Friday, May 31, 2013

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss



Overall rating: ★★★★
Alma Singer is 15 years old. She lost her father when she was 7. Alma and her brother, Bird, live with their mother who is not completely over the death of her husband. One day Alma’s mother receives a request to translate the book The History of Love - her husband valued this book so much that he named their first daughter after the girl in the book. Alma is positive that the story in the History of Love was a real one and that the girl after whom she was named, Alma, really existed. And the search begins…
Leo Gursky, an octogenarian Jewish from Slonim (a small town that was “sometimes in Poland, sometimes in Russia”), lives alone in New York. He lost everything and everyone during the war. The love of his life, Alma, left Slonim before he did. When Leo arrived in New York, he went to look for her only to find out that it was too late.
The History of Love is a book inside a book plus the characters’ stories. Nicole Krauss did an excellent job putting together the different pieces that conform this novel. It is not confusing to read, it is very entertaining, moving, and funny. I imagine that she had to write at least two books to produce this one.
One of my favorite parts of the inner book History of Love was the chapter titled The Age of Silence. In it, Zvi Litvinoff – the character who wrote this book –, explains how during this time humans talked through their hands and how most people looked to fully understand what was said since some gestures could mean two different things. They asked questions until they were sure they got the intended message.
Another favorite, still within the inner book, was How Angels Sleep. The writer suggest that angels don’t dream and that they sleep poorly trying to understand the mystery of humans.
Each character in the novel has a powerful and distinct voice. At the end things may not have ended as each of these characters had expected; however, events unfold in the way they are supposed to happen according to the laws of the Universe… forgiveness, acceptance, and a small doses of insanity go a long way.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle.
Originality: ★★★★
Language: ★★★★

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Give and Take by Adam Grant



Education in the West is geared towards survival, being the strongest, and to take advantage of every opportunity. What happens when someone’s nature is not wired to advance at any cost? Are people whose call is to help and give to the world doomed to always come last?

Adam Grant has a new proposal. In his book Give and Take he describes three main types of people: takers, matchers, and givers. He explains that usually in our personal lives we operate as givers or matchers; however, in our professional environment we normally operate as matchers – i.e. I give/help in the same measure and to the people from whom I receive benefits. 
Adam Grant explains that there is a taboo in the corporate world regarding givers since they are perceived as pushovers and weak. Even givers themselves tend to be in the closet disguised as matchers to survive in the work place.

Give and Take provides a refreshing and a healthy way to come out of the closet and be a giver at full speed without being a softy or weak. Adam Grant explains how givers make everyone around them and themselves successful; they show us that there is a larger pie to be shared and the more we pay it forward the greater this pie becomes.

I greatly liked Give and Take. First, it clearly describes a subject that is mostly talked about behind closed doors. Second, Adam Grant’s proposal offers healthy channels to give and pay it forward. Finally, it has practical guides to avoid becoming weak, spent, and taken advantage of insatiable takers.

As I read the book I asked myself what was my style. I think I am a mix of matcher and giver both in my personal and professional lives. I have an acute sense of justice so if I come across with a taker I would give only once. I learned how to spot takers, other ways to deal with them, and new and more open ways to give without the feeling of being negatively judged.

Some of the phrases that caught my attention:

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Samuel Johnson.

“It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.” John Andrew Holmes.

“How do I know who I am until I see what I do? E.M. Forster


This book is available in hardcover and Kindle.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top Ten Wednesdays (TTW) - Covers

I have bought books that I thought would be exciting as their covers suggested an interesting story, love, mystery, or simply something new. In most cases, fortunately, I ended up liking the book and more recently using it as part of my home décor. 

All of us grew up hearing the phrase never judge a book by its cover. Today, however, for the first top ten Wednesday I would like to do something similar to that: judge the book cover. Here I would like to share with you the ten covers that I personally like the most. The criteria for selection is purely personal based on the emotions that surfaced when I saw or bought the specific book. How about you? What are the book covers that moved you? I’d love to know.

1.Life of Pi – Illustrated version

First, I liked the tiger and the majesty that conveyed in the illustration. The image of such great animal made me think of the Indian subcontinent. I imagined a story involving the tiger, placed in India or somewhere in that region, and of someone having to tame the tiger. Farfetched?

2.Harry Potter Half-Blood Prince
I am a big fan of all Harry Potter books. When I saw the cover of this book I expected that Dumbledore, the older man in the picture, would show Harry some important memories in the Pensieve (artifact owned by Dumbledore that allowed seeing and be transported to someone’s past experiences) that could provide some clues as to who the half-blood prince was. What could be more exciting than being able to relive someone’s memories?

3.American Dervish

When I saw the boy in this cover I immediately thought of a story about immigrants. He seemed to me lonely, lost, with a past that was important to him, and faced with the difficult task of inevitably having to move forward. Part memoir part introspection?




The woman in this picture belongs to a different era, to a time when the only color in pictures was sepia. She is alone and not shy to look at the camera. This woman appeared strong and used to receive attention. I inevitably expected the story of a woman too advanced for her time as well as the recollection of more simple times when the only options for a picture were black and white or sepia.


As I saw the cover of this book I was ready to be immersed in a story in an exotic place with a woman as the main character. Her eyes look sad but determined, which made suppose a novel involving hardship, endurance, and huge amounts of determination. The quest for freedom?



The picture in this cover struck me as very powerful. The boy is utterly alone next to a woman (his mother?) who is completely out of this world. I expected a story about abandonment, neglect, and loneliness. Could it be that the woman who was supposed to take care of him was physically somewhere else? Or was it mentally?



When I saw the cover of this book I contemplated a memoir. The little girl in the cover is looking at the three adults in the back – two of them may be her parents. It is an interrogative look, which being part of the young woman’s thoughts, may reflect a series of past events that just happened in a time when she was able to understand that something was going on but not old enough to see the full picture.



Looking at the landscape of this cover, I cannot help but feel totally alone. Not much is as sad as the sight of a beach on a stormy day. My expectation from the cover was that this was a sad story although not a desperate one – somehow the picture conveys a ray of hope or at least acceptance. The path that seems to go from the observer to the sea made me consider an intimate narration.



This cover has to be closely observed. Just as an enchantress, there is an air of mystery and exoticism. By the shape of the woman’s arms I expected a story placed in the Middle East, or at least involving Arabs. The cover does not show her entire body, which made think of a life interrupted.

10.Bhuda



When I saw the monk in the cover of this book, giving his back to the observer, I thought about renunciation and the start of a new path. Although we cannot see his face there is an implicit invitation to follow him. The halo around his head made me presume that there could be something better ahead, something even divine waiting for him and me, if I dared to go along.



No Excuses by Brian Tracy


This book is powerful, easy to read and to understand (even for those whose English is not their first language) and it has lots of practical advise that can be immediately put in place. I liked the fact that the author explained the power of self-discipline in all aspects of life. Some may find it contradictory (how does self-discipline help you to have the good life?) but after understanding the main concepts, it makes a lot of sense. Regardless of your personal philosophy, it is definitely a book to be read more than once and to be used for consultation.
For the advance self-improvement reader and overachiever, this book may not offer new concepts; however, I found the practical applications helpful and to the point.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle.

Monday, May 27, 2013

El Orden Alfabetico por Juan Jose Millas



Un titulo como este puede hacer que uno imagine distintas posibilidades: un diccionario, una novela organizada en orden alfabético… No pensé que alguien pudiera enloquecer a causa de las palabras.
La primera parte de la historia narra la aventura en dos vidas paralelas de un adolescente durante una enfermedad que duró varios días.  Si no se tiene cuidado es posible desquiciarse en esta primera etapa. Sin embargo, es interesante imaginar un mundo donde falta la r, por ejemplo,  donde las personas pueden comerse las palabras o donde los sonidos tienen sabores.
La segunda parte es este joven convertido en adulto aun marcado por la secuela de la aventura vivida en la adolescencia. Su padre está enfermo y por esas cosas de la vida él decide crearse una vida imaginaria.
El autor hace una excelente labor en ambas partes por mostrar, en la primera, una locura naciente y feroz, y en la segunda, un estado al que el enfermo ya se ha acostumbrado y trata de llevar la vida lo mejor que puede. La primera parte me hizo recordar las novelas de José Saramago con sus situaciones ficticias.
Algunas frases que me gustaron o me llamaron la atencion:
“Estaba, en fin, contemplando la realidad cotidiana con la extrañeza de lo nuevo, como cuando entras en una casa desconocida en la que cada habitación constituye un sobresalto…”
“El verbo tenía una textura fibrosa y un sabor concentrado.”
“El adjetivo, pese a su aparatosidad, me pareció algo insípido, aunque al morderlo producía un ruido excitante como una lágrima de caramelo.”
“El sustantivo era sin duda alguna el rey. Te llenaba la boca con su olor ya antes de empezar a masticarlo y al romperse por la presión de los dientes liberaba más jugos de los que parecía contener.” 
Este libro esta disponible en Amazon.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Braga, Portugal



I made a one-day trip to Braga and I got to see the most important places: Cathedral and Bom Jesus do Monte.
The Cathedral in Braga is the oldest one in Portugal dating from the 11th century. Built in the Manueline and baroque styles, this cathedral has great art and treasury hidden inside. There are twin organs that are just magnificent. There is a little museum with jewels like the sculpture of Nossa Senhora do Leite (the Virgin breastfeeding the child) made by Nicolas Chanterene in the 16th century; the cross used in the first mass in Brazil in 1500; and the tombs of Henri of Burgundy and Dona Theresa parents of the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques. It costs 5 euros per person for the guided tour in the chapels and the museum.
Bom Jesus do Monte is resort meets convent. This church was completed in the 19th century in the Neoclassical style. The ‘monte’ part is that you have to climb 116 m (381 ft) through the baroque stairway but the view from up there is absolutely breath taking (literally!).  The stairs are divided in three parts: the Stations of the Cross, the five senses, and the three virtues. The Stations of the Cross, regardless of your creed, have very vivid scenes about the Passion of the Christ. Worth the additional effort and involuntary workout.
There is a suburbano train from Porto Sao Bento and Porto Campanha to Braga’s train station that is about 1.5 km far from the center. It costs around 3.20 euros per person per trip.

Simple Berry Crisp



Berries and granola is a great blend. Simple Berry Crisp is extremely simple to make. I used frozen berries; taste was not affected. For a lighter brunch this dish can be accompanied with yogurt or for a sweeter one with vanilla ice cream. Today we wanted a more abundant brunch so we had eggs as well. The combination was better than expected.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook




Pat is a recently diagnosed bipolar man in his mid-thirties. He just finished his mandate in a psychiatric facility – the maniac part of his brain could not react well to the scene he witnessed months before and reacted in an animalistic manner.
Tiffany’s husband recently died. They had been married for three years; he was a police officer. The loss decompensated the chemical balance in her brain. And then she found Pat.
Silver Linings Playbook with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence is more than a love story between two broken people. It has romance, for sure, but not in a chick-flick way.  Both protagonists make a great job bringing to life people affected by mental diseases. The plot seeks to make the viewer conscious of both the stigma and the difficulties these people endure.
To view the trailer click here. The movie is available on DVD and Blue-Ray.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier



Griet is a 15-year old girl who is forced to work to help sustain her family after her father lost his sight. She is hired in the household of the famous painter, Vermeer. Her most important task is to clean his study without upsetting the order of his brushes, colors, paintings, and scenes.
Vermeer is a particular artist obsessed with the effect of light and shadow, and with creating the most exquisite colors from natural elements to produce a more realistic effect on his paintings. Vermeer discovers Griet’s acute sense of color and beauty and teaches her the art of mixing and creating colors from diverse materials. A master-apprentice relationship secretly started, but unfortunately it would be to the detriment of one of them.
Tracy Chevalier is one of my favorite writers. I love that her stories bring to foreground women in different trades instead of the often male-dominated nobility. Girl with the Pearl Earring is no exception.
It is not easy to describe paintings with words - not only the scenes in a particular piece but also the colors, shades, light effect, and people’s expressions. Tracy Chevalier, in my humble opinion, did a great job describing Vermeer’s paintings without overshadowing Griet’s story.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle

Broadwalk Restaurant and Grill - Riverside Pizza

Last week we tried this pizzeria in Hollywood Beach Boardwalk. We have been curious about it for a while. According to our friends it is the best pizza place on the Boardwalk. Since I have only had this one I am not sure if it is the best or not. It is actually pretty good. Our server was very nice and accommodating. Prices are great for the value.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Little Bee by Chris Cleave




Little Bee is an African refugee who somehow made it to England from Nigeria. As many like her, she suffered directly the loss of her family and the abuse of the soldiers. Sarah was a normal English woman, with a normal marriage, and a normal job… until she went to Nigeria and her life irreversibly altered. Sarah and Little Bee had a life changing experience that started in the same source like two tributaries of the same river.
Little Bee is a very strong novel from Chris Cleave. The story is much more than another one talking about the troubles refugees face and how countries in the West are, for the most part, indifferent to their pain. Chris Cleave does a great job bringing to life these characters from two, not only geographically, but emotionally different worlds - their lives perpetually intertwined.
I loved the book and, in my humble opinion, I think it is fantastically well-written. As I read the story I thought of how weak and insensitive immigration policies could be; how, in the West, we cannot even start to imagine the pain and ordeal people in other parts of the world suffer still today. Even though this is a work of fiction, it reflects the reality of countries consumed by war, corruption, and scarcity. One day, we may have a more civilized world, and perhaps there will be no more refugees, and all of could keep all our fingers.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle.

Le Vinois Bakery



I passed in front of this bakery by accident last week. I was in the mood for dessert and coffee. All the desserts they had on display looked really really good. I decided to try a date tart with almond paste. It was paradise in my mouth. It was soft, tasty, not too sweet, just perfect… totally worth it!

Cha Baa Thai and Sushi

I have been going to Cha Baa Thai and Sushi restaurant for a while now. They have consistently delivered good Japanese and Thai food. It is a great place for lunch. The service is fast; they have great lunch specials like teriyaki chicken, pad thai, and sushi box. Prices are right for the value. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer



Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tells the story of Oskar Schell’s journey, in his own voice, to look for the lock belonging to a key he found in a vase that belonged to his father. Oskar is nine years old. By the way he talks one could easily think he was at least thirteen.
Jonathan Safran Foer, the writer, does a great job linking the stories of the characters that surround Oskar’s life. His father is very present and he could be easily confused as the main character. I loved the man who could not talk and tattooed his hands with the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
The characters in this book have a great depth in their feelings and experiences. Even Oskar in his short life managed to develop a character formed only by the hardest of sufferings. I enjoyed how Oskar was a walking encyclopedia and how his naivete helped him connect with complete strangers.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle.

Jack's Hamburgers

I have been passing in front of this place for quite some time now. Yesterday I decided to give it a try. I have to say that I was disappointed. The burger tasted the same as if I had made it at home and burgers are not my specialty. They charge extra ($0.39) for the lettuce and tomato which is fine but the least I expect is that they’d put them inside the burger… they gave us 1 leaf of lettuce and 1 slice of tomato in a Ziploc bag. For the same price I could get a much better and healthier burger somewhere else.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Incendiary by Chris Cleave



Incendiary was the first book from Chris Cleave I read. I was taken since the first line by the force and power of the woman who is the voice of this novel.
The story is told through a letter that this woman wrote to the man who headed the list of the most wanted until recently. She mourns the death of her husband and son. In that letter she tells her life story and how profoundly and irreversibly the tragedy affected her.
Mr. Cleave’s prose is powerful, the voice of the main character strong and her pain very real. Although this is a work of fiction, this woman’s life, pain, soul was so tangible that for long moments I actually thought I was reading an actual letter.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle.

Porto, Portugal




I spent three days in Porto and I have to say I was quite impressed and welcomed there. I did one of the walking tours that the Lonely Planet guide suggested and I have to say that some of the places were quite a surprise.
I arrived in Sao Bento train station which is the one in the downtown. The other station is Porto Campanha, 2 km from the center. Sao Bento station most impressive feature is the azulejos (hand made tiles) depicting different scenes. This tiles were designed by Jorge Colaco in 1930.
Torre dos Clerigos is something else. Built by Nicolau Nasoni, this tower offers very nice views of the city. It is 76 m (228 ft) high and it has 225 steps. It costs 3 euros per person to go up.
Palacio da Bolsa, or stock market, is worth visiting. It used to be Porto’s stock market until the instauration of the euro in the 1990s and 2000s. It is only possible to see inside with a guided tour. The best part of the building is the Salao Arabe (Arabian Hall). When you enter you think that you just walked into Scherezade’s palace. The purpose was to invite businessmen and give the impression of grandeur and prosperity… Mission accomplished! It costs 7 euros per person for the tour.
Igreja de Sao Francisco is another sight that you can’t miss. It is a small church but the altar is magnificent. It is made in a baroque style and adorned with 100 Kg (220 lbs) of gold leaf. A definite ohhh once you enter. It costs 3.50 euros per person.
The ribeira is the ‘by the water’ part of Porto by the Douro River. When the weather is good is great to sit outside to have a drink, eat something… the restaurants are more affordable than you may think.
It is possible to eat very cheap in Porto. There are many cafes and cafeterias (diners) that will serve a complete meal for 7 euros. The service is OK for European standards (no offense) but do not expect additional accomodations or the discount for an erroneous dish. 

Antonio's Pizza

This week I decided to try Antonio's Pizza for the first time. We had the spinach pizza and it was really good. The service was fast – we had take out. The crust was light and tasty, and the vegetables well cooked with a lot of flavor. It is a great option for any night of the week (except Mondays since they are closed). They also deliver in the Dania Beach area.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton




The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton is an essay about all the different feelings and stages of travelers of all kind. As someone who loves to travel I identified my own behaviors as I read this book. Alain de Botton uses the English language beautifully. His prose is clean, simple, full of action, and with the capacity to bring to life the places and characters he describes.
“It was hard to say when exactly winter arrived. The decline was gradual, like that of a person into old age, inconspicuous from day to day until the season became an established, relentless reality” is the beginning of the first of five stages of travel, Departure. My favorite part was ‘On Anticipation’ that speaks on how we anticipate the trip with excitement just to be disappointed because, as the writer puts it, “I had inadvertently brought myself with me to the island.”
To read The Art of Travel is a learning experience. Each of the five stages – Departure, Motives, Landscape, Art, and Return – has a destination (or more than one) and a guide. Alain de Botton flawlessly puts together destination and guide. I not only traveled through the described destination but also through the life of my guide.
This compelling essay is food for thought and reflection on how we travel and how going to other places affect our mind and feelings. We are motivated to reflect during our journeys to other places. As the author puts it “journeys are the midwives of thought.”
This book is available in paperback and Kindle.

Zona Fresca - Ft Lauderdale

I have been going to Zona Fresca for a while now. Just recently I realized that I have not reviewed it. Zona Fresca is a Mexican food restaurant. Their specialty is the burrito – they have a good variety; I have tried most of them and they are all great – and they also have tacos, quesadillas, and salads. Their food is fresh, made to order, and the service is fast, with a smile. It is one of my favorites to get something quick before getting back home.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Harvest Frittata with Gruyere



Today’s Sunday brunch was this great frittata. It is very easy to make and extremely tasty. The combination of the vegetables with the gruyere cheese is delightful. The frittata can be combined with salad, fruit, or like today chick peas with tomatoes and onion. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Amami - Italian Restaurant in Espanola Way




A couple of months ago, I received an offer for this restaurant and this is how I knew of its existence. I decided to buy the deal – I figured that if it turned out not to be good I would not lose a lot of money. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how fine the food and the service were.
We ordered the Linguine allo Scoglio and the Tagliatelle with Shrimp. Both dishes were fantastic. The pasta is homemade. I could not believe how good it was when I had the first bite. Everything was fresh. The combination of ingredients enhanced the senses…
Service was excellent. Our offer came with a bottle of wine but since we do not drink alcohol they were able to accommodate and provided other drinks without extra charge. Our reservation was ready when we got there. The atmosphere is casual without being informal. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult




My Sister’s Keeper is a very controversial story. It raises ethical and legal issues related to health, organ and tissue donation, and emancipation intertwined with the personal stories of the characters.
The story starts with a thirteen-year old girl who goes to a lawyer’s office to request emancipation for health-related matters. And the novel goes on. At almost every step of the way I asked myself what would I do in his or her place? The topics raised in this book are not black or white, right or wrong. Each character, similar to real life, made the decision considered the correct one at the time.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende



Maya’s Notebook made me fall in love again with Chile. Escaping from her difficult life in the US, Maya’s grandmother sends her to an island off the coast of Chile. The description of the place and people in the unique style of Isabel Allende gave the feeling of being really there all the time.
Maya’s story was strange for me since my adolescence was not turbulent. However, Maya is such a strong character that she came under my skin and at times I wanted to slap her, or hug her, or both at the same time. I could not put the book down; I wanted to see what Maya would become.
This book is available in hardcover and Kindle.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Room by Emma Donoghue



Room caught me by surprise. The narrator is a 5-year old boy, Jack, who lives in a room with his ‘Ma’. Jack does not know the world outside and he thinks that all that happens outside of the room is the reality on TV.
This novel is an example of a very sad and difficult subject treated in a lighter way and from a completely different perspective. Jack made me laugh and melted my heart with the things he said and the way his reasoning worked.
I could not put the book down. I wanted to know the next thing in the story but at the same time I wanted to slowly enjoy the ingenious things Jack had to say all the time.
The book is available in paperback and Kindle.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cafe at Books & Books - Coral Gables, FL


I have been several times to this café and what I like about it is both the fact that it is inside a book store and the good food. One of my favorite items is the turkey sandwich with brie and pears. When the weather is good is very nice to sit outside in the courtyard and just enjoy the good company of a real person or of imaginary ones.
The food is affordable and there is a good ratio between price and quality. The only thing that keeps the Café at Books & Books from having 5 stars is the service; the waiters and waitresses could have better training and disposition.
Next time you are there also try the granny apple quesadilla with aged cheddar. You’ll want to have seconds.

The Litigators by John Grisham



It had been a while since I read something from John Grisham. During my last trip I decided to give The Litigators a try. The story was better than expected. I personally enjoy the legal-law-lawyer related thrillers, the usual subject of this author.
The story is about a burnout corporate lawyer David and two “litigators” with their own firm ‘Finley and Figg’ specialized in car accidents and other types of minor litigations. These three lawyers come together by chance to face one a very and real lawsuit against a large corporation.
This book made me think about ethics, Corporate America, and how much good or damage money can make. The narrative is entertaining, well written, and it kept me interested all the time.
The book is available in paperback and Kindle.

Calado & Calado - Coimbra, Portugal

The other restaurant I tried was Calado & Calado located in the lower part of the old city in the alley behind the “praca”. I had the grilled octopus that was excellent. Price for 2 people with food, dessert, and non-alcoholic drinks was 30 euros.

Restaurant Italia - Coimbra, Portugal

Restaurant Italia located in Manuel Braga park – as you may have guessed, they serve Italian food (pizza, pasta, risotto). Careful when you order sparkling water: for some reason the large bottle is more expensive than ordering the same amount in smaller bottles. Price for 2 people with food, dessert, and non-alcoholic drinks was 30 euros. Service is faster than expected.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Conimbriga Roman Ruins - Coimbra, Portugal




This is the place to see the best preserved Roman ruins in Portugal. Romans settled in Conimbriga between 1st and 3rd centuries AD. I recommend to go during the week as there are two buses coming and going to and from Coimbra; there is only one bus on the weekends, and it is possible to see all in half day. There are very well preserved mosaics from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. If you happen to be an European resident and are less than 26 years of age, you would pay a very discounted ticket.

Portugal dos Pequenitos - Coimbra, Portugal

In the lower section of Coimbra, there is a surprising attraction called Portugal dos Pequenitos. By the name you may think this is only for children, but it turned out to be a pleasant place to spend Sunday morning. To enter is 8.95 euros per person.

Millennium Trilogy



The Millennium Trilogy also known as the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy is one of the best thriller series I have read. Stieg Larson did a great job creating the plot, the characters and the depth to the main story and the surrounding ones. It is a pity that he is no longer on Earth to finish what he started.
In the first book, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander and Michael Blomkvist meet for the first time as they get assigned to work on a very complicated case of a missing 16-year old girl disappeared for nearly forty years. The twist was completely unexpected for me and I loved it – the twist, not the actions.
In the second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, we get to know part of the inexplicable family of Lisbeth as Michael struggles to discover who killed, and why, the most recently-hired magazine journalist.
Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, third and last book of this series, provided the answers to most of the interrogations I had during books one and two. After reading this one I came up with more questions except that now, I think, we will have to imagine the solutions or accept the situation as is.
When starting with the first book, I was a little confused with the Swedish names of streets and cities. Soon, I found that these names were not very relevant to the story – I kept reading, and I got hooked very soon. Final word of caution: the stories in all three books are strong, graphic, and violent.
The books are available in paperback and Kindle.

Ibis Porto Centro, Porto Portugal

What I like about Ibis hotels is the price and the fact that I know what to expect. Ibis Porto Centro has an excellent location on Rua da Alegria. It is walking distance from Sao Bento train station, all the attractions in the center; it is even possible to walk to the Ribeira. This Ibis hotel was fully renovated and it looked very modern. Our room was adequate and clean; bathroom size was on the small side. The staff was friendly and helpful. When you go request a room that is not on the street side since it could be noisy. The only challenge we had was that the room did not have air conditioning and it could get warm especially during the day. Breakfast did not have as many options as in other Ibis hotels in other countries (e.g. France, Germany) but it was cheaper: 6 euros per person vs. 10 euros per person in Paris and Frankfurt.

Ibis Coimbra, Portugal

What I like about Ibis hotels is the price and the fact that I know what to expect. Ibis Coimbra is very well located on Avenida Emidio Navarro across the street from Parque Manuel Braga (parque da cidade, city park) and walking distance from Coimbra train station. Our room was adequate, clean, we had a bath tub (not all Ibis have it). The staff was friendly and helpful, and gave us excellent recommendations about places to visit. When you go request a room that is not on the street side since it could be noisy. The only challenge we had was that the room did not have air conditioning and it could get warm especially during the day. Breakfast did not have as many options as in other Ibis hotels in other countries (e.g. France, Germany) but it was cheaper: 6 euros per person vs. 10 euros per person in Paris and Frankfurt.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ibis Saldanha - Lisbon, Portugal

What I like about Ibis hotels is the price and the fact that I know what to expect. Ibis Saldanha is well located in the Saldanha neighborhood, close to Saldanha metro stop serving red and yellow lines. Our room was adequate, clean, we had a bath tub (not all Ibis have it). The staff was friendly and helpful. When you go request a room that is not on the street side since Avenida Casal Ribeiro is a busy one. The only challenge we had was that the room did not have air conditioning and it could get warm especially during the day. Breakfast did not have as many options as in other Ibis hotels in other countries (e.g. France, Germany) but it was cheaper: 6 euros per person vs. 10 euros per person in Paris and Frankfurt.

Apple-Berry Baked Oatmeal



This dish is so easy to make you would not believe it could be so tasty, healthy, and satisfying. It still good the following few days; put the leftovers in the refrigerator and just reheat or eat cold when you are ready. 
For brunch you could combine it with scramble eggs or if you prefer to keep tastes aligned you could serve with yogurt.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lean In


Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg speaks to every woman who faces the choice of career or family life. This books talks about the different challenges women encounter in the workplace and at home. Even in the 21st century it is difficult to be a woman especially if you are one who decided not to follow the ‘traditional’ role of stay home mom/wife. 

I loved the book and I admire Sheryl for using her position and status in the industry to raise the issue in the name of all of us. I was identified with practically everything she said in the book and now I know that some of my personal traits are just in the wrong gender. I support her message to stop self-limitation, to give each other support (men and women), and to make a conscious effort to change the way we express gender differences in all environments. 

Gender differences are so apparent and still we make so much effort to never talk about them in the workplace. We whisper behind closed doors and at home and we make comments such as ‘how could she apply for a new job if she was pregnant?!’. I try to questions these comments everytime. Probably from now on I would take a more firm stand especially if the comment, like in this case, comes from another woman. 

Lean In has both factual information and stories of real women mostly in the West. To be clear, this book does not address situations that women in other parts of the world confront on a daily basis. Sheryl admits that in this side of the world women are better off than in the rest of the world. However, that should not be a consolation and an excuse to stop the path to real equality between men and women at home and at work. 

This book is available in paperback and Kindle.