Needle Project


Last time we traveled to South Africa I bought clothing to the soon to be born Albert’s first child. Maybe I should have bought a decent crib too, but I wanted: 1) Guard Albert to see that we can do things that do not imply money and shops. 2) Albert and wife to feel that part of the things represent their own effort too.


Yes, they had to complete the small tasks I kept giving to them. The idea and part of the work are mine, but there’s also their work in there, and that is the main aspect.


Firstly I got the base, secondly we worked on the mattress, the side protection, a duvet and finally other small details, until it was completed. People are positively surprised with the result and I am happy too. Nonetheless, the next time I’ll consider the shop option. Tenderly.


Cooking Seasonally


I was worried about my cooking ways. Each time I thought about preparing something special I ended up with some recipe involving almonds or Granny Smith apples, mainly my apple cake and marzipan.


Well, I am not that worried any longer because I am aware now that I’ve been cooking seasonally and that is normal and desirable.


It’s almond and apples harvest time down here, so I cannot resist to the quantity and quality available. Comprehensibly. Abundance of oranges (yummy) and pears (yummy, yummy) is starting; hence, my interests will surely diversify.


To avoid taste boredom I introduced a few changes to my apple cake recipe, improving it a lot with organic cinnamon and ginger, and a special olive oil that has a unique flavor I could only find in traditional Portuguese cuisine.


What did I learn other than cooking seasonally? Well, I learned that we don’t have only to discover new recipes. We can, for instance, improve the ones we already have.

My Short Lived Life as a Cineaste


In the past I played inconsequently with camcorders. Correcting, Paul, TD, Andy and I, at different stages, played. As a consequence, I have a drawer with hours and hours of images, representing less than two hours worth to keep, a job waiting for a rainy day.


Recently, I “discovered” how easy is to change my small camera to video recording and, as a curiosity, I “directed” three short movies. I liked and hated the result, at the same time. I kept the three for days and, finally, I deleted them just because I was sure they would only add to the already existing volume of recorded moments.


My first attempt was a self-portray. With it I learned a few things. Video recording is far more flattering than pictures. I mean physically. I am not sure if this is a general rule, but that was my own conclusion. At the same time, I found it to be less flattering in behavioral terms, mainly posture and voice, aspects almost absents in photography. After feeling very tempted to keep it, since physically I was so okay, I decided against only because I was sitting incorrectly.


My second movie showed Paul reading the newspaper and, once again, the images showed a trace of him not immediately obvious to naked eyes: he keeps moving his feet all the time as if they were an unstoppable windscreen cleaner. That gave me the idea of repeating the same movement with my eyelashes and then matching Paul’s feet dance with my own feet. The result would make Chaplin cry or laugh. TD found it kind of interesting. It didn’t pass my tenth scrutiny, though. I was seriously afraid my lashes movement could be mistaken by the meaningful messages of silent movies heroines.


My third movie was an outside-take, showing TD and a friend playing with our dogs. Once again I observed things I couldn’t with my own eyes. Ten times I watched it, ten times I couldn’t see a single reason to keep it. In resume: too much noise. Despite having serious doubts of my cinematographic skills, I have an advice: if you want to correct yourself or if you have doubts in terms of other people, video recording can be a reasonable mirror of what we are.

Weekend Treats


Two weekends ago my sweet tooth broke loose and it was my own self who paid for it. First I baked pecan biscuits: 1) Beat well half cup of unsalted butter. 2) Add half cup of brown sugar and half cup of honey, always beating. 3) Then 3 eggs, one at a time. 4) Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl: 3 cups of flour, 1 cup of sliced pecans, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, a touch of salt, a bit of nutmeg. 5) Slowly add the dry mixture to the batter. 6) Spoon small portions to a previously greased baking tray and let it cook at 200ºC during 15 to 20 minutes.


It was the first time I baked such biscuits and I found them good to go with coffee. Maybe because I cut down on butter, I found the final result a bit dry. Though, all those nice, familiar ingredients tempted me. I also decided to bake my apple cake (maybe it’s time to discover a new fantastic apple recipe) just because the Granny Smith looked so yummy.


At the same time my vim was going to the marzipan production I was learning something from it: no use speeding up the sugar process or buying packed almonds. As a result, my fourth marzipan looked good but tasted worse than previous attempts prepared with almonds from the shell. This once I used crystal sugar and broke one in half to underline the difference between my granny’s marzipan and mine. Hers had a sweet egg yolk filling. They are called “queijinhos do céu” or little cheeses from heaven. That’s how delicious they are.


Meanwhile and curiously, Andy also picked three different treats for the same weekend: peppered clams, manioc and mud. He brought home a lot of it. Montanhana mud, I presume. He cooked clams to share with friends. They tasted really good. Tieta boiled the manioc mechanic-driver Américo brought from his family farm in Gaza. Andy usually likes cookies with his tea, but he makes clear he also likes to prepare a few treats by himself.

A Matter of Curiosity


Besides writing in here I’ve been keeping a short diary. It started with the purpose of discovering myself and then it changed into a one-way communication moment, before, finally, returning to its first purpose. So what I’ve been learning through it this far?


For instance, I classified each day with a “yes” or “no” in order to understand my relation with what happens around me. A “yes” day means that the way I feel hasn’t been negatively affected by facts around me. On the contrary, a “no” day means something bothered me enough to change my mood.


Over a period of 8 months I only noted two or three “no” days. I guess this particular part of the experience has reached an end and demanded a conclusion. As I don’t perceive myself as stridently optimistic or pessimistic, I had to conclude that most hazards and unpleasant circumstances couldn’t disturb me.


It’s not that I am emotionally detached from what is happening around me, but the reality shows that my basic mood doesn’t change easily. A part of me thinks “This is sad”, but that’s all. I don’t let unpleasant facts ruin my days. I sincerely hope this is not pure indifference. Being indifferent doesn’t sound flattering.


My few “no” days corresponded to situations where I could not control my feelings or when unexpected reactions of others caught me by surprise. Those days were negative just because I stopped being sure of what to do next.


The fact that I reported the huge majority of my days as positive that doesn’t mean I’ve been laughing till doubling up. I could perceive a deep, contrasting sadness lurking beneath the smoothness of my life. So I stopped to wonder about the source of that sadness and, over and over, boredom has been the explanation standing out. 


I guess I like the idea of being impermeable against unpleasantness, mainly because at the same time I regard myself as someone with strong feelings and emotions. I do have to work this boredom symptom that seems to be afflicting me for most of my life. One cannot live amazing adventures every single day. Sometimes we have to go to school… Sometimes we have stay home… Sometimes we have to face the real world… It’s just a question of finding new interests to keep us busy and reasonably happy.


As I’m still curious, I’ll keep writing and measuring my reactions towards a few other aspects. Meantime, I wonder if knowing about oneself is not a never-ending job

Cool but Lethal


She is the reason I am in a pink and black phase. Once black, never back. We shall see. She, in our currency, means Keket. No doubt she’s pretty cool. Yes, sirree!


Tomorrow she is completing three weeks with us. She has largely doubled her size. Translated into human growing, I guess she is a toddler now. We started the first attempts to put her near Thoth, her partner for life, but we underestimated his strength and now we regret having skipped a principle any sensate dog lover and owner should follow: get the female first. One of Thoth’s sniffs forced Keket into a triple pirouette. Hard job we have ahead!


Physically she reminds me of Thor, my favorite dog ever, and that means she is going to be big. I don’t worry about size because she is female and Thoth is amazingly fit and strong. (Compare his size with guard George’s, an average grown up man.)


She is meek, full of zing and a bit unstable due to her tender two months of age. She dances with joy when she sees her food, she plays to exhaustion, she sleeps like a stone and she is still interacting with Thoth through a gate. She has the cutest barriga de azevia!


Our hands, arms and legs are covered with fresh and old nail and fang bruises, but she is learning to control her excesses.


Her favorite toys used to be a yellow hedgehog and Seabell’s Ponta do Ouro ankle chain. Now her biting tastes are more eclectic and our furniture is paying the toll.

Gone for Tea


I often have to face a practical issue due to my daily routine and the fact that people around here start work when I go to bed. If I have something to be solved that depends on a local service I wake up between 10 and 11, forgetting that tea here happens around that same time and the only reaction I can expect is: a) Gone for tea. b) I don’t care because at this time I would rather be having tea.


Be it on the phone or at the office, the result is always the same. And no use to organize in shifts because: 1) One group would be gone for tea. 2) The second group would be impatiently waiting to be gone for tea. 3) The third group would act as if they were still having tea.


(Extract of a recent conversation between Paul and I. Paul: “You know that the idea of work, the philosophy or culture of work, is Western, don’t you?” Seabell: “What is the African culture then? Que sera, sera?” Paul: “No. That is a Western vision too. Though it describes slow work, it’s still work.” Seabell: “I know! I used it recently: why work if it’s so good as it is.” Paul: “That’s more like it.”)


This week I faced a gone for tea situation. Again. Again and again. Too often. Maybe it keeps repeating so that I don’t forget the national teatime.


I despaired. With a deaf phone on the other side, I decided to send a message by fax: “I’m still waiting for the outdoor fumigation against mosquitoes, cockroaches and ants, as requested in December…” Well, that’s another long story