Falo um pouco de português

Dear Diary,
Perhaps, "I speak a little Portuguese" is over-stating my abilities, but I am trying!  It's certainly totally different from Deutsch.  Mein Vati is learning Portuguese at the same time so we practice together.  He finds it easier because he speaks Italian and he can definitely see a direct correlation between the two Romance languages.  He is having a problem, however.  When he is saying a sentence in Portuguese and he can't remember the correct Portuguese word, his brain automatically substitutes the Italian word and he doesn't even realise it's happened. Fortunately, his tutor speaks some Italian so he can point out the error.
Here's an example of how Portuguese sounds and what we're up against:

Vati thinks that Portuguese sounds better than Spanish but not as lovely as Italian.  Speaking it is not a walk in the park because of the nasal sounds, (probably inherited from a French influence?).  We both struggle with those nasal tones as well …

Off to iberia!

Dear Diary,
Our family has decided to spend part of the upcoming winter in sunnier climes.  At the beginning of our winter, we are heading for the Iberian Peninsula, better known as Spain and Portugal. We will spend a month there, travelling around and enjoying the sun's warmth while it's cold in the Southern Hemisphere.

The itinerary is all decided but I wanted to check it anyway on the map.  

I've been reading the tour books to see what's ahead.  

Mein Vati has been doing research online.  We have been watching many videos about traveling in Spain and Portugal.

There is much to do in preparation for this long trip.  We are all working together to get ready for a big adventure!

Wonder Crew

Dear Diary,
I've been busy around the garden now that it's summer; the vegetables - and weeds - are growing quickly. There's really been little time to look around the internet.  However, the other day I was wasting some time on the internet when I discovered the site for a new doll company, Wonder Crew.
Wonder Crew is a new line of dolls made for boys.  Like other dolls for boys, they rest squarely in the action figure genre.  I suppose this is necessary to convince parents that boy dolls are "safe" for their sons.  But, given social conditioning of both sexes, I suppose this approach is necessary to overcome taboos.
Their webpage at tells the story so I won't repeat it here except for detailing their mission and reproducing some photos:

Interestingly, there are a number of YouTube videos about the…


Dear Diary,
I like all the traditional things like the decorated tree, mistletoe, stockings, candles and Santa Claus but I celebrate them for their old religion symbolism which pre-dates Christianity.  Even though the weather is (mostly) warm and sunny here in the Southern Hemisphere, I and my family are very much in the holiday spirit.
It's been a year of ups and downs and really, I'm ready for some holiday merry-making:

Thanks, Auntie Mame.
Santa Claus came early and even let me pose for a photo with him:

Here's to the festivities, even though here they are backwards at this time of year. It's our summer solstice, not the winter solstice.  The festivities are about the shortest day of the year but it's our longest.  I pretend and join in anyway. The late, great Mr Nat King Cole can always put me in the mood:

What a crooner!
So, whether winter or summer, Happy Holidays to all, no matter how this time of year is celebrated,  I wish everyone much happiness.



Sewing & crochet

Dear Diary,
Recently, we had a family project of clearing out the attic (before the ceiling fell in on us).  We found something that Vati had made about 15 years ago.  At that time, he lived in an authentic Arts & Crafts house.  There were windows in the closets and he began to crochet a filet crochet curtain for one of them.  As things turned out, he moved before finishing the curtain but over the years he could never bring himself to throw it out.  We found the curtain and suddenly I had a fantastic idea - it would be the perfect coverlet for my Arts & Crafts bed.  Luckily, I was right and all Vati had to do was fasten the last stitch.  Vati was grateful he didn't have to crochet any more on it because he couldn't see the small stitches!

I'm all ready for bed now.

Also, mein Vita has gone back to the sewing machine and has been sewing shirts for me.  So far he has made 9 shirts, some pyjamas and a pair of corduroy short pants.  It was a chore to find a pattern to fi…

Zen gardening

Dear Diary,

As a follower of the Buddha's teachings, I have an interest in all things Buddhist.  I follow the Secular Buddhist path which means I don't believe in religious Buddhism.  I've studied all the major schools of Buddhism and found Zen to be of great interest. At one time, for a number of years, I practiced Zen.  I have moved on since then but I still use some of the practices I learned in that time.

A concise definition of Zen is "a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasising the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or the study of scriptures" (taken from the Google Dictionary).

Zen gardens are well-known in the West.  The strategic placement of rocks, gravel, trees, statues and the like is a meditation practice for the Zen Buddhist.  the placement of objects and raking of the gravel has symbolic meaning.  The quiet and focused work in the garden is meditation. The garden's simplicity is meant to bring the practitioner into…

Berets for days

Dear Diary,
I wear a beret because mein Vati wears one. Well, he has more than one: French, Basque, Italian, Spanish, Czech/Slovak.  The are all pretty much the same, some are smaller than others or are made of thicker fulled (felted) wool.  Berets are traditionally black but they do appear in colours from time to time.  Archeology has shown that hats similar to the beret were worn in the Bronze Age.  What we know today as the "French" and "Spanish" beret come from the south of France in the province of Béarn and the Basque country in Spain.

Size is important but more important is how it's worn on the head and how it's shaped.  It can be worn pushed forward (farmer style):

Or sitting centered on the head:

Or pushed to one side or the other: