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My Favorite Things – Portuguese Sweets!

(Dedicated to my mom, Marta, Julita and Paulinha – the Miranda family champions of sweets!)

If I had to choose two words to describe my fellow Portuguese, I would probably pick “gentle” and “sweet.”  Could it be that the old saying ‘You are what you eat’ really holds true?  Are Portuguese people sweet because they eat so much sugar?

Whatever the case may be, I invite you to take a virtual tour through this remarkable land of delicacies where:

At Cafe Nicola you can sit for hours with your (excellent) coffee and pastry watching life go by…

Photo of Cafe Nicola in Lisbon, Portugal

Or, admire the sumptuous window displays at the Confeitaria Nacional.

Cake display at Confeitaria Nacional

Pastries at Confeitaria Nacional as seen from the street

In fact, as you can see, afternoon tea at Confeitaria Nacional just happened to be the first stop on our visit!

Confeitaria Nacional.jpg

(Along with our tea, we shared a slice of the heavenly Bolo Rei (King’s Cake) – a seasonal cake that celebrates the feast of the Epiphany.

Slice of Bolo Rei at Confeitaria Nacional

Bolo Reis were a fixture in many other pastry window displays…

Photo of Bolo Rei cakes in Lisbon pastry window

And we noticed that cute “Reizinhos” (little King’s Cakes) – about the size of a large muffin – are now being offered, too!

Small King's Cakes

Later in the week, we needed a hostess gift for dinner with relatives and were drawn to the window display at Pastelaria Alcoa in Chiado, the chic fashion district of Lisbon.

Photo of Pastelaria Alcoa as seen from the streets of Chiado.

Once inside, the selection looked even more enticing!

Photo of pastries in Pastelaria Alcoa in Lisbon, Portugal

Doces de Ovos or egg sweets at Pastelaria Alcoa in Lisbon, Portugal

(I was tempted to buy one of each cake, but after surveying the entire assortment, we chose this nice selection…)

Fortunately, our social calendar also included dinner with old family friends, so we had the excuse to visit Pastelaria Versailles, and elegant tea- and lunchroom dating back to the early ’20s.

I admit I was a bit shy initially about making my way past the throngs of diners and immaculately dressed waiters…

Photo of a Pastelaria Versailles on a busy afternoon.

To elbow my way to a spot among the locals having their morning pick-me-up at the counter.

Photo of customers dining standing up at the counter at Pastelaria Versailles

With this dizzying array of choices, narrowing down a selection was hard…

Photo of egg based sweets at Pastelaria Versailles

Photo of assorted pastries at Pastelaria Versailles

Photo of croissants at Pastelaria Versailles

Cookies at Pastelaria Versailles

Small cakes at Pastelaria Versailles

(But I persevered!)

By this point I can imagine that you’re probably wondering if the Portuguese eat anything besides sweets.  Rest assured that the Portuguese diet is well balanced with…

Exceptional cheeses, meats…

Photo of meat display window in Lisbon, Portugal

And, of course, port wine!

Port wine display in Lisbon, Portugal

Bom apetite!

My Favorite Things – Portugal by Night

My husband and I just arrived back from a visit to my homeland of Portugal.  This visit was unusual for us since we went in November – a time that we’re usually tied up in New York with work, and also a time that’s considered more “off-season” in Portugal due to the chance of rainy weather.  However, Portugal is so beautiful, that even the gloomy, rainy skies have a poetry all of their own.

Shortly after we arrived, we went for a twilight stroll to the Praça do Comércio

Praco do Commercio in Lisbon Portugal at dusk

And then on to buy some fresh roasted chestnuts…

Chestnut vendo stand outside Rossio at night

Outside the Rossio train station!

Rossio Train Station at night

Rossio Train Station entrance at night

From there we meandered up to the elegant streets of the Chiado shopping district.

Chiado corner at night

Armazens de Chiado at night

Chiado district at night

Chiado district of Lisbon at night

Fortunately, we’re both in good shape, so we didn’t need to rely on the Elevador da Glória funicular (just one of the historic trams running through the city) to propel us up the hills of the city, but we have ridden the trams for fun in the past.

Elevador da Gloria at night

Lisbon isn’t the only city with a night life, though!  In the Praça do Giraldo in charming Évora, a world Unesco heritage site, the tourists and locals mingle in the town square to catch up on news, happenings and even death notices.

(We caught up on our people watching there!)

Praca Giraldo in Evora at night

We were lucky enough to stay at the Pousada Convento de Loios, a former convent now turned luxury hotel.

I confess I felt reverent as we descended into the lower courtyard each night…

Entry to dining room at Pousada dos Loios in Evora

Dining room hallway at Pousada dos Loios in Evora

To make our way to the dining tables for our dinner.

Dining room at Pousada dos Loios in Evora

P.S.  Splitting a Queijada da Evora (a sweet cheese filled confection) turned out to be the perfect way to cap off the meal.

Dessert at Pousada Loios in Evora

From My Sketchbook – Rhymes and Doodles

Quick Pentel Pocket Brush Pen sketch of women with strong jawline

Her jaw was firm and set,

Facing off a threat?

I sketched her on the sly,

In case she saw me spy.

 

 

My Favorite Things – All That Jazz

In my next life I think I’ll be coming back as a jazz violist (and cartoonist, of course!)   I suppose I could dedicate myself to learning how to improvise on the viola in THIS lifetime; truth be told, by the time I’m finished with my music gigs for the day, I tend to want to “shelve the axe” and get on to other things (like creating silly illustrations and cartoons.)

So to feed my love for jazz, I often end up resorting to just listening to it.  I’m a big fan of Stéphane Grappelli and Mark O’Connor and also recently came across this Gypsy Jazz Viola video that blew me away…

How about you?  Do you like jazz?  Any artists or recordings I should check out? I’d love to expand my music library…

The Importance of Ritual

Cute cartoon illustration of droste mirror effect as girl brushed her teeth

I created this illustration for the upcoming Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Draw This contest.  The prompt word was “Ritual” which naturally got me thinking about the rituals I do daily.  (I’m pretty sure my dentist doesn’t read my blog, but in case he does, I DO brush and floss daily.) To be honest, as a teen I used to floss only sporadically, but that all changed one day when I saw a sign in my dentist’s office that read…

“You don’t have to floss all your teeth.  Just the ones you want to keep.”

(And just like that I was turned into a flossing convert.)

These days I’m also a yoga and meditation convert.  I wish I could say that I’d been smart enough to make yoga and mediation a part of my life all along.  Unfortunately, it took many years of Type A behavior – of constantly pushing myself to the limit and eventually getting super anxious – to realize that I needed to reevaluate my life, priorities and the way I viewed myself.  But better late than never, right?

Drinking more water regularly is the next ritual I’m hoping to adopt.  How about you?  Do you have daily rituals that nurture and sustain you?  Are you hoping to add any new rituals to your routine?

From My Sketchbook – Rhymes and Doodles

Quick Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Cartoon sketch by Joana Miranda

I’m feeling a little rusty

(My rhyming chops are dusty.)

But drawing’s still a breeze,

(For simple ones like these.)

Happy November!

With all the ghouls and goblins hopefully now in the rear view mirror (wouldn’t it be nice to think we could wish away scary things so easily?!) there’s turkey, family, friends and Thanksgiving just around the corner.

Here’s hoping your November is filled with tasty treats and good times…

JMSC-092 Turkducken Flight with text for blog.jpg