caught me as so Belo Horizonte, so Mineiro...and the newspaper vendor said he would never forget the experience in his entire life. Just beautiful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Escape from America Magazine write up!

Check it out!  I got a chance to do a little blurb for Escape from America Magazine.  It's pretty much stuff I've already written about on this blog, but it's fun to know that others find my writing interesting and want to "borrow."  Enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Retiro das Pedras

I celebrated my 2nd Brazilian birthday on Saturday.  Yay for turning two!  I told the husband that I wanted to drive out of the city and talk a "hike" with the family.  Brazil is beautiful.  And parts of Belo Horizonte are beautiful.  But it is a big city, and in my heart of hearts, I'm a country girl.  I need my mountains, my trees, my wide open, natural spaces every once in a while.  This is part of the reason why I commute to Alphaville for work once a week (it's a 40 minute drive one way).  I like getting out of the city and taking in the green, the deep red soil, the big trees, the potholes and trash....oh wait, I digress.

I thought about posting about Retiro das Pedras last year, but I didn't because I wanted to keep it a secret.  But I don't think that it's a secret for Brazilians, and there were LOTS of people there on Saturday.  So I will share.

View Larger Map

Here's a map, with the route from BH Shopping.  You have to go out of the city on BR 040, which is the way that you would go if you wanted to drive to Rio.  You go up a few hills, and past São Sebastião das Aguas.  Take the exit at Jardim Canada, and go past Verde Mar on the access road that runs alongside the highway.  You'll come to a stop sign where you can enter back on to the highway, and there is a sign that points to the right.  Go right, and up the cobblestone road.  You'll drive for about 5 minutes, and eventually come to the gate for the entrance for the condominium.  If you are facing the entrance/gate for Retiro das Pedras, you'll see a Banca de jornal (those little newspaper stands that are everywhere here, that sell magazines, candy, umbrellas, toys, stickers, and many, many other things).  You can park pretty much anywhere around the Banca, or along the street; just obey the parking signs.  The start of the walk/hike is to the left of the Banca; there is a little gap in the fence, and you can walk through there.  From there, it's a gentle slope up to a radio tower, a little rocky but mostly just dirt.  Watch out for the mountain bikers and the biting bugs (I have a HUGE bite on my leg).