Saturday, March 31, 2007

Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine.

Life changes. The comandante has retired from his pilot career. It doesn't mean he has stopped working, he still does plenty of consulting and 3 hour lunching. But it does mean that we are now free to take solid retirement action instead of just talking. The first action will be to move from Alto Leblon to lower Leblon. We will be taking over my son's beach apartment. The one I decorated and furnished just last year. We will be maintaining it as a second home while living in Europe. The consulting business will require a lot of shuttling back and forth between the 2 continents

We don't know exactly where to settle but most likely it will be in Portugal, the colorful and crazed country where we met exactly 4 years ago. I think I would prefer Italy or France but I'll take what I can get.* We do have good friends around Lisbon and the comandante has family around Porto. We love them.

*get = I will have a huge battle ahead of me. You see my husband has no idea who I really am. He met me in a city and thinks I am a city girl. He has no idea that I want olive trees, to make soap and jam and keep baby goats. His preference is something close to the corner hangout. My gentle plan is to seduce him with wine making friends, an exquisitely stocked wine cellar, and frequent invited guests.

No, that is not a Pannetone. It is a baby goat!

One of the nicest things in Brazil is the Pannetone. Typically it is a 2 or 3 step bread making process. Try this simple recipe in a bread making machine using the sweet bread cycle. Or double it for the normal baking process in your oven.

1/2 Cup Warm Milk
1/4 Cup Egg
2 1/8 Cups All-purpose Flour
4 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
5 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 Teaspoon Orange Peel
1 Teaspoon Lemon Peel
4 Tablespoons Raisins
3 Tablespoons Slivered Almonds
1 1/2 Teaspoons Yeast

OOOOOHHH! my pioneering heart. I'm also going to make candied orange peel to throw in the pannetone. Look here -

Monday, March 26, 2007


After 2.5 years we finally went to Mosteiro de São Bento to hear the Gregorian mass. Nearly half of the interior is covered in scaffolding blocking the entire visual effect of the gilt walls and paintings. It was beautiful but very typical of so many churches.We were warned to arrive at least an hour before. About 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the service the church was full. I took a photo of a side chapel and a beautiful step stool.

After 20 minutes we left, I was wondering If I was the only person who knew the 6 weak voices were not singing a Gregorian mass? Scratch this event off your "must do" list when in Rio. We instead went to see The Banco do Brazil's excellent pictorial history of engraving. Did you know that nearly every artist of note starting from the 15th century participated in this movement? There were some fine examples of Durer, Goya, Picasso, Morandi and Rembrandt. The works were from Dutch and Brazilian collections.

After the museum we drove from the center of the city to Barra. Chefe Valquiria had prepared a wonderful cabrito in the Portuguese fashion. It had been marinated for 24 hours in garlic and spearmint. We washed it down with Portuguese green wine. Marques, the maitre, posed with the chef.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Is it Sunday yet? Have the neighbors' parties stopped yet?

At the moment it is 3:15 and our neighbors' parties have woken me up. Note that I use the plural. Unable to go back to sleep I turn on the computer and again I am gazing out the window.

Some envious guy sent me a message from Australia, saying that all the partying here must be great. Only if you are 25 and happen to be invited to all the parties. Yes the cariocas do party. If they partied a little less and really took a look at their country maybe they could spend some "party" energy doing what normal people do. Like protesting in the streets, breaking windows, overturning cars, shooting politicians. Oh, I catch myself here, they do shoot politicians here, just not the right ones.

Speaking of the right ones: We read that Fernando Collor is thinking of running for president in 2010. In any other country he would still be in jail. Here in Brazil it is as if there aren't enough crooks, they recycle them. A very readable book on the true Brazil.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

If you stand at the window long enough, a blog idea comes by.

(See previous blog) Yes, all it takes is a bit of time and eventually something comes by. In this case an inspector. He is checking for loose tiles on the side of a 30 story building. It looks like his boss gave him a couple lengths of rope, a small wooden seat and a little hammer. He was swinging from side to side tapping the entire building. My husband had to go back into the living room because he became ill when he saw the guy swinging around like that.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why ex-pats are always buying new vacuums.

Vacuums were never all they promised to be. I think in 35 years of housekeeping I have purchased at least 10 different vacuums, some ended on the dump pile after one year, others needed replacement parts after 1 or 2 years, others never seemed to work, and all of them gave me headaches from the "exhaust dust" blown into the room.

I was happy to get away from wall to wall carpets that we love so dearly in the United States. I have fewer allergies and headaches in a carpet free environment. However I have 2 pricey collector carpets that I purchased in 1990 and they are being ruined by my housekeepers daily sweepings. So it was off to the vacuum store once again.

Besides the ridiculous tariffs and labor laws that drive up the purchase prices, the quality is a nightmare. The cheesiest sell for the equivalent of 100 to 300USD. Therefore, I will do what many of us do, we wait until our next trip to the US and smuggle as much consumer stuff as we can in our luggage. This time, I will be disguising a super quality Oreck cordless electric broom (99USD) as kilos of cocaine. This way I will have much less chance of being caught bringing contraband into Brazil.

The real reason I named this blog entry as I did is because just a while back my son and I sold our European vacuums for pittances because they were useless in Brazil. Voltage differences you know. Expats, poor us, are forced to dump all of our electric appliances at every move. Microwaves, blenders, toasters, lamps, telephones, hair dryers, ceramic irons, clothes irons, fax machines etc etc, all the stuff we Americans can't live without.

I have attempted to reduce my life expectations. Since I left Portugal I have not replaced my toaster and we have exactly one miserable lamp in the house. . . . . Just in case we move back to Europe.

The miserable lamp! Note where we used cellophane tape to place the control switch on the support. It was designed to be a floor control but they failed to use a foot switch. Our arms just didn't reach to the floor to move the finger switch.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Partying in Rio, November 2006

Last November we hosted a group of Americans visiting Rio. We took them straight away to the Centro Cultural Carioca.

It is a party every night of the week in the Lapa area of old Rio de Janeiro.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

What ever the political leanings of VOA, there are benefits to English learners

I know that the Voice of America programing has some questionable political history. Please put your feelings aside and visit their Special English area and recommend it to your English learner friends.

Three Elements Make Special English Unique

It has a core vocabulary of 1500 words. Most are simple words that describe objects, actions or emotions. Some words are more difficult. They are used for reporting world events and describing discoveries in medicine and science.

The writers use short, simple sentences that contain only one idea. They use active voice. They do not use idioms.

Special English broadcasters read at a slower pace, about two-thirds the speed of standard English. This helps people learning English hear each word clearly. It also helps people who are fluent English speakers understand complex subjects

With computer headphones the listener can read the stories and reports word for word. This is a wonderful tool that helps learners maintain exposure to clearly spoken American English.