Sunday, July 26, 2015

What We Eat: Produce Edition

One of the great aspects of living here in Brazil is the availability of delicious fruits and vegetables year round. And because we live very close to Hubby's parents' farm, we regularly get heaps of locally grown bananas, papayas, sweet potatoes, yucca (mandioca), cucumbers, avocados, etc. etc. I've been introduced to some fruits and vegetables that I had never even heard of before moving here. I've also grown to love some things I'd heard of or tried but never really ate much in the US. Here is some of the produce previously unknown or unfamiliar to me that we now consume on a regular basis.


Chuchu/Coyote: This veggie grows right off the back patio of my in-laws' house. To my palate, it's a lot like zucchini squash, and is typically boiled. The skin has deep grooves that make it difficult to peel completely. The younger a coyote is, the thinner and more edible the skin is. The bigger/older the veggie is, the tougher and less edible the skin is. We typically peel, cube, and boil with cubed potatoes as a side dish.

Batata doce/Sweet Potato: Obviously we have sweet potatoes in the US, but these ones aren't like the orange, yam-my sweet potatoes I am used to. The skin is a really pretty fuschia color (that doesn't show well in the photo, and the inside is white to pale yellow. This is another item we usually boil. The "meat" of this potato remains a lot firmer and drier than the sweet potatoes we have in the States, even after boiling.

Yucca/Mandioca/Cassava: This is absolutely one of my favorite carbs in the world! It's a big potato-like root covered in more of a thin bark than a skin. It's a bit of an effort to prepare this one involving knives and lots of rinsing, but it is so worth it. Yucca is a very starchy starch. You can cut it into cubes or strips, boil it, and then fry it up in oil. Sprinkle some salt and it beats a damn French fry any day of the week. We also cut it into huge chunks and cook it up in the pressure cooker with beef, chicken, or pork. When prepared this way, the yucca breaks down a bit creating a really delicious thick stew consistency. I love yucca (have I made that clear?)

Ihame: I've never seen this in the US, and I have no idea what it would be called in English. It's another potato-like root vegetable (go figure). The skin is peeled off and the vegetable is boiled to serve as a side or incorporate into a soup/stew. The flesh is much like a potato, but it has a blueish tint to it after cooking. I'm not a giant fan because it also has a slightly slimy texture.


Maracujá/Passion Fruit: Brazilians adore this fruit. I had heard of passion fruit before coming here and had eaten deserts made with it at Brazilian restaurants. Since moving here, though, it has been a big part of our regular diet in the form of juice. These grow like crazy at the in-laws' farm so we harvested a ton, cut them open to get out the pulp, and froze it all to make passion fruit juice for months to come. The pulp is very tart so a lot of sugar is needed to make it tasty enough to eat, but it is such an interesting flavor. I especially love passion fruit mousse, which is a common desert around here. We like to let Little Man have some if he's having a rough day because it has properties like melatonin and can encourage sleep.

Goiaba/Guava: This is another one that you can probably get in the States at Brazilian stores, but I never ate it until we moved here. As you can see in the photo it has some light colored seeds inside that are very hard. You can eat this like an apple taken right off the tree, but we mostly make it into a refreshing juice using out hand blender. Guava pulp is often sweetened and boiled down to make fillings for candies and cookies here as well.

That's a just a little taste of the kind of produce we eat here. It's impossible to cover everything because there is just so much available at any given time. Just a short walk around the farm and you'll see mangos, bananas, passion fruit, guava, cacau, papaya, carambola, pitanga, graviola, jambu, ingá, avocado, watermelon, oranges, tangerines, cajá, acerola, beets, sweet potatoes, yucca, corn, tomatoes, cucumber, beans, chuchu, cará, carrots, collard greens, lettuce, cabbage, pumpkin, etc., etc., etc.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Come Grocery Shopping with Us!

It has been a couple weeks now since we got back from our trip to Rio, but I haven't yet gotten back into my usual swing of things. I've been eating poorly and not feeling great, so that's gotta stop. We went out today to stock up on good eats and I thought I'd take some photos of our little grocery shopping excursion.

Because we needed to restock a lot of staple items, we went to Oba--our equivalent of a BJ's or Costco.

 It's a big place. I remember we came here one of the first times we went grocery shopping after arriving in Brazil. I was so overwhelmed with the products, the prices, the people. I just wanted to cry. It's hard to get used to shopping in another country when you have no concept of what is a good brand or a good deal. Now, I'm much better at it. Because we usually hit the store early, we beat the crowds too, which is always a plus.

This whole section is just for crackers!
Basically, grocery shopping here is the same as it is in the US. The main difference is the cost of products. The cost of goods in Brazil has been rising significantly recently, so you can't count on prices remaining the same from week to week. We basically have no brand loyalty and just buy whatever is most cost effective. Some tough choices for us can be certain fruits and things that Little Man likes to eat. For example, raisins (one of his faves) are really expensive here. In Rio they cost half as much for some reason. But we buy them because he loves them. Another interesting thing about shopping here is the availability of certain produce. In the Northeast US, I was used to only one type of banana and a ton of different types of apples. Here, there is typically one type of apple available at our supermarket, and several different types of bananas. Did you know there were different types of bananas?! I didn't until I moved here.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Vacation in Rio de Janeiro!

Hi everyone! We are having a really fun adventure in Rio de Janeiro this week! It has been a challenge taking a trip with a toddler, but I think we've learned a few things about what to do and what not to do for next time. It has been wonderful so far and we still have 4 full days left. Here's what we've been up to:

Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)

We took a tiny tram to the top of the mountain. The view of the city below was amazing! Little Man fell asleep on the way up and didn't get to check out the statue. I didn't get a picture in front of the statue because Hubby had his hands full.

Maracanã Stadium 

Hubby was so excited to check this place out. We got to go thru the players' tunnel, into the locker room (which smelled like sweaty feet), and up to the different levels of the stadium. A lot of fun.

Little Man liked sitting on the floor of the elevator for some reason.

Brazilian National Museum

This was an affordable and fun activity. I love museums so it was a lot of fun for me to poke around. There was an exhibit about the history of the Brazilian indigenous way of life, and another with several mummies! We didn't spend as much time there as I would have liked because Little Man was getting sleepy.

So that's what we've been checking out so far. We've got a few more low-key days planned, I think. We've been joking about how much easier it is to travel and explore without a baby, but I think next time we'll have the experience to be better prepared. 

Till later!

Monday, June 1, 2015

7 Products I Actually Used As a New Mom

My older sister welcomed her first bundle of joy a few short weeks ago, which got me thinking about my early days with Little Man. There are a bazillion and one products marketed toward newborns and new moms out there.  As soon as a woman finds out she's expecting, she starts making a gift registry listing every gizmo and gadget that promises to make the job of caring for a newborn a breeze.  In my experience, many of the items that are on the "must-have" lists actually don't get used at all!  This can be due to a baby's personality, i.e. my little guy just never really liked being in a carrier, so our Boba pretty much gathered dust.  Still, personalities aside, much of what we put on those registries just isn't necessary.  Here is a list of my personal favorite baby/new mom items that actually helped make my life a little bit easier.

Buy here
1. SwaddleMe sleep sacks from Summer Infant.  

We had a little Houdini who slept much better when swaddled, but quickly figured out how to bust our of normal swaddle blankets.  I bought a couple of these bad boys and they worked so well.  You just roll your little baby up like a burrito and secure the wrap with two Velcro tabs.  No more startle reflex and whacking himself in the face as he slept.  They also made physically laying him down to sleep easier.  Without the swaddle, inevitably one of his little arms would fall as I tried to lay him down, waking him up.  It took me a while to find out that these existed, but I'll definitely be using them from the very start with my next baby.

Buy here
2. Glider Rocker

We didn't buy one of these before our little guy arrived.  It was actually my mom who went out and bought one for me a couple of days after Little Man was born.  It was amazing and I pretty much lived in it for the first few weeks of his life.  Initially it was in the living room so that I could nurse comfortably and conveniently while binge-watching Law & Order marathons on TV.  The side pockets kept all my necessities [cell phone, magazine, lanolin, etc.] close at hand.  The one pictured is the one I had which was from Walmart and very affordable.  We had to leave it behind when we moved to Brazil and I miss it every time I sit in my lame, non-rocking chair to nurse.

3. Fisher-Price Precious Planet Whale of a Tub

This one was on my registry [at Target] and a friend bought it for me.  It has a little seat for use when baby is too small to sit up in the tub on his own that can be removed once he's old enough.  It has a foam no-slip surface where the baby's head and back rest against the tub and fit well over my kitchen sink.  It also came with the cutest little fish-shaped cup for pouring water over baby's head.  Even though I know babies don't need fancy gimmicks when they can just get a good wash in the sink itself, babies are both wiggly and slippery when wet.  I felt more secure knowing he wouldn't go shooting out my hands like a bar of soap.

4. Vibrating/Bouncing Seat

This was another registry item that ended up saving the day on a number of occasions. The one I got [similar here] had a vibrate mode that lasted for 30 minutes. Little Man would fall asleep and stay asleep as long as the vibration continued. Many times I carried the whole seat complete with dozing newborn into the bathroom so I could [God forbid] take a shower!

Buy here

5. Nursing Nighties

My mom purchased a couple of these for me for Christmas right before I gave birth. I think the ones she got me were from the Jessica Simpson collection for Motherhood Maternity. Honestly, this kind of thing wasn't even on my mind as something I should get for myself. Obviously a baby can nurse just fine whether you're wearing a fancy nightie or an oversized T-shirt. However, they did wonders for my self-esteem! They made me feel like I was a tad bit cute even on days when I had barely wrangled my stringy hair into a haphazard top bun.

Buy here

6. Boppy Pillow

How could I make a list like this and not mention the almighty Boppy?!? Whether you're going to be nursing or bottle-feeding in the early days, those little monsters are eating 24/7. You're going to need some arm reinforcements. That's where the Boppy comes in, giving your baby a soft place to snuggle while you rest up for bouncing and walking them to sleep later.

Buy here

7. White Noise Machine

I thought this item would be good for traveling in the car, but we even used it a lot at home. It had four sound settings [heartbeat, rushing water, wind, and a stereotypical baby lullaby]. Little Man preferred the [somewhat obnoxious] lullaby. It helped put him to sleep and helped keep him asleep. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment at the time, and even washing dishes or watching TV in the other room could wake him up.

Obviously there are many mandatory things all parents need when a new baby arrives. My favorite brand of diapers for newborn were Pampers Swaddlers. Once Little Man grew a bit, I became less picky. I really had no problem using the Target Up & Up brand during the day. I did start using Luvs Overnights at night because he was the master of peeing out of diapers at night. I also wasn't picky about wipes--I just always bought the unscented, sensitive skin ones because my skin is fairly sensitive. For baths we used Johnson & Johnson lavender bubble bath and soap [a 2-in-1 dealie]. Diaper rash called for good old Desitin. I tried other more "natural" brands, but they didn't do the job as well.

It's so funny to sit back and try to remember all of these things. As they are happening, you keep saying to yourself that you're going to remember every detail. Fifteen months in, I'm having trouble remembering what we ate for lunch yesterday.

How about you other mamas--what were your mandatory, life-saving items from when your babies first arrived?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

6 Things I am Still Getting Used To

In a few short months, I will be hitting a milestone--one year of life as an expat! This is crazy to me. On the one hand, it seems like just yesterday that I first stepped off the plane. On the other hand, at times my difficulty adjusting to this new way of life has made it seem as though time has slowed to a crawl. Through the good and the bad, I have stuck it out this long. Everyday life is considerably easier now than it was in the very beginning. Still, there are some things about life here that I haven't quite gotten used to yet.


Due to the cost of purchasing and maintaining a vehicle, many families, even "middle-class" families, can't afford to own one. Most people can afford to purchase and maintain a motorcycle. For this reason, these things are everywhere! Not only are motorcycles all over the place, they follow their own "rules of the road." They're sneaking up to pass you on the right. They're shooting up the dotted line between lanes toward the intersection ahead. They're riding up onto the sidewalk to avoid traffic. Some are carrying a few full tanks of propane for delivery. Most people do wear helmets, but they are often riding in shorts, tank tops, and flip flops. The part that is most difficult for me is seeing children, sometimes as young as 4 years old, holding on for dear life on the back of a motorcycle. It's so hard because I know that people are just doing what they have to do to get where they need to go. Still, in my previous job in the States, I worked on enough personal injury cases involving motorcycles to know just how badly injured motorcycle riders are when an accident does happen.

I'm actually still getting used to the road traffic in general. Roads are often in disrepair so you have to be on the lookout for huge potholes. Many of the highways around us are one lane in each direction. There is a big problem here with something they call "ultra passing." This is when a car, truck, or motorcycle, crossed the double yellow line to pass one or [oftentimes] more vehicles ahead of them. We have seen some close calls as cars swerve back into the lane to avoid oncoming traffic. There is a significant fine for this activity but people do it all the time.


Both grocery stores and clothing stores have a ton of staff scheduled to be working at any given time. The grocery store is often super crowded, and a lot of times it seems as though there are more employees than customers clogging the aisles. When you enter a clothing or toy store, an employee typically pounces on you immediately to find out what you are looking for and if they can help. Even when you say you're just browsing, they quietly follow along a few feet behind you, just in case. This is really irritating to me, as I'm a huge fan of window shopping. Back home, it was a real stress reliever to just head out and browse stores on a Sunday, often not buying anything. The stalking shop clerks take the fun right out of it.


I saw a news report recently that the population of stray dogs in my city is not far from starting to rival that of the human population! Every time I am out on a walk or we are heading downtown, I unconsciously start playing "Count the Strays" in my head. It's not uncommon to see a pack of 8 or more dogs roaming the streets together. Most of them seem friendly, though I always keep my distance, especially if I have my son with me. I was bitten in the abdomen by a neighbor's dog as a young child, and I'm very wary of strange animals. It's not super common, but there have been news reports about people being attacked and bitten by small gangs of dogs. A friend of mine who is an animal lover told me it is because there are no laws about purchasing and then abandoning animals in Brazil. Most are not spayed and neutered, so once they are on the street, it's a breeding free-for-all.


Before we moved here, we lived in a very quiet section of an apartment complex. We were up from the street and away from the parking lot, so it was a relatively quiet atmosphere for my new baby to sleep in. This neighborhood, not so much. At any given time, there are dogs barking, children yelling, roosters crowing, large construction trucks going over speed bumps, motorcycles gunning their engines, cars blaring advertisements for pharmacies and grocery stores, the milk truck making its run through the streets (at 6 & 9 a.m.) incessantly honking a bike horn. Nearly every other building on our street and in our neighborhood is in some stage of construction/renovation, so the buzz of electric saws and banging of hammers is an "all day, every day" thing. Even the birds, the beautiful birds, can be too much at times. On the weekends and during holidays or soccer championships, people play loud music and randomly light firecrackers. Even though the nights are colder now, I still have to sleep with the ceiling fan on to drown it all out.

Summer Year Round

Even though people recognize different seasons here [i.e. all the stores are featuring their fall and winter lines right now], to a girl from the Northeast US, it's all varying shades of what I call summer. Sure we have to wear socks and sometimes long pants around the house these days, but it's still getting up into the 80s outside, and you'll still get a mean burn if you head outside unprotected around midday. My goodness I miss the leaves changing, the snow falling, and the thaw in the spring.

Differing Concepts of Personal Space

Brazilians are very warm people. Greetings, even between people who don't know each other super well, involve hugs and sometimes kisses on the cheek. I come from an affectionate family, so this isn't a huge problem for me. However, Brazilians don't seem to have a concept of a person's "bubble" [I think most Americans will know what I mean when I say that]. I have been raised to believe that I have a so-called "bubble" of personal space around my body, as does every other individual on the planet. It makes me uncomfortable when people, especially strangers, get inside my bubble. This most often happens to me when standing in lines. The person behind me is standing so close that I can practically feel their breath on the back of my neck and hear them swallowing. I inch up to give myself the most minuscule of buffers, and they immediately fill the gap. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

So those are some of the silly everyday differences I have noticed and continue to try to deal with/accept as I go about my life here.

Disclaimer: I really don't mean to offend anyone with these observations. I know that the things I've talked about in this post could easily describe any number of places/people in the world, including the United States/Americans. I'm just comparing my own personal experiences in my old life with those in my new life.

Friday, May 29, 2015

10 Things I Love About My Husband

It's Health & Fitness Friday, but I'm going to post about something totally unrelated. This Sunday is a very special day for me and my husband. It marks six years since we became a couple! We have been through a lot together, and I'm so happy that we always make it out the other side stronger and a better team. I'm so thankful every day that I am married to my best friend. There are a million things that I love about my husband, but here are some of the first things that come to mind: 

1. When he sings along to the radio while making dinner

2. The way he laughs and plays with our son

3. That he sweeps and mops the floor because I hate to do it

4. When he asks if I want him to rinse while I wash

5. His sense of humor and his laugh when he thinks something is really funny

6. His willingness to help anyone in need

7. His ability to keep a cool head and look at things rationally

8. The way he dances with me

9. The way he looks in a suit

10. His man skills

Some of these are silly, but in all seriousness, I lucked out tremendously in the Hubby department. Happy Anniversary, Baby!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Baby's First Illness!!

It is officially autumn in Brazil. The overnight low temperatures have been dropping into the low 60's, and the long jammies have come out. Public service announcements about flu shots have started running and, as if on cue, Little Man came down with his first illness. And it was a doozie.

It all started when we visited the Farm and Little Man got to play with an older cousin. I noticed the little boy had a runny nose and was coughing a bit, but it was nearly impossible to keep the two of them apart. Within days of us returning home Little Man had the sniffles. His sleep was thrown for a loop and he was less interested in eating. A couple of days later and he had a fever, not severe, although he absolutely would not allow us anywhere near him with our thermometer even just to stick it under his arm. At first we thought maybe the fever was due to teething because he has his first molars coming in on the bottom. I noticed he was drooling a lot [like entire front of shirt soaked in drool] and read that could be a sign that it was painful for him to swallow.

Things came to a head the day after his fever first appeared when he woke from a nap inconsolable. He is normally a little cranky right when he wakes up, but this was crazy! Wailing! Screaming! Nothing worked to calm him down, not Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, not nothin'! He didn't even want to nurse [BIG red flag for a kid who lives to nurse]. While he was full-on-open-mouth-screaming, Hubby got a good look at the back of his throat and saw that it was red with white spots. We headed to the emergency treatment window at one of the local public hospitals and were seen pretty quickly [thank goodness] due to Little Man's operatics in the waiting area. The doctor quickly shined a flashlight in his mouth and wrote us a prescription for antibiotics. We weren't given an official diagnosis, but since he has responded to the antibiotics, I'm assuming it was probably strep throat [?].

Our whole routine has been turned upside-down by this. Little Man, who was previously falling asleep on his own when laid down at bedtime, was sleeping in our bed again and waking several times a night. My recent plan to start a gentle weaning process has gone out the window. We have had an overall clingy, sad, stressed-out toddler on our hands when he is normally an energetic little sunbeam. The hardest part for me has been the inability to make him feel better even with my old fail safe: nursing. Both Hubby and I have had to learn how to [try and] remain calm and just be there for our little guy while he wails and thrashes. Tough times. To all the parents out there who have had children with recurrent illnesses from a young age, I feel for you! I'm pretty sure we only managed to avoid Little Man getting sick before now because he doesn't go to daycare and actually has really limited interaction with other children.

Some things that have been helping: Vick's rub, honey, homemade chicken soup, and lots of extra snuggles. Of course now that Little Man's illness appears to be winding down, I'm starting to feel a little something coming on...Both my boys have had the flu shot, but I haven't gotten a card to get access to public health services yet.

How about you? How do you help your little one be as comfortable as possible while riding out an illness?