Comida Deliciosa em O Arco da Velha ♥

Delicious food at the Restaurante O Arco da Velha in Alvor … never a truer word spoken … or written as the case may be.  If you have never visited this little gem of a town in the Algarve, Portugal, well then you are seriously missing out.  It’s a small fishing town with it’s own harbour and it is gorgeous both by day and by night.  And if you have never eaten in this wonderful restaurant… consider your life incomplete and unfulfilled!  They are couple and family friendly too!

As you approach the restaurant, you are greeted the welcoming, friendly, mustachioed Ricardo – the Owner who also works magic at the Grill all evening (and Oh how I mean that!!!).  He always wears a big smile and it’s his sincerity that comes through in his manners to all the customer that makes you want to give him a big hug.  OK… I think it’s clear that I like Ricardo  🙂  He is part of an amazing team of course – his lovely wife Josephine works in the kitchen inside and they run a system like clockwork.  And the food… Oh My Oh My Oh My THE FOOD!!!! I have only just returned from Alvor and I am already having withdrawal… the food is simply prepared, simply served and simply…divine.  There is also the handsome and charming Marco, who manages the Restaurant and service which is always excellent.  The fact that their clientele consists of locals and tourists – mostly repeat customers – returning for the food and the welcome they receive each visit speaks for itself – just check out the reviews on TripAdvisor!  It’s not just me!!

Fresh local fish is key to the menu in O Arco da Velha – Seabass, Stonebass, Seabream, Red Mullet, Squid, Prawns… whatever has been caught fresh will be on the menu.  As I said the key here is simplicity – with these kinds of treasures available what else could squid.jpgyou do.  However, don’t mistake simplicity for easy. The skilled staff are amazing at what they do.  From Ricardo ♥ on the grill cooking each different piece of fish to perfection or meat separately on the meat grill, to Josephine in the kitchen with other staff cooking vegetables to perfection, creating delicious salad, preparing starters such as baby squid in garlic and chilli oil (Oh My God…these are so completely YUMMY!!!), Prawns in garlic oil (also Delicious!) to various other delicious options.  Or you can opt for Covers which include carrots in garlic, olives, sardine and tuna pate (both gorgeous) , local cheese (really tasty) with crusty bread… I’ve probably tasted most of the menu by now and there’s nothing I haven’t liked yet!

Mains also include meat dishes such as steak, chicken and lamb (which many of my extended family members have sampled to their great delight) or rice dishes such as Cataplana.  I always go for the fresh fish though – it’s so good here there’s really no other choice for me.  You make your fish choice from the fresh selection of the day and your fish will be shown to you so you can see it’s freshness and beauty.  Then it is delivered to Ricardo ♥ to work his magic!  The flavour when it comes off the grill is so moreish and it is served with big wedges of lemon – I am seriously making myself so hungry as I type this!! It also comes with garlic butter – the real thing with chunks of garlic for you garlic-lovers out there!!  Each fish is expertly de-boned by Marco or one of his staff before serving to your table.  The choice of sides are rice, potatoes, chips and vegetables or salad from the kitchen – always fresh and always delicious.  Desserts range from Strawberries and cream to icecreams to Tiramisu (Scrumptious!) to more traditional Portuguese delicacies such as Almond tart (Oh So Yummy!).

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Chamine

They have a great selection of wines to choose from but I’m going to share our favourite with you – a deliciously, fruity and flavourful red called Chaminè.  Marco will make recommendations depending on your taste, if you wish, but he knows this is our go to tipple 🙂  And of course, you should give the Green Wine a try while in Portugal – crisp, fresh, ice cold – it’s a refreshing alternative to white for a change.

At the end of the meal, it’s not all bad news either… along with the very reasonable bill comes complimentary port for all the adults… never though I would be a Port person but I am!! It’s yummy!

And so… we always leave with satisfied bellies and smiles on our happy faces…

 

You can’t really knock that now… can you?

Get yourself to Portugal… to Alvor… you won’t regret it!

 

Note: Photos all my own with the exception of the Restaurant front which is from O Arco Da Velha’s Facebook page @RestauranteOArcoDaVelha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running to Stand Still…

“…And so she woke up

Woke up from where she was lyin’ still.

Said I gotta do something

About where we’re goin’…”

(Running to Stand Still by U2)

Like them or loath them, U2 are one of the most successful bands in the world and for me, this has always been one of my favourite U2 songs.  From way before I was consciously feminist and vocal, the words of this song spoke to struggles, wars and heartaches I had going on deep inside my teenage self and beyond.  Now… they speak to me as a woman in a much wider universal struggle.  Now these words describe the perilous existence and the perceptible non-existence of women across this globe.   These words describe the resilience of women…and isn’t it bloody well that we have resilience since we have been having the same conversations, asking the same questions, beating the same drums generation after generation after generation.  When does it end?

I have to ask myself a question so often these days…

WHAT THE ABSOLUTE FUCK??? 

We have a vulnerable woman living with mental illness who is manipulated and mocked by those supposed to protect #RIPDaraQuigley you sweet soul … We have the women of Ireland continuing to be treated as second class citizens in their own country through the lack of autonomy, respect and control over their own bodies #Repealthe8th …

We have sentences being handed down for sexual offences against women and children and men that range from suspended sentences to six months to 12 years – what is going on with our judicial system??? Where is the consistency???  It does not matter that it is a first offence, or that the offence will effect the perpetrator’s future prospects, or that the victim had 5 alcoholic drinks – the person responsible for the crime is the attacker.  The message must be made clear that sexual assault and rape will not be tolerated in our society and the sentencing for these crimes must support this CONSISTENTLY.

We have the shameful and disgraceful legacy of Church and State Mother and Baby homes all over this country where, we all know, there are most likely more horror stories like Tuam awaiting discovery #TuamBabies And the leaders of our country, the politicans we elected and ourselves…we, the citizens of this State, continue to dishonour those children and their mothers by demanding that every single child and mother is accounted for and afforded a peaceful, dignified and deserving resting place…

And those are a mere few examples.

 

 ” …You gotta cry without weeping,

talk without speaking

Scream without raising your voice… “

(Running to Stand Still by U2)

There have been times in my life when I have wondered what it’s truly like to be a man.  I’ve thought lots of things…like does having a penis actually make you more powerful? Or is it just the fact that you go around stabbing people with it that gives you some sort of elevated sense of self worth?  (Generalisation and choice of words here could be debated but you get my point)  Why did men get to have a penis instead of women?  Why do men seem to be in charge most of the time?  Why does it seem like men, white middle aged men in fact, control EVERYTHING?  Why couldn’t I have an opinion as a teenager without being called a bitch, bossy, fat cow (I am on the curvy spectrum but what the fuck has that got to do with it?), fat stupid bitch, know-it-all, whatever – your opinion doesn’t matter anyway?  There was never the same extent of disdain for boys and their opinions…that baffled me.  Why is it such a problem to hear a woman’s voice?  To see a woman’s body?  To acknowledge women’s autonomy and power in this world?

Fucked if I know!!

(I have an idea actually … privilege … but that’s a whole other box of frogs!!)

Take me to the Island…

….because it’s so damn beautiful here.  I spent a week on Inis Oirr, the smallest of the 20160703_135314 Aran Islands off the coast of Galway in the West of Ireland at the beginning of July.  Let me tell you, without doubt, it is one of the most wonderful places on this earth.  If you haven’t been – you must visit.  If you have been – then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I was there with my two boys, Jack and Daniel (and before you ask, it wasn’t a deliberate decision to name them after my favourite bourbon…Cross my heart!! 😉 ) and we were sharing a house with a friend and her daughter.

So I go to Inis Oirr really because of my Spiritual Guru – my dearest friend Paula; who moved Facebook-20160705-123950 (2)here from Dublin to marry an Islander Paidraic.  What a change in life?  Yes indeed but she loves it!!  They have three beautiful children and she absolutely loves living on the Island.  Paula is like my Earth Mama… she bakes beautiful cakes and breads, she cooks sensational food and she is a Reiki Practitioner. She also writes from her soul (Blog @donkeyshindlegs check her out or you’re seriously missing out).  Don’t get me wrong – she gets frustrated and pissed off like any of the rest of us.  And I know there are times when having three kids and a very Quiet Man must be exhausting and exasperating but she has found her Zen.  She is the most wonderful, caring and patient Woman though (I know you’re going to read this Paula so just a reminder…you’re the whole package!!) and…she is my wonderful, sexy, beautiful BFITWWU!

20160703_135541The Island itself is a thing to behold…rugged beauty hewn from rock and etched in luscious greens and smoked silver greys.  The island is around 3km x 3km with rolling hills (that sometimes feel like Croagh Patrick but they are so far from it, in truth!!) and really, it’s easily covered by foot or by bike (a word of caution if cycling however, the hills, though small are steep and can be a recipe for disaster for children on bikes even with helmets – I’ve witnessed numerous visits from the Air Ambulance helicopter!).  Taking a stroll around to the lighthouse or out to the shipwreck of the Plassy (seen on the intro to the wonderful Father Ted) lets you see Inis Oirr in all it’s diversity come alive.  The uniquely built walls hugging the narrow roads leading past Aras Eanna – the Arts Centre on the Island (another must see) takes you through the Island around small high walled fields with perhaps one or two cattle with calves within.  And the sunsets… Sweet Mother of Divine!!  They are to die for!  The colours are exceptional and on a clear day, I really mean it, you can can see forever across the golden lit sea.

There are a number of places to eat on Inis Oirr too… all of them of great quality and ooohhh so tasty!  My favourite has to be ‘Teach an Tae’ – a cafe run by the loveliest woman Alissa and her husband Michael. I cannot visit the Island without at least one visit (per day) to this delectable establishment.  The lunches are delicious and the cakes are without comparison…OH MY SWEET HEAVEN!!! Everything I have tasted has been scrumptious though one of my front runners has to be the Carrot Cake…soft, sweet, spiced, luscious

 

and topped with dreamy, creamy frosting.  I wonder do they do postal orders??? lol  While there with Jack and Daniel, I had the Island Tart – a savoury tart of baby potatoes, herbs, eggs and feta or goats cheese – YUM!  Jack had the Fish of the day – fresh caught Pollock and Daniel had Potato and Leek soup – everything freshly made on the premises.  I had Lemon Poppy Seed cake with vanilla ice cream – Lush!  The boys had brownies and I didn’t even get a chance to get a photo!! lol  The Staff are soooooooo lovely too… I just can’t say enough nice things about this place… it’s a must if you’re on Inis Oirr.  Rory’s is gorgeous too and the Hotel and Tigh Ned’s do lovely food… to be honest – I haven’t had a bad meal anywhere!

We visited Aran Seaweed Baths & Spa and were looked after by the wonderful Annette and it was so wonderful.  She is the most attentive, lovely and, I might add, patient lady having to deal with three children in one go!!  We all had a seaweed bath and it was to die for!!  I would highly recommend it for de-stressing and your skin  is left so soft… I want to go again!  If you want some pampering then Annette is the answer!

 

Finally, there is the secret beach… which for obvious reasons I can’t tell you where it is… but let’s face it … the Island is 3km x 3km so you wouldn’t have a hard time finding it! lol It’s a place of zoning out and disconnection and it’s perfect.  And Spike – Paula’s dog – well… he just loves it there… he’ll spend a whole day at the beach, eating rocks (no… he has no teeth left!), chasing waves and then he’ll flake on the couch for 24 hours!!! He’s got the right idea!!

 

Don’t wait… visit Inis Oirr… you won’t regret it!

 

 

 

Catch more flies with Honey…

I am compelled by the heaviness in my heart today to write this post.  Another day with lives lost to senseless terrorism disguised in a commitment to a blind faith or dedication to a cause promising adulation by virginal maidens on the sacrifice made.  I am making the assumption that this vile act of hate will be claimed by ISIS or another linked group and If I am wrong then I will stand corrected.  However, we, as a global community are becoming accustomed to the fact that these devastating atrocities trace back to these extremists and their unconscionable desire to kill and maim in the name of their cause.  And please remember, their cause is not Islam – their cause is not about any true belief for the betterment of any group.  Their cause is power, violence, greed and chaos.  Their power is pain.

I’ve sat here all day with this running through the back of my mind and I’ve thought about what I can do to combat this… What can I do from my desk here in Dublin?  or my home in Meath?  or my blog online?  And the only answer I consistently come up with is… You catch more flies with Honey than Vinegar!  If you sIMSPON GROUP HUGfeed Darkness with Darkness… it only grows… however if you introduce light, however small, that darkness gives – even by a trace.  The only way to oppose such blatant hatred is to display blatant unity and love.  Now, don’t switch off on me and think ‘Jaysus!! She’s gone all airy fairy – I’m off!!’.  I always think about things in terms of balance… Negativity is hugely prevalent on a global scale through fear and sadness and anger right now and for some time with the element of terrorism that has been growing.  These are emotions we must all feel and deal with – we can’t avoid that.  We cannot allow them to turn into retaliation and hate however, because then we feed the beast.  One way to counteract the destructive aftermath is to reach out to our fellow global citizens in solidarity and peace and support each other in any way we can in the face of this adversity.  There is massive emotional and integral strength in unity and support and this, IMHO, is the key in our mental survival going forward.

SPREAD THE LOVE! 

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For those of us that missed the 60’s … now’s our chance to re-engage the Free Love ideal (though I’m not personally endorsing going beyond hugging OK… virtual or otherwise!! lol)  Don’t feel helpless or defeated by events that happen in other countries – we can all make a difference by treating those around us and the people we meet everyday with humanity and respect.  To rephrase someone else and some other time… Everyone – no matter who you are – Everyone can make a difference.

 

Lots of Love and Hugs…. Helena x

The Bank has a veto…but we have no choice

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Here’s an update on my Circuit Training post… and the beat goes on…

The decision came back last week from our bank on our mortgage proposal that we submitted through the IMHO – the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation.  We’ve been given a test period of three months where we have to pay the equivalent of our full mortgage payment after which time they’ll consider the long term solution.  It appears there was no consideration to the submitted plan and it also appears that they consider the fact that my husband went from a salary of close to 50K per year down to the Invalidity Pension to still keep us within the ‘affordability’ range.  The Bank rang to ensure I received the Test period letter and the person I spoke with from the legal section in the Bank went through the conditions.  The full amount must be paid within each month, if this doesn’t happen then I “…better have a solicitor, cos it’s going straight back to court…”.  I asked whether they had considered the plan and whether the change in income was a real consideration.  She responded that if I provided that information, then they must have.  I don’t mind telling you, I was completely gutted…to the point of tears at my desk in work.  This person telling me what I had to do to keep the only home my kids have known had no idea who I was, what my case was, why I was in these circumstances.  It was the coldest and most heartless conversation I have had with any one…ever.  I hung up unable to utter another word.

I contacted our rep in the IMHO and I have to admit that they were not in the slightest bit useful.  I explained the Test period letter and the amounts we have been told to pay and they said ok well you just have to cut back and make the payments.  In utter disbelief I pleaded with him asking whether we could appeal the Banks decision.  He said that an appeal in these circumstances only work if we have new information to add or if there’s been a significant change in circumstances.  He said that to appeal would just be saying to the Bank that we don’t accept their ‘proposal’ and we would be back to the courts.  Yet again, I was reduced to tears.  Tears of frustration and fear and anger.  He was quiet and he said to take some time to consider things.  I replied “Consider what?  We have no choice” and for the second time in one day, I hung up on someone.

I know we’re not alone in this trap.  There are other people out there who have been treated the same, are being treated the same.  And it’s wrong.  We don’t want to abandon our responsibilities, we want to work out a solution.  This doesn’t happen when you don’t actually have any say in the negotiations, when you have no voice.  And just so you know, I don’t cry over things I can’t control.  I put those things down to life sorting out the shit from the silver and I know there’s better to come.  My tears are for my family and the distress this could bring upon them – the real people who are affected by the arbitrary decisions of a financial institution.

So… tomorrow I go down the ISI – the Insolvency Service Ireland route.  There has to be more … there has to be options.

I will not be backed into a corner.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Food memories…Christmas 1997 or 1998 ?!

I have to state for the record that I had barely started cooking at this point and really didn’t have a clue what I was up to!  Despite good, clear instructions from my lovely Mum!  Anyway…I should tell the story first so you know what I’m actually talking about.

untitled (2).pngI lived in New York for a few years and subsequently spent a few Christmases away from home.  Not my most memorable but I will say they weren’t completely miserable, with the exception of one.  And even that wasn’t completely miserable but it was pretty damn close.  I was living with 3 sisters, one of whom is one of my closest friends from secondary school.  I loved living with the girls; Owl, Woolie, Minnie and me (Crabby – obviously no reflection on my happy go lucky demeanour! 🙂 ).  Our two bed apartment in Queens imagesD7JDSN3Swas a temple of femininity and giggles (and our fair share of frustrations and all that).  The girls were all living in the US with green cards.  I, however, was not and didn’t have the flexibility to travel home for Christmas.  My family at home decided that they didn’t want me to be alone this particular year and much to my protest, elected to send my brother John over to me for two weeks (whether he wanted to or not, I should add).  John’s about 18 months older than me and at that stage, was pretty much in his own world of alcohol and rage and being in New York for Christmas was not on his bucket list.  Anyhoooooo, we made it to Christmas day in one piece, more or less… and by the luck of the Gods, we made it out the other side!! 😀  We were joined by another guy, a friend of the girls, Joe Woolhead, who was on his own for Christmas too.

I had a plan…kind of…in my head… a loose string of things to be done in a semblance of order.  It just ran a little late in the beginning.  Which is where the problem lay.  I took my rock solid frozen turkey out of the freezer around midday on Christmas eve thinking in grand Irish style ‘Ah sure, It’ll be grand!’.  I had never cooked a turkey before, fresh or defrosted so this was new ground altogether.  Christmas morning, John and I opened our presents – both of us wishing we were imagesN1CV4V7Ksomewhere else.  I entered the kitchen and prepared my turkey…plopped it into the roasting tin on a base of carrots, onions and celery and seasoned it – covered it in tinfoil and into the oven.  I tried to make my Mam’s stuffing and it was just like it, that is if my Mam’s stuffing is dry, sawdust like with no flavour!!  My roast potatoes weren’t actually that bad, thanks be to Jaysus!!  And my carrots and parsnips were grand, nothing to write home about!   Joe arrived with his packet of biscuits and we watched some telly while the turkey finished cooking.

And so after hours and hours of cooking, then resting, it was time to unveil my bird and expose her succulent thighs!  Well, I was excited and the lads were starving so I got to work.  I carved the first slice off the imagesXEOK52H5breast and thought to myself ‘Well done Crabby!  This doesn’t look too bad’  It smelled lovely too.  I went in for the second…thinking Hmmmm that looks ok… then the third and my stomach lurched.  My heart started beating rapidly…I couldn’t actually carve the third slice all that easily and I could plainly see that it was still frozen!!! Holy F*CK!!!  ‘Alright in there Incey??’ called John from the sitting room (my family nickname).  I gulped and croaked in reply ‘Yeah…Grand… two minutes and you’ll be feasting like Kings!!’  Straight away, I thought to myself…What the hell am I talking about???

So… I did what any sane person would do – I carved the outer layer off the turkey (a.k.a. the cooked layer) and served that to John and Joe.  Covering it with gravy, stuffing and all the rest of the stuff.  I covered the turkey up with the tinfoil again and I shoved it back in the oven so I didn’t have to look at it.  I didn’t actually have any turkey…just the rest of the stuff!  I mean the legs hadn’t even cooked through – it was salmonella or some sort of e-coli poisoning just begging to happen.  So I sat there and sweated through dinner and dessert but thankfully no-one passed out or abruptly had to visit the loo!  By the skin of my teeth, all remained well with the world.

Since then, I have learned to cook… properly… and safely.  I swear!  😀

 

Make mine a Hot Port…heavy on the cloves…and the Port!

I’ve been a bundle of snifflin, sweaty, phlegm (hate that word!) hacking, limbs-like-lead, moanin groanin joy since Saturday afternoon!  Who’s with me??? I know I can’t be alone in this bliss!  I’m on anti-biotics and I know that by tomorrow I’ll feel tonnes better but right now…it’s shite!

Saturday morning I was out with my Mum, sister and nieces (my Wonderful  Women!) doing a little Christmas shopping and having our annual Christmas lunch.  Spending time with my Wonderful Women is really important to me – they listen, they advise, tell me I’m nuts, I’m brilliant or I’m okay especially at those times when I’m not really sure what I am.  When I get overwhelmed, one of my not-so-positive traits would be to retreat inwards and pull back on communication – they know just how to kick me back in gear.  And I’m lucky enough to know they are there…always.

Anyway…I wasn’t feeling the Mae West so I treated myself to some nice Port…The really nice kind…so when I got home…got into my jammies…made a rather large (really large) Hot Port!! #Yummilicious 😍 That got me well on the road to recovery!  Here’s my very simple and delicious version:

½ glass of port (size of glass depends on how much hot port you want to drink! 😊)

Same measure of very hot water (as hot as you’d use for tea)

½ tablespoon honey (if you don’t like it too sweet, you can vary this but it is a great healer so I increase value by using Manuka)

1 thick slice of lemon

1 tablespoon of whole cloves

*

Boil the water.  Pierce lemon slice with whole cloves.

Once water is boiling, add to a warm mug and stir in honey.

Add the port and stir. Gently drop in the clove-studded lemon slice.  Let it diffuse and the flavours mingle for a few moments then enjoy!

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I haven’t yet had a hot whiskey I really enjoy…anyone got any good recipes???

For anyone in the same boat…sending you get well wishes!!

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