Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We've survived the summer without A/C!

So it's the end of summer already. We've survived without A/C, although barely. Well, I don't want to say "without" because we have it in our bedroom. The kids sleep in our room on an air mattress on the floor, so we've been sort of camping this summer. My husband did buy 3 A/C units in June. They were delivered about 2 weeks after we ordered them and about 2 weeks after that, the handymen that were contracted by the store to install them finally showed up. After my husband explained where we wanted to have them installed the handymen said that they couldn't install all 3 of them, only the one on the main floor. We wanted the second one to be installed on the 2nd floor and the 3rd unit to be installed in the basement. So, since they couldn't do the whole job my husband told them to take a hike.

Shortly after that, my friend Evelyn sent over her regular handyman. He took a look at what we wanted done and said that he could install the A/C units but it'd be a tough job. As he left he told my husband that he'd call us because he was busy. One week went by and he never called. My friend called him since she knows him well and he claims to have left us several messages. That's just not true. He didn't want to do it...because it would've been hard. So, the A/C units sat on our back porch for 2 months before we decided to just take them back. I told our neighbor that we planned on taking them back and he told me not to bother because we'd never get our money back. He said we'd lose the units and our money. Well, I'm sorry dear neighbor but that's the kind of attitude that sinks Greece...the having no control and being screwed all the time attitude. We did take them back and we were reimbursed for our purchase. Can you imagine if we would have taken our neighbor's advice? Now, we've found a better deal and a great guy to do the work all in one so we'll have A/C in a few weeks...I hope.

Coping with the heat was a no-brainer. We didn't move much. My house wasn't as clean as it could've been and we all whined nonstop. We didn't use too much hot water because we preferred lukewarm showers(money saver if you think about it). We practically lived in our swimsuits and the baby in a diaper. (I know what some of you are thinking...:) I used my George Foreman grill a lot...instead of firing up the grill outside. I withheld from many of my baking urges because I would sweat with only shaking a frappe. Yesterday was bad, I had sweat dripping in my eyes all day and I didn't really do too much but then I looked at the calendar and sipped on a frappe. We only have a few more weeks of this heat so I've got to make more time for the beach!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Earlier this week we were lucky enough to be invited to a friend's for a party. Her father was here visiting from New York and was leaving the following morning- so what better reason to whip out the delicacies from the sea? The sea urchins (aheenee) were the being prepared as we arrived. Although I'm adventurous I decided to pass this time because it seems that I've developed allergies to a few different things as I've grown older. For example, I used to love eating mussels in a dish called medea saganaki , but as time went on my body didn't love the dish. It took 2 days to get back to normal after my last serving of medea and that was 12 years ago...oh how I miss it. So, I wasn't willing to have any surprises and I passed on the opportunity to try something new. They did look good and apparently they were, my husband loved them!

Fresh crab was also served. It looked delicious, however, I didn't get any. By the time I finished wrangling the kids to their table and made sure that they had enough food to eat all of the crab had been eaten. Wah!!! I love crab. That's one thing that I know I can eat. And the bottle with the red Gerbera daisy on it contains tsipouro, I doubt that there are any gatherings in Greece like this without it. And yes, I had some. I love it on ice.

Now, under the crab in the foil wrapped pans is another surprise. I didn't take any pictures but I should have because the three pans contained fabulous foods that I've missed from home. Two of the pans contained lasagna and one contained chicken cordon bleu with mushrooms and a creamy sauce . My friend's father worked in an Italian restaurant for several years and mastered a few recipes. Let me just say that both were absolutely delicious! I've had lasagna twice since he's been here. (lucky me!) Now, I have to get around to making it as I've been sticking to the same dishes lately due to what's growing in the garden and what the kids will actually eat. I'm ashamed to admit that they've almost forgotten that they once loved lasagna.

Also served was fabulous grilled fish, salad and loukaniko (greek sausage). And for dessert we enjoyed the mini ice cream bars that we brought with us. They're called pagotinia (something like this) ...and they're always fabulous. We all ate very well, had a little to drink and enjoyed the company that we were in. In other words, we had a great time!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Leeza the Toad

Last week we caught a lot of grasshoppers, lizards and more importantly...toads. Isn't this toad just the cutest? The toad pictured above is Leeza. She stayed with us for one night. We usually let our guest go the following day or night after we've caught it.

Here's a picture of Leeza shortly after her release. She was a little hesitant at first but then she found her way.

Here's a picture of Iza holding Leeza just before her release. She wanted to let her go near the tree where she found her and that's what we did.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dirt Road Etiquette

Before moving to Greece, my personal experience with dirt roads was limited. I remember watching television shows or movies that would have scenes of cars speeding along a dirt road leaving behind a huge cloud of dust. Usually, the movies were set in places such as Mexico, Texas, California or even some Native American reservations. I was raised in an urban area and we didn't know anyone that lived on a dirt road. In fact, I think that even most rural roads back home are paved by now. The only dirt roads that I remember in my past were actually long driveways leading to friends homes-that's about it. To add to that, most of them were at least covered with gravel. I usually didn't drive fast on those because I didn't want to show up somewhere like a bat out of hell, it just wouldn't be polite.

So, where am I going with this? I'll tell you. We bought our home in a rural area and all of the roads are dirt and in the winter they're just mud. We're so rural that we don't even have a real address. There isn't a name for our dirt road either. OK, I suppose that we would have an address if our road had a name, but I'm not always the brightest light bulb in the chandelier. Anyway, you get the picture, right?

As the summer closed in and the weather got hotter and everything around us dried up, I noticed that there was a lot more dust on the car and I certainly noted the dust cloud that followed my car. I've noticed neighbors wasting water to wet the dirt road in front of their homes so as to prevent any dust clouds formed by from passing cars from entering their property. It wasn't until one day that was I running late that I truly realized how serious of an infraction I'd committed on a dirt road. I was driving to my koubara's house to pick her up for church one morning. I sped passed an old woman watering her dirt road and left her in a cloud of dust. I noticed her condemning me with her fists through my rear view mirror. I got the drift. I think that my dust cloud threw her over the edge. So, I told my koubara when she got into the car and she just said, "oh God, how irritating...that's how people are around here" So as we pulled away from her house I asked her which direction we needed to go. She pointed in the direction of the peeved woman. Oh God. So I said, " that's where that irate woman is...I'm not going that way!" But we had to. So as we drove closer to the scene of the crime the old woman was still outside...waiting for the next vehicle to drive by so that she could scream, I guess. Well, she noticed my car and my koubara noticed her and said, "ugh, I know her...she does this all summer. " Fantastic. So, as I drove by a little slower this time and the old woman motioned for me to stop. What? Is she out of her mind? She wanted me to stop so that she could scream at me? Are you kidding me? So, what did I do? -I just smiled and waved...and kept going.Once again, I could see her in my rear view mirror waving her hands frantically and clenching her fists high in the air. Is life really that uneventful for this woman? I have to drive by her house whenever I visit my koubara...she knows my car and she sneers at me each time that I pass. I just keep driving and smile as I pass. I have slowed down a bit, but it's hard. How do you go from driving at a normal speed for most of you life to driving at a snail's pace so that you don't leave dust in the air...on a flippn' dirt road? It's nearly impossible, that's what it is. At this point, I almost don't even care anymore. But I do care and I am trying to be mindful of the situation but even if there was pavement there would be dust on the road. This is Greece, it's hot, dry and insanely dusty.

In retrospect, I was involved in a conversation pertaining to one of our neighbors and his penchant for speeding during the summer. Apparently, he had been scolded by others for his lack of consideration as he consistently left everyone in a cloud of dust. At that point, I just didn't get it. It was winter when this conversation took place. I remember that I just said, " well, if it's a dirt road-you should expect dust. " My reply wasn't favorable and I remember the rebuttal was "yes, but if you know that you are bound to stir up more dust if you drive fast, then you shouldn't do it out of respect for your neighbors." I was at a loss at that point and left it at that. I still hadn't had the full dirt road experience so I didn't want to discuss the topic any further.

We've looked into paving the road leading to our house. We've spoken to the municipality and some of our neighbors about paving the roads. The municipality gave us a price for paving our road and the one leading to it. It's really not a lot of money, especially if all of us in the neighborhood contribute to the cost. But, alas, it's not an option for the neighbors. They'd rather complain about the dust and waste money and resources wetting the dirt simply because they don't want the increased traffic that they fear would result from paving the roads. It's much better to dust every day and scream or sneer at people driving by. So, if you're in Greece and you head down a dirt road, it's your can drive slower than an old man walking or you can let everyone eat your dust.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Well, it's Saturday afternoon. I put the kids down for a nap, put a chicken in the oven and logged on to see what's up in cyberspace. I have two million things to do but I much prefer to veg-out online. I think that it's the few quiet moments like this that I use to gather my strength for the next round of the day. It's hot, but we have a light wind breezing through our wind chimes. The sound is cleansing. Gigi is on the couch and Kosta is working in his office. Finally, some time for me.

We've all been sick, since last Friday -the 1st of August. It started with Alexandra, then went to Iza, then Foti and finally, me. We spent this last week fighting sore throats and fevers and now we're all fine. Luckily, Kosta escaped this round.

I haven't had much time to do anything important but I did manage to walk around the property to see how the fruit trees are doing. Our peaches are ready and delicious. I think that they're more delicious than any I've ever had because they're ours. :)

Most of the figs are ripe and ready to eat. It's fun to go back and pick them randomly. I have yet to make anything with them. I really wanted to make spoon sweets (sikalaki gliko) with Lulu's recipe, but they were ready for that right as we were nearing the baptism. Sometimes I just want to do more than I can- realistically. But, I did pick a bag and MIL made spoon sweets for us with our figs. So, we do have our spoon sweets. Maybe next year I'll surprise her by making my own. I've found a great marmalade recipe so I'm motivated to make some of that, since it seems like I can fit it into my day. (ok, I know- I've fit blogging into the day why can't I fit more cooking in? --because it's just that-more cooking) Anyway, here's the fig tree...

It's huge and the birds love it. We've given bags of figs away. So, if you're in the neighborhood, I bet that you can guess what you'll be walking away with. I'm glad that I can share because we certainly can't use all of them. Here are a few shots of the figs...

As you can see, some of them are overripe. These are fine to eat as long as you make sure that there aren't any little bugs inside. They're very sweet!

We have tomatoes coming out of our ears so I've preserved some and also given tons away. The cherry tomatoes are perfect for snacking on, the kids and the dog usually help themselves. Our green beans are finished and we're planting some leeks and celery this week. My eggplants have finally appeared! I've really been waiting for those. Our honeydew melons are growing amazingly, we've been giving those away too. I have a neighbor that made a melon sorbet once, I'll have to ask her for the recipe.

So, I've wasted a little time and given a little garden update. Now, it's time for me to wake up the kids so that they'll sleep tonight -as well as throw some BBQ sauce on my chicken. I hope that everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A little more baptism...

The morning after the baptism we went to church with Alexandra's Nona so that Alexandra could receive her 1st communion. After a Greek baptism, it's tradition to attend church for 3 services/Sundays following the ceremony so that the child can receive communion. As of last Sunday, we've attended church together 3 weeks in a row and she's received communion 3 times. She now knows what to expect at church and I have to say, she's not really liking it. Her Nona should hold her in her arms for the communion and she would only go to her once, willingly. So, now we'll try to go to church together at least once a month.

On the third day after the baptism, it's tradition for the Godparents to bathe the child. Yes, she was oily for 3 days.(I kept telling her that she smelled like salad) The bath water is saved and either poured into the sea or into a flower bed. We chose the flower bed since it was easier for us at the time.

Depending on the region and/or family traditions...the bath can be another big event in which family and friends are invited to witness. We kept it small. I made coffee and Alexandra's Nona brought sweets. Our two families and some neighbors were here for the bath so it was nice and simple. Everyone enjoyed themselves.