Sunday, November 30, 2014

An Accidental Discovery

I had been keeping a secret from my sons for all these years! Once in a long while, after they'd gone to bed, I'd make myself some instant "ramen-style" noodles (we call them "Miojo" in Brazil). This was one of my few guilty pleasures, since I am aware that these noodles are very bad for one's health and can be considered a "junk food" because they are deep-fried and the seasoning packet has lots of MSG in addition to too much sodium. I ate it very sparingly and I knew I would not want to feed that to my boys!

I did it on the sly because I knew that once my sons tried it, they would absolutely LOVE it and I was 100% right! Last Friday we met some Korean friends at the ski station and because they had to leave early, I told them that their son (my son Kelvin's good friend) could stay and that we'd drive him home later. At around 1 pm I stopped and texted Kelvin to say that we should have a snack and he informed me that he was already eating inside with his friend. When I got there, he was finishing off this bowl:
and of course he absolutely loved it (even because he really really likes spicy foods). My youngest got to try a bite and he liked it, in spite of the fact that he thought it was a bit too spicy.

My husband gets mad at me for these things, but I immediately confessed to the boys that I loved instant noodles too, but that I thought they weren't very healthy so that's why I had never served it to them and that was that.

Today during dinner Kelvin turned to me and said: "Mom, could you please allow us to have those noodles once every two months or something?" (thankfully my boys are pretty health-conscious! ;-) and of course I had to say yes. Apparently they sell those noodles at Costco, so I guess I'll buy a package and let them eat it sparingly.

In fact, after he asked me that, I reached into the pantry, dug around so I could find and show them this:
which is the noodle I ate every couple of months. We had just finished eating a pretty liquid kale soup and coincidentally, my husband had just asked why there wasn't any pasta in it. Since the boys are going to have that soup for lunch tomorrow I decided to add the noodles to the leftover soup for them to try it. At least it will be mixed with healthy potatoes and kale! ;-)

Yeah, so the secret is out and now I won't be able to indulge in my "guilty pleasure" without sharing it with the boys. Oh well... On the other hand, now we have one more very easy food to eat during trips.

P.S. the boys have eaten instant noodles before, but they were healthier versions such as this rice noodles one from Trader Joe's (or the miso one):
NOTE: I hope it's not a problem to use images of these products taken from the internet. I think that products are like "book covers" which can be legitimately reproduced for reviews or commentary without any copy-right violations. Am I wrong? Worst case scenario, I'll photograph the items myself later and replace the photos!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

the double parties quick post

OK, I want to legitimately post before midnight today, so this will have to be a few sentences long at the most!

Tonight we hit two birthday parties simultaneously -- the boys went to their friend's and we went to another's. Then I picked them up and we all stayed at the second party until past 11 pm because they were learning to play Settlers of Catan from my hubby and son.

Let me publish before midnight!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Opening Day Skiing (me)/ Snowboarding (them)

This year we bought a 7-time ski pass through the elementary school and the boys insisted we use it on the very first day! It was fun, I must say! I hate falling & make sure I never fall (which makes for very tense skiing), but I fell twice and was perfectly ok with it -- big "victory" for me! 

Oh. And I went on half of a Blue slope for the very first time ever! (and I did NOT fall!) I went only once because the adrenaline surge was a bit too much. ;-) here are the boys snowboarding:
I can't believe that Kelvin (wearing lime green+black) went on a black diamond slope. And I think he didn't really fall! Wow!
P.S. My husband snowboarded too, but he didn't dare going on the blue. My 10 year old went multiple times (alone), but he had some big falls. Brave kid!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I couldn't resist! (& Thanksgiving leftovers are the best!)

Old habits die hard… I couldn't resist, and I went to the stores... (Sigh...) I only left my house at 8 PM, so I avoided the worst crowds, but parking was still pretty bad! And I mostly shopped for things I knew I needed or a few fun Christmas presents.

I know I shouldn't be eating at midnight, but Thanksgiving leftovers are the best! Take a look! 
I hope you had a wonderful celebration with family and friends!

P.S. This was our very first Thanksgiving in 14 years with traditional Thanksgiving foods only! I like that! More about it later!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snow Day!/ Cooking for Thanksgiving

We had a pretty productive snow day. I mean, my husband especially, but all of us too. K gave us all to-do lists while he worked with different things: he cleaned his bedside table, emptied his closet completely and then organized everything when putting it back, and he cleaned our bathroom.

The boys did various chores such as cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, cleaning their room and then they all went outside to go sledding in the back of the house. Of course K also cleaned the driveway.

I cleaned my bedside table too and organized my old journals and books in the bedroom shelf. I also took many photos of the snow (and posted some to facebook!) and of my journals -- so I can share them here! ;-)

I did read and answer emails and I cooked spaghetti for our late lunch, but most importantly, I worked some on the translation I need to do. I don't think I've mentioned it here before, but this freelance job is the bane of my existence right now! ;-(

This evening, after the boys went to bed, K & I headed to the kitchen where we got started with several dishes for tomorrow, particularly the pumpkin and squash pies that needed quite a lot of peeling and chopping veggies.

We'll have a small Thanksgiving with only two friends and their kids and another friend coming, but I hope it will be great!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson, White Privilege & My Sons

(from original post) I was going to title this post "White Privilege" but I thought it might be too aggressive... (I don't know exactly why, but I'll go with my gut feeling for now). I decided to add it to the title and also to provide a link to this MUST READ summary essay from 1990: "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh. I knew of this article from Dawn, who linked to it a long time ago, but I had half-forgotten about it. 

What can I say regarding the fact that the Grand Jury in Ferguson, MO decided not to indict the policeman who killed Michael Brown, except to lament that racial inequalities and injustices in this country are too blatant and overwhelming to be ignored? I was very upset with the acquittal of the murderer of Trayvon Martin as well.

What can I say but to acknowledge my white privilege?

I am very thankful that my experiences as an immigrant, an outsider, a foreigner have meant so much to my African-American friends over the years (particularly my friend Sharron in Massachusetts) that they confided in me and felt that I understood them because I knew the feeling of "otherness" first hand. But still, I have an undeniable privilege because of the lighter color of my skin.

This shouldn't be the case, but it is. This is the country and the world we live in and I feel outraged by it. And saddened and sorry. I'm trying my best to instill a passion against these injustices in my sons who are "the cream of the crop" in terms of privilege -- white boys, someday white men, American born.

First, I strive to have them identify themselves as wholly Brazilian (in spite of their birthplace) and therefore different. I know that however little, a sense of displacement and otherness will be extremely beneficial to them. I tell them they're Brazilian, I speak Portuguese with them loudly in public and at their school (and yes, I have had annoying older people around complain under their breath and say something to the effect that "this is America"), I wish I could take them to Brazil every year, but that's not possible.

Second, I tell them the stories of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin in a simple, non-sensational language (since they don't watch or read the news) and their indignation and outrage ("Why mom? Why were they killed?") is part of their learning experience. And I talk to them about their African-American, Hispanic and darker-skinned classmates and explain that unfortunately people probably won't treat them the same as they grow up.

I am immensely thankful that in the four years we've lived here our church and our school have experienced an incredible "diversifying" wave, because my first thought when entering the church back in June 2010 was "this place is so overwhelmingly white!" :-( Now each of my sons has several African-American classmates when originally they had one (in K's case) and none (in L's case) back in 2010 in addition to several Hispanic and some Asian (Korean).

I'm sure that what I'm doing is far from what could be done (like most things in parenting!), but I hope I'm planting "seeds" in my boys' hearts so they can grow up to actively fight against racial inequalities while recognizing their immense white privilege. I can only hope I'm moving in the right direction.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ten Years of Blogging -- and I forgot to post on my Blog Anniversary! :-(

I wrote my first blog post here 10 years and 9 days ago and I can hardly believe that all this time has passed!

I had a baby back then and a toddler and now they are 10 and 12 (nearly 13). I hadn't finished my PhD yet and we had just moved from MA to PA and into our second house. I didn't know that we would have a third house (and much heartbreak with it) and now a fourth house in yet another state.

2007-2010 were tough years, it's a relief that things got better since then. I still wonder what else life has in stores for the next few years. One thing is certain: I will still be here to share my life with whoever still wants to be around and read my words! I should post a pretty photo, but I'll do that later.

Blogging is still pretty important in my life and I hope it will continue to be for a long time.

A Bunch of Links...

... most are a few weeks or over a month old, but I've had these tabs open in my browser for that long, so I want to save them somewhere.

"Rehearsing for Death" -- A moving reflection of a teacher in TWP about having to practice lockdowns and death scenarios with her students. A sad, but real consequence of the Sandy Hook shooting.

"The Case of the Vanishing Woman," an interview with Ayelet Waldman (at I didn't really know it, but I'm sure it's true, the invisibility is starting for me too at 40, and by 50, I'll be fully invisible. :-(

"The $9 Billion Witness." A RS article about Alayne Fleishmann, "JPMorgan's Worst Nightmare." I was struck by the people in the the comment section who were defending JP Morgan's reputation as a company. Sigh...

Wondering if I'm a Highly Sensitive Person (HufPo, I don't like them very much, but the article struck a cord). I scored 16 in this test (good semi-academic site) and above 14 you're considered highly sensitive, so maybe I am.

My pre-teens already have some acne. I am wondering what to do and whether it's too early to use acne products such as "Proactiv." In an internet board a parent said the Proactive doesn't really work and that the prescription "Epiduo" was better. I don't know if it is or whether their pediatrician would prescribe such a thing. I'm almost ordering the first one to see if it helps prevent the small outbreaks they're having.

After we watched The Great Gatsby last week my husband remarked that it was just like Citizen Kane and I thought that was a great comparison! A blogger wrote an interesting post about Gatsby and Kane and their lack of love & emptiness here.

Well, that's it for now! I wish I'd written that yesterday, but it didn't work out! ;-)

Missed Day

It was bound to happen, I didn't post yesterday...

I was busy last night. First, cooking cranberry sauce from scratch for 200-300 people (the kids' school has a senior citizen Thanksgiving Banquet tomorrow), then watching a movie with my husband (Lincoln).

So, yeah, sorry for missing a day! I'll blog more later.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Can't... 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!


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


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. 

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Berlin Wall

I don't really have any personal experience with the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I'm sure I watched the news, but I wasn't really aware of the significance of it. I was a senior in high-school, starting my last month of classes (the school year ends in early December in Brazil).

I know that three of my husbands' second (actually third) cousins lived in (West) Germany, and although they were much younger than us (around 9, 11 and 13), they certainly felt the effect of the reunification of Germany very keenly. I hope to be able to talk to them about this someday!

Meanwhile, I'd like to share the Google Doodle video for today. I visited Berlin in 2000 and it was pretty fascinating to see what a construction site it was (even though 11 years had already passed) and the differences between the two sides of the city.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Perfect Autumn Leaves (and Sky!)

I'd originally written Perfect Autumn Photos for a title, but obviously these aren't perfect, I do have a good camera and great zoom lens, but I'm not a "real" photographer by any stretch of the imagination. The leaves and the gorgeous day are/were perfect!

I wish I was more savvy and could fiddle with the template of the blog to make these photos appear really big, but no, I'm not, so that's it (I did make the vertical photos bigger* because they will fit in the template). These haven't been edited in any way (I'm too lazy & I'm also not using the Mac most of the time now). I took them two weeks ago while my sons were having piano lesson make-ups on Sunday morning at a local university.

*The photo rotation in the first and next to last photos are courtesy of Blogger. How does it know what's supposed to be the right side up? ;-)
I totally wish I'd taken many more photos and made sure they were all focused right. I always have this feeling that "I'm taking too many photos already, I should stop!" But later I realize that I did not in fact take enough photos. Sigh...

Friday, November 07, 2014

A few links: Lena Dunhan, Breastmilk & Diva Cup

I hope to have time to come post more later, but if I don't here's a quick linky post!

(update about yesterday: power came back before 10 pm, but I didn't go back online)

My friend Dawn doesn't have a personal blog anymore (and I miss her blog very sorely), but she wrote a great post about Lena Dunham from the perspective of a therapist who works with children and family.

The last two links are borrowed from Laura at Apt .11D, thanks Laura!

I always love to read and find more about breastfeeding and breastmilk, since long-time readers will know that I breastfed for a long time (5 years 5 months) and I'm an ardent "Lactivist." So making this one of my five monthly NYT reads for this months was worth it -- "In a Mother's Milk, Nutrient, and a Message Too."

Last, but not least, I've blogged about the Diva Cup and while this is not a groundbreaking post, it's an interesting account of someone else who likes it. (and, just for fun, you can read a hilarious review from Amazon which I couldn't find there anymore-- though I did read it there -- I found it posted here).

Have a great weekend everyone. It's very cold here!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Blogging by Candlelight

Just in case power doesn't return to our subdivision this evening and before my phone battery dies, let me quickly blog by candlelight!
 I just got home and the boys had to say by themselves for over an hour since K had an event he was helping organize at he university. The boys lighted all the candles on their own, it was a bit scared when my son told me that over the phone.

I'm going to use our gas stove to cook some pasta and hopefully we can go to bed early, 'cause I'm pretty tired! 

Maybe I'll get to blog more later, we'll see!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Divided States of America

I wish the world could function without politics and, most importantly, politicians, but that's not the case. I wasn't really following the elections, but I knew that things didn't look good. This morning when I turned on the radio and heard just a little bit about the results, I was upset, though. A divided government. Historically divided.


And I immediately called my husband to communicate that I think we'll have to spend that money -- the one I haven't wanted to spend at all -- to become citizens so we can vote in 2016.

Especially considering where we live right now. I think two votes may make a real difference. ;-)

Is spending close to 2K for that reason worth it, I wonder? I don't really know. Probably not, but I want to be engaged in the future of my "adopted" country, and that's one important way to do it.

I'll let you know if we decide to take this next step in becoming part of this country.

(I guess you can tell I've got very mixed feelings about all this)...

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

111: Should I try it?

If I write 111 more posts I can post more than last year, but what for?

I mean, blogging is becoming nearly obsolete. At least this kind of blogging: personal, with few readers, not "branded" and not professional.

I know I blog for me and except for the depressing year of 2009, I have always blogged more than the year before -- it was pretty much my only goal in the blog.

Maybe I should pick another number instead of aiming for 249 posts in 2014. I know I can totally pull off writing 111 posts between now and December, but I should have a better goal or aim at a "funner" number, like 177? ;-) That would require only 39 posts between now and the end of the year, but that's too little for blabbermouth me!

OK, so maybe I'll have no goal. However many posts I get to write is fine. But, wait! Maybe I'll stop at 214? That would be cute -- 214 posts in 2014! 64 more to go then. I'll try!

iOS8 Speaks Portuguese!!

After I got my new iPhone battery, the first thing I did was to upgrade to iOS8 and I was very tickled and thrilled to find out that I can now dictate texts, emails, lists, anything, in Portuguese!!!

Muito legal! Very cool!

Yeah... Apple works very hard to "convert" us all to its products, doesn't it? ;-)

Monday, November 03, 2014

Maybe Hope?

(But I still have a deep-seated need to be prepared and "rehearse" worst-case scenarios)

Last week I finally, FINALLY got to talk in person to NH ("new hire") for the first time since the first day of classes. And...
                       ... and?

Well... maybe, just maybe all is well regarding the possibility of employment next year. I know it cannot (even "by law") be certain, but I feel much more positive and hopeful about it.

This is a relief, and also a slight embarrassment given my hugely stressful reaction. But... I have this need to be prepared for the worst (especially considering my nightmarish beginning of the semester!) and I know that my "pessimistic realism" is an important coping mechanism for me.

I don't know if I can truly be "cautiously optimistic" because that's almost foreign to my nature, but I can try, right?

I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Adopt a Highway -- Please don't litter!!

A week ago I helped out at my sons' school -- a very rare "treat" for me, since my schedule is so busy and I can hardly ever do anything at the school or go on any of my sons' field trips.*

The 7th and 8th graders were going to clean out these roads that are informally adopted by their elementary school and close to the campus. My group consisted of my son and four boys in his class and we were assigned the very first stretch of road, fairly short, and I was blown away by how much trash had been thrown by drivers in this short stretch of a rural side road!! Countless empty cans, cups and bottles of soda, beer and water. Old lottery tickets, grocery bags with trash. A large bag of bird-seed and plastic bags and lots of other small items.

The five boys in my group filled two of the bags you see above (probably the fullest ones). Our stretch was short, but I think the other roads cleaned were side ones and ours must be the most traveled stretch (after three other roads meet, leading into a minor not-divided highway). Some of the boys in my group were a little rowdy and started throwing some of the trash across the road to the other group, but other than that, they worked diligently and did a good job. We were the first group to finish.

I kept thinking that if the people who litter had to clean even a small area of the roadside they would never do it again! And I was very glad to have my son and his classmates do this service project. I have some qualms with a few things his teacher does, but I think that the good initiatives far outweigh the bad. I'll talk about my kids' teachers and schedules in another post. There'll be lots of posts this month.

I'm sure none of my blog readers do it, but in any case, please, don't litter!

* I am planning to go on two trips next year, one to the Capitol & White House and to their ski day. I will cancel my classes to do that.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

NaBloPoMo once more!

Last year I took a relaxed approach to "National Blog Posting Month," but this year I'll try to be more intentional about it! So, before I forget, I'm writing this post!

I will try to share some Fall photos and other old ones that I'd wanted to post on the blog for a while. I think it will be fun and I'm looking forward to it!