Why I have a blog

I started blogging when I was made redundant in December 2010, after five years working in child protection. These were five intensive years, in which I learned so much as a professional but much more as a person. Five years doing something that I believed in, but in a system that I didn’t trust. Five years during which I met the most incredible people with unbelievable stories, stories of courage and despair, stories of hope and injustice, stories about love, about hate, about people fighting to stay alive and to make sense in the chaos of their lives.
Five years that gave me friends for life, friends that make my life special everyday.

The last of these five years was the most stressful year of my life, with constant office moves, crappy work conditions, in a team on the edge of breaking down, with the daily anxiety about what was going to happen.

On my birthday in 2010 I found out that I was going to be made redundant and on that moment I started to plan in my head. It was very clear to me at that point that life was giving me the opportunity to make a turn. I didn’t know where I was going but I was on my way.

The end of the year came and on the 31th December I cleared my desk, closed my office door for the last time, leaving behind all the cases, all the stories, all the children, all the parents, all the reports, all the decisions, all the meetings. I closed the door and suddenly I felt so light, I felt so good, so relived that I started to laugh out loud by myself.

Then, just after new year eve, I bought a DLSR camera and a book about photography and started my first blog: Lollypoppe.

This was a blog about my things, my photos, things I had seen, heard, tasted and felt. I posted for a year and then at the end of the 2011 I moved to London with my family. This was the big turn that life had reserved for me.

Once in London I decided to keep on blogging and created another blog: Lollypoppe in London. As I needed to practice my English I decided that I was going to write in English. I found blogging a good way to share with all my family and friends my/our new life in London. I was never a productive or even a regular blogger. Sometimes I could post three or four times a week, sometimes go five or six months without a single line. I did try to get a little more traffic but never put too much effort on it. There are times that I feel that I should be doing all those things about SEO, about increasing your traffic, about using twitter, instagram, facebook, etc to boost your stats. It’s been 4 years and I still write when I have something to say or when I have something to share.

When I post I’m always writing to someone in my head, it’s like each post is a conversation with friends. It feels like I’m writing letters, a kind of special letters with images and videos enclosed.

But in every post, sometimes more conscious and other times less so, I’m writing to my family, to my kids. Yes, in every post I am writing to them, sharing with them the things I love, my beliefs, my thoughts, my stories, our stories, our family story.

I’m also writing to my future self as so often I like to read my old posts. This is my public diary.

Why do I have a blog? I have this blog for me but for also for you A and for you K and C and for all of you, my family and friends. I love you.

And here I am today reminding myself that I’m 40 years old and that I feel blessed for having such a big beautiful family and the best friends I could possible have.

To you, my future self: happiness is as simple as this. Happy Birthday.

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List of Portuguese food that you won’t find in a London Supermarket

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When a Portuguese moves to London,  the first experience in a supermarket can be overwhelming. The amount of variety that each aisle has can be a quite disturbing experience. How many different types of mustard can exist? or cream? or spices? or sauces? or rice? And crisp, seriously, in how many different flavours can you have your crisps?
In my first year in London, I spent great part of my time between supermarket and my kitchen, experimenting all this new flavours and smells. I was thrilled, I was in heaven, but I have kids and like any other child they are creatures of habits. So they were the first to notice that here in London that you can’t find their favorite breakfast cereals or their favorite biscuit or either their favorite juice.
Sometimes, and I underline sometimes, I do miss some Portuguese goods, when this happens I just pop into Stockwell/Brixton where there is plenty of Portuguese delicatessens. Some goods are not necessarily Portuguese, but you can find in any supermarket in Portugal but not here in London.
If you are not Portuguese you are at this point wondering what can a Portuguese possibly miss beside the sunny days? Here is my list of things that I notice that are missing here from the groceries stores of London. Most of the things I do like and a few of them I am happy without.
Bacalhau Salted Cod – I started with this one because if there is any food that define us as a nation is salted cod. It’s the star ingredient in the Christmas’s Eve dinner. We have hundreds of recipes that use salted cod. As for me, I can live without it.
Enchidos – is the Portuguese word for every type of sausages except for the fresh ones. We have a big variety of enchidos and each region has their specialty. The most common ones are: Choriço, which is similar to the well known spanish chorizo; Alheira it’s a type of sausage made from meats other than pork. It was invented by Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity during the Portuguese inquisition. They replaced the pork with chicken to make believe they eat pork. Farinheira the name derives from farinha (wheat) and it’s a smoked sausage made from wheat and pork fat. Morcela is a black sausage made from pork, wine, spices and pig’s blood. Choriço-de -sangue (Blood chorizo) it’s not a Portuguese exclusive you will find in other different countries, ours is made from blood, pork fat and rice. The enchidos can be served alone as an appetizer but they are commonly used in different dishes. You can find all of them in the traditional Portuguese stew Feijoada. Feijoada is a beans stew with beef, pork, enchidos and vegetables. It is a very heavy meal as you would imagine, eat it for lunch and you will mot have to eat nothing for the rest of the day. I prefer the Brazilian version (black beans) and when it comes to feijoada my mum’s is the best.
Batata palha I can’t find the english translation but basically is potatoes sliced in juliana and deep fried. It is sold in packages as the crisps. It is served as side dish but it is an important ingrediente of Bacalhau a braz another common recipe made with salted cod, potatoes and eggs.

Bolachas maria – it’s a kind of tea biscuits but better specially the toasted ones. It’s the Portuguese children snack by default and the Portuguese brands are much better than the Spanish which unfortunately have invaded the Portuguese market.
Marmelada – is a type of solid jam made from quince, homemade are the best and my aunt’s are best of the best. Soo good between two slices of bread and much more delicious between two slices of cheese. I quite like the brazilian version as well goiabada made with guava.
Iscas – is liver cuted into very thin slices or steaks. My son’s favorite and the most hated dish by children. It’slike marmite: either you love it or you hate it, there is no in between. I love the classical way: fried with loads of onions…yummy.
Octopus – again another important ingredient in our gastronomy. I can live without it and I don’t know how to cook it. It’s a family favorite (husband and son) specially cooked in the oven with potatoes, the traditional polvo à lagareiro.
Cerelac – the most common baby food in Portugal  I don’t know a single child or adult that hasn’t eat it as baby.
Cheese – yes the cheese aisle can be quite impressive here but you won’t find a single portuguese cheese and yes portuguese cheese is good. It’s smelly and strong but very good. As the enchidos there is a big variety an each region has their specialty . My favorite ones are Serra da estrela and Azeitao.
Requeijão – it is also a cheese but because it is an important ingredient in my kitchen I listed here. It is a type of cottage cheese or maybe is similar to ricotta.  I use it in my pastas dishes and cheesecakes. Here I just replace it with ricotta.
Bread – ok let’s be clear by bread I mean fresh bread. The loaf that come in plastic bags aren’t bread as far as I’m concerned. In Portugal people eat bread with every meal and people buy it fresh every day. You can buy fresh bread almost anywhere or even get it delivered to your door. I miss going every morning to the cafe and buy fresh bread for our breakfast.
Fish – similar to the bread is really hard to find fish as good as the Portuguese and in the variety that you would find in a Portuguese supermarket. Every ordinary supermarket has a fishmonger where you can buy mackerel, trout, sea-bass  sword fish (black or white), grouper, white grouper, snapper and so on. As family we were use to eat a lot of fresh fish, at weekends a roasted sea-bass with vegetables was a regular.
Seafood – speaking of fish, on the same fishmonger you would find a good variety of seafood: prawns, crab, clams, winkles and whelks, cockle, mussels. And we were so lucky that we were living quite close a very good seafood market on which we allowed our selves once a year a big feast.
Wine –  I put in this list because Portuguese wine is good and soooo cheap. We are very good producers so you when you there you can only buy Portuguese wine. My favorite wine is Vinho Verde and it is very hard to find here.
Beer well this is just because I am a proud Portuguese girl but also because every sip on a Superbock takes me to sunny and warm places with ocean on the horizon.
Wow! It is a big list and if one day I go back I am sure the list will be bigger.

Crash Course

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My little one became obsessed with world history and geography since he started to play Civilization. His obsessions always lead him to read more but also to consume more youtube videos. In one of his searches, he found Crash Course and now he is a total fan. He is a fan of the videos and a huge fan of John Green. I Just realized that John Green is the author of The Fault in our Stars.

Inspired by this guy sometimes he goes to his room, sits on his desk and pretends that he’s presenting the Crash Course. He has watched the entire World history I and II series.

Crash Course is an educational Youtube channel created by the Green brothers: John and Hank. John presents the humanities courses and Hank the science courses. Each series is a collection of short videos, 10 to 15 minutes, about a subject: World history, US history, Chemistry, Astronomy. In each video, John or Hank talk about a specific subject with loads of jokes and funny animations.

They keep the little ones interested in subjects that would make them sleep. Crash Course is educational, it’s fun, it’s short, it’s simple, it’s visual and easy to understand. Crash course turns a boring subject into an interesting and fun thing to learn. Lucky me that there’s a Psychology series. Now I can show my kids what I have learned in five years in University.

 

The World’s Best Father

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This made my day. I just came across with it today and it made me laugh and I know it will make you laugh too.

Dave Engledow is the self proclaimed world’s best father who started to take photos with his daughter when she was six weeks old. He decided to create an image that would make fun of his tiredness and that would express how he felt as new dad. He did not stop since then in creating these absurd and hilarious family scenes.

Alice is now four years old and she is starting to give ideas for the shootings, like this one.

Some of the photos turned into a book. You can follow them on tmblr and visit on flickr.

 

Swimming at the top of (my) world

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I never was a big fan of river beaches, I used to think that if there are no waves to play, there is no fun and, in consequence, river beaches did not appeal to me at all. But because our family has a house near the biggest mountains range in Portugal, we started to explore all the river beaches, dams, ponds, lagoons and lakes. We started to explore every place where we could refresh ourselves.

The big discovery for me was that the region is full of beautiful places for you to cool down and over the years I learned to enjoy a good swim on fresh water. As a family, we have some special places.

The first one is nestled on glacial valley on the North side of the mountain. It is a crystal water pool built by nature (with a little help of man) surrounded by big and round rocks. The water is not cold: it is freezing cold. But that is the joy of it. Every year, when I get there I say to myself “I can’t do it” and every year the place takes over me and pushes me into to the water. At first my body is in shock but then when I look up to those beautiful mountains, feeling the fresh and cold water running through my skin and bones I feel so alive that I do not want to leave it.

Loriga

Loriga

This year we rediscovered Lagoa Comprida. It is a  man-made lake created by hydro-electrical dam that was built up from a natural lake at 1550m above the sea level. The surrounding lunar landscape gives the feeling of being in the surreal. An intriguing, but breathtaking place. The water is clear but its muddy ground sometimes freaks me out. But again, I can not say no to a swim at the top of the world, can I?

Lagoa Comprida

Lagoa Comprida

These are just two places but within Serra da Estrela between the curves you will find places that if it would not blow your mind it will definitely refresh you on the hot summer days.

Serra da Estrela

Tallships

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Last weekend we had our first family day out of this new school year at the Tallships Festival.
The festival was a little busy as you would expect from any event in London. There was the usual food and drinks stalls and loads of things to see and do.
We started at Greenwich and had there our moment of thrill, waiting more than an hour to visit one of the biggest ships. The good thing with my little one is that he is easy to entertain. Just give him a book or notebook and he can just have fun for… one hour. As for the teenager it is a challenge if you do not have a gadget with a decent internet connection, so just accept that he will annoy you at the proportion of his boredom, which, in this occasion, made the day much more fun.
Unfortunately we could not visit the majority of the ships but there was a kind of old market where you could have a feeling of the old days. We learned how the gun bullets were made and how to light a lantern without matches.
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After an hour of waiting we got on board of the Polish Dar Mlodziezy. It was worth the waiting, it is a beautiful ship and the kids loved to visit it.
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On the afternoon we moved to Royal Arsenal Woolwich hoping to visit a few more, but no luck. All the ships were out cruising. As it was part of the plan to stay and watch the fireworks, we choose a spot by the river and sat there watching the ships coming back to the pier.
The day was kind of cloudy and sunny at the same time, so the the light was perfect for the photographers. Probably, some amazing pictures were taken on that day. It made me a little sad, as I miss my lost camera, but my phone was just right for the occasion.
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The magic world of instagram

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The world is full of wonderful creative people. Here are my latest favourite instagramers.

You can see how alive is the child in Spielkkind.

Rachel’s videos make me smile.

Witch | Craft #happyhalloween

A video posted by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on

Sunday Morning Ritual #stopmotion #animation #art #sketch #drawing #frenchpress #coffee

A video posted by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on

Viana do Castelo

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Viana do Castelo was one of my first adventure as a teenager. Me and two friends decided to go to a surf contest, we were 15 years old. We took the train to Porto (Oporto) and then changed station and took another one to Viana. We had to ask for directions several times and I remember people looking at us and maybe wonder what three young girls from Lisbon were doing by themselves in Viana. The looks become more suspicious when we mentioned that we were there for a Surf Contest. In those days in Portugal Surf was a weird thing that crazy boys did on waves. But because Viana has this special relationship with the ocean, a lot of people joined the beach and watch the surf.

We stayed in small hotel and enjoyed the beach, the surf and the days out away from family. It was just two days, but I remember as it was today the fun that we had and how easy it was to crack ourselves up.

I don’t believe I never went back to Viana, but after seeing this video I regret for not to.

Well, I regret for not knowing the north of Portugal as well as I know the South.

Enjoy the video.