Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wanderlust Wednesday: Hill Fort of Briteiros, Portugal

Last week I went on a college field trip which lasted for three long days. We went to visit several hill forts, or castros, as we call them in our native tongue, around the watershed of the Ave river in the north-western Portugal, as well as a few other amazing places to break the routine.

A hill fort (or a castro) is a fortified settlement- or in this case, ruins of a settlement-, typically of the Bronze and Iron Ages and elevated for defensive advantage. They usually follow the contours of a hill and feature at least one defensive wall, along with stone roundhouses (traditionally in granite). Celts lived in these settlements at least until the Roman conquest.

Although there are infinite castro ruins out there in the Iberian Peninsula (and north-western Europe), few are those which have been deeply studied and excavated here in Portugal. Most of the ruins I visited during this trip are not actually 'visitable' at this time; in fact, we didn't know about their existence until we were told about them. And a couple of them, we couldn't even see them. Some ruins are completely covered, others in a bad condition. But the one I'm showing you guys today is in good condition to visit and a delight to explore!

The hill fort of Briteiros (or Citânia de Briteiros) has a great archaeological significance for its size and urbanism. It has been studied since 1874 when the Portuguese archaeologist Francisco Martins Sarmento discovered the ruins and began excavation campaigns. The visitable ruins of this oppidum (latin term for these larger Iron Age settlements) cover an area of about 7 hectares, but the whole acropolis is known to cover around 24 hectares in total. Unfortunately, while most of the ruins are currently covered, a portion of them has already been lost to the construction of the road leading to the hill where the castro is located.

Alas, this trip has been quite enriching as we are about to make an attempt to valorize and promote this kind of cultural heritage, as well as its associated landscape and natural values. There are many issues to attend to, even in Briteiros which is currently one of the best castros to visit... so let's see how this will go! I'm not done yet with this trip so keep an eye out for the next couple of Wanderlust Wednesdays. :)

All the best,
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to Make: Apple Mabon Bread

Time has arrived for comforting foods... and if they have apple and a spicy aroma, even better! Today I'm posting a simple recipe for a yummy, unique Fall themed bread-like cake. It's very easy and quick to do... and my tummy keeps asking for more!

Apple Mabon Bread
Pão de Maçã de Mabon

Ingredients: Ingredientes:
3 cups all-purpose baking flour or whole wheat flour 3 chávenas de farinha
1 1/2 tsp. sodium bicarbonate 1 1/2 c. chá bicarbonato de sódio
3/4 cup chopped walnuts 3/4 chávena avelãs cortadas finamente
2 1/2 cups grated apple (about 4 apples) 2 1/2 chávs. maçã ralada (aprox. 4 maçãs)
3/4 cup honey 3/4 chávena mel
1 cup warm water 1 chávena água quente
2 tbsp. olive oil 2 c. sopa azeite
1 tsp. salt 1 c. chá sal
1 tsp. cinnamon 1 c. chá canela em pó

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add the grated apple, the honey, the olive oil, the salt, the cinnamon and the warm water in a bowl and mix the ingredients well. Set aside.
In a second bowl, mix the flour, the sodium bicarbonate and the chopped walnuts. Add this mixture to the first bowl and blend all the ingredients manually.
Grease your loaf pan and pour the mixture until it's 3/4 full and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Enjoy your yummy bread and happy Fall equinox (ok, I know I'm a little late... but better late than never)! If you ever try this recipe, I would love to hear about it from you!
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Saturday, September 21, 2013

20 Things to Treasure in Autumn

Summer vacation is officially over. I am now back to my intensive Master's, which has already surprised me with a 3-day road trip! From Wednesday morning to Friday night, I have travelled around northern Portugal to visit many hill forts for a landscape management project, along with a few other very interesting places. A sanctuary reaching for the heavens, a 500 year-old oak, an archeological excavation of pre-medieval tombs... I'll surely have lots of things to talk about for the next Wanderlust Wednesdays. This trip has been amazing in every aspect as well as a huge opportunity to get to know more about the pre-Roman culture in the northwest of Portugal. And, in the meanwhile, Fall has arrived!

Image source: unknown.
Although I've been sweating in shorts and flat sandals these last few days (in other words, it has been almost too hot around here), I feel I'm finally starting to give up to Fall. It's not that I don't like it; there is indeed something of enchanting and comforting about this time of the year. What I like the less is what comes next. I have always been a Summer child, so the thought of upcoming cold, storms and dark skies day and night makes me crumpy in a heartbeat.

Anyway, there is certainly one thing Fall has taught me over the years. That life and the world are imperfect, and yet there are many beautiful things to be recognized and cherished (still working on this last part, though). So for today, I've prepared a list of 20 small things to treasure in Autumn. I hope it inspires you to enjoy this new season or at least to make you feel ready for it. Welcome, Autumn!

1. All shades of red, orange and yellow.
2. Spiced air.
3. Snuggling in soft blankets.
4. Candles flickering in darkened rooms.
5. The smell of roasted chestnuts on the street.
6. Stepping on crunchy leaves.
7. Leather boots and cozy socks.
8. Apple everything.
9. Warm crackling wood stoves.
10. Sipping on hot chocolate.
11. Baking cookies and pies.
12. Fuzzy slippers.
13. Soup and bread for dinner.
14. Pinecorns and acorns.
15. Movie nights.
16. Foggy mornings.
17. Pumpkins - of all shapes and colors.
18. Plaid flannel.
19. Counting down to Halloween/Samhain.
20. Long mountain and forest walks.

What do you like the most about Fall?
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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Five Facts Friday: Misha Version (Part II)

It's Friday again! Time runs so fast. It feels like August has barely arrived but college is just around the corner. I wish life would run so much slower. Just another blink of an eye and Winter solstice will be calling... but, for now, here are a few more facts about Misha in this Five Facts Friday. Meow!

1. He always ALWAYS comes to greet me everytime I arrive home. Always so happy to see me, that cutie.

2. They say that holding a cat by the scruff helps to control it better. This doesn't work with Misha. In fact, this is one of the couple of things that make him act aggressive and not even his vet can calm him down. (Yes, I'm holding him correctly.)

3. He has the cutest stripes! They go from the top of his head to his tail in straight parallel lines and not even those big white spots on his back can ruin their geometric perfection.

4. Lots of people take Misha for a female. I don't know if it's his heart-shaped pink nose or the fact that he is tri-colored (although he's not a calico), but everytime I take him out in his carrier there's always someone in the streets who says "Oh, that's a cute girl!".

5. At first I couldn't decide between calling him Gizmo or Anubis. I still don't know where the name Misha really came from but well, he likes it now. I guess. :)

Have a purrfect weekend everyone, enjoying these last days of Summer!
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How to: Photo Vintage Effect (Instagram's Nashville) in Photoshop

I personally don't use Instagram, but I do love their photo filters! Nashville for instance is one of my absolute favorites. I love its comforting yet nostalgic summery feel and I use it a lot not only here around the blog but also in personal pictures. With this I mean that even if you don't have an Instagram account (not everybody can afford a fancy cellphone, right?), it is possible to apply this amazing photo filter to your favorite pictures! Here are a couple of examples:

Photo credit: Terra Mystique

In this blog post, I'll tell how to give your pictures a retro photo effect resembling Instagram's nashville. You will need Adobe Photoshop, though. I use PS CS5.5, but if you're using another version you should be able to follow all the steps without any struggle. There are many tutorials on how to apply similar effects around there; this one is a combination between tutorials I have tried out and a pinch of my own Photoshop knowledge.

Photo Vintage Effect Tutorial
in Photoshop CS5.5

1. Open your picture in PS and start by creating a new layer (Layer > New > Layer).

2. Set 'Multiply' as the new layer's blend mode.

3. Select a foreground color with the following RGB values: R: 250, G: 220 and B: 180 (or #fabcd4). Next, use the Paint Bucket Tool to fill the new layer with the selected color.
Tip: Add this color to your swatches so you won't have to go through the whole color selection proccess again in the future!

4. Next step is to apply curves to your photo. For that, select the photo's layer on the Layers window and click on the 'Create new fill or adjustment layer' button. Select 'Curves...'.

5. Open the Red channel (in the small drop-down menu), click on the lower point of the graphic line and type 5 in 'Output'. Do the same for the Green and Blue channels, typing the values 40 and 100, respectively.

6. Click again on the 'Create new fill or adjustment layer' button and select 'Levels'. Write 1,20 in the middle box right under the graphic and 230 in the box to the right.

7. Same thing for 'Brightness/Contrast'. Type 5 on 'Brightness' and 30 on 'Contrast'.

8. Create another 'Curves' adjustment layer and type the following values for channels Red, Green and Blue respectively, but this time on 'Input': 5, 20 and 50.

9. Finally, create another 'Brightness/Contrast' adjustment layer and type -5 brightness and 30 contrast.

10 (optional). Make any adjustments if needed until you're happy with the result.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial on how to apply this unique vintage photo effect! I know this is a long proccess but after some pictures you will start doing it automatically, believe me. I personally can't get enough of this effect. :)

All the best,
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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Feathering My Nest...

"What have you given birth to this year? (...) the Creative Imagination - the realm of the collective unconscious - is leaking through into our daily routines. Hopefully, you're letting your imagination, your intuitions, your feelings and your ideas feed how you're living your life. How do you treat your body? How are your thoughts creating your reality? Are you acknowledging your feelings and intuitions? Are you open to the messages of Spirit? You and I are infinite, and yet we're just drops in the ocean of infinity."
--Cathy Pagano

"The Virgo New Moon is a brilliant time to do your house cleaning in mind, body and spirit. Get organized. Set your intention for what you want to create this fall. Stay out of negative thinking. Instead ask, 'What supports my balance?' Don't project out into the future. You are not there yet. You can scare yourself with the 'What if's.' Stay present. The past is history. The future is a mystery. The present is the gift. Your power and effectiveness are in the now."
--Kelley Rosano

Photo credit: Terra Mystique

Once again, this week I didn't have the time to write a "Wanderlust Wednesday" post. Guess I have way too many things on my mind and too little time to put them to practice... Alas, my favourite season of the year is coming to an end! So much to do before Fall comes. Like enjoying the heat before it's gone. Sunbathing a few last times, running around in shorts, lying on the (still) fresh grass. In the meanwhile, new projects are emerging too!

And speaking of house cleaning, my bedroom is halfway ready! (Finally.) I'm aiming for a simple, modern look with lots of boho accents (still working on it). About an year ago I remodeled my father's old desk and chair. They were dark and scratched, plus the chair's stuffing was half ruined. I painted them a beautiful aqua and patina'd them with white for a rustic yet jovial look. This is where I work on my jewelry. :) Still lots of things to do but I hope to finish it all before college starts!

PS. Misha loves my big white kitty.

 Happy New Moon!
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Monday, September 2, 2013

How to Make: Natural Flavored Water

It's time for another Summer DIY! September has arrived but the temperatures have risen again around here. I have been, although, slowly keeping myself away from soda, which seems to make me even more thirsty- not to mention their harmful chemicals and ridiculous amount of sugar. Instead, I've been going for alternative, healthier drinks. There are some healthy ways to keep myself hydrated during hot days like these, like water and fresh fruit. So why not combine both?

I have been trying these out and love them! There are two different flavors of this "spa water" in my fridge at the moment and something tells me I might be trying other combinations soon enough. They're really quick and inexpensive to make and a great pleasure to savor! So, in this blog post, I'll be sharing my procedure to make natural fruit and herb infused water in two different combinations: watermelon + rosemary and blackberries + peppermint. You can, however, combine pretty much any fruit and herb according to your own taste and create your own combos. So grab your favourite fruits and herbs 'cause I'm not giving up on Summer just yet!

1. Watermelon & Rosemary Infused Water

Add a sprig of rosemary to your jar or pitcher and muddle it a little bit. Rosemary will release a strong flavor so there is no need to bruise it too much. Next, add a handful of watermelon cubes (without seeds) and press gently to release some juice. Fill the jar or pitcher with ice cubes and add water to the top. Slightly stir it, cover and refrigerate.

2. Blackberries & Peppermint Infused Water

Same procedure! Add fresh mint leaves to your jar and bruise them a little to release some flavor. Add a bunch of blackberries (I picked mine in the woods near the house I used to live in) and press to release some of the juices. Fill the jar with ice cubes, add water, stir, cover, refrigerate.

You can drink your natural flavored water right away or wait 1-2 hours for the flavor to intensify. If properly covered and kept in the fridge, they can keep up for 3 days.
Also, be aware that these are NOT sweet waters, but simple water with subtle flavors, with little or no sweetness at all. However, if you find them insipid or quite undrinkable without any kind of sweetener, go ahead and add a teaspoon of sugar or honey! They will still be healthier than a single can of soda, which may contain up to ten teaspoons of refined sugar.

Enjoy your own natural spa water! :)
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