Saturday, December 10, 2011

Getting into the Christmas spirit

Today, in spite of the rain, my friend Samantha and I went into town to see the shops and get into the sights and sounds of Christmas time in Corfu.  Monday is a Corfu public holiday (St Spiridion's Day) and sort of officially the start of Corfu's Christmas Holiday Season.

We decided to meet for a coffee and then do some serious window shopping, followed by a nice lunch.

For years Sammy's been telling me where the best places to shop are, with me finding my way mostly by accident.  Today, finally we decided to do a first hand run though of place and meeting people.  (in case you are reading this dear T, I didn't spend too much... honest!)  It was just a fun, silly day and we had a marvelous time.

Apropos to nothing at all, there was a lovely performance in the old  town in the square by St Spiridion's Church.  Here are some pictures...

Everyone seemed to be having a good time and there were lots of people in the square...

From what we gathered, it was a gathering of local folk dancers as well as dancers representing other parts of Greece.

Some of the costumed dancers were from Macedonia (GREEK Macedonia, not the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia...)

There was much laughter and fun by everyone in between dances and folk songs.  They were all accompanied by guitar and fiddles and tambourines, as well as triangles and handclapping. 

lovely voices and dancers of all ages.

The men were well represented as well, but they were so drab next to the ladies that I just cropped and put the photos up that pleased me most and best represented the whole surprise...

It was a lovely charming interlude and it totally made us forget we were going to the store on the other side of the square they were dancing on!!

Ah well...

We discovered a charming "new" second hand bookstore next to the Cavalieri Hotel, and had an excellent cappuccino (OK, Samantha had an excellent cup of hot chocolate!) with it we had - between the two of us-  one slice of apple tart, that was very very good.

Then we wandered the back streets, hither and yon, to seek out brilliant little shops that sold a bit of everything.  (I found a gorgeous fresh water pearl ring, that would suit me admirably... that I didn't buy- hint hint)  I bought a inexpensive belt (seriously needed one for dipping pants), a loaf of amazing bread, a small bottle of Grand Marinier (tis the season), a great present for my granddaughter, and two hand-blown colored glass bowels (in the Venetian style) for 7 euros each.  They'll look lovely with tea candles in them, during the next power failure.

On our way, we came across this window display

It wasn't so much the chicken, as the fact of the TOTAL chicken....

We kept thinking that we'd never see something like this in a shop window in say London or even Chicago!

Then Sammy and I wandered down to the new market (in the place of the old market but finally finished and re-inhabited at last after 4 years) where Sam bought two sea bass for her Sunday lunch.

From there we went to our respective vehicles and were off to lunch at the Navigators in Kontokoli, where we had a lovely restoring glass of wine, and a marvelous homemade hamburger;  for dessert we had a slice of warm  gooey chocolate cake and a small scoop of ice cream (- and two forks)!  A lovely end to a very very pleasant day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Everything re-attached. The patient survived.

Just a quick post to update that surgery went well and everyone seems pleased.

The detached retina is now attached and the surgery went well and very quickly.  I just got off the phone with both my son and my husband and they too seemed surprised, pleased, but surprised, that they were home a good two hours earlier than expected.

T is in excellent health- except for the eye thing- and takes no medications but over the counter stuff on occasion.  This seemed to take most of the health providers a bit aback, but his blood pressure and heart rate confirmed that he was in really good shape.

He said he started to come around about ten minutes before they were finished to mention to them that he was having a bit of trouble breathing as their set up for surgery was making it difficult for him to get enough air, there at the end.  They were kind enough to ratchet up the oxygen feed in his nose, so he felt much better.  Except for after it was done he was parched and drank about a liter of water and a big glass of apple juice.

Still he sounded pretty good and not too drugged up.

They go back to the doctor tomorrow morning, early, to make sure everything is still holding and in the right position.

As I thought I'd have a bit more time on my hands and sleep was pretty much out of the question til I knew everything was ok, I decided to make soup.

This actually goes back to the Pease Pudding recipe idea I had for tomorrow.

This idea is still out there but, just NOT until I find yellow split peas... and not ORANGE LENTILS.

Yes, I bought lentils instead of split peas.  Duh.  I'd like to blame it on worry over the eye surgery, but I think it's just me.

So in time honored tradition ... instead of making lemonade out of life's lemons- I made Orange Lentil Soup (Shorabat Adas).

Well, ok, I made it with only a very few variations.  The first one was I didn't measure, because, soup is soup.  Meaning I used about a pound of lentils, my own homemade chicken broth cut with water (it's all jellied, so you have to cut it), 2/3 of a huge onion I had in the fridge, and black pepper. (also haven't done the croutons yet either).

I added to the recipe, 2 carrots (chopped into small pieces), one stick of celery (again chopped), about a teaspoon of celery seed, and I didn't completely liquidize the soup, I left a few bits of carrots for color and texture.

I also will add a lot of finely chopped fresh flat leafed parsley tomorrow, but it's too dark outside so I can't go get it in the garden tonight.

So all is well for now and if you decide to make it, enjoy the soup!  It's really REALLY good.  I will go to sleep now with a warm glow from a cup of lentil soup, and the good news that T's on the mend.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The "eye's" have it...

So.  T's appointment was this morning (US time) in Michigan, and, sadly, after a thorough eye exam, the conclusion was: it was not a false alarm.  Indeed the symptoms told the story and it IS a detached retina.

I read somewhere, online, that strongly nearsighted people have weak retinas.  Who knew??  Supposedly it affects about 1 in 10,000 people.

Some lottery...

Surgery will go ahead tomorrow morning, and by tomorrow evening everything will be done.

For a detached retina, it was good news as it was still partially attached.  Still it's disconcerting, uncomfortable and serious.  Big deal to make sure you keep your sight!

And the recovery time will again be six weeks with no airplane travel due to the gas bubble placed in to reattach the retina.

As Pooh says, "Oh Bother."

The good news is that there are some medical aids available, that we didn't know about the last time, so hopefully, it will be less of an annoyance, (and strain on the neck!) and the recovery will pass a bit less slowly.

Meanwhile, the "girls" and I have been taking long walks in the rain.

It would seem that whenever I plan to go for a walk with the dogs, the sky opens up just when I'm at the furthest point from the house.  (ha-ha, the gods of weather apparently have a sense of humor.)   The dogs don't really mind getting wet. I, however, really mind going back into the house with a couple of wet smelly dogs!  (tomorrow is dog towel washing day.)

I made a quiche for lunch, today.  My best friend (and masseuse!) stopped by to give my frozen shoulder a work out.  ouch.  

But back to the quiche:  It was a pretty standard one, with bacon, onions and cheese, but I added mushrooms because T wasn't here.  I rarely add them to food, as he doesn't care for them.

I had the end cut crusts from a couple of pies I made last week and gathered them together to make a sort of franken-crust.  It turned out pretty good- still light and flaky if a tad misshapen.  (I gave my friend a "doggie bag" of half the quiche, so that she and her mother  could have it for dinner tonight.)

Tomorrow I'm thinking about making Pease Pudding after watching a program on how to make it last night.  Everyone was so enjoying it, I figured I'd give it a whirl.  I'll try and take some pics and do a post on how I made it.

Meanwhile, it's good evening from Corfu!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Happy December!

And how time flies away from me!

T is currently winging his way to Chicago to have his eye fixed in the US as opposed to here in Greece.

It seems he may have another detached retina.  (ah genetics)

He had one in 2005, and had it taken care of in New Mexico, where I was at the time staying with my mother.  T had his surgery the day before Christmas 2005.

It would seem he'll be having surgery again at the same time of year- just six years later- in his other eye.  This time it will be in Michigan, and he'll stay with Oldest son and oldest grandson, in "all guy" splendor.  It's hard that we'll be apart for this as most of all the big things that happen to us we somehow manage to share. Still I know he'll be in good hands, both with his doctors and with his sons to take care of him.

I'm staying back here, to hold down the fortress of solitude, better known as Villa Methavrio. The dogs, cats and I will be carousing and living a high life for the next several weeks, and as a bonus we'll be keeping better notes in the blog!


ON another note, I am really amazed at how easy and free Skype is.  It's a shame it took me so long.   With next to no effort, and no cost at all,  I've managed to have several conversations with the Belgian family, (keeping updated on my cousins wife's surgery that took place the day before yesterday) and I just finished catching a quick update with my best friend while I lived in Turkey many years ago.  She's a brilliant painter now, currently living in Florida, and it was delightful to chat for a few minutes, albeit just as I'm about to go to bed and she's all perky, awake and organizing a party for today...

The greatest drawback is that I'm all self conscious I feel I look horrible on the small screen, and I feel very awkward  at seeing what I look like when I'm talking to people.   You can see yourself in a small corner of the screen and note what you look like during the call, and if you have any spinach on your teeth... (note to self, give up spinach forever.)  I find myself sitting up straighter and trying to make my hair look better, a hopeless task.  Mostly it makes me wonder what I look like to other people, like when I go to the store or something.  (I also don't recognize my voice!) This whole process is a sort of good news/bad news thing.


So that's it for today.  The puppies are telling me it's time to turn off the computer.  (they're SO bossy.)

G'night all

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ah that "thing in the middle"...

This is the blog post I should have made last week!

Due to an unforeseen and totally annoying HUGE head cold (as rudely shared by passengers seated behind us in the airplane) T and I spent a miserable week (last) recovering and trying to sleep through most of it! (I am SO over air travel.)

Flanders on the way to beach
T and I flew to Brussels for an long weekend last week (Depart Corfu 3 November; Return 7 November).  It was long time overdue to catch up with my cousins and my 93 year old Aunt Marie-Louise, (my mother's elder and only sister).

along the brislam
I also had a little "bit of my mother" that I wanted to leave in Belgium, preferably in the North Sea, which she loved, near her favorite childhood seaside resort, Blankenberge.

iconic pier in Blankenberge
                                                                                                                            Needless to say it was also a fine opportunity to savor Belgian cooking as well as catch up with the newest family addition baby Simon, born on the 29th of July while I was in the USA.

We had a surprisingly good time, with many shared and funny memories of our childhoods - my cousin and me from our first meeting when I was 5 and he was 8, through all the years in between.
me and my cousin

After my father died in 1959, I would fly to Belgium every summer after the school term ended and spend the three months of summer vacation living in the brownstone in Anderlecht with my Grandmother and Grandfather, while my aunt and uncle and cousin lived in the apartment upstairs and another great-aunt lived on the top floor apartment.

My summer would pass spending my days waiting for my cousin, Ray to finish school so we could "play" (mostly we tried to understand eachother as I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what everyone was saying- in French!), driving my grandmother crazy, and reading American novels left by my mother on previous trips, until I discovered the bookstore in the city that sold English books and blew through all my pocket money!

ON the weekends, we'd all of us, go to the local cafe, to meet with friends and more distant family members,, and my cousin and I would play cards or as we got older, go to the movies.

one of the three apartments I remember
Some time over the weekend, usually Sunday, my aunt and uncle would take my cousin and me for an educational drive, to see the sights of Belgium, and of course have a good meal along the way!

Always for the month of August the family would rent an apartment in Blankenberge and every day would be spent "taking the air" bathing in the sea, and enjoying the seaside atmosphere.

lovely view to eat by!
In the great tradition of "all that came before", we had a great lunch in a super seaside restaurant built on the same (used to be a bit more humble) spot.

oh the yum...
Of course we had to have fish and I had to have Sole Meuniere with Frites.

T had cabillaud (fresh cod) with a marvelous and very traditional Belgian butter and cream sauce. (yes the arteries groan, but the taste is putting you at the gate of heaven!)

After lunch we had to walk a bit and wandered to the opposite side of the beach away from the pier to the channel that goes to the port.

no more fishing boats
There were more childhood memories, of my cousin and I getting up early to meet the fishing boats and talking the fisherman into sharing a couple of freshly cooked crabs wrapped in newspapers. (they'd boil them in a big pot, right in the boat for their fisherman's  breakfast!)

Now there are almost no more fishing boats, just luxury yachts and power boats.

Still lovely but not the same.

the cheeses
the charcuterie
We came home to my cousins house,  just in time to sit down for another, simpler, but amazingly delicious meal then went back (groaning) to our little hotel.

We stayed at the quirky little Hotel Centrum in Beersel .

the breakfast room
the coffee tea corner

It's a very odd little place, but it was clean enough, the room was big and we had a small ensuite bathroom. Breakfast was OK and the coffee was freshly made and my tea was hot.  Best of all, it was close (5 minutes!) to my cousins house.

The rest of the weekend passed in a haze of exchanging wonderful memories, eating excellent food and all the while with a warm family all around.  (Oh.   And there was wine.  I didn't talk about the wine and it was delicious and plentiful.  Did I mention the wine?  My liver is still recovering.)
taking in La Grand-Place
Taverne du Passage

We went into the city on Saturday, and shopped a bit and had a beer on the Grand Place then went on to a classic and favorite restaurant Taverne du Passage, in the Galeries Royales St Hubert.

There we again ate and drank marvelously (but we were having such a good time I forgot to take pictures!)  served by excellent and long time waiters.  I had a simple Steak-Frites and it was amazing.  T had a Sole, my cousins had Choucroute, an Alsatian dish of Sauerkraut, sausages and ham, made with a Belgian twist.

Sunday we had a big family gathering and my cousin Maryse prepared a wonderful Carbonnade - a  great Belgian Beef and Beer stew. (which I make several times every winter!)  We finished it off with delicacies from the bakery...  After which, I almost fell asleep in my coffee!
Ray and Arsène
my aunt and Simon (& me)
Benoit, Jenny and Melissa
Jeremy and Jenny
La Dessert
wherein I almost fell asleep
saying au revior

We flew out of Brussels at around noon and were home again in Corfu by 7 pm.

Then we got sick and went to bed for a few days and didn't remember to call my granddaughter on her birthday on Tuesday.

Again, with the belated birthday greetings!!!  Happy 23!

In the end, that's why this post is a week late!  (clicking on the pictures should make them larger)

So until the next peripatetic post... ta!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The return of the great pumpkin,...

Well, O.K.

This year our pumpkins were not SO great, but we had a fun time anyway carving them and being silly with our favorite substitute grandchildren.

Our friend, E,  who now lives in Holland comes to visit family a couple of times a year.  (we're extended family, particularly near Halloween!)

So T carved away, whilst the little ones designed their ideas and tweaked their finished product.

 There was great concentration and much ooh-ing and ahh-ing for the finished results.

I was not a participant as someone needed to document the proceedings...

[Meanwhile, Mr. Pumpkin Head is choosing to remain anonymous. ]

In spite of the weather periodically spitting and dripping on us, (there were bouts of sunshine as well) we all had a marvelous time.

The pumpkin family seemed content as well.

We got a little carried away with "costumes" as we had brought a "bag O' animal noses" back from the States, for everyone to try on, which certainly helped the festive Halloween atmosphere.

There was much silliness and miming of animal behaviors....

and noises!

really cute faces all around

Though as T mentioned, "An ornament finds its own tree"...                  

(And yes, it WAS a bad hair day...)         

Saturday, October 15, 2011

And with the rain....

Comes the power cuts and electricity challenges – as well as the odd disappearance of the DSL connection!

The day after my previous post, on a bright sunny day, the power went off from 8 to 1 (ish) in the afternoon! Supposedly they “fixed” all sorts of problems, and our power was supposedly 'good to go'.

Then we had rain and lightening and thunder...


storm damage
Currently, we only have partial power- 1 phase of a 3 phase system- as a transformer near our house was hit by lightening and sadly appears to be dangerously broken. I say dangerously, because some of our neighbors (who are also with only partial electricity) watched the shower of sparks arc all night long from their living room window!

Several neighbors have no electricity, and one neighbor hasn't be affected at all. (I think out of spite we may all descend on his house for dinner!)

a tiny problem
I am sure soon, we'll have no electricity “if” they decide to come and fix it as they will probably have to shut it down to work on it.

(Of course I say “IF” because when one of the neighbors called to report the problem, he was told “there IS no problem!”, in that charming Greek way, as they are wont to do whenever “foreigners” call with problems. They usually presume it is a minor problem of fuses that we apparently don't know how to change or maybe even master fuses tripped and left unattended. We now have a Greek friend calling to report the problem and hopefully -eventually- someone will come out and see IF there is a problem. I just hope it's before the general strike next Tuesday!!)

good thing the flue is clean
Still we manage quite comfortably, and made our first roaring fire in the fireplace to cheer us up.

Meanwhile, the house is criss-crossed with cables to provide electricity to the fridge and freezers as well as jury rig a connection to the dryer so we can dry the “dog towels” (the poor puppies NEED to go out and play in the rain and MUST come in the house- soaked to the skin!- and sleep for a while).


Which brings me round to what my post was REALLY going to be about today...

In all the hectic craziness since our return from Istanbul (see, NOW I'm going to tell you what really happened between my post about our wonderful trip to Turkey, and my time in Chicago!)I felt I should update you on some of the things that happened to make me not post...

Amazing Balou
Sadly, our great and wonderful Bernese dog, Balou died in early April, from a malignant growth in her neck that had become inoperable. We were devastated, and if it would have only been me, I would have probably decided to never get a dog again, as it hurts so badly when you lose them!

T on the other hand had been talking for a couple of months, about getting another dog to keep Balou company- a puppy this time,-and he had found what was purported to be a Chow - German shepherd mix, he'd fallen in love with.

So at the end of April, we went to pick up what we thought was one 3 month old puppy.

such sweet babies
Long story short, we ended up with TWO puppies, because the second (and last) puppy would never have got adopted as she was very timid and fearful and didn't look anything like a shepherd.

I decided that it would be cruel to leave her behind so... (how do these things happen??) we ended up with two puppies.

After we got them home, we realized that they were great “medicine” for missing Balou, and they made us laugh constantly, and were smart and wanted to try and learn from and about us.

We also discovered that they were a bit older than advertised, by about an additional six weeks! The Chow and the German Shepherd parents must have been small by all standards as the pups are very much mid sized dogs.

Their names are Rosie and Ginger.

Rosie is the intrepid one and has a HUGE amount of energy (we refer to her as the “mad bee” when she starts her flat eared sprints around the garden and us – and Ginger). Rosie “looks” the part of watchdog, but she is very friendly and will come to the fence and greet anyone. The dog has no discrimination. She is fascinated by everything and never wants the walks to end. She is totally motivated by food and can be trained to do anything – with enough chicken on offer.

Ginger is very stand-offish with strangers and barks and growls and is pretty much a great watch dog. She is at heart though, what could be termed a “couch potato” dog. 

With us she's a big slob and will always slide from a sit to a lie down if she can. She tolerates going for “walkies” but mostly because it seems to please Rosie so much. She's not very adaptable with strangers and hates when we have company. She does things because she wants to or she feels sorry for us. She is NOT motivated by food or treats.

holding paws while cat watching
They are completely devoted to eachother and play fight, play hide and seek, doggie tag and of course tease eachother constantly. If one is out of sight of the other they go “hunting” for the other one. 

They've completely settled in and even were silly and fun company when our first houseguests of the year arrived mid May.

Sadly, right after our friends left (around the 22 of May) I was thrust into the panic of my mother's brain tumor and booking my flight to Chicago to be with my mother for her surgery.

When I returned in August, I was worried that the puppies wouldn't remember me, or that they wouldn't pay any attention to me, and I'd have to start from the beginning with the basics. NOT SO! They greeted me like a long lost friend and everything's gone swimmingly since I've been home!

Three weeks after I returned from the States, T flew back to the US to visit the boys and his brothers and sisters and cousins. We'd originally planned to fly together for the visit (it's been ages since we've traveled back to the US together, just for fun!) but that was before my mother's problems, so we adapted, and split our trips.

T left and it was me alone with the dogs... we had a great time together, and I needed to be alone in my own space for a while. They were very sympathetic and gave me cuddles when I needed them.

They slept in their doggie beds in our room at night and snored so I wouldn't miss T, too much.

So finally it brings me round in an odd way, to our "right now" life in Corfu.

Things change, and they remain the same.


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