Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Marriage doesn't make sense

Marriage doesn't work without ideals. In fact, marriage is the most ludicrous thing, if you think about it. Which two human beings can live together happily ever after without at some point getting irritated or just bored? It's insane. It's impossible. The "love of your life" is a notion, it doesn't actually exist. If you go on holiday with your best mates in the world, at some point everyone annoys everyone else, yet it's not supposed to apply to husbands and wives. So you have to be an idealist to be married. You have to believe the magic. If you walked into marriage with your eyes open, you'd start running in the opposite direction before you got to say "I do", because on paper, marriage simply doesn't make sense.

This is an extract from The Godmother, possibly the best chick lit novel I've read since No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub. Although I don't agree with the sentiment 100%, it certainly made me think. If nothing else, it explains why so many marriages fail these days.

You can read a review of the book here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gaza Crisis Appeal

The Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organisation for 13 UK humanitarian aid agencies including the British Red Cross, Christian Aid and Oxfam, has launched a charity appeal to help ease the plight of people affected by the conflict in Gaza. Over 1,300 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, and many thousands have been injured, overwhelming local hospitals. The destruction has left people without homes and many children without schooling; power, food and water supplies are insufficient to cover the population’s needs.

Normally, the DEC is supported by a network of television and radio broadcasters, the banks, the Post Office, BT, regional and national press and a range of organisations in the corporate sector. This time, the BBC have decided not to broadcast the appeal for Gaza on the grounds that it would compromise its commitment to impartiality. ITV and Channel 4 have no such concerns and will air the film.

If you'd like to help, this page will tell you how.

Yummy beef stew

If you're looking for an easy to cook, great tasting beef stew, look no further! After reading Karen's glowing recommendation, I decided to follow this recipe for a basic beef stew with carrots and mushrooms, and what a success it was! Even though I had to improvise a little as all the measurements were in American cups and ounces, and some of the ingredients I'd never heard of (cremini mushrooms? cans of beef broth?), the stew tasted yummy, especially considering how easy and quick it was to make. It went really well with herby dumplings (out of a packet, I'm afraid) and was much appreciated by all.

Thanks, Karen, for the recommendation. I suspect this will become a winter staple, especially as there's always plenty of red wine in the house ;-)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy Friday!

According to a group of scientists at Cardiff University, last Monday was officially the most miserable day of the year. They've come up with a formula that takes into account six factors: weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failing our New Year's resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action - and it turns out the Monday of the last full week in January pretty much fits the bill. However, when I opened my eyes this morning to the dark grey January light and the sound of rain beating against the windows, I thought today had to come at least a close second.

On the plus side, I didn't have to go to work this morning, so I counted my blessings and decided to stay in bed with my book. I was desperately close to the end and would have finished it last night if I could have kept my eyes open another 45 minutes or so (easier said than done when it's already gone 1 AM). Only after I finished it, and had a breakfast of Coco Pops with Devonshire Fudge Yogurt (well, Devonshire-style, but it tasted pretty good anyway) and a cup of strong Assam tea, did I feel ready to face the world.

I only hope the weather improves by the time I have to go to work this afternoon, but I don't care if it doesn't - I'm going out this evening to celebrate my friend Ginny's birthday at the local Mexican, and I intend to have a good time whatever a group of Welsh scientists might think. After all, it's Friday and that makes it sooooo much better :-)

In case you're interested, the formula for the day of misery is:

1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA

I was never good at formulas, but apparently W is weather, D is debt - minus the money (d) due on January's pay day - and T is the time since Christmas. Q is the period since the failure to quit a bad habit, M stands for general motivational levels and NA is the need to take action and do something about it.

I *knew* there was a good reason for not making New Year's resolutions, and now I have scientific proof. Hehe.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Life's for sharing

On Thursday 15 January at 11:00 AM, a flashmob-style dance broke out in Liverpool Street station in London, courtesy of T-Mobile. 400 dancers performed 8 different dance routines to tracks as varied as Lulu's Shout and Johan Strauss Blue Danube Waltz, whilst unsuspecting travellers whipped out their mobiles and took pictures and videos - those who didn't join in the dancing, that is.

To watch a high quality version of the clip, go to YouTube and select "watch in high quality".

The event, albeit short, was quite impressive. It was filmed with 10 hidden cameras and was shown simultaneously on TV and YouTube the next day at 9:10 PM.

For me, it's one of the best TV adverts ever. What do you think?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chicken and chorizo sausage stew

Last night I was sitting at the hairdresser's flicking through a pile of mags (as you do) and wondering what I could cook for dinner, when I came across this recipe in one of the magazines. It's from Gary Rhodes's latest cookbook, Gary Rhodes 365. I've never tried any of his recipes before, but I did last night and I'm really pleased with the results. So pleased that I thought I'd share it with you :-)


Serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil
175g/6oz small chorizo sausage, sliced into 1cm/half-inch thick pieces
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 x 400g can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 plum tomatoes, quartered and deseeded
2 skinless chicken breast fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of sugar

Heat a deep frying pan or saucepan and pour in half the olive oil. Add the chorizo and quickly fry until it has taken on some colour and released some of its oils.

Reduce the heat slightly, stir in the sliced onion and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the cannellini beans and the canned chopped tomatoes, topping up with half a can of water to loosen the mixture.

Halve the tomato quarters and stir them into the stew, simmering gently for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a separate frying pan, add the chicken and fry for 6-7 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Spoon the chicken into the stew, season and stir in the sugar before serving ladled into warm bowls.

Well, that's what Gary Rhodes says. I cheated a little - used less olive oil, more chorizo (couldn't find a sausage of the right size, so I used two smaller ones), regular tomatoes rather than plum ones, and started with the chicken so I could get away with using just the one pan. It turned out really nice though and was really quick too. This is what it looked like just before I served it.

It's a perfect dish for a cold winter night, and so easy to prepare, with no fancy ingredients (well, apart from the chorizo, I guess). If you give it a try, let me know how you got on.

Bon appetit & Happy Friday too!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Save the chocolate

Yesterday while shopping for birthday cards, I saw this one in the shop:

I thought it was so funny, I had to buy it. It's guaranteed to put a smile on someone's face, surely.

Well, I guess maybe not if you don't like chocolate, but who doesn't?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Year celebrations continue

You know how in most of the western world there's a build up to Christmas that starts in early November (or late September if you're in England) and then Christmas happens, and new year happens and then everything returns to normal a couple of days later? Well, in Greece, it's the opposite. People start thinking "Christmas" sometime in December, then Christmas happens and it's invariably very low key, and then things really take off as everybody starts preparing for the new year celebrations - which go on throughout January. It's really quite amazing. Every day there seems to be another gathering at a friend's or relative's house, where we eat a lot, drink moderately and cut another new year cake. Here's a selection of the ones we've cut so far. Neither myself nor hubby have been lucky enough to find the coin in our pieces, but we've not given up yet.

There has been lots more cakes too. Christmassy melomakarona & kourabiedes...

Traditional baklava...

And of course scrumptious chocolate-covered tsoureki (brioche-type bread).

As if cakes aren't enough, food has been plentiful too. I have tried my best to resist, but what can I say? It's not easy.

This pork stew and pasta cooked in a clay pot gets my "tastiest dish ever" award.

In an attempt to shift the 2 kilos we've put on, this evening we went for a wander round town, even though it was raining. We even had a whirl at the skating rink. Not sure if it was enough in terms of exercise (I suspect not), but at least we didn't do what we did every other day of this holiday so far, that is, sit by the fire and stuff our faces with delicious food and cakes.

Tomorrow is another day - and another opportunity to try our luck with another new year cake!

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year celebrations

In Greece, New Year's Eve is the biggest party night of the year and the biggest celebration of the Christmas & New Year holiday season. Most people spend New Year's Eve with their friends and relatives, and a typical celebration would include a sit-down meal at 9:00 PM, followed by a variety of desserts. Then at midnight, the lights go off for 30 seconds and the new year is welcomed in with lights, fireworks, singing and merriment, after a brief countdown. Once everyone's kissed and hugged and had some champagne, and the kids opened their presents, the host or hostess cuts a special cake which contains a lucky charm (usually a coin). The person who finds the charm in his or her piece will have good luck for the whole year. For additional luck, people then play card games, whilst the younger and more resilient go clubbing until the early hours.

I regret to say that it's been a long, long time since I considered 2 AM an acceptable time to be going clubbing, so card games (and blogging) it was for me.

These are some pictures from our family celebration.

Our Christmas tree.

Lots and lots of lovely food.

Yes, we managed to eat it all!

At midnight, we cut the New Year cake.

Everyone got a piece, but there was only one coin (and it wasn't in my piece). Sniff.

Lots more cake at the table.

Some of us were more interested in presents than cake!

The best thing about the New Year's Eve celebrations is that there's so much leftover food, there's no need to cook at all on the first day of the new year. This photo was taken the next day (1st January 09) at lunchtime :-)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Oh Christmas boat, oh Christmas boat...

Greek Christmas celebrations differ from traditional "western" celebrations in two ways: firstly, there is such a thing as a "Christmas boat" and secondly, Santa doesn't arrive on Christmas Day, or even Christmas Eve, but on New Year's Eve. Christmas itself isn't celebrated much, there are no special foods, cakes or traditions associated with it, apart from carol singing (but that takes place throughout the holiday season and isn't specifically linked to Christmas). New Year's Eve is a big family celebration, usually followed by partying until the early hours, clubbing or (in some cases) late night blogging ;-)

Νο one seems to know how the Christmas boat came about, but it's become extremely popular in recent years. Many Greeks decorate a boat as well as a tree at home, and many a city centre boast a Christmas boat alongside, or sometimes instead of, a Christmas tree.

The Greek "Santa Claus" isn't St Nicholas, but St Basil of Caesarea. He's dressed in red and white, looks exactly like the Santa we all know, but brings children their presents on January 1st. Tradition has it that presents are opened a few minutes into the new year, so you have to stay up until gone midnight on New Year's Eve to see what St Basil has put under the tree. No wonder it's the biggest party night of the year!

Mediterranean Kiwi has posted a more detailed account of Greek New Year traditions in her blog. You can read it here.

P.S. It's -6°C/21°F out there at the moment, but very dry. I wish it'd snow.