Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Brazilian Christmas cookies and other traditions

After reading a post recently that basically summarized the "lack of knowledge" regarding Brazilian Christmas traditions, I started thinking about the whole subject and what are Brazilian Christmas traditions.
I know Christmas is over and all but maybe you can capitalize on this information for next year and be more well informed.
My family, given the European background has many "Stollen" traditions. (Ha! Fiona, I don't know how I never made that connection before ;) ).
Yes, as well mentioned on a comment by dear blogger friend, Fiona, yes, we have "Stollen de Natal" in Brazil, also known as "Bolo Alemao de Natal".
My grandmother's original German recipe used candied fruit, nuts and raisins, however if I could say there is a Brazilian tradition trend here, I would have to mention my grandmother has been making "Stollen de Natal" with chocolate chips and some Brazilians even make it with goiabada bits, now THAT is Brazilian.
Gil's grandparents and his mother make "Stollen de Natal" with figs, that is how his family makes it.
His grandmother has an old fig tree at her house. They love figs, LOVE IT!
My family has also always made a traditional Christmas cookie called "Rosquinha de Pinga" which is a very simple type of sugar cookie with lots of Cachaca, the alcohol evaporates so don't worry, nobody get's drunk over Pinga cookies, they are awesome and my mother, grandmother and aunt have already planned to make Gil and I a batch and send it over with my cousin coming to New York city in two weeks for a Trade Show.
I called my mother who emailed me grandma's "Stollen" recipe but grandma will not share her Christmas Cookie recipe. She will only teach you how to make this one in person. ;)
I talked with grandma on the phone and we are gonna have an Expat's Blogger's meeting next year where she will teach all present how to make the traditional Brazilian Christmas cookie or "Rosquinha de Pinga".


Brazilian Christmas Cookie-Rosquinha de Pinga

We will get Brazilian Christmas Cookies "Rosquinhas de Pinga" and our favorite Melitta coffee which we are almost out.
We can hardly wait for the goodies coming our way :)

Here is my Grandmother's "Stollen de Natal" recipe:

Traditional "Bolo de Natal Alemao" or "Stollen de Natal"
Some people make it round instead of rectangular


-2    tablets of fresh yeast ( 2 packets of yeast-the refrigerated type )
-1/2 cup of sugar
-1    tea spoon of salt
-1    Stick of melted butter
-1    Cup of warm milk
-1    Whole Egg
-1    Egg yolk
-1/2 Kilogram of wheat flour ( 1 pound )
-1/2 Cup of chopped Walnuts
-1/2 Cup of raisins
-1/2 Cup of chopped dried fruit (comfit)
-1    Cup of confectioners sugar (powered sugar)

How to make it:

Mix in the packets/tablets of yeast, the salt and sugar. Pour in the melted butter, the milk, the egg yolk and the eggs and mix it well (according to my grandma) with a wooden spoon until it's all well blended.
Add the flour slowly to the mix, always stirring well until all the flour has been added to the mix.
Place your dough over a floured kitchen counter and press the dough to push the air out.
Cover the dough with a clean cloth and leave it to rest for 1 hour.
After 1 hour resting, mix in the walnuts, the dried fruit and raisins to the dough.

Brazilian Version:
At this point if you are making the Brazilians version of "Stollen de Natal" instead of the raisins and the dried fruit you need to add your chocolate chips or goiabada bits into the dough.

Brazilianized Chocolate Stollen

Confeitaria Cristina, an Austrian Bakery in Sao Paulo makes the apricot stollen.

Fold the dough in half and shape it in a rectangle of 12X20 inches or 30X50cm, fold it again from the wider sides inwards toward the center without touching the two borders.
Place it in a greased baking pan and cover it with a clean cloth and let it rest until it doubles in size.
Bake it at 350F degrees in a pre heated oven for 30 minutes.
Cover it with powered sugar and serve.

If you are lucky enough to live in Sao Paulo and lazy to bake just take a look at this AWESOME AUSTRIAN BAKERY IN SAO PAULO  Confeitaria Cristina and you can buy your Stollen over there.
By the way, you can also find all sorts of Brazilian Christmas Cookies at Confeitaria Cristina like the ones on the pictures below.

Brazilian Christmas Cookies at Confeitaria Cristina in Sao Paulo 

Brazilian Christmas Cookies at Cristina Bakery in Sao Paulo
Brazilian Christmas Cookies with the Brazilian Christmas figurine at Confeitaria Cristina in Sao Paulo

Monday, December 27, 2010

New England living

Life in New England is absolutely amazing, however, hard work is a constant if you choose to live in a house in the suburbs.
Gil and I have debated for years now if we should just sell and move to a townhouse or a condo in the city.
We would loose the walks on the beach, the calm life, the complete lack of fear from crime, there is basically zero crime around is really nice.
Living in the burbs presents a lot of challenges to these big city raised Brazilians...
We were used to ride the subway to work and school, NEVER did any yard work in our lives before.
Always lived in high rise condo type apartments.
I didn't even know how to change a light bulb when we moved here. I would probably be hiring an electrician for fear of being electrocuted, it's all changed.
Now, it's a different story my friends. I have learned carpentry, plumbing, painting, YARD WORK, gutter cleaning, snow shoveling...
Fall is probably the worse, most work we have to do in a single season.
This is how it goes, we procrastinate, procrastinate until the last possible Fall day and finally pick up all the remaining batch of leaves, just when we hear the news of a Blizzard on the way, then we know there is no more procrastinating, either pull up our sleeves and pick up the leaves or risk leaving it under a foot of snow until next April and have to replace your entire lawn in the Spring, don't even ask me how, but we found out what happens if you leave your leaves buried under snow, covering your grass all thru the winter...UGH!!!
This is the end result of our many hours of labor:

The last batch of leaves for 2010-Alleluia!!! We did it!

Two trucks full of bagged leaves
We were really proud of our work until we called the city and found out the last leaves pick up came around last week, we are on our own to get rid of it.
This meant that we were going to have to haul ALL THESE bags to the city's organic dump ourselves :(
Thank God for good neighbors, Mike, from across the street offered to help me with his pick up truck.
We had to pile the bags three rolls high and make 2 trips to the city dump, a lot of hard work.
But we did it, just in time for BLIZZARD 2010 to hit and bury us under a good 20 some inches of snow, because the wind has being blowing so hard, up to 60MPH, there are some spots with a couple inches and some drifts several feet high.
I took some pictures during the day at our beach where we take Okie for a walk everyday and also at our home at night at the high of the storm.
Here are some pictures of our day time adventures:

Around 3:30pm yesterday, our local beach

Okie making sure he marked EVERY tree! God forbid some squirrel forgets who's territory they were on... :)

Okie attempting to step off the board walk and into the beach, testing the dept of the snow...

Exploring the board walk. We love the beach when it's snows, there is NOBODY around, it's like a private beach!
We love living up here. We hated every minute living in Florida, mainly because of redneck mentality the heat and a few other things such as giant reptiles all over the place...but that's subject for another post...
The cold is our friend. We set our thermosthats at 50F degrees around the house and turn it completely off in our bedroom, you could keep frozen meat in under our bed and it would be just fine. We are both always burning up.
Our house has a fireplace so we get the fire going and I love the smell of burning wood. Hot cocoa, home baked cookies, popcorn and watching DVD movies.
We are comfortable and happy with this weather, love the snow, the ice and above all we love the New England people, their mentality and the lifestyle we are able to maintain here.
Happy couple in the burbs enjoying a very quiet life.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

The blizzard of 1978!

Nothing terrifies Rhode Islanders more than snow on the forecast.
Any news of snow set people running to the stores for BREAD and MILK, which is THE comfort food if you can't cook and if you run out of electricity and get snowed in for a whole week or two, it's just the Rhode Island thing to do.
The first years we moved here we got really worried to watch the panic around us.
We really thought something serious was going on, it was a sort of panic we had just witnessed in Florida during the 2 hurricanes we faced in 2004 when we lived in Hollywood.
The shear panic, people cleaning out grocery store shelves. It is a scary thing to watch, no matter how calm, cool and collected you might be, you get infected with the hysteria and start buying BREAD and MILK along with everybody else.
You would probably wonder why such panic, once New Englanders are so used to frequent snow storms.
If you are wondering about that, you haven't heard of the BLIZZARD OF 1978!!!!

Blizzard of 1978, killed 99 people across the Region

It completely paralyzed the state of Rhode Island and the Boston metropolitan area, 99 people died, mostly frozen inside their cars stuck on the highways around area, 73 in Massachusetts and 27 in Rhode Island, 1950 cars abandoned on Rhode Island highways and 3500 cars abandoned around Boston highways, which completely blocked the roads.

27 People died in Rhode Island and 73 in Massachusetts, most froze to death inside their cars

This tragedy wasn't as much about the amount of snow, there had been other storms with more snow, such as the blizzard of 1969 which dumped the biggest amount of snow ever in the region.
The Blizzard of 78 became a tragedy due to poor forecasting and the amount of cars on the highway during the heaviest part of the storm.
The weather service wasn't as precise as today so they got a lot of misses on the previous months, telling people about storms that never came.
What happened was that people got too comfortable and started not to believe the weather forecasting anymore...people ignored the weather forecast that specific day and went to work downtown Boston and downtown Providence...the results were tragic...
Area highways were blocked with cars, buses and trucks buried under huge snow drifts.
The national guard had to helicopter Army bulldozer into the area two weeks later because the roads were littered with abandoned cars, some with dead people inside.
The Army was forced to bulldoze cars in piles as if they were toys to try and clear the highways so the Red Cross could bring help into the region.
I found this slide that summarizes the Blizzard of 78 with facts and pictures.
Click HERE for the slide with facts and pictures from the Blizzard of 78.

People were snowed in for 2 weeks during the Blizzard of 78
The reason I am writing about this blizzard is because we have a BLIZZARD WARNING for Sunday all day into Monday!
We are fully prepared, we have extra wood for the fireplace in case we loose power, our heating is gas and all the gas lines are underground...our Ford Expedition is 4x4 and has a full tank of gasoline.
We don't have to go anywhere anyway, so we will just watch the snow from inside our little old Cape Cod house and take pictures to post here on a post blizzard piece.
These old Cape style houses weren't made for heat but they are sturdy and perfect for harsh blizzards, so bring it on mother nature, wind, snow and power outrages!
We are ready!



Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Real Christmas!


Brazilian Santa Claus figurine. Sits on top of my mother's piano, it has been in our family for many decades

There is no such thing as a Brazilian Christmas and there is no such thing as an American Christmas.
Christmas traditions were brought to the new world across the big pond by the waves of immigrants that came from Europe.
Christmas in Brazil is as similar to Christmas in the United States as the immigrants that formed both nations.
Brazilian Christmas have more European elements brought over from Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine, Poland and even from Christian Lebanese.
The United States has Christmas elements from Germany, Norway, Sweden, England, Wales, France, Russia among many others...
Do you see the similarities?
I do, I have experienced Christmas in Brazil for more than 20 years and have experienced Christmas in the United States for almost 20 years now, so trust me, there are very subtle differences besides the weather being cold in the US and summer in Brazil.
Very popular in Brazil, Italy and Switzerland. Panettone has always been a strong Brazilian Christmas tradition brought most certainly from Italy and Switzerland and it is increasing in the United States every year.
We can find it all over New England and we used to see it everywhere in Florida as well.
It is not hard to make the connection between Panettone and Fruit Cake, very similar cakes, both with European roots.
Panettone has been a tradition in Europe since the Roman Empire, thousands of years ago, even before the birth of Jesus Christ.
Ironically enough the most sold Panettone in the world today is Bauducco, a Brazilian Panettone brand from Sao Paulo.

Brazilian Bauducco Panettone, a Christmas staple for thousands of years 

Santa Claus wears heavy clothing because the traditions as we know started in countries such as Austria, Germany and Switzerland where it's cold during Christmas, not Kansas, Florida or Washington state...
So if you ask why Brazilian Santa Claus wears heavy velour? How ridiculous is that? Brazilian Santa Claus wearing heavy velour costumes...??
I will tell you what's up with that! If Santa Claus was Brazilian, Californian, Australian, New Zealander or Floridian he would be wearing a red speedo and he would be seen with a surf board instead of a sleigh, he would be seen with Emus and not Reindeers  :)

This is what a Brazilian Santa Claus would look like if Christmas was a Brazilian created tradition! Or Californian, or get the idea!  :)

I have the up most respect and love for my dear adopted country, the United States, but you don't know how many times I have wished all Americans would be required to take mandatory Geography and History in High School.
I have to say that childish blog rants about MY CHRISTMAS at the trailer park in KANSAS or my little town in WASHINGTON state being the REAL Christmas and everybody else's Christmas just sucking have gotten on my nerves this year!
Big TIME! Snap out of it!
You are not Kansas anymore or Washington state for that matter!
If you are not literate enough in world history, geography and common sense diplomacy to understand and respect different cultures other than your own and you are arrogant to the point that you believe Real Christmas songs are the ones you used to hear as a child, get over yourself, original Christmas songs were created mostly in German and they were translated to English the same way they were translated to Portuguese or French.
How arrogant to say YOUR CHRISTMAS songs are REAL! That you are the only one from a culture that has CHRISTMAS COOKIES, so you just write on your blog that BRAZIL has no Christmas traditions, no Christmas cookies, the songs you hear irritate you because they are in Portuguese, they are not real and everything is a mere imitation, really?
Decorated Palm trees? NO, Brazil has every species of EVERGREEN growing in abundance, there goes the lack of Geography classes again, you just need to travel a little around Sao Paulo, Minas, Rio or any Southern State to see mountains covered in all kinds of Pine trees and evergreens!

Brazilian Christmas tree farm. Sao Paulo state.

My father has always bought a REAL, EVERGREEN Christmas tree in Sao Paulo every year and they smell as good if not better than the ones I can buy in New England. They are sold in many corners of the city.

Natural Christmas trees for sale in Sao Paulo

If your Brazilian family has no Christmas traditions brought from Europe, where Christmas traditions were created, your Brazilian family is probably neither Christian nor of an European background and if they are, perhaps they are just the type that don't care for Christmas traditions, so please don't sell a wrong image of Brazil.
There were no Christmas traditions in Africa or within the Amazonian Indians for example so if your family is not of European tradition, it will be hard for them to teach you or share with you something they don't have or know little about.
Don't tell me Brazilians have no Christmas traditions, it is offensive, ignorant and NOT TRUE!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Affordable high end shoes in Brazil


As a segment of my previous RANT post, I thought it was only fair to share this hidden little secret in Brazil.
After a question posted by Ginger at my comment section on yesterday's post :

"GingerV said...

sorry another point. when I lived in the USA I bought Italian and BRAZILIAN shoe because they are the best.... made and materials.... so where are these shoes in BRAZIL? not they export the best.... does that make any sense to you?
December 23, 2010 5:23 AM

I called my mother and asked her about the store we used to go shopping for shoes in Sao Paulo that had all the great quality high end brands for very affordable prices and she told me not only they are still around but have expanded and now also have an online store.

Shoestock has great shoes and accessories such as belts, purses, bags, leather wallets for men and women, everything made out of the best quality leather and all hand made.

Shoestock's owners have strong connections with the main manufactures of shoes in Brazil that supply "Cole Haan" and other similar high end, high quality shoe brands and just like any other outlet system, they receive shipments from canceled orders from American or European merchants.


Franca, Sao Paulo, this large city is Brazil's largest shoe manufacturing center

Franca is one of Sao Paulo's wealthiest cities, it is a powerful manufacturing center with thousands of shoe factories

FRANCA, SAO PAULO is a large city that has the largest concentration of shoe factories in Brazil, that is where most of the shoes, purses and belts come from to supply Shoestock's inventories.

So, Shoestock will not have every Cole Haan shoe, purse, belt in every color and model you might see in your Cole Haan store at the same time, but they frequently receive shipments and it's fun to check to see what get in the door.

Their shoes and accessories prices are very reasonable and the quality is absolutely the best.
So, GINGER, you don't have to go to Sao Paulo, you can find your high end shoes at Shoestork on line, just follow the link on the top of the post.
I hope this tip helps.
Their prices are very reasonable.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nike Shox R4 U$382,00!!!!!

Ok, I didn't wanna go there, but I couldn't resist.
I have discussed many times on other blog's comment sections and even in here that there is an explanation you pay more for things in Brazil.
Long story short, it is the old story that Brazilians choose not to be flooded with cheap crap MADE IN CHINA and see it's industry dissolve like we are watching in the USA.
In theory, Brazil's choice is FAR SMARTER, it is no rocket science here, you choose to pay more for things so you can have your own factories and keep jobs home, ok, easy until here...
HOWEVER!!! There are some AWFUL, revolting discrepancies that are mind blogging to this Brazilian turned American here...


I just hope to GOD you don't owe a pair of these beauties  :) !!!

A pair of NIKE SHOX R 4 on sale for U$382,00!!!!!!!! that is R$649,00 !!!!! you can find this absurd on Netshoes, a Brazilian on line shoe store and they mention FREE DELIVERY, well, with that PRICE you could give me a FREE WEEKEND at a LUXURY SPA and I would still feel ROBBED.
What? Are you serious?
They cost little over U$100,00 at Foot Locker in the US and I have never even seen someone wearing one, by the way, maybe I don't pay attention, but I guarantee you, wearing a NIKE SHOX R4 is no status symbol in the Boston area.
Gil told me he saw a gazillion Brazilians wearing them at the Airport when we were flying back home, this is how he identified if someone was from Brazil at the airport, by their freaking sneakers!!!
Here is where my mind drifts away into the following image: It's Nazi Germany and Hitler decides to pick Brazilians among the crowds and he gives the order to his SS soldiers, THEY ALL WEAR NIKE SHOX, it will be easy to pick them out of a crowd, just round up every idiot wearing a Nike that attempts to cross into Hey! I can joke about Hitler, I am half Jew : )  ! )
I identify Brazilians by the way they look at you staring with no discretion, but that's another discussion for another day.
People around New England look down on brand names and people showing off anything, the in thing to do here has always been "to be discreet" and "frugal". Frugality is a HUGE characteristic of New Englanders, not Miami by any means of the imagination, but thank GOD and the sweet baby Jesus we don't live Florida anymore and I don't have to see my neighbours wearing PRADA shoes and driving the latest, most expensive BMW model, wearing a lot of cologne in 120F degree weather.
We drive old Saabs and old Volvos around here with very few exceptions, wear Levi's jeans and most people don't know what PRADA means and don't care to find out!  :)
New Englanders pride themselves in saving money in any way they can, my 97 year old neighbor, who fought in WWII, have told me the story when he built a snow blower with an old engine from his 1962 Buick Roadmaster, that is one massive snow blower, it is still working by the way, but his daughter in Buffalo uses it now. She is the only one who sees enough snow to justify a snow blower made from a V8 Buick engine....oh, you gotta love Mr. Mahoney's stories!  :)
Geez, I get side tracked like nobodies business, back to my expensive NIKE RANT!
I have never paid more than 40 dollars for a pair of sneakers, they are tennis shoes for Christ sakes!!!
What are these people thinking!!!!!!
When my old sneakers are falling a part I usually buy a new pair at SAM'S Club along with my cereal and my bananas and I spend all of 30 seconds to choose it. Sam's Club usually carries ONE type/color sneakers so I just have to make sure I pick my correct size, it's usually 30 some dollars, never over 40, N E V E R !!!
I have read in a couple of blogs that it is the ultimate status symbol to own one of this awful looking things in Brazil, :(  !!!!
These are things that make me realize how Americanized and out touch with Brazil I have become in the past 13 years living in the US and that is mostly why I read so many Expats living in Brazil blogs, in hopes to learn from what you guys are going thru during your adaptation processes and what we have to look forward when we move back home.
I DO think that it is great that every thing is MADE IN BRAZIL and you guys don't import hardly anything, BUT COME ON People, this is just crossing too many lines on my book!
Ok, now, please don't you all write me and tell me you all have a pair of Nike Shox and make me feel like an idiot!
And again if you do! I will just have console myself in the fact that YOU are probably way to BRAZILIANIZED yourself  already...   :)
: )

Rant over, feel the blood pressure coming down now...


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Our favorite New England Tradition

Apple Cider Mills
A Taste of New England, Tradition and Family

Gil and I discovered this delicious New England tradition many years ago and it is very special for us because we can only get it between September and the end of December when our favorite Apple Cider mill harvests the last batch of apples.
The Apple Cider Mills have been a New England tradition for centuries, every village with apple orchards had their own Apple Cider Mill, which mostly made hard cider, a fermented apple juice similar to wine, hard cider was for many years the mainly alcoholic beverage drunk in many New England villages, the mill owners rented their equipment to local farmers who used it to make their own cider as well.
During the Prohibition most of the Apple Cider Mills in New England were closed.
Very few Apple Cider Mills survived, and one LAST STANDING STEAM POWERED MILL in the entire United States, B.F.Clyde's in Mystic, Connecticut.

Clyde's Apple Cider Mill, Mystic, Connecticut

Clyde's steam powered Apple Cider Mill, Mystic, CT

We come back to Clyde's every fall to find our all time favorites:

Trust me on this, fresh Sweet Apple Cider tastes nothing like the ones we find in grocery stores 

Awesome Apple Cider Donut sold at Clyde's in Mystic, Connecticut

Clyde's Store on the last day of the season, December 18th

Clyde's store on the last day of the 2010 season

Hard working Clyde's ladies bottling the last batch of Apple Cider for the 2010 season 

Clyde's Sweet Apple Cider bottling

We avoid visiting the place during the weekends, it is insanity to park and huge lines all over the place, some people love that, we avoid the crowds and prefer to go during the week.
The place has huge historic importance and so I decided to also take a picture of the bronze plaque that tells a little bit about this wonderful place's history.

Click on the picture to enlarge it for better viewing

We are such big fans that we follow them on Facebook and we got the news about the last batch being bottled, so, once we have our priorities in all the right places, we dropped everything we drove south to Mystic to buy our last gallons of the best Sweet Apple Cider on earth.So, as we sip our last gallon of this golden nectar's dream I decided to share the pictures and one of New England's best kept secret with you.
They also sell apple butter, apple jam, apple jelly, local honey, apple pies, maple syrup, candy apples, fudge, pumpkins, kettle corn and off course APPLES among many other things.
We usually only buy Sweet Apple Cider and Apple Cider Donuts because you know, we are locals  ;)
The place really is a tourist paradise and tourist from all over the New York and Boston areas flock to Mystic year after year.

: )


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Being a savvy consumer in the US

Disclaimer: these facts are solely based on our personal experience as consumers in the US, Canada, Brazil and Europe.

When we moved to Dallas, in 1998, the consumer dynamics changed drastically, comparing prices was no longer as relevant as it was in Sao Paulo, in the US you literally get what you pay for, you buy a cheap mattress, the mattress will less you only a few years, you are almost always guaranteed to get something of lesser quality, in Sao Paulo it was very common to find the exact same product with huge price differences.
Unless you find a good sale on a certain product you are familiar with the price, you will be always getting what you are paying for, time after time.
This is why when in the US you are always better off buying the most expensive product which will be most likely the best quality and the best value, almost always, almost...
Below are some other situations to be aware of as a consumer while in the US.


Grocery stores here are very similar to Brazil in my experience.
I always got what I wanted when complaining about a certain issue, both at grocery stores in Sao Paulo and in every place we ever lived in the US, Texas, California, Florida, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Rest assure that you will be able to exchange or return whatever you want/need with no problems what so ever, people won't even ask you for a receipt, spoiled food, bad smelling meat...whatever, get a replacement product or cash back.


I can even say that we have had an experience in Toronto.
Just this past summer while in Toronto, we bought a few grocery items at a Walmart Superstore at the Dundas Mall and as we got to the parking lot a jar of olives broke thru the super thin plastic bag and broke on the cement as I was loading the car.
I walked right back into the store, complained to the manager and she gave me a replacement jar, no questions asked, so I can say, Canada should be similar to the US and Sao Paulo when it comes to grocery store issues.
Gil has lived in Toronto for 2 years and according to his experience you will be ok when returning any products to any large grocery store in Canada but God forbid you have a problem with any small mom and pop kind of store, it will be a lot harder and on a case by case base.
He said you are mostly on your own in those kind of situations, however it is worth to mention that Gil lived in Toronto in 1990 and 1991, a lot could have changed since those days.


Californians are absolutely ahead of "our time" when it comes to consumer rights in the US.
Mattresses and furniture have to be made with fire retardant material and most products have much higher standandards when sold in California.
A couple of years ago, I bought a U$3,98 hand mixer during a black Friday impulsive purchase at Walmart. When I got home and opened the box there was a tag on the hand mixer's electrical cord with the following warning:

Warning found on a hand mixer bought at a Walmart in Rhode Island circa 2007

Cheap hand mixer bought at Walmart during black Friday 2007

 You get what you pay for...HAND MIXER U$3,98, cheap and you get POISONOUS LEAD as a BONUS...

I put the darn thing back in the box, placed it out in the garage and washed my hands profusely. I just remembered and it's been 3 years and I haven't returned the lead poisoned appliance yet...and probably never will...
If this CRAP is harmful to Californians why would it be any different in New England, I just don't get it, how does Walmart get away with it.
Californians are super DEMANDING when it comes to consumer rights, product safety, green products etc... they definitely lead the country in many aspects. (except for civil rights, shame on the religious right CA for prop 8)


Generally in Brazil you can find exact same products for a better deal.
I remember driving downtown Sao Paulo to buy high quality stuff for better prices, high count Egyptian cotton sheets and towels. You could find the same brand sheets and towels at the MALL for twice, sometimes three times as much, it was definitely worth to shop around.
The same goes for most other products you purchase in Brazil, if you know where to go, you will definitely get a good bargain and take home the same quality.
Not in the US, usually when you find something cheaper, there is a 98% chance there is a catch, the catch is usually cheaper quality, it will end up costing you more because you will need a replacement soon.
Quality has always been king to me, you will find a cheaper "silverware set" on sale at Macy's but the first time you place it in the dishwasher it will come out full of rusty stains, we have returned sad set of silverware before we ever used it. I placed it in the dishwasher to have it clean before the first use and it came out full of rusty stains, that set went back to Macy's that same night.
We bought a Cuisinart Blender at Macy's a couple of years ago, it was supposed to last a long time and be of superior quality but an aluminum inner ring on the Glass cup started to show rust marks, we returned it and haven't bought a new blender yet, these is an exception and rare situation, Cuisinart products are usually very good.


I found an awesome "Cuisinart" toaster oven for U$50,00 just last week, stainless steel with all the bells and whistles, loaded on to the shopping cart, this wasn't an impulsive purchase, I have been looking for one of these for a while and I know they cost around U$150,00. What was the catch?
This toaster oven had a warning under the box that read "REFURBISHED AT THE FACTORY", limited 1 month warranty. These ovens usually have a 1 year to 3 year warranty.
Thanks but no thanks! I want something that will last...
Our current "DeLonghi" Italian made toaster oven has served us well for the past 13 years, it's a little beat up after moving with us 10 times in the last 13 years but it is still working, so that replacement project has been put on hold for a while.


As a general rule stores have always been somewhat flexible when you return stuff, here again, not too different from Sao Paulo, you bought the wrong size, no problem, want a different color, no problem, got a gift you didn't like, no problem, get store credit and get whatever else you want.
Cash back nowadays only with a receipt and within the stipulated time frame, we long left the time of innocence when you could return products for cash back no questions asked.
Lately, some stores are starting to give us trouble, TARGET started giving customers a hard time lately, they are getting pickier everyday and Walmart has gone as far as creating a BLACK LIST of customers who return too much stuff.
Walmart now takes down your drivers license number every time you return an item without showing a receipt, if you return 3 items in one year, you can't return any more items until 12 months rolls around and your driver's license number clears their system.


The same color and design Lacoste black polo shirt bought for U$30,00 at an Outlet Mall is NOT the same quality as the exact looking one bought at a Lacoste store at an upscale MALL for U$55,00, the one at the MALL will have better material and better dye and will last much longer without fading.
I bought one at an outlet Mall just outside of Boston that read MADE IN PERU at the tag while the one bought at the fancy Lacoste store says "MADE IN FRANCE", the one from PERU you can see thru when you place it against a light bulb, not the french, more expensive counterpart, however the look almost identical.
My brother bought me a black Lacoste polo shirt at "El Corte Ingles", an upscale department store in Madrid, Spain, the tag said MADE IN BARCELONA, Spain, awesome quality, thick material, vibrant color that won't fade but it cost an absurd 115 Euros, OUCH!!!
My European friends explained that we Americans prefer to buy a dozen cheap shirts of different colors for 115 Euros and Europeans prefer to purchase 1 good quality shirt for that same price, expensive, but it won't fade and it will last a long time.
That is how they compare the different mentality of consumers in Europe and the US.
I think Brazilian consumers are very much like Americans when it comes to quality X price.
I never purchased Lacoste in Brazil by the way. I would have to mortgage our house to do so :)

Made in Peru Lacoste Polo Shirt, from the outlet Mall, cheaper but of inferior quality

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The risks of generalizing!

First of all, let me say this is Gil writing my first post on our blog.
When I started this blog Ray didn't write any posts for a while until fellow dear blogger Rachel from Rachel's Rantings in Rio found us and left a comment, then Ray jumped out of the couch and started writing, it was the boost he needed.
I had a couple of rough weeks with my health situation, you can find details HERE, I am not complaining, I lost 12 pounds in 7 days, Hallelujah!
There is a God, at least I got something out of all that pain :)
I am all good now! Thanks to all the readers who sent me "get well wishes", the love was much appreciated.
OK, let me jump right in...
I decided to write about this topic because I noticed that a lot of people generalize when talking or writing about Brazil.
It's probably OK to generalize when you are talking about small countries like Denmark or Portugal, although, even then, you might be running into a risk of not being totally accurate. But when it comes to countries like Brazil or the US, HUGE MISTAKE TO GENERALIZE, H U G E!
It's mainly not OK because the one who generalizes usually forgets to consider the exceptions, which in large countries practically becomes the rule.
That's why generalizing usually irritates me, specially when I am reading blog articles of certain foreign authors that pose as experts on Brazil just to lead to misinformation and disservice to those who really are in need of some guidance about the country they're going to visit or live in.
Hey, Boston has nothing to do with New Orleans as Salvador and Curitiba are worlds apart!
Brazil is an immense country, slightly bigger than the continental U.S. and it makes all the difference!
Yeah, yeah, I know, it doesn't look that big, we have to thank the Mercator projection ( World Map) for such ridiculous distortion.
But, yes, Brazil is that big! And being this big and having such a peculiar history, it's natural that the country feels like a colorful quilt in terms of differences in cultural traits, habits and ethnic build up.
So, if you dare to generalize, you most likely ignore a lot about Brazil.
For starters, we could say that roughly Brazil is divided in two - South and North.

The green states have a majority of whites while the orange states have a majority of mixed race folks 

The South is more European, principally because of the massive European immigration in the recent past. Europeans, naturally, tended to go to areas where the climate was more compatible with their nature and more similar to their native land.
The South is where the climate is mainly subtropical (hot temperate climate), like in Florida and Georgia, with chilly winters, hot humid summers and even a little bit of snow on the hills, not to mention mixed pine woods and prairies.
By the way, it is where you will see lots of blue eyed people of German, Polish or Ukrainian heritage, for example.
Gisele Bündchen, the famous Brazilian top model, is a typical example of a Brazilian "Sulista", which are the inhabitants of the 3 most southern Brazilian states (Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul).
She's part German, part Italian.
Ray as another example, is a Paulista that descends from English, German, Northern Italians, Hungarians, Spanish and French.
We could say that the hotter the climate gets or the further north you go in Brazil, the more people of mixed races you will find.
Many of the beautiful "mulatas" found in the northeast are a mix of Dutch and Portuguese settlers, African slaves and Native Brazilians. That is why you see such beautiful dark skin people, many times with awesome exotic blue and green eyes often called "pardos", which means brown.
The South and South Eastern parts of Brazil are where most of the wealth is concentrated.
This part of the country is were the infrastructure and services are more developed as a whole.
The Northern parts of Brazil are as tropical as it can get and much less developed. Here, you'll see lots of gorgeous beaches, the immenseness of the Amazon Rain Forest, palm trees, exotic fruits (unknown in the South), exotic food (some of them really strange to southern Brazilians palates) and "alien ways" in many aspects (from the southern perspective, of course).
You also find very spicy hot food in the North as well as the abundant use of cilantro (type of herb) for example, both which are somewhat unusual in the South.
Salvador da Bahia, the capital of Bahia state, has the biggest concentration of sub-Saharan Africans in Brazil-descendants of slaves.If I had to pick an American equivalent to give you some reference I would choose New Orleans, yes, Salvador is the Brazilian New Orleans because of its strong African influence on that city.
The most Northern part of the country, in the states of Pará and Amazonas, for example, there are more "mestiço or caboclo" population (mix of old Portuguese settlers and natives) and somewhat less mix of African slave descendants.
It's interesting to note that the migration of POOR northern Brazilians to the more developed South in search of jobs and a better life has historically caused an unsettling clash of cultures.
This social phenomena has created lots of problems from housing deficit to super population, slums and growth of violence in some metropolitan areas of the South, specially in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
The northern Brazilians are very easily recognizable because of their "typical" features and specially by their strong accent. Because of this, they have become easy target of blunt acts of hate and racism.
In Sao Paulo, for example, every person from any Northern or Northeastern state is called a "Baiano" (which are people from the state of Bahia) in a depreciating way. In Rio de Janeiro happens something similar. But there they call Brazilian Northeasterns "Paraíba" ( Paraiba is also a Northeastern state).
The differences are HUGE and both sides learn it the hard way.
So, please think twice before you generalize by writing Brazilians this and Brazilians that. You will be much more accurate by saying Cariocas this or Paulistas that or Baianos are, etc, etc...


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brazil Etiquette Tip #1- If you say you are going! Show up!

Disclaimer: This is true to Sao Paulo where I am from, it's also true to Rio where I have dear friends who confirmed me the same as well as other places in Brazil where I have friends and confirmed yesterday with Curitiba (Parana), Belo Horizonte ( Minas Gerais), Florianopolis (Santa Catarina) and Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul) where Gil lived for a couple of years.

After watching the video from CBS's 60 minutes on several fellow blogger's post HERE, I couldn't take one thought away from my mind.
So, I am starting a new Brazil etiquette tips series. Here is #1.
How ridiculous! how untrue! what a grotesque and unfair generalization of the Brazilian people!
Eduardo Bueno, the guy with the messed up hair and the disgruntled look that said he was at the Porto Alegre Airport in the dark with no electricity for four hours...irritated me beyond comprehension!
He said in an absurd generalizing way that Brazilians are the type of people who say they are going to come to your house for a visit and then they don't bother to show up and that it's ok... NOT TRUE!
Say what?! Are you serious?!


What planet Am I from? Is Sao Paulo that different from Rio or other Brazilian cities? No it isn't, at least, not according to my Carioca friends. Sao Paulo and Rio are very similar in this matter too.
I am serious, if you tell someone you are going to their house in Sao Paulo, you better show up or you won't ever hear from that person again. This is ludicrous to say the least. We are reliable, responsible adults! You better be too! Who the hell you think you are? Cool? No Mr. Bueno, not cool, not cool!!!!!
Behave like any responsible adult anywhere in the world, would you? Brazil is no different.

If you tell me you are coming to my house:

1- I won't make any other plans!
2- I will be ready to host you the way I would expect you to host me!
3- I will have some cool snacks for you ( I usually run to the Mercado Municipal for cool different things!)

Special treats when having friends over!

4- I will be sure to have WINE, sacred where I come from!
5- I will make sure the house is clean and organized (Yes, maybe change the "faxineira" day to make sure the house looks and feels nice and fresh!)
6- The time will be dedicated exclusively for YOU!
7- We will most likely have PIZZA for you, OK, this is a VERY PAULISTA thing to do :)

Pizza making is a usual and fun thing we do in Sao Paulo when we have friends over!

All this and maybe more because I have respect and consideration for YOU if I invited you to my house.
Just the notion that you possibly won't show up just because something better came along, it is unheard of around my circle of friends or anyone I ever heard of, highly unlikely to happen and highly unacceptable where I come from, it JUST DOESN'T HAPPEN.
If I am coming to YOUR house, I will SHOW up and WILL have a bottle of wine in hands, a cultural habit of Sao Paulo people as well. I am not sure about other parts of Brazil on this bringing wine habit.
If you don't show up for no apparent reason, you are an inconsiderate bastard (pardon my french)... and NOT A COOL CAT. Sorry, you are delusional and living in a crazy f..up world of your own.
I have read a few posts in other blogs where people say that they experienced this and people told them it's OK, IT IS NOT OK! NOT OK, NOT OK!
I hope I am making myself crystal clear here :)
I have the feeling that when some people are placed in the position to tell you HOW BRAZILIANS are in this or that situation, they feel they can embellish, they feel like they are given certain powers to generalize and whatever they tell you it's gonna become the universal truth.
This people have NO SHAME and are not reliable and they are fooling you in believing this is one of Brazil's cultural habit and it's not.
Now, you all better show up when you tell someone you are going to their home in Sao Paulo or else just tell them you can't GO, that is the expected thing to do PERIOD!
Ok, rant over! I feel better now!
: )

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bashing blue eyed people again!

Several of my fellow bloggers posted a "Brazil on the rise" video from CBS 60 minutes from this past Sunday,Jim, at "Qualidade de vida", Rachel, at Rachel's Rantings in Rio de Janeiro and Rachel, from Adventures of a Gringa, they all had interesting views and some had funny remarks about their impressions from the CBS video and I enjoyed reading their posts.
The video is more than positive, it really makes you wanna dance in celebration for Brazil's good news!
However, I have to say that as a Brazilian who grew up watching step by step how Brazil got to where it is today, it is mind-boggling and irritating to me to see Lula taking most of the credit for the country's current economic success.
In my opinion, the best thing Lula ever did was to "NOT DO ANYTHING" to mess up what the previous president Fernando Henrique Cardoso's team had done to set the country on the right path for economic growth, the former president, a sociologist, created the "bolsa familia" and again, I give Lula credit for not messing it up and trying to create something with his footprint on it, better yet, he took full credit, today, ask anyone on the streets and 8 out of 10 people will assure you "bolsa familia" was a Lula creation.
Lula was VERY smart on not changing anything and taking credit for the GOOD results from the previous administration, so I don't totally discredit Lula but I don't agree that he is solely responsible for Brazil's economic boom, he is just not.
Now, to add insult to injury, he insists on making "fun" of the European for being perfectionists, he seems to try to sell an image that he is "cool" by dismissing the Europeans concern on Brazil's lack of seriousness and implies that HE is RIGHT and the perfectionist EUROPEAN are wrong.
If anything, the Brazilians who lack seriousness are the ones who have contributed less and have held the rest of the country hostage on a joke that always said "Brazil is the country of the future and always will be", yes, those, the slackers, those who think they are cool are actually the ones who have held everyone else back.
Honest, hard working Brazilians, the ones who pay their taxes, have no "Caixa 2", respect dead lines, arrive on time...yes, those have been held back for years by the idiots who think they are cool for doing everything wrong.
Well, that is no more my friends!
Now, back to Lula's foot in his mouth talents...
Why pick on the European like that? I seriously smell a strong inferiority complex in the air, but who am I to know if that is true, it is just a suspicion I have from his obsessive negative bashing of European people and Europe.

President Lula doesn't miss an opportunity to bash blue eyed people and have his foot half way into his mouth!

Keep in mind he is the one who "brilliantly" said that "Blue Eyed" people were responsible for the current economic crisis on Wall Street and around the world! Really? Not only you sound stupid and racist but completely uninformed.
Did you really say that? You are the president of a country of 190 million people, many of them Blue Eyed by the way, many in my own family!
How can a president of a country like Brazil lack common sense at such drastic levels?
When Lula went to Africa, the first thing he says was "Africa is not so dirty I thought!" Yes, He said that! Google it and find details in the media.
You are a president and you say that in public! to the media? Have you no shame, sense of right and wrong?
I don't hate Lula, I really don't, like I said before, the best he ever did was not doing anything at all, but we have to hold our breath when genius opens his mouth.
Being a blue in the face New England democrat, trust me, I wanted nothing more than Lula to sound smart and represent the left in a decent way, but he kept disappointing me every time he opens his mouth, at least he is letting the country be.
Now, let's back up to his comments against European.
Before I go any deeper, let me state that I think every Brazilian-European I know, many from my family and Gil's family have been true contributors of Brazil's economic success.
If Brazil is pulling out of the mud it's because of perfectionist European like my grandfather, who arrived in Brazil in 1926 and who worked hard all his life, always paid his taxes, made sure all four of his kids graduated from college, three engineers and one teacher, the perfectionist European was able to do accomplish a lot without the help from any government, don't get me wrong, I am not against bolsa familia, is has helped elevate millions out of poverty, but don't come bashing the ones who always worked hard and pay an absurd amount of taxes so these masses can be elevated from poverty.
Gil's mother is another example of a hard working European lady, perfectionist, disciplined who accomplished a lot as a single woman raising three kids and making sure they all graduated from college and became active members of society paying a very heavy tax load to make sure there is money in the public coffers to pay the "bolsa familia" and elevate millions out of poverty.
Let it be clear, that this money is coming from the sweat and hard work of middle class Brazilian families who carry an astronomical tax burden, Brazilian-European, Brazilian of African origin, Brazilian of mixed races, Brazilian of all races, all middle class Brazilians are paying a hefty tag for "bolsa familia", I am glad to see it is working and it is lifting millions out of poverty.
Lula is an idiot again when he criticizes European people and forgets that he just helped elect a Brazilian who's father immigrated from Bulgaria.
I am excited and full of hopes because the newly elected president Dilma Rousseff will take over the country has a reputation for being hands on, with a strong common sense lacked from Lula and an authentic capacity to lead the country into it's exciting new path of quick development and lot's discipline and full of European perfecionism ;)  which Lula so eloquently criticises.
Let it be clear that I am proud of my grandparent's blue eyes and my mother's blues eyes who brought to this land their dreams along with a stubborn European perfectionism, honesty and hard work that have always contributed to Brazil being the country of the future!
The future has clearly arrived!