Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Backpacking in South America - Porto Alegre

What to say about Porto Alegre.... hmm.... seriously don´t understand this city.  It´s SO densely populated.  So many cars.  So much poverty.  I don´t really feel the ´gaucho´culture here.... not like I hoped/thought I would at least.  They do have a very cool Mercado Publico here that we spent some time in today - started by going into the fish market part which was filled with vendors and shoppers and tons of varities of seafood.  We ended up in the public market where you could buy fresh fruit, more fish, and there were plenty of botecos to have a beer.  We ate a place upstairs and figured we should order some of the fish so we got a type of white fish I have never heard of that came with rice, sauteed potatos, salad, and a caper mushroom butter with the fish.  YEOW it was good.  reeeeeally good.  I think we decided it was the best meal we had (aside from the hostel room bread/evoo/meat/cheese combo we had in Mendoza).  We also tried the local beer, Polar.  It was watery and refreshing with an interesting aftertaste but we liked it!  Two liters later (and two chopps) later, I was drunk (again).  How many times have I written that on this trip? 
I decided after this trip I am goin on a detox from beer.

Soooo that pretty much sums up our time in Porto Alegre!  It´s not the most beautiful city ever, or the most cultural in my opinion, but we did actually spend some time by the river which was lovely. 

Until next time in Curitiba ...... take care!!

Backpacking in South America - Buenos Aires pt. 1

Writing a reeeeeal quickie from the bus station before we get on our 22 hour (gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!) bus to Porto Alegre.  Back to Brazil we go!

I have so much to write about Buenos Aires!  First of all, I love love love this city.  I love everything - the style, the music, the atmosphere!  Ro and I saw a lot in the 4 days we spent here but at the same time had a chance to relax a little, sleep in a little (and by sleep in I mean wake up at 8 for breakfast, eat, and then go back to bed for a couple more hours), and get to know the city slowly... it was great!  I have to try and remember as much as I can.

We stayed in Hostel Suites on Avenida Florida this time, which is a more uppity version of Hostelling International.  It was a really nice hostel with lots to do and lots of action all the time but we didn´t really LOVE it like we did some of the others (Hostel Natura in Foz).  It was just really busy but without the same feeling of companionship you have at smaller hostels.  Plus, there was no WIFI in the rooms.  A huge thumbs down from me!  So, it´s been difficult to write the Bs As blog becuase of that.

The first day out on the town Ro and I walked down to the docks in search of dessert and coffee.  All we found was a Catholic University with some very NON Catholic looking students.  Ro wondered if it was now ok to show a lot of cleavage and thigh in the Catholic Church.  Down by the water it was too expensive so we wandered back up to the neighbourhood of San Telmo which is where they sell a lot of antiques and have a huge HUGE fair on Sundays.  I will take this opportunity to express my infatuation "oh hell let´s just call it what it is" OBSESSION, with outdoor fairs/markets.
 Poor poor Ro. 
Everytime we pass ANYONE selling ANY kind of crap - it could be anything - jewelry, belts, magnets, hand painted anything, barbequed guts and livers (they have that here) - I am all over that market like... well, like blood on guts and livers.  (YUCK btw).

So anyway, one other nice thing about this hostel is that everyday you can go pick up a food stamp meal ticket that you can use in the bar to get a free dinner.  I joked becuase we are truly at the point in our funds where we need food stamps to eat.  Ha!  Backpacking is fun!

The next day we went walking in the Recoleta Cemetary area.  This is the cemetary where Evita is buried and also the walking tour our Lonely Planet book told us to go on.  So we walked around the area for about 3 hours or so, toured the cemetary (very awesome and creepy, complete with cobwebs on caskets and wrought iron fences, and black cats roaming the premise), saw the Engineering school which is a big Gothic Churchy looking building.  Wandered down to the UN park where they have this big metal flower that opens in the morning and closes at night like a real flower.
After the tour was over, we called Ro´s cousin Carla who is living and studying in BsAs for 6 months.  We had some things to drop off to her so we took the bus to her house, hung out for a bit and then motored back to our hostel to eat our free dinner. (They only serve between 8:30 and 9 people, you understand)


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Backpacking in South America - Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza. Oh Mendoza... You were so bright and hopeful when we first arrived.  Now we kind of can't wait to get out of here.  Well, I suppose I'd better explain myself there...

I will start with the incredible bike & wine tour we went on, which is half the reason for coming to Mendoza.  We walked to the bus stop and were approached by a guy explaining to us, in English, that we shouldn't take this bus, that it would take too long to get to the bike route, that some of the drivers are paid by the bike companies to stop in front of said bike companies when sometimes the company is located halfway down the bike route. 
You can understand if we were a little suspicious, since we still didn't even know the guys name at this point, or actually who he was at all.
But he gave us a flyer and said that his brother owned a bike company and it costs 30 pesos (instead of the 45 we were expecting) AND you get a bottle of water.  He informs us that he will let us know when the right bus gets to the stop, and so he does.
So we rent the bikes and head out on our tour.  Turns out the guy really is a nice guy and the bike company (Coco Bike Rentals?  Pull the bus dinger as soon as you see the giant bottle of wine and the bus will stop right there) is completely legit and they give good service.  It was a beautiful day.  So perfect to be out riding bikes through tree lined streets, wine vinyards and olive tree farms.  We rode all the way to the end of the route (10 km!!) to start the tour with an olive oil tour.  Actually first, we stopped for lunch at a more traditional winery where we had a little tour and got to taste the wines they make.  The lunch included an asado of chicken and steak, french bread dipped in red wine vinegar and oil, and a salad.  Oh yeah, and we got to choose their best wine to accompany our meal and they pour a BIG glass.  I was absolutely not sober by the time we finished and got back on our bikes to keep riding...

So we finally made it to the end where we went on a tour of an olive oil factory.  It was very cool to learn that they press the olives with the pits because the pits have the most oil to give.  We got to taste some bread dipped in oil and also some bread with grilled eggplant as well as bread topped with sundried tomatoes.  We bought a bottle of olive oil and were on our way.  The next stop of the day was at one of the chocolate factories where they make chocolates, liquers, sweets and jarred fruits.  We weren't overly impressed, but got to taste some of the liquers and jams, so that's always nice.  We did stop at another chocolate shop where we bought a jar of homemade dulce de leche con chocolate and then went back to the first winery we visited and bought a bottle of Petit Verdot wine from La Rural Winery. 

For dinner that night we went to the Mercado Central to buy some meat, cheese, olive oil, fresh bread, pickled vegetables and some fresh fruits.  Then we went home, laid it all out and FEASTED on our dinner, dipping our bread into our fresh olive oil and savouring our delicious wine.  It was AMAZING.

So, what a great first day in Medonza, right?????

The next day, Ro wanted to see the Andes.  Mendoza is very close, you can drive right through them by going about 2 hours away.  So we bought bus tickets to visit this small town called Uspallata.  There isn't much there, but it's worth the drive.  We only planned to stay in the actual town for about 1.5 hours before we caught the bus to go back. 
Towards the end of the bus ride there, we were getting confused.  It seemed like everyone had already gotten off the bus, save a few people, and it also seemed like the bus had gone to the end and turned around and was now going BACK.  We were a bit on edge about what was happening but when the bus finally pulled into a very small, dingy bus station, we were excited that we had made it and jumped up to hurry off the bus.

Without our camera.

It was completely an accident that it got left on the seat.  We were distracted.  But Ro noticed that he didn't have it no more than 30 seconds after we got off the bus.  He panicked.  "Where's the camera??"
"I don't know, I thought you had it between your legs" (he had been taking pictures)

He jumped back on the bus to grab it, knowing he had left it on the seat, but it was already too late.  There were only 2 people who left the bus after us - a mother and her son.  We frantically looked around for them but they were nowhere in sight.  They were gone and so was our camera. 
It was pretty heartbreaking - not because we left it.  I mean for god's sake, accident's happen.  Who hasn't left something behind by accident?  But Ro remembered LESS THAN 30 SECONDS after getting off that bus.  Those people who took the camera were sitting in the seats beside us for 2 1/2 hours.  They clearly knew it belonged to us.  And they decided to take it anyway.  It feels like they robbed it right out of our hands.  We didn't even know what to do - instinct told us to start looking for them everywhere but it was impossible to know where they went.  We did go to the police station and file a claim though, but there is nothing they can do. 

The emotional pain is a little less today, but the physical pain is not.  Ro kicked a wall really REALLY hard after he had the self-realization that the camera was gone and in doing so kind of really hurt his foot.  Last evening was spent with foot in air, packed in ice.  Silly boy!!! 

So, today, our last day (and another day of day-killing before our night bus) we decided to walk to Parque San Martin just for something to do.  Well, I walked and Ro limped.  So we're walking, the day is sunny, fresh... we are talking, he starts explaining something to me about the street signs and how they say [insert compass direction here] [insert number here] and that indicates how many blocks from dowtown the street is when BAM. I fall into a giant pit. 

Oh, and I don't just casually trip.  I was listening very intently (as I ALWAYS do) to my husbands explanation of the street sign, looking backwards and walking forwards when my foot reached out for some more pavement and there was none to be found.  It was all very confusing and whirl-windish.  First, my left foot lands after like an hour of falling into water (?) and my left knee and left elbow smash against the cement wall that is creating the pit .  My right heel drags down the other side of the cement wall, also landing in the mysterious water, which stole my havaiana from my foot and carried it down stream.  Now I realize I am standing in sewer water, bleeding and only having one shoe.  I was very distraught.
So, I'm sitting on the side of the road now and Ro runs limps for help and to get some sort of stick so he can fish my shoe from the sewer.  To make matters worse, some old ladies saw me fall across the street and one came over to me while I was sitting there and started asking me questions in spanish like "how did I fall" and "I need to be careful with these big holes" and "jibba jabba jibba" I didn't understand the rest.  Which means I couldn't respond.  When i get nervous here, for some reason my instinct is to speak Portuguese???  I can't even barely speak Portuguese so I'm a little impressed that I'm instinctively speaking Portuguese here. 

Anyway, Ro returned with a big metal rod (hahahahahah that's what you found???) and actually managed to find my shoe about 3 sewer drains down.  We decided to keep going on to the park in spite of our state. 

And as we both limped away into the sunset, I looked at him and laughed.

"We really look f'ing retarded right now."


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Backpacking in South America - Rosario, Argentina

So, we arrived in Rosario only abouuuuut 6 hours later than scheduled.   Phew!  It was a long bus ride here but actually wasn’t all that bad - I think I already would rather catch a late bus when you’re already sleepy, sleep off and on for about 10/11 hours, then spend the remaining (10 hours in this case) watching the bus movies in dubbed Spanish, reading, or just staring outside.  The seats are pretty comfortable (and we opted for the semi-cama chairs which don’t fully extend out) and on the trip we were served 3 meals.  Pretty decent.  I would recommend though, if you are traveling for the same amount of time to bring snacks just in case.  We were absolutely starving pretty hungry by the time they served the meals. 

It was an interesting trip here.  First of all, because at the start of the trip we were stopped twice by police ‘blitzes’ - on the first occasion they got on the bus and asked for everyone’s id.  Ok, no problem.  On the second one, I was sleeping, but was awoken by some dogs sniffing around - Ro said the cops had brought these dogs on and they were sniffing in the cracks of the bus etc.  Weird!!

Interesting point two:  There were baby cockroaches.  Everywhere.  Ro went on a killing spree and massacred a good portion of the family but they didn’t stop coming!  It was strange and disgusting. 

But anyway, we made it here and decided again to save a buck and walk the 25 blocks to our hostel.  Which was the wrong hostel.  Then we had to back track about 4 ½ blocks to the RIGHT hostel.  We arrived sweaty and tired to the HI Hostel - Casa da Dona Jaime 2 -  which is awesome!  It is decorated completely with Elvis memorabilia???  Also, in this hostel we have a private room with a double bed AND private bathroom - we are living in luxury people.  Lol, the last hostel we stayed at we wanted a double bed but they only had bunk beds and shared washrooms.  At this point, we want our money to go as far as it can so we’ll take what we can get (except a dorm - no way I’ll sleep in a dorm!).

So night time in Rosario, we went out in search of a good place to eat and stumbled upon this restaurant called La Materias.  Every time we travel we try to drink the local beer so in our true style, we ordered a liter (!) of Isenbeck.  Then we drank it and ordered another haha.  It was really good and we were thirsty, what can I say.  For dinner we ordered a tabla which was like appies for 2 served on a wooden cutting board.  Greasy and delicious (but our stomachs were not thanking us the next morning). 

So the next day, we had about 8 hours to kill before our overnight bus came to Mendoza.  So we literally walked around the city for 8 hours.  I have to say, Rosario is not a really big tourist town - actually it’s a big city but there aren’t many people there.  There are a lot of stray dogs though.  And subsequently, a lot of piles of poop on the sidewalk.  Everywhere you walk has the faint air of dog poo.  Also, for it being the city where Che Guevera is from, you’d think they would have cashed out on that a little, even a little, but there was no sign of Che anywhere.  We walked down to the river, watched the locals fishing, wandered back in-town, ate lunch at Parthenon where we struggled to order in Spanish with an impatient waitress and the obvious town-gossip turning her head completely around “Exorcist Style” to stare as soon as she heard the us speak. 

Anyway, after a long ass day of doing nothing and being really tired we finally went to catch the bus to Mendoza.  Wow the difference between riding Rio Uruguay and Andesmar is 100% different!!!  We got a cama bus this time and it was sooo nice!!  Unfortunately at about 6 in the morning the bus broke down.  Completely broke and we were forced onto another bus to ride the remaining 2 hours separated, and into the lowly semi-cama area.  Haha, now I’m a snob, now that I’ve experienced the upper class - I can’t go back! 

So, made it only 2 hours behind schedule to Mendoza and we already like it!  No dog poop, check.  Lots of outdoor ferias (markets), check.  A pedestrian street, check.  We likey.  Good thing because we’re spending 3 nights here.  In the next day or two we plan to rent bikes for $45 pesos (or about R$30, or about $18) for the day and do the biking wine tour.  Wine tasting on bikes.  Sounds like a disaster?  Yeah, I thought so too! 

Well, we are off to check out the outdoor market to get some cheap food and hopefully water. It’s been more than 24 hours since we drank any water and I feel like my body is poisoning itself.  Hasta luego!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Backpacking South America - Foz do Iguacu

So, our first full day is complete here in Foz do Iguacu, Parana, Brazil.  What an awesome experience it has been so far!  We arrived here last night by plane and after agreeing to stick to our budget, we waited for the city bus that would take us to what we hoped would be our hostel.

Hoped because we didn't actually book anything before coming. (oooooooooooh ahhhhhhhhhhhhh dangerous!)
Yeah, we know. :)

We did have in mind the place we wanted to stay which was either Hostelling International (where we have a membership) or Hostel Natura.  At the end of the day, Natura had a private room available so we went there.  The city bus actually only drops you off at the street where the hostel is located, so that meant we had to walk for 1.5 km with our 30 lb packs, at 9 pm in the pitch dark... not the safest start to our trip but being on the dirt road with no city lights, a sea of bright, beautiful stars above us, hearing the frogs chirping all around us, was worth it (or at least was a great scene for a murder).

So, obviously we got here safely (unless my doppleganger is writing this) (they are not).  This morning we woke up early and were the first to eat the AWESOME buffet breakfast Hostel Natura offers.  Great start to the day.  Then, back down the creepy road, which was hardly creepy in the day, to catch the bus to the falls.  The falls were magnificent.  In our Lonely Planet South America book, one of the authors compares it to Niagara Falls.  It does NOT compare, in my opinion.  It has far more falls, far more natural pathway to see the falls, far more beauty, in my opinion.  Could be that I've seen Niagara hundreds of times and am numb to the grandiosity.

After we went back to the main bus terminal, where it was suggested to us that we could find really great, really cheap shopping in Paraguay, which would take just 10 minutes to cross.  (Side Note: One of us accidentally forgot the charger for his laptop.  Yes, perhaps you have figured out who accidentally forgot).  Anyway, we decided to cross the border, in my opinion at least to get our passports stamped.  To my dismay (and a little bit furious-ness) we didn't even have to go through any sort of customs whatsoever.  We got into Paraguay like a couple of on-the-run fugitives looking to score some cheap crap.  And score we did.  We found our charger, haggled down the price a bit, and left paying only $R34.
Paraguay was everything I was hoping for and wasn't expecting.  It was a crazy market filled with civilians selling EVERYTHING.  I can't even believe it was just 10  minutes away from Brazil.  It was a totally different country - the people acted and looked different, everything had this orange type of clay on it - literally the whole place looked orange (Ro pointed out).  The markets on the sidewalk were covered in tarp (EXACTLY like Mexico City) and the road was ridiculous, with cars, motos and pedestrians all trying to share one lane.  (Side Note: Pedestrians ALWAYS lose. Motos ALWAYS win).  Everyone was trying to catch our attention with Amiga! Amigo!  Taxi Taxi!!  O que voce ta procurando?  O que voce precisa?  hahaha!! It was crazy!  We loved it.

After that, we took another bus to see the biggest dam (in the world?)  The Itaipu Dam is now one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World.  Annnnnnnd it has a lot of water.  I'm gonna let Ro field this as it was his trip really (and it was interesting but I was exhausted and couldn't really understand the guide's English very well...

Anyway!  Gotta get to bed - getting up early early again tomorrow and then heading over to the Argentinian side of the falls and then we are off on a 12 hour bus ride to Rosario, Che Guevera's birthplace!  Loving South America!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Screwed up my blog

Well,  I thought I was handy and could figure out html.  Turns out I can't.  I can't get things back to normal! Is there a way to reset your blog without losing the posts?

I thought I had successfully changed my blog to a very DIFFERENT template (not just rounders 1, 2, or 3) and in doing so I had to 'tweak' the html coding just a touch.  Well now, as you can see, I have my blog posted and then further down to the right, we have my last entry posted AGAIN but this time in the small narrow column.

Until further notice, this blog will remain on this Minimalist template until I figure out how to un-un-screw (screw?) my blog.  Thanks Tanya for letting me know you weren't able to leave comments.  I was so sad because I've written 4 blogs in the past 4 days!  A little tear came out but I just pushed it back in.

OH YEAH and we FINALLY have cable here now, which means I can watch English tv again!!!  Give me a break ok? I ONLY watch portuguese TV,  I need a break.  And plus, tonight I watched like 3 hours of Discovery Channel which I haven't watched in 3 months!!!  I learned all about how to survive if my plane crashed in a field in the middle of winter.  Hey, it's good to be prepared right?

Oops, I'm going to stop joking about planes, Ro is certainly going to read this.  Might I remind you that he is deathly afraid of flying...?  Sorry again my love! Wow, two sorry's in two blogs... I really am a true Canadian.  :D


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Can someone help me out...

And tell me WHY they love Rio?  This is not meant to be sarcastic, rhetorical or rude.... I just need to know why people are in love with this city.

I can't just be because of the beach.

I really need some help with this one... Ro and I moved here to a somewhat remote area (not really, it's just the kind of area where local families live and not very close or easy to get to the centro or Zona Sul).  I am starting to feel a bit of cabin fever and like I really miss Toronto.  There are a lot of things that I love about Toronto.  I love the versatile and varied cultural experiences the most.  The food, the festivals, the music - the people you meet, the bars you go to.  There is a lot of variety to keep my interest peaked. 

I am ready to let go of Toronto and open my heart and mind to this beautiful, paradise of Rio de Janeiro!

That is, if I knew just why it was considered such a beautiful paradise. 

So, I am calling out to anyone who may have visited, previously lived or currently lives in Rio to please share with me some of the things you love about the city (and I'm not talking about the Christ statue or Pao de Azucar, although if you have interesting stories to share, I will gladly read them).  I am really needing to know of a cool neighbourhood to stroll through, a great museum worth seeing, a delicious restaurant that has cool atmosphere (it doesn't have to be expensive or fancy, just interesting).  A nice park that I can go to to read a book.  A cool show that is coming up that I shouldn't miss? 


Maybe I will discover it's just a beach city.  How terribly disappointing that will be for me. :(

A little about my story

 I'm not sure that I've ever explained myself to anybody out there who reads this blog... (who isn't my mom or "live" friends that is).  I just thought I would take a minute and explain the story of how Ro and I met... it's not incredibly different in it's origins... we didn't meet walking our dogs on the street, or online, or in the grocery store.  (I don't think I'm brave enough for any of those scenarios anyway).

Actually we truly met because I drunkenly slept with his cousin one night after the bar (sorry my love).  Let me make that a bit classier sounding - if possible?

As I explained earlier, I had a bad experience in my last relationship that ended with me moving out rather quickly.  Around the same time, I hired a girl at the gym I used to manage who I believe was meant to be in my life for the short period of time that she was for a reason.  So I could meet Ro.  (ps. she is Australian and travels around everywhere, hence the short period of time. She's not dead or anything.)  So, during this difficult time I was going through, Aussie Friend kept inviting me out (and I wouldn't have gone had I been in said past relationship).  One night at the end of January she invited me to go to a Latin club that was having it's usual Thursday Brazilian "Student Night".  Hilarious first because I am several years beyond student night and second, because most of these students were first and second years.  Putting them in the 19-20 y.o. bracket.  It was Ro's cousin's birthday that night.

Back it up: Ro moved to Toronto from Brazil and had already been living there for 3 years.  His cousin was staying with him for 6 months on a student visa.

So, fast forward:  I don't need to go into detail.  You all know what a one-nighter is.

The next day, Aussie Friend and I are talking at work about the hilarity that ensued the previous night and what the hell happened and how Ro was so much more attractive than his cousin, but I really thought he was out of my league.  A few more days after that, I'm out having drinks with a friend and who sends me a lil facebook message but my FUTURE HUSBAND!  Very surprised, as we didn't really talk much that night, other than I gave him a drink from my secret vodka & water water bottle.  Anyway, his message says something along the lines of "Hey!  It's Rodrigo!  Since we're almost family now I thought it would be okay to add you!"

FIRST OF ALL!  Not almost family. no no no no no no.  Second of all:  I am SOOOO excited to get this message I tell my friend right away.  Later on I add him to facebook and check out his page.  He is clean of porn-y pages and lots of girls writing idiotic messages all over his wall, so checkmark.  But beyond that he has some really intelligent and interesting stuff on there... the one thing that caught my eye was he had the video of "The Last Lecture", the book I had just received for Christmas.  So that week talk a couple of times, until late late.  We have a lot to talk about.  He is really really nice.

"I am having a party this weekend", I tell him.  "You should come".

He does.

I tell everyone when I find out he is in the parking lot that my boyfriend is here (but don't tell him I said that).  I already really like him a lot.  At the party, he is quiet, but I'm impressed because he came even though he doesn't know anyone (aside from Aussie Friend, who he barely knows).  I decide that I would enjoy his company in the morning.  :)

And from that first night we were inseparable.  Actually, he came back over the following afternoon and we saw each other every day that week.  We decide the next week that we would like to try living together (we decided to risk it because he was moving out of his current place and was planning a trip across Canada in June anyways so if it didn't work out it would only be for 4 months) (oh and p.s. I was in love with him).  So 3 weeks after meeting he moves in.
Then, on March 13, 2009 (5 weeks from meeting date and one year ago today!) he whisks me away to a complete surprise destination where he proposes to me.  (We had already said I love you long before this and had also talked about potentially getting married).  Perhaps later I will go into detail about the most romantic, beautiful proposal ever but not tonight.

Now, I already knew that Ro was planning to move back to Brazil in September, and of course since it has been my dream for several years to teach English abroad, I decided that we should move there together.  We decided to get married in May so that I would have enough time to get my Brazilian Permanent Visa (so I can work here) before coming.  And so we got married in May and moved to Brazil in December (by the time we got everything worked out).

And now we're here.  Our original plan was to stay for one year and then work for a cruiseline for another year but we're just not sure what we want to do still.  Goal number one is get a job but we still have a bit of time before we have to do that.

Anyway, that's our love story!

Friday, March 12, 2010

10 month-iversary lovliness

March 9 marked 10 months of Ro an I being married. I think time is finally starting to feel real to me. For a long time, especially at the start of our relationship, it felt like so much time had passed and no time had passed at all. It's all relative I suppose, if you consider that in the first year of our relationship we accomplished more than most people do in the first 5 years of theirs? Within one year, Ro and I met, moved in together, got engaged, got married, and moved to another country. Thaaaat's quite a bit of action in a very short period of time. Maybe now that we're here, that we're a bit settled with no real plan of going anywhere soon, maybe now I'm able to fully feel the effect of time gone by. It's a good feeling now, it feels like we're really together and have real substance in our experiences, in our feelings, and in our life.
So, to celebrate, we went out for dinner at this nice sushi restaurant called Manekineko. We'd been saving up our appetites to eat there because it's a little pricey at R$60 for each to eat the rodizio (all you can eat), but it was definitely worth it. Great dinner, great talking, we looked good - I am so in love. After we got home (by which time it was already 12:30!!) and writhed around with stomach aches lazed around for a bit, we decided to watch a movie.

So, I had just downloaded "The Blind Side" for which Sandra Bullock just won Best Actress. *Side Note* Maybe I'm risking getting arrested by declaring this, but I love downloading movies and music. I download all of our movies.
This movie runs about 2 1/2 hours in length and we started it at 2 a.m. Yeah.
The funny thing is, Ro doesn't last through movies. We could start a movie at 6 pm and he would almost definitely fall asleep before the end. He has seen half to two thirds of many movies.
But this movie is really good and we somehow managed to watch the entire thing which led us to being awake at 4:30 in the morning and not entirely sleepy... and what better thing to do when you both don't have jobs or anything to do the next day AND live right near the beach? Why, put on a pot of coffee and go watch the sun rise, of course!

So we hopped in the car with our camera and drove down to the beach (10 minutes of walking at 5 in the morning is far too much walking, I'm sure you understand). At this point, I'm going to keep my feelings of this beautiful experience to myself. But I will share the photos so you can catch a small glimpse for yourself. These are the rare, private, really special moments that Ro and I share that make me understand our relationship further and add that substance.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cookin' Non Brazilian Food in Brazil

So, in case you didn't know (or you forgot) Ro and I are living with his family.  On a side note, I feel like our living situation is pretty fortunate, especially when you compare it to some others (ahem, Stephanie, ahem).  There are obvious downsides to this but instead of going into detail and turning this into a rant, I shall only name one.  The lack of cooking I can do.  Now, don't get me wrong because Ro's mom is an incredible cook.  I love to eat pretty much everything she makes and hell, who doesn't like to just show up to the kitchen at meal time and fill up their plate?  I have made comments on more than one ocassion that I feel like I am living in a delicious restaurant. 
The sad part is, I really like cooking.  And I really like having all of my spices, eating spicy food, trying new things (and Ro is really good about being experimented on) and generally having space in the kitchen to move around and make a mess.  It's difficult to just take it upon myself to cook something here because Ro's mom is usually in the kitchen for the majority of the day. 
BUT.  Last week I suggested that I make a Mexican Night (not that I am really seasoned at Mexican, but I can make a quesadilla pretty well).  So I picked up the items for my Mexican Night because I figured, if I'm going to make it, I'm going to make it all from scratch. 

On my menu was:

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Salsa
Cheese Quesadillas
Zucchini & Corn Fritters with yogurt lime cilantro dressing

I cooked away in the kitchen for 5 hours to make my dinner and in the end I think it turned out pretty well!  See for yourself:


Secondly, we have been talking up "Canadian Breakfast" to Ro's mom lately... For all you Canadians, you know what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about the scrambled eggs, bacon, buttered toast & jam, hashbrowns, pancakes, fresh fruit, orange juice.  THAT'S a breakfast.  In Brazil, breakfast usually consists of something delicious from the bakery but lacks in any protein in my experience.  So this morning Ro and I woke up to cook a true Canadian Breakfast, including all the items mentioned above.  From scratch!!  We juiced oranges for our orange juice.  We made pancakes from Amelia's website (SOOOO GOOD).  We simmered some apples in apple juice, cinnamon, and honey for a delicious pancake topping, fried up some red skin potato homefries, cooked the bacon, scrambled the eggs and topped it off with a watermelon/canteloupe/pineapple fruit platter. 
What do you think??

Ok, so obviously we forgot to take a picture before diggin' in.  We were way too hungry to remember, seeing as it took us an hour longer than we planned. 
Oh well!  Here are some more pics:

Pretty damn proud of our breakfast, Babe!!!  And feeling happy to be able to cook again...  It's true that my specialty isn't everyday cuisine.  I always prefer to make something new and elaborate that takes a lot of time and effort (and usually money).  So for Ro's mom to give up her kitchen for several hours to let us do our work, I really appreciate.  And I'm sure she appreciates being cooked for as well... it's just like I told Ro.  It's difficult for her to give up the kitchen; it's like the driver suddenly becoming the passenger.  My mom can contest to that one... it's hard isn't it, Mom?  Always stepping on your nonexistent brake with your white shoe.... hahaha! 

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this delicious post...  Below are the recipes for the tomato salsa (sans onions because Ro's mom hates onions) and the pancakes from Amelia's blog. 

Tomato Salsa without Onions
Prep Time:
5 Min     
Cook Time:
15 Min
Ready In:
20 Min

Servings  (Help)

Original Recipe Yield 3 cups


  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 5 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice


  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Place poblano pepper and garlic cloves on a medium baking sheet. Turning pepper frequently, broil at maximum distance from heat until browned, about 15 minutes.
  3. In a food processor, place roasted pepper, roasted garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, chili powder and lime juice. Process using pulse setting until an evenly chunky texture is obtained. Chill until serving.

*Side Note*
I didn't have poblano pepper so I used green and red pepper and drizzled olive oil and salt on them before roasting.
Also, didn't have chili powder so I just put in a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat.  Let it chill for about 4 hours before serving. 

Amelia's Basic Pancake Recipe
Here are some tips to making perfect pancakes:

1. Before you ladle on the pancake batter, wipe access butter off the griddle with a folded paper towel. This will make sure you have perfectly browned pancakes.

2. Use all purpose flour in the batter. Cake flour can turn soggy when you top it with syrup. Experiment with different flours like buckwheat or whole wheat just substitute half of the all purpose for any of these.

3. Never whisk batter until it's smooth. Lumps are a good thing and will result in fluffier pancakes.

4. Flip pancakes just as the surface bubbles begin to burst. Flipping them after makes for flatter pancakes.

5. When adding blueberries, bananas or chocolate chips (only some of the many additions you can make) sprinkle them over the batter right after they have been poured on the griddle. This will make sure they are distributed evenly and it also makes them look prettier on the plate, which can sometimes be just as important as how they taste.

6. Warm pure maple syrup before serving. It makes for a certain extra little bit of specialness to the morning (or evening, whatever, no judgement here)

Here's a good (basic) recipe that should keep 'em coming for more:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Assorted toppings, such as butter, maple syrup, confectioners' sugar, honey, jams, preserves, sweetened whipped cream, or chocolate syrup
  • Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees; have a baking sheet or heatproof platter ready to keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter (or oil), and egg. Add dry ingredients to milk mixture; whisk until just moistened (do not overmix; a few small lumps are fine).
  3. Heat a large skillet (nonstick or cast-iron) or griddle over medium. Fold a sheet of paper towel in half, and moisten with oil; carefully rub skillet with oiled paper towel.
  4. For each pancake, spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto skillet, using the back of the spoon to spread batter into a round (you should be able to fit 2 to 3 in a large skillet).
  5. Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip carefully with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven. Continue with more oil and remaining batter. (You'll have 12 to 15 pancakes.) Serve warm, with desired toppings.

Monday, March 1, 2010

An old post I never finished about Carnaval...!

 So, right now in Brazil it is Carnaval time.  Carnaval is traditionally a festival that would occur 40 days before Easter, basically to kick off lent, and involved the removal of eating meat.  It is definitely the biggest holiday here and typically lasts for about a week.  Everything shuts down, the banks, stores, schools, and everyone takes it to the street to party.  Well, I shouldn't say everyone.  I was disappointed prior to Carnaval time to hear that nobody in our social circle really enjoys taking part in the Carnaval festivities.  It's not even that I'm a big party animal, it's just that I am feeling less and less like I am on holidays in a new exciting place and more and more like I am becoming a permanent resident.  Although, that IS true, and I'm happy to feel like I live here, I still want that excitement of being on holidays and being a tourist and doing all of the touristy stuff that locals hate because of the sheer number of people it brings.  I WANT TO BE THAT SHEER NUMBER!  :)
So, now that I am finishing this post AFTER Carnaval, it really only makes sense to show you the pictures of how we spent our Carnaval, which was FUN!  We just moved to Recreio, which is a beach neighbourhood, and so this was our first time walking to the beach, with our beers in tow, to take part in the excitement that is Carnaval.  I'm pretty sure that what was more exciting for me was the drinking outside... I was reading another bloggers blog about Carnaval and how much she dislikes it because Porto Alegre has a bit of a different culture surrounding Carnaval.  It's true that Carnaval seems to be a Rio holiday that is broadcasted country wide.  I imagine Brazilians elsewhere feel the same sort of resentment towards Rio that Canadians feel about Toronto, especially during Carnaval.  When it's Carnaval time here, you know it.  It's all over the news, the commercials, the stores, the streets.  As I mentioned, everything closes for 5 days.  It truly is a holiday that I don't understand - especially when I can see the passion in the eyes of the Brazilians we passed down at the beach.  They LOVE Carnaval.  Love it with a love that I can't even compare to any North American holiday, except for MAYBE Christmas.  But, it being my first Carnaval, I'm pleased that we got to spend a little time shaking our booties (read: I danced, Ro stood) and so without further ado, here are a few of the things we did/saw during Carnaval in Recreio. 
 This is Rio: Speedo clad men, drinking beer, walking in bare feet.  Well, at least this is Rio during Carnaval.
Enjoying a lovely corn on the cob:

Drinking a beer ON THE STREET.  Love it.

People sexin' it up to a Funk Party bloco:
Looks fun?  Well it is, for about a day.  After 5 days of Carnaval partying it up right outside our house, taking over our tv, we were pretty much finished with it.  Did you know that in the Sambadrome each school plays their song over and over and over and over for an hour and a half?????  Crazy (and annoying).  Whatever.  I'm happy to have experienced the Brazilian people's absolute craze for Carnaval but I don't know how pumped I will be for Carnaval time again.  For anyone reading this who wants to come here, I think it's way better to go watch a Samba school rehearsal to get the feeling for Samba.  Good times!  The end.
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