Sunday, December 27, 2009

Read these words:


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

To all my friends here in this computer, and certainly from all around the world,
I wish you a

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009

Steeler Nation

WE WON!!!!

finally after LOSING 5 games in a row...

Now, that still doesn't make much difference for our playoff hopes, but it feels good to finally win again. We did it again in the last 3 seconds of the game but hey, right now, we will take it any way we can get it!

I didn't get to go to the game because our 50 yard line seats...well, somehow they got lost. It's ok, though and we all make mistakes. So, whatever happened to those tickets, it maybe was meant to be. And in case you need to see it one more time:


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow Days

It was a great day yesterday!
It snowed all day and into the evening. It was so beautiful with the trees silent and wearing their Christmas white.

There were snow angels and catching snowflakes on your tongue.

We went to my Sister in laws house for dinner where she had a snowy cake for all the December birthdays. I found it so funny....she kept the ice cream cake outside in the cold snow

because there wasn't room in her refrigerator. Can you see the snow on the cake box?
Look at how wintry and beautiful the cake is!

I love this time of year; being close to family and remembering everything we have to be thankful for. Keep the snow coming :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ask and ye shall receive

This is the view outside of my parent's front door

Can you see our smiles yet?

Friday, December 18, 2009

I'm leavin' on a jet plane

Tonight's the night!
And we are outta here!

Please send all unwanted snow my way...we want it!

Talk to you all from the other side...
I'll fill you in on any airport stories!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Random Dozen

1. Gingerbread: For or against? Discuss.
Neither....I do not like the taste of gingerbread, but that doesn't mean I don't like it...
can't we all just get along this Christmas season :)
2. Is it important to you to always stay (live) close to family?
Stay and live are 2 different things for me...
Stay close to my family, yes, but living close is not possible right now
3. Which holiday pretend character do you wish really existed?
I wish ? wait, are they pretend? I believe in Santa and his reindeer!
4. Which holiday movie best represents how you feel about Christmas or life?
I like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" because it represents change. You can change into a better person, Christmas IS more than just gifts and all we need is love :)
5. Is there a particular Christmas song that you're enjoying now? Any that you're tired of?
My kids and I are loving Mr. Heatmeister and my all time favorite is Silent Night, sung by many different artists. They all have their own unique twist. Tired of? Not really... since I finished dancing the Nutcracker...that used to be what I got tired of hearing in the stores, but not any more!
6. What is your favorite way to remember those less fortunate at Christmastime?
We sponsor an orphanage here in Rio. this year, though I will not be here for the party they are having, I donated a cute doll (what she asked for) for a little girl named Flaviana.
7. Does it upset you to see "Xmas" instead of Christmas? How about "Happy Holidays" etc., instead of "Merry Christmas?"
Happy Holidays is fine because I like to respect the different cultures and religions. xmas is only ok in a short email or text to get my point across quickly.
8. How many Christmas programs are you attending this month?
One for my children's school, and then hopefully something when we travel to the States.
9. Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Any chance of that dream becoming a reality?
I always dream of a white Christmas, and yes it could be a reality! They are predicting snow next week for Pittsburgh!
10. Tell me about a Christmas present you received as a child. Pics are always nice.
I remember receiving, (and finding before Christmas), a Barbie 3 floor condo!
11. How many Christmas parties are you attending this month?
hhmmm....1 with the ladies that are all from my husband's company, and then family!
12. How do you keep yourself centered on the significance of Christmas?
I love to take my kids to see nativities and by continuing to go to church. I look forward to Midnight (moved to 10, which really bothers me) Mass too!

Would you like some superstition with your pampering?

Today was a totally true expat princess afternoon.
I went to have my hair colored, cut, got the treatment and the simultaneous manicure/pedicure.
Yes, here, they have two different people pamper your hands and feet at the same time.
Sometimes you have to be a bit like gumby while they pamper you because you also have your hairstylist working on some aspect of your head. BUT, that's ok, because it is a truly self indulgent few hours.
Today's time factor was the usual...
see we have a running joke, (that's more truth instead of a joke), amongst all my friends that go to see Alexandre. Gabriela is one of the lucky ones...actually, she "discovered" this gem stylist for us....he is good and speaks English!
We always try to predict how long each session will take. Mine was exactly what I expected today... 5 hours. Yes, you read right, 5 hours.
What does he do that takes so long? I really could not tell you why it takes as long as it does, but here is how it went down:

1. kiss, kiss, and greetings
2. turn on "the light" and see what has passed since the last time you visited
3. fluff it around a little, look at the roots, and giggle at how long it has been
4. decide what to do
5. start with the mixing of color and apply
5 1/4. start the simultaneous manicure/pedicure
5 3/4. discuss with Alexandre about the latest hot colors in Rio...bright bubble gum pink
6. wait, wait, wait...ding (sound from the drying device)
7. check the color, rinse, blow dry quickly
8. start mixing the highlights color and apply
8 1/4. call the assistant to help hold certain parts of hair out of the way
8 1/2. enter: the sweeper to sweep away the hair off the floor

8 3/4. Superstition: assistant says: don't sweep on top of my feet because then I will never get married!

9. wait, wait, wait...ding
10. check the color, switch to the massage chair, shampoo, condition, and apply "the treatment"

*side note- the treatment is also a hot topic amongst us get it or to not get it, that is the question...the answer boils down to do you have the time and the money for the treatment this time....and this time, I gave in to Alexandre's pleadings and said go for the quick treatment

11. reluctantly get out of the massage chair
12. cut
13. start the blow dry process
14. delight at the color choice and cut, bring the mirror to see the back and sides
15. show off to other usually fake smiling, complimentary, jealous employees
16. get the card and put all the prices on it
17. go to the register, swipe the card and fall over from shock, er....
I meant to say, see the price and marvel at the 20% discount because it is a Tuesday
18. pay the bill

and the results are a very happy me, ready to go to Pittsburgh for Christmas and counting the hours to be with family again!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Meeting of the Waters

This is one of the main attractions to visit when you are in Manaus.
The Meeting of the Waters is almost was so amazing to watch how these two bodies of water meet, but do not mix!

The Rio Negro meets with the Amazon River, which is also called the River Solimoes, it's native name. I like to describe it as cafe con leche or cafe negro...
basically, coffee with a lot of milk or black coffee :)

The pictures show you what I mean!
The rivers do not mix due to the different speeds that the waters are flowing, the temperature and the density. It was baffling to watch these two rivers "meet" but not mix.

Just another very cool part of our trip!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rio Negro, The Amazon

The trip was really amazing.
We rode on our boat for 7 days cruising up the Rio Negro. I guess you could say the main purpose of our trip was for fishing for Peacock Bass.
The water was extremely low, so the fish weren't biting as well as expected, but everyone caught fish....Peacock Bass, Piranhas, Dogfish. I caught 11 Peacock Bass! They were in the 2-4 lb. range, but it was very exciting for me to catch anything at all! This was the first time I had ever done lure fishing and just sitting on an open river for hours. The biggest caught was 15 lbs. Most were in the 7-10 lb range.

and even a Caiman (the Amazon version of an alligator)!

We also combined in some eco-touring on the canoe for those that didn't fish. Once again, since the water was so low we couldn't go as deep into the jungle-y parts as we would have liked, but we did get to do some amazing cruising around.

I think there were two things that made the biggest impression on me:
1. the actual size, or width, of the Rio Negro.
2. The Meeting of the Waters

1. The Rio Negro, just one tributary that makes up the whole Amazon jungle is really wide, and not just at certain parts. For most of the trip we were on water that was over 10 miles wide.

Now imagine that the water was also at a very low point. This past year it had risen to a height of over 29 cm., which is the highest it has risen in over 100 years. Now, just a few months after this, it had receded to almost nothing in certain parts! we had to be really careful not to run into too shallow water where our boat would get stuck.
You could actually see on the trees a line going across all of the from where the water had risen to this year. That was really cool!
On the flip side of that, since the water was so low, you could also see the very bottom roots of the trees. They were like fingers sticking into the ground, all entwined and bent, twisted.

It was a beautiful show of the frailty of Nature, yet these trees are massive, strong monsters!
The pictures of huge dead trees that had fallen in front, or intertwined with the fresh, green trees was also a great contrast.

If we had come when the water was highest, Gilberto said how we would have only seen the tops of the trees; no roots, no shore lines or sandy banks. So interesting! I would love to come back when the water is like that!
My next post will have the Meeting of the Waters...
I will let you soak in these for now ;)

Friday, December 11, 2009

I concede

Yes, the time has come for me to accept that my Steelers will not be going to the playoffs to defend their Title.
They are not playing cohesively. They have lost their last 5 games...and the last 2 losses were to teams that had only won a couple of games between them the whole season.

I will still support them....I will still stay up until all hours of the morning, since we are 3 hours ahead of EST, and watch them...I will still occasionally yell at the TV screen in the hopes that they hear my wise words of wisdom....I will still go the game on Dec. 20th against Green Bay in the hopes of a win, but more importantly to continue my ever faithful support...

and we will overcome this hurdle and come back as a better team next year!
Go black and gold!!

Holiday Cheer

Today, Gabriela and I, and 5 other of our friends got together for lunch.
We celebrate for various reasons...
going back to school lunch, too much school lunch,
Christmas lunch, getting back into school after a 5 week Christmas break lunch, too much school lunch, end of the year lunch...
you get the drift~

We all bring a dish. I like to try new dishes with these girls! Last time we had a Mexican food theme, so I tried fried ice cream. It was delicious!
This time I tried a recipe from a Hershey's chocolate cook book called Choco-Coconut Cake Roll.

This was my first time making a rolled cake in a jelly pan. I was nervous....
It cooked fine, and I flipped it onto it's towel. I peeled the aluminum foil off, and rolled it into it's towel, sprinkled with confectioner's sugar, as the recipe stated. So far so good....

Well, then I unrolled it to put in the filling, and it cracked! I am not sure why, but it cracked at various spots:

Maybe it was too moist, maybe the towel should have been a little damp...who knows! I salvaged it enough to roll the filling into it....hurry and cover it with foil again, put it in the fridge and take it to the party.
Then I was able to make it acceptable by putting on powdered sugar!
Voila! It tasted really good, even cracked!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Out boat, The Otter, the supply boat and how we were lucky

Out boat for the 7 days on the Rio Negro was called the Otter.

It was perfect for our group. We were a total of 18. We all had comfortable rooms, hot showers, albeit with river water coming out, and delicious food for every meal!

Check out the different landscapes behind these photos! There were sandy banks with beaches, rugged tree lined banks and others where only the water line and trees were seen.

Due to the many fisherman in our group, we also had a supply boat:

that pulled some of the bass boats. The Otter also pulled a couple bass boats and our canoe that we took on eco trips through the region.

At one point in the journey, we came across this poor boat:

It was traveling either without a supply boat to go ahead of it to help with shallow water, or it didn't have a very good captain! All I can say is that we were lucky to not have the same fate as the Velho Amelio! We found our inner pirate when we had a few hours to kill....
We went to the boat, scavenged a few old signs and the forgotten flag and came away imitating our best pirate "ARGH".

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Manaus, Brasil

Our first destination was for two nights in Manaus, the capitol of Amazonas State.
I expected to find a smaller jungle town, but instead we entered into a large city with about 1.7 million people. The houses were beautiful while the modern apartment buildings and lively atmosphere were surrounding us wherever we went.

Our hotel
was situated on the edge of the Negro river. It gave us beautiful sunsets, as almost every evening did on our trip.

We took a city tour to the beautiful Amazonas Opera house.

This theatre was built during the city's rubber boom in the late 1800's. According to our lively guide, Gilberto (who is the owner of the Otter, our house boat for the week), this was a modern beautiful building built in a time when barely 20,000 people lived in Manaus.

It's wood floors were sent to Portugal to be hand carved, where they cut each piece, brought it back to Manaus, and recreated the floor. There are Venetian glass chandeliers
and the best tapestries are on it's walls.

Today, there are many modern companies, including American Ballet Theatre, performing there. Many performances of local origins are free to the public! What a way to bring art into the community.

The next stop was to the Natural Science Museum. It was interesting place that gave us the precursor to what we would see on the Rio Negro! There were interesting stuffed creatures:
fish of all sorts including piranha, bugs and insects, so big that most of us actually hoped we wouldn't see, and then some live fish, including the pirarucu, a very large Amazon fish!
It was a great trip to see some of the city of Manaus.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Time is flying by!!

Time has just been whizzing by since Monday morning!
We returned home from such a relaxing, beautiful trip to the Amazon to the whirlwind that comes every year at Christmas time!

I am not complaining, I love this season! It makes me feel giddy just thinking about snow, yummy Christmas dinner and cookies, Midnight mass (which is now usually at 10), seeing the kids faces on Christmas morning, visiting with my family and my husband's family....
ah, the list goes on and on!

and now for some updates:
1. I will write about the Amazon trip in another post, but it certainly was amazing to be there!
2. My Steelers are hurting a little since I have been gone....lost 2 while I was away, but I know they will come back strong now! Plus, we are going to the game on the 20th in Pittsburgh!!!
3. My daughter had her Holiday presentation today, along with the other 3,000,000 kids in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades! She is such a tiny little sprite, and she was stuck behind a tall kid! I still took the video though you only see her about 80% of the time! Well, you see her Santa hat the whole time, just not the face attached to it!
They all wore those hats and red shirts...yes all 3,00,000 of them, and it looked great!
4. Gabriela and I had our book group Christmas party today at my house. It was a lot of fun, and the present "stealing" was a bit intense at the end! I "stole" these 4 beautiful small, delicate, candy bowls from a lady, it was the 2nd steal with only one more person after me, and only 1 more chance for someone to steal it because I was the last number to go....and don't you know, it was taken from me by the original lady that opened the present! Let me see if I can explain all this:
#1 lady picked a present, which turned out to be these bowls. Another lady, on her turn, "stole" them from her....a little later, I "stole" them from lady #2. A present can only be "stolen" 3 times, so I felt pretty good about it. HA! Well, the lady that I "stole" them from, turned around and took #1 lady's new gift. So, that meant #1 lady could "steal" again...
and hence, this is how she turned right back to me and got her bowls back!
Boo Hoo :(
Oh well, I ended up with a big pretty, acrylic bucket for ice, drinks and for me, a soon to come new beautiful flower arrangement!
Gabriela took a beautiful bracelet from someone fact, it was lady #1 from my bowl incident!! Poor lady #1 wasn't having much luck today, so I guess it was only right that she got her bowls back :)

Happy Holidays are here...let the festivities begin!