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Friday, February 29, 2008

New York, New York

The lights of Time Square, NYC
I am finally back HOME in Rio and find myself just as happy to be here as I am when I go HOME to Houston - a mystery that applies to my 'between two worlds' blog of several months ago.
On our way back to Brasil Camillo and I spent 4 days, 3 nights in New York City. When we made our trip reservations nearly 4 months ago there were no seats available on the direct Houston - Rio Continental flights, and would have to fly via New York in order to get home - so we decided to make a three day stop. We were in the very expensive tourist center of NYC but enjoyed it anyway. Museums, Broadway shows (Chorus Line) and more people than taxis. In our three days of tourist-ing, we saw the museum of modern art (MoMA), the Met, the Guggenheim, Rockefeller Center including the observation deck on the ROCK, took a tour on the Hudson River around southern Manhattan, TIME square, ate some very bad food, got taken by one taxi driver, ate one very good dinner, got taken by the GRAY LINE City Tours, and almost froze our tooshes off.
One evening it was -6c. I bought a red hat.... but that's another story.
I decided I like the warmth big city Rio better than the cold of big city NY.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Prescott, Arizona - history preserved

From ice on the car every morning to a walk in the clear, bright sunlight of the desert this area in northwest Arizona is a delight in contrasts. The Sharlot Hall Historical Museum celebrating the time when Arizona was a territory, showing a mix of how the pioneer and the native Americans lived - very often not in harmony. The Rose, a modern resturant set in a house from the late 1800s with its excellent wine list, serving roasted lamb and homemade vanilia bean ice cream with carmel sauce that brought a look of utter delight to my mother's face, the Apple Pan, a cute and cozy hambergur joint full of colorful locals and friendly service. Historic buildings, many on the national register and the starkly beautiful landscapes with fishing, kayaking and hiking, is enough contrast for all the family to enjoy.
I am back in Houston but for many reasons I will remember this time in Prescott with my mother for a very long time. GingerV

Sunday, February 17, 2008

the familiar and unfamiliar

When I lived in Houston I never paid much attention to the Bromeliads in the garden centers, for all I remember there were not any. Now I am seeing them everywhere - garden centers, Target, and Wal-Mart, all have had a wide variety of colors - perfect for brightening cold winter days.
Speaking of which, our readers in Brasil will love this, the day before yesterday we had a snow storm - if my knees had not hurt so much I would have run up and down the street like we did as kids, arms spread and mouths open - enjoying the novelty, the beauty of a fresh snow fall.
Mom and I had to leave an hour early to go get Camillo in Phoenix for fear that the roads would get icy but by our return in late afternoon the roads out of Phoenix were a big parking lot - no one seems to know how to drive in the rain – at least there was no ice. 
As we began the drive up the mountain on 69, we were rewarded with a typical Arizona sunset.
A day to fill the senses with pleasure.

Friday, February 15, 2008

"Home, Home on the Range"

"where the deer and the antelope roam", can you remember this song sung by Gene Autry?  The day before yesterday, while Mom and I drove east out into the countryside this song from my grade school days kept running through my head - and to both our sorrow I finally broke into song. "where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day ...." DSC_6613DSC_6612This high plane (5000+ feet) outside of Prescott and just west of the foothills of Mingus mountain, even with the trees stripped of leaves and the grasses bleached white from the cold dry air, is beyond beautiful. The sky is a clear bright blue that now I can remember running free under as a child. The sky is a big blue inverted bowl stretching from where you stand to the horizon - it is the feeling of freedom, oneness with the land.  
Below is the complete poem on which the song was based. "Traditional”  Written By: Brewster Higley,  Music By: Daniel Kelley Copyright Unknown


Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam

Where the deer and the antelope play

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word

And the skies are not cloudy all day

Home, home on the range

Where the deer and the antelope play

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word

And the skies are not cloudy all day


How often at night when the heavens are bright

With the light from the glittering stars

Have I stood there amazed and asked as I gazed

If their glory exceeds that of ours

Home, home on the range

Where the deer and the antelope play

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word

And the skies are not cloudy all day   DSC_0285

Where the air is so pure, the zephyrs so free

The breezes so balmy and light

That I would not exchange my home on the range

For all of the cities so bright

Home, home on the range

Where the deer and the antelope play

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word

And the skies are not cloudy all day

Oh, I love those wild flow'rs in this dear land of ours DSC_6611

The curlew, I love to hear scream

And I love the white rocks and the antelope flocks

That graze on the mountaintops green

Home, home on the range

Where the deer and the antelope play

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word

And the skies are not cloudy all day"



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

American Peanut Butter: A Minor Miracle in Rio

Until now you had to have a willing friend traveling from the US to have peanut butter delivered here. What is available is an anaemic concoction so highly sweetened you can crunch on the sugar. No wonder most Brazilians say they would never eat it!

Yesterday I resolved to make my own by roasting tiny Brazilian peanuts in the oven at 300 degrees F for around 10 minutes. I then ground them with a bit of salt in my blender. The more I ground the oilier it became until it was the smooth, roasted, delightfully salted mess we love to spread on toast or make peanut butter cookies with.

Try this recipe. I've been using it for years.

1 cup sifted brown sugar, (remove the beads of molasses and put them in your morning oatmeal)
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat it up, roll it into balls and bake at 350 degrees F

They are crumbly and most deserving of the title "biscuit" the British love to use. note: A Brazilian made blender is not strong enough for making peanut butter

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Ma'am, I'm just a cowboy"

I am in Prescott, Arizona visiting my mother. Walking about the town in the early morning light yesterday, I realized that I feel at home here. The buildings, highways, hills and tree lined river beds remind me so much of Cottonwood, where we lived until I was 14. I suspect that no matter how far we go, or how much we think we have changed, where we first put down roots defines us in ways that never change. I am sure that these two towns have also changed in ways that can't be counted, cable TV, Internet service, five lane main streets, but there also remains a simplicity reminiscent of the time when I was growing up, a time when children could run freely along the streets and men were gentlemen.
On Sunday, coming in from Phoenix on highway 17, driving east on 69, I had to stop for a soda and a walk to clear my head. The man at the counter of the market had one of those handlebar mustaches. Just to make conversation, I ask him if he rode motorcycles, and he laughed softly and in a gentle soft-spoken way said, "ma'am I am just a cowboy".  No need to be more, no regret at being who he is - understanding of what values define him - this feeling is what makes us at home in our own skin - then the place - the space - where we live is no longer important.
DSC_6566This little house although not the same shape or color, reminded me of the house the seven of us grew up in - small and poor - and after all these years still representing home.

Monday, February 11, 2008

'more' bigger

DSC_6529A trip to the local garden center took Patty and me 1 hour and 35 minutes - a 5 minute drive and an hour & 1/2 to walk around. We walked up and down all the rows enjoying the fresh air, moderate morning temperatures and a complete selection of spring flowers, trees and bushes that are best planted now, beforeDSC_6526 the heat of summer. DSC_6538
I bought some bulbs to plant in Friburgo and, of course, more seeds. The seeds I take back never grow into viable plants, but I get warm feelings starting them in the greenhouse. I have started to give the baby plants to Lucia and Manuel to take home. They live down the hill from us and seem to be able to get a vegie or two from the plants - mine grow just enough to allow me to walk around the garden and eat a handful of peas, green beans or cherry tomatoes, pulled straight from the "vine".
This Houston Garden center is another example of the 'bigger' in the States. One that I can't help but fully enjoy -

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

BiG !

   I am now at five years in Brasil. In those five years or 60 months, I have probably spent 6 months here in Houston. This visit I have started to notice that I now have a different perspective of the States. BIG, and BIGGER.                                                                     

The doctor's office where my daughter works with its long halls, high ceilings, and soft lighting accenting the feeling of space.

The new house of a friend - Rhonda and her husband Terry (no children at home/one very small dog) just purchased this last December has a kitchen the size of our Rio apartment (Possibly somewhat exaggerated to make the point). 

The parking garage under the Galleria that has long open drives and parking spots that are easy in and easy out - everything Big!

Part of this perception of BIG, is the wide open spaces of Texas, its wide flat plains that are now filled with people, 14 lane highways, and three story stores that have only one story of showroom floors. BIG! Every shopping center is surrounded with parking spaces - Bigger! Restaurants Big! and the serving sizes Bigger! It has occurred to me that the well publicized weight problems of the North Americans are rooted in the world of BIGGER!   In order to not feel small in this world of BIG – maybe they feel the need to be BIGGER!.