When my husband and I started taking sailing lessons I knew it was a matter of when, not if, we would own our own sailboat someday. And that day came just last year. But I was already expecting our first child when we bought the boat. So that meant a whole new set of parental decisions and child proofing lay ahead.
Actually the decision to own a boat factored into our recreational plans as a family. I grew up camping in Montana and my husband grew up around boats in Connecticut. So we both wanted to continue a tradition of spending quality time in the great outdoors as a family. But sailing is the new path we chose together. Neither of us knew how to sail until we started taking lessons. And for me it was also my first introduction to boating, which included everything from learning the rules of the “road” to safety. Not to mention a brand new appreciation for wind direction and speed.
George is already being exposed to boating. He got his first infant life vest as a Christmas present last year when he was just barely a month old. And now that he weighs 18 pounds he can wear it somewhat comfortably and join us on deck. The life vest has taken some getting used to, it is something akin to the scene in the movie A Christmas Story where the younger brother falls down in the snow and can’t get up due to the ridiculous number of layers he is wearing. In the life vest George can’t move his head easily and it pushes into his cheeks when he sits on in my lap. It would be funny if I didn’t feel bad for him! But learning about boat safety is all part of his boating education. And right now he is so squirmy, he definitely can’t be on deck without a personal floatation device (PFD). As he grows he will be more comfortable in his infant life vest, hopefully. (No we aren’t bad parents but the life vest did come off for the photo below while we were at the dock.)
In case you find yourself in the market for an infant life vest, or PFD, you do have several choices online from sites such as REI, West Marine and others. BabyCenter.com has a helpful article on infant boat safety: “When Can My Baby Go On a Boat?”
We are currently using an infant life vest purchased from West Marine.
One of many challenging foreign waters you enter as a new mom is meal planning. But it isn’t just “what do we have for dinner”. It is much more intimidating. You have this tiny new engine with all brand new and unused parts. And you don’t yet know what he is potentially allergic to or can handle. So you just start by dipping a toe in the water and you start slowly with one food at time. You do countless Google searches, you ask pediatricians, you ask other moms, you talk to nurses, you read blogs and Facebook and you hopefully find a cookbook and kitchen tools that help you simplify this journey.
I am not an expert on nutrition. I am not a chef with formal training. And I definitely don’t claim to know what I am doing. Each day as a new parent is like diving into the pool and trying to remember the difference between a breast stroke and the butterfly stroke all while balancing a tiny human in the palm of your hand, oh and reminding yourself to have fun in the process.
I love food and I married into a family that reveres food. So more than anything I feel the weight of shaping his life long eating habits and appreciation for food. If I feed him more fruit than veggies will he have a sweet tooth? Should I worry that he prefers Cheerios over other finger foods and would rather suck food from a Plum Organics pouch than be bothered with a spoon? Luckily he will take food from a spoon if he doesn’t see the pouch. And he actually is getting more adept at grasping soft finger foods. He loved butternut squash the other day. He kept shoveling piece after piece into his little mouth until he looked like a very happy chipmunk with squash filled cheeks. And the dogs are loving this new world of solid foods, I don’t have to worry about cleaning up crumbs with them around.
George is actually a good eater. We even tried lamb recently with peas and mint and he loved it. Well he loved it on the first day. The second day after the puree had been frozen and then defrosted I think the flavors were a little stronger and he DID NOT love it. There was gagging, screaming and a very red annoyed face. Guess he likes his lamb freshly prepared!
Making baby food for George has been a bit of an adventure. It took me awhile to get the consistency of the purees and flavors to his liking. I’m so grateful there are some prepared organic baby food options out there, otherwise I would have lost my mind in the beginning. And even now actually I still use a mix of 50/50 homemade and prepared baby foods. There are just days when you need a meal to happen on the go and you either can’t keep homemade food fresh on your journey, or you just don’t have the time and need to cut a corner, or two.
We started slow with solid foods about four months ago when he was six months old and now that I can breath a little easier knowing he isn’t allergic to all the many things he has tried so far, planning meals has gotten a little easier. I guess like most new aspects of parenthood I need to just take a deep breath and trust that I am doing the best that I can for him, I’m not trying to win a top chef award so just relax and dive in. And don’t forget to sing a silly made-up song while we eat lunch together. These days are so precious, I should enjoy that I get to spend three meals a day with my baby boy. No matter what we are eating, or not eating as some days go.
I have been blessed. I have been blessed with a beautiful life and the latest adventure has been motherhood. George Augustine was born on November 15, 2012. The past ten months have been a sleepy, amazing journey into parenthood. I could say all those cliche things about how your heart grows and you never knew how much you could love another person this much. And that is definitely all true but mostly I am just struck by how fast it all is going by and I want to hit the pause button just for an instant so I can freeze this memory of his baby days.
I keep saying that if I were to start a new blog on life with a new baby I would title it “Love and Milk”, because these early days are really mostly comprised of these two things. And at the end of the day all he really needs from me is a belly full of milk, my loving embrace and attempt at singing a lullaby. And as I lay him down I tell him “Kali̱nýchta Georgie, sagapó̱” (Goodnight Georgie, I love you). Greek side note: goodnight in Greek is pronounced cahlee-neet-ah, and I love you is pronounced saw-ga-poh.
This first year of his life is full of so many developmental milestones and he is growing so quickly that I can’t help but recognize the reality that someday soon he is going to be an adult with a life and talents all his own. I am struck by this Cracker Jack box kind of feeling. What will he be? What will he look like? What things will he like? I am then instantly transported back to present day and I squeeze him extra tight and soak up his baby smell and sweet babble sounds.
In the first few weeks of caring for a tiny newborn I could hardly imagine having a second child. But now as I watch his tiny newborn hands transform into toddler hands that grasp everything around him I can understand now why you would crave that tiny newborn presence in your arms again. These early days are so very precious, especially as a first time mom. Mostly they have been an education into everything from breastfeeding to sleep schedules and communication.
If I were to sum it up into a job title it would definitely be teacher. I think that is partially why this current phase is so equally mentally and physically trying. At ten months he is crawling everywhere, and soon to be walking, all at full speed. But he is also so much more aware of everything around him and I know he understands a limited vocabulary, although he has yet to really say his first word.
So for now I am just relishing these baby days where he just loves me, without hesitation and judgment. I don’t yet have any annoying habits and all he knows is that I love him. And I have milk whenever he needs it. I love my new job. But I also am itching to write again. So now that we have a somewhat reliable morning nap going, it is time to dust off this blog and clear the cobwebs from my mommy brain. Yes, mommy brain is real. I have the list of “oops” moments in the past few months to prove it, but more on that later.
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, my man is no exception. And chocolate is one of his weaknesses. So when it came to finding the perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day it had to be pure chocolate cake decadence. Nothing says “sagapo” (that’s Greek for “I love you”) like a heart shaped molten lava dark chocolate cake. I found the recipe through one of my iPhone app obsessions, Foodgawker. It’s also gluten free for those of you with special dietary needs.
I actually made these a day in advance so that come dessert time tomorrow, we can simply pop the chocolate cakes in the oven for 11-13 minutes. (An unbaked chocolate cake is pictured above.)
We gave them a test run this past weekend. Ice cream is a good accompaniment to chocolate cake, but I think we will try homemade whip cream tomorrow. Yum!
3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, preferably 60% (or more) cocoa
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon of brewed coffee or espresso
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon coconut flour, firmly packed
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Grease 4 ramekins (heart shaped if you have it!). Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter: place 1-2 inches of water in a small pot on the stove and bring to a simmer, place a heat safe bowl over the top of the pot, gently melt together chocolate and butter in the bowl, stirring constantly. Remove the bowl from the pot and let cool slightly for one minute (you don’t want to cook the eggs!)
In a small bowl whisk the eggs, honey, coffee, vanilla and coconut flour, add mixture to the melted chocolate. Mix just until well blended. Pour into greased ramekins. Bake for 9-11 minutes.* Remove from oven immediately after the center slightly puffs up, the cakes should still have a liquid middle. If they cook too long the consistency will be thicker, still tasty just not molten. Gently run a knife around the ramekin to release the cake from the sides and invert onto serving plate.
Serve warm with fresh berries and whipped cream (or vanilla bean ice cream).
*add a few minutes to the baking time if your batter was kept in the fridge.
Just in time for your holiday baking! This is a super easy recipe and can be served as a accompaniment to coffee in the morning or as a sweet anytime. These cookies are subtly sweet, so they are sure to please any crowd. Makes 12-15 cookies.
¼ cup hazelnuts or almonds, or a combination of both
10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/8 cup superfine sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp brandy, or Metexa Greek brandy
¼ cup cornstarch or arrowroot
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour (Note: you can use whole wheat flour, but the end result will be a little “heavier” tasting)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or lightly butter. In a food processor, chop the nuts finely but without reducing them to ground nuts. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and brandy, then stir in the nuts. Sift the starch and flour over the mixture and stir. Add more flour if necessary in order to create a firm dough. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a clean working surface. You may wish to lightly flour your hands. Break off a small piece of dough and roll into a small ball, then place the ball on the clean surface and roll into a 3 inch log, tapering into pointed ends. Shape into a crescent and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the crescents are made. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the cookies are firm but not too brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Pour the orange-flower water into a small bowl. Place the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Dip the crescents into the water quickly and then into the sugar to coat them completely. Store them loosely in an airtight container.
Sometimes when you’re craving a little taste of Greece, there is nothing better than a Greek festival to give you a fix. From the live music and dancing to the tasty sweets and flavorful lamb you won’t leave hungry. Both your heart and your stomach will leave full. And guess what? It’s Greek Festival time again! Join us this weekend September 10-11 2011 with the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church Greek Festival in Cardiff.
And no, the above photo is not from the festival! This image was from our trip to Santorini, where we stayed in Oia. We enjoyed the dreamy sunsets from our room and feasted on local treats.
What better way to kick off summer than with some delectable grilled seafood. And what better way to christen our new side courtyard on a warm SoCal July evening than grilled seafood. In a word – heaven.
Plus it gave me an excuse to sift through our Greece photos. Double the fun.
Octopus, or oktapodi (oct-a-poe-dee) in Greek, was one of my favorite dishes in Greece. We had the best on the island of Paros.
But but not all oktapodi is prepared delectably. The key I learned is in tenderizing the meat. Which can be done the old-fashioned way by beating it on a rock and hanging it the sun for hours to break down the cartilage. Or by boiling it briefly before grilling it.
We purchased a whole octopus from Whole Foods already cleaned and simply boiled it before then grilling it. Boiling time varies based on the size of the octopus, but it could be as much as an hour to an hour and a half for a one pound octopus. Boil just until tender, then let cool before grilling.
Crucial to the flavor is the use of a hot coal fire. If you have the choice always choose charcoal over gas. I am told by my talented husband that charcoal is a key contributor to the flavor. The key is to make sure the coals are extra hot and to get the octopus close to the hot coals.
What you absolutely can’t leave out is fresh squeezed lemon to finish it off.
Just writing this post I can taste the crisp yet tender and sweet yet savory grilled oktapodi. Yamas!
If you are feeling brave at your local fish market or Whole Foods seafood counter, you should try preparing it. It will be almost as good as it tastes in the Mediterranean. Almost.
P.S. – One of my favorite Oktapodi finds is a cute animated short. Nothing like a little oktapodi love to brighten your day. Watch it here:
Until I met my husband, I had no idea what a name day was. It was all very confusing. It isn’t a birthday, but the celebration is similar. I am bad enough at remembering birthdays, now I suddenly had to remember 2 celebrations for each person. So naturally a lot of questioning ensued. What is a name day? Why is it celebrated?
Name days honor the saint that you were named after. Or in some cases, if there isn’t saint that shares your name, you would celebrate All Saints Day. The date corresponds to the date that the saint died and therefore was born into heaven. A list of Greek name days can be found online, I found one list here. The tradition however is not confined to the Greek culture. It is celebrated in many countries and pays tribute to your given name.
In my husband’s family name days are celebrated like birthdays, with a card, a phone call and/or a special meal. And I have noticed that missing a name day is almost more sensitive than missing a birthday. Which as a newbie to the tradition I found really surprising. But I have definitely grown to understand the importance of the name day. After all, names are very important to our individual esteem and identity.
A side-note about the image in this post. My father-in-law’s name day is December 5th, Savas. We took the picture above at Windnsea beach in La Jolla, CA and made a handmade card for him last year.
Do you celebrate name days? How does your family celebrate?
For this week’s Greek recipe I went back to an oldie but a goodie. And on this first day of summer, what better treat than fresh watermelon and feta salad!
The recipe can be easily adapted to include other seasonal items such as arugula and onion. And I have even tried it with balsamic vinegar instead of the citrus. You can easily experiment with the acid in this recipe. Enjoy!
Watermelon and Feta Salad
2 cups Watermelon, cut in large slices
4 oz Feta cheese (spring for the quality stuff like Dodoni for this recipe, it’s worth it!)
Fresh squeezed lemon or orange juice, about 2 tbsp
Fresh mint leaves, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (from Kalamata olives preferred!)
Place the watermelon on a serving platter. Top with feta cheese, crumble or leave in large chunks. Drizzle the fresh squeezed citrus over them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Top with fresh mint leaves. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Serve and enjoy!
We tried this recipe last night and it was super easy and delicious and it has me brainstorming new twists on this Greek favorite. For instance how yummy would this be with bechamel sauce on top? Or with Japanese eggplant to make smaller portions? Yum!
Here’s the recipe:
1 Large eggplant
1/2 lb Ground lamb
1 Garlic clove chopped
1 Small onion
1/4 cup Dry white wine
1/4 cup Fresh parsley
1/4 Kasseri, or other hard Greek cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
Cut the eggplant in half. Scoop the pulp from the center of the eggplant halves, chop into small pieces and place into a small mixing bowl. In a frying pan, saute the eggplant halves in butter until soft and place into a glass baking dish. Saute the lamb, garlic and onion in butter in the frying pan over medium-high heat, until meat is browned. Add to the pan the eggplant pulp, parsley, oregano, wine and salt and pepper. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the eggplant is soft and translucent. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Sprinkle the eggplant halves with salt and pepper. Fill the halves with the mixture and place in the glass baking dish. Add about 1 cup of chicken stock or water to the pan. Sprinkle the eggplant halves with the cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, until cheese is brown and eggplant is cooked through. Serve warm, serve topped with a scoop of tomato sauce and fresh parsley or garnish (optional).