Oh Labdanum!

If I could encapsulate the fragrance of our walks in the rocky coast of this side of the world, it would be with the warm, subtle yet intoxicating aroma of labdanum.

In Portugal there are at least 9 species of the cistus family. My favorite fragrant shrubs are from the ladanifer specie.

They cover the fields with their silky petals, and the bees have a feast with their pollen. Their aroma comes from their leaves though, they exude a sticky resin that warmly inebriates the air. The flowers of the Cistus ladanifer subsp. Ladanifer, has five petals each with a reddish/brown spot on them. Their star pattern reminds me of a starfish. The Cistus ladanifer subsp. Sulcatus, have the same type of leaves and number of petals, but the flower is completely white.

Their common name in Portuguese is Esteva, and a field filled with them is called Estevais. I love the “snow like” look of the flowered plants and white petals all over the field and the ground.

I also have sound some “mutants” plants. The have about double the amount of petals, but the same type of leaves. I still have to find these in the botanical site.

Enjoy the pictures!



Nature on a Saturday afternoon

We just returned from our walk. There are so many flowers, insects, birds and reptiles making the most of the season!

Here I want to share the cutest sight of the day: A tiny snail napping on a small Queen Ann Lace flower.


Portugal’s Landscape

One of the things I love the most about living in Portugal, is having the time to enjoy the surrounding beauty. In Venezuela, nature walks are something that nobody does on a daily basis, and later in NY we were so busy that although we had daily walks with our dogs at the park, only on weekends we could venture to go to wilder places. In Portugal, both, beach and mountain are right there for us to enjoy.

Portugal is always green. All year round there are plants and flowers to delight our senses – and allergies -; but every year, there is a slight change on which plants flower most or first. Sometimes, I even get to see flowers I didn’t see the season before. I love that sense of discovery I feel while enjoying our daily walks.

Here I want to share with you a natural flower arrangement. It has one of my favorite flowers: the Viperina, a yellow specie of the Daisy family, a Queen Ann Lace, beautiful Cardos and a wild Malva.



I am a violin and viola player, ergo I have had very short nails all my life. I always wore my nails bare, or with pale colors, but last summer, that changed!

Through the years, in spite of the distance, and thanks to Facebook, I have kept in touch with several of my college classmates. Chrissy, is not only a fantastic flute player, she is also an amazing nail artist. While admiring her work, she convinced me that having short nails was not a reason to stay away from nail art. I took my chances, and I discovered a new hobby!

Last summer I owned 3 nude colors, one base coat and one top coat. Now, I have a total of 62 nail polishes (top coats and base coats included), few nail art tapes and stickers, 24 stamping plates, several stampers and a handful of nail brushes, dotting tools, and manicure tools. Most of my polishes are Kiko, and in average a manicure lasts me 6 days.

I am totally hooked on Nail Art. I thoroughly enjoy doing something artsy on my nails. If you have the time checkout Chrissy’s blog, she is truly amazing. Here I share with you some of my best manicures so far.

Have a great weekend!

PicMonkey Collage



El Relámpago del Catatumbo – The Catatumbo Lightning

The NASA has announced the new lightning capital of the world: The Maracaibo Lake, “El Lago de Maracaibo”. The phenomenon of the Catatumbo Lightning is not new to Venezuelans. Back in the 80’s when I was in Middle School/High School, we learned about the Catatumbo River, and that right at the spot where its waters meet the Maracaibo Lake, there are special atmospheric conditions that favor the occurrence of lightning almost every night. According to the NASA, “an average of 297 nocturnal thunderstorms per year, peaking in September.”

When I was in school, we didn’t studied the specifics of this natural event; I’m sure that very little was known then. Here I would like to share some articles about it.

NASA: Earth’s New Lightning Capital Revealed

BBC: At one lake in Venezuela, lightning flashes 28 times a minute

MNN: ‘Everlasting storm’ has 1 million lightning strikes a year

Making Bagels in Portugal

As I said in my previous post, everywhere I have lived I have found products/produce in different packing. In Venezuela I would find grain yeast in big packs, in NY in packs of 3 grams, and here in Portugal, the best price for instant yeast is Aldi’s packs of 7 grams.

I had to adjust Mr. Reinhart’s recipe to what I find in the supermarket. Here I would like to share the proportions for plain bagels:

2 tablespoons of honey (great replacement for Malt Syrup)

20 grams of kosher salt

1 pack of 7 grams of instant yeast

1100 grams of white flour

2 cups and 4 tablespoons of water (depending on the type of flour you might need to add a bit more or less water. The dough shouldn’t be runny. If you need to add few more table spoons of flour is OK).

I add all these ingredients to my bread making machine and set it on the dough cycle. In one hour and fifty minutes my dough is ready to go to the refrigerator for overnight slow rising.

I coat a glass container with a little bit of vegetable oil, and then cover it with plastic wrap. Next day will be the process of rolling, boiling and baking the bagels. You can make them the same day, but they taste much better if you let the dough to slow rise.


Welcome to Just Living!

Living somewhere else than the place I was born was not a surprise for me. I always knew that I was not going to stay in Venezuela forever. I knew it since childhood, and I knew it meant to be away from the family I love and friendships I cherish. Nevertheless, I am blessed, and I have been able to keep bonded to these affections.

What was a surprise, was to discover the impact that such small things such as your commodities brands, the size of the typing paper, and the procedure to buy medicines have on everyday life. Adjusting to these little things moving from Venezuela to USA’s East Coast was not so difficult; back then we used to have most of the big American brands in Venezuela. I only needed to get used to “inches and pounds”, and to learned that to buy medicines I needed always a prescription; you get ONLY the numbers of pills the doctor prescribed, and they come on bottles with your name, address, phone number, and the number of refills allowed.

Living in New York there is no room to miss anything you used to have in your birth country. There are Venezuelan restaurants (although I didn’t visit any in almost twelve years), and you can buy anything from Harina Pan (pre-cooked corn flour) to plantain leaves to make the traditional hallacas for Christmas, and the occasional arepa. During those years I also came to love Indian Cuisine, Sushi, Korean Food, different types of food from China, and the very American New York’s Bagels.

Because such diversity and availability of produce, it was a bit of a shock not to find all that in Portugal. I have been told that in the heart of Lisbon, in Martim Moniz, you can find anything your heart/stomach desire. I live now very close to Cabo da Roca … so food shopping trips to Lisbon are not that appealing. When I found myself missing New York’s thin crust pizza, and bagels, I knew it was the time to bake again like when I lived in Venezuela.

I love cooking, and during three years I tried different recipes. All were OK, they were bagels … but almost two years ago I came across a recipe in Epicurios, and that was it! The best bagel recipe I had tried before. I have made some variants: I make egg, cinnamon raisin, plain, oatmeal, and cranberry & walnuts bagels. In average, I bake every two weeks. They freeze wonderful, and although I have not found a deli with flavored cream cheese or egg salad, I am happy having my toasted bagel with plane Philadelphia Cream Cheese for breakfast.

Here I share with you this wonderful recipe. If you are an expat missing bagels, or if you are a bagel lover and want to learn how to make them, this is a great way to start. I make the dough on my bread machine, so I don’t even knead by hand anymore. I do roll them though; it took some practicing, but it is fun to try to make them like the “real thing”.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Bagels by Peter Reinhart

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Photography: My egg bagels on my kitchen island.

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