Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Odds and Ends

Nominations:

My lovely blogging friend Aliki has nominated me for the Share the Love Blog Awards. I'm very touched that she thinks that mine is one of the Happiest Blogs (that's the category) she knows. If you agree with her, you can vote for me in the coming week (from Feb. 1-6). The rules, and I guess the link to the voting site are/will be here.

I have, in turn, nominated two bloggers: Aliki for "Most Inspiring" blog -- those of you who read her know that she can write very touching and inspiring posts on simple moments of life; and Jo(e) for "Blogger You'd Most Like to Meet." Of course I'd love to meet all of you, but Jo(e) is one of the bloggers I really hope to meet someday. So you should go vote for them too (if you agree with me)!

Job Search:
It looks like there's another possibility, one that we had almost forgotten about. It's a small school in the West Coast that had been contacting my husband since last year about a possible post. It's good to know we may have more than one option, but at the same time it's a bit nerve-racking. The hardest thing will be deciding where to go. One deciding factor may be a possible teaching position (adjunct/ instructor) for me -- if one of the places offers that.

Dissertation:
I really really really need to go back to work in earnest. Today was the first day I did any work in nearly two weeks. I NEED to do this!! Especially if we actually get to have job offers. I've been avoiding this topic here forever, but I'll have to face it. And spend less time blogging too, so I'll wrap this post up right here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

95 Years

Today is my paternal grandmother's 95th birthday. She is my only remaining grandparent, so I really treasure her and feel sad that I can only see her once a year or so when I go to Brazil.
She is still fairly healthy and completely lucid. Unfortunately, two years ago she broke her femur and she's been bed-ridden ever since, which is a trial for her and the daughter who lives with and cares for her. She spends her time knitting and watching TV, especially the news. She's been knitting booties for many many years (see last photo below), but a couple of years ago I put in a request for scarves and now, in addition to several bags full of booties of all sizes and colors, I also have many beautiful scarves (I'll post some photos another day).

My grandmother, whose name is Olivia Diva, was born in the South of Brazil (in the state of Paraná), the daughter of German and Polish immigrants. At 15 she married my grandfather, also of German descent. Last year I was asking her why they married so young back then, and she replied that when my grandfather started going to her house on Sunday nights to talk to her, her father said right away that they would need to marry soon, because he had no money for kerosene (used for lighting) for him to visit every weekend.

They had 9 children, but the oldest one, a girl, died still in infancy. Grandma says that they were too young and inexperienced and didn't know how to care for a baby. Of their eight remaining children, the first four were boys (my father is the second) and then four girls came. Three of my aunts live on the same city where grandma lives in Southern Brazil, three sons are in Brazil, and the third son and the youngest daughter have lived here in the U.S. for many years. She has are 12 grandchildren (I'm the third oldest) and now five great-grandchildren, with a sixth on the way for later this year.

In the late 1940s when my father was a boy (of eight or nine, I think) and six of his seven siblings, had already been born, the family sold their land (they had a small farm and a water powered corn flour mill where my dad worked) and moved to the Northern part of the state of Paraná. That region was then a thick forest that was being opened for settlers and for the planting of coffee. Now it is fully deforested and rich in agriculture (I grew up in that region in the 1980s, but that's a story for another day). My grandpa opened a general store and was very successful. My dad (the one squatting at the front on the photo below) lived there with them, working at the store, until he was 21 when he left to pursue his education (he had stopped his schooling in 4th grade).
I don't know who that boy on the left is, but from left to right you can see my Grandpa, my youngest aunt, Grandma, my oldest aunt and the next to last daughter, the one who lives with Grandma now. My dad is at the front. I'm guessing this photo was taken around the time that he left home, or shortly thereafter, in the late 1950s 0r early 1960s.

I still remember the store and their house in that small town, although I was quite young (six) when they sold it and my grandparents moved to the state capital (Curitiba). In the following photo, I was three and my brother was not one yet.
And here is Grandma with my son, who is wearing one of the booties she made for him (she makes them for adults too):
I hope I can see her again next time I go to Brazil, but one never knows. My maternal grandmother died seven months after I moved to the U.S., days before turning 94. I feel blessed just to still have Grandma (Vovó) Olivia, and to have had a grandmother in my life for so long. I hope my sons remember her, or at least cherish the photos that they took together and the few moments they shared. The links between the young and the old are so beautiful to behold!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Great Weekend

We had a most wonderful weekend. Two of our best friends from Brazil visited for full three days, and it was heavenly! These are the same friends in whose house I was staying at when I wrote this and whose daughter is picture with my son in this post.

We just talked and talked into the nights, did some fun shopping together, and ate good food. Yesterday we took them to one of our favorite places, Longwood Gardens (photo above), and they loved it. It was snowing lightly outside the whole time, which added to the magic of looking at those magnificent flowers. My friend took the following picture of "the three men of my life:"It was a very refreshing weekend. Now, however, I need to start thinking seriously about the dissertation and all the dark fears that come with it. I have to start facing this "monster" so I can conker it once and for all in the coming months. This is scary. Scary because I'm aware of my many limitations and my literally disabling flaws. More on that soon, though. Right now I just want to enjoy the lingering feelings from the magnificent, perfect, weekend. (Sigh)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Brazilian Wedding

Last Sunday we went to a wedding of two friends from church. I've been to many weddings of Brazilian friends here in the U.S., but none can compare to this one as far as the flower arrangements go. This was actually the first wedding I've been to in this country that looked pretty much exactly like a wedding would look like in Brazil. In Brazil, all weddings have many flowers, even the simplest ones. Flowers are not expensive in Brazil and you can always count on a talented friend, or a group of them, to decorate the church (or the venue of your preference) for you, sometimes for free (obviously you still have to pay for the flowers). Those who have more money can choose the best people and pay those friends or acquaintances for their work and those who have even more, hire professional wedding decorators. The work of these"free-lance" ladies (it's generally women who do this) is generally as good as the the professionals, though, as you can see in these photos.
(that's my son on the left)

In this particular wedding, the reception was in hall adjacent to the church, so here you can see one of the ladies who made the flower arrangements carrying one of them from the church into the reception area. The next photo features the bride and groom's table, which I thought was amazingly beautiful.












I wish I'd taken more photos of the flowers, but I guess you get the idea from these. In the most recent weddings I've been to in Brazil, or those I've seen photos of, many of the flower arrangements feature large glass containers of various shapes filled with water (like the one pictured above on the right -- which has flowers floating inside) and fruit, generally limes, or oranges, depending on the color scheme. (I'll try to scan a photo of my brother's wedding later to show you how they look).

Well, here's a bonus photo.
I thought I'd include because besides being very cute, you can't see anyone's faces.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Celebrity Look Alikes

*Edited to Add*
- (2/5/07) This seemed fun, but the My heritage site simply pulled out the photos for some reason, so you can no longer see them. Not fun!
- (10/30/07) - I went to their site, did #1 and #2 again and figured out a way to save them to my computer so I can post them as an image which will be here "forever."#3 was already saved in my computer and I added a bonus one at the end. And I don't even know why I'm wasting time on this.

I saw this yesterday at Emily's blog and I like her post title: "If only..." Yeah, if only I did actually look like these people. Of course I had to try it, so I went ahead and uploaded three photos. You can check out the results and do the same if you like. This site's genealogy services seem to be amazing, I may go back and try to work on my family tree there.
NOTE: too bad the photos don't really fit my template. I fixed them by changing the height and width in the HTML, but I didn't want to make them much smaller so they wouldn't look too fuzzy.

1st try:
Here I used a relatively recent photo from August 2006 - spontaneous, taken by my son.I was really flattered to be thought to look alike Kelly Preston. Hmmm... I really don't think so, though. Holly Hunter was a nice surprise -- I really like her. I don't know the next four people, but... WOW, Sophie Marceau? I'd really like to look like her. But, wait a minute -- Tori Spelling? I always thought she was really ugly... oh well.

2nd try:
February 2006 photo, also taken by my son:
I only know three of these women and was flattered by the far away resemblance (66% is the highest -- see, I don't really look like them!!). But Holly Hunter and Sophie Marceau - again! - and Sarah Michelle Gellar -- wow. They even include this gorgeous Russian woman (Vodianova), who looks like she's 13.

3rd try:
Older photo, from April 2005, posed, and taken in the sun by my husband, so I'm squinting:
Surprisingly, this is the only photo that turned up the only celebrity that I have been told repeatedly by one of my dissertation committee members that I look alike: Andie MacDowell. Other than that -- Do I really look mostly like a man in that photo? I do think it's pretty cool to look like Richard Dreyfuss, John Stewart, and Gene Kelly, among others, but I thought it was pretty strange that mostly men turned up!!! Good thing some of them are quite handsome, not Kirk Douglas (only perhaps young) and Rudy Giuliani!!

It's really funny to see how the angle of the face in the photo, as well as the facial expressions are the things that determine resemblance in their face recognition "engine."
----------
Edited in 10/30/07 to add this one which hadn't been included in the "original" post:
These results are a bit bizarre since I look the most like a Chinese man and also look like three African American artists, but they do include Andie MacDowell and Gabriel Byrne -- whose photo does look quite a bit like the one I used for me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Aprehensive about (Prospective) Coming Changes

I was away from "blogland" for two days while at my brother- and sister-in-law's house. I was able to check email, but didn't stay online for long since my husband had taken our laptop for his job interview. Besides, I had to watch the boys and help my SIL.

The campus interview went really well, thankfully. He even visited the elementary school we would probably send our son to if we were to move there.

Wow, did I just say that? Sending my son to school?

Well, first of all, we know it's premature to start thinking of moving there, but one just can't help but imagine how it would be. My husband brought with him some touristy materials (maps and booklets) and a real state pamphlet. Looking at those houses in the car on our way back home I started wondering what would our prospective house look like. I feel happy that we would be able to (finally) get a bigger place, a one family home.

Mostly, though, I thought about my son. And school.

I really really wish I could be a more organized person and home school him. I know about "cyber schooling" too, a friend of mine just told me all about it just two weeks ago. I think it wouldn't be the best for us, though, or for him, since I just don't have confidence in my abilities to be disciplined and organized for both of us. Besides, I think he would thrive on the structured environment of school. I feel so torn about this!! Part of me feels that he's so young (he'll be 5 and a half in September) and that having my son away from me for seven hours is just an excruciatingly long time. I miss him already, just thinking about it. Aliki just wrote a beautiful post about similar issues.

If my husband does get an offer, I will look for a job there too, but if I don't have a job and just have to stay home with my youngest, I think it will feel very sad to have my oldest in school when I could be teaching him at home. Could I pull it out?

Besides, I cringe just thinking about having to get up really early everyday to drive him to school (we would have to drive him there, or car pool). If I worked then I think it wouldn't bother me at all, but if I don't... oh, that won't be easy!

Well, there will be many many changes, that's for sure. I've been looking forward to most of them, but I hadn't really thought about this school thing. Today though, as I held the packages from the school (with registration information, the rules and regulations, etc), this reality became very palpable to me. And I've been giving my son extra hugs and cuddles ever since, as well as talking to him about school. He's OK about it, but not that interested in this conversation. He'd rather talk about his upcoming Bob the Builder birthday party (we decided the theme at a dollar store yesterday!). I guess he's right. We have to concentrate on more immediate events.

In three weeks or so we'll know. And then the real excitement and worrying begins!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Delicious Pineapple-Mint Juice

This week I bought a big pineapple. We ate some of it and I saved the rest to prepare one of our favorite juices -- pineapple-mint juice. It's become a popular juice in Brazil, but I don't remember drinking it while I still lived there 10 years ago. I heard of it from a Brazilian friend sometime in the past two years and since I always have spearmint in our herb garden (particularly to make tabbouleh which I like with lots of spearmint, and not as much parsley) , we have enjoyed this juice quite often ever since.

Thanks to the warm weather, I didn't even have to go out and buy spearmint. Mine aren't big enough to harvest, but my neighbor's are. I took this photo of them after harvesting the biggest leaves:
(I hope this is not all the snow we have this winter!)
The juice is very simple to prepare, you just put the chopped pineapple in the blender with the spearmint leaves, sugar and water (photos with no water yet, obviously), after blending, it's best to pass it through a sieve before drinking.












Let me know what you think if you try it, I'll be curious to know!! My mouth is watering just by looking at these photos... yum!

Friday, January 19, 2007

News from the Kitchen

After last week's bitter cooking disappointment, this week was much, much better!!

I cooked pinto beans on Tuesday, and instead of preparing the traditional Brazilian meal of rice (generally long grain white rice, but I usually prepare brown, or basmati rice) and beans (not together, cooked separately, and then mixed in each person's plate), I decided to go for a Mexican style meal instead. Some of our American friends call it "Haystack" and many of our friends in Brazil like to eat it too, particularly at pot luck meals because it's quite simple to put together. We pile on our plates: tortilla chips, cheese (not for me, though), pinto beans (warm enough to melt the cheese), chopped lettuce, homemade salsa, and sour cream. Yummy. The boys ate everything in their plates. My husband joked that they like it because it's "Latin" food ;)

We had that on Tuesday and Wednesday -- this is a common practice at our home, preparing a meal that lasts more than a day, or gets transformed into something else the next day. Take lentils, for example (I looove lentils). I cook them to eat with rice one day and then, the next day, I prepare this dish that my mom calls a "pilaf" but which I'm sure must have another name, since at least here in the U.S. all the pilafs I've seen involve rice and other things. Anyway, it's simply lentils with bulgur wheat soaked in water and cooked together -- it's pretty mushy. I season it with sautéed onions and we eat it with sour cream, or yogurt. My oldest son adores it.

The rest of the beans remained in the fridge and on Thursday night I put it in the blender with water to make the base of a common Brazilian soup: Bean soup. I sautéed onions and garlic, added the puréed beans, chopped potatoes and after the potatoes were almost cooked, whole wheat angel hair pasta, broken into small pieces.

On Wednesday night I prepared a lot of bow-tie pasta with tomatoes and frozen artichokes from Trader Joe's for Thursday's lunch (I'm happy that I've been able to cook pasta only once a week -- the boys would eat it every day, I know). The main meal in our household is lunch, not dinner, but I let the boys eat some pasta for dinner then and I ate it too. Today I just sautéed some tofu and cooked some brown rice with carrots and edamame (green soy beans -- which my oldest son picked out of his rice -- the week couldn't be perfect!).

All right, I do have a photo for you, but not of the food I described above. And I'll put it in a separate post, all right?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

This Year's Job Search and I

Thank you so much for all your support regarding my rejection letter, I really appreciate it, more than you can know. I tried to respond to the first commenters in the previous post. Several people who commented after the first seven apparently didn't read that post, so I'm attempting a third one on the topic.

First, this was not my first rejection letter, it was just the latest one, and final, in this round of three meager applications. I last year I applied to one single post, was surprised by an email considering a phone interview and got a rejection letter (which did hurt a bit). This year I got one pre-MLA rejection letter, silence from the second university, and the post-interview rejection letter. (too many links already, I'm skipping the interview news and interview post :)

Second, I was much more upset with the application that fell through (because of a rec. letter that never got sent), than with this one. Yesterday I opened the letter, filed it away and never gave it a second thought. I decided to write a post about it because I knew many of my readers were interested in the job search and I wanted to give them (and myself) closure on the process.

Third, I am not considering leaving academia just yet. If you've read some of my writings from a while back (while I was struggling with feedback from the dissertation writing) -- I have many many problems with Academia to begin with. Some have to do with my personal history of being a foreign student, shaped by another, fairly different, academic atmosphere, and others yet have to do with my own insecurity, etc... (early posts (2005), dissertation rant and following response).

So, some of the things that you readers commented on have been on my mind for years now. As I wrote yesterday, I don't feel the least pressured to stay in academia just because I'm getting the Ph.D. If I can't get a job as an academic, though, then, how am I supposed to continue being an academic? I think I won't ever stop researching, I just feel it's pretty sad to have "Independent Scholar" under one's name on a tag when going to conferences. I was even looking at this depressing page at the Chronicle of Higher Educations's site ("Non Academic Careers for Ph.D.s"). The Chronicle's essays are sometimes, as we say in Portuguese "a cold bucket of water" being thrown on one ("um balde de água fria") -- a bitter reality check. That's why I don't check it often.

Finally, as you know, the Job Search is not officially over for our family yet!! My husband is still on it, so we'll have some more excitement to follow here in this blog :). And I'll be back to this subject soon enough.

(P.S. I'm cheating a bit on the time, since I want this to go as a Thursday and not Friday post, I may want to post "tomorrow" again - it's 12:06 am, for the record :)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Blogging Milestones!

This is my 300th post*, what about that? Well, what this really means is that I don't write often enough, since I've been blogging for 2 years 2 months now. The new blogger is very helpful in that respect, allowing me to see right on my sidebar how many posts I wrote each year. That would be only 5 in 2004, 91 in 2005, 175 in 2006, and 15 already in 2007 -- if I continue in this rhythm, which I hope I do, I will write over 300 posts in 2007, doubling what I already have... Let's see if that happens.
*[Edited to add: this is very disappointing, but 300 posts for blogger includes the drafts I have saved -- so I have actually published only 287 posts -- sorry about that! I won't change the title or delete the first sentence, though... I'll get to the 300 mark in a week or two anyway :)]

First, I want to thank everyone who commented in the previous post. It really helps to know that I can count on the support of my friends in the blogosphere:
* Thanks Sarah, just to know you're there helps.
*Aliki, I truly hope something will come up for me -- as it did for you -- if my husband does get a job somewhere.
* I'm not down at all, wwwmama, and your comment allowed me to find out that I was featured in the last two carnivals of GRADual progress (more on that in a minute) and that really cheered me up today!
* My dear friend Articulate Dad, thank you for your words of wisdom, I truly value your input (and you may or may not have noticed that my SIL thinks you're pretty articulate! :) -> thanks for the comment too, sis'). AD, You are perfectly right, as I have debated here before -- I am not absolutely convinced that I have all it takes to become an academic. I do know, though, that I definitely love researching and producing scholarship. You can rest assured that if I do take this path it won't be because I think anyone expects me to become a scholar just because I'm getting a Ph.D., but because I truly want to do it.
* Thanks for the positive thoughts, Jo(e) and Lauren!

So, I was thrilled to discover that two of my posts had been featured in the fifth and sixth Carnivals of GRADual Progress. I have checked out some other carnivals before, more precisely Carnival of Feminists and the Teaching ones. I even tried submitting a post to the second or third Carnival of Feminists, but it wasn't included, so I felt discouraged about carnivals and didn't pay much attention to them from then on. (One last thought about feminism, I don't like to theorize much, so when faced with the question of how I became a feminist, I just shared a personal story [same link -- I'm trying to get you to read my old post]. And that was not good enough. I felt I wasn't a good enough feminist for them since I didn't discuss "real issues" in my humble post) .

Anyway... as I was saying before my digression, I was delighted that I was included unbeknown to me. In the fifth carnival, my post in response to Bitch Ph.D.'s question about being a mother and getting a Ph.D. was included and wwwmama included my pre-MLA post about academic conferences in the sixth edition. I guess this totally restored my faith in carnivals (big grin), or at least gave me the feeling that I do fit in somewhere after all, at least among other graduate student bloggers. (I'm sure I also fit in nicely with other "mommy bloggers" and expatriate bloggers).

Well, that's it for now. I really really wanted to write a post about Lindt chocolate right now (interesting, uh?), but I'll have to do that some other time. And tomorrow... a change of gears: a heavy-duty mommy post for you!! :D

It's Official

The job search is over for me. I received the "official" rejection letter yesterday.

I'm not disappointed because I knew I had "blown it" at the interview. I wasn't prepared enough to present myself well and, to be honest, I don't think I'm really prepared to face a tenure track position right now. I have doubts whether I will ever be prepared. Maybe after adjuncting or teaching for a while and padding my CV with more publication and service. I do have a strong teaching record, but I never worried too much about the teaching evaluations, so those aren't that great. Actually, I just couldn't bring myself to read them while I was teaching, they made me feel awful. (That shows you how much I don't like feedback). Of course there are many good ones, but several not too good.

Now that there is the concrete possibility that my husband will get a job, we're thinking even about alternate careers for me. I know I should still give academia a shot, but that may have to wait until next year. I say that, but I haven't even checked the "post-MLA" job postings, and I know I should. Maybe I'll do it right now. Well, if hubby gets the job then I will have to find something to do there, because I'm definitely finishing this year, but that's another topic!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Photos from Brazil - I (Flowers)

A while ago (last November) cloudscome asked me if I could post any photos from Brazil in the blog and it took me this long to finally getting around to it. I'm going to make it a series, since I have way too many. I'm starting with some flower photos that my husband and I took in December 03- January 04. The first one is a photo of my aunt's neighbor's front yard, in the city of São Paulo. The second one is from the tree right in front of my parents' house. The remaining photos were taken here -- an ecological park at a beach town in Southern Brazil. Enjoy!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Compulsive Categorizer

I feel a bit guilty about this, but I just spent the whole day "working" on this blog. I finally updated the template and my blogroll, which had several non-working URLs as well as links to blogs which had moved elsewhere. I kept the "obsessive categorization" -- which, by the way, is not alphabetized (only the blogs within each category are). Now I have the labels in the side bar as well -- every single post (I have less than 300) is labeled and now all of my 30 or so readers can go look in my archives by choosing a theme. The number of labels is almost as ridiculous as the number of blogroll categories, but I just can't help it. It's part who I am to compulsively categorize everything. I guess it could be the name of a disorder or syndrome: "Compulsive Categorizer Disorder," like obsessive compulsive disorder.

Don't be fooled by that (or this photo of my closet, for that matter) into thinking that I'm an organized person because I'm not. I'm the messiest person you could ever meet, just ask my mom or my poor husband. The top of my desk, my bedroom floor, my closet, are a shame to behold. Not so with my filing cabinet (this is the dissertation drawer -- I ran out of hanging folder tabs, or there would be more of them -- I just bought a package last week, though:) :
This is the extent of my organization, though. Oh, and I almost forgot, most of my photos and negatives are all organized by year (at least up until 1999) -- we do have well over a thousand photos taken between 1990-2003 when we went digital. Needless to say, all my digital photos and computer files are organized too -- but alas, that's a "virtual" kind of organization.

Back to the blog, though. I have already added some nifty novelties, e.g. scroll your mouse over external links in posts or the sidebar and you get to see an image of that site -- this is free service from Snap.com. Now the next step will be to change the template around a bit with the help of sites like this one, which is awesome (thanks for the link, Geeky Mom)! So, get ready to see some changes -- although I am pretty cautious, and the changes that I already made are making it hard for me to add any elements to my the layout -- the page just won't charge!! The problem is that in order to keep the same kind of blogroll, I had to add a lot of html to the layout, and it seems not to be too "happy" about that.

Well, at least I hope I can make more changes to this space.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Good News and Miscelaneous Thoughts

Guess what -- my husband got a campus interview!!! He was getting nervous because he hadn't heard from any other schools in the past two weeks, but now he's feeling more confident. We know we shouldn't get too excited just yet, but it's good to feel at least hopeful that he has the possibility of receiving at least one offer after all.

This has nothing to do with the subject, but I was checking the local PBS station's schedule today (to know when Thomas the train was airing) and I figured that I want to watch this. I generally enjoy the Masterpiece Theater period piece adaptations of literary works, but I hardly ever remember to watch them -- I don't watch any TV because I want to set a good example to my sons. I'd be a TV addict if I didn't just cut it off from my life. In spite of that, I have been seeing a few movies because we have Netflix. We saw this absolutely lovely Iranian film, Children of Heaven, last week and now I'm curious to see all the other films by the director, Majid Majidi. Last night we saw this "funky" British film, Millions, which is cute and last week I watched Whale Rider. I know... most of these are old, but I'm trying to catch up :).

It was lovely to see our friends and their newborn daughter. She has lots of hair, and I simply adore newborns with hair (of course my sons were completely bald). Our beginning with our oldest son was so tough (I should soon post the conclusion to that "saga"), so I always hope that other new parents have less bumpy first weeks and months. Our friend's baby is slightly jaundiced and already quite sleepy, that's how it started with us. I hope all goes well for them.

Thanks for Delurking! Anyone Else?

I know that the week is over, but I found a picture I like better, and decided to continue inviting any lurkers to de-lurk. Question -- how did you find me? Some already answered, but I was wondering about the others.

Thanks to and Swissmiss, Suzanne, Kateri (I don't think you'd qualify as a lurker, but it's great to know you're reading, since I have very few readers), and Heather* for being brave and delurking. I feel delighted to have you as readers!

I'll be back later with VERY good news. A dear friend had a baby on Friday and we're going to visit and meet the new baby girl right now, so I can't write more -- I love newborns, yay!

*Heather, I'm so forgetful that I had to look for your previous comment and my email -- and I see that you already answered the question above. Email me back when you have time!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Anyone Out There? Delurk Yourself!

I know it's the very last day of "National Blog Delurking Week," or some such thing, but maybe, just maybe I could get any lurkers to delurk and say hi today. I'd seen this on Wednesday at Mausi, but today I was reminded me of it by cloudscome and decided to try it before it was too late. Oh well, perhaps it is too late...

Come on... I just want to know who is out there :) Pleeeeease?

Looking at the Bright Side

(the actual post comes after a semi-literary digression - feel free to skip it)

I know I'm going to sound completely like a "Pollyanna" in the post below and I will take advantage of this comment (which I don't like to make one bit, and you'll soon see why) to say that one of my pet peeves with the American culture is this derision of Eleanor Porter's work.

Has anyone actually read Pollyanna? Well, I have. Not once, but like 20 times. This book is very popular in Brazil in its Portuguese translation. My sister-in-law's name is Polyana -- a very common name in Brazil as well. My husband and I loved it and its sequel Pollyana Grows up. As a matter of fact, we have just re-read both -- motivated by the fact that I watched the new Pollyanna movie a couple of months ago -- I liked quite a bit, except the fact that she comes by boat and not by train and the story takes place in England and not New Englsnd. As a "purist" in what regards the adaptation of books into the big screen I don't like the Disney movie since it's very "unfaithful" to the book, even though I do like the actress. My husband thinks that the first book is not very good after all and that the sequel is better, and I haven't thought enough about it, so I don't know if I agree. Perhaps having "devoured" the book so many as a child makes me "blind" to see through it and critique it. My former advisor (a children's lit. specialist) even asked me whether this work's success in Brazil wasn't due to its translation, by the founder of Brazilian children's literature, Monteiro Lobato. I didn't think so, the book in English sounded the same to me, but maybe there's some truth to that. I don't know...

The truth of the matter is that I have a deep dislike of the expressions "this may sound Pollyannish" or "I may sound like a Pollyanna" even though I understand why people say that -- they do not want to be over optimistic, like she seemed to be. I am aware of the historical context, that this book became a kind of "phenomenon" in the the beginning of the 20th century which motivated the publication of over 10 bad sequels -- by various authors, since Porter only wrote the sequel I cite above. These publications alone may have been the reason for the "joke" that the heroine's name became, but I still don't like it. I think that people just don't know what exactly they're talking about when they use that expression, I mean, they don't really know the original two books. Whatever. I feel the same about Pearl Buck and how people think it's a joke that she is one of the few American authors who received the Nobel Prize for literature -- but that's another subject altogether (I saw a wonderful panel at the MLA about this and if I have time will write a post about it).
~~~ ~ ~~

OK, this post is supposed to be a more optimistic view of the subject of the previous post. I'm glad it struck a chord with you and I'm glad to hear your experiences and to know I'm not alone. What I want to say is that it's tough, but I think I'm luckier than other parents. I was going to link to Alice's post about her children only eating noodles, but I thought it would be hard to find (I just tried, but didn't find it, if you give me the link, I'll add it, Alice) -- so, I know it's even harder for other mothers and fathers out there.

My older son eats rice and beans, lentils, pasta with various sauces, some broccoli, tomatoes, various fruits, bread, tofu, and some other things, so it's not that bad. He wouldn't touch salads for the longest time, though, and now he's slowly beginning to eat salad greens. He doesn't like most vegetables, chickpeas and soybeans (not even edamame -- the green soybean). He does eat a lot, which is great. Oh, and in the morning he eats a mixture of several Brazilian (Nestlé) instant cereals, powdered milk and soymilk.

I remember that my little cousins wouldn't eat ANYTHING. My cousin, their mom, would spoon feed them their meals, more like force-feeding. And they were always very skinny. My oldest is a bit thin (he's my son after all), but he does eat well, so I can't really complain. What he said yesterday did make my heart sink, though...

Well, this is a pretty "weak" post, but I'll post it anyway. I have been working on several posts for weeks now, including a very belated anniversary post. I do want to get those out, though, so watch this space. Oh, and I want to post at least one beautiful photo a week.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The "Joy" of Cooking for a 4-Year-Old

When my ravenously hungry four (and 10 months) year-old son saw his plate today he said (in Portuguese):

"Mama, when I look at my food my hunger goes away. Yes, when I look at this it just disappears."
~~~ ~~~
This is what I cooked today :Indian food (without chilies): [clockwise from left] aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower, one of my favorites), basmati rice, a mild chana masala (chickpeas and tomato),* and sautéed tempeh (Indonesian soybean "cake"). Oh, and I took a picture of my plate, not his, which had no cilantro, and had just a tiny portion of each food, minus the tempeh.

Maybe a little too exotic, but not bad, huh? The saddest thing is that he used to love this stuff as a "baby" (12-24 months - sometime in his 2nd year he went from eating everything to a being very picky eater). I had to fed him several spoonfuls, but he didn't eat much. Good thing the 2 1/2 year old still eats most everything.

I felt so discouraged! That's why I can't eat properly, I just don't have the energy to cook a meal and face this every single day, so I stick to the same tried and true recipes. I love potatoes, for example, but I hardly ever eat them now because my sons don't care for them... and the list goes on and on. I can't wait for them to grow up and become less picky even though I have my doubts whether they'll ever become like Jennifer McCann's "Schmoo." I took great comfort in one part of her great book that described how her son decided to start eating salad. And in this week's post she describes how his appetite changed in the past year. There's hope.... I hope!!

*P.S. Jeannette, did you know that one of your blog entries is the fifth result on Google for Indian chickpea stew?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

4 Things Meme

All right, a week or so ago Alice tagged me for a meme and because I'm tired from having written that humongous post yesterday two days ago, which I'm sure none of you will have the patience to read (you can look at the pictures, though :), I decided to do this fun meme. Oh, and I think this is my "timeliest" response to a meme ever :) Of course I kind of cheated because most of my responses feature various things grouped into categories, but I just couldn't think of just four things each time.

4 activities I've been paid for (and these are all the "jobs" I've ever had
):
- teaching English to 2nd to 4th grade children for 45 minutes a week and for various groups (children, teens, adults) and in various settings. (my first and only job in Brazil: young [middle class] people hardly ever work there, one usually starts working when going to college, like in my case).
- cleaning peoples' houses (what I did here in the U.S. before being accepted to grad. school - I stopped after I started to teach.)
- pet-sitting 3 or 4 times a day for 2 1/2 weeks (4 dogs - one of the them slightly lame and blind, they stayed indoors and I had to clean up their messes as well as feed them). It was in one of the houses I cleaned and it coincided with my first weeks of graduate school and being a T.A. Crazy busy weeks.
- teaching undergraduate gen. ed. literature classes both as a T.A. and instructor with my own class.

4 splendid foods:
- I love pretty much anything with potatoes, especially well seasoned and crisply baked in the oven.
- Indian food in general, particularly aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower)
- (Can ice-cream be considered "food"?) Italian gelatto
, particularly from Florence.
- Italian pasta with various sauces: with porcini mushroom and a creamy sauce; with a tomato based sauce and grilled artichokes; with grilled vegetables, garlic and olive oil, and many others)... yumm!

4 grand drinks:
- Brazilian fruit juices, particularly cupuaçu (heavenly), cajá, acerola (which is actually not a Brazilian fruit, but the West Indian "cherry"). I actually can make them here in the U.S. -- the Portuguese supermarket chain Seabra (there are many in New Jersey) sells the frozen pulps. YAY!
- Brazilian açaí [pronounced ah-sah-eeh] (not exactly a drink, the authentic thing is very thick and has to be eaten with a spoon, oh, and lots of sugar, at least for me -- I was tickled today to see a new tea by Celestial Seasonings, my favorite tea brand, featuring açaí).
- mango lassi (yogurt and mango Indian drink -- I make it at home too)
- homemade strawberry lemonade (with frozen whole strawberries, prepared in the blender)

4 Movies I saw over and over :
- Sound of Music (I know... old stuff, but I always loved it, know all the songs by heart)
- Back to the Future I, II and III (my husband and his brothers LOVE those, and I like them too)
- Pride and Prejudice (A&E series and recent movie) and other adaptation of Jane Austen's works, like Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Emma,
- A Room with a View (particularly with my girl friends as teenagers)

4 favorite TV shows: (I don't have cable, so I can't really watch those that are still on)
- Most Anything from TLC, particularly A Baby Story, Trading Spaces, While you were out, etc,
- Sex and the City (watched only the full 5th and last season on demand when we had cable for a few months after moving).
Used to like:
- Ally McBeal
- can't think of a fourth one. I don't really care much for TV.

4 places I've been to: (very hard to answer, I have traveled quite a lot, so I've grouped them)
- South of South America - Argentina (Buenos Aires, Bariloche) and Chile (Santiago and Southern Chile - Osorno volcano area) - car trip when I was 7. I remember it well, though.
- Brazilian Northeast: Salvador - my favorite city in that region, Recife, Natal, Fortaleza, and
São Luiz.
- Main cities of Western Europe: London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Venice
- 7 National Parks on Western U.S.A.: Grand Canyon, Carlsbad caverns, Rocky Mountains N.P., Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon. (Hey, I have digital photos of these, would you like me to post some to the blog?)

4 websites I use lots: (that's a hard one, I'm always online, but I don't really have specific sites)
- tons of blogs
- Gmail, Google, Google maps and image too
- Amazon (for research too!), Netflix, of course, various banks
- For research: Library of Congress catalog and other library catalogs and academic databases

Should I tag anyone? Well, feel free to do it if you want.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Holidays in Review

Edited to add: New Year's Menu.
These Holidays were extremely busy, but fun. As you already know, we spent Christmas and New Year's with my husband's family and I had the MLA in between, but before it all started I was busy for several weeks because I was in charge of the Christmas program in church. It had been scheduled for December 16, but had to be re-scheduled for Dec. 23, which made everything even more hectic. (Note: you can click on the photos to make them bigger)

We have a singing group and prepared a special song and the children sang as well, then we had several soloists. There was a dinner afterwards and we distributed gifts to the children and also community children that we got through Toys for Tots (I had to pick them up, wrap them, etc). We weren't even planning to stay for dinner since we wanted to drive down to Maryland as soon as possible, but in typical Brazilian fashion, the program started way late and we stayed. It was fun for the kids because a friend had them make "gingerbread" houses out of graham crackers and their boxes. They turned out cute and I was impressed to see how my oldest didn't eat any candy until his house was done. The little one, on the other hand, didn't help, but was very interested in eating candy and got all dirty with the marshmallow cream, peanut butter, and chocolate frosting.

We headed to Maryland on Sunday (the 24th) morning. It was a long day since I was helping in the kitchen non-stop all afternoon. The meal planned was extra special and delicious, but a bit "experimental," since some of the things prepared by my sister- and brother-in-law were being cooked by them for the first time. My BIL decided to prepare salmon, which was delicious, and my SIL made two kinds of "Rondelle" (rolled and filled pasta) from scratch, including the pasta dough -- with fillings of chicken for the non-vegetarians and heart-of-palm and artichoke cream for the vegetarians. We also made the dessert -- yellow and chocolate cakes filled with cream cheese lemon pecan and chocolate filling and frosted with condensed milk frosting to match fillings). There was also rice, vegetables, asparagus, a vegetarian roast, Brazil's leading brand of panettone (an Italian Christmas "bread" with candied fruit and raisins), Brazil's leading brand of guaraná (a soft drink), Italian gelatto, and plenty of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. I'm very sorry that I didn't take photos of the food, but by the time it was ready (after 9:30 p.m.) everyone was so famished that we didn't even have time to set the table properly, and we only took the required family photos because if we didn't there wouldn't be any "record" of this Christmas celebrations.

In Brazil they open the presents on Christmas Eve, after the Christmas supper (ceia, we call it), but because of the children we decided to do it in the morning like the Americans. Everyone was up between 7:30-8, but we didn't get started until 11 because we wanted my youngest BIL, who was in Brazil, to watch everything online and it took forever to set up the connection. He did get to watch and even figured in the family photo, on the computer screen. There were TONS of presents and barely room to see the fireplace:












But we lit a fire anyway:
Opening the presents was fun, particularly because my oldest (4 years 9 months) was so excited, not only about his own presents, but also about everyone else's. It will be great when all four cousins (and any additions) are old enough to enjoy it fully. I went overboard this year and bought many presents for the boys -- most train themed. A huge 150 piece Thomas set (plastic, motorized) -- you can see his reaction in the photo below-- and a generic wooden set (photo below too) with several additions (a large shed, a bridge, a stop sign, a "rotary"). My youngest got trucks (two garbage trucks and a small trailer truck) and a Bob the builder set, and both got several DVDs.We enjoyed being together with family on the 25th and 26th and came back home that night tightly packed in the car because my BIL and SIL came with us since she was going to the MLA with me. On Friday, my poor SIL had a accident with our car. I felt terrible sorry for her. You can read what happened at her blog. On Saturday my husband went to pick up my youngest BIL in New York (with a rental car, just in case) and in the afternoon my oldest BIL and his family arrived, so the four brothers were finally together. On Sunday, while I cooked lunch and prepared for the New Year's eve dinner, my husband, kids and the two youngest BILs and wives went to Kelly Drive to run and bike. My SIL is a runner and her husband caught on and has since ran a marathon and a half marathon. My youngest BIL, is planning to join them on Houston's half marathon next Sunday -- I wish him luck! So they went to run and meanwhile my husband took the boys on the bicycle trailer and my youngest SIL biked in my bike. I was very jealous because we planned to do that all summer and ended up not going -- I have yet to bike on Kelly Drive :(

My father- and mother-in-law were driving from Massachusetts after their afternoon church service, so we planned a very late (3-4 pm) lunch and they arrived at 11:30 p.m., just as dinner was being served! The kids had taken extra long naps and were still awake, so we got to take a few full family photos, right around midnight -- an important thing, since my BIL and SIL from Texas flew back home in the morning of the 1st and the full family was together only for a few hours. Edited to add: I prepared vegetarian "chicken" Stroganoff, zucchini lunch (a kind of zucchini "soufflé"), rice, steamed broccoli salad, a tossed salad (we had salad on Christmas too), guaraná, and for dessert a dish with a condensed-milk based cream topped with fresh strawberries and melted chocolate (yummy!) and two kinds of Brazilian panettone: chocolate and regular.

On New Year's day we just hung out and the brothers and their father played games -- their favorite thing to do together. My youngest pretended to play Sudoku with his uncles:
And my oldest played UNO with the grown ups for the very first time and he actually won several rounds! For a few days all he wanted to do was to play cards with me, but now he has gone back to playing with his trains. Oh, and talking about trains, it was quite easy for my husband to look after the boys during the MLA because they played with their new train sets all day long!Well, that's it for now, this post is too long already, but I hope you enjoy it, as well as the photos. I'm still planning on doing the second and final post about Christmas trees, so that should be up soon :)
P.S. If anyone is curious to see the other photos I talk about, send me an email and I can give you the link to my family photos website.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sick & Cute Photos

First, the weather. The thermometer outside my kitchen marked a minimum of 62.6 F/ 17 C since midnight yesterday and a maximum of 75.2 F/ 24 C today!!! Right now, it's 70 F. I opened most windows and I can't wait to spend some time outdoors, even with the strong winds. I wanted to go out there with the boys, though, and they're not here.

Yeah, I have the stomach flu and I'm home alone while my family is in church, finishing their desserts at the potluck lunch. I'm guessing that it's a virus that my second brother-in-law passed along, since he was sick between Christmas and New Year's while he was here. My oldest sister-in-law (not his wife) was sick on New Year's Eve too, so it may be the same bug. I'm just hoping against hope that the boys don't catch it. After a not so good night (I vomited at 4 a.m. -- I don't really like to say "puke" or "barf") and a positively horrible morning (I was nauseated and had some diarrhea), I started feeling better at 10 a.m. and I slept from 11-2:30. I've eaten half an apple and will cook some plain rice, so I think I'm fine now (hopefully).

So, to cheer you and I up, I decided to end this post with two cute photos of my boys and their cousins, taken on New Year's Eve:














Friday, January 05, 2007

Clean Laundry

This week I was finally able to do something I wanted to have done before my guests were here and not after they left: I organized my linen closet.
On second thought, it's much easier and it makes more sense to do it after using and laundering most sheets and towels, though. You can probably tell that I like pastel colors and floral prints. I learned to fold towels "studying" the way they do it at department stores ;)

I wish I could write a nice haiku, like those of Cloudscome, or a poem about my clean laundry, but I just haven't been writing any poetry lately (in the past year or longer), which is very sad. Well, at least I hope you like the photo!

SCARY! It's 16 C/ 60.8 F Outside at 8 p.m.

I'm positively scared with the weather. It's just not right. It's true that we enjoyed playing in the backyard on Wednesday and Thursday, and I was able to work on the yard and the garden a bit, but it's just too warm for this time of the year.

I saw An Inconvenient Truth a month or so ago and I was slightly alarmed (mostly because I already knew many of the facts discussed by Al Gore), but this? 16 C/ 60 F on an early January night? Downright scary. How can some people still think that global warming is not an alarming reality and that action needs to be taken right now?

Jody has documented how her crocus bulbs are sending out shoots already. Mine are too, and I live many hundred miles North of her in Southeastern PA. Not only the crocus, but the tulips too. And some poppies that I planted last Spring are still thriving. I have seen trees and some gardens with flowers on them. What next?

Edited to add: Cloudscome, who lives here too, just posted a photo of a cherry tree that's blooming.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Reluctant Prospective Immigrant Now Reluctant to Go Back "Home"

I'm having a hard time concentrating on my work tonight (I have started to work on the dissertation every night after my husband comes back from work).

This evening hubby and I had some time to talk in the car and as we thought about job applications and interviews he said: "You know, if I don't get any offers, we may have to go back to Brazil."

Whoa! Really? I hadn't been thinking about that at all.

It hadn't really dawned on me that this was/is a very real possibility. I just found out that while all these years (over 10) I didn't really care too much about life in the U.S. and I was very reluctant about becoming an immigrant, now it seems that I do really want to live here after all. When the imminence of having to leave (maybe forever) presents itself, all of a sudden I discover that I don't know if I want to go back. However, I just may have to.

You see, there is a job offer. The only one so far. The college that supported us for six years (and then "released" us from any further obligation to go back) would like us to go back and teach there if we so desire. My parents (who lives there) are "desperate" for us to go back, of course. Our friends would also love to have us back there. It wouldn't be bad... except perhaps for my husband, who would probably have to stop researching and have to concentrate on teaching or administration. One thing he keeps saying is that "people would value us a lot there" with the Ph.D., all these years abroad and all. True, but is that the main point? Is that really important? I don't really care too much about what people think, I want to be happy and value myself. I know we might be "more useful" there (no Thomas the train reference this time, I don't feel like being humorous at all), but would we feel more "fulfilled" by our work?

In addition, I feel very torn about living in Brazil. I have become very critical of the superficiality of life there. People care about appearances way too much. Everyone wants and feels like they have to look beautiful. This involves wearing the right things, doing manicures and straightening one's hair every weak (it's EXTREMELY cheap, mind you). The media (mostly TV and one main channel) "rules" people's lives, particularly the lower classes. People don't read (of course, education is one of the country's main problems) and consequently the news media (magazines and TV reports) is very superficial. There are so many things!

Of course I feel the same way about various things in the U.S., such as the rampant consumerism, the emphasis on having big houses, big cars, tons of things, eating junk, watching lots of TV, etc. But I have come to value the access to knowledge that we have here. There books just about everything. "Scientifically minded" books, not the self-help books that pile the Brazilian bookstores and make many authors famous overnight. These are just some of the things, the main ones. I know I could still buy the books (I don't know if I could afford them, which I may not) and keep in touch with people via blogging and online communities... but, I'm sure I'd miss things like Mother Talk salons, a lot. Oh, and don't get me started on the differences in teaching, and academic pursuits such as research, etc. there.

So, here I am, torn. And it may be a useless discussion after all if my husband does get at least one job offer (30 applications, remember?), but it doesn't hurt to start preparing myself. Steeling myself for the possibility.

The hardest things unfortunately have to do with money. I don't like to talk about money, I positively loathe it, particularly not having enough. (I edited the paragraph below to include the correct link)
BIG DIGRESSION: There was this brief discussion a while back sparked by this post from Separation of Spheres about whether families would be able to afford to have only one of them working while the other did a Ph.D. and/or took care of kids. I don't agree with the arguments brought forth by Dr. Dobson, of course, and I was more interested in the comments, particularly Sarah's (thanks for the link, BTW). All this to say that I have an answer to the question of whether it's possible to live on one income: YES, it is possible, but one has to live a very frugal life. We have been living a frugal life for many years now, since the income of two graduate students was even less than what my husband makes now. There was a period of a few years when things were better financially (it was during the period when we received support from the college in Brazil) and we got to travel to Europe and were able to buy a house, but other than that, we have been able to survive on two graduate students and now a post-doc's salary. When my brother-in-laws did his master's degree, he and his wife lived with much less and he had the added weight of paying tuition... what they did is even more amazing than what we did or have been doing. Problem is, I wasn't planning on living forever like that, penny-pinching, I was hoping that someday both of us would have reasonable paying jobs and that we'd be able to do some of the things we enjoy, like traveling a lot and buying many books :)

All right, back to the subject. In Brazil, the financial aspect would be tough. It would be extremely hard to save enough to travel abroad with the boys (and I have already been dreaming of the day I'll take them to Europe, for example), and we would basically continue living frugal lives so we could afford to save to build a house, buy and maintain a car, etc. the basics. Here it's so much easier, one just gets a mortgage -- it doesn't work like that in Brazil, interest is sky high, no one can ever get in debt (while here everyone is in debt because it's the way things work, money-wise).

OK, I'll stop. Too many things, you must be bored already, and I'm getting impatient. I need to be prepared, though, for whatever happens. Oh, I forgot to say that my husband had a phone interview today (school in Virginia) and that it went quite well. Fingers crossed, fingers crossed.

P.S. I was planning to write a more light-hearted post today, I haven't written any of those in a while, haven't I? I'll try to do so over the weekend. Oh, and I have to apologize to my husband for using this "sacred" dissertation time to write this, but I just couldn't help it. I had to get it off my chest, and it took just over half an hour, OK? ;)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The New Year is Here

Wow, we're in 2007 already. And now begins that confusing period when we say "last year" while talking about 2005 and not 2006, and when we have to adjust to not saying that I want to do this or that "next year," realizing it's "this year."

Alice recently wrote about our perception of time and this feeling that as we get older, time seems to be passing much faster than it did before. I think that this is generally true and, as she wrote, it probably happens because we have much more free time in our hands when we are children (or at least used to have) and are eager to grow up, so time seems to go by very slowly. While I can't argue that the years seem to be flying by, particularly with my boys growing up so fast, staying at home with them full time does seem to make time "slow down" a bit, similarly to those long vacations during our childhood. Of course I'm very busy and there are tons of things to do in the house, but not having external deadlines or routines to guide our lives (the boys don't go to school yet) does make the days seem very very long... I enjoyed spending a few days without the boys at the MLA, that way I got to feel like I was working, at least temporarily. I think I would enjoy to go back to work. It would do me good and the boys would enjoy going to school and daycare since I have a hard time providing a structured environment for them at home.

I'm kind of avoiding the topic, but I came here to say that I don't like New Year resolutions. I wrote a post at the end of January last year titled "Happy New Fear" and looking back, I did quite a bit of progress in 2006 and I'm comparatively happy with where I stand right now. Of course I didn't defend the dissertation yet, but it's almost fully completed. I do feel a bit worried that I still need to finish writing, editing it, and then I have to defend it, but I'm confident that this will happen. I no longer feel that overwhelming weight on my shoulders, I know I have done most of the work -- what a relief!

As for the other things that I wrote here last January, the desire to settle down in a less "temporary" location; having jobs (either me, my husband or both); making good friends, etc, these still need to happen. So, in 2007 I'm looking forward to:

- Finishing and defending the dissertation, getting my Ph.D. and, hopefully, participating of the commencement.

- Husband finding a job at a good location.

- Selling this house and buying a bigger one wherever we're going.

- Presenting at two academic conferences, my favorite, the Children's Lit Association, and an international conference that will take place in Brazil -- in Rio de Janeiro, where I haven't been in over 10 years!

- Spending at least a month in Brazil in July and going to this place called Caldas Novas, which has hot springs, and many hotels, resorts, etc, which are quite cheap.

- Going to Brazil again for Christmas and my husband's cousin's wedding in the beginning of January. I don't know if that will be possible, but I'd really love to go.

I'm sure this will be a great year, which hopefully will bring great changes to our lives. Change is good. I can't wait!