It’s that most WONDERFUL time of the year again! Or is it? The Christmas spirit is in the air but you just feel like you want to curl up in a ball and slip into your bed until the new year is here. I totally get it. There is a lot of pressure to have this amazing time with family and friends, not to mention buying gifts, maybe attend a Christmas party or two and then what about the decorations, the perfect dinner. It can stress out even the best of us who handle stress like a charm.
Here are a few of my tips, how I decompress from all the Christmas madness.
Let’s Remember The Reason For The Season And it’s not about the present. It’s about love and celebration. I’m trying to minimize the amount of presents everyone gets. One big present for my brother’s family – a game or a picture of them or blanket, something that they can all use and enjoy. And that’s it! My parents get one gift each, same with the other family members. And if you have a big family, maybe suggest a Secret Santa – everyone draws a name and that’s their person to give a present to. And they don’t even have to be store bought. The best gifts, in my opinion come from the heart and are handmade. And don’t forget that online buying is your friend. A few clicks and DONE.
When It’s Just Too Much, Get Out! Keep up your exercise routine, go for a walk around the neighborhood or if you’re lucky enough to live by nature, go there. Breathe in the fresh air from the sea or the woods. Look around and find the beauty that is everywhere. A hike in the forest or mountains or walk on the beach gets anyone’s mood lightened.
Make A TO DO List It’s good to see what you need to do on paper and when you can do them. These past two weeks I’ve made a daily list. It really helps on managing your time and helps you feel more grounded and not spinning out of control. Add days with the times you are going to do these things.
Be Easy On Yourself You didn’t get Christmas cards out on time? Let it GOOOOOO. I never mind getting a Christmas card from a friend in January, heck sometimes it’s the better time to get it. But if you didn’t get it out at all, guess what – It’s OK! Try to schedule yourself some me time in that TO DO list as well. A massage or facial or pedicure will give you some pampering time to relax. And last but not least, it is okay to say no. Don’t feel like you need to accept every Christmas get together. You don’t even need to accept the family get together. You want a Christmas with just you or just you and your husband, boyfriend, girlfriend – enter significant person here – then that is what you do. Be easy on YOU.
Be One With The Moment When the time is upon you, your friends have gathered or your family is around, take the time to be in that moment. Embrace the happiness and the love that you are surrounded by. Don’t stress about getting to the kitchen to start that turkey or if the house isn’t clean enough or if everyone is happy. Everyone is with you because they love you. Sit down and take it in. Look around and smile, rejoice and remember. Grab a loved one to give them a kiss, give them a hug, say thank you for being there. Time passes so quickly and before you know it, we will be back at our regular day life. So enjoy this moment that is finally here. Look at those lights, sip that eggnog, and feel all that love.
Time to make Mama N’s famous Weihnachten cookies again! These melt in your mouth cookies are so easy and everyone will love them. Make them for a party, for your family, for friends or just for yourself! Because you know what, you are worth it!
Here is the recipe in German but if you no entiendo Deutsch 🙂 then here’s the recipe in English.
150 grams Flour 75 grams sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Sugar 1 egg yolk
100 grams butter (it says or margarine but REALLY?! do the butter already)
Clean off a countertop and starting at the top of the list make a pile of the ingredients. Then, when you add the butter grab a large knife and cut up all the ingredients together in a pile. Next, with clean hands (!) knead/mix the ingredients. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and set it in the fridge for one hour. Hour is up, roll the dough until it is 3 or 4 millimeters thick. Grab your cookie cutters and place the dough on a floured cookie sheet. Stick it into an oven at 180° C (350°F) for 8 – 10 minutes. Then take out to cool. Violá!
ps – I love the adorable side notes from Mama N in German. Warms my heart!
Of course after the hustle and bustle of walking everywhere and seeing the sites of Athens we needed (we deserved) some down time to relax on a gorgeous Greek island – or two!
Since we were Greek virgins (how’s that going to pan out in Google search) we decided the top two islands we were going to check out on this trip would be Mykonos and Santorini. Mykonos is the party island, and Santorini was supposed to be absolutely gorgeous. And they both lived up to their name and more.
Our ferry from Athens to Mykonos was somewhat early and we were supposed to arrive at least an hour before it departed. I had researched the ferries on different sites and found a lot of people complaining that the ferry services were a bit of a shit show. So I was a bit concerned. But I can confirm that both ferries were just fine. I freaked out over nothing. Athens to Mykonos I believe it was BlueStar Ferry and Mykonos to Santorini it was SeaJets, or vice versa. They were both perfect. Easy boarding, comfy seats, food, tv, clean. NO PROBLEMS. Thank goodness.
Mykonos is VERY wiiiiiiiiiiiinnnndddyyyyyy. I didn’t know! Getting off the ferry we were almost swept away. I thought it was just the day but our driver said it was always quite windy in Mykonos. And speaking of having a driver – all of the hotels I booked in Greece offered a service to pick us up whether it was the airport or the port. But our Mykonos hotel is the only one that offered this service for free – including taking us back to the port on our departure day. That, for me, is great service. The hotel was lovely – The Mykonos Dove hotel. It’s directly on beach Platis Gialos and beach chairs are included (not the first three front rows), breakfast buffet is included and very yummy and lots of restaurants are close by.
Mykonos town is a quick 15 minute bus ride. For the most part I was very satisfied with Mykonos Dove. My only complaint would be when we checked in they gave us a welcome drink and we sat outside for over an hour before anyone would show us to our room or even tell us a timeline for when we could check in. We knew we were early but we would have happily just walked around a bit if we had known we would just be sitting there for an hour or more.
But finally we were shown are room. Cute, a little small but not too bad, it had a small balcony over looking the street. The hotel does offer rooms with a private small pool but we were good without one. We freshened up a bit and then needed some grub. That sea air was making us hungry. We wandered past some places – a small shop with a little bit of everything (we actually bought snorkels and face masks there later), some restaurants, some bars pumping out hip retro beats – and then we decided on Thea Restaurant. I’m not sure if you read my Athens blog post (see link in the first paragraph!) but our Greek eating theme was tzatziki. And this place did not disappoint. The stuffed mushrooms and calamari was so very excellent.
We had two entire days in Mykonos so this first day was a lounge by the beach and be a little lazy. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. The beach umbrellas had a outlet to charge your gadgets with solar power. I LOVED this. Nothing better than using natural resources to charge things. The sun was warm, the day was perfect and the water was … COLD. So very cold. But in the end, refreshing.
Next up, dinner at the hotel and then a night out in Mykonos Town. Since we were at the very end of the tourist season it wasn’t too bad. Crowds yes, but manageable. We wandered around. I loved the white and grey cobblestone looking streets. We stopped for a drink at Alley bar and then headed over to Caprice for a little dancing and then caught the bus back to the hotel. Easy peasy. Mykonos Town –
Jess’ New Year’s resolution was to snorkel. She had never snorkeled before so the next day was all about checking that off her list of things to do. We bought masks with snorkels and walked over to the next beach where we heard was good for snorkeling. It was about a 15 minute walk. We found a little place off towards the east side, caught some vitamin D and then waded in the water with snorkel and mask in tow. The water was clear, the fish were abundant and the sea floor dropped off about 15 feet to really get the experience.
That night was perfect with getting our fill of one last evening in Mykonos. A bit of people watching at the ritzy Scorpios restaurant and bar to see the magical sunset. There were some crazy people there! And it was super packed and SUPER expensive. It was by the beach we snorkeled at so we walked over again and then on the way back we stopped at Nikolas Tavern for some more delicious Greek grub. Check out more of the fabulousness of Mykonos in my pics and then we are off to Santorini!!!
Bring out the stuffed grape leaves, the tzatziki, greek salads with huge chunks of feta cheese then throw in a lot of old buildings and monuments and there you have it – my first trip to Athens, Greece. It is now a proven fact that I can indeed eat those things every single day. Because that’s pretty much all I had during my week in Greece. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. And it was the best food I’ve had in months – I must have been a Greek Goddess in my earlier years because I can’t get enough of everything Greek.
We arrived late in the evening, there was only one flight out of Barcelona to Athens leaving at 6:30 p.m. so we arrived at the airport around 10:30 (3 hour direct flight plus one time difference). The hotel, Grecotel Pallas Athena, had reserved a driver for us at the airport and he whisked us to our boutique hotel, smack dab in the middle of Athens. The location is superb, the eclectic design is super fashionable and I never turn down a free breakfast, which was delicious as well. But as I said, we arrived late, thankfully there were still plenty of options for dinner for us to choose from. We wandered through the streets to the restaurant the front desk dude told us about and enjoyed our first views of Athens. Here are a few sights from that first night:
We found where we needed to get some food in our bellies and guess what we had? Tzatziki!! And a few other things. And there were two singers to help us get into the Greek feeling and welcome us to Athens. After dinner we walked back to the hotel and crashed. A full day was upon us in the morning!
First things first. Breakfast! Yes, tzatziki was involved. 🙂 Along with fresh fruit, a pastry with spinach, a very hot tea and lots of water. Only then were we ready to venture out to the glorious Acropolis in the sky. And I do mean in the sky! It’s high up on a hill. AND we walked! Very proud of ourselves. It wasn’t too difficult but the day was super hot and I only brought a small bottle of water. From the hotel it was about a 30 minute walk to the entrance. You need to buy tickets (I think they were 20 euro each) and there is a place before you enter to buy drinks – lemonade slushes, coffee, beer but NO water! And I can’t even tell you how many times I heard people ask for water and every single one was incredulous that water wasn’t sold. Even one lady said to the man, “You don’t have water!?”. “No, no water,” he answered. “No water?!”, she asked again. He replied, “Maybe if you ask me twenty times more there will miraculously be water.” Needless to say she left without ordering anything. I smirked and ordered a lemonade and strawberry slushy. But then the joke was on me – nobody can enter the Acropolis grounds with any food or drinks. Ha! But water is allowed …….
So Jess and I tried to down my slurpie as quickly as possible, resulting in about 28 brain freezes.
And we were in! There were TONS of people there. But it’s quite an expansive place so you can move around pretty easily, minus those first steps to get up to the top of the hill but once you’re there people spread out. But don’t think about getting any pictures with only you – well, it’s probably doable but difficult.
I was already impressed. First stop was the Theatre of Dionysus – which funny story. We looked out over the Theatre and Jess said that she thought it looked different. I shrugged my shoulders and said wouldn’t it be cool to see an opera here. I think they must do things there still because there were lights set up and speakers, etc.
We continued on … but it was still bothering Jess. She said again, I remember it differently. How, I asked. Well, it seems very open to fight lions and animals. OMG, I laughed so loud that I think I scared people around us. I said, I think you’re thinking of the Colosseum in Rome. 🙂 Ahhhh, good times. Let it be said Jess is a very smart woman! She’s a lawyer in Los Angeles but we all have our blonde moment from time to time.
It was amazing how old this place was, pottery sherds of the Neolithic period (4000/3500-3000 BC) and of the Early and Middle Bronze Age, show that the hill was inhabited from a very early period. Seriously, walking around where people lived in 4000 BC really blows my mind.
The Acropolis was dedicated primarily to its patron, the goddess Athena. It was Pericles in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site’s most important present remains including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. There is a restoration project that has been going on for years so we saw scaffolding, cranes, etc. But with things that old they all need a little help from time to time (don’t we all?).
We spent about two hours touring the grounds and taking lots of pictures, just like everyone else. Here are my favorites.
Alright, enough with the old stuff. We needed a cold brewski to take a break in the day. From the Acropolis we could see a very well preserved temple that looked interesting to check out. So after our beer, stuffed grape leaves and ….tzatziki!!! Sorry, I’ll stop. Maybe. We searched around for the temple. Turns out it’s located in Agora with lots of other ruins, a church and a museum. So, when in Athens, go see the temples.
It was the Temple of Hephaestus that we were seeing. The Doric order temple was dedicated to Hephaestus (naturally), who was the son of Zeus and Hera, and a god of blacksmiths, metallurgy, and craftsmen. This temple has been incredibly well preserved so one can easily see the Doric trademarks. The columns are fluted, or grooved. Above the columns is a thick, horizontal element called the frieze. Doric friezes are decorated with alternating patterns of triglyphs and metopes.
The metopes are blank panels in between the triglyphs. Very often, Doric metopes were carved with reliefs of scenes from Greek mythology, and the Temple of Hephaestus is no exception. The friezes of this temple depict scenes of the twelve labors of Hercules, the battle and fall of Troy, and an unidentified battle scene. It’s possible that the metopes that were not carved were, at one point in time, painted. We do know that some art has been lost from this site; records indicate that bronze statues of Hephaestus and Athena Ergani once stood inside as well.
As I mentioned, this temple is located in the Agora which was a place for the citizens of ancient Athens to meet, bond and deliberate on the issues of the day. The Ancient Agora was a dynamic place, where the great thinkers Sophocles, Socrates, Protagoras, among others, would meet and where ordinary citizens could come and interact with their peers, voice their concerns, agree on solutions and courses of action.
Nowadays, it a peaceful place with shady trees, paths and cats among the ruins. We checked out the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles and the Stoa of Attalos. The stoa was another place to meet but also an ancient version of a mall, it had 42 shop spaces on the two levels. It was destroyed in 267 AD by invading Herulians. Its restoration took place between 1953 – 1956 by the American School of Classical Studies with the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
I really enjoyed the Agro and check out the restaurant Heliaia close by the ticket entrance to the Agros. Yummy food! (see I didn’t say it) and a great view of the Acropolis while you enjoy your food and drink.
Some of my favorite pics from the Agros area.
After the Acropolis and Agros we were a bit pooped. We walked back to the hotel to shower and relax before dinner. I did a little research for dinner – I like to eat at nice restaurants and stay in nice hotels so I always do a bit of delving into the internet for the best places. And this time it also still had to be within walking distance. On our way to the restaurant we turned down this street and there was one cute restaurant or bar after another. And then there was the place I had chosen – Bandiera at Taki 19, Athens. They don’t have a website but the food and house wine was one of the best places we ate in Greece. We had the hot pepper and cheese dip, tzatziki 🙂 and a greek salad. YUM YUM YUM.
Now I’m googling good greek restaurants in Mallorca. Must have more greek food! After the fabulous dinner we stopped by A is for Athens and had a glass of wine at their rooftop bar. Nice place!
And there you have it folks – Athens, Greece. We had an early wake up call to catch our ferry to MYKONOS! Check the blog soon for my time in Mykonos and Santorini.
And our word for the week in Greek was thank you – Efcharistó!!!! xo -k