Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award

I am so totally honored to receive an award for my blog! It's my very first and it's like a great present that makes my stomach fluttery every time I think about it!

The "One Lovely Blog" Award was given to me by another lovely blog (and truly lovely person) Helena Halme!

I am sending Helena some "virtual" roses (see picture!) and some fragrances of Greece: some bay laurel and some oregano- both from next to my kitchen...

I started this blog in June when our grandson came to visit for the summer, thinking that it would be nice for family and friends to keep tabs on how he was doing. But then I got addicted to blogging (and other people's blogs!) And even tho I rationalized like crazy, I got hooked.

So this blog continues, and people other than my family and friends, ACTUALLY read it! I am so touched and thankful to all of you.

Part of the generosity of this award is that you need to pass it along to OTHER deserving blogs, so I award this blog to

- Rice Beans & Pastichio and Cheryl's gentle humor and beautiful photographs of her corner of Greece
- Turkish Delight the lovely Ayak's great blog of life and times in Milas, Turkey
- Holli's Ramblings a marvelous blog of the daily adventure of living and working in Accra, Ghana
- Maple Spice, because even tho I am NOT a vegetarian or even a vegan, Debbie's recipes are not impossible, and totally makes vegan food look rich and sumptuous.

These are all Lovely Blogs that deserve a visit. Enjoy them please!

So again thank you Helena, and if I could, I would have you come and enjoy some of my grandmother's recipe tomato soup I have currently cooking on the stove...

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ancient Greeks' Own Monty Python

Ancient Greeks' Own Monty Python - Humor did not change much over the centuries, shows ancient joke book - Softpedia

By Dan Talpalariu, Science Editor
19th of November 2008, 16:21 GMT

There's certainly not much new under the sun, as it can also be concluded after reading one of the world's most ancient joke books. The original manuscript is a collection of 1,600 years old Greek jokes, most of which seem strikingly familiar even today, although in a somewhat updated version. The book dates from the 4th century AD, and contains 265 gags, some of which ring a bell even today, such as the resemblance between an old joke and the famous Monty Python sketch.

You are surely familiar with the line "I'll tell you what's wrong with it. It's dead, that's what's wrong with it." For those of you who can't pinpoint it, the excerpt is from the British Monty Python comedy act, which was voted among the world's funniest, and refers to a customer who returns to a shop with a parrot that died. The Greek book called "Philogelos: The Laugh Addict" holds an almost identical joke, at least in nature, shares its publisher, YUDU. The old anecdote involves a customer who complains to the seller about a slave that had just died. In a dazzling display of humor, the seller responds: "By the gods, when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"

The original manuscript is associated with the work of 2 less famous ancient comedians, called Hierocles and Philagrius. However, there's little additional detail known about them, except for the fact that they compiled the jokes. The modern multimedia version of the book is available for purchase online (at this location, if you're interested), and contains an audio interpretation of the content, performed by the famed British comedian Jim Bowen.

"Jim Bowen brings them back from the dead. It's like Jurassic Park for jokes," shared Richard Stephenson, the digital publisher and YUDU's CEO, quoted by Reuters. Bowen too has found the ancient jokes very similar to the modern ones: "One or two of them are jokes I've seen in peoples' acts nowadays, slightly updated: they put in a motor car instead of a chariot."

[Not a NEW news' story, but one I found singularly interesting... so I thought I'd share it.]
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Song of the Seven Islands

I came across this poem, on the way to looking up something entirely different. I guess that's the beauty of the Internet... anyway this is excerpted from near the bottom of a rather long page.

"Song of the Seven Islands"

"Your waters dazzle like a floor of diamonds
Westward your tides
Grope and caress the shores of Italy.

In a circumference of blue the seven islands
Foam-chiselled, rise, dissolve,
Join hands and dance upon the waves.

Zakynthos drowned in flowers
Cephalonia seamed with toil
Kythera and Paxoi
Corfu the enchantress of the mind and heart
Ithaka a mariner's ryhme in stone
Levkas the watch-tower of the Armatoli.

From the Ionian shore
From the Ionian sea
Since Homer, since Solomos,
The poet's song, the statesman's art
Haunted these islands like sea-birds......................."

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lost in the Wilderness

So. I just spent the better part of 1 hour looking for my car keys.

Ha. Ha. Growing old is crap sometimes. I often wonder at how frequently I lose things. I almost always find them again, but sometimes it takes me DAYS. This has gone on for years. Since I turned thirty.

Fortunately I found my keys. I always do, just rarely right away if I happen to set them down - not in their special place! This generally happens when I return from an outing only to hear the phone ringing... I dash into the house grab the phone - AND SET THE KEYS DOWN. One would think this would mean they would be near to the phone. But no. This is not what happens. They disappear.

They find their way onto the bedroom dresser. Or the mantle of the fireplace. Sometimes even as strange a place as the silverware drawer. At the time I set them down there was a perfectly logical reason. Of course when I am hunting for them, the logic escapes me completely.

This is why I ALWAYS hang them on the hook in the kitchen next to the back door! Except when I don't. Obviously the last time I went out - I didn't.


I went to the mail box specifically to look for a package receipt (package sent from the US a month ago!) to find that yes, it had finally arrived; there was a message in the mail box- to tell me that I had to pick something up that arrived from the US and it would cost 3 euro. I decided to drive to our post office in Alepou to confirm.

Our local post office has either moved or changed hands five times, and our post office box number has CHANGED twice from when we initially received it. At first it was in Kokkini (3 times- it closed then changed, then returned, now changed again.), then in Agios Ioannis (once), now in Alepou. We initially had a 3 number post box number, then we had a number and a letter, then it just moved to 4 numbers. We are periodically "yelled at" by the post office if we "receive" any mail with the wrong address.

They won't deliver it.

The electric company and the telephone company LOVE changes of address, because then they can say that it's your fault for not giving them the right address to begin with! This bill-less situation can last three years- well so far. Now we just go in about once a month to both the electric company and Ote, and ask what the amount is and pay it - otherwise we'd never know... until they turned off our phone or electricity. (we've learned, as they have turned off our phone a few times!)

I will say that we do on occasion get mail. (No telling though, how much mail we never see...)

I would like to mention right now that the expression that comes to mind is: "That's no way to run a railroad" Another more common expression though is usually "NOW what??!"

I decided to make a list of shopping as long as I was out. I find it's always better to plan to do more than one thing so as not to be disappointed. So, I'd stop at the Pharmacy to check again to see if the pneumonia vaccine I ordered in August had arrived yet; I would buy bread; I would stop and get a soup bone to make soup this week and I would get the package at the post office.

Well, you must know that when I arrived at the post office - it was closed, because it was Saturday. Silly me, I still haven't learned. Fine.

I managed to stop and get the soup bone on the way back and the bread, but when I stopped at the pharmacy, I was begged to return on Thursday at 6 pm. For sure she would have it then.

I figure two out of four isn't bad for a day's success.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Whether the weather - it's that kind of day

Big clue first thing this morning... anytime you see those little cloud wispy things under the big dark cloud, it's a sign.

But the storm didn't come in the morning, though of course the heavy air and the headache did.

The sun even came out for a while this afternoon, and I thought maybe it would clear up!

But then the clouds came and it started to get overcast, still no rain.

Finally, the sky started trying to make up it's mind. Not just overcast!

Lightening flashed. Thunder boomed. (The dog cowered, whimpered and lay on my feet, if it would have been possible she would have climbed into my lap.) That went on for about an hour and a half!

All of a sudden the wind whipped up a glorious gustiness and blew everything every which way in the yard. I was chasing after chair cushions and hats left on the terrace.

I couldn't help but laugh out loud as I was buffeted around whilst scavenging after things the wind decided to play with... the dog regarded me through the screen door with worried eyes. The cats dashed past me towards the house knowing that any second the sky would open up!

And of course the sky opened up, with the rain flying sideways and the wind changing directions to catch me no matter where I stood outside.

Fresh cool rain, fresh earth smell.

It came down solidly for about 2 hours.

Then I took the dog out in the sprinkles for a little walk-about. She was pleased. She LIKES rain.

She just doesn't like thunder.

For now, it's still raining a little bit, but it's that sweet rain that makes the hush-hush sound as it falls on the bushes outside the window where I'm sitting.

My headache is finally fading - just as it's time to go to bed. Well, I suppose I'll sleep well tonight- as will the dog if the thunder stays away!

Yes. I can't believe I wrote a post about the weather.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fruit of the vine... tastes mighty fine!

Another phase completed. It's a little like having a baby at home!

We gathered all our bits... pitchers, funnels, empty plastic water bottle, sieves, buckets, large cooking pot, muslin, clean bottle, vat of grape sludge, people, and started to follow step TWO of winemaking... separating the "wheat from the chaff" or actually, the juice from the sludge. Sammy went for removing as much liquid from the big vat as possible before emptying the remains into the wine press.

Next step was pouring the juice into the big bottle. Tony and Barbara came to help Sammy and I this morning. This part really wasn't something that required a lot of people,

Tony was the official "strong guy" and the designated "filler of the bottle"-

Barbara was the perfect "keeping things cleaned up before the wasps drive us mad" as well as "controller of the hose" person-

Sammy was the excellent "explainer" and the "show-er how to do it" person (as well as the "get really sticky and covered with grape sludge" person)-

Whist I was the official photographer and "gofer" for all bits thought up as we went along, as well as "keeper of the sludge" while Sammy scooped up the juice. (I was also, briefly, the "tipper of the vat" so she could scoop up the last half pitcher for Tony to pour into the big bidon bottle.)

Next step was getting the sludge into the wine press and squeezing it dry. Well, in theory. (As we had a very small amount of actual grapes to press, there was some question as to how to get it to squeeze down that low. )

Sammy and her faithful gofer (after taking a few pictures) lifted the sludge with hands (and then tupperware) into the wine press AFTER having carefully placed a large saucepan/pot with a sieve on top UNDER the drip spout.

Then we started the squeezing process. Turning the handle of the press around, the heavy press squeezes down on the sludge. Blocks of wood fit over the grapes and you add more blocks of wood as the grape sludge goes deeper down (and the juice comes out).

[click to see pictures closer up]

Once done we broke out the glasses to give it a taste!

YUM!!! It was nice and rich tasting and sweet and if the alcohol content is high enough, we might have a pretty good - if pretty small batch out of all this!

Sammy said that the sweeter the juice is, the dryer the finished wine becomes when it turns- finally- into wine.

It IS fermenting so it has a tiny bit of fizz on top. It was lovely and all the more so because it was OURS!!!

Tony and Barbara have decided to have vines as well, now. Soon we'll have a neighborhood wine co-op!

Pretty cool I say.


For now the objective is to keep the bottle filled to the top with the plastic water bottle of juice I've got held back. I've covered the big bottle with muslin and an elastic band to keep out the bugs, but I'll be checking it daily as it will ferment - and overflow out of the bottle!- and it will need to be topped up again and again.

From what I understand is the next step... we will have to transfer it to another bottle (leaving the sediment/sludge behind) and then again transfer it a third time, before actually bottling it.

As there are still a fair lot of grapes still left on the vine, we'll try and take another cutting and do the same thing again when T gets home next week, maybe even adding some roadside (roadkill??) grapes to the mix and see if we can do another batch and make a goodly amount in total. It might turn out really well!

For now... we wait for about a month for this batch to bubble and fizz. (Obviously I will keep the blog updated for all who are curious!)

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

the "in between" stuff

Yesterday's sky had a very Maxfield Parrish feel to it... 

 [This is one of my favorite pictures by Maxfield Parrish... ---> it's called Morning]

It would seem, the "in between" stuff is actually the bulk of what my life seems to be made up of. If wine is the destination, then I'm following the map as best I can -including all the detours. 

Friend Sammy returns tomorrow morning (10:30 ish) to help with the next phase of the wine making... pressing the grapes.  It's why we borrowed her wine press.  Sam says this part only takes a "couple of hours" as she's planning on working for the rest of the afternoon.  I have informed our wine enthusiasts (except for Alan and Lynn as I realized I don't have their number anywhere!)  Tonight I will make an apple cake with NO raisins so everyone can enjoy a piece.

Yesterday I dutifully stirred the vat o grape sludge three times.  I also went to see Andreas, with high hopes for a bit of direction and a judging of the grape juice.  I arrived at the Cava, carrying my small jar of juice, only to be overwhelmed by 15 people crammed into a tiny room, all vying for Andreas attention.  Everyone had brought big liter bottles of their juice (theirs didn't have little grape bits in it like mine did... hmmm) 

Andreas shushed the multitudes when he saw me.  He smiled and asked me how many liters I had, I said 39.  He looked a little blank then wrote down 39 on a piece of paper.  I nodded and said he told me to come back for the chemical to put into the wine, and also to tell me how much sugar I would need to add.  (He carefully wrote down my name and phone number on the jar).  He said "Now is not to worry with the sugar.  Later." He kept shaking his head about the 39 liters.  I think he had hopes for at least double that.  (But there are still so many grapes on the vines that aren't ripe!)  Anyway he dashed into the back (I got many dirty looks when he left his "post"!) and popped back with a little twist of paper that he told me to mix with water and stir into the grape juice.  He smiled sweetly and was immediately plunged back into the maelstrom of people with I am sure huge vats of wine waiting for his attention.   So that's it, I guess, for now- re: Andreas the wine god.

 So I came home, took off the netting that keeps (most of) the bugs out, added the paper to a small glass of water and dumped it into the vat.  Then I stirred, and it started to fizzle.

What next to do?  ("stir three times a day until the press!")


ON another note: I went back to see Dr. Alex today and he was cross with me for doing too much as my knee was swollen.  He says "ICE, three times a day, and a rest for at least a half hour!"   I actually thought that was a nice prescription...  Much better than the ones that include large pills or disgusting liquids.

The great news as far as I was concerned was that my knee doesn't hurt at all!  (so yay! acupuncture!!) 

But the jewel in the crown of my morning came when after I got on his fancy scale, he told me I'd lost 5 kilos since last month.  It's a very reassuring start to easing the strain on my knee - I am not going to look at the whole amount I probably should lose, merely continue to lose weight until I don't feel comfortable doing the weight loss thing any more.  (yay! acupuncture twice: for the little appetite suppressant tags he puts in my ears!)


Two more pictures of note: the first one is a picture of what I found on the floor Sunday morning.  At first, I thought it was a burr that the dog had brought in on her fur, but when I bent down to pick it up (without my glasses and in early morning 'light') I felt little legs.  But it WAS dead so I took it into the kitchen and put it on the counter to see what it was...

Yes it WAS a pretty big dead spider- that's a 2 euro coin next to it.  I am blessed as generally I am not afraid of spiders, but I must say I was glad this one was dead.

But that's not really the story... the story is that seconds after I finished taking this shot, I went to pick it up and throw it away.  Suddenly about a million baby spiders shot off the body in every directions.  (and yes, I did let out a full-throated scream.  I was in luck as there was a can of wasp spray on the other counter and I sprayed all the little beasts with no qualms. (all I could imagine at that point was having giant spiders coming into their maturity- in my kitchen cupboards!)  I am sure there must be some kind of a karma for all this.  That or it's THEIR karma and I was just the hand of fate!?!


Last I wanted to include a picture of the sunrise this morning, as I thought it was stunning...

More tomorrow!


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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Winemaking: First you have to pick them...

What a terrific day this has been! Good friends, good fun, great huge amounts of help!!

So today started with neighbors Angie and Mick and lovely daughter (on vacation!) Katie, arriving bright and ready with secateurs in hand. Tony and Barbara soon followed and we all made our way down to the vines.

There was a bit of comedy when we all threw ourselves into the process of removing the nets that covered the vines...fortunately we managed to get them off and not become too entangled in the 'olive nets turned grape defenders' (tho I may end up getting pretty tangled up tomorrow when I try and fold them back up again!!)

Then the hard work of cutting the ripe grapes began. For some reason we were blessed with not so many ripe grapes but a great many "almost ripe" grapes with the odd green grape at different parts of the cluster.

My knowledgeable friend (and home winemaker) Sammy arrived just in time as having picked most of the ripe grapes we need a bit of guidance for the rest and it was left to her to decide which bunches and clusters should be added to the baskets.

In the end we managed to fill up 8 crates and then loaded them into the trailer (which I'd handily brought down- with the car- near the vines, shortly before everyone arrived!)

Then we trundled them all up to the front yard near to where they'd be ultimately crushed (front porch). At that point it was time for a tea break and we all enjoyed our 'cuppa' - some of us with a piece of banana raisin cake- and some not (I am sorry I only had time to bake the one cake this morning, I really had high hopes to finish up an apple one as well -as they are very simple to make- but sadly, I just ran out of morning!)

Diana arrived and we moved to the front yard with chairs and end tables to prop the baskets on as we now were in phase two, or removing the grapes from the stems. The time passed merrily and much quicker than expected with all the great stories shared amongst us. [Of particular interest, to whom it may concern, was a book by Tania Aebi called Maiden Voyage. It sounded like a "keeper" to all of us. (Thank you, Tony...)]

Sadly for us, Angie, Katie and Mick had to go and honor their commitments- 80 year old parent coming for a Sunday lunch... we were glad for all their wonderful help. I am sure the wine will reflect their good will! We were then blessed with the "changing of the neighborhood guard" as Alan and Lynn arrived to take their places!

At that point it seemed we realised it was lunch time! As Sammy, in order to make it on time for the grape picking had skipped breakfast, she was starting to become a bit "wobbly". So in order not to lose our "chief of wine making knowledge", it seemed like a good time to break out the vegetable beef soup I'd prepared this morning before everyone came. I made a large vat and boy am I glad I did! It went over very well and I have about one good bowlful left for dinner!


ON another note: we also had a visitor (Dear Andrew) appear who did not participate in the grape picking or squishing as he is someone we found through the message board at the British Store, who is a dab hand with satellite television and something called a DreamBox. He was quite a pleasant young man and answered all my questions correctly! Luckily he turned up as most of our winemaking crew were VERY interested in his dreambox and would like to see it working. So he set it up, but will return later this week with the additional boosters for the wireless connection as it also needs to connect to the adsl line to function (and my dsl line is too far away from the television- sigh, it's always something.) He was quite charming and left everything connected on "spec" so we can see if we want to buy it or not! (So I fed him lunch too).


Finally the grapes were all sorted and plucked free of the stem bits. Now it was time for the great squishing.

On with the wino pink jelly wellies! First I took my turn, and carefully squished into the big blue tub of grapes. Thankful that we had managed to cleverly have JUST exactly the right amount of grapes to NOT go into the tops of my wellies as I carefully stomped away.

At the point wherein it suddenly stopped being a strange effort to not leave the wellies IN the tub with the grapes, but became more liquid and easier to move the feet up and down, Lynn expressed a enormous curiosity to try it out. With many many grapes left to stomp to bits, I gracefully ceded my spot in the tub (feeling a bit like Tom Sawyer turning the picket fence over to the onlookers!)

Fortunately Tony pulled my wellies off from my feet, as even with socks I managed to be stuck in them! Lynne put them on and happily stomped away. Sammy assisted her by telling her which grapes to step on!

So finally the grapes were picked AND squished! Victory for today!

Tomorrow I must take a jar of the juice into Andreas (my wine god), who will judge how much (if any!) sugar will be needed to add to the grape juice and also how many camden tablets (for the potential mold etc) will be needed. For now the grape juice is content to sit in the blue tub and rest covered by netting so that wasps and other curious bugs can't find their way in, while at the same time letting me get into it to stir three times a day!

We measured how much juice was officially squished! (well Sammy measured, with a 2 liter pitcher except she filled it with bit more so we scientifically could figure each pitcher was about 2.3 liters, and she poured 17 of them to fill the other blue tub to the exact same level as the squished grapes.)

Grand total is 39 liters of grape juice and grape sludge! YAY us!

Everyone helped with the clean up and we were all finished around 4:30 in the afternoon. All in all a really great day! And I think we only had one wasp bite for all the picking and plucking! (sorry Mick!)

The story will continue, as Wednesday (probably around lunch time) we'll have to put it through the wine press for phase two!

Stay tuned...

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Acupuncture, rain, and my wino wellies

Yesterday I went downtown, to see Dr Alex: the new to the island, British certified, GP with a specialization in acupuncture! 

He  is shaping up to be a really good doctor.  I can't tell you how reassuring that feels!  Really!

He did acupuncture on my knee a few weeks ago and it worked fantastically well.  So I decided to go for the "treatment" which entails twice a week visits and is a bit longer as each session take about 30 minutes. 

[view looking towards Kanoni]

So, Thursday was a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine and of course no parking places.  I ended up parking in Kanoni and had a nice 15 minute walk to the doctors office.  Under normal circumstances that wouldn't be so bad, but I was going to the doctor because my knee hurt!  (Catch 22) 

Anyway after the first treatment, I felt so much better I went to get a pair of  rubberr boots, to facilitate crushing the grapes without that small detail of having purple-blue feet for an indefinite period of time afterwards. 

I should probably just call them my 'wino pink jelly wellies'.  I must admit a bit of disappointment at first as the only choice was between a red tartan plaid, zebra stripes or these.

But after a while they kind of grew on me.  Then too they had them in my size!  And, as I tried them on without socks, I was sort of committed to them - as I couldn't take them off without assistance.  (MUST remember to wear socks for grape crushing!)

From there I went to see Andreas, the wine god,  with a bunch of grapes I'd picked before I left the house, to have the sugar level measured. 

The grapes registered 18 out of the desired 22.  But the bunches were starting to be overripe and soggy- two things you DON'T want your grapes to be.  Andreas said that I should pick them on Sunday.  (well he said "over the weekend", but my friend who knows what to do can come on Sunday)  basically on Monday I must go in again to see Andreas, with some of the pressed juice and estimate how many liters I've got and he will tell me how many kilos of sugar to put into the vats.  [And that is my first learning about winemaking cheat sheet idea...]

So the great grape harvest will be off and running on Sunday.  (Good thing I got the boots!)


Today I had to go back for the next session of acupuncture, and first thing this morning we had a MASSIVE thunderstorm.  As it had rained all night without a thunderstorm, it was a big surprise- particularly to the dog who cowered next to my bed.  (with T gone she's much braver about coming into the bedroom as I am more inclined to pat her head and continue dozing, while T finds her snoring and sometime doggie aromas annoying and banishes her if he catches her creeping into the bedroom.)

As I knew I had to be in town for a 10 AM appointment, I walked the dog at the first lull in the rain. (she gets TWO 20-30 minute walks a day, which IS excellent exercise- but sometimes not too convenient!)  A lull which lasted until we were at the furthest point from the house and then it started to come down steadily and very, very wetly.  

I told the dog that we could pretend we were in England... only the smell underfoot of the crushed wild thyme, mint and wild fennel, sort of made it harder to pretend. I came home pretty wet, but toweled off and fed the cats and the dog and then scrambled to get ready.

I drove in earlier than yesterday hopeful to find a great parking place, only to discover when I got downtown, that everyone had gone in early - because of the rain- to get a parking space. 

So, I parked again in Kanoni and was glad I remembered my big umbrella.

Does anyone know if there is a protocol for umbrellas??  Or is it supposed to be just like running with scissors or shooting BB guns that can put your eye out? 

Everytime I unfurl the thing, I spend so much time keeping it from taking out other umbrellas or the heads of the umbrella-less (better known as "the damp") That I often wonder why I bother taking it along.   I suppose my umbrella ineptness is what comes from living in a climate that's mostly sunshine. 

Anyway, days end and my knee finally feels better.  I am most pleased.  

I have to be careful not to over-do, as since it feels better I feel like I can do a lot more.  Slowly, slowly. (σιγά, σιγά.)  I must go back for my next treatment on Tuesday.  We'll see if this "healing" continues!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Meme by any other name... would still be a MEME!

Agh! I've never done one of these! Thank you very much Ayak! Yes you may well read a bit of blank look in that phrase. So I looked up "meme" and got some very interesting definitions. The best one seems to be here, I think.

Ayak's blog is called Turkish Delight and it really is a delight.


So.  The object of this meme is: First, you pick up the book nearest to you...turn to page 161 and copy out the 5th sentence.

In my case that would be, "I can't remember is if it was then or later on that he explained the colours under which he was sailing, 'I tried the Irish Guards,' he said, sadly, 'but they wouldn't take me because of health."

That was by Patrick Leigh Fermor from the book Words of Mercury

Patrick Leigh-Fermor was only 18 when he set off on foot from Holland in December of 1933, to make his way to Constantinople.  What happened during that trip influence how he would choose to live the rest of his life.

This book is filled with bites of marvelous places, fascinating people and wonderful experiences, it's a great book to pick up if you only have a short time to read or are interrupted frequently..  It's divided up into five sections: Travel, Greece, People, Books and Flotsam. (which actually is sort of how I describe my own life!)  In each section there are three to twelve page morsels of reading to flavor your life.  It makes you want to read more of his books.

In the end, though, it gives you a great desire to visit the places and find the people to make your own amazing experiences..  It includes excerpts from books, letters and journalistic essays written over Leigh-Fermor's lifetime. I really enjoy this book, as much in the re-reading,  as the first time I read it a couple of years ago when I picked it up in Athens airport.

Now comes the "good part" I get to pick 5 blogs and see what book they have to hand... so here goes:

I pick Miss Footloose at Life in the Expat Lane
Cheryl at Rice, beans & pastichio
She at She means well, but...
Helena at Helena Halme
and finally Vic at What were you thinking? (who just managed to link homework, Sumeria and kittens into a coherent post!)

I'm sorry to do this to you all, but I am interested!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dekapenthimero (δεκαπενθήμερο)

Dekapenthimero (δεκαπενθήμερο) means fifteen days. T will be gone for fifteen days and I will be on my own with the dog, the cats and the grapes.

Early this morning, I drove T to the "Ioannis Kapodistrias" airport. (5:30 AM IS early.) It was surprisingly busy and teeming with people arriving, and a fleet of charter buses loading up to carry them all, well, elsewhere (wherever they cart tourist en mass off to... hotels, holiday villages, Aqualand??).

Meanwhile T has a long day ahead of him. First he flies to Athens (1 hour) then from there (after a minor 3 hour wait) direct to New York (11 hours!) From New York, (after a 2 hour wait), he connects to his last flight of the day to Chicago (another 3 hours flying time) he arrives at 7 pm local time, warmly greeted by strong son to tackle suitcase and cart him off to apartment with guest room. So after 20 hours of traveling time he will be able to finally rest his weary bones

HA! I have no doubt that it will easily be another 3 or 4 hours as collecting luggage from and then getting out of O'Hare Airport is no quick trick! Then too there will be the general greeting of family and probably meal of some sort. Plus he will have caught his second or third wind and hold together for a while anyway.

On the one hand I envy him seeing everyone, on the other hand I really feel for him and his weary bones! As a former world traveling mega star, T (in his previous pre- "retired" life) has learned how to conserve his energy. He is one of the few people who, shortly after he straps himself into the seat, can automatically fall asleep, making him the least fun person to sit next to if you happen to be a chatty individual.

We once counted the number of countries he worked in and traveled to and came up with 60. He's flown pretty much every airline (and many that no longer exist) and is very familiar with the artificial existence of life on board an airplane for long haul flights. He's had many adventures; some interesting, some baffling, a few scary, and a couple downright dangerous. But that is all thankfully in the past. Now he's just going for family sake. Now he only travels because he wants to travel, not because he has to travel.

Still, travel isn't as much fun as it used to be. Now it's all about the destination I suppose But in another time, "travel" used to be as much about the journey as the destination.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Things I have learned about living in Greece and particularly Corfu.

Topographic map in English of the Corfu island...Image via Wikipedia
Everyone expects you to learn Greek but then only speaks English to you, anyway, except for the people in hardware stores, welders and quite often discount stores. They usually don't speak any English and most Greek classes unfortunately don't cover the words you actually need to use in those places.

Drawing pictures and pantomiming work well however. [T regularly goes to a welder with drawings and sometimes an exact mock-up in cardboard of what he wants made. Our welder is delighted with T's clever plans, and after T leaves with his finished handmade item, we often see several others in the village in use. T considers it a form of "giving back" to the community.]

Corfu is on Eastern European Time (EET) or Standard Time = GMT+2. Summer Time = GMT+3 Corfu changed to Summer Time at 1 am on 29 March 2009. It will change back again October 25.

These dates change every year, but fortunately I don't have to worry about it, as I try not to travel or make appointments for either March or October so as not to be early or late for them.

Time is however relative in that a set time for, say a workman to arrive at your house, is often really more a virtual guideline rather than actual physical time.

The words "Avrio" and "Methavrio" as well as "morning" and "aftrnoon" or even "evening" are important in estimating Greek time. Do not be deceived in thinking it is time -as you may know it- however.

Avrio means "tomorrow"... as in 'tomorrow maybe someone will come'. Methavrio means "the day after tomorrow" or 'whatever you are calling about, as far are I can tell, probably isn't really that urgent', and so you may not see them for about a month- maybe.

If they say they'll call you back- they won't. (well, not true. Usually they won't call back but sometimes, once in a while, you get lucky.) Everytime you go into a place for service they'll respectfully ask for your phone number. They write it down and then seemingly lose it before you come back again, when they will ask for your phone number as if they have never asked before. This can go on for years.

Another word about workmen: For some reason they often arrive without tools. They ask if you have tools, and then use them in various ways. (I once had a gentleman use my delicate computer screwdriver as a hammer, thereby splitting the handle BUT he did get the nail into the slot he was trying for!)

I have NEVER had a workman arrive with his own ladder. Cleaning up after they have done their piece is not part of their job description. Allow plenty of time for clean up!!

Morning is anytime between 8 AM and 3 PM. Afternoon is usually from Noon until 7 PM. Evening is generally from 6 PM to 10 PM (though it CAN be as late as 11:30 PM)

Stores are never open on Sundays except for confectionary stores - that sell cake and biscuits (cookies) - but NOT bread (also sometimes open are some small local shops and the odd kiosk, and usually only Sunday morning.)

A lot of restaurants are closed Monday night. Many restaurants don't open for dinner until 8:30 PM. (Most Greeks don't arrive for dinner before 9:30 or 10!)

Buses may seem the same but they are not. The BLUE bus is "local" which means it come out as far as our village, but it doesn't come out too much past the village rather it returns to downtown. (T was once caught in the loop and ended up going all the way back into town, in order to ride back to "near" home again). The GREEN bus is the one take back home from town. In order to go the extra three kilometers past the village (and to get to the other side of the island as well.) it is necessary to catch THAT bus. The BLUE bus drops one off 'close" but makes for a long walk.)

The GREEN bus and the BLUE bus are stationed in different parts of the city.

click to enlarge
[sign over Takis cash register]
Opening hours seem at first to be a movable feast, but quite simple when you get the hang of it.

Shops are open in week days from 9:00 am – 1:30 pm and from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm. or else they are open 8am to 2.00pm and then 5pm to 8pm on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. (On Monday, Wednesday,Saturday they are open 8am to 2.30pm ONLY and not open in the evenings at all.)

I still haven't got the hang of it.

Shops in resorts stay open all through the day and will open even on Sundays in the height of the season. Shops in resorts are open approximately 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

Supermarkets out of town are generally open all day until late (8 or 9 PM). They are closed on Sunday except on the rare occasion Christmas or Easter is on a Monday or a Tueday. Then they are open on Sundays!

Tourist shops in the old town of Corfu too are usually open until late, and in high season really don't seem to close all day long as well. Some of those same shops are boarded up or sell completely different things in the wintertime.

Pharmacies are open during "normal" shopping hours (Greek shopping hours). Outside of normal shopping hours a 24 hour rota system operates and a list of times is displayed in each pharmacy's window (sometimes in Greek). Pharmacies in Greece are NOT like the rest of Europe or America. If you are sick and need an antibiotic, you can buy it over the counter. Most drugs that are considered "prescription' are available from your pharmacist. (However, if your pharmacists does not know you, but thinks you are a strange tourists, or trying to "game the system" they may recommend you see a doctor and get a "prescription" which they will then honor.)

In general businesses, including most tourist attractions, are open from early morning (8am or 9 am) until early afternoon (2 or 3 pm) unless otherwise stated. (several DO "state" otherwise!)

Three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, shops (but never banks, museums, or post offices) will re-open in the evening from about 5 pm until 8 pm. In the summer, hours are sometimes extended and during the peak of high season some attractions stay open all day.

Bank opening hours are 8am-4pm Monday-Thursday, and 8am-1.30pm Friday.

Banks, shops and most museums close public holidays and celebrations. Some businesses close on St Spyridon's Day (12th December).

The main post office in Corfu is situated in Alexandras avenue and is open from 7:30 AM to 8:30 PM. Post boxes are yellow and can be found in every resort and village. You will also find stamps at most shops that sell post cards but they charge a 10% premium on the price of the stamp (note: it's worth paying the 10%, not to wait in line at the Post Office!!)

Waiting in line or queuing is an interesting exercise. Generally most people here, feel they really need to be first in line, or at least gently interrupt if you happen to have finally become first in line, just to ask a simple question (that ironically is always MUCH more complex than initially thought!) Motorcycles and mopeds are universally incapable of queuing. They ALWAYS go to the head of whatever line of traffic exists. They do so by passing on both the right AND the left side of stationary and slowly moving queuing vehicles.

Between 2:30 PM and 5:00 PM many people have a siesta. If you live in or drive through a village during siesta- DON'T MAKE NOISE! People can be very very snarky about their siesta!

Flyers are posted downtown to let you know what film is being shown at the movie theatre. It is posted no where else. [To find out what film is playing we drive by the theatre to see the posters, or we call a friend who lives around the corner.]

There are 11 public holidays in Corfu: New Year's Day - 1 January, Epiphany - 6th January, The first Sunday in Lent - February, Greek Independence Day - 25th March, Good Friday & Easter Sunday - March/April, Labour Day - 1st May, Feast of the Assumption - 15th August, Ochi Day - 28th October, St Spyridon's Day - 12th December (some business close), Christmas Day - 25 December, St Stephen's Day - 26th December

Oddly enough there are several other days that mysteriously show up wherein everything is closed. As I have yet to figure them out, I cannot name them. Usually the Sunday public holidays mean that business is closed on the following Monday too.

T reminds me that general strikes also close certain places, such as the phone company or the electric company or the bus stations or even the government buildings. Often there is a forewarning of sorts, as it may, though not always, coincide with either a teachers strike wherein all the children are running around the village, or a garbage strike (and the less said about that, the better.).

Living here is like a taste of Paradise, and I love every day of it, to be sure, but it is also, always, no matter how long you've been here, a little bit of an adventure!


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Friday, September 11, 2009

Waiting on the grapes...

Which seem to be taking their own sweet time to get ripe! (she says with some asperity.) OTHER people's grapes are coming along just fine, but our grapes are apparently dawdlers.

This whole business so reminds me of getting "the baby's" room ready. (slight rolling of eyes) Nevertheless, we have mostly what we need. We think.

Well, other than the ripe grapes.

So. We went to visit Andreas, our new wine making expert friend at the Cava. Several older men and one young one were there as well. We took with us two big bunches of our grapes for evaluation. Andreas asks how many grapes we have (?) T says he's approximated, but we have about 200 bunches like the one we brought in.

Interest is shown by all. Serious business this as they gathered around to look and taste. Great consternation and much clicking of teeth and raising of the eyebrows.

Finally after much discussion by all and sundry, Andreas gets a special little machine out -that looks like an odd cross between something the doctor would use to look in your ears and half a pair of binoculars!- and rubs the grape juice on the end that is not the binoculars looking one.

He carefully peers into the eye viewer and [sad face] turns the little eye hole to me to look. It says '16'. He tells me it must say 22 or it's all useless.

I sigh. Everyone commiserates. The few who speak English give us advice. It is all contradictory.

I must leave the grapes to ripen for another week. Oh, po-po-po, probably it will be two more weeks, but before the end of the month. I must check them diligently every day because they will ripen "suddenly". It must be HOT for them to ripen well. Of course, if it rains, I must NOT pick them for three days else it spoils the wine.

One wonders how wine was produced all those centuries. It is not a simple process, this. Andreas tells me to come back with some grapes before I pick them- just to be sure of the sugar content. I nod and try to look intelligent.

I come home and speak to my friend, who has generously lent us her wine press. She's not making wine this year because they built a grape arbor for her vines and cut them way back this summer, so she has no grapes. She says she has some free time a week from Sunday and will come and help me pick grapes. I tell her they're not ready yet. She says "We'll just pick the ones that are! No problem!" She obviously has never spoken with Andreas.


T is leaving for the USA on Tuesday. He will only be gone 15 days. Ah, but how important those 15 days will be in the lives of our grapes!!

I will be checking diligently with the dog as my assistant. We will become winemasters together.


In sympathy, T took me to the Chinese in Ipsos, one last time before they close for the Season (end of September- boo-hoo... No Chinese food til the first week of May!).

We had a lovely dinner and I was surprised as it was almost full of people (all the tables with a view anyway!). I was told by a friend that since the weather was so rainy in England this past summer, many people were grabbing up the cut rate flights in September to ANY sunnier clime. It was seemingly true as the tables were filled with English and Dutch speakers.

T ordered Mu Shu Pork (same as the last time) and I ordered Vegetable Chow Mein (in honor of my diet) we split an order of spring rolls.

We had a little conversation with the waiters who were very surprised at how busy they suddenly were.

Mostly we talked about T being away for the "picking of the grapes". He is disappointed, and sad, and a little envious that I will be here for it and he won't. (He is also concerned I will throw my back out or fall off a ladder or do some other stupid thing, I have been known to do when throwing myself into a project. I must remind him of all the things I have been reasonably successful at over the course of years...)

I told him I would cut them from the vine, squash them in the tub and stir them diligently three times a day, til he got home. But the fine details of siphoning, testing and the eventual bottling were all his future tasks. For sure, NEXT year we would have a better idea of what we were doing...

How odd that we are still spending so much of our lives thinking well into the future!! Next year, next May, Next summer, next fall (olive season!)... Time to remind myself to "Be here NOW"!

Well except for the fact that my mother is coming NEXT month for the whole month!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A very good day for a birthday

Today, I was reminded of that saying "you have to kiss a lot of toads, before you find your prince."  I however, was incredibly lucky and found my prince really early on!  (When we got married I was 19 and he was just 21, and in the Army!)

Today, my dear T had his 62 birthday.  To celebrate, he had perfect weather (cool sunny day), a charming spouse (moi!), great meals (a huge brunch with French toast, crisp bacon slices, golden fried potatoes, and a perfect scrambled egg!) and the only disappointment was the bar we went to in Pelekas (the Zanzibar...) for a Guinness tonight, was closed for the season!  Boo-hoo, such is life.

Still, we came home from our wanderings and found this one on our doorstep to remind us of our good fortune!  (he's no longer a toad, and I don't have to kiss it!!)

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Bees in my life

This morning in honor of my brother-in-law having taken up bee keeping in Seattle, this past year, T and I decided to revisit The Bee Park (Skiadena) in Liappedes.

Besides it was on the way back from the clinic where I had my blood drawn.

I had never been but T (on the way back from when HE had blood drawn two weeks ago) decided to take a look at one of Corfu's many marvelous "roadside attractions".

brother-in-law w. bees

He had spent an interesting if mostly pantomimed half hour 'talking' with Sofia, the bee lady, and he brought home a small jar of the best honey I have ever tasted. So I decided I wanted to visit too and we were off..

We arrived just as she was opening up for business. She spoke German and Greek but of course we didn't, so she gallantly used what little english she could and between all three languages we had a lovely half hour and cup of Greek coffee with her under the olive trees.

She spent most of her life in Germany, but was glad to finally settle in Greece. She took over bee keeping at first as a favor to a neighbor to help out when his sons didn't want to take over his bee business. She said she never expected to like it, but she loves the bees. (and yes they DO bite her!)

She's been doing it for about 8 years now and has convinced all the local olive growers who own the groves where she keeps her bees, not to spray pesticides on the trees, so her honey is pure and organic. She keeps over 100 hives and takes care of them all.

She also makes and sells bee pollen, royal jelly, honeycomb and of course her marvelous honey. (with bottles and jars of her own olive oil from her trees, as well as her own dried herbs and sun dried tomatoes in oil, and jams and spoon sweets she makes herself.)

[click on picture for fullsize)

She is charming and very entrepreneurial in sort of a slightly batty way. The bee park is a strange mixture of odd playground equipment, a HUGE blue stuffed animal in a small cart at the entry way (wearing some olive netting over it's head!).

She remember when T came to visit and as a parting gift gave us a bottle of her homemade quince jam! We told her that we just wanted to buy some honey, and try the bee pollen. The benefits of bee pollen seem almost too good to be true!

Bee pollen is used to retard hardening of the arteries, to strengthen the circulatory system and combat the symptoms of illness and allergies. It is believed to regulate the function of the endocrine system, aid digestion, reduce stress and increase alertness and stamina. Bee pollen has more protein by weight than meat, fish or eggs! Bee pollen is the richest known vegetable source of steroid hormones which improve overall strength, muscle mass, endurance and sexual potency. Pollen is known to accelerate healing, and increase blood and sperm count.

A Swedish study has concluded that using bee pollen therapeutically can significantly decrease inflammation and swelling of the prostate gland. It is believed to be the natural hormonal substances contained in bee pollen that help to support the male urinary and reproductive systems. Some researchers have suggested that men should take bee pollen after the age of 30 to help prevent the onset of prostate disorders. Bee pollen has also been found to greatly reduce the symptoms of menopause for women. A study conducted in Germany has revealed that the daily use of bee pollen is an excellent natural way to lower cholesterol with no side effects found in synthetic medications.
So! We'll try it out. Since neither one of us is allergic to bees, I figure it can't hurt!!


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