Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A church service and a walk in the park

Today is Holy Wednesday, traditionally the day when children in particular receive a sacrament called Euchelaion (from the words euche meaning "prayer", and elaion meaning "oil"). This involves attending a short church service, followed by a blessing. The priest dips cotton wool in specially blessed olive oil and uses it to make the sign of the cross on children's foreheads. After a morning spent shopping for Easter gifts, the goddaughter and I attended this church service.

We arrived early to have a look around the church. As you can see, it's decorated in purple - the colour of mourning in Greece, along with black.

Hundreds of people attended the church service. Luckily everyone made orderly queues (well, by Greek standards anyway).

There was a stand outside the church for those who wanted to take some of the blessed oil back home to those members of the family unable to attend.

What you had to do is take a piece of cotton wool, dip it in oil and wrap it in aluminium foil for safe carrying. Easy peasy.

After the service, we went for a walk at the local park.

Spring has definitely sprung - a little early this year it seems. Not that we're complaining, the weather's perfect at the moment, not too hot and not too cool.

There were peacocks roaming freely in the park, and we got to see several with beautiful fanned-out tails.

The birds seemed used to having people walk around them, trying to feed them or take photos. This young man in particular was keen to pose for us.

Easter candles

One of the most imporant traditions of Greek Easter is the Easter candle, a decorated candle that children (and sometimes adults) take to church on Saturday night for the midnight Easter service. The candle is lit just after midnight once the priest announces that "Christ has risen". It is traditional for godparents to buy Easter candles for their godchildren, along with special Easter bread and shoes or clothes.

Today my goddaughter and I went shopping for her candle. After looking at way too many Easter candle displays and arguing over a Hello Kitty candle that came with a cushion, a hula hoop and a dizzying price tag, we chose a more moderate fuschia candle with a necklace wrapped round it, which she will be able to wear after Easter. When you're 9, fuschia pink and sparkly bits are a winning combination, even if your heart's set on a HK Easter box.

We also bought tsoureki, a rich brioche-like bread traditionally eaten at Easter. Tsourekis are decorated with eggs, dyed crimson to remind us of the blood shed by Christ. Note the matching nail polish.

New trainers completed the gift pack. We chose a pair with fuschia pink and silver straps to match the Easter candle.

Afterwards, we stopped at a cafe for refreshments and a well-earned rest.

Luckily it was warm enough to enjoy cold drinks al fresco. Some of us even pretended they were on a lounger.

Wordless Wednesday 86

Monday, March 29, 2010

Signs of Easter

Easter is round the corner and there's evidence of it all around.

Easter candles are on sale. Kids will take these to church for the Resurrection sevice on Saturday night.

There's an abundance of special cakes in the cake shops. Many people give up dairy products for Lent, so can only eat sweets made without milk or butter. Syrup sweets made with nuts, filo and sugar, are commonly consumed during this period.

And for those not fasting, there are chocolate bunnies and chickens on a stick!

What does Easter look like where you are?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

You wore what?

Today is a major Greek national celebration, a day commemorating the start of the war for independence back in 1821, following 400 years of Ottoman occupation. It is traditionally celebrated with student and army parades throughout the country. The biggest military parade takes place in the centre of Athens and usually involves tanks and other army vehicles. This year the parade was rather less elaborate, as befits a country in serious financial trouble, and lasted just 45 short minutes.

Even so, thousands of people turned up bright and early to watch the good men and women of the armed forces marching through town. As a result, those of us who enjoy a lie-in (ahem) had to put up with other people's heads in our line of sight as well as (sigh!) in our photos. Still, I thought you might like to see some of my pics, so here is a small selection:

This is the Presidential Guard, dressed in national costume which includes a pleated mini skirt, an embroidered waistcoat, red fez, tights and shoes with pom poms.

These guys carried their guns AND their ski gear. James Bond, eat your heart out!

The Underwater Demolition Team came ready for a dive in the deep sea - some of them even brought their flippers.

As it was 23°C (73°F) by midday, I wasn't sure who to feel sorrier for, the skiers or the divers! I had long trousers and a T-shirt on, spent most of the time in partial shade and still wished I'd sacrificed fashion for comfort and put shorts on. But I'm not complaining. It's nice to have a bit of summer in the middle of spring, and I know from experience that marching in the sunshine is much more pleasant than marching in the pouring rain.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday 85

It seems I spoke too soon.

I didn't have any pictures this morning, but then I went to the bakery for a (very late) breakfast cheese pie and saw that they'd decorated their breads and cakes with Greek flags. Tomorrow is a major religious and national holiday so flags are the order of the day, but I'd never seen any on bread before! Needless to say, I had to return with my camera to take a photo.

There we are: Wordless Wednesday isn't pictureless any more. Or wordless for that matter. Hee hee.

Pictureless Wednesday

How can it be Wednesday again?!! Forget wordless, I'm speechless - and pictureless to boot.

Time is moving way too fast for my liking.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy birthday, bro!

My brother knows I've remembered his birthday this year, because I called him yesterday. This is a reminder for me to remember to call him today too. Apparently a call in advance of the actual day doesn't count. Hmphhh!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How to manage without hair straighteners

Say you have slightly wavy hair or hair with a bit of a kink in it and you'd like to wear it straight but have no hair straighteners or no time to mess around with vent brushes and hair dryers? The solution is simple: use shampoo and/or conditioner for curly or wavy hair - the ones that promise to give you bouncy curls.

The result is instant and amazing - just blast your hair with hot air, comb through and everyone will think you've spent ages straightening it.

I used Umberto Giannini "Curl Friends" Smooth Curls Conditioner, but I reckon any other shampoo or conditioner formulated for curly hair will have the same effect on slightly-wavy-want-to-be-straight hair.

You heard it here first.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Come again? once more

Yesterday I bought a pack of DVD+RW discs at the supermarket. On them was a yellow sticker with the following cryptic message:

Remove film before putting in microwave

What's even more mind-boggling is that ALL the packs on the shelf had the same sticker on.

I was only planning to use the discs in my computer's DVD drive, but perhaps there are other uses that I'm unaware of?

Although to be honest, after the earlier incident with the order that had been updated to the status Archive, I'm starting to wonder if I've reached that time in life when the world stops making sense? *shudder*

The check-out girl took the sticker off, otherwise I'd be showing you a picture of my microwaveable DVD discs.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Red kidney bean soup

Kidney beans don't exactly set my heart on fire, but I usually have a can in the cupboard for use in chili con carne. Sometimes I only use half a can, and then I have to find something to do with the other half. I have a great recipe for a chicken, avocado and red kidney bean salad, but that needs prior planning due to the fanciful ingredients required. So the other day, with half a can of kidney beans and no avocado or chicken in the house, I decided to make soup instead. I searched the Internet for a kidney bean soup recipe and found lots on offer, all fairly similar. In the end I chose three recipes that I liked the sound of, and combined them to make my own version. The result was truly yummilicious, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you.

(quantities are approximate)

1-2 tbs olive oil
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 carrot
1 red chili (dried)
1 stick celery
1-2 large red peppers
A few fresh tomatoes
Tomato paste or passata
Red kidney beans
1-2 pints vegetable stock
1-2 bay leaves
Oregano or "Italian herb" seasoning
Salt & pepper


Heat oil in a large pan. Stir in chopped onions, garlic and carrots.
Cover & sweat over low heat for a few minutes. Add finely chopped peppers and celery. Cook for a couple of minutes more.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste & kidney beans. Add chilies and herbs, mix well, cook for 3 to 5 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the stock, season with salt & pepper & bring to boil. Let it boil hard for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat & simmer for half an hour or so.

Once cooked, you can cool the soup and then blend it with a food processor. You could also serve it with a dollop of lime yoghurt (made by combining plain yoghurt, lime juice and finely chopped coriander). I prefer chunky soups and had no lime or coriander handy, so I had mine as it came out of the pan.

To say I was surprised by the result would be an understatement. Who would have thought that combining red pepper, red kidney beans, tomatoes and a few herbs you could get such a mouth-watering combination?

The recipes I used to create my version of red kidney soup are:

Chef2Chef Red Kidney Bean Soup
Allotment Growing Red pepper and kidney been soup
WHFoods Red Kidney Bean Soup with Lime Yoghurt

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010

Come again?

Last weekend I placed an order on the internet for a new outfit which I'm hoping will arrive by Friday.

The supplier sent an email to confirm my order and everything seemed fine. I was expecting another email today or tomorrow advising me of dispatch and giving me an estimated delivery time.

What I got instead was an email with just one line of text. It said:

Your order has been updated to the status Archive.

Any idea what that might mean? Like, in English? I hope it's not code for "we've messed up your order and you're never to see the items, or your money, again". That would be heartbreaking.