Friday, October 17, 2014

Yummy Recipes, as Promised!

Back in September, we put together a little Brazilian-flavored get-together to visit with friends and family in the US.  It was awesome to see so many loved ones again and share this little bit of our family's culture with them!  I guess the food turned out pretty well, as I was asked for recipes by several people.  So, for those who requested recipes (and anyone else who would just like to try something new and fun), here they are:

First, the Cachorro Quente (Hot Dog) recipe that we used can be found here.  Apparently I enjoy it so much, I already posted it a while back! :)  

Now, the Pizzas!  Here is the Stroganoff recipe I make for the File com Batata Palha pizza (Filet with Potato Straws, as in Filet Mignon, but I used a cheaper meat cut).  

Tiago grilled the chicken wrapped in bacon American-style.
1 lb beef, cubed (the tenderer, the better)
1 Tablespoon flour
2 T butter
1 medium onion, chopped
Worcestershire Sauce
Salt & Pepper
Heavy Cream
Mushrooms (if desired)

In a medium bowl, mix the cubed meat with the flour and some salt and pepper.  It does not have to be totally coated, but usually has just a fine layer of flour on the outside before cooking.  Cook the onion in the butter until soft and a bit browned.  Then add meat and cook at medium-high until it is well-done on the outside (but don't cook TOO long or it will be tougher). Turn heat to low. Add mushrooms, about 1/2 cup ketchup, a couple tablespoons mustard, and about a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.  (Honestly, I don't usually measure these ingredients; I just keep adding until the sauce looks about right to me.  You can also add tomato sauce, either instead of or in addition to the ketchup.)  The resulting sauce will be mostly brownish with a hint of red.  Last, add about 1/2 cup heavy cream and mix well. Season with salt and pepper as desired, and once it is warm enough for your liking, remove from heat.  This recipe is AWESOME served over white rice, so sometimes I make it for lunch as is, and then another time use the left-overs to make the pizza.  

For the pizza, you can use whatever crust you prefer - homemade, store-bought, ... Just cook it most of the way through before adding this topping, or your crust will never fully cook.  Also, allow the stroganoff to cool before putting it on the crust.  Then top with potato straws, and bake for about 5-10 minutes.  Voila!  Enjoy your super-delicious meaty pizza.

Margarita Pizza - All it has is the pizza crust, topped with mozzarella cheese and sliced fresh tomatoes, then sprinkled with basil.  So simple, but I LOVE it!!

Corn Pizza - Lissie's personal favorite!  Again, just a crust, topped with Mozzarella Cheese and a can of corn.  Sprinkle with oregano, if you like.  

Pao de Queijo - This one I have also posted previously, again here.  But it is so yummy, it is worth repeating!  We found that the "Polvilho Azedo" actually is available to order through  It was called "Sour Starch" and here is a link to it on their site.  But if you're gonna go through the trouble to buy something online, you may just prefer to get the Cheese Bread mix here.  Either way, it is sooooo good!!!

Now, on to my personal favorites, the sweet stuff!  

Beijinhos (Little Kisses)

The dessert table - If only I had thought to take pictures BEFORE everyone ate...
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons grated coconut to mix in(optional)
grated coconut to roll candies in

In a small saucepan, cook the sweetened, condensed milk and butter at a medium-low temperature.  Mix continuously, scraping sides and bottom well throughout.  Continue cooking until the mixture thickens and starts to leave the sides of the pan when stirred.  (I think it is about a soft-ball candy temperature.)  Remove from heat, and stir in 4 T coconut, if desired.  Allow to cool.  After it has cooled, butter your hands slightly.  Roll about a teaspoon at a time, into balls.  Then roll in coconut or coarse sugar to coat.  If the candy is super sticky and won't stay in a ball, it was not cooked long enough. You can instead just get some small plastic spoons and serve it by the spoonful, if you like.  Or just eat it all yourself, with a spoon!  If it is too hard to scoop out and won't roll smooth, it was cooked too long.  It will still taste yummy, even though it looks deformed.  It may take a few tries to find just the right "Done" point.

Brigadeiros (Brigadiers)

1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 tablespoons Cocoa powder (depending on how chocolatey you like them)
chocolate sprinkles to roll candies in

Follow the same instructions as above for "Beijinhos", only add the cocoa in before cooking.  (You could actually put coconut in these too, and I think they would be really good!!  But traditionally, no coconut.)  

Mousse de Maracujá (Passionfruit Mousse)

1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1 box (200 g) heavy cream
Maguary passion fruit juice concentrate (here)

Put sweetened, condensed milk and heavy cream in a blender.  Use the same measurement as heavy cream to measure out the passion fruit juice.  (Here the cream comes in a small box, so I just refill the same box with the juice.)  Blend for about 5 minutes, or until everything is well-mixed and starting to thicken.  Pour into a serving dish, and refrigerate for a couple hours before serving.  It should thicken up more when chilled.

Sensaçao de Morango (Strawberry Sensation)

(This is one of my favorite desserts ever!!  I found the recipe I used here, so I will just translate it in this post.  I take no credit for it.)

2 cans sweetened, condensed milk
2 cups heavy cream 
2 boxes strawberries, washed and cut in halves (though US strawberry boxes are bigger, so you can probably just use 1)
about 300 g semi sweet chocolate, chopped (chocolate chips would also work) 
1 Tablespoon butter

In a shallow serving dish, place strawberry halves, flat-side down, covering most of the bottom of the dish.  Reserve some strawberries to decorate the top though.  Cook the sweetened, condensed milk and butter in a saucepan, following the instructions above for "Beijinhos".  Once it has thickened, pour it over the strawberries.  Melt the chocolate and mix with the heavy cream.  (An easy way to do this is heat the cream until just before it boils, and then pour it over the chocolate pieces.  Stir with a wisk until all pieces are melted and the chocolate mixture is smooth.)  Spread chocolate over the other mixture.  Decorate with strawberries on top, however you like.  Refrigerate until chilled (several hours) before serving.

I really enjoyed getting to share all these yummy Brazilian treats with everyone who came! Even if you couldn't make it, now you can try some of these on your own!  Let me know how they turn out!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Remembering Grandpa

May 2007

This morning Lissie asked to watch some dvd’s that had slideshows of old(ish) pictures.  The first one was of her 1st birthday photo shoot, and afterwards she pointed to another one and said “Now let’s watch this one.”  It was “The Life of a Utah Man,” a slideshow that the Hoods had put together about the life of my grandfather, William Clay (Grandpa, to me).  So we both sat together on the couch and watched, and I pointed out to her “That’s Grandma Clay.  That’s Grandpa Clay.  That’s your grandma when she was little...”  After about the first 15 minutes, she was ready to play with toys again, but she had gotten me thinking.  I’m not entirely convinced that it was a coincidence that she wanted to watch that dvd today.  My grandpa passed away in 2007, and it turns out that his birthday is this week, February 21.  So I am especially grateful for my daughter’s little request today, and I felt impressed to just write (or type, as it were) some of my memories of my awesome grandpa. 

Of course many of my earliest childhood memories are of visits to what we always lovingly called “Grandma’s House,” sometimes for holiday celebrations, sometimes just to visit and play outside on their acres and acres of land.  I can remember climbing up on Grandpa’s lap and feeling safe and loved while he held me.  I’m sure he talked to me but I have no idea what was said.  I do know that both my grandma and grandpa Clay always made me feel loved and special when I was with them, and I have no doubt that they did so and continue to do so with each of their grandchildren today.   

I remember playing games together sometimes when gathered at Grandma’s House, and how when we played Encore, I felt so lucky to be on Grandpa’s team because it seemed like he knew every song ever written!  I remember his voice as he sang lines of various songs.  Grandpa loved music.  Actually that feels like a giant understatement.  Music was and has always been a HUGE part of our family, for as long as I can remember, and I know that much of that love for music was passed on to us by Grandma and Grandpa Clay.  It seems like we could (and still can) hardly gather as a family without one of them asking us to sing a song or play a musical instrument for them.  I am grateful for the love of music which they helped to instill in my life. 

With my cousin Michael, August 1996
Some of my other childhood memories are kinda foggy and I may be remembering wrong.  (If I am, someone can help me out and please correct me.)  I am pretty sure I remember celebrating my Grandpa’s birthday one year and as the candles were being put on the cake, one of my aunts or uncles asked how old we thought Grandpa was.  I am pretty sure I said “26,” and that everyone who was old enough to know better had a good laugh.  Afterwards it seems like somehow Grandpa was always turning 26 on his birthdays. 

Another time, I remember going to the beach for what I’m pretty sure was a Clay family reunion, and we had rented a beach house (well, at least one… )  Our trip coincided with Father’s Day that year, so I remember everyone sitting in the largest room of the house and someone (probably my Grandma Clay) suggesting that we go around the room and everyone share one reason they loved Grandpa.  I thought of what to me was a really ‘good one,’ and asked to go first so that no one else would steal it!  I am pretty sure I said “I love Grandpa because he is the President of the United States!”  Then everyone laughed and I couldn’t understand why.  I was completely serious!  I don’t know how long it was before I realized that he was not the president of the country, but actually the Stake President, of the Kingsport TN Stake.  (I think my grandpa would have been a great US President, just for the record.)

Salt Lake City, August 1996
I’ll skip ahead a few years now, to when I was getting ready to start my Senior year of high school, and my grandparents invited my cousin, Amy, and I to go on a road trip with them to Utah.  Grandpa drove the entire way, and with few stops, as I recall.  And I believe that throughout the majority of those 40ish hours we were introduced to many songs by one of my grandpa’s favorite groups, the Ink Spots.  Not my first choice in music as a teenager, but of course now it is hard to hear any of their songs and not think of Grandpa and that trip. It was my first Utah trip that I was actually old enough to remember, and everywhere we went we visited with family. First stop – Kansas City with the Hawkins.  Next - Utah, with family gatherings nearly every day at someone’s home.  Rachel & Robin, The Angles, the Wilsons, the Swallows, the Tom & Phyllis Clays, …  and my grandparents perpetually smiling as they introduced us to each of our previously unknown (or at least not well-acquainted) relatives.  They took us on our first tour of Brigham Young University campus on that trip.  While I had always thought of going there after high school, visiting with my grandparents and seeing the beauty of the campus first hand was what really sealed the deal.  I didn’t even want to apply to other colleges.  Of course they also took us on our first visit to Temple Square in Salt Lake City.  I was in awe of the intricate details on the temple itself, as well as the other buildings there.  I was amazed as I sat on a bench toward the back and heard the pin drop at the front of the old Tabernacle.  We toured many other sights and learned so much about our heritage, both that of the Clay family and of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  And I won’t forget our quick stop at "Boot Hill," Dodge City, Kansas.  (Grandpa loved his Westerns.)  We walked into an old-style saloon, sat at the bar, and Grandpa informed us that in these kinds of places, we had to ask (in our best ‘old west’ accent) for a ‘Sa-a-a-a-rsaparilla.’  That is the first time I can remember tasting a Sarsaparilla.  I honestly couldn't have told you what one was previous to that experience.  I learned that it is a soft drink, a lot like root beer.   Quite tasty.  Grandpa was right.  Of course.

As I started college and was travelling back and forth between home in Virginia and school in Utah, I spent less and less time at ‘Grandma’s House.’  Every time I did visit, Grandpa always made it a point to sit down and talk with me about how everything was going.  He asked about my classes and about my plans for the future.  He gave me advice which was generally spot-on.  And he would say, “Now Jennifer Lynn, I know that one of these days – and of course there’s no hurry – you’ll probably find a nice guy that will want to marry you.  And when you do, you make sure he knows that he has to call your grandfather to ask permission.  He can ask your dad too, if he really wants, but you tell him that Grandfather’s permission is what really matters.”  And when I did get engaged, my future husband did not follow this protocol.  The next time I saw my grandpa, he said something like this:  “Jennifer Lynn, I don’t know about this engagement of yours.  You know he never called me to ask my permission.  And you know that it’s Grandfather’s opinion that really counts, right?”  (Yes Grandpa.)  “Now are you sure he’s a good guy?  He’s from Brazil, right?  Well, just as long as he doesn’t steal you away and run off to South America with you… You tell him that you need to live close to your grandparents and your family, so none of that moving to Brazil nonsense.”  (I tried, Grandpa!  Really, I did!)  I knew that he was partly teasing and probably a bigger part serious, but again, I always left our little conversations feeling safe and loved, just as I had as a young child.

To know my grandpa Clay was to know that you were loved.  There were always plenty of hugs and kisses to go around, and I have very few memories in which I didn’t see him with one or more grandchildren sleeping happily, peacefully on his lap.  In fact, in addition to my 50-some cousins and I, somehow we always ended up with extra ‘cousins’ (Motters, Hebberts, …) whom he always welcomed and made feel like family.  I think I was convinced that they were family, and still think of them as such.  Sometimes I think how much I wish he was still here to hug on my own children, so that they too can feel that peace and love that I felt as a child.  But knowing Grandpa, I’m sure they already do, and that they have been held in his arms long before they come to mine.  I love my grandpa Clay, and I know that while he is missed tremendously, he will never be forgotten.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Exactly the Same, Only Different

Wow, this poor blog has been so neglected lately!  Time to remedy that.  The past year has been busy and often exciting, but I have also had trouble getting myself to sit at the computer and type about it.  I’ll blame the pregnancy.  (Bad pregnancy!   Stop shrinking my brain so much and making me a professional couch potato!!)   Seriously though, the past several months have been rough, but I think I’ve gotten through the worst of it.  Which means, I can sit at the computer and type out a nice long blog entry again!  And guess what I want to tell y’all about this time…  (I know you’ll be surprised!)  Being pregnant!!  In Brazil. J  I want to reassure everyone out there that the doctors here are not actually monkeys, and do not operate with blowdarts.   And with about 4 months still to go, I think it’s safe to say that this will be a “Part 1.”

After we returned from our trip to the US last fall, I had my first doctor appointment here in Brazil.  My very kind friend/boss helped to set it up with someone she recommended, as I knew I wanted to get in ASAP!  Morning sickness (HA! such a misnomer…) tends to hit me hard and hang around a long time, so I already planned on asking for medicine to help manage it.  When we went to the appointment, it was at the office of one particular doctor.   (With my first, I chose a specific primary doctor who worked in a clinic with several others.  I often had appointments with the other doctors and personnel of the clinic, rather than my preferred doctor.)  There were 2 people working in this office:  the secretary and the doctor himself.  There were no assistants who took me back to weigh in and go through screening questions, etc.  When I was called back for my appointment, we went directly into the room where my doctor was seated at his desk and ready to talk to us.  He asked some questions, and we asked some, and then it was time for the exam, about which I will spare you the details.  All of the equipment used at the US Clinic on my previous appointments was actually available right there in this office.  (With the exception of lab for blood work, which is done at a different location.)  He performed the ultrasound himself and talked to us about what he was observing and looking for.  Afterwards, he again asked if we had any questions or other worries to discuss with him.  I would estimate that he spent at least 30 minutes, maybe closer to an hour just with us.  I don’t think I have EVER spent more than 15 minutes in the same room as a doctor during an appointment in the US…  okay, with the possible exception of the actual delivery.  And I totally get that there are reasons for it.  I’m just saying, it was so nice to feel like our doctor really knows us and our situation and he cares about making us feel comfortable with everything.  There was no feeling of rushing, or having to sit alone in a waiting room whatsoever.  I felt a little spoiled. J 

We have had several appointments since the first, and each of them have been equally pleasant and informative experiences.  This being a new experience for me in a new country, I have been (and still am) pretty nervous about what will happen over the next several months, and especially labor & delivery.  So I usually have lots of questions for him.  One of the first things I learned is that in Brazil, Epidurals are MUCH less common.  It’s not that you can’t get them, just that apparently very few women do.  And they are not covered by insurance.  He told me that there are other meds available though, to help manage labor pain, which are probably less effective but still helpful.  (Probably kind of like taking Tylenol for a migraine…)   Also, delivery by C-section is VERY common here.  I don’t think the doctor actually came out and said that, but practically every mom I have met has said that they had C-sections to deliver their babies.  One thing my doctor did say is that while there are ‘Birthing Classes’ available here, he does not recommend any of them.  He says they seem to brain-wash all participants into thinking they must have a C-section.  So that could be part of the reason for the high rate of C-sections.  He also informed me that inducing is practically nonexistent here, that it is VERY rare that a doctor here would actually induce labor.  Ever.  Under any circumstance.  This was actually a good thing, in my mind, as my previous experience with induction was… well… not great.  In the end, if there is any amount of risk involved with the delivery, pretty much the answer is C-section.  Kinda scary, so I’m really hoping there are no complications whatsoever  (well, duh!  Nothing new there, I guess) and that THIS time, labor time might go down from 36 hours to maybe, oh I dunno, 3!
By the way, I did get the prescription I requested for the anti-vomiting/nausea meds, and apparently just in time as the morning sickness hit hard within the next week of that appointment.  The doctor did tell us that Zofran (which I used last time around) was not actually available here, but that there was another medicine (Vonau) with the same active ingredient which he would prescribe for me.  The biggest difference is that I had to take it about every 8 hours, instead of 1 daily.  And it’s quite costly!  A box of 10 pills can cost more than R$45, about $20-25 American dollars.  (Having insurance gives a discount, but prescriptions are normally not covered.)  So at 3 pills/day, about 90/month, that’s about R$400, or US$200 per month.  Eeks!!  After several days, it turned out that this medicine wasn’t very effective and we had to try something else.  I ended up using 2 different meds together, one of which being the expensive one.  Our total per month then has been about US$225.  Thankfully the nausea and vomiting has let up a lot recently (starting about my 5th month) so I am able to cut back and not take as many as often.  Now, I know that with our insurance in the US last time around, my generic version of Zofran was probably around $20/month.  So I guess it’s pretty safe to say we pay more for prescriptions here, BUT we do not have a deductible to meet. 

Okay, I am going to stop there as I do not want to get into boring old insurance details and whatnot.  I guess what I have been trying to say is that while the actual pregnancy itself has been almost exactly the same as the first time around (so far), living in a different country has made some differences in the overall experience.  I think before we moved here, I may have thought that having a baby in a foreign land would have sounded almost terrifying.  But in reality, well, it’s no more terrifying than it was in the US.  :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Becoming (Mostly) Bilingual

For my major in college, I was required to take a Language Development class.  One of the topics covered was Bilingual language development.  Of course once the class ended and I finished the final exam, I promptly forgot most of what I learned.  Now that we are in a situation where we want our daughter to grow up bilingual (and I too am trying to become comfortable using a second language), I am remembering and actually experiencing, little by little, that which I once learned from text books. (Also, I use Google a lot. :))  To be quite honest, despite all the research and formal education, I have been very nervous about a lot of aspects of this bilingual business.  Hey, it’s different when it’s your own child you’re talking about, not just some random kid who participated in a research study!  Thankfully most of my fears have been put at ease already.  So that’s what I want to share with y’all today.
Playdough + Best Bud = Great fun!
Mom Fear #1:  A second language is going to be much harder to learn than the first, and it’s going to take a lot of work!!

Reality:  Okay, it actually is more work for a grown-up to learn a second language, for sure.  I have spent some quality time with books that teach the basics of Portuguese, and done the little paper/pencil exercises that go with each lesson.  I’ve made little flashcards and practiced pronouncing words and sounds with Tiago giving me feedback.  All of these things were a great intro for me and definitely proved helpful, but guess where the real learning comes in!  Actually listening to and speaking the language on a daily basis.  I know, you’re shocked.  So after sitting quietly and listening and observing others speaking Portuguese for about 6 months, I started feeling like maybe I could actually talk a little too once in a while.  18 months later, I still don’t consider myself fluent by any means, but I consider myself able to cope in most social situations.  I can actually run errands by myself without having to make Tiago come with me to translate!

(Okay, just for fun, I'll tell you about one of my more embarrassing language moments so far:  One day in my English class, one of my students was very excitedly telling me a story which, the best I could figure had to do with jumping or skipping at a store, Fruteira do Parque.  What I heard was something like "Alguem saltou  Fruteira do Parque", which made very little sense to me why she was so worked up about it.  I think my response was one of those "Oh really?  That's nice." And she looked at me really funny, like "You just don't get it."  Well, later that evening Tiago told me that the store Fruteira do Parque had been robbed!  I said, "Wait, what's the Portuguese verb for 'robbed' again?" "Assaltar".  "Oooooooh!  Now I get it!  'Alguem assaltou Fruteira do Parque!'"  So I recall earlier in the morning, appearing to my little student to completely approve of this robbery.  Oops!!  At least I didn't say something worse like "That's great; you should do that again!"  I don't even want to know what she told her parents about our conversation...)

Now the kid version:  Clearly Lissie has not been able to pick up Portuguese lesson books and study vocabulary, yet she is still picking up words and phrases on a daily basis!  Here’s my attempt to sound smart:  Children’s brains are actually wired to learn languages early on.  This is how they learn their first language.  There is a developmental window that ‘opens up’ when they are teeny-tiny, and starts to close (it becomes harder to learn new language) around age 8.   But really, children who learn 2 languages at the same time instead of just 1 will be able to use both languages equally well later on.  So, occasionally we help her out with random words, but Elissa too has now spent about 18 months listening to and attempting to speak Portuguese.  And she too is not yet what I consider fluent, yet still is managing to communicate fairly well without any formal classes or training.  So, I would say that children learning the second language is not so much extra work as it is patience and exposure to another language.  

Mom Fear #2:  If she learns Portuguese and we live where people only speak Portuguese with her, she is going to forget her English!!

Reality:  I guess this could be the case if we stopped speaking English with her altogether.  But we didn't.  When we are in our home, we all speak English (for better or for worse).  Occasionally she will say something in Portuguese or will request that we speak Portuguese with her at home, but generally she prefers to use English with Mom and Dad.  We expect this to continue even after she starts attending a school program outside of home. (So stop worrying, Grandma!  Your granddaughter will still be able to talk to you and understand you just fine. :))

Now, the adult reality:  Maybe it’s a result of my age, but occasionally I forget certain words or how to say certain things in English now!  I’m pretty sure I haven’t forgotten English altogether yet, but next time we chat, I may say some things in a way that sounds odd.  (I’m sure most returned missionaries from foreign countries have had similar experiences.)  But I’m gonna go ahead and say that I don’t think I will ever completely forget my English as a result of learning Portuguese. 

Mom Fear #3:  She will get confused and mix her English and Portuguese!!  She won’t know which one to use when!

Reality:  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I know, this is a stupid thing for me to be worried about as I have read all the textbooks saying that this is not an issue, but you know how it is, again, when it's your child.   Well, what has happened is Elissa has already figured out that when talking to Mom and Dad, she can speak English.  And she usually does, without mixing in Portuguese words.  Also, if she hears someone else speak to her in English, she will talk to them in English as well.  For example, in her swimming class, her teacher was afraid that Lissie wouldn’t understand her in Portuguese so she started speaking English to her.  (The teacher's English was pretty limited too.)  So then Lissie started to speak English back, and they had a hard time understanding eachother.  I suggested that the teacher use Portuguese with her and just speak to her like she would the other kids, maybe a little slower and using more gestures to show what she wanted.  Now in her swim class, Lissie speaks her limited Portuguese with the teachers AND the other kids!  She tells them “Oi Meninas!  Quer brincar com Elissa??”  (“Hi girls, want to play with Elissa?”)  Also, when she goes to other people’s homes who only speak Portuguese, she speaks only Portuguese when talking to them.  It’s really very impressive to me how quickly she picks up on which words are English and which are Portuguese!  In fact, often when we are playing she will randomly tell me “Mom, in English it’s (ball); in Portuguese, it’s (bola).”  Clever little thing!  Sometimes she just makes up her own translations, if she doesn’t know the real word.  “In English it’s ‘blanket’; in Portuguese, it’s ‘blanka’!”  No, it’s actually not. But nice try. 

To be honest, I think I mix languages more often than she does!  Remember that whole bit about language-learning becoming harder once you're older?  Yeah, I catch myself often inserting English words in the middle of Portuguese sentences, or vice-versa if I can’t think of the right word in English.  What’s even more surprising to me is sometimes I can’t think of the right word in English OR Portuguese, but for some reason it pops into my head in German!  Go figure…

Mom Fear #4:  Because she is learning both languages at once, she will be behind in both languages.

Reality:  This is probably the most reasonable of my fears, actually.  The truth is, if I compare her current English vocabulary and usage to another child of her age who only speaks English, she probably would be a little behind.  And the same is definitely the case with Portuguese, which she is still in the process of figuring out.  But what is encouraging to me right now is that this is completely normal with bilingual kids, and it is only temporary. She should be caught up and doing equally well in both languages within the next couple years.  And she is definitely progressing in both languages, which is also what is supposed to happen.  Also I feel more at ease when I see that she does interact and communicate with other children, and she is not afraid to try speaking their language.  Right now, it seems the main line of communication for her age group is play, and as long as they can have fun together, other children are happy to be around her and don’t become overly concerned with language differences.
One other thing that I have observed with both of us:  Being able to understand another language is MUCH easier than being able to speak the language yourself.  I find that I actually recognize and understand a lot of words in Portuguese used by others, but it takes much more effort to actually recall those words and put them together again in my mind, in proper context.  So if it’s that difficult for ME to figure out, I can imagine how hard it is for Elissa to do the same.  And that is also why I encourage her teachers and others who interact with her to just speak Portuguese with her, not to worry about trying to speak English.  Often she can understand their correct Portuguese better than their attempts to remember high school English anyway.  And if not, well, this is how she will learn.

So as I am looking at verb conjugation charts and trying to decide if the “Google Translate” translation really is the best way to say something in Portuguese, my little sponge is soaking it all up through her every-day play and activities, and starting to figure it out all on her own.  I’m thinking I got the short end of this stick.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Today feels like a good time to blow the thick layer of dust off of our blog and let everyone know that we are all, in fact, still alive and well. J  It’s hard to believe that it’s already been nearly a year and a half since we moved away from the US, yet at the same time, I feel as though we have lived in Brazil for eons!  Apparently I have still not managed to camouflage well enough to seem Brazilian, as everywhere I go I am still asked “Where are you from?” or more accurately, “De onde você é?”  I must still have an American accent hanging around… (Yes, I'm sure that's their only clue. :)) When I tell people how long we’ve been here, they are always anxious to know how we are adapting so far, how we are enjoying their country so far.   (They are mostly curious about Lissie and I, of course, as Tiago already knows a thing or two about living here. J)  So I do my best to answer in my broken Portuguese and tell them at least a bit of the following information:

I feel more or less adapted to life in our ‘little’ city now.  I am proud to say that in most conversations, I am able to understand about 80-90% of what is being said, and USUALLY I am able to come up with a somewhat coherent response.  Luckily most people are pretty forgiving of incorrect verb conjugation and fill in the blanks when I get stuck trying to think of a certain word.  I’ve also discovered that if I don’t know a certain word, I can usually find a way to describe it or a different word that has a close enough meaning.  Or when all else fails, I play an impromptu round of Charades as I attempt to act out the word.  So hey, communication has improved a lot since we arrived here!  

Lissie has a blast with the neighbor kids.
People often ask how Lissie is doing with her Portuguese as well, particularly when they ask her a question and she hides behind my leg instead of answering.  I’m sure it’s pretty typical for most kids her age to hide behind mom when asked questions by strangers or less familiar acquaintances, so I explain that she understands a lot of what they are saying to her, but she is a little shy about responding in any language.  She’s actually quite impressive when playing with other children, as she automatically starts spouting the kid Portuguese vocabulary and phrases as she runs back and forth across the room. “Laurinha, vem ca!  Olha la!  E o gatinho!” etc. (Fine, here’s the translation:  “Little Laura, come here!  Look over there!  It’s a kitty!”)  So anyway, how is her Portuguese?  I would say she knows a lot more than she let’s us hear.   (Note to self:  Someday I should write an entry on what I have observed about bilingual babies/children.) 

Another way in which I feel I am more adapted now, is I can usually find my way around our city.  I am getting more comfortable with the layout and how the roads are, and I feel less and less terrified about driving into town by myself!  Which is a big deal for me! J  Have I explained in other blog posts about how confusing the road layouts are and how traffic signals are often difficult to see or have been knocked down and also how most of the roads here are cobblestone so that the very vibration of the car as it rolls along adds a whole new element of “Is this how it’s supposed to feel/sound?!”  and how people often just don’t stop at stop signs and pass other cars on single-lane roads and….  How about if I just say that public transportations isn’t really that bad of an option here?  Well, now when there is an errand to run, as long as I have a car, I run it!  Need to pick up a pharmacy prescription?  No problem!  Out of milk?  Not for long!  I still do not drive in or to other cities, but I’m beginning to feel more and more like maybe, just maaaaybeeee I could. If I had to.  If my life depended on it. 

Also, I feel like I am becoming a pretty decent  Amerizilian chef!   (See what I did there?)    I recently received the Brazilian equivalent to the “Better Homes and Garden” red and white checkered cook book, and I am really looking forward to using it.  Rice and feijao (black beans) have become staple foods and appear on the table a minimum of once per week.  We also eat a lot of Shepherd’s Pies, chicken casseroles, and Bife/Lombo Milanesas.  I’ve really enjoyed learning new (to me) traditional Brazilian recipes and cooking techniques.  At the same time, my very American recipe for Brownies has become famous with our fellow church members here, and is often requested for any upcoming activity.  We’ve also been known to enjoy an occasional banana bread, cupcakes, and other miscellaneous recipes I feel like trying that I’ve pinned on Pinterest.   (By the way, Cream Puff Cake = AWESOME!!) 

"Giddy-up, Daddy!"
One other area requiring some adaptation:  the ‘backwards’ weather!  I’ve gotten used to it now (after experiencing all four seasons first-hand last year), but it definitely throws me for a loop to have to wear sweaters and coats in June and July, and break out the short sleeves in time for Christmas.  Just think:  Right now, you’re probably enjoying a nice hot, sunny day, maybe on the lake or swimming at the town pool…  We’re coooold!!   I have on 3 layers while typing this, and am still thinking of grabbing a thick blanket off the couch and wrapping it around me like a cocoon!   Have I mentioned before about the general lack of heating and air-conditioning units here?  Sure, the bigger stores and most restaurants usually have something installed, but on a cold day here, the best way to stay warm is to assume there will be no heat wherever you go and dress accordingly.   I’ve seen cashiers at the grocery store sitting in full winter gear – hat, scarf, mittens, the whole deal - as they slide those items across the counter.   And don’t even get me started on what we wear to church in the winter months!  But pretty soon, you’ll be putting your jackets and long sleeves back on, and we’ll be shedding the extra layers again.  (In case you are worrying, we are one of not too many families here who have a heating/air-conditioning unit in our home.  Now.  After spending most of last winter shivering and huddling together under thick blankets, I’d say this was one of our best purchases yet!) 

There have been so many different things to learn and experience since we got here, and you know, the list only seems to get longer!   So are we adapted?  Well, there are new aspects to adapt to every day.  But as long as everyone can figure out what word I am acting out next, I think we’re okay. J  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Soaking Up Some Sun

Last week we enjoyed a relaxing (for the most part) family beach trip with Tiago's parents, in the Florianopolis (Floripa) area. Just for fun, I decided that I would describe our experiences there with some, err, I guess you could say statistics:

Bedrooms in our rental beach house = 3 (Thank goodness, Lissie had her own room!)
Central Air Unit(s) in said house = 0 (but the ceiling fans helped some)
Nights spent in said house = 11
Number of nights a certain toddler woke up in the middle of the night to throw up, and did not go back to sleep for several more hours = 3 (Poor little thing!  The strange part - they were not even 3 consecutive nights.)
Mosquito bites I received over the 11 days = about 100 (Why, oh why do they love my blood so much?!?!)
Delicious meals cooked by my in-laws = about 20!  (Okay, I wasn't really counting how many times they cooked, but they really are awesome chefs!)
Board games/dice games/card games played = 20 (Ticket to Ride was by far the most-played; other games included Starfarers of Catan, Killer Bunnies, Dominion, and Greed.  Tiago was the overall game champion, winning about 10 of the 20.)
Viewings of the movie Lilo & Stitch = at least 1000
Requested viewings of Lilo & Stitch = about 1,000,000 (Yeah, Tiago REALLY likes that movie. ;))
Sandcastles built = 2 attempts, none completed (We were becoming rather skilled at making mounds of sand though!)
Minutes Lissie spent on her grandparents' laps/in their arms = (Let's see, 60/hour x 24 hrs/day, - time sleeping...) I'll just go with about 10,000.
Vendors passing by on the beach = a LOT

Some items available for purchase from wandering beach vendors:  (I include this part because I was surprised by the variety of items for sale and how much money was spent while sitting in the sand, soaking up sun by the shore.)
Popsicles/ice cream on sticks
grilled cheese (NOT the sandwich, just blocks of mozzarella cheese on skewers)
corn on the cob
swimsuit cover-ups (Is that what we call them in English?  The little dresses or shirts that we wear over our bathing suit to and from the beach.  Here they are saida(s) da praia, or "beach exit".)
strapless bikini tops (I didn't notice any bottoms, but I can't imagine the guy NOT having some for sale as well.)
blankets & hammocks (probably hand-woven)
"agua de coco" still inside a chilled green coconut (to drink)
fruit salad & cocktails
innertubes & inflatable rafts
paddles & rubber balls for beach paddle ball game
churros (chocolate- & doce de leite-filled)
homemade jewelry (beads & woven string mainly)

By the end of the trip, I would not have been surprised to see a real-estate agent walk by trying to sell property!  Not that we would have been interested or anything...  We did do our part for the beach economy by keeping the popsicle and agua de coco vendors in business.  (It was a real sacrifice, I assure you.) 

Elissa surprised me by actually enjoying the ocean water, after being afraid to go near it last year.  As we walked out into the waves, her little finger continued to point further out to sea as she insisted, "That way, THAT way!" Until the ocean water finally sloshed her in the face a few times and convinced her to retreat.

So, to sum it up, a good time was had by all (including the mosquitoes).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oh, the Madness that is Gincana!

Barriers block off most of the streets downtown and thousands of people line the street for a nearly 3-hour long parade.  Hundreds of people wearing matching shirts scramble here and there all over the region.  Speakers constantly blare the broadcast of the local radio station for nearly 48 hours straight.  Local stores sell out their entire inventory of popsicle sticks and thumbtacks.  And the city is still awake and busy throughout the night.  It’s Gincana time again!!

After hearing about it for so many years (at least 7, since we were married anyway), I was very excited to experience this unfamiliar phenomenon myself first-hand this past weekend.  The simplest way I can describe it to you is that it is a 2-day, city-wide scavenger hunt.  But that description really doesn’t do it justice.  So here come the details!

"Santa's House" Float
First, there are 5 teams that have participated in each Gincana for the past 20+ years (or one of them may have joined more recently than that, but I don’t remember).  Each team has a minimum of 600 team members, and some have up to 2500.  The event is put on by the radio station in town and sponsored by many local businesses.  It currently takes place every other year.   Most of our family have been participants with the team Fantasma since the tradition began, and therefore so are we.  One thing I didn’t fully appreciate before is that while the actual scheduled event is only one weekend, these teams begin working and preparing many months, even years ahead of time!  Meetings were held at Fantasma headquarters early this year, discussing a theme for our team’s portion of the parade, including t-shirt design and team anthem for the year.  I knew there would be a parade, but what I did not know was the level of detail and how much intensely hard work went into the preparations!  Our team’s chosen theme was “Christmas”, and hundreds of hours of work went into building and decorating floats with flawless detail, sewing costumes and props, and creating various toys and rolling carts for “jack-in-the-boxes” to pop in and out.  I’d like to say I had a hand in creating some of the colorful parade items, and we did help with some small parts here and there.  But after a painful incident with a hot glue gun, and having to chase a toddler around the majority of the time, our contributions were not as great as those of many others.  So, hats off to the many other team members who worked their tails off and made the Fantasma parade awesome this year!! 

Not just Christmas Trees, DANCING Christmas trees!
I felt sorry for the poor Gingerbread Men, wearing such
thick layers in 80-90 degree weather!
Jack-in-the-Boxes!  (The one on the far left with orange and
black stripes is the project that I helped with, and resulted in my blistered thumb.)
The occupants of these snowmen probably really did melt a little
during the parade!


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