Monday 31 December 2018

The Eve

New Years Eve 
Here we go again, but at least not in our house.  The cooking and eating will be happening in my daughter's house, and they'll be doing the washing up.  Thanks Elli and Kyriakos.
And they'll be doing New Years day lunch.

Carol singing day again for small children who come knocking on the door trilling this day's song and banging metal triangles.  I don't know how much banging and trilling was done on Poros today.  No-one came a-knocking on our door out in the wilds.  It is pouring with rain and bitterly cold.

The carol (kalanda) today proclaims the arrival of St Basil.  My youngest grandchildren go from door to door and into every shop asking 'can we say it?'  A few people actually say 'no' having heard the same kalanda many times since early morning.  Not nice.  This is an age old tradition.  The housewife used to give the singers a sweet or cake, nowdays they get a coin.  The kids go in groups and can earn quite an impressive sum of money.  Xmas Eve they sing another carol and on the eve of Epiphany, 6th January.

Kosta is making bone soup today to keep out the cold and I'm making a 'vasilopita', the New Years cake with a lucky coin in it.

Tonight we have to descend to sea-level at 10pm to see-in the New Year with some of the family.  Ye gods and little fishes.  My traditional person would not let me miss this such important occasion but i would very happily stay at home, go to bed at 10pm and let the storm rage and the year change without my participation.  The year will change with or without my presence and what will be will be

10 hours later, still raining chair legs and snow falling on the hills around Athens

Happy New Year from sunny Greece

Saturday 29 December 2018

It Came, It Went

Hristouyenna, Christmas
an annual religious and cultural celebration which takes place on December 25th, unless you're a follower of the old calendar.   They'll be celebrating on January 8th

Christmas Day is a holiday here and so is the day after.  It is also the name day for those named Christos, Christina or variations thereof.  

In days gone by it was simply a day off work.  All the family ate together and then ours would walk up the steps with a box of cakes to celebrate the rest of the day with cousin Christina and later at the house next door with cousin Christos.  Presents were only given by St Nik to our own 'foreign' offspring.  

Nowadays it is a time to eat too much,  to spend money and for families to get together whether they like it or not, usually for the sake of small children, just like the rest of the western world

Our day was 'fraught'.  Small underlying tensions remained 'mostly' underlying but everything else that could go wrong, did.

The weather was warm and dry at 7am says my daughter.  I wouldn't know.  By 9 it was pouring with rain and it rained all day

Half of the presents I ordered are mid-Pacific, still haven't turned up.  Looks like I'll be keeping them for summer name days, when they arrive.

There were various pieces of meat.  The roast pork was delicious and the crackling crisp and fatty

The brussels sprouts were enjoyed by brussel sprout enthusiasts
Half were boiled and half were roasted
There were roast spuds, sweet potato (kumara) and squash

A pair of tarantula slippers and a neon flashing keyboard

The Christopsomo (Christ Bread) was a little tinged but just as fresh baked bread should be.  Most food including the bread was baked in the outside wood fired oven

The chicken was cooked in our electric oven along with a nasty smell of burning plastic.  About half way through cooking I discovered the smell was coming from the plastic handle of a bread knife which had been left inside the oven. It had melted all over the bottom of the stove and had to be cleaned up quickly before the chicken started tasting of burnt plastic as well

Fresh mushrooms gathered locally and kindly given to us by a friend.  Unfortunately they were extremely bitter and went on the compost heap instead

Australian chardonnay helped save the day
And shots of Baileys

The banoffee pie was a disaster.  The base didn't set, the caramel burnt and left a smoky taste and the cream wouldn't whip.  The bananas were perfect.  No one ate any, not even the bananas

St Nik arrived on time and spread some cheer


Tuesday 25 December 2018

Christmas Morning

Christmas Eve was beautiful, sunny and warm.  Christmas Day has dawned very slowly and the light still has not penetrated into the house.  There is a fine drizzle and the temperature has dropped a few degrees.

We'll all be inside today, all day long.  I've cleared off the treadmill, turned it from a coathanger to a mean fighting machine.  The kids will need it today to burn off all that extra energy, rocket energy from the kilos of sugar they are consuming,  Who gives them all that chocolate anyway?  It's Santa's fault, nothing to do with Mrs Santa!  I tried years ago to fob them off with a walnut and a mandarine in their Christmas stockings but they did not make the grade.

Christmas Eve was spent biting fingernails over the number of presents and the eveness of distribution.  Were there enough in the stocking to satisfy demand?  One 'big' present goes under the Christmas tree and several small things go in the stocking.  A pair of flamingo sox, some Christmas hair ties and a handful of chocolates satisfy the girls but what does Santa put in the boys stocking?  He never asks in this house whether they were naughty or nice.   ALL my grandchildren are nice!

All the grandkids stockings are hand knit.  All very 'individual'.  They love them whatever.  One year I only put presents under the tree and there was a riot when they found empty stockings.  That will never, never happen again

The boys this year have in their stockings xmas boxer shorts, a healthy pomegranite drink for one and a bottle of cider for the other.  Well, he's almost 18 and around here 18 year olds have already been drinking half their life, from a glass of wine at the family table to a bacardi breezer at the bars down town...etc  Who really knows what 18 year old boys have been up to, except them and maybe now and again their mother.

They also have a selection of healthy and unhealthy sweets.  The grandchildren are athletes and some very serious about their diet.  A bowl of spinach and a kilo of lentils might be more appreciated by one.  Anyway there is a selection of real sweet gooey chocolate,  sugar-free (but no way calorie free) chocolate, fruit bars , greek sweets made of sesame seeds and honey and chocolate covered rice crackers.  Our kids love rice crackers so these chocolate covered ones should go down very well.

K is making a pastourmadopita.  Ha, get your tongue around that word after a xmas hangover.

In goes the pie - pastourmadopita, a big pie made with cured spiced beef slices, tomato  and cheese

Stop:  that photo is staged!  No pie or pork would go into the oven with a roaring fire.  The fire has to die down and the food is cooked on the embers

The pork and wild pig have been slowly roasting all night long and the meat is falling off the bone.  I think we may be eating before midday.  The 'foreign' side of the family, me and the kids will be eating stuffed chook, brussel sprouts and roast sweet potatoes

Funny really to think that down in NZ and Australia some could be nursing sore heads while we are still drinking our first coffee and preparing for a long day ahead.  NZ is almost half a day ahead of us and Australia 6 hours.

The extended Australian family enjoying their Christmas dinner beside the pool

I will eventually get around to sending you all individual Christmas wishes but in the meantime

Kala Hristouyenna to everyone who reads and comments on my blog.  I really do hope your Christmas day is cheery and bright 

I have sent out no cards this year and not even a Christmas email.  I will be in touch.  I could not be!  

Love to all of you and your families

Monday 24 December 2018

The Streets are Decked

Poros is in Christmas mode.  All the harbour streets have xmas lights, the houses are lit up with, often wonky, flashing lights and festive trees in their windows.  The same darn wonky lights that annoyed me last year have been put up around the windows of the same house.  I want to get up there on a ladder and push them into place.  They dip and waver and the last bit climbs up the wall on a strange angle, obviously to reach some power point.  FIX THEM damn it.

The main square has this strange snow globe with an empty chair in it.  Will Santa sit there?  
The kids climb in there and throw fake snow at each other.
The fake snow is made up of tiny particles of re-cycled plastic bags.  

There is also a minature train in the middle of the square but it was still being assembled so I didn't take a photo.  The train offers free rides round the square to all the children in the evenings.

A huge blow-up Christmas tree outside the Town Hall

The back alley has a team of Santas climbing up the balcony above the store which sells the Santas

A list of festive activities which of course you can't read because it is in Greek.

A popular singer is coming to give a concert in the square.  There will be a Santa bringing presents and tonight the High School choir gave a concert of carols, greek and otherwise.  My grandchildren were singing

The Crafty shop window in the back alley

And first prize goes to the cake shop window.  
Very festively decorated and full of glorious sticky cakes

Thursday 20 December 2018

Xmas Visit to a Friend

Today I visited my dear english friend across the waters, the one that laughs with me when we come head first into a greek stone wall, the friend that laughs at me when I come out with something oddly greek , the friend who speaks english english.   At Christmas and Easter I pass on my  attempts at hot cross buns and mince pies, overcooked jam, chutney or mulled wine. She is always politely pleased

The animal society of Poros is having a Christmas bazaar.  
Someone made Sangria.  6 euros a bottle.  If you keep it more than a couple of days it blows it's top but thank goodness it's still drinkable.  Well, until you get down to the last few inches which we did today.  It was Sangria with real fruit and all the pulp had sunk to the bottom.  Even after straining it the drink was rather cloudy.  Went down just as well!   

J is a dog looker-after.  She fosters strays till they can be re-homed and looks after the health of many of the strays of Poros and Galatas.  This innocent looking fellow is George and just out of the picture is the just as 'guiltess' Taylor.  She left them alone in the house the other day and they 'investigated' the Christmas cards

Not any old Christmas cards, just those that were to be passed on to me.  Judy, I got your card and fortuntately the seeds inside those mangled packets were untouched.  I'll be planting some prized tomatoes and peppers next year.  

Yes, this is a Christmas mince pie.  It doesn't look like one?  Well, it tastes like one anyway.  I had some puff pastry in the fridge and had taken last years left-over mince meat out of the freezer and threw these together for a quick taste of foreign Christmasses.  The perfect accompaniment to cork-blowing Sangria

The view from J's house on Galatas, looking across to Poros.  Going across the waters is a big trip for me.  It feels like unexplored territory.  Silly really but it takes an effort for me to get on the car ferry and visit the friends and relatives we have five minutes across the strait. 


This is Leno, another one of the foster dogs.  J has been looking after him for a while now.  He's a gentle soul but rather on the large side.  She calls him the polar bear.

Here you can see them both at the top of her yard.

If you would like to adopt a gentle giant then just leave me a comment.  The last foster dog, Lola, is now living in Canada.

The day was freezing with a cold wind blowing off the mountains above.  I wouldn't be surprised if the peaks had a smattering of snow by tomorrow morning.  I enjoyed my voyage across the sea and the putt-putt-putting of my quad bike as I drove along Galatas harbour.  I must make an effort and do it more often.  Usually when I board the car ferry it is in a car with my appointed chauffeur and we whizz off down the coast for some pressing appointment.

Monday 17 December 2018

Sticky and sweet

The aroma wafting through our house today is not the smell of stale ashes and wood smoke but the tempting, delicious scent of rosewater, cinnamon, oranges and cloves.

The traditonal greek Christmas sweets around here are kourabiethes and melomakarona. 

 Kourabiethes - 
light and crumbly almond biscuits, sprayed with rosewater and covered in powdered sugar (icing sugar)

Melomakarona -
made with oil, brandy, (koniak), orange juice, cinnamon and cloves.  These are dipped in a honey syrup and covered in crushed walnuts

Many little hands make light work

The two younger grandaughters came to help mix and shape the biscuits/cookies
The boys are no longer interested in domestic stuff

Oranges from our trees in the garden

The first batch of almond biscuits are rolled in icing sugar

And sampled

These exotika are popping up everywhere.  This one is a tealight holder.  Scandanavian culture is popular this year.  First we had hygge and now we have their exotika 

Melomakarona before and after
The ones on the tray at the bottom have just come out of the oven.  The first batch was a slight disaster.  They were left in the honey syrup too long and fell too pieces.  Can't give those away.  We'll have to eat them ourselves!  Only a 'few thousand' calories and a 'kilo' of sugar in each one

And a pile of kourabiethes
There is no sneak-eating of these little delights.  The icing sugar gets everywhere and if it doesn't just linger on the lips and chin, you'll find fine white dust sticking to your clothes.  Not easy to say 'no Mum, I didn't eat one, wasn't me'.

Small boys find great delight in holding them up and blowing powdered sugar all over your face.  Avoid 'boys' of all ages when in the firing line of fine-sugar coated sweets

Friday 14 December 2018

Waterfront sights

A waterfront hotel.   An island eyesore.
The hotel has been closed for many years as you can tell from its state.   It now has a demolition order on it.

The hotel is owned by various descendants of a rich ship owner,
most of whom are no longer rich enough to restore this dinosaur

From prime real estate to an eyesore.  From these now quakey balconies there is a sweeping view of harbour activity and the mountains beyond

This once elegant building was a danger to the public.  For years pieces of wall fell onto  the road.  Then , possibly through an EU grant, the walls were stabilised but that is as far as the repairs went.
I wonder what it is like inside.  The furnishings are probably antiques, the curtains in ribbons, but still aristocratic, a piece of local history

The EU gives a grant to reconstruct the old neo-classical stone buildings but the owner still has to put his hand into a pocket which has more holes than money.  There are strict rules to follow naturally.  All the older town around Poros harbour is supposed to follow certain guidelines.  Roofs should be tiled, shutters made from wood and not metal.  Not all houses follow the rules but generally it is a charming picture of island homes which appears before you as you arrive on Poros. 

Nearby the two run-down buildings is the beautifully restored building call the 'Syngrou', once a primary school and now used for exhibitions and talks.

Villa Galini
Once the meeting place of authors, artists and the elite of days gone by

A typical island house
Made of white washed stone, tiled roof, usually covered in bougainvillia with a balcony full of  fragrant basil plants in old oil cans

Wednesday 12 December 2018

On a Winter's Night

Basketball and patsas

A cosy winter's night, a pot on the stove, a glass in hand and a game on the telly

The heavy old pot boiling on the stove, full of fatty calves foot and stomach.  Patsas, the name of the soup.  A favourite in the wee hours after a heavy night.  It soothes the stomach 'they say'.

A bottle of 'skorthostoubi' 
Many gloves of garlic in a bottle of vinegar, ready to be poured into the soup

What's left
A few 'knuckles' from the foot

Good companions and a good game.

Greece beat Germany

Monday 10 December 2018


We're delighted when we find somewhere agreeable to eat after a doctors visit or  shopping for spare parts in one of the big towns near us, not Athens.

After a number of disappointing meals in Nafplio we finally found the ideal hangout, and it's airconditioned in the summer.  Just a tiny place, half a dozen tables and another half dozen outside

Named 'Rakoumel" which is combination of the word 'raki' and 'Drakoumel'  the bumbling wizard who chases the Smurfs.  You know him and his cat as Gargamel and Azrael.  We know them as Drakoumel and Psipsinel and the Smurfs themselves are Stroumfakia.  The smurfs speak greek, even Donald Duck quacks in greek!  

We see the same faces almost everytime we walk in even though it is only a few times a year.  Locals, mainly men, retired, doing the shopping for wives cooking at home and then popping in for a glass of raki or wine and some familiar company

This long haired male, a throwback from the seventies, is a friend of the owner and sits by the bar with a glass of iced coffee and a full ashtray waiting for his friend to take a break.  Meanwhile he eyes up the waitress and checks us out as well 

Paper tablecloths with recipes enscribed on them, wine from a plastic barrel and only a small selection of dishes every day

We ordered chicken saganaki, bacaliaros and gkoulbasi....
Chicken in a tomato sauce with chunks of cheese and salt cod fried in a batter with garlic sauce.  The gkoulbasi was chunks pork cooked in a clay bowl with green peppers, chunks of cheese, tomato and onion,  slow cooked for three or more hours..  It was darn tasty, the perfect meze for a litre, or so, of wine

If the table is too small for all your plates then pull up another chair and use it as a side table. Standard practice

As usual there was a small altercation over who payed the bill.  We had invited our friend to join us so we paid for the meal.

And we shouted the waitress to a bottle of beer.   She poured out a glass and we clunked glasses
'Stin ygeia sas" to your good health

Friday 7 December 2018

Old Saint Nik

6th December

Fiesta of Saint Nikolas, patron saint of the Greek Navy, merchant and otherwise.  In fact patron saint of all those sailing on the seas, from fishermen in their traditional caiques to the coast guard who goes out in a storm to rescue a sinking raft overloaded with refugees.

Name day of Nik, Nikolas and Niki, Nikoletta and all niks therein.
Niks and Niki's  should have been offering around small sticky cakes and chocolate bonbons to clients, fellow workers, friends and acquaintances.

Family would have turned up on the doorstep for the traditional drinks and platters of meat, salads and specialities of the lady of the house.

Sailors ex and present filled the church on this morning at the Navy School, a church dedicated naturally enough to St. Nikolas.

After the service Navy personnel and church goers were treated to festive cakes, coffee, wine and snacks.

Those whose name day it was brought boxes of cakes, loaves of sweet bread and oil based goodies for those on the religious fast.

St. Nik does not bring presents to the good children, or the bad. Gifts are given out by St. Basil here in Greece.

If you're lucky and come from a cross cultural family you could try for a double visit. Didn't happen in our house.  St. Nik brought our girls presents, coming through the window of our Piraeus flat or the rickety shutters of our old house on Crete.  He always left a few crumbs of his Christmas melomakarouna but managed to drink all of his whiskey.

Another day, another feast.

What's your tradition?

Thursday 6 December 2018

O Christmas Tree

Watching, organising and directing the decorating of the Christmans tree is thirsty work.  The men had their lethal raki, the kids a bottle of even more lethal sugary pop and the girls had their special 'own-brand' sangria, only lethal when you stand up.

One cup of vodka
a few cups of   drinkable wine, red or white
topped up with fruit juice, preferably not fresh.  There is nothing healthy about this recipe!

The first jug had a rather odd taste.  We decided it was the wine which is why I emphasise the use of a 'good' wine.  We added some more vodka, some of that sugary pop and the more we drank the better it got.  The second jug was fruity perfection, and the job got done to the satisfaction of even the fussiest of over-lookers

The 'star' goes on the top of the tree.  Our tradition is a big red poinsettia flower

Doesn't that look gorgeous reflected in the windows

Tall people tack up my crochet Christmas bunting

Up go the Christmas balls, hanging from the rafters

And the mistletoe is put in place

My knitted Christmas hat got its first wearing

And Santa (St Nick to you, St Basil to us)
popped in with a 'ho,ho,ho'