.: Looking back 2016 :.

It’s that time of the year where everyone looks back and does some reflections. Even though I like to reassess what I’ve been doing throughout the year, especially when we’re talking about resolutions, but I find I also like this time of the year for that.

I still have an old notebook where we both do yearly resolutions and plan the trips we want to do and stuff we want to buy for the year. It’s been quite a tradition since we’ve started to live together (pretty much almost 10 years ago) and this year we’ll definitely carry on.

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2016 will be a year I won’t forget. Not because a lot of celebs seem to have died (yap, it was quite something), but because my life was changed forever. In the first week of January I discovered I was pregnant. I just couldn’t believe it! My work life was an absolute mess and I ended up working crazy hours under stress for a good 6 months, then I’ve decided I couldn’t be doing that, so started to take it easy.

It was the year I’ve started meditation, even though I haven’t been back pretty much after she was born and also started pregnancy yoga. 2017 will start with Mom & Baby yoga, really looking forward to that!

Baby Em was born in September and ever since I haven’t done anything but baby (she’s having a nap now, hope she doesn’t wake up for a bit).

Travel wise, the number of trips was quite reduced due to the pregnancy but it was the year I finally did my dream trip to Japan. I’m jumping ahead a bit…

First, I started the year by going to Bordeaux just with my sister. It felt a bit rubbish to go to a wine paradise and not be able to drink anything! Still I loved the weekend, it was fab to have some sister time, just the two of us and no one else. I love my sis loads! Next time we do something like this it will be the 3 of us 🙂

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March we went to Lisbon and it was my last time in Portugal for the year. It’s been almost a year and I miss it loads!

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Then April was the time for our dream trip, Japan. For 10 years we had been talking about going and back in 2015 I’ve decided I couldn’t wait any longer so booked the trip. I’m so glad I did! It’s my most memorable trip ever, the sense of peace and quiet is something I’ll always carry with me. And then the food, ahhh alll the food! (Again, couldn’t even touch any sushi and fresh tuna….. or sake for the matter)

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Really looking forward to be back!

In May we went to Wales, which to me was quite an important weekend. It was the weekend I’ve started to finally relax and understand that I had to take better care of me and the baby

June I had my sister over for a kind of a “baby shower”, so we both went together for a lovely afternoon tea

Also in June went back to Bristol for a weekend away. After working 2 years and a bit in Bristol I have to say I was really missing the city. Aside from London it’s the only place in UK I can imagine myself living

In July I did a ladies weekend in Bath, just with my girl friends! It was so nice 😀

End of July we did our last weekend away just to relax before baby was born.

I’ve spent August around my area and eating and relaxing a lot. Then in September baby Em was born. Looking forward to be on a plane again, which will be in February for a visit to the rest of the family in Portugal.

Yes indeed 2016 was quite a memorable year! Looking forward to 2017, which I hope will bring me more sleep and more smiles 🙂

Any lessons from 2016? Any major plans for 2017?

.: The Hare And Hounds, Oysterley :.

I’m over the moon that my little one is finally sleeping a bit better. She can’t really nap yet, so not many posts from my end. Last time it took me 2 / 3 days to make one.

This Sunday, as it was beautifully sunny we went out for a walk @ Oysterley Park (Part of National Trust)

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Since she ended up falling asleep and it was lunch time, it was the perfect opportunity to grab some lunch. We’ve ended up staying in the area and going for “The Hare & Hounds

I’ve not been going out for food much, as the logistics has changed quite a lot. But, now I value a lot more any time we can spend together on the same table, and going out feels like a cherry on top of the cake.

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The steak was pretty good and the fries pretty delicious! I’ve tried a bit of the peppercorn sauce (still doing dairy free) and it was pretty good as well.

Overall was quite happy with our meal and our time together 🙂

The Hare & Hounds Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Any plans for Christmas?

.: Exploring around – Free from diet :.

Hi all,

My posts have reduced quite significantly, but with baby around I have to admit I have no time (if only she would nap!). This week I had a friend over, so it was the perfect excuse to go out for some lunch. But it was really though to find places where I could eat.

Due to breastfeeding I’m having quite a rigid diet, since my little one suffers from reflux and I suspect milk intolerance. So no coffee (even though I had it during pregnancy), no chocolate (I had a brownie once and it was a nightmare), no tomato or any acidic foods, no milk or soya.

I had no idea on the amount of things that include milk! Also tomato is really hard for me, as I follow Mediterranean diet (cheese and tomato are a big part of the diet).

To help out the matters, I also had a cold. And breastfeeding meant I couldn’t have anything whatsoever, so was relying on tea.

First stop was tea at Princi

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They had delicious bakery and really good looking cannolis, but… I couldn’t have anything. All I had was a tea buhhh

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Here’s my little one getting ready for Christmas!

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During Christmas I love a walk around South bank and explore all the different stalls. But again, quite a pain if you can’t try all the foods!

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I couldn’t resist an afternoon tea (which I’ve been missing a lot!!), so took my friend to Richmond (I was feeling really poorly on this day)

The carrot cake looked really delicious! Again couldn’t eat it, so took it home for my other half. He said it was pretty delicious

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On Saturday went to Portobello road but before we did a stop at The Mall Tavern for some serious meaty business. At least can still eat meat!

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The Mall Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We’ve ended up the week with a Sunday Roast at our local pub

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which was really delicious!

One Over the Ait Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

So an interesting request, does anyone know a nice free from dairy bakery place in London? At the moment can only eat home made cakes, if only I had the time to do them

(Note: It took me 2 days to try to complete this post, if only my little one would nap!)

 

.: Simple pleasures – Home Cooking :.

I have been doing a lot of cooking recently, since I’m still on holiday. For a while I was fancying some pizza (especially after writing my Childhood food memories post). Even though the temptation would be to visit Franco Manca I’ve decided to revive those memories and bake everything from the scratch.

This time decided to follow Gennaro’s Chloe Pizza recipe (from the family book available on amazon here). He has a similar recipe in the video below

In the video he cuts the dough in 4 part, whereas in the book for the same quantity he does it only twice. If you like thin crisp pizza, then 4 is the way to go (I’ve done it only twice).

Because I need to eat quite a lot of protein these days, mine has Vine Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella and grilled chicken. I actually prefer a simple margherita with mushrooms on top.

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While the dough was resting I had time to prepare some ice cream. I’ve used 2 frozen bananas + frozen red fruits. Then I remembered that I still had a bit of nutella to top it up. The ice cream tastes like a banana & strawberry smoothie. Apart from the bit of nutella, there’s no added sugar. So guilt free ice cream

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I know it feels great to explore new restaurants, but sometimes all I crave is for home made food 🙂 What do you like to cook at home?

.: Childhood food memories:.

If there’s one thing I truly love that is food. It’s one of the main reasons why I like to explore around (and again you know my definition of exploring means both next door as well as travel away). I guess this is also a reflection of the country I grew up: Portugal. Food is part of our culture. It’s always a reason to gather friends and celebrate.

I was actually shocked by the fact that in London English people rarely invite others home and cook together a meal. From one hand I suspect that’s because of the lack of space, not everyone can afford to rent a flat, and a flat that allows some space for friends to come over. I recognise that. But after talking to a few guys at work, it’s simply not so much the culture either. When people want to see friends they will go mostly to a pub or a nice restaurant. I admit it’s way more convenient! The other thing that took me a while to guess used to was drinks after work: how can one stand hours standing and drinking and no food? Once I’ve finally learnt it, I’ve started to eat before going to the social drinks and not to stay that late so I could still grab a proper dinner.

One of the things I missed the most about living in Lisbon, is to gather friends around in my flat, have a meal together and some drinks too. I’ve started to do that over the last few years, but if I circle around my group of friends most of them are expats same as me! Although I love to try new restaurants (and London is such a paradise for that!!!) I find myself craving for the simplest foods and again that’s because at home we would eat simple. No fuss, just using ingredients from our backyard (which my granddad still maintains!). There was a point my grandma also had chickens and ducks, so I was spoiled with this amazing fresh food all around me. We would also go to the city and buy fish as it would arrive from the fisherman. And whatever my grandparents didn’t have they would exchange with the neighbours. They still do that and I find it’s absolutely beautiful! Oh, I feel that I’m being teleported back in time, to my own childhood memories.

Scrambled Eggs

So I was absolutely spoiled food-wise, mostly by my grandma and there was a point I was a bit picky with the food. On the days they would cook grilled sardines (which I hate since I remember even if I really love the smell), my grandma would always prepare scrambled eggs for us. And I can’t think of better scrambled eggs than those with fresh eggs! (probably those available since the morning from her chicken!) It’s no wonder scrambled eggs is one of my favourite brunches! My sister is crazy about them as I am. In the meantime I’ve upgraded her version by using chopped cherry tomato, but it still makes me smile as both of us would try to finish soup or whatever so we could then get our hands on the eggs!

Spaghetti Tomato

My grandma, my dad and me are crazy about spaghetti tomato. Seriously, if there’s a food I crave quite often this is it. And I mean, it’s literally just that, fresh pasta and tomato sauce using the tomatoes from our garden (which up to this point, I never found any better than those out there!) I could eat this every single day! She would then sparkle it with coriander… ah so delicious! My mom says I really love pasta because at the time she was pregnant of me she was working at an Italian restaurant and she would have access to delicious pasta, pizza, coffee and ice creams. I suspect she’s right because I crave all of that.

Pizza

And I’m not talking about any pizza, I’m talking about the memories of making pizza with my dad. We would prepare everything from the scratch, from the dough to our own sauce creations. We would do a mess in the kitchen and my mom would most likely complain about it, but it was so nice to spend a few hours together in the kitchen talking and preparing pizza. Later on, we’ve ended up using the hand-mixer to make it easier to prepare the dough (with the swirls)

Once I didn’t connected the “swirls” very well into the machine, so when the dough was almost ready, one of the swirls disconnected and went flying straight to the bin with the dough attached to it. We’ve giggled loads on how stupid that was and we had to restart. We had quite a late dinner that night. It still makes me giggle after all these years.

Bread and Olive Oil

I love love love bread. Crunchy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. I still remember the sound of the baker’s van as he would deliver fresh bread into our house every day. I would come running down the stairs and feast in the bread, either with butter or after lunch with olive oil. Let’s just say I was not very hungry at the main meals, because I couldn’t resist the bread! My favourite meal was the afternoon one (let’s call it afternoon tea). I would have a glass of fresh milk and 2 huge slices of bread with butter and cheese. Or in some of the festivals we would have access to the stone baked chorizo bread.

Oh so good! Give me bread, good olive oil and I’m happy.

Almond roll

Forget the Swiss roll, this is way way better! My grandma’s bakery is something that will always give me found memories. All her cakes are absolutely amazing, but I have a special place in my heart for her almond roll. In Algarve, most of our sweets have a link to almond, typically almond and eggs, and her roll… ahhh so moist and good! If we would go on a picnic, she would always prepare one. If it was someone’s birthday, she would do it as well. Oh yes, our birthday parties were legendary. I’m sure most of my friends would only come because they would have access to so many good cakes. We would have cakes for weeks around our birthdays. It’s quite silly that I have never attempted to prepare this one, maybe because I don’t want to spoil the memory. Maybe next time will try to skype with her so she can guide me through, as her recipe book is like Mary Berry’s instructions, it doesn’t say almost anything!!!

Coffee

I’m sure I’ve shared this a million times, but one of the things I crave the most if coffee. Anything coffee flavoured! My mom would give me a small cup full of milk and add a drop of coffee and I would delight on it. I’m not sure when I’ve started to drink espressos, but way before I had any cravings for wine. Every weekend we would always go out after lunch to a nearby cafe so my parents could have espresso and I would have my milk with coffee (and ice creams in summer time). It’s mostly after lunch that I miss a good strong espresso as it does help digest. And I just love the flavour 🙂

Does food brings you back childhood memories? What was your favourite dish back then?

.: National Burgers Day :.

Although I really enjoy a good burger, I don’t think I had any burgers this year, partially because we haven’t been going out for dinner as much this year and also because I can’t have them medium rare as I like. But the weather was so warm that I couldn’t resist but to have a good burger outdoors and make the most of the weather and the national burger’s day (25th of August for UK)

As I’m not going far these days, we’ve decided to go to one of our favourite pubs: One over the eight 

On Friday’s it’s especially good because there is live music! So perfect to be outdoors, enjoying the weather, the food and the music

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Also, service is really friendly here, sometimes we forget it’s a pub and not a normal restaurant 🙂 The atmosphere couldn’t be any perfect for me as everyone feels really relaxed and chill down.

Because we had my dark chocolate brownies in the afternoon (yap this time I’ve done it my way 90% chocolate and half of the sugar recommended by the recipe), there was no space for dessert, but they have really good ones!

Do you enjoy a good burger? What’s your favourite?

One Over the Ait Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

.: Last night in Japan :.

And to end the series…

Our last night in Japan was actually back in Tokyo, because we had book round trip from London – Tokyo. Now here’s a funny story on our last day… after leaving the shinkansen (bullet train) all we had to do pretty much was to cross the street and we would reach our hotel. But he decided to run with the luggage and we’ve ended up breaking a wheel. Let’s just say it was quite a warm day, so having a piece of metal frictioning on the floor… let’s just say I was fearing our luggage would go on fire!

Once we’ve finally approached the hotel, the guys were absolutely amazing with us, and they’ve helped us with our broken (and heavy!) luggage. How to make an entrance in style!

Although we’ve stayed all our journey in AirBnB so we could explore life as locals and be closer to the centre, on our last night I wanted the convenience of being both close to the shinkansen (for our return from Kyoto), but also on a central line to go straight to the airport the next morning. The perfect choice was the Prince Sakura Tokyo from Marriott.

Photos below from the official website

There was also a private garden inside the hotel, which we’ve ended up not exploring

We were really exhausted by the time we’ve reached our room, but we had now an important mission…. find a bag so we could swap before flying back home next morning.

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View from the lift

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We went outside to try to find our bag, which eventually we did in a small market place. But I’ve started to get worst from my morning sickness (I had the story with that too, but I won’t dig in details because it was too embarrassing! Let’s just say I was really glad he knew a few words in Japanese such as pregnant and help)

Back in the hotel room I had a basked of fruits waiting for me. It came in brilliant timing! Fruits has been my survival food ever since I’ve became pregnant (while I’m writing this post at more than 38 weeks I can tell you it still is as I still have the “morning sickness”)

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Rather than exploring more of Tokyo, we’ve decided to stay in the room and rest before our dinner with our friend. Obviously the meeting point was the  Hachiko Statue again

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We’ve explored really nice neighbourhoods (I didn’t had the camera with me 😦 )

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His photo

We also went up to a tower to enjoy an amazing free view over Shibuya

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His Photo

Then we’ve ended up the evening in this amazing sake place. It felt like going inside a rabbit hole, with a tiny door

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And the guys had lots of sake. I could just smell it and all I can say is the smell was divine!

Next morning it was time to go back home. Oh what a journey!!!

Have you been in Japan? Any thoughts you would like to share?