Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Song of Enchantment

Enchanted

A song of Enchantment I sang me there,
In a green-green wood, by waters fair,
Just as the words came up to me
I sang it under the wild wood tree.

Widdershins turned I, singing it low,
Watching the wild birds come and go;
No cloud in the deep dark blue to be seen
Under the thick-thatched branches green.

Twilight came: silence came:
The planet of Evening's silver flame;
By darkening paths I wandered through
Thickets trembling with drops of dew.

But the music is lost and the words are gone
Of the song I sang as I sat alone,
Ages and ages have fallen on me -
On the wood and the pool and the elder tree.

poem by
Walter de la Mare

A moment of reflection...


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring is here!

Today was the first day of real Spring around these parts. The smell of freshly cut grass, the sweet scented air, fresh greens and yellows everywhere, thermometers rising up to 19ºC, short sleeves, a fantastic sunset, it was gorgeous! I just hope the weather stays like this for the next 2 weeks, during the holidays, as I have loads of gardening chores for the girls: they need to earn some pocket money and I need the help. After the trip to Venice (for which proper preparation has yet to begin...), I also want us to start enjoying this year's National Trust membership. There are just so many things to see (with Stowe Gardens on top of the list)!

Meanwhile, there's a real party feeling in the air: tomorrow Clara is having a disco party at school, both girls have been invited to birthday parties this Saturday and today they were allowed to just play and have fun during swimming lesson. I guess that the old formula

Last week of school + Warm and sunny weather = Happiness

still holds for kids.

Swimming

Swimming 2

Thank you very much dear Dad for the Subway Maps link. I've already added it to the sidebar.

Monday, March 26, 2007

"They're here..."


Just made the Explore page twice this weekend (that roughly means that two of my photos were chosen among millions to feature on Flickr's most coveted and visited feature page.
With a new day and a new week dawning, it's time to set my mind on something else...
P.S. Family dispatch: all's well in our own little Albion... one more week to go until a very serene Easter break...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cranfield University Library


A few hours ago I met my twin...
I'm so proud of my parents!

Kitchen Windowsill Tête-à-Tête


At last Saturday! Hubby's home, Clara's feeling better, Ana doesn't have a lot of homework and so we're going out. Right after I cook a scrumptious Saturday lunch...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Strawberrylicious


This year's first strawberries.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The sheer horror of depression

So many people believe depression is an illness of the idle. So many people don't take it seriously, regarding it as mere self-commiseration or an excuse for not wanting to work or having responsibilities. Read this if you're one of those. Depression is hell and, believe me, you don't stick around in hell voluntarily.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Welcome, Spring!


In memoriam

My beloved Titu would be celebrating her birthday today.
She will always be alive in my heart.
I owe her some of my most cherished childhood memories and so much more than that.

2-Titu jovem

3-Titu com 16 anos

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Front window reflections


Monday, March 19, 2007

The thought for today

"Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory"

---Albert Schweitzer, doctor---

Back to Winter


I took these pictures two hours before it actually started snowing again today. Just last week it was as if Spring had already arrived and now, on the week when Spring officially begins, it feels like the middle of Winter again. Hubby is in Amsterdam, next door neighbors in Florida, front door neighbors in Japan. It feels pretty desolate.

Poetic Liberty

The other half

Labour's Constitutional Affairs Minister Harriet Harman has proposed that working mums should be paid sick pay when they take time off to look after their ill children.

This proposition was one of the topics discussed in today's Jeremy Vine's BBC Radio 2 show and as the programme progressed it was clear that just about half of the show's audience was fervently in favour of the proposal whereas the other half was radically against it.

I was a full time working mother for 10 years. I went through hell to try to reconcile my obligations both as a mother and as a productive employee. In the end, finding little support or flexibility around me, I just gave up trying and quit the only job I could. Not before diving into a major depression and jeopardizing my family's well being and my employer's business goals in the process...

It's amazing the number of people that think that having kids is merely a personal lifestyle choice and that, as such, parents should expect no support whatsoever from society in raising their children. No tax benefits, maternity or paternity leaves, no part-time or flexible work hours, no sick pay nor anything that might constitute an immediate economic burden on society is justified in the name of raising the future generation, in these people's view. I'd like to know who they think will be the future doctors, nurses and taxpayers that will attend to them when they're old.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mother's Day

Mother's Day


It's Mother's Day in this corner of the world (in Portugal it's only in the beginning of May and Father's Day is tomorrow). Got these lovely flowers and cards from my babies and also a DVD.

Last but not least, Ana wrote this very special story just for me:

Most Special Mum!
by Ana W.

“And the winner is…” announced the man in the black suit, into the micro-phone.
I was practically jumping out of my seat with excitement! I was so nervous, even though I was absolutely sure of what the answer would be!
You see, it all started some months ago, when I saw on TV an advertisement saying that a new show was about to start in May. It was called ‘Most Special Mum’ and as you have probably guessed, it’s a Mum’s show where the best mum wins!
The moment I saw the advertisement, I knew Mum just HAD to sign up! My Mum is so spectacular, her cooking is simply yummy, her personality is nice, caring, and wonderful, she’s so pretty, she does everything for you, her ideas are great, and I love her to b-i-t-s!
So I went to tell Mum and Dad about my brilliant idea, and next week my mum was already signed up for the show! I was so happy I told everyone at school, and as they all adore my mum too (for my birthday parties she prepares, that are just simply brilliantly cool and my friends always love them, as well as her wonderfully nice personality) I bet they are watching the live program on their TV’s right now.
So as it is already obvious, the next fabulous news I got, was that Mum was one of the 20 candidates that made it into the show! I was overjoyed, and already knew that Mum was so going to win!
And I was absolutely right! Mum kicked her way through the show, winning every task set each week. I am so proud of her, and so are Dad and my 6 year old sister, Clara.
So the weeks past, and my Mum became one of the 3 left candidates, on the last show.
And right now, as I have just said a minute ago, I’m practically jumping out of my seat in the studio where the show is being filmed live now! The man in the black suit (the person that represents the show I think) has just called in the last 3 Mum’s: Xanthe, a blonde, tall Mum, who’s really pretty, and all bubbly, and the public’s been voting for her even though most of the tasks she does are utter rubbish, and even the judges give her low marks, but at the end of each show, her name is always called out first, which is totally unfair, as looks don’t count! Then there’s Carla, a Mum who keeps on signing up for practically EVERY show, though never really wins. I think it’s because of her attitude, she’s just too confident, you know what I mean, like really full of herself and all ‘I’m going to beat you so haha!’
And then, last but not least, the best Mum of the 3, my Mum, the most special mum, the greatest Mum. The public loves her too of course, and every show we always buy tickets to be there for, cheering for her, showing how proud we are of her.
Then the big finale came, when the black suit man called out:
“And the winner is… with the most votes… Xanthe!! Give it up for Xanthe everybody!”
A loud, piercing noise filled the gigantic studio, as the audience clapped and cheered for Xanthe, who was blowing kisses to everyone (by everyone I mean; only the cute guys in the crowd of people).
My heart sank, I looked at Mum and tried to see how she felt, how her feelings were, that she hadn’t come first. But to my surprise, Mum was smiling and clapping at Xanthe like everyone else, and that’s when I realised…: Mum wasn’t a sore looser like Carla was, crying her head off and looking enviously at Xanthe while begging for the juries to say that she was better and the prize really belonged to her. Mum was fair and reasonable, and thought of others first before of herself, and that was why she was clapping and cheering for Xanthe like everyone else. And that’s when I realised I was being stupid and idiotic. Xanthe had won because of her looks, and her ‘very sweet and bubbly style’. The public might have voted her favourite, but for me, dad and Clara Mum would always be best for us. She would always win everything, in every show. She would always be the greatest for us, and our favourite.
So I knew inside, that Mum, my Mum, was ‘Most Special Mum’. Forever…

THE END

Friday, March 16, 2007

Happiness


"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

---Buddha---

Variations on a Chopin Notturno


I don't know...

Why are kids used in both these videos?

Total Eclipse of the Heart


I still remember the first time I saw this on TV in the USA. I remember me and my Mom liking it so much. Fabulous!

Zeitgeist


Grace Kelly by Mika.

It's not Spring yet

After two weeks of glorious weather and well above the average temperatures, things are taking a turn for the worse today and there's even snow on the menu for next week.
Anyway, it's gloomy outside and that always gets to me. Even though it's Friday...

It was Red Nose Day today and the kids didn't have to wear their uniforms to school which means we got big excitement last night choosing their outfits for today... (gosh, to think that we used to to go through all that every day just seems insane). I think the likes of Red Nose Day and Children in Need (both major fund raising events for charity) are invaluable in raising children's awareness of big social issues and they force them to look beyond themselves and their own little world.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Preparing for Venice - 3

The Grand Canal Venice Turner
The Grand Canal - Venice by J. M. W. Turner, c. 1835, Watercolour, 91 x 122 cm.
Currently housed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Preparing for Venice - 2

Canaletto

Painting by Canaletto - Return of the Bucentoro to the Molo on Ascension Day, 1732.
Royal Collection. Windsor.

Preparing for Venice - 1

"Venice is not merely a physical location but a place of the soul that lives in everyone. The sensation of warm familiarity and belonging that the city transmits to those who come, even for the first time, can be disorientating. It oozes from the stones, lies around every corner. Venice is not only beautiful: it is welcoming in its ancient power to captivate, which absorbs all cultures and makes one think that at some point in one's life, or perhaps beyond life itself, one has already sojourned here. It's probably true. Venice is a place of the soul."

"Making a good gondola is no easy task - seven different types of wood are employed to make 280 pieces for the hull alone, which must be asymmetrical. The left side has a greater curve to make up for the lateral action of the oar, and the cross section is skewed to the right to counterbalance the weight of the gondolier."

"In the 1530's Venice had about 11,000 registered prostitutes of a population of 120,000. In the late 15th century a city ordinance stipulated that ladies of the night should hawk bare-breasted. La serenissima was concerned that its men were increasingly turning to sodomy. Fearing for Venetian manhood, prostitution was encouraged and sodomy made punishable by death. Veronica Franco, one of the city's best known courtesans, didn't need to prowl the calli for business. Poet, friend of Tintoretto and lover of France's King Henry III, Miss Franco's costly services were in a class of their own and ranged from witty discourse to horizontal folk dancing."

-- "Best of Venice" (Lonely Planet)

Promise


Today I made Flickr's Explore Front Page twice! I'm ecstatic.

The reflection of a decision...


The ides of March were never a good date. Gloomy thoughts on a gloomy day.

'

Placido Domingo: Alma Latina


* Thank you *

Monday, March 12, 2007

The thought for today


“Life is filigree work. What is written clearly is not worth much, it's the transparency that counts.”

Louis Ferdinand Celine

Sunday, March 11, 2007

England


This is it! Red bricks and daffodils...

Sunday afternoon fun


At the kids' request...

La Serenissima

florian
Finalmente!
I hope Venice will lend me some of its serenity... at least to see me through the rest of the year...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Little socialites

My children's social life along with their growing sense of style and fashion leave me feeling as if I'm a stone age woman or, at least, an old-fashioned nun... I wasn't like this when I was their age! I didn't go out to movies or disco parties with friends until I was well into my late teens and even then definitely not very often. Sleep over parties??? Not a single one! Make up/ make over parties??? No way! Giggles and comments about cute guys? Only very discreetly and never in front of "grown ups"... Fashionable clothes and accessories? I absolutely did not feel the need for them! In that last respect, however, my girls are not too bad. They are easily contented as long as I play by their very clear standards on what not to wear...

Anyway, Ana went to the movies with a group of friends after lunch and Clara is in the middle of a sleepover party right now (I won't get much sleep tonight). Both of their little agendas are filled with parties, discos, movies, concerts, sports events and so on and so on... They're 6 and 11, for goodness sake! What will their social life be like 10 years from now...

Interesting links

About the "Great Global Warming Swindle" documentary:

Noxious emissions (Guardian)

Last night's TV (Guardian's intellectual snobbery at its worst)

The arrogant and dismissive style used in these two "quick to react" opinion articles speaks volumes...

Others:


This last link, which is about yet another "radical reform" in the education sector, has just made me remember the justification Clara's teacher gave me two weeks ago for not setting maths homework for the children: the algorithms used nowadays in basic arithmetic are so different from those we used 30 years ago that it's preferable not to involve parents in the learning process (homework help, for instance) so as to not further confuse the kids...

Good morning!!


Spring is blossoming inside and out!

Check out my new jukeboxes (right-hand column). Now you can easily access and listen to all the music I've posted in the past. There are four jukeboxes: Non Classical, Opera, Piano and Classical. Although each of the jukeboxes only shows a few tracks, if you click on it you'll see all the remaining available tracks. I'm still trying to sort out some technical problems that make some of the musics sound very accelerated (Handel's Hallelujah is hilarious). Most of them are OK, though...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Holiday planning

It's that time of year again when family holidays have to be planned. Not much flexibility nor choice for those of us who have school-age children. Still, arrangements have to be made, as last minute planning is disaster prone.

Three out of the five weeks of school summer holiday will necessarily have to be spent with "the family back home", as usual. The only thing about it that's going to be different this time is that we'll be driving to get there (we want to sell our continental left-hand driver car) ...

During Easter we were thinking about going to Switzerland but found it a bit too expensive. Right now we're considering a pretty good bargain in Venice... If all else fails, however, it will be London's museums and musicals again...for almost the same price as going abroad (the cost of intercity train travelling is now so exorbitantly high that this mode of transportation has become a luxury few families can afford on a day out...).

Uploaded into Flickr by GlenShock on 4 Jul '06, 6.14pm BST.

Little people boxes at night


Sweet Friday!


Thursday, March 08, 2007

"The Great Global Warming Swindle"

I've just seen "The Great Global Warming Swindle" on Channel 4 and it's impressive. At the very least, the same people who applauded Al Gore's documentary on climate change ("An Inconvenient Truth") should also see this. We might indeed be witnessing - an acting on - one of the biggest scams of all times, fuelled by major economic and political interests.

This post is just a memo. I'll follow develop it later. Right now I'm watching one of my favourite films on TV, the fabulous "The English Patient"...

Links to follow:

Two things about today

Besides being International Women's Day (something I don't pay much attention to, quite frankly), today marks a very special and personal 20th anniversary: on the 8th of March 1987 me and the boy who was to become my hubby started dating.

The place: Gulbenkian's open-air amphitheatre (in the photo).

Gosh, I'm old!!!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Still, my memory's persistence...


Monday, March 05, 2007

"Got eclipsed but I'm back again."


Physics


I used to spend hours playing at this type of thing when I was a kid. Brilliant ad. I might just go for a Honda next time 'round...

Why I loathe IKEA

We're redecorating "the upstairs" and dreading the fact that all the new furniture we're getting will probably have to be assembled by none other than our clumsy selves. Neither me nor hubby are any good at this type of thing and tears of frustration and pain are inevitable during the supposedly "easy assembly" process behind the not-so-cheap flat-pack-concept popularized by IKEA which invariably leads up to a mediocre result (in our case, anyway!).

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sunday fun


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Smarties: my happiness pills...


The Swiss invasion of Liechtenstein

I already know from personal experience that the Swiss can be a little aloof and absent minded. What I didn't know was that apparently these are also attributes of the Swiss Army... how else can you explain invading a country by mistake?!

"The Swiss army is not renowned for its aggressive expeditionary adventures - but it does appear to have accidentally invaded Liechtenstein.

According to the Swiss daily Blick, around 170 infantry soldiers from the famously neutral country wandered more than a mile across the unmarked border with the tiny principality.

The incident happened yesterday morning and the Swiss troops turned back - probably slightly sheepishly - after they realised their mistake.

A spokesman for the Swiss army confirmed the story, but said that there were unlikely to be any serious repercussions for the mistaken invasion, the Associated Press reported.

"We've spoken to the authorities in Liechtenstein and it's not a problem," spokesman Daniel Reist said.
As well as the obligatory Swiss army knives, the troops were armed with assault rifles - however, they had no ammunition, Mr Reist said.

Officials in Liechtenstein, which is on Switzerland's eastern borders, also sought to play down the incident.

Markus Amman, an interior ministry spokesman, said nobody in Liechtenstein had even noticed the soldiers. "It's not like they stormed over here with attack helicopters or something," he said.

If the Swiss had decided to invade and annex Liechtenstein, which has a population of around 34,000, it probably would have been a walkover. Liechtenstein is a quarter the size of the Isle of Man, and does not have an army.

The Swiss / Liechtenstein episode may stir memories for some of an accidental invasion of Spain by British marines five years ago after they misplaced Gibraltar while on exercises, much to the alarm of local fishermen."


article taken from the Guardian

Swiss Symbols

Small talk

The weather was glorious this morning. Had a real Spring feeling to it. I did my first bit of gardening of the year and acessed the damage caused by Winter (an exceptionally mild one but also very wet and windy). Both Ana and Clara had "full agendas" until 6 pm and so I had the whole day to myself, a rarity which felt good.

After dinner the weather changed and it's now raining cats and dogs. It will stay that way for the remaining of the weekend, which is a drag. We haven't put our National Trust passes to use as much as we would have liked to this year...

The girls have asked to go ice skating tomorrow and for now that's our only plan for the weekend.

Lollipop flower
Lollipop flower - picture taken 2 days ago in the garden

reflection on a rainy window at night
Reflection on a rainy night, taken a couple of hours ago...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Almost full


Switzerland


This is where we're not going this Easter after all the talking and planning... It's such a shame, I'd really like take the girls for a holiday there. They will love it.