Friday, May 30, 2008

Garden update

Well, it's been a few weeks since we planted our vegetable garden and I'll have to admit that I haven't spent a lot of time back there. Up until now, I've been the one who loved to garden but I think that my husband catching on. I always make sure to water the garden and he checks to make sure that I have. He put in the irrigation system, installed all of the stakes to support the plants and made sure that we have room to add more plants in a week or so. Each time that he sees a neighbor or family member with experience he asks for advice. We've been learning a lot from those all-knowing experienced elders. What I love about asking for advice is that those who we ask -are so willing to take the time to show us the right way to care for our trees & plants and they even go so far as do some of the work themselves, it's really nice. Here's one picture of our garden...

Here are some Roma tomatoes. I can't believe how fast they've come about...

Little cherry tomatoes...
Tons of oregano. I have a feeling that I'll be drying it and sending it to my friends & family back home...
The kids are always with us in the garden. They've been a part of it from the beginning and I'm really glad that they are enthusiastic about learning. They've planted seeds & plants, watered & weeded. Although, they do spend more time catching bugs they're already learning so much about their environment. I'm so glad that we can share this experience with them. Now, I have to go check out the trees in the yard. The apples, walnuts, almonds and peaches are already abundant. Gotta get to work!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

We drove by this a few weeks ago.
Creative? No. To the point? Yes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Here are just some photos from my Memorial Day...

This morning I discovered these 2 lizards in our sidewalk chalk box that was left on railing of our balcony. It seems that they must have run down a column and ended up in the box. They couldn't get out as the box was too slippery. I think that they were relieved when I found them and let them out.

I did have BBQ sauce and I made the chicken that I'd been craving. It's been a while since I've been allowed near the grill and I love using the grill! So, we had chicken, corn, potato salad and kidney bean salad for our Memorial Day dinner. The kids were thrilled.

Gigi was hanging out in the hayati. (the little house that the grill is in...can't think of how to translate it at the moment) She was really hoping that I might drop the chicken. Look at how desperate she looks, I never feed her.

The pomegranate blossoms are gorgeous. Very bright orange!

I also want to add that I officially took the day off today. I think that it was time. I'm just exhausted. Of course you all know that a mother of 3 doesn't really get a day off. I slacked a lot-so much that my husband mentioned it. You should see my laundry pile now-especially after the weekend. Ugh. It will all be there for me tomorrow, that's how I see it so I decided to go easy on myself. Iza said, "Mom-are all of those clothes dirty?"-and I said, "yep".

It was a perfect day to slack though. It was really hot, hotter than it's been so far this year. Also, as I was slacking I swear that I felt small tremors. I was telling Kosta about it and of course, I was just overreacting until he felt one moments later when the couch trembled a little. Ha! I'm not sure why he never believes me after all of these years. Although many of my stories and/or concerns seem exaggerated at times-they never are. So, I checked the EMSC to see if it was recorded but it hadn't. It must have been too small- I think. We probably experience tremors regularly but I'd never know it because I never sit in one place long enough to realize anything.

***I'd like to thank Mel for my new EMSC obsession!***

Monday, May 26, 2008

Last week we celebrated Kosta's name day. Because it landed on a Wednesday this year and we are actually in Greece, I wasn't sure how many people would stop by. I did know that MIL was coming over for sure and that I had to make a nice meal anyway. As it seems like I've been entertaining constantly for the last month I've gotten a little tired of my own recipes and wanted to try something different. Also, I didn't want to make anything too complex as my time was limited.

A few weeks ago my neighbor treated me to some potato salad that she'd made and I loved it. The ingredients were easily identified and it had an unbelievably fresh taste. So, I decided to make a potato salad and I wanted to come as close to her recipe as I could. I've been making a great potato salad for years and it calls for mayonnaise. Although it's delicious, sometimes it can be a little heavy. And, since it's been really warm here for the last week I thought that it'd be best to stick with lighter dishes.

I looked at several recipes on different blogs/sites that I frequent and I chose to make a recipe from Greek Food's -Nancy Gaifyllia. Her potato salad/patatosalata recipe calls for everything that I already have in my kitchen so it didn't require any additional shopping. I made it early in the day so that it would be ready for a meal later in the afternoon and I refrigerated it. I have to say, it was absolutely delicious. Because it was also a warm day, I'm glad that I chose to chill it because it was so refreshing. And, the best part of the whole patatosalata experience was eating it the next day. I think that salads like this are always better the next day. Anyway, we all loved this salad so much that I decided to make it again Saturday, as we were having yet another BBQ.

Now, our guests Saturday weren't just anybody...they happened to be a family that owns one of the best salad companies in Greece. Can you say intimidating? Yeah, I have to cook for the salad king. I stuck with simple, traditional recipes. My tzatziki turned out runny (of all days!-I don't think that I've ever made runny tzatziki!) and I was embarrassed. He said that it was probably because the cucumber wasn't fresh and that all of the water from it goes directly into the yogurt. (sigh---lessons from a master at the table...I appreciated it but I still wanted to hide). But, his input is helpful and I'll keep it in mind. You must be able to snap a cucumber in half, that's how you know that it's fresh. Ay!

He ate the meat and most of the salads. I noticed that he ate quite a bit of the patatosalata which put me at ease after the tzatziki lesson. Also, he couldn't get enough of our olive oil-knowing that it was ours he just kept soaking it up with his bread.

So, the salad was a hit. It's perfect for summer BBQs and picnics, although I'd make this salad any time of year.

Here's a picture from Wednesday:

Now here's a picture from yesterday afternoon. Alexandra was trying to serve herself some more of the leftover patatosalata:

Before I go I want to say that I hope everyone back home has a nice Memorial Day.I think that I have some Sweet Baby Ray's in my American food stash-I'm going to use it on chicken and grill it the way that my father taught us. I'm also going to open a can of corn and have some baked beans! The leftover potato salad will fit in well with my holiday menu. Again, enjoy your Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A birthday dinner...

Last weekend we celebrated my birthday. I've been lucky enough to have made a few good friends this year so when one of them offered to watch our kids for a few hours so that Kosta and I could enjoy a nice dinner, I accepted.

We had dinner seaside and really enjoyed ourselves. I went in with grilled octopus & calamari (my usual) in mind, but the owner of the psarotaverna(fish taverna) we went to insisted that the octopus & calamari weren't fresh enough and instead, offered crayfish and shrimp. I love when an owner/chef insists that there's something better because we're rarely disappointed.

Aside from a small party at the other side of the taverna we had the place to ourselves. The party was really neat because it was a small group of friends singing and dancing-accompanied by a man playing a bouzouki. (ok, not him but you get the picture) So, we were able to enjoy live entertainment and great food-what could be better?

Now comes the part where I wish that I could insert that sound effect of a record know the one. So, we were finishing our lovely meal and my friend called. I could hear Foti balling his head off . Apparently, he fell asleep on her couch and had an "accident" so he was freaked out and embarrassed. (my poor little bug)

My friend said that he felt warm so she gave him some fever reducer. I hung up the phone, let out a big sigh and finished my retsina.We paid our bill and headed out. We had such a nice time.
It turns out that Foti did have a fever so he couldn't wait to get home. Izabella ended up spending the night at my friend's house because she was having such a blast doing "girly" things like painting nails & curling hair with my friend's daughter. It was her first "big" girl sleepover. Another milestone...

Kosta bought me a cake and we were planning to cut it with the kids after we finished dinner but since things weren't falling according to plan, we decided to save the cake for Sunday since we were expecting some friends. Actually, that worked out for the best. We had a great bbq and topped it off with the cake.

Here's my cake. Foti loved putting the sparklers on it. I know, my American friends are probably going over the edge imagining sparklers anywhere near kids, but it's the norm here. A birthday cake without sparklers just doesn't exist. It's so exciting!

The cake was chocolate with cream(cherry, vanilla & chocolate) and whole cherries. It was very rich but not too sweet- simply delicious.
I enjoyed my birthday and I couldn't have asked for more.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Fresh, fresh strawberries given to us by our generous neighbors Saturday morning. Delicious!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Summer garden

Our summer garden is officially planted! Last week we worked hard to prepare the soil, buy the plants and sketch out the plans. We planted everything on Monday. Here are some photos from the process...
Alexandra inspecting some flowers. Her favorite job is "dead-heading" flowers, even if they don't need to be.

Gigi waiting for the tiller to come around again. She supervises everything & everyone that goes in and out of the garden. Unfortunately, she's been relieved of her position since we've officially banned her from the garden as of Monday. She was caught chewing on the leaves of the new plants and also stealing strawberries.

A row of tomatoes.

A sweet strawberry blossom.

What did we plant?

Tomatoes-classic, roma & cherry
Eggplants-oblong & globe
Peppers-green, florinis & those green "banana" peppers...the kind that you find in salads and that you can also fry. (have to find their proper name)
Cucumbers-a lot of them!
Melons-honey dew & watermelon
Strawberries (actually planted in March but relocated Monday)

That's it for now. We'll be adding more tomatoes & cucumbers at the end of the month and I still have to plant some seeds & romaine lettuce this week. Wish us luck with our first real summer garden!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More strikes!

Ok, so we made it through the DEH strikes and it was humbling. Now we're at the mercy of the truckers that are demanding the right to increase their haulage rates. That's fine and dandy, I do understand that when the price of fuel increases, naturally everything increases. So with that being said, I understand that truck drivers need to cover the costs of operating by increasing their rates...but why do they have to stop working?
How does this affect me? The little person? Well, the other day I went to a Lidl store to shop. I walked in and the store looked as if it were in liquidation. Even Izabella asked me where the food was. I'm not kidding, there was almost nothing in that store except for cookies, sauces and other non-perishable food items. The frozen food section was completely empty and the produce section had a few heads of cauliflower and I think some celery. That's it. I wanted to buy the kids' favorite chicken nuggets, some frozen fries, butter, paper towel and more. I think that the only thing that I was able to purchase that was on my list were cans of evaporated milk, the kind that is necessary to make a perfect frappe. Bummer. Outside of the store I was approached by a woman from Germany. She asked me why the store was so empty. Of course, I told her that there was a strike and that trucks weren't delivering anything and hence, the store was nearly empty. The woman apparently owns a home here and is in the country for 2 weeks. What kind of vacation will she have if she can't put food in her fridge or gas in her car? Big bummer.
Since they didn't have everything that I needed I had to go to another grocery store and luckily, I was able to find almost everything on my list, except butter. Sorry, no baking this week kids...the truckers are striking. How do you explain their actions to children? Well, we do our best but I'm not sure that they really get it. So, here I am trying to shop for my family on a budget when I have to spend more money at a second store that has what I need and then to top it off, I used extra gas to get to the next store...which is is dwindling and I have no way of purchasing in the near future.
Today we received a phone call from Izabella's teacher. My daughter had (still has) a high fever and I had to go pick her up. Obviously, I went to pick her up but I had one more thing to worry about. I had to worry about running out of gas. Her school is a half an hour from home and I passed at least 20 gas stations on the way to get her and they were all closed. So, luckily I had enough gas to pick her up and bring her home, but that's about it. I haven't had to worry about running out of gas since I was like 22 or something, when we barely had enough money to make it. Now, I worry about running out because some people need an increase in pay so they decide to hold their country hostage, again. What if I didn't have gas to get my daughter? What about other people that need to get to work, they need to make money to support their families and they can't get to work because they can't purchase gas? You know, life could be a lot worse. A cyclone could have wiped out half of the country or an earthquake could have struck, leaving everyone in a lot more trouble, trouble that no one has control of. Why is it ok for these people to make everyone suffer for their personal gain? I guess that I can be thankful that at least we have power this time around because I'll be spending a lot more time than usual at home since I have no gas in my car.

Here's today's article in Kathimerini for more details concerning this latest round of strikes.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day

I hope that everyone had a nice Mother's Day. I started my day out perfectly with a cup of one of my favorite drinks in my favorite mug.

Next, my wonderful husband went to a local bakery to buy some treats for breakfast. He went looking for chocolate filled croissants and came back with mini pizzas, which were a hit with all of us.

In the afternoon, I was treated to lunch at a taverna. It was wonderful. During lunch we realized that we have only been out for a nice meal twice since we've been here, just the five of us. We had such a nice time we're definitely going to make more time for eating out.
The food was fantastic! We ordered our favorites including glosa(flounder), calamari, grilled octopus, florinis and more. Izabella ordered souvlaki but ended up eating more fish anyway. Both Foti and Alexandra loved the fish and the fries(of course the fries!). We even got Foti to try octopus again and he couldn't get enough. It was really, really delicious.
We've also remembered to always have our portable high chair in the car since very few restaurants here have accommodations for babies and toddlers. Having a chair for Alexandra to sit always makes our meals a little more enjoyable.

After dinner, we drove to a bakery to pick up a cake since MIL & SIL would be stopping by. I wish that I had taken pictures of the cake. It was chocolate topped with a strawberry glaze-just gorgeous.

And, if there's anything that I want for Mother's Day it's a picture of me and the kids. That's it. Since I'm usually the one with the camera I rarely get in any pictures myself. So, on Mother's Day I make it a point to have the kids dressed a little better so that we can have our picture taken. Kosta loves to take the pictures...but I can tell that he just wants to get it over with. Not a engineer. Anyway, he did a great job and took a lot of great pictures. Here we are on Mother's Day...

Although that picture is nice, the one below is one of my favorites. It's the real deal. The picture was taken as we were trying to get ready for a "perfect" shot. This one is perfect in my eyes.

I had a wonderful, wonderful day. The kids were extra good, we had great food and the weather was great. We only had a sprinkling of rain that passed quickly while we had our lunch. Perfect. I'm lucky to be a mother and I'm thankful that my husband made the day so special for us. Thank you Kosta!

Friday, May 9, 2008


I think that it was a little more difficult for me to get back into a routine this week than it was for the kids. I'm so glad that I won't have to wake up early tomorrow. All that I have time for is just a few pictures. Have a great weekend!

The bushes that line my driveway are in full bloom this week. I don't know what they're called, but the fragrance of these white flowers can be enjoyed throughout the whole front yard.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dog Days for Gigi

Before I move on to May 1st I'll share some dog days of our little Gigi. Just before Easter, we discovered ticks on her. We were pulling them off as we found them. I guess her FRONTLINE had worn off. So, between the time that we applied her next dose of tick/flea repellent and the time that it actually started to work we were battling 20-30 ticks a day...seriously. We tried to keep her in, but when she would go outside to do her business she was just inundated by them. I'd never seen a tick in my life before this. So I spent about an hour the Wednesday before Easter pulling ticks off with tweezers and Kosta spent another hour the next day doing the same. He'd never seen a tick in his life before this either. We saved our Gigi and now although she's been treated we still have to check her several times a day. She was tick-free and clean as can be for the Easter weekend as I gave her a bath at about 11:30pm the Friday night before we left for Kozani.(she also got a break from them spending time in the city!) I felt so bad for her because we couldn't really hug her until we were positive that she was clean. I can't believe how fast ticks find my dog! Oh, and we found two on Alexandra that, luckily, we were able to remove before they bit her. Crazy. We find them on our stairs daily and burn them...the kids are on tick alert! We're learning a lot about living out of the city, it's hard work.

The photo above was taken the day after Easter. She was tagged by Alexandra's orange marker. Poor puppy!

And finally, this photo is what happens when you leave your dog home in the confines of a hallway with a new, unopened roll of paper towel. We were shopping for May 1st and wanted to keep her inside...away from the ticks...and she got bored and had a party. Looks like she had fun doing it.

Monday, May 5, 2008

I'm sure that everyone can probably imagine just how busy we've been over the last few weeks. The kids went back to school today so I'm taking a few minutes to share some photos from the holidays.

We spent Easter in Kozani. Here's a photo of Izabella just after she received the Holy Light. It was a challenge walking back to the apartment with the kids trying to keep their candles lit!
The Easter table complete with roses from my garden...
MIL roasted the lamb in the oven and it was wonderful. I can say that because although I'll eat lamb, I'm not a big fan. But, this one was really, really succulent. We had salad, roasted veggies, tzatziki, beets, tiropita, spanikopita and rice that was cooked right in with the lamb... amazing. The next photo is of the hungry kids waiting to eat...
Dessert was karythopita, a Greek walnut cake drenched in syrup. I need to learn how to make that!

On the Monday after Easter we had a baptism to attend. It was my husband's cousin's baby that was being baptized. Izabella was lucky enough to have been chosen to hold the labatha. She was thrilled!

After the baptism we attend the dinner at a local taverna and as usual, the food was great. Isn't funny that I'm always talking about food? Well, it was fantastic. There was pork souvlaki, bifteki( ground beef patty heavily spiced), "shiskebob" ( the difference between souvlaki & shiskebob is that the "shiskebob" is usually large cuts of beef served off of the skewer opposed to souvlaki that's smaller cuts of meat served on the skewer) and a plethora of salads. You name it, it was on the table-marouli (romaine), cabbage, argura-domata (tomato-cucumber) and more. Fantastic.
After the dinner we retreated back to MIL's so that we could enjoy coffee before our ride home.
Our ride home was actually not as bad as we had expected given the holiday weekend had come to an end.
But, once we got home things were probably as typical as a day in our lives could be. What do I mean? Well, we arrived home just before 10 pm to find a neighbor talking to my husband's uncle (up the road) because he needed a little help. Why? Well, apparently the neighbor was passing by our home-showing his wife where we lived and he drove straight into a ditch aka wheat field. Why did he end up in a ditch? He claims he was trying to turn around...but I just can't begin to understand why someone would drive into an unknown field rather than pull a Y-turn by our gate...
So, in order for Kosta to help pull his car out of the ditch we had to unpack all of our things, like immediately, so that Kosta could get the hitch that he needed in order to start the process. Sleepy kids, 2 suitcases and a dog that wanted to pee really bad and I still had to open the door. Just typical in our lives and all that we could do was laugh...and finally settle in.
The next morning we were full speed ahead again since we were expecting 30 or so people for May 1st... more to come on that in my next post!
Oh and for those of you that celebrate- have a wonderful Cinco de Mayo! Gotta try to dig up some tequila to make myself a margarita.