Thursday, May 24, 2012


One type of food I miss the most is Mexican food. I love food with heat and with spice. I haven't found a lot of either here. After seeing the price of imported Salsa I decided to make my own. The price listed it is reais. (hay-ice) The Brazilian Real (singular) trades around two reais (plural) for one dollar. So one jar would be $12. Yikes! A little too rich for my blood.

We were told about a great produce store that had chili's. We found some big Anaheim chilies, cilantro, onions and tomatoes.

I processed the green chile by first charring the skins,

  steaming then peeling the papery skin off

 and then chopping.

 One can of green chili sells for $8. I was able to get the equivalent of two cans of chili from 4 chili peppers which cost $.75.

I chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro and squeezed limes. With the added chilies it was very good.

I took half of the salsa and mixed it with one avocado which was the size of a medium cantaloupe. Score!
Lots of tasty guacamole. Spice and heat. Yum.

Artisan Chocolate Chip Cookies

The craving for chocolate chip cookies became too much so I decided to give cookie making a shot. First I had to make my own brown sugar. 1 tablespoon of molasses blended well into 1 cup of granulated white sugar. My choice of mixing utensils was a fork or a spoon. I went with the fork. I stirred and mashed and finally got the molasses well incorporated. It looked a little anemic but I decided to go with it.

I couldn't find any shortening so I went with butter. I knew they would spread more than usual but that was OK. No chocolate chips here so I bought a large dark chocolate bar and chopped it up. Blending it all together with a fork took a little bit of work but if my pioneer ancestors could do it, so could I. Although I don't think the pioneers made chocolate chip cookies.

The next challenge was the toaster oven. I had to convert the temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit. My cookie sheet was the drip pan that came with the oven. I covered it with foil so the clean up would be easy. The first batch of 6 burned a little on the bottom. I turned the heat down and the next batch came out a little raw. Cooked those a little longer and they looked pretty good. The last six I cooked just right. I think they look a lot like the cookies and cream ice cream with the slivered chocolate.

I think the dough tasted better than  the finished product. The cookies were pretty good but cooking in a toaster oven is not that great. But since so much of the recipe was made from scratch I call these my artisan cookies.

Sights on a walk

Every day Mike and I try to get in some exercise. My favorite thing to do is to  go walking. We look at a map and see if there is anything interesting to go look at or if we just want to walk down a different street. On this day we went to see a park that was close by. When we got to the park there was no entrance to it and no trails. So we continued down the road to see the sights.

We came upon a granite yard.

They had large slabs of granite.

Smaller tiles of granite.

Granite in lights and darks.

What interested me was the man out polishing a slab with just a hand sander. No big computer driven machine here.

I have mentioned before about security devices. How about this one for do it yourself security?

We saw some poorer homes not too far from

                                                                                   the more expensive condos.

I really like the colorful colors of some homes. These are more the exception than the norm.
Notice the blue sky? That was a glorious day to be out and about.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An Afternoon spent with the Federal Police

Last Friday we had to go register with the federal police. We had assistance with the paper work and a church representative met us at the police building along with about 40 young missionaries.

An appointment had been made but when we got there we were told they were running about an hour behind. We took a seat and visited with some of the young Elders. It made me laugh when one said, "Sister Stephenson, can you tell me why we are here? At the MTC they just told us to get on a bus and when the bus stopped they told us to get off." I explained that along with the visa you had 30 days to register with the federal police and that was why he was here.

When time came for us to see the clerk, we had just seated ourselves when their system went down. It didn't take long for it to be restored thank heavens. After that part we then waited to be photographed and fingerprinted (both physically and digitally).

We left here at 2:00 and returned at 5:30. On Sunday we asked a couple of Elders how long it took them. They said they didn't get back to the MTC until 6:30. Just goes to show that being older and going first does have its advantages.

And to think we get to do this again in a year when our visas expire.

Safe eating

The medical doctors did a seminar on how to be safe when eating. Number one item was never purchase food from a street cart. You are most likely to pick up something bad there. They informed us we should be washing our produce before we eat it and told us how to do it.

For each liter of water you use 2 tsp of bleach. It is 2 here because their bleach is not as strong as the bleach in the states. You bathe the produce for 1 minute then you can remove it.

I then rinse the produce using filtered water to remove the chlorine and let it air dry. I processed all the fruit I bought at the street fair. It is kind of a pain but as the Docs said, you can't be too careful.

Monday, May 14, 2012

So sad to see it end

When we were getting ready to fly to Brazil we wanted a little sweet treat to take with us. So we grabbed a package of Hershey's nuggets with almonds. During our trip we didn't even open the package. Because it was so warm in our apartment we stuck the package in the fridge. In the ensuing days we would each get one nugget at night. We so enjoyed that little sweet treat.

We were sad to see that our package of chocolate was not never ending. We shared the last one last night. We are going to try unknown brands of chocolate and try to find a good substitute. That sounds like a tasty endeavor.

Finding the Butantan Institute

Last Monday on our day off Mike wanted to see if we could find the Butantan Institute. Mike remembered visiting there when he was here before. According to the map it is located near by. Not having a printer we sketched out a rough map of how to get there. Google maps said it was 3 km and a 31 minute walk. Although it did say that some areas had no sidewalk and caution was advised.

We set off and did really well until we hit the road where a freeway ended. Getting across the road took us out of our way. We doubled back and continued on following the road signs for cars. In Sao Paulo there are very few intersections that allow left hand turns. Here three rights equal a left. So with a few detours we were back on track and finally arrived at the Institute after an hour of walking.  So much for a 31 minute walk.

We discovered that the museum was closed on Mondays as are almost every other museum we have looked into. The Institute is known for it's research into poisonous snakes and insects. They are supposed to have the largest supply of anti-venom serum. We did find an outdoor serpent habitat and were able to see a few snakes.

The Institute is located in a nature preserve and it was amazing to see the dense trees and vines that are in the middle of a busy city. There was very little traffic noise. The quiet was such a contrast to the streets we had just been on.

Our return trip was shorter knowing where not to go but it still was a challenge. We came home and collapsed. Never to budge again for the evening.

Too many bananas

When our daughter went on her mission and was in the MTC in Provo we went nuts sending her lots and lots of cookies. She sent us a letter that said, "too many cookies." This past week reminded me of that letter. We went to the street fair again on Friday. Bananas are priced by the dozen but you can get the bunch divided in half, or however many you want. We were looking at bananas and I indicated that a bunch looked pretty good, thinking that we would get half of it or about six bananas. Mike thought I wanted the whole bunch. I thought that Mike wanted the whole bunch. Both of us did not want to sound critical so neither one of us said, "Are you crazy? What are we going to do with that many bananas?"

When we got the bunch home I counted up the number of bananas and there were 17 bananas on that bunch. That is a whole lot of bananas. Plus we already had two here. I have had bananas in my oatmeal, bananas on my corn flakes and bananas as a snack. I really hate really ripe bananas so I stuck them in the fridge. I know the skins will turn black and they will look awful but they won't be over ripe. I don't like a banana that tastes too banana-y but it is different eating a cold banana. Is this what you would call going bananas?

New Sunday Assignment

For the past three weeks we have been attending church services at the Brazilian MTC. Mike has been called to serve in a Branch Presidency there although he hasn't been assigned to a specific branch yet. I will be working in the Relief Society as an occasional teacher.

We are working with the Elders and Sisters from North America or in other words the English speaking missionaries. This enables the missionaries to understand church services and to be understood by their church leaders. The missionaries are organized into districts which are determined by their arrival at the CTM (Brazilian speak for MTC). Districts can be as large as 12 and as small as 4. The branch consists of 3-5 districts. They keep branches small so the branch presidency can get to know the missionaries. The branch size will vary depending on how many missionaries are in the CTM. We were told that this past January the total was around 50,  few weeks ago it was around 300, yesterday it was 255.

The Elders and Sisters and interviewed when they arrive, half way through their time at the CTM and then just before they leave. Most are in the CTM for nine weeks but there are a few test groups that are there for only six weeks. The missionaries are given the opportunity to speak in church, help with the music, and pray. They are asked to sing the hymns in Portuguese and to pray in Portuguese. Otherwise everything else is in English.

It is so much fun to get to know the missionaries and give them our support. It is also fun to know what is going on in church. It doesn't help my language skills but it does boost my spirit. The CTM is a great place to be serving. I am so thankful for this opportunity.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Street fair

Several of the missionary couples had been telling us about a street fair that is located quite close by. It is held every Friday morning and has farmers bring in their produce to sell. This morning Mike and I went with another couple to check it out.

It was a beautiful morning (no rain) and we were there around 8. We ran into other missionary couples that we knew. The produce was so pretty. There were several things that I had no clue what they were.

It was similar to Costco in that the vendors offered us a taste of anything we were interested in. The pineapples here look so green, no yellow cast at all to them. We asked one fellow how to tell if they were good. He showed us how to hit it and see if it was firm. If firm, it was ripe. He cut open one and gave us a taste. Oh my goodness. It was so sweet. The flesh is a pale yellow and not the dark yellow we are used to.

The avocados are huge. They have a milder flavor than what we are used to but they are mighty tasty on my turkey sandwich. (This picture was taken in a grocery store a few days ago.)

We tasted persimmon, a fruit that looks like an artichoke but it is very sweet. The variety of bananas is amazing. They have some that are about the size of your finger. There is a variety that tastes just like an apple.

We finished of the outing by tasting their deep fried pasties. Mike is holding one with cheese and one with meat. I liked the ones without any filling and are sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

There were vendors of meat, clothing, shoes, cane sugar drinks but mostly produce. When I took out my camera to take a picture Mike said I was being a tourist. Yes I was. Proudly. We will certainly return here often.

Brazilian electric connection

There has been some renovation going on here in the building. One day as Mike and I walked past the laundry room Mike stopped and stared. He pointed out to me the electric connection for one of the men's tools.

If you look close you will see that bare wires are just stuck into the outlet. That is a 220 V outlet by the way. Talk about living on the edge.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Can it be?

Can something quilty be happening?
Some background has been cut. (That would have been a boring picture.)
Templates have been made.

Homemade starch has been cooked up.

Fabric has been pulled.

Yup, I think a quilt block (block #1 of Lolly Pop Trees) is about to start taking shape.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Who needs a stair-stepper?

After several days of rain and drizzle the sun came out and it was beautiful. We went for a walk in the surrounding neighborhood. There were several things I found interesting. First, since Sao Paulo is built on hills there are a lot of ups and downs.

The sidewalks are not at all even and you really have to watch where you are stepping.

Even tree roots grow out across the sidewalk.

The composition of the sidewalk varies from house to house. We have heard that each landowner is responsible for their walks, hence no uniform construction.
Security is a big deal here. I noticed this plant which is very common. I guess it is a deterrent to keep intruders out. I would not want to tangle with it. I have seen it from a small shrub to a tall wall.

Cars are parked behind locked gates. What do you do if your car is bigger than the carport? Make a gate that goes out and around the car. I thought it was a great idea.
It was a beautiful day and a great walk.

Risking Life and Limb....really

The street the temple is located on is a busy street. It is six lanes across, but in the US they would equal about 4 lanes. The lanes are narrow and most cars are small. The two inside lanes are reserved for buses and let me tell you, the buses go speeding by. Actually the buses are not the only ones that go speeding by. The cars do to. You really have to watch out for the motorbikes. They drive on the line between the cars and they can go from a dead stop to very very fast in little time.

Here is a view of the center of the road taken from a bus stop. The first couple of days we were here Mike would have us dashing across the road. One time we had to hang out in the middle of the road (18" wide) while we waited for traffic to clear. With buses zooming by on each side it was a scary experience. After that I declared NEVER AGAIN. I now make Mike walk down to the light at the end of the block and cross there. I want to live to see my kids again.

Man with cat

This just cracked me up. Yesterday I was waiting at the bus stop which is located in the middle of the street. I looked over and saw a man with his dog on a leash and a great big cat draped across his shoulders. He had stopped to talk with someone. It was a challenge to get a picture because cars and buses were racing by. I snapped a picture and managed to get another. I am sorry they are kind of blurry but I didn't have a lot of time.

The cat did not look like he was enjoying the trip.