Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm on a Roll

Guess which diplomat's spouse sent her daughter Trunk-or-Treating at the embassy trick-or treat with a Trader Joe's wine bag to collect her candy in?

"Lot's of people noticed all the compartments in my bag, mom!"

Just keeping it klassy with a 'k' down here in South America.


I can't believe it's STILL Halloween. We skipped a bunch of parties thanks to a nasty bug that's going around, but Halloween within the American community is big. One more party and trunk-or-treating tonight, and then it'll be over. On Friday the kids had a parade and party at their school. I took lots of photos, but I try not to put other people's children on here without consent, so here are a couple of shots from before school.

In their first ever "couples" Halloween costume, the girls went as Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.  Mitch even made Fimo radish earrings for Grace, because it turns out he's super crafty at making jewelry.  He's also super crafty at surprising his wife with an espresso machine for her birthday next month.  Shhh. It's supposed to be a secret from me.  After the school party, there was trick-or-treating and a party at the embassy. As you can see, Henry began to feel a little of the bug that kept Grace home most of last week (don't worry, Nana, the doctor assures us that bleeding from your eyes and nose is perfectly normal in Brazil):

The kids had a blast tearing through the embassy and riding on the Spooky Shuttle:

Most sections in the embassy decorated their doors, but some pooled their cubicles and turned them into full-on haunted houses.  I had a little snafu when I was decorating Mitch's office door. My theme was 'The Ghoulggenheim Museum' and I photoshopped a bunch of famous paintings to look like zombies and whatnot. I had only gotten one photo up and it was this one:
Note: I respect my president. I picked this one because it's an iconic painting, not as a social commentary.

I turned around and there was the Ambassador.  Um. Whoops.  The picture was mysteriously gone when Mitch got to the office later.  Did you know in the olden days they used to base foreign service officers' evaluations not only on their performance, but on their spouses' performances as well?  All I can say is, thank Gah those days are over.  Here is a lame glare-y photo of the door after I was done (post Obamazombie removal):

Anyhoodle, today I found out who won the door decorating contest, and believe it or not, it was yours truly, although I'm pretty sure we only won because we gave out Reese's Peanutbutter Cups, and you can't find those in Brasilia.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"And stop sword fighting in there, too!"

I woke up on Monday with the usual crick in my neck from the world's worst state department bed, but I wasn't cranky. I was overjoyed that it would be the last time I slept on the infernal thing, because our HHE (all our important stuff)  was arriving that day.  Of course you know with an opening like that, there is no way the bed made it. I mean, most of the bed made it, but the guts that you inflate to your perfect dream sleep were somehow brutally separated from it's heavenly counterparts. I won't lie. I cried. But then I got over it, moved the crappy bed from Jack's room and back into our room, and put clean sheets on it. Okay, the maid put clean sheets on it. See? Already things were looking up. I hate putting sheets on beds. We also have no Halloween decorations and a teak outdoor table with no chairs, but nothing important was broken, and we are overjoyed to have our belongings.

A few weeks before we packed out from Virginia, on an evening when Mitch was away on a TDY, I decided to have a glass of wine. Or two. Maybe two and a half. At which point my teenager suggested I buy a trampoline to bring to Brazil. And even though I've never even considered letting my children play on a trampoline (I'm the mom who makes them wear helmets while sledding),  at that moment it sounded like a GREAT idea. So I ordered one right then and there, as per my child's instruction, lest I sober up change my mind.  And then I kind of forgot about it until it was delivered with the rest of our stuff. We had the movers put it together before they left and Mitch just stood there with his arms crossed and his angry eyes.

"Um. Look, honey, I got the extra big one with the safety net!" I said, encouragingly. He finally conceded that it didn't seem so bad with the safety net.

The only problem is, when the boys saw the safety net, they immediately both had one thought.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rainy Season

We are loving the rain. It feels like home, only wetter and with lots of thunder.
 When we're done standing around admiring the rain, we lay around and admire it some more.

Tomorrow, I'm thrilled to report that our HHE shipment of goods is being delivered. I'm dying to see what my husband deemed important enough to ship to Brazil, since the kids and I were in the good Washington during packout.

We are soooo ready for our stuff, although we have been keeping ourselves busy doing things like weaving baskets with debris from the yard,

Observing the abundant creepy crawly creatures,

Playing with orphans,

And designing our dream house (that masters degree in architecture finally pays off!).

I waste spend a fair amount of time on the crack that is Pinterest coming up with new ideas for Mitch to incorporate into the house, because he is a lucky man and I am helpful like that.
Keep your fingers crossed that my Bumble and Bumble hair product made it, because my afro is getting bigger with each rain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Brazilian Blowout

I wish I could pay someone to come prop my children up on a table and groom them. This grooming is too late for our state department couches, though. Why did they give us WHITE furniture with four kids and a dog?

Look how green everything is! The rainy season has only been upon us for about a week, but Brasilia has already become lush and beautiful. The onset of summer also brings a plague of giant insects that descend upon us every day. The rhinoceros beetles are particularly melodramatic with their long, drawn-out "help, I'm on my back and I can't get up" swan songs. My girls have created a cemetery for them in the yard with names for each beetle and lovely flowers covering their hideous heads. On the extra-big ones, they've scotch-taped little hand drawn paper outfits to their exoskeletons. Soooo cute! Okay, so gross, but we still don't have our stuff, and as long as they're occupied, I'm happy.  Olivia has been our first South American insect victim, but after a round of heavy-duty antibiotics she's doing much better.  The other morning I found my dining room table inexplicably covered in dead termites. It's so strange, finding all these piles of dead insects everywhere (and of course we all run to Google to see what it is and if it will kill us dead).

Everyone is home today for Dia das Criancas (Day of the Children-because the other 364 days of the year aren't about them at all). One bonus of living in Brazil and going to an American school or working for the US embassy is that you get both American and Brazilian national holidays off, which is Suh-weet!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lunch boxes

Well, I'm back to packing lunches for the younger kids, and everybody is happy about it. The kids had been buying lunch at school, and it's an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Here's why I've begun making their lunches again, illustrated through a conversation at the dinner table. This nightly conversation rarely varies.

"What did you guys have for lunch today?"

"Steak. Chicken. Meatballs."

"Pasta, pao de queijo, french fries, and potatoes!" (Pao de queijo is cheese bread.)

"Lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots. I was so hungry at Art Club!"

"Henry, why don't you have anything besides meat?"

"Because I hate the idea of all that meat sitting there and me not eating it."

There was an actual whoop of happiness from them when they woke to this:

Now poor Henry won't have to stress out about all that meat he should be eating. I probably shouldn't even worry about the kids getting the right amount of food to eat, what with the Cheez-it currency they've got going at snack time. Cheez-its aren't available in Brazil, so I ordered some online and I was surprised when Olivia kept picking them for her snack, since she doesn't like crackers.

"Every time I open a bag of Cheez-its, my desk is crowded with kids. I got a whole apple and a piece of candy for ONE cheez-it!"

"I got half a sandwich and three chocolate wafers for two Cheez-its!" Exclaimed Grace, who never met a salty snack she didn't like.

Hmm. Maybe I should just pack them a big bag of Cheez-its every day and let them barter their way to a well-balanced lunch.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Getting food into the house in Brazil is not as simple as going to Costco or Trader Joe's (whimper). We're slowly beginning to figure out where to go for different things. Since we don't have our car yet, I have to rely on Mitch to drive us everywhere in his work car, and my shopping style has changed. In the States, my method of grocery shopping was to arrive mid-week right when a store opened, get in, and get out. This way, I was able to avoid, you know, people and crowds and amateur grocery shoppers and stuff. I've had to put my fear and loathing of crowds on the shelf here, right next to my impatience and germophobia (my mental medicine cabinet is crammed. Don't hate me).  Shopping with my better half isn't as bad as I thought it would be. He doesn't mind standing around waiting in long lines, and he picks out all of the wine, a chore I used to loathe, because I'm not very adventurous and I can never remember what we've had and liked or disliked. We do have a grocery store in our neighborhood, but we rarely go there. It's expensive and we can find better produce being sold on the side of the road. I know! ME!  Buying stuff off the back of a truck. When in Rome...(Okay, full disclosure, I wash everything in bleach water before we use it. Baby steps.)

On Saturdays, futebol/playdate/sleepovers permitting, we get up early and go to CEASA, an open air farmers' market, along with most of the population of Brasilia (excluding those from our neighborhood who are just getting into bed after a night of partying). The prices are great, the food is fresh, the sellers are wonderful and patient with our crappy portuguese. We try to drag Jack with us to help with the language. We generally end up buying way more than we need because everything looks so good.

What a couple of nuts.

 Watch this video on How to Peel Garlic. If you want to, I mean. But you know you want to.

Yep, you read that right. "House of Chocolate".  The chocolate here is very different from what we are used to, and the imported chocolate is outrageously expensive. I've also not found chocolate chips anywhere (sad face). The kids love picking out unusual packages of Brazilian chocolate, though. Sugar is açúcar, am I right?

Spotted: the elusive American teenager picking out figs and starfruit (you guys, I totally made an awesome chicken dish  with those figs).

We go to other stores for non-perishables.  There are  a few things that they don't sell here. Most of it I can get online or do without. I've learned to make bagels for the kids and you can buy cream cheese, so they're set.

Maple syrup doesn't exist here. You can buy the fake stuff at the commissary, but our UAB contained four big jugs of real maple syrup, which I am currently keeping under lock and key and doling out with a medicine dropper.  Jack tried to start a business at school (I'm not kidding, he had a business plan and everything) selling our stuff at a highly inflated rate to Brazilian kids, and it would have been successful if we'd let him go through with it. One kid offered him a hundred bucks for some real maple syrup.  I still feel kind of bad for squelching his entrepreneurial spirit, but the State Department frowns on that sort of thing. 

There is plenty of cheese to be had, but you can't buy good cheddar cheese here. Anywhere. So, in true pioneer fashion, my darling husband ordered books and supplies to make our own cheddar cheese. I'm growing basil and hoping my food processor arrives some day so I can make pesto, and I'm ordering coffee beans from the States. That's right, I'm importing South American coffee to South America. Shut up, you would too if you were me and had a mental medicine cabinet with a special shelf labeled, "FUSSY".