12-15 Months Old

Right after the babies’ 12 month birthday, we traveled to Abiquiu, NM for Derek’s sister’s wedding.



At 13 months, they started walking unassisted. During this checkup (a little late due to our travels in Brazil), the doctor was impressed with their motor skills and happy with their weight gain – from 3rd to 7th percentile, weighing in at just over 18 pounds.


We began transitioning to one nap at 14.5 months. They now have enough hair for 1 spout or 2 pig tails. They like to give high fives to each other and hold hands. They also love blowing kisses anytime they hear “bye bye” or “tchau tchau” and enjoy giving all stuffed animals, books, people’s legs, etc. kisses.


The girls are currently using sign language for the following: food, more, touchdown, uh oh (less now), milk, use their hand to mime talking on a telephone, wag their finger when I say “no no no, Nala,” They blow kisses and say mwah, move their arms up and down if you say “dance” (they would be really good Notre Dame cheerleaders leading the “Celtic Chant”), clap and palmas (Portuguese for clap), bye bye, put their finger to their lips when I say “shhh Nala,” copy blowing on food, shaking their head up and down, and are trying to sign “water.”

Currently Saying: Nala, mama, dada, hi, bye, meow, up (while holding on or both palms facing up).

Currently Trying to Say: all of the ba ba words – ball, pumpkin in Portuguese (abóbora), banana, belly, baby, and balloon, plus woof woof but with mouth closed, more/mais.

Teeth: both have 15 teeth (top and bottom 4 middle, 2 upper molars, and 2 lower molars, and 2 upper canines, 1 bottom canine)

15 month check up: Naomi is 75th percentile for height (31.4 in.), 15th percentile for head circumference (17.5 in.), and 5th percentile for weight (19 lb.). Norah is 70th percentile for height (31.1 in.), 7th percentile for head circumference 17.25 in.), and 7th percentile for weight (19 lb. 11 oz.). The doctor was happy with their weights.




12 Months Old!

We arrived home from Brazil on August 11 and one week later our au pair, Maria, arrived at our house. The following day, August 18, Norah and Naomi were baptized. Maria immediately became part of the family, going to the baptism with my grandma and parents. Then, right before the babies first birthday, I went back to teaching, and I got way behind on the blog.

This month they started waving goodbye consistently, signing touchdown, saying “meow” at cat, signing more for everything, and standing on their own. They began crawling in a crazy way, dragging one leg so they could stand up more quickly. Both babies got new teeth and began consistently switching their toy or sip cup to the other hand so we could put their arms in straps or clothes.

We celebrated the babies’ one year birthday on September 10, one day after their actual birthday. The babies got to each sweets for the first time, each celebrating their birthday with a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting. They had fun hanging out with their friends from birth class, nannying, and dad’s work, and they enjoyed playing with bubbles!

Oregon Coast 50K – The race that wasn’t (for me)

Michelle and I keep going back and forth on what we envision for the blog. We have received a lot of positive feedback, but I think it’s mainly because people like seeing pictures of the babies. Which is totally fine. But I also wanted to have a venue to document my running journey and other parts of our life. I have already written briefly about my failed attempt at the Sao Paulo City Marathon and this 50K race was a victim of the same set of unfortunate circumstances.

To recap: in mid February of 2017, I started getting more serious about running. More serious than I ever had been, even during my pretty mediocre marathon attempt in 2015.  Even better, I actually started to enjoy running. I was doing a ton of time on the treadmill because of the rainy days in Seattle, but even still, I was loving it. I ran a half marathon and set a PR by over 10 minutes. I ran a 5K and broke 20 min for the first time. I decided I was training hard enough to start thinking about a second marathon – a marathon attempt I would be proud of.

Simultaneously I have a very good friend (Walter) here in Seattle who is into trail ultramarathons. I am not sure he has ever done a road race, instead focusing on trail races. These trail races had been increasingly interesting to me. I crewed (having clean socks, food, water etc) for Walter in his first 100K race at the Gorge Waterfalls 100K last spring. After that experience, seeing the amazing community and the awesome emotional victories people experienced during the 100K, I knew I wanted to do an ultra and see if I had what it took to finish at least a 50K.  I registered for the October 2017 Oregon Coast 50K with Walter. The race is put on by the same wonderful Rainshadow organization that put on the Gorge Waterfalls.

Per my earlier post, I ended up injuring my hamstring during the summer of 2017. Despite pulling out of the Sao Paulo marathon, I still had hope for the Oregon Coast 50K. Despite a slow but steady return to running, it became clear there just wasn’t enough time to get back up to the serious mileage necessary to be successful in an ultra. In early September I pulled the plug and sold my registration. (Basically every Rainshadow race sells out, and I am thankful they have implemented the ability to transfer registration and recoup your entry cost!).

I was super bummed to be missing out on running, but since Walter was still going and we already had a hotel reserved, I decided to try to volunteer. As I mentioned earlier, the camaraderie and vibe of the people sold me on trying my first ultra, and that continued to be true even as a volunteer.

I volunteered for two shifts: parking and course marshal.  Parking was surprisingly intense. We started in the dark and its amazing how poorly people drive! Despite Hi-Vis gear people still nearly hit me repeatedly. Nonetheless, it was awesome to be the first race ambassador that most people saw that morning. Most people were extremely friendly and also a bit nervous. After seeing everyone off to the start line, I took a quick nap before assuming course marshal duties.


As the course makes use of Siuslaw National Forest trails, Rainshadow has to abide by their rules. The one major rule the park has laid out is no running in front of the Visitor Center. So my job, for 6 hours on a glorious Saturday, was to tell a bunch of people out for a 50K race to walk.  The course actually loops in front of the Center. On the first pass, the course is headed up hill and most runners were more than happy to walk. On the way back it is a pretty stead downhill and most runners were slightly less enthusiastic about stopping. Regardless it was great to see everyone pass twice. There were some people out there struggling but overall runners were consistently upbeat, smiling, and thanking me for volunteering. I was bummed to not be out there running, but happy to help provide that experience for everyone else!


After the race, volunteers got free food from the kick ass after party. Including stone fired pizza. Other perks included reduced entry for another Rainshadow race and a guaranteed spot in next years Oregon Coast race. Despite the set back I am still set on running at least one ultra, and am registered for February’s Orcas Island 50K.

Buenos Aires

Our flight to Buenos Aires was our third delayed flight (out of 3 on our post-Brazil adventures). The babies did pretty well considering that the flight was during their bedtime. We finally arrived (after a few wrongs turns by our taxi driver) to our hotel on Avenida Corrientes – a busy street with bookstores, theaters, and very close to the Obelisco.

Our first day in Buenos Aires was a Sunday, so we decided to visit the Weekend Feria at San Telmo. We walked down Pasaje de la Defensa to Plaza Dorrego. There was an interesting collection of souvenirs and antique collectibles. Afterwards we walked to La Boca for a food tour. We had appetizers and wine at one restaurant, then a traditional parillada (grilled meats) and wine at another restaurant, and finally a coffee at a historical coffee shop. It was a fun experience, but definitely did not compare to our food tour in Hanoi, Vietnam. We would have liked to go a few more places and of course nothing compares to Vietnamese street food! That evening we had a date night. We learned the basic tango steps during a tango lesson, then had dinner, and watched a tango show.

On our second day, we went and toured Teatro Colon. The tour was in Spanish, so I had to translate for Derek and the babies. Then we walked over to Centro to see Casa Rosada (the presidential offices), the Metropolitan Cathedral, and Plaza del Mayo. There was a huge political protest going on, so we couldn’t get very close to Casa Rosada. Next we went to La Manzana de las Luces. We were not super impressed with the tour, which was all in Spanish. Based on the description, we thought we would be touring a historical building (multiple old houses which had been connected over the years and used for the early government after independence), which had been excavated and had secret tunnels. This was not the case. We tours some rooms, which were not super noteworthy and just saw one patch of excavated foundation.

Casa Rosada

On our third day, we went back to San Telmo. We visited Zanjon de los Granados, which was a very old house, once a mansion and then a tenement house. It had tunnels which were where they diverted the river in order to build the house. Then we went to one of the modern art museums, MAMBA, which was quite small. Their major exhibition was a room filled with large spider webs that looked like Halloween decorations but were actually made my spiders. Next we had a coffee at Cafe Plaza Dorrego, a historic cafe in San Telmo. We walked back through the Centro area, and there were not any protests. Then we walked over to Puerto Madero, which was the second port area, but is now a ritzy district. We saw the Puente la Mujer, which is supposed to look like a woman dancing tango, and toured a frigate from the late 1800s, the Fragata ARA Presidente Sarmiento. We ended our day with delicious empanadas.

On our final day in Buenos Aires, we did the Recoleta Free Walking Tour, which was way longer than it needed to be and seemed to stop at places that were not very notable. We ended the tour at Recoleta Cemetery. We walked around for a little while and visited Eva Perón’s grave. Then we took a long walk to Palermo to visit another modern art museum, famous in South America, MALBA. There was a self-portrait by Frida Kahlo. Derek and I don’t seem to have a good enough appreciation for modern art, and we did not stay long. We flew back to São Paulo on a 10pm flight, and the babies did pretty well considering we did not arrive at our hotel until 1:30a.

Iguazu Falls

We were excited that we got to sit together on the plane! We learned that in July many South American schools have off, so it is high season for traveling. We lucked out that we just missed it! We had an evening flight, but the babies did pretty well. We flew into Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil) then drove to our B&B in Puerto Iguazú (Argentina). We were greeted with appetizers, caipirinhas, and a sweet old dog. The next morning we sat on the deck watching hummingbirds, while we ate a breakfast of fruit salad and toast with lots of jam options.

On our first day, we decided to go to Argentine side, which offers close up views of the waterfalls. We decided to start our day with a 2 hour round trip hike to a little waterfall. We didn’t see anyone on the way there, and Naomi talked the whole walk back to scare off any jaguars or bobcats. Then we took the train to the Garganta del Diablo. After walking 20 minutes on a catwalk over the river, we arrived at a spectacular view of Garganta del Diablo. Derek and I were astounded by the view. He said it was one of the few times that a tourist attraction has outdone his expectations. Next the babies took a nap while we walked the Circuito Superior (above the falls) and Circuito Inferior (at the base of the falls). We just missed getting to go on a ferry to visit Isla San Martín, so in retrospect, we should have changed the order of some of our activities. Afterwards, we were quite hungry and quite tired from our 12+ miles of walking in the sunny 80 degree temperature, so we were really looking forward to some empanadas in downtown Puerto Iguazú. However, we were sad to learn that this town takes its siesta seriously, and all of the restaurants close between 3 or 4 until 7 or 8.

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On our second day we visited the Itaipu Dam, Parque das Aves, and Brazil side of the waterfall. The dam was fairly boring, but it was pretty incredible how much energy it generates for Paraguay and Brazil. We next visited the bird park, and we didn’t have high hopes, but the toucan and macaw exhibits made it worth it. In both, we walked into a large exhibit where birds were flying above us and landing next to us. I had never seen a toucan in person before! The parrots were beautiful and quite loud. It was amazing to watch them fly and hear them talk. The girls loved this exhibit! The waterfall experience on the Brazil side was very different from the Argentine side. After buying our tickets, we had to take a bus into the park. Immediately after getting off the bus, there was an incredible panoramic view of Isla San Martín and the falls surrounding it. As we walked along the trail, there continued to be spectacular views which showed just how big the falls really are. Finally, at the end of the trail, we walked out on a metal walkway to view Salto Floriano, which sprays a ton of water. It was incredible to see the pure joy on the girls’ faces as they got soaked! After we got back to our B&B, we ordered empanadas from a local restaurant for the second evening in a row.

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We flew to Salta after our adventure in Iguazu. The Puerto Iguazú airport was tiny and security opened 45 minutes before the flight. Derek and I both had rows to ourselves, so the babies were able to take their morning nap.

Our first day was a half day, so we took the teleferico to get a view of the city. We were surprised that Salta is much bigger than we imagined. Then, we walked to the center of town and visited the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña. This museum houses the mummified bodies of three children who were Incan sacrifices and the artifacts that were buried with them, as well as the mummified remains of a mummy who was the victim of grave robbers.

On our second day, we rented a car and drove to Cafayete. The drive was beautiful, and the mountains look similar to the painted desert. We didn’t realize how long it would take to get to Cafayete, though, and we had planned to drive to Cachi before heading back to Salta. Since we would not have time to do this, we decided to visit two wineries – Bodega Piatteli and Bodega Vasija Secreta – for tours and tastings. This region has some of the lowest latitude and highest altitude of any wineries and is known for torrontés, merlot, and cabernet. Piatteli was a newer winery, and the tasting was fun because we were able to drink varietals from their Salta and Mendoza vineyards and compare them.

On our third day, we took a tour of Salinas Grandes, San Antonio de los Cobres, and Puramarca. It seemed like the tour description really over-exaggerated the highlights of this tour. First we stopped at Santa Rosa de Tastil for bathrooms, a small museum, and handicrafts. Then we visited San Antonio de los Cobres  for a long lunch. We then visited the salt flats, which were definitely the highlight of the trip. It was white everywhere with sparkling salt pools and mountains in the distance. Afterwards, we drove up winding mountains to an altitude of 4170 mt. We felt very bad because the girls got sick multiple times on the way up and down this mountain. Luckily babies are resilient, and they recovered quickly. We were really excited to see the Cerro de los Siete Colores, so we were pretty disappointed when the visit to this highly recommended location was just pointing it out of the bus window (and of course we were on the wrong side of the bus). We arrived at our final advertised stop – Puramarca – which was described as an interesting town due to its Bolivian feel and lots of handicrafts, but we weren’t super impressed. Overall, we thought this was a really long day for some scenery that was similar to our drive to Cafayete with winding roads and altitude that made the girls sick, and just a lot of stops to buy souvenirs. We even made an extra stop 15 minutes after we left Puramaraca at an extra souvenir superstore…

On our fourth and final day, we did a free walking tour of Salta. Beforehand we walked into the Cathedral Basilica de Salta. On the tour we walked around Plaza 9 de Julio, Centro Cultural América, and Cabildo (town hall). Then our tour took us over to Iglesia San Francisco and the Basilica Menor y Convento. The nuns at the convent are cloistered. We also walked to the monument to Güermes. There was some interesting information about the architecture in Salta, the history of some of the buildings, and the street numbering. However, it really seemed like there was not as much interesting information as on the Rio free walking tour we did. We spent some time relaxing in the garden at our hotel and then flew to Buenos Aires. My sinuses were ready to leave this dusty desert!


11 Months Old!

The babies handled all of their travels fairly well! It is a lot to ask 11 month olds to travel for 2 weeks from hotel to hotel and activity to activity and then travel 19+ hours home and switch to a time zone 4 hours different. I think we were all ready to be home!

This month they enjoyed giving high fives, tilting their heads side to side, and getting sprayed by waterfalls. They have lots of teeth now – 4 on the top and 3 on the bottom. Naomi will sometimes offer to share her food with us, and she has now joined Norah in pulling herself to stand but still infrequently. It is amazing to see them recognizing more and more words. They will clap when you say “clap” and sometimes wave when you say “hi,” “hola,” “oi,” “bye,” or “tchau.”

We had a doctor appointment when we got back because we missed our 9 month appointment. At 11.5 months, Norah weighed 16 lb 13.5 oz (3rd %). Naomi weighed 16 lb 12.5 oz (just below 3rd %). Norah is 29.2 inches tall (62%), and Naomi is 28.87 inches tall (57%). They both passed their iron tests!

Childcare in Seattle: Hosting an Au Pair

If you google “childcare costs in Seattle,” you will be inundated with articles about how Seattle has some of the least affordable childcare in the country. Thus, when my husband and I decided that I would go back to teaching this fall, I was worried about finding affordable quality childcare for our one-year-old twins. Due to my concerns, I spent hours breaking down the pros and cons of the various childcare options available in our area, as well as the costs of each. Cost was important for us, because as a teacher, it would be easy to end up paying more for childcare than I make.

Childcare Options: Nanny, Daycare Center, In Home Daycare

As a former nanny, I was well aware of what a nanny would cost. A nanny for two children in Renton would be $15-18/hour on the low end. This doesn’t include the taxes we would have to pay as an employer. We would be looking at $28,000-33,500 before taxes for the 43 weeks of the school year. 43 weeks because it is fairly standard in the competitive Seattle nanny market to offer guaranteed hours for the nanny – paying for weeks when I have off – as many nannies cannot afford to take unpaid vacations when their employers are on vacation and therefore have to scramble to find fill in jobs. At a cost of 80-100% of my take home salary, a nanny did not seem like the option for us. A nanny share (2 families sharing a nanny at one or both houses) would be about 2/3 the cost, but nanny shares usually include little to no household chores. In addition, with three or more kids within a few months of age, it is a lot harder for the nanny to get the children out of the house. Daycare centers would have more oversight and some socialization but lack some of the personal attention of a nanny. For example, daycare centers typically do not follow a custom nap schedule, they would not allow the girls’ to stay in their normal environment, and there would not be any child related chores being done at our house. A daycare center would cost us about $28,000 a year or about 80% of my net income. Home daycares (or family daycares) are usually a good middle option. These are exactly what they sound like – daycares that people run out of their homes (some licensed and some unlicensed) and usually they take less children than a daycare center. Some home daycares will work with the babies’ schedules and are usually cheaper than a daycare center; however, home daycares usually do not have as much oversight as daycare centers.

The Best Childcare Option for Us: Au Pair

A final option that we considered was an au pair. An au pair would cost $19,750 plus additional expenses including room and board, phone, car insurance, and driver’s license fees. Even though each au pair agency structures their fees differently, in reality the total cost is pretty much the same across the board. We decided to go with Cultural Care Au Pair, as we had heard positive reviews from families in Seattle. An au pair would provide many of the benefits of a nanny (care provided in our home, the girls’ schedule would be followed, some child related chores would be done, etc.). My husband and I had discussed au pairs before we even had children. We realized the importance of exposing children to other languages and cultures at an early age, which really is one of the greatest benefits of an au pair. However, it is important to note that the Department of State has very specific requirements about how many hours an au pair can work. Au pairs are allowed to work up to 45 hours per week and no more than 10 hours per day. Au pairs must also receive one and a half days off per week and one weekend off per month. They also must receive two weeks of paid vacation.

Costs and Fees for Cultural Care Au Pair:

$75 application fee (often there is a code to waive this)
$300 processing fee (once you match with an au pair)
$300 domestic transportation fee (NYC to SEA varies from $100-$300 depending on your location)
$8595 program fee
$195.75 weekly stipend (paid directly to au pair for 51 weeks)
up to $500 in educational costs (The Department of State requires au pairs to take 6 credit hours (not online) at an accredited secondary institution)

Total cost: $19,753.25 (we received $500 off due to a corporate discount through my husband’s company so make sure to check if your employer has a similar discount)

Other costs:

  • $89 WA driver’s license + $65-80 for driving tests (OR the au pair could pay for her own international driver’s license if your insurance doesn’t require her to have a U.S. state license)
  • $30 phone activation fee (SIM card is free with activation) for our au pair’s iPhone + $20/month on our current plan which has unlimited text and talk in the U.S. (Other carriers have pay as you go for an average of $30-$50/month depending on the amount of texts, calls, and data)
  • $30/month car insurance increase (Some companies charge a fee for having an international license instead of a US license)
  • ??? increase in groceries and utilities

As we spent the summer in Brazil for my husband’s job, before we filled out our application and profile, we talked to a Seattle area local care consultant (LCC) to make sure we would be able to complete this process while living abroad. We were a bit worried as the Department of State requires a home visit (to make sure the au pair’s room is private and contains a bed, dresser, and closet) and an in person interview. The LCC assured us that it would be fine to do our interview online via Skype, but based on the timing we only had one and a half weeks to match with an au pair if we wanted her to arrive to our home on August 18th. We filled out the application questions and completed the lengthy process of creating an in-depth profile. We wanted to be honest so that a potential au pair would know if she would be a good match for our family. After connecting with the consultant for the Renton/Newcastle area, she told us that we actually could not complete the home tour and interview while abroad. However, she followed up with the account services department who said they could make an exception, so we completed our hour-long family interview through Skype and my husband’s parents, who are staying at our house, agreed to give the home tour.

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The Matching Process

We began to look for an au pair, knowing that we wanted a female Brazilian au pair who had experience with 0-2 year olds. However, initially we did not completely understand the process, so the beginning of our search was a bit frustrating. As we were not in the U.S., we did not get a lot of the support phone calls with the au pair agency to answer questions and get help from a matching specialist. After a period of trial and error, we finally figured out the process. We filtered for female Brazilian applicants who were 20+ years old (au pairs can be 18-26), who had childcare experience with 0-2 year olds, had at least 2 years driving experience, were not vegetarian, and had similar interests to us (were active and enjoyed the outdoors). This resulted in around 20 au pairs to manually screen. The process was quite time consuming as it was all host family led (you must screen candidate profiles, then “hold the au pair” so you can get her contact info, then ask her to review your profile and set up an interview if she feels you are a match). We had first interviews with five au pairs, second interviews with three au pairs, and a third interview with one au pair. During this period, we felt like we were constantly emailing questions, Skyping/FaceTiming interviews, and texting through WhatsApp, which is a popular messaging app in Brazil as it is cheaper to use data than texts. However, this was necessary in order to get to know the au pairs as well as possible during our short timeline. If we had had more time, we probably would have interviewed some of the au pairs a few more times and added some additional au pairs to our interview list. The most important things for us when we were interviewing au pairs were: ability to keep the girls safe and happy, driving skills (as we live in a suburb this is important for the au pair to get to her classes, meet up with friends, explore our area, and take the girls to play dates and activities), willingness to schedule activities around the girls’ nap schedule, English language skills, and our ability to connect with her (since she will be living with us and effectively become a part of our family).

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We matched with a young lady – Maria – who is 22 years old, has a degree in gastronomy, is from Santa Catarina, speaks English well enough that we can communicate, has similar interests to us, and we feel will be a great au pair. Our LCC was on vacation, so we informed someone else at Cultural Care Au Pair of the match on the deadline day for our preferred arrival date.

At this point our frustration hit a high point. After doing everything to ensure that we would be able to welcome our au pair on August 18th, we were told that again we had been misinformed! We were informed that a Skype interview was not an acceptable option. Thus, we would have to complete the interview and home tour after our arrival in the U.S. on August 11th, and we wouldn’t be able to host an au pair until September 1st. We had now been told three different things concerning the interview and if we would be able to host our au pair starting on the 18th by three different people. After speaking with one of the directors at Cultural Care Au Pair, we were able to get it worked out, and they agreed to let us complete our home tour and interview (again) on August 12th. Cultural Care Au Pair approved our au pair match, and we paid the processing fee. After that payment, we could not believe how fast the process moved. Our au pair’s flight to the U.S. was booked the next day and a flight to Seattle the day after that. Four days after we paid our fee, Maria was able to schedule her visa appointment.

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Why Cultural Care?

Obviously, we are in a unique situation, as we were trying to find childcare while abroad and on a short timeline. This posed some challenges, but we were also able to meet our au pair when she and her mom came to São Paulo for their visa appointments. When I asked Maria why she decided to use Cultural Care Au Pair even though it was one of the most expensive agencies for au pairs, she said it is because they have some of the most support for au pairs and a large number of families. (Also, Cultural Care Au Pair recruits heavily in Brazil. Of the 513 au pairs who were looking for families, 99 were from Brazil, 99 were from Columbia, and 94 were from Thailand. I have also heard that Cultural Care Au Pair is unique in that they set up actual offices in each country they recruit from.) I imagine we might have had a much better experience and more support if we had done the matching process while in the U.S., and if we decide to host another au pair after Maria, I will be interested to compare our experiences. Other families who have used Cultural Care Au Pair along with other agencies have shared similar sentiments to Maria from the family side – Cultural Care Au Pair by far provides the most support, especially during the matching process or when there is a need to rematch.

Adventures in Brasil: Salvador

The weekend after out trip to Rio, we rented an AirBnB in Salvador with the other 3 Americans who are in Brazil for the same program as Derek. Salvador is known for its colored houses, which reminded me of Valparaíso. We didn’t realize that the weekend we were visiting was the holiday for São João. On Friday afternoon, we walked over to the historic district, which was decorated with colorful flags and ribbons. We visited the Igreja da Ordem Terceira do Carmo (which boasts a carving of Jesus inlaid with 2000 rubies), Largo do Pelourinho (the plaza where slaves were once whipped), and the Igreja de Sao Francisco (which is famous for its tiles imported from Portugal, the amount of gold leaf, and the paintings on the wooden ceiling). We also wanted to visit the Mueso Afro-Brasileiro, but it was closed due to the holiday. That evening, we walked back to this area in order to take part in the feira. There was live music (we wished we had baby hearing protection) and lots of street food. Michelle had a caipirinha (the national drink which is made with cachaça [fermented sugar cane juice] sugar, and lime), and we shared salgado tapioca (like a tapioca crepe with savory chicken and cheese fillings), a plate of churrascaria style meats with typical Brazilian sides like farofa and rice, and coxinhas (chicken surrounded with potato and rolled in breadcrumbs then fried).

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On Saturday we went to breakfast at a typical by the kilo restaurant (we ate for less than $10), and then we tried to visit the Feira do São Joaquin – the largest outdoor market in the state of Bahia with produce, food, jewelry, crafts, religious items, etc. – but it was closed for the holiday.

Many people questioned our decision to move to Brazil for several months, especially with the babies. In the U.S., you hear so much negativity about the violence, drug, and disease problems of Brazil. The reality is that by Brazilian standards most Americans are very well off. This allows us to stay in hotels that are in very nice and safe parts of towns. We also make a point of being well informed about which neighborhoods are safe to visit, and we try to avoid going anywhere but the safest areas after dark.  Overall it is possible to have a very positive and safe experience here. The stories far outdo the reality.

All of that said, Salvador was one of the first times where we felt we made a bad decision that could have put us in a dangerous situation. Since it was a holiday, nearly every retail business was closed. We decided to walk the 2ish miles from our AirBnB to the Feira do São Joaquin. Since everything was closed, this meant we were walking pretty much alone on streets for most of the time and eventually passed under an elevated highway that was sheltering  a small homeless population, as well as passing in front of the entrance to a favela. This was not a good decision. You should not put yourself in a position where you are alone like this. When we got to the market, it was also closed and the few adults around were throwing large fireworks into traffic, seemingly with the intention of stopping traffic. We quickly got an Uber out of there. We definitely learned some lessons about having a plan and understanding our walking routes before heading out. Fortunately all ended well.

After we arrived back to the safer tourist district, we ate a relaxed lunch of Carne del Sol (a typical northeastern dish of salted beef left to cure outside) and Guaraná (a soda popular in Brazil). That evening, Derek’s coworkers babysat while we ventured out to the historic district on our own. It was much more crowded and the food was not as good as the previous night. We tried some Afro-Brasilian food which we only ate one bite of, as well as fried cheese, more coxinha, another plate of churrascaria style meats with typical Brazilian sides, and a dolce tapioca (this time the crepe-like tapioca with dulce de leche inside). For our last day, we took the ferry to Ilha Itaparica, where we walked along the beach and ate a lovely lunch of feijoada, with Derek’s coworkers. The views sitting outside the restaurant were beautiful, but in all honesty, this day was a little more expensive than we would have liked due to the cab ride to and from the beach, and didn’t really seem worth our time there.

Overall we really enjoyed Salvador, as it had a very different feel than São Paulo or Rio. It was fun getting to try street food and experience a local holiday. However, we would have loved to visit the museum and market that were closed!

Adventures in Brasil: Rio

We visited Rio de Janeiro over the Corpus Christi holiday. Therefore, we arrived Wednesday night and left Sunday night. On Thursday we did an all day tour – Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain), Christ the Redeemer, the Selarón Steps, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and lunch at an all you can eat churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse). As it was Corpus Christi, the Metropolitan Cathedral was filled from the sidewalk to the altar with people creating religious sand art. Christ the Redeemer is quintessential Rio, but the view from the top is so close to the statue, that people lay on the ground in order to get a good picture!


On Friday, we did a 3 hour free walking tour of the Centro district. We were the only ones who wanted an English tour, so it was a private tour! This was an awesome experience, and we learned a ton about the history of Brazil and Rio. We walked by the Teatro Municipal, old aqueducts, Selarón Steps, original cathedral, and other historic statues and buildings. If you want our recommendation – skip the city tour and just hit those main attractions on your own, but definitely do the free walking tour! After the tour, we went to the Teatro Municipal for their tour. They do offer one in English, but we did not want to wait. While we didn’t understand the history of the building (and wouldn’t have been able to hear if we had understood the Portuguese as the babies were very tired and we often had to walk away from the tour group to keep their crying from interrupting), we were awestruck by its stained glass, marble, wood floors, etc. Next, we walked to the commercial district. There were so many street vendors! This area was fun to walk around and had a great vibe. Friday evening we took the babies for their first swim. Norah seemed at ease in the water, wanting to lay on her tummy and kick her legs. Naomi enjoyed the water but wanted her legs pointing toward the bottom of the pool.


After our long days on Thursday and Friday, on Saturday we decided to allow the babies to take their first nap at the hotel before we walked along Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. It was fun people watching, as different parts of the beach draw different crowds. We held the babies in the ocean, but they were not thrilled with the cold water, waves, and sand. We went back to the hotel and took them in the pool again. Derek then met up for a jog with some runners who were in town for the Rio Marathon. That evening we walked to Galeto Sal’s, which was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. The restaurant seemed local and not touristy, the galeto (young chicken and a Rio staple) was delicious!


On our last day, we again let the babies take their first nap at the hotel, while Derek went out to cheer for his marathon running friends. We then visited the Museu da Chácara do Céu and Parque das Ruinas in the Santa Teresa neighborhood. The museu was in a cool old house with indoor/outdoor living and awesome views of the city. While in Santa Teresa, we tried some German feijoada (as the southern part of Brazil is very German). It was light and tasty – carrots, potatoes, white beans, German sausage – served over rice. Finally, we visited the Palacio de Cachete to see where presidents lived when Rio was the capital. Overall, we loved Rio. It had so much culture, so many things to do, and the babies enjoyed eating lots of rice and beans!