Wednesday, April 30, 2008

White nights, vodka and Kirov ballet!

Yippee, we're heading to St. Petersburg, Russia some time in early 2009. Of our family of 4 (two adults, one baby, and one furry) one of us can tolerate heat - me. So everyone is ecstatic about the news.

Now we just need to learn Russian :-(

Friday, April 4, 2008

Orange Juice

When we went home for R and R we had to hire a gardener because there was no way we'd keep up with this jungle after being gone a whole month. The guy did an amazing job (with Terry's promotion maybe we can hire him more often!) and one thing he did was pick all the oranges off our trees and leave them in bags for us. The oranges are a bit bitter but incredibly juicy, so one afternoon while Alex and I took a nap, Terry went and juiced the whole thing. He'll post photos of his hard work.

The experience prompted him to go buy an electric juicer. This will also help with our massive lemonade campaign during the summer.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Finally made it to Gozo!

Terry and I realized chores will always be there and never be completely done so we decided over this long weekend we were finally going to get to Gozo, Malta's little sister island. According to most Maltese, everything is better in Gozo (better food, fresher air, less traffic, etc, etc). We kept holding off partly because Terry can't be off the island if his boss is away, and partly because we feared it would be a huge time-consuming painful process - which we hear it is in the summer.

Well, traffic and air are certainly better. When we boated to Gozo last summer we anchored by Fungus Rock. This trip we ended up taking a walk/hike in the same area, which is called Dwerja. Our walk/hike along the cliffs was nicer than anything we had done in Malta, but only by a little. The ferry to Gozo was a highlight in some ways - it is the first thing we found in Malta that was completely efficient and smoothly run. We happened to arrive at the ferry just a few minutes before boarding began on our way there, and from the time we left the house to the time we sat down for lunch in Rabat (Victoria) - after wandering around the center a bit - was 2 hours.

Otherwise we really didn't see the draw. Of course, we really didn't see or do much, we wanted to focus on the festival and outdoor things because the weather was so good, so we didn't stay long in Rabat or see any of the sights. Then when we got to Gharb where the festival was, it turns out we hit in the afternoon lull when nothing was going on. So that's why we got such good parking! The village itself is reported to be a sight itself because it is still very traditional but we didn't see much that was so different from in our own village in Malta.

We'll be back at least a couple of times - we need to see the Citadel and Ggantija and we want to do some snorkeling by the Azure Window - but we certainly won't be every-weekend visitors unless the next trip really wows us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I met Pippa today

In a previous post I went through our hunt for a good Maltese cookbook, finally settling on 25 Years in a Maltese Kitchen by Pippa Mattei. Back when I had time to cook (pre-Alex) we tried about 10 recipes from the book and there was only one dud, in fact her tomato sauce recipe is the first one we have liked, and back in Philly we tried at least 1/2 dozen when our tomato crop went out of control.

This week when I went to our produce lady for groceries, I picked out some fava beans (called broad beans) and asked Joyce - the lady who runs the produce stand - how to cook them. She indicated a lady who was looking through the vegetables and said she was the person to ask, she was an excellent cook and even wrote her own cookbook. Yes, that was Pippa! When I went home I checked the book jacket and it turns out she lives in my village.

She also offered to answer any questions I had via email, as the address is on the book jacket. Terry suggested I get the book autographed :-)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


We took our first vacation since Terry joined the foreign service in mid-January. Wow.

First, traveling with an infant is nothing like traveling without one. We are normally carry-on-baggage-only people, and this time we checked 2 bags. Sheesh!

Second, the Greek people are incredibly child-friendly and gracious. Every single time we were on the metro (which was every day) someone offered us a seat because we had Alex in the Snugli. Sometimes multiple people offered. Of course, our girl hates for mommy or daddy to be comfy sitting down so we had to decline every time.

Thirdly, the Greek people are, like the Maltese, convinced that we are abusing our child because we don't dress her warmly enough, in their estimation. More than one person made it clear that Alex needed at least a hat. One old woman tried to pull Terry's jacket closed over Alex.

For our trip to Athens, we were very graciously hosted by Terry's good high school buddy who had moved to Greece a few years after college. He and his wife could not have been more kind or more accommodating, and it was truly a luxury in so many ways to be staying with them. It gave Terry time to catch up in the evening when Alex and I went to bed, it gave us a local interpreter and tour guide, and it let us stay in a residential neighborhood rather than somewhere more touristy.

On to the sights ... we arrived Saturday evening so Sunday was our first opportunity to tour around. Poseidon's Temple is reportedly lovely at sunset so off we set in the afternoon for a 90-120 minute trip. The Temple truly was lovely, and when Terry finally gets through editing the photos you will all see just how lovely. Terry and I each thought the other had brought the bottle so there was no bottle so a starving Alex screamed for an hour while driving there.

Monday was a hang out and organize ourselves day, and touristing began in earnest on Tuesday. We went to the Acropolis because we decided to do the thing we most wanted first in case something got in the way of getting back later. It is amazing to walk around the Dionysius Theatre where Euripedes' plays were first performed, and to see the temples at the top of the mountain. I can understand why the gods wanted to reside up there! The Parthenon was under scaffolding, which annoyed me, but the rest of the structures were pretty amazing. Alex was snug in her Snugli and slept through the whole thing!

We did a lot of wandering around and some requisite gift-buying on Wednesday, and we visited the Agora (ancient marketplace). The weather was icky so we didn't stay too long, but it was a place I could see bringing some food and picnicking in better weather.

We meant to update the blog right when we got back, because now I can't remember what we did the other weekdays :-(

Saturday we tried to go visit the Oracle at Delphi but we arrived 10 minutes after they closed. Part of the delay was because Alex decided to have her first massive poop explosion, the type where you just throw away the clothes she's wearing at the time. Anyway, there were other sights nearby that were open, and when Terry links the photos I'll remember the names. There was an ancient gymnasium and something for Athena. It was a beautiful day so we just wandered around for a while and even sat in the sun. It was a wonderful way to end our trip, as we woke and left before dark on Sunday.

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.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dental care

I had to get 2 cavities filled (grrr) and i have been warned that here they are not so into comfort/pain management. So I ask about the Novocaine before the dentist begins. She tells me the first cavity is pretty shallow and we won't get anywhere near the nerves, and she thought I could easily get through it without Novocaine but if i felt uncomfortable at any time to just raise my hand and she'll stop immediately.

As we all know (med-free childbirth notwithstanding) I am a big baby when it comes to pain. But they had only booked me for getting one cavity filled and I wanted to move quickly so maybe we could fit both in. So the first goes without meds. Actually didn't feel anything at all. The dentist said the second one was a bit deeper, i could get numbed if I wanted but she thought we could make it through without meds. In the spirit of expediency i agreed to try. Yep, made it through also without Novocaine.

I feel tougher already - 2 cavities without pain meds. See, this living overseas thing really does let you find out what you're capable of.