Monday, March 31, 2014

Pics from my balcony and why I don't like Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour

So the other day I was sitting down to write a review of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour, and I realized I should take a picture of the coffee cake I had made.  I also realized that I was drinking tea out of an adorable tea cup that my friend gave me (my friends are the best).  I also realized that it was a beautiful day outside.  So I got a stool, a tea-towel to cover the ugly stool, and snapped these photos.

Here's the thing - I'm afraid of our balcony.  I'm not afraid of all balconies... just ours.  You see, when you step out on the balcony, it jiggles.  It really does.  And, maybe I'm weirdly paranoid, but I just don't trust that the balcony is going support my weight and remain attached to the building.  So I try to avoid it as much as possible.  But the views are just wonderful.

View facing right, toward the ocean:

View facing straight ahead:

This tea towel was embroidered by a lady at Peter's family's church in Sao Paulo.  It was a wedding gift!  How cute!

View facing slightly left:


When I decided to be gluten free, I basically stopped baking or eating baked goods.  The minimal recipes that I tried just avoided flour whatsoever, or called for almond flour.  I have bought some pre-baked goodies that tasted ok, but I just try to avoid the sweets altogether.  However, somehow, when we moved to Brazil, I ended up with a couple of packages of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (I think some family members gave it to me to try).  So over the past 8 months, I've tried baking with it.  Some recipes that I've tried: Brownies, Coffee Cake, Apple Fritters, Cupcakes, Fried Fish, etc. 

Here's the thing - it's gross.  It tastes really gross.  You know how a lot of people don't like gluten-free sweets because they taste "weird?"  Yeah, this is the flour that tastes weird.  Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour is a mixture of garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour.  I'm not sure which of those ingredients gives it the weird taste.  I have used tapioca flour before, so I know it's not that.  Maybe it's the sorghum?

I'm not an expert food reviewer, and I really don't know how to write a food review.  So, for me, what it all comes down to is the taste.  All I can say is, this stuff tastes gross.  It doesn't matter what other flavors you add to it (sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, etc), it just doesn't taste good.


Side note: I did try making the coffee cake recipe you see pictured above using a different gluten-free flour blend (a Brazilian brand), and it tasted reeeeally good.  I need to tweak the recipe a little bit before sharing, because even though the flavor was amazing, it turned out super dense and difficult to eat.

So I hope this post was helpful to someone, and I hope you enjoyed my pictures!  Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city, and I'm really sad that it *most likely* won't work out for us to stay here.



P.S. By the way, "beijos" (bay'-joos, with a soft j) are kisses in Brazil.  Another post on that, soon.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

Etching Sand Castles on a Single Grain of Sand

This is so cool!  Plus I love that the one guy's name (Coelho).  One time, Peter and I were with his friend getting açaí in Sao Paulo, and I was still learning my Portuguese vocabulary.  I held up a spoon and said, a little too loudly, "Coelho!"  Peter and his friend cracked up laughing, and I had no idea why!  I was so proud of myself for remembering the word!  Peter and his friend kept laughing and finally told me that I had just called my spoon a bunny.

(In my defense, the word for spoon and bunny are similar!  Spoon = colher, bunny = coelho)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Just for looks - beauty products

Confession: I am a sucker for packaging.  I judge books by their covers.  I buy products based on how they look.  I am the reason companies spend billions of dollars on marketing and advertising.  So I decided to do a post on what I would buy, if money were not an issue, based purely on looks (and it's pretty much true that the most beautiful products are also the most expensive).  

Today I am featuring beauty products.

Sleek and sophisticated, plus it just looks luxurious!

May Lindstrom, "The Complete Skin Experience,"order here

Cute and natural-looking

Tarte Amazonian Clay Airbrush Foundation, order here.  Tarte Airbuki Bamboo Powder Foundation brush, order here.

Fresh and vintage-esque

Benefit Cosmetics, Dandelion blush, order here.

Simple elegance

Josie Maran Argan Beautiful Eyes, purchase here.  Dolce and Gabbana Passion Eyes Mascara, purchase here.

Luxurious and jealousy-inducing

YVES SAINT LAURENT Rouge Volupté Shine, purchase here.

Clean and polished

Marc Jacobs Enamored Hi-Shine Nail Lacquer, purchase here.

Wish lists are great for keeping track of what you want to buy in the future.  And they're also great for other people to keep in mind for birthdays and Christmas presents.  hint hint  ;)

Do you make purchasing decisions based purely on packaging like I do???  What's on your wish list these days?



*Please note, I have not tried any of these products and I am not necessarily recommending them.  Also, I provided links for easy purchase, but these are not affiliate links and I am not making any money off of this post.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Made with Paper

Here are some more of my sketches from the iPad app, Paper.  I like to sketch out ideas, but then I have no idea what to do with them!!!  I think I need to go back and flesh out some ideas and clean them up. I'm not an artist, and I don't think any of these ideas would end  up being good enough for selling prints or anything like that.  I just do it for fun, to see how creative I can be, or to relax after a long day.

Experimenting with borders

Clearly I am drawn to flowers and patterns.  What are you sketching these days?



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guilt-free Cookies

Thanks for all the kind words, both here on the blog and on the blog's facebook page, from yesterday's post.  I wish I could go back in time and tell my 15 year old self, "Don't worry, you're going to end up with some really awesome friends!"  :)

Yesterday I posted a sneak peek on my Instagram account of this cookie recipe.  I've seen this recipe floating around the internet, so yesterday I decided to put my own spin on it.

There is a debate about whether or not oats contain gluten.  Since I'm not celiac, I just eat whatever doesn't bother me.  Oats don't give me any problems, so I eat them.  If you're celiac, please make sure you find certified gluten-free oats!

Here's the recipe (adapted from countless sources around the internet):

2 bananas
1/2 cup oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
add-ins of choice (I used craisins and chocolate chunks)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the cinnamon into the oats.
Mash the bananas into the oats.
You may need to adjust the number of bananas.  Here in Brazil, the bananas we use are small.  I started with one banana and 1/2 cup oats, but I needed to add a second banana to give it more of a cookie dough texture. I suppose you could mix it all in the food processor, but I mashed them by hand!
Mix in your add-ins, making sure you don't add too much.   The dough needs to be able to stick together.

Grease a cookie pan.
Scoop your cookie dough onto the cookie pan.  It is important that you shape the dough into cookie shapes, and flatten the tops.  These do not melt when they bake - the shape you put them in is the shape they will stay!

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the outside looks and feels kind of crispy.
Let cool a little bit before eating.

Yield: about 8 medium-sized cookies

These cookies are sooo good!  Slightly crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside.  They do have a strong banana flavor, so if you don't like bananas, you won't like this recipe.  The banana flavor tastes more like dehydrated bananas (which I prefer) than fresh bananas.

I think these would be amazing with craisins, coconut flakes, and white chocolate.

What's your favorite cookie combination?



I started doing the Pilates Beginner's Calendar on Blogilates.  It's so fun and the instructor is so motivating!  If you're looking for free, at-home exercising, give pilates a try!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Be Yourself

It's hard to be yourself when all you can think about are the negative things people have told you.

"You're only pretty when you straighten your hair"
"I want to become a plastic surgeon so I can help people like you"
"You need a nose job"
"Everyone in the alto section hates you"
"You need to be brought down a couple of notches" (in regards to confidence levels)
"You're too blunt"
"Don't worry, I stick up for you when other people are gossiping about you"
"You have a mean face"

Sometimes you just need to be reminded that you are good enough.  That the "you" who you are is the "you" you should be.  (Sounds like something straight out of Dr. Seuss.)

But seriously, say something nice to someone today.  You never know what negative things they were told 10 years ago that they still remember today...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

5 Brazilian Quirks

Today I'm going to talk about some Brazilian quirks.  When I use the word "quirk" I'm not talking about stereotypes.  Stereotypes are annoying and not often true (not everyone in California is a surfer dude and not everyone in Alabama is a redneck).  Quirks are just little things that might go unnoticed, but add to the flavor of the place.

Just as stereotypes can vary by region, so can quirks.  I am currently living in Rio, so I'm not going to assume that all of these things are applicable to the rest of Brazil, though some certainly are true of Sao Paulo, as affirmed by Peter.  So even though these might be "Rio only" things, I'm going to use the word "Brazilian," just because it's easier.

1.  Brazilians love the bum bum - Ah, the butt.  In the U.S. women try on clothes and ask each other, "Does this make my butt look big?  Yes?  Ok then I'm NOT buying it!"  In Brazil, women try on clothes and ask each other, "Does this make my butt look big?  Yes?  Great!  I'm getting it!"  It's false that the "Brazilian" wax was invented in Brazil (I believe it started in New York), but the bikinis here certainly require it.  The more behind you can show, the better.  Doesn't matter if you're thin and svelte or built like a whale - you will show off your g-string with pride.  Another random thing is that Brazilian women love tan lines.  Unlike women in the States who try to tan without getting tan lines, Brazilian ladies purposely try to get tan lines. 

2.  Brazilians honk about everything - Honking can me a variety of things in Brazil.  Some common interpretations of the honk:
- Thank you!
- Watch out!
- I'm coming toward you and I'm not slowing down
- Get out of my lane
- You're driving too slow
- I'm annoyed at being stuck in this traffic
- Hey girl, you're cute
- I agree with whatever sign you're holding
- etc. etc.

I'm used to honking pretty much only meaning "look out," so for probably the first month of living here, walking everywhere was a very nerve-wracking experience for me, just because of the fact that I was always jumping and looking around for "danger" whenever I heard a honk (which, of course, happened about every 2 seconds).

3.  Brazilians never give exact change - They always round to the nearest .5 or .10.  They don't even have a 1 cent coin.  And they get really mad if you pay with a R$50 (equivalent of a $20 bill in the States) or higher.

4.  Brazilians do not like to eat with their fingers - Peter assures me that I have not received any weird looks for eating my french fries with my fingers, but he says, "That definitely tells them you're American."  If you are at a barzinho and don't order anything else that requires silverware, they will give you toothpicks to use with the french fries.  Also, ketchup is not common, and I've been given many weird looks when asking for ketchup to go with my fries.  Also, just as they don't like to eat with their fingers, they don't like to drink out of cans or bottles without a cup, or at the very least, a straw.

5.  Thumbs up for everything and everyone - Like honking, thumbs up can mean many things here, but usually it is a form of "thanks:"
- Thanks for letting me cross the street
- Thanks for opening the gate for me
- Thanks for driving the boat that took me across the lagoa
- etc. etc.

Some people joke that they can get into any gated condominium by merely driving up confidently, smiling, and giving a thumbs up.

Some extras:
Most Brazilian expectant mothers have elective c-sections.  In fact, when my friend had her baby, the hospital nurses were so unaccustomed to natural births, that they forgot to deliver her placenta.  It was her first baby, so she had no idea, until 2 weeks later when she got really really sick and had to go to the emergency room!  Also, circumcision is not typically done here.

I'm sure there are plenty more "quirks" that I can think of, but this is all I'll post for now.  I love learning these unique things about each place I visit.  It makes me feel like I'm truly experiencing and living in the culture.

Just for fun, my favorite picture of us taken here

What are some quirks about where you live or places you've visited?