Monday, 31 December 2012

Old years day ...

Its the last one of the year ...

Children are doing circuits of the town, on the second day of the season when they can sing you a carol, whilst playing a triangle.

Christmas carols - December 24th
New years carols - December 31st

The song is quite sweet, performed by two or three children, whilst beating the triangle to no apparent tune. Having witnessed this today a few times, I think its an annoying factor, to bang the funds from your purse or wallet.

The children seem to do quite well, the shopkeepers less so as they pay them to move on.

I found some traditional New year bread today, Its a sesame seed twist loaf, with a walnut set inside, Sadly the house bread vultures attacked it, before a photo could be taken, to show it in all its glory - But you get the general idea ...


Down at the Natvity in Tries Hieraches, the little ones have their eyes open ...


Thankfully the rain stopped overnight apart from the odd rogue shower that has passed over. The island has that cool damp feel to it, now we hope for some sunshine to dry and warm it once again. 

But the sunshine like the blog is all over for this year ...

Ευτυχισμενο το νεο έτος! Happy New Year wherever you are, and thank you for visiting, my little piece of 'a green island in the aegean' ...


Sunday, 30 December 2012

The monsoon season ...

... continues unabated here as the year draws to an end.

The rain continued overnight, and there must be a few problems with flooding here on the island. My wellies are impressing the local ladies - well most are around 80 years young ...

I have cleared the blocked storm drain three times in one day, under the eagle eye of the local ladies. Boots hat gloves and broom. But its the old Green Dunlop wellies that they like ...

Earlier this morning, I donned the wellies again, after an invite to cross town, from my friend Stamatis. Come for coffee, he said. What we had was ...

A great display by one of the best -Yorgos, who on arrival, had noticed that the Bazouki was resting on the sofa.


His eyes lit up and within seconds was treating us to a rendition of Greek songs from the sixties - Then he picked up a guitar, and knocked out a few Beatles numbers for the Englishman.


There was Music, dancing, laughter and after midday a glass of wine. Just a normal very wet Sunday morning, spent with friends ...

Back home, to cook lunch - All my own work ...


A check on the weather ...

(Non)-Accuweather: Skiathos = Showers
Actual weather: Hammering down and it was 2 inches deep roaring down the street.

John from 'Skopelosnews' kindly sent me a much more accurate version ...


However that has probably not helped the frequent fliers, from the islands who are tonight grounded at the airport. The Island flight is still in Athens, grounded by the poor weather here.

We have had around three inches of rain in 18 hours. So with low cloudbase, and the very wet runway - there seems little chance of the Dash coming here tonight. Lets hope those with flights tomorrow, foresaw the issue and made it down to the ferry port, by 17:45 ...

However looking at an earlier photo taken at Xanemos ...



Update - 18:30hrs The Island hopper has been cancelled due to bad weather at Skiathos ...

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Winds of change ...

Yesterday we were sitting on the paralia.

Friends were enjoying the sunshine having escaped the bad weather in the UK, for their annual new year get away from it all.

I do admire the winter traveller. It sets them out from the rest. Down to Athens then on the bus to Volos, a night in a hotel. A morning cruise on the Express Skiathos, and they are here.

This morning however a winter storm has blown in and its cool windy and occasionally very wet. The rain started at 5am and the weather is set to be rough for around 24 hours. Strong winds are forcast overnight.

They should be OK for celebrating new year, on one of the deserted beaches though.

Travellers bring germs to the island too. There are many coughs and sneezes here at the moment. The news of the norovirus and what it can do with a cruise liner. Imagine what it would do here with the same number of inhabitants, and stretched medical support.

So no rest for me. Off now to catch up on my jobs, despite aching limbs and stormy skies, to the nearby buzz of a chainsaw. As someone prepares to keep warm as the old year blows out in style ...

20:45pm Update

We have had around 16 hours, of stormy weather, its the force 7 winds that are shaking the island.
Poseidon forecast another 24-36 hours of rain as the storm develops.  ...


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Photo time ...

How about this for a lovely photo ...


Can you see the entrance to Papadamatis street and the bridge over the entrance?

There were seven bridges in Papadamatis street. When there is a heavy storm, the water follows its route and the storm drains often cannot take the pressure. Then Papadamatis street becomes a river again.

In summer now when the Jet ferries dock, they force the water back up the stream and water appears out of the drains in Papadamatis street. One of the ferry docking points, remains closed due to the jet ferries - flooding Papadamatis street, two years ago.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas day ...

Καλά Χριστούγεννα και ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος από Σκιάθο ...


A beautiful Christmas day on Skiathos. A walk on the paralia in the sunshine before lunch ...

Saturday, 22 December 2012

What a day ...

Well that was quite a day ...

Its not every day you are '21 again' but it really was fun. I spent the day bumping into friends here on the island. One thing led to another as it always does when you do not plan anything.

The best present that I could have was that my lovely wife, was able to share the day with me too. She spent Thursday evening making me a birthday cake, despite not feeling well.


We spent the morning, in our favourite coffee shop, The Gerani with junior, and friends, before I was led astray ...

A couple of beers at Syraino, with Denis, where the mezes are always quite substantial. Nice and warm too, with a great view of the old harbour.


I went home, and found out that some friends were 'hiding out' at the Mouria hotel, enjoying a meze. So I rather cheekily popped down to say hello.

Alex Teo Tommy & Andrea
They tried hard to drown me in tsipouro, and generosity however I was on best behavior.The mezes at Mouria are really very good, and the welcome is as warm as the open fire.

Octopus in red wine, soft and succulent ...
There was some magic taking place here, under the watching eyes of Alexander Papadamatis. You turn your head and your glass refill's by itself, and food appears on your fork ...

Off to the Old Port cafe, for a coffee and a chat.


... oh and another meze - Yes I did say coffee.

I was enjoying my coffee, cannot speak for the others, however, as the wheels were slowly coming off the birthday express.Two of the ladies, headed off for the late night shopping experience, and returned empty handed a little while later.

So as you do - we went for an impromptu meal with friends. We decided to head for Gravisi, a lovely little pizza restaurant, hidden in the back streets of town. However we found it was closed for Christmas and the new year. Back to the Old Port to pick up Tom, who we do not think had noticed we had left.

Onward and into Pizza Vesuvio, where we were made very welcome indeed. Lovely salads and pizzas, some shared, as the bellies were getting full. I had the spaghetti carbonara, which was lovely, even Junior helped me out, as its a firm favourite.

Junior was getting tired so departed for home with mamma, and bed - not a bad decision as the Birthday express headed on to the next port of call.

I was kidnapped, bundled into the back of a former hire car and taken to a secret address. I was rather worried by the kidnappers, as they kept mentioning their incontinence problems and they needed to go for a wee.

After a spot of pole dancing on the ring road ...


I ended up ten pin playing bowling (Very badly) on a 'Wii game' and it was a lot of fun.

The Mayan people probably knew it was a special day - as well as being the shortest one, but in my case a long one spent with friends and family into the early hours ...

Friday, 21 December 2012

Sorry its quiet ...

Its the end of the world today ...

You see, in addition today is my


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Wet Wet Wet ...

Not the pop group but us here ...

Friends with flooded rooms, water roaring down the street ankle deep. We have had a lot of rain, and its all making its way through the village into the sea. If you had an empty sterna yesterday it would be erupting like a geyser by now.

Either there are either 1000 ants on the roof with hobnail boots, or its torrential rain outside ...

We did have some sunshine for about twenty minutes earlier around lunchtime. But its rained mostly all night and all day and at times its been torrential. The trusty merrills were submerged on the way to the corner shop, but the waterproofing is holding out well.

SWMBO has returned from the mainland after another bureaucratic nightmare. There is 25% unemployment here in Greece, and i suggest around another 25% cannot be bothered to do their job correctly. Its high time they redressed the balance.

Nothing like an 11 hour round trip when you are not very well, for a pointless chat with a 'resting' archaeologist, who is marooned in admin - a shrug and a 'ti na kanoume' So thats two wasted appointments in two days, one with a fancy electronic appointment system, and a come back later when you get there.

Its just not a waste of our time and money, its the hospitals too. At times its beyond the pale ...

You cannot book an appointment for next year (Thats when they want you to come back) as they do not have a diary. Its explained as we do not know what the days are, so maybe they are reliant on the Mayan calendar, which is due to expire on Friday or later (Greek style) depending on where you read all about it ...

There is a pause in the footsteps on the roof, send for more wine !


Nico Lazaridi - reduced to just €3 a bottle in Carrefour at the moment, an easy drinking red, but not a patch on the mighty Rapsani ...

Oops - Looks like I spoke too soon, the ants are back on the roof, glass of Nico and the woodburner it is then ...






Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Raindrops ...

Woke me at 3am ...

The weather pattern is still a little confused. I was at the play area yesterday with junior - The sun was out,  and I was burning. All the kids were trying to remove layers of clothing. Yet every once in a while a breeze appeared from the south, and distant Evia and the chill was there.

Currently the decent forecasts say 'Expect rainy weather late Tuesday night through Thursday morning' and that seems about right. Its just started again as the drips can be heard on the roof.

I have been thinking about the spirit of Christmas. There is not a lot of it around at the moment. We have our blue trees, the Galleon and the Dolphins. The illuminated Xronia Polla at Bourtzi, and in Papadamatis street, and that is it.

Tries Hieraches church has a nativity scene outside, within the scene there is a new nativity taking place. A local cat has given birth to kittens, and has set up home, in a most desireble warm location.

Photo © Victoria Sandels - Skiathosbooks

Lets hope they are all left alone to enjoy their first week in life.

The Christmas Bazaar really was a great day, and lovely to see the village enjoying the activities. I do enjoy the music being played, from the loudspeakers up Papadamatis street. Not quite sure if the locals know what is going on though, as Christmas is not as much of an event here - Its Easter which is 'the event'.

The post office is rammed full of parcels awaiting collection. Some are huge and must cost a fortune to send. However there are as always delays. I have a parcel yet to arrive from Amazon, I know it was in Athens a week ago. Another took exactly three weeks to get here. There was a big delivery yesterday, so maybe today's the day ...

Friends on the ex-pat side of the community here, are mentioning Mince pies and Turkeys, and getting together, whats good on TV at the moment etc.


There is the annual ex-pat bash up at the Final Step restaurant, on Christmas day. Where there will be a warm welcome and a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings.

SWMBO is over on the mainland this week. Reporting back that shelves are stuffed with Christmas goodies in Volos. Supermarkets with lots of price busting offers, and tempting Christmas goodies - after all it is supposed to be a feast, after a fasting period ...

Perhaps there will be a food parcel sent over from the mainland for our Christmas ...

Father Iosif at Evangelistra, has posted the invitation to celebrate Christmas Eve, with the midnight mass service. Here it is below ...


So with the pitter patter of raindrops, todays next event is a trip to the post office, or Yanis the postman with a note telling me to go to the post office ...

Greek Easter 2013: If you have not booked that summer holiday yet - 1st flights from UK are on May 3rd, and that is the day to be here, and the best weekend of the year on the island - Not to be missed ...

***11am update*** - Rainfall is of monsoonal type, raging river in the street, they type of rainfall that usually floods Papadamatis street - despite the storm drains. Now heading up to the roof of an adjoining property to prepare the ark ...

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Ding Dong ...

merrily on high ...

The sleighbells were ringing all the way up Papadamatis street this morning. The loudspeakers have been turned on and the music was playing all along the street.

Up at the gymnasium school, it was packed, as we were met by the second most famous reindeer on the island.

Photo - Victoria Sandels - Skiathos books
The souvelaki and gluhwein  being enjoyed by all and sundry. It must have been good, it affected one of our island friends eyesight so badly, he had no recollection of us being there at all.


The children put on a great dance routine, on the basketball court, watched by many of the children and proud parents alike.

Great activities for the smaller children, where they were rewarded for completing a course of activities. Junior did not quite get the hang of it, the sweets clearly very nice distracted attention. Face painting - (Well done Christina) craft and decorative presents on sale in the classrooms.

There were some excellent cakes and pastries being passed around. Many more for sale, and outstanding quality too. The chocolate truffles again this year were a 10/10.

It was very well supported this year by the locals, and the cool weather helped, rather than the freezing weather of previous years. For me its a must do event, and a great shame its not as well supported by the islands ex-pat communities.

So a very well done to all concerned, the Ladies club and Green Fox, for putting on a great show, and getting the townsfolk together for the event.

Cool December ...

Its the Christmas Bazaar today so will be off shortly to support the event ...

There is a rather watery sunlight view, this morning on the paralia. ...



Saturday, 15 December 2012

Christmas bazaar ...

Its the annual Christmas bazaar at the Gymnasium school on Sunday from 11.30am.
Funds raised to support the Green Fox recycling team ...


Friday, 14 December 2012

Keep out the chill ...

Cold here yesterday despite the lovely sunshine ...

This morning real winter clouds, dark and threatening, and looking full of ice and snow.

Last night, I spent the evening with my friend Stamatis. Over a glass of Rapsani watching the Greek TV explaining the latest EU fiscal bail out. However it was great to be, by the warmth of his 'even mightier' woodburner ...

Stamatis woodburner doubles as a stove, and has remained lit day and night, for a month. He has been collecting and eating the local mushrooms for twenty days, yes free food for that long, and served with couscous. a glass of the wine, cashews and rewarded later with amazing dreams last night.

Walking back clear skies and the stars very clear overhead. The temperature near freezing, and when I arrived home the mighty woodburner, was still glowing a dull red from the interior of the furnace. Within minutes it was roaring again, and I fed the beast with a large lump of Mulberry wood, that sizzled, spat and  then burned.

Valves then closed to a minimum, the fire was still warm this morning, so we have fed the beast again, and continued with the heat on this morning.

I have some huge logs that are too big for the woodburner, yet the open fire is such a waste of good firewood, and heat and money up the chimney.

I have been exploring using a Eco Hot heat exchanger, on the open fire, to exploit the heat from the open fire itself. This is the new must have kit on the island ...


I have been lent one, thanks to having good Greek friends here on the rock. However at the moment am not convinced, that its the right thing for me. The open fire looks good, but for the same price it seems that I can get another woodburner, just like that that I already own. It will give me a minimum 4.5kw heat without the requirement of electricity to propel it at me.

It seems a no brainer, but subject to availability - watch this space ...

A brisk walk after the school run, up Papadamatis street, returning with fresh bread and some huge broccoli destined for a lunchtime soup. 

The fish man had prawns that were still flipping, and twitching. local codfish and some lovely sized John Dory, but at €14 a kilo it must be. Sadly fresh fish is off the radar for at least a couple of months yet ...

Hints of blue sky through the clouds above, and after a trip to souless Asteras yesterday its a Carrefour day today. But first the post office ...



Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Kali Mera apo Skiatho ...

Here we are with this morning's view to Evia ...


Not as cold this morning, in fact mild in comparison to recent days - but a bracing southerly breeze, as the flying cat departed for Volos ...


... and headed out to sea.







Monday, 10 December 2012

Monday Lunch ...

After a trip to the school, Then you need something warming on a day like this ...



Broccoli & blue cheese soup Fitted the bill nicely. Unfortunately no Stilton here on Skiathos, So we had to make do with Danish Blue, which passes for Blue Cheese in this part of the world ...

Monday Morning ...

Again its rather draughty, here this morning ...

The wind has been rattling the street all night along with a passing shower or two. It rather cool, enough to make you wrap up warm, and if you are a local to cover your mouth with a scarf, to avoid letting cool air into your lungs.

Its the type of cold air that makes you back ache, soon after getting up. Relief comes in the form of hot water, when you have a shower. Just enough to get you going at the start of the day.

I have exercised with a trip after the school run, up to the ring road. Carrefour seems to have finished with Christmas, and is now on New Year cakes and pastries. Not much sign of Christmas fare here, except the tree of course. However the €26 packet of Parma ham, strangely still remains plentiful and unloved on the shelf. Someone is clearly enjoying the leg of Parma Ham in the deli fridge, some has been sold over the weekend to a gastronomic customer.

Thanks to Simon, for the recipe for a Christmas Pudding minus the suet. Looks a good one, so will let you know what happens next. That is if I can stop SWMBO eating the dried fruit ingredients first, and Deutche Post DHL, turn up with the pudding kit by Christmas.

All the fun of 'Living on a green island in the Aegean' ...

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Busy bee ...

Up early this morning, the weather reports are not brilliant for the next few days ...

Lovely early visit to the spring at Taxiacharis, before dawn the lights at Glossa and Loutraki were very clear - almost twinkling like Christmas lights. Said hello to the church cats, well they did to me, thinking that I was the bearer of gifts - food ...

On the way back along the Paralia, dawn was just breaking, a pink hue to the south of the Pounta. A sign that the sun is now rising to the south of Skopelos, over the sea.

Second coffee of the day, back at base camp, and then a trip down to the Ferry port before 8am to meet a friend en-route to the mainland for supplies. Whats more it was an expedition to IKEA, so very kindly agreed to pick up some lamps and an extension lead on promise of Tsipouro ...

The sun was now up, here is this mornings sunrise ...



Then after watching a few people boarding the Flying Cat, One passenger clutching my shopping list. I am advised the locals are boycotting the Flying Cat - Its called a 'White strike' - to try and get the fares reduced. Not a bad idea, but one doomed to failure, after all it runs on Kerosene (Jet Fuel) 

Heating oil is €1.41 a litre here at the moment. One friend said, he uses three litres an hour heating his flat - So it does not take much working out why its currently €75 return, to Volos on FC6.

 So it was time to return via the bakery in Papadamatis street, to home, and my favourite job.

Cleaning the chimney ...

Burning some soft wood - Mulberry creates a different kind of ash and soot. A medium heavy bag deposited into the bin, from a range of around five metres, underarm and no cats exiting from within - It had just been emptied.

Its got progressively windier during the day, as my cross town travels have noted, and a comment that I was now returning to my 'U-Boat captain look' of last winter, roll neck jumper, coat, boots and the faded cap.

For some reason late afternoon is a mystery, and I awoke cold - Hence tonight the winter rugs have been laid, to keep the chill off the floor at a minimum. The mighty woodburner is roaring, as you would expect after its service an MOT this morning

Perhaps a glass of FIX dark and a warm by the fire and a film, behind closed shutters, and the late news 'just in' that it is tipping it down in Volos, as is my friend enjoying a tsipouro, shuttered against the wind ...






Thursday, 6 December 2012

Days like this ...

Just have to be enjoyed ...


Today was no different, after the school run, the post office and a trip to the stationery shop. Must say Yorgos is the nicest of the local shopkeepers, always there to help.

I bumped into a friend and we had a coffee - Looking at the view and the sun definitely turning the skin a shade darker in the warm December sunlight ...

Great days are made of this but the weather is going to turn cooler very soon ...

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Blue skies and crisp air ...

Yes there is a chill in the air, and winter is on its way ...

This mornings forage resulted in firewood, and kindling being returned go the wood store. Summer shoots from the Mulberry tree were becoming an eyesore, and where slowly being stripped of leaves. So I broke them down into kindling. The larger branches, which would have made great tickling sticks for Olives, were moved so that they do not catch any more damp from the rain, and will be sawn up at a later date.

An hour spent crushing boxes for kindling soon raised the internal temperature within The Skiathian, if not within the house. Allthough tonight all is warm and cosy.

Tonight's medium long lob of a bag of a small bag of rubbish, 'into the bin' (Note neighbours) and my amazing accuracy, sent five cats scurrying from within the bin for safety. The locals moggies are getting hungry it seems. Sadly have never seen a trap locally, from any of the island cat people, to stop them going forth and multiplying ...

On this evenings rather crisp walk along the paralia, I noted that the Christmas decorations are being set up, The Xronia Polla, the Galleon, and the Dolphins are all in situ, and lit up. A seasonal glow to help keep out the noteable chill ...

Monday, 3 December 2012

Back in the Kitchen ...

Very breezy again today, and the temperature, has started to drop ...

Reports too that winter is about to extend its icy fingers further south from Europe.

So after an afternoon scrumping oranges recently, it was time to convert them into something edible and nutritious for those winter breakfasts. Now I have already had some good news on the winter breakfast front. My lovely neighbour has very kindly dispatched winter supplies of Porridge, from the frozen wastes of the North of the UK to me here on the rock.

A bag of scrumped Oranges, cut ready for pressing ...


Then squeezed to extract the juice and numerous pips ...


Much slicing and subsequent sharpening of the knife (Blistering the hands) ...

On the heat ...


Two hours later, Sugar is added and the heat increased. The boiling bitter marmalade then starts to sweeten and set ...

Voila - 5 litres of Winter marmalade - Done !


The one thing about making Marmalade in the kitchen in the evening, it warms up the house fairly quickly. Stiring a pot of boiling Marmalade, soon gets the muscles working, and a glistening sweat on the brow too ...

This evening the house is perfumed with the orange aroma, as are my hands from the bitter orange oil. It sprays from the oranges, when you cut them, and which are far too bitter and seedy to consume. Its only after the chemistry (Heat agitation and effervescence) that they are edible in any form. The extracted pectin, must be one of the slipperiest substance's known to man or woman.

Outside the wind is rattling the street, distributing bottles and cans from lazy neighbour's rubbish bags, up and down the street. A strange affliction, where they cannot be put into the bin, but are left alongside it for some bizarre reason.

Fire on and shutters closed keeping the house warm tonight, and the street perfumed. Well why not - you know it makes sense. Anyone with a recipe for Christmas pudding without suet ?

Friends at Florina in the north of Greece, have had their first snowfall this evening ...

Still Missing - José Maria Benito Sánchez (Update) ...

Internet news agencies, here in Greece are reporting the news, that Jose has been located in Belgium on Friday - safe and well ...

This is incorrect - We've been contacted by Jose Benito Sanchez's family who report that, sadly, he is still missing, and that media reports of his discovery are erroneous. We and other websites, numerous Facebook pages and our friends at SkopelosNews, shared the 'news links' in good faith, quoting the news sites listed below, which still carry incorrect information ...

http://skiathos-news.blogspot.gr/2012/12/blog-post_6636.html

http://www.newsnow.gr/article/293238/lythike-to-mystirio-tis-exafanisis-ispanou-stin-skiatho.html

http://www.newsbomb.gr/koinwnia/story/258376/apisteytoexafanistike-sti-skiatho--ton-vrikan-sto-velgio#ixzz2DvC9aRyi

http://www.taxydromos.gr/article.php?id=66383&cat=1

Hendrik Bamps, Brother in law of Eric advises: None of the local (Belgian) police-services has heard anything like that. He is still as missing as before... The problem  is that police filed this case as 'closed', since there is no news coming from Greek police, and no actions are going on in Belgium, because it did not happened in Belgium'

Quite where the detailed quotes, relating to Interpol came from remains a mystery ...

Real-life "The Terminal"...

A Greek family escape austerity, and are stuck in Munich airport

Picking up where Tom Hanks left off, but this is not fiction ...

Story here ...

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Kalo Mina - Dekemvrios ...

Kalo Mina - Good Month - Dekemvrios - December ...

Not a good start to the month, The local bakery in Tries Hieraches church square closed its doors yesterday. The big Bread oven has been fired up for the last time. The equipment is up for sale, another victim of the austerity process here in Greece.

When the price of bread drops in price, and the local supermarkets sell it 10cents cheaper, sourced from a rival bakery you have your back to the wall.

The simple economics are that if the landlords agreed to lower the rent, the business could still operate, and taxes and rents would be paid. Here in Skiathos that is not an acceptable option, so another business closes, another empty shop, and another landlord wondering what to do next.

Another coffee shop perhaps ...

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Skiathos Olives, Bad weather & Logging ...

Great Video by friends on the island, as they say - There is more to Skiathos, than sandy beaches, and parties. This video represents a part of these other amazing things this island has to offer ...





Meanwhile the weather has closed in to help shake the Olives from the trees ...

Gales - Sea Moderate to rough - Force 7 - Skiathos ...
The fury of the sea ...
The relentless sea ...

15:00 hrs: Poseidon weather was bang on the money - It tipped down right on time ...

An interesting article from the Guardian this afternoon, and shared here about illegal logging of the forests over on Pelion. Something dear to our hearts here on Skiathos.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Kalee Spera apo Skiatho ...

Update on the Olive press activities:

Our man in the hills advises ...

'Ah the early morning sounds of Skiathos, the olive factory press now running 24 hrs a day to keep up with demand. Just took another 15 sacks to the factory, it is jam packed in there now, the 100 bays are full and half the yard is now stacked with pallets of olives'

I have seen vans creaking as their axles struggle under the weight of their loads heading for the olive press up the hill. Even today here in town, workers were harvesting huge bamboo poles near the school for use as tree beaters.

Skiathian Marmalade:

1st batch of bitter oranges bagged, the school kids were using them as airborne missiles, so scrumped whilst the time was ripe. Just helping to keep Skiathos clean and tidy ...

Christmas has arrived at Carrefour:

The token skinny christmas trees are out, as are last years left over baubles and decorations. The deli counter is decorated, with small christmas trees, and some dried up cake on offer to tempt you. There is some interesting but astronomically priced Parma ham at €26 for six slices in the fridge too.

Later update ...

20.41pm local time and a wood delivery is taking place. Seems the woodmen are now working 24/7 too ...

For those without aroma-vision PC's or Laptops, I can confirm that the town is perfumed with woodsmoke now 24/7 as well. I have been told off politely for mentioning this by hardy Brits. However they are holding out for a rainy day, or sitting discretely by electric fires.

There has been a nip in the air of late but tonight its rather mild - We are not burning wood this evening either ...

Kalee mera apo Skiatho ...

Not a bad autumn morning, here on the rock ...





Monday, 26 November 2012

Olive angst ...

The trouble with Olives is that they are hard work ...

Well at least for a month every two years. During the last few weeks I have heard some grumbles about it from ex-pat friends. The romantic notion of having your own oil, being crushed in my mind, like the olives in the press.

I notice many ex-pats this year are falling out of love with the olive, and the hard work required in the collection process. Many are not bothering to pick them, and that I think is rather sad. The ex-pat says its cheaper to buy the oil at the supermarket. The Greek says its a gift from the land, and its his heritage so he must collect it.

I was in the supermarket the other day and two ladies were discussing the olive collection, trimming of the trees and was it worth it apart from the firewood. In the next aisle came a friend from the island. I joked what are you doing here, you should be picking Olives, within a minute he described what he was doing, his curing for food, and when he would collect the Olives.

All with a passion and so eloquently described, that I cannot attempt to capture it here. The other side of the counter did go a little quiet. It seems to me, we love the tree, it looks nice over a drinks glass, as it's leaves change colour during the day. But when the time comes to share its gift, its a passion lost.

Now I do not have any trees, I have not been involved in a collection  other than for my own use. But if I was lucky to own an olive grove, I would make it work for me, come hell or high water. Its part of life on a Greek island, something being lost through neglect of the Olive grove.

Without the care and management, the trees grow wild and do not fruit. Wild trees become targets for wood hunters, and that is a crime. The Olive tree, has to be harvested, and when trimmed, its timbers give you heat in winter ...

However if you have a record breaking year for Olives, then you will also have a record breaking year, for back breaking work. Many hands make light work, but you have to pay for the labour, and feed the team.

If you stick to the task, then in a few days you will be proud of your achievement. You will also have the taste of a golden summer for the next two years, and time to plan on the terrace, how to do it - when its time to do it all again ...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Now about that oil ...


Hanging-olives

Olive Oil Facts
• Olive growers watch the trees carefully for an even blend of ripe, maroon-colored olives and less-ripe green fruit to balance the flavor of the oil. If a great percentage of the olives harvested are green, the oil will have a much more intense taste, often described as peppery. 
• Harvested olives must be shaded quickly to avoid sunburn and processed as soon as possible to avoid bruising and molding. 
• Extra-virgin olive oil is a natural fruit juice that preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and properties of the olive fruit. 
• It’s the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as is, pressed fresh from the fruit.
• Freshly pressed olive oil is cloudy due to the small particles of olives that are suspended in the oil. Many people love the taste of the extra-virgin nectar, with its assertive flavor and very spicy back-of-the-throat finish—often shocking to the uninitiated palate. Known as oliva nueva, the oil is stored in barrels or cans for about two months to allow the olive particles to settle to the bottom before the oil is bottled. 
• Extra-virgin olive oil has an acidity level of less than 0.8 percent. Olives must be pressed within 24 hours of picking so that the acid level doesn’t increase, ideally at a temperature of no higher than 86 degrees (high-heat extraction methods produce more oil, but the subtle flavor characteristics of the olive are lost). 
• Extra-virgin olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats (fatty acids) and polyphenols, which are antioxidant substances. Studies have shown that olive oil protects the body from heart disease by controlling LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels, while raising HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels. No other naturally produced oil has as much monounsaturated fatty acids as olive oil. Research also suggests that including extra-virgin olive oil in the diet may bolster the immune system and aid in preventing colon cancer.
A NO-WASTE CROP: The entire olive tree can be used to create products, beginning with the fruit, which is pressed for oil or brined for use as table olives and spreads such as tapenades. The pomace left after crushing the olives is used as compost and cattle feed. The oil is used in a variety of culinary applications and also for making skin-softening soaps. Leaves of the olive tree are used in making skin and beauty products, often in conjunction with the oil, while olive-leaf tea, which contains more antioxidants than green tea due to a high level of polyphenols, is becoming increasingly popular. Finally, olive wood is a hardwood with a particularly lovely grain that is used to produce long-lasting kitchen utensils and decorative home accessories.



Saturday, 24 November 2012

Supermarket sweep ...

Today's cooking journey sent me looking for Chicken livers ...

Pate costs a fortune here and comes in tubs or cans from nondescript places in Europe. So today I thought I would make my own, armed with a copy of an internet recipe. On my way out of Carrefour with 1/2 kilo of Chicken Livers, I paused at the wine shelves, looking for a cheap white.

Looking over to my favourite red, the Rapsani 2009, I had the shock of my life. Reduced from €9.40 to €€7.60 yesterday, and now just €4.30 on a promotion ...



This kind of bargain is not to be missed, so called interested parties across the island, straight away. Some are waiting until Monday. Others threw down their tree bamboos, and deserted the olive groves at speed heading down to town in the 4x4's.

I know there will be a warm welcome in the hillsides, by the fire for some. Others may still be drinking Party wine - but you do your best. Sadly I was on a mission - So only one bottle of winter warmer for the rack for me, but its good to share a bargain every once in a while.

Chicken livers, cleaned fried and whizzed up with oyster mushrooms, some red onion, and almost the last of my smoked garlic. The two bowls of creamy pate, really tastes not bad at all, and is in the fridge, setting under a top hat of clarified butter.

Time enough still, to watch England compete every step of the way with South Africa, matching the Springboks for intensity and desire as they battled back from 16-6 down with real heart to lose 16-15. I switched back to watching highlights of the cricket, only to see the Aussies collapse against the Proteas, at Adelaide. Better times for England in the morning on the sub-continent - I hope ...

Tonight's risotto also used up the rest of the mushrooms, with a glass of white that sent me sleepy in front of the fire ...

Late news - Another friend down the island reporting, a  huge harvest of Olives, excellent quality oil at 0.3% acidity. This is the year of the Olive, and the factory is working 24/7 producing Liquid Gold for the islanders. More still to pick, many waiting to increase the yield by waiting for the olives to turn black and soft, and juicy.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Blisters ...

Yes they hurt, and today my trusty merrell's which are disintegrating on my feet, gave me a blister.

They have covered many kilometres on this island, both up hill, down the valley, up trees and even into a lake. The tread is distinctly slippy on the cobbles, but they fit like a glove - if only a rather worn one ...

One school run, a trip to Carrefour for the shopping, a transit of Papadamatis street - Amazing fresh fish and beautiful vegetables in abundance. A trip to the other side of town to recycle bottles, and later a walk down club strip, a coffee and a catch up with friends at M.I.N.T. - Bellissimo ...

On the way back, I diverted and by the fire station, met an old man, with a determined look in his eye and a sharp hooked saw. He was as surprised to see me as, I was to nearly knock him over. We laughed and the object of his toothy grin (There were a few left) was the tall bamboo.

Olives I said ? Yes he said, and no problem - But that's how I ended up hanging on the Bamboo whilst he cut the stems for canes to beat his olive trees ...

Later as i made it back, Alex (Most famous and best waiter in Skiathos) was helping to trim a sycamore tree, and with Angelos and my left Merrell - we managed to send the branches on their way, into the play area. They were swiftly cut up and removed for firewood, by our loyal eco friendly island neighbours ...


Whilst we are on the subject of recycling, my neighbours like to drink beer. At least twice a week and quite a lot of it. They also do not like to take the empties back. 

They also make a bit of a crash, when they go in the back of the rubbish truck, and off to a hole in the ground, located on the top of the island for the next thousand years.

So according to my latest 'recycling index' around two dozen empties = I free bottle of wine - Yammas !



Thursday, 22 November 2012

Christmas is coming ...

Just over a month to go, and the panic buying will have started in earnest.

Bath salts will be dusted down, re-wrapped and sent on the eternal loop to another auntie. The tinsel and tree will be brought down from the loft, the fairy lights tested, and will short circuit the electrical system.

You just know that B&Q or Prakitka on the mainland (Other DIY stores are available) will not have that type or shape of bulb on Christmas eve when you want it.

At the bottom of the Christmas box will be a tried and trusted friend - The advent calendar.

Its been in use since your school days, its hard now to get those little chocolate squares to fill it. Especially here on a Greek Island and no sign of Mr Cadbury ...

Then it hit me - That Eureka moment ...

A new Adult advent calendar, for those cool December evenings. One that will capture the attention of the adults rather than the kids.

So a quick trip to Carrefour, and some Numbers and a Kores stick (Pritt stick) and here is the prototype - and you heard about it on my grapevine ...



Order ASAP for late November delivery - Sorry - Only over 18's with a corkscrew can apply ...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Wet and windy ...

Not the best morning for the townsfolk to return from Kounistra this morning either ...



Very autumnal and some very heavy rain overnight, and its remained dull and damp all day ...


... still we had a great October this year so no complaints. Likewise Greek TV said thunderstorms but they stayed on the mainland and to the south of us ...

So on with the logs, and light the fire ...


Then perhaps ...


With a piece of ...


You see, its just that kind of day ...