Last year I spent hours doing Christmas cards. Bought them at Costco in Canada, designed a photo montage to put in the card, printed the photos in Brazil ($$$), handsigned them, wrote a little poem on a slip of paper and decorated it with stickers, spent over an hour at the post office getting postage for all of the different places they were going, which took a full two hours to attach to the envelopes, only to have most of them arrive long after Christmas had passed despite mailing them at the beginning of December. It was truly a project.
This year I found a smarter expat solution. Shutterfly mails out personalized Christmas cards for you from the US! I am pretty sure I spent less on them this year than last, and even with having to manually input all of my addresses (a one-time thing) I still think it was less labour intensive than last year, and going forward now that the addresses are there, it will be a breeze.
Did I mention that this one is only for people with what I would call entirely too much money? In other words I think it's very cute but a ripoff nonetheless...
If you fall into this demographic and are looking for matching shorts for dad & son (or dad & daughter), head on down to Vilebrequin at Shopping Leblon, home of the most expensive swimming trunks in the world. Not sure if Vilebrequin is as outrageous elsewhere as in Brazil (imported items are often several times the price they would be elsewhere). Yes, there are many colors and patterns to choose from. I hope you don't snag them on something!
Mr. DRL and I recently went to Expand Wine bar in Ipanema (Rua Barão da Torre 358, Ipanema +55 (021) 2523 2747) for a lovely meal. We HIGHLY recommend the mushroom appetizer... meant to take a photo earlier but...
The idea of going was of course to pick out a nice bottle of wine to be served with dinner. Their wine prices are actually quite reasonable. After spending quite a bit of time picking out a bottle, little did we know, it was not one of the mere four chilled bottles of the variety of grape we were after. Haha! Oh well! Change of plans... ;) picked one of the four, and had a nice time.
I spotted some great Christmas gift ideas there as well - they have gift baskets/crates with wine and gourmet items at a variety of price points.
Specialty bottles as well:
Did I mention that they also sell Havana Alfajores from Argentina? Dangerous...
Garcia & Rodrigues (Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva, 1251 PH: 3206-4100) has a tonne of gorgeous Christmas stuff. No one's surprised by this. They have advent calendars too! For a mere R$24.... ;) Helping to swallow that, well, just think if you buy it now you need to eat almost a week's worth of advent calendar chocolate in order to... catch up.
No, I don't think they put their gorgeous truffles in those bad boys, but if you go there you really should try them. Garcia & Rodrigues has the best chocolate in Rio, in my opinion.
Tonight is the lagoa tree lighting, or as one friend put it: the world's largest artificial floating Christmas tree makes its way onto the Lagoa and the lights are turned on in a dramatic fashion surrounded by a blaze of fireworks....
If you're in Rio, head down to the lagoa today, it is truly a spectacle to see. The fireworks are set to start at 8 pm.
New Year's Eve in Rio is truly spectacular. The countdown is on. I can't wait! There are tonnes of events in every corner of the city (tickets to some of which are available here). What are YOU doing New Year's Eve?
Back home, stores tend to wait until Halloween is over to start going crazy over Christmas, and decorating for it. Being that Halloween is not really celebated here (gotta love all the "Halloween e satanismo" graffiti/signs that you see from time to time, year round), the season starts early. As in, now. Check out this store window:
Back home, my husband's family has a get-together every December to make fruitcake. It's a great time to catch up with the cousins and such, but I have a hard time spending an entire day up to my elbows cutting sticky maraschino cherries (rookies get the sickest jobs of all, I've learned) or spending hours separating eggs, all to make food I don't consider appropriate for human consumption. Note: I am clearly a hypocrite because gingerbread houses are totally another story in my opinion.... a family tradition for us, we even made one in Buzios this Christmas! The candy all melted off...
Anyway, I am a bad in-law, admittedly on fruitcake baking Sunday, I tend to have other plans... but maybe this could all change with a little alteration of the recipe... Why?
This Christmas when I noticed the boxes of what I quickly dismissed as just regular fruitcake EVERYWHERE along with some interesting Christmas displays, I jumped to two conclusions about Christmas: 1) Tacky Christmas decorations are a global issue 2) That god-awful fruitcake follows you around no matter how far away you move.
I stand behind #1, but boy was I wrong about #2. I had some Panetone the other day and it is delicious. Not like North American fruitcake at all. It's light, airy, delicious. Try some!
Am I the only one whose favorite Christmas music consists of whatever my parents played most as a kid? Which consisted of whatever tapes Auntie Janet copied for mom and dad, and whatever records we had?
Last night, I realized that it is Christmas in one week. Seriously, I've been oblivious. I was at the mall last weekend and was like, wow, the mall is sure busy, I wonder why...? Hello! You'd think the English Christmas Music they play in the malls constantly, and over the top decorations would remind me but apparently not... still doesn't feel like Christmas!
Being that we did minimal Christmas shopping this year (my husband and I are not exchanging gifts, my immediate family is not exchanging gifts as we are going away together for Christmas, plus we cut back significantly with my husband's family as well, and most of their shopping consisted of "Oh I'll buy that from your baby wish list!"My sister handled our buying for my dad & stepmom, yeah I've hardly shopped at all!), and we are in a tropical climate while back home they are getting beaten with snow (anyone hear that it is snowing in California and in VEGAS? Unreal. Wonder how many de-icers they have in the Las Vegas airport. According to my husband who was stuck in Houston in a snowstorm last week, Houston has ONE, and is a major hub. So I doubt it looks good for Vegas...They are also calling for a white Christmas all across Canada, and despite the fact that a lot of people think that we live in igloos and it's nothing but snow year-round up there, I assure you that a Canada-wide white Christmas has not happened in a long long time. Calgary generally doesn't even get a white Christmas, and neither does Vancouver...), wow anyway the traditional Christmas stuff is pretty anti-climactic around here this year. And that might just be the longest sentence ever.
So last night I did Christmas cards, and then realized most people will probably receive theirs around Easter... Whatev.
I also realized that we did not have any Christmas tunes here in Brazil, so I quickly went on iTunes and was delighted and a little SHOCKED to learn that ALL of my favorite Christmas albums growing up were available for immediate purchase and download. Want to hear my hitlist? It is a weird mix... This is so embarassing that it totally justifies me keeping my blog anonymous...
It is ironic that these are my favorite Christmas albums as I don't listen to any of these artists' non-Christmas music... kind of strange when you think about it! This is very different from my regular taste in music, the one exception is that I love everything by the Carpenters...
1) Celine Dion - These Are the Special Times - ok, not an oldie but I really like it and reminds me of snowy recent Christmases at my mom's, my favorite track is the "Another Year has gone by" song.
2) John Denver & The Muppets - A Christmas Together. This is where the SHOCKED it was on iTunes part comes in... It reminds me of when I was a kid, okay? We Wish You a Merry Christmas is a highlight with Miss Piggy singing about the figgy pudding.
3) The Carpenters - Christmas Collection. I hear this being played in Brazil a lot. I think Karen Carpenter has the best voice of any singer I've ever heard, it is very warm, smooth and comforting.
4) Anne Murray - Anne Murray's Christmas Album. Anne's "Silver Bells" is the best.
5) The Oak Ridge Boys - Christmas with the Oak Ridge Boys. Thank God for Kids is my fave.
6) Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers - Once Upon A Christmas - this might actually be my favorite overall Christmas album. The title track is good and I also love "With Bells On"
SIngles to complete the playlist: The Beach Boys: The Little St. Nick Mariah Carey: All I want for Christmas is You ABBA: Happy New Year Alvin & The Chipmunks: Please Christmas Don't Be Late (My husband HATES it when I put this on!!! haha... which amuses me...)
Now that I have thoroughly humiliated myself, I will proceed with the Christmas sighting of the day.
It's even a musical one (I assume...) Here in Rio if you are behind on your Christmas shopping there is really no excuse for you, as vendors are even set up at intersections selling Santas to motorists, it appears that they are Santas which do a variety of impressive things! Although none as impressive as my soccer, James Brown singing Santa I'm sure... (see video a week or so back).
Today I went to Shopping Via Parque in Barra, among other places. Via Parque was recommended to me as a great place to find baby stuff, and let me tell you there are a lot of baby stores there! There is also a great office supply store as well! I was impressed. Back to Christmas! I promised I would post a bunch of Rio Christmas stuff and I have not been doing a very good job, sorry! I'm camera - happy and on it now, though.
One of my favorite memories with my nephew was about two years ago when he was two years old. He had slept over at our house just after Christmas (and Auntie gave him one too many mint flavored chocolates and he "gurfed" on the floor - his word, not mine... "Auntie I gurfed"... minty gurf... ok not the favorite memory I was talking about but I am getting there... ) and that year my father in law had given us this beautiful Father Christmas which stood just a bit taller than our nephew at the time. He thought it was the greatest thing ever.
Fast forward to May, which happened to be the next time that a get-together happened at our house. He walked in the door and exclaimed: "Where's SANTA?" He thought Santa lived at our house? Now it was my turn to think that it was the greatest thing ever. Needless to say I didn't have the heart to tell him that Santa was in a box in the basement, rather just said he'd be back at Christmas time.
Kids HERE, in Rio, must think that Santa resides at our neighbourhood supermarket, Zona Sul... here are some photos of how far the Christmas decorating has gone. I'm particularly a fan of the little carts with reindeer on them...
This ornament is so great - many of my visitors were looking for unique "Rio" ornaments and we didn't seem to have much luck. Enter Brasil & Cia on Rua Maria Quitera (around the corner from the Cesar Park Hotel). These are great!
The other side features a scene of the Corcovado.
According to the people I spoke with at the store, Brasil & Cia is the only store which carries these ornaments, which are handmade by an artisan out of Teresopolis.
I purchased this for my sister in law and her family (they like soccer... and hopefully James Brown?). It is probably the funniest Christmas decoration I have seen. I plan to make this a regular feature between now and Christmas as there is just so darn much to work with here...
I'd been looking for a cool kite for my nephew - I love this one! Found on the beach from a vendor, they range in price from R$10 - $R20, depending on how cool of a little action figure you want to be on your parachute. Also: easily packaged up!
Last night we and our guests from Canada were fortunate to be invited to two lovely parties celebrating the lighting of the Christmas tree on the lagoa. We had a front row seat to all of the action, a gorgeous view, and waiters in tails at both places catering to our every whim. Even better for us - both parties were in the same building - how convenient is that? It was fantastic!
The lighting was accompanied by two fantastic fireworks displays and ironically it was the first time our guests caught a glimpse of the Corcovado in the background, despite being in Rio for the better part of a week. (A big moment! We sat at Parque Lage yesterday for about half an hour, watching the clouds and hoping for them to lift... but I guess they were meant to see it for the first time amidst the excitement of last night).
So a night of dancing (one of the parties had a singer who was fantastic), drinking (both bars served up every kind of caiprhina known to man), great food, fantastic company and the cutest little parting gifts I have ever seen - wrapped up chocolate heart cakes for all. I may have eaten mine for breakfast this morning...
A girl could really get used to this expat life in Rio if this is how everyone rolls...
The Christmas tree will now be lit every night and there will be fireworks & music every Saturday.