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August 22, 2013


There is a phrase often heard in our house that goes a little something like this, “You could buy me flowers sometimes if you want.”

Another is “Don’t you know my love language is gifts? Even little gifts mean a lot, just to let you know…”

“Just to let you know…” has left my lips more times than I’d like to admit. And honestly, the gifts received have been fewer than I’d like to admit as well. I attribute this not to the neglect or thoughtlessness of my husband, though, but more to the natural growth of our marriage. For fear of the judgment of any and all readers, I should explain…

As we approach the three year anniversary of the day we became husband and wife, I realize that with each passing year, we become more and more aware of what being a “husband” and “wife” really mean. As thoughtful and generous as my husband is, I rarely get flowers and gifts. Sounds brutal, but it’s true. Yet if I’m being honest, I can’t  sincerely speak of any of the last 365 days that have passed without mentioning that fact that I go to bed every night knowing that the dinner dishes are washed… without having been the one who washed them. (And if you have known me since childhood, you know that my most detested chore was washing dishes!)

 Worth mentioning as well is that I have a very clean toilet, yet I have rarely, if ever, donned rubber gloves or gotten on my hands and knees to scrub it. But it’s almost always clean. (I'll spare you the photo of my toilet).

He likes organizing things, spaces, unfinished projects of mine. (And I’m the Queen of Starting New Projects!).

Those would be unfinished projects of mine, in case it's unclear...
He’s ok with eating pizza or sandwiches for dinner when I’m just too emotionally exhausted from work to think about preparing something.

I have strange reactions to mosquito bites here, horrible, long-lasting itchy red marks which forced me to keep all windows closed during our first year here, for fear of being eaten alive in the night. Until my husband put screens in all the windows, that is. And instead of incurring expense on top of expense to purchase ready-made screens to fit our windows, my husband bought the materials to create them himself , which allows us to enjoy cool summer nights without having to share our living room with flying insects.

Did I mention that he always saves me the last bite of his favorite ice cream? Or that a simple thing like dinner outside on the balcony makes him crazy happy?

Aside from his infinite amounts of patience that he bestows on me weekly (daily?), one of my favorite things about him is that he never, ever, complains. And in a place where it is socially acceptable to verbally share the troubles of your day/week/life, it is rare to find someone who chooses not to voice even one complaint.

So the presents? Yeah… there just aren’t many. And yes, I still do stand by the fact that my love language is gifts and that I adore both the giving and the receiving. (Poor husband of mine, marrying into a situation such as this!)

At this point, after being married only three years, I can’t claim to be an expert on marriage. Or relationships in general. Or men, for that matter. Definitely not men. But I can say one thing for certain: I married a man that serves me, and serves me well. And that, in the long run, will probably be more valuable than big gifts, small gifts, or possibly all the gifts combined. Do I long for them still sometimes? Of course. It’s wired within me. What I am learning, though, is that contentment (both in marriage and as a whole) stems more from intangible things rather than tangible. It is rare that during a dinner party at our house, I pull out a present Luis gave me to show off, because truthfully, the sentimentality isn’t what marks him, or what makes others love him. What draws people to Luis is his ability to serve everyone, no matter his relationship to them. And seeing that on a regular basis is (if you don’t mind a pun tossed in here at the end) a gift that keeps on giving.

So three years in, I can still say that we’re in the “honeymoon stage”… just a honeymoon stage with a teensy bit more arguing and a whole lot more forgiveness. (As I mentioned last year, I think forgiveness is one of the greatest things that one can learn from marriage!) With each day that passes, I recognize more and more how each of our strengths balances the other’s weaknesses, and how we complement each other. And Mrs. Rigid Type-A Planner-To-The-Core has learned from Mr. Go-With-The-Flow how to relax a bit and (gasp!) how to sleep in on the weekends. And he, in turn, makes more lists and could possibly be seen planning two days ahead instead of just one. (Possibly). And though sometimes an ocean seems like a million miles away from our dear American friends and family, we are well loved, both by many Portuguese friends and family here, and through the digital (and postal!) wires that connect us from afar. And we are healthy. And employed. And these things give us perspective and strengthen us as a couple, both to serve each other and to serve others. And after 1,095 days of being married, I’d say those are some pretty great gifts.

[What's a blog without photos? Obligatory shots below].

Color Run Coimbra
Águeda, Portugal
For entire album, view here.
Coimbra | photo by Tabitha Reuman
For entire album, view here.

Coimbra | photo by Tabitha Reuman
For entire album, view here.

Coimbra | photo by Tabitha Reuman
For entire album, view here.

Coimbra | photo by Tabitha Reuman
For entire album, view here.
Luis's 40th birthday (And doesn't look a day over 30!)
Photo by Leonor Parreiral

October 21, 2012

week 42.

Sunday, October 14th
We're all about recycling old items in the Almeida house... so when I begged Luis to replace the nasty rusted shampoo holder in the shower for a newer, less rusty version, it promptly went to the balcony outside to be recycled with the glass/metal objects. We have a pretty bad habit of letting our recycling sit outside forEVER before taking it across the street to the recycling bins, so this thing sat out there for a good 2 months, even after we had taken the recycling, we forgot it! One day I discovered this fabulous organizing system for potatoes/fruit, and after finding them at the hardware store for 7€ a piece (no dice!), we decided we didn't really need our potatoes and outside of bags or off the pantry floor. Until, that is, I got the brilliant idea that perhaps we could de-rust the shower caddy and nail it to the wall.  (Amazing how much rust comes right off with a little scrubbing!) And look at that! New uses for old things, Almeida style!

 Monday, October 15th
I was amazed by the stunning sunrise this morning…

Tuesday, October 16th
Latest discovery from our local German grocery store, Lidl -- windmilll cookies! I grew up with a [slightly more bland] version of these cookies, and they are so delicious! I got all nostalgic seeing them here... 

 Wednesday, October 17th
Putting some finishing touches on this today – it’s a banner for an Powerchair Football (i.e., wheelchair soccer) event we are hosting in two weeks. The “theme” of the week is “Train. Play. Experience.” – can you guess what made the tire tracks??

Thursday, October 18th
Hello, gorgeous...

Friday, October 19th
New favorite photo!

Saturday, October 20th
We had a work meeting in Coimbra this morning, so as long as we were out and about, we decided to stop at a little local market to get some fresh veggies. Look who I found crawling around on the kitchen counter after I unloaded all the veggies! (Paperclip is there just to reference his size!)

week 41.

Sunday, October 7th
I would like to personally thank Uwe (from England) and Peter (from New Zealand) for finding the mysterious sweet corn that supposedly exists in Portugal but that no one ever sells. It is so delicious! Sadly, they only had 3 ears, but I bought all 3! High fives to the English boot sale for bringing me pleasant surprises once again!

 Monday, October 8th
I don’t know how a person could choose any season as their favorite other than fall. The simple color change in the leaves is something to marvel at!

 Tuesday, October 9th
Is it just me, or are there others out there who think it’s a little ridiculous that I am having to file taxes when I didn’t earn money in the US in the last 365 days?  So glad I didn’t have to pay – which would mean I was paying TWICE on money that I have earned here! Ridiculous!

Wednesday, October 10th
Snail conference…

Thursday, October 11th
Have I mentioned that I am completely in love with the English boot sale?!?!?  Look at this cute teapot that I got for 2€! It’s in great condition, and helps to add some yellow accents to our navy blue and white, floor-to-ceiling tiled kitchen. Just a happy little pop of color…

Friday, October 12th
Just another Friday night, giving a concert in a 12th century church…

(Listen to my favorite piece by Pedro Macedo Camacho here:

Saturday, October 13th
We had the most beautiful fall day today, so we took a picnic to the park!  Knowing it was our last “free” Saturday until probably Christmas, we relaxed for a bit and walked around in a pretty semi-forested area with lots of small trails… so beautiful! Unfortunately, my instagram photo did not load because I didn't have internet (I thought they just saved to the camera roll on the phone???), so here you have a substitute photo. Do you think this piece of freezer paper that I randomly ripped off the roll looks like Minnesota?  I do. :)

October 7, 2012

week 40.

Sunday, September 30th
We took our Powerchair Football team to a disabled sports day run by an organization in Lisbon today, and I got to ride this great adapted hand-bike with my dear friend Adelaide! I would like to send out a personal thank-you to the lady who took this photo, who so kindly cut off the front wheel, which showed how the bike operated with the hand controls instead of pedals. Awesome.

Monday, October 1st
A beautiful blue (and slightly foggy) morning sky to welcome us into October, but the forecast says 75 and sunny for today. You won't hear me complaining about that forecast!

Tuesday, October 2nd
Had to pick something up at the mall tonight and decided that sundaes were also necessary. I can't remember the last time I had one... delish!

Wednesday, October 3rd
Our choir headed down to Lisbon tonight to sing at a prestigious Samsung product launch event. You're looking at the first choir to ever sing with tablets, and the first tablets to ever have an application using digital sheet music!

Thursday, October 4th
Last night, 4 new "sisters" arrived to add to our ever-growing volunteer "family"!  Meet Sonia (Spain), Palmira (Italy), Vilma (Lithuania), and Noémi (Hungary), who will be with us until April! Welcome to APCC, ladies!

Friday, October 5th
Happy Portuguese Republic Day to us! We didn't have to work today, so I spent the day organizing tax forms, responding to emails, unsubscribing to a lot of ridiculous American email lists that I am still on, and turned 977 unread e-mails into 603 after 4 hours. In the afternoon I worked on some to-do items on my Power Soccer Tournament list, as we have a big week-long international event coming soon!  Oh, and I made peanut butter cookies, which was the only thing worthy of taking a photo of today!

Saturday, October 6th
Luis brought back some lovely grapes from his family's vindima (traditional, seasonal grape harvest) -- they are gigantic and so, so delicious!

September 30, 2012

week 39.

Sunday, September 23rd
A question for all the other Chapstick addicts out there: don't you hate it when you get to the end and you can't roll the tube up any higher, but there is still at least a 1/4 inch of Chapstick in the tube?  I started saving all these tubes and decided to recycle them all into one tube this weekend using toothpicks. Was it the smoothest process ever? No. Did it result into a like-new chapstick? No. It's definitely all bumpy and not as compact as it should be. But did I get half of a tube of chapstick from those other 4 that I took out? Yes, I did. And I can't get Chapstick in Portugal, so now I'm all proud of myself. Yay.

Monday, September 24th
All the university students have returned, and on a lunch break walk we spied some initiation rites going on...

Tuesday, September 25th
So happy to say that my first week of selling Portuguese pottery on Ebay was a success - I sold all 6 pieces!  Praise God! Being a lover of great customer service, I decided I needed to create some sort of logo to put on a little card with my contact info inside the boxes that I shipped out. I already had this cute little notepad with scalloped edges, and with a little tricky scotch tape work, I attached it to an 8x11 paper and ran it through the printer with a fun font. Violá! Homemade logo!

Wednesday, September 26th
So much fog in the city this morning... like white cotton candy sitting in hills of Coimbra!

Thursday, September 27th
Caught a glimpse of a beautiful sunset from our balcony tonight...

Friday, September 28th
One of my college friends, Erin, was working again in Lisbon this year and her fianceé joined her for the trip and met us for dinner in Coimbra. We brought pasteis de nata to celebrate Erin's birthday and surprised her with them at the restaurant. Check out the look of love on Curt's face as she gets ready to blow out the candles!

Saturday, September 29th
Don't have a pot for the plants on your balcony, but have an old pair of jeans? Perfect! No wonder there are no second-hand stores in Portugal... people are using their old jeans as planters!

September 23, 2012

week 38.

Sunday, September 16
Stayed up waaaaay too late tonight watching my newly-listed, hand-painted Portuguese pottery rack up views on eBay!  My kind American friend Elizabeth (who also married a Portuguese man and moved to Portugal 29 years ago) started out with the idea to sell Potuguese pottery to Americans when she lived in Coimbra quite a while ago, and now has passed along the opportunity to me!  The potter is dedicated to continuing the tradition of Coimbra's hand-painted pottery, and no two pieces are alike! (Shameless plug... lots of unique Christmas gifts available!). We are so blessed to have such kind friends and to have this amazing financial blessing! Here is a photo of one of my favorite pieces... a sugar bowl with a special spoon created specifically for it! You can see more pieces on my Ceramics Pinterest board.

Monday, September 17th
This girl had a birthday today, and we love her so, and really wish she wasn't so far away! We became dear friends as seat mates on spring break choir tour circa 2005, when we both discovered that not only did we bring more than one book for a 9 day tour, but that we both also brought electronic travel Yahtzee. (What I wouldn't give to have that photo in digital form for the photo of the day today!) Thankful for you, Em! Parabéns, Snug! Love you!

Tuesday, September 18th
I must admit that we have pretty great weather in Portugal, but unfortunately almost all the rain comes in winter, which leaves the grass and the forests really dry in summer, leading to lots of fires. I refrained from posting a photo of a fire really close to our house last week, because it just seemed so sad to use that as the photo of the day, with smoke so black and flames so tall we could see it from our balcony. Today there was another in Coimbra, and as we were leaving work we realized it was also really close to where we were. I refrained from the picture-taking, but as we got close to home at and stopped at a red light, I noticed that the grey smoke in the distance was so high that it was starting to merge with a cloud in the sky. A second glanced revealed that it wasn't a cloud at all, but some sort of rare reaction/formation of the smoke that was making the top of it billow up into a white cloud. It fascinated me, hence the use of it for today's photo...

Wednesday, September 19th
Sumoku -- fun game sent by the familial unit of Cheeseheads. It's like a crossword, but using numbers instead of letters. Lots of thinking involved. Not recommended to start a game after 10.00 pm, as evidenced by our very tired eyes. Fun, though!

Thursday, September 20th
While looking through lots of closets and drawers for something tonight, I happened to find a shoebox of Luis Miguel's, full of all the cards that I have ever sent him in the history of our story together. Needless to say, my search abruptly ended, and I sat down on the floor and read every one of the 87. It was a bit emotional reliving all the longing and heartache that a long-distance relationship brought, but there was redemption as well. In our one-year dating anniversary card I found this: "I never expected that one year could be so meaningful... so memorable... so remarkable. I never expected that a journey with far more days apart than days together could ever bring two people so close." I don't have enough words to say how thankful I am to be married to someone who invested so much to make sure our love could last, even across an ocean. Luis Miguel, you are my treasure!

Friday, September 21st
Got a sweet package from my grandma, with a note inside that said "open carefully". When I opened it, I found this, with a note that read:

"Don't get excited,
Don't get misled,
It's not what you think,
It's a dishcloth instead!

So take off the ribbons,
Cut the threads loose,
Get a pan of water,
and they're ready for use!"

Pretty adorable, eh?  :)

After calling to thank her, I found out that the reason that the note seems like an antique, what with the stained, yellowed cardstock and the seemingly type-written letters, was because it was actually an antique! She stopped by an estate sale and found this in its own little box, and she guesses it's from the 40's or 50's, but no one knew for sure. My mother and grandmother are the queens of finding unique things like this! So amazing!

Saturday, September 22nd
Did I actually put on a monkey suit and a mesh hat and let swarms of bees buzz around me within centimeters of my face, just to say that I did it?  Why yes, as a matter of fact I did. Did I have a small moment where I may have screamed and removed myself from the situation for a minute? Possibly. Would I do it again? Doubtful. But was it fun? Hecks yes. In a scary, nerve-wracking sort of way. Luis teammate, André, got into bee-keeping after his grandfather handed down his honeycombs, and now he keeps bees (if that can be used as a verb??) and took us with him this afternoon. Sometimes, when I think about it, my skin still gets all creepy crawly, but now I can say that I was bee-keeping once, right? :)

September 16, 2012

week 37.

Sunday, September 9th
Because this is only a one-photo-per day challenge, and because sometimes it's impossible to limit one photo per event per day, occasionally events overlap. Like the boot sale mentioned last week. I can't stop thinking about it and can't wait until October 7th when I can go back again!  This was one of my favorite finds from the last sale -- an antique alarm clock in great condition with a gorgeous typesetting! Doesn't it look adorable on this bookshelf?

Monday, September 10th
Had a work meeting in the beachy Figueira da Foz today, and couldn't help but admire the sidewalks, which, in Portugal, almost always have beautiful designs!

Tuesday, September 11th
On a day that America remembers a tragedy and honors her heroes, I long for the place that I have always called home.  While at the FIPFA Powerchair Futebol World Cup last year, I was torn between cheering for America and Portugal, so I decided that I would just glue two flags together and cheer for both. I keep it on my desk as a reminder of both countries that have now a place in my heart, and having the stars and stripes in front of me today was a great reminder of how far the American people have come since 2001!

Wednesday, September 12th
Thanks to our sweet friends Ang and Pete hosting us in London, we brought back lots of non-Portuguese goodies from their local grocery store, and thanks to the technology of freezing, I am still enjoying the bagels!

Thursday, September 13th
Had a really fun chat with my long-time friend Danae today, and her adorable son Jack joined us after his nap. He's still looking a bit sleepy here while we chatted on Skype, but they were so adorable all snuggled together that I couldn't resist taking a screen shot for my photo of the day!

Friday, September 14th
Our friends the Gereckes loaned us their crock pot while they are on a 6 month furlough in the US and I am enjoying using it, much to the chagrin of my energy-saving husband. Electricity is super expensive in Portugal, so even having it run on low all day adds up to quite a lot... or so he thinks! The challenge is on, as I am planning to measure our electricity bill in the next few months and try to see how much more we really spend using this fabulous little machine.  I'll keep you all posted!

Saturday, September 15th
Though we have had an incredibly hot September in Portugal, we were thinking that this just may be our last Saturday to really relax and enjoy the beach.  Fortunately we headed out early, because it turned out to be probably the most beautiful beach day we have had since summer began!  I never would have called myself a "beach girl", but now I can't seem to get enough of this place...