The House That Was Not a Hole

So we make it to Killini, the town with the ferry port, even though the GPS insisted it doesn't exist. Once we made it past the major highways, the drive was stunning. Huge green mountains on one side and impossibly blue sea on the other. Kind of like the coastal drive from LA to San Francisco but greener. I'm really glad we did it because we got to see so much of country this way, though poor M was stuck driving because he didn't put me on the licence. I couldn't have driven anyway because Greek drivers are even crazier then Israeli ones. And they have this cute driving custom- they magically turn two lane highways into four lanes by driving half in the shoulder, thereby letting others pass. There were a number of breathless passing maneuvers that I could have done without, but M got us there in one piece, thank Gd.

Anyway, we find the ferry, I rush to get tickets and we make it onto the 5:30 in the nick of time. Poor E is starving and I get him some applesauce before we set off. It's too windy to sit outside with him, so I went inside with him in the stroller and T, my middle daughter. She was not all that thrilled with this part of the trip and I forgot to take her drawing stuff with us. By that time, we'd been travelling for about 14 hours and my super-organized Supermom persona had kind of worn off.

On the ferry, we actually met another Israeli family with kids who were on our plane in the morning. Their four year old recognized us, although I had recognized the mom myself, but I was too tired to go up and be friendly with my fellow countrywoman. But once the little girl made the connection, we said hello, and exchanged phone numbers promising to sms and make plans. More on that later...

We landed in Zakynthos. The port had a lot of nice bright colored buildings. We get off the ferry in our car and started using the directions from the villa owners. Since they were written in British rather than American, some of them were hard to understand (it took me a while to get that "stay right" means "bear right"). Luckily, we made it to the house and the outside looked exactly like the picture. Terra cotta, with yellow sun umbrellas. The house is in the village of Mouzaki, on the southern part of the island. It's a rural area, with houses spaced fairly apart fields of dried grass around it. People had goats in their backyard and we were actually right near the airport. But mostly, it was much nicer looking and more charming than Athens had been, which was a relief!

There's a crazy wind storm going on when we get out of the car making it difficult to get to the door without my skirt going over my head. I punch in the code for the key safe outside the door open the door and immediate relief! The place is gorgeous- completely new tastefully furnished, clean. Really, everything you could hope for in a completely unseen vacation home you rent for yourself and your family from the internet without any reccommendations! It was a crazy gamble, but it really paid off. The pool was gorgeous and clean, with plenty of deck chairs, two bathrooms, a nice clean new bathtub, a dvd player. It was fantastic. It was a great relief.

Here is the living room:

A nice pic of the pool:

I have more pics of the pool but that's all I have of the house per se. The house was apparently just built last year and everything is new. Even most of the utensils in the kitchen were new- the bbq tools were still in the bag! Basically we felt very lucky, got our stuff inside, got everyone showered/bathed and had some kind of food and promptly passed out from exhaustion!

Well, It Was a Nice Vacation...

I finally have a second to post. I'm not sure where to begin- the vacation or the post-vacation madness.

How about let's start with the vacation? Much nicer!

Basically, it was fabulous. As my husband described it- Nikui Rosh Totali- complete brain cleaning. No internet. Schedule was basically: AM: Pool PM: A different beach every day. One day we took the kids to a nature park and they got to hang out with animals but it was completely stroller unfriendly (hello, who do these people think come to animal parks?) and another day we took a cruise to this Shipwreck beach.

Getting there and back was a hassle. The plane ride there was at 7 am, which means we had to be there at 5. The girls were really great about getting up at 3 am and getting dressed and ready in 5 minutes. E was too- except that I forgot to change his diaper and forgot to pack a bottle for him for the wait on the security line- big mistake. He ate a lot of tea biscuits but then was very thirsty and cranky- and wet. We finally made it through check in and I was able to change him and get him a bottle before getting on the plane.

All I can say is- thank God it was only a 1.5 hour plane ride. No trips to America until all kids can plug into their own iPods or DVD players!

We landed in Athens, got our stuff. Everyone else was travelling with little itty bitty suitcases because they were going to "HaKol Kallul" (all-inclusive) resorts. Not us! Three big duffle bags for us! But we didn't actually overpack too much and only came back with two.

We got to our car- unfortunately, the car M ordered online that seemed like a "deal" online but was only a deal because it didn't include insurance (!) and was actually too small for us. He had to go back and get us a bigger one and was extremely pissed for getting cheated in about 4 different ways. So lesson number one for readers: Beware of car rental "deals". Stick with the major rental businesses and as always, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

So we packed the car and headed to Beit Chabad to pick up our frozen food. The GPS took forever to "Find the Satellite" and I was getting a bit nervous because I had absolutely no idea where we were and where we were supposed to go. Luckily, M printed out Google maps directions to BC and the island, so even if the GPS failed us, we'd be able to get where we needed to go. Yay for my forward thinking husband!

The kids conked out in the back seat and we found Chabad on a little street in Athens. Athens looked kind of like a depressing version of Bat Yam. The parts I saw on the first day didn't look very charming. A lot of cheap dirty stores, a LOT of cigarette ads all over the place ( no wonder 40% of the country smokes as I read in the news last night!). Anway, I made it up five flights because I couldn't figure out how to work the elevator (something about opening and closing the right doors). A very nice Chabad rabbi handed me a rather large insulated bag and a smaller one, packed with individual frozen meals, fantasically packed. I was thrilled. I paid him and he was nice enough to show me how the elevator worked.

Back in the car, M got the GPS working and we made our way out of Athens and towards Korinthos. We needed to get to Killini, on the far edge of the Pelloponese to get the ferry to the island but guess what? The GPS couldn't find Killini! It could only find as far west as Korinthos, so that's where we headed. We later found out that the GPS knew nothing about Zakynthos, our island, either. But there we managed with a map.

M was pretty exhausted from sleeping only 3 hours at night, so we had to make a rest stop on the highway for about an hour. Luckily, there are tons of rest stops on Greek highways, kind of like in America. I took the kids to the bathroom, bought yogurt for E at the gas station (Greek yogurt! Yum!) and some other snacks and we had a nice party on the grass. M slept for about 45 minutes and was refreshed enough to continue.

Here is a piece of Google maps showing a bit what the car/ferry trip looked like. Athens (Athina) is on the right and Zakynthos is all the way on the left:

'No Leftovers' Shabbat

I generally love cooking a ton of food for Shabbat, thus minimizing my cooking for the rest of the week. However, since we're leaving at 5 am on Sunday morning for our trip, no leftovers for this week. I guess I could have frozen the leftovers, but the food I like to cook doesn't freeze very well (roasted veggies and roasted chicken aren't very freezer friendly, IMHO.)

So I was going to cave into my husbands' constant pleas and buy takeout. Now, my husband doesn't plea for take out because he dislikes my food. He just thinks I work too hard and there's too much clean up, so why not spend about the same amount of money and buy it (he doesn't take into account leftovers, probably because he doesn't really eat them. I'm the leftover eater in the house).

So, I was planning on picking up a few last minute food items for the trip at the super (PB, tuna, pitas, hot dogs, and I actually bought some packet soups which I've never in my life bought, but I thought I'd give them a whirl. I got some kind with no MSG or preservatives. We'll see how they taste... ). I had baby E with me and since he generally enjoys supermarket trips, it wasn't a problem.

While at the super, I suddenly felt like I didn't have the strength to go to yet another store for the takeout. And I had some stuff in the fridge I had to get rid of anyway... So...

I bought a chicken and whipped up a few things before my husband saw and laughed his head off that I couldn't get take out even for this shabbat.

The menu is:

Friday night:
Golden Fruit Soup (peach, nectarines and apricots cooked with cinnamon and ginger, purreed and chilled. Recipe below)
Roasted chicken
Roasted Butternut squash
Cumin Scented Chipeas and Spinach (awesome recipe, good hot or cold)

Shabbat Lunch:
Leftovers from the night before
Cold cuts and salatim

I bought little containers of salatim, so I hopefully will still have an empty fridge when we leave.

Golden Fruit Soup
Large Bowl of ripe nectarines, peaches and apricots (I can't remember how many there were, but I'd say about 10 pieces of fruit altogether. There were some grapes in there too)
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 - 3/4 cup light brown sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you like your fruit soup)
Water to cover

Cut up fruit into chunks, cook with spices, sugar and water until soft. Let cool, puree with a stick blender. Chill. For dairy meals, serve with a big dollop of full fat yogurt. Try freezing in popsicle molds for fresh fruit bars ( you can layer with yogurt for fruit and yogurt bars)

Why You Should Have Ratatouille in Your Fridge

It just makes your life so much nicer. I made a big batch for Shabbat, and we had it warm Friday night with some turkey stew and cold as a salat for an appetizer. I've been eating it with lunch yesterday and today and then tonight I sauteed fresh bass fillets in a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper and then dumped some of the ratatouille after they browned a little, added some white wine and cooked them covered for about 12 minutes. YUM!
Your life will infintely improve with ratatouille in your fridge. Even frozen Tivol shnitzels will seem like gourmet food with a ratatouille treatment.

Here's how I made it:

1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
3 zuchinni, cut in half half moons
1 eggplant, cut in half half moons, salted and drained
2 red peppers sliced
basket of mushrooms, if desired
1 can of crushed tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
3 sprigs of fresh basil, leaves removed, chopped/chiffonade
3 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves removed, chopped

Sautee onion in 1 tbs of olive oil, till transluscent. Add garlic, sautee another minute. Add vegetables, cook about 7-9 minutes covered until cooked down a bit. Add tomatoes, spices, herbs and sugar. Cook covered, about 30 minutes, until vegetables are cooked down and it looks like ratatouille.


When Famous People Die

Exactly. This is an exact replication of an interview between Yonit Levy (Channel 2 news anchor) and an American reporter on CBS last week about Michael Jackson's death. The only significant thing to come out of that interview was the ability of YL to show off her accentless English.

Say 'Bye Bye'

My 14 month old son, E, is soon finishing his time with his wonderful metapelet (caregiver), whom he's been with since he was 5 and 1/2 months old. She has truly been an extraordinary caretaker, constantly showering him with love and attention and generally "mothering" him, rather than just "babysitting" him. He smiles and gets excited when we approach her door and now he even smiles when we park the car near her house. M and I have remarked to each other numerous times about how happy we were to have found her.

I'm really going to be sad to finish with her at the end of the summer and I can tell she feels the same way. I've really appreciated the security of knowing I was bringing him each morning to someone who truly loved him in addition to simply having the mornings to do my work instead of smooshing it into naptime and bedtime. Basically, I loved being able to share my parenting duties with another mother.

I thought of this delicate and close relationship we have with the metapelet when I read this book review a few months back on The book is called Mothers and Others by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.

These paragraphs in particular resonated with me:

In the course of writing "Mother Nature," [previous book] I realized there was no way that mothers in the Pleistocene could have reared their young without alloparental assistance. At that point, I had been working on the demographic implications of shared care, and how it meant that mothers could breed after shorter intervals and produce more young that were likely to survive. So I concluded that humans must have evolved as cooperative breeders. Although people had been thinking about various permutations of this hypothesis for a while -- it started out as "mothers must have had help from their mates," and then in the '90s people started to say that it was help from siblings or grandmothers -- "Mother Nature" was really the first book to come out and say it: We could not have evolved except as cooperative breeders.

... What I'm saying is that human mothers are unusual in how much support they need. I'm also trying to expand the concept of what children need to include other people as well as mothers. Mothers need a lot of social support, and having more than one caretaker is very, very useful. When parents are getting divorced and the father and the mother are fighting over custody, that's so selfish. There's no way a child can really have too many allomothers. Even if the mother is mad at the father, she should want him involved. Children develop best in secure social environments, and security includes turning to lots of different people and knowing they are there for you. And since daycare is here to stay, we need to think a lot harder about how to make it better by incorporating attachment theory, making it small-scale and having consistent and responsive caretakers. But these aren't brilliant points. These are just obvious.

An "allomother" is basically a child's caretaker other than a mother.

My three children have all been in some type of childcare since very young ages and I think they have all thrived and benefitted from from their relationships with their allomothers. I agree with Hrdy that the key to excellent childcare is "consistent and responsive caretakers" and I've been lucky so far in finding these kinds of caregivers.