Thursday, November 27, 2008

Blog Giveaway

Gosh, it's been a week since I last posted. Lots of visiting, eating, and walking. I walk everywhere around in the town my dad lives in. I figured out what these oddities were soon enough, but I thought them rather interesting. As always people find a way to make art out of utilitarian objects. I made a flicker set of some of these wire and cement baskets around town. The first person to guess what they're used for will win a prize...what would you like a fat quarter after I get back to the U.S. or maybe a postcard from here in Brazil??

I made a flicker set of them here. Check out all the different shapes and sizes.

Today's featured fruit is jabuticaba. There is such a wealth of fruits here. The mangos are downright obscene in size. Happy Thanksgiving to all. I'm thankful that I'll be heading home in a couple of weeks. It's been great visiting my homeland, but I do feel I'm a foreigner here. Most of the time I'm on sensory overload. The noise pollution is unreal, and this is in a "small" town. Of course nobody here believes me when I saw I live in a town of only 200 people. I'm headed to another colonial coffee with my cousin, Edson, who is helping me make arrangements for travelling. Because this is a small town, I can't easily get to where I want to go by bus, without going out of the way first. Oh well!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rare sunshine

The days go by with lots of excellent, cheap food. Yesterday afternoon my cousins and I went to "colonial" coffee buffet at the supermarket. There was such a variety of traditional savory dishes which I love. There is one in particular, emapada, which is a pie crust with hearts of palm stuffing, that is my favorite. They also stuff it with chicken or beef, but always the crust melts in your mouth. I picked up the tab, and for four of us eating rather well it was less than $15!

It was a rare sunny afternoon and afterwards my cousin drove us to different scenic spots around the town. The highlight for me was a park where I caught this Crested Caracara having a meal. We were able to get pretty close. I've been lucky enough to see one before in TX, but never quite this close. This morning while hanging clothes out on the line at my dad's I was treated to a rather large green parrot eating apples off the neighbor's tree! I must admit I get rather excited to see these birds in the wild. I've yet to ID the parrot though.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sunshine again

Man, I wasn't expecting the cooler weather we had the last few days. I brought mostly warm weather clothes, after all it's spring here, and generally warmer. It was cold and damp last night. Today the sun has broken through, and of course, it's a bit muggy now, but I'm very much solar powered, and though I love the lush green of everything here, I get easily depressed without my sunshine.
The picture, though very inviting, is from Sao Paulo, a lovely park. They normally serve refreshments there, but it was the wrong time of day for it, and again, a rather gray day.

This was another park where I went my second day in Brazil. It had beautiful stands of bamboo, and so thick and lush that it dwarfed my friend. It was in the city of Sao Jose dos Campos. We strolled the park and saw a lot of birds and then enjoyed a fruit slush made with Acai. It was quite tasty, but I have no idea what the real fruit is like as the slushy was made with a fruit paste which was mixed with guarana...the national soft drink also make from a fruit, loaded with caffeine, and of course sugar. At least for those not inclined to consume high fructose corn syrup, it is not a problem here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Party Sunday

Yesterday I wasn't able to get online, except late in the afternoon, and using my cousin's computer wrote a quick email. I can easily lose myself online, and didn't want to be ignoring my cousin's hospitality.

I drove my dad's car to my other cousin's husband's family farm. They raise sheep, have a few horses, and I don't know what all. There is someone that lives there and takes care of all that. They use the huge BBQ pit there and it is well equipped with picnic tables and always a happening, party place. There is a variety of meats, and as soon as the first, choice cuts are ready, they start serving. Then there is a full sit down meal when the rest of the meats are done. This goes on for an hour or more.

I entertained myself with a long walk around the area looking for birds. I got the see the Buff-necked Ibis on the ground, and it was great to get good long looks at them. There is a pair that roost in a pine across from my dad's house, and it seems so strange to see these big guys up in the indigenous pine which are really quite extraordinary and only grow in this area.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Days going by

Not much on the crafting front around here, though yesterday I did buy some twine to either crochet or knit a rug. When I was here before the twine was only available in an off white, and now there is a wide variety of colors.

Last night was a birthday party at my cousin's house for her son. They are big meat eaters here the farther south you go, the more meat they eat, with Argentina being one of the biggest consumers of beef...or at least it used to be. The party was a BBQ, and a lot of the houses here have a permanent built-in place for BBQ with a big fireplace style chimney. The meats consisted of several cuts of beef, including T-bone, chicken, and farm raised javelina. It was all good, and though I normally don't eat much beef, I had to at least try it. The javelina was quite good.

The birthday cake was store bought, as my cousin's aunt no longer makes cakes. Her cakes were well known throughout the family. I share a name with her, Hilda, and here I'm always referred to as Hildinha (little Hilda...I wish). Phonetically it is HILL DEEEN YAH, only the H is silent at the beginning of words.

The birding here is great. This morning I took off in the morning mist and just outside of my dad's house there was a rather large flock of Guira Cckoos. They are raucous, and were flying from rooftop to rooftop. Then I got a look at three Buff-neck Ibis, which I want to see better, since they were just flying by. The Rufous Hornero is common here, and maybe tomorrow I'll get a picture of one. They are also rather noise.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Traditional dessert

The day dawned with gray, a slight fog, which I'm told is pretty common here. But as my dad and I walked to his favorite restaurant, the sun broke through, and now I'm complaining because it is too hot. I'm wearing shorts. Don't see too many women my age wearing shorts around here. Oh well, at least they pick me out easily as not being from here, and are willing to forgive my missteps!

The food is well made, plentiful, and cheap, in comparison to ours. Restaurants that serve buffet style or buffet, by weight, are the norm, and I ate a wonderful lunch of fresh salad greens, with little hard-boiled cornish hen eggs decorating it, and I sampled a lot of the dishes, brown rice and beans, gnocchi, farofa, golden fried potato pieces, and friend polenta. A nice variety of delicious food for $3.50. I didn't realize they also had little tiny shot size plastic cups of caipirinha, the national drink. Lunch included dessert, and I had "pineapple stroganoff," which was fresh pineapple in a light creamy sauce. My dad could have actually had some, as it wasn't super sweet which is the norm here.

This plate of "sweets" was at a friend's house. The little wrapped yellow ones are my favorite, "quin din de ya ya," made with egg yolks and coconut. The white ones are coconut taffy. My grandmother used to make them, and they are sort of like divinity, but just melt in your mouth, and also coconut. The brown ones are little squares of "doce de leite" or condensed milk squares. I think I ate a dozen of yellow ones over two days. I think there is a lone "doce de abobora," or squash sweet, which I never liked. Anything that can be cooked with sugar and made into a solid is done here. They also make the same thing with sweet potatoes...I prefer my sweet potatoes fried!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More Fruit

It's supposed to be spring here, but it's pretty cool, and very wet. It rains a lot during the night, and very damp and drizzly during the day. Actually cool, and I brought lots of short-sleeved shirts and shorts! Of course, like at home, they say the weather is crazy and not normal.

My dad and I walked to a larger grocery store, maybe about a mile from his house. I got two huge mangoes for 50 cents, almost a pound of apple bananas for $1.50, and a guava, which was a little out of season for another 50 cents.

In my dad's little yard there is a lemon tree and an orange tree. There aren't any oranges yet. The lemons are orange colored, and look rather ugly on the outside. I thought they were oranges past their prime... The flesh is orange colored, but they are indeed sour lemons.

And here is the cut lemon and guava. The guava wasn't as nice and ripe as usual, and so a bit of a disappointment. It surprises me that there are lots of different yuccas around in yards here, and other succulents and cacti. There is a huge prickly pear that is flowering on the walk I took yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

So much for NaBloPoMo

It's hard to blog everyday when you don't have access! I made it to my homeland. Got my passport early morning Friday, and then packed my bags. I know, I should have been already packed...but that's not how I work. And so I'm going to journal this trip on the blog so that I'll have a record of how it went.

I think so far I forgot to tell anyone. I had a reservation on a flight that left ABQ for DFW at 3:55. I was thinking that only an hour in Dallas wasn't going to be enough especially if my plane was a little late, and I had to rush to another terminal to catch my international flight. I called and changed it to an earlier flight that left ABQ at 2:10. Good thing. When I got to the gate, quite early, they were announcing that the 3:55 flight had cancelled!! If I had been on the way to the airport, I would have been too late to catch the earlier flight and would have most likely missed the flight to Brazil.

I sat next to a woman, a jewelry designer from Sao Paulo going home, Leticia Linton. She's on the left in the link. We conversed, and had some things in common...she's also married to an American, but he lives in Sao Paulo. Other than that, I am so NOT Brazilian, it isn't funny!

The flight was fine, long, and I got up a few times to walk and stretch. Leticia helped me fill out my customs form, and she didn't think I needed to declare peanut butter or Reese's peanut butter cups. I got through customs without a second glance. I found out later that apparently TSA opened my suitcase, and opened two of the three packages of test strips for my dad's glucometer, and then they must have decided that the third one was the same thing!

I met my friend Cybelle at the airport, and then we went by bus, comfortably to Sao Jose dos Campos. It is on the way to the coast, and a pleasant city. It is home of Embraer which manufactures small jets that used all over the world--including the US. I had a different idea of where her sister lived.

Sunday evening we came back to Sao Paulo. It is an amazingly crowded city. Everyone is in a hurry.

This is the view from Cybelle's brother's apartment, there are buildings as far as the eye can see and then some. Traffic is absolutely crazy, and even the locals agree. I expressed an interest while walking in a city park by designer Burle Marx, to see a cashew fruit, since I was only familiar with it from pictures...Before I left Cybelle's brother went to a little shop and here they were on a plate. The fruit has a kind of sticky sensation on your teeth like overly green bananas, but if I squeezed the juice out, it was tasty. Not to die for, but good. The fruit hangs with the nut at the bottom. I kept the nuts, which according to informed sources will sprout if planted. Maybe I can get one to grow, if it isn't confiscated as contraband.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Getting down to the wire

I still don't have my passport in hand, but it is on its way here from Albuquerque and according to my postmistress will be here in the morning. Overnight or Express is not a guaranteed thing when you live in the hinterlands.

I'm not as bewildered by running Windows Vista as I thought I would be. Things have gone rather well, and I found I could use the Qwest DSL modem/router to create a network and access all the files on the laptop. It's nice to have my bookmarks and a lot of other "essentials" that you forget you use everyday, until they are no longer there.

This has turned out to be my favorite quilt. It was a vintage top that Pat gave me from her cousin's family. We use it every day while sitting watching TV. It's just perfect for two people, and extra warm and nice folded in half for one.

Guess, I've procrastinated long enough, and better get to packing. I still haven't talked to anyone that can pick me up at the airport in Brazil on Saturday, but so far everything is working out, albeit a little too close for comfort.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Good changes

I didn't manage to blog yesterday, but it was a good day. Got a lot of things handled including buying and setting up a new computer, from which I'm posting this.

My dad's blood sugars are coming down nicely now that he is on insulin, and so it may not be quite the challenge I imagine to get him under control.

The country has a new leader and that change was wonderful to watch last night. I don't think I've ever been so involved in the American political process, since I am not citizen, and don't participate in the election process.

Still trying to work with transferring files between the laptop and desktop, and so this post will be brief.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ahhh, the time change...

I had already been waking up much too early, and now with setting the clock back, it's a truly ungodly hour, but I thought, what the heck? I'm getting adjusted to Brazil time until I checked, and they are now five hours ahead of MST, for where I'll be spending most of my time.

Right in the midst of working on the Frida quilt, I had a change of direction and started on a baby quilt. I really liked the batik elephants and decided to try a hex block quilt for a future grandchild. No urgency other than I might be too old and no longer quilting by the time I'm a grandmother. Well, there are many good reasons why I prefer liberated quilting and simpler blocks. My friends have already been warned they will be keepers of my memory and remind to stick to what I know! I ended up having to applique the hex top to fabric because of failed attempts to make blocks fit in to "square" it up. It's less than the heirloom I had envisioned in my mind's eye, but I'm sure will find a good home for a newly diagnosed diabetic child.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fall is finally upon us...

Our trees have been slow to lose their leaves this year. Our peach tree, which sadly due to a late hard frost was devoid of peaches, is putting on quite a show of losing its yellow leaves. Some of our other trees, apricots from which we have yet to enjoy fruit, have brown, frostbitten leaves which refuse to let go. After a few freezes, we've been enjoying Indian summer with daytime temperatures in the 70s.

I didn't blog about it because of the rawness of the pain, but we had to put our longtime cat friend, Frances, to sleep not too long ago. At over 21 years of age she had had a long life, so it wasn't unexpected, but still didn't lessen the pain at all. Shortly before that a new kitty came into our realm. We had decided that we weren't going to have anymore indoor pets, but I couldn't resist feeding this poor little waif that showed up. I dubbed her Grayfeather because of her color and the fact that she was light as a feather. Although she isn't allowed in the house, she knows I'm a soft touch and spends time with me in the sewing room (attached to the garage). Like all cats her favorite spot is among all the fabrics that happen to be cluttering everywhere. When Jackie visited, she renamed her which I added Houston, nice ring, Frangelica Houston Grayfeather. Surely she is destined for greatness.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The best laid plans...

Or life is what happens while you're making other plans. I wasn't prepared for the changes this past week. My 82-year-old father who returned to Brazil to live after my mom passed away, got sick. After a week of dry mouth and dry eyes, he was finally diagnosed with diabetes, not surprising since his mother and two brothers were diabetic. My Brazilian passport expired two years ago...I know!...and so now I'm renewing it, trying to get things in order so that I can go there and help care for him, stabilize him, and bring him back to the states.

I was thinking of trying to participate in NaBloPoMo, and so I'm going to make an attempt. The daily writing and unloading of thoughts can't do any harm. Don't know that I'll be able to do it daily, but making the effort.

While I wait for my passport to be express mailed back to me I have time to sew, quilt, make gifts for the abundance of relatives I have and will be expected to visit. My last trip to Brazil was 1996, and this one is not going to be a vacation, though I'll do my best to get some enjoyment out of it. I expect to be gone a month--the expense of the trip hardly warrants any less time, and I don't know what kind of challenge getting my dad stable enough to travel will be.

On a lighter and definitely happier note, Lindsay passed her state boards on the first try, and is now an RN. And so, since I don't have to write it all with this one post, I'll end with a work in progress, my Frida quilt. I've had the fabric for a quite a while, and finally decided to get on with using it.