The ultimate cold dish

Finally, tax season is o-v-e-r!  This season was very challenging compared to years prior.  There were plenty of stressful moments, and a tremendous lack of sleep.

Michael trying to relax after tax season, usually with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc

We keep reminding ourselves why we go through these four months of hell year after year and it helps put some things in perspective… for example, upcoming renovation projects, giving back to our community, Anna’s college fund, travel, etc.., etc.

I have learned so much this season; about our clients, our employees, our process, our company culture and a lot about myself.  It’s a great feeling when you see progress in the right direction.  Great to see team members step up on their own to help exactly when and where it is needed.  It was a relief when all our client obligations were complete by the deadline, all at the cost of our time, lack of sleep and coffee intake.

Renovation mode after tax season.  We laid 1100 square feet of tile a few years ago all by ourselves.  By the 12th day, it was definitely time for a vacation.  On a positive note, renovations make my body feel super strong!

Michael was telling me that because he was working on adrenaline for the past two weeks, that coming of that now is always a weird feeling of “I don’t know what to do now that the deadline is over.”  There’s always plenty to do, of course, especially with extensions, expat deadlines, etc.   But not having tax day looming over you puts everything else on a different platform.   Learning to relax?  That’s something worth exploring these days for sure.

I’m very much looking forward to Zoe and Antonio who are coming out to visit from San Francisco.  I’m sad they are only staying for a quick weekend, but I intend to make it memorable!  They haven’t visited since Christmas of 2012, when they first moved here from Athens.  It’s particularly great for me to watch Zoe grow and flourish during this time… in her career and as a person learning to acclimate in a completely different environment than she’s used to.

Zoe and Antonio pictured here in Sausalito a few years ago.

And living in the Bay Area is not like any other city, yet, she’s done it well and from someone who has known her since we were 5 and 6, I’m so proud!  We will celebrate next weekend with an air boat ride out in the Everglades — something I’ve always wanted to do down here.

I’m slowly warming up into cooking at home again after the tax season hiatus.  Anna has been helpful, moody and patient in her own 10 year old way, and I really appreciate her approach to tax season.

My Anna and me out for a horribly timed tax season birthday dinner!

She gave me a high five and we celebrated with donuts on the last day.  Then, she hit me up to adopt a dog.  Though tempted, I hinted that we can’t adopt right now… especially with summer coming up.  I admire her persistence and enthusiasm though, as I know this conversation is far from over!

Very pleased, too, that I’ve connected with my friends during this stressful time.  I’ve clearly identified who I can be with and reach out to, who can understand me and cares to listen – even when I am in a sour mood.  That’s exactly when you know someone loves and accepts you for who you are, without trying to change you, but trying to challenge your thinking instead.

Learning to savor the present moment!

With my 39th birthday now behind me, I’m gaining so much perspective on life, love, friendship and so many other elements, too, and feel thankful as I try to embrace and savor every moment.

So, as we enter outdoor grilling season, with renovation projects underway, I want to share a recipe for a very cold dish… this was Amanda’s suggestion and it was awesome.

Amanda happily joined us for Christmas eve this past holiday season. She easily put up with a bunch of Greeks that night!

It’s called “kolyva” and it’s really healthy and delicious, in fact.  Then again, it’s traditionally served during funerals and memorials in Greece.  I’m not hosting a memorial for anyone, but referencing back to cold dishes, this would be a fantastic option.  I can already think of a few people I would happily serve this to with a big smile.

 

Thank you, Amanda for suggesting the ultimate cold dish!

MAD KOLYVA – THE ULTIMATE COLD DISH

(This is great!)

Prep time:  at least 4-5 hours.  Servings: 5-6 (I adjusted the recipe for the number of people I could serve this to, so do the math accordingly)

Ingredients 

1 lb wheat berries

Dash of salt

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup of unpolished jordan almonds (white, not colored)

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

2 cups confectioners sugar, divided

Directions

The great aspect about kolyva is that while traditionally they are prepared the day before a memorial, the wheat berries will ferment when left at room temperature overnight.  This will allow the sugar to crystallize in the refrigerator. From what I’m reading, the best pre-preparation method is to boil and refrigerate the wheat berries way ahead of time, then add in the rest of the ingredients.  That’s what makes this an ultimate cold dish… it’s all in the prep!

First, you will want to carefully rinse the wheat berries and put them in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 3-4 inches, and add the dash of salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the wheat berries are soft.  They should start to split a little but be careful that they don’t get mushy.  The boiling process will take up to 1.5 hours.  Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon so that the wheat berries are not stuck to the bottom of the saucepan.

Drain and set the strainer aside to cool and dry for at least 3-4 hours.

Once the berries have cooled down completely, place them a large bowl. Add in the rest of the ingredients: sesame seeds, walnuts, jordan almonds, golden raisins, cinnamon, and the pomegranate seeds until well mixed.

Kolyva decorated beautifully with jordan almonds and raisins (photo: Liturgical Recipes, St. John Greek Orthodox Church)

Add in 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar and mix all together.

Transfer the mixture to a large platter or tray.  Sift the remaining confectioners’ sugar over the top to coat it thickly, so it resembles icing.  You can opt to decorate the top with almonds for effect.  You will want to present the tray first when it looks pretty, and then, right before you serve in individual bowls, you will need to mix it up together.

It’s actually really tasty and healthy as a snack!

 

 

 

have a voice, make a difference

Today’s post is not a food one – sorry!  I’ve been inspired so much with the activism of the women in our country, and our respective local communities, that I feel compelled to express my support.  It’s easy, all you have to do is click away if you don’t want to read it.  Or, in the words of my father:  Να μη σώσεις! (er, a loose, polite translation: “may you never endeavor!”)

It has been an interesting month so far.  I still can’t believe the inauguration is tomorrow.  The media are on fire with news surrounding it, and focused even more on the day after the inauguration… when the Women’s March will take place in DC.  I was happy to see there are several sister marches happening, for those who can’t get to the main one.

There is a sister women’s march (rally) taking place in WPB that has thousands who are planning on protesting this Saturday at noon.  It’s a beautiful thing to see women (and those who support them) gather together to support being who we are.  We are women who not only have rights, but the right to make sensible choices.

Personally, I am getting tired.  Tired of having men in suits, with inflated egos and the need to control others dictate what we should do with our womb, our bodies and our minds.  Men who refuse or don’t have the ability empathize with women, and who simply don’t respect them.  Men who will never truly grasp the total pain of child labor (because it does hurt – oh yes, a lot) and all of its consequences.

We all have opinions, which we have the ability to share and discuss freely – it’s the beautiful function of this country.  We find opportunities to debate, to organize, to argue, and to demonstrate.  And it gets ugly at times.  With peaceful protesting we are able to express our opinions and feelings.  That’s an amazing thing about democracy.

Still, I’ve never been able to understand one thing:  unless we have been through a specific experience, how can we understand how a person feels?  It could be anything, but assume major events like, the birth of a child, battling a terminal illness, the loss of a parent, surviving a terrible accident, being laid off suddenly, having an abortion, dealing with abuse or assault, grieving the loss of a loved one, coping with the empty nest or a painful divorce.  We’re always so quick to judge others.  Why?  I think it’s because what others do is often a threat to our comfortable bubble, isn’t it?  But, in reality, isn’t that’s the exact moment those need help, empathy, compassion and love?

So, stop being afraid.  Reach out.

I’m not forming this opinion just because I read a bunch of books on feminism.  During this inauguration, I can’t help but think of the strong women in my life that have come before me, and those who I hope will come after me.  My great grandmother from Karpathos, Anastasia, was a brave lady.  I never met her, but the stories I hear from various people are consistent.  She was a kind, hard working mother who supported her two daughters.  Her husband left her to go to the States and never really returned.  He hardly sent money.  Anastasia raised her daughters alone, and it was hard.  But, she had her own house (the one we have now) and her own land (our orchards) and she raised those girls well with dignity, love and a strong sense of self.

My great grandmother, Anastasia (my mom and daughter are named after her).  Brought by her daughters, she first came to the US as an Italian Citizen in 1944.

Persephone, the oldest by five years, and Aphrodite (my grandmother) were Anastasia’s two girls.  They were very different and very close.  Both were trained seamstresses and took in work to help support their tiny family, and also worked in the olive grove during picking season.  Persephone married a photographer, Basil, who had become a US citizen after fighting in WWI and they moved to Gary, Indiana.  Aphrodite, the more ambitious of the two, was left behind and waited impatiently for her sister to bring her to the US.  While she had several marriage proposals in the village, she declined all of them.  She had her eyes set to leave Karpathos and made that clear to her mother, who knew she had to let her go.

In July of 1938, that day finally came.  Determined to make the most of her life, at the ripe age of 27, Aphrodite left Greece as an Italian citizen, and traveled alone to Paris, and from Cherbourg she sailed to the US.

The two sisters in Karpathos. Persephone (left) was very close to her sister and was determined to help her have a chance to the life she had envisioned.

I’ll share this story, as it was told to me:

Persephone was a uniquely kind and compassionate lady, whereas my grandmother was also kind, but very firm and as tough as nails.  She never forgave her father for leaving her mother alone to raise them.  Years later, when both sisters were settled in the US, somehow their father heard about it, tracked down Persephone’s home address and showed up at the door.  Unfortunately for him It so happened that Aphrodite was visiting her sister for the summer from Florida.  And Persephone answered the door and saw her father after decades.  She may have felt a duty to take him in and care for him in his old age.  But, Aphrodite didn’t feel that way.  She finally had her say and told him he was not welcome.  From what I gather, he left and that was the last time they saw him.

And from my father’s side, in Asia Minor, it’s said that my great grandmother, Permanthoula, was very brave.  Apparently, she carried a pistol in her undergarments when walking alone to protect herself from the Turks, especially when the tensions started rising.

So, I try to tell Anna that she comes from a strong line of women.  Women who were independent, curious, brave, and found themselves strong enough to tackle unknowns even when they were scared.  And they sought a better life for their children’s children.  And then I hear ignorant people who say they hate feminists, when they don’t even understand what that means.

Three generations on election day 2016

Character is built over time, by asking questions, by resolving problems reasonably, by making mistakes, by learning lessons and having experiences.  I’m not sure how you can build character by marinating in comfort or by surrendering to the status quo. It depends on what your goals are, I suppose.

We have a voice that can make a difference.

Last night, Anna designed a sign for the march for me.  I won’t tell you what it says.

It tells me she got the message 🙂

On the food front, I’m falling a bit short today.  And tax season is really picking up and I’m noticing my time is becoming more and more limited.  But, we actually went to the South Florida fair yesterday and tried a doughnut burger.  That part was disappointing!   Given the publicity of this fair delight, it was definitely not as good as I thought it would be.  The bacon was not crispy, the burger was overdone, the doughnut tasted stale…  So, we came home and I made pizza on naan bread for dinner.  Yum.  I’ll share my homemade pizza recipe sometime soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the power of being present

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving, full of joy, lasting memories, and hopefully no family drama!  I’m enjoying our first turkey-free Thanksgiving this year.  We spoke to my mom in Greece, who laughed off my previous blog post on her Brussels sprouts, and then to my brother, who is spending the holiday in San Antonio with family there.

We also spoke to my mother in law, who lives in Northern Greece and she is coming to visit for six months this December.  She’s a very sweet lady and I’m looking forward to having her spend the holidays with us.  And praying for no additional family drama.  After that, Michael and I went to the gym and I was surprised to see it so crowded!  I guess everyone was trying to get their work out in before the big feast!  Still, it was great to exercise and then drive the s4 cabrio around town.  I love this car; and feel thankful that Michael takes care of it so well.

Here I am in Rye, NH, when we took the Audi S4 (aka, Ladybug) out for a first test drive. This car has been fabulous to drive around Palm Beach on a sunny day!
Here I am in Rye, NH, when we took the Audi S4 (aka, Ladybug) out for a first test drive. This car has been fabulous to drive around Palm Beach on a sunny day!

Thanksgiving this year has really made me think about family and how everything can shift over time.  It’s also taught me the importance of being in the moment and allowing myself to be present.  Easier said than done when you have a family and obligations.  Still, being present is a necessary exercise that fuels progress and growth.  This time of year, we’re often reminded of family stresses, and we have power to indulge in all that, or… not.

Needless to say, we don’t choose our family, and we do have the choice of who to include in our life, whether it’s family and/or friends.  What matters really, is being thankful, and I am finding that it is state of mind – not just on a day like today – and a way of life.  In many ways, it’s a daily exercise to mindfully make it a point every day to live with purpose, while being thankful for all the experiences we have that make up who we are.  That doesn’t mean only acknowledging all the “good” things, but learning to embrace the challenges, too.  That’s much harder.

These look fabulous, Amanda! Great job on the spices, too.
These look fabulous, Amanda! Great job on the spices, too.

No recipes today!  Although, I do want to give a shout out to my dear friend Amanda, who is celebrating with her family in Michigan now, and prepared what she calls “Didi’s Greek marinated potatoes.”  I promise to share this recipe soon, and I think you will appreciate how quick and easy these potatoes can be!

She just sent me a photo of them and they look delicious!  Enjoy the day, everyone 🙂