Has the sun set on your dreams?

Motivation Monday

Motivation Monday

… or are you still dreaming?

Transitions: The Evolution of Man

The Evolution of Man

The Evolution of Man

The theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Transition.

When you stop to consider how we have evolved and the stress of living in a high-pressured, money-grabbing, politically correct and power crazy world where tolerance and excuses breed intolerance, have we really progressed? Dog eat dog and all that…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Wall

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is ‘Wall’


This is  the noticeboard on my study wall. For the last year I have been staring at this piggin’ mess with the good intention of removing all the redundant pieces of paper, cards and ‘whatnots’ I keep, ‘just in case’. I now have SO much rubbish I can no longer see the woods for the trees. Talking of trees, there IS probably a  tree pinned to my noticeboard.

How about you. Is your noticeboard neat and tidy or a riot of paper such as mine?

An Organic Solution for Tomato Blight and Mildew

I am absolutely convinced that gardening in my patch of Portugal is beyond a challenge, or labour of love. Case in point: I’d no sooner tidied the patch and planted up all the vegetable plugs I’d bought from the market when I noticed brown spots on the leaves. Sigh …

Tomato Blight

Tomato Blight

There is NEVER a dull moment!

Searching the net to confirm it was indeed the dreaded blight I discovered various organic treatments; the base ingredient of which was baking soda. What the hell is Portuguese for Baking Soda, I asked myself? Okay, apparently it’s Bicarbonato de Sódio. So tomorrow I’ll be on a mission to buy some!

Yes, you can buy it. It’s located in the ‘baking’ aisle of major supermarkets such as Intermarche and Continent.

Further research also revealed that regularly spraying the plants with the following concoction also helps prevent mildew on squash, courgettes, aubergines and cucumbers etc. Fingers crossed.

Recipe (US)
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 US gallon of water
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)

All the recipes are pretty standard in ingredients but not measures. I discovered (by accident) that UK gallons are different from US. How on earth did I get to xx years old and not realize there was a difference? Ho hum…

1UK gal= 4.546090L
1US gal= 3.78541

So why Bicarbonate of Soda? Apparently, when you spray the leaves with the baking soda solution it lowers the PH on the leaves which in turn helps to prevent the leaf blight spores from growing.

Application: Apply using a sprayer.
When to spray: Early morning or late evening.
What to spray: Leaves (including underside) stems and base /earth round each plant
How often: Daily – weekly. I think this depends on the location and level of humidity. I’ll spray daily and see how it goes.

I found this video and website helpful.

Website: therustedgarden.blogspot

This evening I sprayed the plants just before sunset so the solution does not burn the leaves in the heat of the sun. Hopefully … we will see what tomorrow brings and if further leaves become infected over the next week.

Have you tried using this method? If not, watch this space.

Raised Vegetable Bed – Third Time Lucky!

There is a popular phrase: Third time lucky. And as this is my third attempt to grow vegetables in my ill-fated raised vegetable bed due, to problems with hedge roots, let’s hope it’s true and I am lucky!

Just to backtrack to my previous post, Gardening IS a Labour of Love!, there were various options.

– Do I dig out all the soil (again), concrete the base and then add another couple of tiers of bricks and replenish the soil?
– Cover with black plastic membrane to suppress the weeds and then move all my containers on to the raised bed? The latter would be the easier option but it would restrict the type of fruit and vegetables I would be able to grow?
– Knock the thing down and forget it existed and persuade Mr. Piglet to get some chickens?

Seriously, what would you do?

After Mr. Piglet read on my blog, and realised just how much my ‘patch of paradise’ meant to me, he suggested the first option but without the extra layers of bricks.

Here is a picture diary of progress.

The Rebirth of Piglet’s Plot

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After the price was agreed the ‘muscle’ arrived the following week to start work. Normally, this is the type of project we’d undertake ourselves but we ain’t getting any younger. Besides, we’d already filled the raised bed once with earth, then dug it out, then refilled it AGAIN, so we decided to take the easy route and hire some muscle. And boy did those guys have muscles! Last time we removed all the earth it took us over a week – one man emptied it in one morning!

Once the earth had been cleared and the root encrusted liner removed the land was leveled to include a slope to aid drainage. A layer of brita (small stones) was added to the base of the bed followed by a healthy layer of concrete to block the roots. If that doesn’t work – I’ll give up and grow chickens instead!

I must confess, the workers, who no doubt are only earning the minimum age and living barely above the bread line, must have wondered at my obsessive extravagance as Mr. Piglet joked about my home-grown vegetables probably being the most expensive in the Algarve, if not in Portugal!

After a few days the concrete and the fully hardened off we added some water to double-check the fall and where the drainage holes would be best placed.

Then we waited… and waited… and waited. The topsoil which was due to be delivered failed to materialize and I sighed with relief at the thought: at least the person chasing broken promises was Portuguese and could shout encouraging words of abuse in their own lingo!

A few days later there was a flurry of phone calls and the lorry arrived with the soil and another with more brita. My garden became a hive of activity as muscle ‘one’ knocked out the drainage holes and inserted pipes. Muscle ‘two’ started adding the brita for drainage and the third helped me clean up the old membrane so it could act as a barrier between earth and brita – well that’s the theory.

The soil added and hey presto! Piglet’s Plot is reborn!

Piglet's Plot is reborn and root free

Piglet’s Plot is reborn and root free

Is this a sign?

This week’s theme for the Weekly Photo Challengeis Wall. Armed with my camera – or should I say new iPad – I’ve been on a mission all week to find a sign that I could relate to. Now, as a self-confessed foodie this sign grabbed my attention. Not because it was bright and garish and demanded to be read, but because it was quietly enticing and sent a clear message about their passion for food.

Food for Thought - Ristorante Paesano, Alvor

Food for Thought – Ristorante Paesano, Alvor

And, enticing enough for me to want to go back and try the restaurant. We will see…

Mr. Piglet does not wait until lunchtime before he starts asking about dinner the discussion usually starts around breakfast!


Gardening IS a Labour of Love!

Growing fruit and vegetables was my labour of love and a hobby which gave me a great sense of fulfillment. Although my efforts in the vegetable garden were never destined to make us self-sufficient, the pleasure of eating something I’d grown from seed or plug was rewarding.

Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and spinach on 26th February

Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and spinach on 26th February 2012

Like a sentry I stood guard against the slugs and snails and other predators such as rabbits and birds; each eager to sample the tender green shoots. I watered and fed the young plants with the love of a mother tending a young family. I sheltered them from the harsh salt winds and shaded them from the midday sun until, like young adults, they were strong enough to fend for themselves.

White mold and other diseases often threatened the crop and I frantically searched the internet looking for an organic solution rather than using fungicides. Unfortunately, the limited options available and lack of success resulted in many organic pipe-dream failures. My main concern in using chemicals was the devastating effect on the bees and other wildlife.

I watched as bees pollinated the flowers of cucumbers, courgettes and tomatoes with the promise of a feast of home grown fruit and vegetables in the weeks to come.

Different varieties of lettuce grew in containers as were spring onions, radish, peppers, melons and chives; all basking in the sun just waiting to grace my next salad bowl.

The taste of fresh produce served straight from plot to plate within minutes and so different to that of irradiated foods which have been boxed, transported halfway round the world, and then dumped on the supermarket shelves.

My vegetable garden was like stepping through Alice’s mirror to my own wonderland where I felt at peace with myself and at one with nature.

So what happened?

My neglected raised vegetable area

My neglected raised vegetable area


Readers who have been following my blog for some time may remember my previous post about the root problem caused by the close proximity of the melaleuca hedge. A problem I thought I had resolved by lining the base of the raised bed with a membrane. All was fine for a year, and then I noticed the plants were no longer thriving. When I dug into the soil it was no more than a nest of roots, so you can imagine my language was a little more than sky blue!

Defeated by Mother Nature I abandoned my wonderland and retreated back through the mirror. I felt disillusioned, and even my tenacious spirit could not rally my enthusiasm as the fruit bushes and strawberries growing in containers were left untended and unloved…

As the winter turned to spring and the milder weather tempted me once more to revisit my vegetable area I was once again drawn to the family of plants under my care.

The cabbages and lettuce I had planted last October had barely grown in four months and the onions were even less enthusiastic about their living conditions.

Cabbage and lettuce planted last October have hardly grown

Cabbage and lettuce planted last October have hardly grown

The peach tree, which had been the source of such joy last summer when it yielded so many peaches followed by disappointment when I found they were infested with fruit flies, still seemed to be alive. Only time will tell if the lack of water during the winter drought will have an adverse effect.

The lemon tree which was bought as a lime tree four years ago, had one lemon and a multitude of tiny white flowers – well that was a result. The leaves yellow but still clinging to life and giving its all.

As I continued to examine the plants in the various containers I felt heartened that they had all survived. I surveyed the variety of large empty pots and crates and once again felt excited at the prospect of growing a salad crop. Now was the time for action and a visit to the market was required.

So what next?

Sigh… I don’t know.

– Do I dig out all the soil (again), concrete the base and then add another couple of tiers of bricks and replenish the soil?
– Cover with black plastic membrane to suppress the weeds and then move all my containers on to the raised bed? The latter would be the easier option but it would restrict the type of fruit and vegetables I would be able to grow?
– Knock the whole thing down and forget it existed and persuade Mr. Piglet to get some chickens?

Seriously, what would you do?

The cost of the first option could be prohibitive but on the other hand this is my hobby and it gives me great pleasure. It would involve employing some muscle to undertake the project and muscle costs money!

The second option would look and feel and like a bodge job.

The third option – well that’s a joke in case he reads this blog post.

I went to the market on Monday and bought lots of plant plugs and strawberry plants.

As for what happens next – watch this space!

Fat Clothes for Fat People

Or should that read Outsize clothes for Oversized people?
I’m sorry if this is not politically correct but I’m fat. I also come from an age where we did not cloak the truth in jargon as in: “I’m bodily challenged”. The harsh reality is that I’m a porker a porklet of grand proportions and I’ve been in denial for years. And I’ve had enough.

Fat clothes

Fat clothes

The final straw came when I was trying to buy some new clothes for Christmas and New Year celebrations. Okay, we are not exactly spoiled for choice for ‘fat’ clothes in the Algarve but I do expect shops to have a little more on offer than jumpers with horizontal stripes (or hooped jumpers as I call them), and round neck tops, both of which accentuate my bulging proportions rather than playing them down.

So here’s a plea to fashion designers: I beg you, please don’t design clothes that make us porkers look fatter. I can eat more cake and chocolate for that privilege. Design clothes that make us ‘appear’ thinner. I realise you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear but I beg you to at least try.

Why the horizontal stripes on all the tops and cardigans? Do you really want to make us look as wide as we are tall? Are you the designers skinny minnies laughing at our body shape?

Will it make me look fat?

Will it make me look fat?

What happened to the flattering V neck tops and dresses? I’m looking for fashionable tops to slim me down to make me feel good about myself. Not some shapeless sack.

And flattering does not include dresses and tops which make me look like a marquee. I want style!

Nor do I want to be perusing the maternity fashion rails. Have you tried this? Sigh…

Please share your fashion horrors… or fashion tips.

Six Unusual Holiday Activities In The Algarve

The Algarve, is not only blessed with over sixty blue flag beaches, numerous golf courses, vibrant nightlife, glorious weather but also a host of other activities visitors to the area may not always be aware of. When booking hotels and flights for your trip to the Algarve, there are several helpful websites, such as First Choice. It couldn’t be easier!

Here are my six hot tips.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Stand UP Paddle Boarding is a cross between surfing and canoeing. The SUP board is similar to a standard surfboard and the paddle, similar to that of a canoe. You can paddle board on flat waters, such as Alvor lagoon, or in open water and surfing the waves.

Paddle Boarding with Lagos SUP

Paddle Boarding with Lagos SUP

When I contacted Lagos SUP School for more information, my first question was: Is there an age limit?

“As to age, there is no age limit. Two weeks ago I went to the Bravura dam with a magnificent group of four girls, some close to 60 years.”

Paddle Boarding with Lagos SUP School

Paddle Boarding with Lagos SUP School

Beginners are advised to start in a quiet place without waves such as Alvor lagoon. SUP is easy and great fun, why not try it?

SUP - Alvor lagoon

SUP – Alvor lagoon

Grotto Trips: € 30 per person
Lessons: € 30 per student
Private coaching: € 35 per student
Dam trip & Alvor Lagoon trip € 30 per person

Lagos SUP School
Website: lagos-sup-school.com
Facebook: lagos.sup.school
Telephone: 960199612


Looking for something different – why not take a boat trip up the Arcade river from Portimão to Silves?

River Trip to Silves

River Trip to Silves

There are currently three trips available:

Full Day Trip:
Visit magnificant caves along the local coastline. Navigate the Arcade River from Portimão and stop for lunch at a cosy riverside restaurant before returning to Portimao
Caves Tour:
Visit the caves along the local coastline – Trip Duration 1.5 hrs
Portimão to Silves

Sail up the Arcade river from Portimão to the ancient town of Silves where you can explore for 1.5 hrs before returning to Portimão

Please note: the trip to Silves is tide dependent, so do telephone first to check the time of departure.

Website: rivertriptosilves.co.uk
Email: rivertriptosilves@gmail.com
Mobile: +351 914 983 967

‘Write Now’ Creative Writing Workshop (Holiday Inn, Armação de Pêra

If you are looking for a ‘something different’, then I suggest you look no further than a  creative writing weekend organised by award winning author, Anne Aylor. The two day workshop is held at The Holiday Inn, a beautiful hotel in a stunning location right on the beach.

Creative Writing - Holiday Inn, Armação de Pêra

Creative Writing – Holiday Inn, Armação de Pêra

Regardless of whether you are a complete beginner or a published author, the workshop is great fun and almost a retreat as you ‘connect’ with your creative side.

Creative Writing Weekend with Anne Ayler at the Holiday Inn

Creative Writing Weekend with Anne Aylor at the Holiday Inn

I have now attended two of Anne’s workshops at the Holiday Inn, and have thoroughly enjoyed them!

For more information about this workshop, and others held in London and Spain check out Anne’s website: anneaylor.co.uk

Related articles: Creative Writing Course “Write Now!” and Creative Writing Course in the Algarve

Monchique Sausage Fair

(Feira dos Enchidos Tradicionais de Serra de Monchique)

The sausage fair is held on the first weekend of March in the mountain town of Monchique. Situated in the Serra de Monchique the area is not only famous for it’s locally produced products, but also for the thermal spas at Caldas de Monchique. The area was also put under the spotlight when Prime Minister David Cameron enjoyed his two week family holiday in 2013.

The fair, a two-day event, is a great opportunity to sample the famous Monchique sausage, cured hams, locally produced medronho (fire water), fig liqueur, and delicious homemade cakes! There is also live music and other entertainment throughout the day and late into the night.

There are plenty of local restaurants serving traditional Portuguese food, so before visiting the fair you might even want to continue your journey up the mountain to take in the panoramic views from Foia which is 902metres above sea level. On a clear day, the panoramic views from Faro in the east to Cape Vincent in the west are fantastic!

Delicious Monchique  Sausage Festival!

Delicious Monchique Sausage Festival!

The fair is held in the Heliporto Municipal, Monchique. There is onstreet parking and easy access.

For more information check the local website, which incidentally does translate well if you use the ‘Google translate option’. If not, your resort Tourist Information Office should be able to access the information for you.

Website: cm-monchique.pt

Related articles:
Fair of Traditional Sausages ~ Feira dos Enchidos Tradicionais de Serra de Monchique and David Cameron visits the sleepy town of Aljezur

Silves Medieval Fair

For anyone on holiday during the second week of August, the Silves Medieval Fair should be included in your itinerary. The ancient, and winding streets of the Moorish town of Silves are lined with stalls selling tempting food, crafts and other interesting sundries. Tips: Don’t eat before you go because there are numerous stalls where you can buy food and then sit on straw bales to soak in the ambience. When you order Sangria, it is served in a rustic terracotta mug. You are charged for the mug but then it is yours to keep and replenish with Sangria at the various stalls as you wander round the streets.

Silves Medieval Fair

Silves Medieval Fair

There are street entertainers, music and even a jousting event which is well worth a visit, especially if your feet ache and you need to recharge your batteries!

Silves Medieval Fair

Silves Medieval Fair

If you really want to sample the ‘Medieval Experience’, you can hire costumes. Adults €3.00 and Children €2.00. Although from personal experience the temperature in Silves often exceeds 30C so take this into consideration before hiring. It’s hot!

I also recommend good non-slip footwear as the cobbled streets are VERY slippery.

Silves Medieval Fair

Silves Medieval Fair

Duration of fair: 10 days
Opening hours: 18.00-01.00
Entrance fee to the fair is only €2.00. No charge for children under 1.3 metres.

There is some disabled parking but you will need to arrive early (17.30).

Website: cm-silves.pt
Facebook: Feira Medieval de Silves

Related Articles: 
Silves Medieval Fair 2010
Silves Medieval Fair 2011
Silves Medieval Fair 2012

Festival da Batata Doce (Sweet Potato Festival)

If you are on holiday during the last weekend of November and looking for a day out away from the beaten tourist track of the Algarve, why not venture up to the Moorish town of Aljezur to experience the Sweet Potato Festival? The event is held in the Espaço Multiuso de Aljezur and is well signposted.

Sweet Potato Festival - Aljezur

Sweet Potato Festival – Aljezur

Check out the local crafts

Craft Stall - Sweet Potato Fesitival

Craft Stall – Sweet Potato Fesitival

Sample the local liqueurs – they are delicious! I can highly recommend fig and almond. Did you know you can even buy liquors made from sweet potatoes? No neither did I!

Sample some Liquors

Sample some Liquors

Better still, try some sweet potato cakes!

Delicious Sweet Potato Cakes

Delicious Sweet Potato Cakes

Opens 12.00hm until 24.00h

Website: cm-aljezur.pt or your local resort tourist information should have the details.

Related Articles:
Sweet Potato Festival – Festival da Batata-Doce de Aljezur.

Photo Credits
Paddle Boarding:h Lagos SUP School
Creative Writing: Anne Aylor
Silves River Trips

Remembrance Day: A Tribute To Our Brave Soldiers…

Remembrance Day, or Poppy Day is a memorial day which has been observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War. It is the day when we remember the soldiers who have given their life in the line of duty.

The Cenotaph, Whitehall (London)

The Cenotaph, Whitehall (London)

I wrote this poem as tribute to our brave soldiers…

Lest We Forget

Two minutes silence marks your death
as we the nation remember
your sacrifice, with respect.
The silence echoes our private grief
while we the nation mourn our heroes.

Heroes, born to die in far away places
in battles old and new.
Haunting bugles lament your loss
while the Big Guns, salute you.
And we the nation remember
as we find solace in our thoughts.

Red poppies of Flander’s Field
their seeds from death and blood, reborn.
While we the nation wear with pride
our medal of respect.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia