Sunday, August 29, 2010

Agiofest Redeemed! (part 2)

Last night, was wonderful!  Unlike the previous evening we didn't arrive too early, but even if we had arrived earlier, it would seem that everything went better than great!   We arrived just in time to catch the last song of the musical set of the Good Old Boys (and the lovely Jemma).

not all the band, sorry
And then we were absolutely blown away by the Manchester group 4 Square!

4 Square is an amazing (and young) group of extremely talented people playing wonderful music that would be hard to describe except to say that there's a strong folk music aspect as well as a fair bit of excellent Irish fiddling with some Stéphane Grappelli overtones (and a touch of Jean-Luc Ponty!), a flavor of American Cajun beat and bluegrass banjo and a lineup of songs that were a cross between traditional and modern with several amazing original compositions.  Anyway you look at it it was a hand clapping, toe tapping band, who kept the audience in the palm of their hands, and they made me laugh out loud with the joy and fun in their music.

they played this song last night - with the audience participation on the "hey!"s

If that sounds like a rave- it was.  I loved 'em.  I figured that they would be a tough act to follow.

Joe Brown and his son Pete

Actually Joe Brown exceeded my expectations!  He performed with wit, charm and a whole lot of talent.  His son Pete sang a couple of songs as well, and it would seem the "talent torch" is passed to the next generation!

Although the years have flown by (he's been in the music business for over 50 years! gulp!) he's still "got it"!  He played some new things but satisfied his audience with old favorites like "A Picture of You" (this YouTube version will take you back in time, as it's the original Decca version!), and of course the infamous "Henry the Eighth", as well as playing some fantastic 'covers' - one of my favorites being Bob Dylan's "Well, Well, Well" - a really great song...

Anyway he played a couple of other great fav's of mine so I had an absolutely terrific evening.

We had a lovely spot on the grass on the hillside.  Our neighbors all came as well, so there was a group of about a dozen of us perched on the hill, waving to friends who'd look up and recognize one or the other of us!  A cooler was available for supplementary aid but beer and wine were available at the refreshments stand.  (recommendation for next year tho, would be an ice cream bar seller, as, I'm sure with all the children running about, you could have raked in a fortune!)

Joe Brown closed the evening with this song - and it's pretty appropriate...!

a perfect ending...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Music night: Agiofest (part one...)

Last night was the first of two nights of Agiofest.  Yes, our little village has a real music festival! 

Sort of.

There were a lot of problems last night ... Gate opened at 6, but the first bands didn't start playing until 9.  Unfortunately even then, the musicians were plagued with electric power outages and a problem sound system.

the Good 'ole Boys and Gemma
Much sympathy for the performers and the folks who did the organizing. 

Unfortunate for those of us who'd paid money for the tickets.

 Still when things worked it was enjoyable.  A bit like the Corfu open air movie theatre called Φοίνιξ  (Phoenix)

Dogs, children, teens and parents (and a few grandparents!)  all sitting in plastic chairs, chatting and tapping their feet or dancing on the grass.   Pleasant.

Here's the line up for tonite:

Saturday 28 August
6.00 pm - Doors Open - Food, Refreshments and Memorabilia Available
6.30 - Laura Zakian
7.30 - New Faces including Sonia Grammatikos
8:00 - 4Square
9.30 - Joe Brown and his Band
11.00 - An Element of Surprise

Yes, Joe Brown is performing here, in little Ag Ioanni!  (well, if the sound system and the electricity holds together...)   

I can only hope "An Element of Surprise" is the name of a band and not another power outage...

We left around 10 for Gouvia marina where we looked in on our friend Roy's band

They were on a roll and played some great blues!

After the first set we greeted friends praised the band and then said our goodbye's in hopes that problems had been sorted at Agiofest.

We went back to finish the evening (ok- the rather LATE evening...)

I look forward to this evening.  Better times ahead!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Keeping up the house (or with it!)

I can't help but think of the Cosby, Stills and Nash song "Our House" today...

"Our house is a very very fine house,
with two cats in the yard.
Life used to be so hard.
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you."

Our House lyrics © Nash Notes

I loved that song, lo these many years, and now it would seem I'm living in it!  (True, the two cats are a little crazier than, say perhaps, the lyricist would have assumed at the time...)

For sure, I know I'm going to have to start calling T, "Mr Amazing" for all the things he's taken on since moving to Corfu!   Thirty years of working in a corporate environment wouldn't seem to have prepared him, at all, for this current lifestyle, and yet he has excelled at every turn. 

I'm actually, often amazed at how completely he's just thrown himself into this whole problem solving adventure, this living in Corfu has turned out to be for both of us.  I have but to speculate on changes and poof, it's become a building project. 

The best thing in the world though I will confess, is that he FINISHES each task he starts! (Yes.  He is a gem.)

His latest challenges have included among other things tearing creeping vines off walls that are perfect toeholds to nurture a jungle,  painting said walls after removing creepers and chunks of wall, and  continuing maintenance of what I kindly refer to as our "clay pot" tile roof.  

After all these years the clay tiles have begun to absorb rain water in much the same way as a clay pot will absorb water to nurture the flowers inside of it. 

Sadly, our house does not grow with additional water, but rather, leaks horribly when things above become saturated.  Ergo the need to "seal" the roof- which is a lot like painting it.

the thing in the middle...
All this must be done in the hottest period of the year, (and the hottest part of the day) when there is a certainty that there will be no rain--- or dew! -- absorbed by said clay pots tiles.

For the last few days with temperatures in excess of  35C (95 F) in the shade  Mr Amazing has been on the roof painting the tiles with the sealant. 

Of course it's not an exact science and though he is "certain" it will keep us dry for the winter, there could be mitigating factors-- of which we will discover sometime in the future, should the roof leak again!

As for the paint "touch up": When we bought the house we had it painted the color I chose as "Venetian Red" to closely resemble the color much of Corfu was probably painted when it was part of the Venetian empire over 600 years ago.  I wanted something that would fade into a nice warm color.  Which it has.  

It does however, make it difficult to match every year, as the color changes slightly depending on the side of the house and the amount of sunlight!  Still, Mr Amazing pulled it off and the house looks wonderful.

Whenever I am hard pressed to think up a subject to write about, I think I should look at the house and find all the things that T has turned his hand to: ie. building a new kitchen, remodeling three bathrooms, building bookcases... ah the list goes on. 

I need a nap!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August Moon

You'd be tempted to think we lived in some kind of Paradise...

You'd be right, of course!

Last night, we went out to celebrate the August moon (hey, "a thing of beauty is a joy forever", right?)

We went to the Peking House in Ipsos, because,
a) they have a great balcony to sit on, have dinner and look at the sea, AND,
b) I was craving some good Chinese food. 

It was WIN-WIN all around!

Oh yes, and I managed to get a teensy bit of shopping in before dinner - the sales were SO nice and I really DID need another handbag (score! plus I picked another one up for a gift too!!)

Then we had a leisurely walk to the restaurant, enjoyed a nice icy cold beer, and ordered our dinner.

There are of course no pictures of our beautiful and delicious dinner because I was distracted by the moon!! 

I will tell you though that for a change I ordered something different -Kunbo chicken (Kung Pao)- and it was incredibly good. 

The chef made it with cashews instead of peanuts and it was perfect.  Instead of green peppers (which I often pick out anyway) he used bits of fresh cabbage, and it really worked!  I had noodles (with the chef's special touch) instead of rice, while T had Sweet and Sour chicken - which I tasted- and it was really good.  The chicken had a very light and crunchy batter and the sauce was not too sweet and just spicy enough... very good.

Another delicious meal that did not disappoint. 

We even tried dessert.  T had a plain scoop of vanilla ice cream with a little chocolate sauce on top, while I had a plain scoop of strawberry ice cream with nothing but a spoon (well IN a glass dish). 

Both desserts tasted just right on top of our dinners, and with good fortunes promised from inside the cookies, we left the table quite contented (and in need of a bit of walk!)

It was no hardship to walk along the seaside.  The moon was so bright it was almost like daylight!

There are many names for the full moons.  I looked up a few for the August moon and from my own tradition (that includes Native American) the August moon is called by various different tribes: Red Moon, Green Corn Moon, Lightning Moon, Dog Moon, Sturgeon Moon.  (Sturgeon Moon refers to the fish that are suddenly abundant starting on that night.)

The ancient Irish called the August moon
Aedrini(os) - Bright (or Hot) Month"; cf. Old Irish aed "fire", "heat", Greek αἰθήρ (aithēr) "bright sky, upper air, ether". Ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root *aidh- which also gave us Latin aestas "Summer".
 I found another source that referred to the Celt August moon as the Dispute Moon or the Moon of Arbitration.  Somehow that sounded fairly modern Irish to me!

As for me, I think it's just a great looking moon, particularly when it lights up my own backyard. 

I'm sorry the pictures are not clearer, but when you look at the them, consider they were all taken with my little cybershot "point and shoot" camera - which means the sky was REALLY bright and the moon was really lovely!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer BBQ

Last night we went to a wonderful 'end of summer' BBQ.

We had a vast selection of wonderful food made by our charming hostess Caroline,  who as an artist (painter of marvelous things!) is also a terrific cook!

We made several new friends as well as renewing links with old friends.  It's fascinating to me how, though the island is a small community, never the less, the expat groups shift and change and you constantly meet new people, who have lived here for ages - know MANY of the people you know- yet you never encounter them but by chance at a convivial dinner party!

I also resolved a personal great mystery of the "Gardener's house in Gastouri".  Gastouri is a lovely village and the site of the beautiful white Achilleon Palace and its lovely gardens!   This particular house is in the village and it is the house of the original gardener of the Achilleon Palace.  We had looked at the house many years ago (14 or 15?) before we bought the one we're living in, and though I fell in love with it the charming house needed a lot of tweaking to make it actually work for us, as for instance, it needed a kitchen.  And a bathroom.  But, oh my, it had charm.  And it had an incredible garden, sadly much neglected, and we were told there was even a marble pool under all the overgrowth! 

Well, last evening we met the charming people who eventually did buy the house, redesigned the house and built the kitchen and obviously a lot of other things (and found the marble pool in the garden!) and generally from the sound of things set out to make the house all that it could become.

I was glad to know the house wasn't stuck in some downward spiral, but had been related to and revitalized.  Some places deserve to sink into oblivion, and some do not.  This house did not.

Anyway, the barbecue was great.   Yummy food, great conversation, the moon rising up over the grape arbors.... all in all it made for a magical evening.

As David, grill master, presided over the flames well into the evening, the scene resembled some eerie barbecue ritual!

(well at least that's what this blurry picture made me think of!  For some reason, my pictures got blurrier as the evening progressed.  Possibly because I wasn't wearing my glasses??  That or the Prosecco...)

Anyway, I got one nicely clear shot:  Dessert! 

[Banoffee Pie, Summer Trifle, Caroline's special Peach Cake, and my humble chocolate cake (showing up again:  this time with courgettes and walnuts- STILL deliciously moist- with a cream cheese frosting).]

All in all a wonderful evening with wonderful people.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Why I almost want to buy things on e-bay

gary larson cup
Originally uploaded by truestarrus
I was searching the internet for a favorite cartoon of mine from years ago.

Gary Larson was the all time greatest at simple and totally brilliant cartoon humor

After yesterday's cat post, (for some reason my cats have been calling attention to themselves in strange ways lately) I stumbled across this link and actually thought about clicking a bid in, til I realised everything was over on the 17th. Ah well.

Still, I got to enjoy seeing the cartoon one more time...

And besides it's totally true!

PS/For an excellent and much more articulate view from a virtual friend's blog on Cat Hedonism, visit this post!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tis' a tough life, being a cat...

this one "likes" birds
Originally uploaded by truestarrus
My cats have such a difficult life. They eat twice a day and go where they please all day long, then sleep in their little individual beds every night.

this one always brings me snakes
They never rarely catch mice, though they do sadly catch birds- usually pretty ones- and (lucky me) they bring me gifts of 'almost' dead snakes.

I keep trying to explain to them MICE. CATCH. MICE.

They keep looking at me as though I was saying "Jump in my lap", or "Speak Japanese!"

I love my cats but sometimes I think I'd rather be one.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rosemary, for rememberance

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance."
-- Shakespeare's Hamlet to Ophelia

"[Rosemary] comforteth the cold, weak and feeble brain in a
most wonderful manner."

"Make thee a box of the wood of rosemary and smell to it and it
shall preserve thy youth."
--Banckes' Herbal

"As for Rosmarine, I lett it runne all over my garden walls, not onlie because my bees love it, but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance, and, therefore, to friendship; whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language that maketh it the chosen emblem of our funeral wakes and in our buriall grounds."
-- Sir Thomas More

"   Down with the rosemary and so,
    Down with the baies and mistletoe,
    Down with the holly, ivie all
    Wherewith ye deck the Christmas Hall.'  "

I love rosemary.  It's great to cook with, it's pleasant to look at, it attracts bees, and in hot weather it smells lovely and cooling when its smell is surrounding you.

We are blessed with a wall of rosemary plants just off the terrace.

I decided to do a bit of research as I've known for a long time that rosemary was the medicinal "jack of all trade" in ancient times.  I was overwhelmed with information!  Ranging from Mrs. Grieve's 'A Modern Herbal' (Vol II), to Valerie Ann Worwood's "The complete Book of essential oils & aromatherapy" and James Greens "The Herbal Medicine-makers Handbook", to my handy Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations", I gathered a real compendium of fascinating bits of information to share with you about rosemary.

[of course not all of it is true... !]

In early times, Rosemary was freely cultivated in kitchen gardens and came to represent the dominant influence of the house mistress 'Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.'

The Treasury of Botany says:   'There is a vulgar belief in Gloucestershire and other counties, that Rosemary will not grow well unless where the mistress is "master"; and so touchy are some of the lords of creation upon this point, that we have more than once had reason to suspect them of privately injuring a growing rosemary in order to destroy this evidence of their want of authority.'

(that's not really why T wants to tear it all out, honest!)

- The botanical name Rosmarinus is derived form the old Latin for 'dew of the sea', a reference to its pale blue dew-like flowers and the fact that it is often grown near the sea. It is a symbol or remembrance and friendship, and is often carried by wedding couples as a sign of love and fidelity.

- In place of more costly incense, the ancients used Rosemary in their religious ceremonies. An old French name for it was Incensier.

- The Spaniards revere it as one of the bushes that gave shelter to the Virgin Mary in the flight into Egypt and call it Romero, the Pilgrim's Flower.
-  Both in Spain and Italy, it has been considered a safeguard from witches and evil influences generally.
- The Sicilians believe that young fairies, taking the form of snakes, lie amongst the branches.

- It was an old custom to burn Rosemary in sick chambers, and in French hospitals it is customary to burn Rosemary with Juniper berries to purify the air and prevent infection.
- Like Rue, it was placed in the dock of courts of justice, as a preventative from the contagion of gaol-fever.
- A sprig of Rosemary was carried in the hand at funerals, being distributed to the mourners before they left the house, to be cast on to the coffin when it had been lowered into the grave. In many parts of Wales it is still a custom.

- We continue to use rosemary in many of the same ways that our ancestors did: in potpourris to freshen the air, and in cosmetics, disinfectants and shampoos. 

- Scientists at the University of Cincinnati say that the scent of rosemary is an effective memory stimulant. This might make a nice potted plant for your desk at work, or where the kids do their homework!

- Several studies done in the last several years show that oil from the leaves of the very plant sold as a spice for flavoring can help prevent the development of cancerous tumors in laboratory animals. One study, led by Chi-Tang Ho, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Food Science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, showed that applying rosemary oil to the skin of experimental animals reduced their risk of cancer to half that found in animals that did not receive the application of oil. In other studies by the same research team, animals whose diets contained some rosemary oil had about half the incidence of colon cancer or lung cancer compared with animals not eating rosemary. And researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana found that rosemary cut by half the incidence of breast cancer in animals at high risk for developing the disease. Future studies will demonstrate whether these properties extend to humans as well.

Though these experiments have used rosemary oil to test the effectiveness in preventing cancer, the oil should not be taken internally. Even small doses can cause stomach, kidney and intestinal problems, and large amounts may be poisonous. Use a tea instead. Pregnant women should not use the herb medicinally, although it's okay to use it as a seasoning.

- Rosemary makes a pleasant-tasting tea. Use one teaspoon of crushed dried leaves in a cup of boiling water and steep for ten minutes.

- Rosemary helps to relax muscles, including the smooth muscles of the digestive tract and uterus. Because of this property it can be used to soothe digestive upsets and relieve menstrual cramps. When used in large amounts it can have the opposite effect, causing irritation of the intestines and cramps. A tea made from the leaves is also taken as a tonic for calming nerves and used as an antiseptic.

- Use an infusion as a rinse to lighten blond hair, and to condition and tone all hair. Try mixing an infusion half and half with shampoo to strengthen hair.

- An infusion can also be used as an invigorating toner and astringent. Rosemary added to a bath strengthens and refreshes, especially when used following an illness.

- Rosemary and lamb go well together. Make slits in lamb for roasting and tuck in sprigs of the herb. Place larger sprigs over chops for grilling and use chopped leaves sparingly in soups and stews. Use rosemary in bouquets garnis and sparingly with fish and in rice dishes.

- Use the dried leaves as potpourri and in sachets to scent clothes and linen and deter moths.

- Rosemary is grown as a companion plant for cabbage, beans carrots and sage. It helps to deter cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies.


Hungary Water  was first prepared for the Queen of Hungary to "renovate vitality of paralyzed limbs" and to treat gout. It was used externally and prepared by mixing fresh rosemary tops into spirits of wine.  It was prepared by putting 1 1/2 lb. of fresh Rosemary tops in full flower into 1 gallon of spirits of wine, this was allowed to stand for four days and then distilled. Hungary water was also considered very efficacious against gout in the hands and feet, being rubbed into them vigorously.

A formula dated 1235, said to be in the handwriting of Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, is said to be preserved in Vienna.

Don Quixote mixes rosemary in his recipe of the miraculous balm of Fierabras with revolting results.  According to a chanson from 1170, Fierabras and Balan conquered Rome and stole two barrels containing the balm used for the corpse of Jesus. This miraculous balm would heal whoever drank it. In Chapter X of the first volume of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote de la Mancha, after one of his numerous beatings, Don Quixote mentions to Sancho Panza  that he knows the recipe of the balm. In Chapter XVII, Don Quixote instructs Sancho that the ingredients are oil, wine, salt and rosemary. The knight boils them and blesses them with eighty Pater Nosters, Hail Mary and Creed. Upon drinking it, Don Quixote vomits and sweats and feels healed after sleeping. However, for Sancho it has also a laxative effect, rendering him near death.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A great vintage - unborn

So.  It looks like we won't be having a wine harvest this year.  Today, we walked around the vines and said, "This season was not meant to be, Cherie..."

Due to a 'series of unfortunate events' (well drying up, us gone for the month of May and part of June, municipal water connection efforts) we were not here for either the planting of our vegetable garden  (sadly) nor also some important milestones for our grapes and so it looks like they have been infected with a fungus, AND they didn't get enough water at the right time.


tiny grapes and some yellow leaves
Though T sprayed for the fungus when we returned, we'd missed the real window of opportunity to nip the dratted thing in the bud.  (At least he was in time to kill the spiders!  Most of them, anyway.  They burrow in and stay the winter!)

Raising grapes HAS it's pitfalls.  I am a bit depressed as I was looking forward to another wine harvest get-together.


The good news is, it looks like we'll have a pretty nice olive harvest this year.  As that takes place in November, we'll be busy enough for this fall, to not pine too much after the grape harvest.

What with Middle and "Sainted" Son coming to visit in less than a month, and a planned trip to Belgium for a family wedding in the mix,  it might have been a pretty tight squeeze to fit in a grape harvest at all!  (of course we could have looked at our "house guest" as an extra pair of hands...)

If our luck holds with the weather this year, we should have another brilliant crop of olives and some fantastic oil.   As we only harvest our olives every other year, it's really important for us that we get it at its peak of perfection, and then rush it to the olive press!

We MUST have a good batch of oil to  
a) have enough to last for 2 years,  and of course

b) have the right quality of acidity to not go rancid after the first 6 months!  This means that T will probably pick all our olives over a period of three or four days and then get them pressed almost right away.

We have been lucky in the last two harvests as T (and me too! he so nice! he lets me help but only if I don't get in the way...) strip the olives from the branches while they are still partly green, as that makes the best extra virgin oil.

Usually the olive press is busy, but because we lean a bit more towards the side of "green" on our olives, we're early enough in the season, to miss the 'full out' busy of ALL the olive growers arriving at the same time.

The first year we harvested all on our own, our olives waited in the pressing queue for four days, and as we'd picked them "ripe"(and black), by then some had started to go bad.  The olive oil was "OK", and it lasted for almost a year before we had to use it to light fires in the fireplace.

Extra-virgin olive oil means that the amount of free fatty acids (oleic acid) is below 1 %.  The taste, aroma and "feel" on the tongue must rate high as well.  The olives are squeezed by one of several processes known as "first-press" or "cold-press".  The end product should be really green and cloudy, and the most prized are the oils the most peppery, and throat-catching- in other words, the oil should have a "cough".

Our last batch had the "cough" for the first time ever!  It was SO exciting... even though we only use it ourselves and give it to a few friends at Christmas, still it was really a special moment.  It has been a fantastic oil, and I will miss it when we run out.  I hope this year's batch will be as good!)

So ends another day...   

Did you notice I placed FOUR pictures on the blog???  

I got a very helpful answer [on a reply to the original answer (to which I'd replied quite brusquely regarding my lack of computer speak) the first time] from a lady named Marcela at Flickr.  

The first answer was the same as the second answer, although I will give her credit for writing me back, not calling me names, and explaining to me how to find what I needed in the HTML code to post each individual picture. So hopefully I'm back in blog business!  Now if only I could think of something interesting to write about! 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Variations on a theme

chocolate cake
Originally uploaded by truestarrus
We had an absolutely WONDERFUL time with our neighbors last evening.

Diana and Spiro were, as always, the perfect hosts, with great food and company and we had the added pleasure of hearing the charming Corrine (their daughter) sing some lovely bluesy songs, accompanied by her guitar.

We sat under the stars til well past midnight. In spite of the fact that everyone was stuffed with good food.

Each neighbor brought something to add to the souvlaki feast, so of course we all had to try some of each others food, meaning everyone was stuffed by dessert.

Never the less, the chocolate cake did get plenty of nibbles and compliments. I managed to bring home a few pieces for my faithful "taster". (IN the interests of photography and science I had to separate this tiny piece from the herd - before said taster devoured it all!)

I must say that I pronounce this iteration to be really nice!

It's the same basic chocolate cake as the previous posting, but instead of almonds and almond essence, I used pecans and vanilla essence.

My faithful "taster" requested a white frosting this time.

As more of a variation, while the cake was cooling, I boiled up about a half a cup of marmalade til it was a syrup, and pour it evenly over the cooling cake (which I'd punched a few toothpick holes in) and let it all cool completely before frosting.

I frosted it with a standard buttercream frosting, soft butter, icing sugar, pinch of salt, (mixed together well) adding some warmed cream - BUT I mixed the cream with Cointreau and a couple of drops of orange essence!

VERY yum.

So ends the post, so I can finish this experiment before it goes stale.

[as a PS to the post, there was also a beautiful lemon cheesecake made by neighboring chef Angie that was "to die for" delicious, which is why I had to conduct this tasting today as I only had room for the one dessert last night!]

Sunday, August 15, 2010

more dead grass and a feast day

more dead grass
Originally uploaded by truestarrus
35 C (96 F) and, standing outside doing nothing, it feels like a giant hot breath is breathing all over you. I can only be grateful I have the luxury of sitting and doing nothing!

No breeze to speak of yet, and it's not even the hottest part of the day!

Maybe one day our grass will come back. (actually our weeds. long ago all the grass was consumed by weeds...) I can't believe that it was all so lush a few months ago! Don't think I'll be spending anytime in the hammock today!

It is definitely hot.

Still, it's a perfect day for a holy day. Today is the "Feast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady, The Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary" (Mother of Jesus) The Greek Orthodox church celebrates this feast day. The Catholic Church calls it the Assumption of Mary the Mother of Jesus, and it's a holy day of obligation. (Yes, though I no longer walk the walk, all those years have trained me to remember the seasons by Saints days and Holy days.)

"Χρόνια Πολλά"; (English: "For Many More Years" (literally) it's also the "name day" for all the Mary's and Maria's of the world. Marie is part of my name so today is MY day.

Years ago I remember being with my aunt in Belgium at the seaside in Blankenberge and the two of us (Marie was our second name, each of us) would celebrate and go out and buy something for ourselves. (well, I'd get to pick something and she'd buy it for me...)

Meanwhile, a neighborhood get-together is planned for this evening! Lovely neighbor Diana is hosting... (But NOT until after it cools down a bit (after 9 PM!)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mouse Island

Mouse Island
Originally uploaded by truestarrus
On a brief shopping trip to the British Store in Perama, we decided to stop and have a little liquid refreshment to cool down on the hot day.

This was our lovely view:

Pontikonisi (Greek meaning "mouse island") is home of the monastery of Pantokrator (Μοναστήρι του Παντοκράτορος); it is the white stone staircase of the monastery that when viewed from afar gives the impression of a (mouse) tail which lent the island its name: 'mouse island'.

The charming little Avra Taverna on the road to Benitses, was a perfect spot. We got to look at Mouse Island, drink a lovely ice cold beer AND watch the planes land!

[still having problems posting pics, but hey, maybe I'll just have to make short posts whenever I want you to see a lovely picture of the island! - or figure something out... yes-yes, I know.. Isn't a picture worth a thousand words?]

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

avlaki sunset

avlaki sunset
Originally uploaded by truestarrus
Well, this is the lovely Avlaki sunset at the birthday party (see previous post.) I would love to post all the other pictures, but if I do each one will have to be a separate post, that comes from Flickr's website (with the proper fanfare) and they give me a tiny box to "text" my photo descriptions in. OK. it's almost a blog post... Fun.


Unfortunately Flickr's new policy seems to fight with Blogger's old policy, as I can no longer post a picture URL from Flickr anywhere without also posting a track back to them at the same time. Blogger obviously hasn't a clue, and there is no way to do it. So. No more photos til I figure out ANOTHER photo solution... sigh.

WHY are computer things so frustrating and contrary? (yes dear T, they frustrate me too.) [that previous parenthetical phrase *should* be in italics...]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tempis Fugit! (and a really excellent chocolate cake recipe)

Tempus fugit is a Latin expression meaning "time flees", more commonly translated as "time flies". It is frequently used as an inscription on clocks. The expression was first recorded in the poem Georgics written by Roman poet Virgil: Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore, which means, "But meanwhile it flees: time flees irretrievably, while we wander around, prisoners of our love of detail."  Wikipedia

Well I'm baffled by where all the time has gone.  [And sometimes I do feel a "prisoner of my love of detail", though my memories of Latin class lo, these many years - OMG, nearly 47!- is more a pastiche of remembered Latin words and phrases than a grounding.  A little riff here:  It's hard for me to imagine the phrase, "I was fourteen, and I took Latin classes."  All that comes to mind honestly is that I don't think I did very well because remembering the details, I got a D.] Anyway.  In this instance I'm amazed at how quickly the summer has fled. 

So.  What have I done with Corfu this past week...

My fingers are all rested now. 

We started the week quite pleasantly, but it devolved a bit when both my beloved and I were attacked by a rather sinister and ninja-like summer bug.  We each of us tried to remain oblivious and and carry on, as we tried to pretend we were fine, going about cheerfully doing things and merely sneezing explosively at the odd moment, blowing our noses loudly and trying very hard to make it seem like we're taking the aspirin for the arthritis...

I hate summer colds.  Well, I hate colds ANY time, but in the summer it's insult added to injury.

By Thursday we were asked by one of our neighbors (lovely Petra) if we would please join them (and hopefully a few other neighbors) to pick up the leftover detritus of the wheelie bins from the great Corfu July garbage strike.

Thankfully, the trucks had finally come, although because we're a back road and not a primary one, it was a week later than the main roads.

We knew there was a small window of opportunity before - as there was garbage lying on the ground - "some" people would helpfully add to it, apparently to make it a worthwhile pile for the garbage men to pick up "later".

Thursday morning last, they finally came, and in their enthusiasm, had taken away the bulk of the mess (BINS AND ALL!) but there were all the little bits blown by the winds in the tall weeds and bushes along the roadside.  [small note: we were told that our "bins" would henceforth remain on the main road as they didn't have the time (or money or inclination) to come and get ours as well as the stuff on the main road.]

Petra felt that it was necessary to act as quickly as possible, so at 7:30 that evening a few neighbors turned out with plastic bin bags, garden gloves and in our case, a small trailer behind the car to transport the bags to the bins at the main road.

I have pictures but for some reason Blogger has decided that it doesn't understand my URLs.  So, sorry, you can't see us working like little beavers bagging up the debris.

We all felt quite satisfied with ourselves until yesterday morning when someone mentioned someone had left a few bags of garbage in the spot where the bins used to be.  No doubt in a few day the bags will be shredded open by feral dogs and cats and we'll be back to square one.  sigh.


Friday, I baked two cakes as it was friend Roy's birthday on Saturday and we were scheduled to go to his beach party in Avlaki.  (Can't see those pictures either!)

As a consolation prize I will include the secret recipe for my special chocolate cake.  It is a made up recipe (by me) so take that into consideration.  Just because it always works for me and everyone loves it, doesn't mean it'll turn out exactly the same for you...  (there now that the disclaimers are over with, on with the recipe)

Chocolate Almond Cake (with secret ingredient)

3 eggs
6 oz butter (i have a scale)
1 c sugar
1 1/4 C flour
1 C grated almonds (peeled white slivers work, whirred in food processor)
1/2 C cocoa
1 t salt
1 t soda
1 t baking powder
2 t almond essence
1/4 C buttermilk (or a spoon of yogurt and a splash of milk)
1 C beetroot (cooked (cooled) peeled and grated or pureed and drained of runny red water)
Chocolate chips.

Preheat oven 160 C.  Grease and flour a pan.  Put the eggs, butter (you can substitute 3/4 c oil if you want) and sugar together in an large bowl and mix with beater til it's well blended and pale yellow.  

Add the dry ingredients (NOT chocolate chips yet)  

Add beetroot and essence.  

Add buttermilk as needed for stirring.  

Finally stir in chocolate chips with spoon - I used up to a cup but less is ok.  Pour into prepared pan and bake at 160 C (fan assisted oven).

Let cool and frost with Chocolate Whiskey Frosting.

Chocolate Whiskey frosting

Icing (powdered) sugar
soft butter
warmed cream

 It really depends on how much frosting you want.  I always start with the soft butter and add the icing sugar, cocoa and salt and mix it together (for instance a full tablespoon of butter, a teaspoon of salt, a cup + of icing sugar-up to 2 c- and 1/4 cup of cocoa powder)  Then I warm up some cream in the microwave for about 15 seconds (a couple of tablespoons?) and beat it all together with the electric mixer.  Add a bit of your favorite whiskey and check for consistency.  You don't want it too runny.  Add more icing sugar if it's too soft.  

This cake tastes really good if you make it the day before you eat it. 

 The beetroot is sweet and moist and needs to be drained (i use a paper towel to absorb the extra liquid.) Remember BEETROOT STAINS EVERYTHING big time, so be careful. I do most of the peeling and grating in the stainless steel sink.   I would guess you could used canned beets and put them in the food processor and end up with a lovely batch of pureed beets ready to add.

So that's today's post.  Sorry about the pictures but if I wait for blogger to self heal I may never post again...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Only T and I  were really more like Rat and Mole, along for the ride.

The past two weeks has sort of flown by.  Our friends from Athens had a lovely holiday (Tho sadly the Eva Palace Hotel fell a tiny bit short as either they'd cut staff or were just unwise enough to have the beautiful bar lounge on the main floor, just past reception - with the gorgeous view and the only wi-fi spot in the whole place-  only serving after 5 pm!  The children's service was also a bit invisible after the first three days.  hmph.)

Since my last post, we have been living simultaneous lives: the first life (and most typical!) being of two retired and fairly boring early risers, who putter about and do laundry and run errands and make sandwiches, and set the machine to tape programs that come on the television after 11 PM.

Our new alter egos however were playmates to a charming Greek family (with companion friends!) from Athens on holiday!  (In the 14 day visit, T and I went out to dinner 10 nights!  Dinner started after 9 and "usually" we were in our beds around 2 AM.  Très untypical, unless we have insomnia!)

Actually the Pet Shop Boys song, Suburbia, seems appropriate as well!  We were young again, dancing the night away (well at least on one night, when we went to Molfetta Bar after we were done eating at around 1 AM...)

We started on our journey of culinary delights Friday evening- Bastille Day- at Takis in Kontokoli.  There we introduced our friends to the delights of the smoked trout hand made by the owner himself.

The cast of characters consisted of our friends of many years K and M and their three children: C, a handsome young man, aged 10 (who could speak English VERY well!) and the twins Miss K and Mr G, aged, 6.

There was also a charming couple who joined them all as well, M & K's good friends (also from Athens) and K's workmate.

Saturday we all went to our favorite Beach in Prasoudi.  All nine of us.

so beautiful and clear
perfect family beach

We had a lovely afternoon in the sun, splashing in the sea, the children were in heaven... and after all that we had a fantastic meal too.  We had, of course, the marvelous lobster spaghetti with spicy sauce... It was wonderful and fun and when we were done 

Pelekas sunset
From there we went to Petra in Pelekas to watch the spectacular sunset.

Pelekas Bay
If that wasn't beautiful enough, as evening fell Pelekas beach became even more of a picture postcard.

On Monday we went to Spiro's and Vasilis and had again a most perfect meal.  T and I had the Chateaubriand for two.  Mmmmm.

Besides raising their own beef for the steaks they make the most exquisite french fries (in the tradition of "frites"!) and bring you hot ones if you haven't eaten the ones on the dish before they cool down too much.

The chef also prepares a wonderful chocolate soufflé served with a chocolate sauce and a cream sauce, that no matter how full you are after your dinner, you seem to find room to finish!

Tuesday we had a party here at our house for everyone as well as our friends Roy and Sammy and their houseguests!  We had salads and I made souvlaki and a nice chocolate cake to round out the empty spots.

Wednesday we went to Pomo d'Oro. I will say that our friends were MOST generous as we had to fight to pay our share of the bills for all these evenings out!  (we shared ONE, and managed to only get and pay for one check!)

Garitsa Bay
Friday was the mid-point of their holiday, and perhaps we over celebrated.  We started out watching the moonrise from the top of the Cavelieri Hotel.  It was lovely.

I'd had a glass of Prosecco at the house before we left, so I though a G & T would go down nicely.

From there we went to Del Sole Restaurant on Guilford St.  The owner himself came out to take care of us.  When our friend ordered a really lovely wine, he suggested food that would go best with it.  (and when we chose otherwise, ignored us!!)

As I was sitting next to K, we finished off the bottle pretty much just the two of us.  It went perfectly with my lovely brisole (Italian cut of beef).

After dinner K ordered an after dinner liqueur called Mastichato Chiou or Chios Masticha.  It's a brandy-based liqueur native to the island of Chios, and it often accompanies desserts made with almonds.   It has a sweet and faint smell of pine and flavour similar to liquorice.   Anyway, I found it delicious.  So delicious that our friend called for the bottle and between the two of us, we killed it.

THEN we all went to Gouvia to the Molfetto Bar, to dance.... we actually got home a wee past 3 that evening.

Saturday and Sunday were pretty much spent getting over my hangover.

Monday, T and I went to the Chinese (Peking House) on our own.  I hadn't eaten much over the weekend (due to my indisposition) and by Monday evening was pretty much craving some good Chinese food.

Tuesday we met our friends at La Cuchina and had another delightful meal (tho for me with a lot less alcohol!)

Wednesday I'd made arrangements for the ladies (me too!) to go to the Asian Spa in Gouvia.  It was SO nice.  We had a lovely three hours and then went to the Nautilus Bar on the seaside in Corfu town, where we all three splurged and had lovely ice cream sundaes for lunch. (Can't be too healthy!)  Wednesday evening we decided to try the "new" Poco Loco on the Disco Strip.  It was OK, but the margarita icy slushies are to be avoided!  Go for the "classic"!

Thursday evening we left our friends and sadly went to the funeral of Spiro Lemis, the Honorary Consul for Ireland.  He and his lovely wife were instrumental in helping us with all the  paperwork to get our Irish passports and remain on this lovely island.  He was one of the first people we met in Corfu on our first visit 15 years ago.  His charm and hospitality made us feel so welcome that we kept returning and finally bought a house here.

It was a grand send off.  He would have enjoyed it tremendously.  At the end of the religious ceremony in the small but beautiful Agia Paraskevi, the little church near his office, a 30 piece band dressed in white led the white hearse through and around the block to pass in front of his office one last time.

Then he was buried in the British cemetery in a quiet shaded spot.  There was a coffee on the Liston for all who attended.  But our neighbors and ourselves celebrated with a nice meal at Pomo d'Oro, and remembered the good times.

moon over Agni
Friday was our friends' last full day in Corfu.

Early in the afternoon they purchased their ferry tickets but that evening we decided to drive to Agni and have a nice meal at Toula's.

In spite of a bit of confusion on our arrival- the table for nine we'd requested had somehow made its way to Sunday (?!?) Nevertheless, they accommodated us and we had a very nice "last" meal.

Plans were made for us to visit them in the fall and I promised to look into finding them all a nice 4 bedroom villa to rent (ON the sea) for next year.

Saturday they left, and T and I laid around like old people.  But Sunday it was Sammy's birthday so I roused up my activity level and made a nice apple-ginger birthday cake for her (her fav... well that and the pear-ginger one.)  They got here at 4 in the afternoon and we on their way home at 8.

T and I toddled off to bed early and a good time was had by all.

And so that was how we spent our friend's summer vacation!  I'm going to manage to get this post done JUST before the end of Monday... thereby filling you in on EVERY thing I've done since my last post.

Tomorrow I will no doubt have to rest my typing fingers.


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