Friday, November 28, 2008

Still. Stuffed.

Oh, for Pete's sake! Why didn't anyone warn the crazy pregnant one about the dangers of Thanksgiving? I usually space out my feedings and eat small meals every few hours on a normal day. So why I thought it would be a good idea to eat very light all day yesterday so I would have room for the Thanksgiving feast I would go on to later stuff myself with is beyond me!

I discovered my stomach doesn't quite have the same expansion space it once had - and I'm pretty certain that last bite of whipped cream covered pumpkin pie stopped it's downward travel at the bottom of my neck (where I'm pretty sure my stomach had crept up to in it's quest to expand.) I'm not sure I've ever been quite so miserable from eating too much! But oh, it was good. It was really, really good.

And as concerned as I was about how our Brasilian friends would take to the very American meal I was offering, I would dare say that by the looks of their plates everyone enjoyed the meal. I think all but two people had a healthy plate-full of seconds and there were only small bits of crust left behind on the dessert plates from the pumpkin pie I served everyone.

So, for the menu (and the sad Portuguese translations/descriptions I gave them):

Turkey/Peru A 9 pound whole bird, skinned, and cooked in my largest crock pot stuffed with onions and cooked in white wine - it was really, really flavorful, tender, and moist!

Cornbread Dressing/Acompanhamento (feito com pão de milho, ovos, cebola, aipo, etc.) This one was the hardest to translate, so I ended up just giving it a general name and an ingredient summary. I was surprise that this turned out to be one of the most-loved dishes of the evening.

Turkey Gravy/Molho de Peru I made this with drippings from the turkey which also had plenty of white wine in it. It made for a yummy gravy. (And no, I didn't use gizzards or anything else from inside the cavity of the bird - that stuff goes straight into the trash quickly before it has time to scare me.)

Mashed Potatoes/Purê de Batatas

Homemade Egg Noodles/Massa Caseira com Ovos (o melhor acima da purê de batatas) Noodles are really a midwestern thing, so naturally Eric grew up with them. But given that my Grandma is from Indiana originally (her family moved to Georgia when she was 16), the tradition was also brought south and is a must-have for holidays with my family too. Besides my Hubby, this is one of the yummiest things to ever come from Yankee territory! ;)

Sweet Potato Soufflé/Caçarola de Batata Doce Don't let the name fool you, it's not actually a soufflé. What it is though is a yummy, southern side dish that's sweet enough to be dessert! Mashed sweet potatoes are mixed with eggs, sugar, cinnamon, milk, etc. and topped with brown sugar, crushed pecans, flour, and butter and baked. Given that the sweet potatoes here aren't quite as sweet as the ones back home and they are white on the inside, not a deep orange, I mixed in just a bit of my pumpkin pureé to make it the right color. And yes, I actually did end up finding pecans at Mercado Central! It exceeded my expectations and tasted dead-on like what I've always made back home!

Green Bean Casserole/Caçarola de Vagens Turned out as good as ever despite using fresh green beans (those are hard to come by in November in the US!) and homemade cream of mushroom soup. Luckily a friend recently returned from the US and was kind enough to bring me a can of french fried onions, so at least I didn't have to fry those up on my own!

Cranberry Sauce/Molho de Oxicoco (um tipo de fruta ácida) My same friend shared a can of whole berry cranberry sauce with me for last night too. Which is fabulous since, as far as I can tell, cranberries do not exist here in any form. (Which is why I described the fruit in my translation - no one had any idea what an oxicoco was. I totally depended on the dictionary to get that one right.)

Sweet Tea/Chá - Doce e Frio I'm from Georgia. This is completely necessary with a meal like this. (Did you know that in at least one municipality in Georgia it is illegal for a restaurant not to offer sweet tea? Yes sir, we're just that serious about it.)

Lemonade/Limonada Americana Limonada is popular here. But it's made with limes. I happened upon some actual lemons, so I bought a half dozen and made the real stuff. One of our friends was saying how great it was and asked what my secret was. I answered him in English, "Lemons, not limes."

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream/Torta de Abóbora com Chantilly Brasilians here eat a lot of pumpkin. But normally it is prepared as a salty dish. I wasn't sure how they'd take to sweet pumpkin. But between the response we received from pumpkin bars I sent to the office yesterday with Eric in honor of Thanksgiving and the pumpkin pie last night, I'd have to say they like the American take on abóbora! I am supposed to translate my recipe for pumpkin bars and send it in to the office for some of the ladies there now.

Being that I am abstaining from most things fermented these days, I left Eric in charge of the wine. He picked up some Chilean Carmenère that several of our guests thoroughly enjoyed with their meal. (It was actually from the vineyard/winery that we toured while on vacation in Chile - Santa Carolina. As I recall, it is really excellent stuff! So good, in fact, that we have a bottle of their special reserve that we brought back with us that Eric is forbid from uncorking until after April!)

And since we're in Brasil, we had beer on hand as well. And that was the beverage of choice for several friends with their meal - very, very Brasilian (Mineiro?)! We at least did have the more flavorful, gourmet of Brasilian beers though, Bohemia. :)

It was a fabulous evening of food and fellowship with some wonderful people. As we laid in bed last night with our bellies stuffed, we talked about how blessed we are and how, despite there being no football, no parades, no day off work, and no family around (and being short one place setting/chair for our party of nine and speaking only Portuguese), it wasn't too shabby of a Thanksgiving Day!

Now, if only I can remember (or rather, have the self-control) to not eat so much on Sunday when we do it all over again at my friend's house - in English!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Or Feliz Dia de Ação de Graças)

We've got much to be thankful for, not the least of which is the little gift we'll get to meet in just a few more months! It's been an awesome year for Eric and me, and we're especially thankful for all the wonderful people in our life: friends and family, those near and far, known in real life and known only in blog-land, our life has been enriched by all of you.

It's t-minus 5 hours until guests start arriving. All the food is prepped, descriptive labels created, and house scrubbed down. It'll just be a matter of baking everything and getting it on the table now! And I probably need a shower somewhere in there too. (And maybe if I'm real lucky on this Turkey Day, the plumber will show back up as promised and finish fixing the leak in the second guest bathroom . . . but if I were a gambling woman I'd bet that we'll be operating with just one guest bathroom tonight.)

Happy Thanksgiving to all and enjoy this time with family and friends! I'll be back tomorrow with a full report on my first Thanksgiving Dinner and the Brasilian reaction to all our fabulously different food.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Move Over Matha -

Stewart, that is.

This week is proving to be, um, busy. It's one of my favorite weeks of the year: Thanksgiving. Something about the anticipation of the delicious meal (on a Thursday, none the less), the shopping, the football, the parades, the decorating for Christmas, and the lead-in to the wonderful holiday season . . . it just gets me all excited and this year has been no different. In all fairness, I must admit that we bought and decorated a Christmas tree 2 weeks ago, a tradition usually saved for Thanksgiving weekend for me, but since we leave here December 12 to head north, we figured we'd better go ahead and get a jump on it. (Well that and we're just sort of dorks and we get all giddy about Christmas. We put on some Christmas music and sang carols while putting up our tree one hot evening in early November.)

And you know, it's probably a good thing we got the tree thing done already because I might not have the energy to do it after our festivities this week.

Last year around this time, we were talking up Thanksgiving and explaining the tradition to our friends down here. We told them that this year we'd have a big traditional Thanksgiving Dinner and have them over. So this week has been full of preparations for tomorrow night's event. And I've been pretty pumped over the whole deal. Back home, my Grandma does an awesome meal for Thanksgiving - and she pretty much doesn't except help in that department. (As I recall, a few years ago the rest of the family offered to start helping so she didn't have to do so much, so she turned over desserts to everyone else. But I swear she still always has a couple pumpkin pies, pecan pies, and maybe a cake or two sitting around when we arrive. She is who I credit (blame?) for my love of cooking and my 'you can never have too much food' mentality. You really should see how she whips out meals for my entire extended family!)

Anyway, this is the first Thanksgiving meal I get to cook, so that excites me. And then, as I started gathering my recipes and preparing the menu, it occurred to me that making an American Thanksgiving Dinner in Brasil would prove rather difficult. Well, not so much difficult as time consuming and dish-dirtying. Take for example, green bean casserole. One of the absolutely simplest of all my Thanksgiving staples, really not much too it at all. Then take away cream of mushroom soup in a can. Now I find myself making a cream soup from scratch to use in my recipe. Then let's talk dressing. Cornbread dressing is simple enough: cornbread crumbs, biscuit crumbs, chicken broth . . . oh wait. You can't buy chicken broth. So I buy some chicken, add some water and veggies and spices, and simmer that for several hours before straining it so that I have some broth to use in my dressing and to make the homemade noodles (also a staple for Eric and me). And pumpkin pie, well, no canned pumpkin. So here I go roasting, peeling, scraping, and pureeing pumpkin . . . I think you get the picture. I feel a bit like I'm making Thanksgiving in the year 1802. Except with things like Kitchen-Aid mixers, Cuisinart food processors, Caphalon cookware, gas stoves . . . but other than that, I'm pretty darn sure this is how my Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandma must have done it.

So everyday this week I have spent a large chunk of my day in the kitchen preparing the ingredients I need to prepare my Thanksgiving feast. And then washing the mountain of dishes that I've dirtied in the process. And my poor refrigerator - it is so jammed full right now, it's not even funny.

But I am having fun!

On top of my Thanksgiving Dinner hosted for some of our Brasilian friends, we were invited to do Thanksgiving with an American friend of mine and her family on Sunday. So I get to whip up some of the most traditional dishes that Eric and I just must have for it to be Thanksgiving and share a meal with some other Americans, along with some Canadian friends too! I'm really looking forward to it since I will be able to call everything by it's actual name instead of some made up Portuguese version I created to try and explain what I am feeding everyone!

And just because it'd be a shame to run out of things to do this week, the language school where I teach is having a special 'Around the World' event on Saturday morning for all of our students. I was assigned to be a beer wench, I mean waitress, at the German station where students will visit a "restaurant" to practice their verbal skills by conversing with the 'wait staff' and ordering their sausage and potatoes. (Being pretty much the only blonde at the school, I feel I was totally type-cast for the spot!) It's going to be fun, but I have to be in costume. I went to a local costume rental shop and was excited to find they had a German-girl outfit. However, it was apparently designed to fit a 5'2" tall woman weighing roughly 105 pounds. Needless to say, I proceeded on to a fabric shop and now I am sewing my own costume - without a pattern. (Oh, I soooo can't work without a pattern!!!) We'll see how that turns out.

So, if you'll excuse me now, I have biscuits to make and crumble for my dressing. And pie crust to roll out. And the floors still need mopped. And that stack of material has yet to transform itself into a dress. I think I'm going to put on my domestic goddess apron now and get back to my Suzie Homemaker duties . . . or maybe just crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and hide until Monday . . . I haven't decided which yet. ;)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Halfway There!

We hit the 20 week mark this weekend, so I am officially at the halfway point of leasing out my body to Z Baby. And I know it has a long way to go still, but Z Belly is growing right along with the little munchkin these days!

We had a doctor's appointment last week and everything is still looking great. All was fine and well during my exam and the doctor said I looked good and was measuring right on target. But when she went to write my current weight on my chart and noticed my weight gain up to this point, she immediately became concerned with how much I was gaining. By the Brasil standards, I've already gained half the weight I am supposed to gain during pregnancy. (I encourage you to look above again to see how ridiculous that standard can be . . . you will notice I am still wearing my jeans at 5 months pregnant . . . and they are still buttoned.) I think there's going to be a lot of smiling and nodding during the next 20 weeks as I get lectured by my doctor on the dangers of 'excessive' weight gain, namely: stretch marks (insert horror movie scream here).

I am feeling really great and pretty much normal these days. Last week I finally decided that I have indeed been feeling Z Baby moving around. The movements were faint and so few and far between that I wasn't sure at first. But the last week it has become pretty obviously what I'm feeling!

We have a morphological (level 2) ultrasound scheduled for next week on Tuesday, so I should have more baby updates and pictures to share then.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Festival da Jabuticaba

Portuguese Word of the Day: Jabuticaba (it's pronounced like ja-bu-chee-CA-ba)
Say it out loud. It's a really fun word to say. I've been bouncing around the house repeating it over and over for a couple weeks now. And it still makes me smile.

Thanks to a reader's suggestion, Eric and I journeyed over to Sabará last Sunday to check out the Festival da Jabuticaba. Sabará is a smaller city on the edge of Belo Horizonte. From what I could tell, there doesn't seem like there would be a lot going on if it were a normal day. But bring in tons of fresh Jabuticaba (which is most likened to a muscadine grape except with really tough, bitter-tasting skin), along with lots of products featuring the fruit, and hoards of people from all around converge on this town.

After sitting in lots of traffic entering the city, giving up and parking on the edge of town, walking to the festival site, waiting in line to pay our entry fee and get inside, we finally made it in just in time to be informed that they had run out of fresh jabuticaba, but they were working on obtaining more. We got there just a little bit after opening time Sunday morning and the festival was scheduled to go until the evening, but apparently the first ones in were serious jabuticaba lovers and did some major mowing down of the fruit in less than 2 hours. Below are the sad, empty tents where crates of jabuticaba were supposed to waiting for all to enjoy.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, but man was it hot! People were packed in anywhere they could find some shade. And the only open spots around were the areas in full sun. (Also, if you look around the base of the tree in the picture below you will notice a pile of purplish-black jabuticaba skins. Most people seem to just eat the sweet insides and toss the bitter skin.)

Luckily for us, despite the lack of fresh fruit, there was no shortage of delicious treats made with jabuticaba. Inside the building at the site, vendors were set up giving away samples and selling all sorts of goodies containing jabuticaba: jelly, wine, syrup, juice, liquor, pastries, cakes, candies, truffles, along with my two personal favorites, slushies and homemade ice cream. I would have never thought to make ice cream with jabuticaba, but it was incredible! And quite a hit on such a hot day! We ended up purchasing our fair share of treats to consume on the spot and we sampled tons from everyone's booths. We ended up coming home with a jar of jelly which is really to die for. I have missed having homemade jelly so much since moving here, as I didn't bring all my supplies to make my own.

After filling our bellies, we didn't stick around much longer although we would have liked to hear the bands that were scheduled to play later in the afternoon. My body isn't so content in the heat these days, so we made our way back home and spent the rest of the day in the pool at the clube. Being that most buildings around here (including our apartment) don't have air conditioning, we are really thankful to live so close to the clube. Sometimes the only way to get cool on those sweltering days is to flop around in the pool for awhile!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Diversions . . .

Because I need to be mopping my floors, but this seemed like more fun.

According to the Routan Babymaker 3000,


+ Daddy


A kid with weird eyes, big ears, and a goofy grin. I will admit the big nose is probably right though. Lawsie mercy . . . let's hope the Babymaker 3000 isn't over accurate.

Meanwhile, if you have floors you want to avoid mopping today . . . go on over here, enter in some Mommy and Daddy pictures of your own, and have some fun. (You can thank me later Dear for not trying out a Brad Pitt Daddy picture - though the thought did cross my mind after seeing this! hehehehe)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Everything Just . . . Works

Someone down here was telling us not too long ago that he loved traveling to the US. When we inquired as to what he enjoyed so much, he thought for a minute and said, "Everything is so . . . I mean, everything there just . . . just works." Since we were not completely sure what he meant, he went on to give us several examples. And the more I've thought about his comments lately, I am really looking forward to our trip back in December/January. I'm really looking forward to things just "working".

One of the things he mentioned was the way people will line up and do things so orderly. He was amazed in the mall food court when people were forming single-file lines behind each cash register instead of all squeezing in around the counter and trying to get the cashier's attention so they can place their order next. The four-way stop concept was impressive to him too; everyone actually stops and then one at a time they proceed through the intersection.

He also talked about how things generally weren't broken but that if they did break, they were immediately repaired or taken care of. The roads were in such great shape. A broke down car gets towed quickly rather than sitting in the middle of the road blocking traffic for hours. Stores' bar code scanners work, along with their credit card machines. And he also liked how everyone in the service industry wants to do whatever it takes to keep the customer happy.

Eric and I have had especially bad luck with things breaking/not functioning properly/bad customer service, some of my favorite examples lately include:

- Yesterday while in the recording studio, the camera man and I started smelling something burning - something very electrical smelling. Turns out, the fuse box had a small fire in it, but no big deal (to anyone other than me). The A/C unit got wiped out, but they assured me there was no problem with the camera or lights. I had to continue recording without air. With the lighting system in the studio, it quickly got up above 40 degress C (105 F) in our little sound-proof room. I required a lot of make-up touch-ups!

-The pump at a gas station mysteriously stopped working after we had received just about 1/3 of a liter of alcohol in our tank. The attendant just sort of shrugged and said she didn't know what the problem was, but that our total was 55 centavos.

-After waiting for almost an hour to ship a small box at the post office, I had my turn, filled out all the paperwork, and then their credit card machine wouldn't work. It had been like that all day they said, but they were sure if I came back in a half hour it would be working again. So I did, waited again for my turn, but then once again the machine didn't work. They suggested I just try coming back the following day. I ended up going and pulling out cash from an ATM several blocks away, but in the end it had taken nearly 3 hours just to send a piece of mail.

-At the grocery store recently I was excited to finally find a frozen turkey breast (frozen turkeys are hard to come by around here!) I wanted to buy one, but there were only two left - one had a tear in the packaging and the other one had a smeared price tag/bar code. We ended up taking the latter, and alerting the cashier that there was another one still in the cooler with a readable price tag if he needed it for the price. He sent someone else to the meat department with my turkey and they came back with the other one. After pointing out the tear and exposed meat and explaining we chose the other one for a reason, the cashier sent a manager to the back with this opened turkey. She returned empty handed and said the other one had an unreadable price tag. After asking if they could just enter in the price using the good tag, she informed us that they couldn't because it was based on weight. We suggested that they weigh my turkey then and determine the price using the posted price per kilo, but we were informed that would be impossible. Eric then suggested that they just sell us the turkey for the price of the opened one then. They said they couldn't do that because there was a couple reais difference in the price. Eric calmly and politely told them that that seemed to him like the store's problem, not ours and that we just wanted to be able to pay them for our turkey. And at this point we had the cashier and the manager just looking at us as if we were crazy. I commented to them that it seemed to me like this was an easy enough situation to handle. And the manager offered to sell us the turkey that was opened. We once again expressed our concern over the tear and the exposed meat and asked them if they could please find a way to charge us for the turkey breast we wanted. The manager just said it wasn't possible and walked away. The cashier gave us an apologetic look and said, "Difícil, né?" (Difficult, huh?) As the crazy hormones that inhibit me from having patience these days took over, I just shook my head and told him that actually, no, it really should be quite simple, nothing difficult about it.

-We ordered an espeto (kabob) of chicken at a restaurant along with a couple small side dishes. When our food came out, the waiter used a fork to push the chicken off the espeto and onto a serving dish. Of the six pieces of grilled chicken on the stick, two of them went flying off and landed on the floor. The waiter smiled, apologized, and finished putting the other four pieces on the dish in front of us. Two-thirds of the meat we ordered ended up on the floor, so we were certain the waiter would be bringing us some more at any moment. But we finished the meal with the remainder of our chicken at our feet under the table. We asked for the check, thinking that there would just be an adjustment to our bill, but instead we found that we had indeed been charged the full amount for our meal and the server had still added on the optional 10% service tax (tip). The bill wasn't high and we just paid it, but we still have to laugh about it!

Poor service, technical problems, and such can certainly be a universal problem, but here everyone just always seems so complacent and laid back about it! (I have mellowed a lot living here, but I'm still not nearly as care-free as the locals!) While I have certainly experienced things just generally being more complicated to accomplish here than back in the US, I had never thought of it in terms of "things just work" there. But my Brasilian friend may be on to something with his observation!

I can't wait to see what my reactions are after being away for an entire year. I'm quite certain though that there will be a pretty equal mix of things that I find I've missed while I've been away from the US and things that I will be excited to get back to in Brasil!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A New Appreciation for News Anchors

So who knew reading from a teleprompter for six hours could be so exhausting?!?

Living in a place with few foreigners works to your advantage sometimes. Besides the teaching gig (which I whole-hearted believe and admit takes more than just an ability to speak a language!) I landed, and followed by the English textbook editing job I picked up, I was recently asked by the publishers of the textbooks to do some recording. The instructional material package will include a student textbook, teacher's edition book, CD with listening exercises and a DVD with listening/watching opportunities (which I think is great because it is so much easier to learn to pronounce words and to understand a foreign language when you can see the speaker's mouth). I originally understood that I was just going to be doing voice recording, but it was actually about 5 hours of video and just 1 hour of voice-only.

They had me set up for a six-hour session at a local recording studio, and I really didn't think it sounded like that big of a deal. But WOW! Standing perfectly still for hours reading off a teleprompter under intensely bright (and hot) lights with a half-inch thick layer of "camera make-up" on and trying to avoid making funny faces as my eyes grew tired or scratching the itch behind my left ear was amazingly exhausting! Thank goodness for the frequent wardrobe changes or else I really would have died standing in one spot so long!

And then there is the part where it was vitally important that I pronounce each word precisely correct and clearly. And have I mentioned that my southern accent really starts making a re-appearance when I start getting tired. They saved the "pronunciation practice" section as one of the last things we recorded . . . it might be safe to assume that there will be a certain portion of the next generation of Brasilian English-speakers with a southern drawl. My sincerest apologies y'all.

But holy cow, I have a brand new appreciation for all people who spend their days on camera: news anchors, reporters, even TV/movie actors and actresses. (Maybe they're not as overpaid as I've always thought!) Meanwhile, it turns out that this great-paying recording stuff is actually just paying what it is worth. By the time I pay for the massages I'm needing to recover from yesterday's session . . .

There are still a few sessions left to go for me, so I'm hoping I toughen up a little for the next round. And I really hope we finish up the recording before my belly grows much more!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Night at the Ballet

We had an awesome Saturday night date going out to supper and to see the Moscow City Ballet perform The Nutcracker.

Getting ready took me extra time Saturday as I struggled to find a dress that was flow-y enough around the waist to avoid highlighting what really looks these days like a middle-aged man's beer belly. (And I might regret saying it, but I am really ready to look more 'pregnant' and less just 'fluffy around the middle'.) It had been a while since we got dressed up to go somewhere, so it was a nice change of pace! I think Eric had forgotten what I look like with make-up on (beyond the obligatory daily mascara and lip gloss routine.)

And oh, how I love these shoes! I could wear a dress everyday, just so I could wear these shoes. Of course, with the hills around these parts and the amount of walking I do, my feet and legs and back would probably go on strike . . .

The ballet was absolutely incredible! I had never seen the Moscow City Ballet perform before, but I had read a good bit about them. Their costumes were supposed to be fabulous, and they didn't disappoint one bit. My favorite outfit came from the crowd though. (Please forgive me, but I would be remiss if I didn't fully report on the evening.)

So that's how you pull off black shoes with a white dress! The view from behind was especially stunning with a low cut back on the dress and an ecru-colored bra cutting right across the middle of her back.

And back to the ballet - it was great. The sets were amazing, the costumes perfect, the ballerinas tee-tiny with thighs the size of my upper arm, the men stunning in tights with leg muscles rippling (not that I noticed, but that's what I heard), and, despite it being a really, really long time since I took ballet, I would dare say their form was impeccable! It was two hours and R$200 well spent! They didn't allow photography, but I did manage to sneak in a couple at the end.

But the picture quality wasn't so great, so here . . . I borrowed one from their website to share with you.

I wasn't completely sure how much Eric would enjoy his first ballet, but he tolerated it well! He probably would have had an even better time if they had turned on the A/C for more than 30 seconds though - the poor guy sweat through the entire thing! Afterwards, I asked what he thought. He said it was alright and he'd pay about 20 bucks to see it again. And although he didn't like the scenes where there were 40 dancers on the stage all running around, he did like watching the pairs dance. He was especially impressed with the guy and girl featured in the picture above. "You know that part where he lifted her over his head and held her up there with one hand and then swooped her down and her head almost hits the floor? That was pretty cool - we should try that when we get home." With images of Emily cracking her head on the living room stone flooring and Eric with a serious back injury, I reminded him about the part where my ankle is larger than her thigh . . .

I do think it would be best if I didn't make him watch any more ballet or pair figure skating with me for the next several months though lest he get any other great ideas. (Hmmm, maybe that was his intention all along. The guy might be smarter than I give him credit for . . .)

Friday, November 7, 2008


Last weekend we decided to make the 4 hour road trip North to Diamantina, Minas Gerais. We left Saturday morning and arrived in the colonial mining town around lunchtime. It's a bit more remote than many of Minas Gerais' other colonial cities, but it was well worth the effort to get there. It is situated among steep mountains with a decidedly unique rockiness to them. Diamond mining was the most common activity here in the 1700's and the city is quite rich in history.

Halfway there Saturday morning we realized that neither one of us had grabbed the camera - thank goodness for camera phones or else we would have walked away from the weekend pictureless!

Like all the historical towns, there are some really pretty churches.

This is the pousada we stayed at. It is in a historical building and has its own museum and plenty of antique furniture.

Casa da Glória is one of the famous landmark buildings in Diamantina. Built on both sides of the street and connected by this enclosed passageway, the extremely large house was built for the diamond supervisors to live in. Today it is a geology institute. You are able to tour parts of it now and it is amazingly huge!

A shot of Diamantina from high on a hilltop.

Back in the 1700's when diamond, gold, and gemstone mining was booming in Minas Gerias, there was a need for a road connecting all the mining towns to the coast. (The Portuguese king needed to be able to get all his goodies.) Part of the old road has been reconstructed just outside of Diamantina. It's called Caminho dos Escravos, which translates to Road of the Slaves. It, rather obviously, gets its name from the fact that the stone-paved path through the mountainous landscape was built with slave labor.

Before we left to head back on Sunday afternoon, we headed over to Parque Estadual de Biribiri. After driving a long time on winding, rough dirt roads, crossing several rickety old bridges, and finding out just how much the Punto is not built for off-paved-road adventures, we parked and walked across this bridge and down a path to a waterfall. (Be not afraid of the foot bridge - it seemed much sturdier than many of the structures we drove across.)

And here we arrive at Cachoeira dos Cristais. It was wonderfully serene with only the sound of the splashing water. We didn't go for a swim, since we were going to have to drive 4+ hours home afterwards, but it would have been awesome! The water was nice and cool and the air temperature was about 187 degrees. (Use whatever units you want on that - man it was HOT!)

After the waterfall, we continued on to the historical town of Biribiri. (Which you totally need to hear a Minereiro say to completely enjoy the name. I am grinning now just thinking about the big ol' park ranger saying it as he told us about the area on our way into the park!) It's a tiny little, supposedly quite historical, city, but I haven't been able to find out a lot about its history. There is one itty bitty restaurant there though and we sat at a table out in the grass under a shade tree and enjoyed some pot roast before heading home.

We've both totally been in a traveling/exploring mood lately and so we've been trying to get out of Belo Horizonte and take some little weekend trips while we easily can. The fact that I'll be entering my last trimester when we return from our holidays in the US has us feeling a little like our window of opportunity for just getting up and going at the drop of a hat is diminishing a bit! :)

I'm not sure what all this weekend will hold in store for us, but I think we'll stick around town. My Hubby Dearest has graciously agreed to take me to O Quebra-Nozes (The Nutcracker) performed by the Moscow City Ballet Company which is in BH this Saturday and Sunday! (And the Orquestra Sinfônica de Minas Gerais will be playing too.) I haven't seen The Nutcracker in years and I think it's pretty safe to assume Eric has never seen it - so I am really excited! Is it too early to sign Z Baby up for ballet? I think it is going to take me back to my days of dance classes and ballet recitals and then I'll start missing it and then I'll remember that I'm about to have a daughter and hey oh yea I can live vicariously through her. Hmmm, I do hope my kid wants to take ballet . . .

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Disappointment

Eric and I got up at 3:00 this morning and jumped online quickly to see if there were any election results. I wish I had stayed in bed.

The one thing that I have always appreciated more than any other about Americans is our personal self-reliance. I've always been taught that if you want things better and you want more for your life, then you personally need to go out and do what it takes to make that happen. And I thought that was the true American spirit. So maybe you can understand my disappointment with the current "change". Fifty-two percent of Americans cast their presidential vote yesterday for a man whose campaign has been based on promises of all the money he will spend and all the things he is going to give each of us (and supposedly at no additional cost to us, I might add, since I suppose money just appears spontaneously now.) {insert heavy sigh here} When did handouts become the American Dream?

And beyond the policies and political theories of our president-elect, which I disagree with 99% of the time, I have a host of concerns over the moral values of our next leader. I have a really hard time trusting a man who defends the practice of placing a baby, who ends up delivered alive during a late term abortion attempt, on a shelf where he/she will then die of neglect. Or a man who says that he would not want his daughters to be "punished with a baby". When that is the value placed on the most innocent of human life, how am I to confidently entrust the safety or security of anything or anyone to him?

I couldn't go back to sleep last night after seeing the elections results. I tossed and turned and prayed to God to have mercy and bless the nation that I love. I've been respectful of other's opinions and am glad to have been raised in a democracy where we get to choose our leader. And while there wasn't a candidate I was just totally enamored with, this particular man which our nation has chosen leaves me less than joyful and a bit frightful. The gloomy, overcast weather today is rather fitting for my mood.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Happy Halloween, Now Take Off That Hat

Did you know that there is a mall policy against wearing witch's hats at Pátio Savassi (the closest mall to us here in Belo Horizonte?)

Well, neither did we. And apparently there is no exception for Halloween either. And this is the reason my husband and I nearly got thrown out by and/or in a fight with one hugamongous security guard who looked a lot more 'secret service' than 'mall security'.

Last year we were around for Halloween and decided to be all American and get a little dressed up - nothing too much - and go have supper at TGIFriday's which is in Pátio Savassi. It was a lot of fun, since that was the one place in the city where other people were dressed up and celebrating Halloween. This year we really wanted to go back again and indulge in a little 'Americaness'.

Last week we were lacking any great creativity so we went the boring route and just used our 'costumes' from last year which consisted only of a hat and elf-like ears for Eric and devil horns and elf-like ears for me.

We parked and walked through the mall to get to TGIFriday's - picking up a lot of strange looks along the way. But once we reached the restaurant, we found the place full of people and most everyone was in costume! After consuming a not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-yummy supper of ribs, wings, and onions rings, we decided to go walk around the mall for a while and let our supper settle. By this time we had taken off the ears, since they were hard to keep on, and just had on our Halloween headwear. After walking for a while, someone (I'd hate to incriminate anyone here) really wanted a milkshake, so we headed down to the food court.

Just as we rounded the corner to the food court, we ran into Mr. Hugamongous Security Guy. Mr. HSG said something to Eric that I didn't quite hear, but Eric chuckled and smiled and replied back with something along the lines of "Oh really, and why is that?" (but in Portuguese of course.) Mr. HSG didn't break his very serious expression as he said, "It's mall policy." Still thinking the guy was kidding with us, Eric asked laughing, "Hmmm. Interesting. So there's a no-witches-hat rule on the books, huh?" And our not-so-friendly HSG responded with, "You can't wear fantasy hats in the mall. It's mall policy." I guess it was about now that it occurred to us he was serious. Eric, now a bit annoyed, said, "Look, today's Halloween. Have you been up to TGIFriday?"

And with that we were about to continue on our mission to the milkshake, when Mr. HSG said in a much louder voice now, "You can't stay in the mall if you keep the hat on." Eric shook his head and took the hat off and was saying something to the guy about how ridiculous this is, while I, not so happy about being stalled on my quest to get a milkshake (for Eric, he wanted the milkshake, you know) noticed a teenage boy in a gaggle of teenagers walking towards us with a rather funky-looking hat on. (Not a Halloween hat or anything, just a rather odd looking hat.) In my frustration with the hold-up, I pointed at the kid and told the HSG that he might better go talk to that kid, he looked like trouble with that hat on and all. (Hey, I know, very 1st-grader of me . . . but I've got a whole host of excuses as to why I can't be held accountable for what I say or do when someone comes between me and anything involving ice cream!) Mr. HSG looked at me as if I had lost my mind, so I motioned towards the teenager again. He took one look at the kid, one look at me, shook his head and said, "You need to remove your hat too."

Now I'm not sure if one could be strangled with a headband or not, but if it hadn't been for Eric grabbing my hand and reminding me about the milkshake that was merely steps away . . .