Portugal Life: Ten Things I Love

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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.

The Nursery in Progress
The Nursery in Progress

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!)

Portuguese Wine
Portuguese Wine

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

The Smoking Gun on Food and Wine Portugal
The Smoking Gun on Food and Wine Portugal

I won’t talk about my new Smoking Gun Food Smoker here, you can follow the link and read about my favourite new kitchen gadget. Suffice to say it has brightened up my winter!

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?

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9 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Apart from loving your new nursery of course, I am loving my own little space. As I’ve just moved into my own place and I am thoroughly enjoying having no housemates to share with and using the whole fridge and not an allocated cupboard… It’s the small things. It’s more pricey than sharing but I have to think… I’ve worked hard for this, might as well enjoy it! 😉

  2. Hi Ben, you do sound a bit down in the dumps – not like you !! When I was reading some of your comments I thought it was something I’d written!!

    You’ve both worked very hard on the nursery it’s looks so lovely and fresh, bet you can’t wait until it’s in use.

    I have a reason to be very happy as something very frightening happened just before Xmas, that has made me treasure precious moments even more !! My partner, right out of the blue suffered a near fatal heart attack – it was straight out of a scene from Casualty with ‘jump leads’ and then an air ambulance !!! Culminating in me driving an 80 mile round trip every day to see him!! We wouldn’t mind, but he’s stick thin, he’s never smoked, only drinks (Super Bock) when on hol,s and we walk the dog twice a day and belong to a gym!!

    I’m just thrilled that he’s still here so that we can enjoy our two holidays booked in June and September in Cabanas !!! Fantastic !!

    All the best to you and Lou.

  3. I’m loving: my salamandra, burning a mixture of olive, almond and carob wood; the fact that I am growing lettuces in the garden; the mild temperature; being able to walk to the beach and work in the garden; drying washing outside on the roof terrace; cheap wine and finally – our favourite restaurant reopens today after their Christmas/New Year break.
    Your nursery looks lovely, especially the mural.
    Best wishes to you both, Sue

  4. Hi Marion – I’m glad your husband is making a speedy recovery – best wishes to you both. I wasn’t that down in the dumps, but I did the list to cheer myself up!

    Hi Sue – a lovely list, thanks for sharing. Best wishes. B

  5. You’re absolutely right about it being the small things, Em! It’s good to hear you are enjoying your own space, having worked so hard to achieve it 🙂

    Best wishes, Lou

  6. Caro Ben e Lou,

    Já fazia tempo que não passava por aqui. Fiquei muito contente com a surpresa. Parabéns pelo novo elemento na família.

    Que tudo corra bem, e estou certo que vai correr.



  7. Muito obrigada CcoR,

    É um tempo muito emocionante e um pouco preocupante agora, mas estaomos muito felizes 🙂



  8. Cara Louise,

    Tive a sorte de como pai ter participado no nascimento das minhas filhas, uma em Portugal e outra no UK, posso ajudar a indicar as diferenças principais entre os dois sistemas, caso necessitem. Mas talvez tal já não seja necessário, pois já estão bem integrados.

    Deixo apenas uma que me parece mais indicada:

    os portugueses em geral, quando podem, usam o médico do centro de saúde mas normalmente este trabalha no hospital onde espera vir a fazer o parto, ou ainda melhor, escolhem um médico(a) no privado que trabalhe no dito hospital. Após o parto, em Portugal não existe a midwife/health visitor, por isso também se tende a escolher um pediatra no privado, que acompanha a criança nos primeiros 8 anos ou mais.

    O acompanhamento no centro de saúde é de qualidade, embora dependa da sorte em conseguir um médico bom.



  9. Obrigada CcoR,

    Temos sorte que temos tanto um grande centro de saúde (em termos de cuidados prestados – não posso dizer que os tempos de espera são bons!) e um fantástico médico privado perto de nós. Vamos usar uma combinação de ambos para cobrir a deveres que um visitante de saúde iria realizar no UK.

    Nós temos tanto para aprender como este é o nosso primeiro filho! Claro, vamos compartilhar todas as nossas experiências no blog 🙂

    Obrigada para o seu conselho.



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