Tuesday, November 24, 2015

where has the time gone?

In the nearly 3 weeks since I last posted, I have written at least twelve posts in my head.  I tried to send them to you via ESP, but I don't think it worked.

Life has been really, really busy.  Like, seriously busy.  I thought I was busy before, but that was preschool busy.  This has been PhD busy.

Instead of writing all those 12 posts out, I'm going to hit the highlights of the last 3 weeks in random musings style.

1.  Work is going okay.  Those 5 hours a day are really cutting into the fun that can be had in Rio, but the work is interesting and it's nice to get a paycheck.

2.  I LOVE the chef.  I'm not going to lie to you: having a real chef in the home, whose name is not Mom, is the best thing ever.  It's like Christmas and your birthday all rolled into one, everyday.  I LOVE not having to think about preparing or shopping for food.  Since she started 3 weeks ago, she's had to cook for two high-level dinner parties, one dinner with friends, and one small reception.  She knocked it all out the park.  Plus she cooks for us every day and makes sure we have fruits and vegetables and I get lunch served to me when I'm home.  It is the bomb diggity.

3.  We went to Sao Paulo a few weeks to visit our friends and to see the UFC fight.  Remember the American, Pat Cummins, who we saw fight in Rio and then we ran into him the next day at a restaurant?  Well, he came to Sao Paulo to fight so we decided to go support him.  We had seats on the floor of the fight this time, so it was us and a bunch of famous people.  Which one of these is not like the other?  Unfortunately, we don't know a lot of Brazilian actors and movie stars, so most of it was lost on us, but I did spot the famous celebrity chef Alex Atala in the row ahead of us, which was super cool.

4.  Pat Cummins' agent gave Mac an unforgettable gift of a Team Cummins jacket that's worn by everyone on Pat's team.  It was a super-cool gesture and Mac was in heaven.  He wore the jacket home on the plane.

5.  I continue to take a private Pilates class one or two times a week, depending on my schedule.  It is the second best thing I've ever done for myself (after Lasik surgery which was life-changing).  I really cannot recommend Pilates enough.  I feel like my body is stronger, my posture is better, my back hurts less, and my muscles are more defined.  It's an expensive gift to myself, but I've decided it's worth it because I'm worth it.

6.  Remember a couple months ago when I won the free night at the Fasano Hotel at a charity event?  Well Jimmy and I took advantage of Mac being away on a school trip over the Veterans Day holiday, and we spent the Tuesday night before the holiday at the Fasano.  Oh boy, oh boy.  I don't know how I can go back to a Residence Inn ever again.  We had a beautiful suite, the service was impeccable, the rooftop pool and bar were divine, the massage at the spa was the best massage I've ever had in my life, and the hotel restaurant (Al Mare) deserves its reputation as one of the best in Rio.  The whole experience was amazing from the moment I stepped foot in the hotel until we checked out the next day.  I am a Fasano fan for life.

7.  Mac went to Tiradentes for 5 days for a school trip.  Despite the messages I sent to him on Whatsapp just to say "hi", he was uninterested in communicating with me during the week.  Which is a good sign, but still....  He had a great time and that's all that matters.

8. Our car has been delivered to our driveway, but we're still waiting for license plates.  So the sweet girl just sits there, looking pretty.  Best case scenario for plates is mid-December.  Worst case is early January or later.

9.  Mac turned 13 last Friday and we had a big blow-out birthday party.  The theme was a tiki party so we had all sorts of fun decorations with Hawaiian-esque food.  I even bought a snowcone machine because what tiki party is complete without Hawaiian shave ice?  The kids are so funny to watch at this age.  The girls danced in big groups, and the boys ran around and got sweaty and threw Coca-Cola at each other.  Mac declared it "the best birthday party of his whole life."

10.  We saw the new James Bond movie.  Admittedly I was tired and slept through an hour of it, but we all agreed it was not our favorite.

11.  Last Saturday night was the Marine Ball.  We had a great time, but the experience was definitely different with Jimmy's position now than previous balls where we could just hang out with our friends all night.

12.  I am off the hook for cooking Thanksgiving dinner as we must go to the American Society's Thanksgiving dinner, which means the wonderful chefs at the JW Marriott are cooking turkey instead of me.  We, instead, decided to host a Thanksgiving brunch on Thursday morning, which I'm pretty excited about.  The guest list is a bit eclectic and I cannot wait.  It's going to be great.  I'm cooking some and Jacqueline, the wonder chef, is cooking some.  I, however, am not cleaning up at all, which is the best part of the whole thing.

13.  A couple weeks ago I got to go on the live set and the indoor and outdoor sets of The Ten Commandments, the hottest soap opera in Brazil right now.  It was a super cool and fun experience.

I think that's about all the news that's fit to print.  I will try to do some photo posts in the next few days as a few pictures really are worth thousands of words.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The chef

Chef Jacqueline started yesterday (after a Monday holiday here).

She arrived punctually and after a quick tour of the kitchen, asked what I normally eat for lunch (she was unimpressed by my answer of "nothing or sometimes graham crackers" so then I pretended like I was just joking but she was equally unimpressed with my revised answer of "an apple and peanut butter". She then checked out the fridge to see what we had in stock (nothing), checked the pantry (said she'd re-organize it), and checked the freezer (asked why nothing was labeled). 

She really had her work cut out for her since we truly just about only had cookies, Ramen noodles and outdated yogurt in stock. Well, that and a lot of Halloween candy but I don't think she eats candy either. 

Lucky for her that I know what everything is in the freezer, even without labels, because I found some leftover frozen vegetable lasagna that I told her I could eat. There was also bolognese sauce in the freezer that she was going to pull out for dinner. 

I was summoned to lunch at 12:30 just as if I were one of the Granthams on Downton Abbey to a plate that looked like this:
She had doctored my sauce with who knows what and it was delicious!

This morning I met her at the grocery store so she could buy groceries for the house. Obviously she prefers less of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to meal preparation than I have had here in Rio, which means we will eat out a lot less and will eat substantially more fruits and vegetables. She also likes a stockpiled freezer full of meat and fish. She bought who's know what in the meat department and is right now packaging everything into serving sizes for the freezer.  (Note to self: we'll have less waste, too.)

Lunch today was a fabulous green salad with Thai chicken. Fab.u.lous. I could've licked the plate. 

While I was eating lunch, she was preparing focaccia bread because Mac told her yesterday that he loved it. If it's good, he's going to be in heaven. (The kitchen already smells like heaven with that yeasty smell floating around.)

Today is Jimmy's birthday, but as he's in Brasilia until late tonight, we're not celebrating until tomorrow. She's cooking filet mignon with other surprises. More to come on the birthday meal. 

Having a chef is a real game changer. I don't have to devote one bit of energy to thinking about what to cook for dinner (or whether we have graham crackers in stock for lunch). 

And I'm not going to lie to you: it's pretty amazing and I think I can adapt well to this lifestyle. 

You may refer to me as Lady Grantham from now on...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Halloween Party v.2015

Holy cow, what a party!  I wish you could have been here because it was a lot of fun.  A.LOT.  

I think the only person who didn't enjoy it was our neighbor, who started complaining at 10:15 and who called the police at 11:30.  Such a spoilsport. I am nearly 45 years old and am the most goody-two-shoes person in the world so having the police arrive was fairly traumatic for me, but everybody else laughed it off so I got back to the business of having fun. We'll have to deal with that neighborly situation later, but Friday night was about Halloween fun!

The party, in photos...


Part of the dance floor

cute little lanterns in the terrace trees, on the way to the food

the single BEST purchase I've ever made at Wal-Mart - super cool, huge, inflatable cat with scary eyes and a moving head (guests had to pass him to go downstairs to the party terrace)

(each winner took home a pair of Havaiana Halloween-themed flip flops)

Best Couple Costume:  The Bun Maker and The Bun in the Oven (she's 6 months pregnant)
Best Female Costume:  Cruella de Vil on the left side of the photo

Best Male Costume:  Obi-JUAN Kenobi on the right side of the photo


Reprising our Colombian roles as Don Julio and Cristina

Motorcycle Dude and Pulp Fiction Revisited

Dracula and his bride (this costume was INCREDIBLE!)

A Duck (who thankfully never fell down the stairs with the fins on)
Gilligan, Cristina, Snow White with her apple and a Geisha

A Pirate and his Wench

The whole gang from Gilligan's Island showed up.  How cute is that??

A Scarecrow and the very scary old peddlar woman from Snow White

Lots of Star Wars action

Snow White and an apparition

A Bird Watcher and his Bird (VERY CREATIVE!)

Super Heroes, Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island and Snow White

Frida Kahlo and an amazing Brazilian artist in real life

Seleem, the most awesome DJ ever

(I believe this is what pushed the neighbor over the edge, 
but it was so fun to see everybody's reaction and to dance samba.  Well worth the police visit!)
Here comes the drummers...

followed by the samba dancers....

what more does a party need than dancing girls?

Carnival is coming!

Amazing talent...

if you got it, shake it.

Geisha girl and samba dancer.... Halloween in a nutshell!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

party planning and basketball tournaments

Tomorrow Mac leaves for a school basketball tournament near Sao Paulo and will be gone until Saturday night.  The tournament engages kids from seven other international schools in Brazil so there's a chance he could run into some old friends from Sao Paulo or Brasilia.  How crazy would that be?

He's playing on the equivalent of the JV team and he thinks it's a pretty big deal that he got selected for the travel team with the 8th and 9th graders. He hopes to play some, but there are no guarantees since he's one of the younger players.  I, of course, just hope he behaves and has fun and brushes his teeth and doesn't get sick and eats enough food and is warm enough and changes his underwear and remembers to text me once a day so I know he's still alive and remembers to shower.  That's all.

In the meantime, Jimmy and I are hosting a party to celebrate Halloween and Jimmy's recent promotion into the Senior Foreign Service.  Halloween was BIG in Colombia and we got swept up into Halloween fever so we're excited to have the party.  We're having a costume contest, we've hired a DJ - a first for me and I learned so much about the process - and I've contracted some secret entertainment.  More will be coming on that later!  Unfortunately we're still waiting for the chef's background check to be completed so I am preparing the food.  Big, humongous sigh on that front.  Did you hear it where you live?  I would do just about anything for a Costco right now.

After the Friday night adults-only Halloween party, we will host the children from the consulate at the residence for a trunk or treat party on Saturday afternoon.  I'm not too involved in that party except to provide bobbing for apples and some candy.  The families are each decorating tables for the trunk or treat and I know the children will have fun.

Photos from Halloween and the basketball tournament will be forthcoming.  We hope you ghosts and goblins and witches and ghouls will all have a spooktacular weekend.  Be safe!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

my little drummer boy

If we're friends on Facebook, you'll know that I was so happy Mac chose to play drums in the school band because that meant no take-home instrument.  And if you can't take home your instrument, then you don't have to practice your instrument.

Score one for Mom's ears and her nerves.

(For the record, I have endured piano and violin lessons and if Mac had demonstrated any sort of mastery or even basic interest really in either of those instruments, I would have gladly enforced continued instruction.  There was no mastery whatsoever.  A lot of fighting but not one iota of mastery.  In fact, there was negative interest.  It really was like a death march every single week.)

So the drums rolled around and he has loved it.  He has a set of drum sticks at home so he does beat on some stuff, but I don't really ever hear him practicing.

First quarter report cards came out at the beginning of October. His British band teacher wrote that "Mac has been mostly playing on the Drum Kit, and I have given him moderate challenges that have brought him tantalisingly close to getting his music perfectly right. He just needs to get more time on a drum kit, and I have suggested that he find a way of arranging to have a kit at home to practise. He would certainly play at home, and I would encourage him to have this sooner than later."

I wasn't sure of Mac's mad drumming skills even with this sales pitch, so I was pleasantly surprised to witness Mac in the beginner band perform at parent-teacher conferences. You need to either watch the whole thing or fast-forward to the end to see Mac's big finish.
(Mac is on the drum set in the back on the right wearing the hat.  This was naturally right after the school sent out a notice that there was a case of head lice in the 7th grade.  When I admonished Mac for wearing someone else's hat, he said it the teacher's and the teacher doesn't have hair so he couldn't have lice.)

Hats off to the little drummer boy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

new kitchen stuff

When we moved into the temporary apartment, one of the people who handles consulate housing told me that the state of the pots and pans and gadgets in the residence was awful and that he'd taken it upon himself to order brand new stuff months ahead of our arrival.

I thought we were just getting new pots and pans, so boy, was I surprised when the consulate folks rolled in the other day with boxes and boxes of stuff.  It looked like my dream of a perfect Christmas morning.

Like Williams-Sonoma had literally thrown up a store in my kitchen.

Like the best bridal shower you could ever dream of.


Everything from a fancy pressure cooker to springform pans....
muffin tins and fat whisks...
Two roasting pans....
Some steamer type pots that I don't even know how to use, a knife set that will cut your fingers off, spoons and spatulas and measuring cups and fancy baking dishes....
Shiny, new pots and pans that cook like a dream (from the very little I've cooked in them)....
So much beautiful cooking stuff...

As I opened everything up, I was a little jealous that our new chef would get to use all this gear and not me.

But then I snapped out of that silly little notion and realized how much more fun it would be to eat food that the new chef prepared using all these shiny new toys instead of actually cooking the food.

Order was restored to my mental universe very quickly.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

basketball and Ipanema

Yesterday afternoon, we took Mac to the NBA FanZone set up on Ipanema Beach.  It's a free event, open all weekend, to celebrate the NBA in Brazil. 

They have all sorts of fun activities hosted by various sponsors.  For instance, Mac shot baskets "around the world" and received a little drawstring sports bag for his efforts, compliments of Marriott.

Another event was the basketball slingshot game, where this girl shot the ball totally over the basket and outside the event into the sand.

Mac ran into one of his basketball friends from school, so Jimmy and I left them together in the FanZone to go sit on the beach.  It was nearly 712 degrees by then so I was a hot, sweaty mess and there was little breeze coming off the water, but at least we were near the water.  

I'd just gotten nice and comfortable in my chair when Mac found us to say that he was going to shoot baskets with the Orlando Magic but one of us needed to sign the permission slip.  I went back up to the FanZone, signed the form and stuck around to watch the action.  They'd chosen 32 people, ranging in age from about 7 all the way up to young adults.  They divided the 32 into two groups of 16.  The 16-member teams had 30 seconds to shoot as many free throws as they could.  Each team had two Magic players under the basket, throwing the balls back to the players.  Mac's team got the most baskets so then they divided the 16-person winning team into two teams of eight.  Mac's team lost that round so he was out after that, but after that round, the winning team of 8 was divided into teams of 4 and that winning team received Magic jerseys.
Mac hanging with the Magic

He shoots, but alas, he doesn't score.

We went back out to the beach and were sitting in our chairs for a bit when Jimmy noticed that the players from the Magic were walking out on the beach right beside us. Naturally I snapped pics.  
I feel like I hear the theme to Baywatch in my head when I see the picture.

They stopped to talk to someone right behind us, so I grabbed Mac - against his free will - and ran over to accost one of the players to ask if we could take a photo.  Mac was fairly mortified and told me later that I'd "molested" the player.  Whatever.  If you're a famous American basketball player who is about 6'11" and you choose to walk down Ipanema Beach, well then you need to prepare to be "molested".  And besides, the guy's smiling in the photo, right? (Kudos to Mac on his use of "molested", which means "annoyed, bothered" in Spanish.  Great foreign language skills!)
This is not the face of someone who's being "molested".
Last night Jimmy and I went to a very gorgeous landmark in the city for a cocktail party for the NBA.  The party was hosted by Amway, and we had special access to a lounge sponsored by Cisco.  The co-founder of Amway also owns the Orlando Magic, hence the connection.  Some of the players were also there and it was super cool to meet them.  We also kept running into the same two cheerleaders who were cute and fun and very chatty and seemed happy to talk to normal people instead of people glomming onto them to take lecherous photos.
Notice that Jimmy is hands-off.  He's not one of those lecherous glommers.

Hanging with a very dapper Victor Oladipo

Catching up with Jimmy (who'd already met all three of these people at earlier events), I got to meet retired NBA legends Muggsy Bogues and Detlef Schrempf and WNBA superstar Chiney Ogwumike (who, for the record, has shoulder and bicep muscles made of steel.)
Nice not to be the shortest one in the (pink) room.
The Orlando Magic is playing the Flamengo Basketball team tonight.  There are two Americans on the Flamengo team and I met them last night (but I forgot to take photos).  Jerome Meyinsse is a UVA grad with the Flamengo team for the last two years, during both of which the team has won the Brazilian national championship.  The other, Jason Robinson, is at the end of his professional career (his words), and has been here for just a few months.  His pregnant wife and their 7 year-old daughter live in Texas where his wife has a great job with the state of Texas, which she doesn't want to leave because of stability, health insurance, etc.  Super nice guy who just loves the game of basketball and wants to play as long as he can.  We will be cheering for them personally but rooting for the Magic tonight.

Jimmy and me with the NBA Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy