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February 28, 2012

week 8.

Sunday, February 19th
As we were leaving Pinhel (Luis's hometown) this weekend, we were driving out of the historic plaza of two castle-like towers, through tiny little streets, and there was something about the sun shining on this church steeple combined with the old architecture and the blue sky... I couldn't resist choosing it as my photo of the day!

Monday, February 20th
Remember last week when I expressed my undying love for live street music? I found the same girls on another trip downtown, and this time, playing in a group, and the sweet grafitti in various languages enhancing the background didn't hurt either!

Tuesday, February 21st
Luis Miguel and I both agree that going out to eat isn't really our preferred way to pay for entertainment (as opposed to, say, taking a gondola ride in Italy, for example), and I'm proud to say that even on holidays we stuck to our guns and made pizza at home on Valentine's Day and saved our dinner and a movie for the next random Tuesday night we had free, which just so happened to be today. (the word "holiday" here obviously only being relative to the American in the house!)  Hello, deliciousness.  Be still my heart. [Insert your own affection for baked pasta here].  I love pasta.  LOVE. L O V E.  And this didn't just start recently folks. I fell in love with my mom's spaghetti with meat sauce before I could speak. (Probably). I knew it was love-at-first-room-sharing when I lived with my dear friend Shari in college and found she loved pasta even more than I did! I digress. We found an absolutely fabulous Italian restaurant in Coimbra (not an easy feat!) and returned for a second time today.  Mmmm...  gnocchi!

Wednesday, February 22nd
I love mail!  And especially when it's a new photo of Peter, the little boy that we sponsor in Tanzania.  I had been sponsoring a boy since 2001 and after he was able to leave the program last year, we inherited a new member of our family.  :)  He is happy about being sponsored, I promise!

Thursday, February 23rd
Girls night!  Unfortunately Cristi was sick, but I was hoping to invite some new girls too, and Catarina (far left) is a new OT working with Luis, and she likes gummy candy like Marisa and I (weakness confession!), so she definitely fit in well with us!  Plus she likes crafts.  :)  We saw "This Means War" (Guerra a Guerra) and it was surprisingly cute and a lot less cheesy than I thought!  Hooray for new friends!

Friday, February 24th
My super fabulous working machine of a mother-in-law, LuLu (seriously, she never stops moving! Even sitting, she is always doing something productive!), loves to help me with projects (huge benefit of marrying an only child... mother-in-law inherited the daughter she never had!) and this was one of them.  I gave her this photo with some sewing instructions I found online and loosely translated into Portuguese, and she gave me this!  We had purchased some big euro-style pillows from Ikea, and I found the supersize 1.5 inch button in a pack of 8 at the Chinese (dollar) Store for 1€!  I sewed on the button and the loop LuLu made me, and I had myself a big Pottery Barn pillow!  (It really doesn't look wrinkled in real life, but something about the natural light in our guest room enhanced every little wrinkle!)

Saturday, February 25th
My first Portuguese soccer game!  It was Benfica (Luis's team) and Académica (our local team in Coimbra) and was pretty fun!  It was here in Coimbra and my sweet boss and her daughter thoughtfully gave us their tickets as they had previous commitments.  As you can see, we had great seats and invited Luis's dad to come down too! (Bonus: Mama LuLu volunteered to stay home and IRON Luis's BUTTON-DOWN shirts since we only had 3 tickets, which would seriously make any outing worth it!)  If you don't know about European Football, they are pretty crazy dedicated and are standing and cheering/singing/rallying others for pretty much the whole game, at least in the "klacks" super-fan sections!  The only thing I can think might be on this level of fan support is Lambeau Field on Packer Sunday, even though I've never been!  :)  And yes, they ALL wear scarves with their team name.  Everyone.

Sunday, February 26th
Lunch with our "couple group", (as I still don't really know what to call it!) was decided on instead of our usual dinner, as the aforementioned soccer game was in just about every guy's plans that night!  Cristi was trying to get an action shot with the game chips, but my camera didn't cooperate very well.  We also had a sweet new addition to our group, Naomi, an American girl from the Midwest (holla!) studying Portuguese here for 4 months, who just so happens to have one of our volunteers at the Center as her professor, and 3 other foreign volunteers as student colleagues... it's a small world, even across the ocean!

February 21, 2012

week 7.

Sunday, January 12th
Since we have a hanging shoe rack on the back of our office/catch-all room, preventing the door from shutting all the way, so I had to hang a sign last week, informing Luis it was now my private crafting space, as I was finishing up his Valentine's day present.  Yes, I did also translate it into Portuguese, so he didn't have any excuses, and yes I did spend the majority of this afternoon here!

Monday, February 13th
This morning, one of our colleagues sadly informed us that her and her husband had returned from a romantic weekend away to find their house broken into.  Luckily the thieves only stole watches, but the broken ground-level window that they discovered late Sunday night put her on edge, preventing sleep and making for one restless night!  Thankfully, we are blessed to have an empty guest room in our house, so we offered it up to Carina and Marco so that they could sleep in peace, at least until the next day when they could arrange for the window to be fixed!  Marco just started playing on Luis's soccer team and Carina and I have initiated a twice a month movie night while our husbands are out, so this looks like the beginning of a great friendship!  (And I have really been missing having good couple-friends, as we only have a few here in Coimbra!)  (And yes, I did have pinkeye, and yes, you will probably see those glasses a lot more in the next week!)

Tuesday, February 14th
Since Luis Miguel is more of an "acts of service" person and less of a "gifts" person (more on that here), so, with his permission, I decided on a home-made gift this year, which would allow me to love him well -- through the act of service of making dinner!  In our first year living together, we haven't yet found a good system for planning dinners, and find ourselves arriving home at 7.30 saying "What do you want to make for dinner?"  "I don't know... what do you want to make?"  Annoying, right?  Being an avid Pinterest fan, I had found this idea linked from Claire's blog, and though I may have liked another idea better (I did zero research, and she did lots), I decided to run with it.  Our kitchen is navy blue and white, and I have started to accent with mustard yellow, so I thought it was a fun way to allow us to better plan our meals!  It's yet to be hung, since I would like to make a few edits to it... Lack of good materials here in Portugal left me a few items short... like letters, which I drew by hand and cut out, and fabric, which I sadly only had enough of to make horizontal stripes... but I really wanted vertical!  I ended up having almost everything I needed, though, so the total project only cost me 7€50 for the frame!  It'st still sitting on the living room floor in a box, but I'll let you know how the dinner system works out once we get it up!

Wednesday, February 15th
Inspired by a "Famous Couples" guessing game I had made for one of our dinners with friends a few weeks ago, Luis bought these cute (matching!) shirts for me as a Valentine's Day present... complete with a scavenger hunt to find them!  His shirt has the guys names and mine has the girls... sorry about the grainy photo... I set my camera on ISO 1600 (for shooting in dark situations), as we were trying to take a photo in front of the mirror in our bedroom, but after a few failed attempts, we moved in front of the living room bookshelf and I forgot to change the setting back.  Whoops!  Thankfully you can still read it!

Thursday, February 16th
After some post-work plans fell through, I decided to rendezvous alone downtown while waiting for Luis to finish at his part-time clinic.  I love the historic part of downtown with black and white stone sidewalks, old buildings, sidewalk cafes everywhere, and, almost always, some sort of street music!  Near the center square, I found two girls playing accordion and talked with them a few minutes... The music was so beautiful!  I love how unique the accordion is!

Friday, February 17th
My dear friend Suzete (the white-wigged creator of all costumes), who I am blessed to share a hallway with each day, is the art teacher for our students and clients at APCC, and is the perpetual encourager of my creative side.  Late Thursday afternoon, she asked if I planned to dress up for Carnaval, the Brazilian holiday that most all of Portugal celebrates (we're kind of like sister countries, you know...).  All the students were coming with costumes and some of the school staff and therapists were dressing up and throwing an impromptu Carnaval party Friday afternoon.  Normally, I would be the initiator of all things costume-related (after all, I was... ahem... the 4-year winner of most creative costume at the organization I worked for in the States!), but since I didn't bring any costumes with me to Portugal (as my husband assured me that very few adults dress up... SHAME!  This is untrue!), I didn't think I would be able to come up with something overnight.  In emergency costume cases though (which somehow tend to show up in my life in one way or another), I would usually resort to a pirate costume, as I own a lot of black and quite a few red scarves... so after Suzy picked up a sweet skeleton sword for me at the dollar store Thursday afternoon, I was set!  I threw together a scrappy skirt from some fabric she loaned me, and let me tell you... she was thrilled that I would be "wearing the same colors as their group" and could be the "protector of the "Angevils", which they were with horns and angel wings combined.  Leave it to the American to save the group!  I am so thankful for a friend like her and the other girls as well, who have all practically included me as one of their own.  I'm so blessed!

Satruday, February 18th
After showing up at Luis's parents' house in Pinhel dressed as a pirate (just in time for his mom's birthday dinner, which she thought was hilarious!), we relaxed a bit, then headed out to the local "State Fair" that they have, called "Feira das Tradições" (Tradition Fair).  Today, we had a casual lunch, complete with some conversation with a family of canaries that Jose and LuLu have had for about a year now.  (Note: the canaries are hard to see.  Don't mistake them for the big chunks of bread stuck into the sides of the cage! Those are bird snacks!) It is so great to not only hear Jose's special whistle (amazingly bird-like!) that he uses with them,  but to hear how they respond back!  At times we couldn't tell which song was his and which belonged to the canaries!  At one point on our last visit, we had tuned in to a classical orchestra concert on the television that is mounted on the wall directly above the birdcage, and after a few minutes, they all started singing, clearly recognizing the music, louder and louder until we had to increase the volume on the TV!  No wonder they named the papa bird Pavarotti... he definitely lives up to his name!

February 19, 2012

week 6.

Sunday, February 5th
My mom sent me this cute wreath last year, as it's really hard to find Valentine's Day decorations in Portugal!  It's perfect because it says "Amor", which is Portuguese for "love".  I wanted to paint the letters white this year so that you could read them better, but not sure if I will have time before Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 6th
The fog was amazing as we entered the city today!  I took various photos of the horizon, which were amazing, as it looked like cotton candy growing out of the hills, but this one was by far my favorite.. a bit skewed since we were driving!  It seems as if the bridge continues on into infinity!

Tuesday, February 7th
Another beautiful day to take a walk during our lunch break, but today I was alone, on a mission to find supplies for Luis's Valentine's Day present (which I'm making!) at stores that are within walking distance of our Center.  I pass this wall every day, and it's one of those things that sometimes goes unnoticed, but shouldn't!  Across the street from the Center is a highschool of the arts, and students there painted this wall with reproductions of famous paintings.  It looked especially vibrant  in the sunshine today (even Marilyn's grafitti-ed blue mustache! :(  ).

Wednesday, February 8th
This is really not super relevant to daily life at all here, as this car isn't usually in the hallway outside of our office, and the fact that the license-plate says "Snuggle Bug" really won't apply to anyone except for Emily, who has been my official "Snug" (that's short for "Snuggle" or "Snuggle Bug", for the abbreviation-challenged) since our days of sharing beds and bedrooms in host families on choir tour at Bethel College...  but I simply couldn't resist!  Luis has even learned to use the word "snug" as a verb, as he has heard it come from my mouth so many times.  :)  Em has been a dear friend of mine ever since our choir days in college, and I'm so grateful for technology that allows us to keep in touch!  For all this and more, I couldn't help including this license plate -- though beat-up and faded -- in the photo of the day, as it makes me wish she was here with us!

Thursday, February 9th
I don't have a photo recorded from today, but since many days I take two or three, I'm including this one from a few days ago.  I walk past this trophy case every day with various medals, photos, etc, from our sports teams and invitational events that APCC was invited to over the years.  Waaaaaay down near that bottom are two posters signed by various athletes (one of which I assisted at various times... hi Dakotah!), one from a Power Soccer National Tournament in Indianapolis in 2005 (which I didn't even attend, as our local team in ATL didn't even exist!), and the IPFA international event that I organized with the Fernando Foundation in 2006.  It blows my mind, sometimes, to think about how, even before I was a part of the US Power Soccer group, that one of my colleagues in Portugal attended a national event in Indiana that further led him and my now-husband, Luis, to attend the following event in 2006.  Before I had even seen a Power Soccer tournament, and while working with a completely different organization (and later, losing my job there), the Lord was putting together details that would lead me to change jobs, meet my husband, date long-distance for three years, marry, move across an ocean, and then be given the gift of a job that allows me to work with the Power Soccer team here in Portugal, as well!  Now if those crazy things don't lead you to believe there is a God, I don't know what will!  :)  You can check out more about Power Soccer (Powerchair Football, interntationally) here.

Friday, February 10th
Yay!  Valentine's Day package from the parents!  Thankfully we get home at a decent hour on Fridays, when Luis doesn't have clients at his part-time clinic, so we arrived home to a package slip 15 minutes before the post office closed!  Highlights of the package included make-up and Conversation Hearts, as well as the movie The Help (SO GOOD!), insanely good toffee, and a St. Patrick's Day towel... because we Americans like to celebrate everything!  (March 17th in case anyone wants to come over and eat something green!)

Saturday, February 11th
My dear friend Cristi invited me to help out with a Valentine's Day party she was hosting for her daughter, Lily, and 11 of her friends!  Two friends of mine from choir have connections to their family through school and another event in Coimbra, so it was fun to see a mix of cultures and friends!  Here the girls are decorating sugar cookies, one of their favorite things to do at Lily's parties!

February 4, 2012

week 5.

Sunday, January 29th
I haven't been the best at getting very much sleep lately, so I decided to sleep in a bit today.  My ever-so-thoughtful husband woke up quite a bit before I did and decided to surprise me with my traditional Sunday breakfast of Peanut butter & jelly toast... in bed!  That's fresh-squeezed orange juice there, friends, and yes, that is also a random baby chocolate chip cookie that was left over from a batch I had just made... He must have found it in some tupperware in the pantry close to the peanut butter.  :)

Monday, January 30th
In Portugal, at least in Coimbra, it is not uncommon to see the male staff at the gas stations coming out of the building and pumping your gas for you.  I wish this photo could have been clearer, but most people I have encountered here have a strange preoccupation with getting photographed in public. At least, strangers do!

Tuesday, January 31st
I love sending mail! (Spoiler alert! : Here's hoping it gets there in time for these girls' birthdays next week!)

Wednesday, February 1st
Happy February!  I made these to share with my colleagues and our volunteers (as I am working in the Volunteer Department) and the results are in... lots of thumbs up!  I think my colleagues in my office are a little annoyed with me because I keep bringing in sweet things, but I just can't stop!  (Ps -- as you can see I am putting my beautiful Bordalo ceramic platters to good use, especially the ones that have this heart design!)

Thursday, February 2nd
Since Luis plays soccer on Thursday nights, and recently the husband of a therapist friend of ours at APCC started playing as well, I had the idea to start a "girls night" on Thursdays, just to get out on the town. With a credit card we have, we can get buy-one-get-one-free movie tickets, making them 3.05€ each, so we headed to the theater with Marisa (featured last week!) and my dear friend American friend, Cristi. It was a French made silent film, The Artist, set in Hollywood in the late 1920's- early 30's, and we all really, really enjoyed it!  Here's hoping to make this a weekly or monthly tradition! In lieu of the photo of us that I forgot to take, here's one from the film, courtesy of the New York Times, who gives a one-sentence review that sums up my opinion perfectly: "It may be something less than a great movie, but it is an irresistible reminder of nearly everything that makes the movies great."

Friday, February 3rd
I never really liked guacamole until I had the kind made fresh at your table from El Porton, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Atlanta.  I had never made my own, and could never find the recipe I had from a Chilean friend in Georgia, so I ventured out to the California Avocado website to find a good recipe.  It was delicious! Now I just need to hunt down some affordable avocados in Portugal!

Saturday, February 4th
This afternoon, we met up with some Portuguese couples and a few foreigners that are all mutual friends with "our Americans" here in Coimbra, Michael and Cristi.  It is Michael's birthday today, and we surprised him with a little party, suggested by his wife!  In addition to eating WAY too much Hidden Valley Ranch dip and peanut butter cookies (note: NOT a good idea when you're already feeling under the weather!), I also snagged this great shot of Luis trying to reach Michael's actual height and not quite making it, even on his tip-toes!