My birthday always falls on Memorial Day weekend, while the boyfriend’s is always on Labor Day, making them perfect for weekend-long celebrations!
We started, of course, opening gifts: the new chess table is perfect for our Midtown porch. Then we had one of our favorite inventions: grilled cheese with chips in the middle. Even more delicious after a run (or walk… I’m still not running…)
The afternoon was spent at Animal Ark, a sanctuary for wild animals that can’t live on their own anymore. It was a hot hot day in the dessert, but the black bears, pumas, cheetahs, jaguars, and several birds were worth seeing. Then off to Reno’s Rib Cook-Off: the french fries with pulled pork from BJ’s are the best!
Finally, we finished our weekend (which was filled with food, drinks, and friends as seeing on the previous post), with a picnic by the river, watching Slick and Parker play in the water, and a trip to the new luxury theater in Sparks to watch “Guardians of the Galaxy”. I totally recommend the new movie theater: they serve beer, wine, food, and have comfortable reclining chairs for a reasonable price.
The boyfriend and I love to dress up, so on his actual birthday we decided to have a 1920’s/Gatsby themed party. With my flapper headband and the boyfriend with his cane, we first headed to Rapscallion for dinner, one of the best and oldest restaurants in Reno. Besides, delicious seafood, they have great specials on set-menus and drinks too!
Then we met everyone at Death and Taxes, a pretty cool bar in Midtown, perfect for the theme. We had a blast sipping on the super expensive but amazing cocktails. It worked out great, as most of the people who couldn’t make it to his surprise birthday party made it to this event instead. We were not the only people in town that decided to have a themed party though: later that night we mingled with a Greek group as well.
Two weeks before the boyfriend’s birthday, I told him I was inviting a couple of MY friends over for a “summer party”, but what was really happening was a surprise birthday party for him. I managed to get the boyfriend’s contacts from his phone, but I was afraid I wouldn’t get a good turn out since a lot of people were out of town camping that weekend.
The day of, I gave the boyfriend an errands’ list for him to do before going to the “summer party” at 5. I had told everyone to show up at 4 pm, and, thank goodness half of them did, because the boyfriend decided to show up at 4:15! We heard him coming in and hid behind the counter. When he came into the house, everybody shouted “Surprise!” It took him a couple of minutes to figure out what was going on: what was everyone doing there early? why had I invited his friends to MY summer party? And then he saw all the birthday decorations and realized the party was for him.
He actually still had to finish one more errand for the day, so since not everyone was there yet, he left and came back half an hour later once everybody had arrived. We all hid again and shouted “Happy Birthday!”
It was a fun filled birthday with carrot cake and s’mores, but I almost ran out of food since more people than we were expecting showed up. Thank you so much everyone for being a part of this!
It’s peach time! The boyfriend’s backyard tree is just bursting with peaches, so this past weekend I picked a few to make a cobbler. I looked up some recipes online and I chose one that had two many complaints about one thing: it’s too sweet! Well, that’s my kind of recipe. It turned out oh so sweet and so wonderful! The texture is more like a cake or bread pudding than a flaky cobbler, but I actually liked that better. If I had time, I would just make dozens of cobblers and freeze them for the year.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups of sugar, divided
1 tablespoon of baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup of milk
5 cups fresh peaches, peeled, cut in quarters
1 tablespoon lime juice
Ground cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
Melt butter in a 13×9 baking dish. In a bowl, combine dry ingredients (use just one cup of sugar!). Add milk to form a batter. Pour over butter, but do not stir.
Bring the remaining cup of sugar, peaches, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat. Pour over batter, but do not stir. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
Makes 10 servings of 325 calories each.Eating: Peach Cobbler It’s peach time! The boyfriend’s backyard tree is just bursting with peaches, so this past weekend I picked a few to make a cobbler.
I finally spent most of the summer in Reno this year and while I had plans to run everyday, go to the beach in Tahoe, and take short road trips here and there, I spent most of my time relaxing, going to Artown events, and eating. Not that I didn’t want to run: I tried, and one week I even did over 15 miles, but July in Reno is just way too hot, over 90, to be exercising outside. Even at night it was crazy hot, so all I could do was walk around Virginia Lake at 10 pm with the boyfriend. Not that I didn’t want to go to Tahoe either: I took the boys there as soon as I came back from Brazil, and then I had to work at the college for a week. I tried going to the beach after work everyday, but, of course, it rained non-stop that week and after that I just gave up; however, we did spend the day building a raft in Tahoe for our first day back to work.
Nevertheless, it was a great summer with art shows, plays, and concerts. Every July there is an art festival in Reno called Artown. There are so many events to choose from! The boyfriend and I went to an art show of a Brazilian artist (Marcio Decker), a local performance of the Broadway show “Avenue Q”, and another play called “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare”, which attempted to show the audience a fun and quick version of all of Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies in less than 2 hours. Artown is not only for people: one day at the park they had the dogs do some paw painting. Slick and Parker are quite talented ;) Finally, this summer, I went to a Lady Gaga concert at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena. Super fun, although I was expecting more craziness from her fans!
I shouldn’t even start naming all of the restaurants the boyfriend and I have been to this summer. I think I only cooked twice in the past two months: my Brazilian pancakes for dinner, and American pancakes for breakfast. I think even the boyfriend was at the kitchen more than me, making lasagna and chicken croquettes. It was nice to seat on the porch watching all the Midtown action, or having friends over for some s’mores in my backyard. Speaking of friends, we went to a fun French party at the O.’s: nutella crepes, croissants, and lots of cheese, and another great get-together at T.’s where we watched “The Wizard with Oz” paired with a Pink Floyd soundtrack.
As for the restaurants I wasn’t going to name, I have to give a shout out to at least a couple. A new favorite breakfast place is Little House on Center Street. For dinner, the Santa Fe Restaurant, a family-style Basque restaurant downtown, cannot be beat. Okay, now I’m hungry also thinking about the food trucks downtown, fish tacos from Bistro 7, sushi from Kei in Carson, and even the burger from Johnny Rockets. Although not a restaurant, the Greek Festival had an amazing baklava as always.
Then on my last day of summer vacation, the boyfriend and I spent the day relaxing in Genoa. We went for a jog downtown, had a drink at Nevada’s oldest bar, soaked at the hot springs, and had a nice four-course dinner at David Walley’s restaurant. After all, you don’t need to travel the world to have a fun, relaxing, and nice summer vacation.
Pretty much all the events we attended in Belo Horizonte revolved around food, so here are some of the places we’ve been to and the things we ate. Everyday my mom, my aunt, and my parents’ maid would cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner for us. The highlight for me was pão de queijo (cheese bread), since it was homemade and warm. If there were any left from breakfast, we would also eat it as a snack with coffee in the afternoon. My mom’s maid also found out that palha italiana (a chocolate and cookies patty) was one of my favorite desserts and made that for my last day in Belo Horizonte. Since açai was one of the boyfriend’s favorite juices in the Amazon, my mom also defrosted the special pulp for him. Another thing that cannot be missed at my parents: bacalhau, the salted cod fish baked Portuguese style.
Some days it seemed all we did was eat, watch a World Cup game on television, eat again, watch another game, play with the dog Sucki, and eat again before going to bed. There was always a snack too, like banana frita (fried bananas), goiabada (guava candy), and ovo de pascoa (the huge chocolate Easter eggs they had been saving for me).
While we were there, we also had a couple of birthdays: my mom’s and my nephew’s. My mom’s was a low-key one at home, with chocolate cake. My nephew’s 6th birthday was a whole production with Batman decorations, huge cake, an entertainer and bouncy house for the kids, and, of course, salgadinhos (Brazilian appetizers, like croquettes and mini-quiches) and brigadeiros (chocolate-caramel little ball).
Of course, World Cup games were also an excuse to eat. For Brasil vs. Chile we went to my sister’s and had more salgadinhos and brigadeiros, along with other dishes brought by her neighbors, like hot dogs and lasagna. For one of the USA games we met my friend S. at Bar Itatiaia for some beer, and then for the Germany vs. Brasil I met her again, but at Bar do Carmo. During Brazil games, downtown streets were closed for people to watch the game on big screens. Very crowded, but I went there anyway to see my friend M. and his family.
Belo Horizonte, being a big city without a beach, has many malls as a pastime. I went many times to Pátio Savassi Mall since it is so close to my dad’s office. There I met my friend M., walked by our old high school that is nearby, and ate at Graciliano, one of my favorite places because they have an upscale all-you-can-eat buffet. Also, one of the only places I can find this almond cookie called “financier”.
When you think of Brazilian food and drinks, you think of two things: caipirinha and churrasco. Caipirinha is a cachaça (Brazilian rum), sugar, and lime juice drink best found in “botecos” (bars), like the one we went to with my siblings: Armazém Medeiros. Now for the churrasco, we went to churrascaria Ambrosios, which is an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse/barbecue place. The servers bring each of the several cuts of meat on a big skewer to your table, one by one, for as long as you can eat them. All the side dishes are on a buffet, but the meat will be brought to you if you have a green coaster that says “go” near your plate. Are you hungry yet?
Outside of Belo Horizonte, in Brumadinho, is an open-air museum and botanical garden worth seeing. Strolling by trees and plants from all over the world, you follow trails that take you to several galleries filled with contemporary art, some way too modern for my taste though… Inhotim has beautiful lakes, sculptures, and restaurants as well.Traveling: Inhotim, Brazil Outside of Belo Horizonte, in Brumadinho, is an open-air museum and botanical garden worth seeing. Strolling by trees and plants from all over the world, you follow trails that take you to several galleries filled with contemporary art, some way too modern for my taste though… …
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been to the mining town of Ouro Preto. In school, we always had a field trip there. The cobblestone streets and colonial style buildings are beautiful. Unfortunately, you have to pay to go inside the churches and see all the gold and beauty of the sculptures, but they are so full of baroque details and exceptional artwork from the 17th and 18th century, that it is worth it. Some of the carvings were made by Aleijadinho, who didn’t have hands and had to carve with his feet, mouth, or tools attached to his crippled hands. Ouro Preto is also known for its role during a failed revolution in 1789 (Inconfidencia Mineira), inspired by the American Revolutionary War.
The trip to Belo Horizonte was mostly about being with family, but since it was the boyfriend’s first time there, we had to take him to all the touristy places.
Praça do Papa (Pope Square): A plaza where the pope celebrated mass in 1980, with views of the south end of Belo Horizonte.
Mirante do Mangabeiras (Overlook): the panoramic views from the top of Serra do Curral were one of my favorite things growing up. Now they renovated the area and there is a nice overlook with benches to watch the sunset.
Mercado Central (Central Market): this is a huge marketplace downtown, where you can buy meat, fruit, flowers, tea, cheese… There we saw the boyfriend’s new favorite fruit: cajú (cashew fruit) and tasted cachaça (Brazilian rum). Believe it or not, it was my first time there. I didn’t even know that it was covered and that they had a parking lot, just like in a mall.
Palacio das Artes (Arts Palace): this is a beautiful modern theater downtown, but when we went there, they were closed and all we were able to see was the arts and crafts store, which had lots of artwork from Minas artists.
Parque Municipal (City Park): The “Central Park” of Belo Horizonte is actually beautiful, full of trees, a small amusement park, and a lake. The boyfriend and I went on a canoe ride while my mom took pictures of the lovebirds.
Igreja da Pampulha (Church): on the north part of town, this church is one of the most famous sites of Belo Horizonte because it was built by architect Oscar Niemeyer. Controversial at first, the church has an organic modern style and an altar mural by artist Candido Portinari.
Lagoa da Pampulha (Lagoon): this lake and its surroundings were also designed in the 40’s by Niemeyer. Now it’s a little polluted but the 18km trail around it is still nice.
Mineirão (Stadium): Belo Horizonte was one of the World Cup host cities. The infamous game Brazil vs. Germany, with Brazil’s epic loss of 7-1, was played here, so I’m not sure it is a very lucky place.
Man, did the press make a big deal about all the problems Brazil would have hosting the World Cup or what? I’m glad we didn’t listen and went anyway: the whole experience was perfect!
It was nice to be able to stay with my aunt, but it was even nicer that she lived right across from the hotel where the US players were staying. And it gets better: my cousin M. is the assistant manager of the hotel that hosted the Portugal team. So we got to see and hear (helicopters and police all over) when the US team went in and out of the hotel and then my cousin would bring us the latest on the Portuguese players: did you know Cristiano Ronaldo (2013 best soccer player of the year) likes to take a bath with white rose petals before a game?
On the day of the USA vs. Portugal game, we went in front of the hotel to wish the US players good luck. Although there were lots of curious eyes around, the boyfriend was the only American yelling “USA”. We got to see the goalie Tim Howard, the dreadlock hottie Beckerman, and the captain, Dempsey, who had broken his nose in the previous game.
My cousin A. dropped us off the closest he could get to the stadium (Arena Amazonia), which was still a couple miles away because of all of the closed off streets, but we didn’t mind walking: the energy was almost palpable. Getting into the stadium was super easy too: there were no lines and everything went very smoothly. So impressed with the organization!
The game was a good one. USA needed a win to automatically move on to the next phase, while a draw wouldn’t be too bad either. Portugal needed a draw or a win to be kept alive. A loss would mean they would go home automatically. Portugal scored first, although not with a goal by Cristiano Ronaldo, their most famous player. Then US scored two goals and we thought we were going to win, but on the last SECOND, Portugal scored another one… Actually, a score of 2-2 wasn’t too bad: both teams left happy and we left for an all-you-can-eat soup feast nearby.
The next day there was a Brazil game and we decided to be where all the action was: FIFA Fan Fest. In each host town, FIFA would close off an area for spectators to watch each game on several screens. In Manaus, this fest was in Ponta Negra, a nice area by the beach. Just to get in we had to stand in lines and go thru multiple security checkpoints. Once in, we notice how there were more than 40,000 people in the area, which was supposed to be the limit. There were probably double of the people there, the noise of the horns was deafening, and the heat was unbearable. We barely found a spot to watch the game. But it didn’t matter: the Amazon jungle was surrounding us and the experience of a lifetime in Brazil was already unforgettable.