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

Friday, October 16, 2015

The weather

(The "feels like" temperature at 10:18am is 105. At 10:18. In the morning.)

It's pretty hot here in Rio, and we're only in the first few weeks of "Spring". 

I know I complained - a lot - about the brutal winters in DC and I said that all I wanted was hot weather. But maybe I should've stated some parameters. Like I want and love "hot", but I don't want to melt.  

105 degrees is surely the maximum end of my comfort zone, and I'm more than a little nervous about how high the temp can actually go when we get to the height of summer. 

Climate change is real, people. I'm suffering through the consequences of our global mistakes right now as are millions and millions of people around the world. We've got to turn this ship around, and soon!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

One little update

When I told Jimmy we'd had company for all but 6 nights since his surgery, he asked how many of those 6 nights we'd stayed at home. 

I just counted. 

We've been home 2 nights with absolutely nothing to do and no company at home since September 24.

That's why I feel exhausted!

the basketball fun has begun

Today Jimmy went to an event where the NBA donated basketball gear and materials to a favela project.  Jimmy got to meet Muggsy Bogues, the shortest player ever to play in the NBA.

How cool is that?

a long-overdue, but short catch-up

I have written approximately 67 posts in my head since my last post, but life has intervened.

Since the day of Jimmy's surgery on September 24, we have had 6 days WITHOUT overnight company in the house, which has been tons of fun but without a housekeeper, there's been a lot of sheet-washing and bathroom-cleaning and floor-vacuuming by yours truly.

I also officially started my job on October 1, right in the middle of all the company.  Between the company, lack of housekeeper, life, following online the horrible flooding in SC, etc, I just can't seem to find my groove with work.  The work itself has been very interesting to date and I'm loving it, but I can't figure out when to do my 5 hours a day or, because I'm obsessive-compulsive and want to do the best job ever, how to turn the computer off after I put in my 5 hours a day.  Yesterday was the first time where I felt like I had any balance in the schedule - I went to my Pilates class in the morning and the beach for a couple hours with our house guests, and then I came home to work while they went out. That is how I want my days to be on a regular basis.

Jimmy's shoulder is coming along. The surgeon says the surgery was a success.  He put in two screws to pull the tears back together and scraped out some gunk.  Jimmy's now doing physical therapy twice a week with a wonderful therapist.  Jimmy thought he'd be back to normal in 2 months, so he was disheartened when the therapist told him it would be more like 4 months.  But really, what's 4 months in the grand scheme of things?

Aside from work and company, we've been getting out and about and meeting interesting people over the last couple weeks. We hosted another official cocktail that was a ton of fun, and I hosted a coffee for the 7th grade parents where I got to meet some other moms.  There's always some other country's national day party, which are fun because there's a small group of people that we see at every single one of those - other diplomats and government officials - which makes Rio feel like a small town in some respects,  I attended a friend's book launch, we went to the American movie night at the Rio Film Festival where we saw Me, Earl and the Dying Girl (I should have brought more Kleenex), we attended a lunch with the consular corps to send off another consul general (the lunch was on the 30th floor of this hotel and the view was INCREDIBLE), and we went to the opening of a very cool Maori exhibition hosted by the Ambassador of New Zealand (from which we took home the most delicious chocolate and peanut bars I've ever eaten).  And that's just the stuff I've done.  Jimmy is out at night more than I am.  I don't know if this pace is sustainable long-term, but we're enjoying it while we can manage it.

Mac continues to thrive here.  He loves school, he's made a lot of friends and he made the JV basketball team, which means in addition to regular games here in town, he'll get to go to a tournament outside of Sao Paulo for a few days at the end of October.  Then during the second week of November, he goes on a 7th grade 5-day class trip to a very cool colonial city about 6 hours from Rio.  They have all sorts of fun and educational things planned for the week and I'm a little jealous that they don't want/need parents to go as chaperons.  He's off today and tomorrow from school, so he's lazing around this morning until 11, when he's been invited to the Jockey Club for a friend's birthday lunch, swim and soccer.  Again, I wish he was at the age where he needed a chaperon because I'd love to see inside the Jockey Club.  But alas, the friend's driver is picking him up along with the other friend who was invited (the "real" birthday party is next weekend; this is just a get-together with a couple friends on the actual birthday.)

This weekend the Orlando Magic are in town to play a local sports club's basketball team.  Jimmy and I are attending two cocktail parties tomorrow night where reportedly we'll get to meet players of the Magic and then the three of us will attend the game on Saturday night.  I never thought I'd get to meet professional basketball players so that's kind of cool.  I will definitely post photos if I get to take any without being obnoxious.

We are loving the house.  I cannot stress to you enough how very much we love the house.  It's big and airy and bright and uncluttered.  I need to remember to send the State Department's interior designer an email to thank her for the work she did on the house because it really is perfect in my opinion.  I told Jimmy that if and when we ever build our dream house, I would like to track her down and hire her to decorate it because I like her style so much.

The house is big, though, and not airtight so without regular cleaning, dust builds up quickly.  Which has just about driven my obsessive-compulsive self crazy.  Finally ,when I was on the brink of crazy, I convinced the lady who was helping me one day a week to give up her other jobs to come to us for full-time work, five days a week.  It's really to her advantage, because she'll get all sorts of benefits like social security, health insurance, vacation, transportation and food allowances, etc, that she doesn't get doing lots of day jobs.  I'm happy to report that she started full-time yesterday.  Already I feel like I've stepped away from the edge of crazy.

And the biggest, best house news is that we've hired a chef.  I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am we've finally found someone AND that the someone we found seems so incredibly amazing.  She lived and went to culinary school for 3 years in Italy.  Did you hear me?  Italy.  My most favorite food on the planet is Italian so the next time you see me, I may weigh 292 pounds because of excessive lasagna consumption.  She also likes to cook Asian, Mediterranean and food from the Northeast of Brazil, which means she can cook spicy food which is not so prevalent in other parts of Brazil.  AND she makes homemade jams.  Are you kidding me?  We're going to have homemade jams with breakfast every day.  I may weigh 417 pounds the next time you see me. She wants to leave restaurant life to achieve better work-life balance.  YES!  Oh boy, am I happy.  Her background check is in progress but I've asked/begged/promised food if they'll expedite it because I want, no, NEED, her to start sooner rather than later.

So that's about it from Casa Story.  We hope you're all well, wherever you're reading this from!