This past Sunday we hosted a December birthday (Demetri and Papou) and name day (Anna and me) party with our whole family — 15 of us. We did a traditional “American” Christmas meal: a rib roast, Gma’s patrician potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, salad and veggies. Desserts were traditional Greek cookies: kourabiedes (tea cookies covered in powdered sugar) and melomakarona (honey cookies with cinnamon, cloves and walnuts) … plus a lemon souffle from Papou, a galaktoboureko (custard wrapped in layers of kataifi dough) thanks to Katerina, and a Revani (cake with walnuts) compliments of Mina’s mom. Greece is a dessert lover’s dream come true.
We had the same sort of party in November for birthdays (Thodoris and Michael) and name days (Katerina and Katerina). For that one, I made a tacos carnitas spread, which was Michael’s idea. Much to my my delight I was able to find all the Mexican ingredients I needed except for fresh jalapenos.
School for the kids and Greek school for us is winding down this week for a nice, long, two-week break. The homework has been a little lighter this week for Michael which has allowed us to go do holiday stuff. Last night we went to Glyfada (the next town over) with Papou to its Christmas fair. The boys and I ice skated for an hour, then they jumped and flipped on these big trampolines and played a little air hockey. Peter was a total trooper skating, he fell the entire time but giggled and got back up. There was a guy on duty there who must have picked him up 20 times. We had dinner at an awesome place with all kinds of games and activities for the kids and lots of tables for eating. It was chic and modern but also warm and cozy and a place like this would kill it in the US. Greece is wonderful for letting kids be kids.
Demetri’s homework is still pretty tough; this week he’s moved into present perfect continuous and past perfect continuous verb conjugations. His comprehension leaves me in the dust. I still only know verbs in present tense, which is probably some sort of cosmic advice about living for right now instead of worrying about the past or micromanaging the future … so I’m embracing it.
We found a super botanical garden on the west side of Athens thanks to our friends the Staals. It’s the largest arboretum in all of Europe and has a rare selection of plants from around the world. Demetri was excited to see a deciduous cedar tree. There are great trails for hiking and walking and lots of really neat gardens and ponds. And of course there’s a playground near the entrance for the kids. The back of the gardens leads into some huge open space and we hiked as high as we could to get a view of the city — and we could see the Acropolis way out in the distance. Michael said he thinks Greece is perfect … you can hike in December and not be cold. The only other thing he says he needs are his friends from home.
Tomorrow night we are heading to Budapest for a proper Christmas market (we missed them by a few days in Belgium) and then onto Italy. We are determined to find the statue of Perseus holding Medusa’s head and to our surprise, it’s housed in Florence instead of Athens.
Kales giortes = happy holidays.