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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A footnote

It is probably just a coincidence but I was browsing the EXPAT blogs here in Brasil, catching up on the local news and all, when I opened Daily life in Rio  and found a CEMETERY story.  She is a Canadian and young mother-to-be living in Rio.  She has just returned from a short vacation in Argentina and is writing about Buenos Aires and its Recoleta Cemetery.  Take a look.

Fall Fruit and other colors

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In Nova Friburgo there DSC07798[3]DSC07750is not much in the way of seasonal temperature changes. Mostly you follow the seasons by what color is in the forest in that moment. In the height of summer it is green, green green. The rains, rains, rains bring only greens to the forest. It is too heavy and too persistent to allow the sun to shine and flowers to bloom. Every year about this time, in the month before Easter there are days and often weeks of sun and the forest comes alive with color. In our garden, we have 4 or five caqui (persimmons) trees. They are all different varieties, but they begin to turn red, orange and yellow and the leaves begin to turn red in April through June. They are the only real fall looking tree that we have. This year all the caqui trees, all the varieties are laden with fruit. If you leave them on the tree too long the birds really enjoy themselves or the fruit begins to mildew. So this year I picked plenty and have been waiting for them to ripen in the kitchen. I have been putting them in the refrigerator as they are ready and today I made my first batch of Caqui jelly. Later we will have oranges that are too bitter to eat, but make great citrus marmalade – they are just beginning to turn orange (really they are yellow – but an orange is orange right?) The oranges ripen and can be used in my kitchen around June - July.

DSC04675[2]DSC04531[10] I don’t know the name of this tree, but it is common up here. They grow like weeds, the root system is everywhere – last year we had to cut down the one in these photos because it had gotten into our pipes and septic tank. The color is really beautiful – reddish orange at the tips to bright yellow at the base.   It eats flies and other small insects.













The morning glories grow wild along the roads.  Last year Manuel (the jardimeiro) planted starters he dug up in the forest all along our road front – we have been having a great show of deep blue flowers. The forests close to home are now full of Ipe da Montanha or 'flor-de-Maio' and the QUARESMEIRA. There are several trees that have the dark yellow blossoms and it is hard to tell which is which while driving and taking photos from the road. The quaresmeira is also in deep rich purple or in a soft pink varieties, the purple is most common.  The very best is when the purple tree and the yellow are side by side. DSC08659[3]DSC07064[3]










Monday, March 30, 2009

Another walk on the Lagoa

Last week I went into Rio to enjoy a couple days of noise, confusion, babies crying and little boys trying to play drums in the big city. Why would anyone who lives in an apartment building buy their 5 year old a set of drums? Maybe it was some grandparents that live in another country – THAT would serve me right, but we didn’t buy drums, it was an electric guitar and the little guy was only 3 or so.DSC07822[4]
When I have the chance and I want some different exercise, I walk the Lagoa.  Our apartment in Ipanema is one block from the beach and about 4 blocks from the Lagoa. To walk to the Lagoa and the 7.5 km around, it takes me about one hour and twenty minutes. On Thursday, I walked 30 minutes out, taking photos and meandering a bit (so probably it can’t be considered exercise) then turned around and walked the same side back, stopped at the Mamute gym to say hello to all the good looking muscle bound guys there, and then walked home happy and took Camillo to lunch.
Thursday, I began the walk at about 9 am, the air was so still that the reflection of the clouds in the water was almost as perfect as the sky itself. This also meant the humidity sat on my shoulders like about 20 extra pounds and I had a good sweat going by the first kilometer.   The trail around the lake is lined with trees both local, imported and Brazilian indigenous from other states. They are clustered instead of mixed and, for me this makes for is very pleasant landscape. The Abrico-de-macaco from the Amazon region was at the last of its bloom but still beautiful…. its flowers bloom right out of the sides of the trunk and branches. After the bloom are finished it gets cantaloupe sized (and color/texture) seed pods clusters in the same place. The blooms have a wonderful sweet smell, I image it attracts insects for breakfast with that smell.
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I hear a lot of complaints about the city not keeping the streets maintained and clean but the last couple times around the lake I saw city workers both cleaning the algae from the water and extra growth from the shore. I think the city does a great job in our part of town – the high tax district.

The Kiosks were also sweeping their area, washing down the rentals and there was a general ‘getting ready for the week-end crowds’ hustle.



Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Shootout - Graveyards

I have put a lot of thought and some hours into coming up with this weeks show of photos. A show that will interest you and bring you some idea of what Nova Friburgo is about. I started with the common idea that we are all trying to capture – our town. And it basically went down hill from there.

DSC077313I started this blog in order to talk about what I could find GOOD about living in Brasil, about Rio de Janeiro and about Nova Friburgo. I have focused my eye on the color, the forest, the flowers, the positive parts of the culture, the positive aspects of the people. This has not been hard because there is much beauty in Brasil. But there are also crumbling buildings, gray sooty walls, dark dingy spaces, houses that are shells made of red brick and are a patchwork of castaway building materials, beggars with many problems are on the streets - literally underfoot on the sidewalks and curbs, on the streets there's aggressive aggravating traffic belching nose and confusion. These things I have not written about because I needed to be forced to see the beauty around me if I was to continue to live here. With this understanding and background, we are ready to visit the Nova Friburgo Cemitério – the Cemetery St John the Baptist.

No, NO, sorry we have to go the long way around. I have to work my way around to saying something good…..

To me graveyards, cemeteries, burial grounds, churches, Cathedrals, crosses, headstones, DSC013533mausoleums, angels and beauty are all synonymous. Like botanical gardens, everywhere I travel I visit churches and their cemeteries. They are places of beauty and grace, history and life. They reflect a culture’s core character. In Kristiansand, Norway the cemetery was guarded by a memorial to the love of a mother, its headstones faced the front door of the church. They looked as though they were marching towards heaven each carrying a bouquet of fresh flowers. As a reflection of Kristiansand's clean and orderly streets, the headstones were uniform in size and all planted with flowers. A reflection of the Norwegian core culture.

DSC029329In the Cathedrals of France and Italy, the Popes, Cardinals, and Saints have exalted burial places. The great and the small cathedrals’ main apse and basilicas are lined with small chapels, walls and sculptures donated by the families to honor their dead (and the political standing of the important family name?). Throughout these countries, there are war memorials, graves of the unnamed soldier, lists of all soldiers of towns and villages lost in the great wars. In Frascati, Italy a memorial stands to the 6000 innocent citizens that were killed by Allied bombs during WWII. (see also Frascati and other family gatherings)

From antiquity to modern, graveyards show man’s need to honor his ancestors, his family, to remember, to grieve. Many small towns and villages of Brasil have small but beautiful, simple but loved - churches and cemeteries.

Now Friburgo!

DSC09023In the central section of Nova Friburgo the local cemetery is a place of darkness and confusion. Climbing randomly up the side of a hill, butting up to stacks of houses coming down; at one time it may have been beautiful but now overgrown with tombstones jumbled, shoulder to shoulder with other’s family graves. Headstones are often dirty, cracked, broken, forgotten. It is not a place to visit, to sit and reflect, to honor your lost family. The chapel where most funerals are held is a plain, rectangular building with metal framed windows, no grace to be found in its simplicity – This chaos, this confusion, this lack of care is what is reflected on the streets, the store fronts, the main streets of the city. What can be named as the core characteristic of a this town? When asked why (?) one friend said "it is problems with the government". The government? Is this a state owned cemetery? I said to him, "this is your town, your cemetery, your streets" - A Brazilian will not argue straight a out with me - probably another example of our language barriers and not part of being polite - so he just went silent....

This is why I have focused my eye on the beauty - thinking about these questions just drive me crazy. Please go to the photo album and enjoy the all the photos - including the one of the Cemetery John the Baptist, Nova Friburgo, Brasil

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gift from Home

DSC07860%255B4%255DCan you believe it? Today I receive a package from Reggie Girl. A package from home. She sent me a potpourri mix of Tarragon and Mango, Tarragon because the aroma reminds her of her grandmother’s garden. I just happened to be in Rio today when it arrived and I LOVE IT. A gift AND a note.

She sent this package out on February 25. If you count today it took exactly 30 days. I won’t tell you what she paid for this little package, but that isn’t the whole of it. She thought of it, and she made the effort to get it in the mail. She did this for a virtual stranger and you can only imagine how good it make me feel to have been thought of like this.

Hugs and kisses from Rio de Janeiro, Reggie Girl !

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Time to Travel

Today I will take the bus into Rio to meet Camillo, for some good food and wine, to attend the International Women's club on Friday, and on Saturday we will help friends celebrate their 17 wedding anniversary. Over much advice from friends and relatives I have avoided this women's club. Now, on my anniversary of 6 years in Brasil, it seems the time to try and meet some new friends. We can talk another time about why I have avoided it, my reasons and excuses, but for today this is enough - to plan to go to the meeting.
I tried something new with the blog - I wrote and scheduled Friday's shoot-out to publish without my help so I can travel without my computer. I hope it works and you will not be disappointed.
Just in case, I give you a flower from my garden.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Thoughts from the Veranda – More Perspectives

DSC07789%255B4%255D If you haven’t noticed, my thoughts from the veranda almost always coincide with Camillo’s travel. When he is gone my schedule (HIS schedule of meals / conversation / drinks / naps / bedtime that I work around) dissolves and I become disoriented, lost and introspective. Today it is raining again so I am not actually on the veranda but metaphorically, I am thinking and contemplating life from the veranda.
Yesterday, I read a blog The Butler and Bagman Chronicles and something Mark (B&B) said has taken me more than 24 hours to digest and to question if this is how I feel and if not should I. He is talking about blogging and how he needs to take time away from the blog world, he says that it is "... Difficult, sometimes, to remember that there is a real world that I live in". The real world, what is a real world, who’s real world?
I am in my office, in our home situated on a high hill north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – this is real. At a distance there are dogs and roosters marking their (real) world with the sound of their voices. Outside there is sound of rain, an occasional motorcycle on the road below, birds singing as they finish their ‘real’ day.  Inside my house it is silent; the only sounds are the hum of the computer and the tap of my fingers on the keyboard. If I stop writing for a minute, I can hear my heart beating in my ears it is so silent. (and I have a cold so my ears are stopped up) This is my ‘real’ world. If I type out a recipe, an observation, enter a photo or I tell a story about my ‘real’ world and I send it out into cyberspace as a blog does it become imaginary? Not of the real world.
I spend maybe 2 hours a day either writing or reading blogs (okay lets be fair - 3 hours, on a rainy day maybe 4). I read about 'real' life in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, Canada, India, other cities in Brazil and sometimes I just browse to see what is out there. There are stories about families, and dogs and the meals that have been cooked, restaurants that have been enjoyed, their ‘real’ worlds. I enjoy poetry and photography from these many different ‘real’ worlds. I often leave comments when moved by corresponding ideas and have a feeling of being a part of a very large, wide, rich ‘real’ world. This could be living vicariously (experienced through somebody else rather than at first hand, by using sympathy or the power of the imagination) but what is being a couch potato? Watching 10 hours of baseball, soccer, football, the Olympics, old Arnold Schwarzenegger movies on TV every weekend, is this living in the ‘real’ world?
Sad but true, blogging has taken me off the mountain top, expanded my world, added people – real people not characters from a book – to my day that I can talk with (in English), exchange ideas, keep (no matter how remote) contact with. It has added people to care about. From my perspective, sitting here in this isolated place above the forest, the world of blogs is a real world. Should this be true? Maybe another day on the veranda would answer that. Should I take warning that my life is now out in cyberspace, for now no. As long as I have family, have a husband, spend 2 hours at the gym speaking Portuguese, have interest in learning new things (mostly recipes), as long as this blogging thing is a hobby like any other hobby then it is a good thing and not to worry.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

One Guess

One guess why we have so much green surrounding us. Can you guess?

If you come often to this blog you are familiar with what this view usually is - this is the way it has looked all day today. Can't really complain because we have been so dry this rainy season but it has been building all week and now I bet it stays for a while.

Addendum - apple butter

it has been tested on fresh bread and approved by both Camillo and Spritzer - try the recipe you will like it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday job well done


Well I hope it is well done. I can’t be sure the apple butter I made today is really good until Camillo likes it.  If he doesn’t, I will have to eat it all myself or give it away.

While in the USA in October last year, I made apple butter for my daughter’s family and I thought I would try it for Camillo. Of course, we all know that apple butter is the best on whole wheat bread (store bought) with peanut butter and here we will eat it on Brazil's version, Pão Integral, which is not the same at all and forget the peanut butter which here taste like oily wax.   We will work with what we have.

It has been quite a process to replicate this recipe but after nearly 4 months and the use of some ‘jetinho’,  I think I have had some success (I won’t know till I get Camillo’s approval). Lets assume he will love it – here is the recipe.

So-Easy Apple Butter (given to me by my sister Candy – taken from her Midwest Living Magazine.)

  • Prep time is 30 minutes (if your fast at pealing apples) Cooking time 5 hours – cool time 1 hour
  • 4 pounds cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced (12 cups)   ( I used 2 kilos granny smiths)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 TBS cider vinegar (I used Vinagre de Maçã  /  Maçã = apples, cider is made from apples – close enough?)
  • 2 Tsp. ground cinnamon (Canela da china em Pó)
  • 1/4 tsp. Cloves (here it got sort of tricky – I could not find ground clove only Cravo da Índia (whole), I needed it em Pó or ground - I looked everywhere then decided to grind it in my coffee grinder – well we will see. By the way don’t do this - it left some type of residue in the grinder that may effect the taste of my coffee forever) ***have since found ground cloves here in Zona Sul
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice  (defined as Allspice, also called Jamaica pepper, pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta,[1] or newspice, is a spice that is the dried unripe fruit ("berries") of Pimenta dioica)  I brought mine from the states.
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg (Noz-Moscada)
  1. Place apple slices in a 3 1/2-4 quart slow cooker   {This is the part that took two months. When in the USA and I got this bright idea I didn’t buy the slow cooker – thought I’d seen them here – also needed 220v not 110v. After much searching in Rio and Friburgo, I couldn’t find one here so I ordered from the internet, a special site with 220 small appliances, and had Camillo bring it back from Houston on his trip in Feb. – then the plug didn’t fit our plug – so it took another trip to Rio to a specialty store in centro – finally I was ready to go.}
  2. Stir in sugar, water, vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.
  3. Cover, cook on high setting for 5-6 hours. Stir, cool at least 1 hour or cover and chill overnight. Ladle apple butter into half-pint storage or freezer containers, (I use sterile used jars and store in the refrig.), leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal and label. Store 3 weeks in the refrigerator or for 1 year in the freezer. Makes 4 – 1/2 pint containers.
  4. Great on toast – fresh biscuits – gram crackers or as a sandwich with peanut butter.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Shoot out - Houses

My home ground of Rio and Nova Friburgo are different than the USA in so many ways, one obvious way is the Homes. There are more apartments here than individual homes; there are high rise apartments (rich and poor), sobre Lojas (above the shops), apartments line the main streets, and there are old houses that have been converted to small apartments.

DSC07635%255B1%255DDSC07640%255B1%255DIndividual homes, in smaller numbers, also come in many variety of sizes and values; Small, chronically incomplete (illegal) houses, moderate sized but expensive walled in homes on city dime sized lots, farm houses on hills or valleys with large pieces of land – horses and cows grazing. Most often the individual homes are behind high fences and you can only guess at what is there. You see a roof top, a chimney, a water tank.

This house sits just off our road to Lumiar, there is only a romantic glimpse through the trees – a veranda wraps the front with high arched windows – flowering trees add the only color other than green of the forest and white of the house. The house looks out over white fenced horse paddocks and cattle grazing land that runs at least 3 miles along the road. In contrast to this large richly designed home is this small pink house that sits on the edge of the forest on a dirt road I often walk below our house. This simple home was more than likely built by those that live in it. It is a typical style and size of homes for the local workers. Not fancy but paid for as it was built just for a bit of whimsy, I include the House of bird houses where you can find every size and color of hand painted bird houses and mail boxes.DSC01038%255B1%255DDSC07736%255B4%255D




and a play house we found at a Pousada (B&B) that was the house of Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs to delight all little girls. There was a table and chairs inside where the little visitors could have a tea party.




But my favorite house in the neighborhood is our house. It has all the components that make a house a Home; spaces inside and out that make room for family and friends, a feeling that the inside and the outdoors belong together, space that please the eye and welcome you in.

My favorite house


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