Wild Asparagus (Άγρια Σπαράγγια)

 

March or April, depending on the area, usually sees this little delicacy of Crete making it`s appearance.  It can be found along hedgerows, around the trunks of old trees, along stone walls and roadsides.  With little practice you can learn to recognise this alternative vegetable with ease.

This is the bush, low lying, spikey.  You will find the new shoot emerging from within or closeby, very distinctively, just like a cultivated asparagus, but greener and slimmer.  There may only be one shoot, but often there are three or four.

 

When you have located one, just snap off the top 12 cm or so.  The shorter the shoot, the shorter the length of the tender part, the longer the shoot, the longer the length of the tender part.  You`ll soon get the hang of it.  Try eating one to see what you consider tender or not. This enjoyable afternoon saunter demands company to enable harvesting suitable quantities, so make sure you take somebody with you. 

 

To eat as a salad, rinse lightly, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and lemon juice.  To be eaten with the fingers.

To eat as a cooked vegetable you can steam very lightly, or boil in just a centimetre of salted water or so, serve with oil and lemon.  Cooked, they can be used as a filling in omelettes, pop into the pan, pour over the beaten egg as usual.

Here, I made a mini omelette giro packet, spread cream cheese on half of the omelette, laid on the steamed asparagus, sprinkled a little lemon juice over and rolled into a giro packet.

A nice healthy breakfast!

The English Wedding

 

It`s been almost a month since I attended my nieces wedding in England.  It would seem appropriate that I convey some of the events from the day.

Due to a combination of a hairdresser, intent on creating a work of art on his clients and subsequently, a poorly informed taxi driver, the three guests representing Greece at the wedding, typically, were the last to arrive, nevertheless with beautifully coiffoired tresses, coloured, plaited and curled respectively, youthful adorned smiles and snack bags clutched in their hands, (should there be a shortage of available food), they were greeted hastily by the maid of honour, whom told them “gerra mov`on yer late!”  Snack bags with much anticipated cornish pasties were reluctantly shoved out of sight and they scurried into the specially sanctioned hall where the remaining guests whom represented England were seated patiently. Even the guests representing America, despite having crossed several time zones, still managed to outshine the tardy Greek guests.  I`m sure I saw the registrar drum her manicured nails impatiently on the table top.

The bride appeared on time, a vision of delight, her peaceful contented smile, glowed serenely as she was escorted to the alter. The groom however, quaking in his boots, could be seen to lose all colour from his face.  He quickly recovered and the ceremony was completed with a warm reverence which we all applauded earnestly.

The reception which followed was perfectly orchestrated to cater for all requirements, old acquaintances were renewed and new were made.  The groom could be heard declaring to his buddies that “they” would be handed over to the bride later that evening.  I could only assume that he was referring to his credit cards, or perhaps the keys to their house.  

The unique gifts to the guests were thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated, sadly, due to international border controls, some gifts couldn`t be brought back to our respective countries.

The evening buffet/dance event was not to be missed, with the notorious “3 cake display” which catered for all tastes.  Separating the men from the boys, a very impressive firework display which allowed the “men” to observe outside, whilst appreciating the effects of the bracing evening air, and the “boys” whom observed from indoors through the windows, thus ensuring the continuence of their future kin.   A nice heady inebriation was ensured from over indulgence on the port, which was partaken strictly to accompany the wonderful selection of cheeses from the buffet.

A few twirls around the dance floor were essential to tick all the boxes, if only to re-live such classics as Stealers Wheel – Stuck in the Middle with You,  Mungo Jerry – In the Summertime, Bowie – Heroes.  Induced by a good measure of nostalgia and fueled by a sip or two on the heady port, I  was bopping to these hits like I never did when they were around all those decades ago.

One particular representative of Greece struggled for several minutes to open her hotel room door, until a fairly bemused young man opened up from inside and shot her an enquiring look.  For just a split second, she thought her luck was in…….until comprehension regained footing.  Unfamiliar with sophisticated things such as electronic key cards which gave access to the hotel rooms and slightly confused about which floor she was actually on, she`d managed to disturb a young couple……….. perhaps the less said about this the better!

The day was delightful, albeit it over far too quickly.  

I wish both Jenny and Chris a lifetime of wealth, health and happiness!

Buckets of love to everybody!

Butter Bean Spread

 

This is a great alternative spread.  Can be used in wraps, on crackers or to accompany meat or fish dishes.

Ingredients

400 gr butter beans – If using dried, leave overnight in water and boil the next day till soft. Tinned butter beans can be used if preferred.

2 tbs olive oil

3 or 4 garlic cloves crushed

White vinegar to taste

Salt and plenty of black pepper, ground

Small handful of basil leaves

Procedure

Put all the ingredients, except the basil leaves, into a blender and zap till you have a smooth paste.  Add the basil leaves, stir into the paste and zap for just a couple of seconds.

This will keep in the refridgerator in a closed tupperware for up to 4 days.

Departure Lounges

 

Nowhere is our dependence on electronic devices more evident than in airport departure lounges.  

Recently enjoying a brief trip to the UK, where I left an embarrasing, Canada sized carbon footprint in the wake of my six-flight-all-round-trip, I spent quite a lot of time hanging around in airport departure lounges. 

People-watching being a favourite pastime, I descretely watched my dependent fellow passengers in various stages of electronic device abuse.  The fact that I deemed it necessary to people-watch descretely, was in fact a waste of time, so utter was their concentration and absorption in their pastime, they had neither the faintest clue they were being observed, nor did they care two hoots.  I could feel my brain cells simmering slowly in a cauldron of gigabyte sized radio waves.

Admiring the ability of a 50ish year old gentleman to slump on the floor, back against a wall, where a single precious socket offered him unrestricted battery supply, (or at least for the duration of the three hour wait, during which he moved not one inch), his energy gobling device seemingly completing his existence.  At the other side of the lounge, five or six strained faces hovered nervously, a stride away from the Battery Recharge Station, where attached devices were inspected repeatedly, indecision wavering on their faces on seeing just 35% charge – “do I pull and run and get my next fix, or leave for a fuller charge?”

Musing this impatient behaviour quietly, I imagined how fine it would be to have a Battery Recharge Station for the exhausted human being, where you could just pop over and push a finger into a socket and refuel sagging energy levels.  

On the return journey and quite obviously several thousand brain cells lighter, I wondered if I could afford to lose many more whilst hanging around in departure lounges.  Perhaps I should just bite the bullet and invest in a stupid smart phone and frizzle my flailing brain with round the clock radio waves like the rest of the world. 

Obviously, it`s the tedium of flight travel, or more to the point, hanging around in departure lounges and it`s mind numbing effect, which drives us to immerse ourselves in electronic devices.

It`s time these scientists came up with time travel which could enable us to snooze a long haul journey away, in an induced haze, snug as a bug in a capsule.

Alas, travel is still just that.  Travel.

Did The Earth Move For You Dear?

 

Sometimes they`re enormous and you can`t imagine you can handle the strength.  Some you don`t hear coming, taking you by surprise from behind. Some just sneak up beneath you and rattle your bones, disappearing in an instant. Other`s intentions can be heard charging towards you at a thousand miles an hour, only to slip deliciously away, leaving you gasping. Others, just rock your world.  A few rattle the very foundations of your life, some just nudge it with a creak. The naughty ones jerk you around in your bed.  A few last for an eternity, some rise in climax, occasionally with multi epicentres, others, are weak knee-ed and feeble.  The approach of a number is betrayed by instinctive animal reaction.  Occasionally, they make your hair stand on end, some make your tummy lurch, one or two provoke irrationality.

Whatever the type, they all come in different sizes, strengths and packages, each one individual and unique.

Wouldn`t it be interesting if relationships were more like earthquakes?

Losing Control

 

We had an unexpected visit from FIL (father in law) for a couple of nights.  It`s always interesting having him here as I usually take the opportunity to ferret out some little snippet of a story from his past, quite often, snippets that even Vags hasn`t heard before.  There is however, a bit of a bother with his visits. 

Whilst control over the TV remote usually falls into my capable hands due to my supreme ability to select the perfect film and dodge too many advertisment breaks by channel hopping, I realised too late that leaving the remote unattended on the living room table was in fact a dangerous thing to do.  Before I could rectify the situation FIL`s hand reached over and took control!  Dutiful respect for our overnight visitor ruled out any chance of taking it back, so I pulled my knitting bundle up close and hoped for the best.

Now Vags is a great one for watching continual news broadcasts until I sensibly intervene.  However, almost three hours into yet another helping of ever depressing news about even more problems and even deeper crisis in Greece,  I could see even he was begining to fidget in his seat, throwing sideways glances at FIL, whom continued to grip the control determinedly in his hand.

Gentle suggestions to change the channel so we could watch our favourite CSI serial were expertly rebuffed with “But it`s foreign!”, or “What a load of codswallop” or words to that affect in Greek.  The tension on my knitting was becoming overly tight.

Particularly impressive though, is that it appeared that FIL, although unable to prevent his jaw muscles from relaxing, thus allowing his bottom jaw to sag open as he dozed through his choice of programme, was able to control the muscles in his hand, fingers with whitened knuckles maintained their grip on the remote. 

Our only savior was to wait for the inevetable toilet break, which, caught in a dilemma between taking the remote with him to maintain his jurisdiction, or reliquish control to his hosts, had him wavering with uncertainty on the edge of his seat. 

Lesson learnt for future visits from FIL.

HIDE THE REMOTE !

Knitting Nights

 

Seeing as the unusually cold, wet, wintry days had us housebound for several weeks, I was determined to remain occupied on an evening.  I raked my wool stash from my bottom drawer and created a half dozen or so beanie hats.  Now well and truly infected by the notoriously serious “knit fever”, I decided it was prudent to buy more supplies and create a jumper for my new, “fuller” figure, (of which I`m still trying to come to terms with). Selecting the design and size, I happily set about and knitted the first piece.  Having had quite a few years since I`ve put together any type of any clothing, perhaps my eye wasn`t as keen as of old.  I was quite astonished upon casting the last row off, to see that the piece (the back of said “fuller” figure jumper) was so generous, it could quite effortlessly cover my armchair and with some to spare.  Hmmm.  Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men and all that……!  Reluctant to unpick my new armchair throw, I began again, taking a different tack, I selected a Medium.  The results from this work in progress will be publicized …………… maybe.  Who knows, maybe I`ll even wear it one day.

Pleasantly surprised that the weather relented this weekend, allowing us, for the first time since before Christmas, to shower using only the water from the solar panel, then to dress without turning on the central heating, and enjoy a portion of the evening with the front door open.  Temperatures reached a cozy 23 degrees today.

Spring is in the air, birds and and flowers are rallying and I`m eying up my garden, vaguely toying with the idea of beginning my annual garden overhaul and plant pot shuffle.  Needless to say, common sense prevailed, and I hastily made myself a cup of tea.  Praising my self restraint, I sat on the garden bench and put my feet up, pulled my knitting up close, enjoyed the warm sunny rays, whilst from the corner of my eye, checked to make sure Vags was dutifully labouring away at his extended green net covering for the vines. Yep, life is as it should be.

Part of this denial reflects my unwillingness to acknowledge that the Winter is probably done and Spring is on it`s way.  A hop, skip and a jump before SUMMER.  The season with which I have a love/hate relationship.  Love, because of the lifestyle it grants, ie long evenings spent outdoors with friends, family, obligatory BBQs, beaches, minimal clothing etc. etc.  Hate, because the likelihood that I`ll end up in some cruddy job, which does nothing for my self esteem is imminent. 

The other part of the denial is that as nights grow lighter, my “fuller figure” jumper may never get completed, and who knows, by next Winter, I may need an even “fuller, fuller figure” jumper. Arghhh!  

Aunt Voula

 

Aunt Pareskevoula (Voula) scooted around the house atop an old soft rag, her toes gripping the material through her worn slippers.  With a strange see-saw motion, she waded over to the kitchen sink to make uncle George his lunch. Her inner voice reinforcing her “kill two birds with one stone” motto.  Why just walk across the kitchen floor, when you can polish it at the same time! 

With deft movements and typical Cretan ability, she slipped lunch, effortlessly in front of uncle George with a meek smile.

The strong, silent uncle George sat ready with his spoon upright in hand and dove hungrily into the bowl of stew, splashing and slurping in great gusts, letting the sauce dribble down his unshaved chin.  No acknowledements were made for his lunch, it was what was expected from his lady wife, nothing more, nothing less.  

His muddy boots left clods of soil in piles as he scraped his booted feet below the table.  Aunt Voula said nothing.  She glanced at the lottery tickets under the fridge magnet, and tentatively mentioned that the draw was today.  Uncle George grunted his disapproval at such ridiculous trivialities. “Damn waste of money”, he barked. Quietly, he could only think that the 500 drachmas his silly wife had spent on the tickets would have bought him a damn fine evening getting drunk in the local kafenion, and play a hand of cards too.  

Old school uncle George was a “tough-love” giver.  No frills, no fancy stuff, just tough love.  Taking pride in the fact that he took his seriousness, very seriously, he metered out conversation in dribs and drabs, rarely endearing or kind, just truths, or truths at least as he saw his lot.  Aunt Voula knew this, but ever lived in hope that her ill-tempered hubbie would one day relax and smile, perhaps even express a little gratitude for the food they had on the table, and give thanks for their two healthy grown children.  

The fact that neither of their children had brought home potential future spouses, niggled away at both of them, despite their heartache never being voiced, to each other, or to their offspring.  

Truth be told, should old school, tough-love giver, uncle George learn which way his son`s inclinations leaned, he would have fallen into deep throes of shame. His mother secretly knew, or suspected, a mother knows these things.  Ever protective of her testy husbands reaction, she shielded her son from any rigorous interrogation, redirecting the conversation expertly, in another, more favourable direction.

Later that evening, uncle George pulled on his jacket, his indication that it was time for his nightly saunter to the kafenion, aunt Voula quietly said she would accompany him down to the village centre where the Lottery shop was, to check her tickets.  He grunted his acknowledement and strode across to the door.

In the Lottery shop, checking the board, aunt Voula stood still, staring fixedly at the numbers.  She read and re-read the number, as her brain wouldn`t comprehend the fact that she was in possession of the winning number.  She remained rooted to the spot, mouth slightly apart – speechless, quite unable to believe she was holding the equivalent of 20 million drachmas in her hand.  Paled and light headed, she steadied herself on the nearby table.  The proprieter noticed something amiss and stepped forward to assist her.  

Pretty soon the whole village was abuzz with the news of the winning lottery ticket.  A scruffy urchin like boy shot to the kafenion and blurted to uncle George between gasps of air, that “aunt Voula was feeling faint due to the millions of drachmas she had just won on the lottery” and he was to go immediately to her side.  He dismissed the message as some child`s prank and curtly told the urchin to get lost. Shortly, two or three drinking companions shoved the kafenion door open and excitedly asked George why he was not with his wife.  

In years to come, uncle George remained his grumpy old self. However, should the opportunity ever arise for him to relay the winning lottery ticket story, he`d push his cap back, clear his throat and smiling slightly as he reminisced, tell the story in intricate detail. Leaving nothing aside.  The words flowed as if he was reading from an old, well worn book with dog eared corners.  Re-running the story, he adorned embelishments and flourishes, to enhance the tale.  Aunt Voula always liked to listen to her husband when he relayed the tale.  It was the only time she saw him take pleasure in anything – and she needed that.

Lessons

 

Like I said, the not too brilliant year has finally turned it`s back, and we can look forward to a better, kinder New Year.

Despite having no olives to harvest this year, we seem to have been busy enough and looking back at last years Christmas holiday period, this year was actually pretty uneventful.  However, I came away with a few lessons.

Apparently, a Christmas tree, doesn`t necessarily have to be a tree

 

If you build your house from candy, then it`s likely to be eaten!

 

Next year, I should remember not to trust those “non specified country” packs of bargain flour, found on certain German`s shelves

Sadly, kids can actually get to 13 years old and never have seen snow!  A fact we quickly remedied

Even an ice damaged rose can smell devine

The ever present, protective dome cast over Kanakary spared us from snow settling.  But the surrounding views were spectacular

You can always wear a great pair of earrings, no matter where you`re going

Despite years of protestations and objections that four dogs would be too many, too expensive, too hard to exercise all together – it seems that I know nothing.  Here`s the fourth member of the team.  Slipped in through the back door and kinda stayed, as they do!

 

Covering a portion of the garden with protective netting, not only allows more delicate crops to survive damaging hail storms, but hopefully will reduce the fierce sun in the Summer

It wasn`t all bad, but nevertheless, “Στο καλό να πας 2016”

2016

 

Well, the last couple of days of 2016 had us battoning down the hatches in readiness for the Wintry conditions we`d been promised. Waking in the night to heavy hailstorms, I was sure we` d wake to a light covering of snow at Kanakary at least, but no, seems it wasn`t to be.  Nevertheless, house, gardens, lock stock and barrel, are on the verge of taking float and sailing off down the river, thanks to the plentiful rain, which of course we all hoped for. The parched gardens could be heard, gulping greedily to get their fill.

Gotta say I `m not sad to see the back of `16.  Not that it was a particularly bad year, it s just it wasn`t a particularly good year either.  

I also saw the year out with the incubator in full swing, (catering for a friends request for chicks in the middle of Winter). Temps being pretty low on an evening, I was hesitant to put them outside, so have boxes of day and two day old chicks arraying my desk, pipping away under a heat lamp, to keep me company.

I would however, like to wish warm heartedly, everybody, far and wide, family and friends, a wonderful 2017!