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Artist Advent Calendar : Ana Ramos from Lisbon, Portugal

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Happy December 1st and first Advent! To celebrate the month of December, I'm starting a daily Artist Advent Calendar featuring artists from around the world who will share their traditions with us.

Today we'll begin with Ana Ramos an illustrator and graphic designer from Lisbon, Portugal. Thank you Ana!

After six years living in Latin America, this is the first year living back in the Northern Hemisphere, where December brings cold weather, short days and long, cosy nights sipping tea and knitting on the couch.

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First, we lived in Buenos Aires, where December meant the end of the school year and the beginning of Summer break. It shook my paradigm of "Holiday Season means cold weather" to its roots. Then we moved to Panama, where it was hot year round. December marked the end of rainy season, and with it, the beginning of those milder, dry and sunny days that went by way too fast. For Christmas, we used to travel to North America to go skiing and enjoy a reprieve from the constant heat.

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This is my first year back in Lisbon, and I am enjoying every bit of our old-new hometown and its cold season: the beautiful views during these very cold but sunny days, cozying up on the sofa with spiced tea and cake, plenty of knitting and embroidery projects around me, decorating our home for the holidays, reading my nieces' letters to Santa, enjoying fire roasted chestnuts with family and friends.

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Lisbon puts up a wonderful lights show at this time of the year, with downtown streets decorated with lights and Christmas trees. In churches, specially at the Basílica da Estrela, there are beautifully detailed Nativity Scenes.

On Christmas Eve, the whole family gathers around the table to enjoy a meal of codfish or octopus. Traditional sweets are mostly fried foods, so we prefer to buy those out and bake Christmas cookies (to give to Santa) and spiced cake. 

We play games and enjoy hot cocoa while waiting for Santa, who will then come and help distribute the presents. 

On Christmas Day, the tradition is to have a festive turkey meal.

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And since I mentioned spice cake more than once, let me share its recipe. The original ingredients include dairy and eggs, but it is easily "veganizable".

Ingredients:

200g self-raising flour
150g sugar
1,5dl milk (use vegetable milk to avoid dairy)
150g butter (use 1/3 cup vegetable oil to avoid dairy)
4 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs (use egg replacer to veganize the recipe, or a drained and pressed 200g piece of tofu)
2 tbsp molasses
1/2 coffee spoon ground clover
1 coffee spoon baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp bread crumbs

Use the bread crumbs instead of flour when greasing and "flouring" the baking pan. 

Combine all dry ingredients in one large bowl; then add all wet ingredients and beat with an electric beater until bubbles pop up. 

Pour into the baking pan and bake at 180ºC for about 45 minutes or until completely baked. (To be sure, insert a toothpick in the cake and see that it comes out dry.)

Happy Holidays!

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See Ana's creative work and connect with Ana here:

Ana's website: http://www.airdesignstudio.com
Ana's Embroidery Club: http://www.airdesignstudio.com/embroidery-club
Download Ana's free zine: http://www.airdesignstudio.com/free

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Thank you Ana for sharing your traditions from Portugal!  I can't wait to try out your spice cake recipe, it sounds delicious!

It brings back very pleasant memories for me too, as I had the pleasure of visiting beautiful Portugal in December two years ago and I loved the holiday atmosphere. 

If you are now in the mood to see more Portuguese Christmas decorations, holiday bakery treats, and visit a Portuguese Christmas market with me, you can also visit my blog post Holiday Magic in Portugal. Enjoy! 

p.s. - I have lots to share with you this week, especially this Tuesday, December 3rd!

I'll be opening registration for my new year long online course, unveiling my new website, plus more fun surprises to come. Are you on my mailing list? Be sure to sign up here.