Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday Morning Stroll

The weather is changing as we approach winter here.  This morning was a perfect fall morning and we took advantage of it by walking to get some breakfast and get some things from the market.  We have totally acclimated to Brazil's consistent hot weather, as we were both "cold" today and wore pants/light jackets.

Brazil is pushing the World Cup big time. Someone came up with the brilliant (and lucrative) idea to sell sticker books with all the teams, players, and stadiums included in them.  It's similar to baseball card collecting, except you are trying to fill your book.  It is super addictive and I love it.  We walked by this banco and everyone was trading stickers.  Grown men, women, little kids, you name it and they are trading!

Going to the Saturday market has become one of the rituals I love in our little weekends.  Most of the time while living in Brazil I don't feel like we are experiencing a culture that much different than America, but going to the market and seeing all the families eating pastels and the sellers chatting it up with the regulars makes me happy.

Brazil has a law that each city has to have an open aired market with fresh produce each week.  Our little part of the city actually has two, Thursday morning and Saturday morning. The fruit is so colorful and smells fantastic, however we don't typically buy it at the market because we can't eat it fast enough.

Today one of the sellers was cutting up samples of the knobby looking fruit above. I have no clue of the English word for it, but it was delicious.  We scooped one up and I plan on enjoying it tomorrow.

I'm thankful for these little experiences Jess and I get to have together.  We are finding our nitch her in Brazil amongst the markets, beaches, and amazing weather. What more could a girl ask for? 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter at the Praia

Us on the beach...
This weekend we got a little adventurous and rented a car.  Having a car was glorious and I feel such freedom to go wherever my little heart desires.  Of course my heart desired to head to the beach, Guarujá in Santos.  Normally it should take about 2.5-3 hours, but this weekend was not only Easter, but had a Brazilian holiday tacked on too.  To avoid traffic we got up at 3:00 AM and started our drive.  Our wonderful friend Pam recommended a great hotel right on the beach and even let us borrow her GPW (Thanks Pamcakes!).  We managed to avoid most traffic except for a ludicrous toll right off the exit of the only road heading to the beach (not the best of engineering).  We arrived around right in time to take a napzinho before heading to the beach. I felt after purchasing my first Brazilian bikini bottoms (wedgie and all)!
We literally spent all weekend on the beach or at our hotel's pool.  I love Brazilian beach culture. You could literally show up in street clothes and end up lounging on the beach with a drink in your hand, acai in your belly, and a bikini on your body.  Everything is provided there (for a cost of course), all you need to do is show up.  We managed to try all the different delicacies, but had multiple helpings of acai and pastels.  

Is there anything better than acai on the beach?
Another reason I love the Brazilian beach scene is people watching. I once heard someone say that the beach is a Brazilian's living room.  So true. I loved watching families gather, kids play, lovers enjoy one another, and friends making memories.  Everyone is so relaxed at the beach and just want to enjoy the company and the sun.  Pretty great if you ask me.  We even has some guys near us playing Brazilian music.  Perfect I tell you.

The little boy with the ball must have chased it for a good two hours

One night we walked to the top rated restaurant in the city and it did not disappoint.  Being the gringos we are we got there before it opened so we meandered over to a local bar.  We enjoyed a (very strong) drink and talking with the locals before heading back to the restaurant. We coined the phrase "vacation hungry" meaning that you aren't really hungry but you can eat because it's vacation.  Well this weekend we coined it's partner, "vacation full", meaning you are so full you feel disgusting.  We ate until we literally couldn't eat anymore. 

Homemade Cachaça 
Date night at the local bar
Walks on the beach make me happy.
It was a great weekend with my love.  We had a blast getting away from reality and soaking up the sun.  I am so lucky to be married to my best friend and love of my life. We never run out of things to talk about and always laugh the day away.  I'm so grateful to do life with him.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pies in Heaven

Before I left for China I took a trip out to Nebraska to see Grandma Jean 

My Grandma Jean went home to be with the Lord and her hubby on Saturday.  While I know she is in good hands and probably enjoying unlimited pie right about now my heart breaks for my mom.  Mom is a lover and loves her family to the core, so I can't imagine what she is feeling right now.  

Mom serving her mom pie...notice the three flavors!
I spent some time looking through facebook albums and found myself smiling at what a joyful woman Grandma Jean was the last couple years.  I thought back to all the memories I had of her. I remember exploring her and Big Pop's house, devouring her delicious cooking, watching football games in the living room, and going shopping for some hideous outfits.  Grandma loved a bargain, maybe that's where my mom gets it.  She had a knack for picking out the ugliest thing in the store and walked out proud because she saved money.

2011 Mom, Aunt Julie, Grandma Jean, and Uncle Mark (missing Uncle Kirk and Uncle Erick) 
The last time I saw Grandma Jean (in person) was in Nebraska for her 90th birthday.  We had a big party to celebrate and her lifelong friends surprised her.  I will never forget the pure look of shock and happiness on her face as they walked up singing to her.  She was a faithful friend. I hope that when I am 90 I have such good friends that love me enough to show up as a surprise.

Like a true Swanson Grandma Jean loved her food, Runza's were no exception.  I think I liked them strictly because she loved them so much. If I remember correctly I think we brought some to her last time I was in Nebraska.  We picked her up at her retirement home and ate some Runza's at Aunt Julie's.  Of course before we left the retirement home she stuffed my pockets full of candy they had in the welcome room.

Some of the family out at Uncle Mark and Aunt Cathy's in 2011 
Grandma's laugh is forever etched in my mind.  She had a belly laugh that would go on long after the joke was told.  She was a feisty little lady. One time she didn't want to take her medicine so she snuck it down her shirt!  Aunt Julie wasn't too pleased, but we all got a kick out of it.  She was proud of her children and grandchildren and always made sure we knew it.

Grandma and her two daughters 
Growing up so far away from my mom's family made me cherish the time we spent in Nebraska. I loved listening to the newest story, the drama, and the crazy events from my aunt, uncle, and cousins. I was often jealous of my cousins for living so close to Grandma Jean and Big Pop, they has such strong relationships, but I also realize my relationship with Grandma Jean was unique.  She was a never one to hold her opinion in, so thankfully because I visited about once a year her opinions of me where often higher than they should have been :)

At Grandma Jean's 90th Birthday Party 
Although Grandma Jean is gone, I can still see her in my mom.  Mom takes after Grandma Jean in her work ethic, cooking skills, stubbornness (sorry mom), goofy antics, shopping (although not as ugly...more for the bargains), love for her family, and strength.  Grandma Jean raised five kids that loved her dearly, and mom did that as well.  She put her family in front of her needs, just like mom continues to do. She was proud of her family just like mom is.  She loved God, as does mom.

Katie, Grandma, and me
It kills me that I can't be there for her funeral to say goodbye and give mom and my family extra hugs, but that's life. I will be there in spirit (and maybe even on Skype) to celebrate the life of an amazing woman. 

Another thing that is great about going to Nebraska...FAMILY TIME.  It is always great to spend time with my cousins, aunts, and uncles. 
Some of the cousins all grown up.

Crazy activities go down when you get the family mom planking.
Grandma Jean trying to figure out the whole Skype thing. 
We'll miss you Grandma, but know that you are living it up in heaven with Big Pop and all your friends that went before you.