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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesdays: Greek

Last year upon hearing this podcast (And if you've never looked through the podcasts here, I highly recommend doing so.), I decided that planning meals for Lent made sense.  We've had the Indian Food Lent, and the Lentil Soup Lent, and the Spanakorizo Lent, and...well, you get the idea that I have a habit of fixating upon one recipe for forty days.   
                                                  

A friend gave us this treasure of food when she moved to Germany.


This year, every day has a different theme, and each week features different recipes.  I'm hoping this will provide us with some variety and cut down on the complaints?  We'll see.

Wednesdays are Greek.  Where better to find Lenten recipes than in Greek cuisine?  Today we tried this recipe.  It wasn't very photogenic and needs a bit of tinkering, or un-tinkering, as I didn't follow the recipe exactly.  You might like it, Tante B.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dear T,

January 2011

It's nice to know that even though you're growing up, you're not really changing.
(But you may be getting faster and more difficult to capture on film.)

 Mmmwah!

Mama


February 2012


Monday, February 27, 2012

Holidays: Clean Monday and Great Lent

In Orthodoxy, the first day of Lent is called Clean Monday, which in Greek is Καθαρά Δευτέρα (kahth-are-AH dhef-TAIR-ah).  In Greece, the Clean Monday tradition is to take a picnic and kites into the hills and make a day of it.  Sadly, this year's weather was too cold and wet for a picnic, but the wind was great for kite flying! (We have some sickies in the house, so we were indoors regardless.) And also, sadly, I didn't get any lagana.  Next year...

I didn't notice how very blurry this photo was until I wanted to post it tonight, which was too late to snap a new one.
We have just entered the season of Lent, or, in Greek, the Forty Days (Σαρακοστή).  There's something marvelous about being in an Orthodox country during a holy period; there's a sense of solidarity, whether people are fasting or not.  When B went out for patatopites last night, he was asked if he wanted them with or without tzatziki.  And the flier above is advertising a sale on Lenten fare(and Ouzo).  Indeed, all of the stores have had sales and major Lenten promotions in the past couple of weeks.  It feels like a huge pat on the back of encouragement, honestly!

Have a good Lent, everyone!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

For J and J


B's grandparents' house has a room that we all call the devil's den.  We have one here, too.

Every time I go into it, I think of you, J and J.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Changing Habits





Along the theme of "Living with Less" is "Changing Habits."  There's nothing like a temporary international move to assist in reevaluating not only material possessions, but also behaviors.  Yes, we have far fewer things taking up space in our house, but do we choose to keep them organized and neat?  It really shouldn't be a problem, right?

What I have discovered is that, as liberating as it is to shed the majority of our possessions, our habits have trapped us into messes, too.  I recently read an enlightening article about habits here.  And for me the problem isn't simply eight extra pounds (although this post-nursing body needs a workout), it's forming the habit of a neat house, or a better plan for our meals, or enforcing our children's chore chart, or setting my alarm clock, or sticking to that daily rule of prayer.

Since I missed the boat for changing most of these habits on January 1,  I am looking to the beginning  Great Lent as the starting line for forming some better habits (especially that one about the rule of prayer).  As nice as living in a neat house is, it's not an end unto itself.  Self-discipline and an obedient spirit are, for me, but also for my children.

I am praying we can bring them with us when we travel home from Greece, but whew! it won't be easy.








Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Poor, part 18

I sound like a broken record, but E. Nesbit is my very favorite children's author.  Really.  
And my kids love her, too, which is not always a given when mothers favor authors.


We've already heard this one, but one more time can't hurt, right?  Especially relevant to us now, with a little brother rifling through all our things, is the chapter entitled "Being Wanted."  You can read it here and see why.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In which I eat my words. And some trachanas.

Sorry to mislead with this photo.
Trachanas has nothing to do with brown sugar, but makes a very un-photogenic soup.


I seem to have to retract statements on a regular basis, and my logical husband would say, "Well, stop talking!"  Yes, he's right.  I should stop making declarations that I have to amend.  Like the one about how the idea of trachanas really didn't sound appealing.  

I love it.

Tonight I made a soup loosely based upon this recipe.  Mine didn't have chicken, but it did have trachanas. You know, that thing I thought I didn't like.  Here's what I did.  (My doctoring might make someone who has had the Real Thing cringe, but T asked for a third helping, so I'll take it.) 

1 onion diced
1 cup trachanas (soaked in warm water until doubled)
2 tomatoes, diced
1 liter broth
pinch cumin
3/4 cup lentils
250 g halloumi, diced

1.  Saute the onions in olive oil until translucent.  
2.  Add tomatoes, cumin and broth and boil until soft.
3.  Puree mixture in blender or with immersion blender.
4.  Add lentils and simmer until al dente.
5.  Throw in halloumi and simmer or 1/2 hour.
6. Serve warm.

If you can't find real trachanas, you could substitute a cup of bulgur and then stir in some plain yogurt when you serve the soup.  It won't taste exactly the same, but will be a close approximation. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Holidays: Apokreas

Apokreas is the low-key Greek version of Carnival, as opposed to here.  We celebrate it with the rest of our parish in the US, where in English it's called Meatfare Sunday  The children in the parish usually break a pinata, and we all gorge ourselves on delicious meat dishes.


In Athens, everyone knows it's Apokreas time.  Store windows display children's costumes and our periptero ladies sell confetti and streamers. But as far as major celebrations go, the city was pretty quiet. There were no parades through the city, at least none that we attended.  Our kids went to the party hosted by their school's PTA.  They each made their own costume, although I assisted with hair and make-up.  (Z used a play silk for her butterfly wings, and M decided to wear Z's pants as part of his superhero costume. So. Cute.)



They had a fabulous time, or so they said.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dear M,

It must be February


Glue, butterfly, stitches: how many ways are we going to fix the same square inch of your forehead?

Good thing you had a haircut this weekend.

And that you have a vigilant guardian angel.

Love you.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Our Bridge




This is our bridge.  We see it in commercials, and it's one of M's favorite points in the city.  If you come to visit us (and the Metro is working), you'll get to see it, too.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Sunny Afternoon

















(Apologies. I went a little crazy with the edge blur feature.)
Spring is just around the corner!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book Poor, part 17

These books have been around for a while, and there's a good reason.  They're great!  I first read Clementine when Z was far too young to read; I picked it up from the library because Marla Frazee also illustrated this, which is one of our very favorite picture books.




Z received these three books for Christmas from Nana and Papa.  She read the first with Papa, and the next two by herself in two afternoons.  She gives them two thumbs up. (And I give the illustrations two thumbs up, too.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Random Monday

The view from our window


1.  I know full well that today is Wednesday, but after the blissful week-long weekend with friends, today feels like a Monday.  We're back to the quiet routine of our days, and missing late-night laughter and watching our children play pirate games together.

2.  Thank you to the friends and family who have sent emails to check in with us after all of the hubbub.  We're fine, glory be to God.  Our neighborhood is far enough from the center that we have to watch the news to find out what's happening in the rest of the city.  Our guests, who were living in Tunisia last year during the revolution, joked that civil unrest follows them wherever they go.

3.  I loved seeing this childhood friend as a mom--she's a fabulous one, raising her children in a foreign country to be faithful and happy.  I love that our parents have known each other since high school (and are still friends), we have known each other since we were seven, and now our kids know each other.  Amazing.

4.  B had an event last night that kept him out late.  In the ten years we've been together we've celebrated a total of three Valentine's Days.  But then, with us, every day is a Valentine's Day.

5.  Lent is around the corner.  I loved reading this. It's the best explanation of fasting for children that I've yet found.

6.  Also meditating on this.  Boy, do I have a lot of room for improvement.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

But Keep the Old

I'm on vacation this week.  A very old friend and her family are visiting us from their home in Tunisia this week.  Tunisia!  We'll be spending the week comparing notes on living abroad.  See you in a week!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Here and There: Paying Bills

THERE, I happily wrote checks each month to pay my bills.  I find something highly satisfying about writing checks, sealing envelopes, and putting stamps on them.  Of course, there takes a bit of planning to ensure that all of the payments arrive in time.  I've had a couple of "Whoops!  That's due in two days!  Will the post office deliver it in time?" moments over the years. We had been moving more toward online bill payment, but something still seemed too unreal about pressing a button to transfer money.  I'm pretty wary of the security of online banking, too.  B rarely dealt with cash, but I used it pretty regularly for the "extras" so that I could maintain our budget.  By "extras" I mean yarn.



HERE, bills are paid in cash every two months.  B takes cash to to Post Office down the street to pay our electricity bill, which inevitably means standing in a long line.  There's a small fee attached because he's taking advantage of the convenience of paying at the Post Office.  The alternative would be to go to the actual electric company office, which is in a different neighborhood.  B pays our phone and internet bill, also in cash, at the phone company office a few blocks away.  He pays our rent in cash to our landlord, who lives two floors above us.  To deposit his paycheck, he has two options.   He may deposit the check in our bank and wait a few days for it to clear, or cash the check at the bank of issue, and then take the cash to our bank to deposit it.  We're not entirely sure if the majority of the people here pay bills in the same way, but we've been lead to believe this is so.  Honestly, despite the hassle, paying everything in cash definitely helps us to maintain a budget.

(In case you can't tell, I love it.  But then, I am not traipsing to every office to deal with our money.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

τι είν᾽ αυτό;


If you can't figure out what this sign says, 

  maybe the windmill on top of the periptero will help? 



 
 It's a solar and wind powered periptero!  Isn't that neat-o?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Poor, parts 15 and 16*



 It's really not as scary as the cover would have you believe.  I had never heard of this series before I ran across it in the library last year.  This was a Christmas gift for Z, but she and M both love it.  My favorite part?  The fabulous vocabulary.  Even I had to look up posset.  It brings to mind The Secret Garden (same period), and has really very little about wolves after the first few chapters.






*(As for the new audiobook series that we like, it wasn't the greatest after all.  But we did find a third installment about the Bastable children that we highly recommend.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mending

Today started off snowy and overcast, the perfect weather for curling up under a blanket and making a dent in the mending pile.  My mending pile is usually pretty small, as I often choose mending the kids' clothing over, say, sweeping the floors.  On my pile were just a pair of socks* and more patches for M's jeans.


Today I also let Z stay home from school.  Of all of our transitions, hers has been the hardest.  She had trouble falling asleep last night(she was up until 11:30), and I knew that she'd have difficulty staying awake in class.  I also knew that a tired day at school would be followed, as it always is, by meltdowns and frustration this afternoon.  For both of us.

Aside from my Opinions about her teacher, school has been different than Z expected.  There's lots of homework, despite the early release.  I will be the first to admit that Z is easily distracted and works slowly.  If we were in the States, I would be speaking with her teacher about the length of time it takes Z to complete all of her assignments.  We've had to take a break from our English lessons recently because Greek school takes so much time; it's not fair to make a child sit for seven hours each day to do school work.  I was very hesitant to take such a break.  Heaven forbid she should fall behind.  But B pointed out to me that Z is doing a lot of what we're doing in our English lessons...in Greek.  I am relaxing a little with that thought in mind.  I'm also convinced that Z will thrive in our homeschool next year, as she has in the past.  I know she misses it.

So today, I was trying to be a wise mama.  I would never have dreamed that I'd be allowing a child to play hookie for no good reason, but I see this as a way to let Z know that I'm on her side.  All to often I am the tough parent, but today I was the softie.  It felt really nice, and I was, in a way, mending my little girl.

* The yarn for the socks is Colinette Jitterbug in 100/Gaughin.  The colorway was so pretty, and the women at the yarn shop assured me that it would wash and dry in my machine like a dream.  I didn't spend as much as it is going for now($25!), but it was definitely pricey.  Y'all, those beautiful colors faded quickly, the yarn got all fuzzy, and each sock has a bajillion darns in it--definitely short term pleasure yarn.  I've had much better luck with far less expensive wool.

Lesson: Either hand wash or buy cheap yarn.