Sunday, December 30, 2012

A West Coast Christmas

This Christmas we spent the holiday with Joel's family in Northern California. It was the first time we've spent Christmas with his family since we've been married, so their traditions were all new to me. In Brazil, most people celebrate the 24th of December more than Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve everyone came over to Maggie's house for food and games. We ate feijoada, exchanged Secret Santa gifts, talked and enjoyed the night. At midnight we had a special visitor...

and he gave me an extra special present. 

We woke up our niece, Maya, so she could sneak a peek at "Santa." Maggie wants to make this a new tradition for all of the grandchildren so she went all out at bought a Santa suit for Joel to wear. Maya was actually scared of him and hid in the hallway, but the next day she went on and on about how she saw Santa. A few days later she was playing on my phone and saw this picture of Joel and I kissing. She looked at me in complete shock and said, "OOOHH! I'm going to tell Tio Caco (Joel)! What were you thinking?!" Sassy little six year-old. Thank goodness she didn't really understand what she saw, but I fear this may have tainted her idea of Santa Clause. 

Miss Maya on Christmas morning

We got to be a part of a very special gift this Christmas. Joel's dad passed away last December, so Joel was able to do his temple work this month. There is a very special spirit as you go through the temple for a family member. We are so happy.

And, as we seem to always do when we travel, we ate and ate and ate.

Going out to eat is always a fun excuse to get together with family and friends. Unfortunately, I got very sick one night, which ruined our plans to visit more family and friends over in East Bay, but hopefully we will return soon. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Oh, Christmas Tree

The Castros got their first Christmas tree! 

We went to a lot to buy a fresh, table-top-sized tree but it was actually much more expensive than this fake one (welcome to New England) we found at Target. We're thrilled to finally have our own tree. Please notice that we did not have anything to hang the ornaments with so they're hung right on the branches. Very classy, indeed.

Our 2012 ornament is in honor of our first Christmas in New York City.
See 2011 & 2010

One of my favorite memories will be walking home from work through the Rockefeller Center and down 5th Ave before the annoying tourists flooded the city. There are more tourists in NYC in the month of December than the entire summer. It's a mad house! We're still looking forward to going into the city during the next few weeks, but there's nothing like the last week of November in Manhattan. All of the Christmas decorations and markets are up, and you get to stroll through the streets like you have the city all to yourself.  It'll make you want to wrap your arms around this twinkle-lit island and give it a hearty squeeze. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012


He: wakes up when his alarm goes off, gets ready for the day, makes breakfast, prepares her lunch and gets to the train station 7 minutes before the train arrives.
She: hits snooze but hasn't figured out why the snooze on her phone doesn't work so she resets her alarm clock to 10 minutes later, hits snooze again (assuming that she'll probably wake up in 10 minutes on her own), does wake up but it's 20 minutes later, rushes around the apartment, grabs her lunch, and gets to the train station as the train is pulling up.

He: accounts for every last penny. (Just ask him about our honeymoon budget that he religiously balanced when we got back to the hotel every night)
She: Has looked at their bank account maybe two or three times since they've been married.

He: crosses his pinky toes to relax.
She: pops her joints to relax.

He: has the worst memory. He loves to rewatch movies because everything is new to him even the third time around.
She: has an excellent memory. She can never forget a face.

He: likes (virgin) piña coladas.
She: likes getting caught in the rain.

He: has a scar across his right eyebrow, one on his forehead near his hair line and two on his bottom lip. He doesn't know how they got there. He is mysterious.
She: will tell you how every scar on her body got there which will then prompt her to explain the metaphysical scars in her life. This can happen in one sitting if you let it. She is an open book.

He: knows she is genuinely kind.
She: knows he is humble, and obedient to the Lord.

He: likes white chocolate.
She: likes dark chocolate.

He: excercises by playing sports. He will only run if there's a ball involved.
She: can run for days. If there's a ball involved, she will run away.

He: lets the dishes pile up.
She: hates dishes in the sink. As she cooks, she cleans and then eats and rests.

Sometimes it seems like we couldn't be more different. And then the other night, when I was cutting up chicken for dinner, I accidentally sliced the tip of my thumb. I showed it to Joel, he started laughing and then showed me his thumb.

Same spot, same thumb, doing the exact same thing with that same blasted knife.

We're the best of friends, two peas in a pod, the yin to each other's yang and every other cliche you could throw at us. We love each other more than we even know and it's all because of these beautifully intricate differences that make us two puzzle pieces fit so snug together.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Very Special Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I was especially grateful for...

Electricity, hot water, an abundance of food and a warm home to call our own.

stole this one from Nicki

We seized the opportunity to be Mormon helping hands last week and help clean up the Rockaways in Queens, NY. The area looked like a war zone and the loss was devastating. So many homes are either condemned, swept out to sea, burnt, or completely gutted. There is still so much work to be done. It was humbling to see what Hurricane Sandy did to this area alone. I can hardly imagine there being so many more areas in New Jersey and Long Island that need just as much, if not more, help. I'm proud that church was cancelled Sunday morning so that we could serve instead. There will never be a better Sunday service than putting into action the teachings and compassion of Christ. So many lives are touched by the Spirit the Mormon Helping Hands bring and I know those seeds will flourish into blossoming testimonies of Jesus Christ.

Front row seats on a warm Thanksgiving day watching the Macy's Thanksgiving parade.

We had such a great Thanksgiving morning. We woke up at the crack of dawn and made our way into the city for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. By a few lucky circumstances we got front row seats and I actually sat during the whole parade. It was a perfect Fall day and we stayed nice and warm during the entire parade. We sat next to kind and happy people (who, believe it or not, are Mormons from Utah). Joel and I were giddy as we watched the large balloons and floats pass by. It was fun, and having fun is always something to be grateful for.

A very special family.

I love my family, but several times during my life I've only focused on what it lacked. This Thanksgiving I saw my family in a whole new light.

My mother recently found out that she and her siblings have a full-blooded brother they never knew about. He was given up for adoption before they were born and my sweet, loving and admirable grandmother just told the family of his existence. A miracle happened when just a few days after they were told, my Aunt Sarah found him on an adoption website. Their brother, Steve, had been looking for his family for years.

This Thanksgiving the family was reunited.

prepping Gram for the big reveal

 Many hugs, tears, memories and pictures were shared.  My grandma said that, throughout the years, whenever anyone asked her how many children she had she said "four" but always thought "five" and now she could finally respond the way her heart did. The morning of the reunion my grandma's scripture-a-day calendar read:
"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." (Isaiah 49:15)
She took the card with the scripture on it and gave it Steve, along with a painting she made for him.

My Aunt Sarah got "It's a Boy!" balloons and tied them outside in front of the house. 

The house was full of family ranging from a 1 year-old to a 95 year-old. Needless to say, there was a lot of noise and a lot of love. The moment that changed me was when, amidst all of the noise, Steve said that he used to day dream about what his family was like. Sometimes it was good, other times he feared the worst. "But," he said, "I could've never dreamed of this." He was surrounded by people who loved and rejoiced his mere existence. I said to myself, Yes, he is completely right. Dreams could never match this kind of feeling. Nothing can compare to the love of my family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Falling to Heaven

Note to self: Read the book that contains the following excerpt.

"...almost all my intuitions about happiness lead me astray.

The promising path is routinely the one I’m not taking—in fact, the one I would never consider taking because it seems from my unhappy place to be absurdly and obviously wrong.

For he teaches that our burdens are lifted only as we take upon ourselves an additional burden! Take my yoke upon you . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Think about what this means. When we are feeling burdened, weighed down, and heavy, Jesus is telling us that relief comes only as we do what all of our intuitions tell us is the last thing we should do—take upon ourselves an additional burden. Although yokes distribute burdens between partners, Jesus is asking us to take on the burden of a yoke we aren’t presently carrying. This is an additional weight, or at least it seems to be, and therefore what sounds like an added measure of heaviness.

As I have walked my own share of such paths, I have learned that what they offer is a mirage—a kind of cotton candy to the soul that leaves us emptier or else more puffed up than before.

Happiness so often seems elusive because it rests on a paradox—an apparent contradiction that lies at the very heart of the gospel.

Happiness rests on believing Jesus even when what he is telling us seems mistaken. Come take this burden, that you may be light, he tells us. Lose yourself that you may find.

The existence of an important divine paradox is implied by how often the Lord and his prophets speak in paradoxical terms. Jesus famously taught, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” To his disciples he said, “Whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” Concerning wisdom, Paul declared, “If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.” "When I am weak,” he declared elsewhere, “then am I strong.” "Consider as well the paradoxical nature of the central elements of the gospel. God became man. Mankind fell so that they might become exalted. Jesus died so that we might live. Our “garments are made white in his blood.” “And with his stripes we are healed.”

This means that in order to put off the unhappiness of the natural man, we must first do what feels unnatural to the natural man.

And that requires that we to submit to, rather than resist, the paradox."

-Falling to Heaven by James Ferrell

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


The past few weeks have been quite the whirlwind! Hurricane Sandy, Halloween, the Presidential Election (sad face), and our first Nor'easter. I still can't believe November is practically halfway over. Joel is finished with his CPA exams and I only have a few weeks left of my internship. When did time start passing so quickly?

Before the storms came through we enjoyed a truly stunning New England Fall. I went on a walk every day to enjoy the leaves and crisp autumn air.

I was surprised that I am not as homesick as I thought I would be during the first few months, but I've come to realize that it's because it's not at all difficult to acclamate to such a beautiful part of the country and the charming town we live in. We love where we live and have met great friends.
We count our blessings...

And then the east coast turns on us. Welcome Frankenstorm:

As you can see, our town was hit with exceptionally strong winds. We walked around for 3 hours the day after the storm hit to see the damage. Most everyone was out of power for days, and some for over a week. We were very lucky to only be without power for 3 days and to have hot water. The following picture is outside the front of our apartment building.

(That looks dangerous, but I promise it was the safest way around)

(The roots of the uprooted trees were HUGE!)

Then a Nor'easter hit the next week.

It would have been fine had I remembered to wear my rain boots into the city (and if there is anything you need during a snow storm in NYC it is rain boots!) You guys, the slush--the slush! It's city slush. Smelly, cold, wet, gray, awful slush that puddles all over. There was a subway fire on the 7 so I had to walk to Grand Central Station in that awful slush.
And I went the wrong direction for a few blocks.
And my Uggs got soaked.
And I slipped in the snow and ripped my tights.
And let's just say I am not a fan of Nor'easters.

But I am a fan of using the snow as an excuse to pull out Pinkie, buy a large bag of grapefruits at Costco and watch Gilmore Girls as I peel the grapefruits for snacking. That is my kind of therapy session. Thanks, Winter!

During all of these natural disastors we...

-Celebrated our first official Halloween as a couple (because we never dressed up or cared to during school) going to some fabulous costume parties hosted by couples in our ward.

We may have started a tradition of switching costumes for round #2. It was too funny watching Joel walk around in skin-tight clothes.  

 -Met John and Sherry from Young House Love at their book signing. They're the coolest.

-Voted for Mitt Romney. I am so proud I got to vote for such a great man. The morning after the election I had a very powerful experience on the train ride into work. I wrote all about it but it just doesn't feel right to post it. Call me and we will chat.

-Passed CPA exam #4! It's all over, baby. We celebrated with some tasty pizza from Frank Pepe's.

Now we are looking forward to the holidays! They put the tree up in Rockefeller Center today so I am going to stop by after work. When the snow started falling last week I went a little crazy and booked the next two months with all sorts of holiday festivites in NYC and CT. We're finally no longer in school so we actually get to enjoy the full month of December and not just the few days left after finals. We're going to make the most of it!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Two-bag Woman

I've been cleaning out my list of posts in which I wrote down a few lines and then quickly abandoned them. The first of these was on the third day of my internship. I wrote:

"Never having been a big fish in the first place, I feel like the smallest of the tad poles in a Great Lake. But you have to start somewhere, right?"

It's gradually diminishing, but each day as I make my way to work I still have to jump over that feeling of being frighteningly small and insignificant. But I think that comes with the territory of climbing out on a limb.

I love where I am. I love children's publishing. I love being around books and seeing the gears and cogs behind children's literature. I've studied the writing process but the publishing process is a whole different, complicated, fantastic world.

Working in New York City is invigorating. Walking around the city during my lunch break or after work can be difficult and confusing, but the more places I go the more confident I feel. I've been able to give people directions on the streets and in the subway. I finally know what people are talking about when they say "uptown" "downtown" and "midtown" (it is much more complicated than you would think). I've tried Natalie Holbrook's Top 2 chocolate chip cookie recommendations (milestone!). City Bakery's was chewy goodness but if you only had time for one then head straight for Levain's because it is a whole new cookie experience and actually worth the $4. Also, I do not recommend trying to explain spending $4 on a cookie to your husband. Choose your battles.

One of the many things I've learned is why most working women in NYC carry two bags. It confused me at first--aren't New Yorkers efficient with their space? How much do they really need to bring to and from work each day? And then my feet literally oozed with pain because I wore (very short) heels to work. I thought, okay, they bring their heels in an extra bag to put on at work, I totally get it. But I could fit my heels in my purse and I was carrying 3 books, a planner, a wallet, a notebook and my lunch. Finally, I noticed the labels. Then it all made sense. You put your wallet and cell phone in your Prada and everything else in a canvas bag. Aha! This was definitely one of those "I'm not in Utah anymore..." moments. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Little About Ourselves

Not much to report here in the Castro home. We love where we live more and more each day and I've become a Craigslist/Goodwill addict trying to furnish this place. My internship is going great and Joel is getting into the swing of things at work. Yesterday my question-a-day-journal asked me to describe my life in three words. I chose "happy, emerging, exciting." Okay, so not the best choice in adjectives but life is pretty great.

To prime the pump and end this blogging dry spell I thought we'd spend this week getting to each other a little more. This month the Relief Society had me fill out a questionnaire for the monthly newsletter and I thought it'd be fun to answer them with Joel and add a few of our own.

Name: Joel da Silva Castro, Jr.
Age: 26 years old
Sign: Pisces

Name: Sara Elizabeth da Silva Castro
Age: 23 years old
Sign: Aries

What do you do?
I'm an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
I'm an intern at Random House Children's Books. 

São Paulo, Brazil and Menlo Park, CA
Born in southern California but North Ogden, UT is my home

What do you miss most about Utah?
BYU spirit.
My family. I can't tell you how badly I want to see my new baby niece! 

Where's the furthest that you've traveled?
Hey, me too. 

What's your favorite movie that you could watch 100 times and not be sick of?
The Dark Knight
Baby Mama and most Norah Ephron movies.

Are you a morning person or a night person?
Morning. You can get a lot more done when you wake up early.
Night. Which means I'm more fun, right?

What's the last book you read?
Return From Tomorrow And how was it? It was very good. Interesting and inspiring. It made me want to treat others with respect and really love my neighbor. And it made me think a lot about our actions and life after death.
My Life in France by Julia Child. And how was it? So good. I'm a sucker for a good autobiography. It made me want to travel to France and eat and eat and eat. As cliche as it sounds, it also made me want to follow my passions. Her passion and love for food is so contagious. I love when you enjoy what you're doing so much that time has no meaning and you get completely lost in your work. I want to discover and rediscover those things in my life.

What single piece of technology makes your life easier?
Microsoft Excel.
(It's true, he is in love with Excel.) My phone--it works miracles.

What's your favorite Halloween tradition?
Trick-or-Treating. I didn't grow up doing that because I lived in Brazil. After we moved to the U.S. I went Trick-or-Treating until I was 18 to make up for the lost years.
I hate Halloween. I feel creeped out most of the day and find myself wishing for the day to just be over. But I love dressing up and eating candy so I still have some fun.

What are your hobbies?
Sports. Mainly soccer but I also play pick-up basketball, football and volleyball games.
Traveling, reading, writing, eating and shopping for home goods.

Who is your doppleganger?
When I had long hair in Mozambique three people told me I looked like John Travolta.
(Laugh laugh laugh...barf barf barf)
I've also been told I look like the guy in Eat, Pray, Love.
I've been told I look like Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kate Middleton (if only) and Rashida Jones.

What restaurant would you recommend?
Patxi's in Palo Alto
He stole mine. Angelo's pizza in NYC is pretty dang great, too.

Did you have a nickname growing up?
Caco. It comes from the word "macaco" which means monkey in Portuguese. I had a lot of energy growing up. Caco is what everyone in family still calls me.
Sara doesn't lend itself to many nicknames. I think my mom called me Sara Bear every once and awhile.

If you could be any character who would you be?
Anne Shirley. I feel like there is a better fit, but I just can't think of anyone else.

What's your favorite quote from a conference talk?
"Come what may and love it." -Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
"Fill your mind with truth, fill your heart with love, fill your life with service." -President Thomas S. Monson

What was your favorite T.V. show growing up?
Cavaleiros do Zodiaco and Fresh Prince of Bell-air
Oddly enough, A Baby Story and The Joy of Painting. Mom, you can attest to this.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be? 
A soccer coach. High school or middle school.
A writer and/or something in publishing. Is professional traveler a job? I'd take that, too.

How many kids do you want?

What's your top 5 favorite shows this season?
Modern Family, Psych, Community, Shark Tank and Once Upon A Time.
30 Rock, Modern Family, Parks & Rec, Community and Once Upon A Time.

Friday, September 28, 2012


I feel like this will be our life when we start having babies.

Don't even try to morally object because it is much too late.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

He Loves Me


Today I got to kiss baby fingers. I got to hold her as we looked out the window and feel her sweet little head rest on my shoulder. I got to watch a smile break out on her face when she saw herself in the mirror. I got to listen to baby babbles, squeals, growls (the cutest) and even a some small cries. I got to soothe those cries with a bottle full of milk and sit quietly as I held her in my arms.

Today was my due date and, as close as I got to forgetting it, there was no way it would completely leave my mind. The closer September 17th came, the more I tried to think of something special to do on that day. Nothing ever came to mind so I brushed those thoughts aside.

Today, in the late afternoon, I was washing the dishes and I suddenly remembered. I felt the Lord's love wash over me as I thought about my morning.

I got to kiss baby fingers. 

It's these intricately designed moments that remind me how much I am loved by my Father in heaven. He planned such a special day for me and I couldn't feel more at peace.

I know He loves me and that He loves me enough to give me my own sweet little baby's fingers to kiss on my next due date, whenever that may be.

He loves me and, if you're wondering, He loves you, too.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Roald Dahl Day

Happy Roald Dahl Day, everybody!
Roald Dahl is one of my two favorite authors of children's books.
I've read almost everything he's written.
He was a beloved man in my household growing up.
Visiting The Roald Dahl Museum is on my Bucket List.
His humor and magical imagination cannot be compared.
He was an extremely talented writer, to say the least.

I got a text early this morning from my sister saying that she is in labor. My sweet niece will share her birthday with Roald Dahl! This means something great. What a happy day!


Abigail Liara Dixon


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Since I work in a cubicle nowhere near a window to the outside world, I like to pretend the snow globe leftover from an intern back in the 90's is my corner office view.

You guys, it is the Macy's Day Parade every day in my cubicle! Partaaay!

When I realized this morning that it was September 11th I was honestly a little scared. I can get really anxious about these sort of things so the whole morning I kept imagining different scenarios of being in the city for another attack. I did not want to go into work. I wanted to stay in bed with my husband where no one could hurt us. But I got on the train anyway. Going through my daily routine in the city gave me a new perspective of 9/11. New Yorkers walking beside me, most of which actually had reason to be scared because they witnessed, first-hand, the horrors of that day, were going on with their day. No one mentioned it at work and I didn't overhear anyone talk about it on the Subway (the best place for eavesdropping). It was as if it were just another day.

I know that in their minds it was not just another day. I'm sure that when they looked at their calendars their hearts dropped. Because today isn't about remembering, is it? At least not for our generation. Today was about the ability to be free from fear. What I saw today was an overwhelming example of faith. Faith in humanity, and faith in the love and protection of something greater than them, who I believe to be God.  Having faith despite vivid memories of fear is quite a feat. It is a declaration of the freedom we so proudly claim as Americans. They are an admirable people.

So thank you, New Yorkers, for making the view from my corner office a reminder of hope, not fear.