Saturday, 29 December 2012

A wet and sloshy kind of morning

This morning when I left home at 8.15 I had to don some wellies and open up one of our very large umbrellas. Almost two hours later, just as l was getting into the car, l looked towards the Sintra Hills and the sun poked it's nose out from behind the clouds, lighting up the raindrops and the wet road. The photo doesn't do true justice to the sparkling raindrops  against the mist shrouded hills of course but l think you get the idea:

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Walking in the 'hood

A slow and misty kinda morning for taking a long walk - a perfect autumn day, the sun just peeping through with a mixture of bonfire smoke and mist shrouding the Sintra hills.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Wine, dog hairs and a freezer

This morning, I decided it was time to defrost the freezer (it's an upright and needs doing every six months apparently). It actually should have been done four months' ago when hub decided a bottle of white wine needed to be chilled quickly and promptly forgot all about it.  He found out when wine freezes, it doesn't fit in the bottle anymore which meant, in this case, the cork left the bottle and wine trickled all the way down the inside of the freezer- of course the bottle was on the top shelf.

I was determined it was going to be quick and easy to defrost and thought I'd have it done in no time at all. Mentally, I revved myself up and flew around clearing the fridge first and then flinging all the frozen food into it before I had any chance of getting freezer burn.

After putting warm bowls of water onto the shelves, I set to washing out the drawers until, finally, I could hear the clunks of ice falling into the bottom of the freezer. Bearing in mind I'd defrosted the freezer around six months' ago, you would assume I'd remember what to do this time, but it seems I left out one important step.  I'd forgotten to pull out the tube thingy and drain off the water so when I opened the freezer door, water promptly overflowed out onto my feet, the floor and under the freezer.

I think the cold water froze my brain momentarily, because I bent down and pulled out the tube... more water on my feet and an ever larger pool of water seeping under everything in sight. That was when I remembered a strategically placed bowl might have been a good idea

A quick trip to the laundry room and old towels were being thrown on to the floor and into the bottom of the freezer.  What I didn't know was that one of the dogs had obviously been sleeping on the towels at some time or another.  It's amazing how well black dog hairs can stick to the pristine white insides of a freezer - sigh!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

On baking bread - again

I was warned about becoming hooked on making bread by hand but never expected to be this bad... I start thinking about which recipe to experiment with as soon as my eyes open in the morning. 

I'm still perfecting the tecniques and shaping the bread but the results have astounded me - all I want to do is keep making more!!

Hmmmmmm.... perhaps I was a baker in a previous life?!

Fortunately, my kids have inherited the Portuguese bread-gene of eating bread at anytime of the day or night - and at every meal I might add - otherwise we'd be up to our knees in rolls and loaves of all shapes and sizes!

And fortunately,  I'm content with just a taster of warm bread with a smidgen of butter, otherwise my hips would be too large to get through the kitchen door!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sunday morning

There's something about Sunday mornings that seem to lend themselves to arias, Bach, Beethoven or just about any other classical music composer or opera you can think of.  I've always found Ave Maria by Schubert very moving and found the above on youtube.  It's with Placido Domingo and Michael Bolton, a seemingly unlikely duo if you don't know about Bolton's admiration for all opera singers.  I think he does remarkably well here.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Taking an early morning nap...

... not me, the dogs. 

I am amazed how they can wake up in the morning, stretch a bit, eat, pop outside to do their you-know-what, and then promptly collapse in the living room for some more shut eye.  It's a hard life.

Nina, our small teckel, always has a place either on my lap or by my side on the sofa.  

Daisy likes to be there too but Nina isn't always ready to share me and Daisy has to sneak up when Nina is already in the land of nod. 

Ben, being much larger than the other two and too big for my lap, is usually curled up at my feet on a cushion.  Sometimes he forgets he is too big for my lap and will climb up on top of me. 

Which is just what he did yesterday... climbed on my lap while I was having my breakfast coffee.  When I had to slide out from under him to let Daisy in from the garden, he stayed put on the sofa, deciding sleep was more a priority than trying to keep me pinned to the sofa. Daisy obviously thought she should join 'em and was settled on the sofa before I'd had a chance to walk back into the room...

Ben completely ignored any suggestion on my part to vacate his comfy spot and move to the floor by pretending to be asleep.  The look from both Nina and Daisy was to just make sure I wasn't about to suggest something similar to them.  
Nap time was resumed and I ended up on the cushion on the floor - well, it was three against one, so what was I supposed to do!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Stick-to-the-ribs food for a rainy day lunch

It never rains but  it pours and today has been a downpour-all-day type of day.  Some hot stick-to-the-ribs food for lunch seemed just what was needed and, on opening the fridge, the remainder of last nights dinner winked at me from it's glass bowl.

I love veggie food and last night concocted a dish that everyone thought was delicious and rather moreish.

I must confess that until I opened the fridge to prepare dinner, I hadn't a clue what I was going to make, all I knew was that hub was going to grill up some pork steaks for anyone who wanted meat (I gave up years ago to get my family to become vegetarians along with me).

After rummaging around in the fridge and store cupboard, I dug out a large aubergine, a small courgette, and a bag of fresh spinach, followed by a large tin of white beans, a small jar of capers and some de-stoned olives... a few fresh tomatoes and a packet of pasta would surely give a very satisfying meal.

With a pan of water on to boil for the pasta, I cut the aubergines into chunks, the courgettes into thick slices and threw them into hot olive oil in the biggest pan I own.  I let them brown a little then added diced onion and a couple of crushed garlic cloves.  Once the onion was transparent, I added some freshly ground pepper, peeled and diced tomatoes, oregano, the spinach, a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and a splash of water.  Once they were nicely mixed and hot, in went the beans, olives and capers to thoroughly heat through.  Somewhere around the time I the onion was transparent, the water for the pasta was boiling so I added a packet of penne (having a large family means using a whole packet at least - some dishes we get through two!).

For lunch, all that was necessary was to re-heat it all, place the pasta in a bowl and top with the veggie mix - yum!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

To the Serra do Açor and back

We decided to take a two-day road trip which included lots of fun, too much good food and visits to a few interesting places.  I highly recommend a visit to the Universidade de Coimbra, especially the Biblioteca Joanina and the Chapel, if you ever find yourself in Coimbra.  The countryside and views from the hills are breathtaking (and pretty scary when going round the hairpin bends - our GPS lady kept saying "u-turn ahead"!!) so I took oodles of photos which I managed to whittle down into just three sets (four if you count the photos added to the "Clouds" set.


Coimbra e Côja

Serra de Açor e Piodão

This was R's and my second visit to Serra de Açor and Piodão, the first time being in June 2007 when we were accompanied by my aunt and uncle.  Then, the village was recovering from flash floods which had gushed down the hill damaging roads and washing away everything in its path; it has all been rennovated and we were able to walk down to the river.  They have done a marvellous job and it was well worth this visit, even though it is now a bit of a tourist trap.  Mind you, this is August, the month when it seems the whole of Portugal takes their annual holiday!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Tall Ships Race

All our plans to visit the Tall Ships stop over in Lisbon on Saturday fell apart which meant we weren't able to actually get on board any of them...  however, we did make it on Sunday to watch the ships move off on to the next leg of the race:

Amazingly, we managed to be right at the water's edge.  The wind had the ships moving swiftly pass and also helped keep all spectators cool.  There was probably one person present who wasn't too pleased with it's strength as it whipped off his/her hat and plonked it into the water - no hope of retrieving it either!


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Dyson animal

It's almost a year now since I bought the Dyson Animal - it's a vacuum cleaner for homes with pets - and I have to say I think the job it does is fantastic.  This is one of the attachments:

It lifts hairs of cushions like nobody's business and in a flash.

Once I'd finished the cushions yesterday, I noticed that in holding the cushions a lot of hairs had transfered to my trousers and top; for a reason that totally eludes me know, without hesitation I turned the head to vacuum my clothes.  I obviously didn't count on the strong suction or the whirring brush and two seconds later I gave a loud yelp.  My youngest, who witnessed the whole scene, roared with laughter (since when does a parent get sympathy when he/she does something daft?).  I am grateful that by dinner he had seemingly forgotten the incident and didn't mention it to the rest of the family.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Rejuvenate - detox day

Come spend the day at Flores de Cabo, Pé da Serra, Sintra!
Workshop in English and Portuguese - 49€

(Full programme - in Portuguese: )

Saturday, 7 April 2012

On baking bread

Over the years, we've made several attempts to bake bread using various methods and a couple of bread machines later, I think I've finally nailed it... except I only use the macine to mix the dough, the rest is done by hand.  The results are worth the extra effort.

Without going into recipes and methods right now, I'll just include the following taken from Christina Pirello's book "Cooking the Whole Foods Way" on the process of baking bread:

"Bread has always symbolized life to me.  Bread baking teaches us about success and failure, perseverance and patience.  There is no better feeling than the satisfaction we get as golden crusty loaves, kneaded by our hands, are pulled from the oven.
    Baking bread keeps you humble.  We all begin with the same simple ingredients - flour, water and leavening.  We all perform the same ritual tasks of baking - mixing, kneading, forming, baking to perfection (hopefully).  Bread dough is uncompromising and unpredictable.  Whether we realize it or not, we must submit to the influences of our environment: heat, cold, drafts, oven temperature.
    My mother [...] taught me to bake with personality.  Master the basics, she would say, and then create loaves of bread; don't just bake them.  Bread making is a symbol that we possess the ability to nourish not only ourselves, but those we love.  My mother used to say that you could always tell homemade loaves of bread because they looked as though they were baked by someone who cared."

She sums it up beautifully.

Friday, 6 April 2012

And now this from TS Eliot

"...the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea."


Courtesy of Harold's Planet

I love Harold's Planet!  Starting the day without it, just wouldn't be the same.  Thank you for the smiles :)

Yoga seminar in Sintra