Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Goodnight to you O

Oprah has brought stories to my living room that shake me, break me and then put me back together again by the end of an hour. She exposed hardship I would have never known about in this world and provided faith when it was needed most. Thanks to her I know a small bit about the Freedom Riders, the child rape epidemic around the world, the history of AIDS and how in the beginning some people thought you could get it from touching someone, that they may appear perfect but everybody struggles with something, to give back, to chase your dreams, that girls can run the world...

She's one of the last long standing people in media today, so there is a comfort to turning on her show knowing she will always be there on her couch showing you something new wherever you are in the world. When I first moved to Brazil besides all the Law and Order on all the time, she was syndicated on GNT in the afternoons. I didn't know anyone yet, have a job or anything to do so I would wander the neighborhood and organize my day around her show because it was my little piece of home. I could connect back to my friends at home that watched and we shared a common thread even though I was thousands of miles away. 

In Chicago, our old apartment was in the west loop about 3 blocks from her studio. I used to watch the crowds gather for her shows sometimes and submit requests for tickets over and over to no avail.  Its hard to imagine how that neighborhood has changed in the last few decades from meat packing to trendy, how the world as changed from big 80s pouf hair to ipads while she held court. 

Tomorrow we say goodbye to a legend, a voice and a smile. You may not love her or care that she's gone from the daily routine but either way she's made an impact on your world in some facet. Be it through books, charity or important discussions that needed to be public opening the minds of the world to better understand. I dont know where else you can witness a old KKK member apologize to the black man he nearly beat to death some 50 years ago, it was the first apology that man had ever received. Or where you can witness 200 men in one room all admit to surviving childhood sexual abuse, sometimes for the first time to their wife of 20 years. Or how one little 12 year old named Mattie who spent his life in a wheelchair, worked to change the world into a better place before he left. 

Oprah, here's to the millions of lives you have touched thus far, may your best days still be yet to come! 

Ill leave you with some of the memorable things she said over the years:

"Turn your wounds into wisdom"
"The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate." 
"True forgiveness is when you can say, "Thank you for that experience." 
"Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not." 
"You get in life what you have the courage to ask for."
"Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment"  

(west loop by her studio in chicago)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Coco Fabulous

There are a few things here that Brazilians try and adopt from the US that just... get a little lost in the translation. I can't say that they fail because they are rather successful businesses but they certainly lack in the taste department. One of those is cupcakes (another is the Hooters chain here, the wings are nasty!). One would think its hard to make a bad cupcake, but indeed its very possible. And popping up all over town are 'cupcakeries!' Lucky for us cupcake snots, we got one of our own down here now whipping up an american challenge.

Ole Theo is a mighty cute Great Dane and Sophie's mom is the whisk behind the magic. I decided to give Sophie and Theo's Cupcakes a shot for my husbands birthday and they didn't let me down! I wanted to take a few pictures of these delicious concoctions but we devoured them to fast to remember. His favorite flavors are coconut and lemon/lime so we tried the "Coco-Limao," and they were every bit as good as the ones up north. You can even have a little Brazilian american cupcake with their "Cupirinha" flavor.  So when you get a little homesick for the good stuff that just can't be recreated any other way give them a call and you will find yourself with some very american cupcakes!

Check them out here: http://www.saopaulocupcakes.com/

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wussy Club

I have joined the ranks of the wussy club. Its officially winter here and while it may have only touched the 40 degree mark like a finger on a hot oven, I've honored that and broken out my very own chicago hot oven. Yes, the head to toe puffy jacket is out of the box and ready for a new adventure right here in my casa brasiliera.

When we were apartment shopping back in late November the weather was classic Brazil. What you might imagine Brazil always to be. I never even thought to look for heating and cooling units because there was a steady breeze and lots of windows. Who'd a thought those windows and breeze would actually later become a hinderance to my comfort level on the couch!

So word to the wise, Sao Paulo has seasons. And no, most apartments do not have heating and cooling abilities, rather they sell a lot of fans and space heaters. Luckily my next trip home is soon and I plan to purchase and import a few space heaters.

My days of living like a puff ball inside might by numbered but as far as outside goes I feel its just the beginning. What happened to my tough Chicago skin? This jacket was for the -10degree days I fought the 50mph winds to the bus stop in... and here it is 46 outside (and inside) and I am blue!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pontiac Bystander

The other day I was waiting for the bus on a lovely warm evening. The cars were backing up way down the block and one rolls up right in front of me full of guys ready to hit the town on a Tuesday. Windows rolled down, cuff links shiny and hair slicked back they were rollin tight in a Pontiac. Yes, a Pontiac. Actually in Brazil I think its pronounced phonetically, Ponchiacky, which is even more fashionable. See in the US girls would laugh, but in Brazil they blush. Thats because while this brand might have been out of business since 2009, at one time it was incredibly expensive. Cars hold their value in Brazil much better than in the US because they are a lot more expensive and naturally most people take good care of them. Got yourself a toyota corolla? honda civic? yep, you are a baller in Brazil!

Regardless I smiled at them, thinking only in Brazil are you a badass for driving a pontiac(y).

Friday, May 06, 2011

Hello May.

my new favorite picture

Hello May and Hello Chilly weather. It was a good thing the MIL stuck around long enough to still enjoy some Brazilian summer. We headed to the beach for her last weekend here and boy was it ever so maravilhoso. We have friends that head to the beach often usually checking the weather beforehand and it may look hot and sunny but then I see their poor facebook uploads and its gloomy and rainy. The beach is only about 2 hours away but you drop about 3000ft in elevation so you really can jump between climates. Originally the plan was to see Maresias and after reading O Jeito Brasileiro's blog I thought we would try a pousada she recommended. But, we had dinner plans at Manaca, which is in Camburi (about 20 km closer than Maresias) so we stopped there first. In the end we got to talking with some people and scrapped our idea of going on a little further and just decided to stay at a place near the restaurant with a golf cart shuttle to the beach. It was already 10am so it was silly to waste more time in the car on such a gorgeous day. I was a little bummed since this will probably be one of the last beach trips of the season and I was eager to try something new, but Camburi doesn't disappoint. Our pousada was just what we needed for one night but it was covered in ants. Ants everywhere, in my bags and on my wet hanging bathing suit. I know its par for the course but I thought it was a little extreme so I don't think I will be recommending. I cant believe I am even complaining about anything to do with the beach though, my american friends would slap me!

Once on the beach I realized again how much I love living here. Paradise (minus ants) is only a quick drive away and since it's fall, Brasilians have already started their retreat to the interior for weekend vacations leaving the beaches empty. Yet, it was still 80 degrees and lovely, maybe we were lucky, maybe just smart to take in one last opportunity for our feet to taste the sand.

If you haven't tried Manaca, you must add it to your list. Its pricey so beware but I don't think you will be disappointed. I had only been for drinks before with friends so I really wanted to show it off to Alex and his mom as a special send off dinner. They were awe struck. If it sounds familiar, Anthony Bourdain featured it as one of his Sao Paulo stops on his show, "No Reservations." Here is a snippet if you missed it.... It was a great chance for the MIL to try Moqueca and while I have had it in SP and was told it was the best in the city (its a Bahian dish), it was nothing like her dish. She wanted to lick the plate... as did I once my fish-grilled-in-Banana-leaves had quickly disappeared off my plate. Its hard to photograph the restaurant at night with a small camera and looking back I should have at least taken a picture of my insane dessert but the time was better spent eating, laughing and taking in the beautiful amazonian atmosphere.

Yet another amazing trip. I think we are done with traveling for a little while, looking forward to relaxing at home and getting back to our Saturday market then cook a fresh feast routine, but my oh my the things you see when you step outside this city! As Anthony Bourdain says, "Life does not suck."

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The falls of all falls

There is just something majestic about water. It’s power, it’s fury and it’s dashing humid spirit. I have never been to see the great Niagara Falls but I imagine it must also just steal the breath right out of you. These falls however, like distinguished water curtains standing defiantly in their natural mold were simply awe striking. Alone one evening I stood there staring, my mind playing tricks as though it were a painting. The colors of the sun dipping into the Jurassic park scene glowed in stunning silence.

One of the benefits of staying in the only hotel within the park are the evenings and early mornings. The park opens at 8am so if you are an early bird you can run down and catch the fresh light peeping over the falls without being pushed and crammed. At five o’ clock the park closes and all the tour buses scamper away like mice retreating to the walls. While Alex and his mother enjoyed the sunset perched atop the terrace with a glass of wine, I wandered down the gentle slope with my camera and spent the sunset in silence. Not 30 minutes before there were thousands of people trying to squeeze their way to the front for the perfect picture where I later stood solo.

I checked the weather the morning we arrived and the first day seemed to be the best so we dropped our bags and headed out for a day of adventures. First stop, a boat ride down the river past the Argentinean side of the falls for pictures and then literally straight into them for a Disneyworld like experience. Fortunately for us we hadn’t read that just three weeks before, a similar boat flipped as it went into the falls killing 2 Americans, one my age and the other my mother in law’s. We were a bit freaked out when we found out a few hours later, but were glad we had gone because had we known before we never would have. And well… it was really fun!  A few hours later we headed for the heliport to discover the area from above.

A quick 10 minute tour seems like plenty but once we were up in the air I could have stared down for hours. We shared our helicopter with a very attractive French family of 5 boys so when I say we could have stayed up there for hours/days I’m not kidding. MIL and I were gawking and poor Alex wished they’d had sisters.

The next few days were spent relaxing and to our luck the weather was perfect and the beautiful French family was staying in our hotel.  Friday was spent at the pool and for the first time since Christmas it really felt like we were on vacation. I chased butterflies with my camera and Alex and his mother soaked up some much needed sun. Alex may live in Brazil but he sure doesn’t look like it.

Saturday was our day to see the Argentinean side and by morning it had chilled down to the low 50’s and was pouring rain like the dickens.  We fought the good fight against the terrors of wind and rain and stayed true to plan, insisting to see this magnificent place from both sides. Soaked through, you could have poured a bucket full of water over my head and I wouldn’t have noticed. We trudged on across what felt like a mile of steel platforms exposing multiple tributaries each gaining more vigor than the one before and it was actually pretty scary. By the end it literally just dropped below us, more than 300 feet and witnessing the strength of the water so close below was soooo worth the pain. I have no idea why I brought my nice camera, poor Alex carried it like a baby all the way there and then I was too afraid to even take it out at the end. All in all Argentina has the more dramatic view whereas the Brazilian side is more beautiful. Both however are breathtaking in their own unique style and if you go, you must see each. 

Alex and his mom

On our way home to the hotel we had to make one important stop, a wine store. It was so incredibly cheap we stocked up for the plane home. Apparently you are allowed twelve bottles per person carry on. Back at the hotel we had a wonderful lunch of hamburgers with one of our new bottles while the rain still pelted on outside.  

For her first time to South America, MIL had only been in Brazil for a few days and she had seen one of the most beautiful places in Brazil and I think on earth. By the time we hopped back on the plane she had dipped her foot into Argentina, tried agua de Coco, a churrascaria, a few Caipirinhas, picanha and farofa and of course a good bit of the fabulous brazilian sun.  

Like sugar on my lips, this trip was divine.  

view from Brazilian side