Saturday, March 29, 2008



I bought these flowers at the laiki (open market). Although I asked the vendor about them, I can't remember what they're called. I do know that they'll look great wherever I plant them.


Friday, March 28, 2008

I just had to...


I just had to show you this picture. We received these eggs earlier this week. How extremely thoughtful and generous. The woman that gave them to us took the time to wrap each egg so that they wouldn't crack on the journey from the nest to our home. Very, very sweet.
(I won't show more pictures of eggs until Easter.)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Iris

Sweet Alyssum

Kiwi bush budding

Pear blossoms



I can't help it, I'm obsessed with spring and all of its beauty. This post is dedicated to all of my loved ones back home- I hear that there's more snow on the way. You have really had a tough winter and it seems as if it's never ending! I hope that spring arrives soon. Until then, I'll share my spring with you.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fresh, fresh eggs

So it's Good Friday and because we are mostly celebrating Easter according to the Orthodox calendar this year, we haven't colored any eggs yet. In lieu of colored eggs I thought that I'd share some "fresh" eggs with everyone. As we know a lot of folks with their own chickens and we have small children, we are always receiving fresh eggs and it's really quite nice. I laughed the other day when we received a sack of fresh eggs from Kosta's uncle because they were so fresh that the feathers and the straw from the chicken coop were still attached to the egg...hence...the above photo. Now that's fresh!




Along with the eggs covered with feathers and straw were a pair of green eggs. Kosta's uncle proclaims these eggs to have reduced cholesterol. I don't know why he believes this but it is so. It reminded me of my friend Mel's post about green eggs.
Wednesday, I went to our local book store and the owner is an absolute doll. She's really peppy and as soon as she saw me she ran into the backroom and came out with some eggs. Apparently, her neighbor unloaded a bunch on her and she was generous enough to share. Also, with it being the Lenten season, those that are fasting are giving a lot of eggs away so that they're not wasted. And since we're not fasting-we're prime candidates to receive a lot of eggs. Now, before she gave the eggs to me she ran into the backroom again to bring out a cup of water. She wanted to show me how one can tell if an egg is really "fresh" or not. So, she put an egg into the cup of water -horizontally. It sat that way -on its side and didn't move, which apparently means it's fresh. If the egg was to tilt vertically, then it's not so fresh. According to her method of verification, they were very fresh. That was really cute and I appreciated her enthusiasm -and the eggs of course.
Well, that's all I have about the eggs. I hope that anyone that's celebrating Good Friday today has a nice one. Oh, and if you're going to a fish fry in Wisconsin...have a big piece of beer battered cod for me!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Peach blossoms


The best broccoli I've ever had!



I think that it's safe to pack away all of our winter hats & coats. We've had incredible weather for the last few weeks and haven't had the need for anything other than a hat from time to time. It's one more box to put away, hooray! Since I found the box with the hats & things in late winter I just left it in the corner of the living room with lid open so that we could grab what we needed. Our house is a nice size but there is almost no storage outside of bedroom closets and kitchen cupboards, which are packed.


We spent most of Saturday burning the mountains of tree branches left from pruning, it took almost an entire afternoon. I was exhausted after dragging branches from all corners of the property to the center where Kosta was tending the fire. Although it was exhausting, I really didn't mind doing it. I really think that it's time in our lives together for us to share this sort of experience. We've lived in so many apartments and our house in the States is smack-dab in the city. I used to hear the buses drive by every 15 minutes, the street cleaners, garbage trucks and at night -endless chatter of people passing by. As I dragged another branch toward the fire I stopped and looked around...and listened. It's so extremely peaceful out here where we have our home, so beautiful. I can see the sea, smell the fresh air and then listen to the birds. It's moments like that where I can justify the extreme turmoil that we've all been enduring. This is what we're working for; to enjoy life and what it has to offer. It's for our kids to have the best of both worlds-ok- and I'll admit they can also experience the worst of both worlds too(ie: the blasted strikes!). It's to share all of this with family and friends who want to join us and experience the things that we're experiencing, whether it be via the blog or actually visiting. I've spent many a phone call sobbing and whining and sometimes when I hang up I feel bad, like if my loved ones saw how I'm living-they'd ask what the problem was.


The challenges that we have faced have in no ways been small but almost none are impossible to overcome, if you can remain persistent and patient at the same time. Last week we were still getting absolutely nowhere in our attempts to acquire a Greek license plate. We've been trying for months to take care of business, it's just that on the Greek end, no one wants to take care of the business. We imported our car last summer, actually received it from the port in September. Supposedly, we had to wait until 2008 to have our emissions tested, too bad for us that the only qualified emissions station in the country is being revamped and having their equipment updated. So, as of last week we were told that today we have to lock up the car and park it...until July. Are you kidding me? July? So, what did we bring our car here for? To park it?- Or to use it? Kosta is working the phones and has been to the port several times-he may even have to go again today but we'll get our papers for an extension for permission to drive our car- no matter what it takes, he's persistent. It's just exhausting. Wish us luck.



So, there's one little snippet of how things work here, they don't. The strikes continue and I'm just thankful that I don't live in the city where the trash is piling up and the air is thick with tension. We'll just try to enjoy our little slice of paradise as much as possible without letting the chaos swirling around us eat away our spirits. Ok, so that was a bunch of babble, but that's what's on my mind this morning.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A little more of last weekend

Holy Lagana! We passed this piece of art on our way to our first neighborhood bonfire(fanoi-you'll need to scroll down the page to "culture" for info). I was a little disappointed that I didn't get a better photo! As you can imagine, I squeezed through a group of people to get this one.


Our first bonfire...

The second bonfire that we went to was conveniently located just below a friend's home. We saw people dancing on their balcony and just had to pop in. It was a lot of fun watching and listening to the party below. There's a lot of sexual satire chanted and repeated at the fanoi- hilarious I think. One man kept putting his mobile phone up to a speaker so that whoever was on the other end wasn't missing out on the fun.
We went to a third bonfire but I didn't get any photos as I was too busy dancing. My husband says that it's tradition to visit an odd number of neighborhood bonfires so we went to 3.


Two party goers having a blast. It's funny to see just how many men are dressed as women at carnival. It's so fun!



Finally, "Clean Monday". We went to a picnic outside of town and the kids got to fly their kites. We didn't get any food though! By the time we got to the actual picnic all of the food was gone as the crowd much bigger than anticipated. But, that's ok. Kosta's Theo Tasos(uncle) was there and ended up dragging us back to his place to eat instead. He and his wife served us lagana, bean soup (fassolatha), grilled octopus, cucumber/tomato salad, olives, taramosalata, halvas and horta-all very traditional foods for Clean Monday. We enjoyed our visit and then headed home. We were all pretty exhausted and couldn't wait to get there!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Weekend Carnival Celebration








Our weekend in Kozani was great! There were plenty of exciting carnival activities for everyone to enjoy. We went to a parade on Sunday as well as the bonfires(fanoi) on Sunday night. MIL lives in the center of the city, the last picture was taken just out the door and around the corner from where she lives. The music didn't stop until 9 AM Monday morning! Izabella, Alexandra & Gigi didn't sleep well because of all of the noise-especially since they're used to only owls "hooing" and a neighbor's dog barking at night. I took over 200 photos so I'll share a few throughout the week. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Strikes making life uncomfortable

I didn't realize that the there were strikes yesterday until late in the day. I am so annoyed by the power being cut that I can't begin to tell you. Luckily, we were all safe at home and not stuck out somewhere. Our power was cut last night at dusk. I couldn't cook dinner so we ate sandwiches by candlelight. I made a special note to myself-I need to buy unscented candles! Lighting the house with about 10 different scented candles got to be a little nauseating.
So here's what I'm thinking-Is it really rational for the stikers to believe that it's ok to cut power so that 2 trams collide and people are getting trapped in elevators? Is this civilization when striking workers think it's ok to put public safety at risk? The court will determine whether the actions of these striking workers is illegal or not-I say it's illegal, irrational and completely irresponsible.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday update




Spring is definitely here! The trees started blossoming right before I got sick and while I was sick it seems that everything has bloomed! It's really beautiful.
We've been working outside and I've been catching up inside. What a mess! Last night was the first night that I actually cooked a real meal since before I was sick. Izabella was thrilled. She told my mom on the phone last night that I made the best meal ever! Boy, that makes me feel good. I made pork souvlaki with white rice and a Greek salad on the side. Simple, easy and fresh. No more quick hot dogs or pasta & cheese. Mommy is back!
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The other day the kids came home from school with white and red threads tied around their wrists. The told me that it's to keep the sun from burning them during spring and at the end of the month pelicans will come and bring them presents. Hmmm, pelicans bearing gifts? Interesting. So, it's something that I need to learn about and work with so that I don't inadvertently crush the expectations of my kids. Anyone know anything about this?
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News about the hairdresser from hell:


I talked to a friend of mine that lives in the town where I got my hair hacked and she almost fell backwards. Apparently, this woman is KNOWN for being a horrible hair stylist. She says that she would have warned me if I would have talked to her before I went to the appointment. It turns out that the infamous hair hacker did my friend's hair for her wedding day...and needless to say she said that she made her look horrible on her wedding day. I haven't actually seen her wedding photos yet, but I'm anxious to have a chance.

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Our electric has gone off for 3 days straight-for between 2 or 4 hours each time! It's completely frustrating and annoying because I really can't do much while it's off. Today I used the time to go outside the perimeter of our property and pick up trash. I filled a big bag and there's a little more to pick up. What's interesting is that most of the trash consists of disposable coffee cups, straws, plastic bottles and plastic bags from grocery stores; in the same place that my neighbor parks. So, let's see if more garbage starts to appear again. Litterbugs.

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Finally, we'll be celebrating carnival in Kozani this weekend. The kids are excited to have the chance to wear their costumes again. There's a parade in the center of town on Sunday and a lot of public dancing, along with bonfires and a lot of wine! I remember celebrating carnival in Drama and we danced all night. Also, I remember that the Greeks really love to play the Gipsy Kings during carnival. I can't wait to shake it!

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Anniversary Weekend in Agistro



Agistro Clock Tower



Our anniversary weekend away was just what we needed. On Friday night we left our house at about 7:30 pm and headed for the village of Agistro near the Greek/Bulgarian border. The village of Agistro is home to thermal springs that have been used since the Byzantine era. We thought that it would be really nice to visit the spa there and try to relieve ourselves by soaking away some of the stress that we've accumulated within the last year. Our first "bath" was scheduled for 10:00 pm.


This trip was definitely necessary since it helped remind me just how nice things can be in Greece, since I've been overwhelmed with bad experiences since we've moved here. I know, I haven't even blogged about everything- but in time it will all come out. Anyway, as we were getting closer to our destination we called the hotel to let them know that we would be a little late and that we probably wouldn't make the 10pm bath. Not a problem, the woman on the phone assured us that we would get in for another bath. Once we were in the village we had to call the hotel again for more specific directions. The village is so small that we were only a block away so we weren't really lost. Once we found the hotel we noticed a petite Greek woman standing in the parking lot. It was Maria, the woman on the phone, the owner of the hotel. She was waiting outside for us, to make sure that we would find the hotel. (it really wasn't hard...) After a very warm welcome we walked inside together. The hotel was small and very new. Apparently, it opened about a year ago. (bonus-in a small village-this is a bonus!) As we were checking in Maria informed us that our bath was scheduled for 10:30pm and it was for an hour. This was another bonus since apparently it's hard to get anything more than a half hour on weekends. She walked us up to our room and we basically dumped our things on the bed and got ready to leave for the spa. There is a hotel at the spa but it was booked and at the end of the day, it was much nicer to not be at that hotel since it was so busy.

We drove to the spa and arrived on time since it was just a few minutes drive from our hotel. As we walked into the lobby of the hotel I couldn't believe how many people were there, it was completely packed. We checked in and sat at a table to wait. At 10:45pm a young man called out our name and asked us to follow him to the bath house. I had no idea what to expect, I didn't know that they had 5 different bath houses. I thought that there was only one, the original bath house that's been there for hundreds of years. As it would have been cool to use the original bath house it wasn't available but the one that we had was amazing. So, we followed the man outside down a short path to our bath house-it was #2. Only after he opened the door did I realize that it was private so that was way cool. We got undressed and opened the door to the bath and steam rolled out the door. The room was lit only by a blue light. The water was gushing from 2 separate spouts out of the wall into the bath. It was absolutely a dream. We got into the bath and the water was so warm I was relaxed almost instantly. I could feel the minerals in the warm water soothing my aches away. So, we had an hour to sit and soak and it was really just what the doctor ordered. I tried taking photos, but the steam wasn't great for the camera, it just wouldn't work. Here's a link with photos of the spa. I also have to say that it was quite a romantic setting and I haven't felt that way about anything in years.

The next morning we got up for breakfast and had a great conversation with Maria's husband, Apostolis. We asked for his advice because we were preparing to drive into Bulgaria. He advised us to take a taxi instead of driving our own car since apparently there is a lot of car theft and/or vandalism that occurs over the border. Plus, we still have our U.S. plates on our car and that would have been a hassle to deal with going in and out of the country. He summoned a local taxi driver for us. So, we took a short taxi ride into Bulgaria. We stopped at a supermarket that was locked before and after we entered-which to me, means that it's not a very safe place to visit. What I mean is that as you walk up to the supermarket someone unlocks the door and after you are in the store they lock the door behind you...and lock again after you leave. That says a lot about how unsafe the area is. But, the women that worked there were really very friendly and spoke both Greek and English.





Here's a photo of a car that was on a platform just near the supermarket. When we asked why this car was displayed this way we were told that it's to serve as a warning for speeders...basically this is what will happen if you drive like a maniac-

After our little visit to Bulgaria we went back to Agistro and walked to the nearest taverna for lunch. It wasn't very far and I think that we picked one of the two tavernas that we saw in the tiny village. The taverna was interesting in that it served as a gas station as well. But it was fresh and new and we had a cozy table right near the fireplace. The food was out of this world! We loved the melitzanosalata! It was served toasty warm with lots of garlic, just amazing. Have a look-


It was during lunch on Saturday that I was struck with a warm feeling. It was a feeling that reminded me of why I agreed to uproot my entire family and home and bring them to Greece. For those of you that are in Greece or have been here you may know the feeling that I'm referring to without me even having to type anything more. It's a sense of belonging, a sense of what life is really about. To me, there's nothing more enjoyable than sharing fresh food with people that you love at your own pace. I've never been to a taverna or restaurant in Greece where the wait staff seems to rush you, in order to flip a table for the next round of customers, never. We sat and enjoyed our lunch, loved our food and sipped our wine when I said to Kosta, " This is what it's all about". We sat and enjoyed our conversation and slowly gathered ourselves together only to take a leisurely walk around the village. There was virtually no traffic or no hideous noises. I noted that I hadn't heard a siren since I left the U.S.-where I would hear them around the clock.

Here are some photos that I took on our walk-













Once we returned to the hotel we took a long afternoon nap. Again, just what the doctor ordered. When we woke up, we had afternoon coffee and took a ride around the area. We explored the area and returned to the spa promptly at 8:00pm because we had a massage appointment at 8:15pm followed by another dip in the fabulous thermal springs. It was absolute heaven. After our last soak we cleaned up and headed out for another fabulous meal. This time, we went to the other taverna in the village. It was really busy and we decided that although the food was good, the food at the taverna where we had lunch was much better. Another brisk walk(it was really cold that night!) back to the hotel and we turned in early.


Sunday morning we went down to the lobby for breakfast and enjoyed a conversation with yet another family member that ran the quaint hotel. It was the son, Kosta, this time. We talked politics and of course about America. We watched the news about all of the snow that they were getting in Athens and we all chuckled as we didn't even see a flake in the air and we were on the northern border of the country. When we asked what time we needed to check out he replied, " Whenever you want"...followed by a spiel about how he hates to rush people out of his hotel, how when he took his wife to Athens that he felt stressed because he needed to rush through his breakfast and check out of the hotel and also that he tried talking to the manager and it did him no good because there were more people waiting check in. It's small hotels like his that are necessary in the world, I think. They had a computer at the front desk, but I noticed that it was off all weekend. They still used an old desk calendar and physically wrote in each appointment as needed. It's that kind of hospitality that helped us thoroughly enjoy and celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary, it was all just perfect for us.


So, we took our time and packed our things to start off on our trip home. Our kids were waiting anxiously for our return and although we had a great time, we needed to get back to our lovely chaos. Oh, and Izabella sent "Tigery" & "Kitten" with us, we had to get them home too!


Tigery & Kitten at the hotel



Apostolis waving "good-bye" as we left