December 26, 2014

Portuguese Christmas sweet recipe

Mexidos do Natal or Formigos Recipe


Sugar - 1 tea cup, shallow
Honey - 2.5 dl
1 cinnamon stick
Lemon peel
Port Wine - 1/2 glass wine
Butter - 1 tablespoon
Water - 1.5 lt
1 pinch salt
Pine nuts - 50 g
Walnuts - 50 g
Raisins - 50 g
Bread - 250 g
Optional: cinnamon powder for decoration


First comes blending the bread you kept for a few days and it must be crumbled by hand. Then you put cinnamon, lemon peel, butter, salt, sugar and honey in boiling water. Allow to boil for a few minutes (15 minutes) and then put the walnuts, pine nuts and raisins in. Finally pour the Port wine. Let it boil for three minutes and is ready. (If it looks too liquid you can let it boil a little longer) Don't forget to stir constantly. Place on a plate and serve sprinkled with a little cinnamon powder. Eat cold. You can leave the cinnamon powder out because the flavour is already in the mix!

A friend of mine from Porto was talking about this sweet on Facebook and many were curious about it. So I decided to share the recipe with you here. I lived in Braga when I was a child. This Christmas dessert was my favorite. In this city this sweet is called Mexidos, in Porto it's called Formigos. It's delicious. You can adjust the sugar and honey quantities to your taste, add more or less fruits to it. Don't hesitate to try it. It's easy and it never goes wrong.

Kilograms to Pounds conversion? Try here!

A little tour on Lisbon 2/2

Hello again! Welcome to round number two! Are you ready for what's next? First of all, I want you to meet my new canine friend. His name is Pan. Pan is my friend's dog. Isn't Pan adorable? He's all eyes and tiny nose for my friend, he goes like - Where are you? Where are you going? What are you doing? But when he discovered that I liked him he had no problems asking for petting every minute he could! On the second photo, he's ready to show me his belly once again! Come on, come on, I want more! Too cute!

Oops! It looks like I missed these photos on my first post. It was taken over Saturday's dinner. After a very nice roasted chicken with fries and pinked wine, we indulged ourselves on some more Birthday cake!!! Calories alert!! Calories alert!

The next morning the sky was cloudy but the sun was showing. We visited a Christmas market in Alvalade and then we found this Cabine de Leitura at Praça de Londres - check Cabine de Leitura Facebook page. This isn't an original idea. It was inspired by an example from Britain. Some villagers decided to create a book exchange in a phone booth. Somerset’s Westbury-sub-Mendip residents purchased the phone box from British Telecom for £1.00 and converted it into a library by donating a collection of approximately 100 books. Phone boxes are in the process of becoming extinct now that everyone has a mobile phone so this is a great idea. And what about that red arrow on the trunk of the tree - Árvore dos Desejos?

The arrow is pointing to a tree where people can write cards and leave it hanging on the branches. It's a Wishing Tree. People can write what they want for themselves, for the neighborhood, to Lisbon, to Portugal, to the world on a card the organization provides. It's one of many activities to celebrate Christmas and animate this neighborhood.

After lunch, we went to Lisbon Factory. By now there was three of us. A friend of my friend joined us, a familiar face from college. Lx Factory is located bellow Lisbon's bridge, in Alcântara. What's the story here? In 1846 a threads and fabric company called Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense sets in Alcântara. This 23.000 m2 industrial site was one of the most important manufacturing complexes in Lisbon’s history. Now, this set of old factory buildings is a nest for a small business like restaurants and coffee shops and maybe start-up projects in creative areas such as fashion, publicity, communication, design, architecture or music. We visited a few galleries and stores. On Sunday afternoons there's also a small vintage market street where you can find all kinds of different stuff, mostly crafts, but also upcycled and second-hand clothes, some artistic work, food, plants, it seems to attract numerous visitors to Alcântara. To my surprise, I found lots of graffiti around the place. I am fond of street art so I enjoyed the visit very much. I took photos of it, of course!

Mário Belém e Hugo Makarov
"Muro do Desassossego"
Based on one of Fernando Pessoa's well-known works. Inspired from an excerpt of the text. A faceless crowd walks aimlessly in the woods, towards a cliff. "The analogy with the political and economic situation that Portugal is living was too tempting us not to do anything inspired in it.", words of the authors.

 Bordallo - this guy makes 3D graffiti

I don't know the author of this one.
The Rainbow Guardian - Mar
Street art Projecto+-  de Miguel Januário 
I don't know the author of this one.

Painting and wall decoration inside a gallery called Studioteambox.
Good illustration work from Raquel Costa inspired by  the fears and fantasies of childhood in this exhibition.

This is the poster of the exhibition we visited at this gallery.
 This tree has balls. It's Christmas!

Many of you may remember that Porto's my favorite Portuguese city. But maybe there's something you don't know: I was born in Lisbon. Will I ever be a Lisbon lover?

This is Ler Devagar, it's clearly a bookstore. But there's more to it than just books, books, books. It has a cool industrial vibe. Ler Devagar stocks lots of books across two floors of space. But there's also an art gallery, tables for book readings and lectures. And you can have a cup of coffee...or tea. The bookstore keeps a busy schedule of cultural activities like concerts, book launchings, and art exhibitions. There was an exhibition going on on the top floor where the guy was playing the accordion- Pietro, Objectos cinemáticos.

That afternoon writer Gonçalo M. Tavares was about to launch his new romance called Uma Menina Está Perdida no Seu Século à Procura do Pai. (Can you spot him on one of the photos?) What a big title for a book, Miguel! I can't believe he beat my record for just one word! I have a published short story called Pode um ovo estragado devolver a paz a um homem perdido? I know some of you can't read Portuguese. But never mind. You can count words. Long book titles are silly. I can do it - and say it - thing because I am not a professional writer. And one more thing: he said it all in the title - the girl is lost in her century looking for her father. Period. At least I made a question in my title! So, who will sell more books, Miguel? (I am LOL at this precise's late and I drunk a lot of wine because is Christmas!)

Sardines! It's an infestation! They took over Lisbon. If no measures are taken soon they will be more famous than Barcelos Rooster! And yes, I was a victim of souvenir merchandise. I bought three chocolate sardines in a cardboard box! A little gift for my nephew. Auntie prefers to eat the real roasted ones!

And this was it! By the end of the day, my friend left me at the bus station. I made a good journey back home. The bus was full but people were quiet. Maybe they were as tired as me! Tired but happy! It was a nice little tour. Don't you agree?

December 22, 2014

A little tour in Lisbon 1/2

Two weekends ago I went to Lisbon. It's just 200km from my home but it has been a while since my last visit to the capital. I was invited by an old college friend to spend the weekend. It was her birthday also! I had a wonderful time. After a visit to a great exhibition at Museu Fundação Gulbenkian - have a look at the exhibition's blog here - on Friday afternoon I had great fun at the dinner party with her friends. And I also met her beautiful dog, a very energetic Yorkshire terrier! This happened on Friday. I took a bus to Lisbon and was surprised to discover that we have the internet on board, free. It's a three-hour journey, by the way.

On Saturday the weather wasn't good. The streets of Lisbon were waiting so we took our umbrellas and tried to make the best of it! We visited some beautiful places and lots of stores. Many of the stores we visited are located on Rua da Escola Politécnica that is known for designer stores and cool brands. I want to mention TM(Teresa Martins), the store décor was perfect. Clothes and accessories exploration of tradition and modernity is very unique.

This street has also beautiful buildings like palaces and old factory buildings from maybe 18th century like Real Fábrica da Seda. Palácio Castilho is an example of Marquês de Pombal's residential architecture. Space is now an actual indoor marketplace called Entretanto where you can find women's fashion and accessories, shoes, decor, children's fashion, food or detox juices, which, by the way, we tasted and were great.

These two photos are from Embaixada. The building is Ribeiro da Cunha Palace, an Arabian inspired palace built in 1857 located at Principe Real area. Now it's a Palace Bazar. It hosts lots of stores inside covering from Portuguese design to gastronomy. It has this beautiful wood staircase, flanked by romantic chandeliers. And what do you think about that Arab courtyard? What a nice place to eat a good meal! While you go shopping you can also enjoy the stained glass windows, the wooden works of doors and frescos on the walls. Watch a photo from the palace's exterior here.

This must be one of the most romantic Lisbon's viewpoints. It's called Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. It's a beautiful place to admire the city but it was such a cloudy day! I think it did not ruin the experience though! The garden below is a landscaped terrace with busts of historical figures and a fountain.

Going up and down the hill next to the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara is the Glória funicular. These used to run on water but are now powered by electricity. It's ideal to go up and down the city's many hills. They also used to be brown, but have been painted yellow since the 1930s. In 1885 Elevador da Glória connected Praça dos Restauradores to Bairro Alto. (It should be yellow, not blue and yellow. I am fond of graffiti but I would prefer it to be just yellow...)

Next stop was a church, a beautiful and rich one - Igreja de São Roque. Unfortunately, my photos are just too bad. This church is so precious with its several side chapels, lots of statuary, wood and glazed tiles. When you're outside and you look at the exterior it looks like an ordinary church. This was the first Jesuit church built in Portugal. The chapel of Saint John the Baptist is considered a masterpiece of 18th-century European art. The church survived the big earthquake of 1755! That was a miracle or maybe it was a very solid building. There is no entrance fee. From the inside, you get access to a museum - Museu de Arte Sacra - that displays a collection of rich clerical vestments and liturgical objects. We did not visit the museum.

Now going down Rua do Alecrim (= Rosemary) we found a barbershop. "
Figaro's is a men-only old school barbershop in Lisbon specialized in classic haircuts from 1920's to 1950's and hot towel straight razor shaves."Not sure what to think about this barbershop advertising but I am sure pleased about not going inside. Oh, come on, men, grow up! Hot towel straight razor shaves?! Who needs that when you can buy a smooth face shaver?! Space is rather cool inside with the mosaic tiled floor and brick walls. There are old kind of vintage accessories like the telephone or the cash register and, of course, old-fashioned barber chairs, not sure if I approve the presence of stuffed animals! Fábio is the name of the owner. I understand the idea of a male-only barber shop like Figaro's inspired maybe by this one concept here or similar. Honestly I really never liked to have men around when I went to the beauty salon. That was some years ago when I decided to go blond and was a regular client. Every month my brown hair needed maintenance and there I was in front of the mirror with all that stuff glued to my head. Not a pretty display. So I feel sympathetic with all this male thing, barbarian razor thing excluded!

We were going all the way down from Rua do Alecrim to Cais do Sodré where you can find Pensão Amor - instead of the former old day's clients, there is sailors and prostitutes coming from the bars right alongside Tejo river, the new occupants of the rooms are artists that needed a space to work. When you open the door there's this bar with red walls and lined chairs, old lamps and old images of ladies in erotic poses, it's a very nineteenth century. The rain was falling heavily forcing us to take cover. We went Quinoa - coffee shop and biologic bakery - for some rest, more chatting and hot chocolate!

The rain stopped and we got on the streets again. The traditional christmas tree in the Commerce Square or Terreiro do Paço has a charity mission. Each euro placed on the tree turns on a light and the money gathered will then be delivered to Caritas to combat child poverty. The big building on the last photo is MUDE - Museu do Design. This is one of the most famous Lisbon streets - Rua Augusta.

Confeitaria Nacional is the oldest pastry in Lisbon. It's located at Praça da Figueira and it was founded in 1829. It's famous for traditional Portuguese sweets. One is the King Cake Recipe that is our traditional Christmas cake. The recipe is a guarded secret brought to Portugal by the son of the founder in the mid-nineteenth century.

A quick stop at Praça do Rossio (Rossio Square) for some Christmas outdoor decorations photos. If I am not wrong this is the center of the city. The white building with classical lines is Teatro Nacional D. Maria and you can't miss the wave-patterned mosaic pavement. And by this time it was rather late, we were tired and aproaching dinner time! So we called it a day and went home! (Next post will be a shorter one.)