The Puppies All Grown Up

Random 2 (3).png3From the cute puppies Zed found abandoned under a bush in the Portuguese countryside we now have two boisterous teenage dogs!  Meet Random and Bramble.

P1040418.JPG1

Our English dog, Millie seems to be getting along fine with them.  I think she keeps out the way most of the time.

DSCN0636 (3).jpg2

At least they have plenty of space to run around in…

DSCN0637 (2)

…and Jay adores them too.

DSCN0627 (2)

Zed’s looking after them at the moment while I’m in Cambridge doing a spot of candle making…more about that here!

 

 

Advertisements

Lovin’ It In Lisbon

Finally we made it to Lisbon. I know, ridiculous. We live less than an hour away yet we hardly ever have time to go.

Tram. Lisbon, street scene Lisbon,

 

We went with our guests from Denmark. Now then, when I went to Alcobaca I was lucky enough to be shown around by a historian. No such luck this time you say. Well, we just happened to have a historian from Copenhagen in our little group who had done some research on Portuguese history.

DSC_0429

We started at Belem Tower. Built in the early 16th century it played an important part in Portuguese maritime discoveries of the time and was part of a defence system at the mouth of the Tagus River.

belem Tower, Lisbon

 

Plenty of time to sit and gaze at the view of the Tagus river.

Belem Tower, Lisbon, Tagus River

Followed by a trip to Jerónimos Monastery, built in 1502 to commemorate Vasco de Gama’s voyage to India.

Jeronimos monastery, Lisbon

 

 

 

The interior is fabulous.

Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon

After that – well the day was just too hot so we headed off for ice creams, pastel de natas, cocktails then dinner.  Just to do a little research on contemporary Lisbon, of course.

IMG_20131101_173409

 

Thai Restaurant, Silver Coast and the Lucky Eggshell

Red heart petal

Yesterday I unexpectedly spent the evening at my favourite Thai Restaurant on the Silver Coast. Jae and I had been doing science experiments in the kitchen. Testing which ingredients dissolve in water. Soluble and insoluble. Zed appeared just as we were testing sand and put his arms around me in a romantic gesture. It was quarter to five in the afternoon. “Happy Wedding Anniversary!” Eh?
“Its 23rd July, had you forgotten?”
“Well…er….yes.”
“Oh good. I had too.”
We decided to celebrate by going to Supatra Thai restaurant near Bombarral.

Supatra Thai Restaurant, Silver Coast
We’d been there once before with the children. Lovely food with a smart yet stylishly rustic interior. Great food. What more could you want? Well…..there is something.
At one point the conversation had gone like this.
Me: “Can I have the coconut drink?”
Waiter/possibly owner: “There isn’t any left. We have some other cans, I’ll bring them out.” The waiter/possibly owner returned with cans of other interesting juices. One of them being mangosteen. Mangosteen? I examined the can. Never have I heard of mangosteen. Maybe it’s Portuguese or Thai for something else or we just don’t get it in England. I inquired about it with the waiter/possibly owner who I think that in his role as waiter/possibly owner he will enlighten me.
Me: “What is mangosteen?”
Waiter/possibly owner: “Mangosteen. It’s mangosteen.”
Me: “Yes, but what is it in English?”
Waiter/possibly owner, in tart voice: “Mangosteen. Look it up.”
Me: Oh, um thanks.

DSCF1172
Tonight the same waiter/possibly owner greeted us in his semi-warm style. Fortunately they had one coconut drink left so we didn’t have to go the mangosteen route, though I’ve since looked it up as advised.
We had a delicious meal. Prawns in satay sauce. Pad thai. Yum.

Chilli, Thai sauce dips
Onto pudding. Ginger ice cream for Zed. Chestnut pudding for me in a coconut sauce. Again delicious but…what’s this…this…little crunchy bit? Eggshell? I look closer into the pudding and spot flakes of eggshell. At this point I should send it back but its so delicious I can’t stop and eat on. Then I spot a bigger piece of shell, then a couple more. I pull them out and continue because it really does taste gorgeous.

Interior of Supatra Thai Restaurant, Carvalhal,  Silver Coast
The waiter/possibly owner came to collect our empty plates. I waited for him to ask if everything was okay when I could then politely mention the eggshell but the question never arose. All the same, I felt that I needed to point out that there were large lumps of eggshell in the tiny pudding. It was after all 5 euros.
Me: “Er… (pointing to side of plate)…there were these big pieces of egg shell in my pudding…”
Waiter/possibly owner, smiling: “That just proves it was made with fresh egg!”
Zed, not smiling: “I don’t think they should be in there though.”
Waiter/possibly owner whips away the dishes. Eh? Not even a ‘sorry you’ve just crunched your way through egg shell that’s been pooped through a hen’s bottom?’

Egg shell
Waiter/possibly owner appears again and explains jovially: “I used to work in a restaurant in London. A screw came out of one of the machines. It appeared later in a customer’s lasagne, so you are lucky. It’s only egg shell.”
I’m lucky? Aah. So – no need for an apology.
Perhaps the chef had been doing a scientific experiment to see if egg shell dissolves in pudding.
It doesn’t.

Interior, Supatra Thai Restaurant, Bombarral, Silver Coast

 

Cost of meal: E38.00 inc. IVA
2 mains, 2 puddings with egg shell on the house
1 can of coconut juice
2 jasmine tea’s.

Wine is approximately E12.00 a bottle. Zed was driving so we didn’t partake.

Couple celebrating at restaurant

Celebrating nine years of wedded bliss.

Supatra Thai: Rua Poeta Jose Ferreira Ventura, 73, Rossio do Carvalhal, 2540-422 Bombarral, Leiria, Portugal; Tel:262 842 920; Email: supatracarvalhal@gmail.com

 

 

5 Top Family Games to Play

Monopoly - Try the Lisbon version

Monopoly – Try the Lisbon version

This winter huddled by the log fire in Central Portugal with rain pelting down on the hills and windmills outside, we’ve brought out the games.  By games I mean good old board games. Here are a selection we’ve enjoyed most that are suitable for all the family from age 8 upwards chosen from the mountain of board games in our cupboard.  It was difficult to choose just five from the traditional favourites such as Chess, Draughts, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders and Scrabble but the ones picked out below are those that we all enjoy.  So I urge you, bribe the children with marshmallows and hot chocolate, get them off the computer and gather in front of the heater.  Unless you’re in Australia in which case a shady spot in the garden.

In no particular order…

1.  ‘Monopoly’.  Yep, no surprises there.  We have the London version but Jae has also played the Lisbon version at school.  For the very few of you on the planet that haven’t come across Monopoly, it’s a game for 2-4 players.  The aim of the game is to, well, make the most money by buying up property, building houses and hotels and collecting rent.  Takes from around 45 minutes to 2 hours.  We became fairly addicted to this game in the summer, see Take a £10 Fine or Take a Chance!

P1050297

2.  ‘Articulate’.  This is definitely for older children but you can relax the rules for younger ones and pick out questions they can do.  You need at least four to play and an even number of people.  One person on a team describes a word that the other person on the team has to guess.  It can take an hour or two to get round the board but is great fun.  It can also be a good test of how your kids are doing on the educational front and any gaps in their knowledge.  I was shocked, yes shocked, to find out Jae hadn’t seen ‘The Wizard of Oz’ when he couldn’t describe it.  How did that happen?

8610250971053376

3. ‘Ingenius’.  This is an easy game to play when you’ve had a busy day as it’s not too taxing on the brain and one that younger children can play too.  Match up the symbols to score points.  Takes about half an hour but you can stretch out the length of the game by using more of the board.  From 2-4 players.  My current favourite, wonder why?

Ingenious

4.  ‘Dr Who’.  Yes of course there’s a game.  There’s also a groovy electronic tardis, daleks and counters representing Dr Who.  You have to collect 6 cards with each card representing different time zones while trying to avoid being caught by the daleks.  The game takes about an hour.

imagesdr who

5.  ‘Jenga’.  This is made up of wooden bricks and wins extra points for being durable enough to hand down a generation or two.  After building the tower out of rectangular wooden bricks each player has to take turns pulling out a brick without any of the tower collapsing. A game that’s easy to pack if you’re off camping.

091876-375Wx375H

So if its still raining, snowing or too hot to move, that’s next weekend sorted for everyone!

Alternative Kindling

P1040415

Bountiful deciduous trees in France

Finally!  A use for brambles besides blackberries.  Zed spent the autumn chopping them down along the fence.  They’re lying next to the Lisbon house, Quinta Blackberry, in the lane that goes nowhere waiting to be burned or shredded and composted.  It’s been a cool, wet week.  A week to sit by the fire at night and watch the golden glow, toasting marshmallows.  Yum.

P1040435

I loved wandering round the orchard in England collecting fallen apple and walnut twigs for kindling then back to a roaring fire, hot chocolate, throwing branches onto the flames.  In France I pottered around ancient forests with the dog, coming back after every walk with a bag of twigs.

France

French Woods

In Castelo Branco there were pine cones in abundance lying by the side of footpaths.  Pine cones.  To tell you the truth before coming to Portugal I’d never thought to use pine cones as kindling before.  We had a few dusty ones from summer holidays abroad that we stuck up in the attic with the Christmas stuff every year. But make fabulous kindling they do and sell for about 2.50 euros a sack here.

Pines and boulders in Castelo Branco

Bountiful pines and boulders in Castelo Branco

However in this region of Lisbon predominated by evergreens there are few deciduous trees with twigs to fall, no ancient beech or oak trees nearby. Just acres of pine trees keeping the winter green.  With pine cones a saleable commodity there aren’t any lying around on our regular walks.  Indeed the pine trees have already been cut down to be sold for winter fuel, changing the landscape considerably.  Our new garden has no old trees from which twigs fall in the wind.  We have palm trees, a few small fruit trees and many olive trees, none of which yield fallen branches.  Probably a good thing for the olives.  But we have seasoned brambles by the dozen lying unwanted in heaps.

Brambly hedge in the garden

Brambly hedge in the garden at Quinta Blackberry

I’ve been burning them in the fireplace for the last two days.  They burn easily and make quite a flame, lighting the bigger wood.  It’s satisfying, that sense of foraging, making use of what’s available. Like making jam. Back to nature and all that.  If a little prickly.

Foraging in France

Out foraging in France

Today the novelty’s worn off. Though I wear thick gloves to pick up the brambles my hands are still scratched and my clothes snagged.  I’m done with foraging for the fire.  I’m off to the supermarket to buy pine cones.

Christmas vampires and music rooms

When do we get the music room?

When do we get the music room?

“Do you think this is…er..a bit…scary?  Does it look like something out of a horror movie to you?” said Zed, as he looked at the freshly painted room.

not actual room

not actual room

Christmassy red or vampire red?  It’s all in the interpretation.

You see I painted our spare room yesterday which we are grandly going to call the ‘music room’ where Zed can put his keyboard, my son his junior electric guitar and my mother’s broken violin from childhood.  I keep it for sentimental reasons and because I’m a hoarder (see ‘thank you for my award’.)  We may also push the old piano in there. The red was meant to be slightly bohemian but…instead it looks like the cast of ‘The Twilight Zone’ would be at home there.  Afterwards I baked biscuits.

not actual biscuits

not actual biscuits

The music room is also going to be the guestroom for the Christmas guest who is coming today.  Thus in between baking another round of biscuits for two hungry children I’ll be doing two return trips to Lisbon airport. One to drop off Zed for a working trip to Zurich this morning, the other to pick up the guest this evening.

Anyone who has driven out of Lisbon airport will know about the terrifying six lane roundabout from departures you need to drive round before going anywhere else.  If I take the wrong turn after arrivals I’ll be doing this tonight in the dark.  Aaargh!  Look out everyone…coming through!

actually Lisbon

actually Lisbon

Yep, I can move countries, raise children…publish books…but that roundabout..perhaps I should just stay home, leave the guest at the airport and enjoy the newly rechristened ‘Vampire Room’.  If I stick some holly in there it may just pass as the ‘Christmas room’.  After all, Santa does hang out at night.  I could bake him some biscuits.

actual daughter

actual daughter

N.B. Due to loss of camera charge lead there is no picture of ‘the vampire room’.  It probably wouldn’t come out anyway.  Wouldn’t that be spooky?

not an actual vampire

not an actual vampire

Pic credits:

ichef.bbci.co.uk – biscuits,

apartmenttherapy.com – room

Not about vampires.  Available on Amazon £4.99 or less.

Not about vampires. Available on Amazon £4.99 or less.

Winning accommodation on a budget

Will they 'Bend it Like Beckham?'

Will they ‘Bend it Like Beckham?’

This week it’s the International schools’ girls football tournament in Lisbon.  I’ve just waved my daughter off on the coach dragging kitbag and rucksack behind her.  I always get a little emotional when waving my children off on trips.  Will they be too warm, too cold (Hunstanton beach day trip 2005, sent her in shorts) too hungry (me, London, 1976, gave all my food to the pigeons), eat too much junk food (every trip), get left behind at a service station (not yet)!?

girls playing football (2)crop

Yep, I’m also just a little bit jealous.  Not because I want to play football, go off for three days with a group of close friends (well, maybe) or run around a pitch chasing a ball – although I could do with the exercise. The reason is this.

Will they have to hunt their own food?

Will they have to hunt their own food?

I checked out the accommodation on the internet, wondering if they would be camping or staying in a hostel.  Perhaps I should pack a hot water bottle, an extra blanket. Maybe they would be in a dorm, ten to a room. Would she get any sleep at all?  I imagined a communal kitchen and bathroom. Having been back packing round the world many years ago I shudder at the thought these days.

Couldn’t have been more wrong! The thing about going out of season, of course, is that any accommodation by a beach is extraordinarily cheap.  At this time of year there’s no need to rough it.  You can get a fabulous hotel room on the outskirts of Lisbon with an outdoor pool, restaurant, heating, right by the beach, great views, play area, breakfast included, for under 38 euros for a double room.  Which is where they are staying.

Oerias, Lisbon

Oerias, Lisbon

Meanwhile we still have no kitchen installed and the fireplace is blocked.  So yes, I’m just a little jealous. I feel a short break coming on.

football boots

Oh, by the way, Go girls go!  It’s not the taking part it’s the fun winning hotel.  Or something like that.

'Bend It Like Beckham'.  It's the taking part of course.

‘Bend It Like Beckham’. It’s the taking part of course.