August 2010


We’ve been home now for just under a week spending the majority of our time in Southern Maryland on the water at my parents’ house. We’re now moving on to North Carolina where we’re looking forward to spending a week with the Joneses. Farmland here in Maryland, which is abundant, is much different than what we’re used to in Brazil, but it’s provided us with some delicious summer produce and the comfort of home.

A few of the many, many delights of being home: hugs from Mom, Dad, Kit, Maggie and Seth, badminton on the front lawn, comfort, true laughter, Oualie, naps in the hammock, fresh local peaches, blueberries, summer corn, crabs, peanut butter, Trader Joes humus, Target, tummy bumps, playing sevens, Grandma’s bench, sandwiches, boat rides, porch time, wine, croquet.

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Today, our initial Brazil exploration trip officially comes to an end.  We head home to Washington, DC on the red-eye from São Paulo this evening.  I’m happy to say that it’s not a day of mixed emotions.  We feel great about the experiences we’ve had here, we’re excited to return home and spend some time with our families, and we’re very optimistic about the months ahead.  Things have been incredibly busy lately, so there really hasn’t been much time to reflect – we hope our time at home will give us ample opportunities for that.  In the meantime, here’s a quick recap of the last few weeks, our plans for while we’re home and our return to Brazil.

Recent Happenings

The last few weeks have been very busy as we have pushed to wrap up various ongoing projects (while also determining next steps).  Of course, this has meant a lot of time at both the Fazenda and Picinguaba, so no complaints there.  A quick recap:

  • Villas – continuing work in the hills at the Fazenda determining villa site locations.  This has involved lots of time on horseback as well as the construction and placement of bright red flags as visual markers, which has been fun.

  • Landscape plans – Suzanna finished up a conceptual landscape plan, then we made some decisions with the team about what to plant and where for maximum long-term impact and benefit.
  • Construction oversight and design decisions – with Emmanuel and Emmanuel, we’ve been actively engaged with the team as construction progresses on the hotel buildings.  This has been relatively simple, but has involved some decisions on the fly such as adding an exterior door to one of the rooms and extra windows to others, among other things.  We’ve also been involved in some of the decision-making on interior design (i.e., sink design and material, flooring, etc – this, of course, is more Suzanna’s department than mine).

  • Architectural Bid – we’ve spent a significant amount of time preparing and finalizing a bid package that will be given to a small, select group of architects who will compete to design the villas.  The bid package essentially consists of the project pitch, design parameters and interview guidelines.
  • Marketing materials – we’re working on developing a pitch book for the Fazenda.  It’s still a work in progress, but we hope it will be an effective marketing piece once finished.
  • FLIP party at Picinguaba – the annual Flip international literature festival in Paraty is a major cultural event in Brazil that attracts visitors from around the country and around the world.  Picinguaba held a great lunch with a well-rounded guest list to bring people together and celebrate.  The day was overcast, but the sun poked through just before sundown so the beauty of the place was not lost on anyone.  Article in Vogue on the pousada and/or party forthcoming.

Home Time

We’re incredibly excited for six weeks on American soil – time to catch up with family and friends, go to restaurants without wondering whether you’ll end up with what you thought you ordered, chow on some natural peanut butter and take advantage of good ice cream for less than $12 a pint.  As seems to be typical these days, our schedule is looking pretty packed while we’re home.  Here are a few highlights we’re looking forward to:

  • Maryland – time on the bay with the Fry family, crab feast, Kaboodle-ing (Bill’s boat)
  • North Carolina – time with the Jones family and Skip and Kit Fry, beach time, cruising on Dad’s new boat
  • New York – Will and Amanda’s wedding, friends in Manhattan
  • Boston – some quick QT with Kate and Aaron (this is special time for Suzanna and Kate in which they effectively divorce Aaron and I in favor each other) and Christine
  • San Francisco – our home-sweet-home…time with the Rogers’ family and friends, in addition to hitting up our favorite restaurants (especially craving some great Asian and Mexican food)
  • Maggie & Seth Engagement party – celebrating the nuptials to come

Return to Brazil

We’ll be returning to Brazil at the end of September, and we’ll spend the next six months living in the natural paradise that is Picinguaba.  We’ll have some involvement with the management of the hotel there while continuing our work on the development of the Fazenda.  More details to come on this next phase, but needless to say, we’re incredibly excited to be returning to Brazil to continue what we’ve started!

With only four days left in São Paulo before heading back to the United States, we’re reflecting on our time here in Brazil. Here are a few things we love about São Paulo:

Pasteis (pastels)

As you might imagine – Jeff’s favorite fried dough filling is carne com queijo (meat and cheese) and Suzanna’s is chocolate!

Coffee

Lanchonetes (read: drinking beers outside)

Modern Architecture

Floating Flowers

We pass by this pot of floating flowers on our daily walk to work – the colors change often, it’s lovely.

Marina

Our friend Marina has been so awesome during our stay in Brazil – she’s one of those special friends that you don’t come across every day.

Wow, one week and counting down until we head back to the US! More to come on our reflective thoughts as our initial trip here is wrapping up.

In the meantime, we wanted to share with you this English band we got to see at MIS in São Paulo – Tunng. Their songs are awesome, they were amazing live, they are fun and they are the kind of musicians that make you smile. Below is a clip of them the night we saw them (from YouTube), and then another video (also from YouTube) of their song Hustle. Enjoy and be sure to check them out if you have the chance (from their website it looks like they’ll be in the US in November).

Last weekend we had the pleasure of spending 3 full days at Fazenda Alegre – the 500 hectare (1,250 acre) organic/biodynamic farm owned by Heinz and Elisabeth. We spent the weekend with Heinz, Elisabeth and Dorothea (Elisabeth’s niece visiting from Austria), their 9+ dogs, and 6+ cats. It was such a wonderful weekend that when I posed the “what was your favorite part” question to myself I couldn’t answer . . . bike riding, walking the dogs around the 20 hectare (50 acre) lake, learning about all the trees they’ve planted, horseback riding through the coffee trees that are currently blooming and beautiful, watering the plants in the garden, spending time with dogs and cats, or eating Elisabeth’s incredibly delicious farm-to-table organic meals.

Here’s a little series we took after biking to this gigantic rock near their property:

To sum it up, they were some of the healthiest few days we’ve had in Brazil. Fresh air, outdoor exercise, good conversations, delicious and fresh organic food, and soup for dinner. Dinner with Elisabeth is usually soup, typically served with excellent organic or homemade bread. The soups are homemade, fresh and delicious. I love the concept of having soup for dinner. It’s light, delicious and full of nutrition (when done right, of course). My favorite was Elisabeth’s roasted tomato soup.  In fact, it belongs on the list of my favorite soups of all time.

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Here are a few menus from the weekend:

Breakfast was a wonderful spread of:

-      Thin slices of organic bread
-      Homemade ricotta cheese
-      Blue cheese
-      Avocado
-      Radishes, cucumbers, and carrots from the garden
-      Papaya, pomelos (grapefruit) from the garden
-      Diced chives

Lunch (all products of the farm):

-      Veal w/ gravy
-      Black rice
-      Vegetable mix  from the garden
-      Salad
-      Sobremesa (dessert) – homemade strawberry yogurt with white strawberries from the garden

Dinner (soup, of course):

-      Roasted tomato soup made with mushrooms and served with a pile of diced up parsley in the bowl.
-      A display of Brazilian cheeses with apple slices, nuts and grapes

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