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Saturday, December 31, 2011


I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions.  I get far too discouraged when I can't keep them after the first week of January.  But this New Year's, thanks to a transatlantic move and a different holiday routine, I'm turning over a new leaf.  I have a whole list of resolutions, and to motivate me to stick to them I'm publishing them here.

Any aspirations for the New Year?  Also, here's a great little article from Living in Greece about New Year's customs in Greece.

p.s.  Did you know that when you deactivate your Facebook account you're asked why you're deactivating?  Did you know that the first reason on the list is "I spend too much time on Facebook?"  And for those of you who were wondering where I've been, I deactivated my Facebook account a little early.  I'd love to hear from you still--you all know my email address.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Poor, part 10

I first read about Japanese pattern books here, and have been drooling over them ever since.  I put a few on my Amazon Christmas wish list, thinking that my Mom would see all of them and choose the one she liked the best.  You can imagine how amazed and thankful I was when I opened my Christmas presents and found all three!  Wow.  Thanks, Mom.

The two for kids are in French, not Japanese, thank goodness.  I'm not that confident about my sewing skills.  At least I took a few French courses in college; what I can't figure out on my own, I can either ask my polyglot husband, French major sister-in-law, or Google Translate, right?

The girl patterns are so sweet, I can't wait until my reunion with my sewing machine.

 I think that the above page is the most helpful out of all three books.  I have been wondering about essential sewing tools for some time, but haven't found a definitive list until now.

The kids' patterns are all so simple and classic, that I hope to use these books for a long, long time.

The book above, for women, is a recent publication by Interweave Press, but it was published in Japanese first, if I'm not mistaken.  I loved the premise: minimal but interchangeable pattern pieces, many styles.  The book wasn't a disappointment, especially when I saw pattern 5b.  I have been looking for this exact skirt pattern for a very long time, and I've been too scared to draft one myself.  My only beef with the book is that the pattern sizes stop at a US 8-10.  Being of a healthy German build, I always appreciate seeing larger sizes represented.

OK, so these books aren't great literature, but they're a fabulous beginning to a pattern library.  And maybe some inspiration for novice seamstresses/tailors?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Photos, or it didn't happen.

My brother is fond of saying that.

While I agree to a certain extent, I am more of the "written, or it didn't happen" mindset.  I don't have a Pinterest board for this reason, among others.  So when I saw this journaltattered and nestled in a basket of pretty yarn, I thought I needed it so that I could, you know, write everything down.  After hemming and hawing for two weeks, I bought it.  Or so I thought.  A few weeks later, it hadn't arrived, and Amazon notified me that I hadn't actually purchased it.  It was a sign that I didn't really need  it, but I still loved the idea of a journal with different sections for all of the ideas that pop into my head in the middle of the night.  So I made one with a notebook I already had.

Here's how:

Get a notebook.  I love the squared variety.  The cover isn't covered prettily--yet.  All in good time, friends. (Athens isn't exactly brimming with things like this, and to be honest, I'm not looking that hard for them.) For now a Sharpie and school label are great.

 Excuse the smudge where I wrote my real name instead of "pleximama." 

My notebook has four twelve-page sections, but your notebook could have any number.  Just divide the number of pages by how many sections you'd like.  To make the tabs even, measure the side of the notebook, divide that number by the number of sections, and draw tabs. Using a scissors, I cut out the excess paper at each tab, but an Exacto knife might give more crisp edges. Easy! I chose verbs as labels for each section and wrote them on the tabs(Rocket science, right?). 

 For now, this style of journal is working fabulously for my scattered thoughts.  Ah! well do I remember the days of ten-page essays in my journal. Maybe again someday...

(And guess what?  My mother-in-law brought the journal I didn't purchase with her when she arrived the other night.  It had been ordered after all!  Isn't it beautiful?  Perfect for a gift, and I know just the recipient.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pop Shimmy Shimmy Pow

Do you remember the clapping games that you learned in second grade? They've taken our house by storm, and even the little brothers don't want to be left out.

Z told me that the girls at school were doing really strange clapping and singing, and that she didn't know how to do it. I pulled several English versions from the dusty recesses of my memory, and taught them to Z. They were a sensation at her school, apparently, and now Z knows several English and Greek versions.

What second grader wouldn't teach a Greek game in exchange for learning an jazzy one in English?

Would you like us to teach you a Greek clapping game when we see you next?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holidays: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Christmas, as already noted, has a different feel here in Athens; we summed up our Christmas in two words: Church and silence.

The big kids rose early with B to go to Liturgy on Christmas Eve, and they were back before 10 am.  We relaxed and ate our usual bakery breakfast, and then I ventured forth for a last minute purchase.  The streets were bustling on Christmas Eve with shoppers scrambling to get those last few items from the supermarket and farmers' market.  And there were groups of two and three children, armed with triangles, knocking on doors and treating the occupants to Greek carols (but without the techno beat).  We had a couple of groups visit us in the morning, to whom we gave chocolate coins and oranges.  We don't know if that was what we were "supposed" to do, but it felt right.

On Christmas Eve we went to Vespers at a Church near our house, but T only lasted a few minutes before he was ready to leave.  As I pushed him home in the stroller, I saw these lovely lights. (B took this picture a few nights before, but I saw the same lights.)

On Christmas Day, Liturgy begins really early, like at 6 am.  We managed to get to our Church by 7:30, which is saying a lot.  When the service was over, we raced home for a big breakfast of french toast and eggs, with an extra helping of coffee for me.  The streets and playgrounds were deserted, as in absolutely silent.  I spent the early afternoon baking cookies, and we went to a cozy Christmas Day luncheon at B's workplace.  And then we all collapsed out of sheer exhaustion.

We did not open presents.  In Greece, St. Basil brings gifts for New Year's Day, so our kids are still on pins and needles.  We're baking Christmas cookies and welcoming family for a visit to while away the time.   Personally, I love waiting until New Year's to open gifts.  There's something so exciting about delayed gratification.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cookie Emergency!

Last week I misplaced the blade for our little food processor and couldn't make my favorite Christmas cookies.  I spent the better part of the afternoon on Christmas Eve turning the kitchen upside-down, looking for the blade.  No luck.  I remembered confiscating it at different times from both boys:  T has really long arms and I forget that every time I put something on the counter, and M just instinctively knows when anything sharp is within his reach.   The final resting place for the blade was somewhere only I could reach.  But where?

We needed to bring a dessert to the Christmas Day luncheon we were to attend, but there were a few limitations to what I could make.
1) No mixer.
2) No food processor (see above).
3) No cookie cutters.
4) No chocolate/sweetened condensed milk/fill-in-the-blank-other-specialty-ingredient-commonly-found-in-American-cookie-recipes.
5)The stores were closed.

I happened to be reading Purl Bee when I saw this recipe for icebox cookies.  Yu-um.

Y'all, they were so fast, easy and delicious that they'll be a permanent addition to our Christmas cookie repertoire. That's saying a lot because I have had poor luck with icebox cookies in the past.  I used sprinkles instead of schmancy sugar (see above, 4).  I also didn't add almond extract, as I didn't have any on hand (see above, 5).

I'm happy to report the missing food processor blade was discovered on high shelf that I know I cleared on Christmas Eve.  I hope to post a recipe for our favorite cookies when I get them made, as well as a little about how we spent Christmas.  I also have some fabulous books to share, thanks to some Christmas packages.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Preparation for Christmas?

On the blogs that I normally read, there's a sense of pre-Christmas madness.  Tables groan under the weight of Christmas crafts and dozens of varieties of gourmet cookies.  Discussions about gifts and gadgets abound.  Trees sparkle, the halls are decked, and soft light displays perfectly laid tables.  Mailboxes are stuffed with Amazon.com boxes and hand-addressed envelopes containing Christmas cards.

I love the pre-Christmas craziness, and I am so glad to have a break from it.

B and I are reveling in how calm we both feel.  If you were to visit us now and take a walk through our neighborhood, you just might not realize that it's Christmas.  Things in our part of Athens aren't over-the-top.  Stores didn't put out their holiday wares until a couple of weeks ago, and although I see people rushing about with poinsettias, there's still such a sense of peace everywhere.  At least, that's my perception.

From our family to yours, peace and joy for the Nativity of Christ.
See you in a few days!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A New (to me) Treat

When B told me that he thought patatopites(pah-tah-TOE-pih-tez) should find a place in our Lenten recipe rotation, I was skeptical.  Not just a potato sandwich, but a french fry sandwich?  Where's the nutritional value?  What's the point of a carbohydrate sandwich?

Oh, friends.  I hadn't tried one.

more like suggestions rather than a full-blown recipe

french fries, baked in the oven and drizzled with olive oil
french fries, really fried(gasp!)
dash of paprika
dash of cumin
wedges of lemon
pocketless pita, toasted
tomato, halved and sliced thinly
onion, halved and sliced thinly
tzatziki, optional

We sprinkle our fries with salt, sweet paprika, and cumin.  We then load the fries into the pita, squeeze on some lemon juice, and top with our personal favorites.  B likes everything, but hold the tzatziki for now, please.  I prefer tomato and extra onions.  Z will have only fries, and tzatziki if available.  M would like fries, lemon, and onion.   (I know, onion?)  

While this isn't an everyday meal, it's a very nice treat, especially before Christmas.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Christmas Pageant

Despite yesterday being one of those blips in our mostly calm life, M's Kindergarten Christmas Program and Party was a success.  I have no idea how his teacher whipped her students into shape.  Not only did everyone have to memorize their lines, but students learned choreographed dances.  M, with the other two reindeer, pranced, jumped, and shook his antlers correctly.  I think his teacher assigned dances according to personality, because fittingly, M's dance was the most boisterous and energetic.

After the performance, Santa Claus visited and brought M a new pack of cards! (How did he know that our cards are torn and coffee stained? )

Monday, December 19, 2011

One of those days.

We all have them, don't we?

§§   The ones that start the night before with the howling Baby, and carry into the wee hours of the         morning with the same howling Babe?

§§  When the Mama wakes up, hears the steady downpour, and wonders if caffeine and prayer will be enough to get through the day?

§§  The ones that see the older Son with the day off from school, and loudly singing the same five lines of The Sun Song on repeat?

§§  Or those that see the Daughter alternately in hysterical rages and giggling uncontrollably, but consistently bouncing around the house like a pinball?

§§  Those days when the Baby doesn't nap, although the Mama knows he's very tired because he keeps falling?        

§§  The ones that see the Mama doing things that she isn't proud of (like losing her temper) because she's so tired, and her ears are ringing from the singing and fighting, and her head is spinning from the Daughter's mood swings?

§§   The ones when the Mama hopes that the neighbors can't hear as much of their noise as she fears, and "Oh no!  We're going to be late to the Christmas Pageant"?

§§   Those days when the dirty dishes mock from the sink, and the rain teases at the windows, and the Mama prays this prayer, wondering what tomorrow will bring?

The weather says there's 0% chance of rain. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

From the Archives: August 6, 2011

While Z was helping Opie put up a bird feeder this August, she ripped the hem of one of her favorite dresses.  It had been getting shorter on her as the summer progressed, so cutting off the torn part and re-hemming the dress wasn't really an option.  I decided to add a color block to the bottom of the dress, not because I am in any way fashionable(and honestly most of the color blocks I see remind me of a hideous color block shirt I had in middle school), but because I was hoping to extend the life of the dress.  Z's growth tends toward the upward, rather than the outward, so maybe she'll get one more summer out of it?

Finding the right fabric was a little more difficult than I had expected.  I was hoping to find a polka dot fabric to match the red-orange or lavender dots on the fabric.  No such luck.  And seeing as we were about to move across the Atlantic, I didn't have the luxury of waiting around for the perfect fabric.

So I scrapped that idea and looked for plain, old white fabric.  There's a pink undertone to the white parts of the dress, so I went through bolts and bolts of white fabric at JoAnn's until I found the right white.  Who knew that white could come in so many shades?

It's still not exactly the same color white, but it'll do.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It pays to know people.

This morning we woke up to a steady rain, and B was very concerned that his tour of the inaccesible-to-the-average-joe inside of the Parthenon would be very wet.  A stiff breeze pushed the clouds aside right as he and his group arrived at the top of the Acropolis, and they could practically see Piraeus.  

Here are some pictures from the inside.  Should we be jealous?

 They even got to climb on top of the Parthenon.


Thursday, December 15, 2011


T and I went to the Farmer's Market this morning, like we do every Thursday morning.  Once again I was astounded at the fresh and "local" produce available, and for such low prices.  I'm pretty boring with my selection.  There are lots of lovely wild greens and fruits like persimmons available that I don't purchase.  (I'd like to think it's because I know my children well, and foods they don't like go to waste.)

 Here's what we snagged today for €15, which is about $19.50 USD.  Can you guess which T likes best?

2 tomatoes from Crete

4 kilos of potatoes

celery, wild and leafy

carrots, bent and straight

purple broccoli, for a little adventure

lemons and clementines from Argos
(a side note: our last haul of clementines only lasted 4 days)

six bananas from Ecuador

 apples, Gala 

 pears, from Tyrnavo

a dozen eggs, so fresh the yolks are orange

Are your mouths watering yet, Nana and Papa?

p.s. These eggs were only €0,10 each.  We're looking forward to frying some with you in a little bit!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What does T do all day?

On our walk this morning, T and I took some pictures with the iPod.  There's a park near our apartment with trees and animals and traffic-free paths where he can run.   We had a great time.  We hope you had a great morning, too!