Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Eve - photos

We enjoyed a beautiful meal, a fun gift exchange and warm friendships Christmas Eve in Itaipú.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from Niterói

Today we're off to Zozó and Tonico's house in Itaipú for the holiday weekend. We'll share the evening with long-time neighbors and friends Conceição and Sergio along with their extended family.

At midnight the children will get their wish and be able to open gifts. The adults will also be exchanging gifts with our "Secret Friend".

The feast will surely be fit for royalty.

Then next week Luiz and I leave for Boa Esperança to celebrate the New Year with our gang.

I'll take photos and come back to chronicle the highlights soon.

Happy Holidays to all and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mexican pizza?

For the first time in nearly two years Luiz and I had a Mexican dinner: Nachos with ground beef, cheese, tomatoes and peppers topped with a generous mound of guacamole. In the absence of genuine corn tortilla chips I scraped up some Doritos brand cheese flavored corn (?) chips.

What’s the big deal? Finding the right ingredients is no easy feat. First: no corn chips; second: no corn tortillas I could convert into chips; third: only mildly-related jalapeño-like hot peppers; and finally: strange looks when adding salt and tomatoes to a bowl of mashed avocado (Brazilians eat their avocado for dessert, with sugar.)

Not much Mexican food goin’ on down here. But man our dinner tasted great!

I was able to find whole wheat flour tortillas, however. But they were strangely labeled ready-to-use pizza dough! Sorry guys – these tortillas are not suitable as pizza dough.

Some things don’t translate very well.

It's BBQ season

It's always the right time for a good churrasco (BBQ). Saturday our buddy Baranda called to invite us to his place for a marathon grilled meat fest - washed down with slushy ice cold beer.

Tis the season!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Panettone success

One very widespread Brazilian Christmas tradition is the giving and eating of sweet Panettone bread. How a traditional Italian bread has come to be so ubiquitous here in Brazil remains a mystery to me. I'm sure there is some ancient Portuguese connection somewhere. (If you can school me, comments welcome.)

These days - enter a grocery store and you will have to press past the Panettone display tower to get to everything else. Every bakery worth its reputation has their own Panettone recipe. In general the fruity versions win out in popularity, but as you might imagine a newer chocolate chip version has emerged.

I'm proud to say that I have discovered (thank you Google) a perfect-every-time Panettone recipe for my bread machine. Given the tradition in place, this easy and delicious recipe has solved a lot of "what should we give them?" dilemmas.

My personal changes to the linked recipe include: use milk instead of water; use butter instead of vegetable oil; add a quarter cup of raisins. Be sure the dough is quite wet. And if you live in Brazil - search - SEARCH - for the almond extract. It makes a big difference.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Luiz as Santa's elf floral designer

It’s Chrissmisstime at Flor de Luiz. Santa’s helper has been working overtime combining permanent botanicals and cute little jingle-lingles.

Luiz has this holiday wreath motif down. He’s been kickin’ them out three and four strong in an afternoon. You know he is on a roll – lost in his own private north pole workshop – when he doesn’t come out of his workroom until his nighttime soap opera begins.

Here at Flor de Luiz central we’ve figured a few things out: wreaths sell better early in the season, centerpieces stay hot even as we approach Christmas day; apparently gold is the preferred decoration color this season – best sellers; if you make it they will come (Luiz made a fabulous towering arrangement for our living room and by the end of the day it was sold for R$250.)

The rush is dying down. Luiz is putting together the final arrangements using the remaining decorative elements in his workshop. Sales have nearly topped $R2,000! Plus, what does not get sold makes for great Christmas gifts for friends and family.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Visiting the National Library in Rio

Regular readers know that my Portuguese for Foreigners class at the local Federal University includes a number of classes out in the community. We’ve gone mostly to museums, but a couple weeks ago we got a not-so-behind-the-scenes tour of the recently restored (actually many years ago, but it still looks great) National Library in Rio.

Given the mature shade trees along the street in front of the building, I couldn’t get a full-on photo of the beautiful historic building built between 1905 – 1910. But you can piece these together in your head.

Originally conceived in 1810 by the King of Portugal, Dom José I, the collection was instantly the largest in South America. With a current collection of over 9 million items the National Library remains the largest in South America and ranks as the eighth largest library in the world.

There is an excellent article describing the history, collection and wealth of valuable rare items contained at the library here. Great summary. Check it out.

Our tour was basically the garden-variety public tour of the building. I could only take photos of the exterior and the main lobby. Large reading and research rooms, as well as the spectacular rare collections hall were off limits to cameras (why, exactly? I have no idea.)

I am forever impressed by the old-world grandeur and meticulous craftsmanship of national treasures like the National Library, the Municipal Theater (photo of restoration in progress included here) and places like the old palace in Petropolis.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Feliz Natal from Luiz and Jim

We just sent this Xmas message out to our friends and family. Enjoy!

Shout out to Donnie and Royce!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Turkey Day in Niterói

While a bit behind schedule by American standards, I prepared a turkey dinner today. If you just monitor available ingredients at the grocery store, there was a deafening silence around Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a non-event here in Brazil. Thanksgiving what? Who? When?

But now that we are into December, turkeys are filling the freezer section of the grocery store. Everybody loves a good turkey for Christmas dinner.

For me – I’m playing catch-up for Thanksgiving. Today I made a scrumptious rice, sausage, apple, raisin stuffing for a small bird. Luiz salivated from the sidelines asking for a salty greasy gravy for his mashed potatoes. Steamed vegetables and a crisp salad rounded out my post-Thanksgiving feast.

We have fixins for several lunches to come.