Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The month of April has skittered away on little blogless feet

At least from my point of view.  It has been, from a blog reading perspective, obviously a DRY month. I'm sorry.


But on another, and more positive note, you have all not had to share the annoying whining from me about:

- my computer troubles (Trojans, viruses, and worms, Oh My... all gone now) and of course my ongoing non available photos depository (which hopefully will be functional to me by the end of next month) My overloaded hard drive and my attempts to remove all my photos to memory sticks... See how lucky you've been?!

- our current benign house guest (Friend who used to own our dog Balou, and is in Corfu to deal with some business issues etc.)

- our HUGE and annoying search for the perfect house and animal sitter during our trip (yes everyone SAYS they want to do it, but usually not when we need them!!) and we found the perfect person.  He also knows how to fix things if they break so we are doubly blessed!!

- my upcoming departure (in ten days!) for the US (and all my clever whinging on THAT  issue)

- the latest in the continuing sa-aga of "what broke next" in our little house of dreams here in Corfu (but hey, the good news is the pool is full and I swam in it yesterday tho I am still marginally blue from the cold water...)

- my new ultra short hair cut.  (which I actually really like.)


Since last we "spoke", we have bottled the wine (alas the only pictures today) which is still a bit sharp but I think may actually be pretty good by this fall!!

We ended up with more bottles that we expected!  (T's late harvest attempt is not included in these photos as it was murky and we felt that perhaps it needed a bit more "resting time")

We are pleased with the color and the clarity - and just in case it's not so nice this fall...- it WILL  make beautiful vinegar for Christmas and go perfectly with our new olive oil that will be harvested this autumn.  (we KNOW that always turns out!)

It makes us a little sad but we are not planting a vegetable garden this year as we will not be here for the most important stage of growing. 

T leaves on the 20 May and we both get back home, in the middle of June. 

Amazingly we will be flying home together.  We haven't traveled either to or from the States together for years!

Slowly slowly we are getting ourselves psyched for the "great move" of my mother from New Mexico to Chicago.  Doing much of this by telephone is VERY stressful.  (It's also stressful for my mother who has VERY mixed feelings about leaving her hometown for the past 35 years.)

Her 3 grandson's and 2 great grandsons on the other had are really happy she will be closer and more available to visit and relate to.  Her great granddaughter will even take a shot at visiting her more frequently now that she's on the same side of the country (although South Carolina and Illinois are NOT actually close, they are still closer than South Carolina and New Mexico!)

I have arranged to take the Southwest Chief (train) from Santa Fe/Lamy to Chicago with my mother. 

She and I will share a room and see the country pass by the window for 27 hours!  My mother always wanted to take that trip, but never got around to it.  I figured we'd do it while T supervised the packers at the house. 

We'll arrive a bit before the household goods will arrive, but Lincolnwood has provided my mother with a hospitality suite for her to stay in until her things are moved into her apartment.

She's picked out a lovely two bedroom apartment and when T arrives he will start with the help of his sons (and a great friend who has tools!) to turn the second bedroom into a library for all my mother's beloved books.

We'll settle her in and then on the 13 of June have a birthday party in the community's private dining room - my mother turns 85!

We're hoping that all will come together with the fewest problems ever. 

I am sure we are optimists, but Oh Well!

Friday, April 9, 2010

A non-traditional (for Corfu) Easter Dinner or Hamming it up!

[...somewhere on the island, a small lamb breathed a sigh of relief.]

My dear T is not fond of lamb.  Though he does enjoy it, once in a while, slow-roasted over an open fire with olive wood coals...  

Still, in all, he prefers ham.  A ham at Easter is traditional in his family.  Who am I to buck tradition?? 

Due to the furniture packing, shipping and arrival taking up pretty much the whole week before Easter, and as we really had only exchanged via email with the people we'd made the arrangements with, (as well as at least 15 phone calls back and forth to Brussels!) we were inclined to not take on any Easter holiday commitments that we might have been squeezed to fulfill should anything with the moving/arrival of the furniture have gone pear-shaped at the last minute.

I really did mean to go into town and document all the Holy Week celebrations and parades and wonderful fun things in town this year, but alas, for anyone who wants my take on these things, you will have to wait another year.  (I've seen them and been to them over the years, but I've never tried to describe it all to anyone.  And obviously, I still won't - for another year!)

So, I decided to get the ham, which is actually a big hunk of gammon, something I was totally unfamiliar with before I lived in Corfu.

In the U.S. in fact they even have stores that sell just hams!  And I might add these hams are delicious, warm or cold.  They are not canned or pre-fabricated hams, these are the real deal.  But there are no Honey-Baked Ham stores in Greece. 

So I went to the "pork meat" place - which is what I call it because that is all they sell - out on the Paleocastritsa road (going out of town, a little past the Casa Lucia turn off, on the right side of the road...very unprepossessing looking with a little porthole window,  for those reading this blog, who live here and haven't found it yet!)  There I found my 4 kilos (about 8 lbs) of fresh gammon in its sealed pouch.

And so began our Easter dinner.

Friday afternoon I rinsed the gammon and put it in a pot deep enough to fill with water and cover the beast.  I added a small amount of apple juice to the water, covered the pot and left in in the "beer" fridge to soak for 24 hours.

Saturday evening, I emptied the pot, and rinsed the meat off.  Then I refilled the pot with fresh water and put the beastie back in the water.  I boiled/ simmered  it for about two hours.  Then I turned the heat off and went to bed, leaving the ham in the the hot water on the stove overnight.  In the morning the pot was still pretty hot (It was a big pot filled with a big ham and a lot of hot water.  For a smaller ham, maybe I'd refrigerate it but this is how I made my ham... )

For all practical purposes the ham is now cooked and you can slice it and eat it and it's just fine.  It shrinks a bit when you boil it.

But we wanted a nice baked ham, so the next step was to heat the oven to about 160 c/320(-ish) f and  then cut off the thin layer of skin on top, while still keeping the fat covering the ham.  Many people score the ham in a diamond pattern.  I forgot.  (Sometimes if the ham is odd shaped I will tie it into a more ham-like thing, but this one was close to perfect.) I baked the ham for a couple of hours.  Twenty minutes before I was going to take it out, I covered it all over with a mixture of about a cup of dark brown sugar mixed with two big tablespoons of dark honey and a big tablespoon of Dijon mustard.

It turned out perfectly!  I served it with mashed potatoes, flat green beans (zapped in the microwave for 4 minutes) and homemade applesauce with raspberries.  It was a very yummy meal.

T took a picture of it as he was so impressed.

For dessert we had Belgian chocolates.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New old furniture.

Perhaps there are a few of you who may be wondering what I have been doing since last we spoke...

Well, orchestrating a move of 8 pieces of furniture (as inexpensively as possible) from Brussels to Corfu, can be more difficult than I imagined. 

Last fall my uncle died.  He and my aunt were in their late 80's and both were pretty frail.  He passed away quickly after falling and hitting his head.  He never regained consciousness. 

My nearly blind aunt was well taken care of by my cousin and his wife and children, immediately afterward as she really couldn't be expected to live on her own, alone.  Still, she didn't want to live with her children- she wanted a little more autonomy and friends her own age.  Getting old is not fun, and younger people don't understand the way people your own age do! 

My cousin found a perfect place not too far from any of them in a great neighborhood nearby.  She has a lovely room with huge windows and a balcony door, that lets in plenty of light.  The cook is excellent and finally my aunt is again eating and gaining a bit of weight.  The 12 other people are mostly her own age and she enjoys talking with them and sharing meals, when she wishes, in the community dining room.  It's really lovely.

The point of the whole story is that in order to help pay for this, my cousin needed to rent out their old apartment (now not being a very great time to actually SELL one.) 

So the shifting of furniture began.  The apartment had a garage and as much as possible was shifted to the apartment's downstairs garage.  BUT there was a bit more than they'd counted on... more and now: My cousins garage is full.  His daughter's garage is full.  His son's garage is full.  His wife had a solution- get rid of it all!! 

Needless to say, my cousin couldn't do that so, they called me!  Would I like anything??? 

I remembered a bookcase I admired, with leaded glass doors, and a round table my grandfather used that had clawed feet, as well as a plain cabinet of my great grandmother, that my grandmother had used in her kitchen.  There was a writing desk that I remembered that was pretty and if they didn't want that it would be nice.  

I sent my cousin an email and asked for the measurements and pictures of those items so I could get a quote from a mover- or someone who might be interested in moving her to Corfu for me. 

My cousin got back to me and included four more things as he needed to empty the downstairs garage so as best to be able to rent it out and make some more money for my aunt's upkeep!!  He said if I didn't want it, it was going anyway!  (eBay, the skip, whatever...)

Coordinating this whole thing via email to the movers and phone call to my cousins, was a bit strange, but it all worked out in the end.

And that was how it came to pass that I now have 8 new large pieces of old furniture strewn about my house!  Including a second writing desk, a small display coffee table, another bookcase cabinet and my great-grandmother's mahogany chest of drawers (with marble slab top!).

I am really glad I have a large house and plenty of space!

When it all arrived, (in "pretty good" condition, considering travel, age and distance!)  there were a few bits and pieces that needed T's tender loving care.  My cousin had fortunately included all the little broken bits from all the pieces so it was a bit like having a really big jigsaw puzzle at times as unfortunately we had no exact idea where the pieces originally came from!

According to my mother, the table needs a piece of marble cut to cover it (as that was as she remembered it many years ago during the war, when the marble broke after one of the aerial bombings of Brussels. )  She also remembered that the cabinet door always stuck, even for my great grandmother. (T fixed it- the hinges were bent) Lastly I remembered that the display table used to have a glass top.  It sat pride of place in my aunt's apartment with lovely little cups and other treasures she'd collected. 

As my cousin didn't send the cups and other nicky-noos, I figured I'd add a few of my own little bits from when we lived in Turkey.  Someday I'll get around to replacing that glass top.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about my Easter Ham!!


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