Recipe: Bulgarian Moussaka

After posting about the homemade banitsa a few days ago, thought we'd share some of our favorite Bulgarian dishes with you!  Please bear with the "not-so-American" measurements.  These were originally in metric measurements.

The first dish we tried at home was Moussaka.  There are, obviously, different versions in this part of the world, but this is Bulgarian Moussaka:

4-5 med. potatoes, diced
1 lb. ground beef (optional)
1 med. onion, diced
8 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup oil (olive or veg.)
1/4 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1 cube bullion (chicken, beef, or veggie)
8 oz. plane yogurt (Greek-style yogurt is best)
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  If desired, cook ground beef & drain.  Bring cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan & add bullion cube.  Place tomatoes, potatoes, onion, and cooked beef in a 9x13 casserole dish.  Pour oil & vinegar over mixture and toss evenly.  Then, pour bullion broth over mixture as well.
Cook for 35-45 minutes (until top is evenly light brown). Meanwhile, mix together eggs, yogurt, and flour in a small mixing bowl.  Pour egg mixture over casserole mixture when cooking time is finished.  Cook for 5-10 minutes more or until the eggs are cooked through.

Serve with extra Greek-style yogurt to put on top.
Yield: 8 servings.

It's heavenly.

Let us know what you think, if you try it!

Next up, Mama Zdravka's banitsa recipe.  Mama Zdravka was Joy's host-mother during Peace Corps training.  You don't want to miss it!


A four-day weekend, all in one day

We have had a 4-day weekend this weekend.  It's been so wonderful.  A much-needed break.  We've mostly just relaxed at home (with intermittent walks with Liza); but on Friday, we visited one of Joy's colleagues in Peroshtitsa.  Peroshtitsa, and it's surrounding region, is famous for wine.  And, though we didn't get to taste any wine (this time), we had the best two local guides in town: Svetla (Joy's colleague) and Ivan (Svetla's son).

We had no idea that our day would include all of this: a museum, a clarinet solo, a visit to a wine & spa hotel, a 3rd-century church, and banitsa (mmmm!!).

It was a great day trip!

Here are a few shots from their museum...

And, here is the church which held the last few Bulgarians, some civilians, some military, before the Turkish completely took over Peroshtitsa in the late 19th century.

They all killed themselves, their wives, and their children before the Turkish breached the church.

This is Ivan, our new friend!  He offered to play a little solo on his clarinet for us.  He played some Mozart, a march, and few other pieces.  He's only been playing for 8 months, and he was very good.

Next, we went by the local "Wine & Spa" hotel.  We would have loved to take a tour & taste some wine, but it was a little pricey for our wallets.  We'll have to budget it in for another day!

However, we did walk around and admire the scenery...

This is the ancient church (3rd century), located right outside of Peroshtitsa.  Svetla drove us all there in her car.

We're learning very quickly that Bulgaria is permeated with ancient ruins.

Lastly, we finished the day off with some homemade banitsa!  So delicious.

We went home tired, full, and happy!

Thanks Svetla and Ivan!


Recent Happenstance

In between teaching (Joy) and web-developing (Randall), we do have a little bit of free time :)  Thought we'd share some of what fills that free time... as of late...

1. Dog Park!

We looooooooooove our local dog park.  We may even love it more than Liza.  We usually go in the evening after dinner (when we've found many other dog owners are there).  Now, don't get us wrong, Liza is our little Princess (as our local pet store owner refers to her), but we have absolutely enjoyed getting to know these other local K-9 pets!  Just to name a few: Murphy (black lab), Albert (yellow lab), Jessie (mut-german shepherd), Rudy (bull terrier), Herra (husky), Herra #2 (rottweiler), Bo-Bo (mini pincher), Rio (yellow lab puppy) and many, many more.  Here are a just a few shots of her in the park... We've gotta be better about not just taking pics of Liza :)

She really is a princess, isn't she? :)

This is the not the last of the dog park, believe us... 


2.  Museums

Bulgaria does this really cool thing where they open all their museums for free, at night, twice a year (once in the spring, once in the fall).  Maybe we do this in American; no idea.  Anyway, the fall museum night was this past Saturday.  So, we headed right down to the Archaeological & Historical museum.  Here are just a few pics (before we were told not to take pictures):

 This is the logo for the night at the museum - "нощ" (nosht) means "night."




We'll have to go back when it's a little cooler... it was still warm, here, last weekend, and, since it was free, there were a lot of people a the museums.  We've got 2 years!


3. Skull Racing

Plovdiv has an olympic-sized canal (3 km long), the largest in the country, in Plovdiv.  And, our Bulgarian neighbors-best buddies invited us to watch the European Skull Racing Championship on Sunday.  Liza came along, the weather cooperated, and we even found some delicious donuts at the concession stand!  Priorities are priorities, right?

Here are some of those shots...

Jokingly, all day, we pulled for the "blue" team.  They won most races!

Vania & Marty are in the front (our neighbors) & the other family in the back are new friends.  Mila (the little girl) fell in love with Liza that day & took care of her the whole time :)

Couldn't resist this one.  Mila's grandma came, too, and while the boys weren't skateboarding, she was in charge of hanging on to them.  Love it!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

TTFN!  Ta-ta for now!


Joy: First Day of School 2011

Like I said yesterday, Bulgaria's first day of school is very different from ours in America.  I decided that being the "unofficial" photographer would help me discover just exactly how different.

It was actually kinda cool.  All the kids and their parents came to the school yard, first thing in the morning.  At 9 am, after all the teachers, staff, etc. were outside, over very loud speakers, a national hymn was played (I gathered from another English teacher that it was about their revolution against the Turkish empire).

Pictures are way more descriptive, so, see the highlights below... after all, I was the "unofficial" photographer :)


Here, some students marched in the school flag.


Then, a fellow colleague lowered the Bulgarian flag off the roof of the school.


Then, after a few speeches, wishing success, knowledge, and patience (for the teachers, of course!), they let the masses go!  Here, they are flooding into the school with their parents.

Also, countless children and parents wanted their pictures taken throughout the whole thing.  I loved it!  Here are a few...


Here are two my little students from the summer.  So cute in their little outfits for their first day!


These two wouldn't let me NOT take their picture.  In fact, several.  This is just one of the many :)


And, here's our little sound crew.  They helped the sound man carry the equipment back where it came from when all was finished.  Little helpers!


These students wanted a picture with their teacher, Valya.


And, so did these guys.  Penkya teaches these 6th graders.


And, last but not least, here's my director, corralling everyone inside to start the school year!

All the teachers who are able are going out to dinner tonight... looking forward to some unofficial time chatting.  Well, more like listening & hoping I'll understand the main idea of the conversation :)

First day down... second day to go!



Joy: Fly Swatters, Food, and Flashcards

Thanks to my good friend, Lynn, who was a PC Volunteer at a different school in Plovdiv the past two years, my school-year toolbox is full! Not only have I been playing with my new little princess, Liza, over the past month, but I've also been working on materials, games, flashcards, etc. for my students.

I wanted to give you a glimpse (this really is a GLIMPSE-I have made A LOT more stuff), but I also wanted to give you guys some specifics of what teaching will be like for me...

*I will teach Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students.
*There are 3 classes of each (pro: 1 lesson plan goes 3 ways!)
*Interesting: Kindergarteners only know Turkish (meaning: Bulgarian isn't going to be a bridge)
*I am team-teaching with my counterpart for 2nd-4th grade.
*My school finishes at 1 pm.  Score!
*I have 18 classes each week.  Since I've never been a teacher before, I have no idea if that's good or bad.  Don't think I want to know...
*I don't have my own classroom - I visit my students' classroom.
*I will have around 200 students, total.  Lots of names!
*All this has brought me back to my home school days!

Now for some of the finished products:

Food Bingo
- Food Bingo -
I love pictures, since my kids' first language isn't Bulgarian, they eliminate a lot of misunderstanding

Veggie cards
- Veggie Flashcards -
they are all pairs & that means we'll play "Memory," "Go-fish," and they'll also be my call-cards for Bingo

- Placecards -
This is specifically for my first Kindergartener lesson.  We'll color the sunshine, learn "Good Morning," and they'll write  their name on the other side & put it on their desks (maybe I will have to?).  I will have roughly 200 students, so I gotta learn their name somehow! :)

- Rules -
I still need to come up with consequences for breaking these rules FAST, but here they are plain and simple.  We'll see!

Fly-swatter game
- Fly swatter Game -
I didn't make these, obviously, but they will serve me well during a good classroom competition.  When we get to  learning English numbers, they will have to run up to the board (which will have #'s written on it) & "swat" the correct answer.  I'm excited about this :)

- Dice -
Not sure yet how these will come in handy, but I KNOW they will.  I couldn't pass them up @ 1/2 a lev

So, yeah, that's what I've been up to.  And, tomorrow's the first day!  I am going to take lots of pictures, because... it's not going to be like the first day of school in America.

You'll see why soon :)



Summer Finale!

Hey gang!  We know, it's been a few weeks since we've updated you folks.  Been going on more walks, buying more dog food, and Joy, in particular, has been getting ready for the kids to start school soon (the little kidlets come back on Sept. 15th!).

Yesterday, though, since we had a 3-day weekend, we went on our last summer trip to visit our buddy, Amy, in Stara Zagora!  She was really happy to see us, but, even more so, she was VERY excited & glad to meet Liza!

I think they bonded well...

Here we we are on the train... she's such a good traveler!

Until next time!