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Monday, October 31, 2011

American Holidays: Halloween

Greeks don't celebrate Halloween.  At.  All.  I'm not complaining, as it's not my favorite holiday.  I'm all for an excuse to dress up in silly costumes and beg for candy, don't get me wrong.  I'm just totally opposed to the teenagers (and adults!) in frightening masks and really scary decorations that are ubiquitous in the States whenever we go out this time of year.

Bearing that in mind, it's no surprise that this year the kids decorated their bedroom (see above) and figured out costumes this year all by themselves.  They were the most disappointed about missing out on trick-or-treating, so I told them that we could trick-or-treat around our house.  They spent this afternoon in agony, planning out what they were going to wear.  Z ended up going as an Arabian princess and M was Batman. T ripped off all of the capes that Z tied around his shoulders, so he answered the doors with me.  We spent fifteen silly minutes this evening posing as trick-or-treaters and candy-hander-outers.  The kids tested out a piece of their loot before bed, and then Halloween was over!  It was all the fun of Halloween without even leaving the house--definitely my kind of fun.

p.s.  That orange rhombus is a jack o'lantern, and next to it is a really scary ghost.  Doesn't it give you the shivers?

A Sweater: Day by Day

I thought documenting the progress of T's sweater day by day would be interesting and, more importantly, a goad to finish quickly.  Since it's a small sweater, it's not a long post.

Day 1: Measurements, yarn and tools.  I used a sweater we already have for the measurements.

Day 2: A plan and a beginning.

 Day 3:  A few more inches and T's favorite book, which happens to be the only one we brought.  

Day 4: A cold shortens evening knitting time, but the body (to the sleeves) is complete.  
Book thrown in for scale.

Day 5: Lazy Sunday afternoon knitting leads to The Yoke.

Day 6:  The body aaaalmost finished.  Still trying to figure out why the color is different in every photo. T has first fitting. (The sweater fits.  Woohoo!)

Day 7:  Short rows added to the back near the neck.   Those rows I ripped back last night and a morning spent in Metaxourghio applying for residence permit seriously impact today's knitting time.  I don't manage to snap a picture--see above, residence permit.

Day 8:  Second fitting to make sure that neck opening fits over T's gigantic head.  It does.  Gratified to see that what I knit for him last winter still fits.  

Day 9: Yoke finished save for buttons. Sweater languishes while I entertain the troops, who have the day off from school today. And tomorrow.  And the next day.

Day 10: Sleeve 1 begun.  Today's plans include button shopping in Monastiraki.  Tonight's plans include finishing sleeve 1 and busting out sleeve 2 in time for church tomorrow.

Day 11: Finished!  T wore the sweater to church this morning, which explains the crumbs down the front.  Hmmm. They must be smaller than I thought because they don't appear to be in this picture.
yarn: Cascade ECO + in Steel Blue
gauge: 16 stitches/4 inches on size 7 needle
a note:  I added short rows to the back of the neck of T's sweater to give it a better fit, but also because I wasn't sure how the panel of garter stitch would affect the length of the front.  Garter stitch tends to pull  in a vertical direction;  it's very stretchy.  As it happens, the short rows were a great idea, but the downward pull of that garter stitch effectively does the same job.  

one more note:  I did not set out to make M and T sweaters out of the same yarn.  I'm not really into mitchy-matchy clothes, but I like to dress the kids in variations of the same theme.  There was so much yarn left after M's sweater was finished that I couldn't not use it for T's sweater.  And then I thought Well, look at all of this yarn intended for T! I bet there's enough for something for me... (And there is. )

Friday, October 28, 2011

Greek Holidays: The Day of NO

Today is one of the two largest national holidays here in Greece, Όχι (Oh-hee) Day.  It commemorates Greece's rejection of Mussolini's demand for Axis troops to occupy parts of Greece.  More information can be found on the Wiki page.

 Our kids had their Όχι Day celebrations yesterday, and we were excited that they bore a striking resemblance to the celebrations we had attended at our Greek School stateside.  M's class sang songs, recited poems and marched in a very small parade.  M didn't get to yell "Ζήτω το Ὀχι"(Long live the No!) this year, to my disappointment.

After M's class was dismissed, he and I made our way to the auditorium where the elementary school was having a performance.  The fourth grade gave the presentations for Z's school, and I suppose she sat through it with pleasure.  She told me that there was a really funny part, but M and I only caught the tail end of the performance.  After the hour-long γιορτή (party), the kids were off from school.

Today we slept a little later (if you can call 6:45 later).  The kids worked hard to make a Greek flag, which we hung on our balcony so we could look like everyone else. We tried to watch the parade in Thessaloniki over TV, but it was cancelled because of protests.  Z and M spent the rest of the day humming and singing the Greek national anthem, which is pretty catchy.

Is it strange that our kids know far more about Greek history and holidays than American ones?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sick children will be put to work.

Z stayed home from school the other day with a mild stomach bug.  She asked to learn how to crochet.  "Why, of course!" came my prompt reply.  Ignoring T, we made a great start on a scarf for her doll, Tillie.  I am planning to "help" a little to further the progress.  We hope to post our finished scarf soon!

Z has gotten short shrift on the blog lately.  Her sweater is languishing without a button band.  I am of the opinion that knitter's block is best remedied by time and other projects.  I think I have a solution, but  I am finishing up T's sweater first.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Το Ίδρυμα...το ξέρει

A teaser for Το Ίδρυμα (The Foundation), a 15-minute satirical news show in Greece.  The announcer says (loosely translated): "Greeks struggle on behalf of the environment...The Foundation knows it."

Last night, as B and I lay in bed, we saw the flashing lights and heard the glorious sound of a garbage truck from the City of Athens!  For those who haven't been following the Greek news, either the garbage workers or the landfill workers or both have been on strike since this post.  Murphy's Law, perhaps?  Thankfully our situation wasn't so bad.  Our block isn't very population dense; the apartment buildings have fewer than five stories on one side of our street, and there's a playground the length of the other side.  Fewer people generate less trash so, despite the strike, our trash was pile neatly next to the dumpster.  The private garbage company that took our trash once when the landfills were open also helped.

Sadly, there are other streets near our house whose dumpsters are still overflowing onto the sidewalks and streets.  Athens has had to do a major clean-up since the strike ended on Friday.  Hospitals and other essential trash-producing organizations have gotten priority service, and rightly so.  I completely understand that they have taken a while to pick up everything.

The trash strikes bring to mind the above teaser.  Thankfully some people have a sense of humor about the economic crisis.  While I laugh at Το Ἰδρυμαthere's a large part of me that feels like I'm perpetuating a stereotype.  And we know that there are many people who feel the financial strain in very concrete ways.  We've spoken with several Greeks who are either unemployed or unsure of their employment in two months' time.  One Albanian woman we met at our playground thinks that she and her family might have to move back to Albania, where the job prospects are even worse.

On that note....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A new hat

I knit T a yellow and grey striped hat this summer.  Isn't it lovely?  (Hold STILL, T!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Poor, part 3

We like books.  We have lots of books.  So many, in fact, we decided not to pack them away when we relocated.  We didn't even bring any kids' books to Athens.  We knew we would buy books in Greece.  Lots and lots of books.

B has been itching to buy Le Petit Nicolas in Greek for a while.  (Are you noticing a theme of Greek translations of Goscinny?)  This is a read-aloud, and the kids love to listen to all of the scrapes Nicolas gets into.

 Sempé's whimsical illustrations capture the essence of the Nicolas' adventures.  Or at least they seem to, as I don't really understand the Greek.  

 Since I hear the kids hooting when B is reading to them before bed, I can assume it's safe to recommend to friends.  (In English, of course!)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Here and There: Washing Dishes

THERE, washing the dishes involved rinsing particles of food from dishes and then loading them into the dishwasher.  Inevitably I had to wait for the washer to fill up before I could run it.  Typically we ran the dishwasher daily.  When the cycle finished, I had to empty it--I mean, ya can't put dirty dishes into a full washer.  Pots and pans had to be washed by hand anyway.  For some reason, no matter how many dishes I washed and put into the washer, there was still a sizable pile in the sink.  I chalk it up to one of life's great mysteries.

HERE, I wash everything by hand.  Initially I was a little nervous about being able to keep up with the dirty dishes, but that really hasn't been a problem.  Living for seven years with a dishwasher (and before that not doing the dishes until I ran out of clean ones) gave me the impression that a dishwasher is necessary.  Honestly?  Using a dishwasher just adds an unnecessary step to the dishwashing process.  I really don't miss it; I enjoy washing each dish by hand at the end of the day. Putting them away?  That's another story.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Poor, part 2

We like books.  We have lots of books.  So many, in fact, we decided not to pack them away when we relocated.  We didn't even bring any kids' books to Athens.  We knew we would buy books in Greece.  Lots and lots of books.

Ahhhh...Louky Louk*, a perennial favorite of our Greek internet movie list.  When M heard that Greece had Lucky Luke books, he was ready to pack his bags.

M's favorite part of the book we have?  Lucky Luke falls asleep in the tub, someone steals his clothing, and he has to go to the show-down in a towel.  Oh, that Lucky Luke!  What five year-old boy wouldn't giggle?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

M's Sweater Finished!

Here's M to model.  Despite my pleading directions, he very much chose his own poses.  I give you:


(Ostensibly this photo was to give a view of the back.  I love the shoulder shaping and can't wait to invest in some yarn so that I can make one of these sweaters for myself.)


(No, really, I said "Please smile!" and he gave me this pained face.)

Chest circumference of 25"
gauge: 4 sts/ 1 inch

And, a label tragedy.  I added one of my iron-transfer labels to the neck of the sweater, and it's obvious that I'll need to invest in some sturdier ones before I open an Etsy shop.  The above picture was taken this afternoon; M wore the sweater for the first time this morning.

UPDATE: p.s.  Thank you to our friends and family who have expressed concern about the current situation in Athens.  Thankfully we're living far from the riots and our neighborhood has been pretty peaceful.  The families waiting to pick up their children from school are definitely grim.  We're praying that the situation stabilizes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Poor, part 1

We like books.  We have lots of books.  So many, in fact, we decided not to pack them away when we relocated.  We didn't even bring any kids' books to Athens.  We knew we would buy books in Greece.  Lots and lots of books.

 Our first book purchase was of an Asterix and Obelix.  We have since gotten no fewer than five, all loved and looked at for hours.  They can be found at the Greek version of a newsstand, called a periptero.*

Obelix and Co. is the latest addition to our collection.  I haven't read any of them--they're in Greek--but everyone else seems to like them.  Comic books are helpful in teaching a different language, right?

In Greek, the semi-colon functions in the same way that a question mark does in English.  When M looks at our Asterix books, he says "Huh?" every time he sees a semi-colon.  It's especially funny to hear him "reading" this way when I am in a different room.

*In Greece, the peripteros are usually open when most other stores aren't, and sell, in addition to periodicals, snacks and beverages.  They can be found every few yards along the larger streets.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

το σπίτι μας: το σαλόνι μας

 Welcome to our living room! 
We spend a lot of our time here and in the dining room, which is behind those sheet covered chairs.  The chairs and both couches are actually upholstered in beige velvet, and our landlord mentioned that there were some chair covers in one of the storage spaces.  We felt like we should be considerate tenants and protect that beige velvet, no matter what.  It took us a couple of weeks to locate the covers.  I think that the landlord's mother made them, which is pretty spectacular to me, a novice seamstress.
Aaanywho, they're also beige, but this time a satiny paisley.  I felt that these, too, needed a modicum of protection, which explains the sheets draped over the covers, draped over the furniture.  Throw in a couple of inexpensive pillows and a blanket from IKEA, and it's home...of a sort.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More about knitting...

So for all (one) of you who are reading this blog for news about our family abroad, I hate to disappoint.  This actually began as a knitting blog--an incentive for me to finish projects and a place to keep track of what I knit.  Clearly I've strayed a bit in the past few weeks from my original intentions, but if you'll bear with me through my knitting narrative, I promise that our life abroad updates will continue. Hmmm...That's so backwards...

picture borrowed from www.patternfish.com

I was so bummed about the fit of M's sweater (shown above) that I didn't work on it for a few days.  I kept looking at it and trying to decide:  smaller needles or fewer stitches?  If I switched to smaller needles, the sweater's width would shrink, but the knitting would be far too tight.  Cascade ECO Plus is very light and squishy; it wants a looser gauge to be at its best.  So the only real option would be to subtract stitches on the sides of the sweater.  Doing that, I would lose the reason I chose the pattern in the first place.  I love the double moss stitch on the sleeves and side.  The solution?  Wait a year or two for this pattern.  I also made a resolution about sweater knitting in general, but I'll save that for another post.

 I started fresh with the only knitting book I brought to Greece: Knitting Workshop.

I decided to use EPS to make a plain old stockinette pullover, but with a seamless shirt yoke.  Trust me, it's much more fun to knit it than read about it.  I. loved. every. minute.  There was something very soothing about knitting the body brainlessly, and a treat to get to the yoke at the end.

I made only one mistake.  I forgot about M's gi-normous head.  When I finished the crew neck, I tried the sweater on him.  We couldn't even get the top of his head through.  He was secretly glad that the fitting session ended abruptly, and I think that he was hoping he'd never have to wear the thing.

He underestimated his mother's ability to improvise.

Enter the emergency placket neck steek.  The cable needle is marking how long to make the steek, and the light blue yarn serves as a guide.  Not having my own sewing machine, and not brave enough to try the one in our apartment, I used the crochet method to secure my stitches.*  I took a deep breath and CUT my lovely sweater.  Here's the before:

And the after:

Now for those sleeves...

*I have reservations about using the crochet method for slippery yarn, like a merino superwash.  Cascade ECO Plus is very sticky, and I used Knitpicks Palette for the crochet stitches, which is also sticky and felts easily.  Hopefully between the two yarns, the cut stitches will hold.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

τι είν᾽ αυτό;

 So whose name is on this Cowboys & Aliens movie poster?  

Oh, right.  Daniel Craig.
And that's Χάρισον Φόρντ(Harrison Ford) next to him?  Gotcha.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

το σπίτι μας: το δωμάτιο μας

Straight ahead is the door to the master suite our bedroom.
 Again, I have to ask for suggestions about that chair under the window.  I don't really want it in the room, but there isn't another place for it.  A blanket to cover it?  Hmm...

The door to our side balcony is to the left of the vanity.  We don't really use the balcony, except for storage, because it's right next to the sidewalk.  I usually dry the clothes there, as it's nice to have my dryer out of the way.                                                 
And now for the closet views!  I would never have our closets in the States organized enough to document, let alone post on the internet.  Somehow in Athens, living with far fewer things, we've managed to keep our clothing looking fairly neat.
 I really think that this is how our closets should look.  They never do, but how nice is it to have everything visible?  (And a toddler in camouflage, presumably so I don't see him, to organize the shoes?)

I get the enormous wardrobe for my clothes. Z reminded me never to close the door behind me when I go into the wardrobe.  She's probably heard The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe one too many times, if that's possible.  Again, very excited to be able to see all of the clothes within.

And I'm hoping to add to my wardrobe a bit while I'm here.  I don't think that I have the courage style sense to wear most of what I see on the mothers while we are waiting to pick our children up from school.  And I really don't have the feet for stilettos!  Every now and then, though, I see something that catches my eye...