Ten things Brazil has that the United States doesn’t have

There are some things that Brazil has that just don’t exist in the United States. I love traveling and getting to experience new things. Here are a few of the most notable ones.

1. Havaianas. We have flips-flops, but we don’t have these. At least not in as many cool designs. One of the things that is actually cheaper here than in the United States and worth buying!!


2. Chocolate Quente (aka Hot Chocolate).  This is nothing like the hot chocolate in the States. It was like chocolate syrup filled with nuts (which makes for an interesting drinking experience).

Brazilian Hot Chocolate

3. Pastel. Sort of like a giant wonton filled with ground beef, chicken or cheese. A delicious, giant wonton. (How do Brazilians stay so thin??)

Pastel de Frango e Beef

4. French Bread. If you ask for French Bread here in Brazil, you won’t get what you are expecting. Usually delivered fresh from “padaria” each morning, these small loaves are perfectly crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Ask any Brazilian what they miss about Brazil, and I bet this bread will come up in the conversation.

French Bread

5. Requeijao. A cross between sour cream and cream cheese, it is the perfect pairing for the afore mentioned bread. I’ve found something similar in the International food section at HEB, but it’s not quite the same.


6. Peta. I don’t really know how to describe this one. It’s sort of like a pork rind with a little more substance and a little less bacon flavor. It was the first thing the kids asked for when they arrived. Careful. They are addicting!

Peta7. Pao de Queijo. The literal translation is “cheese bread”, but you can call it a little ball of heaven.  Brazilians seem to have mastered the art of baking anything with a perfectly crunchy outside and a deliciously gooey inside. (Side note: Those with gluten intolerance may have a difficult time surviving in Brazil.)

Pao de Queijo

 8. Pizza. You wouldn’t think eggs, peas, or corn belong on a pizza, but Brazilians will top their pie with just about anything, and make it work. I forgot how good the pizza is here. Many of the pizza places are “rodavarias”, where servers come around with pizza by the slice so you can try lots of different varieties. I don’t understand why this isn’t more of a “thing” in the US.


9. Quibe. I think this may have originated somewhere else, but it’s delicious and try as I might to make it at home, I haven’t gotten it right yet. Think crunchy, seasoned meatballs.


10. The. Best. Coffee. Ever.  Better than Starbucks could ever hope to be, and that is saying a lot coming from me. It’s also available everywhere, all the time, for free. Often there is a small coffee station on the way out the door after you eat. Or at the grocery store. Or the hardware shop. You know… wherever.




A look back at the best (and not so best) of 2013

With just two days left in 2013, I thought I would take a minute to reflect back on the year. It was a whirlwind for me. This year brought lots of new and different into my life, but as promised it was all for the best.

We rang in the New Year with samba-style with our family in Brazil. It was the second time that we had been there, the first being our wedding. There is something magical about family, even family that you have only met a couple times. We ate too much, laughed a lot, and spent the kind of quality time together that families rarely get to spend these days. I would say it was the perfect new beginning.

New Years Eve Brazil

We had barely settled our feet firmly on American soil before we were off again. This time it was a more permanent move. With the help of many friends and family members, we loaded up the moving van and set out of for a 14-hour trip to place we know call home: San Antonio. Moving across country is scary, and I have learned to appreciate what it must be like for military families that get relocated every couple of years. It’s one of those things that require planning, patience, and above all…faith. Another thing that I acquired in 2013.

Driving through Nebraska

Moving to a new city, brought lots of new experiences. It took longer than I thought it would to find a new teaching position, but I made the most of the “time off” by starting this blog!, meeting up with other amazing bloggers and their amazing kiddos, and spending quality time with my family that was long overdue. I was lucky to be able to stay home with my youngest. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that opportunity again, and I cherished creativity I was able to bring to his learning. We raced through letters, did an Alphabet Scavenger Hunt, and spent time in the pool playing word games with beach balls.

2013 Kids Collage

We enjoyed visits from many friends and family this year (and look forward to all of the friends and family that have yet to visit!) This summer my friends Kate and Jeanne-Marie came up this summer and spent several days. We were able to hit all of the landmarks: the Alamo, the Riverwalk, Enchanted Rock. We also spent some quality time by the pool.

Alamo Riverwalk

We were fortunate have my husband’s parents and sister from Brazil. The kids are lucky to have such a loving family spread out of over the world! While they were here, we enjoyed some Pho that we accidentally discovered thanks to one of our neighbors.

2013 Pho

I also found a some time to sneak in a couple crafting projects and try out some new recipes. I made a couple cute teachers gifts, like coffee cozies and lanyards. (I’m busy making more lanyards for teachers over Christmas break!) My daughter has been wearing this adorable dress ever since I revamped it. I’m lucky to have a wonderfully, crafty mother in law that shows me all of the tricks of the trade when she comes to visit. We always end up with an array of handmade goodies!

2013 Crafts

I could say that I spent more time in the kitchen in 2013 than years past. I always have the goal of learning how to really cook. T’his year I think I came closer than I ever have in the past! I found some great recipe and even created a few of my own. Blogging does wonders for your follow through. So does Pinterest. You could say that 2013 was the Year of the Quinoa and the Greek Yogurt. Looking at all of this delicious food is making me hungry! Yum!

2013 Food

A year and a half after selling our old house, we finally landed in a new one! Apartment living has its perks, like less space to keep clean and somebody else to fix things when they break, but I’m so happy to finally have a place to really call “home” (and a backyard to send the kids when they need to get rid of energy!)


In the middle of it all, I took a trip back home to celebrate my brothers wedding. It was a whirlwind trip, but I was able to meet up with several friends that I hadn’t seen since the move and spend a morning enjoying coffee at my favorite coffee place, The Mill, and spend some quality time with my dad!

Phil and Laurens Wedding

The Mill

In spite of all of the positive things that happened over the past year, there were some milestones that I wasn’t so excited to have celebrated. It has been five years since I lost my mom to cancer. It was a tough mark to gauge on the wall of life, but I try to celebrate her everyday through my children, my work and my commitment to being a good person. Also, this happened….

Car accident…but life is all about how you handle the ups AND the downs. Life takes grit, perseverance, and creativity.

I know that 2014 will bring new challenges and new adventures. I can’t wait to take them on!

Here’s to hoping that everyone had an equally eventful year, and wishing everyone the best of adventures in 2014!


Building Traditions

Sugar Cookies

This year is about building traditions. Last February, our family moved from Nebraska to San Antonio, so this will be our first Christmas down south. While our move brought us many new opportunities, it also took us quite a distance away from our family. It will be a small Christmas this year. Our kitchen island won’t be overflowing with appetizers.  The kids won’t be chasing their cousins through the house. I didn’t even buy a new Christmas tree, but instead opted to put up the 3-foot Charlie Brown tree that I bought last year to fit in our tiny apartment. It looks slightly sheepish, but the kids are still too young to notice that it is ridiculously small for our new house.

It just doesn’t feel like the Christmas that I’m used to this year. But, truthfully, I’ve been struggling with the “it just doesn’t feel like Christmas” sentiment for several years now. When we were growing up, we had pretty solid Christmas traditions. There was always a weekend or two dedicated to the Christmas experience. Shopping. Driving through neighborhoods to look at the lights. Hot Chocolate. Then, there was Christmas Eve at my Grandparent’s house. The menu was always the same: Homemade Chili and Oyster Stew, some sort of meat and cheese spread, a relish tray, and a rowdy game of Pitch to follow. The kids passed out the presents, and then we all took our turn opening one at a time until the floor was awash with wrapping, tissue paper, and empty boxes. At the end of the night my dad would warm up the car, load the present and pile us in for the sleepy six block (yep, I grew up in a really small town!) trip home. On Christmas morning, my brother and I would wake up extra early so that we could scout our stockings, then carefully place everything back so that no one would be the wiser. As we sat around in our pajamas opening presents, the room was full of happiness. After presents, we would make breakfast complete with sparkling cider that made it feel “fancy”.

Now that I am grown up with my own children, I feel like I need to set some new Christmas traditions. I want my kids to experience the same feelings of anticipation and excitement that I felt as a child. I want them to hear Mannheim Steamroller and be transported to the sights and smells of Christmas morning. The thing I’ve come to realize is that Christmas traditions can quickly die off, and I need to work to maintain old traditions and build one with my family.

New city. New house. This year seems like the perfect year to start building those new traditions.

I want to make sure that the kids find something in Christmas besides presents. We spent the day making Christmas cookies. I had plans to make more, but decided that sugar cookies, biscotti and almond bark pretzels were enough. We are planning to take the kids to Midnight Mass even though it’s late, so that they understand what Christmas is really about.

Christmas Cookies

In the morning when they wake up, I hope I can catch them trying to sneak a peak into their stockings. I want to remember the excitement in their faces when they see all the presents that Santa left for them while they were sleeping. I plan to make a special breakfast. Maybe they will each get to pick out one present to open before we eat. I know that building our traditions will take time, but I’m anxious to get started. (I’m also anxious for this scrumptious biscotti and a quiet cup of coffee in my pajamas.)

White Chocolate Orange Cranberry Biscotti

Christmas Morning Menu

Quiche with Sage Pork Sausage
Zesty Lime and Ginger Winter Fruit Salad
Orange Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti
Sparkling Apple Cider