Tag Archives: beaches

Eat, Move, Learn

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And suddenly it’s Friday. I swear I must be semi-conscious for periods of time. That is the only reasonable explanation as to how I blink on Sunday night and when my eyes open it is Friday morning.

To slow down a bit I have been gazing at these photos of our local beach in Rio de Janeiro. Normally, on a hot day it is a throng of bodies, bikinis, red umbrellas, ice cream vendors, and shrieking children. On this slightly overcast and windy day it was one long stretch of emptiness, quiet, and bottle green seas. I really prefer it that way. There is something lovely and bracing about the wind buffeting you, making you squint and grab at your hair, leaving salt on your cheeks and leaving your mind somehow clear.

Winter beach 1

Winter beach 5

Winter beach 4

Winter beach 3

Then there are these three 1-minute films that are simply delightful: Eat, Move, and Learn. Watch them if you have 3 minutes to spare while you wait for the kettle to boil or if you enjoy precision editing in films or if you love exotic food…or if you like to watch a cute guy walk towards you. To each his own.

 

How will you eat, move, and learn this weekend, my friends? Enjoy it all and see you on Monday! xx

“Better days are coming.

They are called Saturday and Sunday.”

~Author Unknown

Long Time Gone

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Well, I am not sure how this happened, but I haven’t published a post around these parts since October 2013. I am not certain, but I believe that leaving nearly 11 months between posts is breaking some kind of blogging rule…the rule of actually writing stuff, for example.

You know how it gets, though – you have good intentions and plans, and yet somehow the days pass by and nothing has eventuated. Like you and that plan to eat more chia seeds or to get rid of that pair of jeans that you bought one size too small. Y’know, it just doesn’t happen.

Mind you, I wasn’t being completely lazy during those 10 months. I was taking a lot of photos and doing some incredible traveling (and, let’s be honest, watching Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube). The trips I took were so eye-opening and wonderful that I think you will want to get your own glimpse of these places, too.

I will try to share the very best of it with you because we all love to know that special places exist, not so we can put them on some bucket list, but just to know that beautiful parts of our world abound even if they are not right outside our window.

Places like these…

NZ Beach

 

Argentinian lunch

 

Colombian hills

 

Brazil beach

 

Alberta rocks

Now, if these places ARE outside your window, then congratulations..and also, whaaaat?! Open those curtains for criminy’s sake!

I hope you are all still out there and willing to stop by for a blog visit from time to time. I do hope that these last 10 months have been good to you, or at least civil to you, or maybe just that you have survived them? I am not sure where our standards should be.

Okay, let’s do this! You go give away those jeans already and I will get writing! xx

This bunny ain’t so cuddly

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Where: The Algarve region, Portugal (We spent our time in Faro, Tavira and Lagos)

Hello loveliness!

Plate of food: We stayed in a former fishermen’s village that they converted into a hotel complex. Nearby were the salt pans where they harvest (duh) salt from the sea water. So you have fish and you have salt; it makes sense to put them together. It was common to see salt-baked fish on the menus there.

This is a technique where a whole fish is covered in a thick crust of salt before baking. The result is a very tender, moist dish without a strong salty flavour. I decided to order this at a restaurant nestled on a spit of land, surrounded by water and swaying palm trees.

I was anticipating fresh, flavourful, delicate fish.

I got salt, salt, salt. Blerg.

Unfortunately, in this circumstance, the fish had had a life of abusing salts before he came to rest on my plate (I’m only guessing here). The result was a dish that was so salty that I drank the water from the vase of flowers on our table.

Well, almost.

I was particularly concerned about dehydrating my unborn baby with all of the salt coursing through my veins that evening. Whatever. I was a nervous pregnant woman.

That meal aside, we had a wonderful lunch at a small, open-air bar where plates of tapas offered up aged cheese, spicy sausage, cod fritters, cured ham, and other delights. Each item had a toothpick in it, and at the end you were charged by the number of toothpicks piled on your plate. I could have built a log cabin with my toothpicks, but let me remind you, I WAS EATING FOR TWO.

If we are going to be really nit-picky, this lunch spot was technically juuuust across the Spanish border. But if you could drive across a bridge and have lunch in a different country, wouldn’t you do it?

Sheesh, I have wholeheartedly under-sold Portuguese cuisine with these stories. Let me say that I ate very well in Portugal and my baby turned out just fine. She just has a penchant for salty food.

The best: It has to be a top three, really.

  • The incredible tiles that completely covered nearly every house in Santa Luzia, a village near Tavira. We never saw two houses with the same pattern. Just beautiful. They make me mull over which pattern I would choose for my Algarve holiday home (if I had one…).

  • The beaches. Dramatic. Clean. Stunning. The Algarve sometimes gets a bad rap for being full of British holiday makers watching Manchester United matches at sports bars, but the truth is that it has a natural beauty, and off-season it feels quiet and remote. Who wants to watch Man United when you have views like this?

Pristine water, dramatic cliffs. And all to ourselves!

  • Cork trees. Thank you to my brother-in-law for recently reminding me about the marvel of a cork tree (amazing what you discuss over a glass bottle of wine). We drove through groves of these short, gnarled trees and were awe-struck to see the enormous piles of “sleeves” of bark on the side of the road.

Amazing cork sleeves

Story that needs to be told: Our trip was full of charming, peculiar quirks. They are part of what made The Algarve so enjoyable and so memorable.

It started with warm temperatures in Faro, and us walking beneath trees heavy with oranges, with storks nesting on every rooftop. So Mediterranean! But, wait, there is the distinct sound of traditional Christmas carols coming from the cleverly hidden speakers in town. “Let it snow” becomes slightly laughable in this climate.

The Portuguese seemed determined to enjoy a traditionally wintery Christmas, no matter what. This was obvious from the huge ice skating rink at the outdoor shopping centre where we saw skaters teetering around, trying to avoid the palm trees in the middle of the rink. Huh?

Nothing says Christmas like skating between palm trees in 25 degree weather! (Or maybe it does for you? Hello, Southern Hemisphere friends!)

Later we found ourselves at one of the beautiful beaches where some rules had been posted on a colourfully painted board. There were the obvious ones: no littering, obey the lifeguard flags, and so on. The rule I loved the most? Don’t act crazy. You’re talkin’ to the wrong girl….

“No littering.” Sure. “Respect the lifeguard flags.” Okay. “Don’t act crazy.” Not so easily done…

The quirkiest of all sights was this little fellow who we found in a shop window:

Take a good, hard look at this fellow and try not to laugh or ask questions or have nightmares. Actually, just don’t look at him.

I know you have many questions. I can only answer a few.

Yes, that’s a real stuffed rabbit. Yes, he is wearing custom-made hunting gear. No, I don’t know why. And, yes, it still haunts me to this very day.

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” 
― Mary Anne Radmacher

So, a Dutchman and a Prairie girl walk into a bistro…

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Where: Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

Those Kiwis love the Mount! They honour it with beer. As all good things should be...

Plate of Food: I went on a – wait for it – DATE with my husband while in New Zealand this past month. And to honour such a rare, special, no high-chairs/spilled drinks/bag of things to entertain the kidlets kind of a night we went to a wonderful restaurant, The Mount Bistro. You should not read the following on an empty stomach. Go have a cracker and come back. I’ll wait.

I told you in my last post about my menu-stoppers. As soon as I opened the menu at Mount Bistro, I saw PORK BELLY. Done. Menu shut. My dear friends, you will never, ever regret ordering pork belly. Ever.

This particular dish was deliciously composed: tender, succulent pork belly on a bed of julienned green apple, with pork crackling (Amen) and “cider pearls”. Say what? These were translucent beads of apple cider, much like caviar, that burst on your tongue to release their tart, fresh flavour. Oh, man. I don’t know what magic they are doing in the kitchen to make those pearls, but keep doing it!

My main course was salmon which although pleasant, it could not compare with my husband’s meal of rack of lamb. As we always do, we swapped a small portion of our meals so the other could taste it. (You do that, don’t you?) The unfortunate thing was that his was so much better than mine. I then spent the rest of the meal gazing longingly at his plate until he finally relinquished another lamb chop.

The rack of lamb was perfectly cooked and cut into individual thick chops. Alongside was a pea puree with a hint of wasabi, baby potatoes, shiitake mushrooms and spiced, roasted whole macadamia nuts. Everything on the plate had been prepared with such care and creativity. It was simply fantastic. Why didn’t I order that??

For dessert (because when you only go out once a decade, you need to maximize the experience) I did not hesitate to order another of my menu-stoppers: Crème brûlée. This dessert sent me into orbit with how gobsmacking good it was. My spoon tapped on the top and I swooned at the dense sound – the caramel was thick and golden. I broke through to the custard which was cool, smooth, and delicious. At the bottom of the ramekin were some hidden treasures of poached cherries and strawberries. Normally I’m a Crème brûlée purist, but these soft, sweet fruits were a welcome addition. I would eat this every day, for every meal…if elasticized pants weren’t so taboo.

If you are in New Zealand, go directly to Mount Bistro and order the pork belly, lamb and Crème brûlée. If you are not in NZ, don’t worry about the price of the plane ticket, this meal is completely worth it.

The Best: Walking up The Mount. Yup, believe it or not, Mount Maunganui has a mountain. It is actually an extinct volcano, now covered in dense bush, and it sits solidly at one end of the glorious beach. There is an easy walking path up to the summit which I have done a few times. It is not too demanding of a hike, but enough of an effort to warrant Eggs Benedict at one of the cafes after you come back down. You see how this works for me?

It is the view from the top that gets me every time. Stand facing the glittering blue ocean and on your right you see miles and miles of perfect white sand stretching off into the distance. The beach is sandwiched between grassy dunes and white frothy waves. There are the streets and houses all arranged in tidy blocks. Behind you is the bustling port and the quiet blue expanse of Pilot Bay. Off to your left is another peninsula reaching across to you, dark and shadowy with trees. Basically spin me in any direction and I am happy…well, don’t make me so dizzy that I fall off the top. Geez, take it easy.

From the peak of the Mount, with main Mount beach on the left and Pilot Bay on the right.

Story that needs to be told: There is no earthshaking story that comes out of my many visits to Mount Maunganui, but let’s just have a couple of humdingers…

  • A group of Dutchmen were dining at Mount Bistro that same night as us. They obviously had menu-stoppers too, but they were all on the WINE menu for they were heavily intoxicated. Their evening ended with one of them shouting and gesticulating to his fellow countrymen, then drunkenly swinging his arm directly into the face of the guy next to him and – get this – knocking one of his teeth out. The tooth and the mouth from whence it came were shown, with what could only be pride, to the staff of the restaurant. Photos were taken. Now, imagine if that had been how my night ended. Do you ever do that? Imagine the most embarrassing possible circumstance and then snicker…no? Just me then? What if I had delicately licked the last of my creme brulee from the spoon and then shrieked at Matt, “Who?! Me! Who, who, huh? Me! Me! Me!” (this is a direct translation of what the man was shouting. No joke). What if I had followed that eloquent gem with a backhanded slap across the face for not sharing more of his rack of lamb, then stumbled out the door, but not before veering dangerously into the plastic curtain wall of the patio (this, too, happened. I thought the whole place was coming down.)…? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time…
  • Years ago, we were enjoying an afternoon on the main beach at the Mount. The day was hot and sunny, and the water was so inviting. A girl from the Prairies, however, does not know what to do when faced with a wave. Cow tipping? Yes. A wave? No. So I was promptly knocked over by a wave and then dragged up onto the beach in a seated position by the force of the wave. This deposited approximately 3 tonnes of sand inside my bikini bottoms. Not wanting to be stranded up on the beach with what appeared to be an unfortunate bowel movement, I crab walked back into the surf (yes, I would have paid money to see that, too). I crouched in the sea and waited for the swirling waters to remove the grit from my nether regions. Ahem. Like I said, Prairie girl.

Rather let this be the image left on your mind after that little story...

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure.

There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”  Jawaharial Nehru