Saturday, March 21, 2009

Closed for vacation (I wish!)

I would like to apologise for the fact that my blog lately has been looking like this:

The truth is that many things have been happening to me over the last days, but not the kind you could easily write on a blog. I am in a dark place now emotionally, and I wouldn't like to write stuff I may regret later, or stuff that I haven't sorted out. Not yet.

Until then, I will continue to stalk on you, my blog buddies, and comment on your posts. They make my day, and drastically contribute to my sanity. I don't pray, but at times like this I wish I did. If you can, send me your positive thoughts and vibes - it will make a huge difference.

I have never been an optimistic person, more like a drama queen who always thinks that the glass is half-empty. But right now I keep whispering to myself all the positive energy/optimism mantras I can think of - I just hope they help.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Welcome to Athens! (part 3)

Hello, blog buddies! This is the last and final call... err, post about Athens, the capital of Greece. Today we will be focusing more on Greek mentality and way of life. I kind of feel like a spy, because I will be giving you "confidential" and inside information but... here we go!

5 things I love about Athens
  • The first one would definitely be the climate. It is really difficult to feel down when there is sunshine for more than 300 days a year. When the colour of the sky is the most amazing and clear blue you have ever seen, how could YOU be blue? According to official studies, the Greeks have the lowest incidence for depression in the world. Well, the weather certainly contributes to that.

  • Athens is a city that never sleeps, a 24/7 city. There are always people on the streets and open places to eat, drink and have fun. Unlike other European cities, life doesn't stop as soon as the sun goes down. In fact, that's when things get more lively!
  • The Greek hospitality is not a myth. Ok, it is not as easy to come by as 50 years ago, as Athens gets bigger by the second and people are more self-absorbed nowadays. But, it is definitely there. You can see it once you will need help, directions or information. You can ask the perfect stranger in the street for those, and not only will you get an answer (accompanied with a smile) instantly, but the person may even take you to your place of interest himself/herself!
  • When you walk to the same cobbled streets that millions of people have walked before you over the centuries, you have a surreal feeling. Somehow, you feel that it is all connected - past, present and future. You feel whole, in a way that cannot easily be explained with words. Like you discover your own personal place throughout history - it's tinier than tiny, but it's there.

  • There is only one thing that rivals the amazing Greek sky, and that is the breathtaking beauty of the Greek sea. It is widely accepted that there are far more notable beaches at the Greek islands. Nobody can argue with that. But the Athenian sea can still be seen and immensely enjoyed.

5 things I hate about Athens

  • Athens is one of the few European cities that still suffer in terms of public transport, cars and traffic. The fact that the Greeks had to wait for the Olympic Games of 2004 to get metro for the first time, is rather embarassing. As you can imagine, with 5 million moving around every day, and a subway system that is still developing and cannot possibly serve more than 1 million, things can get pretty hectic. The Athenians may have come to terms with the fact that they have to wake up 2 hours earlier, because they will definitely have to face a traffic jam going to work (even if their office is only 5 - 10 kms away), but the average tourist is not prepared for this mess. And honestly, why should he/she be? Luckily, if you stick to the centre and don't venture to the outer districts, the public transport will serve you perfectly.

  • Athens is painfully expensive, especially when it comes to food and drinks. While the metro ticket will only cost 0.70 euros / 1 dollar (one of the cheapest in Europe), and most of the sites will be free, you are likely to get a heart attack when you will be asked to pay at least 5 euros / 6.5 dollars for a single coffee! And, to be fair with Ernestos and his dislike for Lykavittos hill, if you go there, the minimum for the same coffee will be 7 euros / 9 dollars! This stuff is NOT for the faint-hearted.
  • Athenian taxi drivers have a nasty reputation for ripping off locals and tourists alike. Outrageous stories, charging tourists 50 dollars for a distance of 1.5 kms, are unfortunately true. So, a little tip: Never, and I mean NEVER enter a taxi, unless you agree on the tariff beforehand. It is ok to ask how much it will probably cost, and then decide if you are ok with it.
  • Greeks have quite a temper, demand a lot from their governors, and they don't like to be treated unfairly. As a result, whenever they disagree with a government bill or a political decision, they protest and go on a strike, asking for amendments. It is quite complex to explain, but this is not the time or the place for that. As a tourist, you will face the aftermath: Closed sites, jammed streets, and unavailable public transport. If you are unlucky enough to be in Athens during a strike, there is no real tips I can give you - just try to be patient.
  • It is hard to be a pedestrian in Athens. There are no pavements at all, or those who exist are uneven and even full of holes. Add in the infuriating way in which most Greeks drive (speeding, having no respect for traffic lights and parking in the most absurd places available), and you'll realise that walking on foot at places with heavy traffic is no fun - no fun at all.

When in Athens, DO:

  • Walk the Ancient promenade, enjoy the sun and fresh air and ponder about how many generations have followed the same route as you do now, over the centuries.
  • Try the Greek specialties, and explore new tastes.
  • Enjoy the hospitality of locals, their warm smile and generous ways. When having a conversation with Greeks, it is ok to ask about personal matters, age, income or marital status - just be prepared to answer these questions yourself!
  • Dine late (Greek restaurants are quite empty before 9 pm), hop into a bar and sleep in the next morning.
  • Spend an evening at an open-air cafe, sipping a "frappe" and watching people pass by. The famous frappe is a Greek legend - to be fair, it is not THAT special, but just a frothy version of iced coffee made with an instant brew. I personally don't like it, and it's ok (although I occasionally get shunned for it). But before you make up your mind, you have to try it.
  • Be carefree, and leave your stress behind. Not only are you on vacation, but you are in a place where people just don't think about things too much - try to follow their example, even for a few days!

When in Athens, DON'T:

  • Wear sandals with socks. If you do so, you label yourself as a tourist.

  • Believe in the stereotype that wants Greeks eager to smash plates in places with live music (bouzoukia), when enjoying themselves. This was ok 50 years ago. Nowadays, if you want to do something similar, you can throw flowers (carnations) at the singer, or napkings. But beware: This is a pricey thing to do, as you have to pay for the napkins or flowers afterwards!

  • Get disappointed when you discover what heavy smokers Greeks are. It is frustrating, but true. There is already a law that prohibits smoking in public places, but as with everything else, it is only loosely followed. According to European union laws, smoking WILL be banned at restaurants/cafes/etc the following summer, but I personally have to see it to believe it.

  • Expect to dine peacefully when there are Greeks in the same place. We are outgoing, expressive and LOUD, and yet unaware of that. To us, the Spanish seem awfully loud and annoying. When travelling to Europe, though, my friends and I always get mistaken for Spanish, so there really isn't much difference!

  • Insist on paying for the meal or sharing, when at least one of the persons you eat with is Greek! This is considered a HUGE insult - guests just don't pay! Like, EVER! (If you want to be extra polite, you can suggest sharing, but accept the treat with no further disagreement when it is offered).

  • Our relationship with the Turks is a long and troubled one. The things is that, after 400 years of domination (1453 - 1821 A.C.), the two nations have come to share many traditions, words and habits - more than they care to admit. So, no, DON'T argue whether the baklava is Greek or Turkish, if the right term is "gyros" or "doner kebab", or if you are indeed drinking Greek coffee and not Turkish coffee. There are some things that are considered Greek, and not Turkish, and we choose to overlook their real origin. Just let it be. Nobody will be hostile after such comments in any case, but you are sure to cause some discomfort. Try to avoid it.

  • Claim to be familiar with Greek history and mythology just by watching "300", "Troy", "Hercules" and "Xena". While you may have enjoyed these films/shows, they have all greatly distorted the actual story and original data. It is ok to be unfamiliar with Greek civilisation - sadly most modern Greeks are, after all. Just don't try to sound like a connoisseur based on the aforementioned productions. You are sure to induce laughter and irony. And by the way, to us Greeks, Alexander the Great was an admirable leader who managed to conquer most of the then known world - not just a plain homo caring about nothing else than to hook up with Haephestion (no pun intended)!
  • Complain about how Greeks cannot organise things, follow schedules, take on responsibilities and be respectful to others, in terms of noise and smoke. All these are true. But, to enjoy yourselves more, focus on the positive things: That we are warm people, sincere, generous and fun to be with. We are not famous for our kindness or tact, but we are always there when they need us, no matter what. Lastly, we make great friends - friends for a lifetime...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Challenge: Dirty cooking secrets

Ok blog buddies, most of you cook. It doesn't matter how often, or how well. In fact, it is ok if you have cooked only a few times in your entire life, or if your cooking triumphs pale in comparison to your cooking tragedies. The topic of this post is irrelevant to these facts.

My real question is: What are your dirty cooking secrets? Those particular techniques that are unorthodox and not recommended, but you follow them anyway? Things that, if you were cooking live with Jamie Oliver or Rachel Ray, you would be embarassed to admit and show the audience?

If you want, you can post some in your blog. We promise not to judge you or report you to the culinary arts police. Unless your improvisations have caused severe food poisoning and could be considered as attempted murder in a court of law, of course... (Just joking!) My own confessions are:

1. I rarely sift my flour and dry ingredients in general when making dessets. Ok, lie detector, you caught me! Actually, I NEVER sift them!

2. I always substitute baking soda with baking powder, even if only the opposite is "allowed". Oddly enough, I have never encountered a "disgusting and bitter baking powder chunk" in my desserts.

3. I never wear gloves when cooking. Actually, I am a freak, and my choice of profession suggests it! I like touching dead stuff (ie meat). But yes, I wash my hands thoroughly. I guess my choice of profession suggests that as well.

4. I don't use shortening. Actually, I don't know what "shortening" is. My knowledge of English doesn't expand to this particular term. Seriously. And as I am too lazy to look it up on a dictionary, over the years, I have come to the conclusion that shortening = butter. What? Shortening is NOT butter exactly? Oh, well, I am too old to change my ways now...

5. I am a student, living on a budget and moving frequently. So, both my income and my lifestyle don't allow me to buy fancy cooking equipment. As a result, I cook using basic stuff only - and I highlighted the word "basic" here. Which would explain why, if I appeared on a show with Jamie, I would look at objects like a garlic press / a springform pan / a crockpot / a rice cooker / a pizza slicer, etc with the same amazement Colombus had when he reached the American continent!

6. Not embarassing enough? Ok, how about this: I don't know how to use a microwave. And of course I don't own a freezer. It's a vicious circle, guys.

7. I love baking, and my friends tell me I have a hand for it. However, I only loosely follow the FRoB (First Rule of Baking) which, as we all know, is: "Thou shalt ALWAYS measure your ingredients". Well, I do measure them. I really, trully do. Only I lack some unnecessary things called "measuring cup" and "measuring spoons"! But hey, at least I always use the same cup to measure when baking something. Unless it needs washing, of course - then I just use another! Duh!

8. I don't know how to de-gut a fish. You know, take all the inside parts of the fish out and make it ready-to-use for cooking. To those who don't really know me, I apologise for it, saying that I think it is plain disgusting. They seem to be ok with it, and show some sympathy. However, Ernesto doesn't. The problem is that he knows me a little too well, and says that I actually thrive on disgusting stuff. So, he seems to imply that I am just to lazy to learn, and pass this chore onto him. My reply? Well... No comment!

9. The most embarassing moment in my cooking history was when I made a mean fruit tart. Actually, you might now it as White chocolate fruit tart on AR, and it was good beyond description. In fact, it was so good, that when Ernesto dropped the last piece on the floor, he didn't hesitate for a moment - he just picked it up and continued eating it!!! (Picture Joey from "Friends", in the scene where a cheesecake piece is lying on the floor. The same cheesecake piece, over which Rachel and Chandler had been fighting for the whole episode. He just comes in, sees them nibble off the floor, takes a fork out of his jacket and drops the killer line "What are we having???!!!)

Um, wait... that's not an embarassing moment for me, but for Ernesto! Oh well... now that it's out there, it's really hard to take it back! (To his defense, I am a hypochondriac, who cleans the floors 12396 times a day - but I know, it's still yuck!)

I know it would have been much better to write 10 things instead of 9. If I had done so, my list would be more "proper" and "decent". But now that I've come to thing about it, there isn't one single thing in this particular list that it's decent anyway... so I'll just leave it the way it is.

That's all folks! Your turn now! Share if you dare!

PS: If you want a cool signature too, you can go here and create your own!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Welcome to Athens! (part 2)

In the previous post, we talked about which sights a person visiting Athens should not miss (in my opinion, of course!). This post is about Greek food, Greek mentality and way of life.

5 things to eat (or 10!)

1. Well... you guessed it! Is it POSSIBLE to visit Greece and not taste the no 1 delicacy, souvlaki? Of course not. Souvlaki is the first "emergency food" that comes to mind when your fridge is empty, or when you're not in the mood to cook. You can have it on the go, before or after you hop into a bar and you can find it everywhere, 24 hours a day! Seriously, a neighbourhood doesn't always have a grocery store, or a bakery shop, but it will most definitely have a place where you can have souvlaki (or, as it is called in Greek, a "souvlatzidiko").

But what is souvlaki exactly? Well, even the Greeks cannot agree on that! People from Crete claim that Athenians have no clue what the "original" souvlaki is, while the inhabitants of Salonica laugh at the rest for their ignorance. If we want to be precise, though, there are 3 kinds of "souvlaki": Pita with meat in skewers, pita gyros and pita kebab.

The original "souvlaki" is just the first one: Pita bread, filled with pork or chicken chunks in a skewer, tomato slices, onion slices and tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki sauce is made with greek yoghurt, cucumber, lots of garlic and (sometimes) dill.

What about french fries? Well, it depends on the region you are in. In Athens, no french fries are added, while on Crete, french fries are essential.

So, if you order souvlaki, it will be something like this:

This is the meat in skewers. Of course, you can even order these individually (without any pita bread, meat only). But if you want pita souvlaki, the skewer will be removed, the aforementioned ingredients will be used, and the end result will be something like this:

Pita gyros has the same basic ingredients, but the meat is different. It is now not in skewers, but in a tall vertical spit, which turns around a source of heat. It is quite similar to the Middle Eastern doner kebab.

Then, the meat is sliced vertically and the end result will be something like this:

Finally, pita kebab is filled with lamb meat, minced and placed on a stick, like this (then, a pita bread is used, and the same "procedure" follows):

2. Now that you are a souvlaki expert, we can move on to other Greek dishes. The second one is not a surprise, either: Mousakas! It is a layered baked dish, consisting of fried potato slices, fried eggplant slices, ground beef, bechamel sauce (made with milk and flour) and ground cheese sprinkled on top. It demands quite a lot of preparation when making it at home and to be honest, it is quite a calorie bomb, but it tastes so good, that it should be illegal! Some people (my mom included!) also use fried zucchini at the bottom, but this is not typical.

3. Pastitsio has some things in common with mousaka, as it is layered as well. A kind of bucatini or other tubular pasta is used at the bottom, then ground beef, seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon, toppped by another layer of pasta. After that, the same bechamel sauce follows and, finally, ground cheese is sprinkled on top.

4. Feeling full, aren't you? Well, I don't blame you at all - even hard core Greeks cannot handle pastitsio after mousaka! So, next day's dinner should be lighter. What about seafood? Fried calamari, or grilled octopus are a staple in Greek cuisine, and can be perfectly accompanied with a glass of ouzo. Ouzo is an alcoholic beverage, consisting of ethyl alcohol (coming from sugar cane), water and a mixture of herbs, such as aniseed, fennel, liquorice, cinnamon, cardamom, mastic and others (each producer uses his own combination). It can be consumed straight, or diluted with water, which produces a cloudy appearance. If not drinked with caution, it can cause a mean hangover!

Fried calamari

Grilled octopus

Ouzo - it accompanies seafood perfectly

5. And to give you some vegeterian options as well, if you visit Athens during the summer, you can order gemista, which is a baked dish with tomatoes, peppers (and sometimes zucchini), stuffed with rice. Prior to stuffing, the rice has been simmered in a tomato sauce, with onions, garlic and spearmint as well. This dish is amazing, and it will look like this:

And of course, it goes without saying that you will have to try the Greek salad, or "village salad", as the exact translation would be. In fact, this is a staple in every Greek lunch or dinner. If you want to be true to its "original" form, it will have to contain tomatoes, onions, cucumber, olives and feta cheese, drizzled with olive oil and vinegar, with some oregano sprinkled on top too. It wouldn't be unusual to add some green bell pepper slices, while in the islands people also use capers.

So, that's it with the food suggestions. Before we move on, however, I have to make a small observation. I kind of sabotaged myself with these recommendations - in the previous posts I tried to persuade you about the health benefits of Greek diet, and now I am giving you calorie bombs and fried stuff! THAT doesn't sound healthy at all, does it? Well, Greek people don't eat like this every single day (in fact, my mom complained for a month after having to make mousaka, and we were all doomed to have 5 minute meals for an indefinite time period, until she felt "ready to cook again"! LOL) But you will be here for vacation, and I think it would be ok to indulge a little bit - at least my always-eager-to-go-overboard Greek mind thinks so!

5 things to buy:

1. Well, nowadays, you can buy pretty much anything, regardless of where you live. But if you would like to buy some things that are produced almost exclusively in Greece, so that you would get better quality for lower prices, I would definitely suggest some olive oil (just make sure to check with the safety precautions about transporting liquid stuff in the US - the only thing that I know first hand is that it is OK to transport olive oil from Greece to Germany).

2. Then, I would personally go for some spices. Thyme, rosemary, therapeutical herbs, or whatever else is not widely available in the US in "normal" prices. My personal favourite is mastic, which is a miracle product that deserves a post of its own. It can be used both for cooking/baking purposes, and beauty home treatments (it's been ages since we last had one here, but still...)

3. One cool souvenir is the komboloi. It consists of beads that may resemble prayer beads, but hold no religious significance whatsoever. It can be constructed by any material, but amber is considered to be the best. Greek komboloi typically has an odd number of beads, and it is a good way to relieve the stress, pass the time, or make the people next to you pull their hair out in agony!

4. Greeks are quite superstitious, and they believe in the "evil eye". It refers to a person who is terribly jealous of you, for any reason, and thus consciously or not wishes your unhappiness. As a result, he/she sends negative vibes towards you, against which you have to be protected. Well, it all sounds pretty mystical and voodoo like, but it is much more simple than that. For example, when a person emphatically admires your dress (even if he/she has NO bad intentions at all), it is believed that you are quite possible to stumble, have an accident, tear it or stain it. So, he/she has to say out loud "I don't want to put my evil eye on you" and you have to spit inside your blouse (well, no actual saliva involved, it is just a mimic reaction)!

Ok, by now you definitely think that Greeks are crazy. I won't argue with you - but I will get to the main point of this paragraph, which is talismans against the evil eye! They are a great souvenir, and you can either buy a single blue bead to wear in your bracelet or necklace, or a larger one, to hang at your favourite part of the house (or somewhere private, so that you don't have to explain this whole crazy story!)

5. Finally, it is always a great idea to get Greek sandals, or Greek embroidery - or both.

Well, as always, this post has gotten longer that originally expected. So, I'll show some mercy and stop for now. I will come back soon with the 3rd (and hopefully, the last) part about Greek etiquette, DOs and DON'Ts, and generally some insights on the Greek thinking and way of life. Because I believe that you cannot really see a country, until you've met and tried to understand its people... See you!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Welcome to Athens! (part 1)

One of the things that I love to do is travel, both around Greece and abroad. I am proud to say that I have visited quite a lot of places, but this is a thirst that is never quenched. There are always new places to see, and new people to meet. So, I have decided to share some of my favourite destinations with you, with some info on sights, delicious food, funny or frightening experiences, and most of all, lots and lots of photos!

I could not start my first post in any other way. I HAVE to present you Athens. The city all Greeks love to hate. We all bitch about it, but alas, we cannot stay away...

Athens is the capital of Greece. It is one of the most overpopulated cities in Europe, as nearly 50% of the Greek population stay there (4.5 million people out of almost 11). It has nasty traffic, outrageous prices and very stressed, chaotic way of life. But it also has things you just can't miss.

5 things to see:

1. Well, the first place you visit HAS to be Acropolis. You've all heard about it quite a lot, but it's ok if you are not quite certain what it is (an embarassing survey conducted among Greek teenagers showed that half of them didn't know the difference between the Acropolis and the Parthenon, and most of them had never visited the site - now, THAT'S a problem!)

Well, 2500 years ago, each Greek city represented a separate "state" - it had its own laws, traditions, financial power and tried to achieve domination over its neighbours. The most powerful Greek city was, at the time, Athens. So, its leader, Pericles, having a lot of money to spare (how this money was obtained is another, embarassing story), decided to use the highest and most imposing part of the city (the hill of Acropolis) to build impressive temples (the most well-known is the Parthenon). The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to the godess Athena who, as discussed in another post, was the city's protector.

So, as centuries go by, there the temple stands. The city may have changed drastically, different types of government have followed one another, but the temple is always there, telling its story to those who want to listen...

This is Erectheion. It is a temple next to Parthenon. Remember the story about Athena, Poseidon and the olive tree? Well, this was the site of their competition (hence the olive tree)!

This is the Parthenon. Unfortunately, the restoration works don't do the temple's picture justice.

2. The Ancient Promenade

One of the benefits of the Olympic Games of 2004 was this 3 km pedestrian district (reputedly the largest in Europe). It allows you to have a delightful stroll around the foothils of Acropolis, without having to worry about traffic and crazy drivers. It was a very ambitious project, and managed to unify many scattered sites, offer some much-needed greenery and restore key monuments and neoclassical mansions.

You can stroll along the cobbled streets and enjoy the blue sky and the blossomed trees.

So, starting opposite the temple of Olympian Zeus (colossal in size - it took 700 years to build), it continues past the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (it is an open theater and it is considered an once in a life time experience to attend a play during a warm August night there), along Thisseion, with its vivid cafes bustling with students, all the way to the Ancient agora. It then branches off west to Kerameikos (ancient cemetery) and Gazi (notorious for its night life), and north to Monastiraki (famous for its flea market) and finally, to the atmospheric Plaka, with its amazing neoclassical mansions.

The theatre of Herodes Atticus

The collosal temple of Olympius Zeus

The "ant" at the base of the pillar is me!

Turtle at Kerameikos


Monastiraki flea market

Neoclassical building in the neighbourhood of Plaka

3. The National Archaeological Museum

This is the world's largest and finest collection of Greek antiquities. It is vast and beautifully presents different eras in Greek history.

Museums can be overwhelming, (surprisingly, I was not bored or tired at all after spending more than 2 hours there - but maybe this was because I was biased with the subject!) so if you had to see 2 pieces only, these are the one I would recommend:

The first one is an imposing bronze statue of a Greek god. It is not determined if it shows Zeus (the leader of Greek gods, with its trademark being the lightning bolt) or Poseidon (the god of Sea, its trademark being the trident). Obviously, the statue WAS holding one of these 2 items, but it is now missing, so we can only guess.

Zeus or Poseidon?

The second one is the statue of horse and young rider. It was discovered in a shipwreck, broken in hundreds of pieces. It was restored beautifully, and its sense of motion (depicted in the features of both the horse and the rider) is striking.

Horse and young rider

Ancient piggybank

I can't remember what this is exactly, but it is so cute!

The museum also has a beatiful inner yard, where you can relax afterwards.

Ernesto under the trees in the museum's inner yard


4. Lykavittos Hill

Well, Ernesto wouldn't be happy with me suggesting this as a must-see. Basically, it is a hill that offers panoramic views of the city. There is a ridiculously pricey cafe there (the first reason for his discomfort!), and a church. Its open-air theatre is well known mainly for summer concerts.

Lykavittos open-air theatre

It is nice to watch either a sunset or a sunrise there. To see the city lights turning on during the evening, or the first people waking up and going around in their cars in the early morning. To be fair, I would have to add Ernesto's comment that, "it is better to be at the centre of Athens and see the green hill in the distance, than actually be on the hill, and see the ovepopulated city, with the "forests" of skyscrapers and cement building blocks!" Well, you can go and decide for yourselves!

5. Athens by the sea

Whether you visit during the summer or not, you cannot miss going to the beach. If you want to swim, there is a 25 km coastline from Faliro to Glyfada and Vouliagmeni. If you prefer a stroll instead, or a seafood dinner, you could go to the port of Mikrolimano.

Ernesto at Mikrolimano (this time I didn't get his picure in time, before he made the "classic-and-annoying" frown!!

Well, that's it for now! If you liked it, I can come back soon with more info on Greek food and way of life. Until then, you can still visit Athens... in your mind (the way I daydream about going to New York, or driving along route 66!). See you!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Another award (and some confessions)...

Good morning, friends! To my amazement, I received another award, from Raoulysgirl, from "Who has the Thyme?" yesterday - an honest blogging award this time. Thank you so much, girl.

My 7 nominess for the same award, are:

  1. Raoulysgirl from Who has the thyme. I am not sure if this is allowed, but it couldn't be any other way. I admire her for the fact that she is not afraid to express her beliefs, no matter how they may sound, or how people will respond. I appreciate her honesty very much, she always gives me food for thought, and I agree with her more and more as time passes.
  2. Thames from Yesterday's tomorrow, for the most sincere and encouraging post about difficult decisions and changes (amongst other things).
  3. 5th, from the 5th sister, for her moving post about an important anniversary of her life. Again, this is not the only reason I chose her, but it is the first one that comes to mind.
  4. LB from Muddy Runner, because I admire his devotion to his running aims, and he is always truthful about what he accomplishes. He is an inspiration for eating better and getting more fit, one day at a time.
  5. Katie, from Katie's corner, because she made me be "less" of a doctor and more of a person for once. Being open about her condition and how she is feeling, I managed to see things from her side and perspective, and it was an eye-opener for me. I truly hope you feel better by now, Katie.
  6. Tattoos from Tattoos and teething rings, for the most original and amazing love stories I have ever read (her grandparents').
  7. Willoughby from This stop Willoughby, simply because I love to read her blog (I check it several times a day) and I couldn't think of anyone more worthy of this award.

Thanks again, friends, for the wonderful time I have reading, writing, commenting, and sharing moments with all of you.

If you want to give the same award, follow these instructions:
  • Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.
  • Show the 7 winners names and links on your blog, and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with "Honest Scrap." Well, there's no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.
  • List at least 10 honest things about yourself.

And some confessions:

  1. Today I discovered that I need to loose 18 pounds. I have never been overweight in my life. I was always of average weight, and still am. But the last months of my life, having graduated and not working yet, trying 3 new dessert recipes from AR per week and getting no exercise whatsoever, have changed my figure somehow. It hasn't been a dramatic change, (switched clothes size, from sometimes S and sometimes M [depending on the clothes] to always M), but this has to stop now. I need to change it, before it is too late to change. The good thing is that I like eating healthy - I just need to cut down the desserts and get some activity. Wish me luck!

  2. I am at that point in my life when I have to make some hard decisions. The unemployment situation in Greece is tragic, and my fiance is more than eager to move to Germany (his mother's home country) to get a job there. I am scared to death of that. I don't have any problem with moving, it is just that I don't speak any German. As a result, I will need some time to adjust, learn the language, and THEN get a doctor's position. Ernesto says that, even if you take the language barrier in mind, I will STILL have a job earlier than I would have here. It makes sense, but it still is a great change in my life, and just thinking about it makes me kind of queesy.

  3. I have the worst relationship possible with my future-in laws (especially my FIL). Things were bad right from the beginning, and although over the last 7 years there have been many efforts to change that, it just can't be. I am hurt with the situation and feel that they have not been fair to me at all. However, Ernesto says that he doesn't mind, he knows I am right, and that I just have to accept things the way they are and try not to think about it. I guess it is easier saying so, than doing so.

  4. I can become quite addicted to certain video games (my personal record is playing Sims for 18 hours non-stop). It just felt so wrong to lose valuable time over a screen, and I quit it. I now have an AR addiction, of course, but it is much, much more controlled.

  5. I wear contact lenses (and glasses when I am at home). My eyesight was poor (7 / 10) at high school, but I didn't want to wear glasses and my parents wouldn't allow lenses. As a result, I was missing most of the details of the outside world when going out. The funniest moment was when I accidently hitch-hiked a truck, because I mistaked it for the bus, and waved at the driver to stop! So humiliating! I learnt to cope with it, though - but when I first put the lenses on, it was a totally different world out there!

  6. I also wore braces at primary school and high school (for 6 whole years). It was an awful experience. The moment the orthodontist removed them, I never set foot in his office again - not for follow up, nothing.

  7. When my younger sister and I were small, we had different rooms, and it was obligatory to stay in and have a nap after lunch. Neither of us could sleep, so I would jump out of my window and climb on hers, and get in her room to play (of course, as silently as we could - shhh!). This is something we always remind one another when we meet.

  8. As a kid, my sister was chubby, while I was skinny. This was a strange thing, since I ate most of her food when our parents weren't watching! She ate very little, and then always tried to pass it on to me.

  9. This is the first of the 10 days I will have to spend alone (Ernesto is in Germany, having job interviews) and I wonder if I will miss him terribly, be bored to death, or feel kind of relieved to have a little "alone time". I guess it will be all 3 at the same time.

  10. I have to clean the house now, and I am sooooo bored - but I know I won't feel at ease unless I finally do it.

Well, that's it for now, guys. I hope it wasn't too much information for you! See you later!