Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Sunday, 25 November 2007


A couple of days ago, Tat went with me to the dermatologist. We were running late and didn't know where we were going. The bus took us to about a mile away from the clinic. There was so much to photograph, but Tat kept me in check and I only managed one photograph. So sad. We were told to be there at 9:30am, but only got in some time after 11am. I was ravenous. We hadn't eaten yet. We stopped off at a 'coffee shop' afterwards for some very stale, dry, heartburn-promoting coxinha, which we washed down with passable cappuccino.

We were dying to try out a Christmas shop we saw, which turned out to be an unusually well-decorated dollar store. They had a life-size Santa doll dancing and singing in the window. My rather exhuberant daughter soon got into the Christmas spirit and nearly took the shop down with her. She has a cut to show for it on her hand. Naturally, it was the tinsel that jumped out and attacked her.

We went into a cafe so she could wash her hand, then started tramping up and down this very long commercial road trying to find our way home. The honey sellers, beyond thinking we were a little 'touched', tried very hard to sell us their bottles of honey. I refuse to buy unless it has a corn cob stopper, purely because I'm dying to photograph this phenomenon. These feeble honey sellers had cork stoppers in their bottles. Don't they know anything? They did tell Tat that pretty ladies don't pay though. We should have taken them up on their offer.

It took us a while, but we eventually found our way to the bus stop, courtesy of the first helpful police man I have encountered here. The bus ride was uneventful and we got home early enough, so we stopped off at the post office. Christmas!! I got a book I had ordered, Green Pharmacy and Tat got some postcards from Harieta in Romania (sweet girl). Then our package finally arrived from Anne. She had mailed our Christmas gifts in September in the face of her move to Holland. She sent me a shopping bag (what's with that??). Tat got a teddy-related bag and keyring and Jorge got a gorgeous clock. The clock was really a family gift, but she knew Jorge would have to put it together ; ) Then there was the pig...
A pink flying pig! Now Anne hates pink as much as I do. She bought us each one of these pigs, so we could 'connect' across the miles. Uh... yes, Anne... definitely. Its a perfect example of her humour though and the fact that she knew I'd get a laugh out of it. The whole thing is so absurd and totally crazy.... but so funny! Someone please tell me what the hook on the end of its snout is for!

After a supper of leftover mac 'n cheese - always better the next night, Jorge headed off to bed. He likes to go to bed shortly after the sparrows do. Tat and I were clearing up the kitchen when I scrunched up the paper bag from the bread rolls, ready to toss it, except, it didn't go into the rubbish bin, but at Tat! She tossed it back and the war was on. It wouldn't have been so bad if we both lacked the usual large motor co-ordination skills required for ball play (I was always the last to be chosen for school teams), but we were laughing so hard, that throwing the 'ball' with any reasonable form of aim was well nigh impossible. I can't remember how long we kept that up. Yesterday, a random shot with the paper ball started us off again. Today, we both felt the 'ball' needed to be memorialised for posterity, so here it is ; )

Ah... the simple joys...

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Picture Perfect - Harvest

Photo taken with a Canon SD10 digital elph. Feel free to click on the image for a larger version.

The Picture Perfect theme for this week nearly 'had' me. I live in a huge metropolis, which is not known for it's vast expanses of corn fields ; ) I'm posting early to satisfy the curiosity of certain individuals and because I'll be out for most of tomorrow (and by Friday, I'd have forgotten what I was going to post).

I was looking through my photos in a rather desultory manner, not holding out much hope for the perfect photo, when I remembered the Ataiba Flores e Morangos Festival we went to in 2005.

Ataiba is a small town to the south of us. Every year, it has a festival celebrating the coming of spring and the strawberry harvests. This 'mermaid' was in the underwater theme section.

There were other themes. A Japanese palace theme where the entire figure of a lady in traditional kimono was made of flowers. Although there was a lot of Japanese, the main entertainment section was Russian. Two nationalities one doesn't associate with Brazil offhand.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Lazy hazy Sunday

The sky is blue today, scattered with fluffs of clouds, drifting along. The air is warm and mellow. I doubt it will stay that way. Chasing the fluffy white clouds are some heavier ones, but we will enjoy this while it's here.

Jorge was outside finishing off my latest chopping board. The photo of him woodworking is from last year when he was making our biltong box, but the scene is virtually identical. Jorge is incredibly good at woodwork and he loves doing it. He's limited here because of the weather and having no under cover place to do it. I have often said he could make a living out of his woodwork, though it has brought in a fair amount of pocket money. The trouble with Jorge is that the moment his hobby starts earning, he loses interest. It's no longer fun then.

The chopping boards get bigger and more decorative with every one he makes. This board must weigh all of 5kg (11lb). It's huge! I'll sneak outside and take a photo in a minute.
The wood is Ipé fumaça, one of the Ipé family. Ipé is a protected tree here. It's rare to see one in the city. Isn't the tree beautiful? We seldom get our wood from dealers, though this piece was bought by Jorge. He usually finds his wood in hoppers or demolition sites.

I had a chuckle at Romany while I was out there. He likes nothing more than to sleep in the sawdust at the foot of Jorge's 'workbench', regardless of the noise of the machinery going on overhead. I went to take a photo and he had no intention of moving an inch. I prodded him with my foot and all I got was a yawn... so a yawn is just what you're getting. Tat said he looked like roadkill. I personally think he looks like he's having a laugh at our expense.

There! I have christened my new chopping board. The bread I baked came out beautifully. We miss 'real' bread here. We only get bread rolls that are crusty and pure air on the inside. This bread is sooo easy to bake. I have the recipe up. It didn't come out too badly considering I don't have bread pans. Excuse me now if you please... I'm off to steal another slice. I worked off a lot of calories kneading that lot, you know ; )

Gosh, this house is lined in sawdust!

Picture Perfect - Repetition

Taken with a Canon Rebel XT. Do click on the image for a larger version.

When I mentioned what the theme is for this week, Jorge got all excited and listed a bunch of photographic candidates. He was running around getting items, lining them up, trying them this way and that. All I had to do was take photos. I must say, I got some pretty spiffy photos of some really humdrum household stuff. Perhaps I'll put them here anyway... for your amusement.

My final choice for today's theme wasn't a photo I took today. To me, technology is simply a half-hearted (though mankind tries really hard) attempt at copying nature. Just look at this palm... the repetition in the leaves. The mere spacing between the leaves is near perfect. Then there's the rows upon rows of fruits. This is where repetition really comes in. I have a zoomed in photo of those 'beads' and you'd never say it comes off the lowly palm.
Let me give you a laugh with this afternoon's playing then...

Jorge wanted me to show the rows of blades and the rows of little dots along the blades, then I caught sight of the shadow, repeating the pattern of the blades... naturally, my eye was drawn to the contrast with the wood and the repetitive pattern in the grain too.

I nearly didn't post this one. After all, who wants to see my broom anyway??? Then again, if you want repetition, this is definitely it!

My first choice had been this drill bit that I found tucked away in Jorge's toolbox. It's actually a monster of a drillbit, thicker than my thumb (saves me looking up conversions). The wood it's lying on is a turkey-carving board Jorge is making for me in time for Christmas.
Yes, I know there are 4 photos! I'm a brat... I know it... yep!

Vinte cinco de Março

Today, we made the trip into town to visit Vinte cinco de Março. There are many roads here named as dates. I have no idea what the significance of that date is, but to any Paulistano (a resident of São Paulo), Vinte cinco de Março is... well... a shopping essential, though Tat says it is definitely not essential. It's not our favourite place to go. It's crowded. The kind of crowd that picks you up and carries you along. It's fairly hazardous as well. I'd say, if it is a shopping mecca, it falls in that category for the pickpockets. Vinte cinco is where locals get their carnival trimmings, fantasy costumes, beadwork, jewelry... and let's not forget that its a haven for anything 'generic'. This is also where the 'dollar stores' buy their bits and bobs in bulk. We took the bus to Liberdade, which is São Paulo's version of Chinatown, except that it's Japanese. We popped into a stationery and bookstore, so that Tat could stock up on origami paper. We then went down into the underground metro to go to Est. São Bento, named after the huge church resting on the lip of it's gaping entrance. There, we stopped for a bite to eat, as it was lunch time and also to gear ourselves up for the descent into the madhouse that is Vinte cinco.

The road going down into Vinte cinco is steep. Everyone has their own way of coping with the angle ; ) The road going down is Ladera Porto Geral. 'Ladera' is 'hill'... rather an understatement. The horrible part of going down that hill is knowing we have to go back up at the end of the day when we're exhausted from shopping.

We were grateful, though, that the area was quiet today, not the usual crowds. Saturday morning will be a different story entirely... the road becomes totally impassable.

I'm so pleased I got this photo. The gypsies here fascinate me and I'm always trying to snap photos of them while they're not looking, as they can be rather... persistant once you get their attention.

Ah... finally... carnival gear! I needed to get some feather boas for a friend. The carnival trimmings aren't looking that great right now. The professional costume makers for carnival have long since bought what they need and the regular folk only go into carnival mode after Christmas. I struggled to get the little I did get.

Carnival was being usurped by Santa!

Whew! Walking space! Many of the bead shops were in little interior alleyways and many flights of stairs up, so we were really footsore by this part of the shopping trip.

The threat of rain cleared a lot of the hawkers, but the mimes were still going strong. That hill doesn't look so bad from here, but try walking it with shopping in tow and aching feet.

Back at Liberdade, I caught another gypsy. This one is a strange lady. She can usually be found with a cigar thicker than my arm decorating her lips. Ok, that was a gross exaggeration, but even Jorge commented on how fat the cigar was.

Finished! Uh... no comments please. I needed the sustenance for the trip home. My energy levels were really low. Yes, I know there are a thousand healthier things that would also have given me energy, but..... ; )

Graphic etiquette

This is the art I was working on yesterday and today. I say 'art' very loosely and with poetic license. Oh, who am I trying to fool... 'poetic'? I get these odd requests, being the resident 'artist' for the local pub. Talk about grand distinctions! Psh! This time, they wanted one of their patrons done up as a mermaid. They all went deep sea fishing recently and the above photo was taken on that occasion. Decorating their wall are various 'works'. One is the morph I did of Jorge as Shrek. Another was to create a package illustration of one of the patrons where he would resemble a pig eating a corn cob. It was based on a popular bar snack, which has an illustration of a pig eating a corn cob. Then there was the monkey on the motor cycle, which was done in mockery of one of their patrons who is a traffic officer, or as they call them here... a 'brownie', as they dress in brown uniforms. What do I get for this? Well, Jorge gets a few free beers out of the deal. I did manage to get Jorge to pour me a drink tonight with some heavy hints though.

Then the man returned from the pub with grandiose talk of etiquette. This was rich coming from someone who is very sparing with this subject at home. I think he simply doesn't want to wear his etiquette out in case he needs it in an emergency. He was going on about napkins. His point was that you always put a napkin on your lap, the only exception being when you're eating spagetti. Then you are permitted to tuck it into your collar, bib style. I said, as far as I knew, there were no occasions in formal eating, beyond the age of 2, where using your napkin as a bib was acceptable. Nope, he said, he was raised using a napkin as a bib with spagetti. I asked him if he had ever tested this theory in a restaurant, knowing full well he only eats spagetti when I force it on him at home. He hates the stuff, precisely because he has no control over where all that sauce goes.

I researched it and got sidetracked. I love reading etiquette articles. I found a couple of really good ones:

So here goes... Tell me what you understand to be the proper use of the napkin in a formal dinner setting ; )

Friday, 09 November 2007

Picture Perfect - Looking Through

Photo taken with a Canon SD10 Digital Elph

if you could look
through my skin
into my mind
into my soul

what would you see

would you see
the flaws
that catch
the light

would you see
the stains
that make
odd patterns

would you see
the damage
the years
have wrought

would you see
the whole
and choose
me anyway

because i'm different

© tint

The Picture Perfect theme for this week is "Looking through". The photo is of my crystal. When I went crystal shopping, I heard words like 'flawless', 'perfect', 'unmarred', 'not dirty'. I found crystals that matched those words, but didn't like them. I ended up buying a crystal that was like me.... a crystal that was flawed, but carried a flame in its heart.

Wednesday, 07 November 2007

It's official! The world has gone mad

When I switch on my pc, I read the news, then I check my mail, after which I check my blog worlds. Yes, I have a few ;)

The first thing that caught my eye this morning was a photo of a young boy and girl in a ballroom setup. The story was about the revival of the cadets in Russia. "A Russian cadet leads a girl for a waltz during a grand cadet ball in an old estate in Moscow, Russia, November 4, 2007. Cadet schools are reestablishing the old Russian tradition. Grand balls usualy were devoted to the biggest historic events, as the one that marks the day of liberation from Polish occupation in 1612. (Sergei Chirikov/EPA)" My first thought was that that was wonderful. It is part of their history and their culture. I have always maintained that just because there is something wrong with a society, it doesn't mean you abolish all parts of it. That is akin to tossing your entire pantry because a slice of bread goes moldy.

One person commented that "I think that teaching children how to act "proper" is all well and good, but in Russia, these children are FORCED into military schools at ages of 5 and 6. They are also brain washed into thinking that "mother russia" is all that matters. They have kind of a 1940's german outlook on life. Russia has some issues that I find to be just flat out wrong." Personally, I feel that if anyone has a 1940's German (I say that hesitatingly because it also shows labelling and prejudice) attitude, it is this person. So Russia has issues, but then, so does South Africa, USA, Australia, Timbaktu. The kid was 'forced' into cadets at the age of 5? Heck, kids get 'forced' into education at that age. What kid of that age can book himself into (or out of) an institution or a way of life? Brainwashed? Hm... yes... he is probably being brainwashed into showing some etiquette, something sadly lacking in a large part of today's world.

The next article had me dumbfounded. A girl is given detention for hugging her friends. What next? I appreciate that the school is trying to rule out a certain kind of behaviour, but what are they teaching the children... that affection is bad? Actually, yes, that is what they're teaching. Their school handbook says: “Displays of affection should not occur on the school campus at any time. It is in poor taste, reflects poor judgment, and brings discredit to the school and to the persons involved.” Tell me if this isn't somewhat warped thinking.

I think the news sites were on a roll, as I went straight into yet another article. This one is of a school that has banned games like tag. Why? Because it's dangerous. I do know that falling out of bed and hitting your head can be dangerous, so that makes waking up in the morning pretty hazardous. One mother commented in the article: "I've witnessed enough near collisions." I wonder if her child flies to school to avoid near collisions on the way. I'm sorry. I know that last comment was probably very extremist too, but...

To protect my child, I'd have had to put her in a bubble from birth. She's been on a collision course with life since the day she took her first breath. Heck, she's even proud of her collection of scars she's gathered on the way. Oh... and she hugs. She hugs a lot. She'd hug more if she could. Cadets... she'd give anything to take part. She loves uniforms, rituals, formality and organised cameradie. And yes, she will, no doubt comment on this blog, saying all the right things, but that is because I've brainwashed her ;-)

Tuesday, 06 November 2007

A gem of a plant

Its dull, grey and wet here today. Coolish too. We just saw a news report and photos of snow a few feet deep in Columbia. What's that about? They're right on the equator!

Remember a while ago I blogged about planting my gem squash seeds? I was worried that they wouldn't come up, as the seeds expired in July this year. A few came up. Then the dogs decided they'd love a taste of this strange new herb. They regularly eat my herbs :( They uprooted a few of the young seedlings and munched at others. I 'transplanted' a couple back into the pot and hoped. The third time they uprooted them, I found some mesh and tied it over the pot. They're doing well now, as you can see in the photo. My lavender died. I have a feeling the squash will climb the lavender stem in this pot. Jorge stuck two of the squash seedlings in there, as the lavender was already long gone. I'm going against all the rules of squash growing as it is by planting them in a pot and hoping for a harvest, but even if I just get a few squash, I'll be thrilled. I'll send seeds to all my needy squash-deprived friends out of this harvest... promise! Never mind customs. I'm becoming a customs pro lol

For those who don't know what gem squash is, its a squash that, to my knowledge, is exclusively South African, though, at the rate the expats are going, it's fast becoming international. Here is a pic I found of some squash. This lot was grown in Australia. The average size of a gem is about that of a large apple. The outer skin is hard, though often cooks soft and I love to eat it with my squash. Back home, we serve our squash with salt and a dollop of butter or, as my gran raised me to, with sugar and butter!! Then there's the ever-popular gem squash served with creamed sweetcorn and butter, often topped with cheese. I'm drooling as I'm typing this. If you want more info and a delicious-looking recipe, here is another expat blogging on gem squash: cooksister (I believe her name comes from koeksister, which has me drooling for yet another South African institution *sigh*)

Let me get a move on now and off to the kitchen. I'm going to start a batch of aniseed rusks ;) Want some? We've not had any since moving to Brazil. I finally found a recipe that doesn't involve buttermilk, which we don't have here.

From Wiki, on rusks:"In South Africa, 'rusk' normally means the biscuit, which is considered a traditional food (called beskuit in Afrikaans) and is eaten after having been dipped in coffee or (less often) tea. Historically, rusks evolved (along with biltong) during the country's early pioneering days as a way to preserve bread in the dry climate. It was traditionally baked at home, but there are now several mass-market versions available, the most famous probably being Ouma Rusks. Many bakeries, dellis and home industries also sell them, often using more exotic ingredients than their mass-market counterparts. In addition to the traditional "plain" and buttermilk flavours, flavours available, such as wholewheat, condensed milk, muesli, and lemon poppyseed are available."

Oh, I just found an interesting article on Ouma Rusks at Wikipedia. While you go off to read that, let me share the recipe I'm going to use today. For those who don't know rusks, do try it for a taste of South Africa. They're delicious dunked in coffee, the bigger the mug, the better. Some folk even dunk them in tea ;)

Aniseed rusks
1 kg (2lb) cake flour + 2 cups
7 g (half a teaspoon) salt
250 g (8oz - about a cup) butter
30 ml (2 tablespoons) whole anise seeds
20 g (0.6oz - a tablespoon... just measured the package) instant yeast
300 g (9oz) sugar
1 egg
300 ml (0.6 pints) water

1. Sift flour and salt together. Rub butter into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the anise seeds, yeast and sugar.
2. Make a hollow in the flour. Break the egg into the center. Add the water slowly, stirring and checking consistancy. You may need a little more flour. Knead until elastic.
3. Cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until double in size. Don't knock back.
4. Shape into balls and place in a deep bread tin sprayed with nonstick baking spray. Leave to rise until even with the edge of the tin.
5. Place rusks in the oven, preheated to 200 °C (390°F), immediately reduce temperature to 180 °C (350°F), and bake for 45 minutes.
6. Remove from tin. Leave rusks to cool completely before breaking them apart (do not cut with a knife).
7. Dry out in the oven at 100 °C (200°F).

Picture Perfect - Fall

Picture Perfect is now Foto Friday and this week's theme is Fall. I live in a part of the world where fall as a season is a myth. Summer simply fades into winter... or sometimes not at all. Finding a photo was an interesting exercise, so I settled on this one. Click on the photo for a larger version.
"Now, ma'm, tuck your feet in there. That's right... your knees must go right under the wings. Hold on tight. No, you won't fall. I'm going to free the ostrich now. You ready?"
For the record, the underside of an ostrich's wings is very bony and uncomfortable. The lady in the photo is my step-aunt on holiday from Scotland. I did not take the photo. I did fall off an ostrich that day though ;)
I'm rather impressed with this photo. I didn't take the photo (yes, I cheated), but I did fix it. This is from one of my slides. You can see the original here.

Thursday, 01 November 2007

Where I am

I often speak of 'going to the village' or 'going into town'. It has occurred to me that there are a lot of misconceptions in those two phrases, especially to those who are fairly new to my friends list. Where I live is by no means a 'village' and 'town' is something of a misnomer.

I live in a neighbourhood called Vila Zelina. It holds the Lithuanian community of São Paulo. Vila Zelina is situated on the outskirts of the city. I call it the village more because of its atmosphere. The village is centered around the square (it's round) and the church. Though there are many churches and denominations here, this Catholic church is known as 'a igreja' or 'the church'. The houses are built on top of each other much like all São Paulo suburbs, but there are fewer apartment blocks. In the slide show, you'll see a couple of photos of how we look down on the neighbouring suburbs. We're very high up here, which is a good thing in terms of all the rain Brazil is capable of.

São Paulo, the city itself, is another story. Vila Zelina is in São Paulo. São Paulo is the financial center of Brazil. It consists of the central city and outlying municipalities, altogether known as the greater São Paulo. The greater São Paulo has a population of around 20 million. When I speak of going into town, I mean going into the São Paulo city center. Sê is the heart of São Paulo. All streets are numbered and named from that point. The edges of the greater São Paulo extend up to a radius of 30km (18 miles) from that central point. That is a lot of people to squeeze into that area! Our traffic jams here are measured in kilometers. Tonight the backed up traffic totalled to 197km (122 miles). This city is Big!

I hope this gives you all a better idea of the world I live in and why I often speak of going into town as though it's a major adventure.

Do I or don't I?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Naturally, I do. I don't want to, but I will.

Jorge had to go into the village yesterday to resolve a tax issue. It was hot again. We've had a couple of days of what I consider typical Brazil weather, blazingly hot day with temperatures around 97°F (37°C) and thunderstorms in the late afternoon, early evening. He took very long coming home, which surprised me, as we've all been pretty much staying indoors to escape the heat. It turns out, he had met up with a buddy of his who asked him about English classes. It's well known around here that we're English speaking. He told this friend that I was the one who taught and that I'd give him a call later to arrange classes.

This is where the "do I or don't I" comes in. When we moved here, I gave up my students. The travel time and cost made it impractical to continue, as they were all right in town. One student would require 3 buses. For the amount I earned, it wouldn't be worth it at all. At first, I thought of taking up with an English school here, but once we'd moved in, I got hopeful that I could earn a living with my photo restoration and photography. I've been trying to phone this prospective student, but so far haven't managed to catch him at home. Typically, they only want an hour a week anyway, so its not such a big deal. We'll see how that goes.

Today, we got caught in a heavy storm rainfall when going into the village. We got thoroughly soaked and enjoyed it immensely. This evening, while figuring out the colour codes for my page here, I was listening to Andy Stewart (courtesy of Paula) who I found quite by accident.

I grew up listening to Andy Stewart. My grandad, Jim, as many of you know already, was a Scot. I think he would listen to Scottish Soldier when he was feeling homesick. He must surely have been homesick at some point. I can understand that. Hm.... perhaps I'll put some music in here. Everyone knows "Scottish soldier", but who of you know what this song is all about.......

Did I lose you there?