A place for random thoughts, ideas, and fun!
What really goes on in Amy's brain? I'll use this space to share more about myself and my interests, journal some of the more exciting goings-on in my life, and work through some of the writing ideas and dilemmas I'm wrestling with. Enjoy!|
Movie Review Mondays . . . if you watch a film after reading a review, please come back and let me know what you thought!
|After a very long absence, I just have the need to get the words out of my head at the moment.
I feel like my life is falling apart around me. Less than a week until my 40th birthday, and I just want to hide and pretend it's not happening. I have a gaggle of friends coming for Shabbat dinner to help me celebrate . . . why did I volunteer? I don't want to celebrate. Today, I don't want to acknowledge it at all. Can I have a re-do? I feel like I've totally screwed up every aspect of my life. Bob, my rock, is falling apart. He NEEDS . . . desperately . . . to get OUT of his job, but he feels trapped by salary restrictions. And why is that? Because I've got nothin'. I told him last night . . . I feel like I've let you down. You're working to pay for my students loans, for the education I'm not using. You supported me in whatever direction I wanted to go . . . and I've done nothing. He said . . . yeah, he feels like I have, too, sometimes.
And so . . . I don't know where to go, what to do. I feel like I have to give up the ethereal dreams that have gotten me nowhere, and grab at any pissant job that comes my way, just to help him dig out of his hole of despair. He said . . . "if you could bring in $20,000 that would make a huge difference." At the risk of sounding even more pathetic than I already feel . . . I've never even come CLOSE to earning that much in a year. I'm freaking FORTY years old and I've never earned even a facsimile of a decent salary, doing anything. I've had little s*** jobs here and there . . . yes, I even worked as a guidance counselor, but it was only for a semester. Even if I got 1 doula job a month (which, considering the questionability of due dates and actual delivery, is all I could commit to) . . . and I can't count on that by ANY stretch of the imagination . . . I couldn't count on more than $1000 per job - one job was far less than that.
And . . . and I'm just plain HURT. I know now, as I've always really known in my heart, that Bob hides the bad stuff he's thinking . . . just to keep me happy. Well, look where it's gotten us! Is EITHER of us happy right now!?!?! Not by a long stretch.
We've got 3 kids to support, one of them just 3 years from college.
Ugh, I can't write anymore . . . I can't do anything.
|Of course one can’t visit Greece and not go see the sites. There is such a wealth of history in the area that it’s next to impossible to see everything there is to be seen. We did, however, manage to cover quite a bit of ground during our time in Athens and its environs.
Beginning at the beginning (because it would be silly to begin anywhere else) . . . on our first full day in Athens we headed to the Acropolis. We walked up through Plaka, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, right in the shadow of the Acropolis. Little souvenir shops, cafes and tavernas line the quaint little streets, providing a haven for both tourists and locals alike. Up the hill via one of the steep staircases, we easily found Anafiotika, literally carved out of the hillside abutting the Acropolis. While this tiny village was built in the 19th century by workers from the island of Anafi, who had come to Athens to help with the rapid expansion of the city, it looks as though it could have been there from ancient times. In fact, I’m fairly certain it was used as part of the setting for a screen adaptation of Lysistrata that I saw many years ago. Tiny little whitewashes homes and pathways curve and wind their way up the hill, trees and even grape vines adorning the paths. Up and out of Anafiotika is the road leading to the Acropolis. From this road one can view the ruins of the ancient Agora, with the beautifully preserved Temple of Hephestus off to one side. Beyond is the area known as Monastiraki, with more shops and outdoor eateries. Beyond that the city sprawls almost as far as the eye can see.
Once through the entrance gate to the Acropolis, the stairs and pathways are lined with mementos of a long history. Fallen pieces of marble columns, capitals, entablatures and stelae remain, some carved with designs or inscriptions. Marble staircases lead the visitor past the Temple of Athena Nike and up through the Propylaea, or entrance gate, onto the Acropolis proper. The Parthenon looms ahead to the right, the most important temple at the site. Ahead to the left is the smaller Erectheon, with its Karyatid columns, formed in the shape of young women.
I was struck, during this visit, by how much scaffolding and evident construction work is visible. During my time studying in Greece, I had the incredible opportunity to visit the interior of the Parthenon, along with my classmates. We’d been invited, through the head of our program, to watch the moving of a single column within the Parthenon. Sadly, after standing in the damp chill for something like two hours, we were told that the weather conditions were not right for this move to be attempted. In any case, at that time only work was being done to preserve what was intact, and to keep the structure from becoming unstable. Now it seems that they are doing more work to reconstruct many of the structures.
We took a half day bus tour out to Cape Sounion, at the very tip of the peninsula of Attica (the part of Greece to which Athens belongs). The bus ride out was incredible, with breathtaking views of the Saronic Gulf and many small dry islands. On the rocky promontory of Cape Sounion is the Temple of Poseidon, god of the sea. One of the most famous visitors to this site was Lord Byron, who fell in love with Greece just as I did on my first visit. He left his mark by carving his name into one of the columns of the temple. It was not difficult to see why he loved this spot, nor difficult to see why the ancient Greeks would have chosen it for a temple to Poseidon. With the winds blowing, and the sparkle of the seas below in 3 directions, Cape Sounion is a place of peace and contemplation. It was also, according to legend, the place from where Aegeas threw himself into the sea, after wrongly assuming that his son Theseus had died at the hoofs of the Minotaur on Crete. The sea beyond, the Aegean, was named for him.
Our visit to the sanctuary of Delphi was frustrating only in that we simply felt too rushed to see the site properly. Our bus tour drove right past the lovely little Temple of Athena Pronaia, with its 3 remaining columns built in a curved pattern that hints at its once former tholos, or round shape. The setting of the sanctuary is simply stunning, and photographs can not come close to doing it justice. Deep within the mountains, with the land falling away to one side, and the Gulf of Corinth visible in the distance, for many centuries Delphi was the site of the Oracle. People from all over the Greek world would come to hear their fortunes, and pay tribute to the god Apollo. Treasury houses from the different city-states lined the steep pathway up to the Temple of Apollo. Beyond the temple the path continues to climb up the mountain, first to the theater of Dionysius, and then even higher still, to a stadium at the very top, where footraces were run. Sadly, we did not have the time (nor the breath) to make it all the way up to the stadium.
We visited three museums in the city of Athens, as well as the one at Delphi. The National Archaeological Museum has changed quite a bit since my last visit. Sadly, an earthquake in 1999 damaged many of the pieces, and while quite a few were repaired, my favorite room is no longer in existence. The lovely little Minoan villa with the colorful frescos depicting sea scenes and boys bull leaping is gone, with only a few fragments remaining, having been moved to one of the main rooms.
At the request of my husband, we also visited the Numismatic Museum, beautifully laid out in the house owned by Heinrich Schliemann. It was a fascinating look at the history of currency, from the first known instances through the present. Also part of the exhibit were items showing different forging and minting techniques.
Having visited the Jewish Museum of Greece in its previous location, I was excited to see how it had been transformed. I was most fascinated by the newest exhibit, the results of a research study begun in 2000. Greek Jews who had been alive and remembered the times before World War II were asked to share their memories – memories of their neighborhoods, the people, what life was like, etc. It was both a fascinating glimpse into a time now past, and also into the minds of people who would have been children during World War II. What are the memories, what are the things that they’ve held onto for 60 years? Old photographs completed the exhibit.
There were, of course, more places that we visited, but I hope this will give a sense of the trip as a whole. I cannot wait to go back again.
|While I did keep a daily journal during my trip to Greece, I’ve decided that it will be more interesting and entertaining for everyone else if I share my experience in a slightly different way (who needs to read about what time I woke up, and whether I had breakfast before showering, eh?)
The time leading up to the trip was incredibly stressful for me. I’ve been yearning to return to Greece for almost 16 years (last visit was our honeymoon in Sept of ’93). Being devastated after having to cancel a trip to Spain 3 years ago, my anxiety level over this trip actually happening was extreme. I worried constantly about getting sick, and became somewhat obsessive about it. Fortunately, though both Liz and I had sick family members in the week leading up to our departure, we both managed to stay healthy!
The trip itself was everything we’d hoped for, and more. We arrived in Athens on Friday, March 6th, at around 2:30 PM. Utterly exhausted, but giddy with joy, we filed into our hotel room and opened the curtains to find a few of the Acropolis with the Parthenon front and center. Relief and joy mixed with disbelief that we’d actually made this happen, and I came very close to tears in that moment.
It’s difficult to explain the connection I feel to Greece, except to say that in many ways I feel like it’s my home. After being away from home for so many years, of course I was expecting many changes. What I was not expecting was that I would immediately feel like I’d never left, despite those changes. While my language skills have languished from disuse, and I did not spend as much time polishing them as I should have, my comfort level increased quickly. There were a few times when I could easily have said something in Greek, and ended up relying on English instead. Can I blame it on fatigue? Like the time I went down to the hotel lobby, the entire ride down the elevator repeating to myself “dia nerakia, parakalo. Dia nerakia parakalo. Dia nerakia, parakalo . . .” only to get downstairs and says “two bottles of water, please.” Interestingly, though, when I DID speak Greek, I was invariably asked #1 - where I was from and #2 – were my parents Greek? My accent is still good . . . my professors would be proud! Liz learned a handful of words in preparation for the trip, and did a fabulous job picking up more while we were traveling. Which she apparently spoke with a French accent, because every time she said something, she would get a reply in French!
One of the most fascinating changes that I noticed during our trip had little to do with construction. While I was studying in Athens, we did not have telephones in our apartments. It was explained to us that it was very difficult to get telephone service, and it often took a couple of years to get a phone. As a result, most people would use the telephones provided (for a fee, of course) at the peripteros (corner kiosks) if they needed to make a call. I’m not exaggerating when I say that people in Greece now use their cell phones more than we do here, in the United States. Everyone was talking on their cell phones, walking down the streets, in the shops, while sightseeing . . . it was utterly pervasive.
Nonetheless, I still found the people to be as warm and friendly as I had during my previous experiences. A simple “evxaristo” (thank you) would invariably bring a big smile and genuinely grateful reply. We were remembered, as well. There were a few shop owners and taverna proprietors whom we visited more than once, and we were always greeted so warmly upon our return. For anyone planning to travel to Athens, I highly recommend To Xani taverna in Plaka, on Adrianou Street, and Emblem jewelry store on Makrigianni Street, just down a few doors from the Acropolis Metro station.
We went to To Xani for dinner on three different occasions. The first evening we enjoyed a small meal, but were blown away by how good the tzatziki and xoriatiki salata were. As a result we decided to return a few nights later, and ordered a larger meal. Again, the food was excellent, and the waiters clearly remembered us and spent time chatting with us. There was live music and I’ve had one of the songs echoing through my head ever since. We also returned on our last night, to find a much busier dining room. The waiter apologized and said they had a large group coming in that evening, and asked if we’d mind sitting in the smaller back dining room. We had a wonderfully cozy table right next to a beautiful statue (which Liz kindly took a photo of, at my request). Our waiter was impressed when Liz ordered the meal for us. At the end of the meal, she gestured to him and asked for the bill (in Greek – GO Liz!) . . . and he brought over 2 glasses of wine for us, on the house! We hadn’t told him it was our last evening; what a wonderful gesture to express his appreciation of our return business, and what a wonderful way to end our final meal!
The jewelry shop was about 3 or so blocks from our hotel, and we passed it each time we headed to Plaka. One evening we stopped in, and were greeted by the owner who asked “how many thousands of Euros would you like to spend?” We laughed and started chatting with him, and just thoroughly enjoyed being in his shop. I found a beautiful pair of earrings with a Greek key design, and although I had really wanted a pendant (sadly, the matching pendant had already been sold to someone from Alabama, I was told) I bought the earrings. His son (who was about 7, I think) came over at one point, to ask his dad a question . . . he was the most adorable little boy! So goofy me, I decided to go back the next day and bring the little boy a pack of gum (really the only thing I’d brought with me that I could have brought him). It was gratefully accepted, and we laughed about the fact that he could get the very same gum right outside at the periptero – but THIS gum was from America! We returned to the shop on our final night, to say goodbye, and ended up chatting with the owner for at least half an hour. He has beautiful jewelry, and also painted wooden signs. Check out his website. http://www.emblemgr.gr/
So far I’ve not described any of the sites that we visited, or the day trips that we took. I’ll get to those, but for now stop, having hopefully shared a bit of my experience that will leave you with a little sense of the country that is Greece.
|Tons to blog about, but for now . . . some photos:
|Today I'm feeling the utter futility of trying to do something for myself. I spent a week and a half being SOOOOOOOOO good, dieting and exercising . . . and what do I have to show for it? My pants are TIGHTER than they were 2 weeks ago!
I was doing really well, too, with my mood. Being very good about taking my Omegas every day, and it was making a big difference. But yesterday and today have just been really rough, again. Why? Maybe the weather? The snow makes me feel more trapped than usual. Cleaning off the car this morning, I was practically in tears. My van door would not open, and my fingers were numb even with my warmest gloves. My day has been pretty much one big panic attack.
Last night I thought I was gonna lose it, with Goldilocks. She was struggling with an assignment . . . and when Bob wouldn't step up to the plate and write the thing for her, she started freaking out. It lost meaning . . . it was no longer about the damn assignment . . . it was about PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!!! I must have come closer to losing it than I thought . . . because Dr B had as her FB status that she was scared of Mommy.
I have to figure out how to keep myself on an even keel . . . it's just not working right now.
|Amy’s dairy free banana chocolate chip muffins/bread
I love banana bread. So when we discovered my son’s food allergies, one of the first recipes I tried to find was a dairy and egg free version of banana bread. I found a recipe for banana chocolate chip muffins, but when I was preparing the batter, it seemed horribly off. There weren’t nearly enough wet ingredients to create a batter. So I tweaked and I added, I measured and I mixed, and voila! The muffins turned out moist and delicious. But would it work for banana bread? I gave it a try, and lo and behold, it was the best banana bread I’d ever made.
The original recipe called for 2 large eggs. I’ve included that, in addition to my allergen free instructions. Do use vanilla soy milk. I find it adds a wonderful richness to the bread. I use Soy Dream Enriched Vanilla soy milk, which has the double benefit of being the best tasting soy milk I’ve tried, and also giving the recipe the illusion of healthfulness.
You could omit the chocolate chips, or substitute nuts . . . but why?
Banana chocolate chip muffins
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (I always use less . . . probably used 1/4 teaspoon)
2 large eggs, beaten (I used Orgran no-egg replacer - 4 teaspoons Orgran, 4 tablspoons water, beaten well)
1 1/2 cups (about 3 medium) bananas, mashed
1/2 cup oil (I use canola)
1/4 cup vanilla soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
In a large bowl, blend together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, beat together eggs and bananas. Add oil and milk. Combine the 2 mixes together. Add chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, each about 3/4 full. Bake about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.
For banana chocolate chip bread, follow instructions above. Spray loaf pan with non-stick spray, and bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour 10 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.
** Image ID #1355452 Unavailable **
|It is written.
This film is a heart-wrenching view of the life of a street child in the slums of Mumbai. The story centers around a Jamal Malik, a young man who has won millions of rupees on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Suspecting that a chai-walla, an orphan from the streets, could only have achieved this success via cheating, he is dragged to the police station for interrogation. There he tells the story of his life, through flashbacks that illustrate how he learned the answers to each of the game show questions. This is not the heartwarming feel-good film that the ads portray; it is extremely difficult to watch at times. Nonetheless, it is powerful and magnificent.
Dev Patel is brilliant as Jamal Malik, playing the role with seriousness and passion.
While the film has received critical acclaim from many, it has also been the object of criticism, particularly by those who feel it portrays too harsh a picture of India’s poor. Interestingly, among those critical of the film’s harsh portrayal is Amitabh Bachchan, one of Bollywood’s biggest film stars, who appears in the film through photographs and old film footage.
This is not typical Bollywood, folks. In fact, when we went to see it, a couple of people walked out of the theater during a particularly tough scene.
Though you will be treated to a great song and dance number if you stay through to see the credits.
** Image ID #1355452 Unavailable **
|I'm just not in a good place right now. I know it's my own damn fault . . . if I were just able to make myself do the things I KNOW I need to do, it'd turn right around for me. I'm stuck. Take the damn Omegas every day. You know they make a difference. Don't sit in the house. You know it's bad for you. Go to the fitness center. You know you feel better when you do. For heaven's sake DON'T eat the damn cookie, you know you'll be angry with yourself later! And focus . . . focus, focus, focus! Why can I not seem to FOCUS on a damn thing!?!? My article is written. It just needs to be edited and marketed. HELLO?? DO IT! I have friends supporting me at every turn, for which I am more grateful than I can ever begin to express. But I'M the one who has to make it all happen. Right now I just want to hibernate. I can't freaking WAIT for Spring!
I have no patience for my kids. I pick monkey up from school and right away I've had enough. It shows in the way I speak to them, I know it. It's not fair to them. The problem is with ME, not with them. *sighs*
I need adult stimulation, but I have no energy to put on a pair of shoes, let alone go out and find company.
I can't freaking WAIT for Spring!!! *sighs*
Ain't I just a ray of sunshine today? And this, my wonderful friends, is why I've been making myself somewhat absent, lately. I promised myself long ago that I would not subject others to my complaining. Unfortunately, I have trouble finding the balance between expressing what I need to, and becoming a griper that brings the rest of the world down with me. Forgive me. I'm trying.
** Image ID #1355452 Unavailable **
|Don't everyone keel over from shock . . . I rarely blog twice in one week, let alone twice in one day. But recent events have had me spending quite a bit of time thinking back to my childhood, and the kind of person I was back then, compared to the person I've become. Reconnecting with people that I knew in high school, middle school, and elementary school I start to wonder - why would they want to reconnect with me? Do they want to reconnect with me? Let's face it . . . I spent a lot of time being teased and crying as a child. I wasn't very skilled at connecting with others, and I struggled mightily as a result.
So why did I decide to blog about something so decidedly personally unflattering? Right in the midst of this introspection, I happened to glance at today's horoscope. I typically don't place a lot of credence in horoscopes; in fact I rarely take it upon myself to read them at all. So the fact that I decided to read it at all sort of compounded my reaction to the message I found:
Cancer (June 22 - July 22): You have become a hearth around which many gather to feel the warmth and wisdom radiated by your affectionate soul. You are the embodiment of everything you once admired in others.
That took my breath away . . . is it true? I've had many friends over the past year express something similar to me, yet I always hesitate to accept it as the truth. Being a haven - a support and source of comfort for others, brings me such joy. If it's not true, it's certainly what I aspire to.
I thank you to the friends who have taken me on this journey, held my hands and guided me, and brought me safely through the other side. I am the one who has been blessed.
** Image ID #1355452 Unavailable **
|Over the past few months I've reconnected with summer camp friends from PA, middle school friends from NJ, and high school friends from CT. I also discovered a few random connections amongst those friends. What a trip it's been! Today I discovered that there's a facebook group for my elementary school, created by a few people from my class. Looking back at the old photos is bringing back so many memories. Man, it seems like a lifetime ago! One of my old classmates sent me a facebook message, and we've been chatting. Turns out his wife is a published author! http://jerismithready.com/ Cool stuff!
** Image ID #1355452 Unavailable **