Wednesday, 18 July 2018

More Summer Stuff

Life goes on, hot or cold

Hot and sultry are the words to describe our weather though tonight  we are suddenly enjoying a cool breeze, from the north, blowing down from those Siberian steppes.  Freezing in winter, so much appreciated in mid-summer.

An evening swim cools the body and clears the brain.   Unfortunately a lot of the locals feel the same way.  There must have been a dozen people in the water last night.  I was getting used to our deserted beach and suddenly these 'crowds' seemed to spoil my swim.  I sat and baked and sulked for a few minutes before coming to my senses and wading in for a refreshing dip

K loves all these people.  The locals bob about, covered up to their necks, and cluster for a gossip.  All you see are bunches of talking heads.  At least he comes out with all the latest news, and a bit of psst psst, don't tell anyone, but...................

I swim from one side of the bay to the other doing a gentle lady-like breast-stroke, coming out when some of the bathers have departed, to sit on the wall and enjoy the peacefulness

The tap beside our front gate.  Mint under the tap to catch the drips, rosemary on the left, a pot of basil on the right

Our first figs.  My nephew has a few dozen trees and these are the first of this summer's crop.  The tree at the end of our road is laden this year but they need another few weeks of sunshine to get to this size

Monday, 16 July 2018


Octopii or Octopuses

A cousin of ours gave us seven tiny octopuses.  Seven.  He was so proud of having caught 7 octopii.  We weren't happy about it at all.  They were  baby otopuses, weighing less than a kilo each.   Octopuses which were not allowed to grow and reproduce.  It is illegal to catch octopus this size but still some people do, and are proud of it.

In a few years this, seemingly intelligent, greek man (ex-navy) will be complaining that there are no more octopuses to catch.  I wonder why.

What is the plural of octopus?
octopii          or   octopi
octopuses     or 

I'll go with octopuses though octopi with one 'i' or two does sound quite learned.

Octopus - a mollusc with eight long sucker bearing arms, bulging eyes and a strong beak like jaw.
In greek 'octo-podi'  
Octo - the Greek word for 'eight'
Podi -  the Greek word for 'foot'

Now this is an octopus which has produced a few generations of octopii.  
Just one tentacle is more than enough for an ouzo meze (a snack)

Does anyone remember Paul the Octopus who predicted the results of the 2010 World Cup matches?  He had an  85.7% success rate.

This year the Japanese used an octopus called Rabio who successfully predicted all the early games the Japanese played.  Unfortunately he was then sold and turned into sushi.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Everyday Stuff

What's going on around our house?  Not much in this heat.  

Another washing machine has been dumped in our front yard.  Can't complain this time.  The machine out the back gave up the ghost and even our expert can't bring it back to life.  This one was being carried away from the house of a local Irishman.  Or is he a Norwegian.  Who cares.  He's rich enough to throw out his appliances at the first sign of fallibility and buy new ones.  It's our washing machine now and with a new hosepipe and a tweak or two it cleans as washing machines should.  And it's out the back!

Sotiris by the sea.  We went for a wine and a meze.
The sun was going down and soon the lights of the port were twinkling.  The front tables by the water were reserved.  That's summer.  Even at this early hour the taverna was busy.  We could not be given a front row table  and we've been steady customers for the last 20 years.  

That's ok.  The islanders are working, making money.  We'll have our waterside table again in September,

The fire truck is ready and waiting.  I wonder why there is not a firetower  on one of the high points of the island.  Any whiff of smoke would be spotted immediately.

Dried broad beans.  The ones at the back are still in their shell.
They are shelled. drizzled with olive oil, oregano and vinegar and eaten with garlic sauce


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Vlita - King of Greens

Vlita - Amaranthus viridis . 

 I can't find an english translation.  You may recognise it and tell me what you call it.

Grows in the heat of our summer, dies out in cooler temperatures. Have seen it called Chinese amaranth or Guernsey pigweed. Related to spinach and beet greens.

It is a summer green which most Greeks love to eat.  A plate of vlita, a clove of garlic, a squirt of vinegar, a slosh of olive oil, a fork in one hand, a slice of bread in the other and you have the perfect summer lunch.

A plate of little fried fishes goes down well with the greens and a side of boiled zucchini put traditional people in very good moods.

It grows all over the garden and needs only water to enjoy vigorous growth.   Ours just came up by itself.  The first year there were a couple of patches under the mandarine tree.  The next year a few more patches and now in spring it pops up all over the usually bare and dusty backyard.  K picks the top, younger and more tender leaves.  The more you pick, the more it grows.  The vlita phenomenon during the summer months reminds me of the lemons and oranges in the winter.   Everyone around here has loads and we have bags of vlita left on our doorstep.  We have more than enough of our own so we pick bags full and leave them on others' doorsteps.  In Athens you probably pay 3 or 4 euros for a kilo of fresh leaves.

It just needs a good wash to get rid of dust and any dirt and is then boiled for about 20 minutes.  

The greens are a very good source of iron, vitamin C,  are rich in a variety of minerals and other vitamins.  Another  superfood.

So why is used to describe someone who is a little lacking in brains?  
'As dumb as vlita', they say.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Balla - On The Ball

Football mania

I've had to watch and learn and sometimes even enjoy  football (soccer) during this World Cup.  It's join em or suffer.

I even know what a penalty is, still not sure about off-side although it has been explained to me a few times.  How the players don't end up in hospital after some of the somersaults they do on the field I can only attribute to male stoicism.  I know a lot of it is staged but some of those tumbles look painful.  As for the head shots  ... their brains must be rattling round in their skulls.  The foul play reminds me of Australian rules rugby.  The excitement of the match is in the tackling.    How Neymar manages to do any foot work or shoot a goal is a miracle.  If he hasn't got someones arm around his neck, there's a player tugging at his shirt, stamping his foot or just shoving him as hard as they can without the ref blowing his whistle.  So what's a yellow card anyway.  

Rugby tackle

Last night we walked down to the harbour to see Croatia play Russia on the big screen at our favourite cafeteria

The cafe owner is a good friend so he saved us a ringside table and provided a plate of fatty pork to go with the beer, and my coke light

The only player whose name I recognised was Luka Modric, captain of the Croatian team.  He plays for Real Madrid and I've seen him play against greek teams and he stood out in every game.  Some names just pop-out as you listen to the commentary, especially when it is in a foreign language.  Mesi's name was noticeably absent from most of his matches.  He seemed to be a sideliner.  

Luka Modric
Croatian Captain

Anyway, I was hoping for a Croatian win, not that it mattered at all. Everytime the Russians scored a goal there were cheers all along the waterfront.  We noticed a lot of Russian flags being waved as we walked downtown so the Russians must have been in town in full force.

Big disappointment for the Russians, playing on home turf.  It reminded me of 2004 when Greece won the European cup.  They played the final in Portugal against the Portuguese national team.  It was a surprise win for Greece and one of the Portuguese players lay down on the turf and cried when the final whistle blew.

Now I'm looking forward to the semi-finals and we've already booked our seat for the final. 

We're also looking forward to a change in weather.  There is a noticeable difference in the air.  Heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast for tonight and tomorrow.  The air is cooler, there are clouds in the sky so we may just get a cooling shower.  The last few days have been incredibly muggy.

An unusual June and July , as it has been in a lot of places in the world.  We've had rain, hail, heatwaves.  Zeus has hurled a few thunderbolts.  We've had everything but snow.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Signs of Summer

Sharing a greek salad with a household pet

A little fishing boat called Lindaki, a greek version of Linda.  This boat is a recent arrival, brought from the island of Paros, from another greek with a foreign wife?

Our first swim.  The water was cool and clean.  Vagionia beach is very, very quiet this year.  Great for an evening swim but we do miss the canteen and a small glass of ouzo after our dip in the sea

The yacht harbour is full again.  

Some of the neighbourhood gang

Can't call this baby sitting anymore, the babies have grown up. Friends gather, they play, they squabble, they disappear off outside.  I am there for a few hours to make them toast and butter, these kids have simple tastes, rustle up a little something for lunch and find a little peace myself to read a book, write a blog

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Hibiscus Tea

I have been watching a series on cooking in orthodox monasteries, some with monks and others only nuns.

Most eat no meat and they fast for over 200 days a year, eating  pulses, grains and vegetables.

  The monastics eat mainly whatever they grow in their gardens.  They preserve, pickle and sell a lot of their produce be it vegetables, wine, cheese or oil.

It is really interesting seeing life inside these monastic orders, especially the female monasteries/nunneries.  Many are rich with  acres of olive trees, herds of goats and cows, huge gardens.  However it is hard work and very 'hands-on' .  The nuns and monks don't just sit in church all day reciting their prayers. 

 In a nunnery it is the nuns themselves who do most of the work, driving tractors, and other farm machinery, milking, herding, tending the animals, making cheese, tilling the fields.  All these things are done by women all over Greece, it just seems strange to me to see the nuns in long, black, all-covering habits toiling this way. 

A female monastery near us which we visit now and again over easter. 
 Like many of the monasteries it is a collection  of stone buildings high up in the mountains, surrounded by immaculate gardens and hidden behind high walls

The monastery in Crete

Most monastics enjoy some sort of herbal tea, drinking it for their health and offering refreshment to visitors.  The flavour  of the tea depends on what is growing around them .  Mountain tea (tsai tou vounou) is a huge favourite all over greece. Ironwort seems to be the English translation.

Today the programme visited a monastery in Crete, much smaller than most of them with only an Abbot and 3 monks. The monk in charge of the kitchen looked well fed, enthusing over the snails he was stewing.  A larger type of snail called kohlous are a specialty in Crete.  I saw them described somewhere as the 'lobster of Crete'.

Cretan snails
The monk was not at all concerned about frying live snails, giving them a  lingering death.  Bad karma

 He introduced me to cold hibiscus tea. This tea is made with cold water, and is not the usual brew steeped in boiling water.

He collected a handful of those gorgeous red  hibiscus flowers and set them out in the sun to dry.  The tea was made by adding a few dried hibiscus leaves to a jar of cold water and leaving  it for a few hours.  He strained out the flowers and poured the brew into glasses.

You can make it with fresh flowers as well and it can also be enjoyed hot if you prefer.

Hibiscus tea is rich in Vitamin C and helps with stress and anxiety.  It also helps reduce high blood pressure, protects the liver, helps in weight loss and benefits the body in a number of other ways .

We have loads of hibiscus here so I'll be collecting a few flowers and trying out the cold tea, just to see how it tastes.   The resulting tea is a bright pink. Looks exotic.

 I've never heard of anyone around here drinking hibiscus so it will be a novelty.