I am thrilled everyone liked the first issue and thank you for all the comments and praise. To answer a few questions, I am now up to 11 leva in the peanut butter addiction collection. Sirene is a bulgarian white cheese similar to feta, but a little saltier and tastier. There is a Turkish store on Columbia Pike near Walter Reed where you can get the real Bulgarian sirene. Whole Foods has it as well, but it is not as good as the stuff at the Turkish store.
This edition has a lost and found theme, and banana pancakes. Enjoy!
What has teaching 15 first grade boys done to me?
Any given school day, you will hear me inevitably saying to one of my 15 first grade boys (out of 20) to find something he has lost or forgotten. These items include socks, gloves, shoes, bags, books, shirts, sweaters, pants, toys, brains, water bottle, homework, library books, and/or all of the above. They never lose lunch though, which doesn't surprise me because never go between a boy and his stomach, EVER.
Rather than fixing their forgetful behavior this school year, they have rubbed off on me and I have become like them. Since Christmas, I have lost many things, and I and give you the status of them:
- Sunglasses: Left them in the Arena Mladost movie theater after watching Narnia. I blame the 3D glasses that WERE NEVER needed for this film, and it was a total ploy by Hollywood to make more money and lose my sunglasses! Well, it did take me two days to figure out where I last had my sunglasses, because one simlpy doesn't wear sunglasses all the time in December in Sofia. Did I find them? No Way!!!! The Arena Mladost ticket seller acted as if I were rabid raccoon when I asked about my sunglasses two days later. After a month, I bought a pair half price at The Mall for $39 Euro/78 Bulgarian leva.
- Two winter hats: I left both hats in my classroom in December. One would think my classroom would be a safe haven for my hats, but I have learned that I can leave $1,500 Euro/$3,000 leva in my classroom for four days and no one touches anything, but winter hats disappear immediately. Did I find them? NOPE! For this one, I am convinced one of the first grade boys have done something with my winter hats. Either they thought the hat was theirs and wore it home to a bewildered mom(70% chance), or they took them on purpose and hid the hats on me because I tell them every day to take care of their things(30% chance). After a few days, it was cold and I had to buy another hat to keep my head warm this winter. Naturally, I keep this hat far away from the first grade boys. They laughed when they saw my new winter hat.
- Snowpants: When school started again in January, I had recess duty and was ready to put on my snowpants, when I discovered I had lost them. I was butt ass cold all morning, and it made me go on a frenzied search to find them, mostly because snowpants cost almost nothing in the states, but are super expensive in Bulgaria. Did I find them? YES!! I cannot blame the first grade boys for this one. They were in a large IKEA bag I took home all my Christmas loot in, and I forgot they were in there until I took out the last of the loot about two weeks ago.
- Shirt: I lost/left the shirt I was wearing after going to ID one Saturday night. This was the only thing I lost while I was 'happy' and can be blamed by alcohol. It took me until Monday afternoon to realize I lost it and I had an "Oh Yahhh" moment. What is an "Oh Yahh" moment????? It is what my brother and I exclaimed sarcasticly after either of us or someone else did a completely ridiculous and/or stupid thing and this person finally realized this. Sidenote: When I taught fourth grade in Arlington, I used the "Oh yahhhh" moments often with my fourth graders, who did not fully understand the consequences of this when saying "Oh Yahh" to their parents. Two students got grounded for a week for calling out their parents on something and using the "Oh Yahhh". After these groundings and complaining to me, they had another "Oh Yahh" moment as I explained to them that they are 10 and can't use the "Oh Yahhh" on parents until they're in college, or possibly until after they graduate college if mom and dad are paying the tuition. Did I find it? Oh Yahh, but only because my friend Rado found the shirt at the table and took it home for me.
One can only wonder what I will lose after posting this, and what other effects the 15 first grade boys will have on me. I will keep you updated.
How did I use so much heat/hot water?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Two weeks ago, the nice admin lady who deals with our paychecks informed me that my heating/hot water bill was quite high and was $300 Euro. Since I pay half, this meant the real cost of the bill was $600 Euro/$780 USD/ $1,200 leva. After an initial moment of panic, I relaxed, and then freaked out completely thinking WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? about 100 times and wondering what exactly I did to have such a high heating bills from May until October. How could my bill be so high when I was gone pretty much two months this summer, and I don't use heat in the summer, except in October when the heat was turned back on. How could I use so much heat? I called Nadia, my super landlady, to find out the answer. She is amazing because she only has one apartment, actually cares to take care of things, wants the best quality when she buys things, and completely told off my upstairs neighbors last year who were doing illegal construction last year.
Your choices on why Nadia said my heating/hot water bill was so expensive are:
A. I am heating three apartments, not just my own.
B. The Sofia hot water/heating company has no f@$%ing clue how to deal with their bills, and just charge people whatever they feel like.
C. Owen and Alex turned on the hot water while watering plants this summer, having a 24/7 wasteful energy extravaganza.
D. Teresa's shower usage was responsible for 1/3 of the bill for the few days she stayed in the apartment this summer.
E. Prices for heat and hot water prices have gone up.
E or A could have been correct, while C and D are just too obvious. But if you know anything about Bulgaria, the correct answer is B because this is a former Bulgarian state run company. What were you thinking if you didn't choose B??? These companies don't have to explain to anyone. They told my landlady this was just how it was going to be, and told thousands of other people the same thing. I recently asked my cell phone provider why I had not received a paper bill in over two months, and the woman acted as if I was asking for an informercial religious miracle for the cell phone company to do its actual job and be responsible. Why would the heating/hot water company be any different???
Nadia is a saint, and explained to me while my heating bills were for six months, the Sofia hot water/heating company are run by complete idiots who don't know their heads from their asses. They charged me over 300 leva to fix the crappy radiators I have in my apartment that runs their heat. Since Sofia heating actually own the radiators, and not my landlady as you may think. How does the utility own my radiators? Because this is Bulgaria, and I must pay for the repairs because why should they be bothered with covering the cost of upkeep of their radiators that haven't been replaced since 1960. That is my expense for the gift using their heat, except when the Russians are pissed at the Ukranians and turn off the heat to Buglaria, like they did in 2009.
To add insult to injury, they charged me about another 300 leva for what they thought I would use for the November and December heating in what they called auto-correcting, and charging me for the heat they think I'm going to use based on my bills from the previous two years, so my bill might be smaller. But, Nadia told me my December bill was only 204 leva, and was less than last year because December was warm this year. Alas, auto-correcting for future bills totally failed.
So, HALF of my 1,200 bill is for fixing their radiators, and for heat I didn't use. Nadia filed a complaint, or MOLBA, to the company for her bill and my bill, pretty much telling them how ridiculous and stupid they are for billing this way. One might think the Sofia heat/hot water snap out of their idiocracy and actually bill correctly, but they charged Nadia 1,300 leva and she has a smaller apartment than I do!!!!!!!!
Needless to say, I think Nadia is going to be harassing them for a long time, which is their mistake. This is the same woman who got the cable, phone, and internet companies to come to my apartment within an hour when I first arrived here in August 2008, and I don't know of anyone who has gotten this to happen, not even the mafia guys. I have faith Nadia will somehow get money back from her MOLBA complaint, mostly because Sofia Hot Water/Heating will get exhausted dealing with her because she is persistent, knows her facts, and attacks like a bulldog when someone wrongs her.
Banana Pancakes(optional with chocolate chips)
Whenever I'm feeling blue, nothing cheers me up better than banana pancakes, or banana chocolate chip pancakes. Friends have been very pleased with this creation, and people who say the smell from making them permeates my kitchen with a delectable goodness every time I make them. The key to this recipe is adding the banana first to the batter, mixing it, and then adding enough milk to turn the batter into proper American pancake batter. If you want a tastier version or this, add chocolate chips and treat yourself to complete bliss.
The first time I tried this recipe was at a brunch at my apartment in September 2009 and was a huge favorite devoured by many people. There was only one person ever unhappy with this recipe, and that's because she assumed I was making crepes when I said I was making pancakes. Note to everyone: When an American says he/she is making pancakes, they will NEVER make crepes. Don't even dare to think this will ever happen and get your hopes up.
If you try this at home, a lot of my recipes are variations of a recipe, where some of the measurements are exact, and some are estimates based on sight. This one is easier than some, but my goal is to start writing these recipes down again. Good luck trying this one at home, and enjoy a bit of bliss.
2 cups flour
1 1/2 - 2 bananas, pureed(depends on how much banana flavor you want)
1 1/4 cups milk
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinammon, nutmeg, and salt
Optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Directions: Mix flour, sugar, cinammon, nutmget, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Add banana and vanilla, and mix into batter. Add half the milk, stir, and add rest of milk as needed to desire to create best pancake batter. If you are using chocolate chips, add them at the end.
Heat over lightly greased frying pan or griddle at medium/medium high heat, depending on how your stovetop cooks. Pour into large spoonfuls into pan, and make sure you brown on both sides. Take out of pan, eat, and enjoy. Goes well with maple syrup, honey, or peanut butter. Or, a combination of those.
Serve hot and enjoy!