When I shared that post yesterday about the good ol’ days, I remembered how much stuff I’d posted on my old blog (on Blogspot) before moving to WordPress and I went back to my old blog to re-visit some old posts. Its great to look back over things that have happened in the past, even when its not so long ago.
Today I thought I’d share a post written in 2012 when I was thinking about rennovating my kitchen in Tasmania. It made me laugh so I hope it makes you laugh too.
Mom and two aunts visited me today. Its a weekly thing, a nice way to catch up with aunts I don’t often see, and I enjoy having mom here.
Its really funny though. They come here and sit on the couch, turn on the TV and talk over the shows they want to watch, get on their phones (especially my mother who’s a social butterfly) but they enjoy their time together.
Meanwhile I make coffee, serve them some tsipouro (otherwise known as raki or home made rotgut) with nuts. I sit at the table and work on my sculptures or paintings and listen in to their discussions about people I know or don’t know but should know.
I enjoy it.
Being around mom this year has been good. Sure, she still drives me crazy at times, I think its her job, but I’ve also loved just getting to know her. We’d never been close when I was growing up but as an adult I appreciate mom a whole lot more.
Its been nice to hear her stories of life on Paros as a child or as a young woman in Athens and Australia. Even if I’ve heard them 500,000,000 times. Some stories never get old.
At least now she’s driving again so I don’t have to take her everywhere cause driving with her still drives me crazy… every single time we get into a car together she tells me the same stuff, as if I’ve never been here before:
“Turn here. (Yes mom, I know. I’ve been here before. You bring me every year.) Here! Yes, next to that house with the blue shutters. That road leads to Pounda…Where the boats to Antiparos go. (I know mom) That’s where my father’s sister Evgenia used to live when I was a child. (Yes, I know.) You remember Spiridona? (No) He’s her grandson, you used to play with him as a baby. Surely you remember him. (Ummm, no…) Well, he married a girl from Marpissa and has 2 children, one is now studying in Italy, he’ll be a doctor. Pity about the other one, he was never right in the head… but then again, neither was Evgenia. We used to pick on her as kids. (You picked on your aunt?) No, not my aunt Evgenia, her grandaughter, her other son’s daughter. Now turn left after the barn. (Yes, I know. I’ve been here before…) There’s old barba Thodori checking his vines. He’s related to your cousin’s mother through marriage. (I won’t ask which cousin, I have 23 first cousins, countless second cousins…) His brother married Kyriaki, who’s father owned the bakery in the old town, the one next to the shoe shop that became a bar. He got cancer and died last year. (Who? Kyriaki’s husband?) No, the guy who owned the bar. This is the house, stop. (Yes, I know mom. I’ve been here before). Park here. (Yes mom)…”
Ah the joys of family!
But there are stories which I love to hear. About the old man who used to go out drinking and one night he was sneaking in late (or really early) and was taking off his pants quietly when his wife woke up and asked “Why are you getting up so early?”. He replied “I couldn’t sleep” and pulled his pants back on an went out again.
Or the old woman who set the table for her family and told her husband she’s slaughtered a chicken for lunch. The husband said “But did the chicken have 4 legs?” when he saw the meal, and she said “just eat and shut up”… an expression often used in our family when anyone comments on food: just eat and shut up.
Or about the woman who was a ‘working’ girl in a small town on a small island. Everyone knew it and many husbands visited her. Every now and then she’d get pregnant and have a child which she called by the father’s name. No use keeping secrets in such a small place.
And the sad story of the day germans bombed the school, killing the teacher and two children. My mom’s youngest brother was supposed to be in that classroom but he’d been sent to the principals office (sometimes being naughty does pay). Mom said that as children they were all curious and went in to see… she remembers seeing the teacher’s legs sticking out of the rubble. The plane went down in the port and boats rushed out to try to get the crew out. Days later bloated bodies washed up on shore and once again the kids ran down to take a look. Not the best of memories, but kids are curious and mom grew up during a war.
I love hearing about the old days on the island. Mind you, I have some ‘old days’ stories myself since we first came to Paros in 1970 and it was a totally different world back then.
We used to get woken by farmers with their donkeys crying out their wares in the cobblestone streets. One man and his donkey was my favourite and I’d always rush out to say hello and give the donkey, Pitsos, a treat. Another man would come by with goat milk and mom would send us out with pots to put it in and would put it on the stove boil it straight away.
We’d run down to the port and dive off the end of the pier with a ton of other kids. There used to be a small pebble beach next to the pier where mom and my aunts used to swim while we ran and jumped off the end. Back then there were only a few ferries a week, and all ferries to Paros stopped at Syros first. The port was clean and small. Now the beach is under concrete, the pier is huge and dozens of ferries come in every single day. There’s often a queue in the bay, ferries waiting to dock in summer. And traffic is impossible cause there are millions of cars on the island and not enough/wide enough roads, let alone parking. And more rentals are brought in every year for tourists, yet the infrastructure isn’t in place for that much traffic or such a huge rise in population.
Back then very few people lived on Paros all year round, most young people would leave for the cities and work, leaving the old on Paros. Most of our family had moved to Athens and only came to Paros for summer. The streets were quiet. We had quite a few foreigners living here – artists and writers. The hills around Parikia (and everywhere on the island for that matter) were dark at night – no houses.
Nothing like today where there are homes on every single hill and more are going up every day. Progress they call it. I call it destruction of natural beauty, but you can’t stop progress. I’m reminded of the Counting Crows lyrics:
Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone They paved paradise and put up a parking lot Hey now, they paved paradise to put up a parking lot Why not?
Its officially spring. Our second spring in lockdown. Its a whole year since our first lockdown, with a few breaks – the yoyo of the greek government restrictions: on – off, on – off, semi on – semi off, and on it goes, round and round.
They’re already touting the greek islands as COVID free, cause the plan is vaccinate all residents (or the majority at least) before tourist season opens mid May. Sure. That’ll happen. Meanwhile, we’re open for business. Open season on the greek islands.
Its almost like the weather knew its now officially spring cause we had the most glorious day. Not a skerrick of wind, calm seas, warm sun. I’d be tempted to swim if I didn’t have a bandage on my stomach…
I took advantage of the nice day and gave Lainee a good haircut. Opted for a show puppy trim on her since she had so much hair. Its been ages since I’ve done a show trim that I felt I needed practice. Mind you, I didn’t wash and dry her, just brushed her out, so its not perfect. Then again, she’s not a show dog any more! But I put in a training band and ordered more so I can put little bows in her hair… I mean, she’s a poodle… why not?
The guy who delivered our coffees was floored when he saw her. He was like ‘what breed of dog is that? who grooms like that on Paros?’.
It was gratifying. Most of the time I’m only doing utility trims on dogs without washing them as I don’t have the space to set up a proper grooming room. I can still make dogs look cute but without the finesse of a full wash, dry and finish.
Anyway, back to the weather and the need for flowers and playing with dirt. Given I only have paved areas here, all my dirt comes in pots. Winter is hard on plants out the front of my place here cause it gets the worst of the wind. The back area is way more protected with its high walls. I had most of my plants in the back over winter. I only left a few out the front, mainly succulents, and even some of them have wind damage.
I’d ordered a Hyliss shelf unit from Ikea a month ago, with a cover, and I’ve put that out the back to grow seeds in. Yesterday I put that out the back and filled small pots and seedling trays with a variety of seeds… I still have tons more to plant so I think I may need to order another shelf unit. I’ve tried growing seeds with a plastic sheet over them before and that worked ok for some… Lets see how this ‘greenhouse’ goes.
I need to buy more potting mix and repot some stuff I’ve been growing from cuttings. I have another huge pot like the one with the lupins that I want to put other tall growing flowers in. That takes a lot of potting mix. I’ll need to get someone to lift and carry for me.
I dream of a back courtyard full of flowers…
But I get ahead of myself. At least I got started on some of my seeds today!
I’m sharing two transformations today… Firstly there are the little bedside tables my cousin Zefi had in her son’s room. Gorgeous little things, with detailed legs and some pretty old and discoloured varnish. Zefi decided it was time to update them so she borrowed my detail sander and got to work.
This is what they looked like before:
This is how they looked after sanding:
And this is how they looked after waxing. Amazing difference. They still look original, but so much cleaner and smoother. In this pic we were trialing different knobs.
The most amazing transformation however, isn’t a piece of furniture. Its the transformation of my little cousin Zefi from precious little princess:
She’s already working on another cabinet as we speak.
Of course I take full credit. Or blame. Whichever way you want to see it. Up till now Zefi’s done a few hand sanding projects, but now I’ve introduced her to the joys of power tools there’s no looking back. She said she fell in love with my sander. I say wait and see how much you’ll fall in love with your own sanders and saws and drills and angle grinders!
Welcome to the dark side cuz! Glad to have your company!
There was once a challenge on Facebook to post photos of 10 dogs you’ve loved in your life. Of course I’ve loved more than 10 dogs but not all were mine and a lot I no longer have photos of. I thought I’d share photos of the ones I posted on Facebook.
Its Greek Independence Day, 200 years since they won their freedom from the Turks so it was a quiet day. Unlike previous years when they have parades and celebrations everywhere. Flags still wave from balconies but its all very low key. I spent the afternoon with family and then did a little work on my nude sculptures. Nothing ready to share yet!
So here are my dogs in chronological order. Most of the photos are small as I don’t have the bigger versions any more.
Timmy, my first ever poodle. A pet shop toy poodle who turned out to be the best thing ever. He cost mose than I made in a month working in Athens at the time. I had to leave him in Greece with my parents when I moved back to Australia. He’s the reason I have a special place in my heart for white poodles.
Scooter, my first toy poodle in Australia. I had to wait years for him cause I couldn’t have a dog when I was a student and living in shared accommodation. Soon as I signed the dotted line to buy my first house I bought Scooter. He was tiny when I got him and such a big character.
Billybear. Originally I bought Billy to keep Scooter company, they were only 3 months apart in age. At the time I had no plans to show, but joined the poodle club and the rest is history. Billybear was my first show dog, first champion, winning against stiff competition, despite being silver beige (and a frowned upon colour). Billy was my heart dog. Well, my first heart dog. He was always by my side or on my lap.
Pagan, my first standard poodle. She started my love affair with standards. She wasn’t an easy dog but I learned a lot from her. She was my second show dog, second champion. She did me proud in the ring and gave birth to some beautiful puppies.
Montana. Pagan’s daughter from her first litter, my biggest winning dog ever. I had a strange relationship with Montana because despite picking her and loving her from day one, I didn’t begin to bond with her till she was over 1yr old. From then on she was my girl. Montana was special in every way and she had that famous poodle sense of humour.
Crash. I got Crash on loan from a friend to show but he hated the ring. He was the cheekiest most charming little man anywhere but put him in the ring and he froze. At the time I had him Montana was raising her one and only litter and Crash would run in amongst her puppies, under Montana… absolutely confident and fearless. I had to send him back to his breeder however since he wouldn’t show and I already had 2 toys and 2 standards at home.
Bonnard, Pagan’s son from her last (AI) litter. I kept him and showed him till he was 2yrs old but he began to jump high fences and I had a neighbour who loved to shoot things. Bonnard is the sweetest natured big dope of a boy – a real momma’s boy, afraid of the dark… Bonnard now lives in Adelaide with his new family.
Romeo, my second heart dog. Son of Montana. From day one he was mine. He chose me though I chose him too. He was the only puppy who preferred my company to playing with his siblings. Romeo never showed but he was so much my dog I gave up showing and kept him. Leaving him behind in Australia when I moved to Greece broke my heart. I still picture having him here with me.
Erik, the shortest love affair I’ve had with a dog. He was given to my by a good friend at 12mths of age and we only had him for 2 weeks before he was bitten by a snake and died. It was a horrible loss. We had fallen in love with him in those 2 weeks and his death left a huge hole in our hearts. He came into our lives and became part of them quickly, making everyone love him.
Lainee, my baby girl, my love. She’s my constant companion on Paros. I got her about 2 years ago at age 10. She is the sweetest, quietest girl you ever met, but she came out of her shell and now plays with me every morning to celebrate a new day. She’s my shadow.
As I said, these were only dogs which were mine, even for a short time, and who impacted my life. I’m not including dogs I’ve loved but who belonged to other people even if they lived with me as well. It would be a LONG list…
Each dog is special and each has a place in my heart and I thank them for being in my life.
Sometimes when I think about making art I remember things I painted in the past so today I’m going to share some of them. I can’t share everything. A lot of my photos were lost when I had a hard drive crash a few years ago… backing up to a hard drive sounds great but its not fail proof… I guess I could learn to use the cloud, but haven’t yet. Luckily a lot of my old photos are still on my blog in past posts, and on my website – http://www.zefiart.com.
The main thing I was thinking about my art was how easily I get distracted from painting or drawing given its always been something I do so easily. I literally have no idea how I do it, it just comes out of my hands and fingers on its own, the art takes over my brain and takes control of my hand. In fact, if I overthink things I mess up. I have to let the painting itself take over and just go with the flow.
Over the years I found the way I work best is with the TV on something I don’t have to watch closely. The Gilmore Girls is one of my favourite paint-to shows. The Ranch is next. Having the TV on splits my focus between what I’m doing and what I’m watching and allows me to take a step back from the painting.
In a way, this is what my first art teacher, Mr Swan (in Campion School in Athens when I was a teenager) taught me. He made me draw without my glasses so I couldn’t see the details. If I could see details I’d get caught up in them and mess up the ‘whole’. He told me how Degas was going blind and that explained a lot about his work, which is brilliant – allowing us to fill in the details he describes so well without actually painting them.
I am constantly trying to work that way.
I also like to live with my work in progress. I’ve always loved painting in my living space. I know I go on and on about wanting a studio and workshop, but what I’m really saying is I want a workshop to do dirty work in (power tools, making stuff) and a studio to live in. If I had a bigger house the living room would be similar to here now, but with space to keep my easel out all the time. Its what I used to do in Australia. That way the work was there and I could see it all the time, no matter what I was doing.
This is how I tend to work: I start something. At some point I hate it and stop in disgust. I leave it and do something else. Sometimes I’ll watch TV, other times I’ll move on to another project. The whole time its there… my subconscious is working on it. Sometimes even when I hate it and don’t want to work on it I can’t keep myself away. I’ll stop and sit down, then get up and do a bit here, a bit there, stop, sit down, get up again. Or I’ll stop for days and then suddenly I’ll change a line here, add a smudge there and it all comes together. That process is necessary for me.
Right now I want to paint, I do sometimes paint on pieces of marble and I have some small cardboard pieces I’ve prepped to paint on, all things I can do on the table… But I long for the easel again…
So enjoy looking at some of the artwork above. I know I do. And every time I do, I marvel at what I created. It may sound strange, but I really do. At how I got the feathers on the birds to look like feathers without thinking about how to do it. I marvel at how something like that came out of my fingers. I am grateful for the gift I was given.
Talking about restless nights and creativity interrupted.
The weather turned nasty again today. Well, overnight it rained, then today the wind changed direction bringing cold wind instead of the warm wind we’d had for days. Just as windy mind you, just a drop in temperature. Add a snowy cold drizzle on that wind and basically its not that pleasant being outside.
I did spend a tiny amount of time outside today, only when necessary. I’d put some sweet pea seeds in water and planted some outside mom’s room. I really hope they take off there like they did outside the house in Tasmania. I had this huge bush of colourful sweet smelling flowers climbing on a trellis. They would grow all year round, self seed and keep going. I put some in pots out the back here too so hopefully I’ll have my own to enjoy.
I did a little touch-up on some really badly painted fittings (with ugly gold paint) on a wooden chest my cousin has. Simply trying to make them look less fake. Here are a before and after.
Nothing much, but I do think they look less ‘icky’.
Back there to finish them off tomorrow. And another trip to the health center to get my dressing changed. And perhaps a stop at the supermarket for a few odds and ends. Vegetables mainly. I’m out and I need some. I made oven cooked wedges for lunch/dinner today and they were great, but you dont want to live on that!
I finally finished the latest sea rope basket late last night. Sometime after 12am. I’m now officially low on sea rope and need to go searching for more. Easy enough… There’s always tons washing up on the beaches near here.
I couldn’t get to sleep last night. I went to bed later than usual which should have meant easy sleep, but no. I’d been watching season 13 of Grey’s Anatomy on Stremio (the wonders of which my niece introduced me to) but could not stop my brain going flat out. I couldn’t find the off switch. I tried some deep breathing and meditation at one stage but it was like trying to hold back a tsunami with a paper towel.
Do you ever have nights like that? I do. More than once a week. Its like all the thoughts I managed to damp down during the day come back with a vengeance. Especially creative thoughts.
During those nights I often build the linen cupboard I want to make out of pallet wood for the alcove near the bathroom. Last night I added in the twist of getting a metal cabinet an uncle made for us many years ago as a shoe cabinet. Forget linen. That can stay in the bedroom wardrobe where it is now… I definitely need shoe storage! I wonder if the metal cabinet will fit? I have the measurements somewhere, I looked into that idea a while ago before deciding I wanted to build a cupboard… I must search my notebooks and see if I have it in one of them. Why do I have so many notebooks? Cause I like notebooks of course, especially pretty ones, and its useful to keep notes on stuff (like the size of the metal cabinet) instead of writing everything on bits of paper you lose. I have a diary I got last year but really never used… I can use that as my next notebook since the one I used before I now keep at home with ‘important’ stuff in it I can’t risk losing. And I can’t keep everything on my phone. If I lost my phone I’d be stuffed. I mean, phones keep so much of our lives on them as it is! I don’t remember anyone’s phone number any more. My mom, who is 88, remembers so many phone numbers. I used to. I used to know my credit card numbers off by heart too. How would I make that footstool I decided I can’t live without? Cut the timber pieces I have for legs – straight or at an angle? An angle would look best, but much harder to screw in place so its sturdy. Guess I could YouTube it… but straight would be easier for sure. Make a square frame, screw each leg on two sides in each corner. Maybe even put a screw down from the top in the middle. Then find something to cut a round top (do I have any boards I can use?)… I can’t make a square foot stool to sit next to my round coffee table. Wouldn’t look right. Then buy some foam cut to the right size/shape. Find some nice fabric. Do I have any fabric I can use… Wait, I have those small round boho style geometric black and white rugs… they’d be ideal! Get some wadding to soften the look of the foam. I have an electric staple gun. And hot glue. Man, I wish those clothes I bought online all fit. That black dress is hideous. All I need is a burkha and I would fit right in in the middle east. I can cut the sleeves… and raise the hem… but in order to make it fit decently I would probably have to open up all the seams and re-sew them to make it look decent. Could I be creative with it? Or the other things I bought? I love mending my older tops which have holes or where seams have come loose. I have the two summer overalls I ordered too… way too big, but that’s ok, they’re overalls after all, easy enough to take in down the sides. They basically just need the straps shortened. That might be enough. I’ve lost weight now and I’m loving becoming reacquainted with my rib cage. I need to keep it off now. Which means I need to start exercising again, walking at least. The doctor said only remove the tube when there was nothing coming out for a full week. There was still something coming out. Only about 10-20ml in 2 days, but that’s till something, right? Could I have fluid building up in my abdomen? What happens to it, even if it is just a little bit? Does it get absorbed? Is it going to poison me? I need to plant those sweet pea seeds I soaked in water. I want to take some to mom, put others in where they can climb up the scrap metal trellis I made out the back. They need to go in pots today. I planted the lupin seeds. I thought I have more lupins, blue and white ones… but I must have planted them and they died. I have one single flower on one of the plants, a pink one, the other surviving seeling is still small. And what about the unfinished dogs…?
You have some idea of what it is to live in my brain.
Maybe it had something to do with the fact that not only did I finish the basket, I also stitched up one of the felt cat toys I want to give away and got back to work on a broken lamp and the naked ladies made from dishwashing bottles. Maybe starting back on my creative projects sparked this avalanche of thoughts. But you’d be wrong. This happens whether I’m being creative or not. More if I’m not creative in fact, as its like all the creativity I’ve suppressed all day breaks out at night to swarm me like a pack of mosquitos on steroids.
I’m a bit late publishing this one. I’ve been having internet connectivity issues with the laptop. Odd. Anyway, better late than never!
Connecting with my inner princess isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’ve been independent, creative and restless for far too long. Not doing things or doing less, or getting someone else to do something for me feels like laziness at best, weakness (failure) at worst.
Even putting off grooming dogs feels wrong. Its work, slacking off work is just not acceptable to me unless I literally can’t get out of bed. Soon as I feel a bit better I want to start working. Maybe its my work ethic fighting my inner princess which won’t let the princess win easily.
Getting old sucks. I still think my body can do the things it used to do when I was younger despite repeated proof that it not only can’t, it sometimes downright refuses to.
You get used to doing less cause it happens slowly. The first time you get a really sore back from lifting something means that next time you try to find another way, the first time you get sick after eating something you shouldn’t you start to consider avoiding that food next time*. It happens so slowly that somewhere along the line you don’t even realise its happening.
Or like me, you keep trying and keep paying.
*If I had listened to my body more maybe I could have avoided the last almost 2 months. Of course I would still have had to have my gall bladder removed, but not in crisis with complications. But I am me, and I’m not a quitter. I keep trying to do things I should know I can no longer do.
If I had listened to my body many years ago I wouldn’t have ridden on the last afternoon of a 5 day trail ride in the bush and I wouldn’t have injured my vertebrae. I was already sore by then but I refused to give in when others were still going. I have many stories like that.
It doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to life, which is how I began to feel in hospital. There is still so much I want to do and try in life. It just means adjusting to new normals. Maybe ask for help when something is too much for me, or only work on smaller projects I can manage alone.
The main problem for me isn’t resting or taking time off to do nothing. Its that I view that time as laziness. Its a hard belief to get past. I’ve always felt a non-creative day, or a day where practical things don’t get ticked off the eternally growing To Do List is a day wasted. A day spent reading or watching TV is a lazy day which my body might need but my mind makes me feel guilty about.
I’ve had almost two months of this. In that time the most creative thing I did was start a new sea rope basket, at least that’s something. I spend a lot of time thinking about creative things: usually when I’m lying in bed trying to get to sleep…
It is hard for me to accept this recouperation time as necessary when I just want to get on with things.
I had a bad night last night. First I was cold, added a blanket, then woke up dripping wet sweaty. yuck. A lot of stabbing pain which wont allow for deep breaths… Still, its only 24 hrs since the tube was removed so it’ll get better. I tell myself.
Its a gorgeous day but I’m taking my cousin Zefi’s advice and trying to connect with my inner princess. She says that hanging out with her the last two years has obviously not rubbed off on me so its time to be proactive.
Being a princess means not overdoing it, leaving things for later (or others to do!) and looking after myself first.
So I’m spending today just resting. I hate not being well, but I want this over with so I have to rest so I can move on!