Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Oktoberfest Time Again in Blumenau

Be sure to click on pic for video

Yes, it is that time of year again in Blumenau, Santa Catarina, Brazil. Oktoberfest. And every year it gets bigger and bigger.

Blumenau is nestled in the Itajai Valley and is a perfect place to party for the better part of two weeks. Beer flows freely (literally) and everyone has a smile on their face.

There are several pavilions with all kinds of music, but the Oom pah pah kind is the best. Polka, polka, polka.

Although I’ve never visited Blumenau during the Oktoberfest, I have been there numerous other times and it is a great city next to the Itajai River, nestled between the mountains.

If you are ever in southern Brazil, Blumenau should definitely be on your list of places to see.

In Blumenau, all year round, alles gut, alles blau (everything good and everything blue).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brazilians Love Candy!

As always, click the titled for a video. The video you'll see has little to do with Brazilians, but it is cute. Access the blog by going to www.southernbrasil.blogspot.com, and sorry for taking so long to get another article up.

Brazilians of all ages love candy—any kind of candy. If it is loaded with sugar, they will eat it. Just like in the United States, chocolate is the preferred candy, and there are three companies that offer up the majority of candies in Brazil, Lacta, Garrota, and Nestle, S.A.

The bon bons that you get in a box of assorted chocolates are also different than those you get in America. They come in fancy, colorful wrappers and are larger pieces. Some of the most popular kinds contain ingredients such as hazelnut crème, coconut, and cashews.

When we had our café on the beach, we had the end of our counter encased in glass and within that glass were built several cubby holes, all filled to the brim with individual candies, hard candies, bubble gum, lollipops, and miniature candy bars. Brazilians rarely will be seen with a full-size candy bar in hand, but you’ll find most kids (who can afford it) with pockets full of little candies to eat while playing soccer and to share (or sell to) friends.

And I believe I mentioned it before, but we served ice cream in our café, and every person who walked out with a cone or a cup of ice cream had some kind of candy placed on top. The most popular topping was gummy bear dentures. Weirdest thing I ever saw, but they loved them. I did too, as a matter of fact, as they were strawberry- flavored.

Even cough drops, such as Halls Eucalyptus, Strawberry, Mint and Cherry flavors were eaten as candy and breath mints, but never as a cough suppressant.

Yes, candy for the Brazilian is almost as important as food.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cats (Gatos) in Brasil

It was my observation while living in Southern Brasil that (1) most Brasilians prefer dogs over cats as pets probably 2 to 1; and (2) most of the cats I saw in Brasil are skinny and have short hair. That is not to say that they aren’t cute and it's not to say there aren't the same types of cats as in America, it's just that the short hair variety is predominant. I’ve never met a cat or a kitten I didn’t like, and the ones in Brasil are no exception.

Those of you, who know me and my cats, know that they are huge and they are long hairs. Everyone in Brasil who saw my cats could not believe how big they were and how gentle. I had many people ask me to breed them, but darn it all, they’ve all been fixed. I might have had one great business down there breeding my type of Maine Coon cats.

Hmmm, gotta go. I think I saw an ad on Craigslist for some Maine Coon kittens…..

Til Later, Tchau!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Clouds in the Mountains

I think one of the prettiest sights in Southern Brasil is when you are standing on the side of a hill and looking down over the landscape and see long lines of white clouds nestled between the hills. It’s a surreal feeling to know that it is raining where you are looking but not raining on you because you are above the clouds.

As much as I love looking at the clouds in the mountains, I don’t like going through them, especially when you are going up the side of a mountain where there are no rails and only two lanes. It can get dangerously scary.

We were caught a couple of times on mountain roads when the fog rolled in and your visibility drops to zero in no time at all. You can’t just pull off the side of the road because there is no side of the road. Fortunately, there’s always a daredevil truck driver who knows the roads like the back of his hand and you get behind him and just follow the tail lights.

Best advice I can give is don’t travel early morning or toward evening or at night and you’ll fare well traveling up and down the mountains.

Til Later, Tchau!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pirabieraba (Peer-ah-beer-ah-bah

I come back to this place in my mind all the time for the calmness it brings. From the small, quaint town of Pirabieraba with its many shops and cafes through rural areas where the mountains meet the road, and on up into the mountains on a winding road that brings you past waterfalls and roadside stands ready to sell fruits and homemade goods to all the travelers. There is so much beauty, that sometimes it overwhelms.

This is a magical place to me. Never once was I bored living there and never once was I unhappy to be there. And if the situation were right again in my life and I was asked where I’d like to live in Brasil, it would be this beautiful corner of the world that took my breath away the first time I saw it, and continues to do so today.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My First Shopping Trip in Brasil

Some memories of my first trip to Brasil are etched forever in my mind. One such memory is the first time I went shopping in Brasil for clothing. Upon arrival in Brasil, I noticed that the women were wearing very colorful fashion tops with their jeans, and I wanted to see if I could find something for me in that style. In my mind’s eye, I knew what I was looking for, and so, when the opportunity presented itself, I began my search.

My husband and I were in a small shopping center with his mother, brother, sister, brother-in-law and two nieces. We were all window shopping when I saw a shop that I wanted to go into. Have you ever seen those clever graphics on some internet pages where the mouse is set up to have a group of something follow it as it makes its way across the page? Like if you are on a site that talks about honey bees, a swarm of bees follows your mouse pointer’s every move?

Anyway, that’s what it reminded me of. As I turned to go into the store, everyone just changed the direction in which they were headed and followed me into the store. I went to the first rack, they went to the first rack. I pulled out a blouse, they pulled out a blouse. I went into the dressing room (a curtained area in a corner of the store), they went into the dressing room. I yelled, they all stopped.

No, seriously, I didn’t yell. I was too surprised to yell. Charles told them in Portuguese to back off and they did. All of them except his mother. She stayed like she belonged there, going about the task of handing me tops that she personally thought would look great on me and waiting for me to try them on. Once we got it straightened out, I was left alone to try on the tops by myself and the family went about their business outside the store. I can’t help but think that I hurt their feelings that day. They were so eager to share in my shopping experience and I was too wrapped up in modesty to understand and thank them for their help.

I’m no less modest today but I do know enough in Portuguese to personally thank them as I gently nudge them out of the dressing room.

'Til Later, Tchau.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vendedors Ambulante (Street Vendors)

There are many poor Brasilians in Southern Brasil. Most of them are poor not because they don’t want to work, but because jobs are scarce. They are an industrious and inventive people, who won’t take “no job” lying down. They will do whatever it takes to feed their families.

One of the most common sights you’ll find, especially during the holiday season on the beaches are street vendors (vendedors ambulante). They carry anything from fruits and vegetables to sunglasses, to beautiful hand-made jewelry, toys, etc. Anything that can be carried on their backs, on their bikes or on their hand-crafted carts will be offered up for sale to anyone taking the time to listen to their sales pitch.

I once had a guy selling ice cream treats right next to my café, where, of course, I also offered ice cream for sale. But I didn’t begrudge him because he needed that money to feed his family. I stood there and watched--me with no customers and him selling ice cream right and left right under my nose. But it did not make me angry. It made me happy that he was going to have rice and beans on the table that evening. That is the Brasilian way.

Til Later, Tchau!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dia das Almas (All Souls Day)

Every November 2nd in Brasil, families gather at gravesites for the purpose of praying for their departed, cleaning the gravesites and placing new flowers on the graves. It is a sight to behold. Since it is mainly a Catholic tradition and the majority of Brasilians are devout Catholics, there are scores of people at the cemeteries this day. Sometimes they stop for treats or ice cream before or after their individual ceremonies. You’ll see women with scrub buckets and mops walking down the streets.

You don’t see that here in America. Everyone maintains the gravesites at separate times. Although I prefer to remember my loved ones as when they were living and not in the ground, I still appreciate the trouble these people go to keep the eternal resting place of their loved ones’ bodies in as nice a shape as possible.

Til Later, Tchau.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dia Nacional do Fusca (National Day of the VW Bug)

The Brasilians love their Fuscas. You see them more than any other auto on the street and there are some very cool ones in Brasil. They love them so much, in fact, that they've honored them with their own day...Dia Nacional do Fusca. I've found a great little video to click on for today's blog, so be sure to click on the title to see it.

Fuscas come in all colors. I was envious of the guy who painted the inside of our cafe. He had a Fusca painted a really cool color that looked like a mixture of chartreuse and pea green. One day, he was coming from work and someone ran into him. He wasn't injured too badly, but his Fusca really took a hit. Of course, when I heard, I asked if he was ok, and when he said ok, I then asked...what about the Fusca? He smiled and said it would be ok. Since he didn't speak English, and I very little Portuguese, we did alot of sign language, but we got the gist of what was being said. About a month later, his Fusca was finally drivable again and was the same color. What a relief.

If I ever go back, I'd love to own a Fusca.

Til Next Time, Tchau!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Breakfast (Cafe da Manha) in Brasil

I know I've talked about food in Brasil before, but it seems no one tires of hearing how wonderful the food is. Breakfast is no exception. Juice, fruit, meats, cheeses, breads, cakes. You have it all in a typical colonial-style breakfast.

Now for the but part. But...

If you are looking for an American-type breakfast with eggs, hashbrowns, toast, there is no place to find it, and after a while, you begin to miss the things you once took for granted.

I think one of the first places I went after coming back to America was a place called Tee-Jay's in Columbus, Ohio, famous for it's barnbuster breakfast. I didn't have that exact breakfast because it is way too much food, but I did have eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and toast, as I always had before moving to Brasil, and I loved every bite. Now that I'm back in the states, I miss the typical Brasilian breakfast. See? There's just no pleasing some folks.

Til Next Time, Tchau!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gauchos of Southern Brasil

When it comes to cowboys, and country music, Brasil isn't really that much different than the US. They have their country songs, their wide open spaces, and their love for horses.

What is different is the cultural mix in the southernmost State of Brasil, Rio Grande do Sul. You have people of spanish decent from the Gauchos in Argentina, you have Italian winemakers, and you have whole cities settled by Austrians.

The music is as diverse as the people. In one song you may hear a steel guitar mixed with an accordian, in the next, you may hear an Austrian waltz, and the next a Flamenco guitar. It would not surprise me if there are some who mix all these mediums together at once.

As you can see by the video attached to this blog entry, Rio Grande do Sul has some striking similarities to the region we call home to our own Rio Grand. Enjoy.

Til Next Time, Tchau!

Friday, July 10, 2009


Toucans are pretty plentiful in Southern Brasil. When we were living high up in the hills, we would see toucans fly from tree to tree. We'd leave a branch of bananas on a stump for them to eat from.

Contrary to what everyone thinks, or at least what I used to think, that Toucans are responsible for that sound in the jungle in movies that goes something like "ara ara ara," toucans actually make a weird clicking sound and when they fly, they make a loud noise like "eeehnt." Suffice it to say, their sound is not quite as pretty as their appearance.

It was really great to watch these birds in their native habitat, instead of in a zoo. As I mentioned in a past blog entry, Brasilians like their birds, and toucanos (toucans) are no exception. They can be tamed and make fun pets, but personally, I'm fine with just watching them from a distance enjoying their natural homes.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Niemeyer is a famous architect from Brasil. He is 101 years old and still designs buildings from his office in Rio de Janeiro. He married his most recent wife when he was 98, and she 63.

I don't have to tell you that some people are born great. We all, in fact, have greatness in us. Some are able to recognize, understand, and act on that greatness, abetting its materialization, for the world to see and appreciate. I was fortunate enough to visit one of his museums in Curitiba, nicknamed "eye" and was literally blown away by its shape, size, vision (no pun intended) and unbelievably creative design. Indeed, there is nothing else like it in this world.

Just as those who appreciate a fine painting or sculpture, I appreciate fine architecture. I would go so far as to say that when I see a beautifully designed and constructed building, it stirs something inside. As a child, I remember seeing pictures of Niemeyer's creations in Brasilia, and even then, I wanted badly to someday travel to that city to see those places close up. While in Brasil, I should have done that, but I didn't. I assure you, though, on my next trip, it will definitely be on my list of things to do.

Til Then, Tchau!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rain in Southern Brasil

When I first decided I wanted to move to Southern Brasil, I was assured that it didn't rain that much down there. I'm not pointing any fingers, but that information proved to be wrong. Quite wrong. But it's my own fault really. I must have been asleep in geography class the day we were discussing the attributes of a rain forest. "Rain" being the operative word. Southern Brasil is smack dab in the middle of that country's second largest rain forest, The Mata Atlantica, or Atlantic Forest.

I got to thinking about it I guess because where I'm living now, in central Texas, we celebrate a rainy day. Everything is so dry. But with the dry comes more sunshine and that suits me just fine.

Anyway, just wanted to point that out to you. Southern Brasil rainy, very rainy. Texas dry. That's all I got.

Til Later, Tchau!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Brasil Delivery System

Today's video doesn't have alot to do with this blog, other than it has a horse in it and this blog is about horses and carts in Brasil.

You see horses and carts on a daily basis in Southern Brasil. It is a common mode of transportation for many, as well as being a way to make extra money by hauling things and delivering things. I the picture, the owner of this horse and cart was picking up gravel from our yard that we didn't want anymore and hauling it away. We used this guy a couple of times for bringing us wood for our fireplace in the winter. Every time they'd show up, I'd pay the driver and I'd give the horse an nice apple or carrot. The horse probably liked me more than the guy, cause I always made sure the horse got a reward.

When we were getting ready to move back to the States, we sold alot of stuff, and one thing was a vertical freezer. The German neighbor who bought it came and picked it up with his horse and cart. It's nice to know that some folks in this world still do things the old-fashioned way. Southern Brasil was doing eco-friendly before it became a media catchphrase, and continues to use this very efficient form of transportation.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Brasil's Independence Day

The video today is of the Brasilian National Anthem, a very long, complicated anthem, that appears more Austrian than Brasilian. Nonetheless, it is interesting.

Today is independence day in America, when we celebrate our independence from England. Brasilians celebrate their independence day on September 7, the day they gained their independence from Portugal unofficially. There are a couple of things that set Brasil apart from most other countries in their history of gaining independence.

First, Brasil was a monarchy, the only monarchy in South America. It was ruled by the King of Portugal, Dom Pedro. In 1822, when Portugal ordered King Dom Pedro back to Portugal, planning on returning Brasil to colonial status, the King, fearing a revolution of his people, defied the order, ripped the Portuguese colors of blue and white from his chest and declared these words "Independence or Death." That was the beginning of the process of independence for Brasil, without bloodshed. Just a declaration. On May 3, 1823, Dom Pedro and others met in an assembly to create the first Brasilian Constitution.

On August 29, 1825 Portugal finally recognized Brasil as an independent nation, and from then on, Brasil was a free nation. For many years after that, Brasil was ruled by Dom Pedro as Emperor, until April 7, 1831, when he abdicated the throne. On July 23, 1840, Dom Pedro's son, Dom Pedro II, took the throne as Emporor at just 14 years of age.

Who ruled Brasil between 1831 and 184o, I do not know. I do know that Dom Pedro II remained Emporor of Brasil for the next 49 years.

Then, on November 15, 1889, a new republic formed in Rio de Janeiro, and two days later, Dom Pedro II and his family returned to Europe, ending the monarchy in Brasil, leaving it a Republic.

I hope I got this right. At any rate, my purpose was to show similarities and differences between our day of independence and that of Brasil. I hope I succeeded.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Family Barbeques in Brasil

Since this is the 4th of July weekend, I thought I'd write about barbeque in Brasil. Almost every home in Brasil has some sort of churrasqueira (shure-has-kay-rrah) barbeque area either attached to to the home or built adjacent to the home as a free-standing structure. I couldn't miss the opportunity to show you the beautiful churrasquira and pool we built when living in Brasil. These are also called area de lazer (area dee laze-ear), which are areas of leisure or recreation. Barbeque is the center around which all celebrations revolve. Well, barbeque and beer, of course.

American free-standing barbeque grills do exist in Brasil but they are very rare. The closest thing to them are little green barrels (like oil barrels) stood on the side with a top opening and a grill plate inside. Charcoal is used with these grills. We had one and I loved it. They even make little aluminum stands to keep it up off the ground. However, most Brasilians make sure there is enough in the budget when building a home to include either an outdoor stone oven or a churrasqueira.

All this talk about churrasco (bbq) is making me hungry. I'll write more tomorrow...

Til then Tchau!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Moto Boys in Brasil

Moto Boys in Brasil--on the road--in traffic--dangerous--always. Brasilians are used to them, weaving in and out of traffic, making complete stops right in front of you for no reason. Speeding past you when you think there isn't enough room between you and the car next to you to fit a piece of paper, yet they squeeze on through. You could call them the daredevils of the working class. They make their money delivering anything from mail to auto parts to furniture. I'm not kidding. If it can be balanced, it can be carried.
And, they deliver lanches and pizza and groceries, water, gas, you name it. That's how they make their money, driving in and out of all kinds of traffic, seemingly impervious to the dangers they face, and the dangers which they impose on a daily basis.
There are no traffic laws for these guys. Even where there are speed bumps and speed stations, they find their way around them and through them, hardly ever slowing down until they reach their final destination. Many are injured, many die. That is the life of the moto boy. They are incredible to watch, and at the same time, you find yourself shaking your head wondering if they are as crazy as they appear to be. Nope, they grew up on motorcycles and I don't think they'd have it any other way.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fazendas - Rural Vacation Hotels

A fazenda in Brasil is a large piece of rural property used either as a farm, a farm/ranch combined, or a farm/ranch combined with a hotel for visitors. For purposes of this blog, we are interested in the latter. There are some beautiful fazendas in Santa Catarina to spend a weekend or a week, just getting back to nature. Accommodations at fazendas vary widely, from the primitive—a room with a bed and a shared bathroom down the hall, to a beautiful suite with full bath, hydro-massage, and garden views.

Fazendas offer their guests many activities which allow them to fully enjoy the outdoors, such as horseback riding, hiking, fishing, and swimming. Guests are surrounded by farm animals, and have the feeling of being at home on a farm. It is all very relaxing and a great way to make everyday stresses disappear.
Many businesses use fazendas to host corporate retreats. It is a very popular thing to do in Brasil.

The food at a fazenda tastes especially good when you’re dining in the open country air. Home-cooked meals are the mainstay of fazendas, stews, meats, cheeses, homemade breads and desserts, are all beautifully displayed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In all, staying at a fazenda is one of the nicest things anyone could do for themselves.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Public Phones in Brasil


Today’s blog entry is going to be a little different. I’m just going to throw a bunch of pictures on here and let you see for yourself what a charming country Brasil is. I mean, seriously, any group of folks who take that much time to design and create such whimsical phone booths have to be the most fun group of all to hang with. Each region seems to have its own idea of what animal or thing they think someone would like to make a call from, be it coconuts, parrots, or fish. And the ordinary phone booths serve two purposes in Brasil, public communication and shelter from the rain. Next time you use an ordinary public phone, think about writing to your local phone service provider and telling them that from now on, you want to make all your public calls from a parrot. And don't forget to click on the title for today's video. Everyone needs a laugh!

Til then, Tchau!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Police in Brasil


When it comes to matters dealing with the police in Brasil, there are a few differences from their American counterparts. Let me say, up front, that all of the officers with whom I've come in contact in Santa Catarina with are really nice guys. They appear to be caring professionals who try to maintain peace within the communities they serve with kindness and understanding, albeit also with a firm hand.

With that said, I would suggest that you always treat an officer of the law in Brasil with the utmost respect. They demand it. Their very presence commands it. There are usually three levels of police protection in most cities--city police, state police, and military police (policia militar). Do Not Mess With Policia Militar! They are hard core devotees to the letter of the law in Brasil.

I remember my first trip to Brasil--we were staying at a hotel in Jaragua do Sul--and we went out after breakfast to go see family. There were policia militar stationed at the front of the hotel, swat vehicle in plain view and M-16 rifles drawn. My husband told me not to look at the officers and so I kept my head down. We got in our car and drove off. My husband explained that there was probably a tip that drug runners were on their way in or out of town and the military police were looking for them. You see police officers with guns drawn everywhere in Brasil. They are always ready for action. It's a little unnerving at first, but you eventually get used to this regular sight.

While traveling by car, truck or motorcycle in Brasil, you better be sure to have your license, registration, title and insurance information handy at all times. There is no such thing as "Oh, officer, I forgot it at home." Believe me, they will confiscate your car on the spot, no questions asked. Police in Brasil regularly conduct what is commonly referred to as "blitzes" and they are just as you think the word implies. They will set up alongside the road and flag down cars at random, and if you don't have your paperwork, you are in for a rude awakening. Many blitzes target motorcycle drivers as there is not only alot of corruption in buying and selling stolen motorcycles (same for autos), but many drug dealers hire motos to deliver the goods. Sometimes you'll see blitzes set up alongside the road and right before they get there, motorcycle drivers will turn around and take another route. Once caught, motorcycles are confiscated and if the drivers are caught with illegal substances, they are arrested. You'll see sometimes ten or more motorcycles by the side of the road waiting to be taking to the impounding lot located next to the policia militar station.

So beware!

Til then, tchau!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Treats in Brasil

Check out the cute video today! www.southernbrasil.blogspot.com

Oh my gosh, I’ve been remiss! Desculpe (I’m sorry). I’m sure you’ve all had your eyes glued to the computer screen waiting for my next great blog, huh? Keeping with the theme of ways to think cool in the summertime, I thought I’d talk about a couple of food items Brasilians adore during their summer months of November through March.

First of all, they can’t get enough coco gelado (cold coconut water). They take it either from a straw that is placed in a hole drilled in the coconut, or by drilling the hole in the top of the coconut and pouring the coconut “milk” into a glass. Most Brasilians, though, choose the first option, as it is a novelty to drink the juice right from the coconut. There are special machines you can buy to drill the hole either automatically or manually, or as in the video, hand tools you can use. Some Brasilians still just use a machete to get to the juice. And most Brasilians will open the coconut after draining the juice to get at the coconut meat.

The other summertime favorite is sorvete (ice cream). Some things are the same around the world. In Brasil, you can get a soft-serve cone from just about any vendor outside a supermercado (grocery store) or panificadora (bakery), or you can go to a sorveteria (ice cream parlor) and serve yourself. You are charged por kilo (by the kilo). You can choose from small cones, waffle cones, or dishes from which to enjoy your favorite flavors. The only thing that is different about ice cream in Brasil is the toppings Brasilians use. Oh sure, they like the usual nuts and sprinkles and chocolate candies; however, the most sought after item in the toppings department has to be gummy anything. The funniest thing I’ve seen them put on top of their ice cream is gummy dentures. They actually are quite yummy.

Oh, word about the pictures this time…can you spot the one that best describes a Brasilian woman’s favorite desert in the summertime?

Til later, Tchau!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Brasil in the Winter (Inverno)

Since today is the first day of summer for us, here in the Northern Hemisphere, I thought I'd just show you what you are missing in some parts of Southern Brasil. Yes, it can get very cold there and some cities in the Southern States of Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul have frost and even occasional snow. So click on the title, relax, and enjoy some refreshing photos from Brasil in the Winter.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Frutas do Brasil (Fruits of Brazil)

Most people, when asked what kinds of fruits you might find in Brasil, will tell you bananas, passionfruit, papaya, oranges, anything tropical. But did you know that in the interior part of the state of Santa Catarina you'll find some of the best varieties of apples, pears, and grapes?

The town of Fraiburgo http://www.fraiburgo.com.br/english/index.asp is famous for it's apples. We drove through there once on our way to a beekeeper meeting in Videira (which we'll discuss later). It is beautiful country and we were lucky enough to have traveled to these cities right in the middle of harvest season. We stopped at the portal to Fraiburgo and bought some pears, big giant juicy pears, that were some of the best I've ever tasted. The pears we bought were not like D'anjou pears, but rounder and had brown skin. If you've ever tasted a small honey pear, that's what the taste of these reminded me of, only about 5 times the size of a honey pear. There were many varieties of applies, including large red delicious ones. We bought some locally made apple soap and jelly for small gifts to our family.

It was then on to Videira. Charles was asked to give a powerpoint presentation to a group of local beekeepers regarding how beekeeping is done in the United States. At the site where he gave the talk, there was a small winery operation adjacent. When we were finished, we walked over to the winery and sampled some of their wines. We ended up buying a couple of bottles. The quality of the merlot was comparable to any California wine and quite reasonably priced. I think we bought two bottles for the total amount of $R25, or about $12 U.S. Videira is known for its vineyards. The weather in the south central region of Brasil gets very cold in the winter months between June and September. Quite often, snow occurs in the town of San Joaquim, Santa Catarina. Therefore, fruits associated with colder climates thrive in this area. So next time you think of Brasil, remember, there's more than meets the eye.

Til Then, Tchau!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Desserts (Sobremesas)

Here is your link:

I'm never sure how these pictures are going to stack up, so here goes: The chocolate dessert is called Bolo de Bolacha, or biscuit cake, quite similar to what we know as tiramisu. It is one of the top favorite desserts for Brasilians. The dessert in the bowl is called Sagu de Vinho, which is tapioca pearls in a sea of wine, finished with a dollop of cream. This is probably the most popular dessert in Brasil behind anything chocolate, of course. And the final dessert is Torta de Maracuja, or passionfruit cake. From my experience, these are the three most served desserts on any respectable dessert table in Brasil.

If asked to choose between the desserts here in America and the desserts in Brasil, I'd have to choose Brasil. I am not sure why, honestly, because bakeries in both countries serve up the finest in sweets, but there is something about eating a cake or a cookie made from scratch the old-fashioned way, that beats the quick fixes. The creams used are heavier and reminds one of the old days. Since Southern Brasil is known for its rich European influences, many of the bakeries (confeitarias) offer up some of the finest strudels and tortes I've ever tasted. The only thing that is rare in Brasil are donuts. The closest thing you'll find to donuts is a little fried dough concoction called orelha de porco (oh-rel-ya gee poor-so), or pig ears. They are akin to our fried cake donuts only denser and shaped in a ring resembling an ear. They are good, but have a tendency to be dryer than our American donuts.

There are some differences between American and Brasilian cakes as well. Again, Brasilian cakes tend to be denser and dryer than American cakes. As Americans like their cakes as moist as they can be, Brasilians go the other way. They do not mind if their cakes are left to dry out a little and prefer them as such to take with coffee in the afternoon. It is not such a big deal for Brasilians to carefully wrap their leftovers to keep them moist. It just doesn't matter. What a refreshing attitude.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shopping Malls

By now, I think you know the drill. If not, please see previous posts.

Shopping in the shopping centers of the larger cities in Southern Brasil is the same as shopping in any mall in America, except of course, your American dollars go farther. There are a few differences, though, that I’ll talk about. Most stores in Brasil have a limited selection of stock on hand. Some of the larger chains will have everything you need, but the smaller, boutique stores carry limited size choices, so if you are looking for a particularly difficult size to find, chances are, you won’t find it in these shops. Many Brasilian women, for instance, are very petite and slim, especially up top. If you go to a clothing store in the mall, you’re going to find only items that fit that particular body type. You’ll find sizes 0 to 10, but not much above that. If you’re like me, what they call a grande grande or x-grande, forget about it (actually, I am down to a grande, thank you very much). You’ll have to shop somewhere else, the mall isn’t where you’ll find many options. Speaking of grande grande, let’s go to the food court.

The food courts in the malls in Brasil may not be as large as those in America, but they are comparable to some extent. You will almost always find a McDonald’s, sometimes right next to its Brasilian counterpart, Bob’s, serving up hamburgers and french fries in a jiffy. You’ll also find one or two places that serve the original Brasilian fast food, pastels, in many flavors, including beef, chicken, and heart of palm. Then there are the buffets that serve up a complete array of foods by the kilo (1 kilo = 2 lbs. roughly). You’ll find stroganoff, fried fish, chicken, and a whole assortment of rice and potato dishes, along with plenty of vegetables. At these restaurants, you will be served on china, instead of paper plates. No kidding. Most mall restaurants have china plates and they are distinguished by the pattern on the plate, so that, if a person forgets to bring the plate back when they are finished, the workers at the restaurant know exactly whose plates they are. And real silverware or flatware, no plastic. It’s quite unique.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about dessert, finally! We’ll see what our options are in and outside of the mall.

Till then, Tchau!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Frutos do Mar (Fruits of the Sea)

Fish Stew, Fish Market, and Fishing Boats

Remember to click on the link below and
then the title for the video du jour

One of the most obvious advantages of living a block from the ocean, was the abundance of fresh fish and seafood. It was a treat to drive down to the place where the fishing boats came ashore early in the morning. As they offered up their bounty to whomever got there first, we’d walk from boat to boat, hoping to get the best of the catch. And near each boat were woman, skilled in the art of filleting those fish, offering up their services for less than it takes to do it yourself almost. You just gave them the fish you wanted them to skin, or scale, and gave them their instructions—keep the head, no, give me the heads too, I’ll make soup, most people told them. Brasilians don’t waste any part of anything they eat, especially fish. The only thing they throw away are the bones. Everything else is edible, including the tail sometimes. Makes a great soup starter. The most famous fish stew served in restaurants in Brasil is called Moqueca. Most restaurants in the tourist towns along the Southern coast will serve moqueca on the weekends and Brasilians will save their appetites just for that stew.

The waters off the coast in many of the southern towns are treacherous and fishermen literally take their lives into their hands when going on their daily fishing runs. You’ll see them battling and cursing the very same waves that the surfers in the area worship. When they get through the surf on their way back into shore, locals on the beach are ready with large tree trunks to position under the hulls of the boats, and a rope is attached to the bow. Then the boats are pulled in by pulley or by hand, depending on the equipment handy, and beached on the shore with their bellies sometimes full of the catch of the day. Restaurant owners are always there first. They can buy a fish for a real or two, and sell it in their restaurant for ten or fifteen reais.

At any rate, fish is the big draw when you live on the beach. You get frequent visits from friends and families, not so much because they want to see you, but because you are closest to the food they love.

(By the way, my husband has brought to my attention a glaring mistake in my previous blogs. I was spelling goodbye the Italian or European way, not the Brasilian way. This has been corrected and no long will I type Ciao in my blogs—thank you Charles for actually reading them!)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

American Brands in Brasil

Remember to click on the link below, access the blog page, and then click on the day's title to see a relevant video.

If you look hard enough, even in the smaller cities situated in the State of Santa Catarina, you will find products from America. Most Brasilians refer to anything American as being from America, rather than from the United States (Estados Unidos). Many famous brands have found their way in the homes and hearts of Brasilians. I would venture to guess that the most famous of these brands is Coca-Cola. Everywhere you eat, you will see children and adults consuming their favorite beverage, Coke. I think I know why too. The Brasilian version of Coke is a bit sweeter (if you can imagine that) than its American counterpart. Pepsi is sold alongside Coke, but doesn’t have the same following. Still, when you want a taste of home, no matter what flavor cola you prefer, you can find it in the smallest towns of Santa Catarina.

And of course, what would life be without an occasional trip to your favorite fast food restaurant? McDonald’s restaurants exist in the larger cities of Santa Catarina, such as Joinville, Blumenau, Balneario Camboriu, and south in Itapema. During my first visit to Brasil, we were in a modern mall in Curitiba, and ready to have lunch. I decided to try the Brasilian version of the Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I guess I was expecting a different taste, having been exposed already to the Brasilian way of making a hamburger (see previous posts regarding food). Well, I needn’t have worried. The hamburger was a perfect clone of its American counterpart, right down to the skinny fries that accompanied it and the cardboard box and paper bag it came in. In addition to McDonald’s, they also now have Pizza Hut, Subway, and KFC, although the latter hasn’t made it’s way much further south than Rio de Janeiro yet.

Finally, a word about American products in the grocery stores. Nothing from America comes cheap in Brasil. If you want to make a favorite recipe that calls for Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, for instance, prepare to spend upwards of ten reais (equivalent of around $5) for one 10 oz. can of soup. Budweiser beer is available, but it will cost you about double that of a Brasilian brand. Beer in Brasil is pretty good, so that wasn’t as hard a pill to swallow as say, my craving for brownies made with walnuts. Walnuts and other nuts, such as pecans, almonds and filberts, will cost you almost $10 a pound. So what do you do? You adjust. You learn to make your own soup out of fresh or canned mushrooms, and you wait until the holidays, when nuts are cheaper and buy them and freeze them for future use. In fact, you learn a lot about yourself when you realize that a bottle of American barbeque sauce will cost you the equivalent of a week’s salary. Drink enough Brasilian beer, and those little packets of ketchup never tasted so good.