The depressing cloud that is January has left us now, but February offers little consolation beyond the fact that it’s a short month and there’s therefore a little less time before the next payday.
The Internet is full of pop psychology at the moment, and if you’re a self-help-sceptic, the thought of anything resembling a “gratitude diary” probably makes you want to scream. However, I do think it sometimes does a lot of good to take stock and think of some reasons to be cheerful, thankful, or just less grumpy – whatever works for you…
So, with that in mind, here’s one of those “ten things I love” posts, that were so fashionable a few years back. It’s winter in Portugal right now, so there’s little to say of beaches and sunshine, but I’m going to smile this Monday for the following reasons:
1. The nursery
What was once our spare room is now (almost) a nursery – or a nursery combined with my office, which itself is diminishing in size by the day! We still have some bits to do, but (largely down to the generosity of others) there’s already a beautifully decorated cot, a pushchair, and a wardrobe full of clothes and nappies. Not a day goes by when I don’t wander round and admire it.
Friends who already have children tell us it will never look like this again, so we need to make the best of it!
2. My new stereo
We recently made a modest investment in a new stereo, in the main so I could finally play the records that I’ve gradually accumulated since I decided to collect disco rarities. Discovering obscure B-sides while I cook is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
3. Fresh linens
Despite Louise’s rapidly expanding bump, I still seem to climb into a beautiful bed, complete with fresh new linen, at the end of every weekend. I know this is one of the chores I’ll have to add to my roster in the coming weeks as “the bump” gets bigger. I’m making the best of it, because with the best will in the world I can only make a bed as competently as a well-meaning teenager.
4. Brussels sprouts
This will seem like a strange one, but I love sprouts, and until recently they’ve not been that easy to find in our part of Portugal.
Recently, though, they’re become consistently available in our local supermarket, in sensible quantities at around just one Euro. I’m sure I’ll tire of them soon, but I’m loving them right now.
5. The mild winter
The weather in the Algarve since Christmas has been nothing to write home about, but it has been consistently mild. As a result, we’re not struggling to keep our apartment warm, which is a first for this time of year, and a welcome change.
6. The price of Portuguese wine
Last night we both commented on how good the wine was with our Sunday dinner. It had one of those “gold award winner” stickers on it, and was absolutely delicious. It cost €2.49 from Lidl. (Louise only had a few sips!)
7. Poverty pasta
Poverty pasta is a January and February tradition for us, and it’s only semi-ironic in title! With most of our money being diverted to the baby fund and the good people at American Express (who kindly volunteered to pay up-front for most of Christmas), each week we currently make a huge pasta bake that does one huge dinner and a left-over lunch, with enough spare for anyone who happens to pass through our doors while it’s in the fridge.
Our poverty pasta bake sometimes features tuna, sometimes left over chicken, but always a ton of fresh local vegetables. It’s life affirming and mega cheap, and loads of fun to make.
8. Vela 2
Vela 2 is one of our favourite restaurants, but for some reason we’d forgotten about it recently – perhaps because it’s now moved out of town and into a nearby village.
Whilst trying to think of something to do on Friday evening, I suddenly remembered it. Five minutes later some friends unexpectedly dropped by, and an hour later we were all tucking into as much sparkling fresh fish as we could eat for no more than about €15 each in total.
It’s things like this that remind you that living in the Algarve can be pretty special whatever the season.
9. My food smoker
10. Having work
I moan more than enough about never getting outside while the sun’s shining, and not having loads of extra time since I moved to Portugal. But I didn’t move here to retire. We still have to put the hours in, often for a level of reward that makes us realise how lucky we really were when we worked in London, but we’re fortunate to have built up the work we have, most of which we do from the comfort of home.
What are you loving right now? Please tell us in the comments below. I’ve spent plenty of time feeling a bit jaded lately, but reading this back makes me feel very positive. Maybe this pop-psychology fad is a good thing?