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:
Saturday, 29 December 2012
Sunday, 16 December 2012
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
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
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
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
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...
Thursday, 6 December 2012
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
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.
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!
Sunday, 12 August 2012
Monday, 23 July 2012
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
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
Saturday, 7 April 2012
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 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."