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Caribbean Food Week 2016

Caribbean Food Week 2016

As you may know, we are a multicultural family: I am Romanian, Alex is Greek and Emma, well, she was born and is being raised in Northern Ireland.

We eat a large variety of foods, which include not only Romanian, Irish and Greek dishes but also Thai, Italian and many more.

We love trying new things so when Grace Foods UK approaches us about the Caribbean Food Week, offering us a food hamper to sample, we had to say yes!

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This was the first time I cooked Caribbean food so I did a bit of research once the hamper arrived. Caribbean food is all about flavour, I found out! It is about slowly marinating your meat in jerk sauce, a wonderfully tangy mixture of herbs, spices, lime juice and soya sauce. It is about heart warming sides, like the rice and peas (actually black beans) I cooked, which had thyme, coconut milk and all spice in it, a delight on a plate, if you ask me! And Caribbean food is all about spices! My sweet potato and bean (I know, so nutritious!) curry had me in floods of tears but begging for more, nevertheless! My recipes came from the BBC Good Food website and were simple to follow and most importantly, relatively quick to make.

I enjoyed my food with cool from the fridge Jamaican ginger beer, which pleasantly offset the spiciness of the meal with its flavour. As I said, Caribbean food and drink is indeed, all about the taste!

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Our hamper still has tonnes of treasures to be discovered in the weeks to come. There is the cock soup, which I will maybe use it as thick sauce for another Caribbean inspired curry. There is the tinned Callaloo, which is an equivalent to spinach and which would make a beautiful side dish to any marinated meat meal. And, of course, I am hoping that the good weather will last so we can have a BBQ and use the rich and flavoursome Jerk BBQ sauce. To diversity to Emma’s chicken nuggets, which have become a sample in our kitchen, I will maybe use a bit of the chicken fry mix for really crunchy chicken bites!

Have you tried Caribbean food before? Which dish is your favourite?

Disclosure: we were sent the food hamper for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own and truthful.

Back to school essentials

The summer has flown by, it seems and Emma is due back to school next Monday. This has been the first year when I have truly enjoyed the summer with her, she is a young girl now, no longer a baby who needs entertainment and attending to 24/7. She has come in leaps and bounds this summer, not only physically but also in her own self: more caring and understanding but also more confident and inquisitive about the world around her, which has been an absolute delight to see.

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She will be going into Primary 3 (year 2 in England) and this year, unlike the summer before, I have been super prepared,  and bought her whole uniform from M&S at the end of June, taking advantage of their 20% off offer at the time.

I even got her shoes using the same offer, risky since her feet usually grow during the summer months more than at any other time, but it has proved a good move and they do fit nicely for now.

Last year, I loved our My Nametags uniform stickers and they did the job perfectly, so when the company approached us again about their new Mr Men and Little Miss range, we gladly agreed to another collaboration. I do recommend them, once again, despite their pricing. They do a stellar job, stick on easily and stay put for the whole year, never losing grip or colour. I used them on Emma’s school clothing, shoes, pencils and Twistables and I simply love the quality and designs.

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Now, you would have thought that my job was done with all the above bought and neatly stored away, but when House of Fraser contacted me about back to school bags and accessories, I did realise we were still missing a few bits and bobs!

Again, I had managed to purchase Emma’s school bag in sales in June, it is a beautiful Joules one, with a matching lunch box, very much like the ones available on the House of Fraser website:

I_244969751_00_20160712I_245227966_00_20160712What I hadn’t thought about were the PE bag, which I wanted to be as stylish as her school bag, a pencil case for her Twistables and a new set of plastic lunch boxes to fit into her new Joules bag.

I had no trouble finding what I was looking for on the website. House of Fraser stocks up many of my favourite brands and in no time, I had exactly what I was looking for. Aren’t they simply gorgeous?

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As always, communication and delivery were prompt and top quality. My items came at a bit more than £30, reasonable given both the practical and the cuteness factor! As with my every collaboration with House of Fraser, I never worry about the quality of my products either, since they do always tend to stock up reputable companies, with long established names, which provide excellent value for money.

Are your children starting school as soon as my Emma? Are you all ready for them going back?

Disclosure: we were offered the products mentioned above for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and truthful.

Imaginary Adventures with Storytime Magazine

We are back from our travels but our adventures are far from being over for Emma.

In June, we were kindly offered the opportunity to review the Storytime children’s magazine and were sent several printed issues which we took with us to Greece.

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I did not know if Emma would take to them since she has never shown a great interest in stories and myths before but I was so wrong!

The magazine offers a compact yet amazingly varied array of popular fairy and around the world tales, ancient myths and legends and fables along with short poems and rhymes and activities related to the magazine’s content.

If you think that is not enough, every month the magazine includes a short sample from a popular children’s book, we really enjoyed July’s The BFG and it really triggered Emma’s curiosity about the book and the new movie that had only been released. Emma is at the stage where her confidence as a reader is growing with almost new every page and book she reads and I believe it will not be long before she will be ready to tackle Roald Dahl’s book on her own and all thanks to the beautiful introduction to the book she had with Storytime!

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Emma enjoyed the most reading the myths and legends section, especially since all the editions we had received had each a short Greek legend and it made her immediately connect with the country we were visiting and her Greek roots.

The Lost City of Atlantis tale lead to countless discussions with her daddy about Greek gods, the Mount Olympus, located so close to Thessaloniki, where we were located and hypotheses about the Bermuda triangle as the place where Atlantis could be located! To see Emma, who is only six, blossom in her inquisitiveness and interest in the past made us realise what a wealthy resource the magazine can be!

(I am also totally impressed, and I speak now with my teacher’s hat on, with their online teaching resources section and wish I was teaching currently so I can use all those amazing resources with a class!)

But the best adventure we had thanks to the magazine was the visit to the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio. Unlike other children who at 6 would have found a visit to a historical place boring, Emma insisted on a visit and got extremely excited upon arrival.

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She begged her daddy to read all the info that was available and asked numerous questions about the temple, its design and structure.

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I am so excited to have reached this stage with her when she can appreciate the beauty of a place and its rich history. I look forward to more Storytime magazines and all the adventures they will lead us to, be them imaginary or real!

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Disclosure: we have received a year’s subscription with Storytime. This review is the true reflection of the quality of the magazine and we warmly recommend it to anyone with school aged children.

P.S. – the magazine has a special offer at the moment, of four issues at half price and only £8 for the lot. What a wonderful incentive to get reading with your little ones!

A Dream Guesthouse

It has taken me a few days to get back to my blog as we had to travel down to Thessaloniki and then settle into our holiday apartment (I even manage to colour bleed all of Emma’s summer bedding, grrrr!). Anyway, here is a sneak peek of our local beach and the views we get of Thessaloniki, a city with which I have had a long love story, which started when I was 14. But this is another story, for another time…

Back to our summer holiday apartment. That's Thessaloniki in the distance. #Thessaloniki #greece

A photo posted by Mama's Haven (@mamashaven) on

As promised, I return with a review of our wonderful bed and breakfast in the mountains.

Just thinking of our stay in the Vogiatzopoulou Guesthouse in Agios Georgios on Mount Pilio and I get relaxed! ( I have added the Booking.com link because the reviews the place gets there are accurate and reflect the high standards and quality of the service offered. But please don’t hesitate to contact Vasia, the young owner, directly, she speaks English and will offer you an excellent deal!)

What did we like about this place so much?

First of all, the fact that it has a history. The impressive house in which the guesthouse is now hosted has been in the family for three generations and has nurtured and served many dreams and aspirations. The B&B’s current owner, Vasia, is in her late 20s and has been a vision to us with her hard work, dedication and strife for excellence. Together with her lovely mum, they form the perfect hosting team! Do take time to listen to their stories, they are worth an extra coffee!

We dream of having a similar place in Greece at some point, a place where we can host and serve people, so we take inspiration from places like this, which show us dreams can come true.

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Then, with the family history come the personal touches. They are felt delicately and sensibly not only in the decor, but also in the service and the attention to detail:

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The part that got us most impressed, after the genuine warmth of the hosts, has been the wonderful breakfasts we enjoyed for two mornings. They are freshly made in the house, from the wonderful breads and pastries to the Cretan omelettes and freshly squeezed juice.

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We LOVED having our breakfasts outside, in the cool breeze of the morning and with amazing views of the Pagasetic Gulf right before our eyes:

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Our family room (one roomy front room for Emma, with a sofa bed which could sleep two and a beautiful bedroom for us, interconnected by a bathroom with a luxurious massage shower) cost us £77 per night, excellent value for money for the space we got with it and the amazing views:

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I cannot end this post without giving the place a shout-out and praise for using local products and promoting local businesses. Our shower was kitted with these amazing bath products produced by Lavelia, a small business which will soon launch nationally. We loved the fact that they are free from chemicals and using local plants and the formula has been designed carefully by the owner, a pharmacist who is passionate about holistic well being. We have been in contact with Annia, the lovely owner, and ordered some already for taking home to Ireland with us!

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This blog post hasn’t been sponsored in any way. I wrote about a wonderful place on the Mount Pilio that we truly enjoyed as a family and I do hope my review will benefit both the guesthouse and my readers who would visit someday soon!

My mum is arriving at the weekend and we are planning a visit to the Meteora monasteries with her, stay tuned for more travel posts!

Until then, wishing you once more, kalispera kai kali vradia!

MILOPOT

Visiting Mount Pilio

We are back to Greece, although, if you are a regular reader of my blog, I didn’t think I will return this summer. I did for a number of reasons; my strongest being my daughter’s happiness.

We landed in Athens on Wednesday night and headed towards Thessaloniki after a couple of days of rest and a lovely encounter with a loved family member and friend.

The journey from Athens to Thessaloniki is long, especially when done in the summer, in a car with a faulty air con system. We decided to break the journey in half and have been staying on Mount Pelion, in a small but beautiful village, called Agios Georgios (Saint George), for the past two nights. Blog post to follow on our delightfully luxurious B&B!

Mount Pilio(Pelion in Greek) has been capturing the imagination of the Greek from ancient times and it is believed to have been the home of Centaurs and the starting point of major mythological events like the Trojan War. Nowadays, the mountain continues to attract a lot of local and international tourism, with its hiking paths and unique scenery which combines intense greenery and turquoise blue sea.

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We were given a gentle warning by our lovely hosts and told that we will not be able to see much in a day, as the mountain and its beauty are vast and require weeks of exploration.

We attempted, nevertheless, and after seven hours on the road, got a mixed bag of wonderful scenery, car sickness from the steep mountain roads and everlasting memories😉.

Our goal was to explore the wilder side of the mountain and it took us about 2 hours to reach the Mylopotamus Beach, renowned among the locals and awarded the reputable Blue Flags of Europe for years.

Image credit: Michalis Pornalis (Pelion Paths)

We didn’t stay long as the day was hot and the sea wild and wavy and decided to head on for a spot of lunch and more windy, twisty roads.

The cuisine of Mount Pilio is simple yet entrancing with its rich flavours: freshly baked bread, served compulsorily with every single meal; divinely tasting, always homemade butter and cheese; meat roasted slowly on the spit; creamy-sauced aubergines cooked in earthen pots, resting for hours in hot ovens; a spot of Turkish culinary imprint and Ottoman occupation with their bouyourdi, peppers and cheese melted into an amazing melee of guilt and pleasure.

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We loved every morsel of it; delicious, home cooked meals and exceptionally welcoming hosts can be found everywhere along the road. Our meals varied in price, between 20 and 35 euro, depending on the appetite and always delivered great quality and taste.

On the way back and now on a wider and safer road, we took our time and stopped for a chat with a local apicultirist. Again, the mountain way was prevalent in his dealings with us. He took his time and explained in both English and Greek about the arduous process of beekeeping and honey making. He told us about how he left his uninspiring career in Athens and swapped it for the mountain air, loads of hard work and a never give up mentality which are now rewarding him much more than any city career. All done with a smile and a generous spirit.

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We have decided to stay for another night on Mount Pilio upon return from our adventures. Not because we harbour any illusions of conquering its vast territory and beauty but because we wanted to enjoy another day closer to the sky and surrounded by the green of the trees before we head on to Thessaloniki. I know that many Greeks dream of reaching Mount Pilio and see its beauty and I feel it would be a shame to rush away from such a calming and beautiful spot.

I will be back tomorrow with my blog post on our lovely B&B, as promised. Until then, kalispera kai kali vradia!