Sunday 12 December 2010

winter arrived yesterday at 1pm

Yesterday morning I was in short sleeves hanging out the washing on another beautiful sunny day.  By midday I was in my long sleeved fleece bringing in the washing and closing windows because of heavy rain.  An hour later it was freezing.  This morning it is snowing in Athens.  Winter has arrived.  The snow fields in northern greece are open.  Maybe the snow fields around here will be open soon too.  Just an hour and a half from Poros, folks.

All shipping has come to a halt because of very high seas.  This time it is not strikes which has brought all transport to a halt.  Mind you, it could be over by Monday.  The weather had better be a helluva lot better by Tuesday.  We have a road trip into Athens scheduled.  There is one water taxi going to and fro between Poros and Galatas with two ferryboat-men to hold it and the car ferry is going every hour instead of half hour.

Last night we had a visit from Kyriakos and the two little people, Jamie and Natali.  Of course, Kostas lit the fire and he and Kyriakos were grilling chicken and pork chops.  What else to do in such cold weather.  They started off with raki and then went on to wine.  Must say Kyriakos did stop the alcohol and go on to coca-cola because he was driving back down the winding road in the dark with two small children.  He looks after the children in the evening when Elli is working and is great with them.  He feeds them, takes them out, bathes them, 'milks' them and they are asleep when Elli returns at 9.  I know certain other males have done more but for a greek male he is a shining example.

Yiannis isn't too bad either in an emergency.  When Danae was ill not long ago he took the kids to school, cleaned the house, did the shopping and cooking and organised the homework. Not his usual activities.

Jamie, the little devil, is playing the Holy Child (not the Holy BABY) in the xmas pantomime at pre-school.  We are all still chuckling about that.  He is the youngest and probably the smallest in his class so the obvious candidate.  But can he keep still long enough?
nb - at the rehearsal yesterday apparently he was up and down like a bumblebee and as his finale he whacked the Virgin Mary.

He is a whizz with anything electronic - but what child isn't nowadays.  He brought a dvd with him in his little spiderman back pack and put it in our new player, which I still can't operate, and was watching Felix the Cat before I could get up out of my chair to help him. 

Felix the cat, the wonderful wonderful cat
whenever he gets into a fix
he reaches into his bag of tricks.

Puke the cat
the terrible, terrible cat
whenever we can't take no more
She gets the boot, and out the door

Wasn't Felix around when I was his age?  He loves Felix and the mad professor. Today is his birthday.  He is 4 years old.  The clans will gather and lots shall be eaten and drunk as usual. 
NB - he had a pirate party.  We all wore pirate hats and his cake had a pirate ship on it - cake made by Elli.  Roast pork, sausage pies, cheese pies, potato salad, fish sticks, egg sandwiches cut in the shape of dinosaurs, meatballs, popcorn - all unsalted.

How do you roll out pastry without a rolling pin?  With great difficulty.  You push the pastry out with your fingers and try and close the holes as they appear.  We had all the children here not long ago and George was wielding the rolling pin.  Someone told him to put it down before one of the others got it and clonked someone or something.  So where did he put it down?  Or did an 'older person' take it and hide it?  No-one knows.  Especially not me.  I have searched high and even higher- where else to search in a small house?  One day it will turn up - I'll let you know WHERE.
nb - ALL the kids are here again today for yet another bbq on our open fire.  This is not going to be a peaceful Sunday but Kostas is grinning from ear to ear and was hauling firewood at 10am and re-examining the menu in case we don't have enough to eat.  We always have money for food.

I made muffins and cinnamon rolls and bread yesterday - with a borrowed rolling pin.  What else does a woman do in weather like this- well, except sit down and read a book.

Kostas put the christmas tree up and even decorated it with our big red xmas balls.  Are they balls....or is there another word.  'Balls' is not a word that is socially acceptable anymore.  He has strung up lights on the lemon trees and made the summer umbrellas into xmas trees and has more in mind.  We also put down the last carpet as the tiled floors were getting a bit cold.

I looked up 'Xmas in New Zealand' on the net. Christmas down under is something completely different from what I remember.  I read about 'assorted breads with dips such as guacamole, dukkah!! and hummus.  NZ xmas carols, picinics and games at the beach, a hangi with the whanau (did that word exist when we went to school?), bbqing with exotic salads, cricket tests and Santa wearing jandals.

We were still having the traditional english xmas when I left with roast lamb and all the trimmings. Now you even have xmas in July.

New Zealand xmas carols seem to have taken over from the traditional english ones as well.  I did manage to hear 'kiwi jingle bells' on one site.  Georgeous.  Sung in a broad kiwi accent with real dinkkum kiwi lyrics.  Now I read you have 'The Southern Cross Looks Down', a 'Pukeko in a Ponga Tree', 'Sticky Beak the Kiwi' and 'The Jersey Cow came Mooing'.  I must see if I can download them from the net.

We brought back lots of xmas crackers from Australia this year.  At least those will be the original instead of homemade paper hats stuffed into decorated cardboard from loo rolls.  Of course Kostas is worrying at us about the xmas menu.  Shall we have turkey or pork or preferably turkey AND pork and a leg of lamb  cooked in the outdoor wood oven.  His wine has cleared thanks to the north wind and he is 'tasting' it with every meal'
nb - the latest is that he has also ordered a cows head for xmas and is going to slow roast it in the outside oven.

YES, it is official , the pavlova is KIWI.  I heard it on the news - on 3 NZ news over the net!   Some one in england (was it the oxford dictionary?) says they investigated the whole controversy and yes, the new zealanders made it first.  Australians say it is a conspiracy.  Just hope Elli makes one for xmas day.

Kostas cooked a rustic rooster with that long, fat, slippery, tubey macaroni for lunch and is now cooking 'keftethes' for Jamie's party - meatballs to the rest of the world.  It is his speciality - along with roast pork.
We are also cooking the three dozen frozen cheese pies. 

Tomorrow I shall be looking for a recipe for yoghurt cake and something else to do with the quinces.  Our next door neighbour - Vasso's son is in charge of supplies at the Navy base.  He brought us 50 pots of yoghurt left over from the last lot of recruits.  There are another 200 if someone wants them.

I spent a day with Jan making more marmelade with the last of the grapefruit.  We did it a bit more carefully than my usual slap and dash methods.  13 pots of perfect marmelade.  Sorry, you're too far away to send them - although by courier they would probably be safe.  I once brought back a large jar of Edith's homemade tomato sauce in my handluggage.  Delish.  Not acceptable anymore either.  No liquids allowed in hand luggage.

Sunday morning after the birthday party.  The sun is shining and it is a beautiful but extremely chilly day.The wind is still blowing down straight from the russian steppes. 

EX-king Konstantine has been sent a tax bill of 2.000 euros for the years 2004-6.  I hope he gets another one for for ten times the amount.   Lots of people are getting their taxes re-evaluated.  Poor Kyriakos got a bill for 500 euros.  That's not fair.  He has to work many, long hours to make that amount. Kostas is a 'civil servant' pensioner and so far he is safe.

The 'bifteki' have been slapped into shape.  The souvlaki on their sticks are marinating.  The chicken has been cut up.  Yiannis is bringing gallons of wine.  Elli is bringing extra bread.  The show will soon be on the road.

I moved the laptop into the lounge for a little more peace and quiet.  I am waiting for Nels to come and help me finish the xmas decorating.  I put a xmas cloth on the big table yesterday and 3 red candles in the middle.  Roll on New Year.  And more eating.  GROAN

doing what he does best

Tony (in jandals), Brad and Niki
doing what he loves most

Saturday 4 December 2010

4th DECEMBER review

For those of you who are wondering what we did during the summer.  Well, we sweated.  We had a few visitors from down-under.  My nephew Steven from Perth came with his, then fiancee, Teresa to met all the greeks.
For those of you who don't know, we went to Australia in October for a family wedding and had a wonderful wonderful time.  Our first 'foreign' nephew Steven got married to Teresa  in Perth and all the family gathered to celebrate and shop and drink and some of us ate rather a lot as well.  Fish and chips and meat pies seemed to have been on most of my menus.  The wine was nectar and the beer wasn't half bad either.  'Little Creatures" brewery in Freemantle...visit, drink and enjoy!  That was beer that even I enjoyed.  We had our last of many bottles in Perth airport just before flying out.

The hospitality was overwhelming.  Our beds and pillows were so soft.  Civilisation!   The wedding was beautiful.  I've run out of adjectives to describe the terrific time Kostas and I had.  I will get my thesaurus out and start on the trip in another blog.  Just let me say the besides the beds and the beer we loved the eucalyptus groves, the ice-cream, the shopping malls, the excellent coffee, the sushi at roadside stops (sushi???  I thought Aussies and kiwis snacked on meat pies and sandwiches), the whales, the  waves, the little white greek church in the middle of nowhere, the news in ENGLISH, the immaculately groomed lawns of the many many wineries we visited, the naval museum with the history of the greeks from Kastellorizo, the warmth and welcome we found everywhere. And Silvies fantastic steaks.  I could and will go on and on.  Perth is a beautiful city.  I loved the buzz , the diversity of the people, the cleanliness, the inner city rush.  I've run out of english words again.  Karen you are a marvel.  Creasys thank you thank you.  And my nephews and nieces - what wonderful (stale old adjective) people they are.  Intelligent, friendly, social, gorgeous.  You all did a good job there, bros.

Birthday - Kostas got up early and made eggs and bacon, mounds and mounds of it.  Even he couldn't eat it all.  Then he mixed his homemade burgers and got out of the house for an hour so I could read my email and even answer some of it.  Wasn't he nice!   I made a couple of loaves of bread and cut up all the bacon that was left over and put that in the dough as well.

Jan arrived first so we opened the beaujolais and gossiped till the kids came and took over.  I cut up my bread, opened the Margaret river oil and dipped it in the dukkah.  No one was impressed.  I ate the dukkah and loved it.  Jan ate it to, probably since there was nothing else to soak up the wine at the time.  Humph, I shall finish it off myself.  ps greek oil is better and cheaper.

Kyriakos brought the bottles of chenin blanc and some bratwurst sausages which taste almost like english ones.  He found some good cheap salmon steaks too.  We had wraps and lots of crisp iceberg lettuce - not that limp 'cos lettuce'.  Kostas made the burgers and the kids made hamburgers with buns.  Everyone was happy, even Kostas.  And Elli made a pavlova.  She makes a mean pav and it was perfect.  George and I blew out the candles a few times - with Jamie's help of course.  The kids had choc bars instead of birthday pav .  Then they all went out and ripped the clean backyard to bits.  But they were happy.

I got a nice earthy coloured cushion, JENGA (yes, I told everyone what a great game it was, so they bought it for me - no language barrier in this game, but as a sagittarius I DO HATE TO LOSE), a new blouse, ANTI-WRINKLE cream.  hmmmm And some nice xmas salt and pepper shakers.

I had a great time.  No fatty pans to clean up for a start.  And no drunks.  I got greetings from everyone, everywhere, thanks to Niki who started it all off on facebook.  No, the family emails all came first but I was still getting greetings on facebook at midnight.  Not often I look on facebook but at times like this it certainly is worth it.

me with Nels and Poppi-Lydia

the happy couple

playing monopoly with all the grankids

Some little person bashed in the glass of our camera so we have no photos of yesterday but here are some others for the blog.  xx to you all

Friday 3 December 2010

Greek logic

I have already posted this once but I reckon it is worth a second reading!

How to live life to the full!
A boat docked on a Greek island.

A tourist complimented the local fishermen on the quality of their fish and asked how long it took them to catch.

"NOT VERY LONG' they answered in unison.

"Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?"

The fishermen explained that their small catches were sufficient to meet their needs and those of their families.

"But what do you do with the rest of your time?"  .........million dollar question


"We sleep late, fish a little, play with our children, and take
siestas with our wives. In the afternoons we have a snack at the beach or go into the village to see our friends at the Kafenio,
have a few drinks and play tavli. In the evenings we go to a taverna play the bouzouki and sing a
few songs, maybe break a plate or two.

The tourist interrupted,
"I have an MB A from Harvard and I can help you!
You should start by fishing longer every day.
You can then sell the extra fish you catch.
With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?"

"With the extra money the larger boat will bring,
you can buy a second one and a third one
and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.
Instead of selling your fish to a middle man,
you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants
and maybe even open your own plant.
You can then leave this little village and move to A thens or even London!
From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."

"How long would that take?"

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years." replied the tourist.

"And after that?"

" Afterwards? Well my friend, that's when it gets really interesting, "
answered the tourist, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions?  Really?  And after that?"

" After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

"With all due respect, that's exactly what we are doing now.
So what's the point wasting twenty-five years?"
asked the Greek fishermen?

And the moral of this story is:
Know where you're going in life....
you may already be there!


Thursday 2 December 2010

the albie

Kostas went out eary this morning and got an albie (albanian) to help him clear up his shed and the yard.  He did and amazing job.  Has cleared all the weeds and I hauled away to the rubbish bins down the road 6 huge bags of weeds (those that wouldn't fit into the compost), bags of old cement, loads of old piping and half a dozen huge bowls full of old fishing gear and rusty hooks.  No wonder the rubbish people here go on strike so often, the crap they have to pick up.  Now I have to clean the car.

Alas all that wild sorrell has also gone but I'm sure it will be back with the first rain.  He even cleared the vegetable bed so maybe now we can put in a few lettuces and a bit of rocket for the winter.  All my gnomes and rabbits have appeared from under the undergrowth.  Looks good.

Had a quick session with Elli and Danae this morning to make sure that everything is ready for the party tomorrow.  Salad and sandwiches - ha ha.  But Kostas is allowed to BBQ a few beefburgers and a chicken so there will be no grumbling thank you.  Lots of ketch-up and chocolate for Georgie.  But he is having another party for his friends on Saturday.  Lucky Danae. `

Now Kostas has gone out to get souvlaki (the gyro meat in the pitta bread) because I only cooked a little fish for lunch. 

Do you know that there are lefthand scissors?  How did I survive without them?  Jamie is left handed and his teacher got a special pair of scissors for him.  And it made a big difference.  He can actually cut now.  IS THIS A GOOD THING?

Nostalgia - Pukehina beach

Wednesday 1 December 2010

first of december

Richard and Muriel - roof top Poros
(Old school Friend - Te Puke High, early 60's)

Temperatures are still quite high for this season - around 25 c today.  Lots of wind but no rain.  The rest of europe is digging out of snow drifts and their temperatures are just above zero.  Poor old Spain is freezing and so is most of Italy.  Why do we have such a different climate - only a little bit further east.

Today it is 'horta' that I am cooking - for Kostas.  Very healthy.  Usually accompanied by fish but I think it will be just fried potatoes today. This 'horta' are weeds from the fields.  Fields usually covered in sheep or goat droppings.  This particular weed is the root and early green leaves of the dandelion - before the flower opens.  It is a little,  bitter Kostas prefers it that way.  Doused in lemon juice and olive oil of course.  He'll find some fish to grill later on for sure.  Can't eat it 'orphano' - orphaned or all alone.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

family photos

me and Natalia
wot K took photos of in Aussie
easter lamb on the spit - english neighbour Chris with Kostas

oz-tober fest, Busselton

drinking beer - of course

Teresa and Steven with Georgie and Nels - Poros
Jamie, Danae and Coca-Cola George at his wedding
Lydia and Danae all dressed up at the church
at the reception - too much for poor little Jamie asleep on the chairs
Kyriakos and a tired little Natalia
Elli and Alexandra - prospective greek bride - with house in Santorini!
Kostas doing what he does best - after eating and drinking
greek saying - hungry bears don't dance
Kostas and Kyriakos

Lyn and Gordon after the market at Ermioni - a cool heineken

time of sagittarius

It was Kyriako's birthday yesterday...........and Lydia's was on Friday (with a party on Saturday) That bright little butterfly was the life and soul of the party. She loved every minute, opening her presents, playing with her friends, blowing out the candles three times to her great amusement.  We sang 'Happy Birthday' in greek, english and chinese.  And her kindergarten teacher was there as well with her little Italian diva.  The teacher is married to an italian and has one daughter, Maria - a Doted Daughter.  I gave Kyriakos a smiling buddha with a sack of coins over his shoulder.  It is supposed to bring good luck and money.  I also made him an evil eye preventer - a head of garlic with a piece of fishing net decorated with pins, blue beads and a lucky fish.  We have one hanging over our front gate.  It is supposed to make visitors with evil in mind to shudder and retreat.  Kyrikos has his hanging in his boat - though just to keep away the bad luck presumably, bad People still have to pay their fare and he needs the fares!  Kyriakos also got a loaf of my homemade cheesy sourdough bread. Obviously a favoured son-in-law - but Yiannis too, of course.

Elli and Kyriakos had some bottles of 'chenin blanc' which is one of the wines we tasted in Margaret River and I liked it better than sauv blanc even.  This is just a cheap S African one but I told him to buy me a couple of bottles which hopefully he will remember to do so.  They come from the cheap german supermarket in Galatas.

This Friday it is Georgies birthday - and mine.  Ten days later it is Jamie's birthday and then his other Yia-yia -Nota.  I will be having a luncheon for the kids and my one friend that is left here, Jan.  Kostas will probably be roasting pork - fatty pig.  A party is not a party without a pig!

And it is the time for numerous name days - St Nick (Patron saint of sailors - and not Santa Claus) , St Barbara (whose icon is paraded through the streets of Poros), Spiros (patron saint of Kerkyra - Corfu to you). St Lucia - not a greek saint I think - but important in some countries culture.  Then there are other less well known like St Eletherios, St Stefanos (Good King  Wencelous once looked out on the feast of Steven....) Stelios, Katerina (Kathryn, 25 November), another St Anne, St Andrew, today 30 November and on and on until St Anthony on January 19. 

AND towards the end of December there is a Lunar elcipse and the Solstice.

Pomegranites.  Excellent for cleansing the blood so the greeks say.  The trees are laden with pomegranites around here and we have been given bags of them.  Last year I made pomegranite liqueur.  This year I am juicing them.  Along with mandarine and orange juice.  A bit of a chore getting the seeds out of the pomegranites but I do it.  ,We at least have clean blood.

We have had days and days of heavy rain the the garden is full of tall green......weeds.  At least it is green.  The front garden is full of wild sorrell and is beautiful.  Love the sorrell, it lasts all winter long and covers everything in a thick green blanket.  The back is a wild waste land - but that is Kosta's territory and I don't care.   Wild sorrel by the way is like a three leaf clover.  Spreads all over the place but has very shallow roots and you can pull it out by the handful very easily.

The grapefruit tree is full of huge grapefruit again, falling at the rate of a bout a dozen a day.  I have given a few away but no-one wants them.  And they don't last long.  The compost is full of rotting grapefruit, the table outside is covered with grapefruit and I have a pile on the bench and more in the fridge.  I will make a few jars of marmelade but not many people want that either. I tried juicing them but it makes a very sour juice even if mixed with other fruit.

I have just been talking to my friend Jan.  She and Tracy took a three legged dog called Jack to the airport last night.  He was supposed to go by boat but dock workers have closed the ports for over a week now and are joined by everyone else today on a general strike.  No news on the TV today...yeh!!!  Nothing depressing to hear,  The channel I'm watching seems to have marathon cooking programmes instead.

Anyway, the PAWs people (Poros animal Welfare) often send stray dogs to England or Germany.  They are animal lovers over there.  Apparently in England there is a greek stray dog association and they get together and have outings and such - so the dogs can get together and speak greek, says Jan.

And last night we were given 2, 17 kilo tins of our OWN olive oil.  The people who own the land next to ours up by Poseidons temple picked their olives and then said they would pick ours too!  We went up and had a look at the trees.  Some had a lot of olives some had very few - about 28 olive trees I think.  I haven't been up there for years and it was very overgrown - but still would be a great place for a house if there was a decent road and we had a bit more money.  Always back to that.  So we have 2 tins of 'organic' oil. Nothing has been put on the trees for years except droppings from passing goats. Pity we can't send you some.  We'll be trying the Margaret River oil and the Dukkah on my birthday.  But that oil does have a very light colour.  It will be interesting to taste it.  This local oil is thick and almost greenish.

They got four tins of oil from our olive trees - the deal is that if someone else picks your olives you get half the oil.  Not a bad plan I think. With the tin of oil we got from Kostas sister, Dina, we should have enough till next season. I picked a big jar of fat olives from the olive tree I have in a pot by the door.  These I have pickled in vinegar.  It is a very fruitful little tree.

Now, have to get back to cooking.  Bean soup today.  K is away getting his hair cut, thank goodness so I have some time to 'muck around'.  But I have been told that the food had better be tasty today.  He ate  toasties for tea last night and hated it.  He won't eat bean soup (fassolatha) in the evening (says it is too hard on his stomach - roast pig would be lighter!) so I have to make him spaghetti with macaroni sauce as well.  Fortunately I don't particularly like either  and I had my pomegranite juice for breakfast so maybe I won't be putting on any kilos today.  Yesterday by the way he had fish soup for lunch so he wasn't exactly starving.  But he had been drinking all the day before and was still recovering so probably thought he needed special attention.  He had another of those 'viruses' he suffers from now and again. Just put another half glass of oil in the soup and  thought it was great.  whew.  Eaten with feta cheese, salted olives and salted sardines, of course.  The spaghetti tonight will be topped with a grated white sheeps cheese called mizithra.  It is hard and sharp and salty and the greeks love it on their macaroni - which has been tossed in smoking olive oil.  Now you know where our weight comes from.  Salads are NOT food and neither are sandwiches.  The spaghetti by the way is the long fat version with a hole down the middle - usually used for pastitcio - macaroni pie. 

Kostas has brought back with him a 5 litre plastic bottle of tsikoudia - also known as raki, tsipoura or grappa in Italy.  I'm sure they have differing versions all over the med.  It is made by distilling the leftovers from the grape pressing.  The albanians love it.  It is cheap and very strong.  All the men drink it here in the winter - not only the albies.  It has come into fashion and can be bought by the litre in plastic water bottles from the grocer.  They eat hard roasted chickpeas with it or walnuts and raisins.

I bought a few litres of cheap brandy from the grocer to top up last years liqueurs.

Next Sunday is the annual St Pauls Anglican Christmas bazzar in the Zappeion gardens in central Athens.  Hopefully he won't have 'contracted' another 'virus' and we will go in and be British for a day.  We went last year and I loved it.  Homemade chutneys, the Vicar in a kilt, glasses of wine or sherry for one euro, egg sandwiches and lots of white elephant stalls....and Irish coffee too.  Think I'll try one of those this year while I'm perusing the second hand book stall.  xx from me

Saturday 20 March 2010

jump the fire and be free of fleas

Monday 8 March 2010

winter on poros

15 March

We are in the middle of Lent now.  It all started on Clean Monday and goes on for forty days till the beginning of Holy Week and then it is another week of very strict fasting till Easter Sunday and the slaughtered goat is roasted.

Last year on Clean Monday every one from Poros and quite a few dogs passed through our gate.  K had all his friends here and all the rabble. This year it was slightly quieter.  Elli and Kyriakos, the inlaws from Galatas and a couple of  neighbours who stopped for a quick drink.

We ate:  the usual list of banquet dishes, but no meat.
-fresh cockles, still alive till the squirt of lemon (lemons from our trees)
-sea urchins gathered by our neighbour Lefteris (sea urchins, those spiny creatures also known as 'kina').  These have the top sheared off and the insides are mopped out with a crust of (homemade) bread
-nz green lipped mussels, lightly boiled
-crabs, fried
-gigantes - giant beans, boiled with tomatoes, wine and lots of garlic
-laganes, the flat unleavened bread eaten on this day.  Torn into edible pieces and not cut.  Most of them were homemade by me
-shrimps (or prawns?) boiled and BBQed
-octopus.  Grilled and boiled
-taramasalata.  Fish roe salad, made with salt fish roe, bread, onion and lemon juice.  Homemade of course
-olives.  Green, preserved in vinegar and black, preserved in salt
-lettuce leaves and green spring onions from our garden

We usually have a sweet of 'halvas'.  This is either the commercial version made with lots of tahini and sugar or the homemade one which is made out of semolina.  Both are Lenten (no eggs, butter or milk).  Baklavas is also Lenten if made with oil instead of butter.

Much was leftover as usual but much was also eaten.  Kostas remained on his feet and when we took the inlaws down to catch the boat to Galatas we went for coffee.  Met his favourite nephew (Koka-Kola George) as he was returning from the farm on Galatas where he Clean-Mondayed with his parents.  Took him off to the cafeteria as well.  AT THE CAFETERIA - Kosta's friend Menelos runs the place and he and his friends were well into the 5 kilo bottle of ouzo they had got that morning and served me with coffee but brought a big water glass of ouzo and a meze of seafood for the 'boys'.  I sighed - they looked at me and 'lo' they drank the ouzo and we left.  I am still wondering at that miracle.  It usually means a long hard night and morning and even harder mornin-following-the night.

Since then we have not had meat on the table though I have eaten a bit of bacon.  But I am an atheist/pagan/foreigner and am allowed to do such things.  Kostas, Elli, Danae and their husbands don't eat meat for the whole period of Lent and during Holy week don't eat eggs, dairy or fish either - except for cuttlefish, kalamari and octopus.  They do it not because the church says they must but because it is a greek tradition which they like to follow.

Clean Monday came about apparently because it was the day they ate anything unLenten that still remained and cleaned and scrubbed their pots and plates to get rid of all the animal fat.  It is now a day of strict fasting and also a day for picnics and kite flying.  We tried to fly a kite with Jamie and Natali but the wind was not doing its bit.  Fun however was had by all.

Running up to Lent we also celebrated Tsikno-Pempti - Blackened Thursday.  It is at the end of Carnival and one of the last days to eat meat,blackened by the grill.  The next week is Cheese-Week.  We lit the fire inside and grilled lamb chops and sausages and other bits and bobs.  Elli came with her family and the two girls whose farm is next door to us here.  We ate and drank and listened to jolly greek music.  And as usual a good time was had by all.

The Sunday after that was 'The day of the Prodigal Son' when all 'Bad Boys' celebrate their return to the fold.  Or that is what Kostas says.  Another chance to drink and eat of course.  I pointed out to Kostas that he was now the grandfather of the prodigal son and it was time this tradition passed on to the next generation.  But as grandfather he had to help the others celebrate!  He loves dressing up at Carnival time and this was another excuse to put on his Arab costume - or his Heinekin beer outfit, complete with bottle top cap - and go visiting the neighbours.

In the last few weeks we have had marvellous weather and have cleaned up the front garden, planted a few more lettuces and even had coffee in the sun.  Kostas and I tiled three old tables with tiles left over from building the house.  Aren't we clever.  I painted a few things and we tried again to get rid of Pita so we could clean up the back yard.  Not so easy.  He is just too big.  No-one wants such a monster even if he is quite gentle - except for pulling your arms out its sockets trying to take him for a walk and being bowled over every time you try to feed him.  He is still a problem and his yard is dirty and muddy.  If Kostas can't feed him for some reason I hang over the wall and offer him a bone.  I go no nearer.

Then March began and the weather changed.  The last few days have been freezing again and the rain brought a thick layer of red dust from the Sahara dessert.  It is supposed to be good fertiliser but it also puts a thick dirty layer of red dust on the car and anything else left outside.

And the car has just had its annual clean-up!!  I washed and vaccumed it so the car would pass its 2 year version of the M.O.T.  And. behold, it did pass and got its clean-air certificate too.

Last weekend we went to stay the weekend with Kosta's cousin on the island of Evia.  Evia is an hour north of Athens and is an island joined to the mainland by a big new bridge.  It is the only place in Greece (the med.?) that has a tide.

We ate lots of fresh crabs and fish, visited the Sunday market and walked the beach front.  The area the cousin has his beach house was a swamp and there are acres of market gardens growing wonderful cabbages and cauliflowers on this very fertile land.  We marvelled at the great looking produce, the fantastic selection of fish and vegetables, and bread and just about anything and also the prices.  Everything was at least half the price of produce on Poros.  Because it is so close to Athens it fills up at the weekends and the big black jeeps and BMWs go back laden with fresh, cheap local products.  We brought back tomatoes, cauliflowers and bags of fresh crabs for the family plus a few early basil plants.

Sunday 24 January 2010


On the table -

fried crabs from Halkida - sent down by a cousin.  Crabs are small and spiny!
baked potatoes - with juice of lemons from our garden and local oil
bbq-ed pork chops
bbq-ed salt cod
bbq-ed chicken ....all bbq-ed on our open fire
sausages - made by local butcher, very strong tasting. Cooked by Yianni
patsas - soup made from boiled goats feet and stomach. Full of fat and congeals very quickly.  Eaten with vinegar and garlic
salad - made by Yianni from lettuce, spring onions and coriander from our garden  with juice from our lemons and local oil
bifteki - homemade hamburger with no salt so Jamie can eat them
cheese - feta and graviera from the island of Limnos
homemade sourdough bread - made by me of course
red and white wine made by Kostas
rose made by Yiannis
sauv blanc (thanks Paul) from France
zero coca-cola
water -  bottled
local olive oil and olives

glyko (sweet) made by Danae who is playing tennis at the moment.
We want the sweet NOW!

Pita the dog gets the bones and the leftovers and Puke gets the leftover bifteki which is nice and soft for a young pussy cat.  Peel and vegetable ends, old wine and ash from the fireplace go in the compost.

How many people are eating this gargantuan feast?  Just us. Round the table - children and sons-in-law, various grandchildren.

K did the shopping so most of it is 'leftover'!! He buys in bulk - afraid we'll all starve. 

K lit the fire in the fireplace this morning and he bbq-ed on the ashes.  He also made the goat foot soup OUTSIDE on the gas stove.  It stinks when it is cooking and after all that THEY FORGOT TO EAT IT.  So it is out on the bench congealing in the big pot.  But it will be eaten, or else - maybe tomorrow.  Elli and Kyriakos can take some home and a bowl will go up the road to Vasso.

We all ate around the fire on the little IKEA table.  Kids made houses out of blankets and chairs and one helluva mess in the living room next door.  We do this often unfortunately.  In the summer it all happens outside  next to the big outdoor bbq and in spring and autumn they cook outside and we eat at the big table in the living room.

The children gather round the table or take their plates out to the living room. 

Danae is back HOORAY.   Cake with chocolate sauce.

Nels and Georgie are looking at the toy catalogue I picked up at xmas.  Nels has her birthday on March 1st and George has his name day (St George) on April 23rd.

And Linda cleans up the mess for the next two days.  At least the girls usually clear the table, though K hates that. He believes it is the start of the break-up of the party. We are supposed to leave all the mess on the table till the bitter end.  Thank you power-on-high that we now have a dish washer at last.  Though once again...K does not like the way it cleans the glasses and they have to be done by hand.

......Next day - it took 2 hours but the house is tidied up again (never really clean alas).  It certainly is good exercise, getting down to vaccum under chairs, moving tables and wiping up messes from the floor.  Not to mention unblocking the vaccumn cleaner every few minutes because of bits and pieces of toys which get stuck in the hose...........

We are in the depths of winter at the moment.  It is 7o outside.  Snowing in northern Athens.  Freezing outside here.  The fire is not giving much heat but we have the air condition on 'HEAT' in the other rooms.

They are talking about America's Cup.  Yianni loves yachting.  He works on a flotilla on Poros.  Took us out on a yacht when Tony and Lorraine were here.  Just a 'slight breeze' - Nels and I feared for our lives.   Never knew a yacht could go over so far without disappearing under the waves.  He wants a 'Team NZ' hat.  Anyone know where I can get one?  I've searched the net but have only found All Blacks hats.  The official Americas Cup shopping site does not seem to be working.

And off they all go.  Yianni to see Olympiakos play (Football), Kyriakos to watch Pananthiniakos (another football team) and the girls to have coffee at Elli's.   K is happy to stay here with only his wife and the football on tv.  He loves company, noise and 'verbal dispute' and often cannot wind down and will either phone his friends to come up so he can continue eating and drinking or will disappear off to a neighbour's house after the family leave.

Danae got the kids to clean up their toys a little and I bribed them with some chocolate but the house still looks as though a mega-bomb exploded in the middle of the living area.


Saturday 23 January 2010

various family photos

Painting of Maketu looking down to the Mount - 
all my liqueurs underneath, pomegranites and

Open air baptism.  One of Elli's mites.  Baptism at the small church in Askeli - church is too small to accomodate more than 5 people.  Papa Georgi presiding.  Elli is in the green dress on the right.  Girl holding the baby is the God-mother. 
Kostas presiding over one of his BBQs - the girls
Ash, neice Kathryn and Pip

Friday 22 January 2010

Xmas - New Year 2010

NEW YEAR 2009/2010 - remembering

The New Year of the blue moon. Full Moon at New Year. One memorable New Years eve with a full moon Kostas and I cut down the last big pine tree on our land up near Poseidons temple. The chainsaw echoed all over the hills up there but there was no danger of anyone investigating (cutting down pine trees anywhere is a big no-no here. You need all sorts of permits which are impossible to get unless you can ‘pay’). Getting the tree down was easy enough but getting rid of it was one helluva job. You don’t realize just how much tree there is till it is on the ground. We spent ages cutting it into smaller bits and dragging it off into the forest on the land next door. And then we went down to celebrate new year and the banishing of the pine tree. If you have a pine tree on your property you can’t build – it is designated forest land. Hence all the trouble.

So now we have another full moon and a blue moon toowit (toowill) (???). Hopefully it will bring good tidings and joy.


Our route to ancient Olympia is an interesting one so I shall bore you with all the details. While it might all sound quite exciting I would rather be describing the road around the east coast of NZ or the way around the Coromandel peninsular. Each to their own dreams.

TRAVELS BEGIN - leaving Poros - local history

Kostas and I are spending two nights at a big hotel at the town of Ancient Olympia with music and dancing in to bring in 2010.

We leave from the outskirts of the Temple to Poseidon (location of Villa Linda ) on Poros and proceed to Galatas by car ferry. Pause for a carton of coffee and a spinach pie. Kostas phones them up and orders when we get on the car ferry so it is ready when we roll off. Then the first ‘sight/site’ is the big new german supermarket. LIDLS. Yes. We finally have one on home turf. The first ‘real’ sight are the mycenean round tombs on some farmers land, on a hill under the olive trees looking out over the Bay before Poros. Great place for a tomb – but not if you are the farmer who owns the land. It will be bound up in archealogical red tape for many many years to come. No building on that land either.

Passing the ancient town of Troizina, once home to 25,000 Athenians, evacuated there during the battle with the Persian Xerxes.(The Battle of Salamina and Marathon I guess. I should look up these important notes in history…but don’t). Troizina is now just the ruins of various temples and a healing centre underneath an acropolis, all amongst the olive trees, the sheep, goats and honey bees. Nearby is devils gorge and also the ‘site’ of Theseus birth and there below ‘his house’ is the stone under which he found his sandals and sword when he grew up. He was brought up by his mother at Troizina and not by his father the King of Athens whom he went to wearing his sandals and sporting his sword, killing all the nasties on the road to Athens. Grandson George has tried to lift the stone – too young. He’ll try again next year.

On the corner of the turn-off for Methana, under and around the small church dedicated to St Theodore, excavations have revealed the foundations of some temple or other. Not interesting enough to have been investigated by us but in the summer there are archeologists there doing their investigations.

We bypass the extinct volcano of Methana and go onto to the new coast road which took 20 years and three lives to finish. We now bypass the mountain villages and avoid the narrow winding road and all the shepherds and datsun ‘pick-ups’. Across the bay is the volcano and the village underneath it called ‘Megalohori’ (big village) where my mother in law was brought up. Besides the volcano crater which you can climb and see, there are hot baths for the elderly with arthritis and an acropolis which is very hard to access.  In early spring the almond tree blossom is vibrant and lush.  The baths are only availabe to those with notes from their doctor but you can swim in the sea nearby where the water is often a chalky white.  The whole area smells like rotten eggs (Rotorua).

THE MYCENEAN AGE - and Hercules

 As we go round the coast Piraeus appears on the horizon and then some of the many Epidavros’s. New Epidavros, Epidavros Beach, Old Epidavros. Ancient Epidavros, Epidavros village, Epidavros Harbour etc. The harbour has a small ancient theatre built into one of its hillsides. Both the small-er and the more well known ancient theatre are still used for performances in the summer – classical greek plays. We have visited the larger and better known of the ancient theatres many times with friends and relatives. Kostas thinks he should get free entrance now. He has paid enough for the ‘privilege’ of visiting his heritage so often. Going on to Lygourio there are the remains of a Mycenean tholos (round) tomb. We won’t stop at the ancient Mycenean bridge – though Tony and Rainie did and have photos to prove it. Paul and Karen have so many photos it is really a bit of a yawn for them!! Lygourio also has the remains of a pyramid dated back about 3,000 years. There was a network of well built roads and bridges in this area and many of the bridges can be walked on and examined. In this area is also an ancient walkway that you can follow – not that we have. Wonderful to imagine what it was like back so many hundreds of years ago. And that is only in the first hour of the journey.

This is olive country. No-one seems to be picking olives which means the harvest is over and probably wasn’t a good one. The work now is burning the branches cut during picking. There is an acropolis in this area, just visible from the road.

From there it is on to Nafplion and the Byzantium castle of Palamidi, past the ancient ruins of Tiryns (Home of Hercules), where you can, if you wish, see the ancient dam and also yet another acropolis. Past Argos (home of the Argonauts) with its big Frankish castle on the hill and ancient ruins below. We bypass Nemea, home of the best wines in Greece and also the place where Hercules beat the Nemean lion. We go down the’ wine road’ which is really uninteresting. No wine tasting I’m afraid and not much to see either. But in the villages around there (one of them called ‘Little Cauliflower’ and another ‘Limping Foot’) everyone has vines, tread their own grapes and make their own wine. Nearby is Mycenae, where Heinrich Schliemann excavated and said he found the graves of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, who lived in the big ‘castle’ at Mycenae. Agamemnon fought at Troy. On the hills overlooking the coast are the remains of yet another pyramid – about the same age as the other one. This one we have climbed over (and wee-ed in). It has a view right over the plains across to Mycenae and out to sea.


We go towards Tripoli (not the city in north Africa) and turn off into the mountains and the dells and dens of the God Pan. This is called the Road of Pan. You may hear him playing his pipes amongst the fir trees on the slopes of the Mainalo mountains.There are signs for ‘The spring of Pan’ and ‘the Spring of Pausinias’. These mountains have the remains of ancient villages and temples but also have the caves, and hide outs of more modern times. They are full of history – these are the refuges of those who evaded the Turkish and later german armies. There are monasteries built like eagles nests, nestling in the crooks of ravines and tottering on mountain sides. But the old stone villages are now full of stone villas and big ski complexes. There is no snow on the moutains here yet. The weather has been very warm. But at this time of the year they are the playground of the rich. We visit in the summer when prices are cheaper and the cool mountain breezes save me from the heat waves of the coast. Wish I could have a summer house up there and avoid the heat altogether. Returning we whizzed past convoys of big black jeeps, BMWs and Mercedes all going up to the mountains for the weekend.

Some of these villages are spectacular. They are built literally on the sides of mountains – perched is a good word to describe them. They look unsafe, as though they are about to tumble hundreds of yards in to the ravines below. But they are all built very solidly of local stone. The roads around here are in good shape and a lot of the traffic is from tourist buses but the roads narrow going through these towns and parking is extremely difficult to find. The best thing to buy in this area is the local honey. Bee hives are everywhere and the honey from the hives under the fir trees is wonderful. We stopped in the village of Lagadia for coffee and raki and had a look at the souvenir shops. Besides the honey there the most popular souvenirs are the things made from wood. Great if you can afford them. I saw a wonderful sort of wooden basin like the one my mother in law used for kneading her loaves of bread. Too expensive. But Kostas phoned his sister and asked her where their mother’s basin is. She had given it an aunt but has an even older one which belonged to her mother in law and has promised to give it to me!


The cappuccino was good but Kostas says the tsikoudia (local name for raki) was not up to standard. He’ll have to keep on trying till he finds the perfect brew! Meanwhile I have found a recipe for ‘rakomello’ – raki and honey. Yet another liqueur to make.

Driving through the mountains we eventually reach the other coast of the Peloponese and ancient Olympia. Olympia is just a small tourist village with more hotels than houses. The nearest city, Pyrgos, is on the coast 20 kms distant. From the highest point around here you can see the island of Zakynthos on a clear day. Further north is the more popular Ionian island of Corfu, or Kerkyra, as the greeks call it.

That evening was New Years Eve so we just had a short walk around the town and then went back to prepare for the party. The town has obviously had a lot of money poured into it recently – probably for the Athens Olympic games in 2004. This of course is where the Olympic flame is lit and during the Athens games the shot put competition took place at the ancient stadium here. The streets are clean and cobbled and the pavements wide. Most of the hotels are new or have had a face lift. The town hall looks modern and recently built as does the park opposite which had piped xmas music nearly all day long right outside our window. The repertoire was rather limited and after the first hour irritating. There are loads of cafeterias and tavernas and souvenir shops, nearly all closed for the winter. I can imagine that in the summer season the wide pavements are filled with chairs and tables and tourists from every part of the globe. The souvenir and jewellery shops must make enough money in the short summer season to support their owners during the rest of the year. Those whose shops were closed are probably away in London for holiday shopping or in Dubai for a bit of sunshine.

NEW YEAR 2010 -

The New Years party was not quite what we expected. There was no live music – just a DJ who was not very good at generating
‘kefi’ (the usual wild greek party atmosphere where everyone is up dancing, singing and drinking.) Most of the people were on a guided tour from Athens and their tour guide did her very best. She grabbed the microphone, cajoled the men to dance with her, told jokes and wiggled a ‘tsifiteli (sexy turk/greek dance) in her lacy little black number but the music just did not excite. Kostas and I danced (a sort of) waltz and that was enough for us (more than enough for me). At midnight the lights dimmed and there was kissing, phone calls and sms-ing all over the room. We waited awhile in case things livened up and then went out to the bar to have a nightcap. Even the bar was closed but we managed to rake up a waiter for a whisky and baileys. And that was that. Perfect for me. A sober New Years eve for once. Bit of a disappointment for Kostas but he enjoyed the food and the people watching.

Next day we were up early to partake of the buffet brekkie. Very nice it was too. The whole package (except the DJ) was well worth the money. The hotel was clean and modern. The rooms warm and the water hot. The food was tasty and plentiful. Kostas got lots of roast lamb and the wine was a fair price and very drinkable.

The tour group went off to see their daily sites. Many many of those in this area too. Some of them are, the settlement of ancient Messini (369BC), the castles of Methoni, Kalamata, Navarino and Kyparissia and the temple to Epicurius Apollo, dated 420BC but built on an even earlier site.

We walked (yes, walked) up to one of the museums of ancient Olympia. Remember this was now New Years day – and it was closed. But we walked down to the main area where all the excavations have been done and the site of the original stadium. This was open and is obviously a huge area. We decided to continue our walk and energetically wandered along the road bordering it all and got a free sight of everything we wanted to see. The road runs alongside the ancient stadium.


New Years Day is also the feast day of Saint Basil in the greek orthodox church calendar. St Basil is the father xmas here who comes from a place called Kessaria.  He was born in Kessaria, Turkey and was later Bishop of Kessaria.  But what he has to do with Santa Claus I do not know!  I guess it is only becuase his feast day is 1 January.  He was a monk and a very frugal one.  Most families have adopted St. Nicholas who does his rounds on Christmas eve. 30 odd years ago when I celebrated my first 'greek' christmas, this celebration was hardly noticed.  No music, no decorations, no presents and a christmas tree in a window was a seasonal miracle!  Now everyone has a tree, jingle bells has been translated and adopted by all and commercialisam is rampant.  And we all watch with awe as Santa Claus starts his journey from Lapland - live on greek tv!

We decided to explore further afield and drove off to the coast via the old main road.  First stop was a small cafenion in a one stop village (with three cafenions and a couple of big churches).  Kostas ordered his raki and I tried for a capuccino.  This really was a 'one stop' village.  No capuccino here - just the universal nescafe.  The two elderly men sitting at the next table started up conversation - or was it Kostas that started.  These people (ie everyone but me) are so sociable.  One of them, named Vasilis (Basil) paid for our coffee and raki in honour of his 'name day' and the other when he discovered we came from far away Poros told us that he spent a few weeks every summer near the Lemon Forest, down the road from Galatas (across the water from Poros).  Everyone knows Poros.  They told us how the villages had lost business with the opening of the new road which drives straight to the coast and they lamented the loss of the forests during the tragic  fires of 2007.  Forest fires wiped out villages, olive groves, reached the edges of ancient Olympia and cost quite a few lives in this area of the Peloponese.

And this is where Kostas was asked if he wanted his raki warmed up.  This is truly raki country.
Ancient Theatre at Epidavros