Monday, June 28, 2010

Life and times and the water thing...

We spent a very nice weekend acclimating ourselves to our life here on lovely Corfu.

Nice view with a cold drink in your hand
On Friday we both went to the Golf course to hit some balls and try to practice our putts on the putting practice green.  As I haven't played golf for two years (torn meniscus) it was a bit of work remembering the eye hand coordination thing!  But T is a wonderful and patient teacher (he spent his adolescence caddying at an exclusive golf course in Bloomfield Hills).  He gave me excellent suggestions (not criticisms!) and I think, for the first time, I actually figured out how to chip on to the green without all the clutching up I usually go through.  Still I should probably practice a little every day in the front yard.  Besides it'll amuse the dog. 

Thank you thank you thank you
Anyway, had a nice cold draft beer afterward in the Course restaurant and encountered a charming Dutch couple who were also delighted to be living on Corfu.

relaxed toes...
On Saturday T went out with a friend of his and played an actual round of golf whilst I stayed at home and moved all my winter clothes into the new storage dresser (my grandmother would have been so pleased!) and took all my summer clothes and moved them into my bedroom cupboard.

Then I put my bathing suit on and lay under the umbrellas to read a good trashy novel! OOO what heaven!

Sunday we decided to go for a little tour and check out a hotel we'd never heard of, because our very good Athens friend is coming for a visit with his family in July and had booked arrangements to stay there.

beach is lovely and clean and has a lifeguard

It's gorgeous.

Grecotel Eva Palace is beautiful, in a brilliant setting with a five star view.  (OK, it's a five star hotel too.)  If the staffing lives up to the facility, I have a feeling they'll never want to go anywhere else on vacation ever again.


Today is a work day for T.  He has arranged for a digger to trench out a water line trench from the house to the pumping station.

He has purchased the rubber/plastic water hose as well as some galvanized metal piping to run the hose through, since the trench  crosses two roads and a driveway.

[that's so when the road people come through someday (in a galaxy far far away) to repair our roads, they won't slash through our water line.]

He's also hopefully getting a helper lined up, (who can speak a little Greek) and is coordinating our technical supervisor and plumber to make the actual connection.


Keeping a villa and demesnes (T being both Lord AND Serf) up and running here in Greece, is NOT all about lying in the sun and drinking margaritas. (blast!)

So, the story continues later this week when we actually see, when and if, all the players assemble on the stage right- or is that the right stage...

Until then, have a great day.  I'm planning to!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Family coming together

my mother, my martini...
When my mother and I arrived in Chicago, we settled in fairly quickly- 

me, at my son's apartment (he made me feel very very welcome, and not at all like I was turning his world upside down!), while she had an hospitality apartment in the Complex, the same size as the one she was moving into, (a few floors down) which helped her decide where she wanted her furniture placed and most importantly where she wanted her wall of bookcases built by T and youngest son. 
even if the talk turned serious.
T arrived three days later, having supervised the packers and loaders and driver.

It would seem that we got out of Santa Fe just in time as the day after we left there was a broken water main shutting down all the water, and when it came back on creating a big mess.  Poor T.

We celebrated his arrival and all of us went out to dinner.  I indulged in a "dirty martini" a new favorite! (it was coveted by many...)

happy as long as he's not in a high chair!
 Having two of my sons, my husband, my mother and myself along with grandson Gabriel and his beautiful mother together, was the beginning of the BEST of having my mother move to Chicago!

it's in the genes?
Sunday it only got better, when my oldest son (who lives in Michigan) joined us- with my 15 year old grandson... he who featured so prominently in my blog for most of last summer when he visited us in Corfu!

He and Gabriel had a great time together and I couldn't help but notice they shared the same concentration skills! 

"you deserve a break today" - NOT
Memorial Day weekend passed on a rather joyful note and on the first of June my mother's goods arrived and the unloading and unpacking began.

Disappointingly the moving company wasn't unpacking the stuff for my mom, nor were they taking away the packaging, meaning there was a veritable mountain of boxes and paper we had to break down and cart 6 floors downstairs to dispose of.
so many boxes, so little time

Our objective was to get every box unpacked and everything placed (on the new bookcases and shelves specially built) and in all the closets in four days, so we could take a break and leave my mother on her own (with 2 grandsons as back up).

There were a few potential problems in the idea, but after all the intensity of the move within the short space of time we knew we'd all need some breathing room!

We drove to Michigan to visit T's brothers and sisters in the Detroit area, and had a marvelous visit with excellent food, company and much laughter.

T is the "baby" of his family, with five brothers and sisters.

We even had a few of the nieces stop by. (tho not all as there are 25 offspring of the brothers and sisters, including our own three!  I can't even tell you how many children- or children's children- all the nieces and nephews have but it's a pretty big family!!)

guys bein' guys
Then we drove to central western Michigan to visit our oldest son in Grand Rapids,  where the three guys - father, son, and grandson- got to sit around and watch basketball and act guy-like...

 Last but not least,

on the drive back to Chicago, we stopped by, to visit T's cousins in Kalamazoo. (we only got to see one of them, but the quick visit was worth the stop).

We returned spiritually refreshed, if a bit road tired, to Chicago.

...and done.
As we had only a week left before our return, we dug in and finished the last of the move and hung my mother's paintings. We did the many small corrections and all the little re-arranging things that make a house home (hang hooks for bathrobes, move lamps, sort the odd things that go into the kitchen drawers etc)

The bookcases built by T and youngest son turned out fantastic and won kudus from everyone, including many of mom's new neighbors! (As they built them in an apartment, they made them specially with no nails in the walls!  They are perfectly fitted and held in place by one shim.  The finishing trim is glued in place.  I was VERY impressed.)

My mother was very happy.

my sweetheart granddaughter and her S.O.
But things got better as, for our last weekend in Chicago, my granddaughter and her lovely and charming friend came up from South Carolina (where they both go to University) to celebrate my mother's 85 birthday!

We planned and executed a great party in the private dining room of Lincolnwood's excellent facilities available for the residents.  As it was close enough to baby grandson's 3rd birthday, we celebrated a little "un-birthday" for him as well!

All in all a brilliant family party and a lovely way to wrap up our visit.

Happy 85th!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Today appears to be RECIPE DAY!!

New "I'm Home" Peppers Spaghetti Sauce

I can't seem to get myself organized as I want to do everything at the same time.  Priorities just won't settle.  I'm bumbling about the house like a giant bee, trying to touch all my flowers!

Some people would call it dysfunctional for an adult to act like this.  Seems to be the mark of the very young or the very old.  Hmmm.

While I was away I got very few opportunities to cook.  That would seem like a godsend to many- me included!  But oddly enough, I missed it!

I won't say that I didn't eat well when I was in the States, but I think I cook better than most meals I had at many of the restaurants I visited!  Isn't it funny that years ago, when I was growing up, one would judge a restaurant by saying "The food was delicious!  It tasted "homemade"!"  and now we say when we fix something good at home that it's "almost as good as a restaurant."??

So, today's theme is a recipe.... (this theme day thing can get a bit out of hand, like the Mickey Mouse Club for the ditsy- so I'll try not to go overboard)

Though we all have our standard old favorite Spaghetti recipe, I thought I'd try something new!  (As I have been dipping my spoon in the sauce for the past half hour, I can affirm it was a very successful foray into the unknown for me!!)

My "I'm home" Peppers Spaghetti Sauce

this is something I just made up because I wanted to have some good flavorful spaghetti sauce for dinner tonight, and I had these ingredients handy!  The peppers make it look all festive and it tastes wonderful!

12 oz ground beef (round or very low fat)

4 oz veal/pork breakfast sausages chopped (almost no fat white, lightly seasoned sausage links- I get them at Lidl...)

2 t good dry basil (or fresh)
2 t paprika
pinch of cayenne (or to taste)
salt and fresh ground pepper

small stalk of celery chopped
1/2 large vidalia onion chopped
1/3 yellow pepper chopped
1/3 green pepper chopped
1/3 sweet red pepper chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped

2 jars of Barilla "Basilco" pasta sauce
1/2 jar water

Brown ground beef in some olive oil (I add a little butter when the meat has no fat), season with the basil, paprika, salt and pepper and cayenne, stir well together til blended then add onion and celery.  Cook til onion softens a bit then add the sausage, peppers, and garlic.  Add the tomato sauce (and any bits of fresh tomato you might have in the fridge- I had a half from sandwiches...) and water and stir til it starts to bubble. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes then lower the heat to simmer for about 45 minutes.  Turn off the stove and let sit for about 30 minutes.  (then serve or save for later to reheat... for some reason spaghetti sauce tastes better after it has cooled and then is reheated.)


I may get to another post today but my Corfu life is getting in my way again, so "how I spent my spring break" will continue as I have time!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My mother and I travel across America by train...

By the time T arrived in Santa Fe we were more than ready to turn over the moving process to someone else.

I managed to pack 35 boxes of books, and generally between my mother and I, we'd made an enormous mess of her two bedroom apartment- which- of course, we had to walk around all the time to get to other things.  (It always comes as such a surprise when you are moving- you know you do have to remove things from their place and put them in boxes or group them for future packing up... but when you actually DO it you  feel overwhelmed!)

And there were pieces of furniture my mother was leaving behind in Santa Fe that needed to be picked up by interested parties but, of course, for most of the time of my packing, they were underfoot and in the way!

Still we organized and sorted and packed and "pre-packed", so that when the movers came T would be able to orchestrate it as best as possible.

We had a lovely meal in Taos (see previous post) as well as a gentle "farewell tour" of Santa Fe (for being the state capitol, it's a pretty small town when you come right down to it!)

My mother's friends were sad to see her go.  One of her best friends had a lovely party for her before we left.  Benedicta went all out to make sure my mother felt loved and appreciated.

I decided that we would take the train trip across the country for several reasons, the predominant one being that my mother always had wanted to travel by train across the United States.  As the movers were coming the day after we left, it would take them at least a week to show up in Chicago, so we had plenty of time.  Plus we brought some extra luggage which would have been expensive on an airplane. Last of course was the cost... it was MUCH less expensive to take the train.  The cost for the two of us on the train in a room was approximately the same as for one standard air ticket ONE WAY.

The train leaves from Lamy (just outside of Santa Fe, where the train station is... actually seems like the middle of nowhere!) I knew that T or friends or the train shuttle service could get us out there, comfortably.

We arrived with plenty of time to have a little picnic in the shade.
plenty of room to swing a cat... if we'd had a cat

My mother's arthritis is bad enough so stairs and walking can be a bit difficult. I booked a Superliner Accessible Bedroom (2 beds) on Amtrak. Since it was on the lower level I knew it would be easier for her to access. Our train arrived in Lamy around 1:50 PM. We boarded and we were away before 2!

view to the other side of the room
 The room was small but very efficient.

On one side was a little bathroom/powder room (Note: with its own window!) with a little pull across curtain for privacy.  This seemed like a good idea until I realized that the window pretty much gave things away at most of the train stops.

And the other side of the room was versatile enough to function as a bar, dining room, and with some shuffling about, two berths - bottom and top. (guess who got the top bunk?)

Henry taking some evening air in Colorado
There was a special attendant for the Accessible rooms, and Henry took our food orders, brought us our meals, made up the beds, brought us fresh water and hot coffee, and generally made himself invaluable to us.

As early on in the trip I visited the canteen car and cleverly purchased 4 small bottles of Dewars Scotch, our first day of travel passed quite pleasantly all around.

The gathering storm!
We saw some spectacular scenery, and some really spectacular weather as there was a series of lightening storms and rain all night long.

The sound of the train and the sound of the rain beating on the windows made for a strange but successful lullaby.  Still every time I woke up to help my mother, the flashes of lightening and low rumbles of thunder were continuous.

The only drawback was the beds were narrow.  Very narrow.  The top bunk had a built in safety belt net, which I was grateful for on two occasions.  The first was when I first got into the bed and realized I had to turn around and promptly "fell" over the side (and into the safely belt net), the second more sinister time was in the middle of the night when I "thought" I was more in the middle of the bed than I was, rolled over and ended up hanging like a bat from the safety net.

This caused both my mother and I to laugh uncontrollably and not go back to sleep for the rest of the night.  As it was about 5 AM we just decided to turn on our lights and read from that point on.

crossing the Mississippi
We had a lovely breakfast, delivered by Henry, and then we read and looked out the window at the changing landscapes.

We had traveled from the dry Southwest through the mountains (lots of wild elk and deer!) to the high plains (horse grazing lands) to the prairie (cattle and sheep). Then we crossed to the rich growing lands of America, as we approached the Mississippi. (this link  is for the detailed Route Guide pdf file- very well done!- from AMTRAK for the whole of the route of the Southwest Chief Train from Chicago to Los Angeles).

Every time I cross the United States, I marvel at its vastness and beauty.

Union Station, Chicago
We skipped lunch (well except for two ice cream sundaes) and dozed a bit of the afternoon away with the rocking of the train.

We rolled into Union Station at around 4 in the afternoon, and with the disembarking, finding Andrew (favorite son who picks us up from train stations) and the gathering of luggage by excellent porter who drove my mother and the luggage through the whole terminal to the curbside to await Andrew and the car, it was around 5 pm (rush hour!) by the time we left the loop.

We took my mother to her new home- Lincolnwood Place- where they had a "guest apartment" all ready for her to stay in until her things arrived and her apartment was able to be moved into.

I returned to Andrew's apartment where he generously let me settle to await T's arrival for the Memorial Day weekend. (yes, it's still May...)

Life continued from there and I'll try and organize my thoughts well enough to give you a taste of the rest of the visit in my next post.

MEANWHILE... it would appear that T managed (fingers crossed) to stem the leak in the swimming pool.  He's now pretty much convinced that it was mostly a slow but steady leak from two of the valves, as they wouldn't close properly. (but we watch the "λούκι" or overflow drain with jaundiced eye...)

T also spoke with the municipality and hopefully by the end of the week, we will be getting our own Municipal water connection "sort of" (it trickles out and takes most of the night to refill the tank) for a small consideration: 230 Euros. (the water of course costs LOTS more)

If we wanted to connect to the pressurized water station, it would be necessary for T to dig a trench across two roads and alongside our neighbors land to connect to the new small pumping station that is about 70 meters from our house.  That would cost us another 600 euros in materials and T's free labor.  (this is the same pressurized water station we suspect of tapping into our well.)

Just a little FYI... Greece is short of water, but Corfu is not, Corfu sends a goodly amount of water to the mainland.  The water rates everywhere in Greece are the same - municipal water is democratically high priced, even if they get it from your backyard!

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Have Returned!

I'm HOME, I'm HOME, I'm HOME.... !!!!

And it feels wonderful!!

Our great, good friends, Sammy and Roy, met us at the airport with a thermos flask of margaritas and helpful hands to cart back the three suitcases and two boxes (PLUS hand luggage) we returned to Corfu carrying.  (Yes, airlines ARE charging more for extra International luggage, in fact in steerage economy class we were each only allowed ONE suitcase- of the appropriate weight!)

AND sooo, our lovely friends brought us home and left us with a dish of homemade lasagna and a container of salad with homemade dressing!  In our exhaustion we each ate a huge plate of homemade food and crashed into our own bed to sleep for about 10 hours!

How lucky can you get???

For me it's always nice to be home, or even to come home after a party or a visit with friends or family, but after a varied and difficult six weeks of work and emotional intensity, it feels amazing.

I want to see everything in my house and do everything that I see that needs doing, and then do nothing at all and touch all my stuff in every room and plan great projects.  I also LOVE lying on my bed and feeling MY sheets and pillows and mattress all around me.

So many silly things appeal to me: standing outside at night and listening to the owls and night birds; smelling the last of the jasmine in the heavy humid air; marveling at all the growth (and overgrowth!) that's taken place since T left a month ago.

Of course, as always here in Corfu, the house has thrown a tantrum and broken something while we were gone.

Shortly (four days!) before T left the well pump died.  T replaced the pump - with the help of several of our neighbors strong backs (oh how I wish I would have been able to see that exercise in amusements!!!)  Only to discover that it was not just a burned out pump but something more.  The well is either clogged up with mud or dry!!

Fortunately- as he was leaving the next day to fly to the states- he was able to make a deal with our new next door neighbor who was just connected to the municipal water system, and so during the past month we were (and still are) temporarily connected to HIS water system to fill our new 1600 liter plastic cistern.  Not an ideal solution to the problem, but a workable emergency solution.

Now that we're back though, another solution must be hammered out.

On top of that bit of annoying luck, the pool decided to leak vast quantities of water and so our neighbor-friend who was taking care of it for us, had to shut it down, as he had to keep draining the new cistern in order to refill it. (leaving our housesitter with no water!) GAh!

So that pretty much brings us up to speed on Life in Corfu.  T has carefully spent the weekend meticulously replacing each individual "problem" valve and gasket, as well as sealing every potential weak point in the overflow drain.  For the moment it seems to be holding water and doing just fine.  But who kno-ows?????

So that's my current update since we arrived...  Now on to two other topics.

First: Thank you so much dear Fly in the Web , (at the wonderful blog French Leave) for giving me the Heartfelt Blogger Award, for blogs which make you feel cosy and warm inside... it's nice to know that even though I spent the past month or so on blogging "french leave", as it were, I still have wonderful blogging friends who remember me!

I am pleased not to be considered an "edgy" blogger.  (well except for that part about being on the edge of the "insanity demented cliff", otherwise I feel pretty easy going.)

I like being warm and cozy.  (I AM a warm and cozy sort of person!)

I do love the blog French Leave, because it usually makes me laugh out loud at least once a post, and it gives me a sense of community as well, because in spite of it being written in France, the politics and bizarre encounters could be happening here in Greece (or even Chicago for that matter!)  True we don't have Carla, but we still watch our "peeps in power" slip on the banana peels of influence.

Fly is a brilliant observer of everyday absurdities.  (And she writes well too!)

note to fly: I was particularly fond of your comment Saturday, regarding the few French footballers who knew the national anthem! and I DO like your suggestion that changing it to "money, money, money" would probably make more sense!!

I would like to send this award on to a few charming blogs that also make my days warm and cosy. (I will honor with a mention Turkish Delight who sent it on to you, Fly.  I won't bury dear Ayak and send it back along!!! But she definitely deserves the award!)

First,  Moments of Mine  The lovely Wanda fills her blog with such wonderful simple pleasures of life- her family, her surroundings, food and home. Every time I visit her blog I feel welcomed by some facet of her life.  [Happy Birthday, to your Andrew!]

Cheryl, at Rice Beans and Pastichio is my dear facebook friend and wonderful blogger from Thessaloniki.  Her lovely family and beautiful photography makes me smile and feel like visiting!  (I really enjoyed the Linden Tree posting...) Thanks for all the nurturing you do everyday!

Last - for the moment anyway, I'd like to send this award to my favorite Vegan blogspot Maple Spice.  Debbie makes being a vegan vegetarian (something I am NOT) look so yummy and cosy and warm and comfort food-like, I can't visit her site without smiling and wishing I could pull it off! (Debbie is currently in the process of moving to Ireland... Good luck and most happiest of happiness there- I do understand about the moving process having just 'bobbed to the surface' after successfully moving my mother across the continental United States!)


The second thing I was going to write about today, will have to wait as I've spent most of the afternoon at this as well as grocery shopping and fixing food for the hungry (well.  OK,  lunch.)

So stay tuned for tomorrows installment of "how I spent the past six weeks" (after we went to lunch in Taos,  New Mexico...)

Actually I was just going to write about the taking the train from Santa Fe to Chicago part.  See you tomorrow!



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