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Summer Break

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What’s the thing about summer break? Blogger Nadya writes her observation.

“How was your holiday?” That’s the opening line coming from most of my colleagues these days. The new academic year is around the corner. My next holiday season will be around Christmas and New Year. No wonder people are taking long breaks before summer is over, before being caught up in the demanding, hectic rhythm of academic life.

Dutch people are notorious for being the example of good work-life balance. I don’t know if it’s true or if it is just another stereotype. Dutch people are also known for not having as much stress from work as compared to people from other countries in the world. According to recent estimates, Dutch people in average work 29 hours a week, get around 8.2 hours of sleep every night, and guaranteed a paid vacation.

Holidays are something to be proud of.

Based on my limited observation, for Dutch people, holidays are something to be proud of. Because I am used to how Dutch people perceive summer breaks, I felt surprised when I noticed my office mates from other countries tried to avoid sharing their summer vacation stories. When one of my professors asked about our holidays, the room was suddenly quiet. Everyone started looking at their shoes. I was wondering why. If they were Dutch, they would’ve showed off their amazing holidays right away. They went to Basel, Munich, England, Czech Republic, and Croatia to name a few. Their holiday were really quite something, but instead of being proud, they felt guilty.

When one of my professors asked about our holidays, the room was suddenly quiet.

“I haven’t been working on my research proposal for a long time, that’s why I feel guilty about my holiday,” one of my colleague confessed. “I really don’t get what’s all the fuss about summer break. Apparently, here, summer is such a thing. My friend who went on vacation to the beach abroad was being laughed off by his friends because he didn’t come back with a tan,” added another. “In my country, people just went to see their family and help with errands during holidays, so it’s not a big deal like it is here,” one of them concluded.

I believe such guilt is unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong about enjoying holidays. We should feel normal about enjoying our precious summer breaks. I just wish the vacation continued a little longer.

PS: Summer break for us:

Food glorious food at Ben White’s summer home:

 

Cherry picking:

 

 

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Sleep and Read

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I used to put my baby to sleep in the dark. Today I realized that he can sleep with lights on, as long as the air is cool and he got a bit of warmth from attaching his body to mine. I got a lot of reading done while he’s sleeping, one of my hand fluttering a thick paper (a.k.a. fan) to him. It’s definitely going to make into our new routine, a sweet addition to our other established bedtime routine:

a massage every single day at 6 pm (occassionally several other times during the day too) until he’s around 4 months (by that time we moved to Australia and it was winter, so I wasn’t sure about leaving him bare for a couple of minutes to massage him, and I don’t want to use oils that has a warming effect because it gave him heat rash),

then we changed the massage routine with bedtime storytelling (his dad would read two books every night at 6 pm before sleep, I would borrow the books from the library),

and then, after he got to the age where he eat solids three (and then four, and five) times a day, he would eat dinner at 6 pm, drink, wash his hands, play in bed and when he feels sleepy he will lay his head on my body and sleep by himself. Starting today I can read at this time. If I want to take a break from reading or go out of the room, I can do it when I’m sure that he’s already in a deep sleep and won’t wake up if I go for a while.

Okay, that’s all for today. Hopefully enough for a restart of blogging after being away for quite some time. I’ve been travelling and legalising documents, etc. Tomorrow we will go to the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta. Finally … we will go to the Netherlands soon.

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House-hunting in NL

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House-hunting over and done with! Finally I found a place to stay, for family, per direct, no waiting list, no broker fee, and most importantly, everything is perfect. The house, location, everything. Long gone was my horror of staying at the attic (which is considerably common in the Netherlands), at a faraway noisy location, in a house with a refrigerator too small or interior too hoarder-y.

There’s a lot of room offer for single, but finding a house for family is a bit challenging. Some options are available, but I am glad I took my time to make a decision. After all, my family is going to stay there for more than a year, so why settle for anything less than perfect?

Of course it takes some luck to meet the perfect thing. My advise is not to panic, no matter what. Perseverance, persistence and patience eventually paid off. After spending almost my entire online time (which is very limited) on house-hunting, I couldn’t be happier. Now I couldn’t wait to showcase the house to my husband and son 😀

Featured image source: here

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Hello, 2016!

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First project ticked off my list in 2016! Woohoo, finally!

I’ve been working on this project, on and off, for almost a year. I started a couple of days before I gave birth, and now my son is almost one year old. If you’re curious, I’ll let you know about this project later, when I could show you the final product.

Soon, I’ll let you know what else I’ve been up to, for instance, lately, I spent almost all of my limited online time to search for a house to rent in the Netherlands. But that’s for another post. Right now, I am ready for the next short-term independent project that I am planning to do this month.

What about you, how’s new year been treating you so far? What’s your plan in 2016?

Let’s roll!

Featured photo source: here
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Postcard from Greece

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Postcard” is a monthly column featuring guest bloggers from around the world. Today we received a postcard from M. L. Kappa (Greece) who blogs at athensletters.com. Do check out her exceptional blog about life and times in Greece, it’s highly recommended! If you’ve been wondering how things change and how the Greeks cope with ongoing crisis, M. L. Kappa shares with us the individual and social choices that people make in terms of food. Let’s read her thorough postcard:

Most people love to eat – they like to go out to restaurants and cook at home. Food is a large and enjoyable part of life. But what happens when money becomes short?

In the last five years, two things have affected eating habits in Greece: the trend for fitness and the crisis. We want our food to be healthy, and we need it to be cheap.

Greeks have started looking to the Internet for information – they wish to better themselves, but also to belong to a “tribe” with similar habits. Depending on budgetary considerations, they prefer anything seen as “traditional”, “organic,” or “unprocessed”. Food grown locally is seen as fresher, tastier and healthier; and buying local is a way to help our stricken economy.

The crisis has shrunk the shopping basket, but Greeks still put a premium on feeding their families healthily and well, even if it means cutting costs somewhere else. The higher the financial and educational level, the more money is spent on good quality ingredients.

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So, in spite of our troubles:

We continue to be interested in food, as witnessed by the popularity of TV shows about cooking and nutrition, and of chefs who have become celebrities.

We gather in friends’ houses to enjoy home cooking.

We care whether our neighbors have enough to eat and volunteer or donate to various charities.

We order in less and cook more. Young people go home to eat, so food shopping has increased.

We look for better prices in the supermarket, visit local open-air markets and are not shy about buying half a watermelon or two apples instead of a whole kilo.

We throw out less food.

We think about avoiding waste and recycling leftovers, helped by clever ideas we find on the Internet – last night’s vegetables added to a cheese soufflé, for instance.

We have rediscovered old recipes using pulses and pasta, and often cook ladera (the word means ‘oily’ – they are various vegetables, braised with olive oil). Eaten with feta cheese, they provide a delicious, nutritious and cheap meal.

We have cut down on expensive foods like meat and fresh fish. When we do want meat, we buy chicken, which is cheap and easy to cook, followed by beef then pork. As for fish, we go for small, cheaper fish like sardines.

Because we have less spending money, we buy fewer snacks and goodies for the kids. We try to cut down on junk food and promote healthy eating.

We make sure to buy things that the whole family will like, and not pander too much to individual tastes.

We play it safe, not risking food people won’t like and which might get binned. Flour purchases have increased, since we do a lot more baking at home.

We don’t really like frozen semi-prepared foods, except for spanakopita (spinach pie) and tyropita (cheese pie) and, to a lesser extent, pizza. We buy frozen vegetables when we have no time to shop, although since many women have lost their jobs, they have the leisure to seek out more time-consuming but pleasant shopping venues, such as open-air markets.

If a member of the family is unemployed he or she takes over the cooking and, even if the food they make is not the most healthy, is it perceived as good because it’s home-made. More men have taken to cooking, especially single men. Encouraged by the male chefs they see on TV, they try their hand at ever more complicated recipes, along with the ubiquitous BBQ.

For breakfast, most Greeks like bread with honey or sometimes jam, cereal or ‘toast’ (which is essentially a grilled cheese sandwich). However, a lot of young people skip breakfast – they just drink coffee and smoke!

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In the countryside, people grow their own vegetables and keep chickens and goats. They send food to their relations in town. People who have land, even a garden, will grow food – but we don’t have a system of allotments such as exist in other European cities.

As elsewhere in Europe, farmers get low returns on their produce, so many have reconverted their land into electricity production – when driving through the countryside you can see solar panels covering entire fields. However, there is an increasing awareness that Greece is importing a lot of products it could grow locally, such as lemons and pomegranates. There is a trend in young people returning to the land and taking up organic farming, such as fruit, roses, lavender, herbs, top quality olive oil, even truffles. Also, there is a thriving production of wine.

Overall, the food and drinks industry is a vital component of the economy, since it has become a dynamic, competitive and export-oriented sector.

In spite of people watching their budgets and eating at home more, Greeks like to go out, to cafés, bars and restaurants, even if they have to nurse a single coffee or drink for a couple of hours. A lot of new restaurants have sprung up, mostly started by young people who cannot get a job elsewhere, offering affordable, tasty, quirky food. There are also a lot of ethnic eateries run by immigrants: sushi, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican – you name it, you can have it. Particularly in Athens, small treasures can be discovered on a lot of backstreet corners. Smiling waiters, nice food, people enjoying themselves – what better way to forget the crisis, even for a short while? Street food is also doing well – especially souvlaki, seen by people as nutritious as well as cheap.

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Unfortunately there are also a lot of families – middle class families where both parents have lost their job – who cannot afford to buy food and are obliged to queue at church soup kitchens to get a hot meal. They can also subscribe to the KINONIKO PANDOPOLIO (Κοινωνικό Παντοπωλείο -Social Market). These are small shops situated in various neighborhoods which provide free groceries, clothes, household items etc. to families in need. They are supplied by donations from the large supermarkets, the food industry and private individuals.

Another disturbing statistic is that a large percentage of kids in the Athens region go to school without breakfast. Teachers who can ill afford it themselves bring bags of cookies and fruit to feed their pupils.

Charities are doing great work, providing meals, cooking in the street, finding sponsors. And now that refugees are swarming in the streets many people, despite their own shortages and troubles, are still doing their best to feed them while waiting for the authorities to provide solutions.

To end on a more cheerful note, I have copied out a recipe for briám, a dish of mixed baked vegetables. This is very popular in Greece, especially in the summer when the vegetables are in season and particularly tasty.

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Μπριάμ ( pronounced bree-ám)

4 large tomatoes, cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch slices
2 large eggplants, cut in 1/2 inch slices
2 medium size green zucchini, cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
1 green pepper, cut in 1/2 inch slices 2 cloves garlic, diced
5 TBS chopped parsley, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup olive oil.
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Start by layering the potatoes in a greased deep baking pan. Lay one half of the tomato slices over the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Layer the next 6 ingredients and top off with a layer of the remaining tomatoes. Salt and pepper. Pour olive oil evenly over tomatoes and bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350° oven for 1½ hours.

This tasty dish is best served at room temperature (it’s even better the next day, when the flavors have melded well) accompanied by lices of feta cheese, with maybe a few black olives on the side. The vegetables can be varied at will. Enjoy!

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Checking in from Civic Square Library

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Hi all, it’s Friday! For us, it means going to baby pram jam at Civic Square Library. This library is our favorite. It is the library we visited the most. It’s freshly renovated. The color scheme is a combination of yellow and purple (and black).

Baby pram jam is an event for under 2 years old and their parents or caretakers. We will sing some nursery rhymes and read books together. At the end of it, the librarian who also leads our nursery rhymes will put out a bunch of toys.

In this library I can relax and freely let my baby wander. Only here I can feel like he’s saying to me, “trust me, let me be on my own.” Haha. Sometimes we play peek-a-boo, perhaps annoying other library visitors. Sometimes he wander far off but I never worried, although I still have to keep an eye.

When I look at him I see he’s so adorable, especially because he enjoys to explore the library by himself. After 9 months old, especially, he became assertive and enjoying his sense of independence. He enjoys crawling everywhere by himself (only to yell when he got stuck somewhere 😉 ), he loves to learn to stand up, he also wants to be independent in terms of feeding (more on this perhaps on another post).

Besides being comfy, this library is also very conveniently located. It is next to Garden City Mall and Booragoon bus station. We only need to ride a 940 bus once from our houses to get there. Please enjoy our photos that has been collected over time in this library, it seems like the “Daddy and baby in public library” series is continued 🙂

Pram jam in blur:

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Beautiful book:
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Giant abacus:
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Look! I can stand up, one hand mommy!
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When I was younger:
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When I was teething, this is all I wanted to do:
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All smiles at the public library

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While we’re at it, let’s have another photo series of daddy and baby at public library. This time it’s at the mezzanine in State Library of Western Australia. The mezzanine is a level especially dedicated for children.

I was so happy here because both my husband and our baby were so cheerful and enjoying their time. It has plenty of space to crawl, and I was surprised because my husband was “rediscovering” his childhood as he played and read children’s (adventure) books for himself, haha!