If Ever There Was a Reason…

….to use a travel agent and purchase travel insurance, it is now. Now that Hurricane Irma has dissipated, we can sit back and assess the situation and what could have been.

Can you imagine being on an island in the Caribbean, knowing that a hurricane is headed your way in less than a week? Your flight is cancelled and you have limited internet and phone access. This could be a terrifying situation, but if you booked through a travel agent, you may have someone who might be able to help you. It may not always be the case that an agent can get someone out of a sticky situation such as this one, but wouldn’t you want to have someone who would be around to at least try to get you off the island?

I was fortunate that I didn’t have anyone in a situation like this when Hurricane Irma began her voyage through the Caribbean, but I did spend several hours on hold with Disney to reschedule an upcoming trip that was affected by her arrival. While this isn’t quite as big of a deal as being stuck in the hurricane itself, it was nice for my client to have someone else to deal with waiting on the phone all morning instead of having to do it herself.

When it comes to travel insurance, some people like to gawk at the price and choose the least expensive option, if purchasing any at all. Yes, most of the time you probably won’t have to file a claim, but it happens. In fact, it probably happened for a lot of people this week. Imagine the same scenario I described above in which you are stuck on a Caribbean island staring a hurricane directly in the eye. Even if your airline hasn’t cancelled your flight, you may want to leave on an earlier one to be sure you are off the island when it hits. This means you might have to be ok with forfieting what you already paid for the flight you no longer want to take AND pay for a last-minute flight that leaves earlier. Depending on how much your policy pays out for claims, you may end up spending all your claim money (maybe even more!) just to get home, so it might be worth it to make sure your policy pays out more than 100% of your trip cost for trip interruption benefits.

No, travel insurance doesn’t cover everything, but it covers some of the things you might encounter, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to have some sort of medical insurance when you leave the country; you may not have as much coverage (or any coverage at all) as you think through your primary medical insurance plan outside the United States. Also, all travel insurance policies are different, so be sure to read the fine print and ask any questions necessary.

What I have taken from the situations of the past week has been how important it is to have some sort of coverage to fall back on, as well as how important it could be to have someone standing in your corner when this kind of thing goes down. Just something to consider for your next trip…

Summer Bucket List

At the beginning of the summer, the kids and I had a very important meeting at Starbucks. We came up with a list of things we wanted to do this summer. We did quite a few of them:

1. Zoo

2. Playgrounds (we visited at least two of them)

3. CMOE (children’s museum)

4. Reading time

5. Chuck E Cheese

6. Ice cream

7. Drive-in

8. Barnes and Nobles

9. Feed the ducks

10. Game night

11. Family movie night

12. Central library

13. Owensboro for the park and some pizza

14. Farmer’s market

15. Swimming

16. Play outside

17. Visit the great grandmothers

18. Penny Lane Coffeehouse

19. Hiking in the woods

20. Play in the sprinkler

21. Camping

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff, especially considering we spent approximately 2.5 weeks in Greece at the beginning of the summer, and I worked anywhere from 3 to 4 days each week over the summer.

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Guess we better start making a fall list!

August into September

I have no idea where the time is heading! How are we already going into September?!

Travel:

  • Anniversary weekend away - We are going to Jamaica!

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (22/30)
  • Read 2 “self-help” books or books about fostering creativity. (1/2)

Writing:

  • Daily Q&A – Still keeping up with this!
  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. (40/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (31/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (24/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (16/24)

Spiritual:

  • Practice and complete a daily devotional. I have been able to keep up so far!

 Music:

  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (0/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (1/3)
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces. I have a new book about listening to Beethoven’s piano music that I intend to use for this purpose. (2/10)
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (12/20) - I will be going to a national conference in November, which will get me 5 more CMTE’s. I am also supervising two more students this semester.

Home and Organization:

  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it. – The deck is finished, and we have the paint we need for it. We plan to paint this fall once the pool is closed.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.

Family:

  • CMOE
  • Make a home video with the kids.
  • Paint with the kids.

Service:

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (2/3)
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once.

Physical/Health:

  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I’m not sure if I should give up on this or not…
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – This has been working out well.

Miscellaneous:

  • Eat at 8 new restaurants on our list of places to try. (6/8)
  • I plan to cook at least 10 international meals this year. (4/10)
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc. - I am hoping to do this sometime in October if I can work it in.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. (5/20)

This month was another busy one. We made another meal at the Ronald McDonald House.

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Both kids started school.

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Eclipse 2

 

 

 

We got to see the eclipse in totality.

 

 

 

 

And we camped for one night in a treehouse at Camp Ondessonk.IMG_20170826_172104744 IMG_20170826_150810781

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sure September will be just as busy!

Greece 2017: Day 6

Our first full day in Nafplio began with a fabulous breakfast at our pension. We filled up on ham and cheese toasts, boiled eggs, bread and jam, Greek yogurt with fresh honey and figs, and of course, coffee. I miss this breakfast just talking about it!

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Then, we decided to walk the 999 steps up to Palamidi Castle. We told the kids we would give them a penny for every step they walked up to the castle without complaining. They both made it, but unfortunately, Anya lost about half her euros on the way down due to whining. It was a long way up and it was hot, but we took breaks and it was worth it once we got to the top. There were some amazing views and we explored what was left of the old Venetian castle, including an old prison cell and some different lookout points. We had to be careful, though, because the drop-off points weren’t always clearly marked so we didn’t let the kids get too far away.

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Upon coming down from the top, we decided to head to one of the local beaches. Eric went back to the room to get our swimming suits while I waited with the kids. We walked just a few minutes and got to the beach. It was a pebbly beach but with some really amazing views of the surrounding mountains. It wasn’t a very big beach, there were a lot of younger people ,and it gave off a bit of a party vibe, but I’m glad we went anyway, if even just for the views. The kids got in the water for a bit and then we changed clothes and went on our way.

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We took one of the paths to get to the main port area and this offered more gorgeous views on the way.

 

 

 

Once we got to the marina area, we started a self-guided tour I found in my Rick Steves guidebook. It took us all around the little town and pointed out some important spots, including a gelato shop run by local Italians. Toward the end of the tour, we took a detour to the playground so the kids could play. Anya fell on her face and her mouth was bleeding, so Eric had to run somewhere quickly to get ice. It’s always something!

We went back to the room to rest and then headed out for another Greek dinner. It was worth it to spend the day hanging around Nafplio and soaking in the Greek culture. There didn’t seem to be as many Americans here, as this is a popular spot for Greeks to get away for the weekend.

See what else we were up to in Greece!

Day 1 – Athens

Day 2 – Athens

Day 3 – Athens

Day 4 – Corinth, Mycaenae, Epidavros, Nafplio

Day 5 – Nafplio

 

Totality

Monday we had the opportunity to pull both of our kids out of school and drive a little over an hour into Kentucky so that we were in the totality zone for the Great American Eclipse of 2017. Our city got to see a little over 98% of the eclipse but we had read that there is a big difference between that percentage and actual totality. I’m so glad we decided to brave the traffic and go. It was absolutely worth the effort.

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We got up early and packed a cooler full of breakfast, lunch, and snacks, as well as some stuff for the kids to do while we waited. We arrived at the Madisonville City Park before 9 am. It was perfect because it wasn’t too terribly crowded, and they had food vendors, bathrooms, and first aid services. It was actually really fun to be hanging out with other people who were there just for the eclipse.

The kids played for awhile while we waited. We also had made a couple of box viewers, and Eric had devised a way to project the eclipse onto poster board. Someone close to us had a projection set up using binoculars, so we got to walk over and take a peek here and there to see what it looked like. We had also made full face masks using the special glasses and paper plates because I wanted to minimize the chances of the kids accidentally seeing the sun without the glasses.

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Around 20 minutes before totality, things started to look a little eerie outside. It had a dusk-like appearance and the shadows on the cars through the trees revealed the shape of the sun with the partial eclipse.

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At one point, you could hear the crickets start singing and then darkness fell. It was breathtaking in a way I’ve never experienced before. The stars came out and once I couldn’t see anything with the glasses, I took them off and accidentally saw the diamond ring right before it hit totality. I realized what I was looking at immediately and looked away. I was a little nervous but I could still see just fine the day after, so hopefully I haven’t damaged anything!

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Totality only lasted between one and two minutes and then it was like someone just flipped a switch and the light started to come back, slowly but surely. The crickets went away. We had the dusk-like atmosphere and it started getting brighter and brighter.

It was an awesome experience, and now I can’t wait until the eclipse we will have in our hometown in 2024!

Eclipse 3

 

Did you get to see the eclipse where you were?Eclipse 2

My First Paranormal Investigation

A little over a week ago, I got to do something I have always wanted to do. I have been interested in the paranormal since I was a kid, and I have always wanted to be part of an investigation. A few weeks ago, I came across a Facebook post about paranormal investigations happening in New Harmony and open to the public. We booked one and did it!

It was a 6-hour event that began with a presentation about the paranormal and basic information. I have read all about this kind of thing for years so it was a nice refresher for me. Next, we were put into two groups. Each group consisted of a paranormal investigator to lead the experience, a staff person from New Harmony, and someone there to assist if anyone needed anything.

We got to go to the Community House #2 first. It was a little eerie at times but I had an overall positive feeling while in the house. We did some EVP recordings in a downstairs room but didn’t have anything happening at that point. There were also TV cameras there at that time, which was actually kind of disruptive.

When we got upstairs, though, the story changed. Eric and I were set up in a hallway with a laser light to look for shadows and the rest of the group was setting up in a room to take some EVP recordings. We didn’t stay in the hallway too long, though, because we were called into the room when things started happening.

We had an ordinary pinwheel inserted into a hole in a plastic cup to keep it stationary. For several minutes, the pinwheel was spinning in response to our questions. The weird thing was that the pinwheel was spinning at the same speed throughout and there was no air source that could have caused it. It also stopped abruptly instead just losing momentum and slowing down. This went on for quite a long time.

Next, we went up to the print shop. We got to experience the vortex, which was a really interesting experience. It made me feel very unbalanced and like I was constantly trying to find my balance. We did some EVP recordings in the actual print shop and the investigator saw an orb, though I was sitting in front of it, so I did not.

After a short break, we all went over to the Fauntleroy House, which is supposed to inhabit a lot of ghosts. I was secretly excited that we got to do the Fauntleroy second because it was darker then. The alarm was supposed to have been disarmed but had somehow re-armed itself since the last group left. The staff person actually had to turn it off and then call the company to let them know it was a false alarm.It was super creepy and I had a totally different feeling there than in the first place. It was much more hostile and Joni (the facilitator) confirmed that the ghosts seem to be more aggressive at this house. She noted that some people have been pushed down the stairs and have been touched here. She also said there were a lot of ghosts she has felt the presence of in this particular house. We did several recordings just sitting on the main floor. We heard lots of different sounds that were never explained. The creepiest thing was when Joni said she felt someone on the stairway. The staff person was listening to the EVP recording in real time. I was sitting next to her. She then asked Joni if there was someone in the corner because she could feel and hear them behind her. Joni confirmed that she felt a female in that area. We kept looking in the corner and couldn’t see anything, but we all definitely felt it. Eventually, the staff person got up and moved because she said she could hear whoever it was talking behind her and it was creeping her out.

After awhile, we moved upstairs and did more recordings there. We didn’t get much there at the time, mostly because we didn’t spend a lot of time in that room. While we were there, though, the alarm rearmed itself and the staff person had to go back downstairs and do something to it. Toward the end, Joni said she felt the male presence enter the room, and she had felt him there before. She asked her assistant to take a picture. The camera kept malfunctioning and it took several tries to get one, but he finally was able to get one. We didn’t stay there much longer and I got the feeling Joni was uncomfortable there.

We spent the last few minutes outside wandering the common cemetery outside. Oddly enough, it felt so much lighter there. Joni later explained that it was considered a place of joy and celebration and she agreed that it felt much better than in the house.

After debriefing with the other group for approximately a half hour, we were on our way. Even though it’s been over a week, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

Yes, there were some things that could be explained in another way, but there were others that I cannot find an explanation for. If you want to read more about the investigation and hear some of the EVPs taken from it, check out the blog post Joni wrote about it. I really hope we get a chance to do this again sometime soon!

 

Greece 2017: Day 5

The day we left Athens for Nafplio, we hired the same private driver that took us to Delphi to transfer us to Nafplio. However, he had an idea that would allow us to make some stops along the way, so we were able to make the transfer a great day of sightseeing as well.

1. Corinth

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Our first big stop was a little over an hour away from Athens. Corinth is referenced in Paul’s letters (the Corinthians) and today it has a huge canal where you can actually bungee jump, which we did not do while there. While the canal is kind of touristy, it is certainly a site to see!

 

 

 

 

We also visited the archaeological site there and saw the sites where Paul visited, along with a lot of headless statues.

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This was one of the coolest places we visited. Supposedly, the civilization that was once here dates back to before Christ. Supposedly, the story of Troy may have been based on this group of people, as some of the descriptions of the people and the location match up considerably. It was a hot day, but we hiked up the hill and viewed what was left, including the Lion Gate at the entrance.

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We also got to see the Tomb of Agamemnon. It is empty now, though they believe people have used it as shelter when passing through the area.

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3. Epidavros

Our third and final stop before Nafplio was to Epidavros. Epidavros is known for its incredibly intact theater that was buried under dirt. Archaeologists literally uncovered it fully intact and it is still used today. We sat in the audience and the kids went to the middle and sang a few songs for us.

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However, the real significance of Epidavros is the Sanctuary of Asklepios, an early hospital. It kind of looks a little like a pile of rocks in some places, but even walking through the grounds, it was possible to feel how peaceful and therapeutic it felt in that area. I don’t know what it was, but I could feel why that location was chosen. It seems that Greek civilizations actually understood the value of treating the whole person, as the theater was built to entertain the patients at the hospital. The sanctuary also had a gym where patients could exercise.

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At the end of the day, we finally arrived in Nafplio. We checked in and had a nice dinner and explored the town.

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See what else we did while in Greece!

Day 1 – Athens

Day 2 – Athens

Day 3 – Athens

Day 4 – Corinth, Mycaenae, Epidavros, Nafplio

 

July into August

Somehow school is about ready to start and here I am, writing about what we did in July…

Travel:

  • Anniversary weekend away - We are actually thinking about going to Jamaica!
  • Family vacation

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (19/30)
  • Read 2 “self-help” books or books about fostering creativity. (1/2)

Writing:

  • Daily Q&A – Still keeping up with this!
  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. (35/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (27/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (21/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (14/24)

Spiritual:

  • Practice and complete a daily devotional. I have been able to keep up so far!

 Music:

  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (0/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (1/3)
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces. I have a new book about listening to Beethoven’s piano music that I intend to use for this purpose. (2/10)
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (12/20) - I will be going to a national conference in November, which will get me 5 more CMTE’s.

Home and Organization:

  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it. – The deck is finished, and we have the paint we need for it. We plan to paint this fall once the pool is closed.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.

Family:

  • CMOE
  • Game Night
  • Make a home video with the kids.
  • Paint with the kids.

Service:

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (1/3) - We have our second meal scheduled for the first part of August.
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once.

Physical/Health:

  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I really need to start doing this again.
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – I have been keeping up with this so far…lately, I have been working out approximately 5 times a week, between running and HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts.

Miscellaneous:

  • Eat at 8 new restaurants on our list of places to try. (5/8)
  • I plan to cook at least 10 international meals this year. (3/10)
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc. - I really wanted to do this in May but it just didn’t work out. I’m hoping for some time in September or October.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. (4/20)

Things have certainly been busy. This month we did a lot of other things, like the drive-in movie theater, 4th of July celebrations, my brother’s wedding, a visit to a really cool park in Owensboro, and more swimming in our pool. Anya and I even got our nails done while Felix was at a camp.

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June into July

Somehow this never got posted….

Anyway, here it is…just a month late!

Travel:

  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacationWe had a great time in Greece. I will be posting more about our vacation.

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (16/30)
  • Read 2 “self-help” books or books about fostering creativity. (1/2)

Writing:

  • Daily Q&A – Still keeping up with this!
  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. (30/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (23/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (18/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (11/24)

Spiritual:

  • Practice and complete a daily devotional. I am almost caught up from being gone.

 Music:

  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (0/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (1/3)
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces. (2/10)
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (12/20)

Home and Organization:

  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it. – The deck is pretty much finished and just needs to be painted.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.

Family:

  • CMoe
  • Game Night
  • Make a home video with the kids.
  • Paint with the kids.

Service:

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (1/3)
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once.

Physical/Health:

  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I am slowly getting back into this.
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – I have been keeping up with this so far.

Miscellaneous:

  • Eat at 8 new restaurants on our list of places to try. (4/8)
  • I plan to cook at least 10 international meals this year. (2/10) - We made a British breakfast but I would also like to do a traditional British meal once we get back from Greece.
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc. - I really wanted to do this in May but it just didn’t work out. I’m hoping to do it sometime in the fall.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. (2/20)

Besides our trip, we also celebrated Anya’s 7th birthday. I also spent a lot of time getting caught up with work from being gone.

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What did you do in June?

 

Greek Food

I’m taking a break from recounting our days to talk about all the amazing food we had on our trip. This is the first time we’ve been to Europe and stayed in one country the entire time, so we had a chance to sample lots of different things. Here are a few of them…

1. Greek Yogurt

I have never been a huge yogurt fan, but I am a believer now. The Greek yogurt in Greece is amazingly creamy. When we were in Nafplio, we had it every morning for breakfast, sometimes with dates and other times with honey. I especially liked it with honey, because the honey there is phenomenal. We had some Greek yogurt at the airport that was so creamy, it could have been frozen yogurt.

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2. Gyros

This was probably my favorite thing in Greece. The gyros came with chicken or pork – your choice, and there was usually cucumber, tomatoes, and either potatoes or french fries stuffed in the top, all topped with just a little tatziki. We’ve made gyros here a few times, but it’s just not the same when the meat isn’t coming off a rotisserie. Sometimes, though, I think we actually got chicken souvlaki sandwiches when we ordered gyros, which were also good, but with grilled chicken instead of the meat from the rotisserie. You could also order a gyro plate that came with the meat, pita bread, and potatoes all separated out, but I preferred it as a sandwich.

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3. Chicken Souvlaki 

You could get chicken souvlaki in a sandwich (wrapped in pita, almost like a gyro), or you could get a chicken souvlaki plate that almost always came with potatoes or french fries. This worked out well because our kids are picky but they would eat grilled chicken.

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4. Moussaka and Pastitsio

These dishes are like the Greek versions of pasta. Pastitsio is ground beef, pasta, and bechamel sauce, while moussaka is very similar but includes eggplant and/or potato with bechamel sauce.

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5. Saganaki and other cheese dishes

Saganaki, pictured on the right, is basically a fried cheese, though this one also includes nuts and honey drizzled on the top. The picture on the left was a roasted feta dish with onions and peppers on it. It was one of the best things we had in Greece.

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6. Greek salad

One thing we noticed about the difference between Greek salads in the US and Greek salads in Greece is that the real thing doesn’t typically have lettuce. It is literally sliced cucumbers, hunks of tomatoes, and chunks of onion, preferably red onion. Of course, this combination is drizzled with olive oil and often topped with a big hunk of feta cheese and sprinkled with black olives. So delicious!

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7. Octopus

So we only had this once but I thought it was interesting enough to mention. This is grilled octopus and it was actually pretty good. Even Anya tried it and she approved!

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8. Pita

Pita is the Greek’s choice of bread, which is fine by me. It comes plain, with garlic, sprinkled with olive oil, sprinkled with cheese, etc. Also, if you order a sandwich, you will more than likely get it wrapped in pita.

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9. Honey 

I don’t know what makes Greek honey so good, but it is absolutely amazing. I put honey in my Greek yogurt whenever we had it, and a lot of times it was included in the desserts. Apparently, it is typical to get free dessert at Greek restaurants (I think we paid for dessert maybe once when we ate at a restaurant). Sometimes dessert would be something like sliced apples drizzled with honey. Who would have thought something so simple would have tasted so good!

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10. Stuffed vegetables

I don’t know if this is really a “thing” in Greece, but there were lots of stuffed peppers and stuffed tomatoes on the menus in Greece. I had this dish several times, mostly when I needed a break from gyros.

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11. Baklava

I actually loved the baklava, even though it’s so not something I thought I would really like. Again, honey is involved in this along with yummy phyllo dough. Anya even decided to have that as her cake on her birthday.

 

Oh, how I miss the food in Greece!

 

 

 

 

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