Products I love: WubbaNub Pacifier

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I am starting to love blog series. It seems that these days every blog has their own. Like the newspaper with its sports section, the local news section, the real state section. So the "Products I love" series seemed to be the next step to take. Let me tell you why.

wubbanub, wubba nub, pacifier

Some people, when they decide to buy a product, they may go to the closest store and just buy it. Not me, not us! My husband and I need to first read every single review out there and talk to as many people as we can, to make a decision. The only problem is that the huge amount of information we collect just makes the decision process more difficult! And after we get our product we always wonder if there was a better one out there that we forgot to look at! 

So during my short married life, I have become a specialist in the real state market, cars, strollers, car seats, washing machines, drying machines, hardwood floors, refrigerators, pacifiers, sofas, vacuum cleaners, indoor plants, organic soils, zero VOC paints... Well, you get the idea!

Besides that, I am also a specialist in selling a few of the things above and some others on Craigslist, as we had to downsize a few times so I can tell you what is worth buying new, what is easy to sell and what is not! Any company hiring a specialist with the above qualifications? Please feel free to contact me!

But the best part of so much research, besides having an excuse to always be surfing the net, is that no matter the conversation going on in the room, we always have an opinion to add. Is everybody talking about water softeners? Here, let me tell you something about them. Discussion about indoor citrus plants? Let me just share my experience with you! Sometimes I feel like a cheap unsolicited version of Wikipedia! 

Here is one of my favorite products: WubbaNub Pacifier

It may not be the greatest thing on Earth to have your child plugged on a pacifier, but it makes for happier parents! And someday I am planning on cutting the pacifier off the stuffed animal and hoping my son does not notice the difference.

What I love about the WubbaNub is that Mark can easily find it in the middle of the night without having to take me away from my flying in the clouds dream! Because who wants to leave a rad dream like that! Below is the picture of all the animals that have filled my son's mouth in the past year (because they keep being thrown out of the stroller without my notice).

(For the record, I try to limit pacifier usage to sleeping time, stroller time, car time, and mom needs some sanity time, only these times!)

What about you, do you also have to learn everything you can about a product before buying it? Or are you just happy to buy it as fast as you can and get it done?

And here is what the company has to say about their product:

  • Distributed in hospitals, NICU and well-baby units nationwide
  • Made wth a Soothie™ medical grade, latex free pacifier
  • BPA, PVC and Phthalate Free
  • The durable one-piece construction means no germs hiding between cracks so the pacifier stays cleaner.

I was not compensated for this post and the opinions expressed here are my own.
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9/11 Memorial of love

Thursday, January 26, 2012

nine eleven memorial

There he was, alone, standing next to me. A slim tall black young man, holding on his hands a flat piece of white paper and a pencil. As I discretely watched, he carefully rested the paper on top of a name engraved in the stone and slowly started scratching it with his pencil, the same way you teach kids to do with coins. Except that for him that was probably a very solemn moment, as he was transferring, in an artistically and rudimentary way, the name of a loved one from a cold stone to his memory holder. A simple sheet of paper that from now on, would carry the memory of loss, blended among its fibers.

We were at the 9/11 Memorial and his presence there at my side changed the way I experienced it. Suddenly, it wasn't like visiting a museum, it became personal, the names were real people and my kids were touching the grounds of a tragedy. They are too young to know and probably will never remember our visit. But they are not too young to start learning from an early age the meaning of love. Love like the one the young man next to me has to offer, love that he keeps alive after all these years.

But that was not all. As I looked into the second fountain I spotted a rainbow. Coming from the hole in the center. Maybe that rainbow was going to bring some warmth to the heart of the young man. That not all was darkness, a sprout of light was still shining for him.

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Women that sip dreams: Melanie Bowen

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

After starting this series with Etta James, to inspire with music and poetry the rest of us, I plan to start featuring in the "Women that sip dreams series", women like you and I, that deal with bills to pay, house to clean or dog to walk, and yet keep dreaming about something bigger, beyond the daily routine. Women like you that want to achieve something, make a difference to someone or build a different future for themselves or their families.

Today, writing to us as a guest, I introduce you to Melanie Bowen, an awareness advocate for natural health and holistic therapies for cancer patients. You will often find her highlighting the great benefits of different nutritional, emotional, and physical treatments on those with illness in her efforts to increase attentiveness and responsiveness on like topics. She is one of the writers for The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog and has a personal blog too.

Here, she will be writing about the benefits of tracking your thoughts and goals - because thoughts are merely thoughts but writing is the first step to taking action, organizing oneself and being proactive.

So if you have a dream, Melanie explains why writing may be the great first step to take. To go from looking at the dream, to sipping it! I leave you now with Melanie Bowen. Enjoy.

Print available for sale here

Writing and Blogging Can Help You Achieve Goals, Stay Positive

by Melanie Bowen

When life hits a major snag, like a forced job change, a cross-country move or being diagnosed with a disease that carries a difficult prognosis, such as multiple sclerosis or mesothelioma, it can be hard to stay focused on larger goals in life. The important life-affirming achievements we set for ourselves, the ones that put us apart from the rest of the rats in the race, can often be forgotten when we feel like we're going as hard as we can just to stay in place.

Recording those long-term desires in a journal or online with a blog can help us define our goals concretely, keep them in the forefront of our daily thinking and offer a forum for exploring ways we can meet them despite the worst life can throw at us. Writing about your goals and how you'll achieve them can also prepare you to overcome the hurdles you're sure to hit along the way, says Leo Babauta, founder of Zen Habits, one of Time Magazine's top 25 blogs.

When we're attempting anything, whether it's taking the trip of a lifetime or quitting smoking, there are sure to be problems that arise, and if we take a few moments to decide what we'll do about them before they happen, we'll be ahead of the game, Babauta says.

“Write out a plan, before you get the urges, with strategies to beat them.” He writes in a guest blog: “We all have urges to quit. How will you overcome it?”

Writing about your goals can also help map the pathway you're taking to achieve them, giving you a clear record of how far you've come and how far you have yet to go.

“Keep a log or journal or chart so that you can see your progress over time,” Babauta writes. “I used a running log for my marathon training, and a quit meter when I quit smoking. It's very motivating to see how far you've come.”

Finally, keeping a positive mindset is key to success, and by recording your feelings as you go for your goal, you'll be able to take a measure of your mood, keeping an eye out for negativity as it's creeping in, and giving you the opportunity to get rid of it before it takes over and strangles motivation. By putting your goals in words and tracking your progress in a way that lets you get an overview of your success, you'll be much closer to doing the things you've always wanted to do.

For more of Babauta's advice on setting and achieving goals no matter what obstacles might stand in the way, visit his blog.

Print for sale here
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Adventures of a Dumpster Diving Mommy

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

dumpster diving, garbage, freeganism
Movie Dive that I have yet to finish watching on Netflix
Portlandia may have introduced many of us to Dumpster Diving in this episode. Dumpster Diving is "the practice of sifting through commercial or residential trash to find items that have been discarded by their owners, but that may be useful to the dumpster diver" (Wiki). At first, it may seems that you can only be part of such practice if you wear special rag clothes, wait until the sun goes down and drive around neighborhoods without leaving too much trace.

But I have benefited many times from the Not Scheduled Dumpster Diving. It is the same thrill as when Santa leaves you a gift on your doorsteps. Tonight it was one of my Santa's lucky days. As I walked around our block around 8 pm, I spotted on the curbside, next to the recycling group of plastic bins, a kid's play kitchen. Now, I have been dreaming about getting the boys a small play kitchen, that would fit inside their bedroom, not too feminine (like bright pink), where they could pretend to cook, instead of playing inside my real kitchen with my real pots! And there it was, a small sized, neutral color with some blue accents, plastic play kitchen starring at me.

At the time of my encounter, the garbage was already being put to good use by two men that were going through the cans and transferring them to plastic bags so that they could make some money later. I was across the street, in a very lighted and busy area, don't worry, no dark alleys dangers. And the question popped in my head, Should I feel ashamed of rescuing a perfect plastic kitchen from the garbage? Will I become less noble if I step in the garbage, or more noble as I will be freeing Nature from digesting a few extra artificial substances?

In a question of seconds, I swallowed my pride, crossed the street, rescued the kitchen and was welcomed by my son with a smile, as he was heading to bed. I had brought him a mid January, Tuesday night gift! What an unique treat! After I wiped the kitchen clean, in case it had gotten some kind of contamination on it, I placed toy pots and pans and fake foods inside its compartments. Tomorrow morning, when my sons wake up, they will benefit from living in a country where you can find a $80 Play Kitchen in the garbage.
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Women that sip dreams: Etta James

Friday, January 20, 2012

Etta James, women that sip dreams, achieve your dreams, inspiring women
Poster for sale here
Dream sippers are not perfect. Far from it, some times their dreams may take them to dangerous paths. Sometimes their dreams become a nightmare, sometimes they can trick reality and mask what is real and what it is not. And yet, dreamers inspire us. We watch them, cheer for their success, cry when they fall and mourn when they leave.

I thought that given the circumstances it would be appropriate to start the Women that Sip Dreams Series with Etta James. Yesterday I had no idea that Etta James would be the first one in this series, but as I listened one more time to her voice echoing "At Last", I knew that she had to be the one. She says in her melody:

"I found a dream that I could speak to,
A dream that I can call my own
I found a thrill to rest my cheek to
A thrill that I have never known"

Etta James entered this world in an already underprivileged position, as her mother was only 14 years old when she gave birth to Etta. She had many troubles in life, ups and downs, but when you listen to her song, you know that it is reaching not only ears, but many and many hearts. And that is what dreams are for.
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10 Sips for the Weekend: 10 Children's Classes to give a try

ice skating, children's classes, kids classes, yoga, soccer, art class, swimming class

After Luke was born, as soon as I had mastered the changing, feeding and life without sleep schedule, I moved to the next step. Finding children's classes for Luke to attend. Because aren't kids supposed to be speaking a few Mandarin words by two years old? Or playing an instrument by the age of 3? Or being part of the swim team by four? Luke was my first and I wanted to do it right.

So at three months of age, as soon as he could spend more than an hour awake during the day, I dragged him to story time at the Library. He was probably the best listener in the room as the other kids, already able to crawl or walk, had a big interest in keep moving. He would just sit there, wide eyes, staring at the story lady. I felt like the best mom ever, introducing my son to literature at such a young age!

Many other classes followed, some he loved, some he could not care less, some he hated and cried. More than anything, the classes taught me. They taught me to slow down, enjoy the moment, and not to speed into the future, or day dream about his college graduation. They also taught me that each child is unique and any class should be there to enhance a treat, not to traumatize, to force or to please the parent.

So here are 10 classes that Luke attended during his lifetime and his reaction to each one.

  1. Library Story Time: Besides the first one he took as an infant, we tried again when he was about 2 years old, but at that time his legs were already trained in running. The door was his goal, and he kept trying to escape. After a few times, I just gave up!
  2. Swim Class: The first time Luke attended it, he was too young to assimilate anything. So, we had fun during the class, but I doubt that he learned anything from those first days. 
  3. Soccer Class: Luke was 3 when we tried this one. He would hate the first half of the class and love the last half! I guess it took him a while to understand how to follow orders and what to do with the ball. We may go back to this one in the Summer and maybe now that he is older, he will have a better time.
  4. Art Class: This class was very open and flexible, outside at a park, and more play oriented than art oriented. Because the art area was always very crowded, Luke never enjoyed the craft making, he just had fun with the other play activities.
  5. Music Class: I would say that from all the classes, this was his favorite. He just flourished inside the classroom. He was completely comfortable and having a great time. The one he attended was about learning how to play the Ukulele. He felt like a rock star!
  6. Yoga Class: This was a drop off class, so I was just present during the first few minutes. According to his later report he did not like the soft music, the feet massage (or whatever happened in there) and the smell in the room. I was hoping he would like the class and learn how to relax, but apparently not his thing. 
  7. Movement Class: Another sample class, like the Yoga Class, we went for a trial. It was a Movement Class for boys to teach coordination, movement and focus. Luke is usually a very outgoing child but for some reason he got extremely shy and did not want to leave my side. Slowly he started to warm up towards the end and to join the other boys, but he did more for pear pressure than for pleasure. 
  8. Ice Skating: This happened two weeks ago, it was not a class, we just went as a family and tried to teach him how to ice skate. Well, my husband tried to teach him, as I have yet to learn!! I felt his pain, as I was also trying to balance my body! At the end he was enjoying it, and I had also lost my fear, two points up!
  9. Cooking Class: He attended a free trial this week and told me that he enjoyed it. I am still deciding if he will join it for the full term or not, as he said he would rather have music class again. I guess his love will always be music!
  10. Sibling Class: I thought I would add this daily learning as a class, even though it is free (if you don't count all the extra diapers!) and without any exit in sight! Luke has daily classes with Mark on sharing, learning how to deal with a toddler and being patient when his towers get destroyed. To have a sibling is a daily reminder that the world out there is cruel, hard and competitive. And yet, there is also love, friendship and lots of laughing together. 
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Giving kids fresh air

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Air is essential to human life. Much more than water. A few minutes without air, more specifically oxygen, and the brain starts to die. Memories, thoughts and passions dry off. Air fills more than just our lungs, it fills our self, our personality and our existence. The fresher, the best.

When I was living in Brazil fresh air was part of my daily life. I can probably count on my fingers the amount of days that we did not open any windows at my house. The concept of living inside closed quarters without fresh air, did not exist. And because most people did not have air conditioners when I was growing up (and many still don't to this day) the windows were always open, specially in the early morning, to let the cool air come in before the sun got too hot. Even in the winter, we would always open the windows a little bit to renew the air, specially if anyone was sick with the flu. And then I moved to America.

When I first moved to New Jersey, after getting married, it was December, winter and very cold. With the heating system running strong to keep our apartment warm, the windows stayed down. And down they stayed all winter! That means about 3 months! Then when summer came I noticed that many people in our apartment complex still had their windows down because they were running their air conditioner. More 2 months with the windows down! And lets not forget that some people are allergic to pollen and have to keep their windows down during Spring and sometimes during Fall too. That pretty much covers the entire year!

Research shows that indoor air pollution is worst than outdoor air pollution, because of all the off gassing produced by cooking smokes, furniture, mold, dust mites, among others. So that is not encouraging! Some plants have the ability to clean the indoor air, and they make great decoration items too. Something encouraging!

In our apartment now we have a pump heating system that I believe pumps air from the outside to heat the place, so that could be a bonus. But when it comes to kids, I have my own research results. Kids are happier outside!! They thrive on fresh air, on open spaces, on Nature. It has this calming effect. When I feel like they are very close to start climbing the walls inside the apartment, all that it takes is a walk to the nearest playground, some running, biking and breathing and they, like computers, restart fresh anew!!
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How to make a child scientist

Friday, January 13, 2012

Science is this small word that contains so much knowledge. Science can be about simple things like baking a cake and all the chemistry between its ingredients, or complicated matters like exploring the Universe. Science can be about working on a lab wearing a white coat, or heading to the dirt and digging in. Science is so big, think dinosaurs, and so small, think virus. And yet, sometimes you are able to bottle portions of it in one place, so you can experience the various facets of Science under the same roof.

One of these places is the Thomas Edison laboratory complex in West Orange, NJ. Inside its 3 floors you will find the Chemistry room, the Photography room, the Library, the Workshop, the Music room, the Biology corner, among others. I felt like stepping inside Science, if that is possible, but a vintage Science, the one that only exists in books, and yet the one that placed the foundation to our modern Science.

I always loved Science classes in school, maybe it was because I had a really good teacher, or maybe because I loved making questions. Luke was not as excited about our trip to the Thomas Edison laboratory as I was. Maybe he is still too young for that. Or he just likes the modern science better, like using my netbook. But if there is one thing that he has improved over these last months is the ability to make questions. Why? Why? Why? I can hear it in my dreams, so inoculated it got inside my head!

What makes a scientist is the curiosity to answer all the whys. Luke got the first step in the right direction, maybe a little help and he is all set. So, here are my 10 sips on how to make a scientist (I am the first one that should learn from all these tips!)

  1. Answer your kids whys with another why: Make them think for themselves. Or give part of the answer so they can move from that on. Like: "Why do birds have wings?", with: "Why do you think that birds have wings? And what other things have wings and what do they have in common, like airplanes?" 
  2. Let them dream: If they say that when they grow up they want to visit the moon, don't place a barrier in their way answering that they will probably never be able to visit the moon. Let them dream with visiting the moon, searching for buried treasures, discovering new species, because every scientist also needs to be a dreamer. 
  3. Teach them hard work: "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." (Thomas Edison) Small tasks like cleaning up the toys, bringing the dishes to the kitchen, making their beds are more than just getting help around the house. It is about building good work ethics, discipline and realistic achievement. 
  4. Let Science get messy: Mixing vinegar with baking soda is fun, but also messy. Try not to let the messy overcome the fun. Science is messy, unpredictable and surprisingly fun. 
  5. Rocks are free and recyclable: If your kids want to collect rocks, or leaves or any other "dirt" thing out there, let them do it. (as long they won't use the rocks to throw at windows) Stay away from the urge to have only sanitized toys in their room. Nature is dirt, but as much as we all are (think billions of bacteria inside our digestive track!)
  6. Stargaze: One of the losses we have from living in the city is that the only gazing we can do at night is building gazing. The New York skyline is beautiful, but nothing like the stars in a clear night. There are books for kids that teach which stars to look for and they can try to find the shapes the stars make in the sky. 
  7. Watch Sid the Science Kid (on PBS or Netflix) together: This show as well as some others have great Science lessons that are fun to watch.
  8. Invest in a microscope: Once the kids get a little older, you may want to buy a microscope. They are not expensive (the kids ones), about $25, and so many things could be explored inside its lens. 
  9. Anatomy is not gross, it is inside you!: I went through many anatomy classes in school and some scenes could be part of horror movies. However, the more you learn about your body, the better you can take care of it. So don't be afraid to teach your kids about bones, organs, brains. If you do in an fun way, they won't be scared. They will love it!
  10. Be humble enough to let your kids know that you don't know everything and that someday they will know more than you do! (specially how to use a computer!!

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In the land of little boys

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

There is an entire separate world where little boys live. It is a world where there are monsters, super heroes, gross things, pirates, legos, fighting, cars, rolling on the floor, playing with dirt, castles, trucks and sometimes mommy to protect them from it all. In this world, part real, part fantasy, little boys live. And if you want to understand little boys, you have to dip you feet inside the mud, roll in the grass, push trucks and put tiny lego pieces together.

It is tempting to dream of doll houses, barbies, cute little bags and hair accessories. But if you want to understand little boys, you have to push the pink dreams aside. You have to let it go the dirt sometimes, let it go the over protection, the tidiness.

As I watch my boys growing and becoming little boys, I also watch our home looking more and more like a boys scout clubhouse. In every room, in every pocket, signs that boys live here and are transforming the neutral decoration into a boys themed one. Little boys treasures that don't mean anything to me, but that are part of the magical world being protected by two little soldiers.

If I want to throw away the huge cardboard box that has landed in the middle of the living room, I have to use caution, as it is in fact a castle being protected by courageous knights. And I may be seen as the dragon trying to destroy the fortress.

Thankfully I have my husband that can still remember his little boys days and pull out tricks and skills that make him popular in this magical world our house has become. But once in a while, I try to join in the fun and pretend we are all little boys playing with trains and dreaming of flying to the moon.

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Great Apps for Moms

Friday, January 6, 2012

I finally gave in. Decided to join the crowd of iPhone users. Not that I was fighting against it. It is just that when you always favor the cheapest, or best deal for the money, you never buy an iPhone. You end up getting the cell phone Verizon offers for free at the renewal of the contract.

I never felt that I really needed a smart phone, but then I started to look around and felt that I was part of another planet because my hands were empty. There was not a rectangle attached to my hands, a personal robot ready to take my orders in. I had to wait until I got home to answer an email, and that huge amount of time is just not acceptable!

So now I feel like I belong. My fingers cuddled around the machine. Running my fingers up and down with gentleness. An entire world open 24/7. And the feature that always brings a smile to my lips: Siri. I give her an order once, and she follows it. Imagine that? No counting to 3. No bribing or raising my voice. No, just one statement from my lips and she obeys it. To the dot. I could spend an entire day just giving orders, because lets face it, in the real motherhood world that feature is still missing!

So here are a few apps that I have installed on my phone this past week:
  1. Good Guide (free): I like the concept of voting with my money, but up until now it was kind of hard to track every product, every company. Good Guide promises with one scan to show me if a product is green, safe, healthy, socially responsible among other criteria. And offers other tools to make it all easier.
  2. Locavore (free): buying local and in season is also a good idea. Locavore pinpoints what is in season and the best local spots to get it. And many other helpful buttons.
  3. Coupon Sherpa (free): instead of carrying in my wallet expired coupons hoping that when I need one I will remember to use them, now I can type the store I am in and this app will show me coupons for that store. I may even be able to ask the cashier to scan directly from the phone screen.
  4. Baby travels (free): when it comes to packing for a trip with kids it always seems as I may be forgetting something very important that could transform the entire trip into a nightmare. All I have to do now is add information about my trip and the app gives me a list of things to pack. Bonus "soothing sounds" to help baby relax.
  5. Netflix app (free if you are a member): for when the kids need a little entertainment at a waiting room.
What about you? Do you have favorites apps for your smartphone? 
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Table for two, please.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

December is usually a month for setting tables. Table for holiday gatherings, table for family dinners, table for guests. For some, the table is like an empty canvas, ready to become art. The center piece, the arrangement of colors and dishes, all framed together to invite people in.

Restaurants usually have a flickering candle, crisp white cloth napkins and dimmed lights to set the tone for a relaxing meal. They know that more than food, they are selling the experience. They know that it is about targeting the 5 senses: eyes with beauty, ears with melody, touches with cleanliness, noses with mouth watering fragrances and mouths with explosions of flavors.

Maybe there is a hint in there on how to feed a toddler. I love the website Weelicious because they figure out ways to attract little senses to healthy foods. Another one is LunchBoxAwesome where you have pictures of creative lunch boxes that will certainly attrack little mouths.

However, last week I decided to have a restaurant night at home, after the kids went to bed, and set a table for two. Cheaper than to hire a babysitter. Cozier than to go out in the cold. I set the table after the kids had dinner but before Luke went to bed. He walked into the dinning room, gave a serious look at the nice china neatly organized, ice cubes floating atop fresh water with lemon and a lit candle on the center of the table and asked: "Is that for mommy and daddy, and the boys go to sleep?" Giving the fact that I had not said anything about my plans to him yet, I was surprised that he had figured out what was going on. So I just answered: "Yes" while hoping there would be not too many complains and requests following. Not this time. He just answered: "Ah..." and went to bed happily knowing that he was part of the "boys" group, which don't waist their time with fancy dinners but are happy to go to bed to snuggle their blankets and bears.

Check this post for more healthy lunchboxes ideas!
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First of Firsts

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy first Monday of the year! Last week I felt as I lived 30 days in 7. Maybe it was because I did not have to follow the clock and just relaxed, or maybe it was because my boys started a fight every five minutes. Something like birthing contractions, tightening every few minutes, which makes one hour feels like three. One way or another, I am thankful for all the family time we had.

Besides relaxing, we added some fun day trips to our days off. One of them was to go to NYC to the Big Apple Circus. Clowns, magicians, acrobats and trained animals surrounded us for more than 2 hours. I could not hide my excitement, happy to giggle as a child. Something about the Circus, that awakes the child inside. Luke could not understand how the magician made the woman disappear inside the box. He was relieved to see her again later.

NYC was so packed with people that we could hardly walk. An article I read stated that Brazilians are topping the tourist influx to NYC and leave behind big piles of money. I heard Portuguese in almost every block I walked through NYC and almost felt at home. Except my toes were freezing, and that does not happen in Brazil!
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