Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The wonders of Picasa!

A friend of mine introduced me to Picasa just before I started my blog and for that I'm very grateful. It really is very useful for a blogger. I don't have Photoshop and I'm not very tech savvy so I began exploring the possibilities of Picasa slowly.

The other day I was trying to organise my photos on Picasa and I discovered a detail that had been eluding me. 

I have to confess that there are days when I'm really focused and others when I feel scatterbrained. When I began my teaching career, a colleague of mine said the stress of the job meant we'd be a bit potty by the age of fifty. As I've passed that age and entered the menopause, I try to tell myself that being scatterbrained is natural and I've began trying to stay organised and  write things down a lot so that I don't forget them. (I used to have the memory of an elephant.)  

However, on some days there is a simple reason for not paying enough attention to some details. One such day was when I took photos in Alcácer do Sal, after a long drive. It was hot, I was tired, so I didn't SEE everything that was there and then wasted time looking for the information that I wanted on the net, without success. 

Fortunately, this week I decided to organise my photos, fiddled with one particular photo I hadn't used on my blog post and hey presto! I can now reveal the names of the creators of that beautiful ceramic panel - and I have Picasa to thank for that!

At one end of that panel there is something that initially looked like graffiti to me... but it isn't.
Amplified on Picasa
I can finally say thank you to Rute Soares and Inês Coimbra, who did those magnificent drawings that were turned into "azulejo" at a factory called Mosaicos Ideal, located in Alcântara, Lisbon.

All I need now is to find out the date. Can anyone help? 

Related posts:

Sunday, May 27, 2012


This week's Sunday post challenge, set by Jake, is "door".
Without further ado, because I'm on a borrowed internet connection, may I present my short selection. 
Espinho, Portugal
After having chosen my photos, I have to say I think I prefer the doors on older buildings. They seem to have more character. However, from now on I'll be paying more atention to all doors.

Praia da Granja (between Espinho and Porto)
I hope these pictures look OK. Something strange happened with two of them as I was uploading.

Centre of Albufeira
  I love the flower design on this one.

Centre of Albufeira

I don't know about you, but looking at these doors, I always wonder what is on the other side.

I'd like to end with a quote about "doors" that I particularly liked. 
“I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I'm not afraid to look behind them.” - Elizabeth Taylor.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Scenes from Alcácer - on "azulejo" - 2

I'm hoping you aren't bored to death hearing about "azulejos". 
Today is the final post in this series and I'm going to focus on the images of man-made features from that panel of ceramic tiles I photographed in Alcácer do Sal. You can see more images in my previous posts here (nature) and here (people at work).
The town has a beautiful castle. 
King D. Afonso Henriques first conquered it from the Arabs in 1158. However, the Arabs took it back some years later and it was only reconquered in 1217.
Classified as a national monument, it now has a hotel, the Pousada D. Afonso II, inside its walls.
Typical houses like these dot the landscape.
Close-up of a typical house - whitewashed walls with blue frames painted around the doors and windows.
I didn't know exactly what this was until one of my Portuguese readers who lives in the town sent me an informative message on Facebook. This is a traditional house made of straw from the rice plants. If you go to Carrasqueira, about 35 km from Alcácer, you can still see houses like this one.
Lovely elaborate chimneys, like in the Algarve.
Church towers - there are a few lovely ones in the town.

I would love to have more information about the artist who created this work of art and know when this panel was built. I have tried to find information on the internet but haven't found anything so far.

To end this series of posts, here is the town's coat of arms.

I'm glad I made a detour on my way to the Algarve - Alcácer do Sal and the surrounding area is definitely worth a visit.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Each week Jake proposes a theme and you can post your interpretation of the theme on your blog anytime before the following Sunday. If you decide to join in, remember to post your link in the comments section  at Jake's blog.

Here is my entry for this week's theme.
Playful, when Jallie first arrived.
I have four rescue dogs of mixed breeds. Friends sometimes suggest that having pets places constraints on my ability to travel and go on holiday. To them I say that before I had a crippling mortgage, I did go on holiday - it just meant making arrangements with a pet-sitter. I cannot imagine my life without dogs around the place.

They are all female. I have a soft spot for the females because they are the ones that get abandoned more frequently. Two are medium-sized dogs, one is small and the newest addition to the family is quite big. Each has her own distinct personality. I love them to bits. They always give me the royal welcome home, regardless of my having been away for five minutes or a whole day. They love walkies and fortunately the Algarve weather permits that almost every day.
Exploring by the sea
This is my oldest dog, Mimosa. She has been with me since 2000. She is hard of hearing and has never had very good eyesight but she is still very energetic and protective of me. She hates thunderstorms. She follows me everywhere she can, like a shadow. She was top dog until the big one took over.
I'm sooo cute!
This is my smallest, Clarita. Everyone loves her so she is spoilt. I can take her anywhere and nobody complains. She craves attention and feels entitled to it all the time. She only really gets on well with humans, Nina and a few small dogs she meets on her walkies. She likes to try catching any gecko that lives in the garden.
What is going on?
Nina is my most loving dog. She gets on well with all dogs but is still wary of people she doesn't know. When she first came to me she used to run away and hide in the garden. I still remember trying to coax her from under the bougainvillea and into the house on a cold, dark rainy night. She gives really good foot massages with her tongue. LOL. Some say she has a sad expression but she is very happy and energetic, really.
Top dog.
Jallie is the most recent arrival, and now top dog by virtue of size and strength. Everyone comments on her big ears. She is old enough to be wiser but she is still a bit mad. I don't let her stay in the front garden unsupervised because she sticks her head through the railings and scares the hell out of passers-by. She also dashes here and there, bumping against my legs and her 3 companions. They don't like that one bit, because she's much bigger than them and hurts them even when she doesn't intend to. She's very bossy.

Two in a bed.
They are all reasonably well-behaved doggies, but when they came to me they had already developed their hatred of cats to such an extent that I have never been able to change that. The neighbours' cats like to visit my garden and cause quite a stir when they are detected. Sometimes I have to go to the rescue.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Scenes from Alcácer - on "azulejo" - 1

As you know from my post on "Work", while exploring the town of Alcácer do Sal, I came upon a long panel of ceramic tiles (azulejos) along Avenida José Saramago. 

Today's photos show aspects of the natural world around this town.

Storks have nests on church towers and other high spots all over the town.
The cork oak landscape is a characteristic of the Alentejo region.
Cork oaks in the Alentejo countryside

I didn't see any sunflowers but then I didn't have a lot of time to explore.
From the IC1 road I did see extensive fields of cereals.

I wish I had seen flamingos because they are such beautiful creatures. I will have to visit the Santo André Lagoon for that (50 km to the southwest).
And dolphins, well I didn't see any but they can be seen in the estuary of the Sado River, less than 50 km away to the northwest.

I have only seen dolphins swimming along the beach between Armação de Pêra and Albufeira, though. I cannot prove it because I didn't have my camera, but it was a very special day for me.

Believe it or not, I have not finished with this panel of azulejos, but that is enough for today.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


On a Sunday, how do I come up with a post about Work, which is the theme for the Sunday post challenge set by Jake this week? 

Well, my still small photo collection has come to the rescue.
While exploring the town of Alcácer do Sal, I came upon a panel of ceramic tiles along one of the main roads, Avenida José Saramago. It is a very long panel depicting some traditional features, animals and activities from this area of the Alentejo. 

Today I am just going to focus on the images of people at work. 

Many people used to work on the production of salt, extracting it from sea water, as the name of the town suggests - Alcácer do Sal (do Sal = of the salt).
Working on the production of salt.

Fishing was and still is a very important activity.
Fisherman at work.
The fish was traditionally sold by the women, who carried a basket on their head and went around the town selling door-to-door.
Traditional fish seller.

The Alentejo is well-known for its cork oak trees. The cork (outer bark) must be removed every 9 years and regenerates itself. Cork is used to make cork stoppers among other things.

Removing the bark from the cork oak tree.

The Alentejo is also known as the "breadbasket of Portugal" due to its cereal production.

No combine-harvesters in the not-too-distant past - just hard labour.
Looking at these people at work makes me appreciate just how nearly every job has been made lighter by machines. And yet, we still look forward to the weekend...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Perfect Days

Part of the view from my veranda!
This post is a celebration of two perfect days.

By juggling work commitments I managed to have yesterday and today to really do just what I felt like doing. That is extremely rare in itself. I was very lucky because yesterday the temperature rose dramatically and I woke feeling energised and ready for a long walk with my dogs. And that is how my perfect days began.

Although I hadn't walked much lately (weather and work not permitting), I got home still full of energy and in a great mood. I looked at my outrageously overgrown lawn and decided to tackle it. That took me ages and a lot of sweat, too. When that was done I was exhausted but triumphant. The rest of the day was to relax.

Today I had breakfast on the veranda for the first time this year, admiring my newly cut lawn from under that big orange tree.

Next on the agenda - a beach walk.
Looking good, low tide, no wind
Arriving at the beach, it was great to see it was low tide and that my hat would stay on my head.

Galé/Salgados beach

Isn't this a marvellous beach to go for long walks on? 

These birdies gave my dog a bit of extra exercise.
My small dog had fun chasing these little birds. They weren't bothered - just took off and landed a bit further on.

What a coincidence!

Today I decided to lend my boat to a few friends, lol - aren't they lucky?

Rocks can be interesting.

What animal does that rock formation remind you of?

The rest of the the day was spent relaxing with the scents from the garden wafting through the open windows. Two perfect days!

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Modern vehicles for those who like to explore the Algarve beaches in style!


Practical vehicles for those who like to keep it simple!


And hotels on wheels, old-fashioned and modern!

The theme for today's Sunday post at Jake's blog was "vehicle". 

Why don't you join in this weekly photo challenge?

Friday, May 4, 2012

B is for Baobab

Baobab tree in Bulawayo, photo by ironmanixs (Richard IJzermans), on flickr,
available under a CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Have I told you I love trees? Oh, yes, I wrote that on my profile.

The Baobab is a truly magnificent tree! It's shape is quite surreal.

You may have seen this grotesque-looking tree, sometimes called the Cream of Tartar tree on a safari (if you're lucky) or in photos like the beautiful one above. 

It can grow to 70 feet (23m) and have a trunk diametre of more than 24 feet (8m)! Its bark is smooth, shiny, heavily folded and pinkish grey or coppery in colour. The single, large, whitish flowers appear from April to August.

In Zimbabwe, the Baobab grows in hot, dry areas below 3,000 feet (1,000m) in the Limpopo, Sabi and Zambesi River valleys. It is amazingly resilient - it can survive even when the inside is burnt by veld fires or all of the bark is stripped off.

Many parts of the tree can be put to good use:
  • the bark - by pounding it, a fibre can be obtained for the production of rope and floor mats; 
  • the white powder from around the seedlings can be used to make a kind of porridge or a refreshing drink, sometimes used to treat fever and dysentery; 
  • the seeds, which have a slightly acidic and refreshing taste, can be sucked like sweets or they can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute;
  • the pollen makes good glue;
  • the fresh leaves can be boiled and used as vegetables or dried and used for cattle feed.

The information above and the picture below were taken from the only colouring book that has survived from my childhood. It's a lovely book because it is so informative and the pictures are great.
From the NRB colouring book -TREES AND SHRUBS

When I was 10, I remember reading and rereading a book by Enid Blyton called Hollow Tree House and thinking how cool it was that the characters Susan and Peter lived in a hollow tree, which could only mean a Baobab!

The Baobab is definitely on my shortlist of favourite trees, even though the Flamboyant is still my number one.

Do you have a favourite tree?

Edited to add:

Here is a fantastic post about the Baobab from de Wets Wild blog that you will enjoy!

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