Friday, November 21, 2014

Can't...

...fail NaBloPoMo, so here's a quick post to say I'm tired, and freezing, and going to bed, and that it was a beautiful day to go do community service & help clean this church lady's leaves from her yard with the 7th & 8th graders!

Here's a photo (not my son, BTW! ;-):

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"We Shall Not Opress the Stranger..."

"...for we know the heart of a stranger, we were strangers once too."
                      President Obama quoting scripture in tonight's speech.

(I was going to embed the video, but decided not to)

I missed seeing it live (I forgot! and remembered only 8:35pm), but saw it on my phone as soon as I remembered.

Immigration is an issue that I touches me very personally since I am an immigrant (albeit an "accidental" one) too. And I have many friends belong to the ranks of the millions of undocumented immigrants the president talked about. Most have been in this country for over ten years, many have children born and raised here (like me) and are active parts of their communities.

I hope they will have a chance to continue to build a life here. It's a pity that legislation regarding this important issue has been held hostage to political division (that's the main reason I loathe a divided government, nothing gets done, it's not a matter of keeping the other side in check, it's a matter of having one side stubbornly refusing to do the work they're paid to do).

In any case, I hardly write about political issues here (because I don't want to argue with anyone), but today I felt I had to. I don't know if this executive order will do much good to the remainder of Obama's presidency, since I'm afraid that the opposition may have a hissy fit and cause another aggravating government shutdown, but we'll see!

Sigh...

Christmas Cards Ordered

We're still "Thanksgiving-less" (we don't know what we're doing, who will join us, or what! Since our closest family members moved to Egypt, now our Thanksgivings will probably be "meh") :-(

And we haven't planned the details of our Christmas celebration (we're probably going to Florida to see my cousins, but I haven't talked to them yet), but I just ordered 100 Holiday cards -- that's a lot of cards, right?

It's just that Costco's prices are so attractive that this year I ordered a cheap photo card and a more expensive double-sided cardstock one! I LOOOOVE designing and sending Christmas cards to all of our friends and family, YAY!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

12 Step Program?

Warning: tons if italics and BOLD WORDs ahead! ;-) Oh, and words repeated for emphasis. ;-)

I think you could call me a shopaholic. There, I've said it. But it's "serious," this problem that I have. I'm a proud, hardened, unrepentant, "don't want to change, don't even try to convince me" second-generation shopaholic. You see, it's a genetically transmitted defect! Even my father (a MAN!!!) loves to spend time in stores and, if it's a really good bargain, to shop. Wasn't I bound to be doomed?

Problem is, I don't feel the need to change! For the most part I only buy cheap stuff. Sometimes (and here's part of the problem), really, really cheap stuff. I could never ever be the "extreme couponing" type of person. I don't have time or patience for clipping coupons. In fact, I can't stand grocery shopping and I HATE buying name-brand stuff (and virtually ALL the coupons are for name-brand, highly processed items).

So... what did daddy pass down with his genes (almost wrote jeans, hahahaha!) to me? An irresistible need to be a "bargain hunter" and, probably, a love of colorful clothing. Not that he actually wears very colorful clothes, but after he retired from being a pastor, a chaplain, and a professor for many years (but, mainly, church pastor), he ditched the dark suits and white shirts and started to wear slightly mismatched, more colorful (or at least striped or checkered) shirts. Gotta love him, he's so cute!

Clothes and shoes. These are my weaknesses. Particularly dresses. And NEVER any accessories (belts, scarves[light ones], jewelry -- I cannot bear to pay any money for these things, particularly belts). If I could afford it I'd have tons of winter hats and gloves (and even scarves), but I can't, so there you go.

Interestingly, there are items that I can't stand buying, I just do it because I have to, and even then, sometimes, I ask my mom to help me (with skin colored pantyhose, ARGH, I don't know why I hate buying it so much and almost equally, wearing it, but sometimes one has too, right?). I don't like to buy bras... (and maybe that's because I'm too skinny & they don't really fit me right).

I love pajamas and wish I'd allow myself to buy more (like I do with dresses), but there's logical reasoning about having lots of pajamas! We spend a very large portion of our lives sleeping, we might as well be dressed comfortably!

Yeah, I don't really think I have a problem, although I probably do. Sigh... My other reasoning (for buying a 9.99 or 8.99 cute dress almost every time I go to Ross) is that "I work so hard and actually make some money, I deserve this -- it is so cheap!" But, as my husband said, it's OK, as long as I donate as many dresses or clothes to other people and I promise I'm working on it!

And I think I have pretty good taste and pick very cute clothes that look good on me. I think I have my own quirky sense of fashion. Actually, for a couple of years I've been dreaming of having this little unassuming "fashion blog" on the side, but I simply don't have the time it takes to do it. Mostly because I'd need to take and post photos and that takes a long time, but also because why do it if getting people to read is nearly impossible with so many professional bloggers out there?

So, the "secret" is out. Do you have any little secrets or not-so-secret bad habits like me? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Car Update

Well, good thing that the dashboard malfunction is a manufacturer's defect and will be fixed free of charge by Toyota. The car had to stay overnight and my husband is driving a pretty red rental car while I'm stuck with the old Hyundai Accent! ;-)

The other problem the Prius has had is that the headlights suddenly turn off at random occasions. Toyota was going to charge us 480 dollars to replace them, so (after K watched a few YouTube videos with instructions) we bought a pair of lights from Amazon and he will attempt to replace them. Let's hope it'll work!

I'm glad that the problems can be easily solved, but car troubles are always a disruption of the routine and a source of stress... (at least to me, K kept telling me on the phone that these inconveniences are part & parcel of owning cars and that I shouldn't be stressed. Thinking of spending money always stresses me out, though! :-(

Did we Buy a Lemon? :-(

I got in the Prius to drive to work and the panel lights are off. I can drive, but I can't see my speed, how much gas I have, whether there are any problems with the car, etc.

I was already on my way, but decided to stop at a gas station to wait for my husband and switch cars. I think he's going to take it straight to Toyota. :-(

My husband didn't get the Carfax from this car when we bought it, he just trusted the owner, are young lady who was selling it with the help of her fiancé.  And later he came to suspect that maybe this car was in a minor accident because the paint in the front bumper is peeling off. 

This is so upsetting, not to mention stress that I don't need and can have right now! :-( Hopefully it won't be very expensive to fix (which is my biggest worry, expensive car repairs -- precisely what we wanted to avoid when he bought a new-ish car) and can be done quickly.

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Too Many Things (before kicking the bucket or... hitting the boots ;-)

Last Friday & last night, I was over-tired and, consequently, not very inspired to write here, but I always have way too many things to say. I never run out of words, it seems, or ideas, and, a lot of the time, energy! ;-) It's positively exhausting to be me, I assure you!

That's not the subject of this post, though! I want to reflect about the fact that there are way too many things I want to do in life, but I don't like to call it a "bucket list." In fact, I only learned/heard of the term "bucket list" a couple of years ago, probably in a blog post title, and I had to look it up! You know, when I learned that it was the list of things you want to do before you "kick the bucket" and was reminded of that expression I had a good laugh!

It's just that "chutar o balde" (kick the bucket) in Portuguese means something completely different! It means to "give up" or to stop forcing things and just to let them happen naturally (see here if you know some Portuguese). The equivalent metaphor for dying in Portuguese is, instead, "bater as botas" (hit the boots or, even, in a sense "kick" them). Yeah, languages are lots of fun, no?

I thought of this very commonly blogged about subject because today I found one more thing to put in my list and remembered another one, since they are in the same state of Brazil.

Inhotim (wikipedia entry), a place with an interesting name, apparently derived from Mr. Timothy (a British man who administered the mining company located there), or "Senhor Tim" which transformed into Sinhô Tim, and then Inhotim. It is located in the state of Minas Gerais and it contains a contemporary art museum within a nature reserve and botanical gardens. Apparently it is the largest open air art museum and permanent installation(s) in the world! I really want to go there someday!

Here's a video in which your artists visit Inhotim:

And here's a slide show:
But even more than this fascinating museum, I want to visit the town of Dimantina, in Minas Gerais, where one of my favorite books, Diário de Helena Morley (or The Diary of Helena Morley) was written. It is a well preserved 18-19th century mining town in Brazil.


Suggested Pain?

This is more a quick note than a blog post, but I wanted to write it just to record this slightly "weird" event. Last night I was reading the blog archives, looking for the posts about the broken tree and I found this old post from 2011 that described this horrible back pain I had then.

Now, this morning I woke up with pretty strong back muscle pain and that felt weird, given that I'd read that post last night! I don't think it was the power of suggestion that gave me pain, however. My back had been hurting yesterday a bit before I went to cook dinner to all of my students at U#2, and I carried a very heavy basket from the car when I got home, so that was probably the cause.

Remembering what had happened in 2011 I used a hot pad for an hour in bed before I got up and took a hot shower. I decided not to take any painkillers because I was OK, just a bit sore. I already feel almost good, but I'll use the heat pad again before sleeping.

OK, not let me finish today's "official post." ;-)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Leaves of the Tree we still have & new garden "pet"

 It's pretty incredible that this tree is still with us after losing significant limbs and part of the trunk not once, but twice (can't find link to second time). I love how its leaves are so "reluctant" to change colors and then how gorgeous they look when the finally turn.

 The green so late in the season is this tree's greatest problem -- it still has leaves when the snow comes!

We moved some wood right next to the back garage door and, lo and behold, we found this creature! I don't like snakes at all, but they're slightly fascinating animals. :-)  (and, obviously the title of the post is just a joke -- I would never ever have a snake for a pet!).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wow, The Movie is Better than the Book? (Ah, Baz Luhrmann!)

I never, ever thought I was going to say this (literature "purist" that I am) but I like Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby way better than the book! It helps that I don't much like the book, I suppose, but I still think it's very well written and a "classic."

I re-read it late last year, hoping to see the movie in the theater (something I do extremely rarely), but that never happened, and now I will have to re-read it again! Sigh... I first read it for my 20th  century American lit class in college (I was an English major, after all!) and I thought it was such a depressing book, full of hopeless characters, which I guess it is.

The movie does a brilliant job with the story, though! It takes a few liberties -- Nick in a Sanatorium doing therapy sessions with a psychiatrist and writing the story as therapy was... I don't know... an interesting ploy to introduce the narrator, a bit forced, perhaps -- but I suppose it's a minor detail. The plentiful use of words on the screen (as well as the writing done by Nick) emphasize the literary character of the work and I obviously love that.

Like in Luhrmann's previous movies, the art direction, the cinematography, costume & set design as well as the soundtrack (20th & 21st century music mixed to convey the roaring 20s!) are 100% over the top, which fits this particular story amazingly well! And the inventive language Luhrmann uses is also fascinating.

I'm sure I could go on and on, but it's 2 am (and I'm fudging on the time of the post for NaBloPoMo's sake once more, hello!) and I still need to cook some before I can sleep. Maybe more later?!

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Friday, November 14, 2014

10 Years Old [on 5/30]!! or Happy Birthday to my "baby" (written on 5/30/14)

Instead of writing another lame post, I looked in my drafts folder and found this post that I forgot to finish and publish on my youngest son's birthday in May. Oh-oh!

I can't believe my "baby" is a decade old today. Wow!

He's such a joy, my youngest son, very sweet and caring, responsible and helpful, he's quiet with people he doesn't know and almost shy, but a chatter-box when he knows you. (you know all about that, right, J?). He's got this very unique sense of humor, mostly using word-plays and puns. And he has the most beautiful cursive handwriting.

My mostly easy-going boy gets all of his brother's hand-me-downs and doesn't ever complain, bless his heart! Of course I do get him new clothes once in a while! ;-) He's very skinny, but is growing very fast. I keep hoping both boys will wear different sizes for a while longer, but we know he's probably going to be taller than his brother, so soon enough they'll be wearing the same size clothes and shoes. I'm not looking forward to the extra-expense!

He's beginning to behave like a "tween" already and his attitude and teasing manner sometimes take me by surprise.
(the draft ended here)

Some things have changed since last May. Now he's in 5th grade and feeling pretty "grown up." He now plays in the band and sings in the choir and he wants to join the bell choir next year (much to his older brother's chagrin ;-). I still feel like he's my "baby" and he's definitely still a young boy, but his "baby face" is slowly transforming and changing.

They grow too fast, these kids, and I try to enjoy every second and every phase. I would include a photo, but I don't think he would like that. I hope he enjoyed his birthday celebrations! He had a playdate with his two best friends on the day and a pool and climbing wall party with some other friends a few days later. It's the last "official" party, the 10th birthday one. I know it's an "arbitrary" decision, but I think that 10 parties each is enough, right? ;-) Maybe I'll do a "round up" post of all their birthday parties (nah, too many photos to choose from!).

Ha!! I found two usable photos from his party, I don't think he'll object to these (and you can barely see the kids' faces on that second one).
Goofy birthday photo! The party was also a good-bye to two of his friends: the boy in the middle [in white] and his twin sister, [not pictured] -- they are the youngest kids of our former school principal who moved to the West Coast with his family.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tired

Warning: lamest NaBloPoMo blog post ever, but it's for a good cause (going to bed earlier!)

I'm exhausted!! I just spent 3h preparing food for the dinner I'm offering to my students at U#2 on Sunday.

A friend came to help me, particularly in the rolling of the "cheese bread" (pão de queijo). 

Last night I was up 'till past 2 am, so I need to post this & go to bed! Ok, bye!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Warm Wind, Colorful Dress

I can't stop talking about how much I love this amazing weather we're having! :-) It's because it just makes me so blissfully happy!  And I also know that it's not going to last much longer. 

I wish I were wearing a dress like two weeks ago when the temperature reached the 80s! But it was colder 76 miles away where I live so I didn't know it was going to warm up like this! It is actually warmer now (70!!) than the forecast says will be warmest temperature in the day. I guess they made a mistake!

I am also enjoying this blogging while walking to and from work and speaking into my phone. I'm sure it's not my best writing, but I hope it's okay!

Here are some selfies of the pretty dress that I bought on sale and wore two weeks ago (I even painted my toenails for the occasion):

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

72 F (22 C) in November feels Heavenly!

This is awesome! It feels like a winter afternoon in Brazil!  Except that the light is way more slanted (ah! Emily Dickinson) and that there are some red and yellow leaves left on the trees while others are mostly bare.

What a gift! I'm enjoying every second, knowing that this is unexpected, unusual... Maybe the result of our constant destruction of the environment. :-(

In any case, it's a glorious, gorgeous afternoon, and I'm happy!

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Tree-Hugging Brother & His Sustainable Company

I don't know if I should check with my brother before sharing this photo, but I don't think he'd mind. Here he is, literally hugging a tree in a forest in Bolivia, maybe in 2011 or 12:
My brother (2.5 years younger than me) is a "forest engineer" or, I suppose, forester in plain English. Back in 2012 he made a photo album in facebook (where I got this photo) to show to his friends why he loves his life as a forester. The photos begin in 2006 when he moved to China to work for Stora Enso, a Finnish paper company that was (and is) working with the Chinese government to plan eucalyptus for a future paper mill. He was basically teaching them how to plant the tree which was successfully introduced in Brazil many years ago and thrived there. 

In 2008 he moved to New Zealand (because my SIL didn't want to have babies in China!) to work for a consulting forestry company, Poyry (also from Finland). In that job he traveled the world -- he worked in the Australia backlands (where he was super emotional seeing eucalyptus in its native environment for the first time in his life, after years of working with that tree). in forests in Fiji, Ghana, Brazil (the Amazon), Bolivia, Chile. 

Then he moved on to another consulting firm, Indufor, (also Finnish, what's with Finland and forest engineering and consulting?) where he led this huge consulting project for his current employer, Fibria, the merger of the two largest paper producers in Brazil and one of the largest pulp production companies in the world. Last September, he moved back to Brazil (with a newborn and a 22 month old) to work as a manager at Fibria and this weekend a business magazine in Brazil (Exame) named Fibria the most sustainable company in Brazil in 2014! (I sill need to congratulate my brother)

I'm sure some environmentalists would disagree, but my brother knows A LOT about paper production and sustainable forest management, and he says that most large-scale paper producers in the world are actually benefiting the environment. In addition to planning ahead and planting millions of trees that will be used for paper-making in the future, they also preserve local indigenous forests, among other intiatives. That makes me feel a bit better about using paper, although I agree that using less of it is good even if paper companies are planting more trees than they're cutting down.