Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Struggles of a Beginner Cook

With my moving out the necessity to cook arose so, in case it's not clear by the title, the beginner cook is me. Even though the parents still send food everytime they see us, just in case we're starving ourselves with our inability to cook for ourselves we have managed to cook sometimes. And by "we have managed" I meant myself. The boyfriend doesn't cook but we've established before that I cook and he cleans everything afterwards and so far we've both been keeping our end of the deal.

I have not cooked much but I'm slowly learning and enjoying it. So far, I've been able to produce carrot rice, tuna rice, spaguetti, mashed potatoes from the scratch (and that made me spend almost one hour in the kitchen - never again), spaguetti alla carbonara, fish fingers (still working on that because the frying pan is not leveled enough for them to be evenly cooked) and sausages (the last ones were so much better than my first attempt as this last time I managed to cook them evenly!). I'm obviously not including the pizza or lasagna that I put in the microwave.

I feel like this is a part one of a long series of posts but so far these are my main issues with cooking:

The amount of pasta/rice
I honestly never know how much I should cook. A one time meal always turns into three meals for two. On one hand, it it sort of handy because I only have to cook once and then we have meals for later but on the other hand, one does get tired of eating the same thing. So I would like to be able to handle the quantities much better. I keep thinking I have the right amount and then it turns out I could have invited the whole family for dinner instead!

The heated oil
I am scared of this one! I managed to burn myself when making fish fingers because of the oil and now I'm scared for life! I've been wanting to make fries for a while now but since I don't own one of those sort of nets where one can put the potatoes and deep them in the burning oil, I'll have to find a solution. If anyone knows how to do it properly in a frying pan, please do let me know.

The amount of salt
Contrary to the pasta and rice issue, instead of overcooking, I usually don't put enough salt and this is because I'm always afraid it'll get too salty so I choose to not take that risk and underdo it instead.

Omelets and pancakes
Everytime I've tried cooking omelets or pancakes, so far, they've turned into scrambled eggs and a crazy shaped crepe instead. I've never managed to turn them to the other side properly so again, if you have any tricks please do share them with me. I've tried waiting for the bubbles to appear on the pancakes but even when the dough is full of little bubbles and I try to turn them they get misshapen.

The oven
The oven itself was a challenge to me, only solved yesterday evening with a higher level adult help (with this I mean the boyfriend's father came in our rescue). I tried everything to light up the oven, pressing two buttons at the same time, rotating the wheel to one side and then the other side, you name it. I even had a group chat with my friends and they weren't able to figure it out. In the end, apparently, this oven only releases the gas and needs an external fire to turn on so guess who has two thumbs and is going to buy the biggest lighter she finds in order to not get burnt? (It's this girl right here)

And this concludes my first set of struggles that I'm currently facing. I will ask again: if you know any tricks for these please do share your wisdom with me!

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Sunday, 3 December 2017

FIFA 18: The Prespective of a Player's Girlfriend

All FIFA 18 players' girlfriends (or boyfriends) know that when it comes to the end of September, every year without failing, our boyfriends can only think of one thing: the new release of FIFA. And then afterwards we know it'll be hard to make them come out of their cave, where they spend hours and hours researching the stats of the players, buying and selling them on their special market until they eventually start to play against other people, most likely as addicted as he is.

According to my boyfriend there is one and only rule while he plays this game, one must not speak to him when he's playing with someone else. And, considering he spends a reasonable part of the night before bed playing FIFA, you can imagine how fun our evenings can be. My favourite parts are when he starts to lose the game(s) and then the fun (aka fury combined with a couple of curse words) begins. And by favourite I mean that I dislike them very much because EA managed to create a game where people get mad very easily.

I have done an extensive research to be able to understand what I'm talking about here, including checking a bunch of stats on a website called Futbin, used by a lot of FIFA players to come up with their teams. Thus, I have recently learnt that there's three major events they usually lose sleep for: black friday (or weekend), team of the season and team of the year. These are also the periods where there's an apparent crash of the FIFA market because they buy a lot of packs (where you spend your fifa coins/points, which can also be bought with real money and which is also the reason why our boyfriends are always broke) in the hope of getting special cards to play with. So basically they spend real money on FIFA packs to have the possibility of getting special players, even though most of the players they get are very common.

I have tried getting into the game, at least so we could play together, but honestly, the fact that the game keeps switching between players without my consent makes me very anxious because oftentimes I don't agree with its choices. Another thing that I get really confused about is the so called script. Sometimes it decides pretty good kicks shouldn't be goals but hits on the bar instead. On the other hand, pretty lousy kicks sometimes manage to get inside the goal and the player doesn't even know how to repeat that feat!

I wish this game could be something we could play together but there's some issues here. Now, EA'S FIFA 18 doesn't appeal to me at all because I already have very little patience for real life football, let alone gaming football. The current gameplay doesn't appeal to me at all, which is understandable since the game's demographic and its target is mostly 20-25 men (I did my research here, yes). I'm sure there's women interested but since I'm not and I would like to be somewhat involved in this popular game that consumes most of my boyfriend's evenings here's my suggestion: While you don't create a figure skating game, please do a FIFA Sims version. My boyfriend would get to play with the players in the field and I would take care of them outside the field. I would be able to train them, improve their stats, maybe get them a pet, etc. Maybe we could even create new players from birth we could later sell in the market? Think about this, EA. I think I'm onto something here!

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Sunday, 26 November 2017

On the Dishcloths Problematic

There's something common to all Portuguese grandmothers. I'm not entirely sure if it's worldwide but I'm certain it's nationwide. I believe all grandmothers have this wardrobe or trunk (in case of my own grandmother it's actually both) full of a variety of dishclothes, all in different shapes and forms. And they also spend a lot of time embroading around regular dishcloths so they added something and made them personal, with a little bit of them. I say dishcloths but this is also appliable to tablecloths, kitchen handles, cooking aprons, among many other possible things that can be "improved" with crochet. Basically any kind of cloth you can think of, I'm sure Portuguese grandmothers have at least 20 of these (and I'm being generous) with personal embroidery, and I'm not even counting with the festive ones - don't let me start on those!

"So what's the problem with that?", you may ask. That's a valid point. And I wouldn't mention this otherwise but here's the dishcloth problematic: once you move out your grandmother will make you bring half of their collection to your new house (and, again, I'm being generous when I say half of it). Since they spent half of their elderlyhood doing that crochet needlework with your moving out in mind, let me tell you how bad you'll feel when you see customized "I love you, granddaughter" on dishcloths and not bring it home with you. Now this creates a new problem: you will have to get either a wardrobe or a trunk to put all your dishcloths in (because if you're unlucky your partner will also have their fair share of dishcloths made by their grandmother) since they won't fit all in the kitchen drawers designated for that effect.

I have a friend who's currently moving out as well and she is having the exact same problem which leads me to believe this is typical of all grandmothers in Portugal, despite the small sample that I have for this study. Her problem is also aggravated because it's not only her grandmother contributing to her evergrowing dishcloths collection, but also her aunts and their neighbours. I, for one, have already three kitchen drawers full of them and had to put the remaining ones in a wardrobe. And I really hope my grandmothers don't give me more on this upcoming Christmas, I'm not sure where I'll find space to put them.

Okay. So you get a lot of dishcloths in your house and you actually have space for those without buying a special piece of furniture for them. You're a lucky one! But now there's another problem: it doesn't stop here. Now your family has a reason to give you any kind of cloth they can think of so you'll eventually run out of space.

"So what's the solution?" you ask again. And now we got to the point I'd like to discuss here. What do you think the solution for this big nation (possible world) wide scourge? We need to change our grandmother's mentalities. We need to make them see we don't need drawers full of them, a couple is more than enough. I'm open to suggestions on how to do this because telling them is clearly useless - believe me, I've tried several times already and the only thing I accomplished was a "you'll find space to put them somewhere".

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Sunday, 19 November 2017

5 Things You Can Never Have Too Much of At Home

Last week I finally had a big change in my life I was very much looking forward to: I moved in with the boyfriend. And that came with a lot of shopping and finding a lot of things were missing we wouldn't even consider at first. So we decided to keep a list on the fridge of things we discovered that we didn't have and couldn't forget to buy next time we went shopping (of course one has to remember to bring the list when one goes shopping). Unsurprisingly, the list grew bigger everytime we entered a new division, mostly the kitchen, because there are really so many things one never thinks one needs except when you actually need them. Here's five things we discovered we can never have too much of:

1 - Outlet extensions: Rather obvious, this one. However, we pretty much need an outlet extension for every outlet we have in the house. We bought three of these and we still need another one!

2 - Tupperwares: While I agree this one can be a trap we definitely don't have enough of these at the moment and I think you only have too much of them if you've bought 50! I feel like tupperwares come in so many shapes and sizes it's very easy to fill all the ones you have with something and, therefore, very easy to run out of them!

3 - Hangers: Trust me on this one. When you think you may have too many of this you'll find out you need more and that you're actually putting two or three things in the same hanger. The only exception is, of course, if you have a quite limited wardrobe space. In this case it may be easier for you to reach your limit amount of hangers but you'll see you wish you could have more.

4 - Clothespins: You not only use these for clothes but also to clip food packages like cookies and chips. Bascially everything and anything that is sold in packages and is not eaten or used immediately. You (and by you I mean me) can easily lose them or break them so having a good stock of them is essential, in my opinion!

5 - Bags: Either paper or plastic these are essencial in any home. Since they introduced the bag tax here in Portugal whenever you go grocery shopping if you forget a bag, you have two options: either you carry everything in your hands or you buy a big one. So whenever a store gives one out for free when you buy something you can bet I'm keeping it for later use! Now, you have to be selective about this one because you can quickly become burried in a miscellany of different bags so it's important to keep different sized and very resistent ones, throwing away the ones that don't make this cut or the ones that become too old and used.

And that's pretty much it! I hope this was somewhat helpful and if you have any suggestions please let me know, because I may need to actually add them to my fridge list!

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Sunday, 5 November 2017

Book review: Harry Potter: A History of Magic (Various Authors)


This year, 2017, J. K. Rowling, Bloomsbury and the curators of the British Library joined together in a once-in-a-lifetime colaboration to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. A brand new exhibition opened its doors in London, taking visitors in.
Harry Potter: A History of Magic is the companion to that unique collaboration, filled with weird, wonderful and inspiring artefacts from the British Library archives and unseen treasures from J. K. Rowling's personal collection. This book invites you to delve deeper into the curriculum at Hogwarts School of Witchraft and Wizardry - from Astronomy and Potion classes to Charms and Divination.

A host of experts (Steve Backshall, the Reverend Richard Coles, Owen Davies, Julia Eccleshare, Roger Highfield, Steve Kloves, Lucy Mangan, Anna Pavord and Tim Peake), who offer a personal perspective on their magical theme, are on hand to guide you through each magical subject with a commissioned essay, leading you into a treasure trove of artefacts from the British Library and other collections around the world. Readers will be able to pore over ancient spell books, marvel at celestial globes and unfurl amazing illuminated scrolls that reveal the secret of the Elixir of Life, vials of dragon's blood, serpent wands, curious mandrake roots, painted centaurs and a genuine witch's broomstick, in a book that shows J.K. Rowling's magical inventions alongside their cultural and historical forebears with exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive.

Naturally I went to my local bookstore when I heard this book was out which, unfortunately for me and the portuguese people, it took one week from its publication date to hit the portuguese shelves. Let's be real, though: we've waited way longer than that for other books so we can sort of consider ourselves lucky because one week is not that much. I had both this book and its companion in my hands (Harry Potter: A Journey Through A History of Magic) and here's a piece of advice: buy the first if you're interested. From the quick look I took at it, the companion is merely a shorter version and I felt like it was directioned towards a younger crowd.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic is a book filled with historic artefacts somehow related to many subjects J. K. Rowling talks about in her books and we can see where she drew her inspiration from so if you're looking for an actual Harry Potter History of Magic this is not for you. To be honest, what I enjoyed the most weren't the exhibition parts but the books' excerpts where they show J. K. Rowling's doodling and her thoughts and early drafts planning the series where you can see how it has evolved. I also loved the illustrations done by Jim Kay included in the newest illustrated editions of the first three books. After reading the book I can say I will definitely not miss being in the London exhibition because I feel like the book has it all, except, perhaps, the souvenirs.

So if you're both a history and Harry Potter fan you can get Harry Potter: A History of Magic through Book Depository with free shipping and Amazon. Let me know what you though of it afterwards!

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Sunday, 29 October 2017

SourcedBox: Healthy and Natural Snacks in your mailbox


I was beyond excited when this green/blueish package came in the mail and I found out it was SourcedBox. And what is SourcedBox? It is a snacking service that delivers healthy, natural and vegan snacks through the post every month. They usually aim to have ten to twelve snacks in each box and they don't contain refined sugars, artificial flavourings or preservatives, additives or chemicals. Now you can see why I was excited to try them all!

They usually send boxes out in the first week of the month and my October SourcedBox was shipped from Brighton on the 4th and took 10 bussiness days to get to my mailbox so it was right on their estimate delivery period (7-10 working days for Europe deliveries). The box comes with a little leaflet describing the snacks, two recipes, a discount code for Mindful Chef (unfortunately it only works in the UK) and some information about the companies that made the snacks in the box. It contained 11 snacks including two drink and a tea:

> Cherry Scrummies by Clearly Scrumptious - Inspired by childhood sweets, these cherry flavoured juice cranberries and succulent raisins are a great alternative to sweets! If you're a fan of raisins this is perfect for you because they're not too sweet but sweet enough as well so you won't end up eating any more sugar. A package comes with 20g so that's 58 kcal, 0,2g of fat, 14g of carbohydrates, 12,5g of sugar, 0,7g of fibre and 0,37g of protein.
> Oat & Cacao Cookie by The Beginnings - The delicate oat flavour of these cookies is embellished with crunchy cocoa beans and rich coconut flakes. Maple syrup and aromatic cocoa butter adds creamy sweetness. These had all the potential to be my favourite ones but they only had one problem: the light coconut flavour. Since I'm not the biggest coconut fan, I could see myself ABSOLUTELY LOVING these if it were not the coconut. This package comes with three cookies (45g) so in total it has 231 kcal, 14g of fat, 21g of carbohydrates, 8g of sugar, 3g of protein, 3g of fiber and 0,1g of salt.
> Korean BBQ Chips by Wainut - The authentic smoky and fully BBQ flavour in each bite will leave you wondering where they hid the grill. An amazing sweet and savoury snack for any occasion. One of my favourites! Perfect, perfect, perfect flavour! The only fault I would point is that they're slightly hard but THE FLAVOUR THOUGH. Unfortunately I got sent a package with the wrong labeling (which is why I don't have the nutritional information) but I contacted the SourcedBox support and they kindly contacted Wainut. They're going to send me a package with a few of their snacks to try and I honestly can't wait for those amazing snacks again which my supermarkets unfortunately don't sell on their own (here's a suggestion, though, please come and sell here in Portugal!)!
> Cucumber Water by Dash - Refreshing, sparkling british spring water infused with whole, wonky, misshapen cucumbers for a dash of flavour that's pure from source to sip with no sugar, fake flavours and calories. Since I'm not a fan of carbonated drinks (I'll make an exception for Sprite and 7Up but don't even let me start on Coca-Cola) I feel like I could have enjoyed this one a lot more. It's definitely refreshing, though and if you enjoy soda and cucumber this one might be perfect for you! Personally, I feel like their lemon water would suit me better.
> Carrot & Spice Boost Banana Bar by Snact - Food waste featuring unawnted ugly fruit brings this delicious banana, oat and pumpkin seed bar with a superfood boost of anti-inflamatory cinnamon and anti-oxidant carrots and walnuts. I enjoyed this one as it had a lot of flavour as I felt like the pumpkin and cinnamon were an amazing mix, and I especially enjoyed the whole #deliciousprotest "more taste less waste" idea where every snack saves one apple or banana from going to waste! I'm also curious about their Apple & Cinnamon Kick Banana Bar and their fruit jerky packs. This one is a 35g bar so it comes with 128 kcal, 4,4g of fat, 17,6g of carbohydrates, 12,8g of sugar, 2,7g of fibre and 3,3g of protein. 
> Hazelnut Praline Chocolate Bar by Rythm 108 - A gloriously swiss dark chocolate bar with praline oat and quinoa filling that melts in your mouth and is guaranteed to bring a smile to any chocolate lovers face. And it was released just in October! I absolutely loved this one!! The only problem with it is that it's too small as it's only 33g. I swear I could eat another one (more like 100 more, to be honest) because the taste is so amazing you have trouble believing it's actually healthy, with 47% less sugar than comparable products in the same category. My only question now is where can I buy 100 more of these? A 33g bar has 19 kcal, 14g of fat, 12g of carbohydrates, 8g of sugar, 4g of fibre and 2g of protein.
> Banana Bread Chai Tea by Bluebird Tea Co. - Imagine the blissful smell of freshly baked banana bread cooling straight from the oven and there you go, an amazing blend of banana, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and cardamom. A warming hug in a mug that sort of reminded me of Christmas and cozy winter evenings under a blanket and a book in your hands! Even with a cold I was able to smell that cozy smell and, not going to lie, it not only made me feel all warm but also managed to unblock my nose for a while!
> Waku Waku Cashews by Kimoni - Crunchy cashew nuts, coated with an intriguing blend of Norwegian arctic seaweed, Iranian Sumac and a signature soy sauce glaze, creating a rich, satisfying savoury flavour. Hands down another of my favourites from this box! This one has exactly the right flavour for a nice salty/savoury snack, I would absolutely recommend this one! I went to their website and they don't ship to Portugal (but according to the company they're working on it - I'll keep waiting!) and I'm disappointed the Portuguese supermarkets don't sell this one. This unfortunately only comes with 20g so it has around 123 kcal, 10g of fat, 5g of carbohydrates, 0,92g of sugar, 0,82g of fibre, 4g of protein and 0,06g of salt.
> Dehydrated Mango by I Love Snacks - Hand-picked and carefully selected from a sustainable sourced orchards in Thailand, this gently dehydrated mango contains no added sugar, is gmo free and is deliciously tasty! I enjoyed this one, it had just the right amount of sweetness! I've seen their other products and would absolutely love to try the dark belgian chocolate one! This one, though, comes in 25g with 85 kcal, 20g of carbohydrates, 15g of sugar, 1,75g of fibre, 0,7g of protein and 0,02g of salt.
> Fruit Jelly by Naturelly - They have Apple & Blackcurrant, Summer Fruits and Tropical Fruits flavours and I got the Summer Fruits one. It is brilliant for lunchboxes, after-school snacks  or tasty treats on days out and I feel like it's perfect for kids and teens to bring to school beause it's very sweet even though it has no added sugar or sweeteners. Honestly, it was too sweet for me but I usually stay away from juices anyway so it'd be perfect for people who like sweet juices. This fruity jelly snack has been made with scrumptious fruit juice, in my case apple, strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant, blended with water and a special gelatine free jelly called gelan gum which is a natural dietary fibre found in lily plants. It comes in 100g with 36 kcal, 8,1g of carbohydrates, 7,2g of sugar, 0,5g of fibre, 0,6g of protein and 80mg of vitamin C. 
> Banananut Bites by Moral Fibre - Deliciously chewy bites of Fairtrade bananas and organic dates with rich pecans and coconut. An energising quick bite when time is short and craving strikes. When you look at them, they resemble Ferrero Rocher so I'm not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed they didn't have a chocolaty flavour. However, after getting rid of the Ferrero Rocher thoughts I was able to appreciate them. Again, not the biggest fan of coconut so despite them being really good I thought they were a bit too sweet after a few of them (it's the coconut, I know). I've checked their website and I'm really interested in their Choco Banananut Bites, Raspberry Cocolossal Balls and Banana Berry Bites. This package comes with 70g, so around 10 moral bites (I confess I didn't count, I just ate). Each 7g moral bite contains roughly 27 kcal, 1,8g of fat, 2g of sugar, 0,3g of protein, 0,5g of fibre and 0g of salt.

So overall I would totally recommend trying SourcedBox at least once. It's an amazing and fun way to discover new healthy and vegan snacks! Of course you will not LOVE everything they put in the box but I'm sure there will be at least a few items you'll wish they'd sent more of. At least I know I would love to get a whole box of cashews, chocolate bars and korean chips! I also like that they give smaller companies a chance to get some visibility by choosing companies that aren't huge already. The only suggestion I have is the discounts part to be more inclusive for non-UK residents. This October box discount to Mindful Chef could only be used for people living in the UK, as I've previously mentioned, and while I assume a huge percentage of the SourcedBox subscribers are indeed UK residents, some of us aren't so I feel like it could be more global instead.

SourcedBox has monthly subscriptions which cost 18.95£ and you can keep, pause or cancel your subscription any time as well as annual subcriptions for 189.95£ where you’ll essencially get 12 months of SourcedBox for the price of 10. But you can get 15% off by subscribing through this link (:


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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Book review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green


Anybody can look at you. It's quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see. 

"A second book review in a row? Are you serious?" You ask.
Yes, you read correctly. As it happens, the fourth trimester of the year is filled with book launches (I'm looking at you, Philip Pullman and J. K. Rowling) and a bookworm like me has to do quite a bit of budget management so not to spend all my paycheck on books (the struggle is real, my friends). Turtles All the Way Down came out on the 10th so last friday I marched to the nearest bookshop to pick it up.

I've been a John Green fan for quite a while now. I've read all his books except Will Grayson, Will Grayson (which I'll get to, eventually) and enjoyed them immensely though my favourite is definitely The Fault in Our Stars. So since I heard he was going to finally release a new book I've been counting the days until October 10th. I tried not to have my hopes up since I knew it would be difficult to top The Fault in Our Stars and I must say it didn't, mostly because it's so different than his other books, but it came quite close.

Turtles All the Way Down is about a sixteen-year-old girl named Aza Holmes living in Indianapolis. She never intended to pursue the mystery of the fugitive billionaire Russell Picket who disappeared in the middle of the night from his mansion and no one never heard from him again, not even his sons. There is a hundred-thousand dollar reward at stake and her best friend, aka famous Star Wars fan fiction writer Daisy, is eager to investigate the case. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett's son, Davis, and start their investigation.

This book is different from his other works as it is a bit more slow paced than what we're used to from John Green, and the plot is also more subtle. Instead of foccusing on romance between two teenagers this one's main focus is Aza and her mental health, living with the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. She is terribly intelligent (I learnt SO MUCH with her, especially about Clostridium difficile and human microbiome) and she's very much in her own head, as noted in the book towards the end, because of her anxiety and OCD. And this is not just the type of person who needs to have all her pencils lined up and makes sure she locks all her doors. No. This is the real and brutal type of OCD. You are not just reading about her OCD, with John Green's writing you're actually experiencing what it's like to have real OCD with her intrusive thought-spirals. And that's why it's very different and, honestly, what makes it so good, having a lot of psychology and metaphors involved. It's very intense to live as Aza, going through her experiences and how she tries to fight her mental health disease. Because “The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”.

By the way, there's no turtles involved in this book except the metaphorical ones. There is, however, a pet tuatara named Tua, a reptile from New Zealand that will get the whole Picket's fortune if he's dead.

So please do yourself a favour, even if you've never read a John Green book, and get Turtle All the Way Down on Book Depository with free shipping or Amazon. You can thank me later!

You're both the fire and the water that extinguishes it. You're the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. You're the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody's something, but you are also your you.


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