Books are a funny thing.

When you spread the word about your undying love for those little volumes of happiness – and your daughter’s reluctance to worship them as much as you do – people somehow come and find you. When you think you’re a lonely voice in an ocean of Peppa Pig merchandising and Elsa dresses, someone will reach out a loving hand, shouting “HELP IS COMING.” You’d expect that eager librarians and devoted parents would get in touch to ask you to join their respective book clubs (which I’d gladly do! Please get in touch!), but you’d never expect a place like, uhm, McDonald’s, to come and say “You’re not alone”. Not unless we’re talking about, uhm, being hungry?

But I was talking about books, and they’ve found me. But before I had a chance to say “you must be gobblefunking around”, they told me they had a plan crazier than flying to New York City in a giant peach: they had partnered with none other than Penguin Random House Children’s UK, the National Literacy Trust, and hold your breath, the Roald Dahl Literary Estate to distribute 14 MILLION Road Dahl books in 6 weeks! Gloriumptious!

I’m a HUGE Road Dahl fan. I’ve tried to become Matilda before I found out she already existed. I’ve wanted to speak like the Big Friendly Giant since before I learned English in my 20s (not being very successful at it, as you’ve probably noticed). I’ve even acted as an extra in Tim Burton’s version of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (I dare you to find me in Veruca Salt’s Dad’s factory, unwrapping millions of chocolate bars!)

So I took O to their launching event where she turned into a phizz-whizzing little miss fox and listened to whoopsy-splunkers actors reading some of the books to be distributed. It worked wonders – O is already planning her Ms Spider outfit for the Road Dahl extravaganza at school.

They’re also launching an accompanying app with a voice-activated feature that responds with noises and graphics when you read aloud – I’ve yet to test it, but it sounds like a whoopsy wiffling tool, as I’m a terrible actor.

Now, for disclosure purposes – after all, if you’re a parent reading this, you want to trust me, don’t you? So there is: O is not really allowed to eat McDonald’s (unless we’re talking about the bag of fruits and bottles of water – ok, maybe the gloriumptious fries, if I’m hard pressed for alternatives). She is only 4, after all, and I’m adamant she should eat home-cooked meals, fruit and veg as much as she can. The world of fast food will eventually entice her for good and I won’t have much to say, but until then I want her to understand that well, treats should be treats – meaning, “rare”.

That said, other than Coca-Cola and Apple (I was going to say the evangelical church, but only Brazilians would understand that), I don’t know anyone who’s got a bigger scope across the country – and the world! – to reach out as many people with that jumpsquiffling message: that reading is GAZZUMPTIOUSLY GREAT, reading Road Dahl is even phizzwizzingly better.

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray
Go throw your TV set away
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall…”



Letter to O (Now That She’s 4)

My dear O,

You’ve just turned 4. Yesterday, actually. You had a joint birthday party with 3 other friends a couple of days ago, and although you never asked for a birthday present (even after I enquired about it a few times) you got many of them. So many we could fill a chest with them, but so far you’ve only opened one or two. One of them was a “Make Your Own Tiara Kit”, and during breakfast you asked me to help you make a few so you could give them to your nursery friends. That’s what I’ve come to realise about you, as I watch you grow into your own person: you’re generous, and kind, and more patient than I give you credit for. I myself wouldn’t be able to willingly ignore my presents, let alone share or give them away to my friends. But you do.

And you’re still not particularly attached to “your things,” which is almost odd in this age of materialistic childhoods. You rarely ask me to buy things for you, and whenever I say no, you’re mostly okay with it. Even when sweets are concerned. Remember how many you got for Halloween, and Easter, and for your birthday? A whole piñata full of them. I took most of them away from you, and you didn’t even ask for them back the following days. In fact, I’m totally sorry to say that Daddy and I ate them all afterwards during the weeks (okay, days) that followed each event, but hey, we sorely regret doing that. I’m still paying the price in dance classes and dentist appointments, so be happy you’re not in my position.

You see, there will be many things in life you’ll want, but they’re not entirely good for you. And there will be times when things you like will be taken away from you, and you won’t be okay with it because it won’t be fair (not the sweets, though. They’re bad for you, you will understand one day). But I’m sure now that you will be able to tell the difference, and challenge unfairness when it comes to it. You do that now. Last week I saw you worried about a little boy getting beat up at the park, and you went over to the bigger boy and told him to stop. I’ve seen that happen many times, and sometimes there was nothing you could do because you were too small or too far away, so you just asked me why someone was being “naughty” to someone else. I don’t have the explanation all the time, and sometimes, from the top of my adult pedestal, there’s nothing I can do either. But I’m happy that you feel it’s your duty, OUR duty, to help someone in need.

You still also like to tease your friends endlessly, a personality trait you might have got from your Daddy (he’s got a very peculiar sense of humour). But sometimes things get out of control and you make them cry. I know you don’t mean harm, but there are times when people don’t know that, so I’m hoping your awareness of people’s limits will grow with you. It’s important to understand that, because you’ll soon find out another important lesson: someone, somewhere, will always take offence. The reasons are as diverse as there are jokes in the world, but I’m absolutely sure you will learn them, one way or another. And when you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask why, like you always do. It’s important to be silly and have fun, but it’s also important to be respectful.

But don’t ever let that stop you from being yourself. There will be many, many times in you life where people will try and prevent you from doing the things you want to do while also being exactly who you are. You should always strive to stand up for yourself, as much as you like to do for other people. I know you’re absolutely capable of it, even when they’re bigger and louder than you. Like yesterday, when three little boys screamed at you to get out and not touch their toys. You came to me in tears, but I told you to go back and tell them not to be rude – after all, you asked nicely. You went back, and they still screamed, and you stood there, firmly, until their mums took the toys away.

That’s one of the things I’m proud of you most: you’re naturally fearless, even when sometimes you forget that your are and I have to remind you. You’re not afraid of the new, the different (a quality we share) and you’re definitely not afraid to be put on the spot, to have all eyes on you (something we definitely don’t share). I’m terribly self-conscious, scared to death of speaking in public and approaching new people, but I’m so utterly relieved and grateful you’re not. Because there will be also lots of moments in your life where you will need to be fearless, specially when I’m not there with you. Don’t worry, though. Until then, I will be there, every day, reminding you of your strength. The same way you do to me, unknowingly. By being yourself, your little generous, kind, funny, fearless self, you remind me everyday that I should also strive to be all those things. That’s how, together, we’ll hopefully make this world a better place.

I love you, forever.


“Books Are Boring”

Olivia last night said she didn’t want a story before bed. “Why?” I asked, with a mix of relief for having the extra time to myself, and apprehension, because I actually love story time. I’m a bit of a bibliophile, and reading together is one of my most treasures moments. I do it every single night since she was a baby, no matter how busy I am or where we are in the world. I probably verge on the point of paranoia, so imagine my affliction when she replied with the following.

“Books are boring,” she said, without hesitation. My heart broke in a million pieces.

“Why?!” I asked, trying not to sound too crazy. She was teasing me, of course she was. She’s got that kind of personality, the kind that pesters her friends endlessly just to get a reaction – and most of the time, there’ll be tears.

But she wasn’t teasing me. She just said “well, because they are.”

To be fair, I was holding a copy of Peter Pan, which is a long story for a 4-year-old. Specially if it’s not animated and it doesn’t come with an embedded Disney musical. I know because that’s sort of what she said, shutting the book in my hands.

“I don’t like Peter Pan, it’s too long and boring.”

“But it’s a POP-UP edition, and it’s got all these beautiful illustrations!”, I defended myself, helplessly. It didn’t work, obviously.

“I don’t like it. I want to go to bed.”

I gave her the benefit of the doubt – after all, it’s ok not to like a book. There are others. But she wasn’t having any of it.

“Why don’t you go and pick a different book? Anything you want.”

“No, thank you. I don’t want a story tonight.”

“BUT WHY.” I know I was sounding crazy already. But you know, when you’re faced with one of your biggest nightmares – own child not liking books –  you tend to react a bit crazy. (“one of your biggest nightmares? PFFF, #firstworldproblems” i hear you say. Yeah, alright, now go away.)

“Because books ARE boring,” she says again, a dead look in her eyes. She looks strangely grown-up saying that.


“I do!” She pulls her blanket over her face, trying to end this conversation. But I refused to be defeated.

“You’re making me sad.”

Blank face.

“Seriously. You are.”


Closes her eyes. Falls asleep.

I go online and google “what have I done wrong my kid thinks books are boring.”

Everyone says “read to her. Let her choose her books. Make sure she has a shelf and a reading nook. Take her to the library and bookshops.”

I’ve ticked all the boxes already. I’ve ticked those boxes from the moment she was conceived! I was born to tick those boxes!!!

Then there’s one more: “don’t be pushy.”


Well, when it comes to books, I’m not sure I can make that compromise. I’ll let her wear PJs to school, and eat cereal for dinner, and stay up past 9pm, but I won’t give up on story time. NEVER. So I order some new books, and make peace with the fact that that box will have to remain un-ticked.

Brasil (And The Outdoors)

Hey all. I missed blogging, so I’m back. Enough said about the absence.

I’m looking into stuff I started writing in the past few years, but never finished. Like the one below, about travelling to Brazil and wanting to spend more time outdoors. It’s more than a year old, but thought it was worth saving, if only for memory sake. There will be comments in italics throughout, where I might have changed my mind. Have fun.

If you know me, or have been reading this blog or following me around social networks, you will know I’m Brazilian (born and bred). My partner, O’s dad, is also Brazilian born and bred like me, which makes O Brazilian herself, even though she had never set foot in the country till earlier last year. We hadn’t gone back in 3 years when we decided to go last January and ended up staying almost 4 months. It was quite an intense journey, for all of us. We hadn’t planned much other than the first two weeks in Rio (which was absolute bliss), then pretty much let the wind take us wherever direction it was blowing. We travelled every week or so to a different city, a different town, across states to different places. We’re lucky to have family spread out in 5 different states, so sometimes we stayed with them, but we also took advantage of our lovely friends and their nice homes everywhere  (some had to endure us more than once, poor things, sorry for that!), and we airbnb’d a few times when we felt like we needed a bit of privacy. We learned a lot, specially about travelling with toddlers: in our case, it completely demystified the enormity of such a monumental task. It isn’t that monumental. Kids, as experienced parents will wholeheartedly know, adapt.  And if they don’t, you do. Travelling makes you let go of several things, material and metaphoric ones, and changes your perspective of several others ones. For example, the notion of home. To us now, it’s an elastic concept. It used to mean our parents places, but neither J. nor I ever felt too attached to them as, in my case, my parents divorced and recreated new lives for themselves, and J. just had to flee his nest and find himself. We lived everywhere for years, decades even, till we created our own home in London, which, strangely, only acquired such “status” after we left for Brazil. Until then, London had a sort of impermanent calibre to it, as if we were meant to just pass by (even though we’ve been here 11 years). But while in Brazil, after a while, we missed it. A lot. We felt homesick like we hadn’t felt in years. And at the same time, strangely, we discovered that we could, if we wanted, move anywhere else. If we can create a home here in London, where rents and house prices and now good schools drive you to relocate at an exhausting rate, then we could recreate it somewhere else in the world. We would only need to take our books, our music, our influences, a thirst for exploring, and a good dose of patience, creativity and mindfulness, and we’d be home. (Side note after re-reading this: wow, how detached from material stuff am I on this paragraph? I should confess that these days I would also miss my clothes and furniture, but I’m proud of myself back then.)  

It wasn’t always like this, though. For the longest time, London was a strange, grey and overcrowded metropolis, overwhelmingly unfamiliar and everything about it seemed alienating: the food, the weather, the high cost of rent ands services and low price of product, the jokes, the habits (tea with milk, sunday papers, going home at midnight on a friday night), the politeness and general distance people kept. These were all different things to me, specially in my first years, and while I hated some of them, they all turned out to be the things I loved about London. I’ve absorbed Englishness (London-ness, maybe) so much in a decade than going back to Brazil was (and still is) an inverted culture shock.

For starters, Brazilians are intrusive – in a good and bad way. I used to think of it as sign of friendliness, warmth, the in-built social quality of my own culture. They will approach you to give their opinion on a private conversation you’re having, they will make comments about anything to whoever wants to hear it in a lift, or on the street. We weren’t used to it anymore, as we’re used to Londoners keeping a polite distance, and it made for some surprisingly funny moments  (for a while, at least, till it started getting on our nerves a bit.) If you’ve got kids, they will tell you what they think you should do with them (like the waitress who told us “don’t use this chair, she’s too small”, or the stranger in the mall who said “why is she crying so much? maybe she’s hungry.”) It’s terribly annoying, but it shows how much Brazilian culture is kid-friendly, compared to the UK. People everywhere will want to kiss and cuddle and talk to your child (and believe me, they will), and kids of all ages will be running around restaurants way past 11pm, at least in the summer (I can’t imagine taking O with me to a restaurant in London past 7pm without getting reproachful looks). That’s also because in Brazil you very rarely find freelance babysitters: you either have a nanny full-time or a “folguista”, a weekend/nighttime nanny, very expensive and hard to find. Or you have family, which in our case was difficult, because they were spread out across the country and generally not based in the cities we liked to stay in (Rio, Sao Paulo, the Northeast). It meant that we stayed together, the 3 of us, 24/7 for a long time. I wasn’t used to it anymore either – O goes to nursery 4 days a week, J goes to his office and I work from home, so we have a chance to miss each other. To say we had to adapt, specially as O was full-on into her Terrible Twos, is an understatement, and she ended up spending a considerable amount of time watching films on the iPad (something I’m not proud of and have tackled since we came back. More on that later.)

All that said, it was incredibly liberating to be outdoors wearing not much other than swimwear and Havaianas every day, and it made me remember how much the weather in the UK affects us (but hello summer 2015! you’ve been good to us). So many days we have to be indoors, it’s hard to be away from screens – that said, TVs, iPads and smartphones dominate Brazilian culture too, and we had a hard time escaping them, for other reasons than the weather: safety plays a big role. Still, it made me briefly consider moving outside of London, if not Brazil, maybe somewhere with more nature and open spaces. We had our fair share of being nature-soaked over there: horse-riding and waterfall bathing in the Midwest, swimming on top of coral reefs overlooking sand dunes in the Northeast, jumping waves in Rio and Santa Catarina. But we also had our fair share of being house and car-bound in cities like Curitiba and Sao Paulo, where it’s too tiring or too scary to walk on the streets, and where there isn’t much to go other than shopping malls and restaurants (museums and galleries are expensive and not very child-friendly). It made us weary and exhausted and it was then that we got homesick. If I had to stay indoors so much, I’d rather be home where I can work, read and sleep in my own bed and let Olivia go wild with felt tips and snacks without worrying she’s ruining someone’s sofa. That was another of my lessons: travelling successfully with a two-year-old means you must make an effort to have plenty of outdoor activities, specially of the nature kind. We were happier in Rio, with its play parks on the beach at sunset, strolling around Jardim Botanico (their own Kew Gardens) and the sea, and walking around pleasant neighbourhoods like Gavea and Leblon. Or in Campo Grande, where there were farms and waterfalls outside the city where you can escape to. We figured out pretty early that whenever we could, if we had no business in the big cities, we had to escape to the country or the seaside.

It has affected us since we came back: last summer (2014! not this one) was one of the best we’ve ever had in the UK, and we escaped regularly for outdoor stuff. We even went to see the solstice at Stone Henge with the druids, then checked out the beach at Poole and cycled around New Forest (deserves another post too. I’ve got a LOT to catch up.)

I’ve been a very urban, concrete-bound sort of person since my teens – growing up in a small sea-side town made me yearn for the big city where big interesting things happened. And I still do love urban life to this day: I’m lucky to live in an area where there’s a strong community of creative people and friends, with plenty of parks and nature (well, some), and things to do. But I’m also the kind of person that likes to try new things and explore, and as cliche as it sounds, having a child has been the perfect excuse to go and do that. Nature wasn’t much of interest to my younger self, when clubs and bars and fashion had much more appeal. I’ve done that, plenty. Daytime and the outdoors are much more intriguing at the moment.

We’ve travelled a lot in 2014 (we went to California in September, then the Amazon in november – both trips also need separate posts, arrrghh) and we’ve been to the south of France this year so far, where we had a chance to stand up paddle (another post. i don’t know about you, but i’ve stopped counting). Now that O is a bit older, we’ll go on as many nature escapades as possible. Camping, climbing, surfing, it’s all in the cards.

Finito. Now, some pictures. Yay for making it this far. 

Snapshots from Rio

Campo Grande – Mato Grosso do Sul

Flexeiras – Ceará


Balneário Camboriú – Santa Catarina 

São Paulo


It’s been a whole year since I last updated this blog. O turned 3 this month, and again, everything’s changed. The first 6 months of 2014 were a bit of a rollercoaster, in fact, and scrolling down through some of these posts I almost don’t recognise some of the entries. So much has changed in so little time,  and other things that seemed out of our reach before are now part of our routine. I’ve always kept records of my life –  now OUR lives – in the form of journals, diaries and blogs (as well as occasionally freelancing as a journalist), and for reasons that I can’t quite explain other than lack of concentration and general mental-blurriness, I’ve stopped writing altogether for about a year. Well, the silence is gone now, I hope. Being a mother has been teaching me along the way that it takes time, patience and a lot of mindfulness to get to where you want to be, or even stay where you are. Three of practice, in fact, and I still think there’s a long, long way to go.

So, to get things going, I’m gonna post below a little short story I found while backing up my computer. I wrote it last year and submitted to a mainstream fashion mag writing contest, before forgetting all about it (I’m guessing it didn’t win anything, as I never heard from anybody). It’s supposed to be about how fashion manifests itself in someone’s life and shapes their view of the world. I chose to write about my confusion at founding out I was having a girl (I thought I wanted a boy because I’m quite tomboy-ish and had mostly male friends till I became a mum), and how we navigated a bafflingly divided world of pink and blue.


Pink and Blue

It started with the little cross sign. It was a faded blue, its intentions not uncertain as its colour seemed to be. An unwelcome accident (aren’t they all?) it meant life could not go on as it was. “I’m way too young for this”, cried my jobless, 28-year-old reflection in the bathroom mirror, all ripped denim and shattered dreams.

The image on the screen of the technician was also blue, electric and fierce. “It’s a little princess”, he says, and my vision blurs. A girl? But I don’t know how to deal with them. Never had many of them around for long. What was I supposed to do with a princess?

“Now we know the sex, we should go shopping!” exclaimed my thrilled mother-in-law. Sensing my bewilderment, she takes me into the girls’ section of a department store, all pink bowls and frills. My eyes blur again. I sneak into the boys section and suddenly blue surrounds me, reassuringly. There, I find it: a tiny denim shirt, the kind I desperately wanted for myself. “I think I’ve found something”, I say. “But that’s a boy’s shirt”, she exclaims while I pay for it. “I know,” I say.

The gifts start arriving, every one of them drops in a sea of pink. I put them away and clear a rack in my overworked bookshelf. Instead of baby manuals, I fill it with feminist authors. My partner raises an eyebrow: “Getting acquainted with the business of being a woman?” he asks, and then says to himself, “better late than never.” I’m suddenly grateful for having chosen him.

Her first outfit is white, a plain cotton onesie, a blank canvas like I thought she would be herself. But she’s far from it. When she arrives, it’s not in the way I wanted her to. It’s my first lesson: “You think you’re a riot? Wait till you get to know me,” she seems to tell me, opening her big brown eyes. My heart pounds in surprise, and my eyes are full and foggy yet again. I’m head over heels with pride and love.

Then time flies out the window, and with it, everything I’ve ever learned, everything I’ve ever thought I wanted. The pink fluffy dresses go, and with them the tiny blue denim shirt. At two, she won’t comply with my rules, or anyone else’s, unless it’s tinged in bright yellow. Hair long and scruffy, Converses dirty with the remains of play dough and paint, she then runs in my direction, arms and smile wide open, and asks me to read her the story of Dorothy and the ruby slippers. “There’s my princess,” says my now exasperated mother-in-law, a glimmer of hope in her tone, aware of this sudden manifestation of girliness.

“There’s no place like home,” ends the story, and then suddenly I get it. A ball of contradictions lying next to me, she’s the embodiment of my most cherished lesson of all: to be nothing but one’s own colourful self.