Saturday, January 19, 2008

Off on vacation

Now that we got into something of a groove and are posting more often, we will be away for the next 8 days on our first vacation since we joined the foreign service, and our first trip with Alex. I am sure we will have many stories to tell upon our return.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Today is Beer day (oops I mean Marmalade)

I brewed my second batch of beer a little before the New Years and it has been fermenting for two weeks. I was planning this weekend to be the bottling weekend, but when I popped open the fermenter to have a peek, the sediment had still had not settled. When you brew beer you take this measurement called original gravity, which tells how dense the liquid is in comparison to water. As the yeast changes the sugars (heavier then water) to alcohol (lighter then water) and Carbon Dioxide (escapes from the brew) the gravity drops and the beer becomes thinner and closer to the density of water. Since all the things that go into beer never come out completely you are left with a number that is denser then water but much lighter then when you start. Consequently you can use this number to tell you alcohol percentage by volume. Most recipes include an original gravity and ending gravity so you can tell when the fermenting is done. Also all the sediment will settle to the bottom about the time the fermenting is done. So seeing all the sediment floating around was the first clue it was not done. I took a gravity reading and it was only about 2/3 of the way there at best. So I sealed everything back up and will wait some more. Now what to do with my day?

Malta has really good strawberries when in season and since we have run out of the last years jam we asked my mom to ship us some pectin. We expected one, maybe two, packs. Each pack makes two batches of jam. My mom shipped 5 packs. So with more pectin then we expected (or probably needed) we decided to try some new things. Citrus plants grow well in Malta. In our backyard we have 5 citrus trees. Most of the fruit is kind of sour and not really tasty fresh. But the main ingredient of jam is lots of sugar so tart fruit actually works better then sweet fruit. With my day now free and the trees full of fruit I decided to try orange marmalade. It will take up to two weeks to set to know if it is any good. It tasted good this morning but was runny so we will have to see if it sets properly. If not we have a lot of Orange Syrup. So anyone who comes to visit may get a departing gift of orange marmalade. That should entice the people to come flocking to Malta.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

So far behind.

Ok I know I am really far behind but with the holidays everything is a bit out of whack. So here is the run down of what has been going on. Lynne has posted a fair amount so I will try not to repeat.

Last weekend I brewed my second batch of beer. I will write more on that later. New Years was quiet. I made dinner for Lynne’s birthday and took the baby the rest of the night so Lynne could get a break. New Years Day was the first day of the Euro in Malta. Lynne and I took Kirby and Alex for a walk to a local ATM machine to see if it would actually spit out Euros. Much to my surprise it did. I was kind of sure it would still be giving out Maltese Pounds. So now until the end of the month when we pay with Maltese Pounds we get Euros for change. It is kind of neat going through the change over. In January we are going to Greece so having the Euro will make that trip easier. No money exchange needed is very convenient. This should help Malta be more appealing to tourist from the mainland who now don’t have to change their money to the pound.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Holidays with Alex

The ambassador hosts a holiday party in December, and Terry's grandmother had sent over the most adorable party dress for Alex to wear for Christmas ... so, guess who was the belle of the ball? I'll have Terry link a photo of her here, I made him take nice pictures of her for posterity. Our girl, as you will eventually notice, is more of a Mona Lisa smile kind of girl. There aren't many caught on film, although the one good shot of her "elusive smile" confirmed the presence of a dimple. Just one. So precious.

She handled the party very well, getting passed around to several people and having one hunger meltdown that was quickly corrected with some tasty vittles. Terry had gotten bamboozled into playing Santa and it actually worked out relatively well ... there is a photo of Alex with him somewhere in the world (wasn't my camera) and she isn't crying, probably because she could tell it was him - babies' sense of smell is the only one fully developed at birth.

Terry was Santa's helper on Christmas eve, going into work on his day off with a couple of other guys to unload the mail so kids could have their gifts on Christmas morning. We were invited to a friend's for dinner that night, so we even got to make one house call! There is nowhere good to park a sleigh in the Med.

On New Year's we began what will probably be the Mad-zak family tradition - modeled after Terry's family's - of a gift-free birthday, celebrated by the birthday person demanding whatever dinner and whatever cake or other dessert s/he desires. Of course, this will be subject to availability, and I guess I have to start learning how to make cakes.

Did we make it to midnight? Hell no! Sleep is more important than tradition and children and pets don't know about weekends or holidays.

Alex has finally started actually playing with things, such as the Skwish mom got her for Hanukkah and a baby rattle that had been mine many moons ago. She can hang out happily in her bouncy seat for a good 40 minutes, which means I actually eat many dinners with both hands and Terry doesn't have to cut my meat most of the time. She also likes the Snugli and is sometimes the only way to get a nap out of her. She is too bright for her own good, and I think we may not survive her toddler-hood!

On a sad note, today Terry brought my mom to the airport. Her 3.5 months in Malta were an invaluable help and I am not quite sure how we will manage on our own.