Belgrade with kids- Our family trip + tips

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In the almost nine years that my husband and I have been together, we have visited Belgrade together many times.  But visiting Belgrade with kids is always a different experience, and one that keeps changing as our children grow.

We arrived to Belgrade on the 30th of April, from Athens, Greece, in a small Fokker plane from Olympus Airlines. Ahead of us was one week of extended holiday because, due to the proximity between the 1st of May and 2013’s Orthodox Easter, most shops and Government agencies were going to remain closed or with limited working hours on the days in  between the two holidays. As a consequence, the city (which is normally bustling with excitement and noise) was quite quiet and leisure-like, like a holiday spot

 

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I have mentioned before that, when we travel to Belgrade, we live like locals do, go to the places where locals go and pretty much avoid touristic spots. In this trip, this meant spending the 1st of May having lunch in one of the traditional restaurants that are located in the hills that surround the city.

Going to the hills on Labor Day is an old tradition that marks the beginning of the lovely Spring weather. The tradition, in fairness, is to go for a picnic, and people start arriving and setting up their picnic and camping spots as soon as they wake up, very early in the morning. Soon, the whole place is covered and there are families, and groups of friends chatting, drinking, eating and relaxing, children playing and running all over, musicians, and even salesmen walking around selling ice cream, drinks, and children toys and balloons.

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Instead of a picnic,  though, this time we opted for a restaurant in the middle of the woods, that had a lovely playground for the children and a piece of land where Luka and Zoe blew dandelions in search of fairies.

When we had finished lunch and were waiting for dessert, something funny happened. A band that was at the restaurant, serenading customers with traditional Serbian music, approached our table and, realizing that I was not speaking Serbian, asked me where I was from. When I mentioned that I was from Argentina, one of them started speaking Spanish to me and they promptly starting playing La muerte del Angel, a tango by Astor Piazzola!

 

 

 

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The leisurely feeling of the city influenced the rest of our days in it, as well. We strolled around the streets of downtown, especially the always beautiful Knez Mihajlova, where Luka and Zoe ran, ate ice cream and marveled at the water fountains; and where we could visit the tourist office shop to buy presents to bring back home as well as visit the wonderful math fair that was taking place all month of May.

 

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The maths fair, which was full of young volunteers willing to help, was ideal to get children excited about science. There was a bicycle with squared wheels, a floor mat for people to find their way out turning only left (we all tried it and it was hard!), several math games, pendulums, dice experiments, a 3D printer and a fantastic table with thousands of straws that children could put together to create objects, thus bringing awareness to shapes and dimensions.

The squared wheel bicycle, as you can imagine, was a real hit with Luka and Zoe 🙂

We also spent lots of time with family, which is something that, being expats, we don’t get to do often enough.

We took Luka and Zoe to amusement parks, the zoo, and open air playgrounds.

 

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We had cake at my brother in law’s traditional sweet shop, which dates from 1936.

We strolled in the esplanade along the Savva River.Belgrade3

We enjoyed the slow days and the quiet nights.

We relaxed.

Then, 10 days after we arrived, it was time to say goodbye. We took a plane back to Athens, then a plane back to Cyprus and here we are now. At home.

And now, in case you are planning to visit Belgrade with kids (or with adults) I have put together a mini guide of things worth doing, worth seeing and worth eating!

Here it goes:

What to do in Belgrade with Kids

1) Visit Kalemegdan. The old city fortress is a real beauty, not only in itself but also because of the surrounding parks and the view of the Savva and Danube rivers. Lots of space for kids to run, and get excited about history. The fortress also hosts an army museum which kids love.

2) Go to the Zoo: It’s next to Kalemegdan and it’s very well kept. There are elephants, tigers, lions, penguins, seals, hippopotamus, giraffes, zebras, goats, tons of birds and much more.

3) Go to an amusement park: Also, in Kalemegdan. It’s not very big but it’s a nice stop before or after the zoo.

4) Walk around Knez Mihajlova. The most famous street in Belgrade, with its French inspired buildings, is a real beauty.

5) Have lemonade (or Boza) and cake at a traditional Poslaticarnica (or sweet shop). In Belgrade, sweet shops are where traditional cakes and pastries are sold. They are normally rather small and offer a mixture of Northern European cakes (due to the Austro-Hungarian influence) and Oriental delights, such as baklava (due to the times under Ottoman rule). Speaking about Baklava, you will find 3 different types: Greek, Turkish and Serbian (made with nuts mixed with Plazma cookies powder)

6) Try different types of bread at a Pekara (bakery). Cakes and sweets are sold in Poslasticarnicas, and Pekaras are were you can find exclusively bread. Delicious bread!

7) Rent bikes to ride around the Savva river

8) Take a boat ride on the Danube.

9) Have lunch  on a “Float” (restaurants on the Savva and Danube)

10) Take a tram ride

11) Buy Plazma cookies at the supermarket. Seriously, you cannot leave without tasting the iconic Serbian cookie with the famous tagline “A house is not a home without Plazma”. And since you are at the supermarket, you may also try Domacica cookies, bananica and cedevita juice. You will look like a local 😉

12) Visit the beautiful Orthodox churches and marvel at their works of art.

13) Buy burek or cevapcice at a local fast food shop and have an improvised picnic in one of the many Belgrade parks. 

14) If your kids are bigger than mine, you can go take a look at the buildings bombed by NATO during the war in Kosovo. They were not remodeled nor were they repaired,  and it may be a good opportunity to discuss war and recent European history. As a former peacekeeper, I find it important to discuss war and its consequences in times of peace.

15) Taste traditional Serbian food in the beautiful restaurants or Kafana of Skadarlija street (my husband recommends Tri Sesira, Ima Dana or Dva Jelena) For ideas on what to eat, keep reading!

What to eat in a Belgrade Kafana

1)  Proja, corn bread (most of the times, it contains a cheese similar to feta inside)

2) Burek:  A puff pastry pie, filled with cheese (burek sa sirom) or with meat (burek sa meson). It is possible to find some varieties with Spinach and cheese as well.

3) Corba and other traditional soups. Strictly speaking, corba is soup that contains fish or beef and that is thickened with flour.

4) Sarma: Beef and rice wrapped in vine leaves and cooked for a very long time!

5) Punjene paprike: Red peppers stuffed with rice and beef.

6) Pasulji: Bean stew.

7) Cevapcice: long meat balls made with lamb, pig and beef meat.

8)   Tarator: Salad very similar to Tzaziki, made with yogurt, cucumbers, garlic and parsley. Ideal for Summer and for using as a sauce over bread.

9) Ajvar: Red pepper puree.

 

 

What to eat in a Poslasticarnica

1) Northern European cakes, such as black forest, or struddel.

2) Triglav: a  chocolate buttercream cone, covered in chocolate.

4) Krempita: A bomb. A very thick layer of pastry cream between two slices of puff pastry. Here is a recipe, if you want to try it at home.

5) Baklava: A classic with its own Serbian version,made with plazma cookies and nuts.
6) Kuglof: A wonderful tea cake made with dried fruits.
7) Ratluk: fruit candies,covered in sugar.
8)  Tulumbe: Similar to churros.  This recipe sounds good.  
9) Vasa’s Torte:  A cake made with nuts, chocolate and lots and lots of cream. Nigella’s community has a recipe available online 
Did this post make you want to visit Belgrade? Or at least to eat some Serbian food? If so, mission accomplished 🙂
Have a lovely week, dear friends, and don’t forget to subscribe to get the  mini Summer recipes ebook that I created with wonderful Claire Stone!

One day in Athens with kids: Our trip, part I

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Good morning dear friends! I am beginning today the series of posts about our last family trip to Athens and Belgrade, and, since the Summer holidays are almost upon us, I will take this opportunity to share with you all my tips and tricks for travelling with children of different ages.

But first things first, so today I will tell ALL  about our one day in Athens with kids!

We had always wanted to visit Athens but, for one reason or another, we had never been able to until last April. I must confess, though, that we had not originally planned to do so in this occasion and that the Universe lent us a hand for making this this micro visit finally happen. You see, whenever we travel to Belgrade, we normally use the Serbian Airline Jat, because they have a 2 1/2 hour direct flight from Larnaca and, up until this year, a schedule that suited us. But in 2013 they started flying in the middle of the night, leaving Cyprus  at 2 am in the morning and, while I wouldn’t mind that too much as an adult, we believe that children are a different story. Leaving so late means disturbing  our children’s sleep (they are bound to wake up during the several security check ups) and, as a consequence, having to deal with two cranky kids once in Belgrade, and risking a jet lagged sort of change in their normal waking hours, so we started looking for options.  And we found them.

Two months before travelling, we booked our tickets to travel through Athens and,  since we were already passing by, we decided to make a short stopover in Greece and try to see the Acropolis, at least!. We booked a family room at a nice hotel near   Syntagma Square and waited happily for the date of the trip to arrive. We couldn’t wait!

Then, three days before travelling Luka and Zoe got ill with tonsillitis and a ear infection, respectively,  and we knew our expectations for the trip had to change.

Travelling with small kids, in general, is very different than travelling alone, with friends, or as a couple. And the key to a happy trip is, in our modest opinion, equal doses of planning and flexibility (and a good deal of patience).

What I mean by  equal doses of planning and flexibility is this:  We plan the basics carefully: make sure that plane tickets, hotel reservations and  documents are up to date and easy to access with one hand. We book hotels that are close to the main attractions of have easy access to them. For stays longer than two nights, we chose to stay in apartments where we can take care of the cooking, w pack with care, making sure that we put extra clothes in our luggage, tons of entertainment, snacks and water (to account for unexpected delays or cancellations), we prepare the children as much as possible by talking about what will happen, where we are going, what we will see.We pack extra money in case there are long delays, research airport websites to know what services are available in the waiting and boarding areas, learn where to get transportation out of the airport fast, how much it should cost to go to our hotel and we save spare cash for this purpose. We even ask our children’s pediatrician for advice on medicines we should bring with  us “just in case” (we always carry paracetamol and ibuprofen with us, for example).  We are thorough and meticulous in our planning before we leave.

But once we are at the airport/train station/bus station, we know that unexpected things happen all the time and we try to go with the flow.

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So,when we found out that Luka and Zoe were ill, we knew that we would need to travel with antibiotics and that they were not going to be feeling at the top of their game. And we knew that this meant quickly lowering our expectations about what we could do in Athens with our kids.

We love travelling and we want our children to learn to love it too. We want them to become globe trotters like ourselves and we believe that  the key for this to happen is for us to make sure that the travelling experience is one that is adapted to their developmental age, to what they can do and to what they like. We try to mix activities that we would love to do, with child oriented experiences. We walk a lot but have money ready for a quick taxi in case they are too tired. We know the times of the day when our children are in a better mood and plan more activities during those hours. We mix cultural activities with time in parks and playgrounds where they can relax and spend their abundant energy.  And when they are ill, we prioritize making them feel at ease and comfortable and we don’t push for anything at all. During our trip to Athens, this meant not walking much, not climbing to the Acropolis, and seeing the main monuments from the deck of a tourist bus.

And it was the best decision we made.

 

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We arrived in Athens on a Sunday, around noon, after a short but nice trip from Larnaca. We went through immigration control pretty fast and found a taxi to take us to our hotel, in a beautiful ride that took us through the hills that surround the ancient city. The streets were quiet, with just a few people strolling quietly, sitting in parks,  and many of them meditating and practicing yoga. From the windows of the car, we could spot a few dogs and cats here and there, a few open shops and some groups of tourists like us. But the most surprising thing of all was how at home my husband and I felt there, as if we had lived there before even though it was our first time in the city.

We checked into our hotel, left our luggage in the room and promptly climbed to the restaurant situated on the last floor, from where we knew we would be able to see the Acropolis.

It was stunning.

We had a few drinks, our jaws dropped at its beauty, and then went down to the hotel’s reception to see how far it was and how easily accessible it was to evaluate the feasibility of going with our children.

It turned out that it was pretty close by, and that the path to get there was a beautiful one, full of  little shops and cafés, so we decided to give it a try. It was almost lunch time already by the time we left the hotel, so we figured that, if Luka and Zoe got too tired on the way there, we could always stop at one of the cute little restaurants, grab a bite and then continue. Or, if they were not feeling well by the time we finished lunch, we could always go back to the hotel and let them rest watching cartoons, or take a nap.  In the end, this is what we ended up doing.

After they had taken a nap, we started looking for things to do, for a way to take at least a brief look at the city, but that wouldn’t push Luka and Zoe beyond their point of comfort. We wanted them to enjoy the sightseeing, not to struggle!

We were brainstorming ideas in our room, when I remembered seeing the double-deck tourist buses around Syntagma square. I went down to the reception and found a brochure with all stops, packed snacks and water for the children, and we left.

The bus stop was barely 200 meters from our hotel and, by the time we arrived, there was a bus there already. Luka and Zoe were very excited about travelling on the upper side, getting their headphones in their ears and being able to touch the tallest branches of the trees and the streets from above.

A few minutes after the bus began moving, however, the fell soundly asleep again!

The afternoon was sunny, and there was a lovely breeze that prevented the weather from getting too hot. The city felt quiet and relaxed, and it was really nice to be able to, at least, get a glimpse of it.

During the 90 minutes that the itinerary lasted, we saw Melina Merkouri, Plaka, the New Acropolis Museum, the Acropolis and Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus, the National Gardens, the Benaki Museum,  Panathenaic Stadium, the National Library), the National Archaeological Museum, Omonoia Square, Karaiskaki Square, Thession Station, and Kotzia Square. We took pictures trying to avoid the heads of other passengers (a difficult task!), we chatted and we planned future trips.

By the time the bus tour was finished, we had already fell in love with the city, and decided to go back one day, to walk and walk and walk.

 

 

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We took off the bus, treated Luka, Zoe and ourselves to a few scoops of delicious ice cream and went back to the hotel, where we later had dinner, watching the sun set over the city.

 

Early the following morning, we took our flight to Belgrade…but I’ll tell you about it in my next post!

 

Have you ever been to Athens? Would you like to? 

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Day 19: Things to do in Nicosia these days and a few local artisans I love {discover!}

 

Good morning friends! I am publishing this post veeeeeeery late because I had problems all day with my internet connection, and I had my son at home, recovering from fever. But here I am!

Today’s post, corresponding to day 19 of the advent, is a small guide to holiday related activities in the city, and a  shout out to artisans I know and love. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may already know that I arrived to live in Nicosia on a 24th of December, so this season is a special one for me for many reasons. When I had just arrived I had absolutely no idea where to go or what to do, apart to our daily visits to Ikea to furnish our apartment, so in case you have just arrived or need a refresher or are looking for some original last minute gift, here’s some of what is going on in the city:

Activities: 

1) Christmas markets: Every year, during the weekends of December and especially right before Christmas, there are ad-hoc markets selling different things, from baked goods to home made cards (and everything in between) at the beginning of Ledra street, frequently accompanied by chorus that sing carols. Dowtown shops are also open on Sundays and some street, such as Stasikratou,  become pedestrian.

2) Gynaikobazaro or Women’s market at the end of Ledra street (near the crossing): This is a lovely initiative by My Shop, a vintage shop in the old town, which aims to bring back to life the traditional women’s markets, typical of  Cyprus. It is an open air market, where (mostly) women sell their handcrafted goods and it is open on the first Saturday of every month, and twice in December. The next one will be next weekend, and it will open both on Saturday and Sunday.

3) Christmas charity concert at Holy Cross Catholic Church (Paphos gate): It will take place on December 21st and all proceeds will go to charity

4) Christmas activities at Ikea and the Mall of Cyprus: They take place every day during December, and they are varied: cookie offerings, fashion shows, magicians, etc. Great for rainy days 🙂

Artisans: 

1) Victoria Vasiliou:  She is an amazing artist, who makes découpage and knitted berry baby hats and shoes. The boxes above were made by her, for Zoe and Luka, when they turned 1 year old. I had seen her work at a baby shower and fell absolutely in love with it, so I immediately thought about her for making our children’s birthday present (in case you are wondering, they are “boxes to store love” and they have letters and greetings cards from loved ones who live near and far). Her wonderful taste and attention to detail are fantastic.  She now lives in Pera Orinis, outside of Nicosia and can be contacted by email at victoria.vasiliou@yahoo.com.

2) Suga Belle Boutique. Haroulla is an artist and graphic designer who recently opened her etsy boutique, where she sells adorable and eco friendly handmade  headbands, pouches and greeting cards. You can check her HERE.

3) For traditional Cyprus handcrafted items, visit the Cyprus Handicraft service. It is located in Athalassa Avenue 186, Strovolos and there you can not only buy goods, but also see the artisans at work in their workshops. Traditional items include pottery and lace work, among others.

In case you are wondering: No, I didn’t receive any money, goods or anything else in exchange for these recommendations, nor do I have an affiliate relation with any of the shops or artisans mentioned in this post. My opinions are entirely my own.

Do you like to shop artisanal products for the holidays and to visit Christmas markets?

 

 

 

 

A Farewell to Summer

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Autumn is here.

September is almost over and, while Summer is still lingering in Nicosia, some trees have started to lose their leaves, and, early in the mornings and when the sun sets at night,  the air is fresh and a lovely, cool breeze signals the beginning of the new season.

I am, normally, an autumn-winter person. I thrive in cold weather, I love snow and even rain,  and I have a hard time putting up with high temperatures. I have always looked forward to seeing the first yellow leaves appear in the trees, to getting  cardigans and sweaters out of storage and to knowing that delicious apples and pears were going to fill the market stalls soon.  But this year, something changed and it wasn’t my love for cold weather, which remains intact.

This year, perhaps for the first time, I also embraced Summer.

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It may have been the fact that, for the past 7 years, I have been living in countries with warmer weather climates (first in Ivory Coast, and now in Cyprus),  or it may have been the fact that this was the first year that Luka and Zoe went to school, so August felt like vacations and not just like “another hot month”. Or maybe it was because we didn’t travel and, as a consequence, we got to explore Nicosia and other parts of the island with fresh eyes, or perhaps because  after a hard first half of the year (2012 has been a rough one so far), we now take every single opportunity to connect, cherish our family, and celebrate.

For whatever reason, this past Summer we slowed down, we unplugged from all the media paraphernalia, we looked around us and we made it a point to be present, to be mindful, and to take advantage of what we have, of where we live, of who we are. We wanted to make this a fun-filled summer, so I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. I had been collecting ideas  for a while, and in August we put them to good use.

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We wanted to have as much contact with nature as possible, so, at home, we planted spices to season our food. We also explored different parks and playgrounds daily, and took nature observation walks in the early hours of the morning, and then came back home to combat the heat in the paddling pool set up in the balcony. When it was too hot to get outside, we stayed indoors and spent our time doing arts and crafts.  We played with clay and play-dough. We did collages and paper mobiles and hang them from the windows to twist and turn with the afternoon breeze.

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We made Toilet Tube cars, filled the house with balloons for no reason at all, glued a paper hospcotch to the floor and spent days jumping on it. We made a felt board for telling stories and singing rhymes.

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We read a lot, old and newly- discovered  books, and we filled the ipod with readalong versions of our favourite stories.

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We brought books to life, with a little imagination. We made lots and lots of origami boats and made them race in the paddling pool with the power of our lungs. We made origami airplanes and spent entire afternoons making them fly all around the house.

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And Zoe wrote her name alone for the very first time!

 

 

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On weekends, we took day trips around the island. We visited the Protaras Aquarium, where we saw octopus, sharks, upside-down fish, penguins, pacus and many other species. We visited the Limassol Zoo, where we saw owls, monkeys, birds and even deers. We visited the Troodos Mountains and had lunch at a lovely, shaded restaurant, next to the calming sound of a stream of water where little geese and ducks were bathing.

 

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We spent a weekend at a hotel, by the beach, and it was wonderful. We bathed and sunbathed, we  played and relaxed. We saw beautiful sunsets, and the most amazing dawns from our balcony, and it all felt as carefree, peaceful and joyful as Summer should.

 

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We celebrated Luka and Zoe’s birthday with not one, not two, but three cakes (each!). Yes, that’s right: one mini cake made from stacked cupcakes for the day of their birthday, one cake for each of them for a mini party at home (pictures in the next post!), and one cake for each to bring to school, to celebrate with their friends and classmates (these are cakes pictured below. Plain and simple on the outside, but with a surprise on the inside: They were rainbow cakes!).

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We didn’t bake much, because it was too hot to turn the oven on…but we made ice cream! And plenty of it!

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At the beginning of August, we bought the KitchenAid’s ice cream attachment and began experimenting with flavours.  I turned to the internet for recipes and I was not disappointed. We made David Lebovitz’ s vanilla bean ice cream (which is AMAZING), and chocolate ice cream, the famous one ingredient banana ice cream from The Kitchn (a wonderful guilt free treat!) , and an absolutely delicious vegan coconut chocolate ice cream.  We also made Food and Cook’s chocolate popsicles  and  her yogurt and raspberries popsicles. My advice: try them all! And if you don’t have an ice cream maker,  worry not, the recipes can be adapted (just let me know in the comments if you have any doubts about how to do it).

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We enjoyed this Summer as Summers are meant to be enjoyed: fully. And now, as the last bits of ice cream disappear from our freezer,  the weather slowly starts to get chillier and we start thinking about adding blankets to our beds, we are ready to fully embrace the colder days of Autumn.

I hope you all had a lovely Summer, or a cozy winter, depending on where you live, and I hope that you are all ready for the next season.

Have a wonderful week!

 

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El otoño está aquí.

Septiembre casi llega a su fin y, aún cuando el verano aún se resiste a irse de Nicosia, algunos árboles ya han comenzado a perder sus hojas y, temprano por la mañana y al ponerse el sol, el aire ya está fresco y una adorable brisa señala el comienzo de la nueva estación.

Yo soy, en geneal, una persona otoñal. Me siento mejor en climas fríos, amo la nieve, y hasta la lluvia, y me cuesta terriblemente tolerar las altas temperaturas. Desde chica esperaba con ansias ver las primeras hojas amarillas aparecer en los árboles, el momento de sacar cardigans y sweaters de los baules y colocarlos en los placares (closets) y, sobre todo, ese saber que las manzanas y peras más deliciosas pronto llenarían los estantes de las fruterías. Pero este ano, algo cambió, y no fue mi amor por el frío, que sigue fuerte e intacto.

Este año,por primera vez, me entregué al verano, y lo aproveché sin desear que terminara.

Quizás haya sido porque hace siete años que vivo en climas cálidos (Costa de Marfil, primero, y ahora Chipre), quizás haya sido porque este fue el primer año que Luka y Zoe fueron a la escuela, entonces Agosto se transformó en sinónimo de vacaciones, y no tan sólo de otro mes caluroso. O quizás haya sido porque, como no salimos de viaje, aprovechamos al máximo la ciudad en que vivimos y exploramos la isla con nuevos ojos. O tal vez haya sido que, luego de una primera mitad del año complicada (2012 viene siendo un año duro), aprovechamos cada pequeña oportunidad para conectar, disfrutar de nuestra familia, y celebrar que estamos juntos.

Por el motivo que fuere, este verano que acaba de pasar decidimos desacelerar, desconectarnos de la parafernalia mediatica, mirar a nuestro alrededor y asegurarnos de estar presentes en nuestro aquí y ahora, de vivir concientemente, y disfrutar de aquello que tenemos, del lugar donde vivimos, y de todo lo que somos. Quisimos que este fuera un verano divertido, alegre, así que aprovechamos para poner en práctica todas las ideas que había estado recolectando en Pinterest desde hacía un tiempo.

Una de las cosas que queríamos era tener tanto contacto con la naturaleza como fuera posible, así que plantamos plantas aromáticas en el balcón y nos aseguramos de explorar distintos parques todos los días, y de hacer caminatas de observación de la naturaleza, todos los días, temprano por la mañana. Cuando el calor comenzaba a arreciar, volviamos a casa, disfrutabamos de la pileta plástica que colocamos en el balcón y, si se tornaba insoportable, entrábamos a casa a hacer arte y manualidades. Así pasamos las siestas jugando con plastilina y masilla, hicimos collages y móviles de papel que colgamos de la ventana para que la brisa de la tarde los hiciera volar y dar volteretas. Construimos autitos con tubos de papel higienico, llenamos la casa de globos por que sí, pegamos rayuelas en el piso y pasamos tardes enteras saltando en ellas. Creamos un cuadro de felpa y contamos historias y canciones con sus personajes.

Leimos mucho, libros viejos y nuevos, y llenamos el ipod de audio libros de nuestras historias favoritas y, con un poco de imaginación, dimos vida a nuestros libros. Hicimos barquitos de papel y los hicimos correr carreras con la fuerza de  nuestros pulmones. Hicimos avioncitos de papel y pasamos tardes enteras haciendolos volar por toda la casa.¡ Y Zoe escribió su nombre por primera vez!

Durante los fines de semana, nos dedicamos a explorar la isla en viajecitos de un día. Visitamos el acuario de Protaras, donde vimos pulpos,tiburones, pinguinos, peces invertidos y pacus, entre otras especies. Fuimos al Zoológico de Limasol, donde vimos buhos, monos, pájaros diversos y hasta alces. Subimos a las montañas Troodos y almorzamos en un restaurant precioso, bajo las copas de los arboles, y delimitado por una corriente de agua fresca en la que se bañaban, contentos, patitos y gansos.

Pasamos un fin de semana en un hotel frente al mar, y fue maravilloso. Nos bañamos en la pileta (piscina), tomamos sol, jugamos y nos relajamos. Vimos atardeceres hermosos y amaneceres de ensueño, desde la calma de nuestro balcón y todo hizo que nos sintieramos tan tranquilos, relajados y felices como todos deberian poder sentirse en verano.

Celebramos el cumpleaños de Luka y Zoe con no una, no dos, sino tres tortas ¡cada uno!. Si, como lo leen: una mini torta de cupcakes el día de su cumple, una torta cada uno para la mini fiesta que hicimos en casa (fotos en el proximo post!) y una torta cada uno para llevar a la escuela, y así soplar las velitas con sus amigos y compañeros (estas son las tortas de la foto, que son muy simples y sencillas por fuera, pero con sorpresa adentro: son la famosa torta arco iris!)

No hicimos tortas ni cupcakes ni esas cosas que requieren horno porque hacía demasiado calor…pero hicimos muchos helados!

A comienzos de agosto compramos el accesorio helador de la KitchenAid y, a partir de entonces, comenzamos a experimentar y probar helados de distintos sabores.  Busqué las recetas y la inspiración en blogs de confianza, y en internet, y la verdad es que no me decepcionaron. Hicimos dos helados de David Lebovitz, el de vaina de vainilla (INCREIBLE!) y el de chocolate (que tiene una textura de chocolate con leche), el helado de un banana de un solo ingrediente, the The Kitchn, y un helado vegano absolutamente delicioso, de chocolate y coco. Tambien probamos dos recetas de Food and Cook, el de palitos de chocolate y el de palitos de yogur y frambuesas. Mi recomendación: haganlos a todos! Y no se preocupen si no tienen máquina heladora, las recetas pueden adaptarse (si no saben cómo, dejenme un comentario en el post!)

La verdad es que disfrutamos de este verano como los veranos deben ser disfrutados: completamente. Y ahora que los últimos restos de helado comienzan a desaparecer de nuestro freezer, que el clima comienza, lentamente, a tornarse más fresco y que empezamos a pensar en agregar colchas a nuestras camas, ahora sí estamos listos para aprovechar cada minuto de los días fríos, del otoño.

Espero que ustedes hayan tenido también un verano hermoso, o un invierno cálido, dependiendo de dónde vivan, y espero que esten listos para vivir al máximo  y disfrutar enormemente la nueva estación que apenas se asoma.

Que tengan una semana maravillosa!

 

 

 

 

Souvlaki,pitta bread and tzaziki: a very belated Cypriot lunch for Circulo Whole Kitchen

potatoes_4

Good afternoon dear friends!

I hope you are having a lovely week! I hadn’t planned to take time off blogging but life took over my plans, and I had to attend to more urgent matters, which is why these recipes are being published late.I had originally planned to bring them to you on Monday the 18th of June (which was the official publication day for savory recipes at Circulo Whole Kitchen) but, as mentioned above, it was not possible. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of publishing them, however because June’s proposal is very special to me, and because all flavours are summery and ideal for barbecues and outdoor entertaining.

During the month of June, Circulo Whole Kitchen’s  savory proposal included three recipes which constitute a traditional Greek meal…and since I live in Greek Cyprus, they are a big part of my life and of my memories of this place . I have already shared one of these recipes with you, that of Tzaziki salad, and for the rest of the menu (which even included freshly baked pitta bread!), I used flavour combinations and marinades that I learnt here. It is my way of bringing you a part of my newly adopted culture, and my children’s first one.

Souvlaki

The first time I came to Cyprus was in August 2007, to visit my husband. At the time, I was still working in Ivory Coast (where we had met), and he had arrived to Nicosia a month before. I was meant to join him by the end of the year but we didn’t want to spend 6 months apart, so I took 10 days of vacations and came to see him during the summer.  During weekdays, when he was at work, I would stroll the empty streets (Nicosia is a ghost city in August) and, on weekends, we would travel around the island, to get to know our new home. We visited  Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca, Aphrodite’s birth place, Kakopetria and other places in between and we were captivated by the calm, quiet, leisure-like mood of the island.

Souvlaki2

An important part of exploring a new place is, of course, tasting its food, and some of the foods we tasted were the ones that are the object of this post. Now, I had tasted souvlaki before, of course. We call them brochettes in Argentina, using the french word, and I had also had them as kebabs in Ivory Coast (called after their arabic denomination, which means “roast meat”) but the difference lied in the sauces used for marinating them. Until then, I was used to simply brushing meat and vegetables in olive oil and adding rosemary or thyme, or just lemon, and here were marinades that involved wine, cinnamon, yogurt, and french fries served with oregano. I was fascinated and remember scribbling the ingredients mentioned in the menu in paper napkins  to try to emulate the recipes at home.

Souvlaki1

It is through experimenting with the recipes and comments generously provided to me by the people that came into my life since I arrived to Cyprus that I ended up with the chicken marinade for this souvlaki. I accompanied them with traditional tzatziki (using the recipe that my sister in law shared with me many years ago), and with oven- roast mixed potatoes, brushed in olive oil and sprinkled with oregano.  For the pitta bread, I used the recipe provided by Circulo Whole Kitchen.

Here are the recipes:

Souvlaki:

Ingredients (for 8 sticks):  3 tablespoons greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 clove of garlic, crushed, 2 teaspoons paprika, salt and pepper to taste, 1 big chicken breast, 1/2 green pepper, 1 tomato, 1/2 red onion, 1/2 white onion, .

Preparation:

1) Mix yogurt, olive oil, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl. Dice the chicken breast and add the pieces to the yogurt marinade. Cover with cling film and leave in the refrigerator a minimum of 5 hours (preferably overnight).

2) Dice the vegetables and set aside. Remove the marinating chicken from the refrigerator and start assembling the souvlaki, mixing meat and vegetables. Place them side by side on a baking dish brushed with olive oil and pour any remaining marinade over them.

3) Grill or cook in the oven until ready.

Pitta bread:

Ingredients: 500 grs all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 240 ml warm milk, 240 ml warm water, 25 grs fresh yeast.

Preparation:

1) Mix flour and salt. Set aside.

2) Mix milk and water and pour over the yeast, mixing until dissolved

3) Add the the liquid mix to the flour and incorporate. Work the dough thoroughly, until really smooth and soft (this is important! do not skip this step!)

4) Form a ball of dough, place in bowl, cover with cling film and let it rest until it doubles its volume.

5) Flour the counter, put the dough on it, and pat it against the counter a couple of times, in order to remove air.

6) Cut the dough in small portions, cover with a kitchen towel and let them rest for about 15 minutes, in a warm place.

7) Once the small portions of dough have risen, roll them to give them a circular shape, until they are 1/2 cm thick. Place them in baking sheets, cover them and let them rise again.

8) Once risen, cook in a hot oven (220C) for about 6-10 minutes. They should not brown, only be crispy on the outside.  Store them one on top of the other, covered with a kitchen towel for maximum freshness.

Oven-roast mixed potatoes:

Ingredients:  1 big potato and 1 big sweet potato, olive oil, oregano

Preparation:

1) Peel and cut the potatoes alongside (as if you were making French fries)

2) Place them on a roasting pan, and brush them with olive oil.

3) Mix salt with one tablespoon of oregano and sprinkle over the potatoes. Cook in the oven until just tender.

Tzaziki (originally published in this post)

Ingredients: 1 cucumber, 1 clove of garlic, greek yogurt and a little bit of parsley for garnishing.

Preparation:

1)Cut the cucumber into thin slices, and then chop them finely. Place them in a bowl.

2)Chop a clove of garlic (or half, if you are not a very garlicky person)  and add it to the cucumber.

3) Add greek yogurt (500 ml) and mix well.

4) Chop a few parsley leaves to garnish.

Con sabor latino...

Buenas tardes queridos amigos!

Espero que esten pasando una hermosa semana! No había planeado tomarme vacaciones del blog y tardar tanto en publicar pero la vida se interpuso en mis planes y tuve que ocuparme de asuntos más urgentes, motivo por el cual estas recetas se publican recien hoy. Mi idea original era publicar este post el 18 de junio (ups!), que era el día oficial de publicación de las recetas del Circulo Whole Kitchen, pero, como mencioné anteriormente, lamentablemente ésto no fue posible.  Elijo publicarlas, sin embargo, aún cuando haya pasado tanto tiempo, porque la propuesta del Circulo Whole Kitchen para el mes de junio tiene una importancia especial para mí, y porque todos los sabores incluidos son muy veraniegos, ideales para asados y reuniones al aire libre.

En el mes de junio,el Circulo Whole Kitchen nos invitó a preparar tres recetas tradicionales griegas…y como yo vivo en la parte griega de Chipre, estas recetas forman parte de mi vida diaria, y estos sabores forman parte de los recuerdos de esta tierra adoptiva que llevaré conmigo a donde vaya. Una de estas recetas (la de tzaziki), ya la compartí con ustedes en ESTE POST, pero la repito aquí para que no tengan que andar buscando en los archivos (aunque buscar en fácil ahora, no? 😉 Para el resto del menú, utilicé combinaciones de sabores y marinadas que aprendí aquí. Esta es mi forma de acercarles una partecita de mi cultura de adopción- y la primera de mis hijos.

La primera vez que vine a Chipre fue en agosto de 2007, para visitar a mi marido. En ese tiempo yo aún estaba trabajando en Costa de Marfil (donde nos habíamos conocido) y él había llegado a Nicosia un mes antes. Ya habíamos decidido que yo me le uniría aquí definitivamente a fines de ese año, pero 6 meses nos parecía demasiado tiempo para estar separados, así que yo vine a visitarlo durante 10 días en el verano para acortar el tiempo a la distancia. En esas vacaciones comenzamos a conocer la isla. Los días de semana, mientras él trabajaba, yo paseaba por las calles desoladas de Nicosia (que es una ciudad fantasma en agosto!) y, los fines de semana, explorábamos el que sería nuestro nuevo hogar. Así visitamos Pafos, Larnaca, Limassol, la roca donde nació Afrodita, Kakopetria y otros lugarcitos, y quedamos cautivados por el animo veraniego, calmado, tranquilo de la isla.

Una parte importante de explorar un lugar desconocido es, claro está, probar sabores nuevos, y algunos de esos sabores nuevos para mí son los que incluyo en este post. No, no es que haya probado souvlakis por primera vez en este viaje, de hecho en Argentina los llamamos brochettes (usando la palabra francesa) y tambien los había comido en Costa de Marfil (donde los llaman kebabs, usando la palabra árabe, que significa “carne asada”), pero la diferencia estaba en los condimentos utilizados y en la forma de emplearlos. Antes de venir a Chipre, cuando yo hacía brochettes no marinaba la carne, sólo la pincelaba en aceite de oliva y espolvoreaba romero o tomillo o, simplemente, limón…y de pronto aquí me encontraba con marinadas que utilizaban vino, canela, yogurt, paprika y las papas fritas se servian espolvoradas con oregano. Estaba fascinada con los nuevos descubrimientos culinarios, y anotaba los ingredientes que leía en los menus en servilletas de papel para hacer pruebas en casa, e intentar emular las recetas.

La marinada que usé en estos souvlaki de pollo fue producto, justamente, de esos experimentos nacidos de los comentarios generosos y de las recetas que me brindaron personas que aquí conocí. Los serví sobre pan de pitta casero y los acompañé con la tradicional tzaziki (hecha con la receta de mi cuñada) y con papas y batatas rostizadas al horno, pinceladas en aceite de oliva y espolvoreadas con sal oreganada.  Espero que les gusten!

Aqui estan las recetas:

Souvlaki:

Ingredientes (para 8  palitos) :  3 cucharadas de yogurt griego, 3 cucharadas de aceite de oliva, 2 diente de ajo machucado, 2 cucharadas de te de paprika, sal y pimienta a gusto, 1 pechuga de pollo grande, 1/2 pimiento morrón verde, 1 tomate,  1/2 cebolla colorada, 1/2 cebolla blanca

Preparacion: 

1) Mezclar en un bowl yogurt, aceite, ajo y paprika. Cortar el pollo en cubos y agregar a la marinada de yogurt. Cubrir con papel film y dejar reposar en la heladera un mínimo de 5 horas (preferentemente toda la noche)

2) Una vez transcurrido el tiempo indicado, cortar los vegetales en cubos y retirar el pollo de la heladera. Armar los souvlaki cuidando de intercalar distintas verduras con la carne. Una vez armados, colocarlos en una placa para horno pincelada con aceite de oliva y verter encima todo restante de marinada.Llevar a horno mpderado a fuerte hasta que estén cocidos.

Pan de pitta (receta de Circulo Whole Kitchen)

Ingredientes: 500 gr de harina, 2 cucharaditas de sal, 2 cucharadas de aceite de oliva, 240 ml. de leche tibia, 240 ml. taza de agua tibia, 25 gramos de levadura fresca

Preparación:

1) Poner en un bol la harina junto con la sal.

2) Mezclar la leche con el agua e incorporarla a la levadura mezclando hasta disolverla. Agregar esta mezcla a la harina, poco a poco, junto con el aceite de oliva e ir mezclando hasta que esté todo el líquido incorporado.

3) Formar una masa y comenzar a trabajarla en forma continua hasta que esté bien lisa y suave. Es importante que la masa esté bien amasada.

4) Colocarla en un recipiente y cubrirla con un plástico y dejarla levar hasta que doble su volumen.Una vez levada la masa se vuelca sobre una mesa enharinada.

5) Desgasificar la masa y cortar en porciones que se dejan descansar sobre una superficie enharinada y cubiertos con un paño. Preferentemente en un lugar cálido. Esto hará que nuestro pan leve en aproximadamente 10 a 15 minutos.

6) Se toma cada porción y se estira de medio centímetro de espesor en forma circular o alargada. Se van depositando en placas limpias, se cubren con un paño y se dejan levar nuevamente.

7) El secreto de estos panes es cocinarlos en un horno a una temperatura alta , unos 220º, para que se inflen y formen corteza pero sin color, deben quedar blancos. Los dejamos hornear durante unos 6 a 10 minutos.

8) Para conservarlos blandos se apilan unos sobre otros en caliente y se cubren con un paño, o plástico.

Mix de papas y batatas oreganadas al horno: 

Ingredientes: 1 papa grande común, 1 batata, aceite de oliva para pincelar, oregano para espolvorear

Preparacion:

1) Cortar las papas en bastones, como si fueran papas fritas.

2) Colocar las papas en una fuente de horno y pincelar con aceite de oliva.

3) Mezclar la sal con una cucharada de oregano y espolvorear sobre las papas. Cocinar en horno moderado hasta que esten tiernas.

Tzaziki:

Ingredientes: 1 pepino, 1 diente de ajo (o medio, si no quieren espantar vampiros ;), yogurt griego (o yogurt natural, si no encuentran), perejil para espolvorear arriba antes de servir

Preparación:

1) Cortar en pepino en rodaja bien finitas, y luego picarlo hasta que quede chiquito.

2) Picar el diente de ajo muy finito.

3) Agregar el yogurt y mezclar bien.

4) Antes de servir, picar unas cuantas hojas de perejil y espolvorearlas encima.

souvlaki,-pitta_3

I hope you like these recipes!

What is the dish that spells summer to you?

PS: Happy 4th of July to all my American followers! May you be enjoying a wonderful day with family and friends!

Christmas in Nicosia

 

 Good morning dear friends!

I hope you had a very happy holiday celebration! We had a quiet, relaxing long weekend at home, which was great.

I prepared a small dessert table for the occasion but I didn’t finish editing the pictures yet, so I thought that, in the meantime, I could show you a few pictures of how Nicosia (my city) was decorated for the holidays. Earlier this year, in November, I took a Christmas photography course with Montréal-based photographer Jackie Rueda  and it inspired me to register some of the beauty of the holiday season with my camera- or, at least, to try!

Here are some of  the pictures I took.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will be back before the end of the year with a yummy chocolatey recipe. Have a wonderful week!

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