one last paros project – shabby photo frame

This is one of the smaller projects I worked on while on holiday in Greece. I had a huge collection of old buttons (I really wish I had them here!), a large collection of old doilies, ribbons, lace…
Then there were the other odds and ends my aunt Marisa found for me. One of which was this little heart shaped basket. 
She said “Do you want this? Can you do something with it?”
I said, “Sure, I can do something with it.”
My standard reply. 
Never say no to ‘stuff’… it will always come in handy one day.
In order to prevent becoming a hoarder featured on one of those awful reality tv shows “Buried Under A Ton Of Crap” however, you have to actually USE the stuff you’re given/collect to make more stuff which you can either sell, give away or display prominently in places like your kitchen, toilet or garage.
I decided the little basket would make the best photo frame for Marouso’s bedroom… she has a little alcove in there which is bare and desperately needed something pretty. So between working on the light fitting for Zefi and some small hearts like these for my aunt, I started putting together this little baby.
I used some old buttons, some still on the card, some old curtain lace, a bit of rusty wire and a bead… plus a little bow and icon pin from a christening. You can’t see it well, but at greek christenings they hand these little pins out as a memorial. My aunt had (of course) a collection of them.
Zefi, I’m sure you’re reading this… you promised you’ll collect me some!
Next step was a photo… Marouso had a few really nice ones she’d taken with her kitten, and I had a great one I’d taken of her and her ‘titini’… a bodyless stuffed toy cat which she’s had since she was a baby. Its sort of like Linus’ security blanket. No one knows what ‘titini’ actually means, its what she called it back when she couldn’t talk. For all we know it means “Get that stupid cat toy out of my cot right now!”
Marouso and her ‘titini’.
I had a play with the photos on – I don’t have Photoshop on the netbook so I had no other way of altering the images. I wanted to go with an old fashioned black and white look but when I got them printed I decided to go with the photo above.
Great photos though. I love the one above where the kitty is all eyes.
I slotted the photo in behind the buttons where I’d left a ‘photo tucking’ gap, tied a ribbon to it for hanging and voila. Done.

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DIY Show Off

lace doily light fitting for a cousin

Well, I’m back home. Back to Wind Dancer Farm, back in Tasmania, back to my own little family. Its good to be home despite the fact that it means no more lying around on a beach, no more Paros, no more mom and cousins around me.
The trip was good, considering it was LONG and the seats on airplanes these days are made for height challenged individuals with eating disorders.
Have you ever tried sitting in one of those seats for 14 hours straight?
If you’re of ‘average’ height and you try to slouch in your seat you end up kneeing the seat in front of you. They used to have foot rests under the seat in front but they’re gone, ensuring that if you stretch out your legs, the seat has a sort of tourniquet effect, cutting off circulation to your lower legs. The new, improved individual monitors are a great idea… till you realize that you don’t actually enjoy having a screen 12in from your face. And that if the person in front of you leans his seat back, the monitor barely misses scraping your nose. You used to be able to say “excuse me” and sort of squeeze past the people sitting beside you if you needed to get up, all they had to do was sit up and pull their legs back. Now you have to get everyone to get up and pile into the aisle, or what passes as an aisle, so you can get out. Heck, even getting in and out of your own seat required contortions reminiscent of a pretzel if the person in front of you has the seat laid back. I remember being able to get up and walk the aisles during a long trip and loiter near the back of the plane doing stretches. This trip four of us were standing in line near the toilets and had to dodge stewardesses and serving carts… Bet they were pleased to have us in their tiny work area.
Hey. I know I’m older. I know I’m no longer as flexible as I was, but even if I still had the figure of my 20s, I still wouldn’t be able to squeeze past my co-sardines’ legs or lean back without touching the seat in front of me.
On the positive side, the food is a whole lot better than I remember.
So, I’m back home. The tan is fading fast and jet lag is keeping me up when I should be asleep… thought I’d share my last big project on Paros before life goes back to normal and the blog goes back to being about living on a farm with poodles and other critters. (I don’t mean Wayne.)
The lace doily light fitting in little Zef’s bedroom.
When I first got to Paros my aunt Marisa was all set on getting me to make a lace doily lightshade for Zefi’s bedroom. She had seen one of these in a shop and wanted one badly. Only difference was, the one my aunt loved had a wire frame inside.
Great idea if you have a wire frame. A very round balloon and tons of glue could also make this but it wouldn’t hold well in damp conditions I was betting. I started looking for alternatives.
I saw a rusty trap similar to this at Souvlia but it was bent beyond repair. I did find a new one for sale eventually (in a fishing shop, go figure!) but by then I’d moved on…
What I decided to do was build a kind of chandelier doily and lace light using 2 of the sieves I’d seen previously at a grocery store.
I went and bought a couple of these little beauties, limed them white and got a friendly uncle with a drill to make holes for chains.
I then started planning how to place and sew on the doilies and lace without cutting or ruining them, as per aunt Marisa’s instructions, and without aunt Marisa watching my every move and making suggestions as to how to do it better…

I ended up using quite a bit of old curtain (since I was allowed to cut that) as an under-layer, then layered and joined the doilies over that. I embellished it with ribbons and buttons and pieces of lace.
Only one doily was hurt in the making of this light shade… it was just too big and I really wanted to use it.
I was working in Zefi’s place, hiding from aunt Marisa… when she walked past and saw me. First words out of her mouth were “Oh, you cut that doily” before Zefi hustled her off with threats to her life if she said another word.
Zefi and I searched every hardware store on Paros to find the right chain. She was the one who found the perfect one – large links in bronze.
We’d also asked Andreas (Zef’s husband) to see what he could find in Athens and he’d brought us some silver chain. In the vein of waste not want not, I thought we should use the silver chain as well. I secured the chains to the sieves with wire and hid the silver chain with lace ‘sleeves’ made from the old curtain hems.
That way I didn’t have to sew any more than necessary!
I had to buy a pair of wire cutters to cut the sieve for the light fitting to go through, but that was easy enough.
Lastly, while Zefi was at the beach I climbed on her bed, and with her daughter Marouso’s help, put the light up on the hook already in the ceiling, fed the light through and replaced the globe.
Let there be light!
It came up pretty good even if it does look like an upside down wedding cake!
Payment for this: some very old doilies and a gorgeous old cut lace curtain.
Thanks guys! My next trip will be longer so I can plan on working for part of it! 🙂


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The Girl Creative

Keeping It Simple

greek taxation office take four

Ok. I’m back at the taxation office in Athens. I got to Athens late on Sunday night, or early on Sunday morning depending on which way you like to look at things.

I set the alarm for 7am, got up after not nearly enough sleep and a headache to rival all headaches, and went down to the tax office for greek citizens abroad. Which is where I’m registered.

I have to be cause even though I don’t earn any income in Greece, the government would find a way to tax me if I wasn’t registered as living abroad.

I was told they open at 8am. I got there at 8.10am I think. It was open and it was packed. I think there were 2 employees each on each of the 4 floors. Not really sure as they were doing their best to hide cause greek people are very good at hounding the ones they can find.

Anyway, after making my way up through each floor and not finding anyone to ask where I should actually go, I found myself in the ‘director’s’ office where the poor man was sitting behind a desk surrounded by angry people yelling at him about numbers and how far they’d come and how much they needed ‘this’ done and what they’d do to him if they could get their hands around his neck.

Never let it be said that the greeks haven’t moved into the 21st century. They now have queues for everything plus priority numbers! Gone are the days of pushing and shoving, arguing, no respect for personal space and no privacy where mobs would descend on bank tellers and bureaucrats with their demands.

Now they get numbers and then push and shove and argue.

I think I figured out the system.

You arrive at 4am or so, then you can get a number under 10. At least that’s what a man was telling everyone yesterday. I got there at 8.10am and they were already up to number 150.

The director was saying they give out the numbers at 7.45am and that you have to be there then to get a number.Uhuh. Not what they were saying on level 3. And that they only give out 130 numbers. During the day, to avoid being suspended by his thumbs, he gives out more numbers.

I had a few choices:

Get a number around 156 and wait and see if I got in to see anyone before they closed or went for a long break. ie spend the entire day in the tax office.

Poke myself in the eye repeatedly with a pointy stick…

Or go home and come again today.

I chose option 3, the least painful of the lot.

So I set the alarm for 5.30am, got ready and was out the door in 10 minutes. Then discovered that my aunt Xeni had locked the front gate.

After climbing over the fence, I got a taxi and went down to the tax office. Again.

I know this part of Athens better than most taxi drivers now.

There were already 20 people there ahead of me. I put my name on The List and I have to be back at 7.45am to get my actual number. To be honest I’m afraid I have to be there even earlier just in case….

On the way here this morning I saw people lining up outside the bank in our neighourhood. it was 5.45am.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Who ever heard of having to be somewhere 3 or 4 hours before opening time to line up to get on a list in order to get a number to be served?

They blame cutbacks in the public sector… I don’t know. Last time I was down at the tax department for ‘residents of abroad’ a man was complaining about strikes and how often they’re closed. They were on strike the first time I went with my brother Petro. The guy was saying “When will you be open? Is Monday still a strike day? Tuesday? Or will you be closed on Tuesday too cause its the day before Wednesday?”

That seems to be more or less how it goes.

And then, if you do get in to see someone, its like “You need a form HGIH2234. Fill that in and come back”.

“Where do I get it?” panic in your voice.

“Upstairs on the 5th floor”, said between a cigarette in the lips, indifferently, while shuffling papers on the desk or answering a phone and chatting about the last haircut she got.

You go to the 5th floor, wait in another mob queue and when you finally get to the front, you’re told you can’t fill in a form HGIH2234 till you’re sworn a statement as to what your mother had for breakfast on the morning you were born and wherther the doctor who delivered you was glasses or not, then send you off to find out that information and come back next week….

Its now 7am and I’m thinking I better pay for 2 euros for one hour internet usage after using 30 minutes and go cause in the greek way of doing things anything can happen.


food glorious food

Vegetables grown in the garden at Souvlia.

There is one thing that Merrill said on the last trip to Greece which I’ve only now started to believe… She said that the food tasted so much better here.

I thought she was exaggerating. I mean, its almost all home grown here on Paros. If its not grown here at Souvlia in our own garden, Mom gets her vegetables from family or friends.

The woman knows or is related to everyone on the island, after all.

So, basically, of course it tastes better than supermarket strip-mined vegetables.

A vegetable dish made with all home grown vegies. And feta. Naturally.

I now know that she meant more than that. Home grown is home grown. We have our own vegie patch in Tasmania so we don’t lack fresh vegetables. And our tomatoes are way better than the tasteless immitation tomatoes we buy in the supermarket.

But the tomatoes grown on Paros are something else entirely. I mean wow. Taste explosion.

Its not just the fact that its home grown, its the soil here on Paros. The sea air and the soil. It has to be. Why else would things just taste better? I can grow the same things in Tasmania, make the same foods using the same recipes, but it just tastes different. Still good… but different.

One thing I learned on this trip is that Paros actually produces a whole lot of stuff. For instance, Paros produces tons of wheat every year. Tons of olives and olive oil. Obviously the marble – Paros has the purest white marble which was used to build the Acropolis.

As part of the cultural events happening on Paros this summer, there was a Festival of Bread.

There were stalls from bakeries all over Paros with their products and demonstrations on how bread is made. Some of the bakeries on Paros produce their own wheat and flour and use woodfire ovens to bake their bread. Yum.

Of course there were tastings too, with lots of things on offer. This is called ‘dakos’… dried bread rusks with tomato, olive oil and mizithra (a locally made cottage cheese or ricotta).

When we were kids my grandmother used to make this for us. She used the big HARD rusks you have to dip in water before you can eat them. She’d put the dipped rusk on a plate, drizzle olive oil on it, cut a tomato and empty its guts all over the  rusk. She’d then add olives, capers, feta cheese and oregano.

We used to call it ‘to kolatsio tis yiayia’s’ – grandma’s snack.*

Another way to eat mizithra: on a light rusk with honey and cinamon…. 

This holiday has become not only a family and friend catch up time, its become a taste sensation time as well.

To start with all I’d eat was greek salad… the real greek salad: tomato, cucumber, olives, feta,peppers, capers, olive oil, oregano. Notice the abscense of onion. I hate raw onion.


No meal is complete without tzatziki though… I think I’ve spent the entire holiday with garlic breath.

Souvlaki. Its a complete food group in itself. There’s nothing like a real greek souvlaki anywhere but in Greece. Forget those kebab pita bread things they masquerade as souvlaki in Australia. This is the real thing.

The best souvlaki on Paros is at Zorbas near the port. Be sure to visit when you come here!

My problems started when Inge and her daughters were visiting. I was being really good till then. I’d eat at home and watch what I ate.

(That means I’d look at it closely before I put it in my mouth.)

Anyway, when Inge came I had to take her and the girls out to try different things. Souvlaki naturally, but they wanted to try some greek sweets. We’d go to cafes and order a greek coffee and then a few sweets and share them so they could try it all. I think we tried about 5 different types of baclava, galaktoboureko, ravani… all greek sweets with nuts and syrup.

Greek coffee in a larger cup.
Ravani, a cake made with semolina and doused in syrup, served here with sour cherry.

What is it with mother’s though? From the day I arrived in Greece my mother has been a ball of contradictions. She asks what food I’ve missed, what do I want her to make me. Then she rations the bread, giving me ONE slice. If I dare to take another she’ll give me the evil eye.

She’ll tell me off for going to the bakery and buying a bag of greek cookies (kolourakia) cause they’re fattening, yet she’ll come home with some cake that some friend made for me.

“Don’t eat sweets. You don’t need them.”
“No. Do not buy a bag of pumpkin seeds.”
“I brought you this nice piece of cake from my friend’s. She made it herself. Have some.”
“You didn’t eat the cake.”
“I got you these biscuits from another friend.”
“Eat the cake. Its so nice. I brought it for you.”
“Baclava? You ate baclava? Why my child? Why?”
“You haven’t eaten the cake. Its going rock hard. Its a waste!”
“Don’t eat a lot.”
“What about the biscuits? Aren’t you going to eat the biscuits?”
“Oh, you’re home. The clothes are still on the line.”


She is spoiling me however. She’s bought greens for me cause I can’t get them in Australia. She’s making me yiovetsi cause its one of my favourite dishes. She made imum for me twice.

I love my mom.

Octopus drying in the sun in the square in Naoussa.

Its not all traditional greek food. When on Paros we all have to visit Nicks for a hamburger.

The Big Nick. Big Mac eat your heart out.

My brother’s friend Michali bought Nicks Hamburgers about 20 or so years ago. He still makes the best burgers on Paros. And he’s a really cool guy. I’m trying to start a tradition here: every girl who orders a burger has to give Michali a kiss.

 I thought I’d share a photo of some greek beers.

Fix is a beer that was around when we lived here many years ago. The factory closed and it went out of production for a very long time. Its now back. Notice the label.

Is it a coincidence that the beer is out now and that the label reads “Fix Greece”?

Its not all food, sweets and souvlaki. I’m eating tons of figs too. Mom, bless her little cotton socks, has been stealing figs all over Paros for me.

Lastly, here’s a gratuitous shot of spices, pretty colours, a pretty display in a shop in Naoussa.

* I’ll finish on a thought… People always say greek names are too long. Well, its not just names that are too long. Words are long and sentences are longer. Greeks are of the ‘more is better’ school of thought.

For instance, when I shut down my netbook I get a message which reads “Saving your settings…”

When I shut down my brother’s netbook (which has its OS set in greek) the message took me five minutes to read and took 2 lines.


dragonflies on paros

I wanted to show off another hanging thingy I made out of found objects. The rusted lattice thing was found by my cousin Zefi’s son, Giorgo. He’s turned into quite an asset as a scavenger! Plus he’s interested and quick to learn anything you want to teach him. 

The shells and stones were in a basket in Zefi’s small garden area, the beads came off a broken bracelet my aunt Marisa had kept. The dragonfly is made of a rusty bolt I found in the garden, a shell, a button and wire I’d bought at one of the local hardware stores.

Trust me, I’ve explored every single hardware store on Paros!


The rusty washers came from the traditional bamboo cane trellis which blew off over winter. It was replaced by timber boards painted white. It looks amazing.
The old traditional bamboo roof was dark but this has brightened the place up, allowing more light into the house (which is a converted old garage) and providing good shade for sitting during the day.

making do and interesting things

 My cousin Zefi’s house in the commune that’s known as ‘Souvlia’ used to be the boat shed and garage. It was built on a slope so the front is a couple of steps down. As a result its darker than most of the houses on Souvlia, but no cooler. In fact, being at the back of the block, with other buildings as windbreaks, it doesn’t get the full force of the wind – great when you want to sit on the porch for a drink, terrible if you want a cool breeze to cool down.

Despite that, Zefi has made it into a gorgeous place. Thanks to her mom’s fossicking, her husband’s good taste and Zefi’s practical mind, the place is pretty, traditional and totally user friendly.

I love her old island couches. I’ve tried to find this type of couch in Australia as its the ideal outdoor couch. Its not so comfy as a living room couch, but so pretty.

I love the big dresser as well, in the traditional dark timber. Zefi’s grandfather on her mom’s side used to be a carpenter and he made some beautiful pieces.

 I love the lace on the shelves inside the glass cabinets.  My aunt Dora has it in her kitchen in her house as well.

 One thing I love to do when I’m here (or anywhere for that matter) is look at shops. I love looking at shops. Sometimes I see things I want to buy, something I see things which inspire me. Whatever. I love to look at shops.

In the market street in Parikia there’s a traditional old homeware/grocery store. Its been there as long as I can remember. They now sell more stuff to tourists than to locals I’m sure, but its the only place I saw one of these:

 Its apparently a dough bowl of some sort. You put the bread dough in it to rise. I find myself needing one of these… I never make bread, but I’m sure I’ll find a good use for it.

I also love these things:

Sieves of all sizes with all different wire thicknesses… from flour sieves to lentil and bean sieves. Pretty cute.

At the other end of the shopping scale are the home decorator stores… not very different to the type of stuff I see in Australia. Still pretty displays and colours though.

Colourful outdoor cushions with jute and bling tassels and fish, naturally.

Burlap mini cushions and a jute string bowl on a lace table runner.

A beautiful simple white bowl.

A rope and sailcloth lamp.

Table centre piece of sea urchins minus spikes, shells and starfish.

I found an antique/second hand shop which has some beautiful things in it but this one was right up my alley: old windows with photos in them.


I even found a shop which sells marble things. Like a marble sink… why have a ceramic butler sink when you can have the real thing? And this slab of carved marble which you can put in your garden and run a tap through.

 A tap like this! Isn’t this a beauty?

Or, if you prefer, you can buy marble columns. Cause no house is complete without marble columns.


 Of course, there are tons of places which are done up beautifully whether they’re shops or cafes or restaurants. Sometimes its something simple like these fish at a taverna by the sea:

Sometimes its way more elaborate, like the boat/couch at this bar in Parikia.

And these door coffee tables.

There just aren’t enough door or window signs though, like this one on a closed antique shop.


And I love this sign on a cafe.

I haven’t been inside many hotels, but the couple I have been into have some interesting items in their lobbies and bars. Like this lamp …

This wooden trough is now a frame for a wooden boat.

Obviously made by the same artist, this boat wall clock at the Paros Bay Hotel.

And a ton of these fishing boats.

This is my favourite. I love the humour in the little paper sailboats.

A couple of little shops in Naoussa, a small town on the other side of Paros, have gorgeous displays. Right up my alley.


Closer to home, I found some interesting ways to deal with the small issues life throws at you. This is my uncle’s solution to the wind taking his umbrella along with the small table.

It might take up a bit of table space, but it works.

My fish bowl has a new spot among the shell collection in my aunt Flora’s kitchen.

The oven in the main house has a dodgey door, so the kokones (a name we call the aunts) have found a simple solution.

Aunt Marisa has found a cute way to cover the electricity panel in the hallway using a hand woven mat.

In her house a little down the road, my aunt Dora has a small corner where she keeps her ancient sewing maching, which she still uses, and a few items from her mother’s house.

You can always tell a greek house, cause there is always an icon somewhere in it. I now have my own icon, my very first. My aunt Xeni gave it to me. I’ll have to find a spot in my home for it when I get back. My decor will be shabby-greek…

Love the old irons with the big base to hold hot coals.


my aunt the recycler

I’ve already mentioned my aunt Marisa, the collector. She’s collected all kinds of things over the years.
In fact, it might be more accurate to say she never throws anything away if it has sentimental, historical or potential value.
She’s been going crazy since I got here, getting me to make things for her, asking my opinion of this or that, and generally making a pest out of herself. I’ve taken to avoiding working within her field of vision.
Ok. She’s not that bad. And I do love the stuff she’s collected. The only thing is, her imagination and mine don’t always meet in a harmonious blend. At least we both like similar raw materials.
This is her bedroom at Souvlia (the family home on Paros).
The bed is an Ikea bed, not an original, but it suits her style. Everything else in the room is old and has some story to it.
This lamp had a dark green lampshade on it with gold trimming.
So aunt Marisa asked me if I’d cover it in doilies for her.
Remember the doily post? Well, suffice it to say, this lampshade has been covered in cut up pieces of old curtains and lace.
Three old lace curtains to be exact. Two of them are old but not antique, with no particular sentimental value. The other one, just visible on the left hand panel, is a curtain my grandmother gave her many years ago which has been ruined by years of sunlight. I had to patch a small hole on it using a rose cut from one of the other bits of curtain.
By using part of this old curtain in a lampshade, my aunt can retain the curtain and still have the memories of it.
She made these cushions for her bed out of things she hoarded kept after they were deemed to useless and were going to thrown away.
One of them was from my neice Alex’s baby bed. The cushion had worn thin but my aunt kept the lace edge so she could re-use it. The other one was some other baby’s pillow, I just forget who…
The ‘throw’ on the end of the bed is in fact an old curtain she’s trimmed down and edged. The bedspread is an old thin woollen blanket she’s added a lace edge to.
The cushion covers are made of old linen and and old petticoat she used to wear in the 60s. When the petticoat wore out she kept the lace… and its made a reappearance on her bed in 2013 in the form of pillow covers.
Pretty amazing.
There’s an old chest in the room, probably something my aunt found on the side of the road… she’s found the most amazing stuff people have thrown away…

On top of the dresser is an old linen towel visiting friends had left behind many years ago. My aunt added lace to it and made it into a pretty dust collector.

If my aunt was a blood relative I could say it runs in the family!

island architecture

I don’t claim to be an expert in architecture. I just know what I like.
And I like Cyclades island architecture.
I especially like the old house architecture, in the oldest part of town. In the original part of Parikia there are different types of houses. The simple ‘poor folk’ houses like my grandparents’ house, the houses of the rich, and the venetian mansions.
Like this one. I love this building. Its a pity its falling apart… Many years ago it housed the art school on Paros.
My grandmother’s house is a simple 2 storey house, one room downstairs, one large room upstairs and two smaller ones. The staircase is outside and the toilet is outside, under the stairs. Its a very common design for that period.
The usual design of these houses is a main door downstairs, usually a double door and a small toilet/bathroom door (often made for very small people or people who can fold in half to take a shower).
My grandparents’ house front door.
This is an old style home in more or less cared for original condition.
This is a beautifully renovated old style home.
Often, older houses form archways leading from one cobblestone street to another as the house spans across from one side to the other. Sometimes the house itself is built above the arch, like these here.
Sometimes the archways are verandahs joining two parts of a home like this one in my mom’s neighbourhood.
These houses, like the venetian mansions, are called ‘archondika’ which I can’t find an actual translation for… but its a ‘nobleman’s’ house… ie the upper classes. They’re larger houses, with enclosed orchards and gardens behind walls and gates. A lot of these gardens have been made into restaurants now.
There are three of these houses next door and opposite the house my mother grew up in. One of them I often played in a kid. The old lady who owned it didn’t have children and left it to her brother’s daughters. They divided it in half, one half has been renovated, the other has fallen to ruin. This is the gate to the old orchard…
Meanwhile, the town has grown immensely since I was a kid on my summer holidays. Its now a sprawl built around the old town with houses scattered around the surrounding hills. Some of the new buildings are really nice. Some not so nice…
In the old days (ie the 70s, before the local government started imposing a style on new buildings) people would build square cement blocks for new houses. The ones who wanted to make their house look ‘cycladitiko’ in style would build square blocks, add a couple of arches, paint it white with blue shutters and call it good. This is a later model one and is one of the nicer examples of that style.
Here is a plainer, slightly more original building in the island style. No arches. I like it better than the first example, but still don’t like it much.
Then some people started building gorgeous houses. I want one of these!  I love this cute little house near Souvlia.
And this one is gorgeous, it totally fits in with the landscape. And its for sale!
Notice that these houses are all simpler, no fancy door surrounds, no sharp corners… and no arches!
Last but not least, my favourite! I just adore the uneven finish on the walls of this house. Its so much more authentic in my mind. In the old days people didn’t have professionals to finish their walls, they built houses from stone not brick, and then rendered then as best they could – unevenly with rounded corners and no hard edges.
My way!
I don’t know if you can see it clearly in the photo, but the walls have an uneven surface but not a rough texture.
Therein ends the lesson on greek island architecture.
Consider yourselves experts now.

shabby on paros

As you know, my thia Marouso (aunt Marisa) is a collector (little Zef would call her a hoarder). Ever since I got here she’s been lamenting that I’m not in Athens where her ‘stash’ is. However, she’s done quite well despite that. 
One of the things she found for me was this old spool. “I’m sure you can make something out of this,” she said.
Of course I can.
A photo holder. Though ideally you need the right photos to display. Something like that one of my great grandmother…
Or like the ones I’m taking with me when I go back to Australia… photos of mom and dad when they were young, old black and whites with crinkly edges.
Forgive the blurry photos. I don’t have my lightbox and have to make do. I’ll just say its artistic, the blurry effect makes the photo more nostalgic and romantic.
Yep. That’s what I’ll say.
And btw, just so you know, I’ve managed to extract a promise that thia Marouso will leave me her collection of goodies when she turns up her toes.
Not a hard thing to do as it turned out – little Zef is more than happy to unload it on someone else. Of course, the women in this family are long-lived… I’ll be too old to do anything with it by the time I get it.
Still, I’ve seen a sample of the kind of things my aunt collects. She’s got things in unopened boxes from the early 60s. She has embroideries and doilies made by her grandmother…
Of course, she has all these things locked away in chests and drawers. To keep them safe.
I say, what’s the point of that when you want to see and enjoy them… I love the whole repurposing thing, to me an object from the past is good cause you can use it to create something that you can enjoy now.
I’ve been making my aunt a lampshade for her bedroom. She’s seen people make light fittings out of lace and doilies and wanted something like that for herself.
Terrific. Yes, I can make it for you.
Just give me the doilies and lace.
So she brings out a stack, unfolds them and shows them to me:
This is an old curtain your grandmother gave me.
This is a doily given to my by and aunt.
My mother made these laces etc.
You can use these, would they work?
Oh, but don’t cut them.
And don’t use glue. I don’t want them ruined.
Umm, I don’t want it too lacey. I like it stretched tight.
I’ll help you sew cause I don’t want to tire you.
That’s too tight. I can’t sew it tight like you can.
Did you make that rusty wire heart? Its so cute.
You can’t put that on the lamp shade. It’ll rust the lace.
You know, don’t use that doily on there. I don’t want to ruin it.
And don’t use that one either. Its part of a set and I’d rather you made something out of those four together so you don’t separate them.
Cause I bought them in Griffith in 1965.
Oh, I like that. Aren’t you clever?
But… what if we did it this way?
You know, I was thinking you’d make it like this…
Look what I found! Another doily!
But you can’t use that on this. You can use this one on Zefi’s light fitting.
How are you going to do Zefi’s light fitting?
Are you sure?
Well, you’re the artist. You do it your way. I won’t talk.
Hmmm, that’ll be nice.
But I was thinking it’d be like this…
Oh ok. You do it your way. I’m sure it’ll be nice.
Are you going to use these doilies on Zefi’s light fitting?
Don’t cut them! I don’t want them ruined.
How did you cut the lace for the lamp shade? 
Can you give me the pattern?
How did you make the pattern?
Can you cut me the panels and I’ll sew them.
Here, I’ve ironed all the doilies for you.
You can use this, this and this.
And this.
But not this. I’ll keep this one.
And this one.
Actually, I’ll keep this one too.
You can cut up the old curtains for her light fitting.
Sure, thia, it can be a doily light fitting without doilies.
Whatever you say.
Your doilies, your lace.
No, I’m not offended at all. Its your lamp shade. You can have it however you want.
Its fine. I can work with curtains and not doilies.
Yeah, whatever you want.
No I’m not upset. I’m just reading FB and not paying too much attention to you.
Sure. I’ll do it.
Leave it there and I’ll fix it.
Yes, you can use the same pattern for a smaller lamp with the same shape, just don’t add extra for seams.
Not a problem, I love doing things for you.
Yep. I can do that.
Sure thing thia.
And it goes on and on.
She’s not my mother and I yet I still want to strangle her at times.
At least my mother doesn’t ask me to make her something creative and then dictate how to create. 
She just asks me to hang out washing, bring in washing, move furniture and likes to point out the same landmarks and houses every single time we go past and tell me what they are and who they belong to, despite the fact that, not only have I heard the story 500,321 times, but  I lived here. I grew up spending every summer on Paros.
Just last night she was giving directions to little Zef:
You go up the road toward Aliki. At the Monastery intersection you turn left, then first left again. The road goes up past my cousins Mitso’s place on the right and his brother Dimitri’s place on the left. You come to a crossroads. The right leads to Giorgo, Dimitri’s son’s, house, the one to the left goes to my nephew Kosta’s place, he’s built a beautiful house there. On the other side of the road my entire family has property…

Thia, I just need to know which road to take. I don’t need to know who lives where!
Ok, ok, you go past the intersection and you get to a big house, build by Spiro, my mother’s godfather, of course he’s long dead, he left it to his daughter Eleftheria and her husband Niko and their 2 children, of course they’re grown up and married now. Each with their own family… Well, at the end of that property is a small church that my great grandfather’s uncle built….
You get the picture.
Ah the joys of family.

the family resting place

My mom comes from Paros. She was born here, as was her family for as far back as anyone can remember. Her mother’s family all came from the same area on Paros. Its like people in Tasmania – the old folks you still meet who were born and bred in one spot and never had any reason to leave or go anywhere else.

When we visited my cousin Niko, we drove past a lot of houses which mom pointed out along the way “That there belongs to my grandmother’s sister’s brother’s uncle, who died of a heart attack in ’75 after a fishing accident on his friend’s boat, the one your grandfather worked on with his best friend, who had three children, the youngest of which is the one who owns the restaurant we like to go to for fresh fish…” etc.

Anyway, confusing family lineage aside, the entire family was always buried in the area, and later, their bones were taken to the monastery for their final resting place… Yes, you heard read me right.

Greeks are the ultimate recyclers. In Greece we recycled graves. People are buried for a limited period, then they’re dug up, put in bone boxes and placed in ossuaries where the family can visit, light a bit of incense and pay their respects.

I actually think its quite horrific. Not only do you have to face the fact (again) that you’ve lost a loved one, you actually come face to face with the loved one yet again. Not in a pleasant way.

However… The site of our families ‘bone boxes’ is beautiful. At least my father, grandparents and other countless relatives have a beautiful view.

The monastery itself is now empty of nuns. In the past, during my grandmother’s childhood, it was a thriving place. The nuns ran a school for children and taught girls to weave and other handy housewife things. They had to… they relied on the locals for their food, living on whatever the locals were willing to give them.


The monastery grounds are beautiful and well maintained. Hopefully it’ll become a museum one day so people can visit and see how the nuns used to live.




Inside the small church of Agios Arsenios, mom found the key to the ossuary so we could go visit dad.

Now THATs a chandelier!
The icon of Agios Arsenios.
These little tags are called ‘Tama’ – something like a promise and a wish all in one. Ag. Arsenios was a miracle worker. People who need a miracle buy a one of these and hang it on his icon and pray for his help, while promising to do something (or not do it) in return for a miracle.

 Inside the ossuary we were able to find dad’s bone box but not my grandparents. Apparently they’ve been extending the place and they’ve moved boxes around.

Dad’s box with a photo of dad (left) and his father (right).  

I also found my mom’s grandmother’s box. I’d never seen this one before. I really wanted this photo! 

Isn’t it beautiful?

So, today has panned out to be a visiting day. This morning we visited Niko, then dad in his final resting place. In the afternoon we’re visiting some other relatives…

That’s the downside of living abroad and having a large family. A large greek family. Everyone wants to see me, I have to visit everyone, yada yada.

I thought having thousands of FB friends proved I was popular, but having to visit everyone I ever knew, or never knew I was related to, is really rubbing the shine off popularity!

Oh well… maybe sacrificing the worst day (so far, knock on wood) of my holiday to do some visiting is a good investment. Maybe mom will leave me alone for the rest of my stay (don’t hold your breath but where there’s life there’s hope).

How to cram as many cliche’s as you can into one sentence 101.

Its really windy today. I mean really windy. Its been windy since I got here, windy enough that clothes hung on the line are ripped to shreds about 2 minutes after they dry. And they’re dry 5 minutes after you hang them out. Speed drying we call it.

But the wind kicked it up a notch last night – I saw some australian tourists being blown down the esplanade complaining of the cold.

(NB when visiting a greek island, bring a sweater. You’ll need it.)

Hence a day of visiting.

Back to sea worshiping tomorrow.