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January 2013
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March 2013

The 7th Annual Celebrate Michael Day!

Can you believe it's been seven years?

One of my favorite posts from that time:

Overheard in ICU today

Michael:  I want to get these fucking tubes outta me.

Vicki:  You've got to leave the fucking tubes in.

Mom:  I don't like it when you two use the F-word.

This was after he'd already removed the Foley catheter once (ow) and had to have it replaced, was caught with a leg over the siderail of the bed, trying to "escape", and told his best friend to go get the car.  "Let's you and me go for a ride, Paulie."

I think the wild ride portion of this recovery program is underway.

It wasn't even close to over then. I don't think that wild ride has ever really ended!

I love you, Michael!! XO



All those crossed fingers, toes, eyes, stitches, and what-have-you did the trick! Thank you. #letsgetonwithit #healingstartsnow

All those crossed fingers, toes, eyes, twisted rib stitches, and what-have-you did the trick! Tests were all good and the last day of treatment was today. Let the healing begin!

Thank you!


Ten on Tuesday: I am so ready for winter to be over

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Reasons Why I Am Ready for Winter To Be OVER

1.  Brazil. It wet my whistle!

2.  Sandals. I'm really looking forward to wearing sandals again -- they're so easy to slip on.

Hello! Yes! I did the dorky tourist thing, holding Cristo Redentor in the palm of my hand!

3.  Shorts & Skorts & Skirts! I've gone entire summers without baring my legs to the world... this isn't going to be one of them.

4.  Bathing suit! Now that I have one that I even sort of like, I may as well wear it!

5.  Canga! Even more, I can't wait to wear the dress I bought at the Hippie Fair that's made from a canga.

5.  Farmers market. I'm starting to prepare!

6.  Open windows & doors. It'll be so nice to put the screens on and air out the house.

7.  Flora! I'm ready for some greening up and blooming garden flowers.

Laundry on the line

8.  Laundry on the line!

9.  The rebirth and renewal that is...

10.  SPRING!


My 10 on Tuesday is more about why I'm looking forward to spring/summer than why I'm ready for winter to be over... but that's exactly why!

* * * * *

Thanks for all the finger-crossing and well-wishing and prayers today! I'll be back soon.


It's time!

I've been a little scarce in these parts lately and, when I have been here, I've had to bite my tongue. Thank god for a week in Brazil and photos to blog because there hasn't been too very much of anything else worth writing about.

Except for the thing that has me biting my tongue and about which I am loathe to bring up. But now... now it is time. It's time to throw up the knit-signal and rally the troops.

Someone nearest and dearest to me has been undergoing treatment for cancer since the end of last year... literally, the first chemo treatment was on New Year's Eve. So far, 2013 has been all about that -- except for that week in Brazil, which I couldn't change and OMG what a boost that turned out to be, so I'm glad I went.

Chemo and radiation have been going along pretty much as expected until a bump in the road a little over a week ago. There were a few little things to deal with, another bump or two, kinda-sorta scary, treatment was delayed a bit... but now, we're so very very VERY close to the end.

Today was the second-to-last treatment and, if all goes well (blood tests, meetings with docs) tomorrow SHOULD BE THE LAST!! Please, my peeps, cross your fingers and toes -- I'm even going to cross my eyes a few times tomorrow, mainly because it makes me smile and remember to muster and heap on the extra mojo!

I hope and pray that everything goes smoothly tomorrow so the process of healing can begin.

Thank you!


Art on Tuesday

No two ways about it, on Tuesday it rained quite a bit.

Brian and The Boys and I ended up at Instituto Moreira Salles. We passed this place everyday on our travels, but no one had had a chance to stop before. It was a beautiful place, inside and out!

The exhibition was by William Kentridge called FORTUNA. It was a bit distracting with the boys, and there was the language barrier in print, but the art itself was... really pretty fascinating.

The rain let up by afternoon and while the boys played in the pool, I had my nails done! Both a mani- and a pedicure, pool-side, as I'd dreamed ever since Skyping one time with Annie while she was having hers done that very same way!

I enjoyed my first (and only) Guarana!

And, later, an Itaipava beer! (Woman does not live on caipirinha alone.)

The rain let up. The kids had swimming lessons. We had pizza for dinner again, but this time from Sasso, and at a co-worker's house. It was a lovely visit with our hostess, a long-time employee of the school, and her Brazilian husband, as well as another newly arrived teacher from America. Even sitting amongst them, with my own sister who is one of "them," it's hard to imagine picking up and moving to another continent. Obviously, at least in current company, that's just me!


Knit on...

...with confidence and hope...

...through all crises.

--Elizabeth Zimmermann

Let's take a travel break.

I've been cooking, too (lots of soup!) (I'll soon post about that), but the knitting's easier to carry around with me.

Hexies, at top, with a cup of coffee and WiFi on the Kindle while waiting for Kate the other day.

The red bit is the first of at least a dozen repeats for Julia Trice's Mexican Wedding. I'm knitting the shawl for Ali and her Wisconsin Wedding -- that lacy red scallop might be just the ticket on a mid-June evening! This is probably the last you'll see of it 'til then, too!


Monday, Monday, so good to me

Monday, Monday, it was all I hoped it would be.

Annie had to go back to work on Monday; my brother-in-law would return the following Monday, and the boys (and other students) would go back the Monday after that.

The boys and I spent a relaxed morning at home. It was a little rainy, but they did a lot of swimming anyway. I might have done a little laundry. Or that might have been another day. I did do laundry one day... the washing machine is outside, under a little roof but basically outside. If there was live-in help, the laundry area is located right outside their rooms, and fairly close to the kitchen. Even if they don't live-in, a lot of people have daily help; Annie and Brian have someone that comes weekly and works harder and longer than anyone I've ever seen.

We had lunch at the school and the boys gave me a little tour -- showing me where their rooms were, even if they weren't open. (Heh, these photos are not taken at school.)

Annie was able to spend the afternoon with me and we grabbed our umbrellas to head to Jardim Botanico -- the botanical garden.

One might think that two would wait for a sunny day to visit the garden, but a "less than perfect" day is actually THE perfect day!

We lucked out and never had to open our umbrellas, but had the benefit of lovely light filtered by clouds.

People, the plants are different in Brazil.


Or, maybe you recognize them but they're SUPER-sized and growing WILD! I noticed the tiny red flowers on the hedge, above, while I was taking photos of the priest, below... and they were so familiar! Where had I seen those flowers before? And then I noticed the structure of plant itself (thorns!) and remembered the tropical potted plant we call "Crown of Thorns" in the greenhouse window at work. But this was HUGE, a whole HEDGE, planted IN THE GROUND! There were a lot of other familiar plants, too, though the type that I'd never dream of planting outside. "Wandering Jew" was basically used as a ground-cover plant in many areas. Craziness!
It was just lovely.

And then there was the Orchideario.

The Orchid House. Photos don't do justice. It was amazing!

Our first choice for a dinner spot wasn't open that day, so as usual, it was on to Plan B! We had to stop and get our bearings, ask directions... it's really weird listening to your sister speak a language so completely foreign to you... and eventually we made our way to BRAZ!

I was offered an English menu, but our waiter didn't speak a word of it... I still managed to order wine. We were able to order three different types on one pie -- I know we had Funghi and Alcachofrinha, but I don't remember the third.

It was all delicious (with leftovers for breakfast!) and we had a fun Brigadeiro (on a spoon) dessert.

Ann told me that I had to go to the restroom before we left.

The photos are awful -- I had nothing but my cell phone and it was dark. It was up a flight of stairs and when I entered I noticed an open doorway on the opposite wall. It opened to a little rooftop patio -- so wonderful!!

Not bad for a Monday, really.



This week, because of Carnival, there is no school and the boys have been spending hours upon hours in the pool.

Annie updated her Facebook status on Saturday, writing:

Ok, it's Carnaval in Rio. Hotels are at capacity and every bed in my house will be occupied by people I don't know. Guess what I'll be doing?

Guesses amongst friends included sleeping, camping out, getting one of any number of Brazilian "treatments," dancing in the street, going to the beach, doing taxes, and *DING*DING*DING* LEARNING SAMBA!


So I lucked into a ticket to be one of the people behind the Imperatriz Samba School when they compete Monday night (1:00 a.m.)! I am learning the song and if I can't dance at least I might be able to move!


Yes, those are dolphins on my shoulders. And I get to keep the costume forever (gasp!).

There was some chatter on Annie's wall about the possibility of live-streaming telecasts and the timing for CST viewing was quite favorable, so I thought I'd check it out. I found a few choices for live viewing, including a channel on YouTube. I ended up watched on Globo.

Here are the Imperatriz (Empress) highlights. There's a general wrap-up in The Rio Times, and for good measure here's some embedded footage:

There are plenty of Carnival-related videos to watch!

I actually watched all of the Grande Rio performance, thinking it was Imperatriz Leopoldinense -- it was hard to know for sure since I couldn't understand more than three words of the broadcast! By the time I realized that I was watching their predecessors and that the schedule was off (as usual, it's Brazil!), I'd already had so much invested... I had to stay up and watch! Double your fun! It made for a later night than I'd intended, but it was very exciting to watch when I saw those dolphins samba across my screen.

When in Rio...

(I really can't wait to see the boy's Halloween costumes this year!!)


Two Brothers

Dois Irmãos. Two brothers. This is Rio to me, and always will be. These mountains, this view, those sounds, Rocinha.

Day 3. That would be Sunday, January 20th. (Happy 28th Anniversary to Us!)

We climbed Morro da Urca and caught the tram from there to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf). It's an easy hike, even for someone like me who isn't really a hiker, but overnight rain and a light morning shower or two affected the condition of the trail and made it a bit more challenging.

We snacked on pao de queijo (what else?) while waiting for the tram and the ride to Sugarloaf. The view from the top:





We took the tram all the way down, and then made our way to Feira Hippie de Ipanema...

The Hippie Fair! That was a lot of fun and I found some treasures, both to keep and to give away.

There was a pretty good downpour while we were there, too, and we waited it out (i.e., shopped) in a stall with lovely jewelry!

There were quite a few artists displaying their work. I loved these "field" pieces!

After all that, we were hungry for more than a snack. Mack is a bit of a soccer nut these days, and was drawn in by soccer on TV at Torre do Barao, which was right next to the Gringo Cafe where an NFL play-off game was being televised (and we were ever-so-mildly interested in the outcome).


I had fish. It was delicious! It didn't even occur to Ann until after I left that we never ate a meal at home. I had a small yogurt every morning there for breakfast, and Brian made pao de queijo one day for the boys (it is their favorite thing!) and I had one or two, but otherwise we ate out -- at restaurants or as guests at other people's houses!


Still peeling

Day 2: Prainha (a beautiful little beach) and Churrasco (a great little BBQ)!

See that unshaded shoulder? Other than my forehead, that spot was probably the worst of my sunburn. Three things: 1) make sure the sunscreen is evenly applied everywhere, 2) re-apply, and 3) it's probably not best for a northern girl to go bobbing in south-of-the-equator waves when the mid-summer sun is near its strongest on a sunshiny day.

I was driven into the sandy beach by waves a few times, nicely exfoliating my legs. Um, yeah. That only happened a few times before I figured it out!

I wore my new bathing suit and I was not the only woman wearing a one-piece on the beach! (Close, but there were a few others.) I listened when the saleswoman told me that people tend to buy suits a size larger, when really they should buy a size smaller because they stretch when they're wet; so I bought the smaller of the two I'd tried on, and should have gone down even one more (this may not hold true for a two-piece -- I'll never know -- but a one-piece really does get weighed down by water!).

I brought two cover-ups with me and never wore either one, opting instead for the the canga with the Copacabana design that I bought at the beach! I love that thing. It's what everyone wears/uses at the beach and they come in a zillion different designs. I even bought a dress made from a canga. I can't wait for summer so I can wear it!


We rented an umbrella and a couple of chairs, and settled in (or got wet, or dug a hole in the sand). The woman visible just left of center, above the large rock, was carrying a large selection of bikinis for sale; she found willing customers in the folks just behind the rocks on the right!

I really can't think of a better way to spend the better part of Day 2.

After a few hours at the beach, we made our way over the mountain to a co-worker's house where we'd been invited for churrasco. It was a lovely house with a beautiful outdoor kitchen/BBQ, fully plumbed, and a sauna. Who knew? The house that Annie lives in has a sauna room, also. Saunas are quite popular in Brazil!

The sauna might have actually helped my sunburn, which was quite fresh at the time, by super-hydrating my skin. I don't know. It was never really painful, except for my shoulder and that was because of irritation from various straps.

The food! The drinks! Our hosts & new friends! So many delectably grilled meats, I lost count; farofa, salads, and other beautiful side dishes. I managed only to photograph that lovely lime dessert, of which I indulged in two pieces (and that was really one too many but it was so good). Caipirinha with lychee and lime and other citrus. Our hosts were a co-worker of Annie & Brian's, his wife, and another couple who are very good friends; the co-worker and the wife of the other couple spoke English (he very well, she learning). It was all very fun, with lots of kisses and hugs.

Impressions: Not everyone in Brazil looks like a model. Not even close. Most looked a lot like me. Wearing a bikini. (I did not, would not, will not wear a bikini.) MORE CRAZY DRIVING! Beach. Sand. Even more relaxed. Vacation. Food. Laughter. Friends.



I quickly passed through all of the airport security lines without problem, retrieved my luggage and peeled off the last little bit of "Wisconsin winter" clothing along in the process (except for the leggings and compression knee-highs, which, you can be assured, I took care of ASAP), looking for familiar faces... which I did not see! I stepped outside and realized that I didn't know what make or color of car to even look for, but stood out there for a while anyway. Then went back inside. Then outside. Inside. Outside. Inside. Every time I went out, I'd be approached by one of many a nice young man wanting to hail a taxi for me. We didn't speak the same language, but the message was crystal clear. Also, how damn friendly they all were, and cute.

Finally! I heard my name and saw Annie, Brian, and the boys. Turns out they were looking for me in the right place, generally, but a level above!

We stopped for a bite to eat, at Casa da Tata, where I had my first pao de queijo -- the boys' favorite thing to eat!

Afterwards, we went to their house and that spectacular view I've seen over the past six months is, well, truly spectacular. The mountain formation is the Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) Peaks, with a portion of the largest favela in Rio, Rocinha (ho-seen-ya), visible at its foot, and the Zuzu Angel Tunnel running through it.


That's the view from the pool-side doorway to my bedroom.

We dropped off my luggage, I took a quick tour of the house (the 3rd floor porch view, above), and then we headed off for Cook In Rio!

And that did not happen.

Long story short: My first lesson in Plan B, which we basically made up as we went along.

Coffee break at Cafeina.


A walk on Copacabana beach (where I may have gotten a little wet).


Copa sidewalk design.

Dinner at Zaza Bistro Tropical. This was actually on Annie's list of places for us to go, so when we found ourselves in the neighborhood -- early enough that we were able to sneak in ahead of reservations -- it was just moved up on the list!

The line was too long at Garota de Ipanema, so we had after-dinner drinks across the street instead. Garota de Ipanema means "The Girl From Ipanema," and that bar is supposedly where the girl from Ipanema walked by and voila, a song was born. The lyrics (in Portuguese) are written on the sign on the side of the building (barely visible in the photo above).

I thought Herb Alpert sang the version that's been running through my head, but it must only have been his instrumental (he didn't sing much) version of this wildly popular mid-60s song. Those were my formative years, musically speaking, and I'm pretty sure I somehow mashed up the rare Herb Alpert vocal on This Guy's In Love With You + The Girl From Ipanema.

We stopped at the grocery store for a few things before hailing a taxi for home.

Rocinha was simply amazing. I never tired of looking and listening, day or night. In the week that I was there, it was never ever dark. It was quite loud, all night long -- music, voices, life -- on the first few nights I was there, but eerily quiet on the last few. Except for the dogs. A chorus of barking would rise up and move 'round at regular intervals throughout the night, every night. And the roosters. I smiled to myself the first morning and thought, Hm, they must not have those rules about not having roosters in the urban chicken coop here. Heh.


Ann and her family are very lucky to be able to live in such a fantastic house during their first year here. It's quite close to school/work, very roomy, and quite comfortable. It would be pretty near perfect if the neighbor's/landlord's gigantic dogs didn't keep eating their car's windshield wipers for lunch!

That's my room from the outside looking in.

First impressions: Hot. Humid. Tropical. Big City. Urban Graffiti. Damp. CRAZY DRIVING! WHAT? Dare-devil Motorcyclists. Beach. Sand. Relaxed. Vacation.