28 October 2011

Heading home

Today is time to head home. Seems like the skies are opening, I can see the light at the horizon. Not always easy to, though...Yesterday I woke up with my cellphone beeping.

"There's nothing better than waking up next to you, 
even if we're as far as the opposite sides of the bed. 
Wake up and be able to hold you, 
squeeze you against me, 
and kiss you... 
Why can't we have this every day?"

I looked at the other side of the bed, but there's no other side. I barely fit in there myself. This work I have keeps us apart 3 nights a week, 230 km away. There's no way to express how it feels, it just feels wrong. This shitty economical situation we're living gives us no option but to hold on to it. Let's hope for better days. Whenever I look up for guidance I always see the clouds changing. Sometimes, all we need is a bit of wind to shake things up and change the clouds. Need to learn how to build a fan.

photo by me
for the 52 Photos Project

27 October 2011

A pause to play... Billie Holiday

When the weather gets chilly, like it is getting now, all I feel like is to cuddle under the blankets and watch the rain fall against the windows. Good company, a movie, or a book to read... or just a cup of hot chocolate or tea and a warm music playing.

There's no better music to warm me in this time of year than Lady Day. She was unique, well, she is unique! Amazing souls like hers never leave this earth. She is the soothing company when I have something to do at home, she is the perfect inspiration for my creative moments, and she never fails when we have dinner parties.

When I first bought her collection of cd's, the boy confessed me he didn't enjoy it that much. Inside I was screaming "WHAAAAT?" but I kept the composure, and relied on her to persuade him in time. Don't know if she did it yet, but I know that we had great moments together listening to it, so, that's good for me. (For now)

I was not born in the fifties, neither in the US, so knowing about Billie Holiday was not a thing we would grow up with. I must have listened her lots of times, I'm sure, but I clearly remember how I got her bug inside. I used to love a show called Once and again and there was this cute scene of the two young girls listening to her. That music got into my head and I just had to listen more of her.

So, now it's your turn. Make a pause, grab a cup of tea, cuddle on the couch, and play her!

Singer: Billie Holiday
Song: God bless the child
Check out the whole series of thursday's pause to play

26 October 2011

Discovering Portugal :: Portela de Oliveira windmills

Being at the top of a mountain. Watching all the life surrounding us. Feeling the wind touch our air and the sun light kiss our face. Breathing...

This is definitely a special place. Not one you'll find in touristic guides, probably, as it's not more than a plateau with a few windmills, or is it? Well, I say it's one of the most perfect places to watch the sun set on the horizon, as it's light gently touches the top of all the hills surrounding. It's the perfect place to be in peace with yourself and forget everything. It's the perfect place to be at quiet and enjoy sharing a special moment with special people in your life.

Portela de Oliveira in details

How to go: The closest city is Coimbra, at about 25 km. The only way to get there is by car and it's quite an easy trip, you just have to take the IP3 road and exit when you'll see the indications to Luso. And then follow the indications to Moinhos (windmills) or just ask, people are friendly. Being there you should not miss all the beautiful spots near, like the river Mondego at Penacova and the magnificent forest of Bussaco. (I'll be talking about this later)

GPS: 40.303618 -8.305321

all photos by me

25 October 2011

And so the cold arrived

I cannot explain how good it feels to finally breath the cold in the air and feel the earth smell of the first autumn rains. I know that in a few months I'll be wishing for sun and warm, but that's the beauty of it! Now all I want is the warm of the fireplace and comforting soups. Healthy and delightful soups.

There's no more comforting memory for me than the one of being at my gradmother's kitchen. It was a large boarding house kitchen, with a big wood oven and a long old table at the center, made of wood with a marble top, where we would get together every day. Specially during winter, that's where we would spend most of our time. Lunching, watching cartoons on the old small tv, doing school homework, or just watching my grandmother cook on the giant oven (as we, little ones, saw it then).

There was always a scent of smoke in the air mixed with fresh shop vegetables and roasted meat. When I was preparating the green beans for this soup, the air was invaded with that familiar fresh aroma and I was imidiately brought back to those days. My grandmother's kitchen smelled like fresh shoped green beans!

My turkey soup with green beans

A turkey wing or leg
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
a handful of green beans
1 carrot
1 bay leave
Black peppercorns
Olive oil

Put the turkey on a pressure cooker, cover it with water, season with salt and add the bay leave and a few peppercorns (you can do this in a regular pan, but it will take longer). Let it cook until really tender (about 45 minutes). When done, take the meat out of the stock and let it cool, then strain the broth and put it on a soup pan.

Chop finely the onion and the garlic and add it to the pan. Slice the beans and the carrot using a food processor, or chop it finely by hand and add them to the pan too. Cook it until all the vegetables are perfectly cooked, but not falling apart.

Add water, if needed, check the seasoning and finish it with fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Shred the turkey and serve it aside to garnish the soup.

Now, light the fireplace, put on a oldie black & white movie and sit on the couch enjoying your warm soup.

all photos by me

24 October 2011

It's here!!

Oh my God, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning! I think I'm in love with my sewing machine.

(bad) photo by me

21 October 2011

Steps to a wedding: Bouts or no bouts?

To tell you the truth, this was never question that crossed my mind (or even worried me) during our wedding planning. If you ask my opinion about it, I probably won't have a straight answer to give you. I have mixed feelings. Generally boutonnieres are not a thing I'm into.

Just a quick search on google images for the word boutonniere and you'll see what I mean. I have chills all along my spine! Creepy! But then, as you get to know all this amazing creative people on web, you begin to see things in a different perspective, and you start to enjoy things you never did before. Like bouts. If not, just look at these...

via ruffledvia oncewed

Gorgeous, right? So, these got me thinking. Hum... Maybe wouldn't be such a bad thing... Actually now I see that, if done properly, it is as a great way to unify the groomsmen outfits without having the need for them to wear exact same suits, when that's the case (here there's no such thing as groomsmen or bridesmaids, and thank God for that).

via erin hearts courtvia little miss martha
One day I found myself at one of those not-so-amazing wedding planning sites (don't even ask me why I was there. I'll spare you the pain and won't reveal the name) and saw a girl asking for help at the forum. It went something like this: Please help me! My future husband insists on wearing a white suit on our wedding but I'm afraid it will outshine me and ruin my princess day!! How should I talk him out of it? Well, I would be as concerned as she was, if I had such lack of brain! Oh, did I just said that out loud? Ok. I'm not gonna lie, I thought that girl was a bit stupid, sue me, but that thing got me thinking. It was meant to be OUR DAY! Not the day I would be marrying some guy. The same way I was not supposed to blend with the crowd, for I was the bride, I wanted him to stand out. Equally. (well, as much as possible... there's something about the bride we cannot deny)

We already had decided on his outfit, manly to go with the relaxed country feel we were having, the same as with my dress. He would be wearing a normal suit, no shiny satin fabric, no vest, no cufflinks, no handkerchief in the pocket, nor cravat with pearl pins. We went for a natural beige linen suit, but still... I started to doubt my own decisions. Was it going to be too simple? Looking back, it was perfect, as we envisioned. But at that point we question everything.

The question floated on my head till the very day of the wedding. More precisely about two hours before. I remember being alone at my room looking at my dress hanging and then it came to my mind again. I went downstairs and grabbed my bouquet. I look at it and smiled inside. Yes, I said to myself, as I gently plucked two tiny roses. Then I run out to my mother's garden and picked a piece of a beautiful a succulent (we both love succulents but ended not including them on the wedding). A bit of string and a safety pin, and it was done. From here, I don't remember much. I actually have no idea who delivered it at his home. I do know that my sister and his mom helped him having it placed. Why would that be?

photos by our friends João and Rita

20 October 2011

A pause to play... Iron and Wine

You know that big online store named as the largest rainforest on earth? Let me correct, huge store. Actually, the place has become so big so big sooooo... big... (let me breath before I say this, I'm still in shock!) that if you google it's name you won't find any information about the forest till the third or fourth page! Yes, that's right, go ahead and try it. I'll wait. Of course, you know what I'm talking about, yes?? The "Lungs of the World" where more than 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced, you know it, right? I recogn it's kind of obvious, but since Kellie Pickler said she thought Europe was a country I doubt everything!

Anyway, I buy a lot of stuff from there, mainly music and books, and there's a feature these stores have I've come to love, which is that customers-who-bought-this-item-also-bought thing. I know, it's not like they invented the wheel, but that thing really is cool. I cannot count the amount of stuff I've discovered through those suggestions. And you don't need to be Einstein to already know that this was how I came across Iron and Wine.

I've told you before how I heard Bon Iver for the first time, and how I got hitched by it's music. So there I was browsing that store for their CDs... and under it there was a bunch of Iron and Wine albums as a recommendation. And, well, you know I'm curious...

End of the story, it's time for you to make a pause and play it! It's only four minutes. Usually I like to share a live performance, but this time I couldn't help it, I love this video!

Singer: Iron and Wine
Song: Boy with a cin
Check out the whole series of thursday's pause to play

19 October 2011

Steps to a wedding: The shoes

If I can think of the best advice, wedding concerning, I read on web previous to the day, this was the one. Come on, a bride, wearing ballroom dance shoes? I would never ever thought of such a thing, and this is so clever! Ballroom dance shoes are made to look elegant and yet comfy. They are made for dancing, but they have heels. I assure you, this was a aha moment for me! So, what was I looking for?

* I knew I didn't wanted  white shoes, specially no shoes lined with the same fabric of the dress. (by the way, that is completely outdated!)
* I wanted something special, something different from the wedding shoes we see here.
* I wanted something I could easily walk on grass, but still look elegant, cause we were having our after party at a garden.
* I wanted something with a vintage feel to go with my dress, and at the same time that would go with the country feel of our outside/backyard/laid-back reception (no bling bling fuchsia shoes, definitely)

Instantly I fell for her shoes (do scroll down to see the whole pictures, they're worth it), but then, having them sent to Portugal turned out an impossible mission as no supplier seemed to send that label here. So I passed to plan B. I found that there is a really good portuguese dance shoes label, Rummos, and I found a little shop that sold them near us. And that's when I chose my shoes.

They are the most comfortable shoes I ever had my feet in. I love how they look a bit romantic and vintage. And the best, I never even remembered I was in heels the whole party! You know, that sentence, my feet are killing me! Never crossed my mind. My feet were happy!

If you're planning your wedding now, consider this advice: look for ballroom dance shoes. There are hundreds of shapes, for sure you'll have something for your taste and you can find them in every color.

Oh, and if you've been here for a while you probably know that my sister got married two months ago. After trying my shoes she said "I want shoes like this!!". Take a peek. The light in the pictures is deceiving though, her shoes are not the same color (nor shape) as mine. She also went for a higher heel as she had no reception on a yard like we did. Always great to pass on the knowledge!

all photos by our dear friend Pedro

18 October 2011

A bunch of figs and a tasty discovery

Oh figs... Aren't they so beautiful? I love the colors, the texture, the sweet glossiness... And, obviously, I love to eat them. The trees are delivering the last ones this season and we are eating them gladly! Yummy!

I don't know why but when I look at them I think of autumn, even though they are more an end of summer treat. The ones we have here are kadota figs which have a balanced sweetness making them perfect for a sweet/sour combination. Salads, pizzas, smoked ham canapés, with goat cheese and nuts... you name it.

A few days ago I was craving for a snack and, as I opened the refrigerator, I saw them smiling at me. Them and a pack of sliced Edam cheese. I just grabbed them both and worked from there using my imagination and my little knowledge of what could work.

Sweet, sour, spicy, a bit acidity, a bit of crunchiness... and oh dear me, hello perfect snack! You know when you try to create something and end up with something so tasty you feel like you discovered it, more than you actually invented it? I think I made a discovery. And a damn tasty one.

Spicy figs, my way

Cheese slices (I used Edam) 
Hot sauce (piri-piri, chili, tabasco...) 
Mustard seeds (in vinegar)
Freshly ground black pepper

Grab yourself a non stick frying pan. Dump a few dashes of olive oil in case you're worried about it sticking anyway, but with a good pan you can skip this. Lay the cheese on the bottom of the pan and place figs cutted in slices on top of it. Drizzle with the hot sauce and a bit of honey (two portions of hot sauce to one of honey). Drop a few nuts of mustard seeds between the figs's slices and finish with the ground pepper and chopped parsley.

Depending on how much you're making you can roll the cheese slices borders to cover the figs, or just place another slice on top. The important thing is that you have cheese all around the figs so that you wont need to mixed it too much on heat. Figs need to be handled gentle or they will totally break apart. Now, just light the fire and let the cheese melt and all flavors combine! When it looks delicious, its done!

I've already done this as an afternoon snack, as an appetizer and even a light lunch with a salad and it never ceases to please me. The spiciness combined with the sweetness is just divine, and the mustard seeds crunch in the mouth is a brilliant surprise as they get confused with the little fig seeds. All in all, I love it! So, I'm sharing my secret with you. Enjoy!

all photos by me

17 October 2011

Autumn sunset

It still feels more like summer in here, but today I woke up to a chilly morning breeze for the first time. Maybe it's changing.

But one thing I cannot deny, the light already changed. There's no sunset like this. It's the fall light.

all photos by me

13 October 2011

A pause to play... Feist

There's not much to say about this lady, except that I love her work. It was during wedding prep that I found her and it was instant love. She's probably not new for you, but for me it was. Well, I live in this little corner of the world...

I run into a video (I really have no idea where...) of someone baking a cake, I think, and in the background there was this song playing. It was a sweet tune and I found myself repeating the video just to hear the song once again. Who is this girl? 5 seconds on google and I had her name.

Feist. 1234 was the song but, of course, I needed to hear more. And I found myself in love with her voice, her songs, her performances... to the point that I already bought two of her albums. Yeah, mp3 are cool, but I like to have in my hands the things I love!

Of course one of her songs needed to be part of our wedding soundtrack (yes, I succeeded on infecting my husband with her virus) and this was what I chose:

"... I got a man to stick it out
And make a home from a rented house
And we'll collect the moments one by one
I guess that's how the future's done... "
(from the song "Mushaboom")

Makes sense, right? I thought so. Now, go ahead, make a little pause in this crazy week of yours and play it!

Singer: Feist
Songs: 1234 & Mushaboom
Check out the whole series of thursday's pause to play

12 October 2011

Heavens ordered chocolate cake, and so I did

Did you ever had this feeling like a higher force is commanding you to bake chocolate cake? I had. Actually, I do have that often. Sometimes I even think I have psychic powers or something, because I also have visions of chocolate melting and I can feel the smell of it in the oven. No, I'm not pregnant. I don't even want to know what I'll become when I get to that. Dear me... Well, but so that you won't start thinking I'm crazy (unless you have the same psychic powers I have) I need to tell you that, this time, I had proofs. Yes, its plural. Not one, several proofs. Heavens ordered, and I obeyed. This is how it happened.

There I was, minding my own business, wandering over pinterest when I bumped into this chocolate cake. The picture itself isn't that much appealing, it's not like I was drooling over it (c'mon you see pictures of cakes every day on the web... at least I do), but still, for some reason I clicked it. Well, it said 'black magic cake'... that was probably it.

Then there was that title saying 'best chocolate cake ever!'. At this point I was already suspicious. Is this going to be one of those recipes that includes a ready made cake mix? (wait, is cake mix actually an ingredient? never mind...) So I kept on reading. Hum... This doesn't sound bad, I thought to myself, no cake mix, pudding mix, nor any stuff ready mixed like that. Oh, and it uses buttermilk! You see, this would be the kind of thing I would put aside for lack of ingredients. Finding buttermilk here is like trying to find a wool scarf on a beach, on a summer day. But then I found I could use yogurt whey as a substitute in many recipes, and has it happens I had just made labneh (yogurt cream cheese / greek yogurt) and had kept the whey on the fridge waiting for something to happen. And, you know, it doesn't last that long on fridge, so the recipe came right on time. So, you see, I was not looking for it, but the recipe came to me. I present you this as exhibit A.

So, I thought, I might just give it try... I was going to measure the amount of whey I had and then work from there. The recipe asked for one cup, and I had EXACTLY one cup. There you have, exhibit B.

Then there was that thing without which you can't do chocolate cake. Chocolate, obviously. The recipe asked for 3/4 cup of cocoa powder. I looked at the pantry and found two packages with some leftovers (don't know why but this keeps happening to me...), I crossed my fingers and measured it. Guess what? 3/4 cup, not more, nor less. This shall be exhibit C.

More? Yes, there's more. I also needed one cup of strong black coffee. I grabbed the instant coffee jar and there was just a tiny bit on the bottom. I could easily make some fresh coffee on the machine but that would take longer, and you cannot wait that long for chocolate cake, now can you? I knew I needed at least three tablespoons to make it strong, so I pour it carefully and without wasting a bit I had exactly three tablespoons. (I made it with boiling water and I needed it to be near cold to be able to use it, but no worries. I used that old technique of pouring the liquid from one cup to another repeatedly till the temperature drops. Quick and easy.) Finally, I present you this as exhibit D.

I could go on and present hubby's happy face as exhibit E, but I think this is enough. I rest my case.

Oh, you wanna know about the cake?? Ok. Saying it's the best chocolate cake ever it's an overstatement, but it's pretty close I assure you. It's tasty and incredibly moist like a cake you'd eat in a fancy french pâtisserie. Too bad the lousy photos don't show it, but trust me. And the best, it's deadly easy to make and make's you look like a baking queen. It really is magic! Do yourself a favor and try this.

Black Magic Cake

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt 

2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee
1 cup yogurt whey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven at 175º Celcius (350 Fahrenheit). Combine dry ingredients on a bowl. Add wet ingredients (coffee must be almost cool) and whisk by hand with a balloon whip, or with a mixer at medium speed for about two minutes. The batter will be really thin, more like a chocolate soup. Resist the temptation to eat it by spoon and pour it into a greased and floured pan. Make sure it is perfectly greased because the cake will be really soft and you don't want to ruin your work (yeah, stupid me). Bake it for 40 mins, not one minute more. Don't open the oven while baking to check cooking, it is too moist and you wont be able to tell. Just trust that in the end it will be perfect.

I just did a simple cream cheese and butter frosting instead of the chocolate one on the original recipe because I was lacking ingredients for that. But next time I will definitely try. Well, the only thing better than chocolate is chocolate-over-chocolate! Right?

all photos by me
I'm really annoyed for not having one decent photo of the inside of the cake. 
Give me a break here, it was dark, my camera sucks with low light, and well, I was more into eating it...

recipe from here

11 October 2011

Family photo session

Matilde is my brother Bernardo's girl, and she just adopted this two cuties. I tell you right now, these are two lucky puppies! Mischa and Sookie were abondoned when born and probably mistreated, for some reason they appeared to be really afraid of human beings. They were found eating raw potatoes at her father's garden, and were sick and malnourished. Now look at them, so happy!

After an afternoon picking chestnuts we went for a walk at the top of the mountain where we could see the sun setting on the horizon. With the perfect setting I indulged myself shooting photos of the cute "family". Perfect for practicing our skills, right?

all photos by me
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