25 January 2011

Week 15: Thanksgiving Food

Every year, we try a few different dishes in our Thanksgiving feast. In this photos is another fruit from trees in our yard called the "pitanga" (pee-TAWN-ga). These are quite tasty and juicy, having a tangy sweet cherry-like flavor. There a three or four seeds in the middle. I served these with abacaxí (ah-bah-kah-SHEE), the Brazilian pineapple. Brazilian pineapple is sweeter and less acidic than the Hawaiian variety. The core is also softer and very edible.
 These are deviled-quail eggs. Brazilians usually eat quail eggs boiled and plain as a side. I thought it would be fun to have a twist to serve them as deviled eggs. They are small and bite-size making them fun to eat.
As Thanksgiving was approaching, we were getting worried that we wouldn't be able to find a a large turkey to roast, so I purchased some sausage and marinate pork "lombo" to cook in the churrasca. My gardener did the outdoor cooking, and he did a nice job cooking the meat just right. The Saturday before Thanksgiving, we were able to find a 24lb turkey at Sam's Club. It cost three times as much as a turkey would in the U.S., but it was worth. Rebecca roasted it with oranges and butter as part of the seasoning. It turned out nice and juicy.

Week 15: Thanksgiving Dinner

We hosted several families for Thanksgiving dinner, including an American family that manages the LDS Church farm near Formosa. They had not been with other American kids in Brazil for about a year. Not all of the families we invited were able to make it for dinner, so we also had a desert social in the evening. In total, 51 people came to our home to share stories and eat food. I enjoyed hosting the event and seeing people relax and enjoy the company and activities. The kids played for hours in the pool and box fort and swinging on the hammock. The boys even convinced to me to light our brush pile on fire. The second fire we've set since moving in, and a lot less scary than the one we had during the dry season.

Week 14: Ripe Fruit and Monkeys

 A couple of the trees in our backyard had ripe fruit on them for a couple of weeks. This particular tree has is the acerola (ah-ser-ROW-la). The fruit are about the size of crab apples and have a couple of large seeds inside, and are sour like crab apples. According to our gardener, the acerola is supposed to be very high in Vitamin C and very healthy. Since we didn't have fresh cranberries to make cranberry salad for Thanksgiving dinner, I substituted acerola, and it tasted pretty good. The texture wasn't quite right because the acerola are not as dry as cranberries.

While the fruit was ripe, we received daily morning visits from the family of tamarins that lives in our neighborhood. They are also particularly fond of bananas and readily eat banana from my hand. There are five members in this group, two are juveniles. The bravest male no longer has a tail.

Brazilian Fruit: Maná-Cubiu

This is a peel and eat fruit called a "maná-cubiu" (mah-NAH coo-BEE-oo). It is kind of sweet, has lots of little seeds in the middle, and leaves a very sticky film on your lips due to the latex in the peel.

Week 13: Box Fort, Phase 1

 For Family Home Evening, we made a box fort from the empty boxes. We had several large, three-ply bicycle boxes that were very study and made a nice foundation for creating a bridge. Each of the younger children claimed a "house" using one of the larger boxes. We then added a library and a restaurant. The kids played in this structure for weeks with their friends. By Thanksgiving, we had added a couple more towers and tunnels. My gardener thought were we a little crazy to keep all the boxes, but he agreed that the box fort was pretty cool.

We built the fort in the area called the garage. Here is a view of the rest of the back porch. It's a pretty large area and is a nice place for entertaining, playing and just sitting outside. 

A fallen bird's nest

One morning, after a rain storm, the kids found this bird's nest on the ground below a palm tree near our back porch. I do not what kinds of birds made this nest, but I think the eggs are beautiful.

Week 13: Furniture in the Family Room

For the first time since moving into our home, the upstairs family room has furniture. This is the room for the toys and the TV, and there's still plenty of room for dancing. In honor of the room, and since the audience now had a place to sit, Abby and Emma put on a play about a Korean princess who thought she was an orphaned encountering her mother at the market. 

Week 13: Food at the TV Tower

 As with any fair, there is a pretty decent food area at the TV Tower. There are basically three kinds of fair food in Brazil: pastels and empandaos, self-serve with churrasca (BBQ), and fruit drinks. We have grown to like pastels since they're tasty and inexpensive. A pastel is a deep fried pastry filled with cheese, meats, and/or bananas. The banana and cheese with chocolate is quite good.

 Brazilian food is also pretty salty, so you definitely need to get something to drink. Today we tried Caldo de Cana, which is a juice pressed directly from sugar cane. It's prepared by passing a sugar cane through a press and the juice is collected in a cup and ready to drink. The liquid is a yellowish green, like oobleck or a grass stain, and kind of tastes like sweetened grass, too. It's pretty good, and the flavor changes depending on the sugar cane stalk.

Week 13: The TV Tower Fair

Below the TV Tower along the fuselage part of the city, the Planalto, is an ongoing art fair. This market has people selling handicrafts, jewelry, furniture, clothing, leather goods, rock carvings and trinkets year round. We decided to start our Christmas shopping here with attempt to be mostly done with gifts to ship home by Thanksgiving.

We bought a musical instrument from a Bahian transplant to Brasilia who calls himself "O Mestre Angolar". He grows the bamboo and gourds and uses recycled materials to make musical instruments common in Brazil that are used in capoeira, a type of martial art and dance developed by African slaves. I purchased a berimbau (as demonstrated by O Mestre) for my mom. I think she'll get a kick out of trying to figure out how it works.

Here, the kids are watching this vendor and leather craftsman from Mato Grosso punch holes in a belt for Grandpa. Cattle ranching is a big part of the agriculture industry in Brazil, and leatherwork is quite common here. They make sandals, bags, hats, belts, shoes and many other things from leather. For the most part, the objects have a rough, hand-made look to them.

I really wanted the terra cotta St. Francis, a very popular saint in Brazil, but I didn't want to add any more weight to our household goods. I think this style of pottery is characteristic of the southern part of Bahia.

Week 12: The Marines Ball

Rebecca and I went to our first Marines Ball on Friday evening over at the Naval Club. This annual event celebrates the anniversary of the Marine Corps, and includes food, drinks, ceremony and dancing.The ball welcomed several members of the embassy community, and several guests and dignitaries from the diplomatic corps and Brazilian military.The night was fun, and we sat with good company with several other entry level officers. Of course, this also meant we got seated far from seeing the processional events and against a wall, but we weren't too far from the food.

The dessert table was beautifully arranged, and the desserts were tasty. One of my favorite desserts is maracuja, or passion fruit, pudding (not shown). It has a sour flavor that reminds me of Sour Patch Kids.

One of the main problems Rebecca and I had was getting enough to drink since we don't drink alcohol, and alcohol flowed like a river at the Ball. The bar was only preparing drinks for the waiters, who carried trays about the room with glasses of beer and cocktails, as well as bottles of wine and whiskey. They did have a about one or two fruit juices on each tray, but those disappeared quickly. Water was only served during dinner, and there was no drinking fountain.

As part of the ceremony, and this was my favorite part, the Marines have a "Marching of the Cake". A contingent of Marines march in half time to the Marine's Anthem ("from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli..."). Anyway, the guest of honor, who was Ambassador Shannon, uses a Marine's sword to cut the first piece of cake. Then the oldest military serviceman at post (a navy commander) serves the youngest (a marine corporal) and bite of the cake. This cake was made by Mrs. Shannon. I think we should march cakes in for every birthday party, and then cut it with a sword. 

Rebecca has been preparing for this event every since we got accepted to the Foreign Service. She searched scoured the web, and we went to several stores to find a dress that would fit modestly and look good, and not cost too much. She considered making a dress, but there wasn't enough time to do so before we moved, and she couldn't find a pattern she liked. She found this one at Loehman's in Falls Church, and then added the cap sleeves from remnants cut from the hem.

I provided the freshwater pearl necklace that I bought at a jewelry store near our home in Brasilia. They were have an anniversary sale, and the pearls were half price and just as beautiful. I also bought a tux for me.

Well, tonight, we were one of the Clubes blasting music that could be heard clearly all the way across the lake. This is actually a weekly event, loud music that goes late into the night from the clubs on the weekends. Brazilian really like the loud music. I had a lot of fun dancing, but it took a while for my ears to recover.

Week 12: Newcomers Welcome at the Ambassador's Residence

This week was quite full of activities. On Sunday, the Ambassador and his wife hosted all the people who had arrived at post within the last year, which would include him. He opened up his home, and we had a nice pasta dinner and ice cream sundae dessert. More importantly, we were able to meet the parents of some of kids' friends. The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) and her husband sat down a bit late, and so they ended up sitting at a table full of our kids. I think they enjoyed the time away from the adults.

The Ambassador's residence sits up on hill overlooking the city. It has a large back yard with a tennis court, swimming pool, and two covered patios and out-buildings for outdoor entertaining. He also has a full-size grand piano in his living room. The style of the home is very Mediterranean. This is actually a change of residence from the previous Ambassador, and when the housing team chose the home, they didn't realize that it sits under the flight route to the airport, so there are regular interruptions from the approaching airplanes.

Week 12: HHE & Mini-van Arrive in Brasilia

Our household goods and our minivan finally arrived in Brasilia this week. It's only been three months since we've had access to these possessions as they spent a month sitting on a dock, another month sailing the ocean, and another month sitting in the customs house in Rio de Janeiro. Based on our conversations with other embassy families, three to four months seems to be about average for Brazil, and quite a bit longer than many other posts. We are still waiting on another smaller shipment of household goods we pulled out of storage.

The movers were very efficient and were able to get everything off the truck, unwrapped, and place in the right general location. This was a great opportunity to learn the names of the rooms, or "salas", of the house in Portuguese. The movers could have also unpacked for us, but we weren't quite sure where to put everything, so we just had them assemble a bed, the sofa, and a couple of shelve units. Besides, we wanted to create a big box fort out of the boxes.

Our van took another couple weeks to get the diplomatic plates issued. It was so nice to have a car again, especially in this "designed to get around by car" town. In Brazil, cars that belong to diplomats get a special blue diplomatic plate. It is a stark contrast to the regular white plates on all the other cars. In order to get plated, I had to take the van to DETRAN, the BMV in Brazil, and have the inspector confirm all the serial numbers for the chassis and engine. We arrived late to our appointment, so we waited about an hour while the inspector finished up a Canadian diplomats car. While waiting, Abby found a cat to befriend.

I also got a number of questions about our van, a Honda Odyssey, and a couple of offers to buy the van if we decide to sell when we leave. Odyssey's are larger than most of the family cars here and are quite rare since they're not built and sold in Brazil. I know of only three other Odysseys in Brasilia, all but one owned by diplomat families.

Yellow-headed Fly

Back in October, I saw this fly buzzing around the kitchen. It reminded of the mutant fly from the original version of the movie, "The Fly". It might be a super-hero fly dressed up in its super outfit.

02 January 2011


On Christmas night, we went to the TV Tower for the annual Christmas Spectacular show put on by the Distrito Federal governor's office. The video shows the second number of the show. My youngest daughter was frightened of the fireworks, so I had to hold her squirming body while trying to record this part of the show. There were probably seven numbers in total and lasted for about thirty minutes, with a mix of holiday songs and popular ballads that were sung by live performers.

We had attempted to see the show earlier in the week, but we came on a technical night, so they didn't have the music and the lights coordinated yet. My oldest boy said that the show made up for missing fireworks on the 4th of July since were traveling through Ohio that night last summer.